Month: August 2015

~Where does your integrity stem from?~

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A Christian view of work is distinctive in the way it insists that human work ultimately derives its meaning from God’s character and purposes. It is who God is and what God does that shape the way we see the world, our place and work in the world, and the values that we take to work. Fundamental to this understanding is recognition that God is at work in the world and we are workers made in the image of God and invited to work as partners in God’s continuing work. We work to further God’s purposes through our work and to reflect God’s character in the way we work. It is our understanding of this reality that injects distinctive Christian perspectives into our view of workplace ethics. But we begin with some more general observations about ethics.

Christian ethical living is concerned with “…ordering our steps in every situation of life according to the fundamental faith commitments we share as Christians.” Or, according to another definition: “Christian ethics is the attempt to provide a framework and method for making decisions, that seeks to honor God as revealed in Scripture, follow the example of Jesus and be responsive to the Spirit, to achieve outcomes that further God’s purposes in the world.”

COMMAND APPROACH

The command approach asks, “Is this action right or wrong in itself, according to the rules?” It is often called the deontological approach (from the Greek deon for duty or rule.It is based on the proposition that actions are inherently right or wrong, as defined by a set of rules or duties. This set of duties/rules may be given by divine command, natural law, rational logic or another source. In Christian ethics, we are interested in commands given by God or logically derived from God’s self-revelation in the Bible.

CONSEQUENCES APPROACH

The consequences approach asks, “Will this action produce good or bad results?” It is often called the teleological approach (from the Greek telos for end because it says that end results decide what is the morally correct course of action. The most moral course of action may be decided by:

  • What will result in the greatest good? One well-known example of the teleological approach is called Utilitarianism,[5] which defines the greatest good as whatever will bring the greatest happiness to the greatest number of people.
  • What advances one’s self interest best? For example, the system known as Ethical Egoism assumes that the most likely way to achieve what is in the best interests of all people is for each person to pursue their own best interest, within certain limits.
  • What will produce the ends that are most in accord with God’s intent for his creation? This approach can focus on subordinate goals, e.g., gaining a better quality of life for a disabled person, or an ultimate goal, such as glorifying God and enjoying him forever. In the case of complicated circumstances, this approach tries to calculate which actions will maximize the balance of good over evil.

Because neither happiness nor self-interest seem to be the highest results God desires for his creation, neither Utilitarianism nor Ethical Egoism are generally considered Christian forms of ethics. But this does not mean that consequences are not ethically important to God, any more than the fact that there are unbiblical systems of rules means that ethical commands are not important to God.

CHARACTER APPROACH

This approach asks, “Is the actor a good person with good motives?” In this approach, the most moral course of action is decided by questions about character, motives and the recognition that individuals don’t act alone because they are also part of communities that shape their characters and attitudes and actions. This is often called virtue ethics. Since the beginning of the Christian era, virtues have been recognized as an essential element of Christian ethics. However, from the time of the Reformation until the late 20th century, virtue ethics — like consequential ethics — was overshadowed by command ethics in most Protestant ethical thinking.

But how do these three different approaches apply to Christian ethics?

The Bible is the basic source for the commands we are to obey, the consequences we are to seek, and the characters we are to become as followers of Jesus Christ. Although the Bible’s commands may be the first things that come to mind when we think about Christian ethics, consequences and character are essential elements of Christian ethics too. For most of us, the most effective way to become more ethical is probably to give greater attention to how our actions and decisions at work are shaping our character. The best ethical decisions at work and elsewhere are the decisions that shape our character to be more like Jesus’. Ultimately, by God’s grace, “we will be like him” (1 John 3:2).

~ Kingdom Building Requires Suffering~

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Is suffering for Christ always going to be a part of being a follower of Christ?

Image result for images of suffering for Christ always going to be a part of being a follower of Christ?

The Bible talks a lot about suffering for the sake of Christ. In the era in which the New Testament was written, followers of Jesus were often ostracized by their own families and communities. Some of the worst persecution came from the religious leaders (Acts 4:1–3). Jesus told His followers, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:10). He reminded His disciples, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first” (John 15:18).

Second Timothy 3:12 says, “Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” As in biblical times, many Christians today have found that making a public declaration of faith in Christ can result in imprisonment, beatings, torture, or death (Hebrews 11:32–38; 2 Corinthians 12:10; Philippians 3:8; Acts 5:40). Often those of us in free nations shudder at the thought, but we feel relatively safe. We understand that there are thousands who suffer daily for the sake of Christ and are thankful we don’t have to. But is there only one kind of persecution?

Jesus stated clearly what it means to follow Him: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?” (Luke 9:23–25). Our modern understanding of the phrase “take up their cross and follow me” is often inadequate. In Jesus’ day the cross always symbolized death. When a man carried a cross, he had already been condemned to die on it. Jesus said that, in order to follow Him, one must be willing to die. We will not all die martyrs’ deaths. We will not all be imprisoned, beaten, or tortured for our faith. So what kind of death did Jesus mean?

Paul explains in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” To follow Christ means we die to our own way of doing things. We consider our will, our rights, our passions, and our goals to be crucified on the cross with Him. Our right to direct our own lives is dead to us (Philippians 3:7–8). Death involves suffering. The flesh does not want to die. Dying to self is painful and goes against our natural inclination to seek our own pleasure. But we cannot follow both Christ and the flesh (Luke 16:13;Matthew 6:24; Romans 8:8). Jesus said, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62).

Paul suffered more than most for Jesus’ sake. He said this to the Christians at Phillipi: “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him” (Philippians 1:2). The wordgranted here means “shown favor, given freely as a gift.” Paul does not present suffering as a curse, but as a benefit.

Suffering can take many forms. By choosing to obey the Lord Jesus Christ, we are setting ourselves at odds with the world. Galatians 1:10 says, “For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ” (NASB). By closely adhering to the teachings of the Bible, we set ourselves up for rejection, mockery, loneliness, or betrayal. Often, the cruelest persecution comes from those who consider themselves spiritual but have defined God according to their own ideas. If we choose to take a stand for righteousness and biblical truth, we ensure that we will be misunderstood, mocked, or worse. We need to keep in mind that no threat of suffering deterred the apostles from preaching Christ. In fact, Paul said that losing everything was worth it “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death” (Philippians 3:10, NASB). Acts 5:40–41 describes the reaction of the apostles after they received another beating for preaching about Jesus: “The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.”

Suffering in some form is always going to be a part of being a true follower of Christ. Jesus said the path that leads to life is difficult (Matthew 7:14). Our hardship is also a way of identifying with His suffering in a small way.

Jesus said if we deny him before men, He will deny us before His Father in heaven (Matthew 10:33; Luke 12:9). There are many subtle ways to deny Christ. If our actions, words, lifestyle, or entertainment choices do not reflect His will, we are denying Christ. If we claim to know Him but live as though we didn’t, we are denying Christ (1 John 3:6–10). Many people choose those forms of denying Christ because they do not want to suffer for Him.

Often our greatest suffering comes from within as we battle for control over a heart that must die to its own will and surrender to Christ’s lordship (Romans 7:15–25). In whatever form suffering comes, we should embrace it as a badge of honor and a privilege that we, like the apostles, have “been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.”

~Bring God honor by Believing In His Power In You~

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How do you do a task in the strength of another? How do you exert your will to do something in such a way that you are relying on the will of another to make it happen?

Here are some passages from the Bible that press this question on us:

  • “By the Spirit put to death the deeds of the body” (Romans 8:13). So we are to do the sin-killing, but we are to do it by the Spirit. How?
  • “Work out your own salvation . . . for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12–13). We are to work. But the willing and the working is God’s willing and God’s work. How do we experience that?
  • “I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me” (1 Corinthians 15:10). Paul did work hard. But his effort was in some way not his. How did he do that?
  • “I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me” (Colossians 1:29). We toil. We struggle. We expend effort and energy. But there is a way to do it so that it is God’s energy and God’s doing. How do we do that?
  • “Whoever serves, let him serve as one who serves by the strength that God supplies” (1 Peter 4:11). We serve. We exert strength. But there is a way that our serving is the effect of God’s gracious power. What is that way?

Introducing A.P.T.A.T.

I have not been able to improve on these five steps summed up in the acronym, A.P.T.A.T. (rhymes with Cap That).

In 1984 J.I. Packer published Keep in Step with the Spirit, and gave the very same steps on pages 125–126. He calls it “Augustinian holiness teaching.” It calls for “intense activity” but this activity “is not in the least self-reliant in spirit.” Instead, he says, “It follows this four-stage sequence”:

First, as one who wants to do all the good you can, you observe what tasks, opportunities, and responsibilities face you. Second, you pray for help in these, acknowledging that without Christ you can do nothing—nothing fruitful, that is (John 15:5). Third, you go to work with a good will and a high heart, expecting to be helped as you asked to be. Fourth, you thank God for help given, ask pardon for your own failures en route, and request more help for the next task. Augustinian holiness is hard working holiness, based on endless repetitions of this sequence.

My five steps omit his first one (“note what tasks are in front of you”). I divide his second step into two: A. Admit (his word, “acknowledge”) that you can do nothing. P. Pray for God’s help for the task at hand. Then I break his third step into two. He says “expect to get the help you asked for.” Then with that expectation, “go to work with a good will.” I say, T. Trust a particular promise of God’s help. Then, in that faith, Act (A). Finally, we both say, T. Thank God for the help received.

  1. Admit
  2. Pray
  3. Trust
  4. Act
  5. Thank

Trust God’s Promises

I think the middle T is all important. Trust a promise. This is the step I think is missing in most Christians’ attempt to live the Christian life. It is certainly my most common mistake.

Most of us face a difficult task and remember to say, “Help me, God. I need you.” But then we move straight from P to A — Pray to Act. We pray and then we act. But this robs us of a very powerful step.

After we pray for God’s help, we should remind ourselves of a specific promise that God has made. And fix our minds on it. And put our faith in it. And say to God: “I believe you, help my unbelief. Increase my faith in this promise. I’m trusting you, Lord, here I go.” Then act.

Paul says we “walk by faith” (2 Corinthians 5:7) and “live by faith” (Galatians 2:20). But for most of us this remains vague. Hour by hour how do we do this? We do it by reminding ourselves of specific, concrete promises that God has made and Jesus has bought with his blood (2 Corinthians 1:20). Then we don’t just pray for help hour by hour, we trust those specific promises hour by hour.

When Peter says, “Let him who serves serve in the strength that God supplies,” we do this not only by praying for that supply, but by trusting in the promise of the supply in specific situations. Paul says that God “supplies the Spirit to you by hearing with faith” (Galatians 3:5). That is, we hear a promise and we believe it for a particular need, and the Holy Spirit comes to help us through that believed promise.

10 Promises to Memorize

So here is my suggestion for how to do this. Memorize a few promises that are so universally applicable they will serve you in almost every situation where you face a task to be done “in the strength that God supplies.” Then as those tasks come, Admit you can’t do that on your own. Pray for the help you need. Then call to mind one of your memorized promises, and trust it — put your faith in it. Thenact — believing that God is acting in your acting! Finally, when you are done,thank him.

Here are ten such promises to help you get started. Of these, the one I have used most often is Isaiah 41:10.

  1. “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)
  2. “My God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)
  3. “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.” (2 Corinthians 9:8)
  4. “‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:5–6)
  5. “The Lᴏʀᴅ God is a sun and shield; the Lᴏʀᴅ bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.” (Psalms 84:11)
  6. “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)
  7. “Surely goodness and mercy shall pursue me all the days of my life.” (Psalms 23:6)
  8. “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7)
  9. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
  10. “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” (Psalms 50:15)

Never cease to ponder Paul’s words: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). Not I. Yet I. By faith.

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“All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake up in the day to find it was vanity, but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible.”
T.E. Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom: A Triumph

~I want You Lord in all Your fullness inside Me~

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You Can Serve God Successfully:
God’s Power Can Work in Your Life.

Bible promises that we can know truth, be forgiven, resist temptation, serve obediently, and receive eternal life by power of Jesus' blood, Scriptures, prayer, hope, love, and other Christians

The Bible promises that anyone is able to know God’s will, be forgiven of sin, resist temptation, endure hardship, serve obediently, and receive eternal life. God provides the power we need through Jesus’ blood, the Scriptures, prayer, hope, love, and other Christians. No one needs to be lost. Anyone can overcome their past, achieve victory over sin, and become what God requires him/her to be.

Joshua 1:7,8 – Most people want to succeed in some area: business, family relations, music, athletics, politics, education, etc. God promised Joshua he could succeed in the most important activity in life: serving God.

People today also need reassurance that we can succeed in being right with God.

People who are not Christians are sometimes overwhelmed by the sacrifices Christians must make, the work to do, habits to change. They become so discouraged they do not even try.

Christians may also become discouraged as they try to live for God and find they have failed in some area. Some give up entirely. Others pretend to serve God while living in sin and excusing themselves by saying they simply cannot accomplish what the Bible says.

The purpose of this study is to show that God has provided all the blessings we need to serve Him successfully and receive eternal life.

These blessings are available to everyone. We must meet conditions that require effort and sacrifice, but all of us are capable of meeting these conditions. You can have God’s power working in your life!

Consider the Bible promises. Note words referring to power, strength, and ability in these verses.


I. What Power Does God Make Available?


A. You Can Have the Power to Know and Believe the Truth.

Some people get confused by the different teachings they hear. They say, “I don’t believe I can ever understand the Bible. One person teaches it one way and the next teaches it differently. I’ll never know what to believe.” But God can meet this need.

2 Timothy 3:15-17 – The Scriptures are inspired of God and able to make us wise to salvation. They are profitable to provide us to every good work.

1 Corinthians 2:4,5 – Paul’s preaching was in the demonstration of the Spirit and power, so our faith can stand in the <b ‘mso-bidi-font-weight:=”” normal’=””>power of God.

Romans 1:16 – The gospel is the <b ‘mso-bidi-font-weight:=”” normal’=””>power of God to save those who believe. But faith comes by hearing God’s word (10:17). The gospel is able to produce true faith in the heart of any honest person.

By human power alone truly we never could determine how to obtain eternal life. But God meets our needs by giving us the means to know and believe the truth if we study diligently with an honest, open heart.

[Mark 7:14; Eph. 3:3-5; John 8:31,32; Isaiah 55:11]

B. You Can Have the Power to Become a Child of God.

John 1:12 – Jesus gave the right (“power”) to become children of God, to those who believe in His name. Faith alone, without obedience, does not make one a child of God, but simply gives the power to become a child.

1 Peter 1:22,23 – The power to make us children of God is in God’s spiritual seed, His word. To be purified and born again, we must obey the truth. This includes repenting, confessing, and being baptized (Acts 2:38; 22:16; 17:30; Mark 16:16; Rom. 10:9,10).

Hebrews 7:25 – Jesus is able to save us to the uttermost. By human power alone we could never obtain forgiveness and become children of God. But God has made this power available to us.

C. You Can Have the Power to Resist Every Temptation.

People often excuse their sins saying obedience is just too hard. “I just can’t do it. God will just have to understand.” We may even blame God for being too demanding.

1 Corinthians 10:13 – God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. This is true of every temptation. We can be sure this is true because it is based on God’s faithfulness.

Ephesians 6:10-18 – The Lord provides <b ‘mso-bidi-font-weight:=”” normal’=””>strength and power such that we are able to stand against the power of Satan. We can quench every one of his fiery darts (temptations). Again, this is not possible by human power. Perhaps Satan can defeat us if we face him alone, but we can succeed by the power of God’s armor.

These verses teach that a Christian can overcome every temptation. There is never any excuse for committing even one single sin. In practice we all commit sin, because we fail to use the weapons properly (1 John 1:8,10). But this is not necessary. If we believe our human nature compels us to sin and nothing can be done about it, we are looking at human power when we should be looking at God’s power.

[James 4:7; 2 Cor. 10:4,5; Jude 24]

D. You Can Have the Power to Endure Suffering and Hardship.

Often hardship, grief, sickness, and persecution tempt us to quit serving God. We think, “What’s the use?”

2 Corinthians 1:3-10 – Paul suffered beyond power such that he despaired of life. Someone may ask, “Doesn’t that prove there are temptations which are beyond our power?” Yes, perhaps we may face temptations beyond our power, but not beyond God’s power. Paul here says we should learn to trust in God.

Romans 8:31-39 – No suffering or hardship of any kind is able to separate us from God’s love. Rather, we are more than conquerors! We can defeat them all if we are on God’s side.

Nowhere does God say He will remove all our problems. Rather He promises we can endure, remain faithful, and receive eternal life despite our problems.

[Phil. 4:11-13; Heb. 11:34]

E. You Can Have the Power to Serve Others.

Discouragement sometimes comes when we try to help others, but we see no positive results. We may decide to quit trying, thinking, “It just doesn’t do any good.”

2 Corinthians 9:8-10 – God is <b ‘mso-bidi-font-weight:=”” normal’=””>able to supply all our need, so we can abound in every good work and increase the fruits of righteousness.

John 15:4-8 – Jesus is like the vine that supplies the needs of the branches. Apart from Him, acting by human power alone, we can do nothing. But in Him we can bear much fruit.

2 Timothy 2:2 – Faithful men shall be <b ‘mso-bidi-font-weight:=”” normal’=””>able to teach others. This is part of the power God promises us.

Romans 15:14 – We shall be <b ‘mso-bidi-font-weight:=”” normal’=””>able to admonish one another. As in other areas, degrees of ability will vary, but all can develop some ability in teaching.

There is no need for Christians to live barren, unfruitful lives. We can accomplish much good for God if we will make use of His power.

[2 Thess. 1:11,12; 1 Peter 4:11; 2 Tim. 1:7,8; 2 Cor. 1:4]

F. You Can Have the Power to Do Everything Necessary to Receive Eternal Life.

Ephesians 3:20,21 – God is <b ‘mso-bidi-font-weight:=”” normal’=””>able to do exceedingly abundantly above all we ask or think according to His <b ‘mso-bidi-font-weight:=”” normal’=””>power that works in us.

Philippians 4:13 – I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

1 Peter 1:3-5 – By God’s <b ‘mso-bidi-font-weight:=”” normal’=””>power we are guarded to an eternal and incorruptible inheritance in heaven.

2 Peter 1:3 – His power grants us all things that pertain to life and godliness.

The Bible nowhere teaches that it is impossible for a child of God to fall from grace. But it most certainly teaches that it is not necessary for us to fall!

[Mark 9:23; Isaiah 40:28-31; Eph. 1:19,20; Acts 20:32; Jude 24]


I. What Methods Does God Use to Provide This Power?


This power does us no good unless we know how to obtain it. As we study the methods God uses, note that all of them require effort on our part. There are conditions we must meet in order to have God’s power.

A. There Is Power in Jesus’ Blood.

1 Corinthians 1:18,23,24 – The <b ‘mso-bidi-font-weight:=”” normal’=””>power of God is the word of the cross, the message of Christ crucified.

Hebrews 7:25; 9:14 – Jesus’ sacrifice is able to save to the uttermost.

“There is power in the blood.” But the power is conditional. To receive it, you must repent and be baptized (see earlier discussion). If we sin afterward, we must repent and pray (Acts 8:22; 1 John 1:9).

B. There Is Power in God’s Love.

Ephesians 3:16,17 – We may be <b ‘mso-bidi-font-weight:=”” normal’=””>strengthened in the inner man, being rooted and grounded in love [cf. v19-21]. All of us need to know that we are loved and cared for.

When a person knows he is wrong, he may not care if he does more wrong. He is already alienated, so what will it hurt? But when he knows he has been right and he feels a sense of being loved, he does not want to do anything to break that bond.

1 John 4:9,19; 5:3 – God loves us so much that He gave Jesus to die for us. This knowledge compels us to love God and obey Him. People in sin often talk about the sense of loneliness they feel, knowing they are alienated from God.

Love is a powerful motivation. God’s love is the most powerful love there is. It is a bond that draws us to God and motivates us to serve Him successfully. But there are conditions: love must lead to obedience.

[John 14:15]

C There Is Power in the Scriptures.

Romans 1:16 – The gospel is the <b ‘mso-bidi-font-weight:=”” normal’=””>power of God unto salvation.

1 Corinthians 1:18 – The word of the cross is the power of God.

Ephesians 6:13-17 – Every part of the armor of God is related directly or indirectly to the word: loins girt with truth, feet shod with the preparation of the gospel, the sword which is the word, etc.

Further, the Scriptures are involved in every area in which we need power: they are the basis of knowledge and faith, they tell us how to become children of God, they strengthen us to overcome temptation and comfort us in trouble, etc. [Matt. 4:4,7,10; Rom. 15:4]

Joshua 1:7,8 – To be successful in God’s work, Joshua had to meditate on God’s law. Again, the power of the word is conditional. We must study and follow the word in order to benefit from the power it provides.

[James 1:21-25; Acts 18:27,28; 20:32; Rom. 15:14; 2 Tim. 3:15-17; Heb. 4:12f; 1 Cor. 10:12f; 16:13]

D. There Is Power in Prayer.

Ephesians 6:18 – There is power in God’s armor, but we are to take it on with prayer. We should make our requests known so God can supply what we need to serve Him.

Psalms 138:3 – In the day when I cried out, You answered me, And made me bold with strength in my soul.

James 5:16 – The effective fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.

There is no need to bear our burdens alone. We can give them to God. But again there are conditions. We must use the privilege of prayer.

Too many of us are like a man with a powerful automobile who, instead of getting in and turning on the engine, stands behind the car pushing it. He tries to do it all himself and gets nowhere.

[1 Peter 5:7,8; Col. 1:9-11; 2 Thess. 1:11; Phil. 4:6,7]

E. There Is Power in Associating with Other Christians.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 – Two are better than one. If one falls, his companion can lift him up. An enemy might prevail against one alone, but instead there are two to withstand him. A threefold cord is not easily broken. There is strength in working together.

Galatians 6:2 – Christians bear one another’s burdens.

2 Corinthians 1:4 – They comfort one another in times of affliction. Sometimes our problems are bigger than we can handle alone. We need help. But remember, if we want others to help us, we need to be willing to help them when they have needs.

Hebrews 10:23-25 – One excellent time to strengthen one another is when the church meets. We can provoke one another to love and good works. We can exhort one another.

Again, the strength God supplies is conditional. We must make use of it. Strangely, many Christians neglect or flat refuse to use this source of strength at the very times they need it most. Facing the greatest spiritual dangers of their lives, when they are tempted to fall away, they neglect to attend church meetings.

We can only be strong when we <b ‘mso-bidi-font-weight:=”” normal’=””>use what God provides to make us strong!

[Heb. 3:12-14; Eph. 4:16; Col. 3:16; Rom. 15:14]

F. There Is Power in the Hope of Eternal Life.

2 Peter 1:8-11 – The desire to enter the everlasting kingdom motivates us to make our calling and election sure by developing the needed qualities in our lives. Instead of being near-sighted, we should keep our eyes on our goal.

1 Corinthians 9:25 – Goals motivate us to work hard, as illustrated by athletes. Without a clear vision of our goal, we may easily give up in hardship. With a clear and valuable goal, we are strongly motivated to persevere.

Matthew 6:24,33 – But again there are conditions. We must keep our eye on the goal and not become overly involved in affairs of this life. We cannot serve two masters, but must seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. We must keep our priorities straight.

[1 Peter 1:3-5; Acts 20:32; Jude 24]

Conclusion

Acts 10:34,35 – God is no respecter of persons. In every nation, those who fear Him and work righteousness are accepted by Him. Everyone can serve God successfully. This is not just for other people. It includes you and me. [2 Peter 3:9; 1 Tim. 2:4,6; Titus 2:11-14; Acts 2:38,39; Mark 16:15,16; Matt. 28:18-20; Rom. 1:16]

Why then are so many people being defeated in God’s service? Because they are not using the armor properly!

Imagine an army of soldiers sworn to protect the country where you live.

Suppose a powerful enemy is coming to attack your city, destroy your wives and children, causing great pain and grief. The enemy has a powerful weapon which your army is convinced it cannot defeat.

Then the soldiers learn of someone who has a powerful new weapon. Everywhere it has been used, the enemy has been defeated.

The new weapon is obtained so every soldier can have one. The weapons come with an instruction manual. Meetings are set up so the soldiers can learn how to use the weapon. Your army can successfully win the victory! All the soldiers have to do is attend the meetings, study the manual, and use the weapons provided.

Would you want those soldiers to stay home from 1/2 to 2/3 of the meetings, when they could come? Should they daydream through the meetings? Should they take the manuals home, lay them on the shelf, and rarely read them?

The enemy is Satan. You and I are the soldiers. We will surely lose, not just our lives, but our souls eternally unless we learn how to defeat Satan’s forces. God has provided armor that is guaranteed to defeat Satan, but we must learn to use it. It comes with a manual we must study – the Bible. The church is instructed to provide meetings so we can learn to use the weapons.

You can successfully win the battle against Satan by the means God has supplied. Are you studying and attending the meetings diligently so you can be successful? Are you as diligent as you would want soldiers to be if they were defending you and your family in wartime? Have you even yet enlisted in the army?

~Misplaced Shame Battle~

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Hence I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love and self-control. Do not be ashamed then of testifying to our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel in the power of God, who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not in virtue of our works but in virtue of his own purpose and the grace which he gave us in Christ Jesus ages ago, and now has manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. For this gospel I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, and therefore I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.

The Definition and Causes of Shame

Let’s start with a dictionary definition of shame. Shame is the painful emotion caused by a consciousness of guilt or shortcoming or impropriety.

Let me illustrate each of those causes.

  1. First, the cause of guilt. Suppose you act against your conscience and withhold information on your tax returns. For a couple years you feel nothing because it has been put out of your mind, and you weren’t caught. Then you are called to account by the IRS and it becomes public knowledge that you lied and you stole. Your guilt is known. Now in the light of public censure you feel the pain of shame.
  2. Or take the cause of shortcoming. In the Olympics suppose you come from a little country where you are quite good in the 3,000-meter race. Then you compete before thousands of people in Seoul, and the competition is so tough that by the time the last lap comes up, you are a whole lap behind everyone else, and you must keep running all by yourself while everyone watches. There’s no guilt here. But the humiliation and shame could be intense.
  3. Or take the cause of impropriety. You are invited to a party and you find out when you get there that you dressed all wrong. Again, no evil or guilt. Just a social blunder, an impropriety that makes you feel foolish and embarrassed.

Well-Placed Vs. Misplaced Shame

One of the things that jumps right out at you from this definition of shame is that there is some shame that is justified and some that isn’t. There are some situations where shame is exactly what we should feel. And there are some situations where we shouldn’t. Most people would say that the liar ought to be ashamed. And most people would probably say that the long distance runner who gave it his best shot ought not to feel ashamed. Disappointment would be healthy, but not shame.

Let me illustrate from Scripture these two kinds of shame. The Bible makes very clear that there is a shame we ought to have and a shame we ought not to have. I’m going to call the one kind, “misplaced shame” and the other kind “well-placed shame.”

Misplaced shame (the kind we ought not to have) is the shame you feel when there is no good reason to feel it. Biblically that means the thing you feel ashamed of is not dishonoring to God; or that it IS dishonoring to God, but you didn’t have a hand in it. In other words, misplaced shame is shame for something that’s good—something that doesn’t dishonor God. Or it’s shame for something bad but which you didn’t have any sinful hand in. That’s the kind of shame we ought not have.

Well-placed shame (the kind you ought to have) is the shame you feel when there is good reason to feel it. Biblically that means we feel ashamed of something because our involvement in it was dishonoring to God. We ought to feel shame when we have a hand in bringing dishonor upon God by our attitudes or actions.

I want to be sure you see how important God is in this distinction between misplaced shame and well-placed shame. Whether we have a hand in honoring God or dishonoring God makes all the difference. If we want to battle shame at the root, we have to know how it relates to God. And we DO need to battle shame at the root—all shame. Because both misplaced shame and well-placed shame can cripple us if we don’t know how to deal with them at the root.

So let’s look at some Scriptures that illustrate misplaced shame and some that illustrate well-placed shame.

Misplaced Shame

2 Timothy 1:8

Do not be ashamed then of testifying to our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but take your share of suffering for the gospel in the power of God.

What this text says is that if you feel shame for testifying about Jesus, you have a misplaced shame. We ought not to feel shame for this. Christ is honored when we speak well of him. And he is dishonored by fearful silence. So it is not a shameful thing to testify, but a shameful thing not to.

Secondly the text says that if you feel shame that a friend of yours is in trouble (in this case: prison) for Jesus’ sake, then your shame is misplaced. The world may see this as a sign of weakness and defeat. But Christians know better. God is honored by the courage of his servants to go to prison for his name. We ought not to feel shame that we are associated with something that honors God in this way, no matter how much scorn the world heaps on.

Mark 8:38

Whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed, when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.

Shame is misplaced when we feel it because of the person or the words of Jesus. If Jesus says, “Love your enemies,” and others laugh and call it unrealistic, we should not feel ashamed. If Jesus says, “Fornication is evil,” and liberated yuppies label it out of date, we should not feel shame to stand with Jesus. That would be misplaced shame because the words of Jesus are true and God-honoring, no matter how foolish the world may try to make them look.

1 Peter 4:16

If one suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but under that name let him glorify God.

Suffering and being reproached and made fun of as a Christian is not an occasion for shame, because it is an occasion for glorifying God. In other words in the Bible the criterion for what is well-placed shame and what is misplaced shame is not how foolish or how bad you look to men, but whether you in fact bring honor to God.

This is so important to grasp! Because much of what makes us feel shame is not that we have brought dishonor on God by our actions, but that we have failed to give the appearance that other people admire. Much of our shame is not God-centered but self-centered. Until we get a good handle on this, we will not be able to battle the problem of shame at its root.

Romans 1:16

I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.

The reason shame in the gospel would be a misplaced shame is that the gospel is the very power of God unto salvation. The gospel magnifies God and humbles man. And so to the world the gospel doesn’t look like power at all. It looks like weakness (asking people to be like children and depend on Jesus, instead of standing on their own two feet). But for those who believe it is the power of almighty God to save sinners.

2 Corinthians 12:9–10

Jesus said (to Paul),

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” I will all the more gladly exult in my weakness, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

Now ordinarily weaknesses and insults are occasions for shame. But for Paul they are occasions for exultation. Paul thinks that shame in his weaknesses and shame at insults and persecutions would be misplaced shame. Why? Because the power of Christ is perfected in Paul’s weakness.

I conclude from all these texts that the biblical criterion for misplaced shame is radically God-centered. The biblical criterion says, don’t feel shame for something that honors God no matter how weak or foolish it makes you look in the eyes of unbelievers.

Well-Placed Shame

The same God-centeredness will be seen if we look at some texts that illustrate well-placed shame.

1 Corinthians 15:34

Come to your right mind, and sin no more. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame.

Here Paul says that these people ought to feel shame. “I say this to your shame.” Their shame would be well-placed if they saw their deplorable ignorance of God and how it was leading to false doctrine (no resurrection) and sin in the church. In other words well-placed shame is shame for what dishonors God—ignorance of God, sin against God, false beliefs about God.

1 Corinthians 6:5

The Christians were going to secular courts to settle disputes among themselves. Paul rebukes them.

I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no man among you wise enough to decide between members of the brotherhood?

Again he says they should feel shame: “I say this to your shame.” Their shame would be well-placed because their behavior is bringing such disrepute upon their God as they fight one another and seek help from the godless to settle their disputes. A well-placed shame is the shame you feel because you are involved in dishonoring God.

And let’s not miss this implication: these people were trying their best to appear strong and right. They wanted to be vindicated by men. They wanted to be winners in court. They didn’t want anyone to run over them as though they had no rights. That would look weak and shameful. So in the very act of wanting to avoid shame as the world sees it, they fell into the very behavior that God counts shameful.

The point is: when you are dishonoring God, you ought to feel shame, no matter how strong or wise or right you are in the eyes of men.

Ezekiel 43:10

And you, son of man, describe to the house of Israel the temple and its appearance and plan, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities.

God says Israel ought to feel shame for its iniquities. Sin is always a proper cause for shame because sin is behavior that dishonors God.

(See also Romans 6:21; 2 Thessalonians 3:14 for more instances of well-placed shame.)

We can conclude from all these texts that the biblical criterion for misplaced shame and for well-placed shame is radically God-centered.

The biblical criterion for misplaced shame says, don’t feel shame for something that honors God, no matter how weak or foolish or wrong it makes you look in the eyes of men. And don’t feel shame for bad circumstances where you don’t share in dishonoring God.

The biblical criterion for well-placed shame says, DO feel shame for having a hand in anything that dishonors God, no matter how strong or wise or right it makes you look in the eyes of men.

Now how do you battle this painful emotion called shame? The answer is that we battle it by battling the unbelief that feeds its life. And we fight for faith in the promises of God that overcome shame and relieve us from its pain.

Three Instances of Battling Misplaced Shame

Let me illustrate with three instances.

1. When Well-Placed Shame Lingers Too Long

In the case of well-placed shame for sin the pain ought to be there but it ought not to stay there. If it does, it’s owing to unbelief in the promises of God.

For example, a woman comes to Jesus in a Pharisee’s house weeping and washing his feet. No doubt she felt shame as the eyes of Simon communicated to everyone present that this woman was a sinner and that Jesus had no business letting her touch him. Indeed she was a sinner. There was a place for true shame. But not for too long. Jesus said, “Your sins are forgiven” (Luke 7:48). And when the guests murmured about this, he helped her faith again by saying, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace” (v. 50).

How did Jesus help her battle the crippling effects of shame? He gave her a promise: “Your sins are forgiven! Your faith has saved you. Your future will be one of peace.” So the issue for her was belief. Would she believe the glowering condemnation of the guests? Or would she believe the reassuring words of Jesus that her shame was enough? She’s forgiven. She’s saved. She may go in peace.

And that is the way every one of us must battle the effects of a well-placed shame that threatens to linger too long and cripple us. We must battle unbelief by taking hold of promises like,

There is forgiveness with thee that thou mayest be feared. (Psalm 130:4)

Seek the Lord while he may be found. Call upon him while he is near. Let the wicked man forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts. Let him return to the Lord that he may have mercy on him and to our God for he will abundantly pardon. (Isaiah 55:6)

If we confess our sins he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners of whom I am chief. (1 Timothy 1:15)

Every one who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name. (Acts 10:43; 13:39)

2. Feeling Shame for Something That Glorifies God

The second instance of battling shame is the instance of feeling shame for something that is not even bad but in fact glorifies God—like Jesus or the gospel.

Our text shows how Paul battled against this misplaced shame. In verse 12 he says, “Therefore I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, I am sure that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.”

Paul makes very clear here that the battle against misplaced shame is a battle against unbelief. “I am not ashamed FOR I KNOW WHOM I HAVE BELIEVED AND I AM SURE OF HIS KEEPING POWER.” We fight against feelings of shame in Christ and the gospel and the Christian ethic by battling unbelief in the promises of God. Do we believe that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation? Do we believe that Christ’s power is made perfect in our weakness? The battle against misplaced shame is the battle against unbelief in the promises of God.

3. Feeling Shame for Something We Didn’t Do

Finally, the last instance of battling shame is the instance where others try to load us with shame for evil circumstances when in fact we had no part in dishonoring God.

It happened to Jesus. They called him a winebibber and a glutton. They called him a temple destroyer. They called him a hypocrite: He healed others, but he can’t heal himself. In all this the goal was to load Jesus with a shame that was not his to bear.

The same with Paul. They called him mad when he defended himself in court. They called him an enemy of the Jewish customs and a breaker of the Mosaic law. They said he taught that you should sin that grace may abound. All this to load him with a shame that it was not his to bear.

And it has happened to you. And will happen again. How do you battle this misplaced shame? By believing the promises of God that in the end all the efforts to put us to shame will fail. We may struggle now to know what is our shame to bear and what is not. But God has a promise for us in either case:

Israel is saved by the Lord with everlasting salvation; you shall not be put to shame or confounded to all eternity. (Isaiah 45:17; 49:23)

No one who believes in the Lord will be put to shame. (Romans 10:11; 9:33)

In other words, for all the evil and deceit judgment and criticism that others may use to heap on us a shame that is not ours to bear, and for all the distress and spiritual warfare it brings, the promise stands sure that they will not succeed in the end. All the children of God will be vindicated. The truth will be known. And no one who banks his hope on the promises of God will be put to shame.

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~ What does it Profit The Ambassadors of Christ to Argue on Social Media ?~

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As a person who enjoys writing, admittedly, I’ve been somewhat distracted lately. I scroll through the feeds of my social media and it is filled with a plethora of “hot topics.” Every day, there is a new onslaught of blog posts, rants, and editorialized articles. It’s enough to make me want to write an open letter to all of the people that write open letters.

Much has been written about the distraction that social media can cause in our lives, and I can feel the distraction in my heart and the pervasive lure to choose sides and start arguing on whichever controversial social topic is trending at the moment.

Social media has instilled in so many Christians a false belief that we must form, share, declare and argue an opinion about everything– from leggings to secular fiction and just about everything in between.

We buy into it hook, line and sinker. We share and inevitably, overshare to the point that our arguing, our stances, our opinions begin to overshadow our calling in Christ… and we don’t even realize it.

We are called to speak the truth in love, yes. But we are not called to take part in every controversy or argument. In fact, Paul explained it to Timothy this way: “Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness.” (2 Timothy 3:23-25)

I’ve always been reluctant to take part in the slippery slopes of controversy for that reason alone – it invariably breeds quarrels. Regardless of the intent, the one sharing the truth in love is somehow perceived as a Pharisee or a Persecutor with a fistful of stones. Criticism is misconstrued as judgment. Arguments erupt. Feelings are hurt. Tempers flare.

I’m not saying that we should shy away from sharing the truth in love. I’m not saying that we should in any way shrink from our faith on the important, relevant social issues of our day, but I am saying that we need to ask the Lord to grant us much wisdom and discernment before we speak – and before we type, comment, or click to share.

Because people need to see our Jesus more than the need to hear our opinions; and ultimately, they need His word more than they need ours.

To a lost and dying world, we are called to be the light of the world and while culture and our social media feeds try to pull us in a thousand directions, we cling to the words of Paul who said, “I focus on this one thing,” which was forgetting what was behind and straining ahead for the goal, which is Christ (Philippians 3:13).

The one good thing that controversy stirs us is self-reflection. We have to ask ourselves the tough questions. Questions like, “Is what I am saying/doing/watching/thinking about and yes – even reading – is it working with Christ to bring about His glory or is it working against Him; because there is no in-between in His economy.

As much as we’d like to rest in our own shades of gray (pun intended), our comfort zones, our lukewarm tubs of complacency, sisters, He is calling us out of the shadows of controversy and into His glorious light. We are called to live in the light of His presence where He “turns our eyes from worthless things and gives us light through His word” (Psalm 119:37).

His word, oh, I believe His word is more relevant and more thrilling, today, in this moment than any other words we can take our time to read or write. His mercy is miraculous and His grace is scandalous and His word says it better than any of us ever could. Paul said it best when he said, “Everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus. For His sake, I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage” (Philippians 3:8).

I read those words and I know, for the sake of my own distracted and divided heart, there are some things I need to discard and count as rubbish.

The church at Philippi was dealing with their own controversies and quarrelling women. We know this because Paul calls them out, by name. If Paul were writing an open letter to us, sisters in the faith today, I believe it would read much the same. We don’t know what Euodia and Synteche are arguing about, we just know that they’re getting called out and Paul is pleading with them to “agree in Christ” because Paul knows that their disagreement can affect more than just the two of them; it can affect their witness and the church as a whole. He urges to the church to help remind them of who they are and of the work they have done together. He wants to remind them that, despite the quarrels and controversies, they are of one mind in Christ, co-laborers together for His kingdom.

I want to remind us that despite the quarrels and controversies, we are one mind in Christ and we are co-laborers together for His kingdom. We need this reminder because social media can distract and divide our hearts to the point we forget that our goal is not to win arguments but to win the lost.

Paul goes on to write that we are to rejoice in all things, to let our gentleness be evident to all and to pray about everything. He brings it home for the church at Philippi, for me and for you when he says:

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:8).

In the same letter, Paul writes about the peace that transcends all understanding. As believers, we have access to the gift of that peace, and we also have the privilege of sharing it with the world. In a fragmented and broken world, let’s fill those broken places – and our social media feeds – with the fruit of the Spirit in which He has given us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control.

Teach us your ways, Lord, that we may rely on your faithfulness; give us undivided hearts (Psalm 86:11).

~Spiritual Questions~

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Question 1: Why is there evil in the world?

If God exists, why is there evil in the world? You know, this is a difficult stumbling block and question for many people. The simplest way to look at this question is to examine God’s nature and his desire for mankind. Look at the logic. God loves us and wants us to love him back. And how could we love him back unless we have the freedom to not love?

God could have made us like robots who do nothing more than say, “I love you. I love you. I love you.” But we’d be forced to do that and that wouldn’t be real love. Love is a choice. And if you have a choice you have to be able to choose not to love and that in itself is the nature of evil. Evil is choosing not to love. So when God gave us the freedom to choose, he gave us not only our greatest blessing, but he also gave us our greatest curse because we can choose to do right or choose to do wrong.

The reason there’s evil in the world is not because of God, but because God gave us the freedom to choose. Now the potential for love outweighs the existence of evil, because you see, evil is only going to exist for a short time, but love is going to go on forever. And all of the suffering and all of the death that we see in the world today are the result because man has chosen to make wrong choices.

God could have taken our freedom, but He didn’t. I hope you’ll use your freedom to choose God.

Question 2: Is Jesus really God?

Well when you think about it you only have three options as to who Jesus Christ was. You see, Jesus claimed to be God. He said things like, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the father except through me.” He claimed to be God many, many times. Now, that means either:

  1. He is who he says He was
  2. He was the biggest liar in history or
  3. He was crazy, He was a lunatic on the order of the man who calls himself a fried egg.

You see, you can’t just say Jesus was a good man. I’ve had many friends who said, “Oh, I believe Jesus was a good man.” Well He couldn’t have been a good man and said those things He said. For instance, if I said to you, “I’m Rick Warren and I’m a good teacher and a good husband.” You might say, “Okay, I buy that.” But if I said to you, “I’m Rick Warren and I’m God and I’m the only way to heaven.” Well, you would have to make a decision. You couldn’t say I was a good person because a good person wouldn’t say that. You’d either say, “He is who he says he was, or he’s a liar or he’s crazy.”

Now Jesus didn’t just expect us to believe Him and take Him at His word. He said, “I’m going to prove the claim that I am God.”He said, “I’m going to let people kill me on a cross, then let them bury me. I’ll be dead for three days and then I’ll come back to life.” And, of course, that was the event that changed history. The resurrection of Jesus Christ. Every person since then refers to Jesus Christ, whether they believe in Him or not, every time you right a date, A.D. or B.C., what’s the reference point? Jesus Christ. Because it was the event that split history when Jesus proved that He was who He said He was, He is God.

Question 3: Do all religions lead to God?

Well now think about the logic of this. Can I go into a phone booth and dial any phone number and get home? No, there’s only one number that’ll get me home. I could be sincere, but I could be sincerely wrong. The truth is, all roads don’t lead to Rome and all roads and all religions don’t lead to God.

You see, it all depends on which direction you take. Jesus said this, “I am the way and the truth and the light. No one comes to the Father except through me.” I’m betting my life on the fact that He was right because I figured Jesus knows more about it than I did.

The Bible tells us that on the road to heaven, there are only two directions, toward Christ or away from Him. You can accept it or you can reject it, that’s your choice. You can make Jesus the Lord of your life, that means the manager, the ceo, the person in charge of your life, or you can call Him a liar, but that’s what the Bible declares.

You know a lot of people sincerely believe that even though they’ve broken God’s rules that they can earn God’s forgiveness by doing good works, by observing the Five Pillars of Islam or the Buddhist Eightfold Path or the Hindu Doctrine of Karma, for example. But I don’t get it. How will doing some good works that we should have done all our lives, make up for all the countless times we failed? You see, heaven is a perfect place and that means only perfect people get to go there. If not-perfect people were allowed in, it wouldn’t be perfect anymore. Well I don’t know about you, but I stopped being perfect a long time ago. So God came up with plan b. He came to earth in human form, Jesus Christ, and He lived a perfect life and now He offers to let us go to heaven on His ticket. And I pray that you will trust Jesus Christ and stop trying to bat a thousand because you ended up not doing that a long time ago and accept God’s free ticket through Jesus Christ.

Question 4: What’s going to happen to those people in the world who’ve never heard about Jesus Christ?

You may have heard this question put this way: “What about the person living in the jungle somewhere who’s never heard the good news about Jesus Christ? Are you christians saying that a person won’t go to heaven based solely on where he lives?” No, we’re not saying that. The Bible tells us that God doesn’t work that way. We understand that God is perfect in His love and perfect in His holiness and He’s perfectly just and fair. Therefore, it’s against God’s nature to be unfair. It’s against God’s nature to hide the ball on salvation or to condemn somebody who’s ignorant of his truth. In fact the scripture, the bible declares that God is loving and patient and not willing that anybody should perish. But He wants everybody to come to repentance, to come to know Him.

So if God is a perfectly loving and righteous God, then He will figure out ways to help people understand Him. He somehow reveals the simple truth of the gospel to people throughout the world. You know, I’ve talked to people who were missionaries in Africa who’ve told me that Jesus has revealed Himself through nature. When you look at nature you learn that God is organized, that God is creative, that God likes variety. But it’s when we look at Jesus Christ we realize that God is loving.

And as Christians we are called to tell the good news to other people. It’s God’s decision to decide what happens to people who haven’t heard about Him. But it is our decision to take that news to as many people as possible. And the bible says we will be held more responsible because we have heard and we have known that God is love, that God wants a relationship to us and that God will forgive us if we give our lives to Jesus Christ.

So, what do we do about those who haven’t heard? We tell them. First we accept God’s good news and then we tell them and we leave the result in the hands of a fair, loving and just God.

Question 5: What about all the wars that are caused in the name of Christianity?

Well first, let me say that a lot of things have been done in the name of Christianity that Jesus Christ would totally disavow. Andjust because someone claims to be a Christian doesn’t necessarily make him a follower of Christ, nor does it make him a representative of Jesus. It’s very, very important to distinguish between the bible kind of Christianity and the actions that have been taken throughout history by people who claim to be Christians but really didn’t know.

You see there’s a difference between religion and a relationship with God. Jesus is not interested in the religion of Christianity. He’s interested in you having a relationship to Him. Jesus never said, “I’ve come that you might have religion.” He said, “I came that you might have life and have it more abundantly.”

Now a lot of people have claimed to be followers of Christ but they’ve lived their lives contrary to His teaching. And we shouldn’t label that group Christian. But let me say this, have you ever seen a counterfeit dollar? Well, maybe you haven’t, but maybe you’ve heard of them. Why are there counterfeit dollars in the world? Well, I’ll tell you why. Because there are real dollars in the world. If there were no real dollars, there would be no counterfeits. And if you find counterfeit Christianity in the world, it must mean that somewhere there must be the real thing. The point is we don’t identify Jesus by claiming that all the things that were done in His name were done by Him. In fact, Jesus proffended His own disciples from defending themselves against the enemies when He said on a personal basis, He said, “I want you to turn the other cheek.”

So a lot of wars have been done in the name of Christianity that Jesus probably would have disavowed. The real issue is do you know Jesus Christ? You see, it doesn’t matter so much what has been done by hypocrites or phonies or false followers of Christ. What matters is do you know the real, true, genuine item? Have you ever turned your life over to Jesus Christ? If you haven’t, I would encourage you to investigate Him today.

Question 6: Is there any real right or wrong?

You know, you might have heard somebody say, “I don’t believe there’s such a thing as right or wrong.” Or maybe you’ve heard a professor say, “There are no absolutes.” Whenever I hear that I want to say, “Are you absolutely sure?” You have to ask yourself, “Is this statement even logical? Is there any right or wrong?” Because when people say, “There is no right or wrong, or it’s wrong for you to impose your morals on me,” think about it, by them telling you that, they are imposing their morals on you.

The fact is we all inheritantly know right from wrong and we just have this weird tendency to disregard it. To disregard morality when it conflicts with our desires for pleasure or personal gain. Now, sure, you might justify having an affair, but certainly you wouldn’t condone your spouse having one. Or you might justify taking something without permission, but if you were the one being robbed you wouldn’t think it was okay. You see the fact is, there isn’t a person alive today who’d come home from work and discover that their entire house had been robbed and say, “Oh, how wonderful that this burglar is able to enjoy all my things without my permission. And who am I to impose my view of right or wrong on this poor burglar?” You see how ridiculous that is? Of course.

Even those who claim there is no right or wrong have their own moral conscious, they’ve just set their own standards.Here’s a good way to determine right from wrong. Turn the situation around on yourself. Jesus said it best. He said, “Treat people the same way you want people to treat you.” You see we all know that murder and rape and lying and stealing and torture and injustice are absolutely wrong. Why? Because we wouldn’t want any of these things to happen to us. The person who would say, “there is no right or wrong,” would not agree that it was okay for them to be raped. No, when you turn it on yourself, you realize that even inside ourselves God has placed a moral conscious and that conscious tells us when we do right and when we do wrong. And when we violate our conscious, we need forgiveness. That’s why the bible said, “God sent Jesus to earth so that we might be forgiven of all of our wrong.”

Question 7: Why do I exist?

That’s the most fundamental question of life. What on earth am I here for?

Well, you need to understand God to answer that question. You see, the bible says, “God is love.” It doesn’t say He has love, it says He is love. It’s part of His nature, His character, it is the essence of His being. God is love. Now, love isn’t very valuable unless you bestow it on something and the bible says, “God made you to love you.” You were created as an object of God’s love. If you want to know why you’re taking breath right now, why your heart is beating, it’s because God made you to love you. It’s the sole reason. You were made to be loved by God and to bring Him pleasure.

Now God wants you to learn to love Him back and that’s the first purpose of your life, to get to know and love Him back.One day Jesus was walking down the street and a man came up and said, “What’s the most important command in the bible?” And Jesus said, “I’m going to summarize the entire bible in one sentence. Love God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength.” That’s called the great commandment. And God wants you to get to know and love Him back. So that means when you get up in the morning, you should sit on the side of your bed and say, “God, if I don’t get anything else done today, I want to know you a little bit better and I want to love you a little bit more.” Because if at the end of the day you know God more and you love Him more, you have just fulfilled one of the purposes of your life.

If, on the other hand, you’ve accomplished all kinds of things and achieved many, many successes in life, but at the end of the day you don’t know God better or love Him more, you have missed the primary purpose of your life. Because God didn’t put you on this earth just to mark things off your to-do list. He put you here to know Him and love Him. That’s why you exist.

Question 8: What is my purpose in life?

Well the truth is, God created you for five purposes. You see, you were made by God and you were made for God. And until you understand that, life isn’t going to make sense. When you come to this question, what is my purpose, you only have three alternatives.

  1. First is what I call the mystical approach, and that is look within. You find this in a lot of talk shows, a lot of new age books a lot of seminars. They say, “look within to discover your purpose.” The only problem is that doesn’t work. We’ve all looked within and I didn’t like what I saw. It’s quite confusing. In fact, if you could know the purpose of your life by looking within, we’d all know it by now. It doesn’t work.
  2. The second way you can try to discover your purpose is called the intellectual or philosophical approach. And that’s where you go to a seminary class or university class and you sit there with a pipe and your latte and your coffee and you ask questions like, “Why am I here? Where did I come from? Where am I going?” I once read a book by professor John Morehead, the Head of the Department of Philosophy at Northeastern University in Illinois. And he wrote to 250 well-known intellectuals and asked them, “What is the meaning and purpose of life?” These were novelists, scientists, well-known intellectuals, and I read the book, it’s now out of print, it was quite depressing because most of the people said, “I have no idea what the purpose of life is.” Some of them admitted they just made up a purpose. And some of the admitted they guessed. And some of them said, “If you know the purpose, please tell me.”
  3. You see, there’s a better answer to speculation and that’s revelation. If I were to hold up an invention that you have never seen before, you wouldn’t know its purpose. The only way you’d know its purpose was either talk to the inventor, the creator who made it or read the owner’s manual. The owner’s manual of life is the bible and your Creator is God. And it is only as you get to know God you will discover his five purposes for your life. I hope you’ll begin that journey today.

Question 9: Does my life really matter?

Well, it’s a good question. You know, today we teach our kids that we’re all just one big cosmic accident. We came from the goo through the zoo to you over billions of years. Well, if that is true, in a nutshell it teaches that your life really doesn’t matter, you’re just the freak accident of random chance, you’re complex slime and you were an accident. And if you get accidentally killed, well, of course, that doesn’t matter. And that creates a lot of our sociological problems and a lot of our self-esteem issues.

But the truth is you are not an accident. You were created by a loving God who loves you and designed you with intricate detail in your life and when you understand that God made you to love you and that God made you to be a part of His family and that God made you to last forever, then you’re never going to have a problem with low self-esteem again.

It was Bertram Russell the atheist who once said, “Unless you assume the existence of God, then the purpose and meaning of life is irrelevant.” The truth is, if there is no God your life doesn’t matter. But because there is a God, God had a specific purpose in mind when He created you and you do matter. You matter because God created you. You matter because he sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross. If you want to know how much you matter, think of Jesus Christ with his arms outstretched saying, “I love you this much.”

Now, if you had to chose between a loved one and a material thing, even if that thing was priceless, you’d chose your loved one in a heartbeat. And when you’re on your deathbed, you’re not going to surround yourself with material possessions, you’re not going to say, “Bring me my trophies. Bring me my credentials. Bring me my certificates so I can look one more time at my grade point average.” No, you’re going to surround yourself with loved ones and everybody’s going to be crying because they’re going to miss you. You see, that’s how much you matter.

Personal relationships to God and to other people are the most important thing in life. And God wants you to know Him and He wants you to have a relationship with Him because you’re worth so much in God’s eyes that he sent His Son to die for you. I hope you’ll get to know Him very soon.

Question 10: Is there a real hell and why would a loving God send anyone there?

Well, first I believe in hell because Jesus talked about it. In fact, Jesus talked more about hell then He did heaven. He said it is a real place and it is a place of eternal torment. And I believe Jesus knows more about it than either you or I.

But second, I believe in hell because logic and fairness demand it. Think of all the atrocities and evil that have been done throughout history by evildoers in this world. For God to allow those crimes to go unpunished would mean that God is not worthy of our worship and love.

Now why would a loving God send anyone to hell? Well in a nutshell, God doesn’t. God doesn’t send anybody to hell. We choose to go there when we reject the love of God. If I were to say to my right is a door heading to heaven, and to my left is a door heading to hell, if you walk out the door heading to hell, you don’t have anybody to blame but yourself.

In fact, the bible tells us that God does almost everything – well everything possible to keep us out of hell. He cared so much to keep us out of hell that he sent Jesus Christ to come to earth, to die on the cross, to pay for our sins so that we don’t have to pay for them. He wants to set us free. He wants to give us forgiveness. God made us in his image and He gave us the ultimate power to say yes or no.

Now if we chose to reject God here on earth, then we, at the same time, are choosing to spend eternity separated from Him. You see, there are only two people in the world – two kinds of people. Those who say, “Thy will be done here to God on earth” and those to whom God says, “Your will be done,” when we say, “I want to do it my way.” And if we say, “God I don’t want you in my life while I’m here on earth,” then God says, “I don’t want you in my heaven for eternity.”

You don’t have to go to hell. In fact, Jesus Christ has made it possible for you to go to heaven. Open your heart to Him and say, “Jesus Christ, I need you, I want you, I trust you and I ask you to forgive me.” And He’ll come in and save you.

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~Killing The Flesh~

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As we know, there is no shortage of boldness in our world.  When you think of our political leaders, they are quite bold, often in an arrogant way, to impose their societal vision, values, and beliefs on others. If you’re a teacher, or state worker, you know how boldly Bureaucrats can regulate every manner of living, speaking, teaching, and thinking.  Secularists self-righteously applaud their own tolerance even as they openly, flagrantly, boldly, suppress the slightest expression of Christian faith in the public sphere.  Entertainers boldly flaunting their hyper-immorality—shoving their perversity into our faces, indoctrinating our children with their crass lyrics, all the while denouncing everything that’s good, decent, and holy.

But there are other kinds of boldness.  What about the boldness of the adulterer or the fornicator?  What about the gossip who stirs up dissension? The thief or robber who enters another’s home? The sluggard who feels entitled to the fruits of their parents labor, or worse, their neighbor?  What about greedy lendors who brazenly prey, and financially exploit, the weak. Or the greedy debtors who boldly charge up their credit card with no intention of repayment. The son who rebels against his father can be quite bold!  Or the man who abandons responsibility to his family while pursuing relations to another woman. What about the woman who boldly aborts her unborn child? Or, the homosexual or lesbian who ensnares another man or woman in their sin?

There is an abundance of boldness in our culture.  But it’s boldness about all the wrong things! We’re bold about evil, about sin, and about our rights, freedoms, and entitlements.  But where is the boldness for what’s “excellent and praiseworthy?”  For “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable.”

People are unapologetically bold about all that is evil; meanwhile Christians are apologetically timid about all that is holy and good.

What’s needed isn’t “fleshly” boldness.  When boldness is driven by the flesh, it is enormously destructive.  Look at the trail of destruction that exists in your family alone, or our community, or state, or nation.  We don’t need more fleshly boldness.

What’s needed (now, more than ever) is “spiritual boldness”—a boldness that’s born out of vital relationship with the Spirit of the Living God.  Spiritual boldness does not derive its confidence from the flesh, or from the world, but from the mind of God.  In your outline, let me share some things that are distinct about Christian boldness. . .

Our Boldness Reflects Confidence in the Inspired Word.  

What convictions do you hold about the word of God?  1 Peter 1:23 describes how the word is “imperishable”, “living and abiding” and is like a seed.  Whereas the flowers and grass fade away, and the flesh/ glory of man withers…  The word of God cannot be destroyed, nor will it ever pass away.  We don’t have to understand how the word works, we just need to be faithful to plant it.

2 Timothy 3:15-16 says the Bible is able to “make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.  All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

Hebrews 4:12-13 says, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”

In 2 Peter 1:20-21 were told, “no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”

In Isaiah 55:11 God says, “So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”

A couple of thoughts.  First, to the degree that our boldness is tuned to the Word of God, it’s redemptive.  To the degree that our boldness is of the flesh, it kills and destroys.  Understand that boldness with the Word of God—preaching, teaching—has revived nations.  Where has boldness in the flesh done anything good except corrupt, kill, and destroy.  Our boldness needs to be trained by the Word of God.

Second, greater boldness is needed by all of us to inject God’s word into conversations.  In John 6:63 Jesus told his disciples, “My words are spirit and life.”  When timid Christian withhold the word, it’s like a farmer withholding seed.  You cannot reap a harvest of righteousness if you never plant anything.

Parents often ask, “why are my kids so disrespectful, crass, self-centered…”  Well, you reap what you sow.  If you plant the word deeply you won’t ask those questions of your kids, family, or culture.  God’s word doesn’t return void, God’s word is spiritual and alive, it accomplishes the purpose for which God sent it.

Our Boldness Reflects Confidence in the Spirit’s Activity

Another basis for boldness is the Spirit’s ongoing activity.  In John 16:8 Jesus promised the Spirit would convict the world in regard to “sin, righteousness, and the coming judgment.”  This is great news!  We don’t have to be fanatics, or extremists about this stuff.  If there is sin, the Spirit will show it to a person.  We don’t have to scream, and yell, and shout, and hold demonstrations.

If there is something holy, righteous, good, the Spirit will show it for what it is.  And the Spirit daily reminds people they are accountable before God for their life.  Why else do you think people justify themselves, and plead their case, and boast, “But I’m a good person?”  It’s because deep down people know they’re accountable to God.

This is why Paul tells the Corinthians, in 1 Corinthians 2:1-5, “. . . When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.  For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.  I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling.  My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.” (NIV)

We don’t have to convict people, that’s the Spirit’s work.  Our job is to faithfully and boldly plant seeds.  We are to hold out the Words of Life.  The gospel does not advance in the power of self, by intimidation or bullying, by shaming and giving guilt trips.  Let the Spirit do what He does… and you and I can do the planting just as God’s asked us to do.  The Spirit wins hearts and minds.

Our Boldness Reflects Confidence in the Spirit’s Power             

Like the Apostle Paul, I sometimes find myself in places of “weakness, fear, and trembling.”  Every week our pastoral staff encounters situations for which there is no human wisdom or human answers or human remedy… or financial resources.  If you’re a spiritual person, you have great advantage.  Like the early in Acts 1:8, its mostly a matter of waiting for God to clothe us with power.  But if you’re an unspiritual person, what power is available to you, beyond your own strength?

When we help unspiritual people, they keep returning with the same problems.  A person comes needing gas money, or food, or some help.  We encourage them to trust God, we teach them how to pray, but most do not.  They get relief and continue on their godless path until they again hit rock bottom.  And then they’re back at our door. Apart from faith in Jesus, there is no power for the godless.   There is just the rough, godless, hard, lifeless, joyless, impoverished road you’ve always walked.

But with faith in Jesus Christ, there is real hope, there is real power!  Romans 1:16 Paul says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, of it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. . .” Ephesians 3:16 speaks of how God has granted that those in Christ to “be strengthened with power through His Spirit.”

Particularly noteworthy are Paul’s words in Ephesians 6:10-20 (see NIV).  This weekend we honor the soldier.  Our country has the most powerful military of any nation that’s every inhabited the earth.  We also have the finest trained men and women.  But there is a limit to what fleshly warfare can achieve—as we’re well aware!

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.  Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.  In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.”

The Spirit’s power is unleashed through prayer and proclamation of the Word.  Our first priority when someone comes to the church in crisis is to first listen, but then pray with people and share the word with them.  That is the greatest help/resource we can provide.

R.A. Torrey observes how the Spirit is like the wind.  The wind is invisible, and mysterious.  We don’t see from where it comes or where it goes.  It turns the windmill (not at Southwind Park, but other windmills).  It fills our sails, drives the vessel out to sea, churns up the dust, shakes foundations, and affects everything material and physical.  The wind is indispensable—it strengthens, fortifies, anchors, roots, tests. In the same way, the Spirit is invisible, we don’t see him but we feel his power.

Trust God’s word!  Pray!

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Our Boldness Reflects Confidence in our Eternal Hope

I want to end with this final idea.  If we’re led by the Spirit, we could very well pay a great price with our life.  Every sign points to an ever increasing hostility toward churches, and toward Christians.  Around the world, this hostility is in full season.  I think of the many soldiers, who have lost their lives, confronting evil around the world.  There is a price that is to be paid for boldness—one that involves flesh and blood.

In Ephesians 1:3 Paul reminds us that “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.”

In Ephesians 4:30 Paul urges us then, not to grieve the Holy Spirit “by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”  In 2 Corinthians 1:21-22 says, “For all the promises of God find their YES in Jesus. That is why it is through him that we utter our AMEN to God for his glory.  And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.”

After they had destroyed Jesus’ body, God raised Jesus from the grave by the power of the Spirit.  There are those who can destroy the flesh, but cannot destroy soul.  God can destroy both.  But if you’re in Christ God promises to preserve both body and soul.  God promises to give us a new resurrection body (1 Corinthians 15), and he promises that our Spirit will dwell with him for all eternity (2 Corinthians 5).

We don’t have to be afraid.  We can have boldness and courage about the things that matter for eternity.  This was the hallmark of the early church.

Be bold. We have the Inspired Word of God… the Spirit is actively at work, all around us in the world… The Spirit by virtue of our faith, is powerful to save us…  Finally the Spirit seals us, so that death can never lay claim on us, so that we can never be separated from God…  but ushered into presence where we’ll dwell with him forever.

~The Word Is Ever Before Us NOW!!!!~

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Question: “Why is God going to send a strong delusion in the end times?”

Answer: The Bible makes it clear why God is sending a strong delusion in the end times: “They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness” (2 Thessalonians 2:10-12). Simply put, God sends a strong delusion to those who chose not to believe the gospel of Christ. Those who take delight in mocking and rejecting Him, He will condemn.

It is man’s choice whether to accept and believe the truth of Jesus Christ as presented in the Scriptures. To receive the truth and the love God offers is in keeping with its teachings, “This is love for God: to obey His commands” (1 John 5:3). Conversely, to know the truth and not obey it is to face the wrath of God: “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness” (Romans 1:18). Frankly speaking, there is no more dangerous condition for man than to know the truth and refuse to obey it. To do so is to harden the heart and make God’s condemnation sure.

When one knows the truth and refuses to obey it, he is subject to any lie, any deception, any untruth that man can conjure up. “For although they knew God, they neither glorified Him nor gave thanks to Him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools” (Romans 1:21-22). Paul goes on in next few verses to describe the mindset and behaviors of those who disbelieve (see Romans 1:29-31). As a result of man’s foolishness and his arrogant disdain of the things of God, “God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done” (Romans 1:28). And correspondingly, “Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things, but also approve of those who practice them” (Romans 1:32).

Isaiah puts it succinctly: “They have chosen their own ways, and their souls delight in their abominations; so I [God] also will choose harsh treatment for them and bring upon them what they dread. For when I called, no one answered, when I spoke, no one listened. They did evil in My sight and chose what displeases Me” (Isaiah 66:3-4).

When men know the truth and refuse to receive it, when they refuse to obey it and hold it in unrighteousness, “they will be condemned for enjoying evil rather than believing the truth” (2 Thessalonians 2:12 NLT).

“God is love” (1 John 4:16). He is not some cruel monster who deliberately and inwardly delights in preparing people for everlasting condemnation. But He earnestly and lovingly proclaims the gospel of Christ, “not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

Throughout the Scriptures, God urges people to accept the truth. But when people reject Him and spurn His message, then—and not until then—God hardens them and turns them over to a deluded mind to wallow in their wickedness to their eternal damnation. This is what the Lord says about those who choose to reject the truth: “They greatly love to wander; they do not restrain their feet. So the Lord does not accept them; He will now remember their wickedness and punish them for their sins” (Jeremiah 14:10).

~ Are You For Sale?~

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Question: “Is it possible to sell your soul to the devil?”

Answer: In the fanciful tale of Dr. Faustus, a man makes a deal with the devil: in exchange for his body and soul, the man is to receive supernatural power and pleasures for 24 years. The devil agrees to the trade, and Dr. Faustus enjoys the pleasures of sin for a season, but his doom is sealed. At the end of 24 years, Faustus attempts to thwart the devil’s plans, but he meets a frightful demise, nonetheless. This legend works well as a morality tale and as a metaphor for the wages of sin, but the details of its plot are not biblical.

The Bible has no instance of a person “selling his soul” to Satan, and it never implies that making a bargain with the devil is possible. Here is some of what Scripture does reveal about Satan:

1) Satan has power enough to oppose even the angels (Jude 9; Daniel 10:12-13).

2) Satan seeks to deceive by masquerading as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14-15).

3) God has provided the means of defending ourselves against Satan’s attacks (Ephesians 6:11-12).

4) Satan’s power is limited by God’s will (Job 1:10-12; 1 Corinthians 10:13).

5) As “the god of this world,” Satan has dominion over those who live without Christ in the world (2 Corinthians 4:4).

Surely, there are those who suffer under direct satanic control, such as the young medium of Philippi (Acts 16:16-19). And there are those who have devoted themselves to the devil’s work, such as the sorcerers Simon (Acts 8:9-11) and Elymas (Acts 13:8). However, in each of these three examples, the power of God prevails over Satan’s slavery. In fact, Simon is offered a chance to repent (Acts 8:22). Obviously, there had been no irrevocable “selling” of Simon’s soul.

Without Christ, we are all under condemnation of death (Romans 3:23). Before we are saved, we are all in bondage to the devil, as 1 John 5:19 says, “The whole world lies in the power of the evil one.” Praise the Lord, we have a new Master, One who can break the chains of any sin and set us free (1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Mark 5:1-15).

~The Foolishness of God’s Creation~

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Foolishness is indeed the sister of wickedness.

Sophocles

I’m convinced that the two most important questions every one of us has to ask and ultimately get right are, is life a waste of time: Is there a God? If there is a God, has that God spoken and revealed Himself in a way that we can understand and know him?
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Really since the beginning of time, the human race has been plagued with questions about life, death, evil, goodness and purpose. Is there a God? If there is a God, has that God spoken and revealed Himself in a way that we can understand and know him?If the answers are no, then it really doesn’t matter if there is a God!

Now lets say – there is a God, what good is that if I can’t know Him and understand what He communicates to me? This is one of my major arguments with Islam and New Age – to them God is not personal or knowable and this is so defeating and fatalistic!

Today, what I want to do is deal with the fundamental statement of the fool…“There is no God!”

But maybe you’re thinking, Pastor, I’ve never seen this God? I realize this, but this is true with gravity and oxygen and your enjoying both right now! You see, you don’t need to see Him physically to experience Him spiritually!

Do you know what’s amazing about this Psalm? This Psalm begins with people who don’t believe in God. And get this:

– There are 41,173 verses in the Bible and God gives one half of one verse to the atheist!

– There are 774,746 words in the Bible and God gives the atheist 11 words.

There was an atheist who was complaining to his friend that there’s no holiday for the atheist. Christians have Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter. Then his friend said, “Then why don’t you take April 1st!”

I’ve come to realize that there are only 3 things we can do with God, and they’re all found right here in Psalm 14.

Let’s look at them…

1. We Can Deny The Reality of God. Vs. 1a

About 7% of America does just that! They say, “There’s no God, so I’m a fool!” What we just read is the only dialogue God has with the atheist – that’s it! 2 sentences: “There’s no God!” And God says, “Fool”! End of conversation!

This reminds me of a little boy who was talking to his atheist dad at dinner and said, “Dad, do you think God knows that we don’t believe in him?”

Even the most educated genius with the highest I.Q. can be a fool! The person in the natural can know what E=MC square is, but in the spiritual knows nothing about the ABC’s of God!

Think about it – the most brilliant scientist who sees a car – has no problem believing there’s a designer. He sees a portrait and has no problem believing there’s an artist. He reads a book and has no problem believing there’s an author! But when he sees creation, he denies there’s a creator! That’s really amazing to me!

In 1916 Albert Einstein was so disturbed that the universe was not eternal but in fact had a beginning that he wrote about this “Irritating fact”, “Philosophically, the notion of a beginning of the present order of nature is repugnant to me…I should like to find a genius loophole.”

But in 1949 he wrote, “Science without religion is lame; religion without science is blind.”

You know, while there really is only about 7% in America who are atheist, the truth of the matter is that there’s more foolish people in America than we admit! More foolish people who claim to be Christians even!

There are 2 types of atheist in America:

– The intellectual – believes there’s no God.

– The practical – behaves like there’s no God.

And the most foolish person in the world today is not the intellectual fool, but rather the practical fool, the one who believes in God but their lifestyle is godless!

The practical atheist says:
There’s a God, but I’m going to live without him.
There is a Bible, but I’m not going to live by it.
There’s a Lord’s Day, but I’m going to sleep it away or go fishing all day!

The most famous atheist of our day was Madelyn Murray O’Hare. Her son William quotes her as saying…“I’m an atheist, not because I’ve searched behind every star and looked under every rock to prove there’s no God. I’m an atheist because I want to live my life as if there’s no God.”

I can understand why she would say this – but why do people who believe in God say this also?

2. We Can Detest Any Response To God.

Don’t miss what I’m about to say…God doesn’t deal with atheism on an intellectual level – because atheism is not an intellectual issue, it’s a moral issue. It’s not so much a mental problem as it is a moral problem! Atheism is not a head problem – it’s a heart problem! Atheism is not a person who cannot believe in God as much as it’s a person who will not believe in God!

Why? Verse 1

The atheist’s biggest problem is not in the evidence but rather the great threat God is to their lifestyle! Think about it…If there’s no God, then there’s no judgment, no punishment, no standard of what’s right or wrong – why not make it whatever you want?

Why not have a fling without a ring? Why not perous with someone else’s spouse? Why not flirt and pervert your vows – after all, to the atheist there’s no judge or standard!

You maybe thinking, “Pastor, you’re exaggerating!” Think again!

Psalm 10:13 “Why do the wicked renounce God? He has said in his heart, you will not require an account.”

Here’s the basic reason we live a life as a practical atheist or an intellectual atheist – there’s no accountability!

Bin laden, Hamas, Hezbollah and all these terrorizing termites around the world, really believe they will get away with such evil acts – and somehow 70 virgins and flowing wine await them in heaven!

From Corporate America to Capital Hill, from cheating spouses to cheating taxpayers, from the drug pusher to the gangbanger, from the porn king to the drag queen – somehow they really think they’ll get away with it all!

Folks, that’s why the intellectual atheist is hell bent to get God out of the School House, Court House, White House and eventually the Church House! And all long, the practical atheist is silently rooting for the intellectual atheist – because they think this just might smooth over their conscience!

Mr. Newdall the man who was trying to get the words, “In God we trust” out of the pledge last year…inwardly he’s screaming, “Stop reminding me that I just might be accountable to God!”  Why is Christianity under attack today in such a vicious manner? Mark it down, when people begin with intolerance towards God – they end up intolerant with God’s people! You see when atheistic people see you and me more like Christ – it gets under their skin and their conscience begins to itch away at their deepest level.

Folks…the same reason people can’t find God is the same reason a thief can’t find a police man! It’ll mess up their lives!

3. We Can Delight in a Relationship With God. Vs. 5
“Righteous generation”

It’s not about people doing right, but people being right. Huge difference! People who want to see God with their heart and head!

Jeremiah 29:13 “And you shall seek me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.”

Here’s the key…a real relationship with God is through faith. Not just science, not just by touch – and don’t let anyone ever ridicule you because you live your life by faith, because the atheist does also!

Robert Rowe, An atheist professor from Purdue University, educated at Oxford, once read to his students from his new book, “Even as the evangelical Christian accepts God by faith, I reject the idea of God by faith, but I cannot reject God by reason alone for there is too much evidence of His existence. It is by faith I am an atheist.”

LifePoint: We can experience victory and experience His forgiveness and spend eternity with Him – it may start with the head but it’s going to lead to the heart!

You’ve probably never heard of O. W. Saunders, an atheist that spent all of his life without God. He was a popular journalist about a 100 years ago from North Carolina.

At the end of his life he wrote these heart-breaking words…

“I would love to introduce you to the most lonesome individual on earth. I’m talking about the man who doesn’t believe in God. I can introduce you to such a man because I’m that man. By introducing myself, I introduce an atheist or a skeptic that lives in your neighborhood, because he’s everywhere. You’ll be surprised that the atheist envies your faith in God, your subtle belief of heaven after life. He’s jealous of your blessed assurance that you will meet your loved ones in the after life with no sadness or pain.

He would give anything to be able to embrace that faith and be comforted by it, for him, there’s only two things, the grave and the persistence of matter.

The atheist may face life with a smile and a heroic attitude. He may put on a brave front, but he’s not happy. He stands in awe and reverence before the vastness and majesty of the universe, not knowing where he came from or why. He’s appalled by the Why is Christianity under attack today in such a vicious manner? Mark it down, when people begin with intolerance towards God – they end up intolerant with God’s people! You see when atheistic people see you and me more like Christ – it gets under their skin and their conscience begins to itch away at their deepest level.

Folks…the same reason people can’t find God is the same reason a thief can’t find a police man! It’ll mess up their lives!

3. We Can Delight in a Relationship With God. Vs. 5
“Righteous generation”

It’s not about people doing right, but people being right. Huge difference! People who want to see God with their heart and head!

Jeremiah 29:13 “And you shall seek me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.”

Here’s the key…a real relationship with God is through faith. Not just science, not just by touch – and don’t let anyone ever ridicule you because you live your life by faith, because the atheist does also!

Robert Rowe, An atheist professor from Purdue University, educated at Oxford, once read to his students from his new book, “Even as the evangelical Christian accepts God by faith, I reject the idea of God by faith, but I cannot reject God by reason alone for there is too much evidence of His existence. It is by faith I am an atheist.”

LifePoint: We can experience victory and experience His forgiveness and spend eternity with Him – it may start with the head but it’s going to lead to the heart!

You’ve probably never heard of O. W. Saunders, an atheist that spent all of his life without God. He was a popular journalist about a 100 years ago from North Carolina.

At the end of his life he wrote these heart-breaking words…

“I would love to introduce you to the most lonesome individual on earth. I’m talking about the man who doesn’t believe in God. I can introduce you to such a man because I’m that man. By introducing myself, I introduce an atheist or a skeptic that lives in your neighborhood, because he’s everywhere. You’ll be surprised that the atheist envies your faith in God, your subtle belief of heaven after life. He’s jealous of your blessed assurance that you will meet your loved ones in the after life with no sadness or pain.

He would give anything to be able to embrace that faith and be comforted by it, for him, there’s only two things, the grave and the persistence of matter.

The atheist may face life with a smile and a heroic attitude. He may put on a brave front, but he’s not happy. He stands in awe and reverence before the vastness and majesty of the universe, not knowing where he came from or why. He’s appalled by the stupendency of space and the infinity of time, humiliated at the smallness of himself and his own weakness and brevity. of space and the infinity of time, humiliated at the smallness of himself and his own weakness and brevity.thecrossisfoolishness____

Certainly he yearns for a staff on which to lean, he too carries a cross. For him this earth is but a tricky raft, adrift in the unfathomable waters of eternity with no horizon in site. His heart aches for every precious life upon the raft because he’s always drifting, always drifting, always drifting, where he goes he does not know.”

There may be a Mr. Saunders here today, and I say to you, there is a God who loves you, cares for you and even poured out His life for you and His name is Jesus! And He did all that so you can know for sure that your drifting days are over!

~Living inside out for Christ~

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Christian Lifestyle

Christian Lifestyle – Unchanged
What’s the purpose of living a Christian lifestyle? Choosing to make Jesus Christ the Lord of our life changes our lifestyle dramatically. Friendships, activities, and even health issues receive careful evaluation. While we formulate reasons for the way we live our Christian lives, God’s purpose for our lives never changes.

  • To remain connected to God through Jesus Christ (John 15:4–8). A life that’s cut off from God withers and dies — physically as well as spiritually. God desires to reproduce His Son’s life through our fruitfulness.
  • To remain faithful through persecution and to resist false doctrine (2 Timothy 3:12–17). The apostle Paul expected situations to become worse as worldly pressures increased. Our testimony and knowledge of the Scriptures arm us against any deceivers or deceptive ideals.
  • To present the Good News to a lost world (Mark 16:15-16; 1 Timothy 6:12) Like an athlete or soldier, we present our best efforts to further the faith. Our transformed lives compel us to share the Gospel’s impact not just for our “today,” but for our eternity.

Christian Lifestyle – Rules
Are there specific guidelines that constitute a Christian lifestyle? From theologian to theologian, any “lifestyle” list would differ. Drinking, movies, music, dancing, politics, fashion, education . . . to what degree do we shape our choices so we maintain a Christian lifestyle? “Do not copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do…” (Romans 12:2). For one year A.J. Jacobs attempted to obey more than 700 rules and prohibitions found in the Bible. At the end of one year he confessed, “I started the year as an agnostic, and now I am a reverent agnostic.” A Christian lifestyle should never become a list of rules. We must take our attention off mandates and focus on the Man. To paraphrase, “What did Jesus do?”

Christian Lifestyle – Inside Out
What are the outward and inward evidence of a Christian lifestyle? You can present an outward appearance of holiness daily and still serve as a poor Christian witness (Matthew 23:27-28). To live as a Christian requires having the character of Christ. A transformation must occur, as a result of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling (Galatians 5:24-25).

When we truly practice a Christian lifestyle, the inward evidence becomes obvious. God’s glory and power pours out upon all those around us. Our faith in the midst of turmoil flows from a heart given to a loving Father. Every breath carries words of compassion and affirmation to a hurting world. Those who live the Christian lifestyle live a confident life on the inside and outside.

“This High Priest [Jesus Christ] of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same temptations we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it” (Hebrews 4:15-16).

Learn More!

WHAT DO YOU THINK? – We have all sinned and deserve God’s judgment. God, the Father, sent His only Son to satisfy that judgment for those who believe in Him. Jesus, the creator and eternal Son of God, who lived a sinless life, loves us so much that He died for our sins, taking the punishment that we deserve, was buried, and rose from the dead according to theBible. If you truly believe and trust this in your heart, receiving Jesus alone as your Savior, declaring, “Jesus is Lord,” you will be saved from judgment and spend eternity with God in heaven.

What is your response?

Yes, today I am deciding to follow Jesus

Yes, I am already a follower of Jesus

I still have questions

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~ The cost of being a leader~

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No man will make a great leader who wants to do it all himself or get all the credit for doing it.

Andrew Carnegie

Becoming a leader was a great challenge for me. My first responsibility as a leader was as class president. My second was fatherhood, my third was team leader on several campaigns abroad while serving my country. I was blessed to have been raised by a leader in my home. LT. Cornell Johnny Pratt United States Army. Under his grooming I found excuses to rebel. It was uncomfortable learning how to follow not knowing in doing so I was being prepared for great responsibility.

 “There’s an ego looking for a place to inflate,” my mom would whisper to me as my siblings entered the room, a prophecy that unfortunately soon proved itself to be true. “The long, dark corridor of life narrows at the end./ And those whose ego grow too tall will have to learn to bend.” I miss my mom who ultimately was the stronger vessel in our home due to all the humility she showed while ministering her faith in Christ to a Islamic domineered home.

Numbers 13-14

I. A place of leadership is a place of honor

Imagine the honor of it. From what may have been two million people 12 men were chosen. One dozen, from two million. Surely, the crowd roared for each name called, the way sports fans cheer for their heroes, the way political rallies yell the name of their candidate. They had a cheering base of more than 150,000 to a man, and the sound must have thundered across the valley.

Moses called them, one by one. Shammua, Shaphat, Caleb, Igal, Hoshea (or Joshua), Palti, Gaddiel, Gaddi, Ammiel, Sethur, Nahbi, Geuel!

Their heads held high, these 12 men chosen as leaders for God’s people, were honored for a lifetime of work, a lifetime of integrity, and a lifetime of courage. The applause must have been sweet to many of them, if not every one of them.

We already know the rest of the story, how 10 out of the 12 would fail miserably in their leadership role. Only Caleb and Joshua would lead with courage and God-led conviction. Before we get to the failures of the 10, however, focus on the truth of the honor. It is a great honor to be chosen as a leader among God’s people.

When Paul briefed Timothy about the qualifications of deacons, he said – If a man serves well as a deacon, he earns an “excellent standing.” (1Timothy 3:13) The phrase for “excellent standing” means, “A step above.” The leader, who would be a deacon or a pastor in a church, is not exalted over the Christians he serves. Instead, he is simply pulled out of the group, like these 12 leaders in the wilderness, and placed in the spotlight. He is given a small step stool so all who are near can see his example. It is as if God says of this leader: “Here’s the example of what it means to be a Christian. Here’s one we will use as a model.”

There is great honor in being selected as a model for God’s people. The danger arrives when a leader wants all of the honor, without taking all of the responsibility.

II. A place of leadership is a place of great responsibility

This is the cost of leadership. This is where the great leaders earn their place in history.

For the generation of God’s people on the edge of the Promised Land, there was never a bigger crisis of leadership than when their 12 leaders were given the responsibility of spying out the land. They were to seek out the land, come back with the reports, and then issue the challenge of faith to all the people. Two would be up to the challenge, but 10 would wilt under the heavy load of responsibility.

Be careful to note this: All 12 of these leaders were courageous, and all 12 took courageous action in the beginning. They slipped into the land of the enemy, managed to live for some time in a dangerous place, and they even stole some prime produce from land owners who were surely protecting their crops. All 12 came home safely, and the entire dozen completed the first portion of the task given them. They had been good spies and had full reports of what they had seen.

However, the responsibility of this group was not simply to spy out the land. They were not chosen to be geologists, real estate agents, or agricultural surveyors. They were chosen to be leaders of God’s people, charged with giving God’s people God’s message. Whatever godly leaders are charged to do, eventually their responsibility is to be faith-driven leaders.

That’s where this group failed. Instead of reporting faith, ten of these leaders would eventually report of the fear they felt. Only two gave the challenge of moving forward in faith. When the people sided with fear instead of faith, their opportunity to live inside the Promised Land vanished.

A place of leadership is a place of tremendous responsibility, for a leader’s faith is on public display. The responsibility of a leader to live in that faith is a great weight.

III. An effective leader does not let problems stop the promise

When the people listened to the ten frightened spies who made a case for fear, instead of the two leaders calling them toward faith, God wanted to destroy them all. Had God done so, the entire exodus from Egypt would have been wasted. The promise of the Promised Land would be delayed by centuries. The nation of God’s people would be destroyed, and God’s reputation, therefore, would be greatly damaged. This was no small problem.

Moses made his best case before God, desperately trying to ward off a deadly, righteous anger.

Amazingly, God relented. Instead of destroying the nation, God only destroyed a generation. Forty years later, Joshua and Caleb would lead the children and grandchildren of this experience into the Promised Land. They would do so only because Moses did his best to not let a problem stop the promise.

If you’re going to lead, you’d better comprehend the truth. There will always be problems along the way. The problems come, and the problems go. Moses might put it this way: Today they complain about manna, tomorrow they’ll complain about quail. One day it’s a problem of thirst, the next it’s a problem of idolatry.

Leaders learn that problems look very large in the present, and very small from the distance. Effective leaders simply refuse to let something that looks so large block out the big picture. If Moses had forgotten the priceless value of God’s promise, his people would have died in the dessert. An effective leader simply cannot let a temporary problem – no matter how large – block the promise of the goal.

Colonel George Washington Goethals, the man responsible for the completion of the Panama Canal, had stifling  problems with the climate and the geography of Central America. Driving rains, incredible heat, and deadly disease were problems that never left his task. But his biggest challenge was the growing criticism back home from those who predicted he’d never finish the project. The voices of the critics appeared to be the biggest problem of all.

Finally, a colleague asked him, “Aren’t you going to answer these critics?”

“In time,” answered Geothals.

“When?” his partner asked.

“When the canal is finished.”

IV. The most important quality a leader must have is faith

Moses was humble, he was compassionate, he was consistent. But most of all, he was a man of great faith. The writer of Hebrews said the greatest mark of Moses was that he believed God, and that he led God’s people by faith. History’s summary of this great leader’s life was that he was a man of faith. (see Hebrews 11:23-29)

Moses had been a consistent man of faith among a people who had been consistently faithless. When God listed his complaints about the people, He said they had tested him ten times (see Numbers 14:22). How could people who had escaped Egypt, walked safely across the dry floor of the Red Sea, and eaten miraculous food doubt that God was with them? Had they not seen the Tabernacle, and the fire that glowed over it at night? Could they not remember the plagues that struck Egypt at Moses’ command?

Don’t be too hard on the people surrounding Moses. The disciples of Jesus had trouble walking across the bridge of faith, even after the Resurrection!

The followers around Jesus who were about to see the Lord ascend into heaven had seen the healing of countless sick people, the restoring of sight to the blind, and the raising of the dead. They had seen the crucifixion and the resurrection, and had reflected on the prophecy concerning the Messiah for more than a month. They had been with their resurrected Lord on multiple occasions, and could see him at that very moment. But just before Jesus gave his last instructions, Matthew records these words:

“The 11 disciples traveled to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had directed them. When they saw Him, they worshiped, but some doubted.” Matt 28:16-17 (HCSB) It seems unbelievable. How could they see all that they had seen, and still doubt the power of God?

The end truth is that faith is a tough quality to have, and that if a person is going to lead God’s people, he or she simply cannot lead without faith. You must believe, without doubting. You must be able to believe, and then act confidently upon those beliefs. Perhaps that is why Jesus looked at those struggling, doubting disciples, and then simply said … “Now, go into all the world …” Jesus called his leaders to a faith-based action, just as he does today. You may still have some doubts, but the instruction still comes, loud and clear: “Go!”

Conclusion

What a gift God has given us in the stories of the Bible. While we might be squarely in the middle of a crisis, a problem, or a great challenge, the record of God’s people before us reminds us of the course of action we must take, and of the great reward for the leader who holds fast to the challenge of faith.

When God issued his judgment against the people, he also issued his rewards:

Joshua had the privilege of leading a new generation across the Jordan River, through the crumbling walls of Jericho, and into the Promised Land. Caleb lived a long, vibrant life, and saw the passion of his faith greatly rewarded. Both men outlived every grumbler, complainer, and naysayer around them. They became the only two names we remember from the original 12 leaders who spied out the land. The rewards of leadership are priceless.

~ Am I a Seasonal Faith Holder?~

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C.S. Lewis halted a generation of would-be converts in their tracks when he famously said, “I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.”

Lewis’ candor is certainly a strange sales pitch today, when Christianity is more often presented as good medicine for life’s ills than a costly call to faith. Today, Jesus is more often equated with the cure-all to felt needs—happiness, inner peace, life purpose and more— than the objective truth of the gospel. “Jesus will make your life better” is the gist of it.

But how does this pitch line up with the gospel? It hardly squares away with Jesus; words: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 6:24.) If this is Jesus’ invitation, then we need to drastically change the current call to faith. Instead of making cheap promises, we need to ask the harder question: “Will you follow Jesus even if your life doesn’t get better?”
images (5)If we’re not careful, we inadvertently imply that if one only focuses enough on Jesus, one’s circumstances will get better, and better, and oh-so infinitely better. Too often evangelistic zeal truncates the gospel to be more accessible, more compelling, and more applicable to the felt needs of an audience. Are you sad? Jesus is your joy. Are you depressed? Jesus is your comfort. Are you confused? Jesus is your guidance. Surely, these are all important truths that are part of real faith. But they are not the whole package. If we’re not careful, we inadvertently imply that if one only focuses enough on Jesus, one’s circumstances will get better, and better, and oh-so infinitely better.

The False Promise Gospel

But the trend becomes even more disturbing as we observe the fallout of our Jesus-will-fix-all-my-problems kind of faith.

This gospel presentation misleads people to become more focused on their problems than on Jesus Himself. While they step into faith, they stay center stage. And unfortunately, when circumstances do head south, they are ill-equipped to deal with them. When something bad happens, all is lost. Many of us have had tear-filled conversations with friends who are questioning why God would let bad things happen to people, let alone to good people, and even more so to His people. When these questions go unanswered, many people leave faith behind because they are tired of waiting, or they do not trust God to actually show up. Instead they go off in search of their own, more immediate solution. They want comfort and happiness. They’d prefer the port. Ultimately, they are still the center of their lives, not God.

The sincerity of such struggles should not be undermined, nor the biblical precedent for lamenting overlooked. The Bible shows many of God’s people questioning His inactivity or perceived absence. However, it seems that people want to follow Jesus—even enthusiastically for a season—but then jump ship when their lives don’t get better, easier, brighter—you name it.

Perhaps we need to stop and examine if we have set them up for this by portraying a circumstantial spirituality that stops short of the robust faith of the Bible.

Jesus does make your life better. Jesus certainly is the ultimate problem-solver, and it is true that we will find our deepest purpose satisfied only in the life He offered on two crooked beams. But Jesus by no means promises a better life in the sense of all your circumstances. In other words, following Jesus doesn’t mean that everything will go smoothly, that every aspiration of your heart will be achieved, and that all your loved ones will live to see 100. Yes, Jesus’ yoke is easy and his burden is light but so is the gate wide that leads to destruction, and narrow the one that leads to life (Matthew 7:13-14; 11:30.)

Somehow people get the notion that when God blesses, it means that He will give us great things and perfect circumstances—and right now. Or, if God’s blessing is upon us we can expect to have better lives than those who do not believe in Jesus. Blessing equals easier and better. Conversely, sometimes people believe that extended discomfort means there is something they have done wrong, or a lack of faith which inhibits God’s blessing. But what if this is a misconstrued concept of blessing? Can’t the blessing of God involve pain, suffering, waiting and holding on to a truth in spite of our circumstances? Isn’t it a blessing to be disciplined by our loving Father even if it causes discomfort? adding-to-our-faith-17-638

In his classic The Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan writes a beautiful hymn about the difficulties of the Christian journey: “This Hill, though high, I covet to ascend, The Difficulty will not me offend. For I perceive the Way to life lies here: Come pluck up Heart, let’s neither faint nor fear; Better, though difficult, the Right Way to go, Than Wrong, though easy, where the End is Wo.”

I can imagine Paul joining in the singing of this song. In his second letter to the Corinthians, after recounting all the challenges he faced following Jesus faithfully—in being mistreated, punished, sorrowful, poor—he concludes that in having nothing, he possessed everything (2 Corinthians 6:1-10.) When Paul’s life and circumstances were destitute, and when he could have been reasonably despondent, he experienced joy. How? He practiced an objective, God-focused Christianity rather than a subjective, me-focused Christianity. He was marked by a spirituality that takes the focus off oneself.

A Fresh Start to Faith

Our circumstances, as important as they may be, are not the primary guidelines for our faith. When we make personal benefits and rewards the starting point of our faith instead of praise that we owe our Savior, we start a walk of faith that is backward in its priorities. Yes, a great truth about God is that He is for us, with us, and even acts on our behalf. But it is His Truth that impacts our circumstances, and not the other way around. Our circumstances, as important as they may be, are not the primary guidelines for our faith. What is supposed to be our hope, our trust, despite whatever may come is that God is true, good, eternal and persistently consistent. Our trust is in God’s character, revealed ultimately in the gospel, and not in how congruent our circumstances are with what we know of God.

Often, circumstances will not be as easy or comfortable as we would prefer. The Bible paints an honest picture of reality: You will sin, you will have challenges in relationships, people will hurt you and you will hurt them, the world is set against you and evil is actively working against you. So, what do we do? The one consistent action of the people of God is a recognition of who God is, what he has done in the past and what He promises to accomplish at the end of time. We can rest our faith on the permanence of this truth.