Christianity 201

April 12, 2017

Is it Gratitude or Is it Love?

Ronnie Dauber is a Christian author who lives in Canada with her family. She has written several young adult novels and six Inspirational books. We’re introducing here today at C201 for the first time.

When I started reading this article, I thought it was rather elementary, but then I looked at the central question — gratitude vs. love — and I started to really examine my own heart. In what follows she says love isn’t an automatic response, “like sending out Christmas cards where we receive one from somebody and then send one back out of response because it’s the right thing to do.” We have to get past that and know that “we are only able to praise Him and worship Him from our heart—and we can only do that when we truly love Him.”

Click the title below to read at source — it’s more visually interesting that way — and look around the rest of her website.

Gratitude or Love

As Christians, we are supposed to love God, but how many of us actually know why we love God? Sometimes we get confused between the gift and the giver and we tend to value the gifts and the promises more than we value the actual One who gives them to us. So we need to know our own heart and what our response is to God: is it gratitude for the blessings or love because He is our Father?

Many of us have been at a store at some time or another and found ourselves to be slightly short in cash when we’re paying for our purchase. We fret and get embarrassed and then a total stranger will step in and give us that bit of money and not want anything in return. They were being very kind and understanding in our situation and they acted in a totally Christian way. But do we love them for their gift or are we just very grateful for their kindness?

It’s very easy in this materialistic world to confuse gratitude with love, and we need to understand what love is and why we love God. And we need to know the difference because if what we feel for God is not love, then we could be deceiving ourselves.

We love God because He first loved us! But this love is not an auto response—it’s a heartfelt commitment. This isn’t like sending out Christmas cards where we receive one from somebody and then send one back out of response because it’s the right thing to do. And it isn’t like an offering plate where we see others putting bills into the offering and then decide that we really should do the same. Loving God is not an auto-response and it’s not an obligation.

When God says that He loved us first, He means that He really loved us first! He loved us when we were so deep into sin that we mocked Him and cursed Him. He loved us because He created us and He knows that sin has distorted our heart and that there is deathly punishment for that sin. But—because He loves us—He is willing to forgive us for everything we’ve done against Him when we accept His salvation. Jesus actually died that horrific death on the cross because He loves us. He didn’t do it just to be a recognized hero. He wanted us to live! He wanted to take upon Himself all of our sins so that we wouldn’t have to stand in judgment and be punished for them one day.

Salvation is personal; it’s not an automatic pardon for everyone. Jesus died for everyone, but not everyone is saved. To receive His salvation, we need to accept and believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross and then rose again on the third day and now sits on the right hand of God in Heaven. Salvation requires repentance and submission to Christ. It’s not automatic. We must receive it and when we do, we will feel His love for us in our heart and we will want to love Him back.

  • We love him, because He first loved us.—1 John 4:19

Jesus became the atonement for the sins of every single person ever born, which means that He died for everyone’s sins, but not everyone will receive it. The Inclusion religion says that everyone is automatically saved and that God accepts us just as we are, sin and all, but the Bible says that we must repent and accept Jesus as Lord and be born again into the Kingdom of God.

  • For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.—Matthew 26:28

Jesus is the only way for any of us to get to God, our Father. He provided salvation out of love for His Father and out of love for those who the Father loves. That’s you and me! And all we have to do is receive it and accept it and no longer want to belong to this world. We become part of His elect family and we wait for Jesus to return as King. But as we wait, we share the love with others and we treat them with the same love and compassion that God has extended to us.

  • Jesus saith unto him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me.”—John 14:6

This is God’s amazing love for us! And there is no one more deserving of our praise and worship than God! And we are only able to praise Him and worship Him from our heart—and we can only do that when we truly love Him. And our praise and worship to Him is our heartfelt response to His love for us, and so in our heart we become one with Him and His love lives in us. God did what He promised He would do; He took our sins away at the cross and finished His plan of redemption for us.

Confusion comes when preachers focus on what God will do for us now that we’re saved, rather than on what He did for us so we could be saved. We are grateful for the blessings that God gives us, but we don’t love Him only because of the blessings. Our love for God is true when we can love Him even without the blessings because He is our Heavenly Father and He loves us.

When we get saved we realize in our heart all that God went through to save us from sin, and so we are able to love God because of this love that He has always had for us. We are moved with compassion! Our hearts are filled with gratitude for this gift of life that He has given to us through Jesus. And then we can also realize that He wants to bless us and we can receive the blessings as a child. We read the Bible and know what His promises to His children are, and we can expect and trust that God will take care of us just as He promised He would. All these things are given to us because God loves us and we now belong to Him.

But how can we be sure that we really love God and are not just seeking the blessings? When we really love God, we crave to study the Bible so we can know Him, and then we obey His instructions for us and we don’t try to change any part of His law to suit ourselves. We are totally sold out to God and follow Him all the way, and we’ll see that our heart becomes filled with the same passion for the lost souls of this world as His heart was for us when we were still lost. We will want to share the gospel with others, and we’ll want to help people, and we’ll want to be part of the ministries of God that go out into the world and preach the gospel of Christ. We will love people with the same passion as God loves us and we’ll know that’s what in our heart is a true love for God!

  • If you love Me, keep My commandments.—John 14:15

 

February 5, 2017

The Book of the Law Was Lost

by Russell Young

During the time of the kings of Judah, the Book of the Law became lost.  This is a curious thing.  By King Josiah’s time the temple had fallen into a state of disrepair and with its neglect, any regard for the law as given to Moses from God. The Book had been in the temple all along but had not been seen; its value had become unrecognized. However, the kings had been practicing a form of religion.  They had been honoring Baal, the sun, moon and constellations, Molech, Ashtoreth, Chemosh, and Milcom.  The hearts of the people had been corrupted by the worship the gods that had been introduced by Solomon for his many wives.

When King Josiah heard that the Book of the Law had been found, he ordered that it be read to all the people from the least to the greatest and he “renewed the covenant in the presence of the LORD—“to follow the LORD and keep his commands, regulations and decrees with all his heart and all his soul, thus confirming the words of the covenant.” (2 Kings 23:3 NIV) This was the everlasting covenant; it will never be aborted.

The LORD prophesied through Isaiah that he will bring the earth to destruction because it “has been defiled by its people; they have disobeyed the laws, violated the statutes and broken the everlasting covenant.” (Isaiah 24:5 NIV) This condemnation rests on those of the church age since it refers to the end times or the time of the destruction of the earth.

By that time, the Book will have been lost again—at least in the hearts, minds, and practices of the world’s people. Paul has prophesied that in the last days they will “[have] a form of godliness but denying its power.” (2 Tim 3:5 NIV) Paul was speaking to those who were practicing a form of religion, but their religion lacked any power—much like the people of King Josiah’s time. It might be wise not to think of Paul’s statement as referring to strange gods, but to dishonouring practice concerning the requirements of the living God.  Peter wrote that “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness.” (1 Pet 1:3 NIV) That is, the Holy Spirit has been given us so that everything we need for life and godliness is available. Paul cautioned Timothy to stay away from those who neglect the power of God. (2 Tim 3:5)

Is the church of today practicing a form of godliness that lacks the power of the Spirit? Has the Book been lost again even in the understanding of people of people that have many copies of the Bible within their own homes?

Those of the church should not be confused; they do not have to live under the requirements of the Old Covenant.  They have been freed from it, but they are still required to love the lord their God with all their mind, soul, and heart. (Mt 22:37) and loving him requires obedience to him. (Jn 14: 23, 24) Those in the church are assured that the requirements of the everlasting covenant, the law and the statutes, will be fulfilled within the framework of the New Covenant. “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law (the Old Covenant)” (Gal 5:18 NIV) Paul has written, “And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.” (Rom 8: 3─4 NIV)

Paul’s teaching to Timothy was that many will have a form of godliness but that form would lack the power of the Spirit. That is, in the end people will have accepted release from the bondage of the Old Covenant, but will not have committed themselves to the law of the Spirit (Rom 8:2) or to the sovereignty of God through the New Covenant.  This is serious neglect. Such practices that neglect the sovereignty of God in their lives will transpire because the “priests” of the New Covenant will have allowed it to exist, just as the priests of kings of Judah had allowed the teaching of the Book of the Law to be abandoned. For the everlasting covenant to be fulfilled, the Book will have to be found again and according to Isaiah’s prophecy, it is evident that the truths of the Book will be permanently lost resulting in the earth’s destruction.

The Lord will be satisfied with nothing less than one’s love for him with all the heart, soul, and mind.  Those who are “lukewarm” he will spit out of his mouth. (Rev 3:19) It is only through the power of the Spirit that righteousness leading to holiness can be achieved and without holiness no one will see the Lord. (Heb 12:14) Believers need to search their houses and find the Book again if it has been neglected or lost.


eternal-salvation-russell-youngRussell Young is a weekly contributor to Christianity 201 and the author of Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay! You’re Okay!” Really? available in print and eBook through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; and in Canada through Chapters/Indigo.  9781512757514 $17.99 US

October 21, 2015

Commit Before You Step Out

Life and God. Before You Take Another Step . . .

by Clarke Dixon

There is a God, but religion is for those who are into that kind of thing. Or so would say many people who go through life believing in God without much of an understanding of who God is. They believe that God exists with a kind of “there is Someone out there watching over us,” but as for being able to describe God, they would rather leave that for the fanatics. It is a bit like those who own a car, but leave the tinkering to the mechanic, or own a home, but leave the renovations to the handyman. As for knowing much about God, leave it to the pastors and Jesus-freaks. Leave it to the people who are “into” that kind of thing. But is this enough? Is wise to go through life with such an ambiguous sense of who God is and what God is like?

Following forty years of wandering in the desert, the people of God stand ready to enter the promised land. This is to be their next step, yet they are not quite ready just yet. Before they take this big step they must prepare their hearts and minds spiritually, which is why Moses gives a series of addresses, or sermons, which are collected together as the book of Deuteronomy. Part of what they need to hear is the following:

1 Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the ordinances—that the LORD your God charged me to teach you to observe in the land that you are about to cross into and occupy . . . You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. (Deuteronomy 6:1,5 emphasis mine)

Before God’s people can take the next big step, they must commit to loving God with all they’ve got and with all that they are. The first thing to note is that it is very difficult to love someone in such a way if you don’t know them. And we should note that in this very verse, God has already made clear who it is they must love. It is “The LORD” that is to be loved. Whenever we encounter “The LORD” all in capitals in our English Bible translations we must understand that this is standing in place of the name God has given for Himself. This name is considered so holy that God’s people, especially among our friends in Jewish circles, do not dare pronounce it. So we say “the LORD” instead. The point is that this is not God in some generic sense that is to be loved. This is a very personal God who has revealed Himself, making Himself known, even by name. God’s people will not be taking another step without committing to loving this very God they are in relationship with. There is no ambiguity at all here about who God is.

Furthermore, this call to love is introduced with an emphasis on the identity of God:

4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD is our God, the LORD alone. 5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. (Deuteronomy 6:4-5 emphasis mine)

In order to love the LORD, you must know the LORD. Notice that Moses does not say, “There is a God” which ends up being a rather vague statement, but rather and more specifically, “The LORD is our God.” And it is “the LORD alone” who is our God, not some other god. The identity of God is not in question for God’s people as they prepare for their next step. There is no ambiguity at all here about Who God is.

Furthermore, in knowing the Lord God’s people will fear the Lord:

1 Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the ordinances—that the LORD your God charged me to teach you to observe in the land that you are about to cross into and occupy, 2 so that you and your children and your children’s children may fear the LORD your God all the days of your life. (Deuteronomy 6:1-2 emphasis mine)

You cannot fear, or give the highest reverence and honour to, God if you have an ambiguous idea of who God is. As they stood ready to enter the promised land, God’s people knew exactly whom they were to fear.

Furthermore, in fearing the LORD God’s people will obey the LORD:

1 Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the ordinances—that the Lord your God charged me to teach you to observe in the land that you are about to cross into and occupy, 2 so that you and your children and your children’s children may fear the Lord your God all the days of your life, and keep all his decrees and his commandments that I am commanding you, so that your days may be long. 3 Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe them diligently, so that it may go well with you, and so that you may multiply greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has promised you. (Deuteronomy 6:1-3 emphasis mine)

You cannot obey God if you have a vary vague notion of who God is. As they stood ready to enter the promised land God’s people knew exactly whom they were to obey, and what laws He had given.

Furthermore, in loving, knowing, fearing, and obeying the LORD, God’s people will commit to always readying the next generation for the same:

6 Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. 7 Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. 8 Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, 9 and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:6-9)

You will be of no help to the next generation in learning to love, know, fear, and obey God if your knowledge of Him is very vague. As they stood ready to enter the promised land, God’s people knew exactly whom they were to nurture their children’s faith in.

As they stood ready for the next step, God’s people had a very specific knowledge of God. He is the One who rescued them from Egypt, He is the One who led them these last forty years, He is the One who revealed His name to them, He is the One who revealed His law to them, He is the One who is keeping His covenant promises. He is the One who will go with them into the promised land. He is the Creator. No ambiguous knowledge of God here.

And we know even more about God today. He is the One who came to us in Jesus Christ to teach us how to live, to show us how to love, to redeem us through His death, to give us hope through His resurrection, and to call us through His Spirit. There is so much more we could say about the identity of God, but I will just refer you to the entire Bible to find out more. For now, let me encourage you to not take another step in life without first taking a leap into the arms of Jesus. There is no need to go forward with an ambiguous sense of who God is. You can forward in relationship. You might leave fixing cars to mechanics and renovations to a handyman, but don’t leave knowledge of God to those who are “into that kind of thing.” You are the car in need of repairs, you are the renovation project. God is the mechanic, God is the handyman. Don’t take another step without leaping into His arms. You can face each step ahead, even if that step is forward into death, with God’s presence, with a knowledge of God, knowing and experiencing His power and love.

All Scripture references are taken from the NRSV

Clarke Dixon 10 21 15

May 25, 2015

When Love Output Exceeds Love Input

Matt. 7:21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

We make a point to try to revisit writers who have appeared here before. Such is the case with Mark McIntyre at the blog Attempts at Honesty. To read this at source, click the title below.

water pumpLove, duty and honor

When a pump tries to put out more water than it takes in, it experiences a condition called cavitation. The end result is that the internal turbulence caused by the cavitation tears up the pump and eventually renders the pump useless. The pump only works well when it takes in as much as it tries to put out.

I find a cavitating pump a fitting metaphor for what I’ve observed in churches over the years. The Apostle John tells us in 1 John 4:19 that we love because God loved us first. John also tells us in John 13:35 that love is to be the distinguishing mark of the church. Jesus himself told us that the two great commands are to love God and love our neighbor (Matthew 22:37-40).

We are commanded to love, but the source of that love must be God himself. I have firsthand experience of what happens when the church tries to convey love without relying on God as the source of that love.

Without reliance upon God as the source of love, the church (and the individuals that make up the church) tends to replace love with duty or honor. Duty is a sense of responsibility to others. Honor is an attempt at maintaining a reputation. One is focused outward the other is focused inward.

Both duty and honor are good things in themselves. There is nothing wrong with having a proper sense of responsibility to our fellow man. I see the connection between duty and fulfillment of the second command to love your neighbor. There is also nothing wrong with wanting to have a good reputation. One of the qualifications that the Apostle Paul gives us for a church leader is that he is to be a man of good reputation (1 Timothy 3:2).

The problem is that even these good things are no substitute for experiencing and conveying the love that God has for us. Duty without love becomes a hard, unyielding taskmaster. How many times have I seen people “serving” in church with little joy and even less fruit? Duty without love produces zombie Christians who lurch around but are not fully alive.

Honor without love becomes narcissistic or forces one into very superficial relationships. I cannot let you too near to me if I want to maintain the illusion that I have everything under control. Therein lies the pressure to be superficial. The narcissistic tendency manifests itself in the “look at me” aspect that rears it’s head in churches. People want to be seen “doing ministry” and get hooked on the affirmation that it provides. The smiling face may hide an ugly heart.

Perhaps we all have an inclination toward these false foundations. But I find that when I am properly connected with the love of God, I want to serve those around me because I want them to experience the same sense of God that I have. When I am properly connected with the love of God, I don’t have to worry about my reputation. If I am following God, my reputation will take care of itself. Also, if I am experiencing the love of God, I don’t have to worry that you will see my failures and weaknesses. God knows all about my failures and loves me anyway.

As with the cavitating pump, failure to allow the love of God to be the driving force and the content of our message will cause a life to eventually fall apart. If you have any doubts about this, I point you toward the most chilling words that Jesus ever uttered in Matthew 7:21-23. In this passage Jesus tells us that many who worked for duty and honor will not find entry into Heaven. It is only those who have been in relationship with him and have experienced his love and forgiveness will gain entry.

The stakes are very, very high.

 

March 16, 2015

Lovers will always Outwork Workers

Today we pay a return visit to Mary Agrusa from the blog The Thought Just Occurred to Me. As always, you’re encouraged to click the headline below to read this at source. (We had a tough time choosing which item to run, if you like C201, you’ll like the devotions there.)

Third Verse of a Hymn

Yet I have this against you: ‘You have forsaken your first love,’” (Revelation 2:4 NIV).

“One day on our way out of church, she turned to me and said, ‘Sometimes I feel like the third verse of a hymn.’” Immediately I knew what she meant. In our church, we sometimes skip the third verse of a hymn if the service is running late. ‘I feel like the third verse of a hymn’ was Mom’s way of saying she felt left out. My mother’s unique ability at description was intersecting with her common problem of feeling lonely.”1

It seems God felt the same way: overlooked, forgotten, left out – and this was by the church. How did this happen?

The Ephesians weren’t slackers. The preceding verses of Chapter Two contain praise from God for their activities. Hard workers who had no tolerance for wicked men, they stood firm in the face of pressures and hardships. This church did many things right and therein laid the problem. The Ephesians lost sight of the Lord of the work and focused on the work of the Lord.

Their failure isn’t unique. It’s easy to be so busy for God that time to spend with Him somehow evaporates. Ask a pastor (maybe not your own) how much quality time with God does his/her schedule permit. Don’t be surprised at the enormous demands they face daily – and that’s just church business – not life in general. Cell phones, e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, texts and other social media increases their exposure to those in need of instant help. Down time for any reason, like time spent with God, is difficult to carve out.

How many Christians, if they were honest, would admit their time with God’s not what it should be (whatever that means)? Maybe more than you’d think. To prove their allegiance and commitment to the cause, schedules are packed with things to do for God – activity instead of intimacy. God found this unacceptable with the Ephesians and He hasn’t changed.

We need to make a shift. Focused time spent with God produces greater results than lives cluttered with good, necessary works. Mike Bickle from IHOP, Kansas City believes lovers will always outwork workers. A deeper relationship diminishes the pressure to perform for God, others and ourselves. Attention directed toward His priorities frees up time and resources to accomplish tasks sans burnout.

God needs the permanent top spot of our “to-do” list. Forsake good things to obtain the best. At first this may feel awkward and uncomfortable; the urgent is loathe to relinquish its tyrannical hold. Any who purpose to know God, not just know about Him, never suffer disappointment. They discover the object of their affection. God’s pleased too because He really enjoys their company.

How about you? What changes can you make to allow more quality time with God? How will this improve your relationship with Him? What kinds of questions will you ask Him during your extra time with Him? How do you think this will impact your life?

The opening quote is from David Fessenden’s book, From Concept to Contract. Plan to write a book? This is a must read. A writer and editor, David gives practical insights into things to do before you start to write your book and continues throughout the process to publication.

1David Fessenden, From Concept to Contract (Galax, VA: Sonfire Media, 2011) pg 14

January 20, 2015

Keep Your Love Alive…And the Gospel Will Be Preached

We used a brief excerpt a year ago from the daily devotional Johnny B. Daily. Sometimes we return to a previous source only to find that they’ve stopped writing, or have lost the focus that we saw evident at an earlier stage. So it’s nice to go back and see someone faithfully writing, in this case since June, 2006.  For our return visit we find Johnny going verse-by-verse through Matthew. This is actually two posts, and our headline above is our attempt to link the two thoughts in the consecutive verses.

But first, Johnny always starts each day to his readers with these words:

God is good all the time, all the time God is good.  TOO BLESSED TO BE STRESSED!!!!

I love his passion and the personal tone with which he writes to his readers. To reach each piece below at source, click the individual titles:

Is your love cold? Is your love all about you? Matthew 24:12,13

Yesterday I visited with you about false prophets. Do not get me wrong, many preachers on the radio and TV are good God fearing Bible teaching men; just be aware of the ones that are not. Johnny, are you judging them. No, but the Bible says to test them by the word. Do this and see for yourself.

Matthew 24: 12 And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.

Jesus is telling us here that with false teachings and loose morals comes a very destructive element. What is this element? LOVE that IS NO MORE! Huh? Because of false teachings, or teaching about caring for yourself, that you will prosper and do well and loose morals we lose the love for God and the love for anything except SELF!!

Look around, where is your focus? Are you thinking only of yourself? If so, you love is not for God first; then love neighbors and family. Hmmm! Something to think about. If you are #1 then you cannot truly love.

13 But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.

However, with Jesus there is always hope. If you endure, don’t compromise your Christian beliefs, stay true to the one true living GOD, then you shall be saved. These are Jesus’ words.

Come my friend, now, take time this very moment to pray, asking God to make you strong and a dedicated follower of Jesus Christ. Love you all.


The song, “Just spreadin’ the news” should be our theme song. Matthew 24:14

Matthew 24:14 tells us that before Jesus returns, the Good News about the Kingdom, the message of salvation, would be preached throughout the world.

This was the disciples mission. This is your mission. To take the Good News to others worldwide. Are you sharing the word with others? How can you more effectively share the good news where ever you walk? A man had lots of little small crosses and he would lay one on the sidewalk of businesses he entered when the Spirit moved him. He said he has yet to exit and the cross still be there — YES, someone picked it up. A great way to stir the curiosity and move people. What way can you leave small subtle hints? Hints to stir people and get them to thinking about Jesus, about salvation, about eternity after death.

Your walk in life should be one way to share the gospel. So others look and say what does he/she have that I don’t have? Hmmm!

Jesus talked about the end times and final judgment to show his followers the urgency of spreading the Good News of salvation to everyone.

Here are Jesus’ words: 14 And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.

May your day be filled with glory from our Father in Heaven. Love you all.


I’m not sure that the original text is meant to read this way, as a conditional promise, but as we join the two verses we could say: Kindling our love for God and faithfully enduring means that the gospel will go out into the world.

Oh, and I almost forgot, Johnny ends each day’s writing with these words:

In Christ’s Love and Grace

To which we add, Amen!

December 29, 2014

God Desires Top Spot

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Our thoughts today are from one of the foremost Christian devotional sites, Daily Encouragement by Stephen and Brooksyne Weber. To read this at source, click the title below. Underneath the title is a link to an audio version, which the Webers try to post most days. If you know someone with a computer who would benefit from that, tell them about Daily Encouragement. Click the icon which follows:

Daily Encouragement dot Net banner

“Christ Preeminent”

ListenListen to this message on your audio player.

“He must become greater; I must become less” (John 3:30). “He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything He might be preeminent” (Colossians 1:18).

Child, for us sinners poor and in the manger,
We would embrace Thee, with love and awe;
Who would not love Thee, loving us so dearly?

We trust each of you had a delightful Christmas celebration with your family and friends yesterday. Of course some of you may still have plans over the next several days as you gather with others in the glorious celebration of our Lord’s birth.

Yesterday we enjoyed brunch with friends and afterwards visited a nursing home where we sang Christmas carols with the residents. So many of the familiar Christmas hymns we know by heart, including all the verses. What a joy to sing them out as the residents joined in as the familiar words struck some chord in their memory. After all, many of them have sung the beloved Christmas carols for 80 to 90 plus Christmas seasons.

For many years Brooksyne has enjoyed studying the hymns and has numerous books of hymn backgrounds which we sometimes share on this site. Some of the golden spiritual gems overlooked in familiar hymns are included in the verses deleted from modern hymn books. Our introductory stanza (above) is a lesser known verse from one of the best known Christmas hymns written by John F. Wade about 1743. It was trans­lat­ed from La­tin to Eng­lish by Fred­er­ick Oak­e­ley in 1841.

Most likely you will recognize the refrain:

O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

Millions declare that Christ is Lord. So today we ask the following heart-probing question to our readers,  Who is Christ to you?

1) For some Christ is popular. An ungodly entertainer may throw a shout-out thanking God at an awards ceremony. A politician may quote a Scripture text to score political points though he or she gives little regard to God in lifestyle choices or life principles. Consider the crowds and disciples that followed Jesus in John 6 at the height of His popularity, but when it got tough they abandoned Him and the cause for which He died. (See John 6:66)

2) For genuine followers, Christ is present in your life. The Psalmist declared, “Thou art with me.”  Jesus reassured the disciples on the mountain before He ascended to heaven, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Psalm 23:4, Matthew 28:16-20, Hebrews 13:5)

3) For some Christ is prominent. By prominent, I mean that it is well demonstrated and evidenced by others that you are a follower of Christ. Your family, co-workers, and neighbors know that you are a Christian. It is commendable that Christ is prominent.

John the Baptist is one of the great Bible characters. His God-ordained role was to prepare the way for the Lord Jesus. He did his work faithfully and earnestly desired that Christ become more and more prominent.  One of the simplest, yet profound, statements indicating this is found in the daily text, “He (Jesus Christ) must become greater; I must become less.” Another version states, “He must increase, I must decrease.”  That’s not only an appropriate statement for John but is a godly mindset and heart attitude for each of us!  This is an ongoing commitment that needs refreshing and renewal on a regular basis, whether in the mundane of everyday life or the major challenges we face over the years.  Every day we should awaken with this theme on our hearts; “He must become greater; I must become less.”

4) For a relative few Christ is preeminent. Yet this alone is the proper outlook for one who claims that Jesus Christ is Lord. This is God’s gold standard concerning what His Son should be to us. Christ Preeminent, what a glorious truth!

From the Miriam Webster dictionary we find the following synonyms to describe one’s preeminence: cardinal, chief, dominant, first, greatest, main, master, number one, sovereign, supreme. These adjectives well describe the attitude we should have toward Christ if He is preeminent in our lives.

This phrase from Colossians is translated differently in various translations. The NIV states, “In everything He might have the supremacy.” In the NASB it reads, “He Himself will come to have first place in everything.” The Greek word (proteuon) means “to be first, to have the first place, to hold the chief place.” He is reigning as the preeminent Being in the universe. He always has been and always will be. The ESV states, “that in everything He might be preeminent.”

I examine my life today and I encourage you to do the same. Is Christ preeminent in your life? Is He the reigning King of your heart’s allegiance? May Christ’s reign and preeminence be evident in each of our lives, not just during the Christmas season but all through the next year until we draw our final breath on this side!

  Daily prayer: Father, anything good or praiseworthy in me is simply a reflection of the abiding presence of Your Holy Spirit. I want to grow in Your grace and knowledge, and will do so if You are preeminent in my life. That means You will reign supreme and be of first importance to me, having greater influence than any other person or cause. I want to walk in humility today as I pray, “Jesus, must become greater in my life,  I must become less.” I ask You to be at the center of my thoughts, my attitudes, and my actions so that Your preeminence is seen in all I do and say. In the name of Jesus I pray.  Amen.


Thanks, Stephen and Brooksyne. As I read this, I really had to examine whether I had ever considered the distinction between #3 and #4. Christ is certainly prominent in my life, but that prominence is not the same as preeminence.

October 30, 2014

You Are a Sheep-Feeder

So how many sheep could a sheep-keeper keep, if a sheep-keeper could keep sheep?

Of course the word is actually shepherd, and the line the way I originally wrote it a few years ago had to do with sheep-shearing. (Try saying it five times!) At any rate, it’s time for our weekly visit from pastor Clarke Dixon.  To read this at source, click on the title below.

Feed My Sheep! (John 21:15-19)

 

sheep in green pasture15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep (John 21:15-17 NRSV)

You may read the above passage and think: “I’m not Peter. I’m not a pastor. I’m not even a leader in our church, so why would this passage of scripture be important to me?” Here are three reasons.

1. All Christians need a dreadful reminder.

By the third time Peter is asked by Jesus “Do you love me?” he is frustrated and feeling hurt. The question is asked three times by a charcoal fire, not unlike the one by which Peter denied Jesus three times. It is a question designed to remind Peter that it was not that long ago that he was not acting like he loved Him. It is like Jesus is saying “are you really sure you love me? The way you acted back there would say otherwise.”

Here we do not have the “forgive and forget” that we might expect from Jesus. Instead we have “remind and forgive” which actually is much better. While “forgive and forget” might remove the penalty of our sin, “remind and forgive” removes the penalty of sin and spurs us on to remove the future potential of sin. Peter will go on to take care of the sheep, not just from a place of forgiveness, but also a place of repentance. The reminder of his offense is an invitation to do better. According to what we read in verses 18 and 19, Jesus knows that he will. Though you may not be Peter, or a pastor, or a leader, chances are good that you, like the rest of us, can truly benefit from our Lord’s “remind and forgive” approach.

2. All Christians want to express love for Jesus.

While we can and should express our love for Jesus through worship, prayer, and Bible study, we do well to remember what Jesus is asking of Peter: “If you truly love me Peter, you will take care of my sheep.” If we truly love Jesus, we will make His priorities, our priorities.

And His priority time and time again, and to the glory of God, is people. Jesus prayed in the Garden the night before his crucifixion “yet, not my will but yours be done” (Luke 22:42 NRSV). And that will was to go through with the crucifixion, to bear sin of people. People are a priority for Jesus. We can commit ourselves to all manner of godly activities, but are we really about our Father’s will if people are not a huge part of our lives? You may not be Peter, or a pastor, or even a leader in your church, but if you really love Jesus, people will be a priority in your life.

3. All Christians have pastoral opportunities.

The word pastor comes from Latin where it means shepherd or feeder (Dictionary.com). Every Christian can think of people in their lives for whom they can be a shepherd.

There is a lot of emphasis these days within Christian circles on “leadership development.” That is good, yes, but sometimes I wonder if there are times we should use the word leader less often and use the word shepherd instead. Leaders get things done and that is good. But shepherds feed and tend the sheep and that is so important. Perhaps you do not feel like “leadership” material, but do you love and have concern for others? Then you are well on your way to being a shepherd. Whether you are a natural leader, or follower, watch for how the Lord calls and enables you through his Spirit to be shepherd to others. You may not be Peter, a pastor, or even a leader in your church, but are you developing a shepherd heart? Why not think and pray over who needs you to be, or better, for whom God is calling you to be, a shepherd.

“If you really love me, you will feed my sheep.” What a great insight for us all.

 

February 20, 2014

Reviving The First Love

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Rev 2:4b “…You don’t love me or each other as you did at first!  5a Look how far you have fallen!  (NLT)

Rev 2:4b “…you have left (abandoned) the love that you had at first [you have deserted Me, your first love].”  (AMP)

Matt. 24:12 Sin will be rampant everywhere, and the love of many will grow cold. (NLT)

Jude 21 [K]eep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. (NIV)

Matt 5:6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. (NASB)

In the area in which I work, Christian publishing, sales of books have hit a slow patch. It’s easy to blame eBooks, but Christian reading as a whole is down as people devote their time and their spending to supporting screen habits that are, at the end of the day, all about entertainment.

In church life, denominations report baptisms and conversions are down. Baptist (SBC) writer Thom Rainer says, “We are reaching fewer people for the gospel today than we did decades ago when we were a much smaller group.”

Yesterday, I was thinking of the song, Revival by Robin Mark. One of the lyrics says, “Like the preacher preaching when the well is dry.” It’s easy to identify people — both clergy and laity — whose well has run dry. Like hamsters running the wheel in the cage, we get caught up in religious life, but all the activity isn’t taking us anywhere.

I maintain that any point in time all of us in either of the two situations:

  • moving toward the cross
  • moving away from the cross

In your life it may be quantifiable on a yearly basis or a daily basis. The daily may be a microcosm of the annual; or your relationship to God, your hunger and thirst for the things of God may have its ups and downs.

I also need to pause here and talk about that phrase, “the things of God.” What are these things? Some of the things — the latest worship song, involvement in teaching Sunday School, a spirited discussion about creation science — may be spiritually superficial. Here’s a phrase you can Tweet:

To be excited about the things of the Lord, first you have to be excited about the Lord of the things.

God wants us to be in a constant posture of moving toward the cross. Back to the Robin Mark song, here are few of the lyrics:

Every dreamer dreaming in her dead-end job
Every driver driving through the rush hour mob
I feel it in my spirit, feel it in my bones
You’re going to send revival, bring them all back home

I can hear that thunder in the distance
Like a train on the edge of town
I can feel the brooding of Your Spirit
“Lay your burdens down, Lay your burdens down”.

The song is a clarion call to release yourself from the empty, the meaningless, the burdensome things of this world, and await the revival in your heart God wants to send you.

Here’s the video for the song. It’s long — ten minutes — but I pray it speaks to you. God wants to stir revival in your heart, and in mine. This is something we can ask for in prayer knowing that we are asking in God’s will.

February 13, 2014

The Bible’s Undercurrent of Tainted Love: A Valentine’s Devotional

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valentineheart

Back in June we introduced you to Scripture4You and while we normally wait a year before revisiting a blog, I decided we’d jump start this return visit with a post relating to Valentine’s Day. Scripture4You takes a poetic approach to three daily scripture passages combined with kaleidoscopic images. After you’re done with today’s reading, click the banner at the top of the blog and then look around. This reading is titled Tainted Love. (If you don’t have a Catholic Bible nearby, I’ve linked both the first, a reference from the book of Sirach, and the other two references.)

~~~ Sirach 47:2-11 ~~~ Psalm 18 ~~~ Mark 6:14-29 ~~~

This is February, the month we celebrate Valentine’s Day…
the month dedicated to love.
Oddly enough according to those who keep wedding statistics
June is the most popular month for weddings.

The first reading lists all of the wonderful things David did;
making him one of the most loved leaders.
He tackled beast and man.
He slew the giant with a slingshot.
He was favored by God…God loved him.
The women sang his praises; in other words they loved him.
David did love God too.
With his whole being he loved his Maker
and daily had his praises sung;
What is not to love about David…he sings to the Lord in prayer.

The LORD forgave him his sins
and exalted his strength forever…
Love was the driving force for all that David
did for his people and his God.
This deep love made his personal failings that much more painful for him.

The gospel has an undercurrent of tainted love…
love that has gone sour…
love that has broken hearts…
love that has turned to taking another’s life.

Herod is so confused by his sin
that he cannot identify the beautiful qualities of love.
His sinful love affair leads him to the brutal sin of murder.

Love never leads one into sin.
Herod does not even demonstrate healthy love with his daughter.
The mother daughter relationship is warped.
The daughter is willing to entertain her mother’s revengeful heart.
She went out and said to her mother,
“What shall I ask for?”
Her mother replied, “The head of John the Baptist.”

Herod expressed his love by ordering
the beheading of someone he respected, John the Baptist.
He gave the head of John to the girl.
The girl gave the head to her mother.
This evil domino effect takes precedence over love.

God always blesses us with love.
What do we offer in return to him?
How do you love others?
Peace.

January 20, 2014

If We Love the Father…

In addition to running different kinds of content here, sometimes we’ll run something with a different style. In today’s post, a writer simply blogs out of the overflow of her pastor’s weekend sermon. Have you ever been so filled with a message you heard that it just overflows from you?

The writer’s name is Dacia Wilkinson. As far as I know, we’re not related! She’s a mother and an author and either an Aspie or a parent of one. The blog has the curious title, It All Started With Heathcliff and the blog piece is titled The Only Thing That Matters.


“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor un-circumcision has any value. The only thing that counts if faith expressing itself through love.” Galatians 5:6

Love is what counts. And love that expresses itself through … vs. 22 … “joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  Against such thing there is no law.”

Today, Pastor Don Sharp said these are not attributes to strive for … that these are given to you by Christ when you choose to trust Him as your Savior.  I believe my head tilted to the side at his words – kind of a “Huh” in Tim Taylor tone. And I listened harder.  And yes, after a straightening of the head and the settling of the words into my soul, I understood.

Daily, we allow selfishness, pride, anger, judgment, these things to stand in the way of the perfect gift of love we’ve been given. Daily, yes … WE do.  We allow our joy to be stolen. We allow worry to enslave peace.  We allow immediacy and frustration to overtake patience.  We allow hurry and self to shove over kindness.  We allow picking and choosing to overshadow faithfulness.  We allow anger and division to distort gentleness.  We ignore self-control.  WE do these things and by our fruit we are known. We show, sexual immorality, impurity, debauchery, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, and envy, drunkenness, orgies, and the like (vs 19-21).  These are allowed.  These we celebrate and portray on television.  We say, “Go girl!” to disrespect. And then, we go to church, raise our hands, and pretend to love God.

I said Pretend.  Yes, I did.

Harsh. True. Sad. Man. So many in our churches live this way. So many. Me. Man.

The truth stands …

If we loved the Father, we would obey the Father. 

Vs 16 states, “So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” Vs 24 says, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”

I John 2:6 …” Whoever claims to live in Him, must walk as Jesus did.”    And what is that?

Micah 6:8 … “He has showed you, O man, what is good.  And what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”

Act justly.

Love mercy.

Walk humbly with God.

Jesus tells us how in Matthew … Love God and love your neighbor as you love yourself.  All the Law and Prophets hang on these.

Love.

Mercy.

Grace.

This love of God’s that he so freely offers to us all – unconditional and beautiful – it covers sin and brings those who follow Him to grace and mercy, which he bestows freely.

Free.  Freely.  Freedom.

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.”  Ah ….  Galatians 5:1.  “Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

It is not of God that we walk in anger, range, jealousy. “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of sound mind,” says I Timothy 1:7.  God has given to those who love him — power, love and a sound mind. Within our hands, our minds, our hearts is the capacity to love like He does. To show grace and mercy. To move self out of the way. To choose life. To choose to love in sacrifice. To choose sacrifice.

This love given freely produces joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control.  Not you. You cannot produce those things – not on your own. Everyday, choose to sacrifice fleshly feelings and open the Word as a reminder of the gift of freedom to love. And remember ….

The ONLY thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.  Not church attendance. Not good deeds.  Not the man-made rules of the church – lots of churches with their doctrine and their by-laws, their catechisms and their classes.  None of these.

You cannot manufacture it. It’s given to you by God himself and never of your own accord.

Fall in love with God, meditate on his word. Pursue the words of Christ.  Love God. Love your neighbor. Boom.

Faith expressing itself through love.

August 24, 2013

Weekend Wondering

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“‘And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”  (Mark 12: 30-31)

If you did the full reading yesterday, you know we ended the week with a major article. So today, we want to switch formats and give you a few questions to think about. This is also from Rick Apperson where it appeared on his blog Just a Thought under the title I wonder if Jesus…

…I am feeling a bit…restless. Not in a, dissatisfied with life, type of way. More like an, I need a new challenge, type of thing.

I have been wondering and praying about what might be next. Is this God stirring my pot in order to prepare me for something new or is God just stirring me to be ready for what He is doing right now? I don’t feel like it’s time to change jobs, towns, etc.

I feel like it is a time of new challenges. I do have some exciting stuff happening this summer and most of it is new opportunities. Maybe that is all it is.

All of this has me asking some other questions as well. Ones that have been stirring my thoughts. I don’t have a lot of answers, the ones I have I don’t want to share. Occasionally I just like to brainstorm, reflect and contemplate….

Things like….

  • I wonder if Jesus ever took a “mental health” day?
  • How disappointed is God by our church dis-unity?
  • Why do we want grace for ourselves and yet judge the sins of others so harshly?
  • What part of “loving our enemies” is so hard to get?
  • Why do we rank sin?
  • Should we not focus on the log in our own eyes first?
  • If Jesus loved the world enough to die for it, why are we afraid to love the “neighbor” that He died for?
  • What would happen if we as Christians focus as much on evangelism as we did on protests, legal actions and petitions?

These and other questions rattle through my mind.

Mark 12:30–31 says, “‘And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

I am coming to the realization that if I am passionate about obeying these two commandments my worldview will be blown wide open. If I love the Lord with all of my being and love my neighbor (the sinner I judge so harshly) as much as I love myself, I can look forward to Spring as time of new beginnings. A new depth in my relationship with God and a new heart for the lost.

Going back to the new challenges, maybe it’s not so new after all. Maybe the challenge is to obey what He has already said we should do!


Bonus item: Today we’re offering a link to a 30-minute video message given by Skye Jethani at a national conference of CRU (formerly Campus Crusade) earlier this summer.

June 21, 2013

The Woman in the Back Row

I’ve often told people that the real ministry in the church isn’t done by the people you see on the platform or the people who are members of the church board. It’s often a woman in the back row — whose name most people don’t know — who is faithfully praying and quietly meeting other women for coffee during the week that is making a huge kingdom difference. But we tend to see the people in the pool who like to make a splash every time they jump in! The woman in today’s article wasn’t literally on the back row, but in her quietness she revealed the depth of her love for God.

Just six days ago we posted an item from the blog We Are Soma. Yes we do have a six-month rule for re-blogging, but they have a variety of authors at this site, and I want to encourage you to visit. This article is by Steve Hart and appeared under the title Fierce Love: Jesus in Luke’s Gospel. Soma is a network of 18 U.S. churches, and Soma School is for existing or potential church planters. Learn more at WeAreSoma.com

As a church family, we’ve studied the Gospel of Luke this Spring. We’ve seen again and again the Fierce Love of Jesus as he goes toe to toe with the religious leaders of his day. It is easy for us to distance ourselves from those conversations by putting ourselves in the shoes of the disciples and cheering Jesus on as he goes after “those guys.” The reality, however, is that the scribes, teachers of the law, and the pharisees would fit well in our churches, small groups, and ministries. They love and study the bible. They are zealous in their devotion to God. They tithe regularly, serve faithfully, and pray beautifully. And Jesus says it is all a sham:

“And in the hearing of all the people he said to his disciples, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love greetings in the marketplaces and the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.” (Luke 20:45-47 ESV)

In contrast, Jesus points to a poor widow putting 2 copper coins into the treasury. She is destitute, the poorest of the poor, a societal drain, a religious outsider, but she becomes the model of self-forgetful, humble, genuine gospel faith:

 ”Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And he said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” (Luke 21:1-4 ESV)

Here is a woman who gets grace. She isn’t looking for the praise of men or the praise of God, for certainly no one would be impressed with her gift! She doesn’t even seem to notice herself – and that is the beauty of what she is doing. She’s self-forgetful, and she’s giving everything – the greek word is “bios”, her very life! Jesus holds up this poverty-stricken, seemingly God-forsaken woman as the example of gospel faith.

Taking these two stories together, we see that the fierce love of Jesus invites us to be utterly realistic about our twisted motivations and to be bluntly honest about how much of our obedience is little more than play-acting, trying to prove to God, others, and ourselves that we aren’t as bad as we know we really are. Jesus calls us to an honest confession that promotes a radical, self-despairing humility so that we might forget ourselves, and give all we have as a response to his gracious acceptance.

And as we receive, again and again, the gracious, one-way, unconditional, unmerited, un-earnable love of God in Jesus, we are increasingly freed from our sin and our self-righteousness. We give up on ourselves and efforts to “get better,” and we throw ourselves fully onto the finished work of Jesus in our place. Consider these words from Martin Lloyd Jones:

“We can put it this way: the man who has faith [in Jesus Christ] is the man who is no longer looking at himself and no longer looking to himself. He no longer looks at anything he once was. He does not look at what he is now. He does not even look at what he hopes to be as the result of his own efforts. He looks entirely to the Lord Jesus Christ and His finished work, and rests on that alone. He has ceased to say, “Ah yes, I used to commit terrible sins but [now] I have done this and that.” He stops saying that. If he goes on saying that, he has not got faith. Faith speaks in an entirely different manner and makes a man say, “Yes I have sinned grievously, I have lived a life of sin, yet I know that I am a child of God because I am not resting on any righteousness of my own; my righteousness is in Jesus Christ and God has put that to my account.”

The gospel free us to give up on our abilities and merits, and to look to Jesus alone for our righteousness, worth, and significance. And as we do that, all sorts of surprising fruit begin to grow up in our lives – evidences of genuine love, service, and self-sacrifice.

Our cities don’t need more churches of people working hard to be good and save themselves, either through dialing in their doctrine, being more committed to missional living, or refining their programs. Our cities need people who’ve been humbled by the fierce love of Jesus, people who’ve given up on themselves completely, found a beautiful new righteousness credited to their account, and so, like the destitute widow, give their whole lives in joyful self-forgetfulness!

May 30, 2013

When we See the Hand of God at Work

The text for today is I John chapter 4.  Click this link to read the entire chapter.

I John 4:13 This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

Our direction to this passage came form Ray Ortlund’s blog where this appeared as How can we tell when God is really at work? (highlights added)

God At WorkIn The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God (1741), Jonathan Edwards pulled out of 1 John 4 the biblical indicators that God is at work, even if the people involved are complicating it with their own sins and eccentricities.  And we do complicate it.  In this life, the work of the gospel is never pure, always mixed.  But we do not need to be neutralized by analysis-paralysis.  The true gold of grace is discernible, within all the mess, in four ways:

One, when our esteem of Jesus is being raised, so that we prize him more highly than all this world, God is at work.

Two, when we are moving away from Satan’s interests, away from sin and worldly desires, God is at work.

Three, when we are believing, revering and devouring the Bible more and more, God is at work.

Four, and most importantly, when we love Jesus and one another more, delighting in him and in one another, God is at work.

Satan not only wouldn’t produce such things, he couldn’t produce them, so opposite are these from his nature and purposes.  These simple and obvious evidences of grace are sure signs that God is at work, even with the imperfections we inevitably introduce.

If we wait for perfection, we will wait until we are with the Lord.  True discernment keeps our eyes peeled for fraudulence but also unleashes us, and even requires us, to rejoice wherever we see the Lord at work right now.

Don’t turn away because of the non-gold; prize the gold.  Defend it.  Rejoice over it.  God is giving it.

Christianity 201 serves as a type of index to some of the best scripture-focused devotional and Bible study writing online. You are encouraged to not only click the links to read articles at source, but also to browse these other blogs to locate additional resources and/or subscribe to the writers who most resonate with you. C201 contains a wide variety of doctrinal content from the across the spectrum of Evangelical Christianity.

 

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January 11, 2013

Watch Out for Idolatry

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This is a recent article by Dane Gardow from the website Truthsource.net, Be On Guard Against Idolatry.

1 John 5:21 Little children, guard yourselves from idols.

By the grace of God my soul lately has been grieved and burdened in waging war against a vicious onslaught of idolatry. God has been faithful to maintain me through the midst of the struggle and gracious to cover the times of failure. As I was reasoning within my mind one day, seeking to justify a passion gone apostate, I came to a significant realization that I would do well to remember. My reasoning—devilish, indeed—was that I was not embracing “sin” as others were…I was not indulging in, say, immorality or drunkenness. But this led me to ask the following question, and praise be to God that I did: “And what, exactly, is sin?” I thought to myself. Immorality and drunkenness are definitely sins, no doubt, but they are not all what sin consists of. I was being led to believe that I was free to indulge in my heart’s desire because it was not on par with gross sins like theft, murder, or adultery. This, however, is the very thinking employed by Satan and championed by Pharisees.

Sin is disobedience against God; it is lawlessness. And the same God who forbids us from committing murder and adultery also commands us to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. This, indeed, is the greatest commandment. Yet I was not loving God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. I was not loving Him more than that to which I was being drawn, and that right there is sin. May we not forget that seeking to justify such treasonous affections whilst condemning outward sins is an exceedingly dreadful beginning of a hellish path toward self-righteousness.

You don’t have to commit adultery, murder, or steal to commit sin. Idolatry is sin, as well, and a terrifying one, as the others and even more so, since it is generally far more subtle than the rest. Idolatry is found in the same list Paul gives in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, a list of sins for which the judgment of God is threatened. Elsewhere Paul declares with absolute certainty that aside from out and out immorality, no idolater will have an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God (Eph. 5:5-6) and that God’s wrath is not only coming upon those who practice immorality and impurity, but also idolatry and covetousness, as well (Col. 3:5-7). We can be so inclined to minimize subtle, idolatrous passions, but the apostle Paul and the rest of the inspired writers make no such categorization anywhere in Scripture.

With that said, let us be on guard against entertaining vain thoughts against God and Christ. When we desire something more than Christ, that is sin. That, in fact, is the root of all sin. All people sin because they desire something more than Christ. This is that corrupt spring that has plagued the sons of men and from which all manner of sin springs forth. We fool ourselves thinking we are not sinning—since we abstain from blatant, outward sins—as we demonstrate more love toward something than Christ.

When we violate our conscience, that is sin. If we are convicted against something, but we go on to pursue it because, after all, it is not a vice like immorality, we are in grave sin. Paul tells us in Romans 14:23 that what we do must proceed from faith because “whatever is not from faith is sin.” Though a particular activity may not be sinful in and of itself, since God has commanded us through His apostle not to violate our conscience, that activity becomes sinful in the specific case in which we are convicted against it. Often we try to reason our way around this when we are convicted against a certain activity by appealing to facts such as 1) that it is clearly not a sin or 2) that other genuine Christians are free to participate. But, as Paul says, “we are condemned if we partake” because we do not do it from faith (Rom. 14:23).

We need to be ever on guard against such subtle sins as these, as I have come to realize recently. There is a reason why the last verse in the apostle John’s epistle contains a warning against idolatry. Let us take heed:

1 John 5:21 Little children, guard yourselves from idols.

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