Christianity 201

April 20, 2017

How Easter Cures Our Religion Addiction

by Clarke Dixon

We can become addicted to religion. Behind this there can be a sense of “if I do the right things, and say the wright words, God will have to love me and be good to me.” Religion has “me” as its focus. What I do. What I say. What I think I deserve. When we are addicted to religion we put ourselves, rather than God, at the centre.

The Christians in Colossae were being pressured into becoming more religious. Some scholars think that the pressure was coming from Jews who thought you needed to practice the Jewish religion to be a Christian. Other scholars think that it was an early form of the religious philosophy “gnosticism” that was the source of the pressure. Either way, in his letter to the Colossians the apostle Paul wants to set the record straight. In chapter two Paul lays out clearly our part in being Christian, but also what we cannot accomplish. Let’s take a look.

First out part:

Colossians 2:6-19 (NRSV) As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, 7 rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

Notice, first off, that Paul’s encouragement is not “since you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, now get very religious, doing the right religious looking observances, saying the right religious sounding words.” That would actually be too easy, for you can do that kind of thing on your spare time. What is called for is something far more profound; “live your lives in him.” The requirement is not in doing religion, but living life. It is an every moment thing. The focus is not the religion, but the Person of Jesus. It is a relationship thing.

Sceptics like to say that religion is a man made thing. Paul would agree:

8 See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ.

Paul is not speaking against philosophy as an academic endeavour here. Philosophy, like all the arts and sciences are worthy pursuits. Paul is warning against, more literally “the philosophy”, that is, a particular way of thinking being foisted on the Christians at Colossae. He is arguing against becoming too religious “according to human tradition.” Rather than pursuing man-made religion, we are to pursue Christ himself.

We could sum up Paul’s line of thought here with “live your lives in him rather than practice religion.” That is our part. Next Paul points us to God’s part. Religion highlights the things we do. In the following passage I have highlighted [in darker type] the things God has done.

9 For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have come to fullness in him, who is the head of every ruler and authority. 11 In him also you were circumcised with a spiritual circumcision, by putting off the body of the flesh in the circumcision of Christ; 12 when you were buried with him in baptism, you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 And when you were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive together with him, when he forgave us all our trespasses, 14 erasing the record that stood against us with its legal demands. He set this aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in it.

The focus is on God’s activity. As Paul warns the Christians at Colossae against false religion, he puts the focus on what God has done in Christ. While religion points us to our activity, relationship with God as revealed in the Bible has always been first about what God has done. He created. He Made a covenant with Noah. He called Abraham with his promise of blessing that would touch the world. He rescued Israel from slavery in Egypt. He gave His chosen people the law at Sinai. He gave them the promised land. He called the prophets and gave them the words to speak. He came to us incarnate in Jesus. He, God the Father, raised Jesus, God the Son, from the dead. While religion has what we can do as its focus, Christianity has as its focus, something we could never do, that is, raise the dead.

Because Jesus is risen, we do not practice Christianity as a religion, we relate to Jesus as a living Person. We serve Him, we worship Him, we adore Him, we learn from Him. This may give the appearance of being religious as prayer, the Bible, and church become expressions of that. These religious looking things are not the practice of religion, but rather part of how we live our lives in Christ. Living our lives in Christ goes way deeper than doing “religious duties,” it goes to walking with the Spirit and being transformed from the inside out: “. . .the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23) Compared to character transformation, being merely religious would be far too easy!

Paul continues his argument against being religious:

16 Therefore do not let anyone condemn you in matters of food and drink or of observing festivals, new moons, or sabbaths. 17 These are only a shadow of what is to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. 18 Do not let anyone disqualify you, insisting on self-abasement and worship of angels, dwelling on visions, puffed up without cause by a human way of thinking, 19 and not holding fast to the head, from whom the whole body, nourished and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows with a growth that is from God.

Religion fills us with pride as we point to what we have done. The events of Easter fill us with humility as they point to what we have done. We committed a reprehensible crime when we crucified Jesus. We fell short of the glory of God. The events of Easter also point to what God has done. He has reconciled us to Himself. Our part is to live in Christ, “holding fast to the head, from whom the whole body, nourished and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows with a growth that is from God.” Are you addicted to religion? God has done for you through the events at Easter what religion never could. Why dedicate yourself to religion, when you can dedicate yourself to the One Who loves you?

(Scripture references are taken from the NRSV)

Read more at Clarke’s blog Sundays Shrunk Sermon

August 17, 2015

Manifestations of Spiritual Pride

Matthew 7:20 NASB “So then, you will know them by their fruits. 21a“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven…

Matthew 23:27 HCSB “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every impurity.”

Proverbs 16:18 ISV Pride precedes destruction; an arrogant spirit appears before a fall.

 

This is from Wade Burleson at Istoria Ministries. Click the title below to read at source.

Spiritual Pride Is Seen By Its Fruit, Not Its Root

One of the greatest American theologians in our nation’s relatively young history – at least compared to Europe – is the brilliant Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758).

Edwards once wrote an article showing the eight characteristics of spiritual pride, a disease he says “is much more difficult to discern than any other corruption because, by nature, pride is a person having too high a thought of himself” and therefore one afflicted would be unable to see it.

Edwards writes that pride “is the chief inlet of smoke from the bottomless pit to darken the mind and mislead the judgment, and the main handle by which Satan takes hold of Christians to hinder a work of God.”

Since pride is “so secretive, and cannot be well discerned by immediate intuition of the thing itself,” it’s best, says Edwards, to “identify it by its fruits and effects.” Edwards then proceeds to name eight characteristics of spiritual pride.

  • The spiritually proud person is full of light already and feels he does not need instruction, so he easily despises instruction and the offer of it.
  • Spiritually prideful people tend to speak loudly and often of others’ sins – like the miserable delusion of hypocrites, or the deadness of some saints with bitterness, or the opposition to holiness of many believers – and always finds fault with other saints for their lack of progress in grace.
  • Spiritually proud people often speak of almost everything they see in others in the harshest, most severe language.
  • Spiritual pride often disposes persons to act differently in external appearance, to assume a different way of speaking, countenance or behavior to be seen and praised by others, whereas the humble person never sets himself up to be viewed and observed as one distinguished.
  • Proud people take great notice of opposition and injuries, and are prone to speak often about them with an air of bitterness or contempt.
  • Another pattern of spiritually proud people is to behave in ways that make them the focus of others, coming to expect deference from others and forming an ill opinion of those who do not give them what they feel they deserve.
  • One under the influence of spiritual pride is more apt to instruct others than to ask questions.
  • As spiritual pride disposes people to assume much to themselves, so it disposes to treat others with neglect.

Surprisingly, Edwards sums up his examination of the fruit of spiritual pride by making a statement worthy of consideration by us all:

“We ought to be very careful that we do not refuse to discourse with carnal men because we count them unworthy to be regarded. Instead, we should condescend to carnal men as Christ has condescended to us.”

That there’s some heavy, thoughtful mental food for those of us who are living in a culture of carnality. Before we speak a word of condemnation about those we perceive to be in sin, we might want to take stock of Edward’s keen observations.

July 27, 2014

What’s the Opposite of Humility?

If you have read this website for any length of time, you know that I often return to the “hymn” in Philippians 2. The one that begins, “Let this mindset [attitude] be in you that was also found in Christ;” and then goes a few sentences before defining that mindset, “He humbled himself.”

The cross is the place where we changed.
Above all fruit of that change is the fruit of love.
The attitude we then adopt is humility.

So what is the opposite of humility? What is the thing we have to “put off” before we can “put on” a humble, gentle spirit?

If you asked me that question 24 hours ago, I would have said pride. Pride and humility are opposites, right?

But this morning, after starting in Philippians 2, I kept reading to the end, and then decided I should backtrack to chapter 1 so could say I had read the whole book this morning. (Maybe that was pride!!)

Anyway, midway through that chapter I think Paul gives us a clue as to what feeds humility’s counter-attitude. It just so happened I was reading in The Message translation.

15-17 It’s true that some here preach Christ because with me out of the way, they think they’ll step right into the spotlight. But the others do it with the best heart in the world. One group is motivated by pure love, knowing that I am here defending the Message, wanting to help. The others, now that I’m out of the picture, are merely greedy, hoping to get something out of it for themselves. Their motives are bad. They see me as their competition, and so the worse it goes for me, the better—they think—for them.

18-21 So how am I to respond? I’ve decided that I really don’t care about their motives, whether mixed, bad, or indifferent. Every time one of them opens his mouth, Christ is proclaimed, so I just cheer them on!

Paul is in prison at this point, hence the reference to “out of the way.” He has apparently gained some popularity at this point and obviously that is enviable to the point where others would like to step into the limelight.  In the above translation they are called “greedy” as having “bad motives.” In the NIV it reads,

17 The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains.

adding the extra dimension that perhaps they simply want to cause trouble for Paul while he is not at liberty to respond. Imagine though, someone preaching the gospel, the good news about Jesus to make someone else look bad.

Some of this is human nature. Paul was not part of the original group of apostles that Jesus taught or among the early disciples who were present on the day of Pentecost. As Saul, he greatly opposed the movement Jesus had begun. Then, in a very short period, he becomes Paul the Apostle. Can you see the problem some might have with this?

Sometimes someone new will come into one of our churches and be given a ministry position and the church’s “old guard,” the “elder brothers” can get very irate. I know. I was the new person in a rural church. A woman got up at the annual meeting and asked, “So what’s the deal here? Can anybody just walk in off the street and get a job?” If I had doctrinal quirks or theological errors it might have been a valid question. But clearly, her question wasn’t rooted in that concern, it was rooted in envy. Just a few short months later she left the church.

But I think The Message translation gets more clearly at the humility’s opposite in chapter one, with chapter two in view.

The opposite of humility is ambition.

Being driven, taking proactive steps, or being a type-A personality is not a bad thing. But to be consumed with ambition strikes at the very heart of the humble attitudes we are supposed to reflect.  The Voice translation reflects this in Psalm 75:

There is no one on earth who can raise up another to grant honor,
    not from the east or the west, not from the desert.
There is no one. God is the only One.
God is the only Judge.
    He is the only One who can ruin or redeem a man.

It is God who grants promotions and give raises. We shouldn’t seek these things; we shouldn’t strive to get somewhere that isn’t in God’s plans or not currently in God’s timing.

We can’t even claim that healthy ambition in doing things for God, because there is a flaw if we think we do things for God.  (This becomes especially vital in a church culture where pastors are preoccupied with metrics and church growth.)

Above, verses 18-21 reveal that Paul doesn’t allow himself to get perturbed at whatever motivates such people. As long as the gospel is presented clearly, he actually rejoices. The messenger may be flawed, but the message is what matters. As I replied to a comment last week, even a stopped clock is right twice a day, so while we should consider the source, we shouldn’t discount everything the source writes or says.

Right now, even as you read this, there are people using the ministry to build their own empires. Yes, that concerns me, but it doesn’t concern Paul if the message is being clearly transmitted. Of course, in a social media and internet world, everybody knows everybody else’s backstory. That is unfortunate, but it doesn’t minimize the power of the message itself.

Response: God, I know I need to guard my heart. Help me to see things I’m doing for wrong reasons; wrong motives. Help me not to be consumed with ambition.


Previously on C201:

 

 

July 14, 2014

Good Deeds: Pre-Conversion vs. Post-Conversion

Today we’re visiting the weblog Canon Fodder, written by Dr. Michael Kruger, the President and Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at Reformed Theological Seminary, Charlotte, NC. to look at an interesting topic. This was suggested by a reader; if you see something online we might enjoy, be sure to suggest it.  As always you’re encouraged to read entries here at their source blog, and then look around. Just click the title below:

A Word of Encouragment to Those in Ministry: God Does Not View Your Labors as “Filthy Rags”

by Dr. Michael J. Kruger

When it comes to our justification–our legal standing before God–our own good works are in no way the grounds of God’s declaration that we are “righteous.”  Indeed, that is the very thing that makes the gospel good news.  We are saved not by what we have done, but by what Christ has done.  We are accepted by God not because of our works, but in spite of them.

But what does God think of our good works after we are saved?  Here is where, unfortunately, Christians often receive mixed messages.  Somewhere along the way we have begun to believe that our pride is best held in check, and God’s grace is most magnified, when we denigrate all our efforts and all our labors as merely “filthy rags” in the sight of God (Is 64:6) .

what God delights inBut does God really view the Spirit-wrought works of his own children in such a fashion?  Is God pleased with only Christ’s work, and always displeased with our own?

Not at all.  Time and time again, the Scriptures show that God is pleased with the righteousness deeds of the saints.  God was pleased with  Noah: “Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God” (Gen 6:9).  God was pleased with Zechariah and Elizabeth: “And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord” (Luke 1:6). Christ was pleased with Mary’s gift of perfume (Mark 14:6), a deed he called “beautiful.” Christ was pleased with the widows offering: “She put in more than all of them” (Luke 21:3).

Indeed, one could say that the entire “Hall of Faith” in Hebrews 11  is a catalog of the great deeds of the saints that are held up by the Scriptures as noteworthy.  Think of all that was done by Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, Gideon, Samson, David, Samuel, and others.  Are all their deeds “filthy rags” in God’s sight?

Of course, we should not be surprised that God is pleased with the good works of his people.  As Hebrews 11:1-2 tells us, God is pleased with these works precisely because they were done out of faith. They are good works that are generated from the work of God’s own Spirit in the hearts of the saints (Eph 2:10).  Sure, they are not perfect works–they are always tainted by sin to some degree.  And yes, we cannot think for a moment that they merit salvation. They do not. But, they are the works of God’s own sons and daughters and he delights in them.

This larger biblical context can provide the proper framework for understanding the intent of passages like Is 64:6.  The “filthy rags” in this passage is not a reference to the Spirit-wrought works of the regenerate, but the outward religious grandstanding of the wicked (see Isaiah 58).  This understanding allows John Piper to say the following:

It is terribly confusing when people say that the only righteousness that has any value is the imputed righteousness of Christ.  I agree that justification is not grounded on any of our righteousness, but only the righteousness of Christ imputed to us.  But sometimes people are careless and speak disparagingly of all human righteousness, as if there were no such thing that pleased God. They often cite Isaiah 64:6 which says our righteousness is as filthy rags…[But] when my sons do what I tell them to do—I do not call their obedience “filthy rags” even if it is not perfect.  Neither does God. All the more because he himself is “working in us that which is pleasing in his sight” (Hebrews 13:21).  He does not call his own, Spirit-wrought fruit, “rags” (Future Grace, 151-152).

In a similar fashion, the Westminster Confession offers a wonderfully balanced perspective on how God views the good works of his own people:

Yet notwithstanding, the person of believers being accepted through Christ, their good works are also accepted in him; not as though they were in this life wholly unblameable and unreproveable in God’s sight; but that he, looking upon them in his Son, is pleased to accept and reward  that which is sincere, although accompanied by many weaknesses and imperfections (WCF 16.6).

This recognition that God’s delight in the works of his people is not, as some might think, a recipe for pride, but rather a tremendous (and much needed) encouragement to those of us who are laboring in ministry.  Truth be told, ministry can be difficult.  Our efforts can seem futile.  We often find ourselves spent and exhausted.

What a refreshment to our souls to know that our father in heaven actually delights in these labors.  It is like salve on our blisters, and a balm to our aching muscles to know that he is pleased with the faith-driven works of his children.

He is like a Father who sees the painting his five-year old brought home from school.  He doesn’t pour scorn on the effort because it is not a Rembrandt.  Instead, he takes the painting, with all its flaws, and sticks it on the refrigerator for all to see.

Indeed, it is this very hope–that God might be pleased with our labors–that Jesus lays out as a motive for us in our ministries.   For our hope is that one day we might hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matt 25:23).

January 9, 2014

The Two Audiences

In a blog titled Christianity 201, one assumes the story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15 is somewhat familiar.  If not, take the time to read it here.

I’ve been reading an advance copy of the book AHA by Kyle Idleman, releasing in the spring, and he noted something that my wife said we’ve heard before, but it struck me rather fresh this time. After completely digesting the story, Kyle returned to the setup that Luke provides in the first two verses:

1Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered…

There you see two distinct audiences for Jesus’ story: Tax collectors and sinners — interesting distinction, don’t you think? — representing the younger brother in the story who returns to his father at the end to say, “I have sinned…” and Pharisees and teachers of the law represented the older brother in the story. Kyle even hints that finding a way to reach the hearts of that second group may have more to do with how the particular story was crafted.

AHA Kyle IdlemanIn many respects, this represents the two types of people who sit near us at any given weekend church service. If your church is doing it right; you’ve got people from the community who you and your fellow church members are inviting who are on the road to crossing the line of faith, or have recently come into fellowship and are seeing everything for the first time. Then, you’ve got what is probably a majority of people who have been in church since they were minus-nine months; the Sunday School teachers, choir/worship team members, committee members, ushers, elders, deacons, etc.

Is every Sunday’s sermon a Prodigal Son type of story that bridges the two audiences? I can picture myself coming to your church and preaching this story and impressing everyone with how it reaches both types of people, but then what do the following week for an encore?

I was first made to think about this when I had the privilege of hearing Keith Green in concert several times before his death in 1982.  (Did I just give away my age?) Keith was one of the most spiritually focused Christian musicians I have ever encountered and he easily bridged the gap between two kinds of audience members by stressing the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

The call that Jesus makes in scripture is a call to people who are (a) hungry and thirsty and (b) people who need to have that hunger and thirst — that desire for God — perpetually stimulated. There is a saying that, ‘You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink, but you can put salt in its oats to make it thirsty.‘ (Okay, you’re probably less familiar with that last bit.)

Psalm 42:1 (NiRV) states:

A deer longs for streams of water.
    God, I long for you in the same way.

God wants to cultivate within us a hunger and thirst for Him. The person who has been a Christ-follower for 40-years needs this just as much as the person who has been a Christian for 40 minutes.

I believe it was Keith Green himself who pointed out that the word saviour occurs 37 times in the King James translation, while Lord appears 7836 times. That’s a ratio of nearly 212 to one. Our evangelistic and pre-evangelistic efforts are great as far as they go, but Christ’s intent is nothing less than that we make Him Lord over all our lives.

Bringing our lives in subjection to him is something the Prodigal Son story teaches both to the younger brothers and older brothers in the crowd; the message cuts across both demographics.


As I approached the end of the book, there were two brief things that also struck me that I wanted to share here.

“Let’s say the Prodigal Son lived in our culture today. He would have run out of money, but then, in order to prolong the pleasure, he would have continued his wild living by racking up credit-card debt. How much more would that have complicated his story? How much worse would it have been for the son to arrive home with looming debt? Picture him saying, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I have no money, and by the way, some creditors are coming, and I owe twice what my inheritance was worth.’ The longer we try and prolong the pleasure, the greater the pain will be.”  (pp 168-9)

The other insight was in reference to the older brother:

“This is the problem with confidence in our own goodness. We begin to believe we’re going to earn something from the Father. But the Father’s house is not a house of merit; it is a house of mercy.” (p. 200)

Those of us who have been in the church for awhile need to curb the tendencies to fall into older brother syndrome, because the demand for Lordship that Christ places on us is actually greater than that placed on those who are meeting Him for the first time.

December 12, 2013

The Four Prides

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Today’s post is more succinct that you’re accustomed to here, but it is very profound. You’ve heard of C. S. Lewis’ The Four Loves, well these are The Four Prides. This is from Abundant Life Now, which is the first time this blog has appeared here. The author is Robert Lloyd Russell.  As always you are reminded to encourage the authors of the devotionals we use here by reading at source; click here to read 4 Prides.

~ Race, Place, Face, & Grace ~

God hates pride or a proud heart.  One of the reasons God hates pride is that it is a root of all sin!  Here are four kinds of pride to guard against:

Race Pride  ~  “They answered Him, ‘We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can You say, “You will be made free”?’  Jesus answered them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.  And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever.  Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed’” (John 8:33-36). This is national pride.

Place Pride  ~  “My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality.  For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, ‘You sit here in a good place,’ and say to the poor man, ‘You stand there,’ or, ‘Sit here at my footstool,’ have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?” (James 2:1-4).  This is social pride.

Face Pride  ~  “For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was” (James 1:24).  This is personal pride.

Grace Pride  ~  “If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain.  From such withdraw yourself” (1 Timothy 6:3-5). This is spiritual pride.

Summary  ~  “All of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’  Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.  Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.  Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.  But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.  To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever.  Amen”(1 Peter 5:5b-11).

August 31, 2013

The Proud vs. The Broken

Have I truly been broken by God? There are times in the day when I see pride and confidence in the flesh creeping in, especially in interactions with others. I found this had been posted back in May at the blog Strengthened By Grace

Excellent tool:  Nancy Leigh DeMoss’ produced a list (PDF) years ago which ” contrasts characteristics of proud, unbroken people whom are resistant to the call of God on their lives with the qualities of broken, humble people who have experienced God’s revival. Read each item on the list as you ask God to reveal which characteristics of a proud spirit He finds in your life. Confess these to Him, and then ask Him to restore the corresponding quality of a broken, humble spirit in you. ”   Here is the list in chart form courtesy of Feeding on Christ.

Proud, Unbroken People Broken People
1. Focus on the failure of others 1. Are overwhelmed with their own spiritual need (Matthew 5:3, 7:3-5, Luke 18:9-14)
2. Are self righteous; have a critical, fault finding spirit; look at own life/faults with a telescope but others with a microscope 2. Are compassionate; have a forgiving spirit; look for the best in others (Ephesians 4:32, Colossians 3:12)
3. Look down, in a condescending spirit, at others 3. Esteem all others as better than self (Phil. 2:3, Rom. 12:10)
4. Are independent; have desires for everyone else to meet own personal needs 4. Are dependent on God and His grace; recognize others’ needs and seek to meet them (2 Cor. 3:4-6, Phil. 2:4)
5. Always manipulating circumstances to maintain control; must have everyone do it their way 5. Surrenders control by giving freedom for others to do or see things differently (Rom. 12:1-2)
6. Have to prove they are always right 6. Are willing to yield to the possibility that they could be wrong, and thus, yield the need to always prove they are right(Rom. 15:2)
7. Claiming personal rights 7. Yielding personal rights (Eph. 5:21)
8. Display a demanding spirit 8. Have a giving spirit (Rom. 12:13)
9. Self-protective of time, rights, reputation 9. Are self-denying (Luke 9:23)
10. Desire to be served 10. Are motivated to serve others (Matt. 20:26-28, Phil. 2:20-21)
11. Desire to be a success 11. Desire to be faithful to make others a success (John 3:30)
12. Desire for self-advancement 12 Desire to promote others (John 3:3)).
13. Are driven to be recognized and appreciated Have a sense of unworthiness; are thrilled to be used at all; eager for others to get credit, honors and awards (I Tim. 1:12-16)
14. Cringe when others in the same field are praised, wishing it was them 14. Rejoice when others are lifted up (Rom. 12:15)
15. Think ‘the ministry is privileged to have me!’ 15. Think ‘I don’t deserve to serve in this ministry (2 Cor. 4:7)
16. Think of what they can do for God 16. Know they can offer nothing to God, and seek for God to work through them in His power (Phil. 3:8-9, Titus 3:5)
17. Feel confident in how much they know 17. Are humbled by how much they have not learned and wish to learn (Phil. 3:12, Prov. 1:7)
18. Are self conscious 18. Have little concern with how others view them (Gal. 1:10)
19. Keep people at arm’s length 19. Risk getting close to others; are willing to take those risks for the sake of love for others (2 Cor. 6:11-12)
20. Are quick to blame others 20. Accept personal responsibility; can see and acknowledge personal failure (Matthew 7)
21. Are concerned with being ‘respectable’ 21. Are concerned with being real (2 Cor. 4:3-5).
22. Are concerned about what others think 22. Know all that matters is God and what He knows (I Cor. 4:3-5)
23. Work hard to maintain image and protect reputation 23. Die to own reputation (Phil. 3:7, Rom. 14:7)
24. Find it difficult to share their spiritual needs with others 24. Are willing to be transparent with others (2 Cor. 1:12)
25. Want to be sure no one finds aout about their sin Are willing to acknowledge and confess one’s sin; brokenness is the ultimate sign of personal success (Ps. 51:17)
26. Have a hard time saying, ‘I was wrong. Will you forgive me’ Are quick to admit fault and seek forgiveness (I John 1:9, James 5:1)
27. Deal in generalities when confession sin 27. Deal in specifics (Ps. 51:17)
28. Are concerned about the consequences of their sin 28. Are grived over the root of their sin (Ps. 51:5)
29. Wait for other party to come and ask forgiveness in a conflict 29. Take the initiative to be reconciled; gets their first (Matthew 5:23-24)
30. Compare themselves with others and feel deserving of honore 30. Compare themselves with God and feel desparate for mercy (Luke 18:9-14)
31. Are blind to their true heart condition 31. Walk in the light of true knowledge concerning their own hearts (I John 1:6-7).
32. Do not display any spirit of repentance, because they don’t need it 32. Continually display a spirit of repentance, sensing their need for fresh encounters with God and the filling of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5;18), Gal 5:16)
33. Spent time reading these words and wondering if _____________ was reading it 33. Thanked the Lord for using words on the internet to bring brokenness to their lives.

December 31, 2012

Goal for 2013: Be Authentic

God Hates Fake Stuff

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” Matthew 6:1-4

Everybody hates a fake.

Artificial or GenuineMy wife is so tricky sometimes! She puts out all this counterfeit fruit in bowls in our kitchen and I get so confused. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve picked up a great looking pear and almost broken my tooth when I tried to bite into it! How worthless is that? I hope you don’t have fake fruit at your house.

I also hate fake grass. Football should be played on real turf.

I hate fake laugh tracks on TV shows. What?—is the comedy so bad that it needs canned laughter?

I just hate fake stuff.

God hates fake stuff, too. Not so much the surfacey, silly things that bother me—God hates soul fakeness. He detests the gap in our lives between what we know to be true and how we’re living it. The biblical term is hypocrisy.

There should be some kind of alarm that’s goes off in your heart when there’s a substantive gap between what you say and what you do; between what you profess and what you actually live; between the appearances that you keep up at church in front of other people and what it’s really like at your house. God hates that phoniness. That’s why Jesus says, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them” (Matthew 6:1).

People will see you live your life; that’s not the problem. You don’t have to keep secret the fact that you go to church, or raise your hands in worship or get on your knees to pray, or open your written-in Bible. But when you do all those things so that people will see you—that is a problem. Doing-spiritual-things-so-other-people-notice goes right to motive. If you’re acting godly with the desire to get attention or affirmation or strokes from folks—you just got all the reward you deserve and lost God’s approval in the process.

So this begs the question, “Why is hypocrisy such a hard thing to shake?”

It’s because of the weight you and I put on people’s opinions of us rather than feeling the weight of what God thinks of us.

The solution: Don’t do anything “to be seen.” Have a better, more pure reason to do whatever it is you choose to do for God. Anything less than pleasing Him will only get you canned applause.

~ James MacDonald, Walk in the Word, February 2008

July 11, 2012

Build, Pray, Love, Look

I’m currently reading one of a number of “never before published” books based on the writing of A. W. Tozer.  This one is titled The Dangers of a Shallow Faith: Awakening from Spiritual Lethargy, released this year by Regal (Gospel Light). In Chapter 3, he speaks about having a wrong concept about God himself.

If you do not have a right concept of God, of yourself and of sin, you will have a twisted and imperfect concept of Christ. It is my honest and charitable conviction that the Christ of the average religionist today is not the Christ of the Bible. It is a distorted image — a manufactured, painted on canvas, drawn from cheap theology Christ of the liberal, and the soft and timid person. This Christ has nothing of the iron and fury and anger, as well as the love and grace and mercy that He had, who walked in Galilee.

If I have a low concept of God, I will have a low concept of myself, and if I have a low conception of myself, I will have a dangerous concept of sin. If I have a dangerous concept of sin, I will have a degraded concept of Christ. Here is the way it works: God is reduced; man is degraded; sin is underestimated; and Christ is disparaged.

Does this mean we must be tolerant? Actually, men are tolerant only with the important things. What would happen to a tolerant scientist or a tolerant navigator? The liberal religionist simply admits he does not consider spiritual things as vital.

No wonder Jude said the terrible things he said in his epistle to the Church. I recommend you read the book of Jude

…We are not called to always show a smile. Sometimes we are called to frown and rebuke with all long-suffering and doctrine. We must contend for but not be contentious. We must preserve truth but injure no man. We must destroy error without harming people…

A Call to Remain Faithful

(NLT) Jude 1:17 But you, my dear friends, must remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ said. 18 They told you that in the last times there would be scoffers whose purpose in life is to satisfy their ungodly desires. 19 These people are the ones who are creating divisions among you. They follow their natural instincts because they do not have God’s Spirit in them.

20 But you, dear friends, must build each other up in your most holy faith, pray in the power of the Holy Spirit, 21 and await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will bring you eternal life. In this way, you will keep yourselves safe in God’s love.

22 And you must show mercy to those whose faith is wavering. 23 Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. Show mercy to still others, but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives.

…Now He’s come to His own — true believers in God and in Christ. And then He gives them four things to do:

  1. Build up — “building up yourselves on your most holy faith…” (v. 20) Do you have a Bible, and do you study it? Have you read a book of the Bible through recently? Have you done any memorization of Scripture? Have you sought to know God or are you looking to the secular media for your religion? Build up yourselves on your most holy faith.
  2. Pray — “praying in the Holy Ghost” (v. 20) I do not hesitate to say that most praying is not in the Holy Spirit. The reason is that we do not have the Holy Spirit in us. No man can pray in the Spirit except his heart is a habitation for the Spirit. It is only as the Holy Spirit has unlimited sway within you that you are able to pray in the Spirit. Five minutes of prayer in the Holy Spirit will be worth more than one year of hit-and-miss praying if it is not in the Holy Spirit.
  3. Love — “keep yourselves in the love of God…” (v. 21) Be true to the faith, but be charitable to those who are in error. Never feel contempt for anybody. No Christian has any right to feel contempt, for it is an emotion that can only come out of pride. Let us never allow contempt to rule us; let us be charitable and loving toward all while we keep ourselves in the love of God.
  4. Look — “looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life” (v. 21) Let us look for Jesus Christ’s coming — for the mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ at His coming. Isn’t it wonderful that His mercy will show forth at His coming? His mercy will show itself then, as it did on the cross; as it does in receiving sinners; as it does in patiently looking after us. And it will show itself at the coming of Jesus Christ unto eternal life.

~A. W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith pp. 44-46

(scripture text added)

May 15, 2012

Sometimes Spirituality is Messy

NIV Luke 18:35 As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. 36 When he heard the crowd going by, he asked what was happening. 37 They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.”

38 He called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

39 Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

from Messy Spirituality by Michael Yaconelli (bio):

…Religious institutions do not like surprises and especially dislike a spirituality which threatens the status quo. Threaten others with a loud and boisterous faith, and you will be politely (at first) asked to quiet down; dance your faith instead of sitting still in your pew, and you will be asked to leave; talk about your faith with passion, and you will get expressions of concern about the inappropriateness of your emotions.  Allow others to see your brokenness, and you will be reprimanded for being too open; hear the music of faith, and you will be warned of the danger of emotional instability…

…All of us tend to seek comfort, to structure predictability, to eliminate the new and different from our experience. The word messy strikes fear into the hearts of the comfortable. According to the comfortable, God does what he always does. “God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow,” which they interpret as “stays the same.” There are those in the church who honestly believe God is a nice and neat God. One quick run through the Bible gives you a different picture. The God of the bible is the master of surprises: frightening clouds of smoke and fire, earthquakes, windstorms and firestorms, donkeys that talk, pillars of salt, oceans splitting apart, using a little boy to kill a giant, the Messiah in swaddling clothes and dying on a cross. No one can follow God and be comfortable for too long…

…When Jesus and his followers show up, it isn’t long before people start pointing fingers and calling names. Jesus was called all kinds of names: wine-bibber.., Sabbath breaker, blasphemer. Over the centuries religious people have refined name-calling to an art. The name most commonly used today? Unspiritual

…According to his critics, Jesus “did God” all wrong. He went to the wrong places, said the wrong things, and worst of all, let just anyone into the kingdom. Jesus scandalized an intimidating, elitist, country-club religion by opening membership in the spiritual life to those who had been denied it. What made people furious was Jesus “irresponsible” habit of throwing open the doors of his love to the whosoevers, the just-any-ones, and the not-a-chancers like you and me.

Nothing makes people in the church more angry than grace. It’s ironic: we stumble into a party we weren’t invited to and find the uninvited standing at the door making sure no other uninviteds get in. Then a strange phenomenon occurs: as soon as we are included in the party because of Jesus’ irresponsible love, we decide to make grace “more responsible” by being self-appointed Kingdom Monitors, guarding the kingdom of God, keeping the riffraff out (which, as I understand it, are who the kingdom of God is supposed to include.)

Michael Yaconelli, Messy Spirituality (Zondervan, 2002) pp 40-48