Christianity 201

July 6, 2018

On the Days You Can’t Perfectly Fulfill Every Command

While searching something else this week, we came across the writing of whose site is called Feeding on Jesus. As usual, click the title below to read this at source.

When Your Very Best Doesn’t Seem Like Enough

“For the word of God is living and active… (Heb. 4:12, ESV).

Several years ago, Holy Spirit gave me a charge. It was one of those moments when He took a verse from the Bible and made it mine. Out of Isaiah 8:12, He very clearly commanded me, “Do not dread.”

The only problem was, in that particular season of my life, it felt like there was a whole lot to dread. I did my best to live out the directive He had given me, but I was painfully aware of only being partially able to fulfill it.

In retrospect, I have learned something essential from that experience. I now see and understand that His command began immediately to do a deep work in my heart, once He gave it to me. The command itself was and is, power. He had injected power into me by the very act of commanding. As I persevered and held onto His word, it was at work in the core of me. Little by little, day by day, month by month, that rhema from His heart was transforming me into a person free of dread.

Now I have come to understand something critically important: He hadn’t expected me to be able to fulfill His command perfectly when He first delivered it to me. Rather, He was inviting me to begin to engage with it, and with Him… in an ongoing process that was going to make me increasingly fearless, by small and very gradual increments. (I wish I had understood that better at the time! It would have relieved me of a lot of unnecessary pressure.)

How about you? Is there a particular directive in Scriptures that you know Holy Spirit has highlighted for you personally… but you are just not quite there yet? Does it feel discouraging to read those words in the Bible, and feel like you are not adequately living up to them?

The Comforter wants to greatly encourage your heart today. He wants to reassure you that it’s actually His job to get you there. His word is living and active. Once He deposited it into your spirit, it immediately went to work. Even if you can’t yet see all the fruits of the process, be assured that it has begun, and amazing things are going on deep inside of you.

Continue to engage with that word that He gave you. Meditate on it, speak it over yourself as often as you can, chew on it, think about it, and pray about it. It’s working. It really is. With perseverance over time, you will see the mind-blowing finished product wrought by the hand of the Master Artisan! He who began the good work in you will be faithful to bring it to completion!

“Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:4, NIV).

********************************************************************

Can we give ourselves grace to be in process? Are there areas of your life where God has made amazing progress in developing you? Does reflecting on them help provide perspective for whatever He is currently working on?

 

January 15, 2018

Increasing Your Measure of Faith

We’re paying our third annual visit to radio preacher, pastor and author James MacDonald and their devotional from the radio show Walk In The Word titled Our Journey. The devotional is also available as an online resource. Click the title below to read at source.

Growing Faith

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith” (Luke 17:5, ESV)!

Ever feel like your faith is small? Perhaps you wish you could do more or be more. Maybe when you look around you, it seems as if everyone else has BIG BOLD FAITH, while yours is just . . . tiny.

If that’s you, then consider these three things you can do that will immediately begin to grow your faith.

1. Believe that your faith can increase.

Every Christian has been given a measure of faith (Romans 12:3). While each of us has been given a certain capacity to believe, it can increase. Isn’t that great news? Exhibit A for growing faith is the Apostle Peter. Remember what Peter was like in the Gospels? He tried hard but failed, said the wrong thing at the wrong time, and kept messing up at critical moments. Peter was the one who swore loyalty to Jesus then denied even knowing Him (Mark 14:26–31, 66–72). Peter was the one who followed Jesus after His arrest but only from a safe distance (Mark 14:54). When Peter tried walking on the water, he sank, and Jesus called him, O you of little faith (Matthew 14:31). Ouch.

Yes, Peter had little faith and a lot of growing to do, but he made one good decision: He followed Jesus’ instructions, went to that upper room, and waited for the Holy Spirit to come and fill him. When the Spirit of God filled Peter in response to his faith, he was transformed. He preached boldly, and three thousand people were saved. Peter became such a powerful, faith-filled man that Acts 5:15 reports that people even carried out the sick into the streets and laid them on cots and mats, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them.

Peter was a changed man, transformed by the power of the Spirit through faith. Do you want Peter-size faith? Believe that your faith can increase, and then . . .

2. Expose your mind to God’s Word.

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ (Romans 10:17). Faith can’t grow without the soil of God’s Word.

Have you learned yet to love the Word of God? Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O Lord, God of hosts (Jeremiah 15:16). Is your mind steeped in God’s Word? Have you gotten past the discipline stage of reading the Bible (gutting it out because you know you should) to the delighted stage (actually wanting to read it, even craving it)?

The more we wash our minds with God’s Word, the more our faith can grow. When we fill our minds with trash—or with everything but God’s Word—what happens to our faith? It falters and even withers. According to Romans 12:2, your transformation comes by the renewal of your mind. So what are you putting into your mind?

We must read the Word, study it, memorize it, meditate on it. Human words don’t build faith; God’s do. And as you immerse yourself in God’s Word, you’ll also learn to . . .

3. Practice genuine prayer.

Faith comes through genuine prayer. Not rote repetition of empty words but genuine, on-your-knees, heartfelt prayer, laying hold of God by faith.

“Hmmm,” you might say, “I’m not very good at that. Where’s the seminar on genuine prayer?” The seminar is conducted in your home daily in a private place where you can kneel down. The seminar is given by the Holy Spirit Himself and is available 24/7. If you want to learn how to pray, get on your knees, open your heart, and ask, “Lord, teach me to pray.”

Prayer has incredible power to build your faith. When you are filled with anxiety, concerns, or burdens, pray. Get by yourself, kneel in humility before God, and in the simplest language you know, talk to your Father about it. Through genuine, heartfelt prayer, you can exchange your anxiety for faith.

So for all those who want their faith to keep growing—believe that your faith can increase, expose your mind to God’s Word, and genuinely pray.

And ask the Lord—as the apostles did—Increase our faith (Luke 17:5)!

Journal

  • Have you gotten past the discipline stage of reading the Bible (gutting it out because you know you should) to the delighted stage (actually wanting to read it, even craving it)?
  • What are you putting into your mind? Survey the scene; what is your “dose” of God’s Word vs. entertainment, social media, etc.?

Pray
Lord God, I know that You are wholly faithful and worthy of all my trust. Thank You for patiently growing me. I confess that my faith can be weak and my heart is prone to give way to fear and anxiety. I do believe, and I humbly ask You to help my unbelief. Thank You for the precious gift of Your Word and the privilege of prayer. Please help me to fix my eyes on You, and stir my heart to get and stay in the Scriptures. Grow in me genuine delight and deep faith in You. Lord, teach me to pray. I admit that I am dependent upon You for these gifts, and I trust You for them, praying this in the worthy name of Your Son, Jesus. Amen.

November 25, 2017

Transformation

Today we’re back with fellow-Canadian devotional writer Elsie Montgomery at the website Practical Faith. Click the title to read at source.

The Lord guides each step

Christians are supposed to be different, not different-weird but different from the sinful, selfish people we once were. For instance, when Jesus encountered a rich man who was a “chief tax collector” and called a sinner by many who knew him, that man was transformed:

“And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, ‘Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.’” (Luke 19:8)

Today’s devotional passage also talks about that change, affirming that it not about pulling ourselves up by our own bootstraps, but about something God does by grace and for His purposes:

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:4–10)

The changes made by God are because of His mercy and love, not anything I did or could do. I was “dead in sin” and dead people are useless. To that need, He made me “alive in Christ” together with other Christians and gave us an eternal place with Him in the heavenly places that we might experience His grace and kindness. That is a huge change. Before my salvation, I enjoyed “common grace” in that I could live and breathe, but I had no clue about the matters of God or His purposes for my life.

These changes produced by God are for good works, not because of good works. That is, I could not do anything to please God until after He sent Jesus into my life. However, He had prepared good works for me to do — even though I could not do them until He saved me by grace and changed my heart, motivations, attitude, and direction.

What delights me is that what God wants me to do (His will for my life) was planned and prepared beforehand. That is, God had my life mapped out long before He walked into it. I do not have to struggle with “what is God’s will for my life?” because He knows it and has saved me so I can do it. My part is paying attention to Him in obedience, one step at a time.

Jesus, this is a great assurance. You created the plan and You also direct it and make it happen. How do I know that? I know it because the most important step in that plan was changing my life just as You changed the life of Zacchaeus and millions of other people. There are times when I disobey for which I regret, yet You know all things and have worked out Your plan regardless of my stumbling and resistance. Because of your great love, I walk with You and am grateful that You know and guide each step that I take.

September 29, 2016

Aiming for Perfection

Matthew 5:48 But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.

Today we’re featuring a new author here. John Mark Reynolds writes at Eidos a Patheos blog. Click the title below to read at source, and then browse the site to see other things he’s written.

Let’s Be Perfect!

Jesus said a hard thing when He said: Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

I don’t know about you, but I am not perfect. In fact, we pass off our failure by saying to ourselves: “Nobody is perfect.” This is wrong since at least the God-Man, Jesus, is perfect and there is a good theological argument that in her obedience His mother was also perfect.

When we demand perfection of ourselves, then we do great harm. We put our false ideas of perfection and our efforts in place of the good we can do. Striving to be perfect can drive a person utterly mad.

So here we are: imperfect. One strategy is to not worry. We are all imperfect, so imperfection can love company, but this foolish. Instead, we can look to what can help us get better. If we cannot be perfect, perhaps we can be more perfect than we are. This at least stops our perfectionism that strains for something we cannot do.

Yet this is not enough. Jesus commanded us to be perfect and sadly, “closer to perfect” still is not perfect and only perfection will do. God’s utter joy is to intense for soul with even a slight fault. Hell is the collapse of a broken soul in the face of the weight of God’s glory.

We must be transformed from within and the task is beyond our abilities. God must come and live in us and those parts of us that He inhabits are made perfect. As Saint Paul says there is the imperfect old man and the new man that is coming.

We are simultaneously perfect and broken. Death will cause the broken bits to fall away  while the perfection God makes, the persons we were meant to be, will be left. This impacts every part of us, if we will let it. Our minds can be made ready for paradise by Divine Wisdom, our hearts by Divine Love, and our passions purified by Divine Goodness. All we need to do is turn from our lies to God’s nature.

God is wisdom.When a man says: “I want to know,” then he is seeking God. When a man says, “I want to understand,” then he is seeking God. God is wisdom, there is no division. To know God is know virtue, wisdom, and joy. We know wisdom, because God knows all things and give His children vision, understanding, and decidedness. We seek God and He reveals Himself to us. This vision of God, the experience of being born again, gives us a fresh understanding of the world.

We commit ourselves and then we see.

Is this experience for all? It can be. Christians are invited perfection and we can move forward into divine transformation if we wish. Why don’t I wish this good thing? Simply because I am unwilling to lose what seems good enough.

 

 

 

May 18, 2013

The Root of Sanctification is Internal, Not External Change

Today, something from an awesome blog find that I think we’ll be visiting again!  Dave Dunham is a Baptist pastor in Michigan who writes at Pastor Dave Online. This article is the first of three parts (so far) which are equally beneficial; the links to part two and three are at the bottom.  This was originally titled: The Power of the Gospel for Real Change: Reflections on the Process of Sanctification from Colossians 2:20-3:5 (Part 1)

How do people change? There are a myriad of ideas about what change looks like, and lots of proposed solutions are offered to what ails us. But as a Christian any solution I offer to others, or any that I claim for myself, must be rooted in the gospel of Jesus Christ. The gospel is the real center of all true, lasting change for humanity. But what does this mean: gospel-centered change? Paul gives us a picture of this kind of change in Colossians 2:20-3:5. By studying this passage we can learn how the gospel applied to our struggles can affect real change.

In the letter to the Colossians Paul is writing to a church beleaguered by false teachers who are promoting a sort of mystical Jewish/Christian amalgamation over and against the gospel.  So Paul urges them to remember the preeminence of Christ, resist the empty philosophies of others, and pursue the example of Jesus. The specific passage we are looking at discusses how to “put on the new self.” It states:

If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations—“Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” referring to things that all perish as they are used—according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.

To understand how this passage instructs us on true, gospel-centered, change let’s break it down.

Paul begins by warning us that self-discipline, in and of itself, is not enough. The Colossians had lists of things not to avoid, regulations and rules that were designed to keep the world at a distance. “Don’t handle,” “don’t taste,” “don’t touch.” They would say. The developed their own form of legalism to make themselves pure. But legalism can never achieve real growth in godliness. Following a list of rules, apart from the gospel of grace, leads naturally either to arrogance or depression.

If you succeed in keeping all the rules you become an arrogant jerk. You’re proud of your accomplishments and you pat yourself on the back. You compare others to your own standard of “godliness” and condemn those who don’t match your level. After all, you pulled yourself up by your bootstraps, why wouldn’t you expect everyone else to do the same. But, of course, we can never attain true purity this way.

As the reality of our imperfection manifests itself to us we become depressed. Legalism tends to produce depressed and ashamed Christians who are constantly frustrated and downcast because, after all, no one is perfect and they can’t keep the rules. So we are constantly aware of the slightest failing and sure that God must hate us for it. Rule keeping, and self-restraint alone, are not the pathway to our transformation.

That is not to say that self-discipline is not important. It is very important. And Jesus gives us rules to follow. But self-control is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23), not merely something we conjure up of our own will. Self-discipline apart from the gospel and apart from the Spirit of God leads to legalism, not to change.  I like how J. Alasdair Groves summarizes Paul’s point:

Paul’s point is simple: you are not going to overcome your sin by beating yourself into shape and keeping the outside world at arm’s length. Trying harder and being your own drill sergeant has “no value in restraining sensual indulgences.” You’ll feel better for a while if you establish a list of rules, an exercise regimen, and a plan to do more school work so you won’t have much time to be tempted. But it will never be enough. Rules (in and of themselves) simply cannot stop the flesh, and the world (and the devil). Looking to rules or your own effort to change is insufficient and opposed to how God works to redeem us. (“Exposing the Lies of Pornography and Counseling the Men Who Believe Them” in The Journal of Biblical Counseling, 27.1. p. 20)

Paul says that such things have an “appearance of wisdom,” that’s why so many legalists still exist. But ultimately this approach to transformation is “of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.” We want real change not merely an exchange of “indulgences.” Legalism tends to help us abandon one sin only to pick up another (like arrogance and pride, or judging others to name two examples). Real change must go deeper than our external behaviors. Real change must get at the heart, and that’s where the gospel takes us.

If you want real change you have to address more than our behaviors. That is why “solutions” that only ever address external behavior don’t affect lasting or real change.  The gospel doesn’t ignore our external behavior, but it treats us as whole people (spiritual, physical, emotional, mental, relational, etc.). Next week we’ll unpack some more of what Paul says about real change to the Colossians, but spend some time this week reflecting on the failure of rule keeping, and ask God to help you address more than just your actions. Pray and ask him to expose your heart, in order that you might find real transformation.

Continue reading other parts of this series:

February 19, 2013

On Earth as it is in Heaven

“And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.

“Pray, then, in this way:

‘Our Father who is in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
10 ‘Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
11 ‘Give us this day our daily bread.
12 ‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 ‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’]  (NASB)

Nearly three years ago I barely scratched the surface of this phrase from The Lord’s Prayer (or more correctly, The Disciples Prayer)  in Matthew 6.   Today, in keeping with our motto — Digging a Little Deeper — I thought I would see what some commentaries have to say about this phrase, which is found in Matthew’s version of the prayer, but not Luke’s. Unfortunately, a few of them skipped over this particular clause entirely.

The International Bible Commentary points out that the phrase modifies all three of the previous petitions, the bringing about of God’s Kingdom, His will, and the hallowed-ness of His name.

The NIV Study Bible concurs with this, suggesting that the phrase might be repeated after each line:

  • May your name be holy on earth as it is in heaven
  • May your Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven
  • May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

The Evangelical Bible Commentary notes two things. First the phrase makes the petitions personal:

  • May your Kingdom come and your will be done by me, right now.

Second, it links the phrase to the familiar text in verse 33,

Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. 

In other words

  • May your holiness and righteousness and your kingdom be the thing we seek (or long for) (or strive for) before anything else.

This would then link the line in the prayer to verse 33’s promise that

and all these things will be given unto you

(or ‘added unto you’ in the KJV, the things being the concerns we often are preoccupied in the ‘worry’ section in the Sermon on the Mount which precedes it.)

Matthew Henry enhances the text with these words:

“…that the earth will be made more like heaven by the observance of God’s will.”

And some of you know that in The Message Bible, Eugene Peterson takes this line from a prayer already known for its extreme concision — contrasted with those who pray long prayers thinking their “many words” will make their prayers more effective — and renders it even more concisely:

as above, so below

Scanning the Christian blogosphere, we see people taking this phrase as a springboard for everything from a glimpse of heaven, to a call to social action, to beginning from where we are and then moving out beyond, to the impossibility of doing anything without the Holy Spirit’s power.

The blog, Ragamuffin Ramblings quotes N. T. Wright:

We are to pray that God’s kingdom will come, and God’s will be done, “on earth as it is in heaven.” The life of heaven — the life of the realm where God is already king — is to become the life of the world, transforming the present “earth” into the place of beauty and delight that God always intended. And those who follow Jesus are to begin to live by this rule here and now. That’s the point of the Sermon on the Mount, and the beatitudes in particular. They are a summons to live in the present in the way that will make sense in God’s promised future; because the future has arrived in the present in Jesus of Nazareth. It may seem upside down, but we are called to believe, with great daring, that it is in fact the right way up.


In some unrelated online research a few days ago, I came across this rendering — not necessarily recommended — of the prayer found in a used bookstore from The New Zealand Prayer Book:

“Eternal Spirit, Earth-maker, Pain-bearer, Life-giver,
Source of all that is and that shall be,
Father and Mother of us all,
Loving God, in whom is heaven:

The hallowing of your name echo through the universe!
The way of your justice be followed by the peoples of the world!
Your heavenly will be done by all created beings!
Your commonwealth of peace and freedom sustain our hope and come on earth.

With the bread we need for today, feed us.
In the hurts we absorb from one another, forgive us.
In times of temptation and test, strengthen us.
From trials too great to endure, spare us.
From the grip of all that is evil, free us.

For you reign in the glory of the power that is love, now and for ever.

Amen”

November 6, 2012

Assured of Eternal Life

Today we look at what may at first seem rather elementary material about the basics of salvation, until we move on to testing ourselves on how this evidences itself in our lives. This from Pastor B. J. Rutledge at Grace Fellowship Church and appears on his blog as You Can Know You Have Eternal Life.


[Recently] at Grace we talked about an UNUSUAL PROMISE from God.  At the request of one of our web/tech guys, I’m putting some of the scripture, some added notes and the check list from 1st John in this blog.  Let me start with a couple of added notes…

1.  No one can earn their way into heaven.  We are saved by faith through grace which is the gift of God and is clearly taught throughout the NT.  Ephesians 2:8-9 is clear on this and Eph. 2:10 states that we do good works as a result of this.  Titus 3:5 is clear that none of us can be saved by any works we do; our salvation is based on His mercy as we trust Christ and are born again by the renewing and regenerating that only the Holy Spirit can do in us.

2.  James 2:14-26 says that if my faith is real then “works of that faith” or “good works” will follow.  They don’t save me, but they are evidence of the fact that I am saved.

3.  None of us will live up to the things that John wrote in 1st John as “tests” of salavation 100% of the time; that’s why we need God’s grace.  As I stated Sunday, and have stated many times, the issue of testing your faith is one of direction not perfection.  We all sin.  I still sin.  However, the bent of my heart is now in the direction of the things that John revealed in the book of 1st John.

4.  In 2 Cor. 13:5, Paul was writing to the people who gathered as a part of the church in Corinth and challenged them to TEST themselves and make sure there was actual evidence that their lives had been changed by Jesus Christ.

5.  Paul was clear when sharing his testimony with King Agrippa that people must repent of their sins and turn to God to be saved, and then they should show / prove / give evidence of this change by their lifestyle or the things they do.

6.  John was clear that there are some very clear evidences that will be seen in a person who has “moved from death to life” or who is ”a child of God”.  He lists these things that help people test themselves as to their faith in 1st John.

Here’s some of the information from the message this past Sunday with a few added notes.

THE UNUSUAL PROMISE: You can KNOW you have eternal life.

My purpose in writing is simply this: that you who believe in God’s Son will know beyond the shadow of a doubt that you have eternal life, the reality and not the illusion.  1 John 5:13 Msg

Paul – who wrote much of the New Testament says – if you’re not sure – you should do something about it.   Test yourselves to make sure you are solid in the faith. Don’t drift along taking everything for granted. Give yourselves regular checkups. You need firsthand evidence, not mere hearsay, that Jesus Christ is in you. Test it out. If you fail the test, do something about it.      2 Cor. 13:5 (Msg)

TEST YOURSELF – IS THIS EVIDENCE  IN YOUR LIFE?

1st   OBEY THE WORD OF GOD   

We can be sure that we know God if we obey his commands. Anyone who says, “I know God,” but does not obey God’s commands is a liar…”1 John 2:3-4a NCV

You may not & probably won’t understand everything in the Bible, but do you have a desire to do what God says and are you striving to obey what you already know from God’s Word?  None of us will be perfect, but if you have no desire for the Word of God or have no desire to obey the Word of God then you need to evaluate your life and see if your faith is real.

2nd   LIVE A CHRIST-LIKE LIFE  

Here is how we know we belong to him.  Those who claim to belong to him must live just as Jesus did.      1 John 2:5b-6  (NIrV)

Jesus lived a perfect life & none of us can live up to that because we’ve all sinned & messed up.     The issue isn’t perfection – the issue is direction.   Is the direction you choose – one that’s moving you closer to becoming like Jesus?  All of us mess up.  In fact, a verse from the book of wisdom that has really helped me and I’ve shared with others for years is Prov. 24:16 which states:  “The godly may trip seven times, but they will get up again…”   I’m so grateful for the truth of 1 John 1:9 which reminds me when I sin and blow it, I can confess it and God forgives me.

So – Do your attitudes & actions give evidence of someone who is pursuing a Christ-like lifestyle?

3rd  STAY TRUE TO THE FAITH 

They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.  1 John 2:19 (NIV)

Believers will look for ways to experience community & do life with other believers.

4th  CHANGED NATURE 

“Those who are born again because of what God has done will not keep on sinning. God’s very nature remains in them…”     1 John 3:9a (NIrV)

Pigs like to wallow in filth because that’s their nature.  If you’re a believer, you’ve been given a new nature and while you’ll still sin – it’s not the habit of your life.  You don’t want to live in willful habitual sin.

5th  LOVE OTHER CHRISTIANS   

10 So now we can tell who are children of God and who are children of the Devil. Anyone who does not obey God’s commands and does not love other Christians does not belong to God.  14 If we love our Christian brothers and sisters, it proves that we have passed from death to eternal life…” 1 John 3:10, 14a (NLT)

Love…doesn’t keep a record of wrongs that others do.  1 Cor. 13:4 CEV

6th  EVIDENCE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT  

When a person puts their faith & trust in Christ – the Holy Spirit comes to live in them.

How do we know that God lives in us?  We know it because of the Holy Spirit he gave us.  1 John 3:24b (NIrV)

We know an apple tree is an apple tree because of the fruit it produces.  If you’re really a Christian, there will be external evidence: fruit the Holy Spirit produces in you.  I’m not talking about Spirit Gifts here, but fruit.  Someone wrote me a note from Sunday and said “even an apple tree does not bare fruit at all times”.  They were absolutely correct, so let me try to expand the analogy.   Spiritual growth is a journey and we will have growth spurts and times when it seems like not much is happening; but it’s the Holy Spirit that produces fruit in us as we submit to Him.   As Jesus said when He was speaking about a person’s character: “the tree is known by its fruit” (Mt. 12:33).  The bottom line is that a person who has a genuine faith will at some point produce fruit; “the fruit of the Spirit” will be produced in their life at different times as they submit to God.

Gal 5:22-23a NASB  says:  “…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…”

7th  HAVE THE SON OF GOD  

This is what God told us: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.  Whoever has the Son has life, but whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.   1 John 5:11-12 (NCV) 

Eternal life is found in Jesus Christ alone.  NOTE:  The thief on the cross never had a chance to do any of the things that John said were tests of salvation other than “have the Son of God.”  That thief put his faith & trust in Christ just prior to his death, and Jesus told him that he would be with Christ in paradise.  A simple accrostic I’ve used for years related to FAITH is:  Forsaking All I Trust Him.  That means I must put my faith in Christ and Him alone for salvation.

Here are a couple of other passages used in the message:

 You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror.  James 2:19 NLT

Yet some people accepted him and put their faith in him. So he gave them the right to be the children of God.  John 1:12 CEV

People have to die once. After that, God will judge them.  Heb 9:27 (NIrV) 

Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.     Heb. 4:13  (NIV)


For a previous article by B. J. Rutledge at C201, click here.

May 7, 2012

Get Over It!

They were putting together a list of people to invite to a dinner party.  She threw out the name of a particular couple and he frowned at her.

“Not after that thing that happened at the golf course.  We’re not having them here.”

“The golf course;” she screamed, “That was TEN YEARS AGO! That happened a DECADE ago! Is that why we never get together with them? Don’t you think it’s time to get over it?”

Unfortunately, we don’t all do a good job of getting over it.  This post is from Mark D. Roberts, and appeared today at High Calling Blogs as How Can We Stop Nursing an Ancient Grudge?

Because you nursed an ancient grudge, you handed the Israelites over to the sword in the time of their distress, during their final punishment.

Ezekiel 35 is a word of judgment against “Mt. Seir,” a geographic representation of Edom. In this chapter, the Lord judges the Edomites because they took advantage of the Israelites when they were being invaded by the Babylonians. The people of Edom even “exalted” themselves against the Lord and spoke against him (35:13).

Edom’s reaction to Israel’s plight reflected longstanding enmity between the two nations. In fact, the Lord identifies the source of Edom’s action in this way: “Because you nursed an ancient grudge, you handed the Israelites over to the sword in the time of their distress, during their final punishment” (35:5). The Hebrew of the beginning of this verse reads literally, “Because you had everlasting hatred [’evat ‘olam] . . . .” This is the same phrase that appears in Ezekiel 25:15, where it refers to the “old hatreds” of the Philistines. The “ancient grudge” of the Edomites was similar to the “old hatreds” of the Philistines. Both peoples let old rivalries and animosity govern their behavior, leading them to oppose not just Israel, but also the Lord.

The Daily Reflection on Ezekiel 25 asked the question: What will set us free from old hatreds? Today, I want to ask a similar question: How can we stop nursing an ancient grudge? Once again, I want to emphasize that the power to do this rests in God, the source of peace and reconciliation. God alone will help us forgive those who have wronged us.

This happens as we take to heart the merciful forgiveness God has given us. In Ephesians 4:31-32 we read: “Put aside all bitterness, losing your temper, anger, shouting, and slander, along with every other evil. Be kind, compassionate, and forgiving to each other, in the same way God forgave you in Christ.” We are able to put aside all bitterness and forgive others when we take seriously the way God has forgiven us in Christ. We will stop nursing grudges when we allow our hearts and minds to be transformed by the forgiving grace of God.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Do you have any ancient grudges? Are there people in your life whom you struggle to forgive? Have you spoken to God about this?

PRAYER: Gracious God, even as you have forgiven me, so may I forgive others. May your grace so permeate my being that I cannot help but be gracious to everyone in my life, even those who have wronged me. Set me free, Lord, from old hatreds and ancient grudges. May I live in the freedom of your grace each day, in each relationship, in every situation. Amen.

~Mark D. Roberts

January 3, 2012

Belief is Just the Beginning

I remember years ago there was pop music star who was rumored to have become a Christian.  Later on however, the report was nuanced a little finer with the news that he simply undergone “an intellectual conversion.”  I guess he had worked out all the claims of Jesus Christ and accepted those as being true, but wasn’t about to let it change his life.  Or something. Perhaps he was simply astute enough to realize that true Christ-following was going to cost something; or that one really has to be all-in to accept Christ’s invitation.

Jamie Arpin-Ricci gets at this in an excellent blog post at Cost of Community titled Convinced is not Converted.  As we still are in the early days of a new year, we need to make sure that all those things we give intellectual assent to are also finding application in our lives. 

I have an odd intolerance for certain foods.  I’m not allergic to them, but I’ve also discovered that it more than mere pickiness.  Unfortunately, the foods I am intolerant of are the ones that I most need to be eating for health and nutrition.  While I am working on overcoming this problem, it never fails that someone learns of my eating habits and begins to lovingly lecture me on the necessity of eat better than I do.  I nod patiently as I hear for the umpteenth time the basics of nutrition we all learned in grade school.  Recently, when someone began this lecture, I quickly interrupted them and said: “Oh, I agree!  I’m convinced, just not converted“.

This off-hand turn of phrase has stuck with me ever since.  Let’s briefly look at the terms in question here:

Convinced: To be moved to believe, through logic, argument or evidence, that something is true.

Many Christians, especially in West, have come to faith through being convinced — that is, we have been moved to believe differently about something through a compelling argument, presentation or even relationship.  This ushers us into active relationship with God as we make a choice to identify as His follower.  Growing up, this is what I was taught about what it meant to be converted.  While there is overlap, I think that we have confused being convinced with being converted.

Converted: To be changed from one form, substance or state, to another.

Without question being convinced is a significant part of the conversion experience (at least for many).  That being said, we can see by the definition that conversion is far more than simply being convinced- it encompasses and surpassed it.  To be converted is to be transformed- to be changed from one thing to another.  It is holistic and all-encompassing.  The emphasis of rationalism in Western Christianity, while bringing us many gifts, has all too often led us understand belief as primarily (and at times exclusively) as cognitive.  Yes, it demanded change in us, but it was as though we believe that the transformation would occur because of the changed understanding.  In other words, the primary means of conversion was the change of ideas.

True conversion does not occur because of us.  Yes, we participate through our will.  Yes, our minds- that is our understanding and ideas- should be changed as well.  But the source of that change is not the result of anything in us, but instead it is the work of the Holy Spirit.  Further, if Jesus is to be believed, then how we live out this transformation is more important than what we think about it.  The changed mind is a product of the transformed heart, made possible through Christ.  The fruit of that transformation must be made manifest in how we live.

Don’t settle for a changed mind.  Jesus is not someone who had some ideas He wanted us to be convinced by.  Rather, He invited (and invites) us into Himself to experience true and whole transformation to become, together, His Body for His kingdom and His glory.

(To explore what I believe it means to live the fullness of what Christ calls us into, see “The Cost of Community: Jesus, St. Francis & Life in the Kingdom”)

~Jamie Arpin-Ricci

March 8, 2011

Christ Formed In You: Spiritual Transformation

I want to introduce something a little different today.  Sometimes a blogger will work their way, chapter by chapter, through a current Christian book.  Others will dedicate a whole blog to promote a particular book they’re enjoying.  We’re going to crash in the middle of a blog which is the latter type, set up to promote the book Christ Formed in You by Brian Hedges (Shepherd Press).   If it whets your appetite for more, click back to the beginning or, better yet, buy the book.

This one is titled The Pattern of  Spiritual Transformation.

How does God get us up on our feet and moving in the right direction? What are some of the basic elements we need to understand in order to walk more like Jesus? Two related passages of Scripture give us the answer.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Rom. 12:1-2)

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Cor. 3:18)

In these verses, Paul provides us with five essential elements which make up spiritual transformation: the goal, the motive, the cost, the process, and the power. Each element is important. We must have the right goal, if we’re to know what we’re striving for. We also need to be rightly motivated in our pursuit, while at the same time fully understanding and embracing the cost. An understanding of the process is also essential, if we’re to fully cooperate with it. And, of course, we must be resourced with power, or we’ll get nowhere.

1. The Goal: The Image of Christ

As we saw in chapter one and have repeatedly emphasized throughout this book, the goal of spiritual transformation is conformity to the character of Christ. We see this in 2 Corinthians 3:18: we “are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.” This is God’s eternal purpose. As Romans 8:29 says, God has “predestined us to be conformed to the image of his Son.” He wants to make us more and more like Jesus in his spotless holiness, humble service, radiant joy, and self-giving love.

2. The Motive: The Mercies of God

Next, consider the motive, which Paul declares with the phrase, “the mercies of God.” This again takes us back to the thrust of this book. All genuine spiritual transformation is driven by the gospel.

Sometimes Paul’s letters are somewhat evenly divided between an exposition of the gospel and encouragement to his readers to live differently because of the gospel. But in the book of Romans, the first eleven chapters (out of sixteen) are almost entirely one great and glorious exposition of the gospel. Then we come to the first phrase of the first verse of chapter 12, which includes a “therefore” encompassing all that came previously. After eleven complete chapters explaining and extolling the glories of the gospel, how does Paul summarize it all in a single phrase? “Therefore, by the mercies of God . . .”

Paul is saying that the gospel is ultimately about God’s mercies [i] lavished on us in Christ, even when we were enemies to God (Rom. 5:10). God has justified us freely in Christ (Rom. 3:24), liberated us from sin’s slavery (Rom. 6:6-7), and indwelt us by his Spirit (Rom. 8:9, 13-17). God did not even spare his own Son, but gave him up for us (Rom. 8:32). This level of mercy and grace, this stunning demonstration of unwavering commitment to those whom he loves, assures us that God will give us everything we need. What amazing mercy! Only the ravishing taste of such mercy and grace can change us.

3. The Cost: Present Your Bodies as Living Sacrifices…

4. The Process: Renewing the Mind…

5. The Power: The Spirit of the Lord…


[i] God’s mercies include: righteousness (3:21-26), redemption (3:24), grace (3:24), peace (5:1), grace (5:2), justification (5:1), hope (5:4-5), the love of God poured out in our hearts (5:5), union with Christ (6:1-11); freedom from sin (6:1-23; eternal life (6:22), freedom from the law (7:1-25); no condemnation (8:1), the Spirit (8:9), sonship (8:14-16); the hope of the future redemption of our bodies (8:23); the Spirit interceding (8:26-27); all things working together for our good (8:28), conformity to Jesus Christ (8:29), calling (8:30), glorification (8:30), and so on.

May 5, 2010

Narrowing the Gap

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 4:42 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Today is the third and final quotation from Pete Wilson’s book, Plan B.   It’s short, but take a minute to really think about it before you click on to something else online.

I think we’re all aware that there’s a gap between who we are today and who God created us to be.   I believe this gap will always exist this side of heaven.  But here’s the question we all need to be asking ourselves:  “Is the gap closing?  Is it narrowing, or am I stalled?”

…The real problem is that most of us don’t understand how the gap can be narrowed…

Read my full review of Plan B here.

May 3, 2010

Pete Wilson: Plan “B”

This week I want to post some quotes from the book Plan B: What Do You Do When God Doesn’t Show Up In The Way You Thought He Would? by Pete Wilson.

You can read my full review of the book at Thinking Out Loud.

Someone once said, “Adversity introduces a man to himself.”  Unfortunately, more often than I like to admit, I have found this to be true.  And I cringe when I look back on how I’ve acted during times when it felt as if God was not there and the bottom was dropping out.

April 10, 2010

Flying Elephants

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:43 pm
Tags: , , , ,

As a younger person, I frequently traveled to those large summer outdoor youth festivals which, for some reason, seemed to all take place in Pennsylvania.   I remember one of the speakers talking about II Cor. 5:17

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. (NASB)

What this means is that those who become Christians become new persons. They are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone. A new life has begun! (NLT)

The speaker said that most people think of “becoming a new creature” as referring to something like the proverbial caterpillar who becomes a butterfly; but it’s not talking about that kind of metamorphosis.

Rather, he said, the Greek means that “anyone in Christ” is actually “a species of being that never existed before;” adding “More like a winged elephant than a winged butterfly.”

I’ve never seen a winged elephant, though in the early days of Microsoft, I saw some flying toasters.

The thing about a flying elephant is this:  It gets peoples’ attention.   If anyone is in Christ, the world is going to notice the change.