Blending in with the culture

In the previous articles in this series we talked about why we do not view where we live with the same focus and intensity as we do when we go to other countries for missions because we spend all of our time focused on making this life our home.  But why do we do that?

The reason we get so sucked into the comfort of this world is because we have adopted the philosophy and ideals of our culture. In many ways we have become part of the world.  What is it we do that sets us apart from non-believers?

Every year hundreds of billions of dollars are spent in advertising; just to tell you why having those Nike’s will make you run better, why you need the latest iPhone (or Android) or how Coca-Cola will refresh you more than any other drink.  They spend that much money because it works.  We are bombarded with those images every single day while we try to entertain ourselves with television and then we get obsessed about needing the next new thing.

But in order to get all that fancy stuff you need to make more money, which means spending more time going to school for that better degree and working overtime.  You spend all this time dwelling on these obsessions and it steals our thoughts and our time away from the family and away from our mission, the gospel.

Then we get hindered even more because we don’t want to share the gospel with those we work with because someone might get offended and we will get in trouble which means no raise this year or even loosing your job.

Welcome to the American Dream.

The American Dream is a vicious cycle that we get ourselves trapped in.  We have fun with all of the latest stuff but then it catches up to us.  I got so caught up with this trap that I had to borrow money to buy more stuff because I did not want to wait a few months to get my iPad or a second car with cash.  Now I have to work just to pay off the credit cards and loans from things I purchased in the past that I do not even use anymore because I replaced them with other things I bought with yet more borrowed money.

And then we think nothing about it because the rest of the culture is the same way.  Even the culture of the church is caught in this trap.

But while you or your church and your pastor may not think much of that lifestyle, God is offended by it.  God even goes as far as calling those who do live like society enemies of the Cross.

For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. – Phillipians 3:17-19

By focusing on the things of this world instead of God you are not just failing to do what is best, but you are being an enemy to Christ, to His mission, and to the cross.  Christ came for a mission and if you are so distracted by the things of this world that you are ignoring those around you that are dying, then you have become an enemy to that gospel.

You can’t be in the middle, there is no neutral position, we are either For Christ or against Him (Luke 11:23) and this verse in Philippians 3 makes it clear that we are really seen as the enemy of the cross.

You will, of course, deny that you are the enemy of Christ, I mean, who would admit that?  Unless you are an atheist who directly opposes God you would not consider yourself an enemy of God.

But then look at the rest of the passage.  Does that describe you?

“Their god is their stomach”… Do you care more about what you eat and drink than you do about serving Christ?  Does eating and drinking consume more of your time than you give to God?

“Their glory is in their shame” really hit me.  How many times have you bragged about something and found joy in something that, in comparison to God, you should be ashamed of?

“I got so drunk last night I don’t remember what happened.”
“She’s hot. I would sleep with her.”
“Check out this new beamer I got. Only $500 per month.”
“Last Saturday we had a Lord of the Rings marathon… It literally lasted all day”

How  many of these things that we brag about would we, or should we, be ashamed of if we thought about bragging about it to God in light of our mission?

Simon Cowell at the National Television Awards...
Simon Cowell at the National Television Awards at the Royal Albert Hall, London, October 2006. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I boasted for a while that I got to meet Simon Cowell (You know, from American Idol).  I would tell everybody that I met that I thought would be slightly interested.  “Hey there guard on the military base, did you know I got to meet Simon Cowell?  Yeah, I did! Met him in a hotel hallway, I even got my picture taken with him!”

Yeah, I was so proud of that moment…

And then God whispered to me “Why are you not this excited to tell people about me?”

None of that stuff is wrong in itself but they shouldn’t be what we are proud of or things we really find joy in.  We should be boasting in Christ because we are sinners and honestly we have nothing worthy of boasting about outside of Christ.

Next time you want to brag about something, think about bragging to God about it.  Is it something that you should be ashamed of in light of His holiness and perfection?

Then the final part of that passage I know hits me hard, and almost all of our culture as well.  “Their mind is set on earthly things.”

What is your mind set on?  Do you spend your time dwelling on things of this earth, or on God and His mission?

This ties back to the beginning of this article series.  If you are in Africa on a missions trip you are focused completely on the gospel, on your mission, on others.  When we get back home our mindset changes back to “normal” and we focus only on the things of this earth.

That shouldn’t be.  Our minds should always be on Christ and on the gospel, on our mission, nothing else matters even a tiny bit in comparison.

Am I saying that you are not allowed to have any fun on earth at all, and that our life needs to be nothing but witnessing on the streets, going to church, and living with the bums on the street and if I sit down to watch one movie I am being an enemy of God?

Well….

Find out in the next article on this series. 🙂

Do you really believe?

What we believe, as Christians is crucial.  Faith is what salvation and our relationship with Christ are based on, and faith has everything to do with what we really believe.

So I ask you, do you really believe that what you believe is really real?

And Abram believed the LORD, and the LORD counted him as righteous because of his faith.  (Genesis 15:6)

Do you really believe in the gospel message, or do you just acknowledge it without having faith in it?  Sometimes it can be hard to tell the difference between the two.

We can demonstrate the difference between faith and belief with a chair.  You can look at a chair and say you believe that if you sit in the chair it will hold your weight, but you do not really have faith in it unless you go over and sit in the chair.  Only then do you display that you have faith the chair will hold you.

That is a decent analogy, but how exactly does it apply to our faith?  I sit my butt in a pew at church every Sunday, isn’t that showing that I have faith?

My favorite analogy is that of two guys getting onto an airplane.  Both are greeted by a flight attendant addresses them with a smile on her face saying “there is a high probability that this plane will crash during this flight.  You will want these parachutes.”  (At this point I would be getting off the plane personally, but these guys are tough, they can handle the risk.)

So they get on the plane, but only one guy puts on the parachute.  He isn’t scared at all, not hanging on for dear life, he just put on the parachute and went about his business.  The other guy just tossed the parachute in the back of the plane and went about his business.

Now I ask you, which of these guys had actually believed the plane might crash?  The guy who put on the parachute, right?  How do you know he had faith?  It is because of his actions; he acted according to what he believed.

So how do we apply this to our Christian faith? By our actions.  You can tell one who has faith because he acts like it.

Actions of faith

Faith saves us, but only faith that produce actions.

So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”(James 2:17)

Avoid Sin!

The number one action that shows a person really believes in God is how they live their life; a life of righteousness.

Sin is serious, but we tend to down play, to make it seem like it is really nothing.  To us it may be nothing if we lie, cheat, watch pornography, are a homosexual, have sex outside of marriage, or any other sin. To us, these may seem like nothing, but to God they are horrible!

We can see this all through the old testament.  Read the laws and you will see there are huge penalties (i.e. death) for sinning.  Why?  Because God really hates sin.

The New Testament still talks about how much God hates sin and demands we avoid it.  One passage we will look at is the book of 1 John.

God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all. So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth. (1 John 1:5-6)

My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. If someone claims, “I know God,” but doesn’t obey God’s commandments, that person is a liar and is not living in the truth. But those who obey God’s word truly show how completely they love him. That is how we know we are living in him. Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did. (1 John 2:1,4-6)

These passages should make it clear, living for God means we will avoid sin.

Loving God

I really want to focus on verse five of the passage above. “But those who obey God’s word truly show how completely they love him.” (1 John 2:5)

We do not avoid sin to gain salvation or impress God, but because we love Him.  I buy gifts for my wife from time to time, not to impress her or try to win her love, but I do it because I love her.  In the same way, we must live our lives absent of sin (as much as humanly possible at least, more on this in a minute).

To understand why this is an act of love towards God we need to understand more of what sin is, or more importantly who God is.

God is perfect, no darkness is in Him, no sin, no blemishes; everything about Him is absolutely perfect.  God is Holy, set apart.  And to sin is to do something contrary to His nature.  Sin is horrible.

Sin is an incredibly disgusting act in the sight of God that goes against His perfect holiness.  Even the best we can do, most righteous deeds, are nothing more than “filthy rags” to Him (Isaiah 64:6).  How much more filthy are our sinful deeds to Him?

Our sin also hurts God.

But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5)

Jesus was tortured, literally tortured, beaten, and killed, why? Because of our sin.  And you can honestly tell me that you want to choose to live in sin over living for God, and that God is okay with it?

One way we justify this is to separate the act of sin from the person committing the sin.  We say “Love the sinner, hate the sin.”  I think Leonard Ravenhill brings a fresh perspective to this topic.

“I don’t believe there is a man on the whole TV that preaches salvation. They preach forgiveness. Forgiveness is not salvation. … “Oh you know the Lord loves you just as you are.” Well then why get changed? Commit adultery as much as you like. He still loves you. Be a cheat, be a liar, be a thief, and be a failure. He still loves you. But there’s a scripture. Isn’t it the Psalms 7… where it says “God is angry with the wicked every day.” I heard somebody quote today “God loves you but hates your sin” that’s bunken. God hates you for committing the sin. Is God going to take your sins and judge them at the Judgment and leave you alone?”

This is why, if we love God, we must avoid sin.  If we don’t then we are just fooling ourselves.

If you are living in sin right now, as in purposely doing something you know is wrong, then you are choosing sin over loving God.  Christians are ambassadors, we take the name of God and we represent Him on this Earth, you are saying that you want Him to be the Lord of your life.  Yet you choose your filthy disgusting worthless sin over Him?

That fact alone has to disgust God greatly!

Living in Sin vs slipping up

Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that we will ever be perfect this side of heaven, for we are still in these sinful bodies.  What I am talking about is the purposeful, intentional, and continuous choice to sin.

No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. (1 John 3:9)

The choice to keep looking at pornography, the choice to keep watching those shows on tv that have “questionable” content, the choice to sleep with someone you are not married to.  It is your lifestyle, things you choose to keep on doing.  You cannot have a lifestyle of sin and serve God at the same time.

You Must Make God Number One

To sum it up, you absolutely MUST make God first in your life.  There is no way around it.  Jesus did not die on the cross to save us from sin just to allow us to continue sinning.  He freed us from sin so we could stop sinning, so we could serve Him.

The Incarnation: The Best Present Ever

Written by Josh

The Incarnation: The Best Present Ever

The greatest gift ever given came as a baby, and we would do well to reflect and remember who He is and why coming as a baby was necessary.

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”

(Luke 2:11-12 ESV)

This week, the Carolers at my local grocer filled the air with holiday cheer by singing “Away in a Manger.” We sing songs about him, but who is the baby with ‘no crib for a bed?’ They don’t include scenes of Jesus crying or pooing in the church plays, but we have manger scenes, not ‘inn scenes.’ Jesus situation was very human, gritty and Real.

Most Christians will say Jesus is God (note the activetense of the verb) while most non-Christians say Jesus was just a man. In my experience, we in the church have responded to the doubt around us by stressing the divinity of Christ to the exclusion of his humanity. While we should stress the divinity of Christ, we must not ‘throw the baby out with the bath water’ as it were and conceptually sacrifice His humanity to protect His divinity.

When we sing about Jesus’ birth, it’s very easy to think of Jesus as either a man or as God only. But Scripture holds these two ideas in tension without apology so we must as well.

Simply put, the Incarnation is a key tenet of Christianity. If you don’t believe it, you give up the entire enchilada of the faith. Why? First, without the Incarnation you do not get the Jesus of the Bible. Secondly, you lose the Savior of infinite worth but human identity.

Without being God, Jesus’ death would be of limited value, but being God, his death is of infinite value, so there’s no internal limit to its saving power (he can cover our bill). But, without being human, Jesus’ life could not fulfill the Law Adam broke for us nor could his death on a cross take our place. Only a human could be a propitiation or substitute for us. So it is precisely the Incarnation that empowers Jesus’ victory over sin and death in the cross and resurrection. For as Hebrews says he took on flesh and blood like us so he could intercede on our behalf as our propitiation (Hebrews 2:9, 17).

Who does scripture say Baby Jesus is?

He is Immanuel, God with us. He is the Eternal Logos and maker of all things, yet he is also a man who grew in wisdom and stature before both men and God, who got tired, was tempted, suffered true anguish in Gethsemane, and was crucified and died.

Only by permanently shouldering true humanity could God the Son stand in our place as the Second Adam. (That’s right, the Incarnation is permanent.)

What is the Incarnation?

The Eternal Word (Logos), i.e. the 2nd Person of the Trinity, took on flesh (permanently became human) and is forever now the God-Man, fully God and fully Man, joined together in a union comprised of two distinct natures (human and divine) neither of which being confused or blended, but distinct and yet somehow together in a way we can better describe than understand.

The boys back in the day called this the “hypostatic union.” It is a mystery, kinda like gravity. We can describe gravity, and tell you about its results, but truly master it? Nope. But what would you expect from the Trinity?

So, as you prepare to celebrate Christmas, mull over how the greatest gift given came without a gift receipt: the giving of the Son by the Father in the Incarnation.

If you really want to get into the Spirit of the Season, find the nearest baby and cuddle it. Be gentle, they’re fragile, but hold that baby close and contemplate how Jesus was like that: small, weak, frail, in a real sense dependent. He ate, slept and pooped just like you and I did when we first showed up. Yet, in the mystery that is the Incarnation, he was at the same time still fully God, somehow through his divine nature, still upholding the universe (Heb 1:2-3 and Col 1:16-17). Wild—Strange—Real.

This should humble and encourage us: God the Father, gave us his Son who willfully became human forever altering himself to honor the Father’s will, so as to make all things New. We can move through our day with a kind of courage that comes from knowing God the Son loved us so much he was willing to endure what we do and more, just to rescue us while we were still his enemies.

That kind of love does not abandon or quit on a person, it can and should propel us as we go through whatever providence brings our way, because if He would do that for us, we can trust Him in it with assurance and hopefulness no matter what comes. That doesn’t mean we like it or even enjoy all that life brings for life brings thorns and thistles. Still, we can deal with such knowing knowing we are not being abandoned to be cut by them. God the Father took the Evil of His Son’s crucifixion and used it to redeem the world and the resurrection is our proof.

Merry Christmas. This week I invite you to the following passages about Baby Jesus, why he came and how his unique status as the God-man made possible what he accomplished in his life, death and resurrection.

Virginal Conception Predicted:

  • Isaiah 7:14
  • Isaiah 9:6-7

Jesus Humanity:

  • Matt 1:22-23
  • Luke 1:68-69
  • Luke 2:29-32
  • Luke 2:40
  • Luke 2:52
  • John 1:1-18
  • John 4:6
  • John 10:30

Purpose and Result of His Coming:

  • John 1:1-18
  • Galatians 4:4-5
  • 1 Peter 1:10-12
  • Philippians 2:5-8, 9-11
  • Hebrews 2:9, 14-15, 16-17

 

Avoiding a Lukewarm Life part 2 – The Throne of God

In part 1 we showed how God said to the church of Laodicea that they are neither hot nor cold, they are lukewarm, and as a result he would vomit them out of his mouth. We discussed how God is disgusted by our lives when we choose the garbage of earth over Him. Now let us take time to focus on Heaven, and why it is so much better to follow God.

As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. – Revelation 3:19-21

God gives us these harsh words not to tear us down, but so we would be convicted and repent. And if we overcome, we will get to sit on the throne of God with God.

The Throne of God

Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne – Revelation 4:2

John gets a glimpse of the throne of God and of God who sits on the throne. I cannot imagine how scared he must have been at the sheer awesome display of the throne room of God! I know Iwould freak out by it. Form a picture in our mind of what this scene must have looked like as we follow the apostle John.

And He who sat there was like a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald. Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white robes; and they had crowns of gold on their heads. – Revelation 4:3-4

Jasper and sardius are both red gems. John sees a being, God, sitting on the throne and the only way he can describe him is to say he is like gems we have on earth, surrounded by an emerald rainbow. Around the throne there are 24 thrones where the elders sit, clothed in white robes and crowns of gold on their heads.

And from the throne proceeded lightnings, thunderings, and voices. Seven lamps of fire were burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God. Before the throne there was a sea of glass, like crystal. – Revelation 4:5-6

While these twenty four elders are seated around the throne there is lightning and thunder flashing from the God’s throne. In front of the throne are seven lamps which are likely huge bonfires. These fires are not there for light, since if you are in the presence of God you do not need any light. And in front of this there is a sea, or an ocean, of glass like crystal.

And in the midst of the throne, and around the throne, were four living creatures full of eyes in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second living creature like a calf, the third living creature had a face like a man, and the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle. The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying: “ Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!”
– Revelation 4:6-8

Around the throne there are four creatures that are full of eyes, each with six wings, shouting day and night “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord God almight!” This very instant these creatures are before the throne of Heaven shouting this. Creatures that if we would see them we would freak out! Imagine what would happen if one of these appeared right above you right now? But they are consumed with the presence of God because that is how Awesome God is!

Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying: “ You are worthy, O Lord, To receive glory and honor and power; For You created all things, And by Your will they exist and were created.” – Revelation 4:9-11

After the four beasts shout this the twenty four elders are so overwhelmed that they just bow to God, casting their crowns of gold to God singing their own song of praise. Do you think these elders are regretting being here? Are they grumbling feeling forced to do this? No, being in the presence of God has a way of making you not think about yourself because of the awesomeness of God.  And if you do think about yourself the only thought that occurs to you is how unclean you are!

When Daniel had a vision of the Lord he instantly fell weak and was speechless. When Jesus touched him telling him to speak is the only time he got the nerve up to speak, and what did he say?

My lord, because of the vision my sorrows have overwhelmed me, and I have retained no strength.  For how can this servant of my lord talk with you, my lord? As for me, no strength remains in me now, nor is any breath left in me. – Daniel 10:16-17

Isaiah had a very similar experience, when he saw a vision of the Lord he became aware of how unrighteous he was before a Holy and perfect God.

Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, The LORD of hosts. – Isaiah 6:5

So you are standing here before the throne of God, feeling exactly how little and wretched you are compared to God and there are these four creatures with wings singing praises to God, and then the twenty four elders bow to God singing their own song, all while flashes like lightning and sounds like thunder are pouring out of the throne of God. You have these seven massive lamp stands and all of this has an ocean of glass and crystal.  Is that an amazing vision or what?

You are not thinking big enough!

I guarantee that no matter what image you have in your mind right now, it is no where even close to as amazing as the real thing! God is that awesome, heaven is that awesome, and we get to be there. Not only be there, but be seated on the throne with God!

Is that a humbling thought or what? It is not our greatness that brings us that glory, but what Christ did. All of this, is available for those who overcome.

And to think, that you would rather focus on … on what? On tv? on a car? on a bigger house? On green pieces of paper that the government demands to take from you and you will spend your life working to get more of? Is it really worth it?

Is it any wonder why God wants to vomit you out of his mouth?

Or to vomit me out of his mouth?

The Apostle Paul was once stoned to death and dragged outside the city.  When the other apostles found him they all got up and Paul led the charge back into the city that just killed him (or nearly killed him)!  (Acts 14:19)  Why would Paul go back into a city where the people just executed him?  Because Paul knew that there is something worth living for besides this worthless life! It is possible that Paul had a vision of heaven (2 Corinthians 12) which would have fueled this further.  After you have seen the glory of God how can we focus on the things of this earth?

How would our lives be different if we had such a vision of heaven? How would our lives be different if we just believed what the Bible said about heaven so we did not need our own vision?

Christ Centered Gamer – Game Reviews

Today I am going to give you a review/overview of ccgr.org.

ccgr.org is a very unique website, it’s main purpose is to review video games from a Christian perspective. One thing I want to point out from the start is they don’t get games bad reviews for violence and stuff, they actually give a game score, and a morality score.

ccgr.org has a nice way of reviewing games. If we look here at their review of New Vegas, you will see a “Game Info” box that provides a lot of information on the game, from System Requirements to ESRB rating. There is usually always a gameplay video. A “Highlights” box (my favorite), and then the score breakdown.

Let’s take a look at how they breakdown scores (for New Vegas):

Game Score – 82%
Game Play: 16/20
Graphics: 9/10
Sound: 8/10
Stability: 3/5
Controls/Interface: 5/5

Morality Score – 32%
Violence: 0/10
Language: 0/10
Sexual Content: 0/10
Occult/Supernatural: 10/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical: 6/10

We see they gave it a 82% game score, and a 32% morality score. In the game score, the higher the number the better the game. In the morality the score, the lower the scores, the more immoral the game is. I love this feature, because anytime I have ever tried to use Christian game review sites before, they always give games bad reviews for violence and language and what not. ccgr.org provides a much better way of reviewing from a Christian prospective than I have ever seen.

And on top of all of this, their reviews are good…and not just something thrown together. The reviews are worth reading, and the site is very good.

The next time you need a review of a game, whether to see if the game is good, or to see how immoral a game is, ccgr.org provides a excellent way getting the info you need.

Side-note: They also have forums, IRC, and game servers!

Jesus does not need you, you need Him

Jesus does not need you, you need Him

I cannot count the number of times I have heard someone say to me “I would follow God if he would just show up in my room with blinding light telling me to follow him,” or if God would just miraculously give me a million dollars in my bank account or save me from this situation or do any number of extraordinary things.  God is capable of doing this, of course, so why doesn’t he?

The answer is simple, God does not need to beg you to come to him, he gives you all of the evidence you need, it is up to you to decide to follow him.

God never begs anybody to follow Him

Have you ever noticed in the Bible how Jesus never, ever, begged people to follow him?  Never once did Jesus say “please follow me, pretty please?”  Then why do so many people think God caters to us to try and entice us to come to him?

The purpose of parables

After Jesus told the parable of the sower (Matthew 13) the disciples asked him why Jesus told parables (Matthew 13:10). Jesus’ answer was probably a little shocking to the disciples, I know it is shocking to me.  Jesus answered and said

Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.  For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.  Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.  And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says:

‘ Hearing you will hear and shall not understand,
And seeing you will see and not perceive;
For the hearts of this people have grown dull.
Their ears are hard of hearing,
And their eyes they have closed,
Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears,
Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn,
So that I should heal them.’ (Matthew 13:11-15)

Is the Bible telling us that Jesus did not want them to understand?  Yes, that is exactly what this is saying.  But why? Because the people would not respond correctly. “But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience.” (Luke 8:15)  Jesus had just said in Matthew 13 that people will be judged based on how much knowledge they are given, so Jesus speaks in parables out of compassion, not giving too much information to those who will not respond properly but giving enough to peak the curiosity of those that really want to know God.  Jesus only wants those to come to him who will respond properly.

Jesus wants everyone to be saved, right?

Yes, God wants everyone to be saved (2 Timothy 2:3-4) “God our Savior,  who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” God wants everyone to come to him in the same way I want my son to follow God and never stray, never get hurt. But I know that my son will stray despite what I want for him, just like God knows not everyone will come to him despite God wanting everyone to come to a saving faith in Jesus Christ.

Jesus stands at the door and knocks

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. (Revelation 3:20)

Jesus knocks on the door for all of us, he does not beat down the door or force his way in. Those that answer the door Jesus dwells with, those who tell Jesus to go away, get a silent door.

Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks (John 4:23)

Those who seek

God wants you to seek him, not be lazy and wait for everything to come to you.

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. (Matthew 7:7)
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him (Hebrews 11:6)

Jesus is a treasure worth sacrificing everything

Today it is so easy to get caught up in what the society thinks. We think God is nothing more than something else we add to our life, an hour or two a week and try to avoid sin and then we are good, we have our ticket stamped ready to go to heaven.  But that is not what God wants. God is more valuable than that! God is not a trinket we wear around our neck along with everything else in our life. He is our life.

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. (Matthew 13:44)

Jesus, treasured above everyone

If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26)

What? We are to hate everyone in our life? Jesus has to be number one in your life; your love for him must be so much more than any other relationship that everyone else is put to the side for Jesus, you do not put Jesus to the side to serve your family!

No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62)

Do you get it yet? Jesus is not someone who begs you to follow him.  Jesus is so awesome, so wonderful, you need to come seek Him.  Jesus already paid the ultimate price to free you from your bondage in sin, and he created you (John 1:3), what else do you need?

References

Why did Jesus speak in parables?

The Humanity of Christ

It is well known that Jesus came in the form of man, and He experienced life on earth, going through all of the problems we go through, all of the hurt we go through, and experienced pain, suffering, and loss just like the rest of us.  We all know this, but in the back of our minds is a thought that since Jesus is God made flesh, He really did not, or could not have gone through as much pain and suffering as we go through.

Great Loss

When thinking of how Jesus went through loss of personal relationships, two people come to mind.  First is Joseph, his father.  We do not know for sure what happened to Joseph, but we do know that Joseph was there when Jesus was twelve in the temple (Luke 2:28), then we never see him again in scripture. When Jesus was dying on the cross he tells John to take care of his mom, something Jesus would not have to do if his father was still alive (John 19:26-27).  This also shows that Jesus cared about his mom, he wanted her to be well taken care of, something any of us would want.

Another powerful passage in the Bible is when Jesus’ close friend, Lazarus, died.  Jesus got word that Lazarus was not feeling well and then after he died Jesus made his way to visit.  Seeing the women weeping over Lazarus and then seeing the grave himself was too much for Jesus, and “Jesus wept” (John 11:35).  This simple verse showing that Jesus had compassion, felt pain, even though he knew Lazarus would not be dead for much longer, it was still painful to him.

Isaiah 53:3 He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

Great Suffering

I think it is downright impossible for us to understand the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross.  All to often I hear others, or even think in the back of my own mind, that what Jesus went through was bad but at least he knew the end result so it was not that bad.  How wrong can we get? Not only did Jesus get tortured and executed, but his status with God was, for the first time in all existance, severed from the Father (Mark 15:34).  Can you imagine what this would have been like? Do you think Jesus was anxious at all, or wished that he could avoid what was ahead?

Jesus did not want to go through with what was ahead and prayed for God to remove this trial from his only begotten son (John 22:42).  Jesus, “being in agony, prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” (John 22:44)

Yes, Jesus was human, he had compassion, felt the pain of loss felt great anxiety. Jesus went through the pain that we went through, even more so.

So why did He do it?  Jesus prayed “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me: nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.” (John 22:42).  Do you not think that the loving father would take such trials from His only begotten son? But he did not, why?  Because it was the only way.

Isaiah 53:4-5 Surely He has borne our griefs
And carried our sorrows;
Yet we esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten by God, and afflicted.
But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.

“He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever.” (Hebrews 10:12)  Jesus died, do you really understand that? Jesus, our creator, was beaten, tortured, betrayed, and executed for you!

Acts 3:19
Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord,

2 Corinthians 7:10
Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.

John Piper, in Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ writes

Therefore, this man of indestructible joy was “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3). “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me” (Matthew 26:38). This “great high priest” is not unable to sympathize with us in our weakness, becasue he was tested in every way as a man like us (Hebrews 4:14-15). He wept with those who wept (John 11:35) and rejoiced with those who rejoiced (Luke 10:27, 21). He was hungry (Matthew 4:2), he was weary (John 4:6), he was forsaken (Matthew 26:56), betrayed (Matthew 26:45), whipped (Matthew 27:26), mocked (Matthew 27:31), and crucified (Matthew 27:35).

Jesus can and did relate to us, he felt pain suffering and loss.  Why did he go through all of this pain and suffering?  Because only through Jesus can we be reconciled with God.  Jesus went through all of that, only for you, what do you do for him?

Saving Faith

We all know that it is faith alone in Christ’s sacrifice that saves us, not any work we do. This does not mean, however, that to have faith means that you don’t have to do anything to show it.

James 2:1414 What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?

James is not contradicting the Biblical teaching that we are saved by faith and not by any works. It’s true that no amount of good works can save you at all. But, what kind of faith does one have if it is never evidenced by works?

Do you see the difference?

Jesus gives us a life changing spirit when we accept Him, so how can someone truly believe and not be affected by that spirit?

Paul even recognized the need for good works when he wrote in Titus 3:8

This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men.

One way to say it is “Faith alone saves, but faith that saves is not alone.”

James 2:15-1715 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food,
16 and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?
17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

Someone who has the love of God filling them will desire to help out a fellow Christian. It does no good to just offer religious advice and then send them on their way. Faith needs to take action, and more than just prayer. Yes it’s true that if we pray for someone God will provide for them, but sometimes he expects US to be that provision.

When someone is in need, prayer alone is not the answer. We need to step up and help out, especially with the most basic of needs. “Be warmed and filled” shows that the person in question knew what the needs were, they just refused to help meet those needs.

If someone has faith, but doesn’t put action to that faith, then what good is it? God has work for us and we need to do it. God filled us with love and we need to display it.

James 2:18-1918 But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.
19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe, and tremble!

Some people may say that some have the gift of works, and others the gift of faith, or that some are called to works, but this is wrong! Faith is demonstrated through works.

The appeal of James is clear and logical; we can’t “see” someone’s faith, but we can see their works; you can’t see faith without works, but you can demonstrate the reality of faith by works.

Demons believe in God, but they don’t have an active faith. We need to have an active faith.

James 2:20-2420 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?
21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar?
22 Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect?
23 And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God.
24 You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.

Abraham was justified by faith way before he was asked to act upon it. The action did not develop Abraham’s faith, but it was an evidence of it. If Abraham did not have faith then he would not have had that action. Works and faith need to work hand in hand. Works must accompany a genuine faith because genuine faith is always connected with regeneration.

As Charles Spurgeon said: “The grace that does not change my life will not save my soul.”

James 2:24-2625 Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?
26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

Rahab is another example of someone who was not saved by their actions, but their actions proved that they were saved.
Rahab demonstrated her trust in the God of Israel by hiding the spies and seeking salvation from their God (Joshua 2:8-13), yet her faith did something; her belief in the God of Israel would not have saved her if she had not done something with that faith.

The lesson from Abraham is clear: if we believe in God, we will do what He tells us to do. The lesson from Rahab is also clear: if we believe in God, we will help His people, even at our own expense

Just as you can have a body without life, you can also have faith without works. Both are dead and mean nothing.

Our faith must be accompanied by good works.

The Need To Be One

Ephesians 4:1-6 “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to one hope when you were called – 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”

-Paul’s teachings were often a revolutionary concept to the Grecian world. This command to be humble was one of them. In Greece, only the slaves were expected to be humble…Grecians considered it a disgrace for someone to show humility…it was pride that was applauded in that culture.

-I find it interesting that in our culture today, pride is often lauded over humbleness, but it is “candy coated” by words such as “high self esteem”. But when you get down to the root of the problem…this concept of trying to increase one’s self esteem is just an excuse to be prideful and to think yourself better than others. It teaches people to learn to rely on themselves, and not others or even God.

-However, Paul says we need to be humble, lowly. After all we are to be like Christ and Christ did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life for us. We are all on equal footing before Christ…no one is considered greater than the other.

-Paul also urges Christians in this passage to be patient (long-suffering) and to be gentle (considerate toward others). What a revolutionary concept even in this culture today…to put others’ needs and feelings before our own! We are also to bear with one another in love, which essentially means we are to encourage each other and to carry each other through personal trials and suffering.

-Christians…we must protect our unity as Christians because Satan seeks to divide us. Satan uses one of the oldest war tactics in the book: divide and conquer. He attempts to create divisions among us, and when we are disunified we become weak and that’s when Satan comes in with the attack. You see, Satan knows that our potentialities are virtually endless when we are united as Christians under Christ. Our unity means power…and our power through the unity of Christ spells out defeat to the Enemy.

-It is the unity of God’s people which is a sign to the world of who Christ is. The more people united under one belief, the more “believable” our beliefs become to the world. Satan knows this and is doing everything he can to keep the body of Christ (the church) from being united by creating negative thoughts in the individual believers and a general sense of moral apathy and malaise within the churches. Satan suggests to individuals, “why bother going to church? Why bother ministering? It’s no use. People will just believe what they want to believe. Besides…you’re okay with God on your own. You don’t need to fellowship with other believers.” And then that person gives in to Satan’s suggestions and forsakes hearing the teachings in church…forsakes fellowship with other believers. Then that individual becomes divided from the rest of the body of Christ allowing Satan to attack that person through worldly influences.

-The same tactic is used on the church too. As long as churches continue to argue amongst themselves about petty issues, they will continue to be disunified which makes the church as a whole more vulnerable to Satanic attacks.

-Instead of giving into the disunity, the negative attitudes, and the feelings of moral and spiritual apathy, we Christians are to counterattack by stirring each other up toward love for each other and the lost. We are to speak good, encouraging words to each other and do good for one another as we see the coming of Christ nearing. When Christ returns to gather His church, we must be seen as blameless and righteous in His eyes…He gave His life up for us and labors our case daily before the Father…the least we can do is be peacemakers to our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ and to follow Christ and His commands to us.