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. 🙂

Want to be saved? Just raise your hand and repeat after me…

Written by Jon Zenor.

The decision to follow Christ is the most important decision made in your life.  It is that decision where you decide to quit living your life for yourself and to follow Jesus, making him your master. You go where He wants you to go, do what He wants you to do, you stop living the sinful lifestyle that goes against God and you commit your life to Him.

Jesus says that if we want to follow Him it means giving up everything for Him, and to count the cost before you decide to make the journey (Luke 14:25-33).

That is what it means to make yourself a slave of Christ, you make Him your master.  The decision to do this is not one made lightly, and it is not a decision to be made light of.

In 2002 I made a decision to join the U.S. Navy.  This was not a decision I made lightly, I considered it for months beforehand.  I was signing a contract with the government to serve in the military for a minimum of four years. I would go where they told me to go, learn what they told me to learn.  I was theirs.

Our church normally does an alter call, where we invite people who want to give their lives to Jesus to come up front and talk with one of the pastors, to receive prayer and be given some information about what the decision they are about to make really means.  But it wasn’t so on Christmas Eve.

Maybe it was because the Christmas Eve service was so full, maybe for some other reason I don’t know about, but whatever the reason our church decided to take the “short cut to salvation.”  They gave the announcement “If you would like to receive Jesus in your heart just raise your hand.” A few people raised their hands and then the pastor led them in prayer. “Repeat this prayer after me and you will be saved!”

This is one of the sickest common perversions of the gospel in our society today.

What’s the big deal?

You are probably thinking that this is no big deal, it doesn’t matter how they are led to the prayer as long as they prayed.

Why does someone come to Christ?

A person comes to Christ because for one, they realize and believe that He is real, and then they realize they have offended God with how horrible their sin is, and then because of that they repent, turn from their sinful lifestyle to live the way God calls them to live.

and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you. (1 Corinthians 14:24-25)

The response to realizing God is real and you are in His presence is to worship, and the response to realizing you are a sinful is grief over your sin, and the response to you grieving over your sins is repentance, and the response to your repentance is forgiveness. Forgiveness of all of the sins you have ever committed or ever will commit.

And you are telling me a person went through all of this by simply raising their hand?

For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. (2 Corinthians 7:10)

Still don’t see the problem?

So you still don’t see a problem with this way of presenting the gospel?  Let’s have an analogy.

So this guy is standing in front of a group of people seated before him.  He says in a slightly excited tone “I have the winning ticket for the Power Ball lottery! Raise your hand if you want it.”

A few people in the crowd raise their hand.

“Awesome,” the man says, “Just repeat after me and it is yours.”

“Thank you for giving me twenty million dollars and I promise to use it to get my life right.”

The crowd responds, repeating what the guy said, and then after the guy is done talking they all quietly get up and start heading out the door calmly and quietly.

In this scenario, would you say that any of the people being offered multi-millions of dollars actually believed they got the money the guy up front told them they would get?

No, there was no excitement, no change, no commitment to actually follow God.

When a person gives their life over to God, they receive something so much better than all the money in the world, shouldn’t there be some type of response?

The Very Real, Very Serious Consequences

Here is the extremely real, extremely serious consequences of such a gospel message.

You convince people that they are saved, that they have a relationship with God, just because they raised their hand and repeated a prayer during an alter call.

Raising your hand and repeating a prayer does not save you. Cannot.

But now you have a few dozen people who walk out of that church believing they are saved because they raised their hand.  They didn’t even have a pastor talk to them to explain what raising their hand really meant.  But they believe; not in Christ, not in sacrificing their life and carrying their cross before Christ, no, they just believe they are saved.

But belief in salvation does not save you, only a relationship with Christ.

We have a generation of thousands in churches that believe they are saved because they said a prayer once but they have no fruit of the Spirit as evidence, no change in their life. This is why Leonard Ravenhill boldly proclaimed that “the sinner’s prayer has sent more people to hell than all the taverns in America.”

I doubt if 5% of professing Christians in America are born again–and that’s true of England! – Leonard Ravenhill

But it gets even more serious, we have churches full of leadership who think they are saved but have no relationship with God, they serve because they want to do the right thing but when they get to heaven they will just hear “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” (Matthew 7:23)

But because all these thousands of people believe they are saved they will go on their life ignoring anybody who may tell them to repent. “I don’t need to repent, I’m already saved!” the person will say to himself.

You have just given a blind man headphones and praise music to make him happy but you never turned him away from the path he is on, a path headed straight for the cliff.  All you did is make it harder for him to hear others trying to warn him over the praise music.

Do you see yet the serious problem here?

What do I do?

If you believe you are saved, it is one of our duties to examine our salvation, to test ourselves to make sure we are saved and not just fooling yourself.

Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test! (2 Corinthians 13:5)

Have you felt that godly sorrow over your sins that leads you to repent?  Do you live a holy life, not because you try to but because God has transformed you?  Do you live your life according to scripture and breath in joyfully every word of the Bible?  Spend some time in scripture analyzing what it means to be saved and see how you match up to it. Repent of the areas you fail in, and pray for strength to help you where you need it, but fist make sure you have that relationship with Jesus.

Holiness is not a Iuxury, it’s a necessity. If you’re not holy, you’ll never make it to heaven. – Leonard Ravenhill

If you are not saved, then there is no better time than right now.  Every sin you commit hurts your relationship with God, drives you farther from Him.  He is the one who created you and despite you turning from Him and living in strict opposition to Him He still sent His only son to die, to pay the penalty of your sins.

Why did Jesus die for you? Because He wants you to be free from sin, He wants you to follow Him and find true joy in Him, and He wants you to share that with others so others can find joy in Christ.

If you want someone to walk you through this you should contact someone at your local church, or call Eternal Truth Ministry at 719-4285-ETM and leave a message and we would love to walk you through any questions you may have.

This is too important of a decision to make to let yourself be fooled, and it is way too important of a decision to put off another day.

Finally, if you are a pastor, preacher, evangelist, or in any position to give “alter calls” then do the right thing, go out to the people, get them alone one on one and pray with them, answer their questions, explain what this decision really is, guide them as they repent and decide to follow Christ.

There is nothing wrong with having someone raise their hand to say they want to be saved, but keep their hands raised until someone can pull them out of the crowd and take them aside.  One on one, make it personal to them.

 

Do you agree with what I said here or do you think I am being overly picky? I would like to hear what you have to say in the comments section below.

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

 

Do you have as much passion for Jesus as you do for football?

Written by Jon Zenor

Have you ever seen a person who is fanatical about football? They sit in the bleachers in a blizzard with nothing covering them but pants and paint.  What is it that makes a person go to such lengths to show support for their team?

It’s passion, or in this case extreme passion.  But you don’t have to have an extreme passion for something to make it number one in your life.  Most football fans don’t go to those extremes, but they do spend as much time as they can involved in the sport.

A football fan spends hours a week watching football, even throwing parties to get others together to watch the game.  You talk about it all day at work, spend time looking up news on how well various teams did that week and on trades or injuries.  You wear jerseys that show support of your team, even if they lose all the time.  You even create your own fantasy teams.

Your life, as a football fan, is consumed by football.  There is not anything wrong with being a fanatical fan at all, I just have one question for you.

How does your passion for Jesus — your Lord and Savior, your creator, the one who died to have a relationship with you — compare to your passion for football?  It may not even be football for you, it could be video games, baseball, programming, martial arts, planes, motorcycles, or any number of things that consume your every thought.

Jesus must come first!

Matthew 13:44 says “the kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

As Christians Jesus must come first in our life.  Not because it will please God, but because God deserves it, it is the least we can do, and the Bible says we must do it.

Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” – Luke 9:62

It is even written in the Ten Commandments when God says to Moses “You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3)  Leonard Ravenhill reminds us that “Anything you love more than Jesus Christ is an idol, I don’t care what it is!”

If you think that is harsh look at what Jesus himself said.

If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” – Luke 14:26

Jesus is saying that your love for Him MUST be first in your life, and nothing goes above that, not your own life, and not even family.  And if you think this is selfishness on God’s part, just remember that He is God almighty, the creator, the one who holds all of existence in his hand, you are just a created thing, a sinful man who rejects God every chance you get.

Please do not misunderstand what I am saying here.  I am not saying all entertainment is bad and you should do nothing but read the Bible and sing praise songs.  What I am getting at is that when we become a Christian, a Christ-follower, we are saying we are putting God first in our life, above everything, including entertainment.  Where you spend your money and how you spend your time show what is first in your heart, Jesus or something else?

Imagine the impact YOU could have

Imagine what the impact would be like in the lives of those around you if you treated Jesus with as much time and energy you spend on football.  You would go to work talking about what God has done in your life, sharing the gospel, talking about God and what is going on in the church.  You would let the world know that Christians are not just hypocrites that live like the rest of the world but they are actually out there doing things!

You would remind them that when disasters happen and the government has its hands tied to help, like FEMA did when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, it was our churches that were out there giving food and aid to the people.  In fact, instead of going to football games you would go on a missions trip to somewhere that needs the help and help others.

Instead of looking up news for football stats you could look up what news there is on martyrs around the world and pray for them.  Every week I get an email from Voice of the Martyrs with information on those being put in prison, who are losing their homes, who are being outcast from their families and beaten because they are the ones on the front lines putting Jesus first in their life.

You would attend church no matter what the weather was like outside, or how much air conditioning worked or how comfortable the chairs at your church were.  Your focus would be more on fellowship and worship than on comfort.

We don’t even need everyone to do this, just you.  If just you would start putting Jesus first in your life, and having a passion for Jesus, then you alone could change a huge part of the world, everyone you interact with.  Those that look up to you would catch that fire and it would spread.

Del Tackett of Focus on the Family, teacher of The Truth Project, said if just a few of you would really believe what the Bible says is true, you would change this world for Christ.

Being a Christian is not a game or a hobby. It is not something we do just once a week.  Being a Christian is a life long commitment that changes your daily life, putting God first in everything you do.

When you don’t have the passion

If you find that you do not have the passion for Christ that you should there is hope for you.  The first and most important thing is to test your salvation, make sure you are saved.

Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith.  Test yourselves.  Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? — unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” – 2 Corinthians 13:5

Study the Word of God, what does it mean to be a Christian?  This is an important enough topic to spend the time studying for yourself.  When I went through this last year it took me a couple of months of searching scripture, comparing what I was reading to my life, and most importantly praying, a lot.  Being saved is not based on works, but if you are saved, if you do have Christ living in you, then you cannot help but manifest the fruit of God living in your life.

A major thing that will get in the way of a Christian’s passion for Jesus is sin.  If you are living in sin then you will not be passionate for God, you can’t be.  You will avoid the Word of God, and the things of God.  Search your life for any unrepentant sin and repent of it, turn every area of your life towards God.

“Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. – 1 John 3:4-6

Jesus wants all of us, not just our leftovers

And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” – Matthew 10:38

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Matthew 16:24

Jesus wants, and deserves every part of you to follow Him.  He knows that we are most satisfied personally when we are bringing glory to Him, it is what we were created for.  Don’t waste another day putting garbage in the place of God in your life.

Think like a Calvinist, live like an Arminian

Leonard Ravenhill, one of my favorite pastors, had a saying he would quote often: “think like a Calvinist, live like an Armenian.”

I told this quote to a Calvinist friend of mine the other day who replied saying “If I felt the souls of everyone here was on me I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night.”  It took me a few days to digest what exactly he said in relation to the quote, but really it gets to the heart of what Ravenhill meant.

See, Ravenhill was a great man of prayer. He spent countless sleepless nights praying that God would penetrate the lives of the lost and would penetrate the hearts of those already saved (a.k.a. bring Revival).

What is a Calvinist?

A Calvinist believes (for the purposes of this article) that the salvation of men is 100% up to God not decided by what man does at all. This can easily lead to a Calvinist not evangelizing and not spending time bringing the lost before the throne of God in prayer. I know because that is how I felt when I started to believe this. I would neglect praying for the lost and I would neglect witnessing to those who are lost because “it is up to God,” and I would use that to excuse the tough work of evangelism that we are called to.

Living like an Armenian

On the other hand, an Armenian believes that it is man’s decision to follow God or not, so someone who believes this spends a lot of time evangelizing and praying for the lost because the more people who hear the gospel the more people have a chance to choose God.

Obedience

With this in mind think about what Ravenhill said. “Think like a Calvinist, live like an Armenian.”  He is saying that yes, it is completely up to God who accepts and who rejects Christ, but regardless of that knowledge we are to spend our time evangelizing and praying for the lost and doing what we can to get the gospel to the lost.

Why?

Because we are told to.

How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “ How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!” – Romans 10:14-15

I do not know what part man plays in helping spread the gospel, if it is 100% up to God who receives the gift, then what part could we possibly play in this whole thing? And my answer is, I do not think it matters. It is not our job to understand how God works things out or why He tells us to the things He tells us to do.

Then He said to them, “The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. – Luke 10:2

You do not need to know the engineering details of how a car works in order to drive. Does your knowledge of how a carburetor works or how a spark plug works enable you to start and drive your car any more efficiently? No. In order to operate a car, you just need to know how to start the car and (safely) maneuver the vehicle.

In the same way we do not need to know how the engine of salvation works or exactly what part our prayer plays in the whole picture. All we need to know is how ot operate it. We only need to know how to follow God’s directions regardless of if we understand everything or not.

I will admit that obedience without fully understanding how it works is hard to do sometimes, but it must be done.

Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. – Romans 10:1

I know in my own life I need to pray that God makes this burden real to me despite the knowledge that I have. My friend was right, this should keep us up all night with the souls of so many being lost right around us.  I have to ask myself why this burden does not rip at my conscience more than it does.  I do not have an answer for that, but I do know how to fix it – Prayer.

So yes, think like a Calvinist, but live like an Armenian.

“but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” – Acts 6:4

Living Rich with God’s money

In my previous article I addressed some questions that come up when talking about money and saving and what God has shown me about each question. In this article I will briefly explain how I am being led with my money.

The Goal, The Plan, The Purpose

Last year God gave me a goal to work on for finances. He wants me to cut my living expenses by at least 35%. I did not know why or how to do that when I am currently living paycheck to paycheck. This goal has been on my mind since, and I have done what I can to make it happen but without much luck.

Finally, after about nine months of praying over this God gave me the plan (Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover) which I just started. I am not fully aware of the purpose of this goal other than to free up the resources God has given me to manage to help others. It is pretty clear in the Bible that this is required of all Christians, to help others with what God provided. Beyond that, I do not know why God wants me to make such drastic changes in my life.

Don’t worry, focus on God

Luke 12:21-24 has some words of warning and advice for us here.

“So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” And He said to His disciples, “For this reason I say to you, do not worry about your life, as to what you will eat; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. “For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. “Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap; they have no storeroom nor barn, and yet God feeds them; how much more valuable you are than the birds!

This passage tells me to not worry about your money, God gives and takes away, it is all His. If He chooses to use you for a storehouse for a year or a lifetime, awesome, if not, awesome.

Realize that it is all His, and you are just the steward, realize that money is nothing, focus on a relationship with God, that is what matters. Everything else just gets in the way. Want to save money? Sure, just make sure you are doing it for the Lord and following Him, not trying to make yourself secure. Only God knows the future, you never know what will come up where the money God has given you to manage could be used in a huge way if you were to just save a percentage of it now.

Want to give away every dime and rely on faith for your retirement? Awesome, just make sure it is from God so you are not left broke wondering what happened and God says “I gave you all the resources you needed and the abilities to work, you were not responsible so I took them from you.”

Whatever you do, do it for the Lord.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line, what counts is not how much money you have in savings, how much you make, how much you give away. What matters is your attitude towards God and towards your money.

I know someone who makes a lot of money, and gives a lot of money, yet his life does not show devotion to God. God isn’t pleased with our giving, He is pleased with our obedience to Him through our relationship with Him.

Repent of your greed (we all have it to some extent), and follow God. As you draw closer to Him your desires will become His desires. You will want to save and give away what He tells you because you are close to Him. Just be cautious of the greed and the pride that can sneak in and distract and destroy.

Word of Warning

One last word of warning though. Do not just assume that God wants you to build up wealth and spend money on yourself to live comfortably and have nice cars. In America we have the mindset that we deserve the nice cars, big houses, big screen TVs and game systems. Before you buy anything for yourself, or before you start putting most of your money into retirement, pray, and sure you use God’s money the way God wants you to. God may not have called you to that life of comfort you want to live in.

Living Rich, is it a sin to have money?

We have mentioned in many posts recently what God says about the rich. Mainly that it is impossible for the rich to get into heaven, and yet every one of us in the United States and the western world in general are rich. Considering the fact that most of the world lives on less than $2 a day we can get a sense of just how rich we truly are.

I know that many of those articles can be very convicting and give the impression that we are need to give all possessions away and live like the poorest so we can give away everything. I know the thoughts that can go through your mind when reading these articles because this is a struggle I have had for the past several months. I don’t write these articles with an attitude of “I got it all together, now do what I do!” On the contrary, I write these articles because it is what God puts on my heart, and He puts them on my heart ninety-nine percent of the time because it is the lesson I need to be taught.

The past several months I have been in conviction over my money, am I making too much, am I using it wisely, do I give it all away, what about retirement? I have had nights where I get home from work in the morning and weep and seek God in prayer because I am just so lost on what to do. I don’t want God to say it is impossible for me to get into heaven because I am obsessed with riches, or because I saved one million in the bank instead of giving it away. (ha, like that would ever happen :P)

So after months of seeking God in this, I finally have a hint of where to go. I wish I had the full answer, but until God reveals it to me you will be in the dark with me. 🙂

Is it wrong to make money?

Being wealthy is not a sin. Many heroes of the Bible were wealthy, Abraham for one, and even Zaccheius was wealthy and likely some of the disciples had at least a decent amount of money such as Mark (tax collectors generally did well then) and Luke, a physician had the ear of the “most excellent Theophilus” (Luke 1:3) which meant he probably had a position of power, which means wealth.

The difference, between any follower of God in the Bible and the rich man Jesus rejects in Luke 18, is that a follower of Jesus doesn’t care about the wealth. If you are following Jesus, your goal should never be about money, making more or saving more or even giving more, focus on Jesus. When He is your focus you realize that your wealth is really nothing more than a resource God has given to you to manage properly and serve Him.

Is it wrong to save money?

Saving money is not a sin as long as you are following God with your money. Zacchaeus (Luke 19) gave away 50% of everything he owned, because he wanted to use his resources to serve God, not to just save for himself. But why not give away 100%? He gave away what he was convicted to give away, following God’s prompt on his conscience. It no longer was about saving or having money to him, just about following God, even if it meant giving away his wealth. He didn’t care because he was following God, that is what matters. He is just one of many examples of how when we focus on Jesus, we care less about ourselves and our achievements and start to adopt the heart of God for the lost.

Here is another thing to look at. There is a joke of a guy who was trapped in a house during a flood. A guy on a canoe came by, asking if he needed help while the guy tried to climb to the highest point on the roof. The guy responded “No thank you, I have faith God will save me”. Then as the water continued to rise a helicopter came by to save the guy, who just replied “I have faith God will save me.”

Well, the guy ends up drowning. He gets to heaven and asks God, “why didn’t you save me?” To which God replies “I gave you warning a flood was coming and even after you ignored it I sent a canoe and a helicopter, what else could you need?”

Bad joke, I know, but it shows a lesson which is true. We can’t throw away God’s blessings and then expect him to miraculously save you last minute. He might, because He is sovereign and loves us despite us being bad stewards of His money. God has given us in America the money to get out of most situations. We just choose to blow it on ourselves and buy things we can’t afford and then cry out to God when we are out of money. Yes God provides for us, but does that really sound right to waste his provision and then blame him for “not providing” when times are tough?

Is that how we are supposed to manage God’s resources?

Is debt wrong?

The Bible does give some allowance for debt, but I do not recall ever seeing the Bible promote or say it is a good thing. I personally think debt is a sin, for two reasons.

First, debt is almost always caused by our wanting what we cannot afford. You want that new car? Save up for it! Or find a cheaper alternative.

God has given us tremendous resources, there should be no reason we can’t save up for something whille still having money to give to those in need and supporting our family. It may take sacrifice, but at least you will be buying what you afford and not borrowing.

The second reason I see debt as sin, is something God has recently shown me. I am absolutely tired of not being able to help people like I once was able to, why? Because of my debt. My debt is draining so much of my money that I live paycheck to paycheck and have a really hard time paying for food, let alone helping others.

If I did not have my debt it would free up my resources to be able to help others. Lost your job? Sure, here is $350 to help you get back on your feet, oh wait, that money has to go to my car payment, sorry. There is so much more we could do without debt.

Stay Tuned

In my next article I will discuss about worrying over money and what God has told me about each of these areas in my own personal finances.

What do you think? Is it a sin to make money or save money? How do you ensure that you are using God’s money wisely and not just blowing it on yourself? Let me know in the comments below.

The link between wealth and salvation

Zaccheus stopped and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much.”

And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham.

“For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” – Luke 19:8-10

Both this passage and Luke 18:18-27 mention a link between wealth, what you do with that wealth, and your salvation. What is this link, and what does it tell us about our salvation?

Two noticeable events take place in this passage. The first is Zaccheus declaring that he is giving away over half his money, and the other is that Jesus announces that he is saved. At first glance appears like a cause and effect, the cause being that Zaccheus gives away his wealth, and the effect is that Jesus declares that he is saved.

This idea also looks to be backed up by the passage in Luke 18 where a rich man asks Jesus how he can have salvation and Jesus replies saying to give away all of his wealth. The rich man then walks away sad and Jesus says to his disciples that it is impossible for the rich to get into heaven.

There is something you have to remember about reading the Bible though. You cannot take certain passages in the Bible and base doctrines on those passages, you have to take the Bible as a whole. A lot of times concepts are explained and then later on they are refined or more detail is given.

So then how do we reconcile this with verses such as Ephesians 2:8-9?

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. – Ephesians 2:8-9

The passage in James 2 ties these two concepts together perfectly and clears any cloud of confusion that some may have. James says “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? … Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (James 2:14,17)

A person is not saved by any work they do, no matter what it is, because our sin is so great to God that no amount of our “good works” could make up for it. It is only through our faith in Jesus Christ that we can have salvation, and by nothing else. But when you have faith, you will have good works as a response to your faith. It is not something you have to make yourself do, it is out of an act of love.

I love my wife, and because I love her I do things for her, help her out around the house when she isn’t feeling well, or buy her her favorite chocolate as a surprise when I am at the store.  These acts do not make her love, the acts do not make her my wife, they are just acts of kindness that I do in response to my love for her.  Faith in Christ works the same way.

Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? 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.You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.

Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?

For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. – James 2:21-26

Abraham was not saved because of his actions. Abraham took action because of his faith, they work hand in hand. If Abraham did not have faith, then he would not have acted.

Zaccheus was saved that day, but not because he gave away his wealth, but because he had faith in Christ. Once Zaccheus had faith his wealth was meaningless to him because he had Jesus. Zaccheus acted out of response to his faith in Christ. Jesus then announced that he was saved because Zaccheus had faith, and he also had evidence of faith in his works.

The rich ruler in Luke 18 wanted Jesus, but he wanted his riches more. He did not have faith or he would not have cared about his riches.

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. – Matthew 13:44

When you are saved through your faith in Christ you have a heart for God, and a heart for others. At that point the things of this world should seem meaningless as you pursue Christ and the kingdom.

Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world. – James 1:27

If you have wealth, how are you using that for the kingdom of God? Are you just spoiling yourself? Are you staying “unspotted from the world”? As a professing follower of Christ you should be pursuing the things God wants you to pursue, and if you are not then why not? Do you put Christ before your family even? (Luke 14:26)

Are you really putting Christ first in your life?

If Jesus confronted you today, would he say “today salvation has come to this house” or would he say “how hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God”?

The choice is yours.

Did God call you to that life of comfort?

I just read a really interesting article on The Traveling Team website. The basics of the article stated that there is no difference in the call of God to do missionary work or to stay and live a life of comfort.

As Christians in America we feel that we need to have a special call on our lives to server as a missionary somewhere or to go witness to people, yet we decide on our own without hearing a special call from God that we are supposed to work to make more money and just friend people so maybe they will one day be interested enough to ask us about Christ.

But is this right? When we became Christians, we dedicated our life to follow Christ. So where in that dedication to follow Christ do we see that we have the right to live for ourselves unless God calls us elsewhere? Shouldn”t we live for God unless God calls us specifically to live for ourselves?

“If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” – Luke 9:23

I think we have things a little backwards in our walk with God. We need to decide if we really want to follow God, and if so then do it, to commit ourselves to Him. To deny ourselves and to follow God, even if it means being poor and going to our death in that service.

Does the shepherd have to be told that he has to protect and watch the sheep? Does the satellite engineer actually have to be told to work on the satellite after he is hired? No, when hired for a job it is assumed that you do that job unless told otherwise. You do not get hired and then sit around unless you are specifically told to do the work. Why do we know this is unacceptable in the work place but we try to fool God with this thinking?

I will finish with a quote from the original article.

This whole business of asking for special calls to missionary work does violence to the Bible. There is the command, “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” We say, “That means other people.” There is the promise, “Come unto Me all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” We say, “That means me.” We must have a special divine indication that we fall under the command; we do not ask any special divine indication that we fall under the blessing. By what right do we draw this line of distinction between the obligations of Christianity and its privileges? By what right to we accept the privileges as applying to every Christian and relegate its obligations to the conscience of the few?

Avoiding a Lukewarm Life part 1 – Sacrificing it all

Laodicea, a city in Asia which is known for having a lukewarm church because of a letter written to them in Revelation 3.  I wonder if America will go down in history known for being the modern day luekwarm church?

Revelation 3:15-16 says “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.”

God wants you to be hot, to be on fire for him, if not you are so distasteful to him that he wants to vomit you out of his mouth!  Why would God have such a severe reaction lukewarmness?  Because God is so holy, and so worthy of every bit of worship and praise we can give him, and when we take our eyes off of Jesus just to focus on the things of the world, it is disgusting to God.

Jesus, a treasure worth sacrificing for

Jesus told a parable of a man who found a treasure in a field, and was so excited to get the treasure that he went and sold everything he had so he could buy the field and get the treasure.  (Matthew 13:44)  This, Jesus says, is how we need to seek the kingdom of God.  We need to seek Him so fervantly that we are willing to sacrifice anything to get Him because we know He is worth it.

Imagine you being this person, following a map that is promised to lead to riches.  You get to a clearing in the trees and you see an obscure X on the ground. So you dig, and you find a stock pile of bars of gold worth billions of dollars.  And then you burry the bars of gold, and you go off to live your life. You could buy that plot of land and take ownership over the treasure, but to do that you would have to sell your car, your tv, or even your house.

If any one of us saw a person give up this treasure we would try to knock some common sense into them, say “come on, that treasure is worth so much more than all of your measly possessions combined!”  But this is us!  We are satisfied with knowing Jesus exists and maybe even going to look at the treasure every Sunday, but we refuse to take any action that could give us possesion of this treasure.

A rich man once came go Jesus and asked “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” and Jesus responded “Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” (Luke 18:18-23) What did the guy do? “But when he heard this, he became very sorrowful, for he was very rich.”  This guy let his earthly possessions stop him from having eternal life, from having a relationship with Jesus.  And this is disgusting to God! 

But we do the same thing…

Your head fights that idea instantly by saying “but I’m not rich, I live pay check to pay check and sometimes can’t pay my utility bill.”  Don’t be blind to what you do have.  Most of the world lives off of $2 per day.  Your brain is smart and fires back “but the cost of living is so much more here, it is impossible to live off of $2 per day.”  Well yes, it is true that two dollars will get you more in other countries than in the U. S. but think about this.  If you have a roof over your head, a form of transportation (even a public bus), and food on your table every day, you are richer than 80% of the world.  If you make just $50,000 a year you are in the top 99% of the richest people in the world.  We have so many posessions we cannot even name them all, and we think we are poor?  It was after this that Jesus said it is impossible for a rich man to get into heaven.  Billions of people live in slums and have to live off a diet of rice to survive and we consider ourselves “poor” because we can’t afford to go out for a steak dinner this weekend.

Are your riches getting in the way of you coming to God?  Would you be willing to sell everything you have to follow Jesus?  Instantly your mind races for a reason to hold on to what you have.  You think “God has not asked me to give away my posessions” or “God wants me to enjoy this life and has given me my money to enjoy, not to live in poverty so I can give it all away.”  My question to you is, have you ever asked Him what He wants from you?

But that is legalistic!

The common defense for the church in America when they are told to do something hard.  Throw down the Legalism card as a “get out of conviction free” card.  But is what I am saying  legalistic, or is it Biblical?  Reading the passages above it seems pretty clear that we are to sell everything we have and give to the poor, to get rid of everything that could be standing in the way of you being on fire for God.

There are many places in the Bible where Jesus gives very hard commands that show us that being a Christian involves more than going to church, singing a few songs and hanging around Christians when you play games or spend time on the computer.  “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62).

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

And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. – Luke 14:27

In Luke 14 Jesus commands people to consider the cost to following Him before you begin, becasue it is costly.  Does not a builder consider if he can afford to build a tower before he starts? Does a king not consider if he is able to defeat an army before he goes to war?  “In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.” (Luke 14:33)

As Christians we are the salt of the earth, but if we are lukewarm then we lose our flavor and Jesus says that salt that has lost its flavor is not even fit to be thrown in the manuer pile. (Luke 14:34)

Revelation 3:17 God says “Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.” Wretched, miserable, are these words you want God to use when describing you?

Do you get it yet?

Do you understand?  God does not want people sitting around being holy couch potatoes.  God wants people that are so devoted to serving him they are willing to sacrifice everything, money, power, family, even their own life.  These are the people God wants to follow Him!

Notice who had joy and who did not in Jesus’ parables.  The man that sacrificed everything to buy the field with the treasure “in his joy went and sold all he had” while the rich man “became very sorrowful.”  Who has more joy, the one holding on to the things of earth or the one reaching for the treasure?

So I must give away everything?

I’m not saying you have to give away everything, but why not?  What is keeping you from doing it?  Is it because it is an idol?  I know my money has been an idol to me many, many times and I still struggle with this, but I know in the end it is worth whatever sacrifice I give, and more.

What I am trying to say, is that you need to seek God, but not in a casual way, in a way where you are willing to sacrifice everything for Him!  I guarantee the instant you enter into eternity you will wish you had sacrificed more!

So what makes God so great to deserve this kind of all-in sacrifice?  I will answer that in part 2.

Leave a comment below telling us how God has asked you to sacrifice to serve Him!