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A Strong Desire Toward Excellence: “Good enough” is not good enough


In keeping with the biblical goal of spiritual growth and greater levels of maturity, we often find in Scripture the call to abound or excel in Christian character, especially in the various ways we can express love to one another. Spiritual maturity is a quest for character for which there will be little progress without the pursuit of excellence.

Without pursuing excellence, life will remain bland, very vanilla, lukewarm at best (see Rev. 3:15-16). The quest for excellence fuels our fire and keeps us from just drifting downstream gathering debris. This focus and need becomes quickly evident from the following verses.

Hebrews 13:5 (230 kb)(Ecclesiastes 9:10)  Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.

 (1 Corinthians 10:31)  So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

 (2 Corinthians 8:7)  But just as you excel in everything–in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us –see that you also excel in this grace of giving.

 (Philippians 1:9-10)  And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, {10} so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ,

 (1 Thessalonians 3:12)  May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.

 (1 Thessalonians 4:1)  Finally, brothers, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more.

 (1 Thessalonians 4:10)  And in fact, you do love all the brothers throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers, to do so more and more.

From these verses, it should be clear that God wants His people to abound or excel in both what they are (inward character) and in what they do (behavior or good deeds). It would seem obvious that there is simply no way one can love God with all his heart (Matt. 23:37) without seeking to do his or her best to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31).

Since that is so, the pursuit of excellence is both a goal and a mark of spiritual maturity. However, for this to be true, the pursuit of excellence must be motivated by the right values, priorities, and motives. If we go astray here, the pursuit of excellence can quickly become a mark of immaturity and just another result of man’s obsession with his own significance, which, as mentioned previously, is a perilous pursuit.

It is known that Admiral Hyman G. Rickover’s interviews were legendary and one of the reasons is he always wanted to cut through the glib and rehearsed answers to get a look at the person underneath. He especially wanted to know how candidates would act under stress. On occasion he had them sit in a chair with the front legs sawed off an inch or two shorter than the back, to keep them off-balance. In his autobiography Why Not the Best?, President Jimmy Carter tells about his Rickover interview.

The admiral asked how he had stood in his class at the NavalAcademy. “I swelled my chest with pride and answered, ‘Sir, I stood 59th in a class of 820!’ I sat back to wait for the congratulations. Instead came the question: ‘Did you do your best?’ I started to say, ‘Yes, sir,’ but I remembered who this was. I gulped and admitted, ‘No, sir, I didn’t always do my best.’ He looked at me for a long time, and then asked one final question, which I have never been able to forget—or to answer. He said, ‘Why not?”[1]

Because of who Christians are in Christ, because of our eternal hope, and because of the enabling grace of God available to all believers in Christ,  seeking to do our best and choosing what is best is part of God’s will and an evidence of genuine spiritual growth and maturity. However, there is one distinction that needs to be stressed up front.

As Edwin Bliss once said, “The pursuit of excellence is gratifying and healthy. The pursuit of perfection is frustrating, neurotic, and a terrible waste of time.”[2] As finite human beings, none of us ever arrive, as they say, and there will always be room for growth and improvement.

(Philippians 3:12-14)  “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. {13} Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, {14} I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

While this reality should never promote negligence or apathy or slothfulness, and while we should seek to grow, mature, and do our best, understanding this reality should help us all relax and rejoice in the Lord.

Pursuing Excellence is not to be a Quest for Superiority

In the first definition in The American Heritage Dictionary, excellence is defined as “The state, quality, or condition of excelling; superiority.[3] The word excel is defined as, “to do or be better than; surpass; to show superiority, surpass others.” Then under the word excel, the following terms are listed and explained as synonyms for excel.

The words excel, surpass, exceed, transcend, outdo, outstrip all suggest the concept of  going beyond a limit or standard.

To excel is to be preeminent (excels at figure skating) or to be or perform at a level higher than that of another or others (excelled her father as a lawyer).

To surpass another is to be superior in performance, quality, or degree: is surpassed by few as a debater; happiness that surpassed description.

Exceed can refer to being superior, as in quality (an invention that exceeds all others in ingenuity), to being greater than another, as in degree or quantity (a salary exceeding 50 thousand dollars a year), and to going beyond a proper limit (exceed one’s authority; exceed a speed limit).

Transcend often implies the attainment of a level so high that comparison is hardly possible: Great art transcends mere rules of composition.

To outdo is to excel in doing or performing: didn’t want to be outdone in generosity.

Outstrip is often interchangeable with outdo but strongly suggests leaving another behind, as in a contest: It is a case of the student outstripping the teacher.[4]

Competition or being better than others is a prominent part of the above definitions. But when we think of the pursuit of excellence from a biblical standpoint, is that what is meant? No! As the above terms and their explanations suggest, those who approach or look at life from the viewpoint of the world typically think in terms of competition, of outstripping others, but such is usually done for one’s own glory or significance or for the praise or applause of men.

Brian Harbour picks up on this issue in Rising Above the Crowd: “Success means being the best. Excellence means being your best. Success, to many, means being better than everyone else. Excellence means being better tomorrow than you were yesterday. Success means exceeding the achievements of other people. Excellence means matching your practice with your potential.”[5]

Gene Stallings tells of an incident when he was defensive backfield coach of the Dallas Cowboys. Two All-Pro players, Charlie Waters and Cliff Harris, were sitting in front of their lockers after playing a tough game against the Washington Redskins. They were still in their uniforms, and their heads were bowed in exhaustion. Waters said to Harris, “By the way Cliff, what was the final score?”[6]

As these men illustrate, excellence isn’t determined by comparing our score or performance to someone else’s. The pursuit of excellence comes from doing our best with what we have to God’s glory and with a view to growing and improving, but not with a view to the score or who is watching from man’s standpoint.

So then, biblically speaking, the pursuit of excellence refers to pursuing and doing the best we can with the gifts and abilities God gives, giving our best to the glory of God. But ideally, it is done without the spirit of competition or seeking to excel simply to be better than others.

Excellence includes doing common, everyday things, but in very uncommon ways regardless of whether people are watching. The reality is that God sees our work and rewards us accordingly (1 Corinthians 15:58)  “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”).

Pursuing Excellence Is a Matter of Choosing the Best

The pursuit of excellence is never a matter of simply choosing between what is good or bad, but of choosing what is best or superior because it will better enable us to accomplish what God has designed us to be and do (Ephesians 2:10)  “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

 (Philippians 1:9)  “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight,”).

In keeping with the fact that all believers are to abound or excel in the expression of Christian love, the apostle prayed that the Philippians my have greater knowledge and every kind of discernment. But in order to excel in love and wisely express it, they needed to be able “to approve the things that are excellent” (NASB) or choose what is best (my translation).

The term “approve” or “choose” is the Greek dokimazo„, which carries two ideas. First, it means “to put to the test, examine,” and then as a result of the examination or testing, “to approve, make the right choice.” Through the values and priorities that come from the knowledge of God’s Word, we are to examine and test, and then choose accordingly.

What is to be chosen is explained by the words “the things that are excellent” (NASB) or “what is best” (NET). The Greek word here is a present neuter participle from diaphero„, which means in this context, “the things differing, but in accordance with what is best,” i.e., the best or what is excellent.

The pursuit of excellence from a biblical world view is always connected with the issue of God’s values and priorities. This means the pursuit of  excellence must include the elimination of some things even though they may be good and legitimate. The principle is are they the best and will they get in the way or hinder the main objectives of a Christian’s life based on biblical principles and values? If so, they need to be eliminated.

We see this truth in Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 10:23, “All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify” (see also 1 Cor. 6:12).  Just because they are legitimate does not mean they should be chosen or pursued.

Film-maker Walt Disney was ruthless in cutting anything that got in the way of a story’s pacing. Ward Kimball, one of the animators for Snow White, recalls working 240 days on a 4-1/2 minute sequence in which the dwarfs made soup for Snow White and almost destroyed the kitchen in the process. Disney thought it funny, but he decided the scene stopped the flow of the picture, so out it went.

When the film of our lives is shown, will it be as great as it might be? A lot will depend on the multitude of ‘good’ things we decided to eliminate to make way for the great things God wants to do through us.[8]

 Pursuing Excellence is an All-Inclusive Pursuit

Whatever your hand finds to do, verily, do it with all your might; for there is no activity or planning or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol where you are going (Eccl. 9:10).

Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31).

Both of these passages point us to the all-inclusive nature of the pursuit of excellence. The words, “whatever your hand finds to do” and “whatever you do” point to the importance of doing our very best in everything we do.

The preacher of Ecclesiastes teaches us that apart from faith in God and living one’s life for Him, life is empty and futile. But this does not mean that men should therefore have a supine attitude by which one simply drifts along since nothing really matters because it does. Life is full of opportunities and there is work to be done.

This means that the strength and abilities we have are to be used to take advantage of the opportunities God gives us as they lie in the scope of our gifts, strength, His leading, and our responsibilities.

Besides encouraging his readers to enjoy life as God enabled them, Solomon also encouraged them to work diligently. The idiom whatever your hand finds to do means “whatever you are able to do” (cf. 1 Sam. 10:7).[9]

If it is a task worth doing, it is a task worth doing right and diligently.

Perhaps it might be worthwhile to make a list of as many areas as we can think of where the pursuit of excellence should touch and change our lives. Be specific! Are there any areas or tasks that I have not really taken seriously and I need to work on? Scripture says, “whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). This would mean our occupation, ministries, family, hobbies, recreation, etc.

Pursuing Excellence Is a Matter of a Whole-Hearted Endeavor

Whatever your hand finds to do, verily, do it with all your might; for there is no activity or planning or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol where you are going (Eccl. 9:10).

“Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!  “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might (Deut. 6:4-5).

Jesus said to him, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment (Matt. 23:37-38).

These three passages also point us to the importance of whole-hearted endeavor in whatever we do as Christians. But even more basic than that, Deuteronomy 6:5 and Matthew 23:37 teach us that pursuing excellence is a matter of the heart, of the inner person and proceeds from a inner faith/relationship with God. Scripture clearly teaches the real issues of life are spiritual and are really matters of the heart, the inner man.

Maybe it’s for this reason the word “heart” is found 802 times in the NASB, 830 in the KJV, 837 in the NKJV and 570 in the NIV. Heart is one of the most commonly used words of the Bible and  most of these occurrences are used metaphorically of the inner person.

When so used, they refer to either the mind, the emotions, the will, to the sinful nature, or inclusively to the total inner person. Thus, the term heart speaks of the inner person and the spiritual life as the seat and center of all that proceeds from a person’s life. Like the physical pump, the spiritual heart is central and vital to who we are and how we live.

Both Solomon and the Lord Jesus teach us that the issues of life proceed from the heart (Pr. 4:23; Matt. 6:21; 12:34; 15:18). What we do in word and deed is first of all a product of what we are on the inside from the standpoint of what we truly believe and how we think.

This is easily illustrated by the Lord Jesus in His teaching in the sermon on the mount. There He spoke strongly against the mere external and performance-oriented hypocrisy of the religious Pharisees. Importantly, in Matthew 5:17-48, no less than six times, He contrasted the external teaching of the Pharisees with His own teaching which stressed the inner life. Note the following statements:

· “You have heard … but I say to you …” (vss. 21-22)

· “You have heard … but I say to you …” (vss. 27-28)

· “It was said … but I say to you …” (vss. 31-32)

·  “You have heard … but I say to you …” (vss. 33-34)

·         “You have heard … but I say to you …” (vss. 38-38)

·         “You have heard … but I say to you …” (vss. 43-44)

What was the Lord seeking to communicate? He was reminding the people of the moral precepts they had been taught by their religious leaders for years, precepts which often had their source in the Old Testament Scriptures.

But then, with the words, “but I say to you,” He addressed those same issues again as being first and foremost matters of the heart. This and only this is authentic Christianity and reveals an intimate walk with God by faith. Anything else is nothing more than religious hypocrisy and will fail to pursue excellence, at least from the right motives.

Because of the central place and importance of the heart in all we do, which naturally includes the pursuit of excellence, it would be well to think a moment about some issues concerning the heart as it applies to doing our best for the glory of the Lord.[10] By itself, the heart is not a safe haven. It needs guarding or protection from invasion by the world system around us and from the sinful nature that dwells within us.

In Proverbs 4:23, Solomon wrote, “More than any act of guarding, guard your heart, for from it are the sources of life” (NET).

The heart needs special care because the heart, which includes the mind, the emotions, and will, is the place where we deposit the knowledge of God or biblical wisdom; it is the place of our values (Matt. 6:21) and priorities and where vital choices are made. Thus, it becomes the wellspring, the source of whatever affects life and character (see Mt 12:35; 15:19).

Chuck Swindoll has a good word here: ”Relentlessly, we struggle for survival, knowing that any one of those strikes can hit the target and spread poison that can immobilize and paralyze, rendering us ineffective. And what exactly is that target? The heart. That’s what the Bible calls it. Our inner person. Down deep, where hope is born, where decisions are made, where commitment is strengthened, where truth is stored, mainly where character (the stuff that gives us depth and makes us wise) is formed. . .

“The quest for character requires that certain things be kept in the heart as well as kept from the heart. An unguarded heart spells disaster. A well-guarded heart means survival. If you hope to survive the jungle, overcoming each treacherous attack, you’ll have to guard your heart.”[11]

Indeed, the heart needs guarding. We need to place a sentinel over the heart because it is the storehouse for the treasures that lead to the formation of Christ-like character. But these treasure can be stolen by the variegated deceptions and temptations of Satan who seeks to seduce us to pursue the lust patterns of destruction like power, prestige, pleasure, possessions, fortune and fame and always at the expense of the pursuit of excellence and godly character.

In keeping with the idea of excelling, the pursuit of excellence naturally works against a half-hearted, drift along or go-with-the-flow kind of mentality. As Ecclesiastes 9:10 shows, to do our best requires doing it with all our might.

In keeping with the rest of Scripture, this means “with all the ability and strength that God gives us.” And, as Matthew 23:37 and Deuteronomy 6:5 teach us, pursuing excellence is a matter of giving the whole heart. But this does not mean there is no place for leisure or rest and relaxation.

A certain amount of rest and relaxation is essential to our physical, emotional, and mental well-being. It is not only okay to relax, but it is essential as long as it is kept in the scheme of its purpose and not used as an excuse for laziness and irresponsibility. The goal is to enhance our physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being.

Strangely, however, in our workaholic society many people, and this include a lot of Christians, get their sense of identity and significance from work and a busy schedule. They often give their all, but for selfish reasons—the pursuit of position, praise, or significance. Some Christians even promote the idea that you really aren’t living for the Lord unless your are “overcommitted, hassled, grim-faced, tight-lipped believers… plowing through responsibilities like an overloaded freight train under a full head of steam…”[12]

Some would view such behavior as a sign of pursuing excellence when in reality, it can become a hindrance because of the debilitating impact on one’s physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual wellbeing.

Swindoll writes: ”Strangely, the one thing we need is often the last thing we consider. We’ve been programmed to think that fatigue is next to godliness. That the more exhausted we are (and look!), the more committed we are to spiritual things and the more we earn God’s smile of approval. We bury all thoughts of enjoying…for those who are genuinely dedicated Christians are those who work, work, work. And preferably, with great intensity. As a result, we have become a generation of people who worship our work… who work at our play… and who play at our worship.

Hold it! Who wrote that rule? Why have we bought that philosophy? Whatever possessed someone to make such a statement? How did we ever get caught in that maddening undertow?

I challenge you to support it from the Scriptures…

According to Mark 6:30-34, Jesus purposely sought relief from the hurried pace of ministering to others and advised his apostles to do the same.[13]

The pursuit of excellence will mean hard work and diligence which may take on various forms—research, study, time, sweat, planning, brainstorming for ideas, etc. It may well mean swimming against the stream and sometimes navigating the rocky and swift rapids of life. It will often be exhausting and bring us up against that which is really beyond us.

Thus, in keeping with our own shortcomings and weaknesses, the pursuit of excellence in the execution of our daily routine or special projects is something that must be pursued by God’s strength. Such a mentality can be seen in the attitude and actions of the apostle Paul.  As one totally committed to God’s purpose for his life, Paul gave his all to be all God wanted him to be in seeking to bring men to maturity in Christ, but he did so by God’s enablement rather than by his own strength.

 Colossians 1:25-29: “I became a servant of the church according to the stewardship of the grace of God—given to me for you—in order to complete the word of God,  26 that is, the mystery that has been kept hidden from ages and generations, but has now been revealed to his saints. 27 God wanted to make known to them the glorious riches of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 We proclaim him by instructing and teaching all men with all wisdom so that we may present every man mature in Christ. 29 Toward this goal I also labor, struggling according to his power that powerfully works in me”

 
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Posted by on October 18, 2018 in Church, Encouragement

 

Homosexuality: A “Christ-Like” Approach


The claim by some denominations that the Spirit of God has led them to accept homosexuality as an acceptable alternative lifestyle is without scriptural basis…it is not the Spirit of God revealing new and modern truth, but rather human spirits who are seeking to accommodate themselves to societal pressures!

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The practice of homosexuality and its acceptance as an alternative lifestyle is becoming more prevalent in our society today. Nearly everyday we read and hear of things which indicate more people are accepting homosexuality as a normal behavior. For example:

• Ordinances being passed which grant homosexuals and lesbians equal rights to practice and promote their “lifestyle”

• The formation of gay churches, even the ordination of gay priests and ministers in mainstream Protestant denominations

• Cities like San Francisco, Miami Beach and Key West which appear to cater to the open display of homosexual behavior How shall Christians react to all this?

I believe it is our responsibility to openly and willingly face this problem in several ways.

WE NEED TO SPEAK THE TRUTH IN LOVE

First, we need to present the truth of God on the subject of homosexuality, but in the proper way. I fear that many Christians betray a true “homophobia” in their reaction against homosexuality, and often come close to “gay bashing” in their efforts to stem the tide of increasing acceptance of homosexuality in our society.

This is not the ‘major’ sin among us, generally, yet it is often the one most talked about in a way that projects an image we do like to have associated with us. Though we need to present what God’s Word teaches on the subject, let us do so by “speaking the truth in love” (Ep 4:15).

We who profess to be Christians should remember the admonition of the apostle Paul when it comes to sharing God’s Word with those with whom we differ: “And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.” (2 Ti 2:24-26)

There is no place for a self-righteous, arrogant attitude on the part of those who but for the grace of God would be just as guilty of sins as those we are trying to reach! Otherwise, we sin at the same time we are trying to lead others out of sin…

BE READY TO ASSIST THOSE WHO DESIRE TO OVERCOME HOMOSEXUALITY

Even as Jesus was quick to receive sinners and to lead them to the way of righteousness and life everlasting, so should those who claim to be His disciples. Again, the challenge will be to do it in the proper way.

Paul’s instructions to the Galatians can serve as good beginning: “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Ga 6:1-2)

In a spirit of gentleness we need to be able to show them how, and to provide the encouragement they will need along the way. It is my prayer that the material presented in this study can be a positive step toward helping Christians to accomplish these three things.

Determining The Truth About Homosexuality

To know the truth about homosexuality, one must first determine the real source of truth itself. Many might question whether there is in reality a source of truth which governs such things as we are considering.

Most people believe that if there is, it comes from the research of scientists. But the problem with scientific research is that the testing, evaluating, and interpreting of the evidence is often flawed by the personal agendas of those on both sides of the issue. Maintaining total objectivity is rarely done, especially among scientific circles who often must be “politically correct” in order to receive the grants necessary to conduct their research.

The Christian by definition recognizes and appeals to a different “source” of truth, though it is firmly believed that with time and true objectivity this “source” will be confirmed by “scientific” sources. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we believe the truth is to be found in Him. As He Himself said… “I am the way, THE TRUTH, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (Jn 14:6)

The realm of truth found in Jesus covers many areas, but especially those of sexual mores and behavior. Consider what Paul wrote to the Ephesians: “This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, “having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardening of their heart; “who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to licentiousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.

“But you have not so learned Christ, “if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: “that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, “and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, “and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in righteousness and true holiness.” (Ep 4:17-24)

So the truth which is in Jesus has much to say about what constitutes righteousness and true holiness. But one might ask, “Why should we accept Jesus over the scientific experts of today?” The Christian is convinced that God has furnished proof that Jesus is the true judge in regards to righteousness. How? By virtue of His resurrection from the dead! As Paul said when speaking to the Greek philosophers in Athens:

“Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.” (Ac 17:3031)

Can anyone else provide such evidence that they know what they are talking about? Jesus by virtue of His resurrection provides the ultimate demonstration that when He speaks, we should listen! Until those modern day scientists, sociologists and philosophers who speak with such assurance that homosexual conduct is a morally acceptable lifestyle can present similar proof that they know what they are talking about, I would caution against accepting their judgments on these issues.

If we accept Jesus, then, as the ultimate source of truth, to what sources did He attribute truth? There are several:

THE LAW AND THE PROPHETS (i.e., the Old Testament)

“Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. “For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. “Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt 5:17-19)

Though we learn later (in the books of Romans, Galatians, Hebrews, etc.) that Jesus did indeed fulfill the Law and bring in a New Covenant, it is evident that He considered the Law and the Prophets as a source of truth.

HIMSELF (i.e., the words He spoke while on earth)

“Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, ‘If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.'” (Jn 8:3132)

THE HOLY SPIRIT (who would carry on the work started by Jesus)

“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.” (Jn 16:12-13)

Note carefully, that Jesus did not reveal ALL the truth Himself while here on earth. The Holy Spirit would complete the work, revealing the entire will of Christ through His apostles. This leads us to a fourth source of truth recognized by Jesus…

THE APOSTLES OF JESUS CHRIST (who gave us the New Testament)

“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who receives whomever I send (the word apostle means “one sent”) receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.” (Jn 13:20)

In accepting Jesus as the ultimate source of truth, then, we must also accept His apostles. In fact, they themselves made it clear that their message was not their own:

“If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord.” (1 Co 14:37)

“For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.” (1 Th 2:13)

It is important to understand that the truth revealed by Holy Spirit to the apostles was complete. In other words, we have in the pages of the New Testament God’s full and final revelation. We should not expect the Spirit of God to give us “modern- day revelations” that are contrary to what has been given through the apostles.

Several passages in the New Testament confirm this point: “For I have not shunned to declare to you the WHOLE counsel of God.” (Ac 20:27)

“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be COMPLETE, thoroughly equipped for EVERY good work.” (2 Ti 3:16-17)

“Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for THE FAITH WHICH WAS ONCE FOR ALL (literally, one time for all times) DELIVERED to the saints.” (Jude 3)

The claim, therefore, by some denominations that the Spirit of God has led them to accept homosexuality as an acceptable alternative lifestyle is without scriptural basis. It is not the Spirit of God revealing new and modern truth, but rather human spirits who are seeking to accommodate themselves to societal pressures!

Those who accept Jesus as the ultimate source of truth must also accept His definition as to where truth is found. We have seen that He has identified several sources: the Old Testament, Himself, and His apostles. Putting it simply, the Word of God (i.e., the Bible) is the source of truth. As Jesus prayed in behalf of His disciples: “Sanctify them by Your truth, Your word is truth.” (Jn 17:17)

Since the Word of God is the truth, then whatever it teaches regarding homosexuality must be the final word.

Q. What is homosexuality? Homosexuality is the manifestation of sexual desire toward a member of one’s own sex or the erotic activity with a member of the same sex. (The Greek word homos means the same). A lesbian is a female homosexual. More recently the term “gay” has come into popular use to refer to both sexes who are homosexuals.

Q. How does one determine if the practice of homosexuality is right or wrong? That depends upon who is answering the question. The Christian point of view is based solely upon the Bible, the divinely inspired Word of God. A truly Christian standard of ethics is the conduct of divine revelation, not of statistical research nor of public opinion. For the Christian, the Bible is the final authority for both belief and behavior.

Q. What explicitly does the Bible teach about homosexuality? This question I consider to be basic because, if we accept God’s Word on the subject of homosexuality, we benefit from His adequate answer to this problem. I am concerned only with the Christian or biblical view of homosexuality. The Bible has much to say about sex sins in general.

First, there is adultery. Adultery in the natural sense is sexual intercourse of a married person with someone other than his or her own spouse. It is condemned in both the Old and New Testaments (Exodus 20:14; I Cor. 6:9, 10). Christ forbids dwelling upon the thoughts, the free play of one’s imagination that leads to adultery (Matthew 5:28).

Second, there is fornication, the illicit sex acts of unmarried persons which is likewise forbidden (I Corinthians 5:1; 6:13, 18; Ephesians 5:3).

Then there is homosexuality which likewise is condemned in Scripture. The Apostle Paul, writing by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, declares that homosexuality “shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (I Corinthians 6:9; 10). Now Paul does not single out the homosexual as a special offender. He includes fornicators, idolators, adulterers, thieves, covetous persons, drunkards, revilers and extortioners.

Then he adds the comment that some of the Christians at Corinth had been delivered from these very practices: “And such were some of you: But ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the spirit of our God” (I Corinthians 6:11). All of the sins mentioned in this passage are condemned by God, but just as there was hope in Christ for the Corinthians, so is there hope for all of us.

Homosexuality is an illicit lust forbidden by God. He said to His people Israel, “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination” (Leviticus 18:22). “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them” (Leviticus 20:13).

In these passages homosexuality is condemned as a prime example of sin, a sexual perversion. The Christian can neither alter God’s viewpoint nor depart from it.

Q. You said that sexual intercourse outside of marriage is condemned in the Bible. How do you explain marriage ceremonies in which two persons of the same sex are united by an officiating clergyman or justice of the peace? There are cases on record where a marriage license was issued to persons of the same sex. However, to call a union of two persons of the same sex a “marriage” is a misnomer. In the Bible, marriage is a divinely ordered institution designed to form a permanent union between one man and one woman for one purpose (among others) of procreating or propagating the human race. That was God’s order in the first of such unions (Genesis 1:27, 28; 2:24; Matthew 19:5). If, in His original creation of humans, God had created two persons of the same sex, there would not be a human race in existence today. The whole idea of two persons of the same sex marrying is absurd, unsound, ridiculously unreasonable, stupid. A clergyman might bless a homosexual marriage but God won’t.

Q. Why do homosexuals refer to themselves as “gay”? The word “gay” means merry, exuberant, bright, lively. More recently it has been adopted by homosexuals. In its original use it did not have this double meaning. The clever adaptation of the word “gay” by homosexuals has robbed it of its pure meaning, thereby corrupting a once perfectly good word. I never use the word “gay” when referring to homosexuals. There are many bright, exuberant, merry people in this world who are not sexual perverts.

Q. You made reference to First Corinthians 6:9-11. What is the meaning of the word “effeminate” in verse 9? There are certain words in every language that can be used in a good or bad sense. In the context of this verse the use of “effeminate” is obviously in a bad sense. It is listed among other evils which are condemned. It describes feminine qualities inappropriate to a man. It is normal and natural for a woman to be sexually attracted to a man; it is abnormal and unnatural for a man to be sexually attracted to another man. Many male homosexuals are effeminate, but not all. Nor are all lesbians unduly masculine.

Q. Are there other Scriptures in the New Testament which deal with homosexuality? Yes. Romans 1:24-27; I Timothy 1:10 and Jude 7. If one takes these Scriptures seriously, homosexuality will be recognized as an evil. The Romans passage is unmistakably clear. Paul attributes the moral depravity of men and women to their rejection of “the truth of God” (1:25). They refused “to retain God in their knowledge” (1:28), thereby dethroning God and deifying themselves. The Old Testament had clearly condemned homosexuality but in Paul’s day there were those persons who rejected its teaching. Because of their rejection of God’s commands He punished their sin by delivering them over to it.

The philosophy of substituting God’s Word with one’s own reasoning commenced with Satan. He introduced it at the outset of the human race by suggesting to Eve that she ignore God’s orders, assuring her that in so doing she would become like God with the power to discern good and evil (Genesis 3:1-5). That was Satan’s big lie. Paul said that when any person rejects God’s truth, his mind becomes “reprobate,” meaning perverted, void of sound judgment. The perverted mind, having rejected God’s truth, is not capable of discerning good and evil.

In Romans 1:26-31 twenty-three punishable sins are listed with homosexuality leading the list. Paul wrote, “For this cause God gave them up into vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet” (Romans 1:26, 27). These verses are telling us that homosexuals suffer in their body and personality the inevitable consequences of their wrong doing. Notice that the behaviour of the homosexual is described as a “vile affection” (1:26). The Greek word translated “vile” (atimia) means filthy, dirty, evil, dishonourable. The word “affection” in Greek is pathos, used by the Greeks of either a good or bad desire. Here in the context of Romans it is used in a bad sense. The “vile affection” is a degrading passion, a shameful lust. Both the desire (lusting after) and the act of homosexuality are condemned in the Bible as sin.

Q. There are those persons who say that homosexuality, even though a perverted form of the normal, God-ordained practice of sex, is a genetic problem, constitutionally inherited. Is there evidence to support this view? I read in a periodical that in June, 1963 a panel of specialists in medicine, psychiatry, law, sociology and theology participated in a conference on homosexuality called by the Swiss Evangelical Church Union. That group reached the conclusion that homosexuality is not constitutionally inherited, it is not a part of one’s genetic makeup. The ill-founded and unverifiable myth that homosexuality results from genetic causes is gradually fading away.

Homosexuality must be accepted for what God says it is– sin. Some homosexuals will attempt to circumvent the plain teaching of the Bible with the insipid reply that they are the way God made them. There is not the slightest bit of evidence in Scripture to support this false concept. God never created man with a so-called “homosexual need.” No baby is born a homosexual. Every baby is born male or female. In every place the Bible refers to homosexuality, the emphasis is upon the perversion of sexuality. The practicing homosexual is guilty of “leaving the natural use of the woman” (Romans 1:27), meaning that his behaviour is “against nature” as in the case of the lesbian (Romans 1:26). Inasmuch as homosexuality is opposed to the regular law and order of nature, the genetic concept must be ruled out completely. If homosexuality were a genetic problem, there would be little hope for the homosexual simply because there is no way that the genes in a person can be changed.

Q. Does the Bible tell us how the church should deal with sexual sins? In Old Testament times in Israel God dealt severely with homosexuals. He warned His people through Moses, “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them” (Leviticus 20:13).

Every Jew knew that homosexuality was an abomination, a disgusting practice to be loathed, hated. This was God’s attitude toward that evil practice. He hated it to the extent that He considered it worthy of punishment by death. Now God loved His people Israel dearly, and it was from His great heart of love that He chastened them. The Epistle to the Hebrews says, “For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth” (Hebrews 12:7). When God issued His law forbidding homosexuality, and the punishment for those persons who violated that law, He did so in order to prevent them from sinning. However, when anyone broke the law, the offender paid the penalty due him. God is a holy God who hates and judges sin. Parents who love their children will not refrain from warning them of prevailing evils, nor will they fail to chasten them when they disobey. The church today not only tolerates sin but in some instances condones it. God does neither.

In the New Testament the principle of discipline was applied with apostolic authority. In the church at Corinth the young man who was committing fornication with his step-mother was excommunicated. Paul instructed the church to take that action “in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ . . . and with the power (i.e. the authority) of our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Corinthians 5:1-8). In Romans 1:21-32 where Paul shows the Gentile world in its downward plunge into sin, including the sin of homosexuality, verse 32 concludes with the words, “who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death . . . “

Q. Do you have any suggestions or recommendations for the church? Nothing is more foundationally essential for the church and the world than a return to the truth. Recently I read where someone said we are suffering from a famine of the worst kind, “a truth-famine.” Our modern culture is in a degenerating, deteriorating stage caused by a departure from the truth. And I must say unequivocally that truth does not exist independently of God, and His written Word the Bible, and His Son Jesus Christ. Truth is in no sense of man’s imagination or contrivance. A civilization without the truth is doomed to oblivion. Every ancient civilization that ignored God and His laws has crumbled. We cannot survive independently of God and His Word.

Q. What should be the Christian’s attitude toward the homosexual? The Christian who shares God’s love for lost sinners will seek to reach the homosexual with the gospel of Christ. I should hate all sin but I can find no justification for hating the sinner. The homosexual is a precious soul for whom Christ died. We Christians can show him the best way of life by pointing him to Christ.

 
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Posted by on October 15, 2018 in Doctrine

 

Beliefs Matter: It Does Really Matter What One Believes About the One Lord  — Eph. 4:4-6; 1 Cor. 8:4-6


Ephesians 4:4-6 (ESV) There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5  one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6  one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

(1 Corinthians 8:4-6 NIV)  So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one. {5} For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”), {6} yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.

A man was out on a practice golf course one day when the club pro brought another man out for a golf lesson. The pro watched the man swing several times and then started making suggestions for improvement. Each time the pro spoke, however, the student interrupted with his own version of what was wrong and how to correct it. After a few minutes of these repeated objections, the pro began to respond to the student by merely nodding his head in agreement. At the end of the lesson, the student paid the pro, congratulated him on his expertise as a teacher, and then left in an obviously pleased frame of mind.

The man who was watching all this was so astonished by it that he asked the pro why he went along with him. The pro responded, “I learned a long time ago that it’s a waste of time to try to sell answers to a man who wants to buy “echoes” of his own voice.”

Honestly, all of us need someone to guide us in our attempts to live well.

Sometimes we aren’t aware that we cheat ourselves out of much needed good guidance because we’re enamored with “echoes of our own voice” or other voices instead of the One voice that can help us most.

I think we need direction in this life. We need a map. We need a compass! The primary person we turn to in our life is Jesus Christ!

The one Lord is Jesus Christ. “He is Lord of all.”

 (Acts 2:38 NIV)  Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

(Acts 10:36 NIV)  You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.

(Romans 10:12 NIV)  For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile–the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him,

I think all of us here today believe these verses. But do we really believe them? No pope, prophet, teacher, editor, elder, preacher, reformer, president, or any other man has authority to act as Lord of the church.

  • Jesus wants to be that voice.
  • He offers to lead us, and most of us probably think he’s qualified to lead us, but still sometimes we don’t let him lead.
  • Maybe we don’t believe it deeply enough or maybe we’re not be thoughtful enough about our lives to realize how often we listen to our own advice or others who say things we want to hear, instead of listening to him.
  • Somehow we need to more consciously recognize that he’s qualified to do so.

The way Jesus seeks to convince us of his worthiness to lead us, is not by frightening us or by listing logical reasons why, but by demonstrating his authority.

At the end of his life, another event even more powerfully demonstrated his worthiness to lead us: According to God’s plan he was executed but then God raised him from the dead. The resurrection of Jesus from the dead is not only extraordinarily remarkable, it is significant: it tells us who he is.

(Romans 1:4 NIV)  and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.

As His subjects, believers are unequivocally instructed…

 (John 20:28 NIV)  Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

(Acts 2:22-36 NIV)  “Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. {23} This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. {24} But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.

{32} God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. {33} Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. {34} For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said, “‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand {35} until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”‘ {36} “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”

What we need to recognize in our hearts is Jesus is Lord.

  • to live as He said: holy and righteous and pure, bearing the fruit of His Spirit (Galatians 5:19-21).
  • to carry out His orders as one body (Matthew 7:21-23; 1 Cor. 12:5; Phil. 2:9-11).

But we also need to notice that, even though he is Lord of all, he didn’t conduct himself as an authoritarian. He told people the truth and called people to follow and obey, but he wasn’t harsh and demanding. He had credibility with people because of the quality & character of his own life, because the wisdom and truthfulness of his words, and because of his love for people.

So the question is: Do you believe it? Do you believe Jesus is Lord.

Not just understand it or agree w/ it but believe it. Understanding of Jesus as One Lord could be measured by taking a doctrinal test but believing Jesus is the One Lord is measured by whether we let him lead our lives.

(Matthew 7:21-23 NIV)  “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. {22} Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ {23} Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

   (Luke 6:46-49 NIV)  “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? {47} I will show you what he is like who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice. {48} He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. {49} But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.”

   Some of the key “other god,” rivals to Jesus as the One Lord, though they may not seem religious, are our feelings, our desires, our friends, our society.

We need to identify things like this that influence us and make sure we don’t allow them to be our leader (2 Cor. 8:4-6).  Are you ready for a test? It is going to be tough, I assure you.

  1. Is Jesus lord of our attitude? Setting ourselves up as the standard and arbiter for most everything. I don’t like this or that, we shouldn’t do this or that. It’s so embedded in society that it’s difficult to see. Did we learn to take on this role from Jesus or from a rival lord? We often made these evaluations after our morning worship: “I didn’t like that or I liked that” etc.” Where did  we get that? Did it come from Jesus?
  2. Is Jesus lord of our relationships? Or are feelings allowed to reign. Bless those who persecute us, forgive those who do us wrong, work out matters between the 2 of us, not grumble against each other, have equal concern for all the parts of the body, confess our faults, work out your problems; serve one another in love.
  3. Is Jesus lord of our sexuality? Or are the norms in our society. According to the word of God, sexual relations are a gift from God, a wedding present, if you will, and are to be enjoyed exclusively with a person of the opposite gender that we are married to, our husband or our wife. Now that I’ve mentioned this, do you want to look around for a version of Christianity that doesn’t comment on our sexuality? Society wants to tell us how we should act in this matter…..in that case Jesus wouldn’t be lord.

Stanley Jones tells of a missionary who got lost in an African jungle. As far as the eye could see there was nothing but bush and a few clearings. He finally managed to find a native hut and the man who lived it said he could get him out.

   “All right,” said the missionary. “Show me the way.” The native said, “Walk.” So they walked and hacked their way through unmarked jungle for more than an hour. The missionary finally got worried. “Are you sure this is the way? Where is the path?” His native guide answered, “Bwana, in this place there is no path. I am the path.”

   In the midst of the conflicting desires of our hearts, the confusing advice of our age, and the sometimes overwhelming perplexity about the direction of our lives, one credible voice still quietly pleads, “follow me.” If we believe Jesus is the One Lord, we will do so.

 
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Posted by on October 11, 2018 in Jesus Christ

 

‘Healthy Churches’ Treat Worship As A Way Of Life


The healthy church gathers regularly as the local expression of the body of Christ to worship God in ways that engage the heart, mind, soul, and strength of the people. But our worship needs to become a way of life, not just a ceremony…we want to live in such a way that God is exalted and glorified in all that we do….every day!

(Psalms 29:2)  “Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness.”

healthy churchIt has been suggested that “all of creation was created to bring glory to God, but only man was created to do it out of a loving relationship with God as our Father.”

Looking in Webster’s dictionary you’ll find this first definition for worship, “reverence, homage or honor paid to God” Then it goes on to say that the word is also used to refer to a place where this reverence, homage, etc. paid to God is given. G4352: proskuneoô  pros-koo-neh’-o  to prostrate oneself in homage (do reverence to, adore):—worship.

John 4:22-24: “You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. {23} Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. {24} God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”

Matthew 15:8-9: “‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. {9} They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.'””

In a false worship we may detect three faults.

1. A false worship is a selective worship.  It chooses what it wishes to know about God and omits the rest.  The Samaritans took as much of scripture as they wished and paid no attention to the rest.  One of the most dangerous things in the world is a one-sided religion.  It is very easy for a man to accept and hold such parts of God’s truth as suit him and to disregard the remainder.

2. A false worship is an ignorant worship. Worship ought to be the approach to God of the whole man.  A man has a mind and he has a duty to exercise it.  Religion may begin with an emotional response; but the time comes when that emotional response has to be thought out.  In the last analysis, religion is never safe until a man can tell, not only what he believes, but why he believes it.  Religion is hope, but it is hope with reason behind it.

3. A false worship is a superstitious worship.  It is a worship given, not out of a sense of need nor out of any real desire, but basically because a man feels that it might be dangerous not to give it.  Many a person will refuse to walk beneath a ladder; many a person will have a pleased feeling when a black cat crosses his path; many a person will pick up a pin with the idea that good luck will follow; many a person will have an uncomfortable feeling when he is one of thirteen sitting at a table.  He does not believe in these superstitions, but he has the feeling that there might be something in them and he had better play safe.

There are many people whose religion is founded on a kind of vague fear of what might happen if they leave God out of the reckoning.  But Christianity is founded not on fear but on the love of God and gratitude for what God has done.  Too much religion is a kind of superstitious ritual to avert the possible wrath of the unpredictable gods.

Jesus pointed to the true worship.  God, he said, is spirit.  Immediately a man grasps that, a new flood-light breaks over him.  If God is spirit, God is not confined to things; and therefore idol worship is not only an irrelevancy, it is an insult to the very nature of God.  If God is spirit, God is not confined to places; and therefore to limit the worship of God to Jerusalem or to any other spot is to set a limit to that which by its nature overpasses all limits.  If God is spirit, a man’s gifts to God must be gifts of the spirit.  Animal sacrifices and all man-made things become inadequate.  The only gifts that befit the nature of God are the gifts of the spirit-love, loyalty, obedience, devotion.

True worship is the offering to God of one’s body, and all that one does every day with it  Real worship is the offering of everyday life to him, not something transacted in a church building, but something which sees the whole world as the temple of the living God.

Worship at its essence is the response of a heart that is earnestly, striving, and crying out after the heart of God! Worship flows out of the deep, wrenching, hunger and thirst desire to know God and not only to know Him but to dwell in Him – to dwell in His presence!

 
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Posted by on October 8, 2018 in Church

 

Doing What We Should: The Keys to Consistency


There are few of us who wouldn’t like to improve the consistency of our obedience. We make what we believe an honest effort to please God, but we find ourselves stumbling and failing to follow our conscience.

We can identify with the pain Paul described in Rom. 7:15-24: “For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. . . . For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. . . . For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”

It is this wretchedness, of course, that originally brought us to the foot of the cross seeking to be saved. Yet having been forgiven of our past sins, we still find ourselves frustrated by failures in our obedience.

John 17:20 (40 kb)Sin is an ongoing reality for us, even as Christians. John wrote, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 Jn. 1:8).

This means that we’ll continue to struggle with sin as long as we live in this world. Try as we may (and as we must), we can’t be perfect. The fact that we’re fallible, however, doesn’t mean that we’re helpless. There is something we can do, and it is simply this: we can improve! We can learn to be more consistent in our obedience. And we simply must not allow ourselves to settle for anything less.

It seems to me that this is a subject of immense importance. Learning how to win crucial victories over sin and actually grow in the consistency of our obedience is, I believe, one of the major challenges before the Lord’s people of our day.

1. Clarifying Our Character.

We won’t make much progress improving our conduct until we see that our conduct is produced by our character. If we frequently find ourselves acting in ways that contradict what we say are our principles, at some point we have to ask whether these really and truly are our principles! We may need to clarify who it is that we really intend to be, and strengthen our commitment to those things that we say are our principles.

2. Keeping Our Vision Clear.

Even when we’re truly and deeply committed to the principles of righteousness, the devil is ingenious in finding ways to distract us and fool us into momentarily forgetting how important certain things are to us. We must learn how, in the hard moments, to remember who we are. We must develop the ability to stop and think. The key to Jesus’ own obedience was His ability to keep clearly focused on who He really was and where He was going. We must look “unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2).

 3. Training the Flesh.

If we find that our flesh is too weak to reliably carry our spirit’s instructions, it needs to be strengthened. If it’s been undisciplined for a long time, the flesh is used to doing whatever it wants to do and it will resist being brought into submission to a higher authority. But given time and incremental training, the flesh can be brought into subjection. Paul said, “But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection” (1 Cor. 9:27). The flesh doesn’t have to be the hindrance we’ve let it be in the past. There are specific things we can do to strengthen it. It can, in fact, be trained to be one of our greatest spiritual assets. We can learn to use our bodies rightfully, as instruments through which God is glorified (1 Cor. 6:20).

 4. The Sources of Spiritual Strength.

In moments of specific need, we can’t have available to us the same spiritual strength as the saints of old if we don’t live as they lived in their overall manner of life. There are certain activities that are the means by which spiritual strength and wisdom are acquired, and we must build these “disciplines” into our daily lives. Such things as prayer, study of the Scriptures, worship, meditation, and fellowship with God’s people may seem commonplace, but they are nothing less than the activities through which we become strong in our relationship with God. It’s time that we learned how to look practically at these disciplines as the sources of spiritual growth and strength.

 5. Moment-by-Moment Obedience.

Everything about life and godliness comes down to the peaceful management of the moments that come and go. No one is strong or wise enough to handle at once everything that life can throw at us, and we only discourage ourselves by trying to take a bigger approach to obedience than is possible. The truth is, life comes to us in moments, one at a time, and these individual moments are always manageable. There are many things we can learn to help us manage them more successfully in our obedience to God. It is possible for us to live the same kind of life as Enoch, who “before he was taken . . . had this testimony, that he pleased God” (Hb. 12:5).

Obedience to God can never be completely “automatic.” There is no way to eliminate the necessity of choosing obedience in each moment that comes to us. Yes, there are things we can learn that will help us. And yes, we can build up a certain momentum that will tend to keep us moving in the right direction. But granting all these things, it still must be said that individual acts of godliness are choices that we must make.

We won’t always make the right choices, obviously. We can’t be perfect, but we can improve.

(1)    We can improve our character, clarifying what our principles really are and making a more powerful commitment to them.

(2)    We can keep our vision more clear and do a better job of seeing through the devil’s distractions.

(3)    We can, by patient practice, train our flesh to be stronger, so that it is more of an ally and less of an enemy.

(4)    We can practice more of the spiritual disciplines and live an overall style of life that is conducive to spiritual strength.

(5)    We can improve in our management of the moments and become more consistent in our choices.

In short, we can learn to more “pure in heart” (Mt. 5:8).

We can live before our God with a more wholehearted passion for Him and His will. We can be “those who diligently seek Him” (Heb 11:6).

And “forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead,” we can be those who “press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:13,14).

Worth Doing “Badly?”

In the Lord’s work, we must be willing to try to do whatever is necessary

 (Luke 16:10)  “”Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.”

“Humility” sometimes serves as a respectable smokescreen for negligence, laziness, cowardice, and other less-than-honorable characteristics.

(Exodus 3:10-11)  “So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.” {11} But Moses said to God, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?””

 (Exodus 4:10-13)  “Moses said to the LORD, “O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.” {11} The LORD said to him, “Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the LORD? {12} Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.” {13} But Moses said, “O Lord, please send someone else to do it.””

 (Matthew 25:24-30)  “”Then the man who had received the one talent came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. {25} So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’ {26} “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? {27} Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest. {28} “‘Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. {29} For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. {30} And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'”

“I can’t” sometimes means little more than “I don’t want to.”

“Someone else can do it better” frequently translates into “I would rather someone else do it, period.”

It is good to have high standards of excellence — but, in the Lord’s work, we cannot afford the luxury of declining to try a worthwhile task merely because we think we cannot do it as well as we would like.

The Lord’s work is that of saving spiritual lives.

In regard to physical life, the first person on the scene of an auto accident would not think of letting persons die in a burning vehicle while he waited for more skilled rescuers to arrive.

There are simply some activities in life where one must always do what one can.

I. “ANYTHING WORTH DOING IS WORTH DOING BADLY”

This remark by G. K. Chesterton contains an important insight.  When a task deserves to be done at all, it deserves a less-than-perfect attempt while we are learning to do the thing better.  In very few of the practical affairs of life is it possible to wait to act until we can act up to the standards of our ideals or those of others.

Most things must be done relatively poorly before they can be done passably well.  Much as our pride might like to find one, there is just no shortcut to competence.  It is practice that makes “perfect,” and the person with no time or inclination to be a beginner for awhile will forfeit the pleasure of ever being anything more than that.

“The shortest cut is usually through.”

“A man would do nothing if he waited until he could do it so well that no one could find fault” (John Henry Newman).

 II. THE SHIRKER IS NOT TRULY HUMBLE

This way of looking at life and the Lord’s work does not require that we give up our appreciation of excellence and settle for mediocrity.  It does mean that, in valuable and urgent works like the Lord’s, we must have the true humility to do a mediocre job at first while we are trying to improve our skills.

We may excuse ourselves from our work with “modest” remarks about our abilities, but it is actually pride, not humility, that is holding us back.  We don’t want to be laughed at, or do a job that would look inferior by comparison to someone else’s, etc.

In truth, there is no more proud or self-centered person than the one who will not do anything except what he can “look good” doing.  In the Lord’s work, it is a pity that the doing or not doing of so many things is determined by such considerations of ego.

The truly humble person does not shirk work he needs to be involved in — he swallows his selfish pride enough to make a fool of himself, if need be, in the attempt to do something that is worth his effort.

 III. THE LORD IS LOOKING FOR PEOPLE WHO WILL TRY

As someone has said, “The Lord is not looking for people who can do everything; He is looking for people who will try to do anything.” Cf. Isa. 6:8.

In nearly every congregation, there is a handful of Christians who understand this. These folks are refreshing to all who have the privilege of working with them — they can always be counted on to try, regardless of the nature of the work. They are not always the multi-talented, conspicuously-gifted ones, and they never sound a trumpet before them. But they are workers.

They have placed no restrictions on the nature of the work they are willing to attempt in the service of other people’s souls. Whether we do things in a big or little way, our “sufficiency” is from God.

 (2 Corinthians 3:5)  “Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God.”

Our quibbles about our “little ability” may place the emphasis in the wrong place!

(Exodus 4:10-11)  “Moses said to the LORD, “O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.” {11} The LORD said to him, “Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the LORD?”

Ironically, it is actually more difficult when we are “strong” to do our work as it should be done – (2 Corinthians 12:10)  “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

The Lord is never more pleased than when we do all we can with limited resources

(Mark 12:43-44)  “Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. {44} They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything–all she had to live on.””

 (2 Corinthians 8:1-5)  “And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. {2} Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. {3} For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, {4} they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. {5} And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God’s will.”

In all things our attitude must be that of Solomon at his coronation: I am inexperienced, but I will do what I can . . . and God will help.

(1 Kings 3:7-9)  “”Now, O LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. {8} Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. {9} So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?””

Most of us need a keener awareness that, after all, the Lord has called us to serve, not to be served.  As servants, we are to be at the beck and call of our Master, ready to be used in whatever way He may need us — without regard to whether our efforts may suffer by comparison to someone else’s.

If what our Master needs is something we can only do badly at present, then the Master’s work is worth doing “badly.”

If we are not faithful in the “least” amounts of ability, would we be in “much”?

(Matthew 25:23)  “”His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!'”

 (Luke 16:10)  “”Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.”

 
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Posted by on October 4, 2018 in Encouragement

 

Beliefs Matter: It Really Does Make A Difference What We Believe About the One Spirit Ephesians 4


One New Year’s Day, in the Tournament of Roses parade, one of the more beautiful floats suddenly sputtered and quit. It was out of gas. The whole parade was held up until someone was able to get some more gas for the float. Do you know which float it was? The one representing the Standard Oil Company. With its vast resources of oil, its truck sat there helpless.

We need to talk today about the One Spirit, which is our power supply? How has your power supply been working for you this past week?

It matters what we believe; it affects spiritual health.   Eph. 4:5 speaks on seven 1’s which serve to unite us. As we are One Body, we also possess One Spirit, which works in each of our lives.

 How do we begin? Obviously the Spirit is holy (divine) – God is Father, Son, & Spirit.

The Spirit is spirit. He is not flesh and blood, is not tangible. That makes for much of our difficulty in grasping a better understanding of him.

he Spirit is not the same as the word. The phrase “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:17) says that the word is the Spirit’s sword, so the word cannot be identical with the Spirit.

If we say “the weapon of the soldier is a rifle,” that does not mean the soldier is a rifle. Rather, the rifle is distinct from him, it is his weapon, an entirely different entity. So if the sword of the Spirit is the word of God, then the word of God is a separate entity from the Spirit, it is his weapon.

  • The Spirit is personal – a he, not an it
  • The Spirit lives inside every Christian: (Romans 8:9 NIV) You, however, are controlled not by the [flesh] but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.
  • (1 Corinthians 12:12-13 NIV) The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. {13} For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body–whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free–and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.
  • The Spirit is powerful: I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being,
  • The Spirit living in us is a down payment on our future inheritance: (2 Corinthians 1:21-22 NIV) Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, {22} set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
  • The Spirit living in us indicates we are God’s children: (Romans 8:16-17 NIV) The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. {17} Now if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
  • (Galatians 4:6-7 NIV) Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” {7} So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.
  • The Spirit is involved in transforming us. (2 Corinthians 3:17-18 NIV) Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. {18} And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
  • He also intercedes for us in prayer; convicts the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment; empowers us to speak boldly; and gives us gifts.

We can tell whether we really believe God’s truths by how we live our lives. Belief isn’t tested so much theoretically as practically. Again, the reason God wants us to believe his truths is not merely so we can pass a doctrinal test; rather, it is so that we will have healthy spiritual lives. If we examine our lives, that’s how we clarify what we really believe. So do you believe in the One Spirit?

One important way is to see whether we believe in One Spirit:

(Romans 7:6 NIV)  But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.

What does that mean? How can we tell which way we are in fact approaching it?

Some characteristics of the old way of the written code:

  • Law, rules, focus on externals (attendance, conformity, concern over that which is outward and appearances)
  • Pride and superiority or guilt and inferiority
  • There’s comparison and concentration on human effort
  • And it is exhausting (Galatians 3:3 NIV) Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?
  • If this is your pattern, Jesus wrote this: (Matthew 11:28-30 NIV) “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. {29} Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. {30} For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
  • Biting and devouring others (Galatians 5:15 NIV) If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.
  • Being a control freak, “It is our determination to be independent by being in control that makes us unavailable to God” Richard Neuhaus.
  • “Those who are filled with the Spirit have died to that determination, surrendered their right to be in control, and made themselves radically dependent on and available to the Holy Spirit.” Stephen Seamands

Some characteristics of the new way of Spirit

  • Belong to Jesus as if married (Romans 7:1-4 NIV)  Do you not know, brothers–for I am speaking to men who know the law–that the law has authority over a man only as long as he lives? {2} For example, by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law of marriage. {3} So then, if she marries another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is released from that law and is not an adulteress, even though she marries another man. {4} So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God.
  • Is your relationship by marriage dominated by rules & regulations for your spouse???
  • Bear fruit to God (Galatians 5:22-26 NIV) But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, {23} gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. {24} Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. {25} Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. {26} Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.
  • “Ministry, if it is to be fruitful—not merely productive—must be through the Holy Spirit,” Stephen Seamands. Productive: means it likely comes from us…from our effort.
  • Changed being (2 Corinthians 3:17-18 NIV)  Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. {18} And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (whole lot easier to act compassionately if we are in fact compassionate)
  • You know the love of God (Romans 5:5 NIV) And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
  • Choose to go along with the Spirit: (Galatians 5:25 NIV)  Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

(Ephesians 4:30 NIV)  And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

(1 Thessalonians 5:19 NIV)  Do not put out the Spirit’s fire;

How do you change to the “new way” of the Spirit

  • Deliberately stop thinking in terms of rules (cf. die to the law). Am I good enough? (of course not!). Is it a sin to…? God didn’t give us law, lists, etc. that was totally dominate our thinking…this isn’t the usual language of the new way in the Spirit.
  • It’s legalistic in its way of thinking
  • Instead, start thinking in terms of relationship, pleasing someone we love who is close to us.
  • Re-envision your Christianity in terms of being in a relationship with God. (remember, I will not leave you as orphans, children of God).
  • Talk to him respectfully but as in a real relationship, open yourself up to him, pour your heart out to him, greatest commandment is to love God w/ all our heart, soul, mind, & strength, what does that mean?
  • I’ve done this and that…”what else do you want me to do?”
  • What does it mean to love our spouses or our children or our friends? The idea of WWJD is pretty good, except that it has become pop religion and frequently doesn’t have much substance to it.
  • Can we really do WWJD or even know WWJD if we aren’t also doing what he did regularly in terms of spending time alone with God?
  • Give God opportunities to write his word on our hearts (pray, open, read, meditate)—this fits fruit-bearing. You must come to a personal understanding of what that means

 If we want the power of God to transform our lives, we need to do some work and also make ourselves available for God to do some work to transform us deep within by the power of his Spirit.

 
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Posted by on October 1, 2018 in God

 

Spiritual Viruses


Matthew 23:27: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean”

The single most destructive disease, the single most devastating illness, is the sickness within – the sickness in the soul.

There are a number of spiritual viruses that can invade, infect, and poison our souls. Let’s take a closer look at three of the most common spiritual viruses that make us victims of soul sickness.

Describe what a virus is and how it works in the computer world.

PRIDE IS A SICKNESS OF THE SOUL.
Matthew 6:1-2: “Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets; to he honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.

Pride manifests itself in a variety of ways, but it can be identified quickly with an excess use of the word “I’ “my” and “mine.” It’s an attitude that acts as if something of God or of a corporate belongs to “ME!”

Every ministry of God is shared by each of us…it is not our personal possession upon which we can draw attention to ourselves.

(Psa 10:4) “In his pride the wicked does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.” 

(Psa 31:18) “Let their lying lips be silenced, for with pride and contempt they speak arrogantly against the righteous.” (Prov 8:13) “To fear the LORD is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech.”

(Prov 11:2) “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.”

(Prov 13:10) “Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice.”

(Prov 16:18) “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”

(Prov 29:23) “A man’s pride brings him low, but a man of lowly spirit gains honor.”

(Eccl 7:8) “The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride.”

HATRED IS A· SICKNESS OF THE SOUL.
Matthew 5:43-44: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you…love your enemies and pray for those
who persecute you.” (Prov 10:12) “Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs.”

(Prov 10:18) “He who conceals his hatred has lying lips, and whoever spreads slander is a fool.” (Prov 15:17) “Better a meal of vegetables where there is love than a
fattened calf with hatred.”

(Gal 5:20) “idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions”

WORRY IS A SPIRITUAL VIRUS THAT LEADS TO SOUL SICKNESS.
Matthew 6:25, 33-34: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear….Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?”

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough troubles of its own.”

 
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Posted by on September 27, 2018 in counsel

 
 
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