Happiness is Not Our Goal

This is a hard subject, but we in the West often believe that the primary goal of our life is to be happy. The Declaration of Independence for the United States of America promotes the concept that mankind is endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But is happiness the goal in life?

You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier. (2 Timothy 2:3-4)

The fact that we are born to be happy is rarely questioned by anyone. No one bothers to prove that fallen human beings have ANY moral right to happiness, or that they are any better off happy. The goal is often to get the most happiness out of life.

I was read A. W. Tozer and he writes that “the whole hectic scramble after happiness is an evil as certainly as is the scramble after money or fame or success….”

This can be easily discovered by simply reading the New Testament. The emphasis of God is not upon our happiness but upon our holiness. God is more concerned with the state of people’s hearts than with the state of their feelings.

The soldier does not seek to be happy in the field; he seeks rather to get the fighting over with, to win the war and get back home to his loved ones. When he gets home, it is there that he or she may enjoy life to the fullest. While the battle is raging, his most pressing job is to be a good soldier regardless of how he feels. (from “Of God and Men” pp. 48-49)

Ask yourself a few direct questions…

  1. Do you seek your holiness more than your happiness?
  2. Will you reorganize your priorities to reflect your commitment to Christ and his kingdom?
  3. Will you allow God to speak to you through your reading his Word, so you better know the leadership of the Holy Spirit in your life? [ Read the Bible in 2014 ]
  4. Who in your life will hold you accountable for the commitments you know that you need to make?

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The Importance of Purity

God gave man and woman the joy and pleasure of sexual relations within the bounds of marriage, and the Bible is clear about the importance of maintaining sexual purity within the boundaries of that union between man and wife (Ephesians 5:31). We take this to extremes, outside of marriage and it causes all sorts of troubles. The secular world’s philosophy of “if it feels good, do it” permeates our culture to the point where sexual purity is seen as archaic and unnecessary.

Let’s look at what God says about sexual purity.

You should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5, 7).

This passage outlines God’s reasons for calling for sexual purity in the lives of His followers.

We are “sanctified” and for that reason, we are to avoid sexual immorality.

  1. The Greek word translated “sanctified” means literally “purified, made holy, consecrated [unto God].”
  2. As Christians, we are to live a purified life because we have been made holy by the exchange of our sin for the righteousness of Christ on the cross and have been made completely new creations in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17-21).
  3. Our old natures, with all their impurities, sexual and otherwise, have died and now the life we live, we live by faith in the One who died for us (Galatians 2:20).
  4. To continue in sexual impurity (fornication) is to deny that and doing so is, in fact, a legitimate reason to question whether we have ever truly been born again.
  5. Sanctification, the process by which we become more and more Christlike, is an essential evidence of the reality of our salvation.

We see the necessity of controlling our bodies.

  1. When we give in to sexual immorality, we give evidence that the Holy Spirit is not indwelling us because we do not possess one of the fruits of the Spirit—self-control.
  2. All believers display the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) to a greater or lesser degree depending on the length of time they have walked with God.
  3. Uncontrolled “passionate lust” is a work of the flesh (Galatians 5:19), not of the Spirit. So controlling our lusts and living sexually pure lives is essential to anyone who professes to know Christ. In doing so, we honor God with our bodies (1 Corinthians 6:18-20).

We know God’s rules and discipline reflect His love for us.

  1. Following what God says can only help us during our time on earth.
  2. By maintaining sexual purity before marriage, we avoid past emotional entanglements that may negatively affect present relationships and marriages.
  3. Further by keeping the marriage bed pure (Hebrews 13:4), we can experience unreserved love for our mates, which is surpassed only by God’s enormous love for us.

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What’s Up with Moses’ Shoes?

Travel anywhere having to go through an airport and you see one common sight going through security checkpoints… people removing their shoes in order to proceed. As Moses approached the Burning Bush, God instructed him to do the same thing (Exodus 3:5). BTW, the same thing happens to Joshua as he encounters God (Joshua 5:15).

Socially:
I have known many people from different cultures, from the Middle East, to North Africa, to Asia, and one common thread when entering a person’s home is to remove your shoes. It is not only an issue of cleanliness (eliminating mud, dirt, filth and whatever one perhaps stepped on) but it is also a sign of respect. Moses needed to stand before God in respect and recognition that he stood on God’s turf. If we refuse to remove our shoes, it is an insult to the homeowner; let’s not insist on having our own way.

Literally and Figuratively:
In Africa, I was amazed at the locals ability to walk around barefoot. Whenever I tried to “go native” there was hot pavement, sharp stones, and all sorts of debris that caused me pain. Shoes protect you from feeling thorns, stones and debris found on the road. So, when you walk down the road barefoot, you feel everything you step on. When you walk down the road in shoes, you pass along quite easily, oblivious to what could be painful to others without shoes.

At this appointment service for Moses, he was commanded to remove his shoes. Perhaps God wanted him to walk through life “barefoot” so that he could feel and understand every bit of pain and sorrow his people experienced. Moses could not isolate himself from the plight of his people. He could not put on his figurative shoes of indifference, caring for himself, at the cost of feeling the distress of God’s people. We also should take off our shoes of apathy and be sensitive to opportunities to do kindness to others.

Spiritually:
When it comes to shoe removal, it seems that as Moses stood there on the mountain, in the presence of God, there was a thin strip of leather that came between Moses and the Holy Ground. The shoes were a man-made and self-imposed barrier, and God wanted Moses to actually touch the holy ground in order to experience the transference of holiness to his chosen leader. Touch is a powerful method and symbol of transference (Exodus 29:10, Leviticus 16:21-22, Acts 13:2-3) and God wanted nothing between them, even something so insignificant as a shoe.

Emotionally:
Since God said to remove the shoes, we might think that to be a rather silly request or requirement, but there is a simple truth here; we cannot come to God on our own terms. We come to God only on his terms. There is no self-style worship or obedience allowed. Also, when you think about the greatness of God, aren’t we supposed to stand there feeling rather insignificant? Is there anything more emotionally humiliating that standing barefoot while everyone else is dressed up for a black-tie event? We come before God in humility, not strutting into his presence any way we feel like it.

Maybe we all should come to worship with bare feet.

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Suffering and Glory

These are notes from my reading John R. W. Stott’s classic book, The Cross of Christ.

According to the Bible, suffering is an alien intrusion into God’s good world, and it will have no part in his new universe.

  1. Suffering is often caused due to sin, or the sin of others: children suffer with unloving or irresponsible parents, poor and hungry people suffer from economic injustice, refugees suffer from cruelties of war, people suffer in road casualties cause by alcohol.
  2. Suffering can be a reckless use of our freedom. There is cause and effect but it is much different than Hindu karma. Think about how unreliable the universe would be receiving pain for every wrong step and pleasure for every good step.
  3. Suffering is due to the human sensitivity to pain: but pain is a valuable warning sign that something is wrong (Dr. Paul Brand, leprosy, and feeling pain).
  4. Suffering is due to the kind of environment God has placed us: laws of nature are in effect when the hurricane devastates a coastal town.

Stoics believed that suffering is meaningless, but Jesus spoke of it as revealing God’s glory. What then is the relationship between Christ’s suffering and ours? How does the cross speak to our pain?

Patient Endurance: while suffering is to be recognized as evil therefore resisted, there comes a time when it must be realistically accepted. It is no credit to us if we are beaten for doing wrong, but if we suffer for doing good and endure it, this would be pleasing to God (1 Peter 2:18-23, Hebrews 12:1-3).

Mature Holiness (Hebrews 2:10, 5:8-9, 7:28, James 1:2-4): Jesus was made perfect through suffering, and he was never disobedient. Here are biblical images of suffering and discipline:

  1. A father disciplines his children: this is an expression of love. No discipline means no love.
  2. God as a refiner of gold: heat to purify and remove the dross.
  3. Jesus mentions his allegory of the vine: pruning to bear fruit.

God intends suffering to be a means of grace; it develops humility and deepens insight.

Suffering Service (John 12:23-26, 32-33): death is more than the way to life; it is the secret of fruitfulness. Unless it falls into the ground and dies, it remains a single seed. Paul found meaning in his suffering; the greatest secret of evangelism or missionary effectiveness is the willingness to suffer and die for the sake of others:

  1. For the sake of the Gentiles (Ephesians 3:1, 13)
  2. For the sake of the body (Colossians 1:24)
  3. For the sake of the elect (2 Timothy 2:8-10)

The Hope of Glory (Hebrews 12:2): suffering should be expected; don’t be surprised by it (Matthew 5:10-12, John 15:18-21, Philippians 1:30, 1 Thessalonians 3:3, 1 Peter 2:21, 4:12, 2 Timothy 3:12). It is the hope of glory than makes suffering bearable. What happens to us down here cannot compare to the next life. Suffering is God’s appointed path toward sanctification (mature holiness), multiplication (fruitful service), and glorification (our final destiny).

The Ground of a Reasonable Faith: Job had the attitude of self-pity and self-assertion, while his friends’ attitude may be described as self-accusation. The goal is self-surrender, which Job realizes at the end of the book.

The Pain of God: the cross of Christ is proof of God’s love, that it is personal, loving solidarity with us in our pain. Philip Yancey wrote a book called, “Where is God When it Hurts?” and asked an interesting question, “If God is truly in charge, somehow connected to all the world’s suffering, why is he so capricious, unfair?” Similar to Job 9:23, like God mocking the despair of the innocent. But God is not on a deck chair watching us, he was on the cross, and continues to suffer with us today.

Outside of Lazarus’ tomb, Jesus wept with those who grieved and snorted with indignation. He wept over Jerusalem, lamenting over their blindness and obstinacy.

Nobel Peace Prize winner (1986) Elie Wiesel wrote about his time in the death camps of Auschwitz, Buna and Buchenwald and came to this conclusion: he heard over and over the question about “Where is God? Where is he?” and as they were force to watch hangings at the gallows, he heard it again, “Where is God now?” He heard a voice within him answer, “Here he is…he is hanging here on this gallows.” God in Christ suffers with his people still.

Seven Affirmations in the Letter to the Galatians:

  1. The Cross and Salvation (Galatians 1:3-5): an introductory statement that is theologically balance and indicates what the letter is going to be about.
    1. The death of Jesus was voluntary and determined.
    2. The death of Jesus was for our sins.
    3. The purpose of Jesus’ death was to rescue us.
    4. The present result of Jesus’ death is grace and peace.
    5. The eternal result of Jesus’ death is that God will be glorified forever.
  2. The Cross and Experience (Galatians 2:19-21): in context Paul writes about justification, how a righteous God can declare sinful humans as righteous. Several times he repeats it is not by the law. The death of Jesus on the cross satisfied the demands of the law.
  3. The Cross and Preaching (Galatians 3:1-3): once you have begun in faith in Christ, why continue in their own achievement?
    1. Gospel-preaching proclaims the cross visually (prographo).
    2. Gospel-preaching proclaims the cross visually as a present reality (to accept or reject).
    3. Gospel-preaching proclaims the cross as a visual, present and permanent reality (perfect tense indicates a permanent benefit of the historical action).
    4. Gospel-preaching proclaims the cross also as an object of personal faith (we continue in faith and grace, not personal efforts).
  4. The Cross and Substitution (Galatians 3:10-14): here is the meaning and consequence of the faith. Here is Paul’s logic:
    1. All who rely upon the law are under a curse (Galatians 2:16, 3:10, 11, 12, Deuteronomy 27:26, Habakkuk 2:4).
    2. Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us (plain statement of substitution, Galatians 3:13).
    3. Christ did this in order that in him the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, by faith (Galatians 3:14).
  5. The Cross and Persecution (Galatians 5:11, 6:12)
    1. Preaching circumcision is to preach salvation by the law.
    2. Preaching the cross is to preach salvation by God’s grace alone.
  6. The Cross and Holiness (Galatians 5:24): there are acts of the flesh and acts/fruit of the Spirit).
  7. The Cross and Boasting (Galatians 6:14): false teachers where obsessed with the numbers of their converts.
    1. To glory or boast in the cross is to see it as the way of acceptance with God.
    2. To glory or boast in the cross is to see it as the pattern of our self-denial.

The Cross in Galatians:

  1. The grounds for our justification (Galatians 1:4, 3:13)
  2. The means of our sanctification (Galatians 2:20, 5:24, 6:14)
  3. The subject of our witness (Galatians 3:1, 5:11, 6:12)
  4. The object of our boasting (Galatians 6:14, 17, Philippians 3:18)

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The Problem of Forgiveness

These are notes from my reading John R. W. Stott’s classic book, The Cross of Christ.

Why does our forgiveness depend upon the death of Christ? Why does God not just forgive us without the necessity of the cross? Why can’t God practice what he preaches and forgive without condition, as he instructs in Matthew 6:14-15, 18:21-22? If we believe that God can forgive us as we forgive others, we have not yet considered the seriousness of our sin. The obligation of the forgiven is to forgive. God need no forgiveness and we overlook the fact that we are not God. This attitude demonstrates our shallowness. Our sin is not a personal injury toward God, it is downright rebellion against him.

How does God express his holy love? How can he forgive sin without compromising his holiness? How can he judge sinners without frustrating his love? Stott focuses on four concepts:

The Gravity of Sin:

  1. Five Greek words for sin: hamartia (missing the target); adikia (unrighteousness or iniquity); poneria (evil of a vicious kind); paraptoma (trespass or transgression); anomia (lawlessness or disregard of a known law).
  2. The emphasis of Scripture is the godless self-centeredness of sin. We proclaim our independence and autonomy; taking a position reserved for God alone. Sin is defiance, arrogance and the desire to be equal with God.
  3. David’s confession, his sin was against God (Psalm 51:4). Sin cannot be dismissed a simply a cultural taboo or a social blunder. Sin has a willful and defiant or disloyal quality: someone is defiled or offended or hurt.

Human Moral Responsibility:
Is it fair to blame human beings for their misconduct? Are we responsible for our actions? Scapegoats include: genes, chemistry, inherited traits, parental failures, early childhood upbringing, educational or social environment.

Criminal law determines assumes that people have the power to choose whether or not to break the law and treats them accordingly. There is even a distinction between intentional and unintentional homicide (between murder and manslaughter – which is straight out of Mosaic law). Liability also may depend upon moral and mental factors: the intention of the mind and the will. Lack of consciousness and control will always need to be defined. Trying and convicting and sentencing in the courts is based on the assumption people are free to make choices, being free agents.

The Bible emphasizes original sin, as an inheritance, so we are tainted and twisted from the start (Mark 7:21-23, John 8:34). We are enslaved to the world (public fashion and opinion), the flesh (our fallen nature) and the devil (demonic forces). At the same time the Bible tells us that while our responsibility is diminished, it is not demolished. We are morally responsible. We are to choose between life and death, good and evil, between the living God and idols (Matthew 23:37). Yet no one may come unless the Father draws him (John 6:44, 5:40). If men do not come to Christ, is it because they cannot or they will not? This is the debate between divine sovereignty and human responsibility. Man does not sin out of weakness but he chooses to let himself go into weakness. There is always a spark of decision.

True and False Guilt: If humans have sinned, and they are responsible for their sins, that makes them guilty before God. There is a guilt that is deserved (John 3:19, men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil). This is a deliberate rejection of truth and goodness. False guilt looks at the cross and senses sorrow and guilt for Christ dying on the cross. We must understand that we did this, we are guilty. But it is false guilt to leave it there, and not talk about forgiveness of that sin. We must not look at the cross and only feel the shame for what we did to Christ, we must see the glory of what he did for us. Like the Prodigal Son, a guilty conscience is a great blessing, but only if it drives us to come home.

If there is false guilt (feeling bad for what we have not done), there is also false innocence (feeling good about the evil we have done). False contrition is unhealthy (ungrounded weeping over guilt) and so is false assurance (ungrounded rejoicing over forgiveness).

To say that someone is not responsible for their actions is to demean him as a human being. Eve blaming the snake, Nazis blaming they were only following orders.

Holiness and God’s Wrath: Our sins separate us from him, his face is hidden and he does not hear our prayers (Habakkuk 1:13, Isaiah 59:1-2). Moses hid his face. Isaiah had a sense of uncleanness. Job sat as a despised man. Ezekiel saw only a likeness of God’s glory. Peter recognized his sinfulness. John fell on his face as though he were a dead man. Closely related to God’s holiness is his wrath, which is the only reaction to evil.

The impersonal character of God’s wrath: this makes wrath not a divine attribute, but it is transformed into a process. Perhaps Paul’s adoption of impersonal wrath is not to affirm that God is not angry, but to emphasize that his anger is void of any personal malice. It is a fact, a process. Perhaps speaking to God’s anger is legitimate anthropomorphism.

Metaphors to God’s separation from sin: height (high and lifted up); distance (we dare not approach too close – Moses, Isaiah, the Tabernacle, and Uzzah); light and fire (a consuming fire that we cannot approach); and the most dramatic is vomiting (idolatrous practices were abhorred, disgusting, loathed, and lukewarmness was to be spit out). The point is that God cannot be in the presence of sin. We must hate evil and be disgusted with it. We cannot walk the road of moral compromise. Sin does not often provoke our anger and we then we do not believe our sin will provoke God’s anger.

This is essential to understanding the cross: balanced understanding of the gravity of our sin and the majesty of God. Diminish either and we diminish the cross. Forgiveness for God is one of the most profound problems. God must not only respect us as responsible beings, but also must respect himself as the only holy God. Before a holy God can forgive us, there must be some kind of necessary satisfaction.

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Becoming Holy, Becoming Ourselves

The primary passage for today is from Ephesians 1:3-6, focusing in on holiness. I listen to K-Love radio here in town and I love this song by Jason Gray. Here are a few lines from his song:

Now I won’t deny the worst you could say about me.
But I’m not defined by mistakes that I’ve made,
Because God says of me

I am not who I was, I’m being remade; I am new
I am chosen and holy and I’m dearly loved, I am new

Too long have I lived in the shadows of shame
Believing that there was no way I could change
But the one who is making everything new
Doesn’t see me the way that I do

Holiness is not talked about much these days, but the Bible is clear that God is the holy One who desires for us to be holy as well (Ephesians 1:4) and even Peter gives an imperative to, “Be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:15-16). In many people’s minds, holiness is more associated with an attitude of superiority, like saying someone has a “holier than thou” attitude, which is actually found in the Bible (Isaiah 65:5), where in the King James says, “Stand by thyself, come not near to me; for I am holier than thou.” The NLT puts it this way, “Don’t come too close or you will defile me! I am holier than you.”

Perhaps the single most important attribute the Bible gives for God is his holiness. The most familiar may be found in Revelation 4:8, where “each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings. Day and night they never stop saying: “‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,’ who was, and is, and is to come.” So what does it mean to become holy?

First: I read recently that to be holy in a Christlike way, is in fact to become more truly ourselves.

  1. The point is that we should become the person God intends for us to become; no masks, no deception, no hypocrisy.
  2. We are to be people of integrity, be the same person on the inside and the outside, always being real and authentic.

Second: When we use Jesus as our example, we discover that he was a holy servant who relates to others.

  1. He mingled with people
  2. He hung out with sinners
  3. He knew lost people
  4. He made outcasts feel relaxed
  5. He accepted people unconditionally

The relationships he had developed with others were characterized by awareness, insight, and responsiveness:

  1. He noticed Zaccheus hiding in a tree (Luke 19:4, 5)
  2. He heard the passionate cry of a blind beggar in a noisy crowd (Matthew 20:29, 30)
  3. He took time for a foreign woman in distress over her daughter being cruelly possessed by a demon (Matthew 15:22, 28)
  4. He felt power leave him as a hurting woman touched the hem of his robe (Matthew 9:20-21, 22).

To become holy is to be less concerned with self, and more focused on the needs of others around us.

Third: Jesus also has a devoted closeness with the Father, and his single passion was the kingdom of God. The Bible teaches that Jesus was concerned with one thing, to do the will of the Father.

  1. Why is it that you were looking for Me? Did you not know that I had to be in My Father’s house (or about my Father’s business)? (Luke 2:49)
  2. I can do nothing on My own initiative As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. (John 5:30)
  3. He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me. (John 14:24)
  4. “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.” (Luke 22:42)
  5. I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do. (John 17:4)

Without developing our intimacy with God, holiness will always be out of reach. Holy people are the ones who have made God and his mission first place in their lives.

How to Become Holy:

H – Heaven

  1. Presence: we will live in God’s presence. Focus on the spiritual discipline of solitude.
    1. Jesus retreated to the desert for 40 days (Matthew 4:1-2)
    2. Spent the night in prayer before making a huge decision (Luke 6:12-13)
    3. Sought the Father in a time of stress (Luke 22:41-42)
  2. Preparation: for heaven. Focus on the spiritual discipline of Bible study.
    1. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. (1 John 5:13)
    2. Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth. (John 17:17)
    3. When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments. (2 Timothy 4:13)
    4. Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it. (Luke 11:28)
    5. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. (James 1:22)
  3. Pursuit: being blameless and spotless. Focus on a bride being presented to her groom.
    1. So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. (2 Peter 3:14)
    2. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. (Ephesians 1:4)
    3. I saw the holy city, the New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. (Revelation 21:2-3)
  4. Paul: he called himself the chief of sinners. Focus on the worst person, yet still forgiven and made ready for heaven.
    1. No one is perfect, yet we have a new motivation for right behavior.
    2. Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. (1 Timothy 1:15)
    3. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

O – Obedience

  1. Commands: of Christ, his conditional statements: Here are some awesome results for our obedience.
    1. Showing Our Love for Christ: If you love me you will keep my commandments (John 14:15)
    2. Abiding in God’s Love: If you keep my commandments you will abide in my love, as I have kept my Father’s commands and abide in his love (John 15:10)
    3. Perfecting God’s Love: But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did (1 John 2:5-6)
    4. Having God Live Within Us: If a man loves me, he will keep my words (John 14:23)
    5. Experiencing God’s Love: Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them (John 14:21)
    6. Knowing Christ Intimately: And we can be sure that we know him if we obey his commandments (1 John 2:3)
    7. Being a Truthful Witness: If someone claims, “I know God,” but doesn’t obey God’s commandments, that person is a liar and is not living in the truth (1 John 2:4)
    8. Being a Friend of Jesus: You are my friends if you do what I command (John 15:14–15)
    9. Having Prayers Answered: And we will receive from him whatever we ask because we obey him and do the things that please him (1 John 3:22)
    10. Bearing Much Fruit: When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father (John 15:7–8)
    11. Loving One Another: We know we love God’s children if we love God and obey his commandments. Loving God means keeping his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome (1 John 5:2–3)
    12. Being a True Disciple: I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples (John 13:34–35)
    13. Demonstrating Ultimate Love: This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (John 15:12–13)
    14. Obeying the Great Commission: Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age (Matthew 28:19–20)
  2. Confirmation: evidence of a changed life. Focus on metamorphosis, like the caterpillar transforming into a butterfly (Romans 12:1, 2).
    1. And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice–the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.
    2. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

L – Lordship

  1. Confidence: about Christ. Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws. (Matthew 7:21-23)
  2. Crucified: with Christ. My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)
  3. Compassion: of Christ. Think of a heart transplant. Jesus had compassion:
    1. On the multitude without a shepherd (Matthew 9:36)
    2. On the hungry (Mark 8:2)
    3. On the ill (Matthew 14:14)
    4. On the blind (Matthew 20:34)
    5. On the demon possessed (Mark 9:22, 25)
    6. On the lepers (Mark 1:40-41)
    7. On the bereaved (Luke 7:12-13, John 11:33)
    8. On the lost (Luke 15:20, 1-2)
  4. Conviction: fire insurance in one’s spiritual life may be when we say yes to escape hell but are not really that interested in the things of God. Check out these lyrics by Jason Gray.
    1. More like falling in love, than something to believe in. More like losing my heart, than giving my allegiance. Caught up, called out, come take a look at me now, It’s like I’m falling in love…
    2. Remember that we do not make Jesus Lord of our lives, he is already the Lord; will we submit to his lordship?

Y – Yourself

  1. Conversion: Take off the old self, put on the new self. Make sure that you add this part to your story. Become the person God intends for you to become. He doesn’t save us for us to go right on living the same old way we did before encountering Christ.
    1. This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! (2 Corinthians 5:17)
    2. Our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin (Romans 6:6)
    3. In reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted (Ephesians 4:22)
  2. Conforming: to the imitation of Christ. For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son (Romans 8:29)
  3. Conduct: yielding to the Spirit’s leadership. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. (John 14:17)

Self evaluation is an essential component as we live the Christian life, to always make sure we are of the faith (1 Corinthians 11:28, 31).

There is security in Christ because our salvation does not depend upon our own efforts, but there is an element of being in partnership with God. Check out this verse:

So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12).

Our challenge today is to become holy. At the beginning I mentioned that when we become the people that God created us to be, we become like Christ, and therefore please him beyond anything else, that we are walking in the truth (2 John 1:4, 3 John 1:4).

MercyMe has a song called, So Long Self:

So long self
Well it’s been fun, but I have found somebody else
So long self
There’s just no room for two
So you are gonna have to move
So long self
Don’t take this wrong but you are wrong for me farewell
Oh well, Goodbye, don’t cry
So Long Self

Become the person God has meant for you to be. Look over the list in the bulletin again. Decide today that your goal is holiness.

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Becoming Holy

One of my passions is to encourage people toward higher levels of commitment to Christ and His church. The Bible says we are to become holy, as He is holy (1 Peter 1:15). But what does that really mean?

The holiness we are to exhibit is not our own, but the holiness of Christ in us. We are not holy, not will we become holy humans. Christ in us can manifest His holiness only if we will yield our flesh to Him. This is not a human operation; it is a spiritual one. Jesus lives out His holiness in us by grace. It is not a once-for-all-time transaction; it is a daily, moment-by-moment striving to live more by the Spirit and less by the flesh.

Becoming holy is a process that includes God’s part and our part. On one hand, our part is to stay out of God’s part—to yield, to surrender, to stop seeking God on our own terms. But our part also is to obey. It is to enter His rehabilitation program.

When you put yourself under a doctor’s care, he cannot help you if you don’t follow his instructions. As the patient surrenders his own good ideas and obeys the doctor’s prescription, he becomes well. The same is true in sanctification. If you and I want to be made holy, then we must willingly surrender ourselves to His care, and we must also actively obey His instructions.

We have no more power to make ourselves holy than a dying man has to save himself. We are weak and tired, and we cannot offer much help. However, we can submit to His rehabilitation program—sanctification. The key to our part is faith—to seek Him in obedience.

(From Walking with Christ in the Details of Life by Patrick Morley)

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Paul and the Call of God

The will of God is sort of a generalized idea, directed toward the world. But Paul was sure that the purpose of God was not a generalized but an individualized purpose. God calls individuals to work out that purpose.

The call to salvation:

  1. For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, (1 Thessalonians 5:9)
  2. But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. (2 Thessalonians 2:13)

The call to holiness (hagios) to be different: For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification. (1 Thessalonians 4:7)

The call to peace: we are not play-things of the gods, ones that did not care about mortal man. One has no peace with the concept of God. Yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such [cases,] but God has called us to peace. (1 Corinthians 7:15)

The call to grace: in opposition to the law, which was both obligatory and impossible. Man was forever in default. I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; (Galatians 1:6)

The call to fellowship: God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. (1 Corinthians 1:9)

The call to share in the kingdom and Christ’s glory: as opposed to the cross being some kind of emergency measure of God when all else that He tried had failed. Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love (Ephesians 1:4)

The call came to men supremely in Christ: Among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ; (Romans 1:6)

The call came by the preaching of the Gospel: And it was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 2:14)

This material is from William Barclay, the Mind of St. Paul, 1975.

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Integrity in the Workplace

Men, we spend a lot of our time at work. This news is not all that alarming, because I read that 10 out of 10 men are trying to discover ways to balance home and work responsibilities. I’m not too sure that many men come to the end of this life and confess that they wish they had spent more time at the office. Check out these haunting lyrics from a band called 33 Miles:

He never thought he cared so much about the minute hand until he started praying for a second chance.
If he could only do it all again he’d trade the long nights that he spent behind his desk for all he missed.
He tells his wife “I wish that this moment in this room was not me dying, but just spending a little time with you.”

Chorus:
You only get just one time around.
You only get one shot at this.
One chance, to find out
The one thing that you don’t wanna miss.
One day when it’s all said and done
I hope you see that it was enough, this
One ride, one try, one life to love….

She never thought she cared so much about those little hands that held on tight the day she left, ’til she was scared to death.
Sitting all alone on a hotel bed, the end of the road, the sun had set on her big plans to feel young again,
She picks up the phone, dials the number, hears that little voice that’s haunted every single mile since she made that choice.

We all want to be right with God and others, so take a look at this verse from Psalm 15:

“LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill?” (Ps 15:1).

What is it like in the marketplace of America? I discovered that in February 2001 Sales and Marketing magazine did a survey and found that among those surveyed:

  • 58% cheat on expense reports
  • 50% work a second job on company time
  • 36% rush closed deals through accounting before they were really closed
  • 22% list a “strip bar” as a restaurant on an expense report
  • 19% give a kickback to a customer

If Psalm 15 were the core value of every business plan and purpose statement and reviewed with every employee before hiring, the workplace would be a very different place. What type of person can live in the presence of God? Take a look at what each verse of Psalm 15:1, 2, 3, 4, 5 has to tell us.

David will bless God with heart-felt worship (Psalm 15:1). He recognizes that worship is not just good for others, but even for the king. As the man of your house, what sort of example are you setting for your wife and children? Do they see that entrance into God’s presence each week (corporately) and each day (privately or with family) is the ultimate priority in your life?

I like to use the phrase, “a holy walk” when it comes to this man’s integrity. As a man goes through life, his actions (the way he lives) are different, or set apart, from those in the world around him (Psalm 15:2). He keeps his promises (Psalm 15:4)

This man also uses honest words, and speaks the truth, which come from his heart, rather than using flattering or even slanderous speech (Psalm 15:2, 3). We see in this psalm that the man after God’s own heart speaks the truth in his heart, I see this as honesty with his secret words (Psalm 15:2b). He also is full of integrity with his spoken words (Psalm 15:3a).

We also see this man is involved in hard work for the Kingdom of God; the psalmist gets specific in that he “works righteousness.” This guy does what is right, even when it’s unpopular and all others around him are compromising (Psalm 15:2).

And David will bless God with his honoring ways (Psalm 15:5). He lends differently than the oppressors in town, he doesn’t make decisions based on what he can get out of it but on the criteria of whether is it right. He makes the tough call that honors God and builds up people. This man does not take a bribe nor does he look for the short cut.

The promise in this psalm is well worth it, “He who does these things will never be shaken” (Psalm 15:5).

So, ask yourself:

  • Are you blameless in your approach to your work life?
  • Are you truthful in all your dealings?
  • Do you treat customers, vendors and fellow employees as your neighbor?
  • Do you say what you do truthfully and do what you say?
  • Do you follow through even if the outcome may not be positive?
  • Will you lend money without interest to a friend and refuse to take a bribe?
  • Are you passionate about the Kingdom of God and seeking His righteousness (Matthew 6:33)?

If you can say “yes” to these questions, then you are a “Psalm 15 Man” and can live with and abide in God.

Pray that God makes this psalm a part of your life and begin to ask God to show you how to live out this psalm in all you do.

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