What does the grace of God look like?
Think about it. How would you respond if a person that is completely unfamiliar with Christianity were to ask you to define and prove God’s grace in your life? What would you say? I think most of us would struggle answering this question.
Our initial response might be that God has given me a great family, an awesome group of friends, a great home, a job that pays my bills, and the ability to enjoy life. But is this a satisfactory answer? Isn’t true that non-Christians experience and possess these same things as Christians? Consequently, we must conclude that our earthly possessions, our various occupations, and… even our relationships do not prove God’s grace upon our life. After all, if such things did in fact prove God’s grace, we must conclude that God hates those who live in third world countries! Why? Because those who reside in third world countries do not have great possessions, often die premature deaths (thus tearing apart families); and are very often homeless or malnourished. In short, we cannot prove God’s grace by what we own, who we know, or how we domicile upon this earth.
So… how do we prove God’s grace upon our life? Let’s take a look at Acts 11:21-24.
21 And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned (REPENTANCE) to the Lord. 22 The report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful (Obedience in pursuing God) to the Lord with steadfast purpose, 24 for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit (The Fruit of the Spirit) and of faith (Trust in God). And a great many people were added to the Lord.
From this passage we observe two things:
We prove the fact that God’s grace is upon our life through our desire for God, our pursuit of God, and God’s sanctifying work within us. Consequently, if we lack a desire for God and fail to actively pursue God, then we are not under God’s grace but His wrath. Think of it like this, before God saved us (His greatest gift of grace), we had no desire for God; in fact, 1st John 4:19 tells us that our love for God is the direct result of God loving us first. That is, God gives us the ability and desire to love Him! Our love for God is the proof that God’s grace is upon us. When we were strangers and enemies of God, God reconciled us to Himself (Rom. 5:10). God gave us His Spirit to enable us to cry out to Him as Father (Gal. 4:6). God’s Spirit within us gives us the ability to speak to God and intercedes on our behalf (Rom. 8:26). Succinctly stated, if we desire God and interact with Him, it is God’s grace upon us that enables us to do so—God’s gift of grace to us results in us drawing near to God.
With this foundation in place, let’s ask ourselves a few questions:
In answering these questions, we attempt to discover and remind ourselves of how God works within us and the benefits of such work. It is easy for us to forget that the point of our salvation is to bring us into a right and active relationship with God. I hope this reminds you of God’s gracious work of allowing us to enjoy and crave His presence.
As Christians, we feel an overwhelming discouragement that the rest of humanity does not feel. Most people (including Christians) feel discouragement when facing difficulties within their work places, their marriages, their health, their relationships, and in their finances. However, Christians have an additional level of discouragement when they fail God. You see, those who are opposed to God, be it passively or outright—do not concern themselves with the realization that their thoughts, actions, and desires dishonor God. On the other hand… when those who love Christ realize that our thoughts, passions, and actions dishonor God we feel overwhelmingly discouraged!
The prompt for such discouragement is not our sins—for we have ALWAYS sinned against God--rather, the prompt for discouragement within us is our awareness that we still expect God to pour out His wrath upon us for sinning! This lingering expectation of wrath within us is dangerous for two reasons: 1) it demonstrates a lack of knowledge of and faith in God; 2) it steals ALL hope of joy and pleasure in Christ from us. As Christians, when we experience discouragement, we must understand that this is an attack from Satan intended to keep us from enjoying and glorifying our God. With this in mind, let’s use the word of God to combat this lingering and deceptive discouragement.
“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.”
“The Spirit himself bears witness with our Spirit that we are children of God.”
“And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”
These three verses show us three major thoughts:
We face discouragement whenever we think that we are responsible for doing the work that only God can do. It is God who saves us. It is God who leads us. It is God who transforms us. Our responsibility is simply to place our faith in God and RUN into His presence. Instead of beating yourself up for sinning against God, return to His presence. When we realize that we are entangled in sin, let us cease from that sin and boldly run back to enjoying our God. We have ZERO ability to stop sinning (Rom. 7:18), but our God has the ability to give us life and sanctify us throughout life (Rom. 8:10-11).
So… what do we do with this? Here are three questions for self-examination:
It’s easy for us to beat ourselves up over how frequently we sin, the perversity in our sin, and our imperfections. However, it is equally easy for us to look at our God and rejoice in His work, nature, and love. Our work is that we must choose only one of these options two. We can either look at ourselves or God. Repentance is turning from ourselves and to God. Repentance is turning from our choice to dwell on sin, our failures, and our shortcomings in order to turn to the wondrous grace and mercy of our God. Our Lord invites us into His fellowship, Spirit-guided repentance brings us into His fellowship. We either trust God and approach Him, or we trust in ourselves and run from God.
Which one will you choose?
I love you!
What are you for?
While studying for Sunday’s upcoming sermon, I came across an article in the Christian Post addressing what unbelievers would like to hear from Christians. The article stated that unbelievers would like to know what Christians are in favor of more than what Christians are against. As I thought about this introspectively, I realized that I struggled with navigating within the tension between the negative and positive descriptions of faith in God.
From the negative means that we primarily conceptualize, describe, and define Christianity by WHAT IT IS NOT. From the positive means that we primarily conceptualize, describe, and define Christianity by WHAT IT IS. When we list the sins that we are supposed to avoid and the habits that steal our affections from God, we describe Christianity from the negative. However, when we describe the promises of God, the blessings associated with knowing Jesus Christ, and how we participate in spiritual disciplines we describe Christianity from the positive. Why does this matter? Well… both are required of us!
In John 3:36 Jesus says, “Whoever believes (positive) in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey (negative) the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on Him.”
The more I look at Jesus in His word, the more I see that Jesus perfectly navigated between the negative and positive descriptions of godly faith. However, the more I listen to how I preach and speak the more I realize that I primarily describe Christianity from the negative. On the other hand, I often hear people who describe Christianity exclusively from the positive. The danger is immense for both camps!
You see, for those of us who define and understand our faith from the negative, we fail to see the deep rewards, joy, and blessings that are found in Jesus. Our immense struggle against sin causes us to fail to enjoy the presence and work of God because. Conversely, for those that view Christianity only from the positive, they often lose a hatred for sin. That is, when one looks at only the blessings and promises from God, there is a tendency to forget and ignore the fact that God commands obedience and a rejection of sin. One camp loses joy. One camp loses holiness. The result? Neither truly represent the amazing saving work of Jesus Christ!
However, when we look at Jesus, we see a perfect harmony between avoiding sin (from the negative) and enjoying the Father (from the positive). This is why Christ is our example. We all fall, we all fail, we all lean to one side or the other—but Jesus is the absolute perfect example of resisting sin and abiding in fellowship with the Father. Bearing this in mind, let’s examine ourselves today in order to see where we are at on the spectrum between the negative and positive.
In our struggle against sin it is easy for us to lose our joy in Christ. In our desire to enjoy Christ it is easy for us to fail to struggle against sin. While we are on this earth, we live in a fallen and imperfect state. You and I will constantly waffle between the tension to abuse grace (indulging in sin) and the rejection of grace (legalism). The middle ground is where we must rest. It is the place where we believe in the work of God leading us to eternal life and we also adamantly reject the sin that God hates through the power of God. It is the place where we abide in the love of God and the holiness of God. So… how are you doing with this?
I hope this leads you to draw near to Jesus today! I look forward to worshiping with you this Wednesday at 7pm.
Why is the Christian life the way it is?
When surveying Christianity, have you ever wondered why it is so repetitious? Think about it, the Bible doesn’t change, the problems of humanity don’t change, the message of the gospel doesn’t change, the purpose of the church hasn’t changed, and God doesn’t change. Why? The answer is rather simple… Christianity remains changeless because it is supposed to change us!
The implications of this fact can be somewhat loathsome for us. On a daily basis as individuals, and on a weekly basis as a corporate church body, we are to expose ourselves to the same book, the same message, the same God, and the same work of the Spirit. 365 days a year for approximately 80 years (29,000+ days) we must hear the exact same thing! Why? Why this seemingly insane amount of repetition? If you think about it, there is nothing else in life that we expose ourselves to reviewing this much. We don’t review mathematics, the basics of our jobs, history, the rules of grammar, or anything else 29,000 times in our life! But we are to read the Bible and pray every day? Why?
There are three reasons we should look at Jesus every day through His Word and prayer:
First, holiness, righteousness, and godliness are not instinctive or inherent within us.
Romans 3:23 tells us we are all sinners. Isaiah 55:8-9 tells us that God’s ways and thoughts are not our ways or thoughts (what we think and do naturally is not in accord with God’s standard). Proverbs 14:12 tells us there is a way that seems right to us, but it is death (what we instinctively do and value leads to our destruction and damnation). Consequently, we must constantly be fed, guided, and refreshed by the Holy Spirit working through the Word of God if we are to walk in holiness, righteousness, and godliness (1st Cor. 6:11 & Rom. 12:1-2). If we do not seek the Lord daily, then we default back into our sinful ways!
Second, Christianity is a relationship, and relationships flourish through time and intimacy.
The reason we engage the Lord through the unchanging practices of Christianity on daily basis—even though we do not do so with any other subject—is due to the fact that our God lives and he relates to us through such practices. Sure, the Word of God does not change, nor does our God change… but He is alive and active. 1 John 1:3 tells us that we have fellowship with the Lord. 2 Cor. 6:16 tells us that we are the temple of the living God. 1 John 3:24 tells us that we know we belong to the Lord because His Spirit abides in us. These passages (and numerous others) serve to inform us that God is active among us and within us.
Consequently, we do not study God like an academic subject; rather, we routinely read, pray, and participate within the church body to know our God and enjoy His presence. In the same way that I cannot wait to get home from work each day to spend time with my family, we long for the opportunity to spend time with God each day. This makes Christianity a joy and privilege within our life that brings about our flourishing and God’s glory.
Thirdly, a failure to engage the Lord daily reveals that our heart does not belong to Him!
According the book of Hebrews, if we can go beyond (or past) Jesus, then we do not belong to Christ (Heb. 6:4-8 & 10:26-31). These passages serve as a gauge for identifying true believers. True Christians cannot go beyond Jesus, depart from Jesus, or ignore Jesus because Christ Jesus has captured their hearts and given them a new heart; that is, we are born again in Christ to an eternal life (1 Peter 1:2-4). Consequently, those who depart from the “faith” were never really apart of the “faith”; that is, just because someone says they are a Christian does not mean that they are a Christian—endurance in seeking Christ proves that Christ has saved us (1 John 2:19). What this means for us is this: those who love the Lord and are saved by God seek Him daily. However, those who do not really love the Lord (and have not been saved by Him) fail to regularly engage Him because they have no desire for Him. The warning is simple: IF YOU DO NOT DESIRE TO SEEK THE LORD YOU ARE NOT SAVED BY GOD. John says if we say we have fellowship with God, but don’t walk with God, we deceive ourselves and belong to the darkness (1 John 1:5-6)!
So, what do we do with this? Well… we ask ourselves a few questions and then we seek the Lord.
If, for one reason or another, you realize that you are not faithfully engaging the Lord, we must understand that no amount of effort will solve our independence from God. Instead, we must ask the Lord for His strength and, then, seek Him—we do not have the ability to enjoy the Lord apart from the work of the Lord. It is God that guides us into His presence. So, let’s begin by prayerfully asking God to help us walk with Him, then seek to know Him through His Word and His church.
Many things are simple to understand but incredibly difficult to master. For instance, a curve-ball. All that is required for a baseball to curve is placing a forward-right rotational spin on the ball. Pretty easy, right? Well… try to throw one. If you somehow manage to throw a curve-ball without wrecking your arm, now throw it at 85 mph so that a professional batter swings at and misses it! While the dynamics of a curve-ball are easy to understand, the ability to throw a solid curve-ball is rare and few have perfected it (the ones who have make millions each year!). The same is true of Christianity.
Think about it… Christianity is rather simple to understand:
Pretty simple, right?
The message of the gospel is that we can approach God without fear of judgment and condemnation because Jesus bore the full weight of the wrath destined for us. Christianity is a relationship with God instituted and initiated by God. It is rather simple; in fact, a child could grasp this. However, living this out is not so simple. Why? Our desires.
In Romans 1:24-28, Paul sheds light on the desires that motivate our wickedness. These desires are: 1) Our lust for impurity; 2) A thirst for degrading sexuality; & 3) a mind that elevates itself. All of us naturally yearn for the things God forbids! Meaning, we are born with an inherent thirst for evil. When we hear the gospel call us to Jesus, the core of who we are and what we desire must change. The need for such a change is easy to recognize and impossible to enact in and of ourselves.
You see, the difficult part of Christianity is not knowing the truth, the difficult part is walking in the truth. The truth is we do not have the power to live a godly life and in and of ourselves. This is why Christianity is so difficult for so many of us—we think we have to perfect and change ourselves through our own abilities! But this is not the case (see Gal. 3:1-5). Additionally, Christianity is not a one-time ticket purchase of a “get-out-hell-free card”—Christianity is a life-long, dynamic, and deepening relationship with God. Christianity is difficult for us because we face a constant temptation to dumb it down or live through our own power.
We like the easy road far more than we like the right road. Just as a pitcher practices throwing a curve-ball every day, so we too must practice the presence of God every day. In the course of time and practice, the young pitcher finds it easier to throw the curve-ball, and he does so with more speed and curve. In the course of time, we find it easier and more enjoyable to enter into the presence of God and enjoy Him.
This brings me to my question for the day: ARE YOU PRACTICING THE PRESENCE OF GOD?
Knowing that we should desire and do these things is not the same as DOING these things (James 1:22). It is easy to say we should seek the Lord, but the difficult work is the task of ceasing from the desires of our flesh and, instead, choosing to abide in the presence of the Lord. But know this… you are not alone or ill-equipped for such a task! Just as the young boy had a coach teach him to throw a curveball (and still does), we have a God teaching us and strengthening us to walk with Him!
I hope this encourages you to seek the Lord and enjoy His marvelous presence today!
13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matt. 7:13-14)
How are we to understand these verses? I believe we can summarize these verses in the following statement: Godliness is neither natural to us or inherent within us. On the other hand, ungodliness is quite natural to us. We are far better at sinning and rebelling against God than we are at righteously living for God. Why do I mention this? Because our ignorance of God and His ways is our biggest handicap in our lives.
Some would say sin is our biggest handicap; however, this is not the case. Sin is a rebellious condition that finds its sole remedy in the Lord. Humanity has ZERO ability within itself to remove or purge sin. Only God has the ability to remove our sin from us, and He does so when we repent (turn/return) to Him. Consequently, if we never repent towards God we will never find forgiveness and restoration through God. This is why I argue that our ignorance of God and His work is our greatest handicap—our life is hindered and damned through our lack of knowledge of the Lord. However, many disagree with this concept.
Most people think we are inherently good, but that we possess a few weaknesses that must be overcome. So… we work hard and strive towards a self-determined morality deemed ideal. Jesus, on the other hand, looks at this approach and says “wide and easy” is the way to destruction, but “narrow and hard” is the way to life! How hard? Impossibly hard! In fact, only Jesus was able to perfectly follow the path of righteousness without sinning. That is why Jesus calls Himself the “gate” to life and salvation (John 10:9). It is through Jesus’ righteousness alone that we find life in its fullest (John 10:10). Inversely, it is through our way of life that we find death, destruction, and damnation (Prov. 14:12).
Our greatest challenge is responding to the Lord by drawing near to the Lord. We draw near to the Lord through His word and through prayer. This is why Jesus is identified as the Word (John 1:1) and why He tells us to abide in Him through His word (John 15:5-11). But herein lies the rub… the vast majority of Christians do not abide in the word of God to the point that it shapes their worldview (understanding of life). Sure, they may read the Bible, but they do not allow it to construct the framework for which they live. The Barna Group recently demonstrated this.
In their annual “State of the Bible” research poll, the Barna Group discovered that only 5% of Americans engage the Bible in a manner that is considered Bible-Centered. Meaning, there are approximately 17 million Americans that allow the Bible to influence and shape their choices. Interestingly, 38% of Americans are friendly towards the Bible and read the Bible anywhere from sporadically to frequently; however, these individuals chose not to identify themselves as Biblically Centered. Meaning, they do not fully submit to or agree with the authority and instruction of the Bible! Jesus would identify these individuals as walking on the wide and comfortable path!
Because godliness is not inherent within or natural to us, we must actively seek to know and submit to God and His instruction. Only the Bible is the authoritative, inspired, and powerful word of God—no preacher, friend, spiritual-book, or song can assume the place of God’s word in our life. Sadly, 66% of Americans identify as Christian, but only 5% of Americans actually submit to the word of God!
What does this mean for us? Well… I think we need to ask ourselves a few questions:
Sure, we have a sin problem, but our sin problem is the direct result of our rejection of God’s word and authority (see Genesis ch. 3). Let us not be found ignorant of God’s word and rebellious towards it!
I love you and look forward to worshiping with you this week!
Have you ever found yourself muttering those words under your breath? Why?
What stirs within us the desire to give up on something or someone? Last Sunday we noticed that God gives people up when they reject Him on principle, through humanistic-philosophies, and for idolatrous pleasure (Rom. 1:18-32). We see that God gives people over the things that they want more than Him when they consistently reject Him. But why do we give up. Sadly, we do not “give up” the way God does. God is righteous; therefore, when God “gives up” on someone He allows that individual the freedom to indulge in the evil they desperately desire more than Him. Stated differently, God does not force anyone to love or worship Him—He gives us the choice to do so. However, when we give up, it is usually the result of exhaustion, feeling overwhelmed, or from the inability to see that value of pressing through the difficult times for the reward at the end.
All of us feel the temptation to give up on God.
Why do we feel like giving up on God? For starters, it’s not because God gives up on us; in fact, the Bible tells us that God will DEFINITELY complete the work He started in us (Phil. 1:6). We feel like giving up on God when we feel distant from God, feel isolated in our sin, feel the guilt associated with sin, and feel the damage of sin. We feel like giving up on God when we are in the midst of a heart change that relocates our source of pleasure in stuff to pleasure in God—the transition period is not always comfortable and makes us feel extremely unsettled! We feel like giving up on God when we face persecution, when feel that we don’t belong in various social groups we once identified with, or when we feel rejected by those we esteemed and valued. We feel like giving up on God when our finances are strained, our health diminishes, and our comforts are absent. We feel like giving up on God when those we love, like, and enjoy are tragically separated from us.
Pain, discomfort, rejection, persecution, and difficulties tempt us to quit our pursuit of God. However, the Bible instructs that these things can ACTUALLY MOTIVATE us to seek the Lord and experience His abiding comfort. While reading the Psalms this morning, I was reminded that the Lord is our source of joy when life doesn’t allow us to find joy. In Psalm 96, the author reminds himself (and us) to fear, worship, and glorify God. Why? Because God is honorable, majestic, strong, and beautiful (Ps. 96:6). The very things that we long for (and experience dejection over when we fail to secure) are eternally found in the Lord! Sure, we can look at the problems, difficulties, pains, and discomforts of life, or… we can look at our marvelous Lord and find an enduring hope, peace, and joy found in Him alone.
The author of Psalm 96 made a conscious choice to look at God and marvel in Him. In response, he experienced joy and excitement at the thought of God coming to the earth—even if it is to come and judge sin (96:13)! Why? Because he knew the Lord as the beautiful, glorious, strong, and one true God. You and I will either find life in God or work to find life in the things outside of God. What do you long for?
Let’s take this a step further and ask ourselves a few diagnostic questions:
I hope this encourages you to enjoy the Lord and find abundant life in Him! I love you and look forward to worshiping with you this Wednesday at 7pm. Until then, strive to enjoy the Lord with someone else today.
I want to do something a little different with this Tuesday Talk… I want to pray my way through it with you.
Psalm 84 greatly ministered to my soul this morning and I desire that it do the same for you. Consequently, instead of providing a devotional thought, let’s apply this passage of Scripture to our lives through prayer. I wrote this prayer out in first-person so you could use it directly and build off of it in your prayer to the Lord. Without further ado, let’s begin!
1 How lovely is your dwelling place,
O Lord of hosts!
2 My soul longs, yes, faints
for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and flesh sing for joy
to the living God.
Father, I desire and long to experience the fullness of joy found in your presence. I want more of You—the living God—and I want to abide where you are! Thank you for abiding in me. Your Holy Spirit stirs my soul for more of you. Your Spirit guides my thoughts to dwell on You. Your Spirit leads me in the paths of righteousness for Your namesake—I will praise You for the abundant love and mercy shown to me! What I know of You captivates my soul. Though I truly know You, I do not fully know You. Jesus, I long for the day that I will see You face-to-face and know You more deeply, intimately, and abundantly.
3 Even the sparrow finds a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may lay her young,
at your altars, O Lord of hosts,
my King and my God.
4 Blessed are those who dwell in your house,
ever singing your praise! Selah
My great heavenly Father, in You I’ve found a place of rest! Father, I thank You for the privilege of being Your child. Jesus, I thank You for preparing a place in heaven where I may abide with You! Holy Spirit, I thank You for bearing witness to my soul that I am a child of God and granting me the ability to call God “Abba” (Father)! My soul finds rest and peace in You. You, and You alone, remove the restless anxiety I experience from sin, shame, and failure. The hope I have in You is that I will abide with You. Jesus, Your substitutionary death and resurrection purchased and secured my hope in You--YOU ARE WORTHY OF ALL PRAISE, HONOR, AND GLORY!
5 Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
in whose heart are the highways to Zion.
6 As they go through the Valley of Baca
they make it a place of springs;
the early rain also covers it with pools.
7 They go from strength to strength;
each one appears before God in Zion.
8 O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer;
give ear, O God of Jacob! Selah
God, You are my oasis in a dry and barren land. In a world marred and destroyed by sin, I find strength, vitality, vigor, and endurance in worship of You. Your Word illuminates my way so that I do not waste my strength on futile ambitions. Your Word feeds my soul and restores my strength. Your Word instructs my thoughts and prompts my speech. Your Holy Spirit comes alongside me, walks with me, and abides in me for Your glory and honor AND my good! You are the Great Shepherd. You are the Bread of Life! You are the Living Water. You are better, no… You are best! None compares to You. None can restore, empower, sustain, and energize like You. Your presence is powerful and restoring. Thank You, thank You, thank You for the abundant life I have in You!
9 Behold our shield, O God;
look on the face of your anointed!
10 For a day in your courts is better
than a thousand elsewhere.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
11 For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
the Lord bestows favor and honor.
No good thing does he withhold
from those who walk uprightly.
Father, nothing compares to You! The battles I face in life lead me to You, and You never fail me! You are my defender, my protector, the guardian of my soul, and the God of armies. From the cross You secured a victory that allowed me to approach Your throne with bold confidence. To be in Your presence is the greatest joy I know in life—please pardon me for my tendency to forget this. I’ve dwelt with the wicked. I’ve walked in places my feet don’t belong. I’ve tasted the spoils of sin and drank from the well of evil. I found only fear, despondency, and a lack of satisfaction. But in You there is abundant life and joy. In Your presence is instruction and protection. In Your presence is blessing and glorious honor. In Your presence dwells all that is good. I’ve tasted and seen, You are good! Please pardon my multiplied transgressions and allow me to walk uprightly with integrity for Your glory and honor.
12 O Lord of hosts,
blessed is the one who trusts in you!
Jesus, I trust in you! You are my great reward. You are the delight and desire of my soul. You bestow wondrous blessings and gifts to Your people. You are my heart’s desire—and You gave me the desire! Thank You for the privilege of salvation. Thank You for the blessing of sanctification. Thank You for Your continual, sustaining, and transforming abiding presence. Thank You for Love! You’ve blessed me beyond all imagination. You are my God—You are the One true God!
I love you and look forward to worshipping with you this Wednesday at 7pm!
A famous and often quoted phrase within the Bible goes something like this: “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” However, this phrase does not occur isolation or within in a vacuum—there is a context that this statement occurs within. What is the context? Well, let’s begin with looking at the entire verse. John 8:31-32 states, “So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, ‘If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth and the truth will make you free.’” Now that we know the whole verse, allow me to summarize the backdrop of this conversation (the context).
Just before instructing His followers that if they continued in His word they would know the truth and it would make them free, Jesus had been in a somewhat tense and confrontational argument with the Pharisees. What was the gist of the argument? Jesus plainly told the Pharisees that He was from God, knew God, and was in a deep relationship with God. But Jesus did not stop with that. Jesus further explained that the Pharisees did not know God (John 8:19) and that they will die in their sins (John 8:21). In short, Jesus told the Pharisees that they were lost liars and that He is the truth. In fact, some time later, Jesus outright identified Himself as the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). But in this moment, Jesus merely identifies that the Pharisees are in the dark and believe Satan’s lies (John 8:44).
So, why say all this? Think about it… Jesus went out of His way and allowed Himself to be challenged by a group of religious leaders in order to speak the truth to them. Sure, the words Jesus spoke to the Pharisees were hard for them to hear and they took great offense at Jesus; however, Jesus necessarily offended in order to invite them to come to Him and follow His teaching. Within Jesus’ invitation was the inclusion of a conditional promise: IF YOU CONTINUE IN MY WORD…THE TRUTH WILL MAKE YOU FREE. Free from what?
The context of this passage shows us what the Pharisees were enslaved to:
If you think about it, we are all born into this same slavery, and many of us continue to be enslaved even after coming to belief in Jesus. We know that Jesus sets us free from an eternity in Hell when we come to faith in Him, but why do we keep falling in the same sins? Why is it so hard to make progress in our lives? Why is maturing in Christ difficult? I think Christianity is difficult for us because we forget the primary teaching of our Lord--WE ARE TO COME AND ABIDE IN HIM. How? We abide in Christ by abiding in His Word.
It is at this exact point where we struggle the most. There is so much going on within our lives that we struggle to find time to ABIDE in His word. Sure, we read His word—even daily—but abiding is far more than simply reading the Bible. Abiding in the Word of God means reading it, thinking about it, responding to it, returning to it, reordering our lives around it, and intently looking how to conform to the Lord’s instruction within each moment. Reading is something we do and, then, cease to do. Abiding implies a continuation.
With this in mind, let’s ask a few questions of ourselves this morning:
I love you and hope you have a wonderful day seeking the Lord! Strive to encourage someone else to enjoy the Lord with you today.
Good morning (or evening)!
I know this is still Monday, but I will be on the road all day tomorrow traveling home from visiting family in New York; so, I hope you enjoy the early version of “The Tuesday Talk”. I hope you have greatly enjoyed your time in the New Testament these last few weeks—I know I have. While reading Mark 11 this morning I came across this verse: “Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted to you.” (Mark 11:24). This verse jarred my memory of just how good my God is to me (and all of us). I would like to take a few minutes to give a very brief testimony of how God answers prayer.
Over the last few weeks I have felt conviction that I have not shared the gospel with those who do not know the love and life that Jesus Christ gives us. Mindful of this weakness, I’ve frequently prayed for the Lord to open the doors to gospel-focused conversations. Last week the Lord sent someone to me to share the gospel with, but to be honest… I completely blanked out and did not recognize the opportunity I had in front of me until much later that day. Frustrated by my failure I began asking the Lord for another opportunity to share the gospel. The Lord did not wait long until giving me another chance to share the gospel!
Over the last 72 hours I’ve had the opportunity to share the gospel (in detail) with two individuals. Even better, one was a Muslim! I won’t bog this down with the details, but I was absolutely stoked that the Lord answered my prayers with two awesome encounters. The fact that God answers our prayers still enthralls me. You see, just before I engaged the Muslim individual, I felt a strong urge to share the gospel that came out of nowhere. You see, my family and I were touring Central Park when I was overcome with the urge to share the gospel. The truth is I cannot take credit for any part of this. God ordained the encounter, the urge to share the gospel, and even my prayer to want to share the gospel—all of this was guided by the Lord. THIS ABSOLUTELY AMAZES ME!
When we read verses like Mark 11:24 we tend to focus on and think about situational needs, physical needs, and relational needs—and God does answer these. However, it has been my experience that when I pray for courage and the ability to do the things that God commands me to do, HE ALWAYS ANSWERS THAT PRAYER. And it is this fact that stirs deep contemplation. I wonder what I am not doing because I’ve not asked the Lord for guidance, help, and boldness to complete His will. The believers in the early church prayed for boldness to preach the gospel, and the Bible tells us that God gave them boldness and it stirred them to proclaim Christ with boldness (Acts 4:29-31).
Too often we focus on our failures, faults, and weaknesses. I wonder what would happen if we stopped looking at ourselves and started looking to God? No matter how long I walk with the Lord I keep learning the same basic truths over and over again. When we seek God, God grants us the ability to follow Him. When we fail to seek the Lord, we will fail in our attempt to live as Christians.
Bearing this in mind, allow me to ask a simple question:
ARE YOU ASKING THE LORD FOR THE ABILITY TO SERVE HIM?
I know, this is a basic question, but we tend to do the basics poorly. Great feats are accomplished through great fundamentals. The fundamental truth of this life is that we were created to be indwelt by God for God’s glory, the good of others, and our joy. Are you being led by the Lord? When we submit to our God by seeking His power, presence, and guidance in our lives for His glory, it is almost a guarantee that YOU WILL GLORIFY HIM. Even more, there is great joy in knowing you are submitting to the will of God.
As you go to bed tonight (or start to move this morning), take a few minutes and ask the Lord to direct your steps today for His glory. Ask God to open doors for you to share the gospel, encourage someone, intercede for someone, or give a testimony. You will be amazed at what happens.