watching over me

August 19, 2018

I was on a religious talk show today and was asked this question; “If you could recommend one thing to a Christian believer that would improve his/her walk, what would you say?

So of course the first speaker said; “God Loves you.”

Second speaker; “I agree with the first speaker” (real original guy)

Third speaker; “read your bible”

My turn; “remember God is watching all you do, every moment, in daytime or darkness, alone or in a group, God is watching.”

You know how dead air on the radio is bad thing?

The host and the others just sat there, and the moderator says; “do you think that is healthy, to think on that, all the time.”

My response, “the heart is dreadfully deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9 New International Version (NIV) The heart is deceitful above all things     and beyond cure.    Who can understand it?) and in sin my mother did conceive me.” New International Version=Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. (Ps, 51:5)

More dead air.

“Wow”, the moderator says, “do you feel guilty much?”

More dead air.

My response; “No, I feel fine, no guilt and no acting out, no secret sins, great walk with the Lord, because I know he is always watching.”

Third talking head, “oh, you mean you are worshipping all the time.” (sarcastically)

“No I mean, I may not always be conscience of His Presence but I never forget He’s always watching.”

Now four people are trying to tell me what I mean…….

Hhhmmmmmmmmmmm, I wonder if I’ll get invited back to that talk show again.

Want to live right, be upright, always in good standing,, clear conscience?

Duh!

Live, knowing He’s always watching, think before acting. Imagine Him always there. It’s good thing, you will want to live a life well pleasing to God.

And when I’m tempted, I just remembering He’s watching , modifies my behavior. I don’t want to grieve my Savior.

To many Christians don’t really in their heads believe it.

Live it, walk it, believe it, talk it.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

Pray for Bethany Ann, born today with a bad heart valve, and many other complications.

Pray for Rathie, living on the streets and has come into a shelter for the first time. 30 years old, barely verbal autistic young man. Horribly traumatized by his homelessness.

the longest journey

August 18, 2018

Danger Will Robinson, danger, danger.

 

You know what is truly rare, a true Christian counselor.

 

When someone bills themselves as a Christian counselor ask them what their school degrees are in. 99% will say a masters in social work.

These are not Christian counselors. They are maybe Christians, and definitely not Biblical counselors. Now ask what church they attend, if it’s not evangelical they are not Biblical counselors. Now ask them if they’ve been divorced, if they have, don’t go to them for marriage counseling.

If you need counseling, and it’s not psychiatric, (mental disorder that can only be fixed with a prescription) then call some of the churches and see if they have a pastor that is schooled in pastoral counseling. Look in google for “pastoral counselors”.

The reason I make a big deal about this is Christian are to live their lives according to the bible, period. Not psychology, not sociology, there is no mixing of biblical principles with psychological principles. Stay the heck away from hypnosis, or someone who is “holistic” or someone that says they have a natural herbal remedy that God revealed to them, including oils, candles or anyone that tells you to stick anything in any orifice.

If you have a diagnosed mental illness see a psychiatrist that is a Christian and stick to your medicine.

If your depressed, take your medicine.

If your addicted, see a doctor and stick to your group and your sponsor.

If your Pentecostal or charismatic, and been told you’ve been healed, don’t go off your meds. See your doctor first.

If your diabetic, the above is true.

Do I believe in divine healing, strangely enough, yes I do. But I also believe in using some common sense and not putting myself or others at risk.

The boundaries of the mind are vast and still uncharted. Spiritual illness is as real as any other sickness. It may take a team of doctors, pastors, counselors, sponsors, prayer and ministers to help you to wellness.

I ask all of our readers to pray especially today for our brothers and sisters that struggle with depression, mental illness and spiritual anguish, guilt and shame.

There is relief, there is healing, it is a journey. And there are relapses, there are new “do overs”. Time to begin again.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

dark days

August 17, 2018

rainy-sleepy-snoopy-peanuts

“For you have had the privilege granted you on behalf of Christ—not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer on His behalf” (Phil. 1:29, Wey.).

  The Father prepares His sufferers, by means of their sufferings.

  “I believe in perpetual favor with God, but I do not believe in unbroken sunshine here. On the contrary, ‘we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake.’ I say this that you may not think it strange when the collar which you have rightly accepted becomes trying or difficult to you; for surely if it be service it must be so; the servant must be more or less a sufferer.”

  “The Lord grant you to be so assured in heart of His interest in you, that daily you may more and more answer to His pleasure; and not be in any way cast down because you apparently do so little. The fragrance of His name is a crown of glory to the greatest invalid.”

  “‘Unto you is given on the behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake’ (Phil. 1:29). Yea, ‘if we suffer, we shall also reign with him’ (2 Tim. 2:12). The gracious gift of suffering is as distinct and specific a gift as any other of God’s gifts. But this gift transforms the blessed recipient more surely perhaps than all the others into resemblance to Himself, and is for this fellowship, the highest, greatest, noblest of them all.”

  “We naturally shrink from trials and sorrow, but when we find ourselves enjoying the resources that are in our Father, to which our trials have caused us to have recourse, we remember no more the path of affliction which led us thereto.”

  “The child of God is ever in the light, though not always in the sunshine.”

  “If we suffer, we shall also reign with him” (2 Tim. 2:12).

How different a message than what we hear from our popular authors and TV talking heads, that because they are false messengers. It will always be our lot to suffer sometime in some way. Think how oft you pray when in pain versus that shiny day.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

WALK THE WALK

August 16, 2018

This is one of those hot buttons on which there is a great deal of disagreement and what is given here by no means touches all the bases.

Summary: The Bible nowhere specifically forbids or denounces masturbation. It does, of course, denounce all forms of sexual impurity and fantasies that would involve adulterous relationships whether actual or mental. The problem with masturbation is that it not only can become habit forming and addictive, but men and women often engage in pornography and adulterous fantasies in order to reach a climax. Further, the difference in sex drive in a couple is often not the real problem or issue. It is rather a breakdown in the relationship and in an understanding of the role of sex in marriage as that which not only gives pleasure but expresses love, unity, and commitment to each other. Masturbation expresses the opposite unless done with the other partner. The husband may experience orgasm with his wife without actual intercourse. If away from his wife and he is experiencing strong sexual desire and he can have an orgasm by thinking about his wife, etc. then that could be appropriate.

More Detail: As mentioned, the Bible does not directly address the issue of masturbation or deliberate self-stimulation of the sexual organ to the point of orgasm. It does warn against all forms of self-indulgence, adultery of the mind, and fornication. One of the problems involved is that though God created sex for enjoyment and pleasure, it is to be confined to the marriage relationship because it is also designed to express love (not just sexual love), unity, and total commitment. Masturbation is an act of self-gratification rather than a part of giving gratification and pleasure to one’s partner. Here are a few of the dangers of masturbation that some have listed:

  1. Psychic effects. Masturbation has a tendency to isolate its captives psychologically and socially. In masturbation, the person is focused on self-alone even though he or she usually is fantasizing about someone else at the same time.

  1. Emotional deprivation. It is impossible for the one who is practicing this habit to experience the full extent of sex emotions. Therefore, in short-circuiting the emotions one can easily be removed from the world of reality.

  1. Damaged sensibility. The habit of masturbation has a tendency in numbing the mechanism of the sexual organs if practiced excessively. This lessens the sensibility and thus detracts from normal sexual relations of married life.

  1. Self-gratification. The emotional background of self-gratification is not the least bit healthy and usually militates against the home, wife and family because it is focused only on self.

  1. Control of the mind. Along with the act of masturbation comes the fantasy of the mind. When practiced often, a pattern or cycle seems to become established within the individual’s mind. Thus, perversion has a tendency to control the mind and this in turn initiates the act. The real danger lies in the guilt that increases as the individual dwells in this world of fantasy.

Much more could be said, but this will give you a few things to think about. There are plenty of theologians and pastors, etc., that I am sure would disagree with my comments on this, but here are some things for consideration.

The bible verse always quoted by those strongly opposed to any form of masturbation is always “you will not spill your seed upon the ground.” (genesis 38:6-10)wildly paraphrased. But you get the idea. Of course the topic in Genesis was not masturbation.

There are some biblical principles that can be applied to the issue of masturbation. Ephesians 5:3 declares, “Among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity.” It is hard to see how masturbating can pass that particular test. The Bible teaches us, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). If you cannot give God glory for something, you should not do it. If a person is not fully convinced that an activity is pleasing to God, then it is a sin: “Everything that does not come from faith is sin” (Romans 14:23). Further, we need to remember that our bodies have been redeemed and belong to God. “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). This great truth should have a real bearing on what we do with our bodies. In light of these principles, the conclusion that masturbation is a sin is biblical. Clearly, masturbation is not glorifying to God; it does not avoid the appearance of immorality, nor does it pass the test of God’s having ownership over our bodies.

I’ve heard a great many respected preachers fall on both sides of the fence on this topic. The first principle to me is the issue of control, walking in the flesh (bible code for being carnal or selfish) or walking in the spirit (self control and spiritually minded).

One word I will say, if you consider it sinful it is a forgivable sin and does not and will not damn your soul. If you do think it is sinful then ask for forgiveness and move on.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

“This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him” (Matt. 17:5).

 

  Seeing the blackness of my heart provides the perfect backdrop for the bright and shining glory of the Lord Jesus Christ, who is my life. I am to be as well pleased with Him, and Him alone, as is my Father.

  “The learning of what I am and of what I have been in Adam, is truly humbling; but it need not be distressing if I see that all those conditions which have been present with me have just been the occasion for my Father to bring to light what is in His heart concerning me. When I see this, those very conditions magnify before my soul the greatness of His salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ.

The weakness that is in myself, and the many things which I have to deplore in my past, or perhaps even in my present, make me thankful to know that my Father has brought in the Spirit of Christ within me, and has secured in Him all his own thoughts of blessing towards me for accepting His Son..

There is what is perfect and absolutely for God’s satisfaction and delight in the Lord Jesus, and it remains unaffected by what I find in myself. Nay! every self-discovery makes His perfection more a necessity to my heart. What I learn and experience in myself makes me rejoice to believe on Another in whom every promise of God is Yea and Amen.

The secret of being like the Lord Jesus is, that we are to count ourselves dead to the old and alive in the new. We are to give up our self-efforts after likeness to Him; we are to distrust our own strength as much as we distrust our own weakness and our own sin; and instead of striving to live like the Lord Jesus, let Him live through us, as He greatly desires to do.

How often do I have to have this conversation with myself? As often as I can think about it. As Brother Lawrence said in his little book; “Practicing the Presence of Christ”, the habit to be developed is to make yourself think about Christ as often as possible. Now I’m not nuts about “junk of Jesus” but as simply as carrying a little bible with you to touch as well as read or wearing a cross or a ring. A chime on your phone to ring softly every hour to make you conscience that God sees all and is watching over you.

  “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shone in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6).

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

Pray for Barbara D, her cancer is back, doctor says it’s the slowest form of cancer there is.

Pray for Paul, depression

Pray for Susan H, depression

Pray for Roger L, his wife of 20 years just walked in the door today and said “I’m divorcing you”.

drowning?

August 14, 2018

Have you ever saved some one from drowning? Or have you ever taken a course on being a life guard? One of the first things they teach you is that you must get the drowning person to stop struggling. Second they teach you that you might have to get a little physical so the drowning person doesn’t drown you as well.

So this devotion isn’t about drowning it’s about why we need to cease struggling with God. This isn’t the same as wrestling with God, this is about the all to frequent struggle that believers have with God.

It’s frequently expressed through the thoughts like; “does God really love me?” “Am I really saved?”

Let’s look at some scripture that if you are struggling, hopefully you will find solace in the following scripture, these are some of the verses that are what I call “foundation verses” meaning you will build a solid Christian life if these are memorized or marked in your bible as ‘emergency verses.

Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved” ( Eph. 1:5 , 6 ).

See it was a pleasure for God to adopt us, and we are accepted.

The problem that I see in most struggling Christians is that because they are conscious of sin, they think they must do something more to please God, and the devil traps them in a snare of repetitive getting saved, going down to altar again, some good works, praying through. The fact is we must stand on the work that Christ has done and not try to add anything to our salvation of our own initiative.

Please read Romans 5:1-11 to get a great view of what has been done for us. This is another foundation set of verses that we should ‘get to know’ in order to not be persuaded by those well-meaning but seriously wrong Christians that tell you the problem is you’re not doing enough good works, or you are not enjoying the fruits of the spirit. The best thing you can say to all these well-meaning advisors supposedly sent from God to help you is ‘NUTS.’ (or swear at them; pick one its really multiple choice)

In order for our souls to find rest and have peace we must always understand that as long as we live on earth in these very carnal bodies, we will wrestle with failure and feel like we have failed God. The Holy Spirit shows us what we really are, not to make us feel condemnation, but to remind us that every day I need a Savior, that every day I awake I must accept the fact that today is a good day to die. That is what dying to self is about.

I am washed, cleansed redeemed accepted, loved and can be totally at peace with God even though I know I still sin and have my battles and failures.

Yet we are loved, with the greatest unfailing love from God.

God bless from scumlikuschurch@gmail.com

free at last hallelujah

August 13, 2018

  “For if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law” (Gal. 3:21).

  Paul devoted two full chapters to establish our freedom from the fallen Adam. Romans Six sets forth our freedom from the dominion of Adamic sin; Romans Seven explains our freedom from Adamic law.

  Whereas our liberty was won on the Cross, it is worked out in our daily life and experience by the Holy Spirit. On the Cross, by the Spirit, in the Lord Jesus Christ.

  “If ministers and teachers of God’s Word would set saints free and establish them in the Gospel, let their preaching and teaching be based upon the sixth and seventh of Romans, the central theme of which is our union with the Lord Jesus in death and burial; and our resurrection and ascension with Him into newness of life; where not the law, but grace, reigneth; where not the letter but the Spirit, moveth the heart and life of the believer. Satan will fight most fiercely against such teaching, but no other will establish the Lord’s people.”

  “If God has declared that we died, we did die. If God has declared us discharged from the law, we are discharged and are hereby God’s free children, ‘new creatures,’ ‘created after God in righteousness and true holiness.’

 Our longing for conformity to the image of God’s Son shall be confirmed and fulfilled by the Holy Spirit who hath been given unto us. No man can believe he has a right to walk freely and fully in the Spirit until he believes himself to be free from the law.

 Law cannot give eternal life, nor have, therefore, any control over it.

  “But now we have been discharged from the law, having died to that wherein we were held” (Rom. 7:6, ASV.).

To the Victorious LIfe

August 12, 2018

This devotional material has been requested several times, but it is really a small booklet. So once a year I will repost this. Blessings to all that keep us in prayer and encourage us, God bless.

This is 33 pages of material, so you’ll need to print it out, if you want it sent to you directly as an email let me know.

Okay, this is where the rubber hits the road, if you want to really be free from a sin(s) that plagues you, you have to take the following steps. It’s not rocket science but you do have to do it to make it happen.

Slowly read the definitions of each category of sin and the descriptions of how each manifests itself in a person’s life. As you read, underline any phrases, lines, or sections that describe your behavior. Be honest.

After you have worked through all seven, take time to review what you underlined. There may be many areas of sin that God wants to address in your entire life. The key now is letting Him reveal what He wants you to address right now. However, we are often blind to our own sin. The Spirit may bring to mind some areas of sin, or He may use recent interactions with others to point out areas to you.

Identify one or two of the seven that you would say are the predominant sin categories you are currently struggling with. Make notes for yourself describing the personal dynamics of those particular areas of sin. For example, if you struggle with greed, the personal dynamic may be as follows: “When I’m around my old college buddies and see the cars they drive and the homes they live in, I find myself obsessed with having those nice things too. I don’t desire to have more than they have or to be better than they are. I particularly want to enjoy the luxuries of a car and a house like theirs.”

You may want to include in your notes descriptions of those sins from various angles in your life. For instance, how does the struggle with greed show up at work? With friends? With family?

Be prepared to share with someone you are accountable to the areas of sin with which you struggle. You won’t have to go into detail about the dynamics of those areas of sin at this point, only the category (envy, greed, and so on).

Seven Deadly Sins

Slowly read the definitions of each category of sin and the descriptions of how each manifests itself in a person’s life. As you read, underline any phrases, lines, or sections that describe your behavior. Be honest.

After you have worked through all seven, take time to review what you underlined. There may be many areas of sin that God wants to address in your entire life. The key now is letting Him reveal what He wants you to address right now. However, we are often blind to our own sin. The Spirit may bring to mind some areas of sin, or He may use recent interactions with others to point out areas to you.

Identify one or two of the seven that you would say are the predominant sin categories you are currently struggling with. Make notes for yourself describing the personal dynamics of those particular areas of sin. For example, if you struggle with greed, the personal dynamic may be as follows: “When I’m around my old college buddies and see the cars they drive and the homes they live in, I find myself obsessed with having those nice things too. I don’t desire to have more than they have or to be better than they are. I particularly want to enjoy the luxuries of a car and a house like theirs.”

You may want to include in your notes descriptions of those sins from various angles in your life. For instance, how does the struggle with greed show up at work? With friends? With family?

Be prepared to share with the group the areas of sin with which you struggle. You won’t have to go into detail about the dynamics of those areas of sin at this point, only the category (envy, greed, and so on). Also, if you are in a coed group, you will probably separate into single-sex groups for this discussion.

Envy

Envy is being dissatisfied with our lives, talents, and gifts and focusing on the circumstances of another’s life. It begrudges someone their status, material possessions, or the relationships and good will that they have earned from others in the community.

When the men were returning home after David had killed the Philistine, the women came out from all the towns of Israel to meet King Saul with singing and dancing, with joyful songs and with tambourines and lutes. As they danced, they sang:

        “Saul has slain his thousands,

        and David his tens of thousands.”

Saul was very angry; this refrain galled him. “They have credited David with tens of thousands,” he thought, “but me with only thousands. What more can he get but the kingdom?” And from that time on Saul kept a jealous eye on David. (1 Samuel 18:6-9)

With respect to envy, many of them are wont to experience movements of displeasure at the spiritual good of others, which cause them a certain sensible grief at being outstripped upon this road, so that they would prefer not to hear others praised; for they become displeased at others’ virtues and sometimes they cannot refrain from contradicting what is said in praise of them, depreciating it as far as they can; and their annoyance thereat grows because the same is not said of them, for they would fain be preferred in everything. All this is clean contrary to charity, which, as Saint Paul says, rejoices in goodness.

    —St. John of the Cross, Dark Night of the Soul, VII

Manifestations:

Actively trying to dissuade others from admiring or accepting anyone we envy. Setting up an unfair rivalry or competition with that person. Being happy and satisfied when bad fortune befalls another. Belittling and planting seeds of doubt about another’s character. Gossiping. Devising ways of destroying someone, sometimes with a long-range plan. Being dissatisfied with our physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual selves. Being unwilling to be content with our station or lot in life. A person can become our flash point for an obsession. We encourage criticism and antagonism against the person through sarcasm, teasing, or cutting him down. Envy can be masked as contempt for a person’s culture, position, and talents or for someone who is in authority over us.

Greed

Greed is a desire for inordinate amounts of personal possessions or status. Greed uses others for our personal gain in spite of any harm that this manipulation may cause them.

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,

Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. (1 Timothy 6:6-10)

“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)

This is greed: living to possess anything—stamps, dolls, autographed balls, books, CDs, paintings, figurines, toys, property, cars, contacts/acquaintances, whatever—with the primary objective of owning, the preoccupation with having, the obsession of getting, and/or the dedication of too much of our lives or the investment of too much of our hearts.

    —Dr. William Backus

Now you can see, my son, how brief’s the sport

of all those goods that are in Fortune’s care,

for which the tribe of men contend and brawl;

for all the gold that is or ever was

beneath the moon could never offer rest

to even one of these exhausted spirits.

    Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy, Inferno, Canto VII

Manifestations:

Putting possessions in place of God. Being ambitious and disdaining morality, the law, or the rights of others. Pursuing status, material possessions, reputation, or power. Believing that all’s fair in competition and, thus, becoming ruthless and unjust. Being too possessive or protective of our children, spouse, or friends. Being self-centered. Refusing to set boundaries. Avoiding conflict by not correcting or disciplining children for fear they will not love us. Deliberately engaging others in illegal or unethical activities. Manipulating others … to do our will through threat of physical violence, withdrawal of affection, cajoling, or whining. Letting control and power be motivating forces in our lives. Being too eager to give advice or possess authority. Attempting to have others in debt to us so we can exert power. Using flattery, gifts, favoritism, or even covert bribery to win support, affection, or authority.

Backing down from personal standards or refusing to be involved with or defend people of lesser means or position; fearing being stigmatized by leaders or the wealthy. Being dishonest by stealing or fencing stolen goods, cheating on exams, falsifying records, or evading taxes. Being narcissistic. Believing we are entitled to something because of who we are. Wasting possessions, talent, or natural resources. Living beyond our income in order to impress others or sustain our present standard of living. Embezzling. Gambling in such a way that gambling controls us. Intriguing or conspiring. Borrowing, sponging, weaseling, or playing on the good will of others in order not to use our own money, time, or talent. Being stingy or being indifferent to the homeless and hungry. Failing to engage in teamwork in our workplace or at home.

Lust

We lust when we seek another god or material satisfaction to fill the emptiness in our lives. Lust is an excessive, driving desire for personal sexual gratification, disregarding God’s intended purpose for sexuality, in order to fulfill our own inordinate needs.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:27-28)

Lust is often defined as the desire for inappropriate physical intimacy with a person, or the image of a person (such as computer-generated images), other than a spouse. It is a sin that many people must guard against throughout their entire lives.

However, within marriage, there is an additional element of lust that is often overlooked. When a husband feels lonely and demands that his wife engage sexually with him to fulfill his desire for intimacy, he is sinning. In Ephesians, Paul lifted the bar for marriage higher than it has ever been before or since. He said a husband ought to tenderly care for his wife’s best interest, not primarily with a view to his own desires:

In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church. (Ephesians 5:28-29)

Sexual intimacy can become the focal point of marriage, even for the believer. If a husband uses manipulation to persuade his wife to enter into sexual activity with him, he may be lusting after his wife. For instance, a husband comes home after work loaded with flowers and eager to help cook dinner, wash the dishes, and clean up the house. Then he initiates physical intimacy with his wife, and she asks to postpone it until tomorrow. The husband suddenly changes demeanor and becomes very short with her. He withdraws from her and goes to bed without a word. Could it be that he wanted only her body? Was he lusting after her physically while not truly caring for her interests before his own? Did his longing for physical intimacy interfere with his ability to see what would be loving for her?

In other words, lust may include an inappropriate pursuit of your spouse. If we are consumed with a pursuit of sexual intimacy beyond its proper role as an expression of love between husband and wife, we are struggling with lust.

Hostility toward sex also falls under the category of lust, as the following manifestations describe. It is no more godly to be obsessed against sex than for it.

Manifestations:

Misusing sex for personal gratification. Violating the church’s marriage laws, such as those concerning adultery. Lack of consideration for one’s partner in the marital relationship. Indulging sexually outside marriage in thought, word, or deed, alone or with others. Acting or fantasizing that leads to sexual perversion or addiction. Frequenting adult movie houses or reading sexual magazines. Engaging in voyeurism or indecent exposure. Molesting children. Raping. Engaging in prostitution or other promiscuous activities. Sodomizing. Stimulating sexual desires in others. Being immodest with intent to seduce. Condemning sex as evil in itself. Repressing sex. Refusing to seek help or adequate instruction for problems concerning sex. Prudery. Deliberately inflicting pain (whether mental, sexual, or emotional) on others. Tormenting animals. Holding someone against his or her will. Teasing. Denying that one’s own sexuality is a gift from God. Being unwilling to inform our own children about sex.

Sloth

Sloth is the act of refusing to use our natural gifts and talents for emotional and spiritual growth. It is laziness or an unwillingness to perform our duties, work, and studies or pay attention to our needs and those of others.

For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.”

We hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy; they are busybodies. Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the bread they eat. And as for you, brothers, never tire of doing what is right. (2 Thessalonians 3:10-13)

If once they failed to find in prayer the satisfaction which their taste required … they would prefer not to return to it: sometimes they leave it; at other times they continue it unwillingly… . These persons likewise find it irksome when they are commanded to do that wherein they take no pleasure. Because they aim at spiritual sweetness and consolation, they are too weak to have the fortitude and bear the trials of perfection. They resemble those who are softly nurtured and who run fretfully away from everything that is hard, and take offense at the Cross, wherein consist the delights of the spirit.

    —St. John of the Cross, Dark Night of the Soul, VII

Fulfilling our responsibilities requires some effort on our part. God designed human beings to work. Even in Eden, Adam was given responsibility: “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every creature that moves on the ground” (Genesis 1:28). Human beings have labor as a fundamental, divinely mandated purpose.

Spiritual growth also requires effort. If people desire to experience the abundant Christian life while remaining idle in their faith, they will be disappointed. Consider Paul’s example of exertion:

I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 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, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12-14)

Manifestations:

Neglecting our family, such as being unwilling to follow through on relationships, courtesies, and concern for family members. Avoiding working through conflict. Procrastinating when we do not find immediate payoffs. Living in a dream world. Avoiding social obligations or becoming busy with irrelevant tasks in order to avoid important commitments. Spending an inordinate amount of time on rest, recreation, television, reading, etc. Always looking for easy answers and shortcuts to solutions. Putting pleasure above all else. Not assuming responsibility for our work by wasting time,… producing inadequate work, not meeting deadlines, or leaving our tasks for others to complete.Avoiding spiritual growth. Ignoring the needs and concerns of our employees. Not treating people of lesser means with dignity and being unwilling to go out of our way to accommodate those in need. Lacking concern for injustice done to others. Being unwilling to undergo hardships without complaining….Failing to fulfill spiritual and religious obligations, such as attending church regularly.

Gluttony

Gluttony seeks happiness, pleasure, and security in the obsessive use of drink, drugs, sex, smoking, work, or any activity that is harmful to ourselves or others.

While you may not find yourself craving food compulsively, gluttony may still be a concern. Gluttony is often associated with food, but basically it is a pursuit of pleasure. Whereas lust is concerned more with intimacy and the satisfaction that comes with feeling connected with another person, gluttony pursues physical pleasure for its own sake. Gluttony involves an addiction to a physical pleasure.

Consider the saying “Some eat to live, I live to eat.” You may put in the place of eating any activity of physical pleasure: “Some men enjoy sexuality with their wives as a natural part of their relational intimacy; I am obsessed with my wife as an object of pleasure.” Any number of things that result in physical pleasure can be the object of a glutton’s desire. It is quite possible that both a lust for intimacy and a gluttonous desire to experience sexual pleasure are involved.

Addiction to one object of physical pleasure might not be the only expression of gluttony. Shrewd gluttons realize what Søren Kierkegaard wrote about in Either/Or. Kierkegaard explained that physical pleasure reaches its pinnacle if the person diversifies the experience of pleasure from various objects. If the glutton pursues pleasure in moderation from various objects, he will more fully experience the pleasure from each source. So gluttony can be hidden by the diversity of pleasure sought. For example, you get a massage, go out for a good meal, and retreat home for sex with your spouse. Having all of these experiences in a given day is not in itself sinful. However, if you rely on these diverse objects of pleasure to escape the struggles of life, you are misguided. One way to test your heart is to determine how you might feel if these pleasures were removed from your life. Would you demand from God that He return your meat entrees, or would you be content with bread and potatoes?

Manifestations:

Being self-indulgent in any pleasure—such as food, drink, drugs, or sex—that may lead to an addiction or, at the minimum, interfere with our social or vocational abilities. Being a perfectionist or demanding unrealistically high standards. Exaggerating our self-importance or being preoccupied with fantasies involving power, wealth, and reputation. Acting as if we are superior to others. Neglecting our health through lack of rest, recreation, exercise, wholesome diet, or balanced lifestyle. Refusing to care for our teeth. Refusing to seek counseling and face our participation in the addictive or dependency processes. Manipulating in order to sustain our addiction.

Becoming rigid and intolerant. Condemning others’ pleasures as evil to squelch our own attachment to pleasure. Being a religious fanatic about sex in order to help ourselves detach from an inactive addiction that we have just under the surface. Denying the seriousness of our attachments and how the object of these affections consumes a great deal of our time. Substituting addictions for reality in order to block out pain, suffering, and our circumstances. Allowing them to become our false gods while turning our back on God. Being unwilling to accept help because of our love and loyalty to our attachment. Neglecting our spiritual walk. Having a tendency to become manic and unrealistic. Lacking self-discipline. Looking for a shortcut to success in order to get something for nothing. Having an over-attachment to grief because of past failures and feelings of unworthiness. Refusing to use things of the world in a balanced way.

Gluttony changes into an addiction when the attachment and any ensuing illnesses become a means of escape from intimacy and the responsibilities of our relationships with God, self, and others.

Pride

Pride occurs when we push God aside, become the center of our own universe, and act as if the world revolves around us and is under our control. It is a rebellion against God’s sovereignty.

Fools say to themselves, “There is no God.” (Psalm 14:1, NET)

As these [young Christians] feel themselves to be very fervent and diligent in spiritual things and devout exercises, from this prosperity … there often comes to them, through their imperfections, a certain kind of secret pride, whence they come to have some degree of satisfaction with their works and with themselves. And hence there comes to them likewise a certain desire, which is somewhat vain, and at times very vain, to speak of spiritual things in the presence of others, and sometimes even to teach such things rather than to learn them. They condemn others in their heart when they see that they have not the kind of devotion which they themselves desire; and sometimes they even say this in words, herein resembling the Pharisee, who boasted of himself, praising God for his own good works and despising the publican.

    —St. John of the Cross, Dark Night of the Soul, II

Pride at its essence is an attitude that denies the existence of God. It is an attempt to exert oneself as an independent being. However, when we foster such an attitude, we are merely deceiving ourselves. In a culture where independence is so highly valued, pride is often hard to notice. We fail to realize that any movement we make with an independent attitude is rooted in pride.

When we think that we can, through will alone, accomplish a goal, we are deceived. Even “Christian” behavior can be done pridefully, in independence. If we try to live up to some status quo of behavior in our church community on our own power and merit, we are deceived. We are ignoring the reality that the Almighty gives us life and breath.

Besides being dependent upon God’s sovereignty, we are also dependent on other people. We are not individual islands. To say to oneself, It’s just me and God, is a form of pride. To be Christian is to be part of the body of Christ. We must not think we can live the Christian life as God intended in isolation from other Christians. We need others to sustain us.

Manifestations:

Depending on ourselves rather than on God. Expecting others to treat us as if we are a god. Being self-absorbed and leaving no time for God. Refusing to love and trust God; refusing to accept forgiveness from others, ourselves, or God, because we judge ourselves as not perfect (as we should be, since we are taking God’s place). Pitying ourselves because we think our sins make us less respectable.

Attempting to control or predict the future by using spiritualism, astrology, fortune-telling, black magic, or superstition. Not practicing gratitude for others’ gifts, knowledge, or good works.

Being territorial about our status. Acting as if we were better, further advanced, or more virtuous. Practicing hypocrisy (judging others harshly for faults that we ourselves possess). Refusing to recognize our own sins because to admit wrong or lack of perfection reveals that we are less than we think we are. Discounting our sins by minimizing or rationalizing: “Boys will be boys,” or “That is just natural for women to do,” or “That is the way teens normally act.” Being too sensitive and refusing to see that we can grow from constructive criticism. Refusing to receive guidance from our community.

Refusing to take responsibility for … what we have done. Being unwilling to make amends and restitution. Lying or deceiving to escape discipline. Letting someone else take the blame because he is dispensable and we are not… . Exaggerating, interrupting, talking too much or in hyperbole. Taking center stage in an attempt to claim wisdom or abilities that we do not possess. Behaving ostentatiously in order to focus attention on ourselves. Having inordinate shyness because we feel we are not perfect. Being performance driven. Refusing to admit wrong or apologize in order to save face and avoid damage to our status in the community.

Refusing to accept less than excellence in food, drink, lodging, or another’s performance. Being aggravated by the irritating habits of others. Being a bigot and saying our customs, race, religion, dress, and culture are superior to those of others. Overspending time and money on how we present ourselves, our home, or office in order to impress others. Showing superiority by thinking that we should not have to do what others do, such as work, chores, etc. Taking credit for our abilities and accomplishments rather than giving God or others credit for thoughts, insights, etc. Having to be the only one who has a credible idea or plan. Reinforcing our superiority by being overbearing, argumentative, and opinionated. Being legends in our own minds.

Anger

Anger becomes a sin when it takes the form of rebellion, revenge, or retaliation; causes harm to self or others; or sets an obstacle in the way of our relationship with God.

When their delight and pleasure in spiritual things come to an end, they naturally become embittered, and bear that lack of sweetness which they have to suffer with a bad grace, which affects all that they do; and they very easily become irritated over the smallest matter—sometimes, indeed, none can tolerate them… .

There are other of these spiritual persons, again, who fall into another kind of spiritual wrath: this happens when they become irritated at the sins of others, and keep watch on those others with a sort of uneasy zeal. At times the impulse comes to them to reprove them angrily … and set themselves up as masters of virtue… .

There are others who are vexed with themselves when they observe their own imperfectness, and display an impatience that is not humility; so impatient are they about this that they would fain be saints in a day. Many of these persons purpose to accomplish a great deal and make grand resolutions; yet, as they are not humble and have no misgivings about themselves, the more resolutions they make, the greater is their fall and the greater their annoyance, since they have not the patience to wait for that which God will give them when it pleases Him.

    —St. John of the Cross, Dark Night of the Soul, V

But no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. (James 3:8-10)

One of the most common ways anger tempts the believer is with the simple phrase “I’m right.” The issue is not always who is logically correct. The person who struggles with anger may well be “right” most of the time. However, we shouldn’t impose our judgments in any manner we choose, even if our judgments are correct (and often they aren’t). We are called to love, not to be “right.” Sometimes loving others involves communicating what is right and what is not, but that communication shouldn’t be guided by a passion-filled anger.

Manifestations:

Hating God. Refusing to allow Him into our lives. Turning our backs on a personal relationship with Him. Refusing to use our talents and gifts or pursue the mission God has given us. Blaming others (God, parents, spouse) and not accepting responsibility for the negative conditions we have brought on ourselves and the inner decisions we have made that have contributed to our unhappiness.

Being cynical. Purposely trying to ruin someone’s reputation. Gossiping. Using profanity, grumbling, or attacking someone verbally (such as quarreling, nagging, rudeness, or raging) or physically (such as hitting, torture, or murder). Harsh or excessive punishment of children or others over whom we have authority. Forcing our will on others. Seeking revenge and retaliation.

Turning our anger against ourselves, such as through self-mutilation, overeating, bulimia, anorexia, or pushing ourselves to overwork or be perfect…. Refusing to let anger emerge and thus causing depression. Allowing anger to manifest itself in disease and conditions harmful to the body. Self-pity.

Anger is out of order when we refuse to forgive and are unwilling to let go of bitterness or love another as God does. We refuse to love the unlovable or our enemies. Anger in the form of passive-aggressive behavior is demonstrated when we ostracize another person, spoil another’s pleasure (by snubbing or being moody or uncooperative), or physically or emotionally sabotage someone.

In order to identify areas of sin that the Spirit is prompting you to address, make time in your schedule this week for solitude. Go to a park, on a hike, or for a drive by yourself. You know best how and where you experience solitude and peace from life’s demands. Ask the Lord for wisdom. Seek to understand what the Lord wants you to change in your attitudes or actions. Use the space below to note your one or two main categories of sin as well as how you play out those categories in your life.

As a believer, if you are experiencing the Holy Spirit’s transformation process. The Spirit opens your eyes to your sin, convicts you of it, and leads you to repentance. When you spend time in this kind of reflection, you become aware of the sin in your life.You realize that the Enemy loves to use whatever means possible to promote you to sin. Both your strengths and weaknesses can be twisted to sinfulness. For example, one of your strengths might be that you are a gifted encourager of other believers. How might your personal tempter twist this strength to make it an area of sin? Likewise, in an area of your weakness, perhaps pornography, what is your tempter’s strategy? How does pornography rob you from experiencing joy in Christ?

choose one specific sin you struggle with, and write your letter about that. Your goal is to learn how to listen to the Holy Spirit’s conviction and evaluate how sin affects your life. Your goal isn’t to understand and write about every area you struggle with. If you cultivate an attitude of attentiveness to the Spirit of God and His conviction of sin in your life, you will experience a lifetime of growth in your struggle against sin. Therefore, choose only one area and try to clearly describe the dynamics of how your flesh, the world, and the Enemy tempt you in that area.

Think about yourself in practical terms. How does it happen that you are prone to react in anger toward your kids? How is it that you find yourself spreading gossip instead of remaining quiet? Why do you do it? What payoff do you get or expect to get? What lie are you falling for? What selfish motive makes you susceptible? Why do you let the world’s pressure get to you in this area?

Be as transparent and vulnerable as you can appropriately be with yourself and those in spiritual leadership around you. The more transparent you are, the more meaningful this exercise will be for you and them.

answer the following questions about your area of sin:

     When are you most susceptible to temptation in this area?

     What consequences can you associate with the sin?

     What payoff do you feel you get or might get from the sin? In other words, when you are tempted, what do you think you will gain or what benefit will you receive as a result of giving in?

     How do you tend to rationalize this area of sin? What does the reasoning process look like when you are rationalizing?

Practicing these disciplines is not a formula for sanctification, but it can be a great way to refocus your attention on God and others and off yourself.

Types of Spiritual Disciplines

    Scripture: Reading, memorizing, meditating on verses

    Prayer: Praying silently, taking prayer walks, reading written prayers and liturgies

    Fasting: Abstaining from food to focus on God and prayer

    Journaling: Writing to God, tracking growth, expressing thoughts and feelings

    Silence and solitude: Taking time to be alone in absolute silence before God

    Stewardship: Managing your resources according to godly principles (for example, generous giving)

    Service: Finding opportunities to do acts of service for the benefit of others

    Evangelism: Sharing the gospel regularly through various means

    Confession: Confessing sin individually and in a group

    Simplicity: Limiting your lifestyle in order to free yourself for God

    Worship: Partaking in corporate and individual worship

    Learning: Reading, taking courses, participating in discussion groups

    Meditation: Contemplating biblical truth in order to better understand the character of God and its relevance to your own life

    Fellowship: Developing a partnership with other believers as an encouragement to your pursuit of personal holiness and corporate witness for Christ.

In Galatians 5:22-23, Paul lists nine character qualities that you should seek to put into practice in your own life, they comprise the fruit the Holy Spirit bears in a believer’s life: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Read about each quality and respond to the questions about each. Identify friends, family members, and members of your small group who exhibit that quality.

Love

As pride can be seen as the root of all sin, love is the root of all godly deeds: Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. (1 John 4:78)

Unfortunately, love often lacks the force it ought to have for believers because the English word love has lost much of its meaning as used in Scripture. People use the word in many ways to refer to a variety of sentiments expressed toward an even wider variety of objects.We have a critical need for our understanding of love to be biblically, rather than culturally, informed. However, cultivating love requires more than simply correcting our misunderstandings; it requires a personal reorientation.

Our world caters to our self-centeredness.Yet the love we find in Scripture, exemplified most profoundly in Christ’s life, is an others-oriented love:

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. (1 John 3:16-18)

If we are to cultivate love, we must learn to shift our focus from ourselves to those around us. None of us will fully rid ourselves of our ever-present preoccupation with self. And indeed, we benefit greatly from loving God and our neighbor. But cultivating love requires that we learn to love for the sake of the other rather than merely for our own benefit.

Biblical love is not just others-centered in our thinking but also in our actions. Love physically gives to others. It listens to those in pain and offers words of sympathy. It offers encouragement in the form of a smile. It gets its hands dirty helping a neighbor fix a car. In short, one who loves lays down self-interest for the interest of the other.

  1. Do you currently have any relationships in which you love another for his or her sake, not just your own? How would you describe that relationship?

  1. How do you seek to demonstrate others-oriented love in those relationships?

  1. List those you know (including members of your group) who exhibit love. Describe how they demonstrate that characteristic.

  1. How does observing love in those people spur you on to love similarly?

Joy

Those around us often understand happiness in terms of the absence of undesirable elements of life —pain, suffering, disappointment. In contrast, Christian joy is a response to the presence of something positive in our lives—the presence of Christ through the Spirit, along with the hope we have in Him. This presence and hope enable us to have joy in the midst of pain, suffering, and disappointment.

Joy comes from knowing that though we will experience the hardships that come with living in a fallen world, our present experience is nothing like the future that awaits us. As Karl Barth once said in the face of distress, Christian joy proclaims “a defiant ‘Nevertheless!’”5

Even Christ’s experience on the cross involved joy:

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who

for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and

sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2)

Cultivating joy, like cultivating love, requires us to move beyond ourselves. We must move beyond our present circumstances, beyond our short-term pains and pleasures. Cultivating joy requires that we not pursue it as an end in itself but rather that we pursue God and one another in other-directed love. When we do so, we find that joy is a by-product. As John Stott writes, “The self-conscious pursuit of happiness will always end in failure. But when we forget ourselves in the self-giving sacrifice of love, then joy … comes flooding into our lives as an incidental, unlooked for blessing.”

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your

gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. (Philippians 4:4-5)

When joy characterizes our lives, we aren’t shaken by the tides of our circumstances. We still grieve during times of loss and rejoice in times of celebration. We’re not stoic, lacking any expression of emotion. But we don’t despair in times of loss, nor are we overly taken by temporal success. A joyful person has a strong awareness of God’s good providence.

  1. In what circumstances has a sense of joy been most evident in your life?

  1. What circumstances most “steal” your joy?

  1. How might others help you cultivate joy in your life?

  1. List those you know (including members of your group) who exhibit joy. Describe how they demonstrate it.

  1. How does observing joy in those people spur you on to joy?

Peace

Our contemporary definition of peace can be misleading. We think of peace as the absence of conflict, but Scripture gives a much richer perspective. Biblical peace involves total well-being, wholeness, and harmony. Cultivating that kind of peace in our lives and relationships is hard in a fragmented world like ours. A fallen world is full of obstacles to personal wholeness, unity with our brothers and sisters, and justice in the world. God has provided the way of ultimate reconciliation through Christ: “He himself is our peace” (Ephesians 2:14). We can be agents of reconciliation as we walk by the Spirit: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9).

Though conflict is common in human relations and is necessary to a certain degree, it should not be an end in itself. Christians should aim not to be in conflict, either internally or interpersonally. Peacemakers pursue harmony in relationships. They aren’t necessarily averse to conflict, but they want it to lead to resolution.

Internal peace comes from integrity. Peacemakers avoid living double lives. They seek to integrate areas of their lives. If possible, they want to work, go to church, and live in the same community, so as not to have unrelated sets of relationships. People characterized by peace are not secretive because they have nothing to hide.

  1. What are some practical ways you can embody God’s peace in your life context (for example, in your home, church, and community)?

  1. How can you avoid acting as though your attitudes and actions in one area of life don’t affect other areas? How can you avoid being a different person in different settings?

  1. List those you know who exhibit peace internally and in relationships. Describe how they demonstrate it.

  1. How does observing peace in those people spur you on to peace?

Patience

Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. Don’t grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!

Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy. (James 5:7-11)

Time has become a commodity, and to some people, time is the most valuable commodity they have. We speak of spending time, saving time, wasting time, and buying time. Many professionals attend seminars that will teach them to invest their time wisely in order to get the greatest possible return on their investment. Yet in this world where we view time as a commodity and spend it expecting results, we are called to cultivate patience. Patience requires a willingness to lay aside our to-do lists and our incessant demands for quantifiable results for the sake of others’ needs, our own spiritual development, and the worship of God. A patient person does not hoard time.

Another aspect of patience is restraint from taking matters into our own hands. Patient people, when circumstances necessitate, are willing to wait. They wait for clear direction from the Lord when confused about a job opportunity. They wait for a child to finish explaining an incident before rushing to judgment. They restrain their anger when their son embarrasses them in public. They wait for God’s healing hand after the disappointing breakup of a relationship.

  1. What circumstances consistently test your patience?

  1. How do you typically react to those circumstances?

  1. How might such circumstances help you cultivate patience?

  1. How can you cultivate patience? How can others help you cultivate it?

  1. List those you know who exhibit patience. Describe how they demonstrate it.

  1. How does observing patience in those people spur you on to patience?

Kindness

When autonomy and self-sufficiency are cherished, little room is left for kindness. Philip Kenneson observes that “kindness is a particular manifestation of love’s other-directedness. Kindness seems to manifest itself as a certain way of being helpful to those who need help. Such helpfulness stems first of all from God’s helpfulness, of which the Christian is imminently mindful.”

For the self-sufficient individual, to seek such help is to admit one’s inadequacy, and to be offered such help is an affront to one’s sense of independence. Cultivating kindness involves the reciprocity of freely giving and receiving grace between needy people, not independence but interdependence. As with all of the Spirit’s fruit, kindness is essentially an expression of other-directedness in that it calls us to be freely available to those around us.

In the parable of the good Samaritan, Jesus demonstrates the close connection between love and kindness. The Samaritan finds a victim of assault and robbery, personally bandages him, takes him to an inn, cares for him that evening, and then pays for his ongoing care. After telling the parable, Jesus vividly makes His point about the connection between love and kindness with a final question:

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:36-37)

  1. What keeps you from expressing kindness to others? What aspects of your culture, personality, or personal heritage (family and cultural background) hinder you?

  1. List those you know who exhibit kindness. Describe how they demonstrate it.

  1. How does observing kindness in those people spur you on to kindness?

Goodness

When the rich young ruler called Jesus “good teacher,” Jesus reminded him that “no one is good—except God alone” (Mark 10:17-18). Like all of the Spirit’s fruit, goodness is a reflection of God’s character. However, many people in our time consider goodness to reside in the nature of humanity. What those people fail to recognize is that the only good inherent in humanity is what remains of the image of God placed in us at Creation (see Genesis 1:26-27). Goodness always has God as its source.

The London Times once asked a number of writers to submit essays on the topic “What’s wrong with the world?” G. K. Chesterton’s reply was the shortest and yet the most profound. His reply simply read, “Dear Sirs, I am. Sincerely, G. K. Chesterton.” Such an acute awareness of our fallenness leaves no room for the kind of self-affirmation and self-actualization prevalent in our society. John Stott affirms this truth:

Christian believers are able to affirm only those aspects of the self which derive from our creation in God’s image (e.g. our rational capacity, moral responsibility, and capacity for love), while at the same time denying (that is, disowning and repudiating) all those aspects of the self which derive from the fall and from our own personal fallenness. These Christian forms of self-affirmation and self-denial are very far from being expressions of a preoccupation, let alone an infatuation, with ourselves.”

We are not inherently good, but the Holy Spirit who indwells us is. Only through deferring to His power and presence in our lives can we develop the characteristic of goodness.

In John’s gospel, Christ defines goodness by referring to Himself:

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it.” (John 10:11-12)

In this passage, a good person not only avoids thinking maliciously about others but he also goes so far as to make personal sacrifices for them. Onlookers can see that a good person acts for others’ well-being. Further, good people aren’t fickle in their intentions. People don’t say of the good woman, “She let us down, but she had good intentions.” The good person follows through on good intentions.

  1. In your mind, what qualifies a person as a “good person”?

  1. If you consider yourself a “good person,” in what sense do you think you are good?

  1. List those you know who exhibit goodness. Describe how they demonstrate it.

  1. How does observing goodness in those people spur you on to goodness?

Faithfulness

Few words come nearer to capturing God’s character than the word faithful. All of salvation history testifies that God is a covenant-making and covenant-keeping God. In light of His unyielding faithfulness to His people, being called to imitate Him in this respect is an exceedingly high calling.

Cultivating faithfulness is difficult in a world like ours that downplays the significance of commitment and is obsessed with instant gratification. We must have what Eugene Peterson has called “a long obedience in the same direction.” Faithful husbands and wives keep their promises “until death do us part.” Faithful students finish all their assignments on time. Faithful employees do not fudge on their work but rather press on diligently to complete a high-quality product. Faithful parents don’t throw their hands up and give in to their children’s disobedience; they continue to train and discipline them.

For Christians, faithfulness involves more than fulfilling one’s commitments. It involves consistent dependence on God’s power. The pages of Scripture are filled with tragic stories of men and women who sought to chart their own course rather than remain steadfast in following God’s direction. The entire history of Israel demonstrates that when memory grows short, commitment and dependence grow weak. Our faithfulness to God in the present requires a profound appreciation of His faithfulness to us in the past and an unreserved confidence in His promises for the future.

  1. What are some of the most significant ways God has demonstrated His faithfulness to you?

  1. What are some of God’s faithful acts that you often forget to be thankful for?

  1. In what areas do you struggle the most with being faithful to your commitments?

  1. How can others help you cultivate consistency to follow through with your responsibilities?

  1. List those you know who exhibit faithfulness. Describe how they demonstrate it.

  1. How does observing faithfulness in those people spur you on to faithfulness?

Gentleness

All of our lives are, to some degree, ambition-driven. We want to be significant and have our lives count for something. These desires aren’t necessarily evil, but if left unchecked, they can choke out the fruit of gentleness. In a world where those who wield power are the ones who make a difference, ambition-driven Christians can easily give in to the seduction of power.

Our culture tells us, “If you want to get anything done … if you want to make an impact, you have to be in a position of power to do so; otherwise, you are doomed to ineffectiveness, and ultimately, failure. Hence, people who want to make their mark on the world will have to make peace with doing so by using the world’s ways, which are usually the ways of power and coercion.”

Gentleness, meekness, and humility involve “the strength to refrain from power and coercion.” Those who are gentle are not the opposite of those who are strong. They simply refrain from using their strength for intimidation or manipulation. They realize that by being gentle, they can encourage and edify another. A gentle person is one by whom others don’t feel threatened when they’re vulnerable. They will reveal their fears and confusion because they know that this gentle person does not inflict pain on those who are vulnerable.

If someone tells about his demotion at work, the gentle man does not accuse the person of poor performance. (“Well, you must not have worked hard enough.”) The gentle woman does not condemn her friend who admits to hitting her child in a moment of anger. (“How dare you do such a thing!”) The gentle person will try to channel personal strength toward helping others, not condemning them.

  1. Can Christians be ambitious and at the same time cultivate gentleness? If so, how? If not, why not?

  1. How does an initial response of gentleness rather than correction communicate love to someone who reveals a failure or sin?

  1. How does that initial gentleness provide a platform for later influence in the person’s life that can lead to repentance?

  1. List those you know who exhibit gentleness. Describe how they demonstrate it.

  1. How does observing gentleness in those people spur you on to gentleness?

Self-Control

The final quality mentioned in Paul’s list of the Spirit’s fruit may seem out of place. The others share a common theme of other-centeredness. Yet at the conclusion of the list we find what most translations call self-control.

In the Greek world of Paul’s day, self-control was a chief virtue, foundational to developing all other virtues. If one was to master the virtuous life, he first must learn to master his own emotions and desires; he must learn to be controlled by nothing. Yet when Paul identified this virtue as a fruit of the Spirit, he used the term differently from the way others used it. In calling self-control a fruit of the Spirit, Paul attributed the control of the self not to the individual’s work but to the Spirit’s work in that individual’s life. For Paul, self-control meant to be controlled by God.

When we understand self-control in this way, we see that perhaps the best way we can cultivate this fruit is not necessarily through more concentrated efforts of our will. Instead, we should do what we can to nourish the other aspects of the Spirit’s fruit, all of which call us to forget ourselves in the service of others and in the worship and service of God.

  1. In what areas do you struggle to control desires or emotions?

  1. How can others help you cultivate control over those areas?

  1. List those you know who exhibit self-control. Describe how they demonstrate it.

  1. How does observing self-control in those people spur you on to having self-control?

This ends our series in this part eleven on leading a Godly controlled life.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

I WANT YOUR MIND

August 11, 2018

IT’S A LONG DEVOTION SO YOU MAY WANT TO PRINT IT OUT.

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (Col. 3:1–4).

How can we develop a heavenly mindset?

Some have said it is possible to be “so heavenly minded that we are no earthly good.” However, when you look at the history of the church, it was those who were the most heavenly minded who did the most good. Listen to what Christ said: “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it” (Matt. 11:12).

The people who forcefully grabbed hold of the kingdom of heaven are the ones advancing it. Though on the earth, they had a heavenly mindset. Having a heavenly mindset is very important for advancing the kingdom, not only in our lives but on this earth as well.

It is for this reason that Satan is always attacking the believer’s mind with doubts, fears, worldly thoughts, etc. Satan wants to keep believers from focusing on what really matters, and that is God and his kingdom.

This is what Paul is primarily referring to when he says to the Colossians, “set your hearts on things above.” He is primarily referring to God and his kingdom. In the Lord’s Prayer, we are taught to be consumed with God’s name being hallowed, and his kingdom and his will being done on earth as it is in heaven (Matt. 6:9–10). The believer’s mind should be consumed with heavenly things.

In Scripture, those who practice right thinking receive tremendous blessings. Isaiah 26:3 says, “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.” It also can be translated, “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is stayed on you” (ESV).

The person whose thoughts are consumed with God and his kingdom will have perfect peace instead of anxiety and worry. When we find ourselves anxious or worried, we can be sure that we have lost a God–centered mindset.

What are some other benefits of God–centered thinking? Listen to Philippians 4:8–9:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Paul says thinking on right things and practicing them brings the God of peace—the very presence of God in our lives (v. 9). Many are missing the manifest presence of God in their lives because they have ungodly thinking, which eventually leads to ungodly practice.

In fact, Paul says that the way a person thinks is an indicator both of his salvation and his fruitfulness. Listen to what he says:

Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace (Rom. 8:5–6).

The secular person thinks only about the “desires” of his carnal nature. The carnal person may be spiritual, but he only wants things of the spirit that satisfy or glorify him:

“God, give me an ‘A’ on this test.”

“God, get me into grad school.”

“God, give me this promotion.”

“God, take away this sickness.”

A carnal person may believe in God and pray for things, but God is only a means to his “desires.” James 4:3 says, “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”

However, a truly born-again person desires what the Spirit of God desires. He ultimately wants God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. This doesn’t mean that we don’t pray for our desires; it means we are not consumed with our desires. The desires of the redeemed should be and must become that of the Spirit of God.

Paul says the one who continually thinks on the desires of their sinful nature will bring the fruits of death and destruction, but the one consumed with the things of the Spirit brings the fruits of life and peace (Rom. 8:6).

The mind is very important. What does your mind say about you? It will tell you who you are—a believer or an unbeliever—a person led by the sinful nature or a person led by the Spirit. It will also tell you what type of fruits you will produce. A person that thinks on the things of God receives life and peace.

Paul in Colossians 3:1 is calling these believers, who are tempted like all of us to think on carnal things, to set their heart and mind on things above. He says, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above.”

Again, when he says “above,” he really means God and his kingdom (cf. Matt. 6:9–10). How do we develop a heavenly mindset, a mind consumed with the things of God? We will learn principles about developing a heavenly mindset in this text.

Big Question: How do we develop a heavenly mindset consumed with the things of God according to this text?

A Heavenly Mindset Is Developed By A Focus On Our Resurrected Position

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God” (Col. 3:1).

Interpretation Question: What does Paul mean by the believer being raised with Christ, and why is it an encouragement to think on things above?

Paul says believers can develop a heavenly mindset by understanding their resurrected position in Christ. When Christ died, we died with him, and when he resurrected and went to heaven, we went with him. Listen to how Paul talks about this in Ephesians: “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:6).

When Paul says, “seated us with him in the heavenly realms,” he is primarily referring to “authority” and “rulership.” Listen to how Paul uses a similar phrase in relationship to Christ in Ephesians 1:19–22:

And his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church.

Paul, in talking about the power that is in believers and was at work in Christ in the resurrection, says this power seated Christ in heavenly realms far above all authority, power, and dominion. God placed all things under his feet.

Therefore, when Paul says the Ephesians have been seated with Christ by this great power, he wants them to see their authority and position in Christ. They are rulers with Christ over all things. Now at this present time, not everything in heaven and on the earth submits to Christ in the way it is supposed to, but one day it will at his coming. First Corinthians 15:24–26 says,

Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

At Christ’s second coming he will bring all things into full submission to his will. All will bow and call him Lord (Phil. 2:10–11). All things will be put under his feet.

The incredulous thing about Christ’s rule is that we will rule with him. Romans 8:17 says we are “co–heirs with Christ.” Everything that is his is ours. In John 17:22, Christ said in his high priestly prayer that he has given us his glory.

Paul in Colossians 3:1 is telling us that we must think about our resurrected position with Christ. Again he says: “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.”

Paul says our thinking should reflect our resurrection in Christ, the one who is seated at the right hand of God and will rule all things. In fact, Paul uses this same argument at Corinth where the believers were arguing and suing one another. Look at what he says:

Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life! Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, appoint as judges even men of little account in the church! (1 Cor. 6:2–4).

He rebukes them for arguing and then bringing their church disputes before the world in civil cases. He essentially says, “Don’t you know your resurrected position? Don’t you know you will judge the world and angels?” God has given judgment over to the Son (John 5:22), and because we are seated with him, we will judge the world and angels in his coming kingdom. Paul says, “Because of this reality, shouldn’t you be able to judge these small disputes in the church?”

Now, none of these Christians were probably thinking about their future rule with Christ while they were disputing with one another. They were concerned about what they had lost and how they had been cheated. However, Paul essentially says that they should be thinking about their position in Christ. One day they would judge the world and angels. Paul taught that having a heavenly mind should have affected how they handled their disputes in the church.

If we are going to have a heavenly mind, we must first start with understanding our position in Christ. We have been raised with Christ who is seated at the right hand of God. Everything that is the Son’s is ours. As mentioned before, this seating reflects our unity with Christ and the authority that comes with it. And this reality should affect how we think and live. Consider what Jesus told his disciples:

Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’ (Matt. 28:18–19).

When Christ told them to go and make disciples, he told them to do this based on his authority, which he had essentially given them. The disciples worked on behalf of Christ and the kingdom of heaven. Paul, in fact, calls himself an ambassador of Christ in 2 Corinthians 5:20. He says, “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.”

An ambassador goes somewhere with the message and the authority of the person he represents. Paul is not only saying that he had the message of God, but also the authority of God in saying it.

Many Christians are scared to evangelize, scared to share their faith, scared to counsel, scared to serve God, etc. If they just understood their position and their authority, it would drastically affect their ministry. When Paul cast out the demon in Acts 16, he didn’t act on his authority, but on the authority of Christ whom he was seated in.

She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so troubled that he turned around and said to the spirit, ‘In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!’ At that moment the spirit left her (Acts 16:18).

Did Paul have special authority in himself? No, this authority came from whom he represented, whom he was seated in. He told the demon to leave “in the name of Jesus Christ.” Paul was an ambassador walking in the authority of Christ. If we are going to have the right mindset, we must focus on our resurrected position. We are different from the rest of the world because of our position in the heavenly realms, and we must live like it.

What else is needed to develop a heavenly mindset?

Application Question: What other applications can we take from the importance of knowing our resurrected position in Christ?

A Heavenly Mindset Is Developed By A Life Of Continual Discipline

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above” (Col. 3:1).

The word “set” is an active word. It can also be translated as “seek.” The KJV says, “Seek those things above.” This does not happen by accident; it only happens through rigorous discipline. If you are not actively seeking things above, then you won’t be thinking in a heavenly manner. This is what Paul said in Romans 12:2: “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

When he says, “Do not conform any longer,” it implies that the members of the Roman church were already being conformed. It has the sense of stop conforming, or stop being pressed and molded into the pattern of this world. If you are not seeking things above, you are already being pressed and molded to look and think like the rest of the world.

You will be molded in how you view yourself:

“I must have this body.”

“I must have this type of skin.”

“I must dress like this.”

“I must have this degree, and this type of job.”

The world will control how you think, how you dress, what type of job you seek, and the type of school you go to. Christ said, “You cannot have two masters, you will love one and hate the other. You cannot serve both God and Money” (Matt. 6:24).

Most Christians have the world as their master. It tells them what to do, where to go, and how to do it. Christians must understand that they are no longer part of this world, and they must actively “seek” to think the way God has called them to think. They must seek things above.

How do we practice and develop this discipline of thinking on things above?

Application Question: How can we actively seek those things above as a discipline?

This discipline is developed in several ways.

  1. The Believer Actively Seeks Heavenly Things By Impressing Scripture Upon His Heart.

It is through Scripture that we renew our minds and start to think on things that are noble, good, and righteous—we start to think more like God. How do we impress Scripture upon our hearts? Listen to what Moses said to Israel:

These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates (Deut. 6:6–9).

He gives them several ways to put God’s Word on their hearts.

They were to teach the Word of God to their children.

If you are going to think on heavenly things, you must be a teacher. You must teach it to your friends; teach it in small groups; teach it to strangers. When you have to teach something, you can’t help but think upon it all the time.

Some may say, “I am a baby Christian. How can I teach?” Find somebody you know more than and share with that person, even if it’s an unbeliever. That’s what the parents were doing when they taught their children. They taught somebody they knew more than. We should do the same. Every Christian is called to be a teacher, and one can’t set his heart upon things above without doing this.

They were to talk about the Word of God everywhere: at home, when walking, when lying down, when getting up.

This didn’t mean that they were to only have theological conversations. This meant that they needed to view everything from the mindset of God and what God thought about things. Christians should automatically think about what Scripture says when they see movies, watch the news, or are asked a simple question. And yes, you will be considered narrow when you do this, but this is the type of mind that pleases God—a mind that is set on God’s Word.

They were to develop reminders to help them memorize it; they were to tie it on their hands, foreheads, door frames, and gates.

Certainly this may be done very literally as Israel did, with memory flash cards, pictures, and paintings, but, even more so, you should set up places and times in your daily life where you will always encounter the Word of God. This includes things like daily meditation, small groups, or accountability meetings. Every morning you are going to encounter the Word of God here. Every Tuesday you are going to encounter the Word of God there. Every Friday you are going to encounter the Word of God when you meet with brother or sister so-and-so.

By tying it on their hands, head, and doors, they constantly saw the Word of God. This is important because if we don’t do this, we may sometimes go a week and realize, “I haven’t read the Word of God.”

This is a lot of work. But in order to “set,” to have a mind that is immovable from the things of God, it takes discipline. Many Christians know nothing of a mind that has “set the Lord before them at all times and they will not be shaken” (Ps. 16:8). Many Christians are shaken by every little event. A mind that is “set” happens only by rigorous acts of discipline, and we must seek to develop this through study of the Word of God.

How else do we discipline our mind?

  1. The Believer Actively Seeks Heavenly Things By Rejecting Everything That Is Not From God.

“Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things” (Col. 3:2).

Paul said we should not only seek things above but also turn away from earthly things. In order to think heavenly thoughts, we must get rid of or keep away from things that would draw us away from God. We are called to get rid of anxieties. Scripture says, “Be anxious for nothing” (Phil. 4:6). We are called to get rid of lust, anger, envy, jealousy, and anything else that is not of God (cf. Col. 3:5–9).

Practically, this may mean not watching certain TV shows, reading certain magazines or books, listening to certain music, or hanging around certain people, especially when we find they contribute to drawing us away from God and godly thoughts. We must zealously protect our minds. Paul said,

The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ (2 Cor. 10:4–5).

We must take captive every thought and bring it into submission to Christ. Make no mistake here, brethren. Our thoughts are not neutral, innocent, or harmless. Our minds are either lorded by Christ or someone or something else. Is Christ Lord of your thoughts?

  1. The Believer Actively Seeks Heavenly Things By Developing A Consistent Prayer Life.

“Be joyful always; pray continually” (1 Thess. 5:16–17).

It is through the discipline of prayer that we develop a heavenly mindset. We must learn how to pray at all times, bringing every thought before our Father.

  1. The Believer Actively Seeks Heavenly Things By Fostering Healthy Fellowship.

“He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm” (Prov. 13:20).

Again, our thinking is often affected by our friends. The fool in Scripture is a person who says there is no God or does not live for God (cf. Ps. 14:1). Therefore, the wise are people who fear and honor God (Prov. 9:10). We must develop friendships with wise, godly believers who help us seek spiritual things.

Application Question: What type of thoughts do you have to commonly reject to keep a heavenly mindset? How is God calling you to practice these disciplines to develop a heavenly mindset?

A Heavenly Mindset Is Developed By A Focus On Our Crucified Position

“For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 2:3).

Interpretation Question: In what way have believers died, and how should this affect our thinking?

Paul says we died with Christ and our life is now hidden in Christ. For many, instead of thinking on the things of God, they are consumed with ungodly things like lust, anger, bitterness, jealousy, covetousness, etc. In order to have a heavenly mindset, we must reckon our death with Christ. But, we must ask the questions, “What exactly did we die to?” and “How did we die?”

  1. The Believer Died To Sin.

If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been freed from sin (Rom. 6:5–7).

On the cross, our old nature was crucified with Christ. It was crucified so that we could be freed from sin. We must understand this doctrine to walk in victory over lust, anger, depression, and any other sin that tries to control us. Paul says this should be our response to our death to sin: “In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 6:11).

He says to “count” or think about yourself differently. You are dead to sin but alive to God. This means that I can break habitual strongholds of sin. It means that I can start over when I fail because Christ paid the penalty for my sins and broke the power of it.

For many, instead of thinking on the things of God they are consumed with ungodly things like lust, anger, bitterness, jealousy, covetousness, etc. In order to have a heavenly mindset, we must reckon our death to sin. We died with Christ.

  1. The Believer Died To Self.

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple (Luke 14:26–27).

Christ says to follow him as a disciple, we must hate our life and take up our cross. This is a daily discipline. We die to ourselves, our desires, and our wants in order to submit to Christ. We get a good picture of this with Christ before going to the cross. He says, “Take this cup from me but nevertheless, your will be done” (Luke 22:42). He submitted his will to that of the Father and so must we.

Listen to Paul’s testimony of this: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).

For many people, they can’t have a heavenly mind because they are consumed with self instead of God. In order to develop a heavenly mindset, we must continually crucify ourselves—we must daily reckon ourselves dead to self and alive to God.

  1. The Believer Died To This World.

“May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Gal. 6:14).

Paul said his death on the cross with Christ also brought death to this world. He essentially said, “I am dead to the world and the things of the world. They no longer satisfy me. They no longer are my passions in life. My passion is to honor and to know Christ. I am alive to God and dead to the world.”

John said, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15).

The very reason many cannot think on things above is because of worldliness. They are consumed with the things of this world: gaining them, enjoying them, and keeping them. If we are going to think on heavenly things, we must continually reckon ourselves dead to the things of this world so we can seek the things above.

  1. The Believer Died To The Power Of The Devil.

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved (Eph. 2:1–5).

In a very real sense, we died to Satan as well. Before salvation, Scripture says that we were children of the devil (1 John 3:10) and were following his ways (Eph. 2:2). But now, as believers, we have become children of God and followers of his Word. We are dead to the devil and alive to God.

Satan, who works through sin, the flesh, and the world to tempt us, has no dominion over us anymore because we died to him. We should no longer submit to him or live in fear of him because he was defeated by Christ (cf. Col. 2:15).

However, it must be known that a person is a slave to whomever he submits to. We can still submit to sin, self, the world, and the devil. Paul said,

Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? (Rom. 6:16).

Therefore, as an act of the will, we must reject sin, selfishness, the world, and the devil to develop a heavenly mindset. We died with Christ and now are hidden in him.

What does this crucified life look like?

The crucified life says, “Life is not about me. My life is not bound any longer to sin or my desires. Life is not about the things of the world. It is about Christ.” Paul said, “to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). If we don’t understand the crucified life, then we will be consumed with the things of this world. We will find ourselves feverishly running after every fad that comes out. If we don’t understand the crucified life, we will become enslaved to our wants and desires and other things we were delivered from.

It has been said that, “Dead men don’t get offended.” This means that a person who is living a crucified life is not consumed with fighting for his rights every time somebody hurts him. Like Christ, a person who has reckoned his death has become the meek who will inherit the earth (Matt. 5:5). He recognizes that this world and his life is not his anymore. He was crucified with Christ.

Application Question: In what ways do you need to apply the crucified life practically?

A Heavenly Mindset Is Developed By A Focus On Our Hidden Life In Christ

“For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 2:3).

Another aspect of the crucified life is that we are hidden in Christ. There are many ramifications of this we must daily internalize if we are going to develop a heavenly mindset.

Application Question: What does Paul mean by our lives being hidden in Christ? From whom are we hidden?

  1. To Be Hidden In Christ Is A Reflection Of Protection; We Are Protected By Him.

Listen to what John says about the experience of a believer:

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand (John 10:27–29).

Because of our relationship with Christ, Jesus places us in his hand and the Father’s hand for protection. This speaks of our eternal security and Christ’s constant protection of us. We get a picture of the protected life in Psalm 23. Listen to what David says about God as his shepherd:

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows (Ps. 23:4–5).

David said he had comfort even when confronted by death because the Shepherd protected him with his rod and staff. Even when his enemies surrounded him, he ate in peace. His Shepherd provided food, drink, and oil for healing and refreshment. He never lacked or wanted for anything because his Shepherd met all of his needs (Ps. 23:1).

In order to have peace in a world of constant trials and sometimes persecution, we must understand our hidden life. We must understand the Shepherd who protects us with his staff, feeds us even amidst our enemies, anoints our wounds, and never lets us leave his hand.

This is the hidden life of every true believer regardless of circumstances, and it must be our focus to have peace, especially in the midst of trials. We must know we are hidden in Christ.

What else does the hidden life represent?

  1. To Be Hidden In Christ Is A Reflection Of Identity; It Means The World Will Not Recognize Us.

To be hidden in Christ is essentially a reflection of how we are dead to the world. The world doesn’t recognize who we truly are in Christ, and they will commonly misunderstand us because our life is hidden in him. They may ask, “How come you are not all about partying, drinking, sex, career, wealth, etc.? Why are you so into church? Why are you so different?” Peter said, “They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you” (1 Peter 4:4).

The hidden life not only means being protected by Christ, it also means being different and therefore misunderstood by the world. Our life is different and at times these differences may cause persecution. We should not be alarmed at this because our life is in Christ who was similarly mistreated. However, now he is exalted at the right hand of God, and one day our exaltation with him will be manifest to all (cf. Rom. 8:19). A heavenly mindset understands and finds encouragement in the hidden life.

Application Question: In what ways does the hidden life encourage you? How is God calling you to make this more of your focus?

A Heavenly Mindset Is Developed By A Focus On Our Future In Christ

“When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (Col. 3:4).

In order to develop a heavenly mindset, the believer must also understand his future in Christ. Whatever you think about the future will affect how you live today. If you are consumed with being a doctor then you will constantly be thinking about your grades, preparing for exams to get into med school, or considering the best college to go to. Your thoughts about the future affect how you live today.

In the same way, this heavenly mindset is developed through constantly thinking on our future in Christ. Paul says, “When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” The believer who truly understands this and focuses on Christ’s second coming and our future glory with him will be consumed with it. Listen to Philippians 3:20–21:

But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

He says that we eagerly await a Savior from there. Eagerly await “is strong language (in the original) to express the earnest expectation of something believed to be imminent. It means literally to thrust forward the head and neck as in anxious expectation of hearing or seeing something.”1 It means to focus on something to the exclusion of everything else. Those who understand the second coming are consumed with it. Developing a focus on the second coming is crucial to a heavenly mindset.

When Paul talks about Christ’s coming, he also mentions our appearance in glory. This glory is probably not just a reflection of heaven but our glory. We will have glorified bodies when Christ comes. Listen to what 1 Corinthians 15:42–44 says about this:

So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.

How should the reality of Christ’s second coming and our appearance with him in glory affect us? John said,

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure (1 John 3:2–3).

Everyone who has this hope purifies himself. The second coming of Christ and our future glory should make us purify our thoughts, our conversations, and our daily endeavors. It transforms us.

This is probably the reason many Christians do not have a heavenly mindset and do not have holy lives. They have lost (or never had) hope in the second coming of Christ. Listen to how Christ described this unfortunate reality in a parable about a master and his unfaithful servant:

The Lord answered, ‘Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns. I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But suppose the servant says to himself, “My master is taking a long time in coming,” and he then begins to beat the menservants and maidservants and to eat and drink and get drunk. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers. That servant who knows his master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked’ (Luke 12:42–48).

The problem with this servant was he lost an expectation of the master’s coming. This encouraged him to cast off restraint as he lived in discord, waste, and blatant sin. This parable is about the fruits we will find in our lives if we lose our expectancy of Christ’s coming. Discord, wasteful living, and blatant sin will mark our lives as well.

For this reason Satan is always after our minds. He realizes that if he can turn them away from heavenly things, he can turn us towards earthly things. “For as he thinks within himself, so he is” (Prov. 23:7 NASB). The more earthly we think, the more earthly we become. Our enemy is especially after the believer’s mind as it concerns the future. He will have one think about graduate school, marriage, retirement, and anything else rather than Christ’s return and our future glory with him. Satan understands that anybody who has this hope purifies themselves (cf. 1 John 3:2–3). What you think about the future affects how you live today.

Application Question: How do we keep an unwavering focus on Christ’s coming?

  1. The Believer Develops An Unwavering Focus On Christ’s Coming By The Study Of Eschatology, The Study Of The End Times.

Revelation 1:3 says, “Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.”

Eschatology is very important because God has given it to us to help us prepare for and have an eager expectation of the future. John says that there is a blessing on the one who reads, hears, and takes to heart the words of prophecy in the book of Revelation. Those who study Revelation and the doctrine of the end times have a double blessing. It helps them keep a heavenly a mind, a mind consumed with and prepared for Christ’s coming.

Sadly, the enemy has sown so much disagreement over the end times that many pastors never teach on it. And therefore, the members of the church miss out on the blessing it brings to our lives—they live with no eager expectation. Like the servant who thought his master delayed his coming, we often cast off restraint and become consumed with our earthly life instead of our heavenly one. These doctrines are very important for us to drink deeply from so we can be ready for our Lord’s return. Christ said, “Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done” (Rev. 22:12).

  1. The Believer Develops An Unwavering Focus On Christ’s Coming By Practicing The Lord’s Supper.

Paul said, “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Cor. 11:26).

The Lord’s Supper is not only a look back at the cross, but it is also meant to be a look forward. We are looking forward to the coming of our Savior. We should practice this often to keep our hearts ready for our Lord’s appearance.

Application Question: When you think about the future, what do you constantly think about? Do you struggle with staying focused on Christ’s coming, his kingdom, and our glory with him? How is God calling you to develop an eager expectation on these things so you can be more effective for his kingdom?

Conclusion

Paul wants this church to develop a heavenly mindset. It will deliver them from much of the earthly teaching filled with deceptive philosophy that was threatening the church (cf. Col. 2:8).

Developing a heavenly mindset, one that thinks on God and his kingdom, is very important to us as well. “As a man thinks, so he is” (Prov. 23:7, paraphrase). Right thinking leads to having the manifest presence of God in our lives (Phil. 4:8–9). Godly thinking brings peace and life to us and identifies us as true believers (Rom. 8:5–6). More importantly, if we are going to live a godly life it starts with a godly mind (Col. 3:1–5). This is why Satan is always attacking the believer’s mind and thoughts. He wants them to live like the world instead of living like a citizen of heaven waiting for their coming King.

How do we develop a heavenly mindset so we can live the effective Christian life God has called us to?

A heavenly mindset is developed by a focus on our resurrected position.

A heavenly mindset is developed by a life of continual discipline.

A heavenly mindset is developed by a focus on our crucified position.

A heavenly mindset is developed by a focus on our hidden life in Christ.

A heavenly mindset is developed by a focus on our future in Christ.

GOD BLESS FROM SCUMLIKEUSCURCH@GMAIL.COM

New Dwelling Place

August 10, 2018

Resurrection-Doubting-Thomas

  “Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1).

  Few see and stand upon the fact that our history in Adam ended on the Cross. Our past will plague us until we acknowledge that we are now clear of Adam and safely hidden in the risen Lord Jesus—newly-born creations in Him. One of the penalties of self-occupation is self-pity and corroding remorse.

 Regret for a sinful past will remain until we truly believe that for us in the Lord Jesus that sinful past no longer exists. The man in Christ has only His past and that is perfect and acceptable to the Father. In the Lord Jesus he died, and in Him he rose, and he is now seated in Him within the circle of the Father’s favored ones. He is no longer angry with himself because he is no longer self-regarding, but Christ-regarding: hence there is no place for regret.

  The knowledge of our union with the Lord Jesus is what will deliver the believer from all that is low and feeble, and will lift him to a life of joy and peace. To gaze upon our risen Lord in the Father’s presence, to whom all things are subject, will transform us into heavenly Christians, dwelling all the day in the Father’s presence.

The believer shares the Lord Jesus’ Cross (‘knowing this, that our old man was crucified with him’ Rom. 6:6); His death (‘ye died and your life is hid with Christ in God’ Col. 3:3); His burial (‘we were buried with him by baptism into death’ Rom. 6:4); His resurrection (‘as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we’ Rom. 6:4); His ascension (‘made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus’ Eph. 2:6).

  “There is, therefore, now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1).

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

Pray for Annissa, she is HIV positive, tests just came back

Pray for Dave I, still battling prostate cancer

Pray for Andrea and Todd, really struggling with finances.