We are not the world

February 19, 2018

It’s always good to know who your enemies are. And, may I tell you, beyond the shadow of any doubt or peradventure, that you that you have three enemies at least, and they are three big ones: the world, the flesh, and the devil. And, no Christian can afford to be ignorant of these enemies, for, to be ignorant is to be unprepared, and to be unprepared is to fall and to go down in shame and disgrace and ignominious defeat.

Now, of these three enemies, I want to just take one, and talk to you about that one enemy—and, that one enemy is the world. And, I’ve entitled this message “Your Friendly Enemy,” because the world seems so friendly, so charming, so innocuous, sometimes beautiful, sometimes helpful, sometimes harmless. But, I want to warn you that what the Bible calls the world is an enemy and a deadly enemy.

Now, what do we mean when we say the world? We have to be very careful because we’re certainly not talking about the earth—Planet Earth. Sometimes the word cosmos, that’s translated “world,” speaks of Planet Earth. For example, it does, in Acts 17, where the Bible says the Lord made the world and everything that is in it (Acts 17:24). There’s nothing evil about the rocks and the trees, the birds, the ocean, the fields, the mountains. Thank God for these things. Jesus said, “Consider the lilies how they grow” (Luke 12:27).

There’s nothing wrong with the material physical universe, and never think that there is. And, when the Bible warns about the world, it’s not warning about Planet Earth. Do you have that?

When the Bible warns about the world, it’s not warning about the people of the world. The Bible says, in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son” (John 3:16). There, he’s talking about the people of the world. Now, if God loves those people, we ought to love them. “Red and yellow, black, and white, they are precious in His sight.” He’s not talking, therefore, about the physical universe or the physical earth, he’s not talking about the people, some 5 billion of them now that live on Planet Earth.

When the Bible uses the word world, what does the Bible mean? When the Bible says, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world”—1 John 2:15? Well, it’s the word cosmos. And, what does that mean? It means a system, an order.

there is a system that the Bible calls the world, which is the world of wickedness—and we’re told, not to love it. 1 John 2:15: “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love [this system], the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15).

What we are talking about—this ungodly system—first of all, it has a prince. The prince of the world is the devil. Now, the Bible makes that plain. For example, in John 12:31, Jesus called the devil “the prince of this world” (John 12:31). What Jesus meant by that, is that Satan rules this ungodly system. He is the prince of this world. In John 14:30, again, he says, “The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me” (John 14:30). That is, Jesus had no itch the devil could scratch. But, there again, Jesus called the devil “the prince of this world.” And, in John 16:11, He spoke, “of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged” (John 16:11).

This world has a prince, and the prince of this world is Satan himself. That’s the reason the Apostle John said, in 1 John 5:19, “And we know that… the whole world lieth in wickedness” (1 John 5:19). The whole world, the whole system, lies in wickedness. And, the word wickedness there may be personified. It literally means the whole world lies in “the wicked one.” And, the word lieth there actually means, “to sleep in the bosom, or the lap, of one.” That is, Satan’s got this whole world in his hand.

We sing “God’s got the whole world in His hands,” but, actually, the Bible says that Satan has this world in his hands. This whole world lieth, sleepeth, in the bosom, in the lap, of the wicked one. So the world—put it down, number one—has a prince.

There is an enticing network of ideas and values that the devil has skillfully woven together in order to attract you as a child of God. For example, 1 Corinthians 2:12, speaks of the spirit of this world (1 Corinthians 2:12). 1 Corinthians 3:19, speaks of the wisdom of this world (1 Corinthians 3:19). 1 Corinthians 7:31, speaks of the passion of this world (1 Corinthians 7:31). And, so it doesn’t matter whether it’s from the schoolhouse to the courthouse, from Madison Avenue to Wall Street, whether it’s Hollywood or your neighborhood—it makes no difference. There is a philosophy that is permeating all that we see out there, and, my dear friend, it is your enemy.

The world wears a cloak or disguise, whenever a freedom is taken away from you that means the world is winning. Think of every dictator, every socialist, that is the world, trying to control all you do. Who rules the world, the devil, who controls the tv you watch, the media you listen to and read, the devil. If you haven’t put on the filter of God’s word and spirit you are being brainwashed into believing one thing. That you need the world, the system, government to take care of you. No self-reliance, no individuality, no ability to protect yourself.

Here sign up for free food, free housing, free education, free health care, surely you’ve heard the saying “there’s no such thing as a free lunch” there is no such thing as free, all this free stuff is borne on the back of the taxpayer, the distribution of wealth, socialism.

So any political figure in any country that promises to take care of you by robbing you of God given rights and freedoms is of the world and therefore of the devil. So how comfortable do you want to be? That’s what it really comes down to.

Now there is a difference between being provided for by God and a handout.

That moron standing on the street corner with the cardboard sign reading “God bless you.” is part the world, he’s depending on your guilt that your comfortable. He’s telling you he deserves to be taken care of, by you!

Ok, my blood pressure is shooting up, stay tuned.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

the hard way

February 17, 2018

  “Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creation, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:39).

  John 3:16: The Savior laid down His life for His enemies. Have you ever thought of John 3:16 in that light? God, knowing that there would be those that would turn their backs on the greatest gift ever and the few who would accept the gift.

 1 John 3:16: We are to “lay down our lives for the brethren.” The death of the Cross spells love for both friend and enemy.

  “If we get a wrong idea about the inward working of the Cross we shall lose our own enjoyment of God’s love and fail to manifest that love to others. We have no doubt that, for the sinner, the Cross is the outstanding expression of God’s love, but when we realize that it brings us, as believers, into a very personal experience of being crucified together with Christ, we are apt to lose sight of the love of God.

  “We set our teeth, as though making up our minds that from now on everything is going to be grim and harsh. It almost seems that the carnal Christian may be cheerful and happy, but the crucified ones must expect to pass into a gloomier experience. Nothing is farther from the truth. The Cross will always bring us back to the love of God in ever-increasing fulness.”

The challenge of the Cross, the insistence that we have been crucified with Christ, may sometimes appear to be a dark and forbidding message. The Cross is not the end: It is the way through to His end. God is working for something beyond the immediate; He is working towards the glory.

  “I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end” (Jer. 29:11).

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

NEARER MY GOD TO THEE

February 7, 2018

Nearer My God to Thee (hopefully you all are familiar with this song).

  But now in Christ Jesus ye who once were far off are made near by the blood of Christ” (Eph 2:13).

  Until we know our position in the risen Lord Jesus, we can never really face up to the sinfulness of our old nature. But “hidden with Christ in God,” we can both face up to and face away from the old, “looking unto Jesus, the author and perfecter [marg.] of our faith” (Heb. 12:2).

God sets me in nearness to Himself in the Lord Jesus; and as I learn my nearness to Him, I am prepared for the exposure of my natural distance from Him, and I am, through grace, morally apart and sheltered from it (Rom. 8:9), at the very moment when I see it. The greater my height, the greater the enormity of the depth appears; but I am safe from it. As a consequence I ‘rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh’ (Phil. 3:3).”

Two things mark spiritual growth; one is a deeper sense of the sinful old nature, the other is a greater longing after the Lord Jesus Christ. The sinfulness is discovered and felt as the power of the Holy Spirit increases; for many a thought and act passes without pain to the conscience where the Lord Jesus is less before the soul, which will be refused and condemned as the knowledge of the Lord increases in spiritual power within.

  “When the Lord Jesus Christ is number one in our lives, things unlike Him drop off like dead leaves.”

  “For the word of God is living, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb. 4:12).

Pray for Jim K, met him today at my barber, retired Marine, was in ‘Nam from 66-69, (the wild years), swears it had no affect on him, nor does he have PTSD, just divorced 3 times, an alcoholic, prescription pill abuser and anger management issues. But swears he’s ok. Only comes to town for breakfast tacos, gas and a haircut. Pray for him anyway.

 

CREATING GOOD HABITS

February 6, 2018

Creating Good Habits

Proverbs 4 is a mini-course on how to live wisely. The main metaphor of the chapter is that life is a journey and we are to keep to the path of righteousness (see v. 18). We are to “give careful thought to the paths for [our] feet and be steadfast in all [our] ways” (v. 26). To do this we will need to adopt a number of life-changing behaviors, such as getting wisdom and understanding (see v. 5), guarding our hearts (see v. 23) and avoiding corrupt talk (see v. 25).

 Although Proverbs doesn’t use the word habit, it is implied throughout that virtuous habits are necessary to live wisely. Habits are unconscious patterns of behavior acquired through frequent repetition. We often acquire our habits unconsciously or through repetition forced on us by authority figures (think teachers and parents). But we can also directly develop habits through conscious effort.

 Once we understand the ins and outs of habits, we can harness the process to create virtuous habits like those mentioned in Proverbs 4. Virtuous habits also include behaviors such as reading Scripture and serving our neighbor, which help us to become more like Jesus.

 Want to create a new virtuous habit? Try this:

  1. Identify the habit loop—The new pattern of behavior you want to create will consist of the habit loop: a cue, a routine

    and

    a reward. Take a few minutes to think through (and if it helps, write down) the details of each part of the loop. Let’s use the habit of a daily devotional reading as an example. To set up the routine, to actually read the devotional, what do you need? Well, access to a Bible and some devotional material would be helpful. You’ll also want a time you can consistently carry out the habit loop (e.g., in the morning, before work). The more you understand the habit loop you are creating, the easier it will be to identify any problems that might prevent you from making it a regular behavior.

  1. Isolate the cue—Cues signal you to begin the routine. Research has shown that almost all habitual cues fit into one of five categories: location, time, emotional state, other people and immediately preceding action. A helpful cue will take advantage of as many of these categories as possible. For instance, your cue could be pulling into the parking lot at work (location and immediately preceding action) at 8:40 a.m. (time) when you are relieved to be out of traffic (emotional state) and no one else is around (other people).

  1. Create a reward—When creating a virtuous habit, surprisingly the reward stage can be one of the most difficult steps. Why should you be rewarded for doing something you should be doing anyway? And isn’t the habit—such as your devotional reading—a reward in itself? It’s understandable that you might feel guilty about creating a reward for a good habit. But keep in mind that you are not rewarding yourself for doing the right thing; you’re training your brain to create a neurological craving. If you “reward” yourself (by eating a small piece of candy, for example) after reading a devotional, it isn’t to actually reward you for your accomplishment. It’s merely a way to directly affect how your brain will respond to the habit loop.

  1. Plan and evaluate—Habits are difficult to consciously create because they have not yet become a habit. It’s the conscious part—making sure your brain is actively focused on the habit loop—that becomes the stumbling block.

  Making the habit loop part of your natural thought process requires effort and persistence. Ask yourself a few questions, such as,

  ➤ How will I handle obstacles?

 ➤ What if I miss my schedule and need to get back on track?

 ➤ Are my cues and rewards working like I want them to?

 ➤ Customize the idea to make it work for you.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

THE WRONG WAY

February 3, 2018

The devil knows if he can get you thinking wrongly about God, he has you. The devil wants to get you thinking negatively about God so the devil slanders the character of God. Because if the devil can think you get you thinking negatively about God, fearing God, running from God or disbelieving God, he has you right where he wants you. He is the biggest liar. His lies are about the biggest subject. The biggest subject is Almighty God, himself.

The devil wants to control your mind. Because the devil knows that if he has your mind, he really has you. Because the Bible says as a man thinketh, so is he. You sow a thought, you reap a deed, sow a deed, you reap a habit, so a habit, you reap a character, sow a character and you reap a destiny and it all begins with a thought.

Some people are questioning the authorship of the Word of God. Others are questioning the accuracy of the Word of God. Others are questioning the authority of the Word of God. Others are questioning the acceptability of the Word of God.

There are seminaries that used to be the bastion of Christian thought, that taught the bible is infallible, inspired, inerrant and relevant to you and me today. But they allow professors to teach the opposite. Don’t send your kid to any bible college until you talk to the Dean of Theology or the president of that college and have a list of every professor and ask them point blank what each professor believes.

While we are at it, ask your pastor what he’s reading, drop by his house and see what’s on his tv. Ask to see his DVD collection. Ask him how comfortable he would be to have you look at his browser history.

I’m not joking, you have a right to peace of mind knowing that your spiritual mentor, leader, pastor is living a righteous life. It’s called accountability. I personally know several ‘mega’ pastors that would punch you in the nose just for you suggesting such a thing. The arrogant pastor is a guilty pastor. The unaccountable pastor is a dangerous pastor.

But check your Elders, Deacons, board members as well. We have a church in our small town that the pastor packed up in the middle of the night and left because the Board was so cruel, mean, disrespectful control freaks that made his life a living hell. So we need to be balanced in every aspect of our spiritual life.

The danger in all this is going the other way and be so narrow minded and legalistic, that we’re turning into either a cult or totally uninvolved or invested.

Hey, nobody said it was easy.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

Pray for Ryan, 9 years old and told he has cancer.

Pray for Bob L, 65, and an alcoholic, he looks like he’s 85, his liver looks like it’s 105. Doctor told him today it is quit drinking or die in 60 days.

 

Start Right

January 29, 2018

Start out right

Did you know that most of the marriage problems that I deal with, at their root, is nothing but selfishness? Now another word for selfishness is immaturity. Big babies. And most of the time, but not always, most of the time these big babies are the men. They think that God gave them a built-in servant when they got married and she’s to wait on him hand-and-foot, for somehow he’s the head of the house and he’s little, Lord, and she’s his servant. And she’s to wait on him all the time.

A recent survey on marriage, taken in America, has some shocking statistics. Did you know that fifty percent of the women who were married said, “If I had it to do over again, I would not marry the same man.” That’s shocking. Fifty percent of the women. One out of every two women said if I could do it again, I would not marry that guy. They surveyed the men. Seventy percent of the men said, “I would marry the same woman again.”

Now guys, what does that say about us? Let me tell you something else. They put a new ingredient in the survey and they asked this question: Does your husband help you at home? To the wives who said, “Yes” to that question, 82% of them said I’d marry the same man again. 82%. Selfishness is one of the major problems. It comes across in so many ways.

I’m constantly amazed at the men who don’t help their wives at home. Most wives today are working mothers, they work 40 hours or more per week, spend 40 hours working at home, kids, meals, laundry. And the husband is out golfing on Saturday, comes home and expects a beer and sex 5 minutes after he gets home. That’s male immaturity, grow up guys.

Did you know that washing dishes with or for your wife won’t shrink your testicles?

But guys sure act like it will.

Come on guys be a partner with your wife in all that you do. My wife shoots as good as I do, she can sharpen a knife as good as I can. We both love to cook, I can sew on my own buttons. We don’t take separate vacations, have separate checking accounts, we take care of each other.

You can build a strong marriage or just let go out the window, your choice. It’s easier to make a good marriage than to fix one, so start at the beginning.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

OLD ABE

January 25, 2018

OLD ABE

Stored in a safe place at the Library of Congress is a small blue box. The label reads: “Contents of the President’s pockets on the night of April 14, 1865.” As you probably know, that was the fateful night on which President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated.

The box contains five things: (1) A handkerchief embroidered “A. Lincoln”; (2) A country boy’s pen knife; (3) A spectacles case repaired with string; (4) A purse containing a $5 bill—in Confederate money! (5) Some old and worn newspaper clippings.

The clippings are concerned with the great deeds of Abraham Lincoln. One of them reports a speech by John Bright, a British statesman, saying that Abraham Lincoln is one of the greatest men of all time.

That is not news for us who live over a century later. We all know that Lincoln was a great man. But in 1865, the jury was still out. The nation was divided and Lincoln had fierce critics on both sides as he made decisions that he hoped would restore the Union. Remember, Lincoln hadn’t read the history books on himself!

There is something poignantly pathetic about picturing this lonely figure in the Oval Office reaching into his pocket and spreading out these newspaper clippings as he re-read the encouraging words of a man who believed that Lincoln was a great man. It gave him the courage and strength to go on. People, especially leaders, need encouragement! (From an article by Charles Swindoll in the newsletter of the First Evangelical Free Church, Fullerton.)

Shift the scene from the Oval Office of Abraham Lincoln to a dungeon in Rome. It is dark and cold. A dim ray of light filters in through the opening at the top. Inside sits an aged, weathered little Jewish man, chained to a guard. It is Paul of Tarsus awaiting execution. Keep in mind that Paul didn’t know that his life and teachings would radically change the course of world history. All he knew was that the end was near and that many of those whom he had loved and taught were abandoning him like sailors jumping off a sinking ship.

Suddenly, there was a noise above as the guard opened the hatch to his cell. The old man squinted into the light, but couldn’t see who was climbing down the ladder to visit him. But he recognized the friendly voice, “Paul, Paul, I’ve found you at last!”

“Onesiphorus! Is that you, my good friend?” The two men embraced warmly in spite of the stench of the prisoner and his squalid cell. Then Onesiphorus, whose name means “bringing help or profit,” opened his bag and gave Paul fresh bread, fruit, cheese, and wine. He stayed a long time and he came back often, bringing good news of the progress of the gospel across the Roman Empire. Each time he came, Paul was refreshed in body and spirit.

Onesiphorus could have thought, “Paul is strong. After all, he’s the great apostle, who has suffered often. This isn’t his first time in prison. Who am I to try to minister to someone like him?”

But the reality is that everyone needs the ministry of refreshment at times. Even the Lord Jesus, in His hour of agony in Gethsemane, took His three closest disciples with Him and asked them to watch and pray with Him there. If Christ needed it and if Paul needed it, then we all need it. That means that we all need to look for those in need of refreshment and minister to them.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

Inspired to change

One area where I have found the most help is reading biographies of great Christians from the past. Don’t bother with the biographies of some modern Christian athlete or movie star. Read the lives of men like Calvin, Martin Luther, George Whitefield, John Wesley, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Spurgeon, George Muller, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and Francis Schaeffer. Read missionary biographies of men like William Carey, Adoniram Judson, Hudson Taylor, David Livingstone, and Jim Elliot. I always come away with some helpful insights, some inspiring challenge, or a better understanding of myself through reading such books.

Recognize who you are in Christ Jesus and ask yourself how are you doing in these roles and how is it reflected in your life and especially to others.

Fellow heir with Christ (Romans 8:17; Galatians 4:7)

 Justified (Romans 5:1)

 Friend of Christ (John 15:15)

 Citizen of heaven (Philippians 3:20)

 Temple of God (1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19)

 Ambassador for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20)

 Coworker of God (1 Corinthians 3:9)

 Saint (1 Corinthians 1:2; Ephesians 1:1; Philippians 1:1; Colossians 1:2)

 One spirit with Christ (1 Corinthians 6:17)

 One with the Father and Son (John 17:11,21-22)

 New creature (2 Corinthians 5:17)

 Righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21)

 One with all believers (Galatians 3:28)

 Free (Galatians 5:1)

 Blessed with every spiritual blessing (Ephesians 1:3)

 Chosen, holy, and blameless before God (Ephesians 1:4)

 Loved and chosen (1 Thessalonians 1:4)

 Redeemed (Ephesians 1:7)

 Forgiven (Ephesians 1:7)

 Sealed with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13)

 Alive with Christ (Ephesians 2:5)

 God’s workmanship (Ephesians 2:10)

 Complete in Christ (Colossians 2:10)

 Raised with Christ (Colossians 3:1)

 Christ is life (Galatians 2:20; Colossians 3:4)

 Child of God (John 1:12; Romans 8:15-17; Galatians 4:7; Ephesians 1:5)

Finally the two things you can do to change is read your bible more and pray more.

Not good at reading, stop reading junk books and turn to serious literature. It will take awhile to get with it. keep a dictionary at hand (not the internet or you’ll get distracted to look at something else). And there are some great books to read about how to read and speed reading. I would often take one speed reading course a year while in seminary, it helped that much.

Pray more by praying everywhere, in the car, walking, working. Read the classics on prayer.

Pray out loud.

Praise, praise God out loud every time and everywhere, you’ll be surprised who chimes in or comments. (positively).

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

I really can change part 6

January 22, 2018

PART 6 IN I CAN REALLY CHANGE

WE CAN’T CHANGE IF WE DON’T UNDERSTAND OUR IDENTITY. IT’ LIKE GOOGLE MAPS, YOU NEED A STARTING POINT AND A DESTINATION.

As we probe the depths of our identity in Christ, we want to direct our attention to a phrase in one of Paul’s letters: “the new man.” Our look into the meaning of “the old man” and “the new man” (see Colossians 3:9-10) will reveal that our identity is not only individual but also corporate. This is a significant biblical discovery as we close our study of Identity.

Our culture can even influence our initial interpretation of Scripture. Often those who have been raised in an individualistic culture view the phrase “in Christ” primarily as an individual experience rather than a corporate one. But that’s not how Paul intended it.

Christian identity is inherently corporate. More often than not, the New Testament writers speak of identity in Christ in plural terms. Almost all of the pronouns in the great identity chapters of Ephesians are in the plural. Even the second person “you” in those sections is plural in the original Greek, which, unlike English, has a different word for “you” singular than “you” plural. Those who grow up in a Western culture are often blind to the corporate way the Bible presents the believer’s identity in Christ:

American culture is obsessed with the individual. Individual rights are the cornerstone of many cultural truths we hold dear. The image of the strong individual moving west of the thirteen original colonies to claim both land and a future is a powerful theme in the early American history. “Rugged American individualism” is a phrase we learn at a young age.

One biblical metaphor for Christian identity that is usually interpreted individually is the “new man” and the “old man.” The New International Version translates Colossians 3:9-10 like this:

Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.

“Old self” and “new self” here are literally “old man” and “new man.” The New English Translation renders the passage like this:

Do not lie to one another since you have put off the old man with its practices and have been clothed with the new man that is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of the one who created it.

“Self” in the New International Version is a clearly individualistic reading of this passage. It’s defensible, especially if one has been steeped in the psychological revolution of the twentieth century. However, there’s reason to believe that we’ve misunderstood that phrase. New Testament scholar Darrell Bock points out that Colossians 3 uses second person plurals (“you” as a group rather than “you” as an individual). Bock thinks the “new man” may refer not to individual believers but to the whole body of a church community. Here he summarizes his analysis:

So the new man is related to Christ and consists of peoples. In other words, it is Christ conceived of as a corporate entity, that is, Christ’s body. Another way to say it is that the new man refers to the new community in Christ that he forms by joining people to himself as they are saved (i.e.,“buried and raised with him,” as Paul already declared in Colossians). An even simpler way to say it is that the new man is the church, the new community in Christ. (I’M STILL DIGESTING THIS INTERPRETATION)

If Bock is right, then a core part of a Christian’s identity is his or her connection to a community of other believers. In the same way that our earthly identity involves a nonnegotiable connection to other persons, whom we call our family, our heavenly identity binds us to a heavenly family. We cannot deny that we are and will remain “family” with our biological parents and siblings. While in recent years biological family bonds have been weakened and broken (at least in legal terms), one’s earthly father, mother, and siblings will always be so. Likewise, though believers may avoid contact with a local church community, at the core of their identity they are to be members of a larger community of Christians. When believers fail to be or are restricted from being involved with that corporate experience, then a part of their identity is distorted.

Consider the prayer of Christ on the night of His betrayal:

“My prayer is not for them [his first disciples] alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

“Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.

“Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.” (John 17:20-26, emphasis added)

The analogy here is powerful. Just as Jesus’ identity is inextricably linked with His Father’s identity, so a Christian’s identity is to be linked with a community of other believers. Jesus’ prayer is that we be completely one, just as He and God the Father are one. Clearly, intimate involvement in community with other believers is nonnegotiable for Christians.

Having considered a few biblical references to corporate Christian identity, we see that a concept of identity that is limited to an isolated individual is incomplete. As members of the body of Christ, we have the privilege of sharing a heavenly identity that will bind us together for eternity. Our earthly relationships, then, serve as a significant context for our growth and God’s glory.

So we can’t really change all on our own, it takes accountability, corporate growth, communal participation. Think about this, if a person gets his/her feelings hurt in church what do they do? They drop out for a while or even permanently and either switch churches or stop going.

Folks, we need each other more than we realize for fellowship and growth.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

I really can change part 3

January 18, 2018

I really can change part three

Many believers greatly underestimate the necessity of intimacy and trust for successful growth in Christian holiness. But we must be able to share honestly those areas in which we need transformation. We can deal with deep issues of growth only in a community in which we’re deeply known by others. We need others who have our best interests at heart. They must also be people we trust to hold sensitive issues in genuine confidence.

Why does the pursuit of Christian holiness need to occur in community? There are at least two reasons. First, we need accountability in the areas of sin with which we struggle. When we confess our struggles to a group, we become accountable to all of the members to press on toward growth. Because the group is aware of our sin, we can’t hide it in darkness, where it retains a hold on our life and can make crippling guilt a permanent fixture in our walk. If we’re struggling, we have not one but several people to lean on. In addition, the corporate, or group, setting increases the likelihood of support from someone else who has struggled in the same way. In one-on one accountability, one person may not be able to relate well to the other’s struggles. He or she may have different areas of struggle.

The second benefit of corporate pursuit of holiness is that without the encouragement and stimulus of other Christians, we’re often blind to the ways in which we need to grow. In the counsel of many who care for us, there can be greater wisdom. If some believers are blind to being hospitable, the hospitality of another believer can spur them on to develop that quality in their own lives. If some never think about how to speak encouraging words, the encouraging speech of another can become contagious.

“Where can I serve?” is not an optional question; every believer should ask it. Nor is this a matter simply for individual reflection. Rather, we can best discern where and how to serve while in community with people who know our past, interests, struggles, and talents. The community can affirm what they see in us and may know of opportunities to serve that we’re unaware of.

How many terrific musicians are sitting in pews every Sunday because they lack the confidence to volunteer? Those gifted people might merely need others who know them well to encourage them to serve. Maybe someone’s life story revealed that while growing up she played in a band. Someone might ask, “What have you done with that interest lately?”

Understanding our identity in Christ is critical to a fruitful walk with the Lord. The central events of Christianity, Christ’s death and resurrection, are the foundation of the Christian life. Dying with Christ means dying to the things that used to run our lives. For instance, while material wealth is the central motivation in many people’s lives, Christ calls us to relinquish pursuing wealth as a core motivation. The same is true of any other vice that keeps us from fully loving God and people.

Rising with Christ means rising to a new way of living under His kingship. Before we came under Christ’s kingship, our identity was dominated by concerns other than loving God and loving people as Jesus did. There was no way we could transform ourselves to make us acceptable to our perfect Judge and Maker. Whether we knew it or not, objectives and motivations that didn’t focus on loving God and others were running our lives.

Certainly, our earthly identity may contain characteristics that influenced us in godly ways. For instance, our parents may have taught us to be honest. Yet sin and offensive independence from God characterized our lives. Ironically, this “independence” was evidence of Adam’s control. When we come under Christ’s kingship, by God’s grace through our faith, we gain a heavenly component to our identity.

To say that we have a new component is a gross understatement. Coming under Christ’s kingship ought to so transform our understanding of our identity that, in many respects, we no longer consider ourselves the same people. We are new creatures (see 2 Corinthians 5:17 The most basic truth of our identity, our position before God, is determined by who our King is, even though Adam’s realm may still influence us. And our actions will reflect our participation in one kingdom or the other, for each kingdom has certain “deeds” or “fruit” characteristic of it. The deeds of the flesh (see Galatians 5:19-21) result from being in Adam, whereas the fruit of the Spirit (see Galatians 5:22-23) grows when we are in Christ.

What does it mean to be under Christ’s kingship? To be under a king is to be subject to that king’s will. In our fallen world, that concept rarely sounds appealing. After all, who would agree to be entirely subject to someone else’s will? Would you approach a stranger and say, “I’m at your disposal, and I’ll do anything you want me to do”? Our minds immediately race through all the abuses that might result from such a scenario. That’s because we don’t trust strangers. As subjects of Christ’s kingdom, though, we face an entirely different scenario. We have come to know Him and have found that His will is love. As subjects of Christ, we are implored to do His will, which involves actively caring for others, as pointed out in 1 John:

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. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. (4:7-12) 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. (3:17-18)

Many people think being saved is like eternal life insurance. It’s more like a pledge of allegiance to a new King. Our Sovereign God doesn’t compel us to produce something for Him that He lacks. Our allegiance to Him requires us simply to love our fellow subjects actively and also to love those who claim no such allegiance—our King’s enemies. How strange this kingdom is to a world that understands the love of friends but knows nothing of loving enemies! But the world has not experienced the love of Christ. We love those who are not followers of our King because we realize that they may simply be enemies who have not yet become brothers. We love fellow believers because we share the joy of being loved by our Great King and we are, therefore, now brothers. We believers are individuals in a community marked by Love, whose name is Jesus.

Stay tuned as we continue our growth and change series.

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