In Tune

May 9, 2018

Putting the World Behind Us

Ephesians 4:17-19

17 This I say therefore, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; 19 and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality, for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness.

As we approach this passage, we need to remember what Paul has already said about our previous condition as unbelievers:

1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest (Ephesians 2:1-3).

We were lifeless apart from Christ, dead in our trespasses and sins. Paul will take up this “lifeless” dimension of the unbelievers in our text in chapter 4, in verse 18. But what is central to our study is what Paul has to say above concerning the unbeliever’s relationship to the world and to the flesh. As unbelievers, we were the pawns of Satan, under his dominion, carrying out his dictates. We were unaware of this because he controlled us through the influence of the world and the flesh. We once walked “according to the course of this world” (2:2) and in accordance with the “lusts of our flesh” (2:3).

Now that we have been born again, in Christ we have been raised from our dead state spiritually to newness of life. And because of this, we are to renounce the world and its dominion over us. This is what Paul urges every believer to do in 4:17-19. We were also slaves to our own fleshly desires, and now as believers we are to “put off” fleshly things and “put on” the things of the Spirit (4:22-24). Being born again is meant to reverse the way we once were, apart from Christ.

In verse 17 of chapter 4, Paul introduces his teaching with a solemn reminder of the importance of what he is about to say: “This I say therefore, and affirm together with the Lord, …” The term “affirm” means “to bear testimony” or “to serve as a witness.” It is used elsewhere in the New Testament only by Paul. In every instance Paul employs this term to convey a sense of importance and urgency. When our Lord sought to convey this same sense, He employed the expression, “Truly, truly …”

Paul goes one step further in verse 17. He claims that his words are not his alone. What he is about to say is the instruction of the Lord Himself. Paul’s command is Christ’s command.

Now Paul lays down the command which all Christians are to heed: “That you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk …” Several things are implied or clearly stated by this command. Let us consider them one at a time.

First, faith in Christ demands a radical change in the lifestyle of the believer from the way he once behaved. The words “no longer” and “also” indicate that Paul’s readers once lived the way they are now to renounce and reject. Paul’s command is to cease living the way they used to live and to live in a way that glorifies God.

Second, this command deals with the Christian’s new relationship to the world. Once, as a part of the world system, we were alienated from God and strangers to His kingdom. Now, as those in Christ, we are citizens of God’s kingdom and members of His body, but we have become strangers and pilgrims to this world (see Hebrews 11:13-16; 1 Peter 1:1; 2:11).

Third, this command deals with the Christian’s relationship to the culture in which they live. While the Ephesians saints once lived like Gentile heathen, their fellow-Ephesians still do live this way. This may very well result in the persecution of the Gentile saints, since their godliness poses a threat to the sinful ways of their peers (see 1 Peter 4:1-6). But in addition there will be considerable pressure on the Gentile believers to continue to live as they used to.

Paul does more than to simply command his readers to cease living like unbelievers; he commands them not to conduct themselves as their unbelieving Gentile peers. Why didn’t Paul command the Ephesian saints not to live like the unbelieving Jews? Because these Gentile saints were a part of the Gentile culture. It was this culture which threatened to influence them to live as they formerly did. The “world” is, to a great extent, the culture in which we live, which seeks to pressure us to conform to its values, standards, goals, and conduct. The “world” which most influences us is the culture in which we have grown up.

So how hard is it to separate yourself from the world?

Pretty hard, but God on our rebirth puts the desire into our hearts. Now we have to “put off” and “put on” the new man. Notice again the effort has to be ours first. Then the blessing.

Stay tuned (that’s a pun).

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

Enter into His rest!

May 8, 2018

  “Rejoice in the Lord always!” (Phil. 4:4)

  Exhaustive effort brings home the necessity of strengthening rest. The believer will not be ready to enter into his spiritual rest until he is utterly worn out by his unsuccessful efforts to conquer sin and the old man. There is no rest for the “wretched man” of Romans 7—that struggle must lead to the rest of Romans 8.

  “Grace is sufficient for favorable circumstances, but they are by far the most trying (spiritually) to the believer. There is an easy way of going on in worldliness, and there is nothing more sad than the quiet comfortable Christian going on day by day, apart from dependence upon the Lord.

  “It must be as with Israel and the manna; there must be the daily gathering and daily dependence upon God. If circumstances come between our hearts and God, we are powerless. If the Lord Jesus is nearer, circumstances will not hinder our joy in God “

  “The heart of man naturally seeks rest, and seeks it here. Now, there is no rest to be found here for the believer; but it is written, ‘There remaineth, therefore, a rest to the people of God’ (Heb 4:9).

 To know this is both full of blessing and full of sorrow: sorrow to the flesh; because it is always seeking its rest here, it has always to be disappointed; blessing to the spirit, because the spirit, being born of God, can only rest in God’s rest, as it is said, ‘If they shall enter into My rest’ (Heb. 4:5). What God desires for us is to bring us into the enjoyment of all that which He Himself enjoys.

  “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him” (Ps. 37:7).

Waiting that’s the hard part.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

Pray for Ronnie S, hurt his back

Pray for Benjamin C, eye problems, going to need surgery.

Praise from Colin, his eye has completely healed.

Pray for Lisa and Matt, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a marriage with this many problems. Pray especially for Lisa that she would come to her senses, spiritually and emotionally.

 

If we are going to understand the Word of God, we must have a spiritual

attitude toward it. The Lord said that “the natural man receiveth not the

things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he

know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (I Corinthians 2:14). God

refuses to reveal Himself to just any casual passer-by. The Lord indicated

this when He said in the Sermon on the Mount:

“Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before

swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you”

(Matthew 7:6). This same thought must have been in His mind when He

prayed, saying, “I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, be because

thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them

unto babes. Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight” (Matthew

11:25, 26).

The fact that one must have a spiritual attitude that comes from

spiritual life in order to understand the deep things of the Word of God is also

the true meaning of the great verse which we quote in paraphrase: “For

whosoever hath [new life in Christ], to him shall be given [knowledge of the

divine plan and revelation], and he shall have more abundance: but

whosoever hath not [the new life in Christ], from him shall be taken away

even that [common sense and deep learning that might make him one of the

world’s leaders of the world’s thinking] he hath” (Matthew 13:12).

The Lord says that the anointing by the Spirit renders us capable of

understanding, so that we do not need to have any one teach us (I John 2:27).

The existence of teachers by divine order and arrangement is like the original

institution of divorce, not because it was God’s first choice, but because of the

hardness of the hearts of men (Matthew 19:8). The responsibility for reading

and knowing the Word and will of God is upon every individual, who must

find out for himself, conclude what he believes and be ready to give an

answer for the hope that is within him, knowing that he will be answerable to

the Lord for the content of his faith, and that he will not be permitted to

present the excuse that he believed what some church or group of clergy

interpreted for him. All this to show what the passage does not teach.

Positively, what it does teach is that no passage of Scripture is to be taken by

itself, but that Scripture must be read in the light of the rest of the Bible.

The whole of the Bible to understand the Bible. That’s one reason I’m a big fan of the Thompson Chain Reference Bible. No commentary, just the Bible highlighting the Bible.

That’s not to say I’m against Commentaries, yet great care must be taken in understanding the bias of each author or editor. What is their theology? It will affect interpretation. After 40 years of Bible teaching I confess that I’ve barely scratched the surface of what can be known. Few today spend hours in prayer, hours in study, hours in waiting on God to be shown divine inspiration. And now with bible software and the internet, most sermons are borne of a few key strokes and not in anguish waiting upon God and the study of His Holy Word.

Thus, is the reason so many Christians are empty headed or easily led astray, because the pulpits are filled with pastors who are more interested in the latest books by someone who is famous. And even though there are serious theological mistakes (errors, unsound doctrine, heresy) it’s ok to buy their book and line their pockets because they are famous. (you ever hear of lemmings?)

Am I being unkind?

Most sermons are plagiarism or just bought outright. In this frenetic fast paced world, we have sold our spirituality to a stopwatch that measures our microseconds of spiritualism.

The One Minute Christian is the norm.

Am I being unfair?

Thank God there is a remnant, that there are those who are like the Marines, the few, the chosen. (Semper Fi) But even the reputation of the Marines is in shambles, as sex scandals and the number of rapes coming to light is in the dozens.

So am I in a dismal mood?

Is my lament inaccurate?

If you’ve read this far you are a minority, but a blessed one.

Many thanks to the ones that encourage and exhort, that pray and prod.

Rise up O’ Men of God, (how many husbands and fathers do daily devotions with their family or spouse?) be done with lessor things.

We will all stand in judgement, not of our salvation but of our attachments to lessor things.

Make the change, today, put off the trappings and pleasures of this world.

Here’s the challenge, only watch Tv the same amount of time you read your bible.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

Men of God

January 4, 2018

What does it mean to be a man of God? This term is fairly common in the Old Testament, but very rare in the New Testament. In the Old Testament it is used to refer to prophets (e.g. Samuel, 1 Sam. 9:6ff.; Shemaiah, 1 Kin. 12:22; Elijah, 1 Kin. 17; 18.; Elisha, 2 Kin. 4.; Igdaliah, Jer. 35:4); writers of Scripture (e.g. Moses, Deut. 33:1; David, Neh. 12:24, 36); and angelic messengers (Judg. 13:6, 7). In all these cases, “man of God” refers to someone who is sent by God to speak for Him.

In the New Testament, “man of God” is used once to refer to Old Testament prophets (2 Pet. 1:21), once in a general sense (2 Tim. 3:16, 17), and only once specifically of an individual. This individual is Timothy. In 1 Timothy 6:11–14, Paul addresses Timothy as “you, O man of God.”

Why should Timothy be singled out as the only man in the New Testament to be called a man of God? First of all, in the tradition of the Old Testament men of God, he was one who was called by God to proclaim His word (2 Tim. 1:6). Second, Timothy had been sent by Paul through the Holy Spirit to minister in Ephesus, in a very difficult and challenging situation. Paul called Timothy “man of God” in order to remind him of the awesome responsibility he bore to safeguard the truth against the false teachers in Ephesus, and also to encourage him with the reminder that he belonged to God, and therefore God was standing with him in his trials.

Is Timothy, then, the only man of God to walk the earth since Christ? Certainly not. In 2 Timothy 3:16, 17 Paul uses the term more generally: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God . . . that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” In its broadest application, then, the term “man of God” applies to every believer, but as in Old Testament times, it still applies particularly to those who are called to proclaim God’s word. Those who are so called in modern times must be diligent to live up to the example of Timothy and all who came before him. They must be men of God in heart and deed, not merely in name; men totally possessed by God and completely dedicated to His service.

How does one recognize a genuine man of God, or how do those who are called to be men of God live up to their calling? In 1 Timothy 6:11–14, Paul gives specific instructions to Timothy which may be taken to apply to all men of God today. There are four qualities that identify a man of God (including, to a large extent, every Christian):

    (1) A man of God is known by what he flees from.

    (2) A man of God is known by what he follows after.

    (3) A man of God is known by what he fights for.

    (4) A man of God is known by what he is faithful to.

This is an excellent practical outline for every man of God who is called to speak divine truth.

As the old hymn says, “Rise up A Men of God, be done with lessor things.”

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

Crushed

December 15, 2017

Isaiah 53:5

But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed.

Chuck Swindoll brought up an interesting viewpoint today. “THE GOD WHO CRUSHES”. If He would do this to His own Son, what would he do to us?

So he quoted part of this anonymous poem, here it is for you to ponder.

When God Wants To Drill A Man

When God wants to drill a man,

And thrill a man,

And skill a man

When God wants to mold a man

To play the noblest part;

When He yearns with all His heart

To create so great and bold a man

That all the world shall be amazed,

Watch His methods, watch His ways!

How He ruthlessly perfects

Whom He royally elects!

How He hammers him and hurts him,

And with mighty blows converts him

Into trial shapes of clay which

Only God understands;

While his tortured heart is crying

And he lifts beseeching hands!

How He bends but never breaks

When his good He undertakes;

How He uses whom He chooses,

And which every purpose fuses him;

By every act induces him

To try His splendor out-

God knows what He’s about.

Hopefully this helps or changes your viewpoint about our trials and hardships.

His goal is to have us like his Son.

See where I’m going with this?

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

Pray for Connie, her 4th miscarriage. She is devastated, so many emotions right now, keep her in prayer.

Pray for Ron K, Ron was in the porn business back in the 70’s, he accepted Jesus as his Savior yesterday. He’s in an accountability group, keep him in prayer, he is moving to a men’s camp for three months of discipleship and to stay away from the LA crowd.

NOTE: in our Pure Life Ministries we’ve seen dozens of folks associated in the porn business come to know the Lord. Some have gone on to have great marriages, others have stayed celibate, but if we can get them move away from the industry they make great strides in their growth.

LET JESUS DO IT

November 26, 2017

  “In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will!” (Eph. 1:11).

  It is easy to just “let someone else do it,” but it is so unrewarding. There is a Christ-honoring ministry of being and sharing awaiting each believer, and the secret is to let Christ do it!

  “Our Father has a different line of things for everyone, and each of us has been sent into this world for some special mission. It is not a question whether it is great or small; it may be only a flower to shed fragrance, though this is really the greatest of all.

  “There is no higher service than moral influence, ‘thy whole body . . . full of light’; and this, of all the highest moral order, is within the compass of all. ‘Christ shall be magnified in my body whether by life or by death’ (Phil. 1:20).

  “A mark of the true servant is that he is consciously nothing. John could speak of himself as only a ‘voice,’ and a greater than John was consciously ‘less than the least of all saints.’ The moment we think ourselves to be anything, we are out of the servant’s true position and spirit. There is a beautiful contrast between John’s account of himself, and the Lord’s description of him (John 1:22–27; Luke 7:26–28). The more worthy we are of the Lord’s commendation, the less do we think of ourselves.

  “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Eph 2:10).

I was listening to Ravi Zacharias finish a sermon today that was very different than his usual fare. Not a quote but the gist of what he said. “Can you preach a powerful sermon? No, but there is someone inside me that can.” Are you a humble man, No but there is someone inside me that can be.”

You get the idea, he was a lot more eloquent than the example I give, it was very moving.

He opened his sermon with this quote which I mentioned very recently but it is so powerful it bears repeating. “Alexander Pope is the author of this quote, regarding Jesus turning the water in to wine, ‘the conscious water when it saw it’s master, Jesus, it blushed.”

You need to really let that sink down into your soul.

And this same Jesus, what will happen when you see Jesus? What transformation will take place? And I assure you it will happen every time, and that is the reason we lose the desire to gaze upon him, because of the selfishness of our heart, we don’t always want to change.

Which is why I ask you to remember this great old classic gospel tune.

O soul are you weary and troubled?

No light in the darkness you see?

There’s light for a look at the Savior,

And life more abundant and free:

Turn you eyes upon Jesus,

Look full in His wonderful face;

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim

In the light of His glory and grace.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

Let Jesus do it.

TOUCHED

November 20, 2017

THE NEED FOR TOUCH

I’m always amazed by how unloved people in the church feel. In one church we mentioned in the bulletin that on Thursdays you could come to my office from 9am to 9pm and just be hugged. There would be two other people in the room, usually my wife and I.

I was amazed at how many people “snuck” in for a hug and a prayer. Now I’m a big hugger, you gonna know you were hugged. No sissy, barely held you, nope you’re gonna get the works. What amazed is how many people just wept when embraced.

The other comment was “thank you for hugging me like a real man.” That puzzled me at first, but I always ask, “what do you mean?”

The most common answer was from married women who said how their husbands barely touched them any more and if they did they felt like they were being hugged by their sister not their husband.

Well the church all on its own started a hugging revolution. All the services had everyone hugging, before during and after. And then it spread outside of church. How did I know that? People started coming to our church to be hugged. We actually roped off two front pews with a sign that said “need hugs.”

Those two pews began to fill up with the threshold crowd, mentally ill, homeless, broken, and they sat there with a childlike presence waiting for someone to reach out and hug them. We actually had some parolees with warrants and one escaped mental patient call and said they would turn themselves in at the church if they could get a hug first. The police were shocked, but they cooperated, and I’ve lost count of the people that came in to be arrested if they were hugged first. And never a problem.

I try to stop by my son’s business at least once a week, we always hug and he kisses me on the cheek and we say “we love you.” Clients there will ask if we will hug them as well. And then so many ask or say about how loving every one there is. Or that they haven’t seen an adult son and father hug and kiss in forever.

When I leave my son and daughter in law will shout out again; “we love you Pop.” And the whole place goes silent waiting for my heart felt and loud, “we love you too.”

Friends, it might take you a while to get used to invading someone’s space but start hugging. And spouses start hugging.

People are surprised but filled with joy over a hug.

I have a big Aryan ex-con friend, all tatted up and everything pierced, he never wears a shirt just his biker vest. This guy is a muscled bound steroid abuser (ex) we meet every other month at a nice restaurant. He always gets there first so he can sit in their real fancy bar. And when I come in the door he rushes at me like he’s going to kill me. (a few people actually screamed a few times) but we give these huge bear killer hugs and he picks me up off the floor and always says. “I love you man.”

People need the Lord, and everybody needs touched. That was the hallmark of Jesus’s ministry he touched the unwanted. We need to touch everyone.

So spread the love.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

the true mark

September 29, 2017

The subject of positive self esteem, love yourself, self love, our self-concept or self-image creates a kind of paradox. The Bible-believing Christian knows that he is a sinner, that in himself dwells no good thing, and that in himself he has no merit with God; yet, like a paradox, at the same time, he also knows, as a creation of God, created in God’s image and redeemed by His grace, he has value and purpose in life.

So how do we hit a proper balance? How do we avoid the self-centered approach and focus of the world and at the same time have a biblical concept of self, a proper viewpoint of our own value and purpose that sets us free to serve the living God, that sets us free from those thoughts and feelings that tie us in knots and ruin our personalities, create false agendas and motives that so people are incapacitated for ministry?

That we think properly about ourselves is important and is even commanded in Scripture. In Romans 12:3, the apostle wrote, “For by the grace given to me I say to every one of you not to think more highly of yourself than you ought to think, but to think with sober discernment, as God has distributed to each of you a measure of faith.”

The basic word for “think” in this passage is proneo, which means “think, form or hold an opinion, judge.” “Sober discernment,” is sophroneo, “be of sound mind.” It means “to be in one’s right mind, be reasonable, keep one’s head.” But first, the apostle warns us against thinking more highly of ourselves than we should.” The Greek word here is huperphroneo, “to think too highly of oneself, to be haughty.” Ironically, quite contrary to our society today, the apostle does not warn against thinking too little of ourselves. Regardless, the sound thinking Paul is calling for is grounded in biblical revelation and faith in the work of God for us in Christ. Paul is calling for thinking and personal evaluation based on the authority of God’s revelation and on the facts of God and His grace. It means we are to look at ourselves through the lenses of Scripture.

To Timothy, whom some expositors have nick named “Timid Tim” because he seems to have been having problems with his self-confidence (or confidence in God’s gifts and ministry for his life), Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given us a Spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline” (or sound-mind thinking). The Greek word for “discipline” here is related to the word used for thinking in Romans 12:3. It is sophronismos from sophron, “sensible, prudent.” It comes from sos, “safe, sound, and phren, “the heart, the mind, or the inner man.” Sophronismos refers to “control, self-discipline, prudence” that stems from right thinking. A controlled life, one that demonstrates self-discipline stems from soundness of mind, from knowing and acting on the truth of Scripture in the light of God’s grace in Christ. In both passages, Romans 12:3 and 2 Timothy 1:7, the context deals with God’s gifts to us and the bold expression of those gifts in loving ministry for the sake of the body of Christ.

Thinking properly about ourselves stems from right thinking about God, but then that extends to right thinking about others so that it results in a freedom to serve according to the grace of God.

Now, let’s ask some questions: What am I worth as a person? Do I feel good about who I am or do I wish I was someone else? Have I accepted who I am as a person, not my sin or sinful habits, but the uniqueness God has created in me as a person (Ps. 139:13-14)? How we answer these questions may play a key role in what we do with our lives, how we live our lives, in the joy we experience in life, in the way we treat others, and in how we respond to people and to God. “Research has shown that we tend to act in harmony with our mental self-portrait. If we don’t like the kind of person we are, we think no one else likes us either. And that influences our social life, our job performance, our relationships with others.”

A biblical concept of self developed out of our concept of God and His grace is important to solid spiritual maturity, to ministry, to our ability to lead others, and especially to our ability to be servants. Without a biblical concept of self, we end up playing spiritual king-of-the-mountain and engage in promoting personal agendas to build up a sagging ego. We seek from position, power, and praise what we should get from resting in God’s grace.

Thus, in order to effectively lead or minister to others we must think biblically about who we are. This means two key things: (a) we need to know our abilities and limitations while (b) always keeping in mind a biblical view of God, His grace to us in Christ, and knowing our sufficiency is always in God regardless of our abilities or weaknesses (see 2 Cor. 2:16-3:6).

Why is thinking in these terms so important? Because without it we will vacillate between fear and pride or between insecurity and overconfidence. Without this we will become either withdrawn and introverted or we will find ourselves running around in a hubbub of activity trying to feel good about ourselves because of our achievements. Paul’s spiritual maturity and qualification as a leader is seen in his freedom to serve others because, resting in who he was in Christ as a servant called of God by grace, he was not seeking to protect a poor self-image or to impress men with his greatness (cf. 1 Cor. 4:1; 1 Thess. 2:1-6).

It’s all about balance, self identity, who am I, and why am I here. Talk about this topic with teens, young adults and college students; and not give empty rhetoric and blasé platitudes and you will pack out the house. Add to that have the meeting in a non-traditional place and wow, you will have people come that will never walk into a church. (until you show them it’s relevant.)

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

Pray for Roger D, and Jennifer, cataract surgery coming up soon, they’re both a little bit afraid.

Susanna B, against all advice from all her family, she went and had face surgery, (plastic) it went really wrong. The emotional damage done right now is epic.

 

INSIDE OUT

July 15, 2017

A BIG BITE

Ok, I’m going to assume, that if you have been following this devotional sight for any amount of time you are interested in your own spiritual growth. So, with that in mind I want to challenge you to put today’s devotion to practical use; i.e. “do it.” I mean really make an effort, print this out, make several copies and keep one with you everywhere you go and pray it into your life.

Our culture teaches us that people are basically good and that their internal problems are the result of external circumstances. But Jesus taught that no outside-in program will rectify the human condition, since our fundamental problems stem from within (Mark 7:20-23). Holiness is never achieved by acting ourselves into a new way of being. Instead, it is a gift that God graciously implants within the core of those who have trusted in Christ. All holiness is the holiness of God within us—the indwelling life of Christ. Thus, the process of sanctification is the gradual diffusion of this life from the inside (being) to the outside (doing), so that we become in action what we already are in essence. Our efforts faithfully reveal what is within us, so that when we are dominated by the flesh we will do the deeds of the flesh, and when we walk by the Spirit we will bear the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-26).

A Process from the Inside to the Outside

Holiness is a new quality of life that progressively flows from the inside to the outside. As J. I. Packer (one of my top ten favorite authors) outlines it in Keep in Step with the Spirit, the nature of holiness is transformation through consecration; the context of holiness is justification through Jesus Christ; the root of holiness is co-crucifixion and co-resurrection with Jesus Christ; the agent of holiness is the Holy Spirit; the experience of holiness is one of conflict; the rule of holiness is God’s revealed law; and the heart of holiness is the spirit of love. When we come to know Jesus we are destined for heaven because He has already implanted His heavenly life within us. The inside-out process of the spiritual life is the gradual outworking of this kingdom righteousness. This involves a divine-human synergism of dependence and discipline so that the power of the Spirit is manifested through the formation of holy habits. As Augustine put it, “Without God we cannot; without us, He will not.” Disciplined grace and graceful discipline go together in such a way that God-given holiness is expressed through the actions of obedience. Spiritual formation is not a matter of total passivity or of unaided moral endeavor, but of increasing responsiveness to God’s gracious initiatives. The holy habits of immersion in Scripture, acknowledging God in all things, and learned obedience make us more receptive to the influx of grace and purify our aspirations and actions.

“Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God” (1 John 3:21). It is wise to form the habit of inviting God to search your heart and reveal “any hurtful way” (Psalm 139:23) within you. Sustained attention to the heart, the wellspring of action, is essential to the formative process. By inviting Jesus to examine our intentions and priorities, we open ourselves to His good but often painful work of exposing our manipulative and self-seeking strategies, our hardness of heart (often concealed in religious activities), our competitively-driven resentments, and our pride. “A humble understanding of yourself is a surer way to God than a profound searching after knowledge” (Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ, my second favorite book). Self-examining prayer or journaling in the presence of God will enable us to descend below the surface of our emotions and actions and to discern sinful patterns that require repentance and renewal. Since spiritual formation is a process, it is a good practice to compare yourself now with where you have been. Are you progressing in Christlike qualities like love, patience, kindness, forgiveness, compassion, understanding, servanthood, and hope? To assist you, here is a prayer sequence for examination and encouragement that incorporates the ten commandments, the Lord’s prayer, the beatitudes, the seven deadly sins, the four cardinal and three theological virtues, and the fruit of the Spirit. This can serve as a kind of spiritual diagnostic tool:

Search me, O God, and know my heart;

Try me and know my anxious thoughts;

And see if there be any hurtful way in me,

And lead me in the everlasting way. (Psalm 139:23-24)

Watch over your heart with all diligence,

For from it flow the springs of life. (Proverbs 4:23)

THE TEN COMMANDMENTS

You shall have no other gods before Me.

You shall not make for yourself an idol.

You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.

Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.

Honor your father and your mother.

You shall not murder.

You shall not commit adultery.

You shall not steal.

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

You shall not covet.

THE LORD’S PRAYER

Our Father who is in heaven,

Hallowed be Your name.

Your kingdom come,

Your will be done,

On earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.

And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

And do not lead us into temptation,

But deliver us from evil.

For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.

THE BEATITUDES

Poverty of spirit (nothing apart from God’s grace)

Mourning (contrition)

Gentleness (meekness, humility)

Hunger and thirst for righteousness

Merciful to others

Purity of heart (desiring Christ above all else)

Peacemaking

Bearing persecution for the sake of righteousness

THE SEVEN DEADLY SINS

Pride

Avarice

Envy

Wrath

Sloth

Lust

Gluttony

THE FOUR CARDINAL AND THREE THEOLOGICAL VIRTUES

Prudence (wisdom, discernment, clear thinking, common sense)

Temperance (moderation, self-control)

Justice (fairness, honesty, truthfulness, integrity)

Fortitude (courage, conviction)

Faith (belief and trust in God’s character and work)

Hope (anticipating God’s promises)

Love (willing the highest good for others, compassion)

THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT

Love

Joy

Peace

Patience

Kindness

Goodness

Faithfulness

Gentleness

Self-control

Some of these items are in the “put off” category and some are in the “put on” category. So get the inside out.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

Remember Dan and Lee, as they move into their new home today with their two little girls and go from city dweller to country folk.

miles from home

June 27, 2017

The apostle Paul said that the entire Christian faith rests on this single foundation, the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (1 Cor. 15:13-19). If that fact of history is true, then our faith has a solid footing in spite of difficult matters that we may never understand fully in this life. But, if Jesus Christ is not risen from the dead, then the strongest faith in the world is useless, because it rests on a faulty foundation. In Paul’s words (1 Cor. 15:17), “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.”

If you want to examine a subject, it’s best to go to an expert. The most famous expert on doubt is the man whose name is always linked with it, Doubting Thomas. Perhaps it’s unfair that he has to wear that label, since all the apostles doubted the resurrection of Jesus at first (Mark 16:11; Luke 24:10-11). But, Thomas was the last holdout, so he gets the title. His story shows us that…

To overcome our doubts, we must rest upon the reality of the risen Lord Jesus Christ.

Thomas was what I would call a sincere doubter. Not all doubters are sincere. Some use their doubts as a smoke screen to hide behind their sin, which is the real issue. If one area of doubt is cleared up, they will quickly duck behind another, because they don’t want to submit to the Lord. These people do not need more evidence to believe. They need to turn from their sin.

But some doubters are sincere. They truly believe in Christ, but they are plagued by honest questions. They are submissive to God and want to do His will, but they can’t just close their eyes and take a leap of faith. They need evidence to clear up the doubts. Thomas was that kind of sincere doubter. His story reveals that…

  1. Sincere doubt can arise from multiple causes.

There are many causes of doubt. I am going to limit myself to exploring some of the causes of Thomas’ doubts. Perhaps you can relate to these sources of doubt as well.

Some Reasons For Thomas’ Doubts:

  1. PERSONAL FAILURE COUPLED WITH OUR PERSONALITY MAY LEAD TO DOUBT.

All of the disciples had failed Jesus on the night of His arrest and trial. Most notorious was Peter, who denied the Lord three times. All of the eleven had promised Jesus their loyalty, but they all deserted Him when He was arrested.

Thomas, along with Peter, had been outspoken in his loyalty to Jesus before the crucifixion. In John 11:16, when Jesus wanted to go to Bethany, near Jerusalem, to raise Lazarus from the dead, the disciples objected that it was too dangerous. But Thomas said, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him.” He was a pessimist, but at least he was loyal to the point of challenging the others to be committed to the point of death. But then he had joined the others in running away when Jesus was arrested. That failure led Thomas into depression and doubt.

It wasn’t just Thomas’ failure, but failure coupled with his personality, that led him into deep doubts. Peter had failed in a big way, too. But Peter was a buoyant, optimistic sort who felt badly about his mistakes, but who could bounce back more quickly. But Thomas was a conscientious, loyal, but gloomy type who did not commit himself to something lightly. To commit himself to Jesus and then go back on his word affected Thomas deeply.

We’re all wired differently and so it’s important to know yourself so that you can be on guard against your areas of weakness. Usually, by the way, our areas of greatest strength are also our areas of greatest weakness. A man such as Thomas, who is loyal and conscientious, who takes commitments seriously, is also more prone to depression and doubt when he fails.

  1. DISAPPOINTED EXPECTATIONS MAY LEAD TO DOUBT.

A second factor that caused Thomas such deep doubts was the disappointment and shock he felt as he watched Jesus die. Even though Jesus repeatedly told the disciples in advance that He would be crucified, it didn’t sink in. When Thomas saw the badly mangled body of Jesus on the cross, it sent him into shock. His emphasis on the wounds of Jesus (John 20:25) shows how deeply it affected him. The bloody holes in Jesus’ hands and feet, the gory spear wound in His side, and Jesus’ disfigurement from the scourg­ing and the crown of thorns, haunted Thomas in the week after the crucifixion and fed his doubts.

In the same way, whenever we face deep disappointment and shock because of some tragedy or unanswered prayer or something that doesn’t go as we had expected, we’re vulnerable to doubts. You begin to think, “If God is a God of love, then why did this happen? Why didn’t He answer my prayers?” Before long, you’ve joined Thomas in doubting the Lord.

  1. WHEN GOD WORKS IN WAYS THAT WE DO NOT UNDERSTAND, IT CAN LEAD TO DOUBT.

Thomas lacked understanding with regard to the Lord’s departure (see John 14:5). On the night before the crucifixion, Jesus told the disciples that He was going to prepare a place for them and that He would come again to take them to be with Him. He told them that they knew the way where He was going. But Thomas wasn’t the type to keep quiet if he didn’t understand. So he blurted out, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?”

I’m glad he asked because Jesus’ reply was, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me” (14:6). But if you put yourself back into that situation, with all of the confused emotions of that night, and with the disciples’ still limited insight into Jesus’ death and resurrection, you can see how Thomas would still be confused about what Jesus had meant. He lacked understanding, which led to doubt.

John 20:9 states, “For as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead.” In fact, none of them understood why Jesus had to die, let alone rise from the dead. Jesus rebuked the men on the Emmaus Road (Luke 24:25-27), “And He said to them, ‘O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?’ Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.”

Many of our doubts stem from the same cause: we do not understand the Scriptures. Frankly, there are many hard teachings in the Bible, some of which we won’t resolve until we are with the Lord. We have to trust God, even when we don’t understand. In John 6:60, many of those who had followed Jesus turned away when He taught some hard things. Jesus even asked the twelve if they would go away also. Peter gave the great answer (John 6:68-69), “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. And we have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.” I have come back to that answer many times when I have struggled with doubt due to a lack of understanding. If Jesus is who He claimed to be, where else can I go?

  1. SEPARATING OURSELVES FROM FELLOW BELIEVERS, ESPECIALLY WHEN WE ARE DEPRESSED, CAN DEEPEN OUR DOUBTS.

Thomas was not with the other disciples when Jesus first appeared to them. We don’t know for certain why he was gone, but a likely reason was his depression. The last thing he wanted at a time like that was to be around other people. So he wandered off by himself to brood over the horrible events of the previous few days.

Then to add to his misery, when he finally did see the others, they told him that they had seen the risen Lord! How would you feel if you missed church because you were depressed and doubting and we all told you, “Hey, you really missed a blessing! It was the greatest church service in the history of FCF!” Great! That really encourages you, doesn’t it! But even though other believers may irritate us, the fact is, we need them. Whenever we separate ourselves from the fellowship, we make ourselves vulnerable to doubt.

I’ve not covered all the causes that cause us to doubt. But whatever the source of your doubts, the solution is the same: to come back to the basic fact of the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. If that is true, then even though you may not understand everything, with Thomas you still must bow and acknowledge Jesus to be your Lord and God.

God bless you in your trials, your battles, in your darkest hours, hold up your bible in front of your eyes (literally) and tell yourself you really believe.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com