From Glory to Glory

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Even among Christians there are different messages about holiness. Some talk about sin and the flesh putting up a constant battle against the Christian. They say a life seeking holiness will struggle to maintain it. We try but we fail.

But does the Bible have a different message about our pursuit of holiness? Is it worth even trying? Many Christians muddle through battles with desire, temptation, and sin. There is a better way, and it all starts with understanding our place in Christ.

The book of Romans explains our journey to holiness. Chapters 6-8 solidify our understanding of God’s part in holiness and maturity. Paul lays out the main issues for holiness. Because of this passage, I’m thoroughly convinced every Christian should live a holy and victorious life.

We concentrate too much on trying to avoid temptation and sin. Honoring and pleasing God with every thought, word, and action is the better way. Understanding our identity in Christ begins in Romans 6:1. Paul asks if we should keep on sinning and increased God’s grace. Or, “Should we just give up and sin because we can’t stop?”

If a holy life without sin was out of reach, Paul would outline a theology of barely getting by. Instead, he tells us emphatically that we should not sin by any means. The two main sections of Romans 6 argue we are dead to sin. Paul uses the images of water baptism and slavery.

Going under the water symbolizes dying with Christ to sin. We are raised to new life (Romans 6:1-11). Paul follows up with commands to not let sin rule us (Romans 6:12-14). Jesus’ grace helps us resist temptation and sin. There is a battle, but it was won at the cross.

Romans 6:15-23 explains we are always a slave to something. Paul says we are no longer slaves to sin but slaves to righteousness. This describes the separation from the old life to the new life, sin to holiness, law to grace.

When a hunter kills an animal and pokes it, if it’s dead it doesn’t move. When temptation and sin poke us, we don’t respond. It has no effect on us. We are not enticed because our door to sin is closed.

As slaves, we can only serve one master. Jesus also taught about having two masters (Luke 16:13). He spoke of money but the principle applies to serving sin or righteousness. With every thought, word, and action, we serve one of these two masters.

Paul illustrates being freed from the law and sin by speaking about marriage (Romans 7:1-6). A woman isn’t free from her marriage until her husband dies. The death of Christ secured our freedom from the law and sin.

Like a mirror, the law shows us our sin. It doesn’t cause it. It’s good even though it exposes and penalizes sin (Romans 7:7-12). Paul’s next illustration is confusing if we misunderstand his flow of thought (Hebrews 7:13-24).

Several scholars propose different interpretations for this man that wavers between doing good and bad. Some say it’s a believer who sins. But Paul tells us in verse 13 it’s a person struggling between law and sin.

This person knows the laws good and spiritual but he thinks with his physical desires controlling him. He wants to obey the law but does his own thing. The law punishes him and leads to death. The confusion is between his desire to obey the law and enjoy his own desires.

This passage doesn’t justify living the same way as someone under the law or in the world. Paul tells us we are under grace. We can’t excuse our sins because of this passage. We live under the new covenant and Jesus’ grace.

It’s even clearer in Romans 7:25. In Romans 7:24 the person under the law begs freedom from this struggle between law and desire. The answer is: thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! God frees us from sin by Jesus’ sacrifice.

Jesus paid that heavy price for us to live free of sin (Galatians 5:1). He never intends for us to go back to sin. It cost him too much. Then Paul summarizes the life seeking to please God without power to do it (Romans 7:25).

Enter Romans 8. We can desire to please God until were blue in the face when we still seek our own pleasures. But the Holy Spirit changes everything! He gives the power to follow through with our desire to please God (Romans 8:1-8).

Living between mind and body without the Spirit is confusing. But there’s no condemnation for those who turn to Jesus. The law lacked the Spirit’s power. If we don’t live by the Spirit we don’t have the power to please God.

We must choose to obey the Spirit and stead of our desires. Desire will always be there but we must remember and practice our death to sin. Only through obedience to the Holy Spirit can we please God (Romans 8:6-8).

Paul reminds us that we must live by the Spirit instead of our desires under the law (Romans 8:9-11). The Spirit’s power brings us life. We gain a privileged place as God’s children and his heirs (Romans 8:12-17). Our destiny is beyond this earth and a lifetime in heaven (Romans 8:18-25).

We are surrounded by decay. Creation groans as it waits for Jesus’ return (Romans 8:23). We also grown as we wait for God to fulfill his promises (Romans 8:24). But we are not alone. We have hope and the intercession of the Spirit, who groans as he expresses our needs to God (Romans 8:26).

The entire Godhead is thoroughly involved in our salvation, sanctification, and glorification. The Spirit helps us pray (Romans 8:26). The Father plans are salvation and conformity to Christ (Romans 8:28-30). As he works things out for our good, Jesus demonstrates his love on the cross, fulfilling the Father’s plan (Romans 8:31-32).

We aren’t condemned (Romans 8:1) because God went to bat for us. Only he can condemn us (Romans 8:32-34). Instead of condemnation we are his children. Jesus’ love demonstrated on the cross continues into our present and future. Jesus’ love conquers everything (Romans 8:35-39).

Should we struggle through our desires, temptation, and sin? Romans 6-8 is clear. God intends for us to live a victorious life. He planned for it, the Spirit intercedes and empowers our lives, and Jesus’ love conquers anything in its way.

God deeply desires you and I live in victory, pleasing him. How do we do that? It’s a combination of God working within us and us obeying him. He gave rules and principles as a roadmap to holiness.

What do you think about the clarity of God’s desire for our holy living in Romans 6-8? Leave a comment and tell me what you think or what you have gleaned from Scripture.

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5 Truths About Christmas

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One of the greatest things about Christmas is that it highlights the truth in our hearts and lives. It’s hard to get away from the truth when we celebrate Jesus coming into the world to expose the darkness and the lies around us.

But among all the hustle and bustle of this Christmas season, we often neglect the most important message of all. The world wants to cover up the truth of Jesus with traditions from everything but the Bible.

It tries to mask the true power of the message of Christmas. Instead, I want to highlight five truths about Christmas. These truths call us into a deeper understanding of the Christmas season and its message. It’s very hard to cover up the truth that God wants people to hear during the season.

So without further ado, here are five truths about Christmas that we can use to brighten up this season and our lives year-round.

  1. Christmas is about sharing Jesus. When Jesus came into the world no one understood him or wanted him to come (John 1:5). He came and was born in a manger, there was no pomp or circumstance. Or was there? The angels celebrated his arrival when no one else would. They let these shepherds know that Jesus came to earth. Magi from the east knew about his arrival because of the celestial star in the heavens. Jesus’ birth was celebrated from the lowly shepherds to the stately Kings from the East. And this entire season is all about him. Don’t forget to share him with others. There is no better opportunity than Christmas. And he is the best gift you could ever give anyone.
  2. Christmas is about celebrating miracles. This season is full of miracles. God becoming a human being, part of his own creation was all about bringing freedom to us captives. A virgin gave birth without the natural means of conception. Numerous Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled in Jesus’ arrival. These are only a few of the amazing circumstances that brought Jesus here. And God wants to do miracles today. He doesn’t change (James 1:17; Hebrews 13:8). The same God who did miracles to bring his miracle son into the world to save humanity from sin, death, hell, and grave wants to do a miracle in your life this Christmas season. The world wants to get rid of the word “Christmas” because it has Jesus’ title inside of it. One of my favorite things they like to exchange it for is “X-mas.” What they don’t know is they still have his name and the title by accident. In the original language of the New Testament, Christ started with an X! It’s very hard to get rid of the Savior who is the reason for the season. Whatever miracle you need in your life, only Jesus can fulfill it. Let’s not only acknowledge him this season but seek him for those miracles that only he can do.
  3. Christmas is about gathering together. Jesus didn’t come into the world alone. Everyone celebrated his birth. From shepherds to kings, he had many visitors. This is the most depressing season in the entire year for many people. Although they may be at Christmas parties are hanging out with people, they feel the most alone during this time. But it doesn’t have to be that way. During Christmas we gather to celebrate Jesus’ birth and the freedom and light that comes into the world and our hearts. When you know Jesus and he lives in your heart you are never alone (Hebrews 13:5). His presence fills our hearts with joy and light. You can gather with other people during this season but it’s most important that you are together with Jesus!
  4. Christmas is about fulfilling history.  There is more significance to the Christmas season than hearing about Santa Claus, reindeer, and whatever else the world wants to come up with. This is a special time when we look back to the most pivotal moment in all of human history. The entire Old Testament looks forward to Jesus’ incarnation and arrival. Since his birth, all of history looks back to that special moment. We’re doing it right now during the Christmas season. But the world would also like to hide the fact that human history is based on the central point of Jesus’ birth. BC literally means “Before Christ.” And AD is a Latin phrase that means “In the year of the Lord.” He is the center of history. The ancients toward him and we look back at him. He fulfilled all of the Old Testament prophecies about his coming. And during the season we not only look back to the time of his birth at Christmas but we also look inside of ourselves to find him still alive and present with each of us.
  5. Christmas is about looking forward. Not only do we look back Christmas to see the birth of Jesus in history, and we also look inside to see Jesus through his Holy Spirit guiding us and residing in our hearts, but we also look forward to his return. He came in the past to save us and he lives with us in the present but he will also be with us in the future. So many things are coming together in the end times and will be fulfilled. Jesus will return in the second coming. He will finish all of history and wrap it up in a beautiful bow. So when you celebrate Christmas this season, you’re not only looking back to Jesus’ birth, you are celebrating is very real presence in your heart today and looking forward to the day he returns to fulfill his kingdom in the world.

Christmas is full of important events all wrapped into one. We often forget to celebrate everything that Jesus has done and is doing for us. Let us fully celebrate Christmas season this year and incorporate all parts of what it means for Jesus to come to earth, live in our hearts, and fulfill human history to bring his kingdom.

Leave a comment and tell me your favorite parts of Christmas and what it means to you. Is Christmas more to you and just some holiday?

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The Joint Venture

There tends to be a debate among Christians concerning works and faith. I talked about that in a previous post. But there are other questions about how holiness actually happens in our character and deeds.

Paul tells us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). Sanctification is the process Paul refers to. It’s a big theological word that means “the process of becoming holy.” But doesn’t working out salvation seem contradictory?

This usually enters into the debate about faith versus works. But I’m going a different route. The other debate I have heard concerning this verse in Philippians is that salvation cannot be worked out because it is given by God.

Paul is not dealing with faith versus works. He is talking about the process of sanctification in our lives. Sanctification has two phases. The first is when we become saved and follow Jesus. At the moment we declare our obedience and allegiance to Jesus, he declares us sanctified.

This declaration includes his righteousness passed on to us, his holiness finished in our character, faithfulness and all of his other attributes in their final form in us. But this declaration is just the first step. Following salvation is the process of becoming what Jesus has already declared over us.

Paul is speaking of that earthly process in which we walk in obedience to the Holy Spirit and take on these attributes of God in us. We will make mistakes and stumble along the way. At times we may look completely the opposite of the final product the Holy Spirit works in our hearts.

But that is why it’s important when we stumble to get up and walk in the way of Jesus immediately again. If the Holy Spirit prompts and requires us to ask for forgiveness, to confess our sins, or whatever he tells us to do, we do it in obedience to grow into the person Jesus wants us to be. This is the person that pleases God in all things.

So working out our salvation requires obedience and a reckless abandon to do whatever the Holy Spirit requires. The joint venture is that the Holy Spirit directs us into holiness. But we must actively obey whatever the Holy Spirit tells us.

That is working out our salvation. The fear and trembling Paul refers to is the fear of the Lord and the trembling in his presence. We lay ourselves there before him on his holy altar. His searchlight is welcome to search us.

As David once prayed, we ask God to see if there’s any wicked way in us. We ask him to lead us into his ways (Psalm 139:23-24). Because the ultimate goal of godliness is to live in God’s presence, we must be completely his, wholly surrendered to his will and way.

The fear Paul speaks of is the fear of the Lord. This is a reverence for God. We honor him and hold him in the highest esteem as he guides us into his character. We want to please the Lord in all things. What he thinks of us matters more than anything else.

This is the full understanding of Paul’s phrase concerning working out our salvation with fear and trembling. Obedience is not easy. Learning how to share the heartbeat of God takes a lifetime. Learning to see other people as Jesus sees them takes a lifetime as well.

Between obedience to the Holy Spirit and doing what he says, we are becoming like Christ. His imprint is on us when we are successful in obeying the Holy Spirit and doing as he directs. So it is a joint venture between us and the Holy Spirit.

We must do the work he calls us to do. Sanctification is the work of God in our hearts. We cannot cultivate the fruit of the Spirit on our own. But he will not force us to change our character according to his guidance. It requires God’s patience and guidance along with our obedience and submission.

What do you think about this verse Paul gives us? Leave a comment and tell me your interpretation of Paul’s thoughts here.

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From Darkness to Light

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As we enter the Christmas season I want to focus on a prophecy about Jesus that was true at the moment of incarnation at his birth and also at the beginning of his ministry. One of the greatest images in Scripture is that of the light penetrating the darkness.

John begins his gospel by talking about the light that overcame the darkness (John 1:5). Light is stronger than darkness. If you ever light a match in a dark room, whatever is near the match becomes visible. You never light a match and don’t see whatever’s around you.

In the same way, when Jesus came into the world is light cannot be extinguished. It penetrates the darkness and overcomes it. The darkness that evil and Satan have brought to this world cannot stand against the light of Jesus.

Christmas is a special time where we recognize the light of Jesus coming into the world for the first time. No matter what our situation may be, how dim and dismal, Jesus can penetrate that situation and bring freedom through his light of revelation.

I love John 1:9 because it says that the true light was coming into the world. He gives light to everyone. Anyone who comes to Jesus, their situation and the truth about the world lights their path to revelation.

We are no longer wandering around in the dark, trying to figure out on our own what’s true and what’s not. Because of Christmas and the coming of Jesus into the world, we can know our situation and the world around us. We can see the schemes of the devil.

Later when Jesus begins his ministry, Matthew 4:15-16 quotes from Isaiah 9:1-2 and tells us that the people who live in darkness have seen a great light. Jesus is the light and through his ministry he revealed everything we need to know about this world and his kingdom.

Knowing Jesus is the greatest thing that can never happen any of us. Through his revelation we see clearly our sin and everything that keeps us from his freedom. He sets us free through the light of his Gospel and revelation.

The greatest gift any of us will receive is to know Jesus. The Christmas season is one of the most depressing and dangerous seasons of all. People feel alone even though they are surrounded by others. People go into deep depression during this time of year.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. The darkness in your life can only be changed by Jesus. Only he can, and reveal to you is joy and grace. But we have two choose him instead of the darkness. We have to choose to walk in his joy rather than in depression and pain.

No matter what you’re going through this Christmas season, turn to Jesus and he will bring light and enjoy into your life. No one else can do that for you. We can’t even do that for ourselves. It is only through knowing Jesus that the light comes into our lives and takes up permanent residence.

Don’t be afraid to open your heart to Jesus this Christmas season. After all, he is the reason we celebrate Christmas. This is his time. And it can be your time to let him in for good. During this Christmas season, don’t just listen to the Christmas story about Jesus coming into the world. Take this time to meet him personally and walk with him every day here after.

Leave a comment below and tell me how Jesus is lighting your path this Christmas season.

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Victory is Possible

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I have several friends who don’t like to be told something is impossible. They take it as a personal challenge to do the thing you tell them can’t be done. Of course, this is doing it for themselves. They want to know if they can’t do it. And often times everyone finds out they can.

There is something about the human spirit that makes us want to do things that are hard and considered impossible. We went to the moon as Pres. Kennedy said, because it was hard. Human beings like to be challenged. And when someone says you can’t do it, that’s the thing you want to do.

Holiness is a different animal, though. It doesn’t count on our willpower or how hard we try. It relies on our ability to be obedient to the Holy Spirit. It relies on listening to what he tells us to do. It relies on surrender and sacrifice.

Our only action is to listen and obey. But that doesn’t mean we have it easy. Learning to listen to the Holy Spirit takes quite a long time. Even when you think you have heard him properly, sometimes that’s not the case.

We don’t have to do everything ourselves. He is our guide. The Bible is the roadmap. He speaks to us as we read Scripture. Sometimes he speaks to us through wise counsel from other Christians. He also uses our conscience to speak to us.

Once we hear his voice, we must obey whatever he tells us to do. Obedience isn’t easy either. Even though we are redeemed new creatures in Christ, we sometimes still want to go a different way. Perhaps the Holy Spirit wants us to do something we think is too hard to do. We would rather do something else.

This doesn’t mean that we’ve lost our salvation. It just means that the thought patterns of the world are in the background of our lives. We live in a sinful world and just like we get dirty if we roll around in the mud we retain the wrong mindsets from time to time. That’s why Paul tells us to have a renewed and transformed mind regularly (Romans 12:1-2).

Our fight is not against flesh and blood or against temptation and sin. Our fight is on the battlefield of the mind. We need to be renewed in our thought processes. I am convinced that most of our problems as Christians happen because we think the wrong thoughts and act on those wrong thoughts.

We have the wrong perception of spiritual warfare, the spiritual and physical realms, and how God has set up things to work. We pray for things we already have. We beg God for victory over temptation and sin when we are supposed to be dead to sin.

We must get a God sized vision of our identity in Christ. We beg like slaves when we are his children. We act like the prodigal son who wants to ask his father to work as a slave when he is already his son.

How do we live a victorious life? We already have it. Jesus already paid and won the victory at Calvary. We just need to live it out. We overcome by the blood of the lamb and by the word of our testimony (Revelation 12:11). His blood has already been shed for us. And the word of our testimony is what he has done for us then and now.

As I said, it’s about the mind. Jesus already won the victory. We only need to walk in it. I know it sounds so simple, but many Christians are not living the victorious life so we have misunderstood how to do it.

We walk in victory by living what the Scriptures say. We walk in victory by living out who we are in Christ. We walk in victory by listening to and obeying the Holy Spirit. Try thinking more about what would please God instead of how to defeat temptation and sin in your life.

Ignore temptation because you are dead to its desires. Walk in the Spirit and you won’t gratify the desires of the flesh (Galatians 5:16). What are some other steps we can take to walk in victory with Christ? Leave a comment and tell me what else you do to walk in victory.

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ANNOUNCING “THE GREATEST GIFT SERIES”!

Perfect for the Christmas season, my latest book explores the relationships, culture, and historic event of the birth of Jesus. Explore the biblical world of the first century with characters like Mary, Joseph, King Herod, the Magi, and others. It is a fictional work of 12 short stories designed to entertain and inform.

You can preorder The Greatest Gift Series on Amazon today. It will be available for purchase December 9! There is also a paperback version for $7.99. Grab your copy today and enjoy these short stories showing the true meaning of Christmas.

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Overjoyed

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We’ve been talking about the four pillars of Thanksgiving this month. But the fourth pillar is my personal favorite. The process of thanksgiving, of learning how to be thankful for all things that God does in our lives, begins with knowing God’s goodness through his provision, protection, and providence.

The second pillar of the process is feeling God’s goodness through gratitude. The third is declaring God’s goodness through public vocal thanks. And now we arrive at the fourth pillar, celebrating God’s goodness through contentment and joy.

Paul demonstrates this pillar in the book of Philippians. The most common word in the book has to do with joy and rejoicing. In Philippians 4:10-13, he highlights the attitude of being content in every circumstance.

He’s talking about financial contentment for the most part, but contentment must permeate every part of our lives. Even in the worst situations of our lives, we can be content because we know, feel, and declare God’s goodness. No matter what our circumstance we know God’s got our back.

It doesn’t always feel that way in the hard times, but we must trust that God is working goodness into the background of our lives. If nothing else, he is strengthening our faith and character through the trials we face.

It’s a lot easier to be content when things are going her way. When money’s in the bank and food’s on the table gratitude and thanksgiving flow from our hearts. But in the hard times begin to ask questions and wonder if God is still there.

God is the same whether we are on the mountaintop of praise or in the valley of testing. To pass the test, we must learn contentment in every situation. Our circumstances are the waves on top of the ocean, but our iceberg of joy must be founded on the bottom of the ocean where the water is barely moving.

Joy is a deep-seated trust in God’s goodness despite the circumstances on the top. Happiness is superficial but joy powers through the bad times as well as the good. No matter what’s happening on the surface joy is the concrete our feet are planted on.

I’m not saying our trials and suffering aren’t real. I’m not saying we can’t struggle to exhibit God’s joy while we are going through these hard times. But the trials and the devil can’t steal our joy. It is like a suit of armor we can wear through the trials.

God pours out his blessing and promises on us the matter what our situation may be. That’s will and we can have joy despite our trials and sufferings. Koch joy is bigger than our pain and our struggles. His joy is one of the only anchors that keeps us above the water during these tough times.

Even when we’re going through hard times, suffering depression and other emotions on the surface, God’s goodness pulls us through. The joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10). One of the best things we can do when our hearts are challenged by our circumstances is lift our hands in praise and lean on Jesus’ victory on the cross. We can bow our broken hearts before the God who cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). He can heal a broken heart like no one else (Psalm 34:18).

In the hard times, let’s remember:

  • God provides for every need big and small.
  • God protects us from the attacks of the enemy and anything that comes against us.
  • God’s providence provides a plan for our lives that is perfect and suited just for us.
  • A grateful heart recognizes God’s goodness.
  • A grateful heart acknowledges God’s goodness.
  • A grateful heart is generous because of God’s goodness.
  • We can thank God for the little things that we don’t even think about.
  • We can thank God for every victory big and small.
  • We can raise our hands in praise no matter what our situation.
  • Our joy is deeper than the waves of circumstances around us.
  • Our anchor holds amidst the storm.
  • We can lean on Jesus’ victory and remember that we also are overcomers.

We all need a little encouragement in the hard times. If you see somebody going through a trial, don’t forget to encourage them. Leave a comment and let me know what you think of joy and contentment in every situation of life.

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2 Sides of a Coin

Our perspective is so small compared to God’s. We can only see things a certain way. I can’t tell you how many times my perspective has been expanded by new experiences. Experience is a good teacher. It changes the way we think about things.

There’s a great debate that rages every time people read Paul and James. James tells us that works are important but Paul highlights faith. Paul fights against Jewish teachers that claim Christians must also follow the law of Moses.

James is a Jewish wisdom teacher turned Christian, a brother of Jesus. He is also the pastor of the Jerusalem church, the very first church in Christendom. So who is right and who is wrong? After all, this great contradiction in the Bible might bring the whole thing down.

Atheists wish that was true. But a closer look at this debate will show a completely different results. Why should we care? Because if we’re going to live a holy life before God, we need to know if we should emphasize our faith in God or if works matter.

Let’s start with Paul. He argues several places by quoting Old Testament Scripture that faith is paramount for our salvation (Ephesians 2:8; Galatians 3:3-6). We cannot be saved by works. Paul and the Bible are very about this. That makes it sound like works are not even desirable for Christians.

When we turn to James he says that works prove our faith (James 2:14). So which one is right? They both are! If we did deeper into this debate, we will understand that Paul is saying that works don’t save us. They don’t make us righteous. We can’t fulfill every letter of the law before God.

But when we are saved, our faith is shown by our works. Paul is talking about a faith that saves but James is talking about a faith that works. Our works show that we have faith. But they don’t save us. Grace saves us.

Some people get pretty upset when we start talking about works and faith. They feel like being holy requires them to be doing something. The difference is that people who talk about works taking them to heaven are talking about a saving ability on their own part. Christians talking about works are demonstrating their faith the unbelievers.

If I give a cup of cold water to a thirsty person in the desert and tell them, “Jesus is the living water that will never make you thirst again,” I am demonstrating my faith in Jesus by doing something for that person.

When people see what we do, our holy lifestyle, they will be convinced that we know God. Our works don’t save but they testify about us and our relationship with Jesus. When I was in high school, I never had to tell anyone, “Hey, I’m a Christian!” Everyone already knew because of the way I lived in front of them.

I would have people swearing all around until I showed up. Then they were careful not to offend me, even though I wouldn’t take offense to it. But they knew there was something about me, a higher standard that I lived by. I didn’t have to say word. That doesn’t mean that I kept quiet about my faith, either.

We are assuredly saved by God’s grace. There’s nothing we can do to earn salvation. This is the perspective Paul gives us. But James reminds us that when we as Christians do something or act it shows our faith in Jesus.

They are two sides to the same coin. The coin is being a believer in Jesus and following everything that he teaches. On the one side, our faith saves us. On the other side our works testify that we have faith.

So what’s all this mean as far as holiness? Jesus gives us his righteousness. We don’t have to earn it by doing good things. We do good things out of gratitude for his saving grace. We do good things to demonstrates that God is real and Jesus cares about people.

We do things the Holy Spirit tells us to do. When he finds a part of our character that is not where it should be on God’s high standards, he wants us to change it. He tells us how by who we are, which works out into what we do.

And that is how we “work out our salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). As the Holy Spirit leads and guides us into holy living, he tells us what to do. Through our obedience we do with the Holy Spirit directs us to do.

Works don’t save us and they don’t make us holy. But when we do them through the direction of the Holy Spirit in obedience, they do show that we are holy.

What you think about the whole debate between faith and works? Have I helped to clarify the issue? Leave a comment and tell me what you think.

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Act on It

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In the month of November we celebrate Thanksgiving. It is my favorite holiday other than Easter. The history of Thanksgiving is grounded in the first settlers arriving in America. But there’s a deeply biblical and faith-filled message that surrounds Thanksgiving.

Most Americans enjoy a time of family, fellowship, and food. We sit around the table and in some households every person is asked to give something they are thankful for and the reason. Well it may be offputting to some, especially if they are unprepared, I enjoy this part of the holiday.

Like every other human alive, I have much to be thankful for. As many people know, a little over six years ago I almost died. A rare antibody struck my spinal cord and I have been paralyzed from the neck down ever since.

More than life itself, I am also thankful for my family that has always been behind me no matter what, the nurses take care of me every day, and the host of God’s mercies and blessings I experience every day.

Last week we discussed the idea of gratitude and why it is so important. As we see God’s goodness through his provision, protection, and providence, we can’t help but be grateful. Thanksgiving is gratitude in action.

We know of God’s goodness and we feel it and are grateful hearts. But all of that pent up energy of knowing and feeling God’s goodness must come out. That’s what thanksgiving is all about. It’s the outlet for the knowledge and feeling of God’s goodness can be expressed.

As we show our thankfulness through word and deed people can see in our hearts. Unless a person quizzes you, they can never know what you know. You can know that God is good because of his provision, protection, and providence. But that doesn’t mean others know.

You can feel deep down in your heart that God is good because of your knowledge of his goodness. Unless someone sees you get emotional about how God has done these things for you, they would never know the level of your gratitude.

But when you speak of the goodness of God and testify to the many times he has pulled you through, people know from your outward actions and your thankfulness that you are grateful to God.

Power lies in the declaration of your gratitude. Why are we so afraid to speak goodness and gratitude into other people’s lives? When God uses someone to bless your life and you react with tears, a smile, or return the favor, people can see your gratitude through your thankfulness.

So many people in the world today are not thankful. They don’t express it through words or actions. They forget to be thankful. Some people think they are entitled and shouldn’t have to be thankful. But it’s those people who are not only thankful but express it that are blessed.

When we are keenly aware of God’s goodness and the goodness of others, we are truly grateful for their kindness to us. It’s a cold, dark world that doesn’t have thankful people. As we discussed before, people who aren’t grateful are not generous. We have reaped the generosity of others and it makes us even more grateful.

People don’t have to be that way. People don’t have to be generous. They don’t have to be loving or kind. So when we experience the kindness and generosity and love of others it should move us in a world where it is rare. And we should return the favor by showing our gratitude through thankfulness.

This Thanksgiving season as you gather with family and friends, think of one unique thing you can thank them for. Don’t think of something that anyone could say. Find that one thing unique to them, personal to them, and thank them for it. You’d be surprised how much they would be moved just by you remembering that special thing.

Leave a comment and let me know what you think about our tradition of being thankful around the dinner table. What are you thankful for this year?

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7 Big Holiness Concepts

Without realizing it, we Christians tend to make up big words that new people were people in the world don’t understand. It’s hard to talk about holiness without using these words for us. So I wanted to take a moment in our blog series and talk about these big Holiness concepts.

These concepts are at the heart of discussions on holiness. We see them all the time throughout the Bible. Each one of them has to do with becoming more holy as we follow Jesus and walk with him.

So what are these big holiness concepts?

  1. Righteousness – This word appears many times over throughout Scripture. Righteousness means to do whatever God sees is right and glorifies him in every situation for every person. Righteousness has to do with our character, thoughts, words, and actions. It is the background reason we do what we do. The Bible teaches that our own righteousness is like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). Jesus gives us his righteousness like a coat we wear. It covers us from head to toe.
  2. Justice – Justice is righteousness awarded to a person. The word for justice often has the idea of judgment attached. Righteous judgments are the holy and appropriate judgments we give others. Often times the Bible talks about justice not being given by wicked people. People who demonstrate holiness give proper justice to the people who should have it. In the New Testament, the original language word for justice is in the same family as the word for righteousness.
  3. Perfection – Jesus told us to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:48). But what does he mean by perfect? The one behind “perfect” gives it away. The idea is to be complete or whole. It has the idea of reaching maturity. Christian maturity doesn’t have to do with knowing a lot of stuff. It’s not about not having any flaws. Maturity means to become the person God wants you to be. It is to be conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). As God develops each of us into the people he has created us to be, we become perfected.
  4. Sanctification – This really been word refers to the process of becoming holy. At the moment we are saved we begin this journey, or process. The idea of sanctification is that we are guided through a process of listening to and obeying the Holy Spirit. He will address issues in our character and behavior that he wants to change. Sanctification is the roadmap for becoming holy as God declares us at the moment of salvation. It is becoming in reality what we already are in his eyes.
  5. Character – Character is the “being” of holiness. It contains all of the traits that we carry inside. Character is the part that people can’t see in us until they spend a lot of time with us. It is the internal person. It contains our motives, intentions, thoughts, emotional responses, perceptions, and attitudes. These are all of the things in us the Holy Spirit is working on “under the hood.” As he changes us on the inside, the outside of our person will also change. He changes who we are and what we do changes also.
  6. Integrity – The best definition I’ve ever heard of integrity is to be the same person in public that you are in private. The idea of integrity is that our character and actions match. There is no “double-mindedness” as James would say (James 1:8; 4:8). We don’t waver from idea to idea, changing my mind every few minutes. We are steadfast in who we are and what we do. We don’t say one thing and do another. Everything lines up between our being and doing. If people can see our thoughts while they observed our actions there would be no controversy or contradiction. We do not work through deception, falsity, or lying. People often label those without integrity as hypocrites. Only Jesus can make us people of integrity.
  7. Behavior – Behavior is the outward actions that everyone sees. These are the actions people judge us on. Behavior includes our habits and actions. The Old Testament law often placed rules on the things people did. Because people can’t see the intentions of the heart or the inner thoughts of a person, they can only judge a person on their actions. As we get to know people we begin to understand their heart, but at least at first we must judge them on their behavior. Jesus works first on our character, on the inside, and then our actions and behavior begin to line up with that character.

These are only a few of the concepts I have chosen to define. There are many more the deeper you get into discussions on holiness. But the key is to realize how Jesus works in us and what he is doing to make us more holy.

Would you think about my definitions of these words? Do they bring clarity for you or do you think I missed the boat? Leave a comment and tell me what words you think are most important when we talk about becoming holy.

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