Something Old, Something New

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Every time I go to the mall, especially a new one I’ve never visited, every once in a while as you walk the main halls you will see a giant map. They usually have some kind of mark to identify “You are here.” And then they show you everything around you and in the whole mall.

Knowing where we are is the only way to know how to get to our destination. Otherwise we would be lost and it would take forever to get there. We would probably end up accidentally finding I destination that way. But there is a better way to get to our destination.

Before we can get to where were going, we need to know where we are. We need to know where we came from. To practice holiness, we need to understand who and what we are in Christ. Christian identity is essential to successful godly living.

Sure, it helps to know the rules. It helps to know what God expects. But if we don’t understand the process of getting there, we will spend our wheels and make ruts in the mud. And most of us will end up presenting the fact that we haven’t gotten anywhere.

The Bible is clear on who we are, our past, our present, and our future. The moment we become followers of Christ, we are declared holy by God. But the journey to become holy according to his declaration is a daunting task if we do it on our own.

Who are we? The New Testament writers make a clear break between what we used to be before we met Christ and what we are now. They call it the old man, literally, or the old life and the new life (Ephesians 2:1-4; Romans 6:1-14). Paul tells us we are a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).

One of my pet peeves is when Christians tell me, “I’m a sinner saved by grace.” I feel like this is an excuse to sin even every once in a while. And then we know that Jesus will forgive us so everything’s okay as long as we ask for forgiveness.

But this isn’t the vision that Jesus has for us. Sin should be extremely rare among believers. The Bible describes us as dead to sin. If you shoot an animal dad and poke it you don’t get a reaction. Temptation should not so easily entangle us.

We may not become completely perfect in holiness while still on this earth, but we are called to be holy as God is holy (Leviticus 11:44; 1 Peter 1:16). If God commands us to do something it is possible. We need to strive to be holy like God.

Instead of saying, “I’m a sinner saved by grace,” why don’t we say, “Because of Jesus I am a saint saved by grace?” Instead of struggling with temptation and sin every moment of every day, why don’t we live the victorious life over sin?

I know it’s not easy but this is the goal and the high standard God has set before us. By the help of the Holy Spirit and through obedience to his leading we can live victorious over sin and spend our time pleasing the Lord.

But if we’re going to live that kind of life, we need to realize that the old life is the old life. That’s the past and that’s not me anymore. I am a new creature with new desires, new thoughts, and a new heart. My desire is no longer selfish but is set on pleasing the Lord.

My challenges are different than they were in the past. Back then, my only desire was to do what I wanted. But now my only desire is whatever makes God happy. What can I say, think, and do that will put a smile on God’s face?

I’m no longer an object of God’s wrath (Ephesians 2:3) but a child of God. I have a different family full of encouraging Christians on the same path. When we realize who we are in Christ we don’t have to do the things we used to do. We don’t have to listen to the world.

I challenge you to live with this perspective in mind all the time. We are in the world working for Jesus, but we are not of the world. We are of the kingdom of God. We are God’s agents behind enemy lines. We are the influencers rather than influenced by the world.

The work God has given you and me to do is way more important than struggling with sin and just keeping our heads above the water. Jesus didn’t give us victory to barely get through the day. He gave us victory and authority to live for him abundantly every day.

Would you think about this perspective? Leave a comment and tell me what you think about changing our perspective for victorious, probably living.

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3 P’s of God’s Goodness

Throughout the month of November I want to deliver a few blog post messages on the theme of the Four Pillars of Thanksgiving. One of the most lacking abilities in our culture is to be thankful for the things around us. So without further ado, we start at the beginning.

Our lives are surrounded by so much fear, anxiety, and anger. We are entering one of my most favorite seasons where people at least try to be more thankful. But if people are full of fear, anxiety, and anger, thankfulness has got to be one of the furthest things from their minds.

This trifecta cannot be the basis for Thanksgiving. Instead, we must turn to three other foundations if we are going to be thankful for anything that happens in life. All three of these kindnesses of God are necessary to create a thankful disposition. They all center around knowing God’s goodness.

Everyone is always concerned about their needs and wants. Unfortunately, most of us start life from a very selfish place. At least when we are babies and even young children we can’t really help it. We need someone else’s help, a parent who can take care of us. We can’t do it on our own.

Did you ever stop and realize that we never really grow out of this? Jesus addressed the same issue of our needs and wants when he addressed anxiety in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew-34). He reminded us that God knows our needs and he takes care of us.

God’s provision should cause us to never be anxious about anything again. We may not feel that he is taking care of every need, especially when we are obviously in want. But I can tell you from personal experience that God box beside us every step of the way and he has a purpose and all of it.

Perhaps you are in need of finances or health or food or even shelter. Perhaps you are in need of a job. God always provides in his perfect timing. And this isn’t coming from some pie-in-the-sky preacher. It’s coming from a quadriplegic that God has taken care of every step of this journey. And when he’s finished with my complete healing, you’ll hear about that too.

Next, we might wonder about God’s protection. Sure he provides but what if we believe we are in danger? Throughout the Psalms, David affirms that God is his rock, his shield, fortress, is refuge, and that he is safe under the shadow of God’s wings.

God protects us from all sorts of harm from physical to spiritual. We should never be afraid when he is with us. David said that even in the valley of the shadow of death he wasn’t afraid (Psalm 23:4). As we trust in God we need not fear anything. He already sees the end from the beginning.

Finally, we can be assured of God’s providence. The Lord orders the steps of the righteous (Proverbs 19:21). The Holy Spirit guides and directs our path. We don’t have to worry about the future because the Lord already planned our destiny.

What is left to worry about when the Lord provides all we need, protects us from all danger, and we walk in his providence? Our trust in him as provider, protector, and planner of our lives is the foundation for thanksgiving. Leave a comment and let me know what you think about God in these ways.

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The Holy Journey

Image by Jan Alexander from Pixabay

Some people really like road trips. I could take them either way. But one major improvement that I’ve lived with most of my life is a wonderful piece of technology called a GPS. There’s nothing like having an eye in the sky to help you navigate your trip.

Those who are on the journey to becoming holy like Jesus have a similar weapon. The Bible outlines God’s very best expectations for our lives. As we study its pages and are led by the Holy Spirit we travel a path many Christians have traveled with the same Helper.

The worst thing we could do is misunderstand the path to holiness. Some Christians believe that there is a destination, a point of arrival. Once they get there, there’s nothing left to do. Others never start the Johnny because I don’t think they can ever get there.

The path to holiness is often untried. But there are people who have gone before us that are a great help. No one is more helpful than the Holy Spirit. He is not only our guide but our friend along the journey. No one wants to travel alone.

Holiness is not a journey like others. It does have a destination but while we are on the journey it never ends. Holiness is not a straight line journey. It’s a circular journey. Just when you think you’ve mastered one character trait, something comes along to test it and find it weaker than you thought.

But don’t let that set you back. And please don’t leave the path altogether. If you think it’s about mastering every characteristic one by one, you’ve missed the point. Holiness will continue to refine every edge of our person until we go home to be with Jesus.

The journey is the main thing. Sure, the destination will be wonderful. But God is more interested in the journey you take from the moment he declares the righteous to the day he takes a righteous child home.

Holiness is a lifestyle. It is something you become and practice. Jesus declared each of us holy the moment we were saved. But while we live on this earth he uses the time to work on our character and actions.

The Bible often describes the journey as walking with Jesus. This makes complete sense as he walks alongside of us. The Holy Spirit lives life with us. And the journey only ends one we have reached our final destination.

Don’t be afraid to walk the journey. Don’t get caught up in every step. Just put one foot in front of the other and follow the Spirit’s leading. He is the best teacher and knows exactly what you as the finished product will look like.

Every once in a while you may stumble on the journey. But as long as you don’t turn to the right or the left, you will reach the goal. It’s not always an easy journey. Learning to listen to the Holy Spirit takes time. He speaks in different ways to different people.

But when he speaks you will know. Don’t listen to everybody else who is also on the journey. Unlike God, they cannot see the entire process from start to finish for you. Sometimes it is helpful to compare notes with others on the road, but the Holy Spirit should have the final say in your journey.

What do you think about the idea of holiness as a journey? Leave a comment and tell me what you think about the destination versus the journey.

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Image and Substance

One of the easiest ways to teach a subject is to use object lessons. They are the bread and butter of every poet. “Bread and butter” is actually an image that means it is a staple. They bring a vivid and concrete understanding to abstract ideas.

But “image” is used in a different way when Genesis talks about the “image of God” placed in every human being. Scholars and theologians have endeavored to understand what it means to be made in God’s image. Some suggest it refers to physical features while others point to faculties we share with God.

God’s image is first mentioned three times in Genesis 1:26-27. “Image” occurs five times in Genesis. It is also prevalent in the history and prophetic books of the Old Testament. It’s used almost exclusively in Genesis for God’s image and once for Adam’s image in Seth (Genesis 5:3).

But throughout the rest of the Old Testament, this word is only used for idols. This shows that it is tied to divine image, whether God or idols. Thinking of the image of God in humans as physical makes sense in light of these details.

Seeing the image of God as a physical look-alike to God in us could lead us to believe we are “little gods.” Psalm 82:6-7 mentions “little gods” with the understanding that humans thought they were that close to God when really he used it in jest.

The context of Psalm 82 is the divine counsel. The creatures God speaks with may be gods of the nations or demons masquerading as idols. If they are human beings, perhaps kings or princes. Everyone interpreted differently.

Some say it refers to humans and make an entire theology about being little gods. They say if God’s Spirit is in us, then we are little gods. But God in this Psalm is judging these wicked creatures. Christians who may consider themselves gods are pointing to a passage about idols. That doesn’t work very well.

Scripture teaches that humans and God are different in many ways. God’s image in us shows some similarities but it doesn’t make us gods. Many of God’s attributes are his alone. God’s substance is his only. Humans are made out of dirt. We have our place among his creation while he is outside of creation.

God isn’t a physical being. He is a spiritual being (John 4:24). God and humanity are different. Because of these major differences I don’t believe the word “image” is based on the idea of a physical resemblance to God.

I do believe that we share some similar characteristics between humans and God. The context of Genesis 1:27 were God’s image is mentioned falls in the middle of the marriage covenant. The complementary relationship, physical and relational, shows a completion of God’s image. When husband and wife are united it resembles on a smaller level the relationship between the members of the Trinity.

What does the image of God referred to in humans? How do we bear his image? Animals do not have God’s image but humans do. Human beings should look upward rather them downward for their identity. Science proclaims humans fit within the animal kingdom while God declares he has placed his image in us.

Many scholars point to our faculties which make us different from animals but are the direct result of bearing God’s image. These are the images God demonstrates that animals do not. Abilities such as reason and critical thinking skills, emotions, and speaking or communicating on a higher level are some major ones.

Some animals have a higher capacity than others. Dolphins seem to have a higher intelligence than many of their counterparts. Instinct guides animals who may have a small capacity for emotional awareness and volition. But humans demonstrate these in a much higher quality.

Creativity is another powerful difference between humans and animals. But God demonstrates creativity from the very moment of creation itself. We show the ability to have free choice and decide many things. Animals have free choice on a more limited scale. These examples demonstrate the differences between the image of God in humans and animals.

Unfortunately, God’s image in us was marred by the Fall in Genesis 3. Those faculties given by God are affected because of sin. Immediately, innocence and vulnerability were lost. The sin faculties God placed in us can now be used for evil. We used our intelligence to find even more depraved ways to think and do things.

The Bible never describes God’s image in humanity as lost. There’s hope that it might be restored like a painting that has gathered dust. But sin has marred and tainted God’s beautiful image in humanity. That image still gives every human being great value.

We must avoid “Worm theology.” It comes from Psalm 22:6. The psalmist is not declaring humans worthless but that human perspective is finite compared to God’s. The vast majority of Scripture speaks highly of humans.

If humans held so little value, why would Jesus die for us on the cross? God pursued the reconciliation of relationship between him and humanity because we hold much value to him. He shows over and over that he cares greatly for us.

In the New Testament, the image of God is enhanced through the image of Christ. We first see the image of Christ when Jesus addressed paying taxes to Caesar in Palestine (Matthew 22:15-22).

The Jewish leaders tried to trap Jesus in the conundrum of paying taxes to Caesar. None of the Jews liked Caesar but the people who asked were basically Roman spies, loyal to the Romans even though they were Jews.

If Jesus says yes then the Jews would be upset. If he says no, the Roman sympathizers will report him. Instead, he asks for a coin. Then he asks, “Whose image is on it?” They told him it was Caesar’s image. He answered, “Then give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”

The significance of this is that God’s image is on human beings. Just as the coin belonged to Caesar because it had his image, we belong to God because we have his image. Our value is wrapped up in God because we bear his image whether we know him or not.

The image of Christ is found in Romans 8:28-30. Paul speaks of the process of becoming like Jesus. He explains that those who have already been saying are predestined for God’s service. God predestined them to be conformed to Christ’s image.

God’s people who are part of his purpose he determines to be like Jesus. He makes Jesus’ disciples like him. Our value is in the hands by Jesus’ image as we follow him and become more like him. Believing in Jesus lines us up for the automatic process of becoming like him.

So Christ’s image is like God’s image. It is transforming our character, thoughts, heart, and lives to line up with God’s character. Sin marred God’s image but Christ restores his image in us.

God’s image shows up as the image of the Creator (Colossians 3:10). Renewal is being renewed into Christ’s image. Paul also talks about the continual process of the renewing of our minds into Christ (Romans 12:1-2).

The writer of Hebrews describes Jesus as the image of the invisible God (Hebrews 1:3). The word isn’t “image” but “imprint.” It is the same idea. Jesus is God’s invisible image made visible to us. Paul also equates Jesus with God’s image (2 Corinthians 4:4; Colossians 1:15).

Tax humans gave up God’s image and glory of living with him for idols (Romans 1:23). This reminds us of the Old Testament usage of image for divinity or idols. “Image” is used throughout the Bible for God, Christ, and idols.

The Bible gives us two choices. We all have God’s image but we can either serve idol images were turned to Christ and take on his image. Only through Christ can God’s image be restored and our relationship along with it.

Leave a comment and tell me what you think about the similarities between the image of God and the image of Christ.

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2 Sides to Holiness

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

What’s your favorite sport? I flounder between football and baseball. I know many people complain about the time it takes to play baseball games nowadays. But I love watching baseball because suspense lurks around every play.

But I also love football. There’s just something about watching the plays and cheering for my team. But anything can happen and the drama keeps me hooked. They both have offense and defense. Both can grab your attention at a moment’s notice.

There’s also something else about these two games. The team can only play either offense or defense at one time. In baseball, your only chance to put runs on the board is doing your offense of batting. Nobody in the outfield can change the score.

It’s true that in football the defense can change the score. But they are still on defense. However, this isn’t true when it comes to holiness. We’re supposed to play offense and defense at the same time. I know that sounds strange but let me clarify.

James-4:7-8 lays out the clear plan of holiness on both sides of the fence. Many Christians are so concerned with not sending and avoiding temptation, denying the flesh, and worrying about the negative sides of holiness that they forget there is a positive side.

We get caught up in this negative side, the defensive side. The second part of James 4:7 tells us to resist the devil. We are always playing defense against the devil, resisting him at every turn. We concentrate on the devil so much that we give him more credence than God.

Always being worried about temptation, sin, evil desires, worldliness, and the flesh makes us forget about the other side. It’s time to start playing offense in the holiness game. The first part of James 4:7 tells us to submit ourselves to God.

Now we’re talking about pleasing God by chasing after him with her whole heart and everything in us. We’re talking about surrendering to his will and serving him. This is the positive transformation of our character to be like his.

This is the exciting part that we neglect because we are so caught up in the first part. I am convinced that if we concentrated more on submitting ourselves to God, we wouldn’t have to worry about the defensive side as much.

If we focused on the Lord wholeheartedly and followed him completely, not giving any attention to the worldliness and wickedness we see around us, the defense would play the game on its own. After all, when your offense is scoring big the defense‘s job is much easier.

There’s an old song we used to sing called, “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus.” One of the verses replaces those words with these:

The world behind me the cross before me.
The world behind me the cross before me.
The world behind me the cross before me.
No turning back. No turning back.

When Paul tells us we are dead to sin and alive in Christ, I think this verse of that song captures the idea he conveys. Peter walked on water. As long as he focused on Jesus he was doing fine. But the moment he looked at the winds and waves around him, he began to sink into the water.

Are you willing to try an experiment with me? Let’s take this one week to play offense in holiness. Let’s focus on Jesus and pleasing him with everything we think, say, and do. I’m not saying that defense isn’t important. But let’s have some fun and play offense this week.

What can we surrender more to God? What extra step can we take to put a smile on Jesus’ face? Leave a comment and tell me what you think about this idea of offense and defense in holiness.

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Dangerous Dogma

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Throughout my life, I have always leaned toward the contemplative Christianity stream. I love knowledge. I see it as a door to open my relationship with Christ to new and deeper levels. To understand more is to be able to apply more to my walk with Him and to please Him more.

I was born into and minister in a fellowship in which some tend to think that having much knowledge destroys the Spirit’s ability to use a person. I have always struggled against this idea, even as a younger person.

Should there even be a separation between knowledge and love? This idea generally comes from some of Paul’s writings, especially where Paul tells us that knowledge puffs up but love builds up (1 Cor 8:1; 13:4).

The idea of being puffed up speaks of an attitude of arrogance, and believe me, in the education profession there is plenty arrogance to go around. I have loved learning in my education. But I have noticed this false separation placed on education by others in my fellowship.

Some suggest that knowledge ruins your ministry, that it makes it harder for God to use you. When I was going to Bible college and Seminary, I was constantly on guard against allowing myself to become so academically entangled to ideas that I would develop an arrogance about things that I thought had no effectiveness in the Christian mind.

As a case in point, I have found that God’s Spirit will command us to do things that don’t make any logical sense to us. This does not mean that they are not logical, for later we often find why God had asked us to do them.

Sometimes God commanded me to worship Him in a dillfferent way, to step out for Him in a group of academic peers and look like a fool. The point was to help me realize that I’m there for God, not for others. And I discovered that my disobedience was not about my “higher understanding” but my fear of what people would think.

“My disobedience was not about my “higher understanding” but my fear of what people would think.”

Jonathan Srock

The hardest lesson I learned in academia was to hone my critical thinking skills without forming a critical spirit. I would sit in chapels with my Greek New Testament and frown upon mispronounced Greek words, turn my mind off to whatever the speaker was saying, and not get anything out of the service.

I began to realize that I get out of a service what I put into it. When I check out because of one little thing, I miss what God has for me. But that had very little to do with the knowledge I possessed. It had everything to do with my attitude.

“When I check out because of one little thing, I miss what God has for me.”

Jonathan Srock

I believe this is the point that Paul makes, especially in the Love Chapter of 1 Corinthians 13 where he states that “If I have prophetic powers and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, but have not love…I am nothing (1 Cor 13:2).

Part of being a disciple is using our minds to glorify God (Matt 22:37). If you look at Jesus’ quote of the Shema in Deuteronomy 6:4, you would find that He added “mind.” One of the ways that we can love God is by using the brains He gave us and meditating on Him and His Word.

“Part of being a disciple is using our minds to glorify God (Matt 23:37).”

Jonathan Srock

But knowledge has this way of creeping into our psyche, of inflaming our ego. When we know something and share it, and people tell us how smart we are, it gets us into trouble. Instead of serving others by sharing what we have learned, we think we’re more than we are.

We develop a complex, and that causes arrogance and pride to rear their ugly heads. This truly comes out in discussions of theology and the Bible. Some people want to start a discussion, but not for mutual growth.

They want to show off their knowledge, to shut others down. This is not acting in love. The Love Chapter teaches us that love will outlive knowledge (1 Cor 13:8-10). Dogma becomes dangerous when it is not thought out and discussed in love.

When I became the pastor of New Life Assembly, one visitor during our Wednesday night Bible studies shared his views from time to time. The church had been in between pastors and were interested in what he shared.

He was a King James Only believer who had a thorough interest in Bible translations. He was quite knowledgeable. I wanted the current teacher to finish his series before I took over. I sat in the audience and contributed from time to time.

This person knew I was the new pastor. He wanted to talk to me as a “young pup” about which translation was the best to use in my ministry. I agreed to sit down with him and discuss the issues he wanted to present.

What he didn’t know is that I have a BA in Biblical Languages, and I’m not held to an English translation. I can dig deeper, and do every day. I don’t dig deeper to get one up on my opponents. I dig deeper because I want to grow in my understanding and relationship with God.

This man spent an hour and a half discussing his views with me. I listened intently, thinking about what he said, and held up my side of the conversation. I could see some holes in his arguments because of my critical thinking. These skills kept me from accepting some strange moments in our conversation.

I finally told this person that I would be using the translation I was familiar with. I stated my concerns with his favorite translation and outlined my position. I did it in love. I didn’t resent him then, and I don’t now. I believe that we can have discussions that bring clarity to our understanding. God can use knowledge to help others understand better.

God wants us to use our minds. He wants us to search the Scriptures and understand Him better. His Spirit can use us in greater ways when we know Him more deeply. And yet, as we hone our knowledge, we must also keep our pride in tow, not allowing that pride to have a foothold.

We must lovingly serve in knowledge. It is not about whether we can have knowledge or love. It’s about how to lovingly use our knowledge. It’s about our attitude in the gaining and dispensing of knowledge.

No matter what we discuss, we must do it in a way that glorifies God. You can be right about something but wrong in the way that you share it. The attitude that we speak our knowledge in is just as important as the information we pass along.

“You can be right about something but wrong in the way that you share it.”

Jonathan Srock

For God to use us in our knowledge, we must be humble and loving, kind and well-mannered. That is what it means to have the mind of Christ.

If God can keep our attitude in check, knowledge benefits is greatly. Knowledge is part of godly wisdom. And wisdom promises us life and favor from the Lord. Make sure that you know how to think critically without developing a critical spirit.

“Know how to think critically without developing a critical spirit.”

Jonathan Srock

Be open to God’s wisdom and knowledge, but always use these tools in humble and God-honoring ways, and surely knowledge and contemplation will take you deeper in your walk and love for God and His people!

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Inside Out

Have you ever seen something so cool you wanted to figure out how it worked? When I was a kid, I was fascinated with the inside of computers. I took three giant dinosaurs and tore them apart. I wanted to make a supercomputer out of the three.

But, alas! None of the computer parts inside were compatible with each other. All I did was create a giant mess on my bed that kept me from using it to sleep at night. Eventually, my parents made me throw out all three. But I did learn a lot about how computers work in the process. And I only got shocked twice!

Holiness and sanctification are the same way. How does it all work? How does God make us holy? Is it just a title that we have even though we are not acting in line with it? Or is it something that he never finishes until we die and go to heaven?

God has been working from the inside out to make each of us holy in his sight. The funny thing is that the moment we become believers in Jesus he declares that we are holy. This is why we’re called “saints.”

It really bothers me as a pastor when I hear Christians say things like, “I’m just a sinner saved by grace.” That used to be true until you met Jesus. Now you are a saint who is dead to sin. As I will discuss throughout this blog series,

I believe a lot of Christians miss understand exactly what happens at the cross. And the reason they suffer and struggle with things like the flash, temptation, and sin is that they don’t apply that understanding to their lives.

God begins with our heart and our mind when he begins the process of making us hold (sanctification). After declaring us to be holy at the moment we are saying, he then turns to making us holy little by little.

The Holy Spirit is our guide to becoming holy. He is the one who uses Scripture and conviction to turn us in the right direction, the godly direction. He works the hallmarks of the Christian life into our character and behavior.

The Spirit usually works on one or two issues at a time. He tends to address character rather than actions. Actions are the outworking of our character. But both are important. And he wants to change both. But his transformation process starts with character.

Think of it like this. If you adjust the character, the actions will follow. He may look at your actions and convict you because of what you said or did or thoughts. But he really wants to get to why you thought, did, or said it.

One of the ways he works on character is through the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). He is working these nine qualities of that one fruit in each Christian. He may start with one character flaw and then moved to another. They are only flaws because they do not resemble God’s character.

We shouldn’t be afraid of the discipline and conviction of the Holy Spirit. These are the tools that he uses to transform our character. He is doing these things in a loving way. God is never vindictive toward his children.

People will notice the outside actions but they have no idea what the Holy Spirit is doing on the inside with your character. While other Christians, wise and loving Christians, may be able to help you and point you in the right direction, Holy Spirit must have the first say in what part of your character he works on.

So what do you think? Think about what the Holy Spirit is working on in you. Are there scriptures you have read in your devotions that he won’t let you stop thinking about? Has he convicted or disciplined you lately? Leave a comment and tell me what you think about how the Holy Spirit works holiness into our character and actions.

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Divine Mystery

Image by TeroVesalainen from Pixabay

We live in an incredible and unprecedented time. People call this the information age. And for good reason. We have more information and knowledge of our fingertips and at any other time in history. We are breaking barriers left and right.

But this type of culture sets us up for some hard truths. We’ve become accustomed to having all the facts, knowing everything about everything. But this is actually a falsity because no one knows everything about everything. That is, except God.

We only like mystery in our novels. So it’s hard for us to grasp God and his nature completely. And that drives us crazy. The infinite God can only make so much of himself knowable to finite creatures. But that won’t stop us from complaining about what we don’t know.

We want to know God fully so that we can worship fully. We catch a glimpse of who he is and what he can do, so we’re sure that he deserves our worship. But how does the finite creature worship its infinite Creator?

Sometimes I feel like I’m a tiny grasshopper in a giant yard. If God wanted to, he could step on me and squish me flat. He’s not that kind of God, but he does have that ability. This paradox between the infinite and finite, the temporal and eternal, and the Creator and creation isn’t lost on us.

Some people give up on knowing God. They are not satisfied with the tiny breadcrumbs we get. The funny thing is that those tiny breadcrumbs are all we can handle. If God truly showed up in all of his glory, we would not have a choice but to worship him.

But he’s not looking for mindless automatons to worship him. He’s looking for people who choose him and choose the love and worship him. That is the original reason for giving us free will in the first place.

The knowability of God creates a relationship of mystery. His Word reveals many things about him but it also makes clear that we are unable to know him completely. We can’t wrap our minds around all of God’s attributes and all that he is.

Paul helps us to see this paradox. The Holy Spirit knows the depths of God’s mind and the thoughts of human beings (1 Corinthians 2:6-16). The Holy Spirit is like a middleman, an interpreter or interceder between God and humanity.

We don’t know everything, and we were never meant to. Some people believe we will know everything when we get to heaven, but that is one of God’s attributes. Paul even quotes from Isaiah about not having full revelation of what God can do in 1 Corinthians 2:9.

We are very curious creatures. But everything that we already can learn about God will take us a lifetime to discern. We can’t even see his entire plan for the universe and time. It’s easy to see God’s work in the past rather than in the present.

We need to get comfortable with not knowing everything about God. There is no subject on this planet or in our minds that we know everything about. There is always mystery. There’s not another person on this planet we know completely.

Do we really want to know everything about God? Would he be infinite and be God if we could know everything about him? The fact that we can’t know God completely shows he is greater than us.

This is what makes answering questions about faith hard sometimes. There are things I never will understand. So it’s hard to try to answer a question about it that can’t be answered. Yet, there are so many questions that are answerable.

Part of faith is seeing what we can see of God, and trusting Him for the rest we can’t see. That is why God only provides evidence and doesn’t just force us to worship Him. We must trust for a bit of who He is.

The mystery that we face should not shut us off to a deeper relationship with God, a more worshipful attitude, or make us feel like the journey is not worth it to begin to know God. In fact, mystery should make us more apt to worship God, to trust in Him, and to bring our enigmas to Him!

It brings me great comfort to know that God, who knows all things, is my best friend. I don’t want information overload. I know God will show me what I need to know when I need to know it.

When I feel like I’m all alone and have nowhere to turn, God teaches me the knowledge that He never leaves or forsakes me. When I have a financial need or any other need, God teaches me that He is my Provider.

I often begin worship by speaking what I know about God. Worship him for who he is and what he’s done in my life. I worship him for what he’s done throughout history. I express how awesome and wondrous he is.

But worship works both ways. We can move from what we know about God to what we don’t know about him. How amazing he is that there are parts of him we don’t yet know. He is doing things in the world we’re not even aware of yet. He is working behind the scenes in our lives.

If you think what he did in the past was amazing, just imagine what he can do in your future! God’s infinite being reminds me of what I have learned from my education. The more I learn the more I realize how much I don’t know.

The mysteries of God are the same way. The more he reveals to me the more questions I have. I like to know that somebody in the universe has all the answers, and he’s my best friend. I can worship God because he is beyond me.

He surprises me and he’s doing things I can’t comprehend. I can worship out of my intelligence and out of my ignorance. I can revere God for what I know He is and can do, and I can revere Him because He can do more than I ask or imagine.

He’s the kind of God we can believe in because he makes great strides to come to our level. But he is also completely unfathomable, gloriously greater than me. For both the knowledge we have of him and what we don’t know, we can ballot his feet and enjoying a friend who sticks closer than a brother but is wholly other.

How do you feel about the mystery of God, his infinite person and how much we can know of him? Leave a comment and tell me what you think about the divine mystery of our God.

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3 Holiness Goals

Since the creation and perfection of the modern vehicle, humans have been able to travel further differences than ever before. Empires could only be as large as the transportation available at the time. When horses were bred for writing, empires began to expand.

People in the Empire could travel farther and manage the empire better. But when the modern vehicle was produced, its ability to move fast was measured in horsepower. No longer did humans need to wear out one horse. They have a whole bunch of horses under the hood.

Holiness is a vehicle to certain goals. Through holiness, we can meet these goals and progress to our ultimate desire. But what are those goals? What is the point of trying to imitate God’s character? Why do we put all of this work and obedience into attempting godliness?

If we attempt to be holy, some goals fall short of the purpose of holiness in our lives. If these are our goals, we’re in it for the wrong reasons.

  1. Perfection – While we are called to perfection in Christ (Matthew 5:48), most people misunderstand what perfection Christ really needs. It doesn’t mean we don’t make mistakes. The word perfection needs to be mature, just what God wants us to be. It is to be whole and complete. But being perfect is not the goal of holiness. Perfection falls short of the goals and reasons for godly living. It is a byproduct of the path of holiness.
  2. Taking God’s Place – Our goal is not to become God or to take his place. We are human and even in heaven will still be human. We will not even become little gods. We will remain the creatures God has designed us to always be. We cannot usurp his throne on earth and we won’t do it through holiness. Pride and thinking we could do a better job than him was the reason humanity fell in the first place.
  3. Boasting About Ourselves – The journey to holiness isn’t about us. It’s not about waving our amazing character in front of other people. “Look at me!” That attitude flies in the face of godliness and holiness. This isn’t about showing off. Holiness is not another medal to put on our armor.

But there are goals worth pursuing through holy living. Holiness gives us a way to get there. A few of the great goals of holiness and godly living are:

  1. Imitating God’s Character – One of our goals is to imitate God’s character. Holiness flows out of the character of God and we who are becoming like him must also take on that same character. But it’s not about showing off. And it’s not about boasting. It’s about being like the one who saved us and loves us. It’s about being like the one who wants us to be like him. It’s about becoming what he’s always wanted us to be what he created us. Holiness is our vehicle to becoming complete and whole in Jesus. It’s about reaching the full potential of what he made us to reach.
  2. Dwelling in God’s Presence – A holy God cannot dwell within unholy people. Holiness gives us the ability to be in God’s presence with him. It gives us the ability to share in God’s goodness personally. It gives us the ability to hear from God and to speak to him. Although we are not as equals, we are his family, his children. He wants to meet with us and be with us. But it can only come through obtaining the same godliness and holy character that he has.
  3. Pleasing God – Holiness is the best way to please the God that loves us and gave himself for us. Only through holiness can we truly please God. Our obedience to the Holy Spirit warms his heart. Our compassion for others imitates his goodness to us. Learning to be like him and putting that into action puts a smile on God’s face. Because we love him and are grateful for everything he has done for us, we want to please him. Holiness is the best way to accomplish that goal.

Before we pursue holiness and to devote our lives to obedience to the Holy Spirit and godly living, we need to check our hearts and make sure that our goals and purposes for becoming holy are the right goals.

Leave a message in the comments and tell me what you think about these goals. They are lofty goals for us to attempt. But only through the power of the Holy Spirit, the help of God’s Word, and the fellowship of the saints can we attain it.

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5 Reasons to Go to Church

Image by Couleur from Pixabay

With the advent of streaming video and audio services online, churches are joining in to this technology and posting their services. You can now watch a service from anywhere within the Internet connection! This is a wonderful gift, but is it being abused?

This new service is available to those who are shut-ins or sick, or even on vacation for a week. Those who can’t physically make it to church benefit from this availability. Unfortunately, a growing number of people have made Internet church there only church. They don’t attend a local body of believers.

At the Bible gives at least five reasons every Christian should be part of a local church that meets regularly. Media has always been part of the cutting-edge of the Church. Churches have been involved in technological advances from the beginning.

From radio to TV, the church has used technology to further the message of the gospel. But the Internet has given a great advantage of interactive media and ways to interact with groups within the church.

Many people make the case that there is no need to physically go to church. They cite that church consists of believers, not a building. They are biblically correct. But I disagree that they don’t ever need to meet with other believers physically. And I don’t just disagree because I get paid to preach in churches.

All of these viewpoints and approaches beg the question, “What is the church?” Do we need to physically gather together? Do we lack anything if we virtually go to church online? We need a biblical definition of the church to answer these questions.

First, there is the church composed of all of the saints everywhere in the world, even those who have already passed away. We call this the Invisible Church, or the Universal Church (not to be confused with the Universalist Church).

There is also the Visible Church, or the local church. This is the gathering of local believers you can see and touch. The size of the church doesn’t matter because it is part of a larger whole. The Church is the gathering of like-minded believers who trust in the Lord Jesus Christ and hold to the truth of Scripture.

Every church must demonstrate certain criteria mainly from the example of the first church in Acts 2:42-47. The first church met together regularly to worship God, hear God’s Word, show compassion, fellowship together, and evangelize the world.

The church is not a building but a glorious building of believers gathered together to form a holy house for God to inhabit (1 Peter 2:5). Church buildings facilitate relationships and action by the church of believers.

The original word for “church” explains this even better. The Greek word ekklesia means “assembly, or “gathering.” From the word for church, it is clear we are not to practice our faith completely alone. The word for “saint” means “holy, unique, separate.”

So the church is the gathering, the group, of holy and separate ones. We are separate from the world but welcome amongst one another. How we need together differs in different situations. Some meat and houses, others in public buildings, and others in designated houses of worship.

So what can we do when we are physically present in church that we can’t do alone? We can donate online, here and watch the sermon, watch the worship music, and participate in discussion and small groups. But here are five reasons I believe the Bible teaches we need to be physically present in a local church and deeply involved:

  1. Fellowship. The word “fellowship” means “to have in common” or “to share.” To fellowship, you must be part of a community. You can’t fellowship with yourself. That’s like a yourself, and that’s weird. Fellowship is one of the most important parts of going to church (Scriptures on Fellowship: Acts 2:42; 1 Cor 1:9; 2 Cor 6:14; 13:14; Gal 2:9; 1 John 1:3, 6, 7).
  2. Corporate Worship. You can personally worship God through prayer, Bible study, and guidance from the Holy Spirit. But 1 Corinthians 11-14 describes corporate worship. The ministry gifts are for others. You can’t prophesied to yourself, for example. When you join a chorus bigger than yourself, it encourages you in hard times to worship the Lord with the further you see in others.
  3. Living the Christian Life. How do you practice the Beatitudes by yourself? It is implied that none of us can practice the Christian faith alone. We need each other for encouragement, discipline, teaching, and so many other things. Some of Jesus’ teachings can be personal but without others, many of them don’t make any sense. We can’t live in isolation.
  4. Body Ministry. The human body is used as a metaphor for the church (1 Corinthians 12:27). We are here to serve others. The Holy Spirit gives us ministry gifts to use for others. You are a gift to the church along with the spiritual gifts you have been given to steward wisely. You benefit from the Ministry of others as they benefit from you.
  5. Discipline. Many churches shy away from godly discipline of their members. But Scripture is clear on guidelines for discipline (Matthew 18). If we are to stay on track in our walk with Jesus, we need accountability and discipline. We have blind spots and weaknesses that others can help us shore up. One example of discipline is a young man who is sleeping with his mother-in-law, kicked out of the church, and reinstituted after his repentance (1 Corinthians 5:4-5; 2 Corinthians 2:5-11).

John Donne is credited with the often used for his, “No man is an island to himself.” We are social creatures by nature. And we need each other. What would your walk with God look like if you could only demonstrate your own resources?

For instance, no Christian has all the spiritual gifts. When we combine our ministry resources, we can accomplish so much more for God’s Kingdom. You weren’t meant to go this alone. You were meant to contribute to a team.

The ability to access church services and resources online is of great benefit. But it must not be our sole connection to God’s family. Joining God’s work requires that we rub shoulders with one another. You will enjoy yourself. Come and grab a seat at the table!

What are your thoughts about the virtual or Internet church movement? What are some of its benefits and drawbacks? Leave a comment and let me know how you feel about virtual churches.

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