Wise people set goals for themselves in the New Year, areas they want to improve or even change. Some people sabotage their goals before they even begin. How will you maintain your growth? Setting positive habits builds a foundation of repeatable success.
“Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14 NASB
A new year is upon us. The old year is past. This is the time to put away bad habits and start better ones. A dear friend, Jim Hogan, once challenged the sales team that worked for him, “Don’t be afraid to form good habits, everyone has habits, the best of us work from the good habits we already formed. Good habits create repeatable success.” — Crevier Sales Meeting 2008
Jim has always lived by example, he taught me the important value of doing things right from the beginning and repeating your good habits until they become one with everything you do. The highest compliment to Jim’s success is the fierce loyalty that his sales people had for him. Past employees often speak of his integrity, his character and the way he changed their lives for the better.
“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2 NASB
For the Christian, one who is committed to following Jesus, good habits are critical to your relationship with God and to your spiritual growth. In the passage above, Paul tells us that we can change our behavior through the renewing of our minds and that we can also know the will of God. So then how do we do this?
Like any good relationship, we need to spend time and make it a date. Yes, take the time to have a daily date with God. Read His love letter and talk to Him.
“So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” Romans 10:17 NASB
David, the psalmist understood how to change his ways and to draw closer to God. He knew that it would require his whole heart. It requires a 100% commitment to daily listening, studying and communication with God.
“How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word. With my whole heart I have sought You; Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments! Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You.” Psalms 119:9-11 NKJV
Recently, I was asked, “What methodology do I incorporate when studying the Bible? What habits have I put in place?” So here is my list of things that I do to have an impacting experience with God.
1.) Get a Bible you want to read. Each year I get a new Bible and I switch translations from the NASB to the NKJV. My wife and kids like the NLT. The important thing is to read God’s word.
2.) Get a quality Bible. Take some pride in picking out your Bible. I prefer goat skin leather and a binding that is called smyth sewn. The binding is critical, a smyth sewn binding will last and hold up over time. (Smyth Sewn Bindings) The paper should be at a 28 gsm or greater. The best Bibles made are by Schuyler, R.L. Allan, and Cambridge. (Evangelical Bibles) This year my wife bought me my first Schuyler Bible. It is such a beautiful masterpiece of craftsmanship.
3.) Develop a system to take notes in your Bible. Don’t just write notes, write with a purpose. One day someone else will read my Bible, I wonder how will my notes inspire their relationship with Jesus. I have developed a color code system over the years that works for me. Below is an example of it.
4.) Pray before you start and after. I always ask God to give me understanding and wisdom in comprehending His word.
5.) Get a book that corresponds to what you are reading. Get some perspective. Share what you learned with a friend.
6.) Get cozy. Find a quiet place, with a comfortable chair. Make this a place that you want to go to.
7.) Make the time you spend with God, consistent. Set a time to read your Bible. Keep your date with Him
8.) Keep a journal of your growth. Write down what you learned. Look back at it and see how you have changed.
God views us as exceptional. He loves us and created us each in a unique way. The one consistent trait, is that anyone can change. God gave us free will, the ability to end mistakes and to create better attitudes and behaviors. The only way this can happen is with God’s help and through having a relationship with Him. This year choose to make your new year exceptional; by maintaining a deeper relationship with God through prayer and the reading of His word.
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.””Romans 1:16-17 NKJV
Why do we desire to point out the faults of others, before we clean up ourselves? Hypocrisy is epidemic! Its time for change. Its time to love others more than ourselves.
“May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus. Then all of you can join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, accept each other just as Christ has accepted you so that God will be given glory.” Romans 15:5-7 NLT
It was my dad’s first Sunday as senior pastor of a church in Los Angeles. I was a young five year old boy full of energy. In those days they had a time in the middle of the service called, “The Children’s Moment.” It was a time that the pastor would share something inspirational to the children right before they went to Children’s church. On this particular Sunday all the children gathered in the first three rows of the church so my dad could address them, along with a few volunteer high school girls to help keep the kids calm. Sitting behind me was another five year old boy named Chris, who thought it was a great idea to whisper to the high school girl next to me, “Fat Cathy, Fat Cathy.” I was confounded by these remarks, for Cathy was quite beautiful and definitely not fat. After a third insult, I decided to defend her honor. In front of the whole congregation, I turned around and punched Chris square in the nose. You can only imagine, as horrified gasps echoed through the church followed by glances of disapproval towards the new pastor, my dad. Needless to say it was not a good first impression, on a new church.
“So get rid of all evil behavior. Be done with all deceit, hypocrisy, jealousy, and all unkind speech.” 1 Peter 2:1 NLT
I was not the easiest kid to deal with. By the time I was five, I had already earned a degree and was an expert in pushing my dad’s buttons. On the way home, my mother was hysterical in her outrage at my behavior, but my dad was eerily silent. When we arrived home, my dad pulled me aside and explained to me the difference between situational ethics and absolute morality. No matter how hard I tried to justify my behavior, my dad would calmly point out why I was wrong. I was waiting for my dad’s calmness to erupt into frustrated anger, but it never happened. Years later I finally understood the lessons from that day; bad behavior is never justified by the immoral behavior of others. Today we live in a society that blames others for their behavior, but ignores and justifies their own destructive and out of control behavior. We see this in politics, in America both political parties are guilty of name calling, lying, corruption and abusive bullying. Both point fingers at the other, while justifying their own corrupt and unethical actions. In the end both are wrong. My dad wisely pointed out to me that hitting someone is never right, Christians show love and forgiveness. The 16 year old girl did not need me to defend her honor, she was wise enough to ignore the insane ramblings of an immature five year old kid. My actions brought grief to my father, the church, and to Jesus.
“In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone.” 2 Peter 1:5-7 NLT
Just like the excuses of a five year old, who did not see the big picture of his behavior, so are our excuses to God as we justify our sins to Him. We are ignorant, but still accountable for our actions. We blame everyone but ourselves. Some lie to themselves, by denying the existence of God, in order to avoid accountability. This too, is a foolish excuse.
“Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God. So let’s stop condemning each other. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall.” Romans 14:12-13 NLT
The person who comes to the cross and chooses to follow Jesus, for them, it is no easy task. It is not easy for anyone to face the humiliation of their own wrongdoing.
Isn’t it time that we stop making excuses for bad behavior?
All the excuses do not matter to a just God. In fact nothing we do, can earn His grace or forgiveness. Jesus paid the debt for our selfishness and immorality. What God wants is for us to humble ourselves, examine our own hearts and live in a repentant relationship with Him. Let God shine a light through you to change the world. Let His love drench others around you, so that all they will see is Jesus. Nobody was better at promoting harmony, love and peace in a chaotic and hate filled world, than Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blacks, whites, Republicans, Democrats, rich and poor all respect him for what he accomplished peacefully. He believed in civility, love and forgiveness. Ponder this quote.
“We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.”–Martin Luther King Jr
Dr. King believed in the power of love to change the hearts and minds of people. He preached the Gospel to anyone willing to listen. Love is the answer! Holding yourself accountable to God for your own actions is the answer. Forgiveness and compassion is the answer. Violence and uncivil behavior will lead to the death of innocent people. Everyone needs to change the rhetoric and the violence; or we will be at war with one another. We must to return to moral, compassionate, behavior! There needs to be a desire to read the Bible and pray, be encouraging and stop promoting negativity. We should learn to love disagreeable people, to find common ground and to be compassionate. Don’t be selfish, stop the name calling and be a light in the darkness.
“The Lord approves of those who are good, but he condemns those who plan wickedness. Wickedness never brings stability, but the godly have deep roots.” Proverbs 12:2-3 NLT
Let us bring stability back to a world gone mad. Let us shine the light of God’s love into a dark world. Our behavior, is the proof of our faith in Christ Jesus.
God has a plan for your life. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” God imprinted His image on our DNA, so that we would know how much He loves us. The encoding information points to an Intelligent Design.
“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” Ephesians 2:10 NLT
Atheists often ask the question of Theists, “Where did God come from?” The better question to ask is, “Where did spontaneous generation come from?” Spontaneous generation is the belief that the universe came from nothing. Where in science has this theory ever been duplicated? It hasn’t. Something cannot come from nothing. The Big Bang theory is flawed for this reasoning, as well as the fact that no explosion has ever produced any kind of life, rather explosions produce death, destruction, and chaos.
Dr. Harold Morowitz, a world renown physicist from Yale University and author of Origin of Cellular Life (1993), stated, ‘The odds for any kind of spontaneous generation of life from a combination of the standard life building blocks are one chance in 10E100000000000.”(That is a 1 followed by 100,000,000,000 ZEROS.) Morowitz, Harold J. Energy Flow in Biology. Academic Press, 1968.
If the improbability of spontaneous generation coming from a combination of standard life building blocks is unlikely; what are then the chances that this would happen from nothing? The reasoned explanation is to conclude what the Bible says:
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.” Genesis 1:1-3 NKJV
God created the universe, He brought it together with His Word. The disciple John gave us greater insight into creation, when he wrote:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” John 1:1-4 NKJV
What John is telling us; is that the life force of the universe is Jesus, and that all life comes from Him. Since God created us then we can have can have the joyful understanding that we have a purpose. Compare this to the atheist philosophy.
When I see a quote like this, I am drawn to thoughts of my friend Jorri. No one I know is a more compassionate animal lover than her. She is particularly attuned to the suffering of animals. Her anger towards the indifference that others show to animals is only contrasted by her compassion and pity that she demonstrates to God’s creatures. Her disposition is not just another random act of the uncaring evolutionary process. Jorri’s purpose, design, emotions and characteristics were all carefully coded and imprinted into her DNA by a loving God. Jorri, as well as all of us were created with a purpose. This purpose was understood by The Psalmist David; he grasped the complexity in which he was created. David wrote these words:
“For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well.” Psalms 139:13-14 NASB
Our cell structures are literally woven by our DNA. Only God could have revealed this to David 4,000 years ago. What was once called the simple cell, by evolutionists, is now being called complex. The incredible complexity of our cells and DNA, demonstrates the thoughtful engineering of an Intelligent Designer. It is a deliberate, robust and unique pattern. Contrast this with the theory of random chance; that somehow miraculously happens again and again. The blind faith of atheists in their religion, evolution, is astonishing and misguided. Science through the understanding of our DNA is disproving Darwinian evolution. Darwin practically predicted its inevitable downfall.
“If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down,” — Charles Darwin
Dr. Stephen Meyer argues this exact point. He believes that the encoding information of our DNA points to an Intelligent designer and not a random material process. It is too complex, too well organized and too intentional to be random.
“The DNA molecule is literally encoding information into alphabetic or digital form. And that’s a hugely significant discovery, because what we know from experience is that information always comes from an intelligence, whether we’re talking about hieroglyphic inscription or a paragraph in a book or a headline in a newspaper. If we trace information back to its source, we always come to a mind, not a material process. So the discovery that DNA codes information in a digital form points decisively back to a prior intelligence.”— Dr. Stephen C. Meyer (Meyer, Stephen C. Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design. HarperOne, 2010.)
In today’s world we are ignoring our need and purpose to engage in relationships. Society has become technology dependent, replacing human interaction, with texting. We have reduced relationships to social media comments. We delude ourselves with the lie calling this community. This is destructive and it is not our purpose!
The Apostle Paul, wrote this warning to us:
“Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.” Romans 12:9-10 NLT
Obviously, social media fails in this obligation. God made us to live together, in face to face relationships; to love, laugh, cry, and grieve with one another. This mirrors, how God desires to be in a relationship with us. God created us in His image, so our need to be relational must mean we received, this imprinted purpose, from Him by design in our very DNA.
“How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up, you are still with me!” Psalms 139:17-18 NLT
So, what does this all convey to us? It is simply, that each of us was meticulously thought out and intended to live with a purpose. It demonstrates that God is relational, and wants a relationship with us. God loves us and built our genetic code to be a representation of His Image. We have a purpose! We have a reason to live. It is because of God’s love that I choose life. I choose to live a life that is pleasing to the one who created me. It is God who divinely planned humankind to have a relationship with Him. When life becomes difficult, it is in God that I trust and not a process. I do this because because He understands me. He created me with a purpose.
“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.” John 3:16-17 NLT
Thanks for reading, please leave a comment I will respond. Please leave a like if you enjoyed the post and as always share this post with someone else, it may change a life.
Final Note: Many geneticists and chemical engineers are now moving to Intelligent Design as a rational explanation of the complexity of our biology. (See the links below)
Reading the Bible needs to be at the forefront of what we do in life.
“So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (John 8:31-32 NASB)
A while back, I posted The God We Should Worship . The purpose was to bring some clarity to the incorrect understanding that Muslims worship the same God as Christians. The central argument is that Christians worship Jesus because He is God, the Triune God. This is the core of Christian belief. We get this theology from the Bible. Jesus made this claim several times. Muslims view Jesus as a mere prophet whose teachings they regularly ignore. The differences between Islam and Christianity are apparent. One only needs to read the Bible to know that there is no grace of God in Islam. Grace is a character of God that he reveals in the Bible. Through the scriptures, God reveals Himself to us. I have found myself in awe of God as a result of seeking Him. One gets to know God by studying the Bible, memorizing scripture and praying. The more I know Him, the more I love Him. The more I love Him, the more I desire to be in His presence. I love him because he first loved me. For God is love. It is in His love for me that God reveals His Divine character of truth through His word.
Therefore Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?”And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews and said to them, “I find no guilt in Him”.(John 18:37-38)
The whole world claims we want truth, honesty, integrity, and transparency. The fact is that most people don’t even seek it. They personally don’t want truth to interfere in their daily lives. They don’t want truth to destroy their misguided conceptions of life. Most people would rather believe lies about themselves. They live in the guilt and shame of their failures. They can’t comprehend that God could love them. The truth of God’s word, tells us that He loves us. Those who truly seek truth become doers of truth. The person who does not apply the word of God to their lives is failing to live a Christ centered life. If you are not reading God’s word, you can’t apply it. If you are not reading and applying the Bible to your life; your Christianity is worthless.
“Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.” (James 1:21-22 NASB)
Are you of the truth? Do you hear the voice of Jesus? Jesus told Pilate, that everyone who is of the truth hears His voice. If you don’t read God’s love letter to you, how will you distinguish the truth from a lie? Are you listening to the stranger’s voice? Examine your life for a moment. Is your Christianity weak? Do you struggle with your walk with God? Are you focused on loving Jesus or are you living in doubt? There are things that you can do to draw closer to God.
Ask God for help. Seek His wisdom.
Read the Bible everyday. This is critical. It’s good to have a plan. Write down what you learn. I journal through my Bible Everyday
Memorize scripture. Take time while you are standing around and memorize scripture. (I use an app called fighter verses.)
Pray. Write down your prayers and your answers . If you have a hard time praying, pray through the scriptures. (Try the Psalms)
God loves you! Let God’s grace shine on you. Seek His truth.
“No one can believe how powerful prayer is and what it can effect, except those who have learned it by experience. Whenever I have prayed earnestly, I have been heard and have obtained more than I prayed for. God sometimes delays, but He always comes.”
― Martin Luther
Recently I wrote about what to do in the midst of The Crazy Chaos of a Busy Life… Prayer is the most important tool we have. Most people fail to use it effectively, if they use it at all. The following passage explains a few of the attributes effective prayer should have.The follower of Christ should not wait for difficult times to pray, We should pray in preparation for them.
Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart,saying, “In a certain city there was a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man.There was a widow in that city, and she kept coming to him, saying, Give me legal protection from my opponent.’For a while he was unwilling; but afterward he said to himself, ‘Even though I do not fear God nor respect man,yet because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection, otherwise by continually coming she will wear me out.”And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge said;now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night,and will He delay long over them?I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:1-8)
Prayer is effective communication with a responsive God who has the desire to have a relationship with you. E.M. Bounds once said, “The [prayer] closet…is the battlefield of the Church; its citadel; the scene of heroic and unearthly conflicts.”The fact is that many Christians take prayer for granted. Why are we failing to pray? A pastor once told me, that the most difficult event to get people to come out to was a prayer meeting. He mentioned that he would be lucky if 10 people showed up out of his thousand member church. We wonder why there is so much evil in the world, yet we fail to pray. In this technology era of texting and twittering there is very little deep emotional conversation that takes place. In the same way that it affects the natural world it is also affecting the spiritual world. Recently, articles ranging from CNN to The Huffington Post discuss the dangers of losing face-to-face communication. ( Too Much Texting Could be Harming Your Relationship ) This lack of communication is also affecting the way people are praying to God. Are your prayers becoming like a twitter post to God? Are your prayers enduring and full of conviction or are they soulless babble?
Let see what Jesus wants us to learn about prayer.
Rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer,(Romans 12:12)
God wants us to have enduring prayer times. Luke basically gives the parable away by telling us what it is about. We are to pray at all times and not to lose heart. Pretty simple idea, so why do we have such a hard time with it. Texting allows us to cut out the chit-chat, it keeps our interactions brief and to the point. We have even reduced whole sentences to a simple emoji. Because of the influence of social media and technology we are failing in our interpersonal communication. In this same way, we have reduced our prayers to simple sound bites. God wants enduring prayers. A person who is devoted to prayer, perseveres through difficult situations and rejoices in the hope that God provides.
We need to devote our selves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving.(Colossians 4:2)
He wants us to have deep conversations with him, prayers that take time. God wants to hear our problems, sorrows, our brokenness, our praise and gratitude. This takes time. God wants our time. The problem with society is that if we don’t have a result from our communication we move on. Our impatience and our need for results drives us away from God. God is not going to solve your problems with a Twitter response and an emoji. He wants to transform your life and behavior into something beautiful. What excuses do you use to not pray? Is your prayer effective? Are you enduring in your prayer time? God wants you to be persistent in prayer. Is your love for God evident by the way you pursue Him? A person with a committed prayer life has direction and purpose. That person is led by God to level ground.
In my distress I called upon the Lord, And cried to my God for help; He heard my voice out of His temple, And my cry for help before Him came into His ears.(Psalm 18:6)
God wants heartfelt prayers. God wants us to pray from our heart. God wants us to reveal our deepest pain to Him. The widow was crying out for justice. She was praying with conviction. Do you pray this way? Abraham Lincoln said this,“I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had no where else to go. My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for that day.”
Because God loves us, He wants to hear our concerns, our problems, our needs and our joys. God is love. He knows what is happening, but He is relational. It is when we communicate our thoughts to God that He reveals a better path for us. He opens our heart to his will. It is through this time of heartfelt prayer, that love grows inside of us. God is the source of this love, it is His perfect gift to you. Do your prayers flow with love?
By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me— a prayer to the God of my life. (Psalm 42:8)
Enduring prayers of conviction breeds faithfulness to God. Jesus reveals the character of God in this parable. Persistent prayer reveals justice for the oppressed who follow Him. God is faithful to those who are faithful. The word Elect is used to describe those who follow after God.
The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much (James 5:16b).
This is not our righteousness but the righteousness of Jesus Christ that abides in us. It is not a matter of just believing in God, but it is the constant state of mind to be chasing after God. I would often ask myself, “How can I expect to have an enduring and persistent prayer life if I fail to have an enduring and persistent relationship with Christ?” For most of my life my prayers were short and brief. I just wanted to get to the point. I always wondered why my relationship with God was so weak. I now realize that I had it backwards. My Prayer time was what grew my relationship with God. I needed to humble myself before God and confess my wrongs to Him. Prayer is communication. Can any relationship grow without enduring and persistent communication? Just ask any marriage counselor and they will tell you that without good communication your marriage will fail. The same is with your relationship with God. To have an effective relationship with God you need to pray and your prayers need to be persistent and enduring.
The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.(Psalm 145:18)
Does your prayer time carry your faith in difficult times? Jesus ends the parable with a question. He is referring to His second coming. When He returns, Jesus asks, “Will he find faith on the Earth?” Is your faith evident by your prayer life? Do people refer to you as a prayer warrior? America needs revival. The Church needs revival. The only way for revival to come is through enduring and persistent, heartfelt communication with God. This is what prayer needs to be. It is time for the Church to pray. It is time for the followers of Jesus to be driven to their knees in prayer. We need to bring our brokenness, our tears, our confessions to the cross of Jesus with enduring prayers. Oh men and women of God I plead with you; pray, pray and pray some more.
The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer (1 Peter 4:7)
Christ took our sins and the sins of the whole world as well as the Father’s wrath on his shoulders, and he has drowned them both in himself so that we are thereby reconciled to God and become completely righteous.–Martin Luther
But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness.Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who testified the good confession before Pontius Pilate,that you keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Timothy 6:11-14)
My life has been a series of struggles. I have always wanted to follow Jesus but for many years I just lived in failure. Then through a series of encounters with God I began to understand. A few years ago this passage revealed the hope of having victory over my failures to consistently follow Jesus. My hope was not found in my actions, but in the holiness of God and what Jesus did on the cross. It is all about God’s love for us.
The people of Ephesus struggled, like most people today, with doing right by God’s standard. The fact is that Christians are not perfect. We sin just like everyone else. The difference for Christians is Jesus. When we choose to have a relationship with Him and acknowledge our wrong doings, He wipes our sins away. Through Christ, God forgives us. It is all about Jesus, His love, the price He paid, His Righteousness and His Kingship. Paul understood that his disciple Timothy was not perfect. He knew that Timothy would struggle with his faith. The struggle is actually good. It is when we are not bothered by our sin that darkness prevails. God knows that we are flawed by sin. That is why Jesus came. God loves us and wanted us to have hope, the hope of being saved from our failures that separate us from God. That Hope is in Jesus Christ.
So why do Christians seem to struggle with repeating the same sins over and over again? It is in this passage that Paul gives Timothy some very important keys to overcoming the sins that abuse us and drag us away from God.
…that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. (Ephesians 4:22)
The first key is to run from your old life. We need God’s strength to do this. Paul tells Timothy to flee from from wrong doing. He even advises Timothy earlier in the letter to avoid false teachers, people who lead you astray. This can be extremely difficult and even painful. This means that you need to allow the Holy spirit to remove everything that distracts you from having an effective walk with Jesus. Paul wrote in Romans:
Because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so,and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. (Romans 8:7-8)
Think of it like this; while you were at work, if you took personal calls through out the day that kept you from doing your duties, would your work performance be effective? Could it possibly impede your production and lead to termination? Of course it would! It is the same for your Christian life. Confess to God, what you know is wrong. Get rid of relationships, habits and activities that keep you from God. Ask God what distracts you from him. Pray that God will break those habits and activities that drag you back to your old life. Rely on the Holy spirit to guide you.
Early in my marriage I realized that I had a serious problem with video games. They kept me from praying, reading my Bible and they were wrecking my relationship with my wife and kids. My video game friends and I talked more than I did with God or my family. I realized that I had put games before God and my family. I was selfish. Today if you walk in to my home you will not find a video game console. Every once in a while I find myself tempted by the illusion of that old life, but the fulfillment I have in Christ is far more satisfying. Run from your old self and pursue Jesus and what He has for you. Let Him Give you rest.
Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. (James 1:17)
The second key is to pursue the gifts God has for you. Paul gave Timothy the next key in overcoming sin. He says, “Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness”. Let’s be blunt here, if we could achieve these on our own we would not need Jesus. Humanity is flawed and depraved and we cannot achieve perfection. We are devolving into a crueler, more violent species. Society is imposing less restraints upon us, while encouraging our worst instincts and behavior.
This is why we need God. Throughout the world no matter the country or race people seek God. It is in our genetic code to desire a relationship with him. God wants us to be better than we are. That is why Jesus came and gave his life for us. It is God, through what Jesus did on the cross , who provides our righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness. None of this can be achieved by us. It was achieved on a blood stained cross by the perfect Incarnate Christ. So Paul is telling Timothy to pursue Christ’s Righteousness, Godliness, Faith, Love, Perseverance and Gentleness. God gives them to those who follow Him, who pursue Him. They are the perfect gift and they only come from Him. Pray and ask God to help you! These gifts come through sorrowful repentance and prayer.
But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ. (Philippians 3:7-8)
The third key is to take hold of Jesus. This is where things get really exciting. Paul tells Timothy to “take hold of the eternal life to which you were called”. Eternal life comes from one source, Jesus. Jesus is eternal life. Take a look at the passage below:
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?”Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:1-6)
From the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, He was calling people to follow him. We are not to follow some ideals, or a political leader or even a pastor. We are to follow Jesus. My dad always told me not to put my faith in him or to place my salvation in his arms. He warned me that one day he would unwillingly let me down. “Follow Jesus,” my father would say. “He will never let you down.” (Note: My father has yet to let me down, but my actions did hurt him quite a few times. I have always seen Jesus in him.)
Jesus is perfect. He is without sin. He experienced the violent, cruel world of humanity. He came into this world willingly, to give us life. If we want an abundant life that is eternal, then we must take hold of Jesus. Jesus is life. He can give life to our weaknesses. Are you following Jesus or are you just a fan? Are you leaving the old life behind like bad garbage? Do you really know Jesus? Ask your self, “Do people see the love of Jesus in me”? Take hold of Jesus grab onto him. Surrender everything to him. He is the one who defeats sin, not us. He is the one who raises us up when we fall. It is when we experience the power of Christ in our lives and his transforming love, that we should share what God has done.
The right hand of the Lord is exalted; The right hand of the Lord does valiantly. I will not die, but live, And tell of the works of the Lord. The Lord has disciplined me severely,But He has not given me over to death. (Psalm 118:16-18)
The fourth key is to share publicly what God has done for you and be accountable.
Paul reminded Timothy about the confession he made publicly. There were many witnesses to the declaration that Timothy made, to follow Jesus. Testifying to what Jesus has done builds your faith up. It keeps you accountable. Yes it does put a bullseye right on your back, but that is the whole point. Jesus put your sins on his back and nailed them to a cross so that you could have life. Be bold in testifying to what Jesus has done. Let everything in your life point to Jesus, every word and every action.
But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame. (1Peter 3:15-16)
** Authors Note: Sorry for this long post. It has been in the works for 4 months. This may sound like a doing and striving post, but it is not. It is all about Jesus and what he has done. It is His work on the cross. You may be exhausted with your life. Let Jesus take your troubles let him give you rest. May God bless you and give you the endurance to run the race! Take hold of Jesus! God Bless.
The gospel of a broken heart demands the ministry of bleeding hearts…We can never heal the needs we do not feel. Tearless hearts can never be heralds of the passion. — Dr. John Henry J. H. Jowett
Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance. (Matthew 3:8)
Jim has become a good friend of mine. I have had the privilege of watching him grow in Christ. Early on he struggled with his decision to follow Jesus. He would not follow through on commitments and he would often slip into the bad habits of his old life. It was a challenge to lovingly encourage him. I did not want to come across as judgmental. The reminder of my own failures gave me the patience and love to build him up in his faith. God kept reminding me not to “fix” Jim. The Job of life changing transformation belongs to Jesus. My Job was to point to Jesus and to encourage him.
One day Jim was with a client and out of the blue, the client turned to Jim and asked him, “How long have you been a follower of Jesus?” Jim was stunned. He later asked me, “How did he know?”
That leads me to a few questions that I have been asking myself for the last few years. Do the people I know, see Jesus in my life? What evidence is there that I am not just a “Christian”, but an active follower of Jesus? What is the Proof of my faith?
Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality,idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions,envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21)
Which of these sins do you struggle with? When looking at this passage, there are a few of these sins that we can cross off our own”naughty list”. But lets be brutally honest about the ones we tend to ignore. Do your Facebook rants make you look like Jesus or the Devil? Do you love to create arguments or do you create peace? Does Jesus approve of your sex life, or do you toss him aside for a moment of lustful pleasure? Does your behavior prove that your really love Jesus, or does it prove that you are a fake Christian?
A few years ago, God convicted me that my political discussions on social media were doing more harm than good. I was more concerned about convincing people to follow my political view instead of following Jesus. Politics had become an idol. I had more faith in a political solution than in a spiritual one. With a deeply repentant heart I gave up the belief that “great men” could solve America’s problems. Man is flawed and needs God. Only through repentant sorrow can God change the heart of a nation. The only way to save America is for her people to turn from their own selfishness and rush towards the cross of Jesus with a repentant heart.
Paul warns us that if we continue to practice the deeds of the flesh, that we will not inherit the kingdom of God. So what should the proof of our faith be like?
It is a faith that bears fruit.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Galatians 5:22-24)
This is what a follower of Jesus demonstrates on a daily basis. These are the gifts that God gives us when we allow him to change us. They are the character of Christ that shines from with in, as a beacon of light to a dark world. The Christian turns hurt into God given love. When trials overwhelm the day, God provides our joy and peace. We show patience to the impatient. We are to be good and kind to those who are not. We are faithful to those around us, because of God’s faithfulness to us. We should exhibit gentleness to a violent world and self-control in the face of an angry one. The true Christian places his desires and passions at the foot of the cross. These gifts come when we seek God and ask him to transform our lives. They are the fruit that we bear and the proof of our salvation in Jesus. If you lack these characteristics in your life, ask God to help you with them. God knows that we are flawed, and in spite of our flaws He loves us.
The real proof of your faith is found in love and the fruit that you bear. Are your friends overwhelmed by your love? Do they know you, by Christ in you? Do they see God’s love in you?
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God.And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance;and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope;and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Romans 5:1-5)
“Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into friend.”– Martin Luther King Jr.
It is the season of presidential politics and it is a time that we Americans are forced to endure the insults and verbal abuse that candidates, pundits and media members hurl at each other. Name calling and other vulgar insults have become the norm for all sides of political and religious spectrums. It is America and the world at its worst. I yearn for the days when we could discuss issues of importance, without throwing out insults at one another. On occasion, I have been guilty of succumbing to this behavior. This is a sickness that everyone should all be concerned with. People should never scream or hurl insults at others. Does an insult really better our point of view or does it weaken it? The words we use can destroy a person they can leave them scarred and hurt. Is there really any excuse or justification for poor behavior? These verbal assaults and belittling have led to increased hatred, division and the most polarized America I can remember. The world has lost its compassion and empathy for one another. There is never a legitimate excuse to attack people with insults no matter how wrong you might think others are. The church also needs to be on guard against divisive and harmful speech. So how can we affect change?
But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison.With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God. (James 3:8-9)
We do have hope. Our hope is in God through Jesus. God has made us all in His image. We can learn how to address issues without insulting and attacking people. The Christian is held to a higher standard. God has called us to uphold the sanctity of human life and the human spirit. The scriptures inspire us with that standard. When I carelessly forget how to treat people here are a few “reminders” that God gives me through His Word.
If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also. (1John 4:20-21)
We need to approach everyone with love. This is not just an instruction to love our family, but it is also a commandment to love the stranger and the politician we can’t stand. If we view every human being as better than ourselves, and love them more than we love ourselves, imagine the incredible changes we could make. It is important that we see everyone around us as God sees them. This has always been a difficult task for me. I can think of occasions in the past when I have failed to show love. God will correct you if you are willing. A loving person immediately apologizes for wrong doing. When we apologize, we also must be prepared to love that person who does not want to forgive us or let the issue go. This is when the follower of Christ asks God for His enduring love. Love is humble and full of God’s grace.
We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. (1John 4:16)
We need to approach everyone without pride. God hates pride. Pride can destroy the best of friendships. It can wreck a marriage and undo any good will you might have. Pride always makes you think that your idea or cause is better than anyone else’s. Pride keeps you form looking at it from the other person’s view. We all have opinions but the prideful person will want to silence and insult them. Pride destroys new or better ideas by belittling the person presenting them. The Christian need to be humble and should always address the issues with wisdom; while never attacking the person. It is important to stop attacking people and to stop making issues personal. The constant public chastising of fellow Christians is wrong. (Something I have had to repent over.) When we attack a person, it is always prideful and it is always judgmental. Live always with the reminder of what Jesus did on the cross. Did Jesus lash out at those attacking Him? Jesus always shows mercy and grace to those who do not deserve it.
But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. (Romans 14:10)
Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this—not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way. (Romans 14:13)
We need to approach everyone with encouragement. It seems like every comedy show today is nothing but one line zingers insulting someone else on the show followed by a laugh track. Just sit back, and with a spirit of compassion and love, think how those words really feel. It is not so funny when we are on the receiving end of insults. The Christians should always encourage everyone around them. How powerful of an influence would you have with people if you focused on encouragement? The greatest leaders have always been the ones who inspired people to be better, who focused on their strengths. Jesus always encouraged those around Him. We should do the same.
So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another. (Romans 14:19) But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. (Hebrew 3:13)
When the issues are something that we are so passionate about, it can cause us to loose focus on how to treat people. It does not matter the discussion or the topic, always keep your eyes on Jesus and his behavior. We should always imitate him. Please remember before you talk to someone always go to God in prayer. The more you pray in preparation for your day the better your behavior will be. It is from God and through enduring prayer that we learn to love and encourage one another. It is through repentant prayer that God breaks us from a prideful and judgmental heart.