Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Seriousness of Sin: Even the "Little Ones"

I have been leading a Bible study at the senior adult center in our town each week. Currently we are studying through the book of Psalms: a very large endeavor. When we studied Psalm 5, three verses stood out to me in a very prominent way.  Verses 4-6 say this, 

 “For You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness; No evil dwells with You. The boastful shall not stand before Your eyes; You hate all who do iniquity. You destroy those who speak falsehood; The Lord abhors the man of bloodshed and deceit.” 

 Notice that the first thing listed is NOT bloodshed, but those who boast (the prideful) and those who lie. These are two areas we do not weigh heavily in our current cultural and spiritual economy. We tend to find them quite easy to dismiss.  However, God takes them very seriously. He does not overlook them. They are an offense to His holiness. 

We must remember that our ways are not God’s ways. Even though He paid for our sin, He does not take sin any less seriously. He still demands holiness from us (1 Peter 1:14-16). Will we always succeed? No. Does it jeopardize our salvation when we sin after knowing Christ? No. Our salvation is not dependent on us at all. It is 100% a gift and Christ doesn't take His gift back.

However, if we are belong to Christ then we have His Spirit dwelling in us (Romans 8:9). That being the case, when we sin, we will not be comfortable living in it. The Spirit will quickly convict us so that we will want to repent and have our fellowship restored with the Father.  You see for the believer, though sin does not effect our salvation it does hinder our fellowship. For this reason we must not continue being content to live in and justify our sin. 

 The question should not be “How much can I sin and get away with it?” or even “How close can I get to sin and get away with it?” Our question each day should be, “Lord, how can I best honor You with my life today?” He is worth our best. The world is watching and they need to know His value by the way we live our lives. Let’s serve Him faithfully.

For God’s Glory,
Chris S. Sweet

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Roof Might Cave In

Last time I wrote about the importance of being as careful about what we put in our minds as we are about what we put in our children's minds. Part of that discussion was regarding the importance of being in church along with our children so that they and we are being filled up with the best content. I would like to briefly expound on that importance by presenting the reasons why it is important for us to be in church on a weekly basis.

Acts 2:42 says, "They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer." This passage is pretty plain regarding four main reasons we need to keep meeting. 

  1. Teaching - We always need a teacher other than ourselves. Someone with a different perspective that can teach things that you have not discovered on your own. Perhaps someone who has studied longer or more in depth to cause you to dig deeper and grow to a greater maturity in your faith. None of us is finished learning.
  2. Fellowship - First, we all need some sort of interaction with people. Some require less than others, but we all need it. We were made to be relational people. Secondly, worship is sweeter when it is expressed in unity with fellow believers. Finally, as I will discuss further in just a moment, we need each other to lean on to run the race of faith.
  3. Breaking of Bread - Often church goers only identify "fellowship" with eating. However, you can have fellowship without eating. This breaking of bread, however, refers specifically to the ordinance of the Lord's Supper. Our human nature is to often forget the reason why we started doing something in the first place. The Lord's Supper was instituted to remind us that the church exists because of the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It also reminds us that we are only part of this church because we have been saved by the grace provided through the sacrifice of Christ and not because of our deeds. It is all due to the grace of God (Ephesians 2:8-9)
  4. Prayer - This is, unfortunately, one of the most neglected exercises of the church. I have always described prayer as the outlet to the power source for the Christian life. We must "plug in" to that power source which is Christ. Often we will only cry out in prayer when things get difficult. Paul says to "Pray without ceasing" (1 Thessalonians 5:17). We need to "plug in" to God and His power every day and every moment. That is what gives us strength and wisdom to face each day. That is what helps us stay attuned to the voice of God (praying is listening too). Prayer is what helps us conform to God's will. It's purpose is not to get God to conform to our will. 
There is one final purpose for meeting together which is found in Hebrews 10:23-25:
23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; 24 and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.
The final purpose for going to church is to encourage each other through our fellowship. We are to encourage our fellow believers to remain faithful and to serve faithfully as Christians on a daily basis. We are also to be encouraged by them to do the same.

The question is: Is it possible to do all this without attending church? Yes, you could do all of it in some fashion, even fellowship. However, Christ's prayer for us was to be one in unity. Other believers are all we have when the world turns against us. We have a common bond in Christ and there is strength in numbers and voices are louder together than apart.

If you are not involved in a fellowship of believers, I would like to encourage you to get involved in one so you can reap all the benefits that are available. Yes, the church is full of broken and sinful people who mess up and hurt feelings, but you must remember that the church is a hospital for sinners and not a museum for saints. Come join us...wherever that may be in your community.

For God's Glory,
Chris S. Sweet

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Be Careful Little Eyes...Hands...Feet...

4 "Listen, Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is One. 5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. 6 These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. 7 Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them be a symbol on your forehead. 9 Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:4-9, HCSB)
Parenting is a tremendous responsibility. All of you with kids just said, "Duh! Tell me something I don't know". Though this is a pretty obvious statement, we often overlook the importance of some of our most basic actions. Things that maybe we haven't been paying close attention to...but our kids have.

In the passage above, it is clearly stated that God is to be the only (not just primary) focus of our lives. He is to saturate every feeling, thought and action. He is to permeate our homes in everything we do and say. He is to be the one constant because the primary mission field we have as parents is right in our home. We cannot tell others about Christ if we have not yet convinced our own household.

I going to simply share two areas that require our attention. There are many more than that, but these are two areas that I have seen parents overlook consistently in the matter of influencing their children's spiritual life.

1. If it's bad for their mind, it's bad for yours. I am guilty too.  There was a time in my life that what I watched would have been different from what my kids would have watched. I am grateful for the wise pastor who shared with me his revelation that if he felt he had to send his kids to bed because they shouldn't watch what he was watching, then perhaps he shouldn't be watching it either. Isn't that true?! Why would we put something in our minds that we wouldn't put in our kids' minds? God calls us to a life of  purity in mind and body. As a matter of fact, we are told that what is inside is what will come out of our hearts (Matthew 12:34), so we must be careful what we put in.

2 I will pay attention to the way of integrity. When will You come to me? I will live with integrity of heart in my house. 3 I will not set anything godless before my eyes. I hate the doing of transgression; it will not cling to me. (Psalm 101:2-3, HCSB)
8 Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable-if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise-dwell on these things.(Philippians 4:8, HCSB)
2. If it's good for them, it's good for you. I am not sure why, but many adults feel that church was okay for them when they were young and it's still good for kids, but it's no longer pertinent for them as an adult. Some adults take their kids to church, but live lives contrary to what they learn while there. When children are sent or taken to church with the message that it is important and yet their parents fail to demonstrate it in their daily living, that speaks volumes to a child.

Thom and Sam Rainer conducted a study of church dropouts and reported their findings in their book Essential Church (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2008) In this study they surveyed one thousand church dropouts and found that "more than two-thirds of churchgoing young adults drop out between the ages of 18 and 22" (3). An important finding that should inspire us parents to be diligent about living for Christ as well as attending and serving in church is that
Half of those students that stayed in church stated in our survey that their family discussed spiritual matters, as compared with only 30 percent of those that dropped out of church. Additionally, half of those students who were assimilated into the church indicated that their family actively served in the church, as compared with only 31 percent of dropouts. And lastly, 42 percent of those whom the church retained stated that their family prayed together regularly, as compared with only 22 percent of those who dropped out. The openness of spiritual discussion within the family helps dissolve any feelings of frustrations from the younger generation. When parents are open about their spiritual struggles and successes, teens are less likely to see hypocrisy (100).
As you can see, it is more important for us to live right than talk right. It will leave a lasting impression on our kids.  "Teach a youth about the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it" (Proverbs 22:6). It is important that when we contemplate the spiritual raising of our children, we must consider our own hearts. We are told that we are to be like children in purity, but to be mature in our spirituality (Matthew 10:16, Mark 10:13-16, Romans 16:19b). When we live lives of purity, then we are teaching our children to do the same and then as a family we live for God's glory!

For God's Glory,
Chris S. Sweet