Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Sold Out! (Guest Post by Bruce Martin)

Bruce Martin is a friend and a lay-leader/co-laborer and prayer ministry coordinator at First Baptist Church of Mabank, Texas.  He works for Edward Jones Investments. He loves the Lord with all his heart and serves people with a generous heart. I felt challenged by the words he had to share with the prayer team this month and he agreed to allow me share them with you all.

This Fall my twin brother and I will attend the 46th High School Reunion of West Monroe High School in West Monroe, Louisiana (Yes, there are other states than Texas! Ha Ha!) Naturally, I'd like to look my best when I go, so four days each week I have a coach push me through a workout. After my first week I told her I was "SOLD OUT" to her instruction and the nutrition changes I would have to make to look my best.  As I drove home from the gym, it dawned on me: Am I as "SOLD OUT" for the Lord?!

Melody Green and David Hazard wrote the book No Compromise: The Life Story of Keith Green. In it, Keith is described as an example of "SOLD OUT" for Christians. He helped the poor, took people off the street into his home and desired to do everything he could to serve God with all his heart. The book describes "SOLD OUT", fanatical people as:
1. They love Jesus
2. They love to pray and worship
3. They love to share the gospel
4. They love God's Word
Matthew 22:37 is a scripture verse on "SOLD OUT" for Jesus:
"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind."(NIV)

The question is: Are you "SOLD OUT"? Am I "SOLD OUT" for Jesus?!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Child-like or Child-ish?: Five Traits of Each

"Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 18:3)

If you have ever taken time to observe a child at play then you know that it is possible in a span of two minutes' time to see the sweetest of the sweet behavior as well as the most terrible of the terrors. Unfortunately, these behaviors can be observed in the lives of believers and in the church as well. The Bible clearly outlines the difference between being child-like as mentioned in the passage above and being childish which is never prescribed. What are the traits of each and is there an area of your life that needs to be brought into maturity?

Five Traits of Being Child-like

1.  Imitates Dad (Ephesians 5:1)
"Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children..." 
The greatest way to show your dad that you love him is to act like him. The child-like person will show that he or she loves God by acting like Him (like He shows/tells us in the Bible)

2.  Anchored in Truth (Ephesians 4:14-15)
"As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ..." Jesus is The Truth. Therefore, the child-like person will trust what He tells us and can live in that confidence. The child-like person will also be truthful and will tell the truth in the spirit of love and understanding and not self-righteously.

3.  Always Learning (Ephesians 5:8-10)
"...walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth ), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord."
The knowledge of God is inexhaustible, therefore we ought to seek His Word, the Bible, to know Him more and more each day. Why? Because we love Him. I have been married for 20 years and I still don't know everything about my wife. I have been a Christian for 35 years and am still learning about God. My oldest child is 14 years old and she still is learning about me and my wife. My son is 9 years old and has much more he doesn't know about us. But we are interested in each other because we love each other and want to know everything we can learn. The child-like person will hunger and thirst to know more of God.

4.  Innocent (Philippians 2:14-15)
"Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world..."
Just as Adam and Eve did not know good from evil when they were first created, children come into the world without knowledge of good and evil. However, as we are taught right an wrong, we are then faced with choices to do right or wrong. The believer is called to choose right. With the strength of the Holy Spirit, the child-like believer will abandon wrong and choose the right. Innocence and blamelessness is not the same as perfection because none of us can attain perfection this side of heaven. Innocence and blamelessness is our mindset while understanding that God's grace is sufficient to provide for the times we fail.

5. Obedient (1 Peter 1:14-16)
"As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, 'YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.'"
Obedience is not necessary for salvation. Rather, it is the outflow or response to salvation. The child-like person will obey as an act of gratitude to God for His gift of eternal life. Obedience reflects God's nature and then the world gets a glimpse of why it is important and necessary to surrender our lives to Christ. Lack of obedience displays a misrepresentation of who God is.

Five Traits of Being Childish

1.  Fickle (Matthew 11:16-19)
"But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the market places, who call out to the other children, and say, 'We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.' For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, 'He has a demon!' The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds."
Childish people are very whimsical in their thinking, actions and the way they treat others. Whatever comes into their minds is usually what they will do or say. This can be very hurtful to others and is a display of self-absorption.

2.  Defiant (2 Peter 2:14-15)
"...having eyes full of adultery that never cease from sin, enticing unstable souls, having a heart trained in greed, accursed children; forsaking the right way, they have gone astray..."
When a childish person gets in their mind that they want something, then they will use whatever means to get what they want. That may mean stealing something, hurting someone, lying or throwing a temper-tantrum. A childish person will ignore clear instruction in order to have or keep the object of their desire or demand.

3.  Disobedient (Ephesians 2:1-2)
"And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience."
Disobedience is not necessarily performed with the spirit of defiance, but with the spirit of thinking it is a justifiable behavior or childish person may simply think they know better. It is still willful disobedience, but it demonstrates a lack of trust in the Father. It also demonstrates reliance on our limited and fallible resources.

4. Indulging (Ephesians 2:3)
"Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest."
Childish people live according to the pleasure of the moment without forethought of the possible and/or probable consequences.

5.  Deceived/Deceitful (Ephesians 4:14)
"As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming..."
Children can be easily duped. In some cases the childish person desires to believe the lie in order to avoid the truth. Also, a childish person will often lie to get something they want. A childish person may also lie to get out of something they don't want or don't want to do.

When Christ enters the life of a believer, He transforms their life (2 Corinthians 5:17). It's at that point that it is time to put away the childish tendencies (1 Corinthians 13:11) and begin to learn and grow to become child-like. When we make wrong choices, as God's children, He loves us enough to discipline us (Hebrews 12:7-11). If you have not been disciplined for doing wrong or feel no guilt for your wrong behavior, as determined by the Bible, then it is likely that you still need to invite Christ in your life to forgive you of your sins and transform your life (1 John 1:9).

My prayer is that you and I will both be child-like and trust the Lord in all things, following Him obediently knowing that He loves us and will provide for everything concerning this life and the life to come (2 Peter 1:3).

For God's Glory,

Chris S. Sweet

Friday, July 10, 2015

Is Striving for Holiness Legalistic?

I am reposting this from just over a year ago. Please forgive me as we have had many summer activities at our church and I have taken some time of vacation for my family and to catch up with some household items.

Recently on Facebook I posted: “God’s grace is not a reduction of His holiness, it is a fulfillment of it. We fell short and couldn’t afford the cost so Jesus paid our fine. Our gratitude for this ought to be reflected in holy living. Doesn’t mean we can be perfect, but God is worth the try rather than submitting to our own nature.”

I wanted to take a  few moments to expound upon this thought. 1 Peter 1:13-16 says, 
13 Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, 15 but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior ; 16 because it is written, "YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY."

If you notice in verse 13, the focus in on grace. As a matter of fact, we are told to “fix our hope  completely on the grace…” (emphasis mine). Our hope for salvation is found ONLY in the grace that has been provided through the blood of Jesus Christ which He shed on the cross. We often cling to this grace (as we should, rather, all the time). But we often cling to grace to the exclusion of obedience.

 Notice verse 14, “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts…” (emphasis mine). So first we have grace as our focus for hope, but we have obedience as the action that is the result of the gratitude for the grace we receive.  This gift of grace is a HUGE gift with immeasurable value. If we are not careful, we can be guilty of treating God’s grace with contempt and little value: 28 Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace ?  (Hebrews 10:28-29)

 You see, it is already a big offense to God that we broke His law when we sinned against Him before we knew better. It is an even bigger offense when we sin willingly and claim that it’s okay because it is covered by the blood of Christ.

The reason this is important to God is because He has not changed. He has always been and always will be holy. He sent Christ because we were not holy and He wanted to make us holy and acceptable (Romans 12:1-2).  So, striving to live a holy life is not being legalistic. It is an attempt to be pleasing to God. Not because it benefits us, but because it declares His worth.

So let’s make our lives a living declaration of the worth and glory of God. Let’s reflect His holiness by striving daily to be holy as He is holy so the world might be drawn to Him.

For God’s Glory,
Chris S. Sweet