I was thinking recently. Yeah, I know…amazing right? 🙂
No, but seriously. I was thinking about how people in the Church today will separate themselves completely from another Christian who commits is trapped by sin. Or maybe they try to help, but instead just try to find the easy fix. I started thinking, “Well, that can’t be Biblical, can it? Jesus commands us to love one another and be unified in the Body of Christ. And that is true. I started reading Francis Chan’s book, Multiply. In that he said something that I already knew, but it was still just as profound. He said:
“Or when we learn that a friend is struggling with sin, we are quick to explain why that sin is harmful and tell her we will pray for her (whether we follow through or not). But how many of us would take her struggle with sin so seriously that we would walk with her as she works through the issues involved?”
Yes, the Bible is clear that sin needs to be corrected. But it doesn’t end there. We can’t “correct them” and then condemn them. You see, there’s a difference between judgement and correction. Judgment brings condemnation down on the person being judged. Correction is done out of love with the hope of redemption. It’s like a parent. They may spank their son or daughter for hitting someone. A good parent doesn’t spank out of anger. A loving parent will spank (or use other forms of discipline) out of love for the child and to correct a wrong behavior. But the parent continues with loving that child.
It’s the same way with Christians. Yes, we are to correct each other’s sinful behavior. But you had better do it purely out of love and you had better be willing to walk through the issue with them in order to bring them to redemption. I think part of the problem is that many believers don’t want to get “dirty.” They don’t want to be associated with someone who has a sin exposed to the public. It’s the same attitude some have towards non-believers. They don’t want to be seen with the “undesirables.” It might ruin their reputation. Then tell me, how are you supposed to evangelize and disciple them if you don’t associate with them? If they won’t come in to the church, you bring it to them. How can your Christian brother or sister be brought back to the cross if you want to find a quick fix or just blow them off completely? Galatians 6:1-2 says:
“Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. 2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”
Carry each other’s burdens. That will likely require you to be seen with the “undesirable.” But the attitude I mentioned above is exactly the attitude the Pharisees had. Did you know Jesus had more of problem with the “religious” people than he did with the sinners?
It’s time we get over ourselves and be willing to walk through thick and thin with our fellow believers.
Hebrews 2:2-4: “For since the message spoken by angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. This salvations, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.”
You know, today people are looking for an escape. I have no doubt that many are seeking God out of the deepest and darkest pits of their life. And others are looking for something else. They’re turning to idols and those idols will never satisfy them. They’ll never comfort them.
I have friends of mine that are in this boat that the verses above mention. They want to serve Jesus. I have no doubt about that. The problem is that they are missing, or rather ignoring the escape or the salvation that Jesus is extending to them. It’s frustrating because they want to do what is right. They want to get rid of their idols and follow Jesus with everything they are, but they just can’t seem to. As soon as something comes along they decided to put God on the back burner. It’s grievous to me. How can they escape if they ignore such a great salvation? They can’t. Jesus is the only Way out. God isn’t something we run to when our boyfriend or girlfriend other cheats on us. He isn’t something we run to when things don’t go our way. And He’s not something we run to when tragedy strikes. He should be our life. We shouldn’t be able to function properly without first seeking the Lord. Yeah, you’ll have to dump some things you might enjoy. But it’s so worth it.
If you find yourself in this situation, I urge you to come to your senses. God is extending his beautiful grace to you. All you have to do is take it. Surrender your life to Christ completely because he bought you with his life. You will either be a slave to sin or a slave to righteousness. You pick.
If you will please join me in praying for those friends I mentioned. I pray that anyone who reads this is just solidified in the faith. I pray that if you are going back and forth with God, you stop and surrender to Him. You’re fighting a losing battle if you don’t
P.S. Sorry for not being able to post much lately. School is in the process of rapping up (just six days left!) for the summer and I have been busy with other obligations. I’m so grateful God has given you to me as an audience so that I may bring His Word to you.
Romans 1:25: “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.”
My first question when I used to read this passage of Scripture is “Why would anyone ever exchange God for anything less? It doesn’t make sense!” Then my attention was turned to Israel. Israel seemed to be in a constant stage of rebellion against God throughout the entire Old Testament. At one point, they even wanted to return back to Egypt (read Exodus for more on that). I remember thinking, “Good grief! Why would you continually do things that grieved God? Why didn’t you learn?” Then one day, God told me this in my heart: “Austin, you do the same thing.” That was it. Not anything profound at all. However, I was completely humbled. I realized that so many times I choose worldly things, worthless things over God. The Lord also laid on my heart that often Christians want to return to what I call their “Spiritual Egypt.” We think it was better where we were before we accepted Christ. That’s just our flesh deceiving us though. That’s when I finally realized that God’s grace is so much greater than I had ever imagined. We, as Christians, often rebel against Him and yet He still chooses to love us and take us back when we repent of our trespasses. Our idolatry. Colossians 3:5 says this about our sin:
“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.”
Paul calls our sin or our rebellion towards God “idolatry.” And it really is. Whenever you put anything before God, that’s idolatry. You’re worshipping something else. As Jefferson Bethke puts it, “What defines you, what do you give ultimate worth, and what, if taken, would bring ultimate hurt. Now see, that is your god.” We often think of idolatry as literally bowing down to something else. That’s not necessarily true. You can worship money, drugs, your boyfriend or girlfriend, you popularity, etc. Anything you put in place of God is idolatry. Jefferson Bethke also said, “Where we exchanged ourselves for God thinking we could be Him, He exchanged Himself for us, absorbing all our sin.”
That’s grace. Even when we are in rebellion against the Creator, God still calls us our of the darkness. He doesn’t care where you’ve been. He wants you now. When Jesus was on the cross, He was dying for each and every individual that ever was and ever would be. His love will never fail you! Call out to Him in repentance and accept Jesus as your Savior! Only then will you be satisfied.
“Counterfeit gods, if you fail them, will never forgive you and if you get them, they’ll never satisfy you. This is the only God who will- Jesus and His resurrection.”- Tim Keller
Are We Losing Focus?
“If you look at the world, you’ll be distressed. If you look within, you’ll be depressed.
If you look to God, you’ll be at rest.” ~Corrie Ten Boom
Sadly, the Christmas celebration came to a predictable end and I was once again forced to begin the drive back to Tennessee from my hometown in Michigan. This year, this also meant trudging through inches of snow lying on the Michigan and (northern) Ohio pavement. Ugh. Let the fun begin…
I decided to make a stop at a McDonalds in Ohio–not only to maintain my caffiene intake, but also to give my dog, Bagel, a much needed visit outdoors. The interior of this McDonalds was quite a suprise. It had a beautiful stone fireplace, chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, and a large decorative clock mounted on the back wall. When I was a kid, a McDonalds was considered fancy-shmancy if it had a ball pit or Ronald McDonald statue to shake hands with in the foyer. Now however, fast-food restuarants have apparently become a luxurious place to put our feet up, warm ourselves by the fire, and at the sound of the gong on a grand ole clock, make our way to the next looming appointment in our sometimes grueling days.
We have come a long way as a society. Perhaps the progression of a fast-food restaurant’s aestheic design isn’t the best example of this, but it does however paint a picture.
* * *
Each year, I see our American culture becoming busier, more advanced, and surprisingly maintaining an increasing “need” for acquiring more “things.” We have more toys, gadgets and fantastically tantalizing thingamabobs then we’ve ever had before. Practically everything seems to exist in a digital format, presented with the help of multiple digital devices that constantly remain in the race for which is the smallest, fastest, and containing the most storage space. As a result, information is more readily available, efficiency is improved, and yet…why is it that we still seem to maintain, and even amplify those busy schedules? Perhaps one reason is to continue paying for those gadgets that are supposed to make our lives so much easier??
Regardless of the reason, it’s happening. Our pace is in over-drive. Our destractions are rolling in with unstoppable force. And where does that seem to leave us? Most likely, this type of lifestyle does and will only continue to steal our time and focus from God, our provider of wisdom and rest.
We lose focus. We struggle. We’re surrounded by harsh realities on the evening news and we fear what our children and grandchildren will see on their televisions when the time comes. When does it end, and what can we do to stop it? I hate to admit this, but as long as each of us has a pulse here on earth, it won’t end. Devestating news reports will continue to roll in and technology will continue to steal our attention.
We may not have control over everything that happens in this world (we were never meant to), but we do have control over our focus. God hasn’t gone anywhere. He is our sturdy, picturesque oak tree maintaining the strength in His limbs for our protection. However, the further we stray from His shade, the more susceptable we are to destractions and self-destruction. Now more than ever, it is necessary to remain close to His branches, despite the rough weather in our midst.
Moreover, no matter what state our world is in, or where our personal footing lies, we must never forget the image we were created in and our purpose to shine for Him. Today, here and now, we’re not finished yet. There’s still time. There’s still hope. Dwelling on shortcomings won’t bring us or our nation any closer to God; it’s only one more distraction in our world of “things.”
Lets keep our focus where it should be, on His guiding Words, and His withstanding branches. If we focus too much on the distress, we may miss the beauty.
Provoking Thought: Have you recently been swept away by the world’s distractions? There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a smartphone, iPad, or eReader. (God knows I do!) However, perhaps consider loading a Bible app to one of these devices during your next use. A little reading goes a long way.
**Do you have any suggestions to share on how you maintain focus? We’d love to hear!
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2 (NIV)
Alicia M. Smith
Brody Barcus (my 15-year old cousin):
America is nearly exactly like Israel in every aspect. Just like Israel, our founding was one of the most miraculous this world has ever seen. And, just like Israel, our society was to be centered around our God and not ourselves. Our nation was designed to be set apart from all others in the way it was run and the God that it served. But after all of this was set into place, we failed to teach younger generations of those miracles which led to Israel’s demise and will lead to ours.
How did this happen? A blind man could see that our country has a moral standard that changes every time that it is opposed. Laws that used to be based on morals are being considered “unconstitutional” and are being thrown out of the legal system. Moral values are now considered opinion and are no longer considered honorable but are instead made out to be intolerable and, in a way, dangerous to our society. But, unfortunately, this is our fault. We are letting this happen and it’s time for us to stand up, take off the diapers, and start making others aware of what’s happening and start doing something about it instead of idly complaining.
Note: I also asked my pastor to write a piece on this topic. However, circumstances have arisen and he will take a little longer to write his piece. I’ll post his piece in a part 3 when he sends it to me. For now, I will continue with my blogs as usual. Thank you everyone for your help in writing about this topic!
It’s time America turns back to God. I can’t promise that if we turn back to God we won’t implode. But if we don’t turn back to the Lord, wake up, and start running this country has it was originally intended; we face a guaranteed collapse.
It’s time to wake up! Time is of the essence.
I was reading 2 Timothy 4:2 recently because I was looking at what the Word says about correcting other believers. One part of this verse caught my attention. It says, “…correct, rebuke and encourage…” I asked myself, “Why do these three words appear right together in the same phrase?” I began to dig in a little deeper on the subject and this is what I came up with.
Correction of believers is a major job for anyone who ministers the Gospel to others. I do not think it is restricted to only “full-time ministers.” Jesus lays it out for is in Matthew 18:15-17:
“If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother.16 But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”
So at first we are to confront them one-on-one. Privately. If they don’t want to listen to you, then you bring one or two others with you so that you have witnesses. If they still refuse to listen, you are to expose their sin to your local congregation. Even after all this, if they still don’t listen, you are to expel them from the congregation. This will help them understand that the sin they are in will only lead them to destruction. Sin is like a downward spiral. It will bring your life crashing down. After the person repents, they can then be restored to the congregation. As I said, I don’t think the correction of believers is reserved for full-time ministers. They are to play a role in it though. Jesus tells us to confront them “in private” at first.
That said, correction should always come with the goal of redemption and reconciliation. It’s not intended to downgrade or drag the person down. I found my answer for why Paul uses “correct, rebuke, and encourage” in the same phrase. When we correct other followers of Jesus, it is intended to express strong disapproval for their sin and it should show the person that what they are doing is wrong. However, it should also encourage the believer to repent. When it’s all said and done, the person who was being corrected should be encouraged. Do not correct out of selfish motives. Do it out of love and concern for other believers.
That’s one problem with many in the Church today. Instead of trying to restore a believer who stumbles, they look down upon them and view themselves as higher than the other. Philippians 2:3 says: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.”
This is the first post in my new Romans series!
Romans 1:32: “Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.”
I think most (if not all) Christians agree that sin is serious. However, the church, for some reason is starting to approve of some sins. I’m not saying all churches do, I’m just saying a lot of them are. In this blog I will point out a couple of the “approved sins.” It really does disturb me.
A big topic of debate is the topic of homosexuality. If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, how can you say that homosexuality is ok? The Bible clearly says it is a sin! That’s not only established in the Old Testament, but also in the New Testament.
Leviticus 18:22: “Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.”
1 Corinthians 6:9-10: “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”
The actor and evangelist, Kirk Cameron, said this in an interview with Piers Morgan: “Marriage is almost as old as dirt, and it was defined in the garden between Adam and Eve. One man, one woman for life till death do you part. So I would never attempt to try to redefine marriage. And I don’t think anyone else should either. So do I support the idea of gay marriage? No, I don’t.” He also said this about homosexuality, “I think that it’s – it’s – it’s unnatural. I think that it’s – it’s detrimental, and ultimately destructive to so many of the foundations of civilization.”
I couldn’t agree more with that statement. In no way is homosexuality natural! You can not reproduce homosexually. That is impossible. It’s not natural. Period. It is utterly detestable and clearly a sin, yet churches are ordaining gay ministers and saying it’s ok. Something has to change!
Approving of sin not only includes participating in the act, but it also includes supporting the act. You could, for instance, support the act by watching something you shouldn’t. Something that contains that sin. I’ll use the movie, “The Hangover” as an example. That movie is filthy and really is nothing short of pornography. Watching it puts your faith in danger because you purposely put yourself in a position to be tempted. That’s a sin. The Greek word for approve in Romans 1:32 is suneudokeo. It literally means to “agree with,” “consent to,” or “sympathize with.” It points to a casual enjoyment of the sins of someone else. That makes you just as guilty. Sin literally become entertainment. What is wrong with the church today? Watch what you watch.
I know this is pretty heavy stuff, but I felt it was what I was supposed to write about today. We have to stop or the church won’t grow. It really can’t be called “The Church” anymore if we devote our lives to sin rather than Christ. Sin hinders the flow of the Spirit. Even sympathizing sin is wrong and we need to stop. It grieves the heart of God.
Ephesians 1:13-14: “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.”
When you come to Christ, you are given the Holy Spirit. Paul tells us here that the Spirit is given to us as God’s mark of ownership. By giving us the Holy Spirit, God is saying that we belong to Him. We are marked with a seal of ownership. The Spirit’s presence is evidence that we are God’s adopted children. Ephesians 1:4-6 says:
“For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.”
And Romans 8:15-17 says:
“For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”
You know you belong to God when the Spirit frees you and restores you to a right relationship with God. That’s exactly what He does when you accept Christ as your Lord and Savior. When the Holy Spirit comes into your life, you are set free from the power of sin. All of your sins are washed away. In the Old Testament, when the Israelites gave a sin offering, the blood of the offering only covered over the sin. When Christ enters your life, however, all of your sins are wiped away. They are completely gone.
I hope this post encourages you. I just wanted to remind you that if you are in Christ, you are a child of the Most High God. That where your identity is. Remind yourself daily of who you are.
Romans 6:15-23: 15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey—whether you are slaves to sin,which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. 18 You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.
19 I put this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves. Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness. 20 When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. 21 What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Some people in Paul’s time (and still today) think that God’s grace gives you a “free license” to sin. Paul says very clearly that we do NOT have a free license to sin. Every Christian should constantly demonstrate their decision to resist sin and follow Jesus Christ. When you follow Christ, you should be acting like Him. You can’t serve God and sin (Matthew 6:24). You can’t live on the fence. Either you are sold out for Christ or you aren’t living in the light.
If you are a slave to sin, you are on your way to death. Sin gives birth to death. The word “death” in verse 16 means “everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord.” That means if you are a slave to sin, your destination is hell.
The good news is that Jesus Christ came to set you free from the bondage of sin. When he died on the cross, those chains were broken. You no longer have to be a slave to sin. In fact, you are to be “slaves to righteousness.” When you are a slave to righteousness you become more like Christ and in the end gain eternal life in Heaven with God. Salvation is a free gift from God. We don’t have to do anything to earn it. In fact, we can’t earn it at all. We are saved by faith in Jesus Christ. If you are in Christ you are now dead to sin and alive in Christ. Romans 6:11-14 says:
“In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. 14 For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.”
Because of Jesus, you have been set free!
1 John 1:5-7: “This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.”
This is pretty straight forward. However, it’s also pretty intense. If you claim to be a Christian, but you don’t make a sincere effort to live according to God’s Word, you are a liar. That’s what the Word says! Walking in darkness means you live outside of a personal relationship with God. It means that you go your own way and reject his standards. You live to please yourself. If you live that way you don’t have fellowship with the Father. In other words, you are not saved. If you don’t turn away from your sin and follow Jesus, you will go to hell. That’s what the Bible says. The only way you can be righteous is through Jesus Christ.
Walking in the Light means you accept God’s Word and make a sincere and sustained effort to live by that Word. We can’t do that by ourselves, though. If you are in Him, God will give you the strength and the means to “walk in the light.” The blood of Jesus Christ purifies you from all sin. It literally takes the sin away. It doesn’t just cover it up or hide it. It is gone! When you accept Christ and repent of your sin, you are innocent in the eyes of God. That’s pretty powerful!
Jesus wants you! He wants you to come into a relationship with Him. Jesus is the only way to salvation. I don’t care what you think, say, or have heard. “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12) Jesus said He is The Way, The Truth, and The Life. No one comes to the Father except through Him. (John 14:6)
I pray that those who read this message and know they aren’t living as they should, take this to heart. Come back to God. He still loves you. It’s so sad, because I know so many kids at school that claim to be Christian, yet they walk in darkness. I pray God gives me the opportunity to minister to those kids.