A Wise Man’s Words

According to Proverbs, the power of life and death are in the tongue (18:21). Therefore, everything we speak should be truthful (Proverbs 12:19, 22:20-21), gentle (Proverbs 15:1, 15:4, 25:15), gracious and pure (Proverbs 15:26, 22:11). Because our words are powerfully influential (Proverbs 11:11) they should impart knowledge (Proverbs 15:2, 15:7) and wisdom (Proverbs 10:11, 10:13, 10:31), and should feed and guide others (Proverbs 10:21). Our words should heal (Proverbs 12:18, 16:24), build up (Proverbs 14:1), and correct (Proverbs 19:18, 28:23); and yet, we should save our rebuke and correction for those who would listen (Proverbs 9:7-9).

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We should not speak falsehoods (Proverbs 6:16-19, 12:22, 26:28), gossip or spread secrets (Proverbs 11:9, 11:12-13, 20:19), sow strife or contention (Proverbs 20:3, 25:23-24, 26:17, 26:20-21), harp repeatedly on the mistakes of others (Proverbs 17:9), or speak rashly (Proverbs 12:18). We should not speak perversely, or contrary to the Word (Proverbs 6:12, 10:31-32), mislead or deceive (Proverbs 4:24), or slander (Proverbs 10:18, 26:22-26).

Elsewhere in the Word, we’re told that from the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks (Luke 6:45); and that both blessings and curses ought not come from our mouths, because both fresh and bitter/salt water can’t come from the same spring (James 3:8-12). If the words that come from our mouth are an expression of what’s in our hearts, what do our words reflect about us? Are we wise or foolish? Are we full of love or hate?

I think one of the most important things for us to do, is stop and think before we speak. We’ve talked about this before, in the Characteristics of the Wise post, that we ought to be slow to speak. Our words have the capability to steer others (and ourselves) towards, or away from, the Father; to ignite a fire between friends (or brothers), according to James 3:4-6. And we will eat of the fruit, or bare the consequences, of what we say (Proverbs 12:14, 18:20).

For teachers of the Word, it’s even more important that we’re not misrepresenting the Word of God and teaching things that are untrue, for we’ll be judged by an even higher standard than others (James 3:1)!

We’re not perfect, and we will all stumble, and say the wrong thing at some point. However, we should do our best, relying on the Holy Spirit, to lead and direct us. And when we do fail, we should aim to correct, or apologize, when possible. Lastly, when others fail in their speech, we should pray for them, and ask God to help us extend grace towards them (Proverbs 12:16, 17:9, 19:11).

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Treat People the Way God Treats You

Don’t treat people the way they treat you. Treat people the way God treats you. ~ Dave Willis

The other day I saw a meme shared by Focus on the Family in my Facebook news feed, with the above quote. I immediately shared it, thinking “Yes! Someone else gets it!”

The truth is, we live in a society in which we measure out things like, love, grace, and respect in the measure that it’s given to us; but the Word tells us to live otherwise.

In Matthew 7:12, Jesus Himself, says “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you.” (We talked about this previously, in my R-E-S-P-E-C-T post, about a year ago.)

So, why are we revisiting this? Because we always need to be reminded, and like I said in a previous post (The Lamp of the Body), we’re called to be a peculiar people. We’re not supposed to think and act like those in the world. Is this difficult? Yes; but, again, we’re not doing it on our own, but by the power of the Spirit of God living within us. The verse we’ve been returning to again and again, in church this year, has been Zechariah 4:8: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit says the Lord. This ties right in line with what we’ve been saying here for years.

Give Grace

So, what does it mean to treat others the way that God treats us? I believe it means that we’re showing people grace, as God shows us grace. The word grace itself, is described as free and unmerited favor, meaning it’s undeserved. God doesn’t provide grace for us because we deserve it, He provides it because of Who He is. In same, we shouldn’t offer grace towards others based on merit, but because of who we are in Christ; we forgive others because we’ve been forgiven (Matthew 6:14; Ephesians 4:32).

Discipline in Love

Secondly, it means that we discipline in love, the way God lovingly disciplines His children. Proverbs 3:11-12 and Hebrews 12 talk about discipline. I think we often equate discipline with corporal punishment, but as I believe we’ve briefly discussed before–in Correction–this is more like training and teaching than anything else. Basically, we’re talking about speaking Truth, gently and lovingly, into people’s lives and letting God do the rest of the work. Again…Our job is simply to share it, not to force people to believe (for more on this check out, For All to Hear).

Treat all Equally

Third, it means we treat all equally and with respect. Jesus died for all, not just a few of us and He gives us all equal opportunity to become children of God (Romans 2:11; Galatians 3:26-29; John 1:12; John 3:16-17; Acts 10:34). James asks in chapter 2, “how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others?” This could be based on financial or social status, as it was in James’ time, but it could also include race or ethnicity. The Church of our Lord, Jesus Christ is global. There will be people of all races and tongues in heaven, whether we were rich or poor, married or unmarried, U.S.-born, Middle Eastern, African, raised in the church, or became a believer in our old age; none of it is going to matter when we’re all standing before God (Revelation 7:9).

Treat Others as Better than Ourselves

Lastly, it means we treat others as better than ourselves. In Philippians 2:3-8 (NLT), Paul writes:

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

Jesus, Himself, showed us what it looked like to pour out His life for others. Remember when Jesus washed His disciples’ feet in John 13?  He told them to use it as an example, and to wash each other’s feet as He washed theirs. Elsewhere, we’re told that we are to serve one another in love, to love our neighbor as our self, and to give to those in need, period (Leviticus 19:33-34; Galatians 5:13; Mark 10:42-45; Mark 12:31; Romans 12:20; James 1:27). And to top it all off, we’re to expect nothing in return (Luke 14:12-14).

Will this be easy? No. Will this be possible? Absolutely. But only by the power of the Holy Spirit at work in our lives. Are you up for the challenge? I know Paul was when he stated, “But I will rejoice even if I lose my life, pouring it out like a liquid offering to God, just like your faithful service is an offering to God. And I want all of you to share that joy” (Philippians 2:17).

Let’s act accordingly.

Unrealistic Expectations

A day hasn’t gone by this week that I haven’t heard or read something about how people hurt each other, are untrustworthy, or are undeserving of something or other. The reality is…it’s true. Humanity is imperfect. We often do or say things to one another that we may or may not realize hurts the other person. However, not everybody is out to get us. Sometimes we just take things the wrong way. More often than not the other person doesn’t even know that they hurt us!

Most importantly, whether or not the other person meant to hurt us, doesn’t really matter, because as children of the most High, we’re called to love other people…period. It doesn’t matter how badly they treat us, God has called us to love our enemies, pray for those who persecute us, and do good to those who hate us (Matthew 5:44; Luke 6:27). He also tells us to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:39; Mark 12:31; Luke 10:27; Galatians 5:14); that means to treat others as we want to be treated, regardless of how they treat us. (We’ve already talked a lot about this in my R-E-S-P-E-C-T post back in July.)

Now, I understand full well that this isn’t always easy. When people hurt us a common desire is to hurt them back, to treat them the way they treated us, or to play the victim and tell the world how we’ve been mistreated. Sometimes we’re spiteful, vindictive, judgmental or cruel; and the world tells us we have a “right” to be. But as believers, we’ve lost our so-called “rights.” When we choose to follow Christ, we choose to give the Holy Spirit full access to every part or our lives, to change us from the inside out (John 3:30). Our behavior and thoughts shouldn’t be the same as the worlds!

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. (Romans 12:2, NLT)

Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from Him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy. (Ephesians 4:21-24, NLT)

An example of unrealistic expectations.

What does changing the way you think entail? I know for me, I now recognize the brokenness of humanity. I recognize that people are lost, broken, hurting, and don’t know the truth. Therefore, how can they make good choices, or treat people with love and respect, when they don’t understand or haven’t accepted the love of the Creator? When it comes to people and relationships, our expectations often exceed reality. Meaning, we expect them to be up to par with our personal standards, but that’s unrealistic. While the world may believe that people should “just know” these things, the truth is, humans are selfish at heart, and like I wrote in a previous blog, due to our relativistic culture, we do what seems right in our own eyes. That’s why when Jesus called people to follow Him, He told them to turn away from their selfish ways, deny themselves, and pick up their cross (Matthew 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23).

This is the world we live in; one in which none of us is perfect and we all fall short (Romans 3:10, 23). But let that not be an excuse to give in to sin and treat others poorly, to complain, or to give up on people altogether, because we have the power of the Holy Spirit within us; and through Him we can do all things! Furthermore, we’re made to be in relationship with others, why else would God say loving our neighbors is as equally as important as loving Him? (By the way, you can’t do one without the other.) So, remember, the next time that person cuts you off in traffic, talks about you behind your back, or gives you an attitude, to treat them as you would want to be treated: with grace, mercy, and kindness. And remember to pray for them, in love.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

A few weeks ago I was listening to a message about biblical manhood and womanhood, and how the two intersect, by Matt Chandler (which you can find here if you’re interested). Chandler begins this series by talking about how we’re made in the image of God; known as the Imago Dei. The term has its roots in Genesis 1:27, wherein “God created man in his own image. . .” Most Christians believe this scriptural passage refers to the fact that humans are in the image of God in their moral, spiritual, and intellectual nature.

Remember how I just finished Multiply: Disciples Making Disciples? Well, Francis Chan wrote that God has given humanity the responsibility to reflect Him to the world (Chan, pp. 144-145). (This can be found in the Word, as well. Check out Genesis 1:26-27; Romans 8:29; Colossians 3:10; and Ephesians 2:10, 4:24.) Chandler’s message reminded me of something that I remember studying a while ago in a Wednesday night Bible study: because we’re all made in the image of God, we all deserve to be treated with respect and should treat others with respect.Fish Pic

Interestingly enough, this is considered countercultural in the world we live in now. The world tells us that respect is earned, but the Word tells us that respect is given because God created us in His image. This means that everyone is to be treated with respect, regardless of who they are, what they believe, or what they do or don’t do. I have this little metal fish on my desk at work with scripture cards and I flipped the little card this week (side note: I actually began this post two weeks ago.) to the following scripture: “Do to others as you would like them to do to you” (Luke 6:31). As I meditated over this scripture I noted that this doesn’t say, treat others as they treat you. It says you treat them like you want them to treat you! To me, that means being gracious, generous, kind, loving, and compassionate regardless of how they treat you. Recall that Jesus said the following in Luke…

If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners love those who love them! And if you do good only to those who do good to you, why should you get credit? Even sinners do that much! And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, why should you get credit? Even sinners will lend to other sinners for a full return. Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for He is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked. You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate. ~ Luke 6:32-36

I love how verse 36 reminds us that God is “kind to those who are unthankful and wicked” because so often I feel that we treat people based on what we think they “deserve.” However, I’m reminded of Jonah—we were studying the book of Jonah last week in our ladies’ Bible study—and how he didn’t believe the people of Ninevah deserved God’s grace and mercy, but upon their repentance, God granted just that!

Some of my favorite verses this year can be found in Exodus; in 33:19 God tells Moses that He will have mercy on whom He has mercy and compassion on whom He shows compassion. Peter says something along these lines in Acts 10:34-35 when he says “I see very clearly that God shows no favoritism. In every nation he accepts those who fear Him and do what is right.” As does James in James 2:1, “My dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others?” God desires that we treat all people with equal love and respect!

In the end what will we do? Be angry like Jonah because God shows love and grace? Or will we realize that God extends that same love and grace towards us, though, we too are undeserving? The truth is, we’re all on equal standing before the cross…not one of us “deserves” His grace; in fact, the amplified Bible defines grace as free and unmerited favor. Unmerited meaning undeserving, unwarranted, and unearned. We must remember that just as Paul wrote to the Corinthians “…whatever I am now, it is all because God poured out his special favor on me—and not without results. For I have worked harder than any of the other apostles; yet it was not I but God who was working through me by His grace” (1 Corinthians 15:10, emphasis added) and we are saved by our faith in Christ Jesus, not based on ourselves or anything that we do (Ephesians 2:8-9).

In conclusion, we must remember that we were all made in the image of God. Therefore, we are to respect those around us and treat them as we want to be treated; and remember the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:44 and Luke 6:28, where He tells us to love our enemies, bless those who curse us, and pray for those who persecute and/or hurt us. I’m going to end with the famous “love is” passage from 1 Corinthians. For some reason we tend to believe that this passage only applies to marriages, but it doesn’t; it describes what love is and how we are to apply it in all areas of our lives.

“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” ~ 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Recalling Our Example: Christ

Over the last couple weeks, I’ve observed a number of people express their feelings towards others, in a way that can only be described as un-Christ-like. The funny thing is that every one of these individuals claims to be a Christian. Therefore, I decided to remind us all what being a Christian ought to look like.

I’ve been reading the epistles of Paul to the churches at Rome, Corinth, and Galatia, and as I’ve mentioned before, I’m really fascinated by Paul, and I really I love reading his letters. He was such a wonderful writer, and I see so much of my style in the way he wrote. Usually his words have me praising God in agreement and/or laughing because I just get a kick out of his use of sarcasm.

Paul intrigues me because he was a man that grew up in the church. He was incredibly knowledgeable of the Word, and practiced what he preached. He was so firm in his beliefs that when the first Christian believers began sharing the news that Jesus was the Messiah and had raised from the dead, he whole-heartedly believe they were blaspheming and attempted to snuff them out. He thought he was doing the right thing. But on the road to Damascus, his whole world was changed. He came face-to-face with Jesus Himself! The very person whom he had denied! (You can read more of his transformation, beginning in Acts 9.)thCA0DHMHN

His combined knowledge of the Word and his relationship with Christ could have made Paul prideful. However, it had just the opposite effect. Paul recognized that it wasn’t his knowledge of the Word or his actions that saved him, but the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for our sins.

God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. Because of what law? The law that requires works? No, because of the law that requires faith. (Romans 3:25-27)

Now, Paul wasn’t saying that our faith in Christ trumped the law that God established in the creation of the 10 Commandments, but was making the point that we can’t do anything to save ourselves. Jesus did all the Work!

Therefore, it angers me to see certain individuals (I’ll call them P1) believe that because they’ve lived the “right way” their entire lives (or so they think), look down on those who’ve sinned in the past (I’ll call them P2), even after P2 has accepted Christ as their Lord and savior has been allowing God to transform them day by day! The truth is, as Paul said, we have nothing to boast about, because we didn’t save ourselves! Even if we never broke any of the commandments—which only ONE individual could ever honestly claim—we were still born into sin, because sin is passed on through our father’s bloodline (Romans 5:12)!

This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:22-24) [emphasis added]

How dare we believe that we are any better than any other individual, when Christ died for us all!

Okay, so that was just part one, of what I have say (lol). Here’s part number two…Just because we are saved by faith and not by works, does NOT give us the excuse to not follow the law. Jesus Himself said that He didn’t come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17)—and He actually had even higher standards (Don’t believe me? Read Matthew 5:21-48)!  And Paul states in Romans that the law is not nullified by our faith, as well (Romans 3:31).

The purpose of the law is to show us our sin, the purpose of Jesus dying on the cross is to save us from that sin, but we’re not supposed to go back to wallowing in our filth one once we’ve been redeemed of it (Romans 6:2)!

    • For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been set free from sin. (Romans 6:6-7)
    • Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? (Romans 6:16)
    • But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:22-23)

Furthermore, Jesus and Paul, both explained to us, very clearly, that while we can (attempt to) uphold the law and have an established relationship with God, the greatest commandments aren’t actually explicitly written in the law. And ‘what is that?’ you might ask. L-O-V-E.

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:36-40)

This request that we love, doesn’t nullify our faith or obedience, it enhances it. The fact that God loved us in our sin enough to send His Son to die for us, reveals just how great His love is for us. Our natural response, once we come into the knowledge of Christ and establish a relationship with Him, should be to lavish upon Him with a grateful heart full of love, and obedience.  And the stronger our relationship with Him grows, the more our hearts are transformed by the love of God, then the more our love ought to overflow into the lives of the people around us! (For more on this topic you may want to check out some of my other posts: Multiply: Week 3, Burning One, and All-Embracing Love)

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18)

A mistake that we often make, is believing that we can have faith in, and love God, without allowing God to penetrate our hearts and make any sort of change in us. Then we go around telling the world that we’re a believer, even though James explicitly states that faith without deeds is dead!

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. (James 2:14-17)

Basically, James says “we have a group of people, who say they have faith and believe, but where is the proof of their faith”?! He goes on to talk about Abraham who had so much faith in the promises of God that he circumcised  himself and all the male members of his household (he took action!), before he even had evidence that God would accomplish all that He said He would (James 2:21-24; Genesis 17). We must ask ourselves, what do our actions and lifestyle say about what we believe?

Of course, we are also reminded in 1 Corinthians 13, that we can do all sorts of goods things in this life, but if our actions don’t stem from love, then it’s all meaningless. This is why we have to humble ourselves and allow God to change us from the inside out. Because, if we try to do things out of a desire to earn God’s grace, rather than out of love for God and people, then our faith and works are useless.

And lastly, although, He loved all, Jesus really made it a point to reach out to those in the most desperate of circumstances. He reached out to those others ignored: women, children, tax collectors, the sick, the poor, and even those who openly lived in sin. Jesus lived during a time when it was taught by the teachers of the law that those who struggled in lowly circumstances suffered because of sin in either their lives, or the lives of their parents. (Which is funny if you think about it, since practically all of Israel worshiped idols at some point or another.) But, there He was, God-in-the-flesh, meeting sinners right where they were. And what was His response when the Pharisees asked Him about His actions…”It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice. For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matthew 9:13).

Mercy. What is mercy? Mercy is showing compassion, kindness, and understanding towards others.

Many believers have fallen into the trap of surrounding themselves with nothing but other believers, much like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day. This is not completely wrong. Our closest friends, those we go to for advice, to whom we turn when we’re in need of accountability, prayer, and encouragement should be fellow believers. However, those who need to hear God’s truth don’t ever get to experience the goodness of God’s love unless we tell them and show them! We cannot completely separate ourselves from them. God calls us to shower them with love, compassion, kindness, and to show understanding as we speak Truth into their lives (**Note, that we cannot leave this last part out**).truth_in_love[1]

For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Romans 10:12-15)

Jesus told us to go into ALL the world and preach the gospel; a command that was issued not to just a few isolated believers, but to all who believe; so that we might reach men and women from every nation, every background, and from every circumstance, showing no partiality (Mark 16:15; James 2:1-9).

The Word

As I drove home from work Wednesday multiple thoughts flew across my mind. I thought about God’s Word; the book of Romans; an article I read earlier that day on Louie Giglio & the presidential inauguration; the church & Christianity, in general; and lastly, I thought about Paul. (Yes, I know it’s a lot to think about…this is what happens when I let myself think, smh. Sometimes it gets overwhelming and I have to ask God to just give me a break and quiet my mind.)

Regarding God’s Word, I thought about how blessed we are to have it! Imagine trying to live life without any sort of direction or guidance. (I know many people try to do it, but frankly it’s impossible and leaves one with a meaningless, purposeless, lawless, and selfish existence!) I thought about all our brothers and sisters in Christ, around the world, that are without Bibles, and how they will do anything to just have a few verses or lines of Scripture, even risking their lives to obtain it. And I thought about how we often take God’s word for granted. We are so blessed in America to have the freedom to read God’s Word, but how many of us choose not to!? Then we wonder why we feel so lost and unsure of our beliefs…Love Story Bible

Regarding the book of Romans, I thought about how chock full of information it is! As I study it, questions arise—which I jot down until I get the opportunity to ask someone (preferably a pastor) about them—and I find myself intrigued, amazed, grateful, and passionate about every verse and chapter. The book describes the purpose of the Law, our need for a Savior, the love God has for us (as revealed in the fact that Jesus came to earth in the form of a man to reconcile us to God), and how even though we (Christians) now fall under grace and not the law, we’re still expected to uphold the law and live our new lives—as our old lives passed away with the death of Christ on the cross and our new lives arose with His resurrection (Romans 6:6-7)—glorifying God in everything we do and say. And, I’m only finishing up chapter 8!!

Regarding the article on Louie Giglio & the presidential inauguration, I thought how sad that we live in a country where the minority is slowly influencing what the majority believes, says or does. Free speech has now come to mean “you can believe or say what you want as long as it’s the same as what I believe and say.” That’s not free speech! Free speech is that everybody has a right to believe and say what they want (in a respectful way, of course). If you don’t like it, that’s just too bad, because that’s freedom of speech!

Regarding the church and Christianity in general, I thought about how so many of our churches have fallen away from preaching upon certain subject matter, currently inflicting our nation and how anemic “Christians” are running around preaching a message that is not God’s message. We need to stop basing what we believe about God based on our own feelings/thoughts or upon what our pastors are telling us. Instead, we need to open up His Word and read the Bible for ourselves!! (Now you’re seeing how my thoughts have run full circle ;)) And because we have so many churches/pastors not teaching the full gospel, those that do teach the full gospel are criticized because they talk about God’s laws, and nobody wants to hear it! We have to hear about His law and His grace. We can’t learn only about His love because we’re going to find ourselves in trouble when we find ourselves face to face with His just wrath because we didn’t follow His commands which are found in His WORD. On the other hand, we can’t talk only about His law because then we’re facing legalism and the idea that we can earn our into heaven all on our own (which is impossible!). All of His word must be taught, read, studied, learned, understood, and LIVED.

And at this point is where I thought of Paul. I believe the reason God used Paul in the manner that He did was for one major reason. Paul—as Saul—was a major proponent of the law. He knew it inside and out. He studied it. He lived it. He was passionate about it. So much so, that when the early (Christian) believers began preaching that Jesus was the Messiah, Saul accused them of blaspheme and went from town to town having them imprisoned and even stoned/killed. When Saul came face to face with Christ on the road to Damascus, his life was forever changed (hence the name change to Paul). You may be wondering, “I still don’t understand, why Paul?” Paul was a murderer—he gave approval to the stoning of Stephen, the first Christian martyr—and there was absolutely no way that he would ever be able to “make it up” to God. Jesus’s grace was the only way to have his relationship with God restored. Paul understood God’s grace as well as His justice.

Whether we’ve failed a little or failed a lot, we’re all in the same boat. God’s word says we’ve all fallen short of the glory of God and not one of us is perfect/righteous/ in right standing with God (Romans 3:10, 23). But that doesn’t mean we ignore God’s law because we can’t live up to it or change it so that it’s easier for us to live by. Nor does that mean that we ignore the fact that God loves us all the same and wants all to come to repentance, and turn our back to those we think are “undeserving” or “too sinful.” For God’s word also says that His grace can cover it all and His grace has no limit (Romans 5:20)!

I’ve said it before and I’m going to say it again, we really must teach truth in love. Even then, we need to remember that the truth often stings, and we, therefore, must be prepared for backlash, and keep in mind what Jesus said about the world hating His disciples because we bring the message of hope to a dying world and bright light to a darkened room (John 17:14, 3:19; 8:12).

Live in the Word. Breathe in the Word. Allow it to transform the way you view the world and the people around you. Let it transform you: your reactions, your actions, your words, your life! You cannot survive on 1 or 2 pieces of cake each week (I call it cake because it gives you a momentary “spiritual” high); you need your daily bread, your meat, your living water!

Justified by Faith

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it! (Romans 6:1-2)

This verse has been running through my head for the last few days. I’m afraid to say this, but the truth is many “believers” are under the assumption that as long as you believe in God and His son Jesus, that you can go on living life just like the rest of the world and still be saved. But that’s not what God’s word says! The Bible says, “You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe–and tremble! (James 2:19).” (And believe me when I say, the demons are not going to be worshiping with us in heaven.)

As Paul wrote to the church in Rome, our lives become new when we accept Christ into our hearts–the old, sinful man dies–which means our words and actions should be transformed–or made new/alive–into the image of Christ (Romans 6:4). This is not something that occurs overnight, but as we study our Bibles and establish communication with God through prayer and worship, and allow the Holy Spirit to lead and prompt us, change most definitely occurs; and when that change occurs, the whole world can see it!

Obviously, our generation is not the first to struggle with this “I’m a believer but I don’t fellowship with other believers, read my Bible, pray, or worship God” mentality, since Paul was writing to the early church about similar things. But we have something that the early church didn’t: the Bible! I thank God for it every time I read it, because through it, God left us instructions and insight into the workings of His mind–and although, we’ll NEVER fully understand Him (Isaiah 55:8 says, “‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ says the Lord.”)–I’ll take every scrap of insight and understanding that I can get!

By now you’re probably saying to yourself, but God’s word says we’re “justified by faith,” and you’re right, we are justified by faith. There’s nothing that we could do on our own to earn salvation; that’s a gift that God offers us freely. However, if we truly believe that Jesus offered His life for us on the cross and took all our sins upon His own perfect shoulders, will we continue living life as we please, regardless of His sacrifice? I tweeted once before, that “calling yourself a Christian and then living in sin, is like calling yourself a husband and then beating on your spouse.” The truth is, we claim to be believers, and claim to love Christ, but with every sinful deed, we spit in Jesus’ face, then beat and curse Him. Our actions and lifestyle are not one of thanksgiving and adoration for the one who saves us from Hell. If we truly love Him, we’ll lift our lives to Him as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1); we’ll pour our love out upon Him, and be obedient to Him, for His word says, “If you love Me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15).

It’s not easy. I used to live the life of the party-goer every Friday and Saturday, and the “repentant Christian” every Sunday. I knew I was living for myself, and I knew it grieved God; but I kept apologizing and making excuses. Have you ever seen an abusive relationship (in real life, or portrayed in the movies)? The man beats the girlfriend/wife, then turns around and apologizes, the wife believes him, and then the cycle repeats. I was the abusive man. Was I truly sorry? Considering the fact that I turned around and repeated my actions, I don’t believe I was. True repentance comes from godly sorrow (2 Corinthians 7:10), and includes recognizing and repenting of our sin, turning away from the things that aren’t pleasing to God, giving everything over to Him, and  following His lead.

I thank God for second chances at life, and I pray that some day soon, you too, will receive the precious gift He offers, with a truly thankful heart.

Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ (Matthew 7:21-23)