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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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).

Multiply: Week 3

Part I: Living as a Disciple Maker

3: The Heart of a Disciple Maker

Tonight we’re going to discuss chapter 3 of Francis Chan & Mark Beuving’s book Multiply. This is a short and very direct chapter, so there won’t be much quoting from the text this week.

Basically, Francis Chan discusses the issue of our hearts, or our motives, for becoming a disciple maker. Why are we preparing to be disciple makers? To please someone? To look good or gain someone’s praise or approval? Out of obedience?

Francis Chan reminds us that the Pharisees were quite good at keeping up appearances, but their motivation was hardly that which God accepted as pure and pleasing to Him. Neither does God want us to minister to others out of obedience, or obligation, to Him, but out of joy. Francis Chan states it this way: “God wants us to enjoy the privilege and pleasure of ministering to others. He wants us to be cheerful when we give (2 Corinthians 9:7)” (p. 41).

Francis also reminds those of us who feel led and passionate about sharing God’s message, that we should be cautious as leaders, because teaching others is a very serious thing. Remember what the book of James says about teaching and the power of the tongue:

Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check. When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. (James 3:1-6)

Leaders, teachers, and ministers have the power to set someone on the wrong course, if they’re not careful!

Most important, according to Francis Chan is that “making disciples isn’t about gathering pupils to listen to your teaching. The real focus is not on teaching people at all–the focus is on loving them.” This is where God wants our hearts!

Jesus’s call to make disciples includes teaching people to be obedient followers of Jesus, but the teaching isn’t the end goal. Ultimately, it’s all about being faithful to God’s call to love the people around you. It’s about loving those people enough to help them see their need to love and obey God. It’s about bringing them to the Savior and allowing Him to set them free from the power of sin and death and transform them into loving followers of Jesus Christ. It’s about glorifying God by obediently making disciples who will teach others to love and obey God. (Chan & Beuving, 2012, p. 44)

This is what I’ve been trying to encourage my readers to do in previous posts (Speaking in Truth, Burning One, & All-Embracing Love); to teach and share the message of Christ out of love for the lost!

And finally, Francis Chan encourages us to teach by example. Oddly enough, the passage of scripture I read today was Romans 2:17-19, which asks us how can we call ourselves wise teachers of the lost and yet do everything that we teach others not to do?! In other words, it calls us hypocrites! Romans 2:24 states “As it is written: ‘God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.'” This was written to the Jews, but I feel like this can most certainly be stated today. Many non-believers see all the things people who claim to be Christians do and say, and figure they’re no different from non-Christians; but this is not what God intended! Remember, we’re supposed to be holy and set apart. We’re supposed to be different. We’re supposed to be following in Christ’s footsteps. We cannot make disciples if we’re not living the life of a disciple.

Francis points to Hebrews 13:7, which states “remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.” New believers need godly examples to follow; and if we’re going to make disciples, we need to be putting our faith into practice so that others can imitate our faith. As Francis Chan states, “this doesn’t mean that you need to be perfect before you start. Perfection is a lifelong process that won’t end until eternity (see Philippians 1:6 and 3:12-14). But it does mean that you need to ‘count the cost’ (see Luke 14:25-33) and allow God’s truth to change your life” (p. 47).

If we want to see transformation in the lives of others, we must allow transformation to occur in our own lives.

Well, that concludes our discussion of Multiply this week. Stay tuned for next week! Take care and God bless.

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)