Sifting Through the World

God has placed us in this world, to be good stewards of His creation. The world is here for us to enjoy and as means for us to glorify God. Some things in the world are evil, and should be wholly avoided (example, Eph. 5:3-5). Some things are good, and should be pursued (Gal. 5:22-23). In the middle, we find a bunch of questionable material, grey areas and applications.

How do we treat this middle ground? Firstly, young friend, seek out the explicitly good before all else. Walk in the spirit, spend time with God in prayer and His Word, find your delight in whatever is good, noble and just. Secondly, run from the evil and turn your back on wickedness. Curiosity towards sin is your enemy, and curiosity towards God is your friend. Turning to acts of obedience, you will find help from the darkness; don’t try to fight without first seeking the Lord.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2)

Finally as you approach the grey areas, look for the defining light of Scripture. Tend to your conscience, and follow what insight you are able to study on the matter. Consider the effects on others around you, don’t engage with something that could cause a brother to fall. Seek godly counsel. Then, if the matter seems good to you, press onward giving glory to God and with full enjoyment of His provision. If at any time you understand the situation differently, don’t be afraid to admit a change of mind and stop.

For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin. (Romans 14:23b)

Live in the Word, not in worldliness.

Even Unto Sorrow

May I be willing, Lord, to bear daily my cross for Thee;
Even Thy cup of grief to share—Thou hast born all for me.
(Lead me to Calvary, v4)

Paul makes an interesting comment to the church at Colossi: “Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.” At face value, Paul seems to be saying that Christ’s sufferings were insufficient in some way–but we know from other scripture that this is not the case. Our understanding of this verse is rooted in the understanding of Christian suffering, and of Christ’s suffering.

For clarity’s sake, here’s Matthew Henry’s interpretation:

Both the sufferings of the Head and of the members are called the sufferings of Christ, and make up, as it were, one body of sufferings. But He suffered for the redemption of the church; we suffer on other accounts; for we do but slightly taste that cup of afflictions of which Christ first drank deeply. A Christian may be said to fill up that which remains of the sufferings of Christ, when he takes up his cross, and after the pattern of Christ, bears patiently the afflictions God allots to him.

For the Christian, suffering is an outworking of unity with Christ. Since we are justified before God, our sufferings are no longer a penalty for our own sin and foolishness–Christ paid it all on the Cross, and His suffering was enough. Instead, our sufferings are a bond of fellowship with Jesus, a mark of being His disciple, and a prefix or context for glory.

The Strength of Friendship

Men are not autonomous creatures.

Self governance is indeed a good thing, but defining your own law (as autonomous literally means) or being self-authorizing can get you into trouble. Ultimately, man’s authority is God–and our earthly authority comes from him, like sub-contractors on a job site. In addition, men aren’t self-capable; that is to say, one man can’t do everything by himself.

The greater scope of work God gave to mankind is immense: to take dominion of creation through the redemption of the Gospel, and so to be the tools of God as he implements His kingdom in the earth. But his personal call is perhaps more challenging–to live holy, obedient and godly lives through faith. Son, you can’t do either of those things without help.

Throughout the Bible, you read stories of friends who strengthened each other’s faith. They are a tool of God to sustain both your wider and personal callings.Are you developing strong fellowship? Because faith rarely succeeds without it.

Serving an Employer

The jobless rate, I’m becoming convinced, is due more to the general ineptitude of the American worker rather than the economic inability of employers or even government interference.

Young men, a word of advice: if you’re willing to take initiative, work hard, expand your skillset, submit to your employer and look out for his best interests ahead of your own, you’ll never be out of a job. Employers can’t afford NOT to employ people like you–and businesses regularly close simply because the owners can’t find enough good men.

Some other really valuable commodities in an employee:

  • Peacemaker
  • On time
  • Honorable/Loyal (speaks well of ___)
  • Joyful/up beat/encouraging
  • Focused
  • Courage (takes responsibility, indomitable)
  • Ability to learn/teachability

It’s not surprising that the same characteristics that make a spirit-filled Christian make an excellent employee. After all, the word of God applies to all parts of life, including submission and authority.

Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, 6 not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, 8 knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free. – Ephesians 6:6-7

Even if you’re an entrepreneur or an employer (“master”), you must submit daily in your work to Christ, your customers, advisers, and others. As the centurion soldier said, “I too, am a man under authority.” Humbly is the way to do a real man’s work.

Repetition Breeds Habit

Young man, you aught to pay careful attention to your habits. The things you do and the way you are now will essentially drive the rest of your life. Habits are simple things, but hard to break. And the longer you’ve had them, the harder it is to change!

Sinful habits must be broken, and by the promise of God and the power of the spirit, they will be. Through the promise of sanctification, you’ll be made more and more like Christ, and you are at peace. At the same time, you MUST kill the sin in your life. The love of God demands it, and this holiness is entirely your responsibility. God is not liable for any of your sin.

Habits of holiness get less attention, but are vital replacements for the old lifestyle. Christian, God does promise to draw you near to himself, and will build a relationship through positive habits. But, you need to work today to spend time with God, to put on the armor of God, to walk in the spirit. And you’ll have to someday stand before God and vouch for your stewardship of His time.

Make change faithfully–repeat the good things. Steady as she goes. Focus on today’s troubles. Simple repetition is what breeds habit. And pray without ceasing for God’s grace in your life.

Because he Talked with God

At a recent open house, a grandson of one of my Dad’s oldest friends was celebrating graduation from high school. While we were there, a good friend we hadn’t seen in years commented how I act just like my Dad, and how that was one of the ways he recognized me. Some call inherited habits like that “Family Idosyncricies.”

Of course, I’ve watched Dad’s behavior for years, and consciously or unconsciously mimicked him. In my case, Dad has given me a pretty good basis for operations in life. It’s the same with anyone you spend time with; being a second-born son, I watched my older brother, too.

As Christians, adopted into the family of God in Christ, we need to keep our eyes constantly on our Father so we can pick up his habits. When you Spend lots of time with someone you naturally know and love them more–and you become more like them. Keep at Jesus side so that you can assimilate His glory!

When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, … Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God.
Aaron and all the people of Israel saw Moses, and behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him. – Exodus 34:29-30

Love: a Union between Belief and Action

Love–as Christ expressed love–is two faceted. Part of love comes from the heart (mind) in the form of devotion, desire, longing, concern, empathy , etc. Another part of love is action–self-sacrifice, working for sanctification, nourishing, honoring, etc.

Love is both motive and vehicle for faith and obedience.

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Killing the Old Man

You’re powerless to fight the old, sinful man dwelling in side of you, brothers. It’s only by Christ’s killing of your sinful self that you can have new life in Christ. But often, we aren’t willing to let go of the old nature just yet.

Maybe you still find pleasure in sin–pleasure can become an idol. Or maybe you’re afraid of what the new life might look like without the old. Or maybe, you’re just angry at God.

One of the most important “Want to Want-to’s” is to hate sin, and want to die to your old self to be renewed in the image of Christ. If you’re truly saved, Christ will complete the work that he has begun of sanctifying you. And, it is your responsibility to work hard for sanctification through the power of the Holy Spirit. You were dead in your sins, and Christ made you alive; and by faith you are saved. Christ will sanctify the true Christian regardless of your cooperation, but it is your responsibility to be sanctified through the Spirit. Both/And!

Young men, give up the sinful lusts and passions of your heart that destroy your relationship with God. Forget anything this world has to offer apart from Christ. Be done with sin. Pray without ceasing that God will kill your old man and invigorate new life. It’s in personal holiness that you will find freedom, peace, joy, love, and most importantly, where you’ll most clearly see and love the beauty of Christ.

Wanting to Want To

Brother Andrew tells a story in his book, ‘God’s Smuggler’ about an opportunity he had to print a huge number of Chinese Bibles. The trouble was money–Andrew didn’t believe in begging for money–as God is the King, he would know and supply their needs. But God didn’t seem to be sending funds for this project. But focused on the importance of Bibles for China, he considered a way to get enough money to produce the Bibles–to sell their house. Although Brother Andrew felt that God might be calling him to sell, neither he nor his wife could bring themselves to do it. So their prayer turned from “God, let us be willing to sell our house” into “God, make us willing to want your plan, so that we will be willing to sell our house.”

Often times our primary sin is not that we don’t do what God commands, but that we don’t want to do what God commands. When you want to serve the True God in your own way, and not in His way, that’s idolatry and rebellion. Even if you’re doing what he wants (like printing
Bibles for China) but do it in your own way, that’s sin.

So like Brother Andrew, our prayer often becomes, “God, let me want-to want-to!” Pray for the desires of God to be your desires, and that His heart would be your heart. Only then can you truly love God as you aught.

Christ’s Authority of Love

God is the head of Christ, and Christ is the head of the church.

It’s easy to see authority as restrictive. In fact, aren’t rules simply to prevent you from doing things, and thus, anti-freedom? Quite the contrary.

If you want to attain true freedom, you must give your own way up and follow the way of Christ. Even on earth, Jesus was all-powerful. He was capable of doing anything he wanted–but was perfectly limited by the Father’s will. Every move that Jesus made on earth was scripted by a sovereign God. And yet, He is the freest man that ever lived.

Sin is bondage, slavery. Christ died that we (believers) will be free–because we died with Him, and are raised with Him, and Paul says that we are hidden in Christ with God.

So love and freedom are intermixed–setting aside your own desires to consider the desires of others first, that is to love, brings freedom.

Simply, Christ’s love for us is our freedom.

Happy ascension day!