Christ shed His tears for those who shed His blood!
If you really wish to follow the heart of God, be merciful! Luke 6:36, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” If you really wish to get mercy, be merciful! Matthew 5:7, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” If you really wish to do what is best for yourself, be merciful! Proverbs 11:17, “The merciful man does himself good, but the cruel man does himself harm.” If you really wish to show wisdom, be merciful! James 3:17, But the wisdom from above is…full of mercy.”
The Bible is chalked-full of verses that describe our Creator as a God of mercy. “The Lord is gracious and merciful; slow to anger and great in lovingkindness. The Lord is good to all, and His mercies are over all His works” (Psalm 145:8-9). The Bible describes His mercy as “great” (1 Pet. 1:3), “abundant” (Psm. 86:15), “tender” (Lk. 1:78) and “everlasting” (Psm. 103:17). God is forever extending mercy to His children and even to those who blaspheme His name (Psm. 145:14-16; cf. Mt. 5:45; Lk. 6:35; Ac. 14:17; 17:25). We should thus not be surprised that the Bible calls God the “Father of mercies” (2 Cor. 1:3).
God created sound and creation glorifies the Lord by the noise that it makes from the beautiful singing of a bird to the loud roar of a lion. This is about created purpose whereby God has created a symphony of praise to Himself. And who should be sitting “first chair,” following the divine conductor with the most specific and most intentional song? The thunderclaps? The raging ocean? It is those whom He has created to enter a personal relationship with Him – humans! Unlike the rest of creation, we have experienced His love. We have received His Word. We have feasted upon His goodness. We have understood His glorious attributes. We have rested in His promises. Our only response to God is to burst into songs of praise.
Creation, as done often in Scripture, is personified as always responding rightly to God. Verse 13 and 28 of Psalm 104 talk about creation being satisfied, creation obeying God (verse 19) and creation waiting on God (verse 27). Verse 32, “He looks at the earth, and it trembles; He touches the mountains, and they smoke.” This speaks of a reverent response from creation simply due to a look or touch from its Creator. Obviously, creation does not think for itself, but the point is that God has hardwired creation to bring Him glory. And that not only shines light on God’s glory but is also casts shame on the human race. Reason being is because we have been created above the rest of creation with the ability to think for ourselves and for the distinct purpose of glorifying God. And while inanimate creation is satisfied with God, obeys God, waits on God and respects God, quite often humans, who should be first in line for the aforementioned do exactly the opposite (cf. Gen. 6:6).
God has given us creation not to ignore it or to worship it. Rather, God has given us creation to reveal, Romans 1, “His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature.” Creation is a means to display God and to behold His glory. Creation leads us to worship of God, praising Him for His greatness, beauty, order and design, just to name a few.
God’s sovereignty does not negate our responsibility. Just as sovereignty teaches us to reject chance and luck, sovereignty also must teach us to reject fatalism.
If someone or something holds any sway over God, if one atom is rebellious to God’s will, one bit of knowledge is unknown to God’s mind, one law is forbidding God’s desires, if anything prohibits God from accomplishing His universal plans, He is no longer sovereign. And if He is no longer sovereign, that which is able to oppose His will has now become greater than Him.
Prophets in the Bible are often outcasts, not rock stars.
According to Proverbs the wise individual is cautious, prudent and acts with knowledge, fears God and receives counsel. Whereas the fool ignores God, is arrogant and careless, delights in airing opinions, lacks sense, despises wisdom and instruction, is right in her own eyes, ungracious and abusive and is hasty in his words.
It might be stretching it a bit, but when we intentionally choose not to attend church, we are in effect “church disciplining” ourselves – removing ourselves from the collective safety of the church and handing ourselves over to Satan’s domain (cf. 1 Cor. 5:5, 13).
Our security is not in our own strength or feeble freewill, but in His strength and His will, it is not (as much about) us holding on to Him but the Good Shepherd holding on to us (Psm. 18:35).
Consider God’s faithfulness to His promises: We learn that all things do work together for good (Rom. 8:28). We learn that God will never leave us nor forsake us (Heb. 13:5). We learn that nothing will separate us from the love of Christ (Rom. 8:35). We learn to walk by faith and not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7). We learn to trust in God’s character and not our circumstances. We learn no detail of our life is outside His loving purpose and sovereign control. We learn His solution far surpasses our most creative imagination. We learn God is often closest when we least feel His presence. We learn Hebrews 10:23 which calls us to “hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.”
Psalm 89:8 says He is clothed in faithfulness. Psalm 96:13 says He judges in faithfulness. Psalm 119:75 says He afflicts His children in faithfulness. Psalm 143:1 says He responds to prayer in faithfulness. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says He permits our temptations in faithfulness. 2 Corinthians 1:18 says He is faithful to His Word. Isaiah 25:1 says He is faithful to His plans. 2 Thessalonians 3:3 says He is faithful to protect us from Satan. 1 John 1:9 says He is faithful to forgive our sins. Psalm 145:13 says He is faithful to fulfill His promises. Psalm 119:86 says He is faithful in His commandments. 1 Peter 4:19 says He is faithful during our suffering. 1 Thessalonians 5:24 says He is faithful to sanctify us. 1 Corinthians 1:9 says He is faithful to keep us saved. And 2 Timothy 2:13 says He is faithful even when we are not.
Satan, “the ruler of this world” (Jn. 16:11) is the (John 8:44) “father of lies” who (2 Corinthians 11:14) “disguises himself as an angel of light.” Therefore, following the world is subtle. It feels right. It brings approval from others when we do and condemnation when we do not. Yet following the world – the philosophies, the agenda, the trending narratives – are often contrary to God (1 John 2:15) and considered to be spiritual adultery toward God (Jas. 4:4).
When God created the world, Genesis 1:27 tells us that He “created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” We have been created with gender distinction, but not race distinction. We are all in the human race. And unlike the rest of creation, all humans have been made in God’s image. To elevate animals above humans or to elevate one skin tone above another, reveals a failure to understand and appreciate the intrinsic God-given value of all human beings.
The world can pull us into its grip. If we are not careful, Christians can allow the world to dictate our causes and our beliefs and our attitudes. We can easily get squeezed into its mold and while we intend well, the powerhouse of our actions becomes feelings, experiences or whatever is currently trending.
Emotionalism often only sees one side of a situation. Wisdom is able to look at a situation, carefully examine it from all angles and then present a comprehensive opinion. Wisdom is always looking to declare the bad, but seek to redeem it for good. After all, this is the process of God. Isaiah 5:20, “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil.” While at the same time, our God brings good out of all situations for His glory and the benefit of His people (Rom. 8:28).
Perhaps most of all, our children need to hear that we love them. And why do we love them? Simply because they are our children. Period! They do not earn our love, nor can they lose our love regardless of what they do. This is modeling the divine love of God. Why does He love us? Because He chooses to do so. The love is unconditional and not based on our performance. And the Bible says the only reason we love Him is because He first loves us (1 Jn. 4:19). And how did He show that loved? Through His own sacrifice. “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). Children can easily see where your priorities are and where your love is directed.
In one sense we must demand the respect of our children as God commands it. But in another sense, we desire that we should earn the respect of our children. How do we do that? We trust them with the appropriate levels of responsibility. We guide, but permit them to make some of their own decisions. We pick them up when they fall. We commit ourselves to their mother. We do what we say. We confess our failures, asking for their forgiveness and admitting we do not have all the answers. We make them a priority with our time. We provide the proper boundaries. We protect them physically, emotionally, socially and spiritually. We show that we believe in them and are pleased to have them as our children.
A good father would rather be seen unfavorable, than compromise what he knows to be right for his child’s well-being. It’s more about leadership than friendship. Greater trust is then given to the father as time proves the father not perfect, but often wise with his directives. And greater reception of the directives is received when children know it comes from a man who truly loves them, has their best interest in mind and practices what he preaches because that is the direction he is pursuing.
Parents, by nature, your children want to feel special. Will they learn that from you? And will you reject the superficial spoiling, self-esteem movement, permissive attitudes and worthless flattering in your efforts to achieve it? Start with God’s image. Then cultivate their love for God’s image. Then show Christ as the solution to repair God’s image. Nurture their relationship with Christ toward His causes. Only then will our children find their worth in life.
When Moses before the burning bush asked God His name, God replied, “I AM WHO I AM” (Ex. 3:14). We have an origin, but God has none. We must say, “By the grace of God, I am who I am,” but God can simply say, “I am who I am.” He is outside the realm of His creation and owes His existence to no one. God is self-existent.
Knowing God quenches the thirsty soul, satisfies the inquisitive mind, feeds our instinct to praise and directs our daily actions along the proper path.
From God’s perspective, there is much in us that makes us lovable. But since God has chosen to love us, He will continue to do so as long as He is love (1 Jn. 4:8). Remember beloved by God, God now accepts you not because of what you do but because of what He has done in Christ on your behalf.
Why is our union with our spouse the most important human relationship? Do we dare assume another human relationship is more important than our union with Christ which marriage represents? What’s wrong with adultery? Does that display the covenant fidelity that God has with His people? What’s wrong with fornication? Does intimacy with Christ happen before we have a covenant relationship with Christ? What’s wrong with homosexual or polygamous so-called marriages? Do those display Christ and His bride? Why do we have marital roles within marriage? Does the church lead Christ or does Christ lovingly and sacrificially lead the church? Why must spouses love and forgive one another? Does Christ do any less for the church? Why does God forbid divorce? Does Christ divorce the church or the church divorce Christ?
Marriage an earthly institution. It is a very good institution, but it is earthly, temporary in that is applies only to life in this world. Marriage is a sign to point to something far greater. So, when the fullness of time comes and evangelism ceases and we are perfectly redeemed and we are living in the reality of the gospel promises, there is no longer any need for the sign. We have already arrived at the destination.
Marriage is all of God’s doing. It is His institution, His definition of one man and one woman and His mysterious weaving of two people together as one. Marriage is from Him. Marriage is through Him. And marriage is for Him. The primary purpose of marriage is that it exists to display His glory. The primary purpose of marriage is to put on centerstage the relationship that He in Jesus Christ has for His bride, the church. Marriage is a visual illustration of the Gospel.
What is flattery? It is superficial, selfish pandering often used to get what someone wants. The goal is to elevate someone in their own mind in order to get them to say what you want to hear.
- Our Savior is Jesus Christ, not government. Government is not designed by God to provide our ultimate hope. It is to corrupt the mission of the church to think government can advance the cause of Christ. Throughout history, the church was often the strongest under repressive, pagan regimes. Our trust must be in the Lord. He is Lord over government. Only He is the Savior of the world.
- Our goal is evangelism. Though I understand the context is different, there is nothing in the Bible of the Apostles trying to overturn Rome. No calls to civil disobedience. Our primary goal is to see people transformed by the Gospel. Jesus Christ changing hearts is the greatest way to change a culture. As Jesus said, “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come. (Mt. 24:14).
- Human government is only a picture of Christ’s reign.
The government is called by God to punish evil, protect the innocent and reward good. But we all know there have been many regimes throughout history that have done just the opposite. They have punished good, hurt the innocent and rewarded evil. What God intended for good actually becomes the enemy of the people and often the church. Jesus in speaking of world leaders in the finals days said, “Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name” (Matt. 24:9). So is the institution of government bad? How do we view bad governments? This is a dilemma. The great theologian Augustine said that government is a necessary evil and that it is necessary because of evil. And most theologians in the history of the church have said that human evil is the reason even corrupt government is better than no government at all. Because it is run by sinful man, government will never ultimately be what God commands. Even the Kings in Israel and Judah barely got it right. However, because we are sinful, if government was removed there would be little restraining us from total anarchy. James Madison put it this way, “If men were angels there would be no need for government.”
What is our responsibility to government? First, Titus 3:1 – we are to be in subjection to their laws (cf. Rom. 13:1-5; 1 Pet. 2:13-15). I believe you have heard before that when the Apostles wrote for the need to submit to governing officials, the evil Roman leader Nero was in power who made it a pleasure of his to torture and kill Christians. Second, Romans 13:7 – we are to respect them (cf. 1 Pet. 2:17). I am always saddened when people make vile comments and threats to leaders. I feel that way about our current President and I felt that way about our former President. Even Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego from the Book of Daniel respected the King, despite his call for them to engage in idolatry or die. Third, 1 Timothy 2:1-3 – we are to pray for them. Fourth, Romans 13:7 – we are to pay our taxes (cf. Mt. 22:17-21). However, since God is our ultimate authority, we are never to obey when they demand us to violate His commands (Dan. 6:10; Mt. 2:7-12; Ac. 5:29).
Yes, we have a responsibility to vote! “When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, but when a wicked man rules, people groan” (Prov. 29:2). Because we do live in a republic where our voice counts (“We the people”), we need to know what is most important according to God’s will and determine the politician that best will uphold it. It’s impossible to say that religion and politics do not mix. Being “salt and light” does not exempt us from the political world. We should influence it. When Christians choose not to vote we open a vacuum to unrighteous legislation that now provides a greater opportunity for evil to thrive and be imposed on the will of the people, including ourselves and future generations. In the Bible, Joseph and Daniel heavily influenced governing leaders and it greatly benefitted God’s people. Likewise, we are called in Galatians 6:10 to “do good to all people.” Why would we want men and women in the office that will introduce and perpetuate unrighteousness in our society? With the blood-bought freedoms we enjoy as a country, thanks to our military heroes, we cannot sit back and refuse to exercise our rights only to further individuals in the office that will not submit to Divine Law or the Constitution.
While Christ presently reigns over human governments, we see how even the best men and women in leadership fail to provide the perfect kingdom. We are primarily citizens of Christ’s kingdom, Philippians 3:20, “For our citizenship is in heaven.” But for the time being, we also dwell in a lesser sense, as citizens among this world too. So we long for the day when Christ will overthrow all these puny human leaders and rightly take to Himself what is rightfully His and reign over His kingdom that is without end (Dan. 2:44) where and when “EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Phil. 2:10-11; cf. Rev. 7:9-10).
So what are the issues government should be concerned about? There are many, but personally speaking, none are greater than the need to protect the lives of the unborn. Though I know of Christians that disagree with me on this, but if a man or woman supports abortion, I believe he or she, in my opinion, is immediately disqualified from office. I compare it to a dynamic leader that could be our greatest President in history but wanted to reinstitute the institution of slavery. Immediate disqualification.
What is God’s Purpose for Government? In other words, according to the Bible, what does God expect from the leaders He establishes?
Number 1 – Restrain and punish evil. Consider Romans 13:4. “For [the civil leader] is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.” Or 1 Peter 2:13-14. Kings and governors in authority are “sent by [God] for the punishment of evildoers.” Leaders are responsible to bring lawbreakers to justice and exert punishment. At the deepest level, they are responsible to wage justified war if necessary.
Number 2 – Protect life and property. God puts the highest premium on human life. I know we love our pets and want to save the environment, but nothing is more valuable to God than you. Why? Because only human begins are created in the image of God. That was the very reason God gave Israel permission to terminate life when the Sixth Commandment declares “You shall not murder” (Ex. 20:13). “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made man” (Gen. 9:6). Moreover, the highest responsibility of government is to protect our weakest members, especially the ones that can’t protect themselves.
And number 3 – Recognize and encourage good. Good, law-abiding citizens should be recognized by their leaders. Romans 13:3, “For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same” (cf. 1 Pet. 2:14).
Is Jesus your Master? Is He your Lord? The answer for every human being is “yes” to that question. However, the real question is do we acknowledge Him as such? He is God and when God commands we honor Him by trusting Him shown in our obedience to Him.
I wonder how many blessings I have missed out on in life because I have refused to obey the Lord?
True disciples do not have a neutral reaction toward Jesus. True disciples walk an almost paradoxical life of wanted to be around Him more than anyone or anything else, but also experiencing a fear that intensifies the more we are in His presence. It’s love and it’s respect. It’s intimacy and it’s reverence. It’s loyal friend and it’s holy God. Like Peter in Luke 5:8, both clinging to His feet and asking Him to leave.
A true confrontation with the living God is a direct confrontation with His holiness. And when we really understand His holiness we are never more convinced of our sinfulness. We instinctively know that sin cannot remain in His presence without being judged. And that is the most fearful thing we can ever imagine and that is what draws us to Christ for refuge.
It’s the people that fear the presence of God that ironically will truly find comfort to be in His presence through Christ.
As we grow in Christ, we feel more unworthy to be in His presence, at times wanting to run, but more assured of His eternal commitment, His promise to always hold us close to Himself in His arms of love.
If we love Jesus, never should we feel safer in the presence of the One we should fear the most!
When we find our identity in the opinions of others, we will be man-pleasers to get them to say what we want to hear. And since we cannot program people, there is no guarantee they will do as we desire. Thus will no longer love people, but continually manipulate people for our own selfish gains to hear their praise.
Oftentimes Christians place their ultimate identity in the same things unbelievers do – occupation, ethnicity, accomplishments, health, body composition, personality, station in life and interests. Possibly your identity is not based on what you think about yourself, but entirely by what others think about you. In other words, we think we are who what we think others think we are. All of this is subChristian!
When we seek to find our identity, our core value, in the things of this world, we will always feel empty, insufficient, unworthy and insecure on one end or proud, boastful, smug and self-righteous on the other end. Basically, as we see with most people, there is no satisfaction on either side of the equation.
Finding our true identity as a Christian is not about turning to what is inside of us – what we think about ourselves or what others think about us. It is about God recreating us (2 Cor. 5:17) and bestowing upon us amazing promises from His Word when we trust Christ by faith. Therefore it is about ignoring our feelings and the opinion of the world and accepting what God has to say about us. This is about what God does to us. This is about how He now defines us. And since He is God, there is no greater verdict when it comes to our true reality.
If you are looking for some good sections of Scripture to determine your identity in Christ, check out Ephesians 1 – chosen, loved, adopted, redeemed and forgiven by God and seen as holy and blameless and Ephesians 2 – alive, saved raised up and seated with Christ in the heavenly places and 1 Peter 2 – a chosen race, royal priesthood, holy nation and people for God’s own possession.
Are you finding your core identity in Christ? 1. Am I a Christian redeemed by Jesus Christ who is my Lord and Savior? 2. Am I finding my worth in external circumstances or God’s truth? 3. Have I given control of my life to God or someone else I am trying to impress? 4. Do I allow the words of others to sink deeper into my heart more than the words of God? 5. Is my identity rooted in the worship of idols or is it rooted in the worship of Christ? We become what we worship. In whose image am I growing more? 6. Is God’s opinion the highest standard and the only verdict that ultimately matters to me? 7. Is my self-image shaped by the media, experiences, feelings, relationships or culture? Or do I understand who I really am in Christ based on God’s promises from His Word? 8. Is it my desire to tell others about Christ increasingly because the more I understand who I am in Christ, the more delight I have to make known who He is through my words and actions? 9. Have I discovered God’s identity for me? Is it now a committed choice? 10. Am I continually examining where I am defining my true identity? If it is not in Scripture am I repenting? “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:2).
It’s all are welcome as they are, but when you come change is expected. Or it’s not clean yourself up before God will accept you, but when God accepts you He will clean you up. Or it’s God loves sinners, but He loves them too much to keep them sinners. Or as I like to say, God doesn’t clean His fish before He catches them, but after He catches them He always immediately starts cleaning them.
Oftentimes we do not know where the path leads, but when we obey we trust the One who leads.
Spiritually segregating people as those less worthy of God’s acceptance is still a problem today. And while racial unity is still not where it needs to be, we still segregate people based upon other intangibles (such as wealth, education, attractiveness and convictions) that we might consider impure. We still have a tendency to look down upon others different from us and believe they are less deserving of God’s grace than we are.
If you want God’s empowering grace you must have a humble heart. “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (Jas. 4:6). First, this means that you have trusted Jesus Christ as your Savior, and second it means that you admit you have room to grow and need God’s strength, His help to succeed. Run to God for that grace to battle sin and not away from Him in your sin.
God displays righteous jealousy (cf. 2 Cor. 11:2) that desires faithfulness from His spouse. If God cared not for His people, there would be no jealousy. But it is because He values an intimate relationship with His bride, the church, He is deeply grieved when we pursue other lovers. True love is rightfully jealous. God loves His people so much that He wants us totally for Himself in an exclusive relationship. He will not stand for spiritual adultery.
Faithful service does not exalt me or change my role as God’s servant. Faithful service only confirms that I am His servant.
Ideally, the goal is to see the discipline of child gradually lessen as he or she approaches the teen years (the opposite of what we often see in society) because life lessons have been learned and righteous actions are personally desired. Yet that does not mean parents no longer have a responsibility to discipline their teenager when necessary. In these cases, we have found the best methods to be restitution (a good action toward the one wronged) and/or the removal of a privilege (loss of electronics, use of the car, attendance at an event, etc.). Rarely if ever would our teen discipline be “grounding” (as in unreconciled confinement) or exclusion from family activities or the use of something good as an instrument for “punishment” (house chores, exercise, writing, etc.).
Hell or Heaven? Do we plead for God’s reward as a result of our actions or do we plead for God’s mercy as a result of his actions?
This is the essence of all man-made religion: Self-absorption, smug complacency, false assurance, boastful comparison, scornful disdain, desired attention, works salvation, outward appearance, spiritually deceived, absent repentance, self-righteousness, self-condemning, unloving and unmerciful, faithless and graceless.
It’s clear that all the religious systems are different. Yet all the religious systems, except Christianity, are all ultimately the same. Every world religion teaches what man must do to earn his salvation. Only Christianity teaches that we cannot earn our salvation, but that God in Christ must accomplish it for us. Thus, in Christianity, as compared to all other religions, it is gift versus reward and grace versus works and faith versus effort and humility versus pride and Christ versus self.
To most people, the gifts we enjoy are more important than the Giver of the gifts. Some might be grateful for their many blessings. But how many are expressing that gratitude to God? How many are metaphorically falling at His feet and glorifying Him with a genuine and enthusiastic heart? Many are thankful, but how many prioritize their thankfulness to God? How often do blessings actually lead people away from God because they want something from God and do not see God in the something?
The goal of courtship is to work on the commitment part, not the intimacy part. Then when you marry and intimacy comes, there will be commitment.
So the three options available: One, harden and sear your conscience by continually violating it. That is the making of a psychopath. Two, keep a soft heart, persist in unrepentant sin and live with the ongoing agony of a tormented conscience – the restlessness, anxiety, stress and psychosomatic disorders (ulcers, high blood pressure, heart palpitations, etc.). Or, three, simply obey God’s Word which honors the Lord and enjoy a life of peace which far surpasses any worldly perks obtained sinfully that promise us greater satisfaction but violate our conscience.
What’s holding you back from serving the Lord? Potentially your answer is that you feel insufficient and inadequate. That is a humble response which is good, but to leave it there and keep yourself on the shelf is disobedience. I would make the argument that your inadequacy is not an obstacle, but the essential requirement needed so that you might trust the Lord to work His power through you. As one author said, your weakness and God’s strength perform an unbeatable combination. So you feel inadequate? So did Gideon in his military weakness and Isaiah in his sin and Jeremiah in his youth and Ezekiel in his fear. Join the crowd of God’s most outstanding leaders whose weaknesses were made strong when they humbly depended on God to work through them (2 Cor. 3:4-5).
Do you have the freedom to be unshackled from the bondage of fear to live a life pleasing to God in all things?
Now I know there are many dangers of striving for excellence. After all, haven’t we learned that Satan will take anything we do for good and seek to bring forth evil. We have been been taught, 2 Corinthians 2:11, to not be “ignorant of his schemes.” I know if we are not careful, a pursuit of excellence can lead to pride whereby we look down on others or desire to draw personal attention to ourselves or seek to be man-pleasers. I know it can lead to a reliance on our own strength and not God’s strength. I know it can lead to misplaced goals that believe the product is more important than the spiritual goals it aims to produce. I know it can lead to misplaced trust that excellence alone can somehow achieve God’s purposes. And I know it can lead to misplaced methods, looking to worldly techniques more than Scripture. I know all of these and now you do as well, but we can’t operate in fear as an excuse to excuse the behavior expected of us from the Lord.
We live in a world where truth is relative. According to most, there is no absolute standard to determine right from wrong because truth is ever-changing and subjectively suited to personal opinions and popular culture. Most want to believe this because at our core we want to be autonomous without any accountability and restraints. We want to be God. We want to be the sole arbitrator to determine right from wrong. So to bolster support for this driving tendency, many have used the Word of God for their justification. They have erroneously taken Jesus’ words in Matthew 7 not to judge as their shield for critique-free sinful behavior. It’s funny how they use our Lord’s words as a reason not to submit to the rest of our Lord’s words found elsewhere in the Bible! However, such a position is contradictory to the inherent understanding of societal function and clearly a false interpretation of what Jesus intended.
The Bible warns against these folks. Jude speaks of false teachers who are identified as “grumblers, finding fault, following after their own lusts” (Ju. 1:16). We’re familiar with Moses and the “grumblers” he had to deal with (Nu. 14:36; cf. Psm. 106:25; 1 Cor. 10:10). Some of these folks are so arrogant they have no problem complaining about the Lord, or worse, complaining directly to the Lord Himself (Dt. 1:27). God had to reprove Job, “Will the faultfinder contend with the Almighty?” (Job 40:2). Despite the clear command in Philippians 2:14 to “do all things without grumbling or disputing,” these people who seem to know nothing about edification and encouragement, persist in their destructive behavior. Kent Hughes concluded, “[These] hostile, quick-to-see-the-worst, graceless [individuals] are as old as the church” (2 Corinthians, p. 38). Every church deals with them. Every leader deals with them.
Disappointment is essential for spiritual growth. Sadly too many Christians have horrible theology and allow the disappointment to consume them. Instead of growing, they backslide. In the Bible we read that Joseph held to God’s promises despite horrible circumstances. And though Joseph did not specifically know the good that God was doing, he simply trusted God in faith that God was doing something good. Belief can never be predicated on understanding. If so, there would be no need for faith. Little did he know that God was in the process of making this young boy a man. God’s purposes for Joseph would stand despite the long delay. Yet there was a purpose in that delay for God to polish the instrument of God through affliction.
Our eyes need to be on God’s Word. Specifically we need to know and trust by faith the promises He has revealed to us in Scripture. We need to train ourselves to see the unseen. We need to view His doing as the ultimate reality. We need to keep His character and His truths forefront in our minds. We need to walk not by what we see, but by faith in what might be invisible, yet what we know to be true. Then and only then will we be able to cut through the smokescreen of this world and have the confidence to conduct ourselves with hope and courage, knowing God is in charge and He will keep His promises.
Mediocrity is a sin not unlike the other sins we battle as Christians. And mediocrity, like all sins, begins in our hearts (Jas. 1:14). Mediocrity is one of those sins that we can’t blame on others. It starts with the sin of pride deep within us that spills over to indifference or selfishness and then reveals itself in mediocrity. Overall, it is a lack of faith in God. It is a lack of rightly understanding and then believing and then being overwhelmed by the greatness of our God. It is the failure to be amazed by God’s excellence. Simply put, less-than-excellent efforts are a result of not admiring a nothing-but-excellent God.
Though we cannot read hearts, we all have this insidious tendency based upon limited information to judge people as to what drives them internally and then jump to oftentimes the worst conclusions possible. In a nutshell, we draw an opinion about the intent of a person’s heart (oftentimes without ever even speaking to the individual) and then act upon that opinion as if our assumptions are infallible.
Are you running to God during your trials? If not, you are short-cutting the process. You see, when most people, even most Christians have problems, they immediately run to all the sources they have available to bring relief. Some are good, others are bad. The problem is none of them are ultimately effective. We expect people to be our personal Messiahs and they can’t. We use entertainment to numb our troubles and the trouble, though camouflaged, is still there. We abuse substances to turn off the pain and it doesn’t. We try food and sex to fight the pain with pleasure and it’s ineffective. These things bring a shallow refuge and temporary reprieve in the little matters, but in the long haul they are proven unsuccessful. That is why God in His love for us wants us to run to Him.
Do you want explanations from God or are you content in His promises?
What are you ambitious to achieve? What if I had you compose a list of your goals and priorities. If you didn’t just hear the verse that read, would “pleasing God” (2 Cor. 5:9) even make the top-ten? How often do we arise each day with the prayerful intention that simply says, “Lord, it is my ambition to please You today!” Perhaps we’d put it on paper, but are we really doing it? And if we are not doing it, but we know we should and want to in our heart, what is it that’s preventing us? Can I submit that whatever your answer is, it boils down to the fact that we are not walking by faith in God’s glorious promises (2 Cor. 5:7).
The Gospel is full submission to Jesus Christ as Lord. It’s not making Him your Lord when He is already the Lord over all people. Salvation comes when we acknowledge Christ, not only as our Savior, but also as our Lord. Lordship implies ownership. And if we accept His rightful ownership of our lives, we will submit to Him in all things. Naturally, that submission is in the clear commandments of Scripture. But it is also the everyday events that we can’t support with chapter and verse. Every decision for the Christian is a biblical decision. Every action for the Christian is an act of worship.
Probably the most important reason that unbiblical judgment is wrong is because acting in this way usurps the authority of God. When we judge in this way we are stepping on God’s Throne and pronouncing our sovereignty and omniscience and declaring to the world that people are ultimately answerable to us. We are setting ourselves up as God, and in doing so, committing arguably the worst form of evil.
Folks, I’m not aware of any pictures of heaven that we have from Revelation where anyone other than the Triune God receives worship. Is there evidence your heart is being prepared for that eternal existence?
It stands to reason that if God has built us to groan for the eternal (2 Cor. 5:4-5), but if we only groan for the temporal, that we will find ourselves continually dissatisfied.
Think of it this way. I can make it my aim to please God, knowing that will be the greatest way I can love others (freedom!), or I can run around trying to please everybody, relegate God to a position lower than His creation, disappoint God and also feel deflated when others are disappointed with me after all my efforts (slavery!).
The right way to receive correction based upon Scripture is to be humble. The humble person welcomes every chance the Holy Spirit might be using to burn off the rough edges and forever make him more like his blessed Savior. The humble person doesn’t respond harshly, regardless of the criticism or the messenger, but is concerned with the content and takes everything with a grain of salt, considering it, praying about it and diligently seeks to determine where the correction, to whatever degree, is appropriate. God is given time to work in his heart. Energy and contemplation is placed on, “What is the Lord saying to me” and “how can I learn from these comments” as compared to, “How am I going to defend myself against this attack.” It is about not flying off the handle when corrected, but exercising self-control. Don’t we know that “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (Jas. 4:6; 1 Pet. 5:5). You see, when we run away from even the slightest hint of criticism, we forfeit the very means by which the Lord wants to use to make us more godly.
The Bible is God’s Word so when we tell erring people what the Scriptures say (something we are commanded to do – Mt. 18: 15; Gal. 6:1; 2 Thes. 3:15; Jas. 5:19), it’s not us judging the other person with our words, but it is God judging them through His Word. We are only mediators and ambassadors, presenting to people through our words and actions, God’s verdict on the situation. This is the most loving thing we can do since sin is destructive and God is the one that they will face regarding their actions on these matters.