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.
So often our disappointment from foiled plans is only the hidden love of God in action saving us from greater destruction to ourselves.
So be encouraged, Christian, that the best is still yet to come. Death is your portal into glory. Lose the false concepts of heaven. If eternity is nothing more than having little wings that can’t support your oversized body as you sit on a cloud playing a harp, you can’t count me out. Even if heaven is only the best this world has to offer, many can easily lose interest. I mean, after all, how long can you play golf, even if the course has no water hazards or sand traps? Rather heaven will be the fulfillment of everything our hearts have been built to desire… Fix your minds on the things above. Set your hearts on the eternal!
Security in God is seen with the two descriptions of God used in Psalm 16 that many people would find contradictory. In verse 2, David called God “good” and he also called Him “Lord.” We know what “good” means. “Lord” means ruler or boss or sovereign. To David, God’s goodness was not bound up in God being Santa Claus and giving him everything he wanted, but rather the trust that not he, but God was in ultimate control as Lord to determine what was actually good in David’s life. It was absolute submission to God as Lord that resulted in absolute delight in God’s sovereign goodness. So only as David submitted to God as his Lord did he discover the true goodness that his soul craved. The question is, can you say God is your ultimate good even when you don’t get the stuff you think you need? You can only say that if you truly believe that He is your Lord.
It’s effortless just to watch believers self-destruct spiritually and do nothing about it. It’s effortless to do nothing and watch a relationship with others that took years to develop just vanish in a matter of days. Few enjoy confronting others or the often hostile responses from hard hearts we often receive in return, but confronting others with the right spirit is the evidence of our love and according to Scripture it is something that must not be neglected. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend” (Pr. 27:6).
We judge other people for a reason. There is something in us that fuels this unbiblical response – pride! Pride wants to look down upon others. Pride wants to dethrone others to make ourselves appear more spiritual. Pride wants to have others answering to us. Pride wants other people admiring our actions. Pride wants to prioritize self over the value and dignity of another individual. So in an effort to justify ourselves, we find it very easy to condemn others. However, kingdom citizens are broken in spirit (Mt. 5:3). It is impossible to be broken in spirit and judge others at the same time.
Every sin we commit is saying, among other things, that we need to take matters into our own hands to achieve the greatest joy (something we all desire) because doing it God’s way, we believe, will not result in our greatest blessings!
Pastors will experience a level of suffering uncommon, unfamiliar and not understandable to other believers. That is God’s way of keeping them humble and reminding them that it’s not them, but the Gospel that must be on display through them. And when they understand this, they realize that successful ministry is getting out of the way and allowing the power of Christ to shine through. By using “jars of clay,” God wants to make it clear that divine power lies not in the human messenger, but in the divine message. It is true for all Christians. It is especially true for pastors.
The word “transformed” in 2 Corinthians 3:18 is from the Greek verb “metamorphoo.” It is where we derive our English word, “metamorphosis.” When I think of a metamorphosis, I think of a butterfly. Before Christ, you lived for self. You were a slave to sin and Satan and your spiritual state in the eyes of God was like an ugly caterpillar. But due to Christ’s work on the cross, you are now a beautiful butterfly in His eyes. And while that is your nature positionally before Him, you have the ability with Him to be transformed practically to be more like Him too. As God is the epitome of moral beauty, His children should (should I say “will”) be growing into that beauty as we behold our God and undergo an ongoing beautiful metamorphosis by the power of the Holy Spirit. Practically speaking, all Christians are moving from an ugly caterpillar to a beautiful butterfly as they mature in their faith.
Confronting other believers in unrepentant sin is an obligation for all Christians (Mt. 18, Gal. 6, Jas. 5, many Proverbs), but it is not a mechanical obligation that should be approached in an impersonal matter. You are dealing with a living soul. Their heart is being held in your hands. You are a fellow sinner yourself. It’s not about winning a duel. It’s about bringing a person back to fellowship with the Lord, back to a place of safety. Like Paul in 2 Corinthians 7:8, we don’t regret the outcome of repentance and their restoration with the Lord, (that’s our goal!), but we do regret the momentary period of the sorrow we inflicted as we share Scriptures, expose sin and call to repentance. Any parent who has rightly disciplined their own child should know what I am talking about. Even though we know it’s the right thing to do, how often do we agree with the saying, “This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you.”
Sinful judgment is also wrong because we have limited knowledge. We do not have all the facts. We are biased. It is always easier to see things from our perspective and shade things to our advantage. When we judge others, we have a tremendous capacity for deception and more often than not formulate facts that are erroneous. How many times has someone totally written you off only to eventually find out that all the conclusions they drew about you were inaccurate?
God delights to give His children “every good…and every perfect gift” (Jas. 1:17), but if the physical blessings we desire were always and immediately given at our request, God would become nothing more than a big slot machine in the sky, and our prayers would become meaningless tokens mechanically fed into an apparatus as a means to achieve our whims with which we have no relationship. God would receive no glory, and we would pray our souls into a black hole. Whether God answers our prayers with a “no” or “not yet” or “yes,” His goal is to draw us closer to Himself in a relationship so that we might view Him as our ultimate reward.
For example, there will be people who will find it easy to identify a weakness or something in which they disagree (doctrine, preference, conviction, philosophy, etc.) and relentlessly harass [their pastors] with books and sermon tapes, website links and personal propaganda (that exceeds the Taliban) in an effort to voice their displeasure and bring them over to their side on the matter. Some will have no comprehension that pastors are only human beings. Their comments will always be critical. Their baggage will be dumped with no desire for personal change. Their comparisons will be made to the top pastors in the world. They will take their pastors for granted. Their perceived role in the church is to be a constant fault-finder. And their expectations will be unreasonable.
Whatever sin you might be struggling with, there is Gospel power by God’s grace for you to be an overcomer. This is the promise from God and this is the work He performs in the lives of His children. So when professing Christians think they can’t change even with God’s help or worse become more of a heathen after they come to Christ, something, somewhere along the lines was short-circuited.
Sermon, A Successful Gospel-Centered Ministry – Part 1, 2 Corinthians 4:1-6, April 13, 2014.