Some time back I purchased a power drill hoping to use it for some important work I needed to do. Recently I found the drill, still in its box, unopened and unused. Although I mentally knew the importance of the drill I realized that I had not experienced its importance because I have never used it. When it comes to our spiritual lives, we can know but never experience the importance of Jesus in our lives. Paul spoke to this issue in Colossians 2:6-7 when he stated ‘Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him,having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.’
Paul then goes on in the next few verses of Colossians 2 to tell us why experiencing or walking in Jesus is so powerfully important to our lives:
So, how do you know the importance of Jesus to your life—by what you’ve been taught or from what you’ve experienced? Don’t leave Jesus in the box, take Him out and walk with Him. Your life will never be the same as you will then experience the full power He brings to a life.
One of the greatest strategies of Satan is to get us to doubt that we matter to God, or that God cares about us. Such a thought is powerful because if it is left unchecked it will work over time to remove our confidence in the intent and actions of a God who commands us to walk boldly trusting in Him. Here are a few biblical passages that encourage us to never forget the important truth that God cares.
As we face the challenges that engage us daily, may we never forget that God’s care for us is also engaging and encouraging us daily. How should this truth affect our lives? May each day be a journey of discovery as we experience the incredible truth that God cares for us.
In Acts 23:1 Paul states that his conscience has assured him that he has lived a life that is pleasing to God. The concept of ‘conscience’ is key to Paul as he uses it twice in the book of Acts (23:1; 24:16) and 20 times in his letters. The word means ‘to know with, to know together’ and refers to the fact that a person’s conscience acts as an inner ‘judge’ or ‘witness’ that approves when we do right and disapproves when we do wrong (Rom. 2:15). A person’s conscience does not make the standards, but only applies it once it has been established, whether it is right or wrong. If a person has fed his/her conscience with bad standards then their conscience will give them bad guidance. For example, the conscience of a hardened criminal would bother him if he told the truth about his fellow criminals to law enforcement, just as much as a Christian’s conscience would convict him if he told a lie about another person. This understanding of conscience reveals the great importance of getting into God’s Word and allowing it to get into us. This occurs as we establish habits of reading, studying, memorizing, meditating, and practicing God’s Word for these actions allow the Word to program our conscience on how to guide us in our life & life decisions in a way that is good and right. The Psalmist notes this in saying ‘I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you’ (Psalm 119:11). So, how are you programming your conscience today? Know that you can also feed the conscience of others as well by sharing your standards and convictions with them. This is especially the case for our kids.
“Moses said to the Lord, ‘Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.” —Exodus 4:10
We Are All Like a Mosquito An African proverb says, “If you think you are too small to make a difference, try spending the night in a closed room with a mosquito.”
When we focus on ourselves — our faults, weaknesses and limitations — we may conclude, logically enough, that we are insignificant. Then again, look at the people God has used to make a difference in the world. For example, when God told Moses that he would use him to liberate Israel, Moses replied, “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue” (Ex 4:10). But God reminded Moses that, as Creator, he was more than capable of helping him.
Even more to the point: Our limitations are not obstacles to God. On the contrary, God chooses to use foolish and weak things to accomplish his mission (see 1Co 1:25). He used David, who was the youngest in his family, to conquer the Philistines and become the great king of Israel. He used Peter, who was fickle and unfaithful, to become the lead apostle in the early church. God chooses people and circumstances so simple, weak and ordinary so that we know God alone is the one who changes our lives and the world.
What limitations do you need to hand over to God and see how He can use you?
From Harper Collin’s Your Bible Connection enewsletter entitled ‘Feeling Insignificant.’
In Jesus’ teaching on prayer in Luke 18:1-8 He gives us the two options we each have when it comes to prayer—lose strength or gain strength. To be more accurate the negative descriptive given in Jesus’ teaching is “to lose heart” or ‘to give up’ (18: 1). In light of this we would think that it would be a no brainer for us to choose praying over not praying. But if we’re honest we must admit that this is not always the case. Rather than looking at the reasons that keep us from praying, for we know them very well, let us get in line with Jesus’ focus in this account—the reason that should keep us engaged in prayer. In this short story Jesus says that a widow continually pursued an unmovable judge till he granted her the legal protection she needed. Her actions made it very clear to him that he was her only option and that she would only stop pursuing him when he responded favorably. Note that her need and her confidence that this judge was the only one who could meet her need was what kept the widow going. She therefore pursued him wholeheartedly to connect with him and to have him provide what she needed. This is a key aspect of prayer in that it reveals the greatest motivation for prayer and the greatest reason why we don’t pray—our view of the pivotal place of God in our lives. The key reason why we should be fully committed and engaged in prayer is our awareness that God is the only one who can meet our needs. He is our only option. Jesus adds a twist to the story though, as He gives another positive motivation to pray—God cares. Note the deep relational descriptive that’s stated of God—‘His elect, who cry to him day and night’ (18:7). Peter also notes this intimate relationship in 1 Peter 5:7 when he states ‘casting all your cares upon Him, because He cares for you.’ Our view of God is then the reason why Jesus states in the final statement of this account a pivotal conclusion—If prayer is not key to our lives then this indicates that we are not walking by faith. Jesus put it this way, ‘I tell you that he will bring about justice for them speedily. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?’ (18:8). How will Jesus know that faith is present on earth when He returns? He will find an active pursuit of God through prayer. So why do we pray? We pray because it keeps us strong against the challenges of life and reveals our deep need/faith in God. May the Lord bless us this day as we commit to make prayer a character trait of our lives.
If you’ve spent any time at our church you may ask, if you are not use to this emphasis being made, ‘Why does Grace emphasize so much our need to invite and to share our faith?’ This is a very important question that I’d like to answer with 4 responses.
1. First, followers of Christ are commanded in the New Testament to share their faith & invite others into a relationship with God through Jesus. This command is given both in a final meeting of Jesus with His disciples at the end of a gospel (Matthew 28:18-20) and as a strategy at the inception of the Church (Acts 1:8). 2. The Bible is very clear that a soul, which everyone possesses, is extremely valuable to God—‘what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?’ (Matthew 16:26; Mark 8:37). If Jesus died to bring these souls to God, so we should live to accomplish the same. 3. The Bible is clear that Jesus is the only way to escape God’s wrath against humanity’s rebellion and that Jesus is the only way to have a life enhancing relationship with God (John 14:6; Luke 14:23). 4. Finally surveys have shown that the hardest activity for Christians to engage in is to share their faith & to invite others to saving faith in Jesus. God’s knowing that we would not run to do this task did not present this action as a suggestion but emphasized its importance by presenting it as a command. Jesus commanded His followers to: share their faith story & make disciples continually (Matthew 28:18-20); and to pray for fellow believers to draw others to God as well (Matthew 9:38; Luke 10:2).
I pray that you’ve received a glimpse of the importance of this emphasis here at Grace. But even more importantly I pray that you will see its significance to your life and to then engage in helping us fulfill this important command.
When we hear a word from the Lord that encourages us it has great impact in that moment. But its long term effect can sometimes be lost if we aren’t able to review and remind ourselves of it at a later date. An opportunity can be missed to push that truth deeper into our hearts. With this in mind I would like us to review a few key truths that were presented at last week’s ‘Who Are You?’ study as we focused on the truth that Christians are ‘the light of the world.’
1. We Are Valuable: Light is considered one of the most valuable commodities on the face of the earth as we cannot imagine life without it. So, every believer is vital to shed light in the areas of life they move within—‘greater is He that is in me thane he that is in the world’ 1John 4:4. 2. Not personality based: Being light is more than our always being happy, or the life of the party. That may not be who we are. It is focused on the fact that we are able to bring clarity, awareness of God to those around us. To point them to a path they may not even be aware exists. 3. ‘The Darker The Night, The Brighter The Light’: Darkness is fully realized in the absence of light. We must be engaged in the world around us to have an impact & provide contrast between night and light. No wonder Paul commands us in Ephesians 5:8-10 ‘walk as children of light.’ 4. Counter Culture Is Our Culture: The fact that darkness can’t comprehend light (John 1:5), means that we must expect conflict with those who are not followers of Christ. Others who are not in the light can’t see or appreciate what we do & why we do it. 5. We Must Stand Out: If we’re really light we will always seek to magnify our light through holiness—‘what fellowship has light with darkness’ 2 Corinthians 6:14. 6. Actions & Words: Our good deeds amplify our light, but our words target its brightness. 7. Stay Connected: The presence of God in us makes us shine so we must stay intimately connected to our power source—‘God is light’ 1 John 1:5; Jesus said, ‘I am the light of the world’ John 8:12.
Although we live in a time period where our society considers itself more tolerant, yet we have lost a sense of a wide margin. We have lost the ability to allow differences, to forgive, to show mercy, and to restore. It is great to see how a unified voice brings a person to see that they are out of step with society and how it often moves the person to rethink and reset their position. It can redirect parenting practices, correct the use of questionable speech, adjust one’s view on gender issues, change racial and ethnic designations once formally seen as acceptable, etc. But what is stunning is to see how a step out of pace/sync—no matter how apologetic a person becomes afterwards—can cause the removal from one’s job, end promotional opportunities, permanently affect relationships, etc.
In the Bible we are given essentials to our faith for which there is no flexibility. Paul clearly noted many unifying essentials in Ephesians 4:4-6, and many more are clearly noted in Scripture— there is a God, Jesus is the second person of the Trinity, only faith in Jesus brings salvation, every believer is sealed with the Holy Spirit, etc.
Yet, as we look at Scripture we see an incredible margin/flexibility in respect to non-essentials of the faith as even Jesus noted to His disciples that a man who seemed to break a standard they had established was okay. Jesus’ response was that if the person was not against the essentials of the disciples they should show flexibility for that person was an ally (Mark 9:38-40; Luke 9:50). A key reason we have such room for variation goes back to the very nature of the Church. In the first century the Church was comprised of various people from various backgrounds, nationalities, socioeconomic statuses, influence, etc. Paul repeatedly notes these challenges in teaching that our unity in Christ overrides our being Jewish or Gentile (pagan), master or slave, old or young, rich or poor, in the household of Caesar or a demon possessed slave girl in the marketplace, etc. The Church had to have flexibility to bring these individuals with strong differences together so that they would love each other beyond their differences. The church was to then practice forgiveness, mercy, restoration in all aspects of its life to achieve and to maintain this unity (Ephesians 4:1-3).
May we never forget that this flexibility in the nonessentials is a necessity for churches today. Today when there may be differences in one’s perspective on politics (public assistance should or should not be the role of the government), on race (the Confederate flag should or should not be banned), gender (women should or should not be pastors), etc. and yet have us not allow our differences to keep discussion and fellowship from taking place knowing that in the end we will still be one and must reflect that unity in our interactions with one another. When a person goes counter to the more agreed upon position of the church body may we not demonize that person for love, kindness, gentleness, patient conversation, even forgiveness is called for (2 Timothy 2:24-25) for such is the nature of the Church. So, how wide is your margin?
How essential is church to your spiritual growth plan? There are many who don’t see the need or importance of church to their growing stronger in their walk with God. But this was not the view of Christians in the early church who saw their attendance in a community that honored and taught the Word of God as vital to their spiritual growth. Here are a few points that make this very clear:
• Right after the start of the church the new church devoted itself to continually getting together for fellowship and the study of God’s Word (Acts 2:42). • As the new church grew Luke highlights its growth by stating that the Word of God, or the influence of the Word of God, was growing (Acts 6:7; 12:24; 13:49; 19:20). • A young man named Eutychus falls asleep and then falls to his death in an all night church teaching session. Although he is brought back to life Eutychus, as well as everyone else who were in that meeting go back for at least five more hours of teaching. The reason is that this is the last time Paul is with them to prepare them (Acts 20:1-12).
Are we just as committed to working out and growing in God’s gym?
One of my favorite Martin Luther King, Jr. analogies was used by him to describe civil disobedience. Dr. King called it “the sword that heals.” This is so interesting in that a sword is that which usually cuts, hurts, and is a weapon of destruction. Civil disobedience he argued, is that which hurts and can divide people, but is also that which works to bring people and society together.
An analogy of our modern day actions in the ministry of reconciliation is that of ‘a Christian riot.’ Therefore each person involved in the ministry of reconciliation is called to be engaged in agitating Christian riots. Those actions (sharing one’s faith, challenging ungodly behavior, acknowledging God’s salvation offer and coming judgment, etc.) that could be initially thought of as hurting and jeopardizing relationships will eventually result in the building up and drawing together of people. This drawing together of people is an exceptional challenge in a country where race continues to separate and divide.
Have you been a part of a Christian riot? Let’s look at three steps we can take to start such events:
1. Recognize God’s Goals: This all begins with our realization that reconciliation of humanity to God, and of the races to each other is so important to God that He wants us to take action (Acts 21:17-26). 2. Identify with God’s Goals: We must recognize with God’s goal of reconciliation to the point that it becomes a part of our identity. He became a minister of reconciliation (Acts 21:27-40). 3. Continually Reach out to see God’s goal achieved: With total abandonment extend the gospel to all we come into contact with (22:1-24). Paul used every opportunity to speak to a mob seeking to kill him in order to know God’s incredible plan to save and reconcile humanity.
So, have you started any good Christian riots lately? May you recognize, identify with, and continually act to see the power of the cross change lives.