The Christian life is one of constant repentance. Constant, meaning everyday. The day we stop repenting is the day we stop growing in Christ. In fact, praying for God to reveal areas in our lives that are in need of change should be a daily prayer. Can I just share with you a truth that was revealed to me in my time with the Lord this morning? Brace yourself….here it is; We serve a very big God.
Sounds anticlimactic I know. The reality that God is a big God seems to be such an elementary statement. Yet so many professing believers are completely stunted in their spiritual growth because they seem to think that they, in all of their years in church, have God completely figured out, therefore repentance in their lives is void. The nominal Christian can fall prey to wanting to have all the answers for fear of looking foolish when asked a question about our big God. But sometimes, its ok to not have all the answers. Because it is in not knowing something about God that pushes us deeper in to pursing Godly wisdom. And once the wisdom that was once lacking in our lives is attained through seeking the Lord, it is not to be used a bragging right of Biblical knowledge, but to humble us into further repentance.
This has been true in my own life. Specifically in the area of prayer. I have come to see that there is a direct correlation between seeing the hand of God and the prayer life of a believer. I am burdened by the reality of how watered down prayer has become, specifically in our modern-day culture. Today we tend to view prayer in one of two ways. The first view of prayer is that of a daily check list. This way is generally used by a person who has good intentions to grow in God. But due to the hustle and bustle of life in our 21st century world, God like everything else must be penciled into our daily planner. Some will prayer in the morning while others at night. And there is nothing wrong with having a set time to pray. Any prayer is wonderful. But in viewing prayer in this way, we attempt to put our big God in a little manageable box. Although done with great intentions, this view of prayer limits us from experiencing the blessings of prayer at a much greater level.
The second view of prayer is much more common today and its the view that we mainly come to God in prayer when we are in need. It is to see God as a means to get what we want out of life. And just as the former view of prayer mentioned above, this can also be done with the best of intentions. In fact many churches today fall into this pattern of prayer, except in within the church, we corporately pray as a body for the needs of others more than our own needs. Prayer meetings in the church consist mostly of praying for illness and healing. And again, there is nothing wrong with this. We should pray for the well being of others. The problem comes when this view of prayer is the predominate one. The problem comes when we are praying more for ailing church members rather than the lost world. As one pastor put it, at times the church prays harder to keep the saints out of Heaven than to pull the lost out of Hell.
When it comes to prayer, it boils down to the fact that our eyes are so focused on getting what we want out of prayer. And what happens when these selfish prayers are not answered, particularly in the case of praying for someone who is not healed from an illness, maybe even resulting in death? We cannot fathom at times why God would not hear the prayers of the saints and not want to answer their prayers of deliverance. And so discouragement sets in, and faith is shaken. We begin to doubt the power of prayer. We begin to wonder if God really hears us. I used to think of prayer in this way. And in doing so, I only proved that I knew nothing about the purpose of prayer.
I thought I had a great prayer life, until I began examining the lives of greater men that have come before me. Prayer warriors in the fullest sense of the word. And when measured against them, my prayer life was almost pagan in form. Think of these two modern views of prayer I mentioned above, and then begin to read about the men of God throughout history. Charles Spurgeon was known for his great prayer life. One friend of his told the story once of he and Spurgeon taking a stroll in the woods and laughing about different things together. Spurgeon stopped along the path and told his friend, “Let us kneel in prayer right now and thank God for laughter.” And upon reading this, I immediately was shamed. How often do we pray to God in this way? To just stop and acknowledge Him as giver of all things! And to not always come before God with an agenda, but simply to praise him for the water that runs from our kitchen sink, and for the food that he (not the grocery store) himself has supplied so that we may be nourished.
In the mid 1800’s in Bristol, England, George Muller set out to raise up and fund a series of orphanages. He took in hundreds of needy children to support. Muller was also a pastor. And his prayer life was amazing. In pastoring his church, Muller never asked for a paycheck. He had a box put in the back of the church for the members to put offerings for his support. He never urged them to contribute, because he wanted his sole income to be provided by Gods hand. God never let him down. He operated the orphanages in the same manner. Never asking for donations or funding, he and his staff prayed to God to supply their needs. One month the orphanage was out of food. The children were hungry and it was time for their morning breakfast of bread and milk. Muller prayed for God to supply the needs of the morning. No sooner than he had finished praying, a man with a bread wagon entered the orphanage and said that the Lord had led him to give a donation of bread to the church. A few minutes later, a man driving a milk wagon had busted his wagon wheel right in front of the orphanage. His wagon was full of milk. Knowing that he would never be able to get the milk to his destination without it now spoiling, the milk man told Muller to make good use of all that he had in the wagon.
One of my favorite preachers today Paul Washer has told the story of the beginnings of his ministry, Heartcry. He said there were times when in trying to get the organization going, he and his staff couldn’t take a paycheck. But always through prayer, God provided for them. Because in all their prayers, they never prayed for their will, but always Gods.
You see, prayer is about communing with God. Prayer is about relationship with God. But prayer is not about getting what we want. Prayer is not an avenue in which we can boast of how faithful we have been and therefore, begin thinking that God owes it to us to answer our prayers. Prayer is not about our wants and desires, its about the will of God. It is so much more freeing when we learn this. Because we realize that chasing after our own wants never works out. But if we are in the center of Gods will for our lives, then no affliction can prevail in our lives. I am still growing in my prayer life and in constant need of repentance. But I have learned how to prayer. Rather, I should say Ive learned how I am most comfortable praying. It is in the bulk of my prayers, that I utter these words….
“Father, not my will but yours be done….” Its to begin to pray for things in this manner of example;
I prayer for healing, but if God be more glorified in some way in the sickness; Not my will but yours be done.
I pray for a new car, but if God be more glorified in my travels by foot, then let me walk all the days of my life with no car.
I pray for prosperity, but if God be more glorified in my poverty, then I will rejoice in what little I have.
And in all this, let me do this with a heart full of thanksgiving that even though I may not be fulfilling the desires of my flesh, I walk in the utmost safety, because I have put myself in the center of His will, not my own. Using the example of health, we should never pray for health so that we may live longer for ourselves, but we pray for health so that we may be a sharper tool to be used by the Master for bringing others to know his glory! If we are praying for a car, it should never be so that we can keep up the with Jones next door, but so that in his will, it can be used to aid us in bringing Him glory! In everything we do, in every prayer we pray, at the core should be a concern for the glory of God!
When we begin to seek the Lord, our wants start align with His will. If a person in truly walking with the Lord, that person will begin to carry the same burdens as his Heavenly Father. And the temporal wants of this dying world will begin to be viewed as trivial and fleeting. The disciples were in constant prayer. And they saw God do many great things. But there were also times that they were not delivered. They lived a poor life. And they died horrible deaths. John was boiled alive in a vat of oil and then shipped off to live a portion of his later years on a remote island. Peter was crucified upside down. Paul was beheaded. Spurgeon struggled with depression his whole life and then died. A person with a low view of prayer could say that God didn’t answer their prayers of deliverance. But they would only show their ignorance in the matter. Because the treasure and reward of the toils of these men was not placed in earthly comforts, but in a pearl of great price. They held tight to a hidden treasure in a field. Their treasure was found in Christ, and their reward was not on this earth but in Heaven.
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.”Matthew 13:44-46.
Regardless of the outcome of your prayers, it should always be a greater desire in your heart that God’s will triumph personal requests, because even though we may not get what we want, there is joy to know that the desire of our hearts seeks more for Gods will. Because we know that when we are tied to our Father, no danger can overtake us. Its sort of like those parents who put leashes around their young children s hands when going out in public. The kids may kick and scream when they cant go their way, but their way is not always the best. And as long as they are tied to their parents and walk in their footsteps, the child will not be lost. How is your prayer life today? Is God penciled into a box, giving him just a small portion of time? Or do you enter daily into an ongoing dialogue with him in which you pray constantly with out ceasing? (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Maybe its time like me, you repented of your prayer life. And if so that is nothing to be ashamed of, but something to rejoice in that God in his mercy, brings us into a greater knowledge of himself, thus placing our lives at the center of His will. For if he cares for the sparrows in the trees, then how much more will he care for his children who call upon his name, and walk in his ways?
“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”Matthew 10:29-31.
It has been said that by the time a person reaches the age of eighteen, the foundation for their personality has been fully formed. And by their thirtieth birthday, there is little to no deviate from that persons basic personality traits. An individual’s temperament, their likes and dislikes, view points on how the world operates have fully been formulated and integrated by adulthood. The older we get, the more set in our ways become. Change becomes more difficult, and to some, down right terrifying. This fact alone is what makes salvation in Christ so amazing.
When a person comes to truly know the Lord Jesus, (and more than that, Jesus knows them) a radical change takes place. The scales of the old person that have been ingrained for years begin to supernaturally fall off, as a nature that had formerly been foreign to us overtake our soul.
You see, a man cannot change who he is by his own will. The great Puritan writer John Bunyan described this best in his infamous literary work, Pilgrims Progress. Bunyan wrote that an empty room is like a man’s heart. And the great amounts of dust on the floor of that room represent a man’s sin. The dusty floor is our hearts without Christ. The man can attempt to sweep the room with all his might, trying to clean it up on his own. But the dust, or sin, is merely stirred up, and in time will settle back down upon the floor. But the servant who brings clean water to the man’s room cleanses the filthy floor by washing the dust that the man could not get rid of himself permanently. The servant with the water is representative of Christ.
That is what makes the gospel of Christ such a supernatural work. Because it is not something we can do ourselves. We dont have the power to clean ourselves up from our black stains of sin. Sure, we may try at times, but outside of the atoning work of Christ on the cross and our faith being placed in Him, its only a matter of time before the sins we tried to sweep away settle back onto the floor of our hearts. We do not have access to the living water that washes away sins unless we are in relationship with the Messiah who came as our servant, ever ready to cleanse the dust of sin that we could not.
In the book of Ezekiel, the Lord tells of the supernatural work that He is going to do in the sinful nation of Israel, whom is at that time profaning his Holy name.
“I will show the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, the name you have profaned among them. Then the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Sovereign Lord, when I am proved holy through you before their eyes.” Ezekiel 36:23.
The Lord God says that he is going to show the Holiness of his great name by doing something great that even the surrounding, pagan nations will look at the nation of Israel and marvel at the supernatural work that was done before their eyes. What will be done? Will God call-fire down from the sky or make the rivers run with blood? To accomplish this, the Lord does something even more amazing. The Lord does something that even the unbelieving nations cannot explain.
God takes the nation of Israel, who were known among other nations to be an evil, rebellious nation….and he will completely change their hearts. God will clean the floor that they could not. Look at the verse that follow and see how God describes this process of completely changing the heart of the nation of Israel.
“I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” Ezekiel 36:25-27.
Notice God doesnt say, “Ill sprinkle clean water, and I will pray that you stay clean.” The Lord says, “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you WILL be clean.” And God doesnt say, “I will put my Spirit in you, and hopefully it will change you enough so that you will follow in my ways.” That would make God appear weak and at the mercy of our will! God declares as an emphatic, concrete, absolute statement, “And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” There is no wiggle room for maybe being changed. God says if he cleanses you, you WILL be changed! Because the old sin nature has been discarded and you no longer are the same, but now possess the righteous nature of another in the person and work of Christ.
If a person is not changed with a new nature, then as CS Lewis once said, it is highly probable that the salvation in which they boast is imaginary. Because as we see in Ezekiel, when the Lord saves a man, he rips out the old heart of stone and replaces it with a Heavenly heart of flesh. One that is sensitive to the will of the Father, and keenly aware at the rustling of approaching sin. This is without a doubt, a work that no man can accomplish. Although William Jensen Reynolds meant well when he penned the hymn ‘I Have Decided To Follow Jesus‘, he was theologically incorrect. God doesnt wait for mans invitation. The nation of Israel was not in search of salvation and satisfied to live in their sins. But God himself made the sovereign decision to change them. Because again, man cannot change himself.
“…there is no one who understand, there is no one who seeks God.” Romans 3:11.
No one seeks God without the drawing of the Holy Spirit. Because to seek God is no more in the nature of a man than flying is in the nature of a dog. That is why salvation is a supernatural work of God in man.
Yesterday I wrote on the change that must take place within a person in order to truly be saved. In the beginnings of Colossians chapter 3, the apostle Paul in great detail describes things that we must ‘put to death’ in order to change. It is to be a literally taking off of the old nature, so that the new nature may be put on in its exchange. But Paul goes further after he lists the vices that we must strip ourselves of for the glory of Christ. Paul rounds out his instruction with what must be now put on.
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Colossians 3:12-14.
Right away, we are again made aware that it was not our choice nor our doing in the process of changing our hearts. Those that are His are ‘God’s chosen people.‘ Here is the reason that I want this reality to be grasped. Because when we begin to realize that it was God who saved us from the sin that filled our hearts rather than of our own doing, gratitude and thankfulness and brokenness before the foot of the cross start to flood our very soul.
The prince of preachers Charles Haddon Spurgeon opened an orphanage in the mid to late 1800’s for boys. During this time, it was not uncommon for children to be cast out of families due to financial troubles, and to see these children living by themselves on the streets. Eating garbage, and sleeping in slums. These children had no future to look forward to. Many of them fell into a life of crime due to never knowing any different circumstances in their lives. But Spurgeon opened this orphanage and took a great many of them off the street, sometimes even against their own wishes. But in time, many of these boys grew into respectable young men under the influence of Spurgeon. And through this preaching, a great many more professed faith in Christ and went on to become exceptional preachers as well. Spurgeon did not wait for these children to invite him into their lives. He knew that they were lost and without a future. So he waited not for them, because they would have never come to him. He acted first out of love that he first had for them.
“We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19.
As the old sin nature of such things as anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk are cast aside through the God ordained process of regeneration. As a result, compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience are God-given fruits of a heart of flesh that take the place of the old personality traits. All of these being characteristics of Jesus. Because just as an earthly father passes on personality traits to his son, so it is when our Heavenly Father adopts a child into his family. Thus, upon Jesus taking away our sins, we in exchange take on the righteousness of our new Father in Christ.
“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:21.
Paul goes on to mention that we are to put on a forgiving nature. This is something that is a huge struggle in the flesh. We as a people hold grudges. And even when we say we forgive, we at times find it hard not to gossip behind our offender’s back. But again, when we put the death sentence of sin into perspective, and realize that it was us who should have hung on that cross, we see that Christ forgave the unforgivable sins of humanity to the point of death. How dare we even contemplate harboring unforgiveness towards, or gossiping about a person, when we have committed far worse crimes against the creator of the universe! How can we be so bold as to cast judgement upon others when we deserve divine judgement! As one of my favorite Casting Crowns songs says, “Open our eyes to the world at the end of our pointing fingers.”
And above all, Paul says that in Christ, we are to take on the nature of love. Our world today has no clue what love is outside of Christ. Secular society associates love with tingly feelings and sex. That is why it apparently is so easy for our culture to profess love at the wedding altar and then claim to fall out of love when we dont get what we want.
“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 1 John 4:8.
The implication of this verse could not be any clearer. If someone does not know Jesus…truly know him as Lord of their lives, then they cannot love or even know what love is. Our world does not know love. It is driven by selfish lusts and personal wants. And God will not bless this. In fact, His Holy wrath abides on these actions. In Romans chapter 1, Paul writes that the Lord gave people up to the lusts of their flesh. He gave them up to sexual immorality and a depraved mind. It was the Lord’s way of saying that if they wanted a life separated from God, then they could have it, and He would see them on judgement day. Gods passive wrath. In our world today, we see sexual immorality running rampant, and people with depraved minds committing the most heinous acts against other people and even the unborn. Our country is not under God’s blessing right now. Read Romans 1, and then turn on the news. You will have a hard time denying that we are now under God’s passive wrath as a nation.
So now is the time we pray for God to reenact his supernatural work of regeneration upon our nation. Just as God supernaturally changed the hearts of the nation of Israel, we need to be on our faces daily praying for revival. But it starts with you. Have your heart been broken to the point of knowing that you can’t save yourself? Have you cried out to God and feverantly asked for him to give you a new nature? What does the floor of your heart look like? You cant disperse the sinful dust, you can only displace it. But Jesus makes all things new. He changes hearts of stone to that of flesh. We cannot cling to our own works, but only to Christ crucified.
“Nothing in my hand I bring, Simply to the cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress; Helpless look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly; Wash me, Savior, or I die.” -Augustus M. Toplady
I was the only kid in gym class that couldnt perform a single pull up. Eighth grade was hard enough without the embarrassment of being proven to be the weakest of the group. I was an active child, but very frail in stature. I was bothered for days over the incident, and I realized that I wanted to change. I knew in order to make become stronger, I would need to sacrifice some things. I would have to begin doing things differently. No more coming home from school and plopping down on the couch or playing video games until bed time. I realized that certain habits and routines, although enjoyable, were at the same time keeping me from growing stronger. In order to accomplish the goal of getting stronger, I had to put old habits to death.
I would have to take on a new nature.
I began working out instead of playing hours of Super Mario. My father had an old workout machine that I used. It wasnt long before I had gotten too strong, and he bought a weight set we placed in our basement. From that point forward I became a new creation. While other friends of mine would be outside playing after school, I would spend hours in our basement weight room. And this discipline continued on through out high school and college, and being healthy and fit is still a part of my personality that I carry with me to this day.
When I met my wife I was fresh out of college. I wasnt a bad kid by the worlds standards, but I had become rough around the edges due to the college lifestyle. Just a little over 21 years old, I would occasionally have a drink with buddies at a bar. On my second date with my wife, I took her out to eat and I ordered an alcoholic beverage. Halfway through the dinner, I realized that she was very uncomfortable. Finally, Lacy told me that she had seen alcohol ruin families, and would not be with a man who drank alcohol. She didnt tell me what to do, she just laid out her standards for what she looked for in a future mate. I wanted to be with Lacy. But in order to do this, I would have to sacrifice certain things. Even put them to death.
I would have to take on a new nature.
That night was the last drink I ever had. I put that party lifestyle to death, and it was not a burden. Because my wife was a greater treasure to me. I had no problem sacrificing alcohol in order to be with her. Because Lacy was worth it to me. And to this day, I have no desire in me to drink alcoholic beverages, because I dont need a buzz to relax me. Just spending time with my wife daily is more than enough satisfaction for me.
When we want something in life, naturally sacrifices have to be made in order to attain that which we strive towards. To attain the goal of being a great businessman, sacrifices have to be made in order to climb the ladder of success. To be a great athlete, comfort must be exchanged for daily hours of blood, sweat, and tears to condition your body. Even in the life of a soldier, leisure must be traded in for a very regiment lifestyle. And to sacrifice things when we have a goal is never a burden. Because that which we strive towards is seen as a greater treasure. Otherwise, we wouldnt be striving towards it.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17.
The apostle Paul summed it up best by saying to achieve our goals, we must change. The old habits must die in order for the new creation in us to spring forth. But the goal in which Paul writes is the goal of Christlikeness.
In all areas of life this fact holds true; that in order to change, you must be willing to sacrifice. Yet when we look around our world, it seems that Christianity and becoming more like Christ is the most worthy goal we could seek, and it is the only goal that our nation assigns no change required in its pursuit. You see I can look back at the time before I began working out and share a testimony of how weak I was and the things I had to give up in order to get in shape. I can look back at dating my wife and give testimony of how I changed in my love for her. So shouldnt it hold true that in my walk with Christ, upon being asked how God’s grace has changed me, that I should light up with more excitement and zeal than any of my former pursuits, and begin to give testimony to how Christ radically changed my life?
To many people will claim to be follower of Christ with little to no sacrifice in their lives. Christ changed me in many ways, but one of the first ways I changed when I truly began to follow Christ was in the area of entertainment. My preferences changed. Radically. I could no longer stomach movies or television or music that would use the Lords name in vain. I could no longer justify it by saying, “Well its just entertainment and God knows I love him.” It was no longer a game to me, the treasure of Christ in whom I now sought was being profaned, and it began to disgust and even anger me. This new hatred of sin led to me getting rid of our monstrous DVD library because I saw where entertainment throughout my life had become an idol. It had become my God. Was it a sacrifice? You bet. Was it a burden to do this? Not in the least. Because I now viewed Christ as more of a treasure in my life than entertainment.
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.” Matthew 13:44.
To anyone who professes Jesus Christ as Lord, I would have to ask them, “What treasure did you give up in exchange for Christ?” The parable in Matthew explains the sacrificial mindset. The man had treasures of his own. Things that he had stored up that were important to him in his life. But one day, he found this treasure hidden in field, and he realized that the value of the treasure far superseded the worth of all that he presently owned. The man sold all that he had once considered to be a treasure in his life so that he may have this new treasure. The man had to give up all that he had in order to gain something greater. Christ is that treasure. And if there is no sacrifice in your pursuit of God, then Christ is not your treasure
I tend to squirm when I hear an evangelist call people to come and accept Christ, claiming salvation is a simple process. Changing is not simple. Sacrificing involved effort. The Christian life is anything but simple. Any of the apostles could attest to this. Following Jesus cost many of them their jobs, friends, reputation, and even their earthly lives. Living for Christ is not easy. But it is worth it.
“What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ” Philippians 3:8.
The most assured sign a believer can have in their life that they are indeed a new creation is change. It is to begin to hate the sin you once loved, and to love the righteousness of God that you once hated. It is to have a new spirit in you, which in all actuality is very accurate. Think about this for one moment. According to the scriptures, believers in Jesus are given a helper inside of them, God’s own spirit, the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit comes to dwell within a believer in Christ. So it is impossible to put forth enough effort to make yourself a new creation without the Holy Spirit. That is why salvation is a supernatural work of God. It is not something you can do yourself.
Following this logic, we must define the Holy Spirit. The word Holy actually means separate. So when we bow to the Lordship of Christ and confess him as Lord, a “separate” spirit comes to dwell in us. Separate from what? Well, God’s spirit is separate from evil. So if we claim to be saved in Christ, that means we should have the Holy (Separate) Spirit dwelling in us. Therefore, the desires of our hearts will naturally begin to change seeing that we are no longer driven by our sinful spirit, but now heavily influenced by the Holy Spirit inside of us! This literally makes it impossible to continue living in an habitual lifestyle of sin while claiming to be a Christian.
Christianity is not ‘fire insurance’ from the flames of Hell. Following Jesus isnt something you do just so you can escape Gods wrath. I joke alot with friends and tell them that I believe country music was part of the fall in the garden of Eden. I cant tell you how many country songs I have heard that tout lyrics about fighting, cussing, womanizing, drinking, but will round out the chorus with thankfulness that they are saved. I believe it was the great theologian Travis Tritt who sang, “Baptized in 100 proof, and saved by the blood of the lamb.” And because of such worldly influences, our society has turned Christianity into a pursuit that as the lyrics point out, you can continue willfully living in sin and be saved. And many are being deceived.
Christianity is a dying to self. Paul said this;
“I protest, brothers, by my pride in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die every day!” 1 Corinthians 15:31.
The apostle Paul claimed he had to die daily! He is not speaking of physically perishing, but of dying to his sinful desires. For even though his eyes are on the prize, the lusts of the world fight for to draw our attention away from our treasure in Christ. We are called to die daily to our old self, to the self that we put off when we cast our burden at the foot of the cross. So what does this putting off of the old self look like?
“Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” Colossians 3:5-10.
Paul lists what we would call major sins first. In order to follow Jesus, these must be put off. Not only put off, but the language used is ‘put to death.’ Sexual relations outside of husband and wife marriage is a practice that is rampant in our world today, even among people who will claim to be Christians. But Paul says that a person cannot simultaneously stay in the old self and be the new creation in Christ at the same time. You must choose one or the other, because sin and righteousness cannot go together.
He goes on to list impurity, which is taking perverting and misusing the good things God gives and making them defiled. For example, sex is a good thing. God invented it! But it was created to operate within the context of man and women united in marriage. Anything other than this is considered sinful and impure. Food is a good thing. But when we binge go to food as our comfort instead of Christ, then food has become sin and is therefore used in an impure manner.
Evil desires are mentioned next. We all would say a hearty ‘amen’ to not having evil desires, but honestly if our weekly thoughts could be displayed on a screen, not one of us would be free from shame. To be free from evil desires is to begin to hope for the best in others, even when they are against us. It is to filter everything through the lens of Christ.
Covetousness is mentioned next. That is to desire what is not yours to begin with. It is to not be satisfied with the breath and life God has bless one with and to begin to tell God that He is not enough. Paul finishes with idolatry, which is taking the good things God gives, and making them ultimate in your life over God. As one pastor said, it’s taking a good thing and putting it in place of God. Idols can be found simply by looking at your life, and pinpointing something that you would say you couldnt give up for Christ.
Paul goes on further to list what DA Carson deemed as everyday sins. Sins that we dont think twice about in our lives. They are just sort of acceptable. Anger, malice, wrath, slander, obscene talk, and lying. Why would the bar be raised to put such menial sins to death?
Think of a terrible sickness. The factors leading up to sickness can be many. Sometimes it is environment, lack of activity, poor diet, family genetics, bad health habits, or just laziness that can add up over time to produce sickness in a person. Individually, these things may not seem like a big deal. But over time, they add up and produce a sickness that can at times be fatal. It was the little things that added up to become a big thing.
Take any big sin. Murder, adultery, sexual immorality. No person simply wakes up one day and decides that they are going to do these things. Its the accumulation of the little things adding up. Stored up anger can lead to violence. Slander, coveting, or thinking bad thoughts about your spouse can lead to adultery. And lying only digs a deeper hole the soon is inescapable without consequences. These things must be put to death in order to seek the treasure of Christ. A person claiming to be a Christ follower while holding on to these idols only deceives themselves. If you continue reading in Colossians 3, Paul then tells us what we must put on once we have taken the old off. And I will address that portion of scripture tomorrow.
Do not simply believe yourself to be saved because you go to church or have been baptised. Examine yourself spiritually. For we know that baptism in itself is not salvation, but only an outward sign of an inward change. Can you look back at your life before Christ and see a change? What sacrifices did you make in exchange for pursuing Christ? Every worthy endeavor in our lives calls for change. Certain things in us must die in order to put on the new self. I saw a bumper sticker on a car that paraphrased this entire blog in four words;
No Change, No Christ
Know Change, Know Christ
If there is no change, no sacrifice, no putting off of the old self, then their can be no relationship with Christ. But if you have experienced change and are familiar with sacrificing old sins in exchange for Him, then you will know Christ. Because he has become that treasure that is more precious than anything this world has to offer.
Everything in life points towards God and our relationship with him. I am amazed daily at the ways God teaches me about himself through the simplest situations in life. God reveals things pertaining to our relationship with him through our relationships with others. And no where else do I see more clearly God teaching me his life lessons than through my relationship with my wife and children. As parents, one of the goals in raising up our kids is to teach them to be independent. Just this morning, my seven year old son Andy came to me asking for a new toy he saw on television. I told him that he could have that toy, but that he would have to do some things around the house this week to help his mom and I first. And so, the concept of chores was introduced.
We want our kids to go from crawling to walking. We start them riding on training wheels and then we remove the secondary wheels so that they can ride the bike on two wheels. As they enter into their teenage years, we impress upon them the need to get a part time job so that they learn the value of earning their keep and responsibility. Pushing our kids to grow and holding them accountable doesn’t make us unloving as parents, but it makes us loving. To not impress the need to be independent upon a child is to hinder their ability to function in the world when they become an adult. No parent wants to raise a child into his adult years and have that child say to the parent, “Can you continue to support and take care of me, because I don’t know how to take care of myself.”
We have the same situation going on in the church today. We have Christians who have been in the church since their youth, and now as adults, they are still asking questions like, “Can you disciple me and teach me how to know and serve Jesus? The apostle Paul addresses this very issue when he says;
“In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again.You need milk, not solid food! ” Hebrews 5:12.
There are so many professing Christians who claim to have walked with the Lord for many years that have little more knowledge than a fifth grade Sunday school theology. They still haven’t even grasp the most basic, elementary truths about God. And Paul makes the analogy between them being like a full grown adult who still has not been weened from milk so that he may eat solid food. Can you imagine if you met a twenty year old man who still took all of his meals in liquid form from a bottle because he had not learned to eat solid foods? You would laugh before calling the loony bin and think to yourself, “How can a grown man not know how to eat solid food? Paul goes on to say this;
“Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.” Hebrews 5:13-14.
A baby cannot learn to eat solid foods unless the parents begin to constantly use it to feed them. Before a baby learns to eat solid food and to distinguish what it is, the child will put anything solid in its mouth. But by constantly feeding the child solid food, it begins to become acquainted with its tastes, smells, and textures. Pretty soon, the child stops trying to eat Lego’s and toys because it has learned to distinguish solid food from solid, uneatable objects. But to get here, the child has to put down the bottle and begin to venture into actually chewing, which at first can be difficult. I never will forget when we first introduced our twins to solid foods at one year old, it appeared as if the food was everywhere but in their mouths. But the more they ate real food, the better they got a chewing.
Notice Paul says in the verse above that those who mature in their faith are the ones who have trained themselves up by constant use. He goes further to say that this constant use trains them to distinguish good from evil. The implication here is that if you do not continue to grow in your sanctification and knowledge of the Lord, then you are vulnerable to fall prey to false teachings.
There are so many excuses people will use to justify their lack of biblical knowledge.
They will say, “To understand the Bible is hard….”
So was chewing food at one point in your life. Yet you pressed on through that.
There are many professing believers whom God looks at just as we would a grown man nursing a bottle. And here is the sad, convicting truth of the matter. We currently live in a day and age where we have more available knowledge than any other time in history. Have you ever thought about the fact that right now, you have all the knowledge in the world readily available on your smart phone? We have more books, CD’s, MP3’s, and information in general than ever before! Yet our generation is the most spiritually crippled. America is full of spiritual infants, and for proof of this look no further than the sinful things that professing Christians will justify in our world today. They are chewing on false idols…. spiritual Lego’s, because they have never pressed themselves to learn to digest the deeper things of the faith.
Congregations are filled people who have grown up in the church who’s deepest concern spiritually is that God comfort them or for the pastor each week to give them a verse that will make them feel better about circumstances in their life, just as a baby’s only concern is his own comfort. But when a child becomes an adult, he goes from being served to serving others. Too many Christians are busy looking for the next bible study, when they should be looking for the mission field. Jesus final orders to his disciples was for them to make disciples (Matt 28:19). To go out and serve others. Jesus wanted his disciples, whom he had taught, to now go out and become the teachers themselves.
If you see yourself as an adult who knows little to nothing about Christ, may I ask you one question? What’s holding you back? We have God’s word. Start there. And there are so many great resources to deepen ones knowledge and understanding of the more difficult texts in scripture. Bible commentaries, which are book volumes devoted to individual books of the Bible are wonderful resources! We spend money to pick up the newest tabloid magazines at the grocery store checkout. Yet all the while, lament that we dont understand scripture! Our money goes towards trinkets and hobbies and toys. Yet our primary chase in life should be the pursuit of the knowledge of God.
In the old testament, a sacrifice had to be brought before the Lord by a person in order for their sin to be forgiven. But as important as that sacrifice was to God, look at what he desires more than anything;
“For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. Hosea 6:6.
How amazing is that!! More than anything in a man, God desires the knowledge of himself!! Knowing God is what pleases God! Do you want to please God? Then stop trying to be good! Stop trying in vain to be a good person!
You can’t be good enough! Christ can.
You can’t forgive others! Through you, Christ can.
You cannot defeat the powerful sins of your flesh. You and I do not hold the power of life and death, we can’t resurrect ANYTHING!!!
Because outside of the knowledge of Christ, you can’t do it! It is the power of Christ in you and through you that you will be transformed! The knowledge of God himself in you produces a new creation through you!! The goal is not to lead a life to see how many Bible studies you can attend. The goal has always been sanctification in your faith. The goal is the proclamation of the gospel, not by some people, but by all who would claim to be sons of the living God! Your goal should be first learning. Then your goal should be teaching others. Our goal as believers in Christ is the furthermost reaches of our world……to the ends of the earth. Are you chewing on solid food, or spiritual Lego’s? We are to go and make disciples of all nations. You cant make disciples without growing in your knowledge of God. And therefore, if you are not growing in your knowledge of the Lord, you are living in direct disobedience to his command for your life.
First you grow, then you go. That’s the adventure. That’s the mission. That is the Great Commission.
A noted pastor once told a story about two men who were terribly overweight. They had built a life of consuming all which brought them pleasure, and had come to realize that due to their over consumption they were in terrible danger of losing their lives. So the two men decided to take extreme action. They decided that they would hire an expert mountain climber to lead them on an expedition to the top of the snowy French Alps. This journey would take them men weeks, possibly even months with the dangerous weather that they would have to face on their climb. They not only saw this as a means to get in better shape, but also to do something worth while with their lives.
One of the first things that their guide had told them about this journey was that they could only take with them the bare necessities. Because the more they were holding onto during their climb, the harder it would be and the less likely it was that they would make it to the top. The climb was very slow. In fact, two weeks into their assent, they had barely made any progress. Both of the overweight men were still holding onto unneeded things. They both wanted to do this to get in better shape, but the things they were holding onto were the very things that had consumed their lives to begin with.
Both overweight men woke up every morning and exited their tent carrying his basic supplies on his back, along with a huge quilt, numerous blocks of cheese, bottles of wine, and lots of chocolate bars. Their expert guide told both men again, that unless they discarded these comforts, they would never reach the top. The men went as far as they could and again decided to camp for the night. The next morning, the guide awoke to a startling surprise. He found neither of the overweight men and their tents were gone. Instead, he found two tracks of footprints in the snow. The first set of footprints was leading back the way they had come, going down the mountain. Obviously, one of the overweight men had justified to himself that this climb was too difficult and was unwilling to do what it took to get to the top. He had simply turned around, because he couldn’t give up his cravings for junk.
However, there was another set of footprints leading straight up the mountain. The guide packed his things and began following the upward trail of foot prints. As he continued to walk, he saw something in the distance on the ground. As he got closer, he came upon the huge blocks of cheese the overweight man had been carrying, just lying in the snow. The guide continued going forward and then came upon the chocolate bars and wine, and farther up found the huge quilt. This overweight man was determined to make it to the top. He was disgusting all of his vices that were weighing him down, and pressing forward.
Weeks went by as the guide tried to catch up with this man, but to no avail. Finally when the guide reached the top of the mountain, he saw a tent at the apex. A man came out of the tent. At first the guide didn’t recognize this man, for he was in far better shape than that overweight man. But as he got closer, he realized that it was indeed him. Not only was he successful in ridding himself of his old ways, but he completed his mission, reached the top of the mountain, and was transformed radically as a result along the way.
“to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds,” Ephesians 4:20.
If you are truly following after Jesus, then you should be able to look behind you and see a trail of former things you have discarded as you move upward towards to goal of Christ likeness. These things you have discarded will be things that you once loved. Maybe a relationship, or an addiction, be it sexual or chemical in nature. Just as the two men climbing the mountain, we will never reach the pinnacle of our goal of being like Christ as long of we continue to cling to our sins. Unless we flee from them altogether, eventually our climb towards Jesus will stop and we will descend down the mountain, into our former ways of life, forsaking the offer of eternal life in exchange for temporal, worldly, pleasure of the flesh.
We in America are a part of the most prosperous and wealthy nation in the world. In spite of our recent economic problems, our country is still head and shoulders above others as far as opportunity. Yet in my personal opinion, we are the most spiritually crippled nation on the face of the earth. We have churches in every city and Bibles on every corner shoppe. But we as a people are indifferent to the gospel message as a whole and ignorant to what Jesus meant when he said whomever follows him must lose their life.
“For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” Matthew 16:35.
It is hard to live for Jesus in our country because we have so many other idols fighting for our attention. And half the time, we don’t even realize that we have idols, until we are faced with losing them. We have too many loves to love Jesus as we are called to love him. We love money, materialism, houses, cars, technology, comfort….in a word, we love self. In my own Christian walk, I am just beginning to realize the radical level of self sacrificing love that Christ calls his followers to. Jesus is to be of first importance as 1 Corinthians 5:13 states. Pastor Paul Washer has said many times, “Either Jesus is everything in you life or he is nothing!!” One of my favorite quotes is the foundational cornerstone for John Piper’s Desiring God.
“God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.” -John Piper
Piper coined the term “Christian Hedonist” in his classic book ‘Desiring God’, which is a person who views Christ as the source of his ultimate Joy.This short statement holds so much hard truth. The first Westminster Catechism makes this statement……
“Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.”
Reading this catechism, at first glance seems as if it is asking two different thing of man. For him to glorify God, and then to enjoy him forever. However, when we examine the scriptures, we see that this is actually only one command. Take for instance this Psalm.
“My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.”Psalm 63:5-7.
This Psalm seems to imply that the Psalmist is satisfied in the Lord as if he had just had a rich meal, and he is full of praise. CS Lewis said he once thought it unnatural that God demand us to praise him. That is until he realized that praise is a basic part of every human being. We all praise things. We praise relationships, hobbies, sports teams, and so many other things that we love to talk about. That which we find the most happiness is what we praise.
So to glorify God is to praise his name to the world. But to be true praise, this must be an act that we do not do out of “Christian duty”, but something we do because Jesus is that which is of utmost importance to us in life. Praise is never something that was designed to be forced, but rather, praise is an over flow of a true internal work of the Holy Spirit in a persons life. Hence the quote by Piper…..
“God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him!!”
What do you praise right now in place of God? What is it that you are more passionate about than the gospel of Jesus? Those worldly things you cling to are only hindering you climb towards the goal of Christ. Eternal life should not be the motivating factor for praising Christ. The motivating factor in praising Jesus is that he has justified us in right standing before God and has opened our eyes to the fact that all of the worldly things we love are passing away, but he will never leave us. That is why the apostle Paul could say with the utmost confidence…….
“What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ” Philippians 3:8.
Paul says that he lost all thing. Before Paul met Jesus on the road to Damascus, he was a well respected religious leader and a man who persecuted Christians. He had status and a great reputation among the Pharisees. However, when he began to changed and followed Christ, Paul became the one who was persecuted, losing his reputation among the religious leaders. He traded in all his worldly pleasures. He lost them all. Yet in Christ, he now considered all the ungodly things he once loved garbage, and sees Jesus as the ultimate treasure worthy of all his praise.
We are to glorify God, but again not out of duty. God is most glorified when we find our satisfaction….our passion, in praising him!! God is meant to be the desire of the believers heart!
“Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4.
The verse implies that when we delight in the Lord, God will give us the desires of our hearts. However, a person who is clinging to sin in their lives cannot delight in the Lord. Because to delight in the Lord, you must first be impacted by the price he has paid for you at Calvary. As was said of the Israelite’s in Acts chapter two after hearing the gospel message proclaimed from Peter, to delight in God is to be “pierced to the heart” by the realization of our depravity and the reality of his unmerited grace towards us.
Once you see Jesus as savior, you are given a new heart and a new nature. The regenerated person casts off the old selfish nature and is radically transformed.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17.
“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:26.
With this new heart, you will desire new things. But how do you get this new heart? How do you let the gospel message penetrate your soul? For someone who is seeking Jesus, but just cannot seem to develop this love for him, what is the answer?
John 17:17 says, “Sanctify them by truth. Your word is truth.”
Paul said this in regards to a husband and wife….
“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word” Ephesians 5:25.
How do you begin to love Jesus more? By sanctification.
How does sanctification begin? By the knowledge of his word in truth.
How do you get your spouse to love Jesus more? By washing them with the word.
What is sanctification? Simply put, to grow more in Christ likeness and your knowledge of God.Again, how do you do this? By the reading of his word. The more time you spend reading and seeking to know Christ in his word, the more you will begin to change.
“Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.”
So many will never realize the absolute truth in this catechism because Satan has so many proverbial pieces of fruit he uses to distract us from seeking fulfillment in Christ alone. When we lived on the mission field, it was so easy to follow Christ. Because there were none of the distractions to pull me away from seeking him. No materialism, no keeping up with the Jones, no television, no malls….just Christ. The greatest, most prosperous country in the world is also the most deceived. We are so easily mesmerized by little gadgets, toys and living like our favorite celebrities, that we have lost what it means to love Christ, and what it means to find our joy in him.
A few weeks ago I was driving our boys home from their baseball games. Normally we would stop and grab a bite to eat, but this night, I was tired and worn out from a long day. As we were driving, up ahead I spotted a Dairy Queen coming up on the right hand side of the road. I knew if the boys saw this, they were going to begin asking for ice cream, and I was ready to get home. So to get their minds off of seeing the upcoming Dairy Queen, I directed their attention to the opposite side of the road at a dog riding in the back of a truck. My deception worked, as they turned a blind eye to that which they would have loved to look at a dog just long enough for us to pass the DQ.
Funny little story, but not unlike how Satan operates today. He knows the joy that comes from knowing Jesus. He knows that Christ alone can fill the void in us. So he distracts us with meaningless things…..just long enough for our earthly lives to pass.
Think about what you are passionate about. Something that would be hard for you to give up. Maybe comfort, or hobbies. What you are passionate about is that which you praise. God is most glorified when we are most satisfied in Him. And we are most satisfied in him when we find our joy in praising him. And this joy of praising the Lord is found through seeking him and being sanctified in his word. What is it you praise? It is our chief end to glorify God. Because he is our treasure, and worthy to be praised!
We are all on a journey. Those seeking Christ are climbing a mountain. To win the prize. To attain the goal, we press forward. We adhere to the war cry, “onward Christian solider”. And we all begin this journey carrying and clinging to baggage that will slow our progress. To reach the top, we must begin to let go. And soon, that which we clung to for so long, in retrospect will be viewed as the hindrance that it was. Nothing worth having is without sacrifice. Have you counted the costs of following Jesus. You will lose many of the loves of this world, but you will gain a joy that is eternal. Keep climbing.
One of the most motivating needs known to man is that of thirst. It is a need that must be met, an urge that must be satisfied, and if we are thirsty enough, we will do almost anything to satisfy this lack of hydration within us. The fact that we thirst is the realization of what dependent creatures we really are. Even the most atheistic person in his running and denial of God is humbled in the daily needs of his own body that require sustenance from God. But not all liquid is satisfying as it pertains to the quenching of thirst. Ill give you an example from my adolescent years.
I had just gotten done playing a very intense game of recreational football with a few friends one hot, summer afternoon. And as we always did, we ran to the nearest gas station down the road to grab something to quench our thirst. A buddy of mine went to the cooler in the store and grabbed a bottle of chocolate milk. As delicious as chocolate milk is, it is not a drink you want to drink when you are hot, tired, and exhausted, as was proved when my friend chugged his milk and immediately got sick. The chocolate milk looked enticing to him, but provided no real relief or satisfaction.
I grabbed a Gatorade and after paying, consumed the green liquid as fast as I could get it down. However, as I was walking home with empty bottle in hand, I realized that not only was I still thirsty, but I was even more thirsty than I had been before drinking the Gatorade. I may be the only person that Gatorade has this effect on, but to this day the stuff still has the opposite effect on me. Instead of quenching that deep down body thirst that its advertisements boast of, it increases my thirst.
I busted into my house and headed straight towards the refrigerator. Yanking it open, I pulled out the first cold beverage that I saw, that being a Diet Coke. But all the soda seemed to do was give me an after taste in my mouth that still left me feeling thirsty. I glanced over at the milk jug but quickly remembered the little experiment I had just witnessed in the gas station parking lot with my buddy who bought the chocolate milk and how fast it was expelled out of his body. I made a quick mental note to self…milk and hot do NOT mix! Milk was out of the question, Gatorade didn’t work, and even Diet Coke, which has been said to cure anything in some Northern states, could not quench my thirst! So I resorted to the last thing that I could think of in order to satisfy this deep thirst in my body. And ironically enough, it was not a manufactured, man made beverage!
It was a glass of cold water.
You would think that common sense would have enlightened me to realize this as a first choice of thirst quenchers. After all, our bodies are made up mostly of water, so shouldn’t it have made sense that I probably would receive the most satisfaction from putting back into my body what I had just sweated out? Maybe it was the neon green liquid that glistened in the gas station cooler that caught my eye. Just as I’m sure the little brown cartoon bunny rabbit with a straw on the bottle of chocolate milk deceived my sick friend. What ever was the case, the fact of the matter is that the true, natural liquid that is known to quench thirst in our bodies which is water was the last thing I tried. And it proved to be the only thing that did the trick in satisfying what my body needed.
In our world today, we are constantly on a never ending search for fulfillment, happiness, and satisfaction. Money, cars, houses, alcohol, relationships, sex, electronics…you name it, we want it. This constant need for satisfaction within us has been capitalized on by businesses and Hollywood. The world tells us so many things that are sure fire cures to us finding our joy in life. Just turn on your television for proof of this.
The world will say, “If you are down, then you just need to go to the bar and have a few drinks.”
But the reality of that situation is that although it may satisfy you for a few hours, you wake up the next morning feeling worse than you did with the same problems you had when you decided to have a few.
The world will say, “You need to find your happiness and satisfaction in sexual fulfillment or in a relationship.”
But the reality of that is just as fleeting as a person who looks for fulfillment in drinking. Pursuing sex or a relationship as a means to make a person happy will provide a temporary pleasure that will leave you longing for more.
The world will say, “If you only had more money, you would be happier.”
But ask anyone who has alot of money if they are satisfied. They may tell you they are, but their constant need to consume more and more things proves that they are not satisfied. Just as with drinking and pursuits of sex, the are left wanting more.
They are left still feeling……thirsty.
So why is it that we are never satisfied? You may be wondering, “It there anything on this planet that can satisfy the deep longings of my soul? Humanity is never satisfied. We try to fill this void within all of us by looking to the world to meet this need. Sex, money, relationships, alcohol…regardless of what it is, we jump from vice to vice in hopes that finally we will find something to fill the emptiness within our soul. Its like we we keep digging out these water wells that are made by the world to quench our thirst, but that thirst can never be quenched. Because no matter how attractive the wells may seem, they are all broken and cracked. The hold no life giving water for long, so we are left to satisfy ourselves with tiny drops of water at the bottom. Never quenching our thirst and always leaving us wanting more.
But there is a well that is life giving, and that will quench our deep thirsts. The sad thing is, we forsake this beautiful well, full of water, and instead remain insistent on doing things our way. Digging our own wells, and constantly being disappointed. And the Lord pointed this very sin out to Jeremiah….
“for my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me,
the fountain of living waters,
and hewed out cisterns for themselves,
broken cisterns that can hold no water.” Jeremiah 2:12-13.
One of the central messages through out scripture is that Jesus is enough. The Bible practically screams this truth to us. Yet God says that all of our sins and lack of satisfaction in this world can be boiled down to two reasons. That we have forsaken or ignored him, and instead of finding our joy in him that is eternal, we try to create our own happiness, like broken cisterns or wells that never satisfy.
CS Lewis summed this scripture up best;
“We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”- C.S. Lewis
He compares the human race to a kid who has grown up living in the getto, who had no toy so he had to amuse himself with making mud pies. To this kid who all he has ever known is the getto, making mud pies is a treat. But he has never known the riches of one who could take a vacation at sea, for if he did, he would realize how futile making mud pies was.
An example from my life was seen about three years ago. My son Andy loved his tinker toys and little match box cars. He said that was all he wanted for Christmas. Easy on mom and dad. However, Andy saw a commercial for a video game system and those tinker toys which he so loved were immediately a thing of the past. He had never known or seen anything like this before.
I submit to you that if the Lord Jesus simply pulled back the curtain and we were able to just get a short glimpse of the wonders awaiting us in Heaven in his glory, things like money, sex, and drugs would be like staring at a pile of mud pies. We would no longer thirst after the empty, fleeting pleasures of this world because we would see the joy found in Christ. But God doesn’t pull back that curtian, because we are called to live on this earth by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7).
Consider the story of Jesus meeting the woman drawing water at the well:
“Now he (Jesus) had to go through Samaria. 5 So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.
When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” 8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)
9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.
10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”
13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again,14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”
16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”
17 “I have no husband,” she replied.
Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”
19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet.20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”
21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah (called Christ) is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”
26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”
The woman in the story was seeking out the world to fulfill her needs. She was looking to the world instead of God to meet her satisfaction. And Jesus used the analogy of water to make his point because she was drawing water. I find it so amazing that Jesus meets people where they are, and explains himself as God to them in ways they can relate to! This encounter recorded in scripture is amazing and drives home the point of what I am getting at. Lets look at some things you may not notice right off hand about his story.
Notice in verse 6 that it tells us something very interesting. The verse gives us the time of day, “about noon”. This seems like an inconsequential fact. Why would this be included? What at all does the time of day have to do with this story? Jesus met the woman, who was drawing water from the well, at about noon. Noon is the hottest part of the day. Back in this time, most all of the women went early in the morning before the sun was at its peak to draw their water for the day so that they didn’t have to stand in the intense heat. But for some reason, this woman whom Jesus met was drawing water alone at the hottest part of the day.
Jesus goes on to ask her for some water. To which she is perplexed, because she is a Samaritan woman, and Jesus was a Jewish man. And Jews were known not to associate with Samaritan’s. As you can read in the verse, their conversation continues and Jesus points out to her that people will continue to return to the well daily, because they will continue to be thirsty. But Jesus tells her that if she would only drink the water he was offering, she would never thirst again.
Jesus wasn’t literally speaking of a new water that is better than Gatorade in quenching thirst. He was speaking of the woman finding her satisfaction in God rather than in the things of this world, which he proved she was doing. Jesus asked her to go and bring her husband to meet Jesus, to which she replied that she had no husband. Jesus through their conversation walked her into bringing her mind to the broken well she was seeking after in a means to find happiness, yet she found none.
Jesus, without her even telling him, told her of her sin. That she was right when she said she had no husband currently, but she had previously been married five different times and each marriage failed. And further more, currently she was living with a man out of wedlock. She was seeking ,with all that she had, happiness from relationships and sex. And each time she was left disappointed and hurt.
The reason she was drawing water at noon was because of her terrible reputation of sleeping with men around town. So she did not draw her water with the other women in the morning so she wouldn’t be sneered at. Instead, she avoided the harshness of others by going to get her water at a time when she would see no one.
Towards the end of their conversation, the woman thinks Jesus must be a prophet, and acknowledges that she knows some about the scriptures and that she knows that the Messiah is coming one day. And Jesus responds to her, “I am he.”
Jesus was telling her that the water she was drinking would always leave her thirsty. But that if she replaced the sins which she sought after with seeking after God, then the deepest thirsts of her heart would be quenched eternally!
In John 6:35, Jesus refers to himself as the bread of life. Again, addressing the fact that those who hunger and thirst after the things of this world will ultimately be left wanting, and that He was the only thing under the sun that will bring lasting contentment.
“Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” John 6:35.
In Isaiah, the Lord makes again this same comparison to Jesus being the true giver of joy:
“Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.
2 Why spend money on what is not bread,
and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
and you will delight in the richest of fare.”Isaiah 55:1-2.
That question should ring out in our ears. Why, as is addressed in Isaiah, do we continue to spend our time and money on the things of this world that have been proven not to satisfy and only leave us wanting and thirsting for more? The Lord offers nourishment for our souls with no cost. Only that of our faith and obedience is required. Yet people will continue to seek their fulfillment in the fleeting pleasures of this world. John Piper put it best when he once said that its like we are eating dirt and trying to suck the nutrients out of the filth of the ground when all the while we are surrounded by beautiful fruit trees ripe for the picking. God is all around, and he offers so much more than any alcoholic beverage, relationship, or wealth could ever offers. He offers something this world cannot; that is contentment.
Why do we do this? Why do we continue to yearn after things and remain unsatisfied? We all know deep down that we are searching for something. We know that we all have this void within us. Yet we dont know how to fill it! So we try out all the worldly pleasures that can only satisfy temporarily before leaving us empty again. But we all know that our souls seek something. You may now find yourself seeking it in the company of another person, or in a quick buzz or high, or maybe something else. But it never lasts. What is it that our souls are craving?
I think it goes all the way back to Genesis…to the beginning. When the Lord created the Garden of Eden as a perfect paradise. There was yet to be any sin in the world. Just creation, and Adam and Eve. There in the garden, all was perfect and untarnished by sin. There were relationships without lust, there was drink without drunkenness, there was no jealousy, no strife, no pain, no sin, and they walked with God daily in close, personal relationship. But when sin was brought into the Garden by their rebellion against God, it shattered everything.
And at some very deep level…….our souls remember this. And we are desperately trying to get back to the Paradise we lost.
Listen to the words of the Psalmist…..
“As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, my God.
2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?” Psalm 42:1-2.
Are you thirsty right now in the midst of your life? Have you constantly been seeking after happiness and cannot figure out why your pursuits yield no fruit? Pin point the well from which you have been drinking? What is the name of your fountain? Relationships? Family? The party lifestyle? Or maybe money? You cannot satisfy the deep longings of your soul with that which is sinful. You cannot fill the eternal void within you with something that is not eternal! There is a void…a chasm within all of us that can only be filled by a relationship with Jesus. He is the bread that will fill us. He is the water that will quench us. He is the answer to the emptiness that haunts us daily. Following Jesus doesn’t mean we will never experience hardships. But rather, he promises that when they come, we can face them with joy, because we have found our treasure in Him despite this broken would.
What Can Wash Away My Sin, Nothing But The Blood of Jesus,
What Can Make Me Whole Again, Nothing But The Blood of Jesus.
I met my wife Lacy in the Summer of 2000. I was sitting in Sunday School class when she walked in the back door. She was the new girl, and I immediately knew I had to meet her. It wasn’t long after our initial meeting that we began dating. And during our courtship, I wanted to be with her as much as possible. I wanted to know everything about her. In fact, we were both so enamoured with one another, that we would email each other during the day when we were not together. We have three huge notebook binders filled with these love letters to this day. And the more I began to know about Lacy, the more intense my love for her grew.
And eleven years and four kids later, my love continues to grow for my wife. As with any marriage, we have had our ups and downs, but we never pass up opportunities to just spend time together. We never pass up opportunities to just talk, and to learn more about each other. I continue to pursue my wife, because I love her. And a passion for this pursuit of her creates a heart in me that loves her more each day.
But imagine for a moment that I told you that I love my wife, yet I didnt know much about her. Yeah, I knew the basics of where she was from and common knowledge about her, but I didnt know the deeper things of her heart. Worse than this, what if I told you I loved her, but I really hated spending time with her. What if I was totally honest and told you that it bored me to spend time with her, so therefore we would talk maybe once or twice a week. And even then, I had her on a stop watch as to the amount of time I had to endure being with her. What if I said to you, “I just dont have time to spend with my wife. Im so busy. But I am telling you that I love my wife.”
I would have just told you that I dont know much about her…..
That I have no desire to know the deeper things of her heart….
That I dont enjoy spending time with her…..
That she bores me……
That I intentionally spend time with her one a week…..
And that even then, I do it not half paying attention to her.
This sounds ironically much like the relationship between many Christians and Jesus. I have met so many people who will tell me that they love Jesus, yet their knowledge of him is no deeper than what they learned of him in their fifth grade Sunday School class. They say they love Jesus, but will also say that they are not much for reading their Bibles. They will say they love Jesus, but the only time they really spend with him is the times when they come to church. And even then, they are the very ones who are looking more at their watch and wondering when the service will end rather than seeking the Lord. But bless God, they love Jesus.
Here is a good way to put your love of Jesus to the test. Try loving your spouse the same way you love Jesus. If you are only in his word once or twice a week, then only spend time with your spouse once or twice a week. Most of us would be humbled very quickly. Ill make a very bold statement, that if you do not have a desire to know the deeper things of God, and if you do not hunger to be in his word daily, then you do not love Jesus. Because love is defined with passion. When you love someone, you make time for them. Not because you feel like you have to, but because you want to.
Having a great marriage is not hard, but it does require work. Just as knowing God is not hard, but it does require work. If you truly love God, then you will desire to spend time studying his word. Because in his word, he has written a love letter to us, and given us everything we need to know about him! Our love for him grows out of our devotion to seeking and knowing him through his word. Here is one of the biggest excuses that I hear from people as to justifying their lack of zeal for God.
I love Jesus, but I dont read the Bible because its hard for me to understand.
I remember when I would get a love note from Lacy. I would read it a hundred times, meditating on every word. Reading into the way she said things to determine what she was feeling or what she meant when she wrote it. I analysed her letters, because I love her and I wanted to know her. Yet when it comes to God, we mainly flip open our Bibles for one of three reasons. One, we are in church and we open our Bibles because everyone else is doing so. Two, we are looking for a passage of scripture that applies to our live to comfort us in some way. Or three, we feel bad because we haven’t been reading our Bibles, so we flip it open and being randomly reading for no reason other than so we can say we read our Bible that day.
I have a few problems with people who will say they dont read their Bibles because they dont understand what they read. To begin with, lets start with the heart. Always ask yourself, “Why am I reading the Bible?” Is it out of guilt? Is it because I want something out of it for me? Or is it truly because I want to know God more intimately? Our reasoning for reading Gods word should first and foremost be that we seek to know him in a real relationship.
Secondly, if you are someone who has used this excuse before, there are things to consider. First, how are you reading the Bible? Are you taking your time, meditating on the verses and really seeking to understand what they mean? You cannot read the Bible like you would skimming through the Sunday paper and expect to gain any depth to your understanding of God. There are also different translations that can easier than others to understand. My personal favorite is the English Standard Version. For a new Christian, I would even suggest getting a Bible translation called the Message, which is written in modern language and paraphrases harder parts of the Bible. But if you get The Message, I would reccomend reading this translation with one like the ESV opened as well.
As for where to start and how to read the Bible, I believe there is no better place to start than the book of John, which is an account of the life and ministry of Jesus. From there, I might go to one of the letter of Paul, such as Ephesians. You might even purchase a few Bible commentaries on a book of the Bible you are studying, to give you a deeper insight as to the historical significance of the verse, and a better understanding of what is being said. If you apply this level of dedication to reading the Bible, you will be amazed at the things you begin to learn about our God that you never realized.
If you really want to begin to study Gods word, here are some steps to take;
1. Find a Bible Translation that is easy for you to understand. (Again, I suggest an ESV version).
2. Choose a particular book of the Bible and begin to study it daily, working your way through verse by verse. (I suggest John).
3. Whatever book you choose to study, buy you a commentary to assist you in your study. (A perfect commentary is The Believers Commentary….Here is a direct link if you want to order) Believers Commentary Order
4. Get a notebook and journal DAILY the things that God is teaching you, referencing the scripture.
Also begin to look at the things you are filling your mind with. What in your life is fighting for your attention when it comes to God? A good starting point is what you read. If you can say you love reading worldly, tabloid magazines yet have no desire to read about God, it may be a good indication of your love or lack of love for God. It may be time to transform your mind, which does take work. So how do you do that.
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”Romans 12:2.
Renewing your mind begins with changing the things you put into your mind. Let me preface this by saying, if you are a person who doesn’t read, then begin to read. Saying you want to know more about Jesus but you are not a reader is like saying you want to lose weight but you dont workout. A friend once told me he didnt read because big books were intimating. But did you realize that if you commit to reading just ten pages a day in a book, you can complete most books in a months time?
Along with this, it is important to make sure you what you are reading is of sound, biblical doctrine. Christian romance novels or books that can be known to stray from Biblical teachings such as “90 Minutes in Heaven”, or “The Shack”, will do very little to deepen your knowledge of God and even give you unbiblical information. Do some research on different authors. Ask your pastor about authors that will assist you in knowing God on a deeper level. Off the top of my head, some of my personal favorite authors are John Macarthur, John Piper, David Platt, Francis Chan, Voddie Baucham, Paul Washer, JD Greear, Mark Driscoll, Matt Chandler, Mark Dever, DA Carson, Tim Keller, Michael Horton, Randy Alcorn, JI Packer, and RC Sproul, just to name a few.
And aside from reading, if you desire to know God intimately, begin to love the church. Not just to go once a week so that you can check it off of your list of to do’s. Rather, get involved. Become connected through Bible Studies and volunteering to do ministry with the body of Christ. Spend time with your pastor and make it known to him that that you want to grow in the Lord, and that you wish to serve Jesus with your life.
This journey to seeking God more deeply through the church and personal devotion to scripture is only the very beginning of an abundant life in Christ. Because once you begin to know God, you being to know his mission, and his calling on the lives of his children. I honestly believe with all my heart that if someone tells me that church bores them, and the mission of Christ is not exciting to them, then they dont know the Jesus of the Bible. Because living radically for Jesus is an adventure that no Hollywood movie script could ever contain! The call for the children of God to go to the ends of the earth proclaiming Christ to those who do not know Him is the greatest privilege.
John Macarthur was once speaking to a room full of preachers, and he told them that out of all the presidents and celeberties on the planet, he was speaking to the most important people on the face of the earth. Because they were the ones that were soldiers in Gods mission. Jesus said in John 10:10 that he came to give us life more abundantly in Him!! He called his disciples to radial abandonment of the things of this world! If that simply meant that they were to go to church once a week and never read their Bibles, how is that life giving or even radical?? We as believers were called to so much more!!
Going to church doesnt make you a Christian. Even reading your Bible doesn’t mean that you are a Christian. The overflow of what you are passionate about in your heart is the sign of your love for Christ. Here is what I am getting at. Read this passage of scripture below about two prostitutes. Both women had babies. In their sleep, one of the prostitutes rolled over on her baby and killed it accidentally. So she went and stole the other woman’s baby, and put her dead baby with the mother of the child she stole from. When the real mother awoke, she realized that the dead baby wasn’t hers, and so the two women each argued before the king that the living child belonged to them.
16 Now two prostitutes came to the king and stood before him. 17 One of them said, “Pardon me, my lord. This woman and I live in the same house, and I had a baby while she was there with me. 18 The third day after my child was born, this woman also had a baby. We were alone; there was no one in the house but the two of us.
19 “During the night this woman’s son died because she lay on him. 20 So she got up in the middle of the night and took my son from my side while I your servant was asleep. She put him by her breast and put her dead son by my breast. 21 The next morning, I got up to nurse my son—and he was dead! But when I looked at him closely in the morning light, I saw that it wasn’t the son I had borne.”
22 The other woman said, “No! The living one is my son; the dead one is yours.”
But the first one insisted, “No! The dead one is yours; the living one is mine.” And so they argued before the king.
23 The king said, “This one says, ‘My son is alive and your son is dead,’ while that one says, ‘No! Your son is dead and mine is alive.’”
24 Then the king said, “Bring me a sword.” So they brought a sword for the king. 25 He then gave an order: “Cut the living child in two and give half to one and half to the other.”
26 The woman whose son was alive was deeply moved out of love for her son and said to the king, “Please, my lord, give her the living baby! Don’t kill him!”
But the other said, “Neither I nor you shall have him. Cut him in two!”
27 Then the king gave his ruling: “Give the living baby to the first woman. Do not kill him; she is his mother.” 1 Kings 3:16-27.
King Solomon realized the real mother not because of anything motherly she did, but because of the overflow of her heart. She was willing to give up her baby if it meant that the child would live. Again, you are not a Christian because of Christian type activities that you do. You are marked as a child of God because of the overflow of your heart, that you would sacrifice things such as your time, and even worldly pursuits not because you have to, but because you want to so that you may know Jesus better and that he may be glorified through your life! Just as King Solomon saw the true mothers overflow in her self denial, so King Jesus knows his children from their radical devotion and self denial in following Him. Not because they have to, but because they love him and want to.
Are you a child of God defined by false claims that you are a real child of God just as the prostitute claimed she was the real mother, all the while your hearts desires betray your profession of faith? Or can you honestly say that Jesus is the treasure of your life, and that you want to know him more greatly than anything this world has to offer? The call to follow Christ is great. But how much great is our reward in Heaven that the Father will lavish over his children…his children who loved him with the example of their lives. Dont just say that you love Jesus, mean it. Seek Christ with all your heart, and he promises that you will find him.
You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13.
It’s so ironic to me that as much as humanity prides itself on its understanding of knowledge, we do not even understand ourselves. Its an absense of the knowledge of our own human nature. And because of this lack of self-awareness, we cannot fully know and grasp who God is, and more importantly, the magnitude of what he has done for us. The gospel goes so much deeper than the basic story of Jesus hanging on a cross for our sins. We hear the “Easter Story” every Sunday morning (hopefully), but do we truly let it impact our hearts? In the book of Acts chapter 2 in verse 37, after Peter had informed the Israelites that it was their sins that had nailed Jesus to the cross, the text says that they were, “pierced” or “cut” to the heart by Peter’s message. And as a result of their feeling the weight of Christ’s atonement for their sins, a great revival and genuine repentance broke out among them. Such a difference from the type of so-called regenerate we see in our world today.
As followers of Jesus, we can get so blinded by the little church bubble we live in day in and day out. We surround ourselves with believers and at times our biggest point of contention is splitting theological hairs regarding doctrine that we already adhere to within the church. It is so easy to forget that we as the body of Christ are an island to ourself in this world ruled by Satan. Not everyone has a firm grasp of what the gospel truly is about. And Id venture to say that the reason they don’t understand the true gospel of Jesus Christ, is because they primarily do not understand their own human nature.
For proof of this, just go up to most people in your own home town. I once heard a pastor say that it was easier to distinguish between a believer in Christ and someone who doesn’t know him in the northern parts of the United States. His reasoning for saying this was that he claimed up north, people will make no bones about their religious allegiances. They will tell you they are Christian, Buddhist, or even atheist and be totally upfront about it. But here in the Bible belt, most everyone will tell you that they are a Christian. And their reasoning behind their claims of faith in Christ at times will be so opposite to scripture. Here are a few justifications I have personally heard in the deep south as to why people think that they are a Christian.
This is more a more common belief than many would think. And people really believe that they have right standing in front of God because they attend church. They dont think this way because they lack intelligence in any way. Rather, it is because they dont really understand the nature of their own being as revealed to us through scripture. If we could just get those who believe this to think about how preposterous this statement is in light of how salvation works, then they might have a better understanding of who God is.
Here is a basic example. Imagine that I told you my car engine was in great need of some major transmission work. And I told you that I was going to fix it myself. You ask me if I am a mechanic, to which I reply, “Why yes, I am a mechanic.” You respond to me, “Well you must have a passion for cars and love and study things pertaining to automobiles.” To which I reply to you, “No Im not really passionate about cars and I only read car magazines occasional that I see at on the magazine racks at the grocery store. In confusion, you then ask me then what in the world would make me think that I am a mechanic?? It is obvious I dont love mechanics, I dont seek to know the deeper things regarding how cars work, and my knowledge of them is summed up in an occasional devotional manner at best! Again, you ask me, “Charlie, what makes you think that you are a mechanic? My response, “Because I go and hang out in an auto body shop once or twice a week.” If you are smart, you do not want me working on your car. And I say that in all seriousness.
A silly, fictional story, but it paints the same picture as a professing Christian who believes when they die, they will go to Heaven on the grounds that they attend church on a regular basis. No true love for Christ. No yearning to know him deeper and no passion to be about his mission. Their assurance lies solely in their spotless record of church attendance.
2. Because Their Family Members Are Christians
As outrageous as this may sound, Ive actually known people who think this way. A family friend who is not a believer in Jesus once told my father a story about he and his girlfriend going sailing out in the ocean. A terrible story blew upon them and he claimed that he was terrified. Faced with a possible life threatening situation, he said that he began to think about his eternity if they should die. And he said he found comfort in knowing that even though he was not a believer, his girlfriend was. And he believed that if they had died, he would have gotten in on the grounds that he was with her. Clearly, he had no understanding of the gospel. He believed that he could gain righteousness through the fact that he loved his girlfriend and he knew her. But Jesus shattered this idea of a man made righteousness.
“Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”John 14:6.
Once again, a reasonable way to combat this line of thinking would to be to use the illustration of the mechanic again. Would you let someone work on your car whose only credit to being a mechanic was that their father worked on cars? If so, you might want to invest in a skateboard.
3. Because They are Good People
This is the biggest deception going on in our world today. That people will inherit eternal life because they are good people. But this defense raises a multitude of questions. For starters, you are good in comparison to whom? What is your measuring rod of goodness? There are people who genuinely love the Lord, but have prayed for God just to wipe out all the bad people on earth. Is that really a prayer you want to be praying? We tend to look at serial killers and people who cheat in their marriages and think of them as the “bad people.” And we are in some way, good, because we would never do those things. But on that day standing before the Lord in judgement, we will not be measured according to how good we were in mans eyes, but instead, we will be judged according to Gods standards.
Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder,and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sisterwill be subject to judgment.” Matthew 5:21-22.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”Matthew 5:27-28.
So according to Jesus, those who have harbored lust or hate in their hearts are just as deserving of death and punishment as the persons who have committed adultery and murder. And there lies the problem within us. We do not view ourselves as bad. As long as we are not breaking any worldly laws, we see ourselves as being good people. When in reality, we are just as wicked and depraved as the murderer on death row without being covered by the saving blood of Christ.
“All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” Romans 3:12.
In Romans, Paul points this out. All men have turned away in chasing their sin. No one does good in the site of the Lord, not even one. Isaiah 55 says it differently. Isaiah says that even our best works are like filthy rags without the blood of Christ. That means that we are so eaten up with our sin nature, that even on our best day, we could never measure up to the standards of righteousness before God. Some would argue that we are born innocent and sin nature is something that is learned. But to counter this, all one has to do is look at a toddler. When they dont get their way, they hit, kick, throw things, and bite. Did you ever think about why it is that God made babies so tiny and weak? Its so that in their sin nature, which is in them from birth, that tiny baby wouldnt be able to kill their parents in their sleep in a fit of rage.
One minister actually argued on national television that he didnt believe God would never hate anyone because God is love. And I submit to you that because God is love he must hate. You see I love children, therefore I hate abortion. If God is love he must love what is righteous and hate what is unrighteous. And in his justice, God must give the death penalty to all of those who have sinned against him. If someone murdered your family, you would be right for seeking the death penalty, because you loved your family.
So where does that leave us? Because if this is true, then we have all sinned and fallen short. We are all radically depraved in our sin nature. And as a result, we are all rightly deserving of an eternal death row sentence. We have no hope. Church attendance cannot save us. Our family cannot save us. And even our best efforts to do right cannot save us. All of us, from birth, are born with a rebellious nature towards God. This truth no doubt will not sit well with some. But I would have to ask have you never read this scripture……
“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.” John 3:36.
Meditate on the word “remains.” Whoever believes in Christ has eternal life, but those who reject remain under Gods wrath. Remain….as in they have known no other state of being besides abiding under the wrath of God for their entire existence. To remain is to stay somewhere you have always been. Without Jesus Christ, the churched, the good families, and the morality seekers all remain under the wrath of God.
So what are we to do? If we have no hope, being born in this state of depravity, where do we turn? It all goes back to the verse in Acts 2:37 regarding people hearts being pierced. When Peter told these people of their sinfulness, and how Jesus came to die in their place and to take the punishment due them, their hearts were pierced. Meaning they were broken and repulsed at the sinfulness in their lives. And that their very nature was repulsive to God, so much so that there was nothing they could do to save themselves.
But they realized that a substitute had been sent to drink the cup of wrath that was to be poured out upon them. And as a result of knowing how depraved they really were, and the radical price Jesus paid so that undeserving sinners could experience fellowship and eternal life with God, they were broken in thanksgiving. Thankful that God in his mercy poured out his wrath upon his only son, so that those deserving of punishment could instead receive grace, being called adopted children of God. That is a level of love foreign to the world we currently live in.
As all of the books of the old testament point to Christ, one of my favorite examples is in the book of Jonah. Jonah is much more than a fish tale. It was a direct acknowledgement of the coming Messiah. God’s wrath was seen at the end of Jonah chapter one where Jonah was on the boat with these other men. The storm was the wrath of God, and the whole boat was sure to be destroyed under it. But here is what happened…..
Jonah said, “Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied, “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.”
13 Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before. 14 Then they cried out to the Lord, “Please, Lord, do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, Lord, have done as you pleased.” 15 Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. 16 At this the men greatly feared the Lord, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows to him.” Jonah 1:12-16.
Jonah is a type of Christ. Not the messiah himself, but a shadow of what was to come. If you notice, the men were terrified. But Jonah was their atoning sacrifice that appeased the wrath of God. And the last verse says that the men in the boat who were saved worshiped the Lord in thankfulness that they were spared. These men were pierced to the heart.
And to all those who would be pierced to the heart just as the Israelites were, is given pardon from their death sentence. And I use the word pierced as in the book of Acts, because a person who is pierced to the heart….broken over how wretched they really are becomes keenly aware of how great a price was paid for them on the cross through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. Only a pierced person can find true repentance and life change, because they dont want to be that same person who rebelled against God. And only a truly repentant person can believe in Christ. Because when we grasp the full weight of this, we cease to only know Jesus in a Sunday School, devotional kind of mentality.
We see him as savior.
We see him as the Son of God.
We see him a wrath remover.
We see him as righteousness provider.
We see him as sin forgiver.
We see him as soul satisfier.
We see him as redeemer. And we see him as the Lord of our lives.
And this realization presses us into knowing who we really are apart from Christ, and therefore knowing the true depth of the love of God. Many preachers shudder at the thought of preaching on the wrath of God. They only want to tickle the ears with talk of Gods love. But they dont fully understand the depth of Gods love. Because Gods love and his wrath are inseparable. And it’s because of his wrath that his love is made that much greater and evident in our lives.
What is your idea of Christianity? When you think of the gospel and what it means to follow Christ, what comes to mind? Is it simply being a good person who follows the “Golden Rule”, doing unto others as you would have them do unto you? Is Christianity a badge of honor, where you commit to follow Christ, but the only time you spend with him is on Sunday mornings. And honestly, even then some people spend more time looking at their watch than they do their Bibles. Or is your idea of Christianity resting in your salvation and loving Jesus for the good things he gives you in life? Just in and of themselves, none of these things are bad. Its when we start to believe these singular examples define our identities in Christ.
Most people in our country do not know what it means to be a follower of Christ. For proof of this, all one has to do is turn on the television. Never before in history has our so called “Christian nation” so unapologetically trampled on every moral value that Jesus Christ stands for. We seek a life of comfort, ease, and materialism. And when we have these things, then we thank God and tell everyone how blessed we are. We thank God that we know Jesus Christ, but vow to pray for those who dont. And even in our prayer lives, what we pray to God tends to be more focused on self than God. Id venture to say that most do not even know how to pray Biblically! Am I being harsh by saying this? Not anymore harsh than I am on myself, because this is something I am currently being very convicted of in my own life.
If you think about it, the average Baptist church today spends more time praying to keep Saints out of Heaven than praying to get the lost into Heaven! The focus of many pray meetings is centered around who is in the hospital, and what physical ailments are they dealing with. So we go to the Lord in prayer that he will heal this faithful church member. And then we go to the next person on the hospital list. Is this wrong to pray for the sick? Absolutely not! Its a wonderful thing to pray for the needs of saints. The problem is when ailments selfish needs become the driving focus of our prayers to God. One pastor rightly joked, “Prayer meetings today sound more like medical conventions rather than being Gospel centered.”
There are literally billions of people dying and going to Hell every day! Why not pray for God to open a window for us to preach to the lost? Why not pray for God to begin to draw people into relationship with Him? We all have family members or friends who do not know Christ! Yet we will pray for their stumped toe instead of being broken over the fact that if they died today, they would spend eternity suffering in Hell! I find it so odd that good parents today will teach their children things to keep them safe such as looking before crossing the road, and not to run with scissors because they dont want their precious children to get hurt. Yet when it comes to teaching their children about Jesus and their eternity, its not a high priority. The condition of the lost should be our number one concern, because it is our King’s number one concern.
Our focus should primarily be on the lost. But do you want to know the two scariest prayers you could ever pray? The first is to pray for God’s will for your life and not your own will. And the second scariest prayer you could pray is this….pray that God would use you to accomplish his will.
Because in praying this way, you have to be willing to set aside what you in your flesh may have wanted for your life. Certian worldy aspirations of comfort and ease must die in exchange for a road that you may not have chosen for yourself. Jesus didnt relish the thought of having all of God’s wrath poured out upon him as the sacrifice for all sin on the cross. But Jesus knew the most important thing was that the will of God be accomplished. Jesus prayed this prayer before his crucifixion in the garden…….
“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” Luke 22:42.
Father, not my will, but yours be done! Christianity isnt about having, as a very popular television evangelist would say, “Your Best Life Now.” Because in Christ, we know that our best life is yet to come in eternity! Christianity is summed up in a word that is very unpopular in our me centered world today…..SACRIFICE. Read what the apostle Paul has to say about his idea of self denial…..
“For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.” Romans 6:6.
He paints a vivid mental picture of what it means to follow Jesus. Paul says the old self is crucified. Our old ways of chasing after what we selfishly want is put to death in exchange for instead living life for the will of God. And again, the will of God is not for you and I to live a lavish life of comfort and ease. That is what Heaven is for. We easily forget that we are living in a fallen world ruled by Satan. We forget that we as Christians are to be about the mission of Christ and work for Him while we have breath under the sun. This life is not about us! The Christians life is to be about sacrifice! It is about living to see the proclamation of the Gospel spoke to all those who have not heard the good news! Its about mission!
One of the most inspiring stories that served to humble me and give me an example of our Christian lives was seen in a story I once heard about two young men in their early twenties. They lived a comfortable life but when they got saved, everything changed. They begin to pursue being missionaries so that they might proclaim the gospel to those who hadn’t heard. Long story short, the two young men sold themselves to a slave owner in a foreign country, to be his slaves for life, so that they would have the opportunity to share the gospel with the other slaves who had no knowledge of Christ and no contact with the outside world.
And as the young men boarded the boat to leave for their new home of slavery, with their church family and friends standing on the dock and weeping as they pulled away, one of the young men shouted, “Shall not the Lamb have the full reward of this suffereing!” That is sacrifice. That is living for Gods will and dying to self. Everytime I hear that story I pray that God would give me even half of their courage to live radically for Him! So that I may look back over my life when I am an old man, and be able to say that I wasted not one breath the Lord gave me on foolishness. That in my falleness, Id live every second for his will and not my own.
That is why Jesus tells his disciples that following Jesus is not for everyone! He tells them to count the cost! Only those who are willing to accept living a life of sacrifice need apply. Look at what Christ says in Luke…
Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Luke 14:27-30.
Jesus calls us to full committment when we give our lives to his Lordship. Jesus goes on to say after giving this example….
“So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:33.
Am I implying that everyone needs to sell all they have to go into foreign missions? No. Is Christ asking you to be this radical with your life? Maybe. The problem is most of us would be too scared to pray this way for fear of God’s answer may be very much in opposition to their own plans. Leonard Ravenhill used to say that he had never met a man on his deathbed who said he did too much for Christ. But he had met plenty a man near death that said he regretted not doing enough. If we truly believe that the best is yet to come in eternity, then our present suffering here on earth become a joy in light of things to come!
“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”Romans 8:18.
“But rejoice in so far as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.” 1 Peter 4:13.
Christianity is more than just an added a relationship with Jesus to your lifes list of accomplishments. Following Christ is a mission. The question is, are you full committed? Once we begin to embrace the biblical picture of self denial, it becomes a joy to deny our flesh. Because in that we become more transformed into the image of King Jesus. The more we study scripture, the more the Holy Spirit reveals himself to us and fills our hearts with Godly desires. In short, when we seek Jesus, its not a burden to deny ourselves….we want to do this!! It becomes our passion to seek out opportunities to proclaim the gospel! We become genuinely burdened at the fact that there are places in our world where people dont know Christ! We as believers are to have one great love, one great passion, and one great mission that is definitive of our existence. And that is a personal relationship with Christ that fills us with a desire to proclaim the gospel to the ends of the earth. What an adventure and joy we find in living our lives for Christ!!
The apostle Paul sums up what this looks like better than I ever could in the passage of scripture below! He acknowledged that although he struggled in his flesh, he kept pressing on, not towards his will, but God’s. Regarding those that do not seek Gods will, Paul said of them, “their God is their stomach“. Meaning that their fleshly desires rank high above God in their lives. But Paul says for those in Christ, the redeemed press forward to be more like Jesus as Paul does. And he exhorts us to follow his example.
“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
15 All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. 16 Only let us live up to what we have already attained.
17 Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. 18 For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.”Phillipians 3:12-21.
This past Sunday night, millions of television viewers tuned in to watch the premiere of the ten-hour mini series, “The Bible.” And the reviews that are being touted are mixed, especially among the evangelical community. My personal feelings on the mini series are mixed. I was excited when I first heard about The Bible being turned into a television series. I thought it would be a great way to bring the lost into an understanding of who God is. But the closer it got to the premiere air date of the show, the more I began to feel convicted. The older I get, the more fearful I get about the stances I take in the name of God. I find myself asking questions like, “Is this truly going to be glorifying to God?” More than this, I find myself asking, “Is what I say or watch or promote to other Christians actually going to be a correct, Biblical, representation of how God portrays himself to us through the holy scriptures?
Paul Washer explained this dilemma like this. Sometimes we as Christians are much like the ugly girl at the school dance. She flocks to the first person who shows her the slightest bit of attention. In the same manner, sometimes we as Christians will throw our support behind a politician, movie or television program that will show just the faintest sign of belief in God because we are so desperate for some part of the world to be accepting of us. And that is so true. We want the world to love us. If a television show is advertised that says anything about the Bible or Jesus, we immediately begin to hype it to other Christians. I was guilty of this with my promotion of The Bible on The History Channel. We want to be accepted by the mainstream. We want, at least in some part, for the world to love Christians. But listen to what Jesus said….
“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.”John 15:18-19.
The world hated our Lord. The world did not accept Christ. The world crucified him because he did not conform. Because he was different. Jesus didnt side with the religious people of his day. His authority was God the Father. And as follower of Christ, are we not to expect the be treated like our teacher because of our Christlikeness?
“A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.”Luke 6:40.
The religious community today is very much behind this new TV series The Bible. And by no means am I saying it is heresy. But I am saying that we need to be careful that even though many professing believers will praise this tv show, we have enough love for Jesus to determine if this is truly bringing glory to his name. Let me expound on where I am coming from.
I want you to think about for just a moment the second commandment. Forget about all notions of what is normal or acceptable among your Christian friends today. I want us to just look at the second commandment, without bending it or twisting it to fit what we are comfortable with. Lets just read the commandment and examine what is being said.
“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.”Exodus 20:4.
God is giving a command to his people to not MAKE for THEMSELVES and IMAGE in the form of ANYTHING in heaven above or on the earth. The reason being that God goes on to say we are not to make these images for ourselves to worship. Now in our world today, we have pictures of Jesus everywhere. We even have moving pictures of him on the television and big screens. That is an image of God that is man made. But the argument could be made, “Yes, an actor or a picture of Jesus is an image, but we are not worshiping the actor or that picture?” But are you sure?
Here is what Im getting at. Lets say you have a picture of Jesus Christ hanging in your house. You love that picture because you love God. And so every time you pray to God or even think about God, you get this mental picture in your head of the picture of Jesus hanging in your house. You see unconsciously, you are praying to an image of God that is man made. When in reality, God is without form, he is spirit. The same with an actor on television portraying Christ. It is easy when we pray to God to get that image of Jim Caviezel from Passion of the Christ in our heads. We mean no harm by this, but none the less, we are doing exactly what God said do not do. In times of worship or prayer, its easy to let our minds focus on man made images of God.
Its kind of like this. I love my wife Lacy. But if every time I thought about her I pictured her personality with the mental picture of someone that didnt at all look like or represent her, she would be greatly hurt and offended. Therefore, there is the first danger with entertaining a man made image of God. This may seem extreme to some, but no one can argue the truth behind this commandment and how easily it can be for us to make these forbidden images of God and actually worship them.
The second problem with The Bible television show I ran into was the amount of Biblical inaccuracies. Im not talking about things being left of that were in the Bible. Because to truly do a show on every aspect of scripture would take years. Im talking about things that were added or taken away pertaining to the real Bible. One of the first things I noticed was in the story of Lot and the destruction of Sodom. The three angels came down and proceeded to get their ninja on, pulling out swords and slicing the evil men of the city to pieces! For those who may not know, there are no ninja sword warrior angels in the true word of God.
Secondly, the story of Abraham and Sarah was horribly distorted from the original scripture. My seven year old was the one to point out to me that the lamb caught in the thicket on television was actually a ram in scripture! And when Abraham went to the mount to sacrifice his son, Rebekah was running up the mountain behind them screaming for him to stop! Again, this was not in scripture. There were many more inaccuracies in the television show, but Ive made my point.
Could this show be used by God to point people towards scripture? Absolutely! But can it be deceiving as well? Yes it can. The danger is more so for the unbeliever or person that is lukewarm in their faith. People who do not read their Bibles will draw wrong conclusions of how God has worked through history. Their authority becomes a television show rather than Gods word. Just as a preacher can become the authority of many Christians. I cant tell you how many times Ive heard Christians defend their faith by saying, “Well thats what my pastor says!” What about what God says?
Satan is evil. But he is clever. And his ways are not always obvious. I once heard the best way to kill a rabid animal is to get the biggest, juiciest, steak that you can find and sprinkle poison all over it. The animal will tear into that steak with great pleasure, and even after consumption, it will feel temporarily satisfied. But not long after it has taken the poison, death follows. Satan works in much the same way today. He looks for that which will entice the Christian. And he tempts the Christian to break Gods commands while not actually being aware that he or she is doing so. He also ever so slightly alters Gods word, so that what you know about God is a deviation from the truth.
“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8.
Is watching a show like The Bible heresy? No. But again, I would say that it is a show that should be rated, “MC- Mature Christian.” A great way to redeem a show like this is to watch it with Bible open. That way, you can distinguish between truth and Hollywood. And as it pertains to the second commandment, be more alert not to put a television image or picture in your mind representing God when praying or worshiping. And point these things out to your friends and family. Dont just jump on the current Christian bandwagon of saying how great it is that The Bible is on television. Weigh EVERYTHING in light of scripture. Dont let a television show become your authority on your knowledge of God. Happy viewing!