My two oldest boys love each other, except when they are together. Our four year old Lincoln wants to do everything his big brother Andy, age six does. If Andy is not with Lincoln, he wants to know where Andy is so he can be near him. The most common example of this happens on a daily basis in our house. Lincoln had just woke up from a nap and wanted to know where his big brother was playing. When Lincoln found out Andy was playing with toys in his room, Lincoln ran as fast as he could to where Andy was playing. And they play together like loving brothers…for about five minutes. Then Lincoln will come running out of the run crying and screaming.
We ask, “What’s wrong Lincoln?”
He replies, “Andy has a toy I want and he wont give it to me!”
“Who had it first?” I ask.
“Andy, but I want it!” Lincoln replies.
I always close this little scenario by telling Lincoln that he can have the toy when Andy is done playing with it, and that we don’t take toys from others. I let him know that we take turns and share, not just take things because we want them. And little Lincoln’s reply to me is always the same….
“THAT’s NOT FAIR!!!”
Lincoln being only four years old doesnt have the capability to fully understand justice yet. He doesnt fully understand the difference between right and wrong. All Lincoln sees is that his selfish desires are not being met. Things are not playing out in his favor. So any verdict that doesnt appear satisfactory to his standards, he deems them unfair. Andy, our six year old, has pulled this “not fair” card as well. But Andy at times will take it up a notch. If things dont go his way, he has been known to tell me, “You just dont love me.”
That crushes me. I would give my life for any of my children. I dont have rules and consequences for disobedience because of a lack of love for them. Its quite the opposite. Even though they may not understand at times, the rules in our household are in place because I do love them more than they know. The rules are in place because I dont want them to get hurt. I want nothing but joy in the lives of my kids, but I will not compromise the rules of our house just because they dont understand.
This plays out the very same way in our walk with Christ. How many times have you shaken your fist to the Heavens above and pleaded before God that the circumstances in your life were unfair? I can think of more than a few times.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.” Isaiah 55:8.
God clearly points out that his thoughts are so much higher than ours. And his standards and ways are not ours. But honestly, aren’t you glad to know that? If we had our way, we would be wallowing in every feel good sin we stumbled upon. If we had our way, our human nature points us towards putting our selfish desires as utmost importance. Like the old saying goes, “Looking out for number one!” We are selfish by nature. We are sinful by nature. But the Lord is Holy. Holy literally means seperate.What a scary thought that would be to serve a God who was just as fallen and sinful as we are!
It is so prevalent in many churches today to seek a God that is made in our image. Christianity has been distorted so much within the last century. Jesus has been given a make over so to speak. He has been made so loving that he is almost weak. Jesus is portrayed at times as a God who is loving and forgiving to a fault. And it is because he has been taken out of context.
“For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39.
Did you read that? Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. So many take this to mean we cannot lose our salvation once we have declared Jesus is Lord. And I believe that to be true! The Bible said it! We cannot lose our salvation. And because of this verse, so many people will live a willingly sinful life, and when confronted, they will claim that they gave their life to Christ years ago so they are good. They treat salvation sort of like a flu shot. But that’s not how God works.
“For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins,” Hebrews 10:26.
You see, the question is not one of, “Did that person living in sin lose his salvation?” The question is, did that person ever truly have salvation to begin with? So many have been falsely deceived into placing all their faith in a prayer or baptism experience that they are saved instead of taking the word of God and seeking to see what it says a true Christian looks like! As it says plainly in the verse above from Hebrews, if a person can continue living in sin after professing Christ as Lord, the grace of God no longer covers them.
Jesus paid the price for sin. He was the sacrifice for sin. But a person who choses to continue living in sin after raising their hand for Jesus is no longer covered under Christ’s sacrifice.
2 Corinthians 5:17 says, Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”
This verse is so overlooked, yet it says it all! If you truly profess Christ as Lord, you literally become a new creation! The sins you once loved, you now hate. It doesnt mean you are not tempted, but you now avoid the temptation because you heart now desires to do the will of God! You hunger to know and draw near to him not just no Sunday mornings, but with your life! Friends, I pray you take these words to heart. If you have no desire for the Lord in your life and are still chosing sin over Christ, then according to scripture, you are not saved.
First of all, if someone claims salvation in Christ, if it is true, they will be developing that relationship with Him. They will be seeking him in scripture and searching to know what He expects of our lives. A true Christian will seek to know the desire of the Lord. Secondly in knowing God’s expectations, we will know know God’s commands for our lives. Now think about this logically. If someone claimed to be a Christian yet continued on in a certain sin, and then once it was brought to their attention, claimed they didnt know it was breaking God’s commandment, what would this tell you? It would tell you that they have a shallow understanding of the God they claim to serve, therefore proving they have no relationship with him.
Now the other side of the coin are those who will profess to know Christ as saviour, yet chose to continue sinning placing their faith in a moment in time where they professed Jesus a Lord. Rev. Paul Washer once said, “Do you know what your profession of Christ as Lord is worth? Absolutely nothing.”
“A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit.” Matthew 7:18.
If I were to tell you that I had an very healthy apple tree growing in my backyard, and when glanced at it, there were no apples but instead rotten fruit all over it, you would say that I was either crazy or a liar. In the same way, a person cannot profess Christ and it be true unless they bear his fruit. As I alluded to in my previous blog post, I think we spend so little time in the word of God that the majority of American Christians dont truly know the God they profess to serve.
We serve a God of love and forgiveness. But that forgiveness requires a life change from us. I heard a pastor once say it would do Christianity a greater justice if many professing Christians just renounced their faith instead of filing into church on Sunday and living like the devil every other day of the week. Because if they are not a new creation in Christ, the regardless of what they say, they are not abiding under the forgiveness of Christ, but his wrath. They also set an example for new believers that is false. As Ive written many times, Jesus clearly says in Matthew that the road to salvation is narrow, and few will truly find it.
Test yourself, search yourself….ask yourself why you believe what you believe regarding salvation? Is it because of what your friends told you? Is it because of an article you read? Is it because what your pastor told you? The only answer should be based on what scripture says. The very people that will claim Jesus is Lord of their life are sometimes the same ones that only open their Bible’s on Sunday mornings. If we are a people that are truly converted and truly seeking God’s will for our lives, then we should be in His word at every opportunity. People will claim they are just so busy and dont have time to sit and read their bible, but they have plenty of time to cookout with friends on the weekend, go to the movies, watch television at night, or play on their new I Phone.
Its not that they dont have time for God, its that they want salvation and eternal security without the commitment. They want the benefits without the responsibilities. And its no surprise that many “christians” have this mindset. It is the society we live in. The majority of view on marriage are the same way. Sexual relations as well as alcohol and drug abuse are the same way. Our culture teaches us to seek the pleasures and benefits of a sinful life and just dont worry about the responsibilities. Dont worry about a long term commitment. That is the theology of our world. That is how many people think about God. And God has warned, “Few of you will actually receive eternal life.”
My boys at times think I am unfair. They think I am unloving because of rules I have in my house. They think I am robbing them of their joy. But they dont know what I know. They dont realize that if I allowed them to jump on my bed, they could fall off and be seriously injured. They dont realize that teaching them to share is actually teaching them justice. Our twin baby boys Abel and Luke dont realize that I am forbidding them from swimming in the deep end of a pool not to spoil their fun, but because they dont know how to swim and they could drown. They see me as a kill joy. But I am seeking to save them from heartache. I want their lives full of joy more so very much. And even though they cant see it, I know more than they do.
If I as a fallen, sinful man can love enough to have rules in place to protect my children, how much more can be said of God in the same manner?
“The path is narrow…”
” Seek me with all your heart….”
“I will make you a new creation….
“Repent and flee from sin…”
“Deny your flesh, take up your cross, and follow me…
” Why do you call me Lord, yet not do as I say…
” Those who love me, obey my commands….”
Growing up, my parents were not strict, as long as we were obedient to what they asked of me and my brother. When my dad told us to clean our rooms, that meant an inspection of how well we had followed orders was soon to come. I can only recall one time in which my dad specifically asked me to clean my room, and I didnt do it. I told him I would do it, but I went in my room, closed the door, and proceeded to play video games for the remainder of the afternoon. Now in my mind, I really had planned to get to it. But I was just having so much fun. A few hours went by and I heard dad’s footsteps coming up the stairs. Immediately, I remembered what he had asked me to do, and time was up. When dad opened my bedroom door, he was very disappointed in me. There was no reward or pat on the head for doing a good job, because I had disobeyed his orders. All that I had to look forward to was punishment.
Imagine a different scenario for a moment. Imagine that when you were a kid, your dad had asked you to go and clean your room. He had even given you a whole week to accomplish this task. When the week was over, your dad comes into your room to find the room is still a wreck. With a proud smile on your face, you look at the bulging blood vein on your daddy’s angry face and say this to him…..
“Hey dad! Guess what! I memorized what you said when you asked me to clean my room! In fact, my friends and I all got together this week and did a devotional of sorts of what it would actually look like if I cleaned my room! We’re planning on really studying the topic of cleaning our rooms! We might even do a sermon series on it!”
Do you honestly think your dad is going to look at your wreck of a room, and just because you “memorized” his orders, tell you that you did a good job? Of course not! He’s going to be furious! Especially if you had a whole week to get it done and you didnt obey him! Even a little child knows that it would be foolish to attempt something like this! A child knows that when his parents, especially his father, gives him or her an order, it had better be followed, or some form of punishment will be expected!
And sadly, this is a snapshot of what the church is slowly becoming today. We read scriptures about denying ourselves, about giving to the poor, about fleeing from sexual immorality, drunkenness, and idolatry, and about going to the ends of the earth with a burden to preach the gospel all the time. We even memorize these scriptures and listen to sermons and sit in bible studies about what it looked like when the disciples followed Christ’s commands. But for many professing believers, their faith never gives birth to action and actually following Jesus.
I have been on somewhat of a soul searching journey in the past few weeks. And one of the questions I asked of myself was, “Am I a person that really desires to do the will of God?” The Bible is so very specific in communicating the commands of God. Yet there are so many aspects of my life that look nothing like that of the disciples in scripture.
“Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” Matthew 28:19.
This was the command Jesus gave to the disciples and the church before ascending into Heaven. And Ive really examined this scripture in my own life. We live in such a backwards society. Christ’s orders are clear. He didnt say sit in a pew and take notes every Sunday. He didnt say work on building your financial resume. He didnt say purchase the next new I Phone. Why are we here? Why do we exist? We exist for God’s glory! And to accomplish the mission of preaching the Gospel to all nations.
But instead, American church culture has turned into this feed me, bless me, look after my needs type animal. We pride ourselves on how many bible studies we attend, or how many notebooks we fill up with Sunday morning notes, or how many scriptures we memorize in Sunday School, but how many of us are truly living obediently to scripture?
Let me ask you a question that may step on some toes, just as it does mine….
How many disciples have you made? And if you have made disciples in the past, is it something you are continuing to do today? Is it the driving force in your life, or does Facebook or a smart phone hold the position?
Here’s another question….How many people have you baptized in your life? You see, Jesus never said that this order was only for the clergy of the Church. He never said these orders were strictly for those who have been to a seminary college. Jesus commanded uneducated fishermen, tax collectors, and a former murder to repent of their evil ways. To take up their crosses and follow after him. To deny themselves that which is of the flesh and set their eyes on the riches of eternity. And to go out, putting everything in their lives as second to the mission of making disciples.
And to me, it just seems like this is what he is asking of us today. It seems to me that some where along the way, the commands of Christ have just been watered down to memorizing scripture and sitting in a pew. And while these are good things, if we are neglecting the mission at hand, then we are living a disobedient life. In the book of Matthew, Jesus speaks of Heaven as a narrow road leading to a narrow gate. He goes on to say that few will find that gate, and few will enter.
That verse terrifies me. And I have to ask myself, “Why is it that few will enter?” Jesus calls us to repent and believe and become disciples who follow after him. Following after him means being obedient to Him! Jesus says in 1 John that those who love him obey his commands. So if we are truly his disciples, we are obedient to his commands! So the question must be asked of yourself, “Does your idea of obedience match up the the accomplishment of Christ’s orders?”
So I have begun digging into scripture more than ever. Because I want to know what Jesus expects of me. I dont want to just accept things because Ive heard it in a sermon. What would our lives look like if we really studied scripture privately in our own lives? The founder of Heartcry Missionary Society (Heartcrymissionary.com), Paul Washer, once said, “Jesus is everything in your life or he is nothing.” Don’t miss the blunt truth in that statement! Is Christ everything in your life? Is he what consumes your thoughts? Do his final commands of going out and making disciples burden your soul daily?
Francis Chan gave a great analogy. If you lived on a remote island, separated from modern church culture all of your life, and all you had was the Bible to base your view of God on, how different would you be? I mean if you were on this island and all you did was read the bible from cover to cover over and over, and then one day you were rescued and taken to a modern day church service, would what you were seeing in the American church match up to what you had always read in scripture?
The picture of church that we see in the book of Acts shows radical reactions to hearing the preaching of the gospel. When Peter and Paul preached, one of two things happened. Those they were preaching to either tried to run them out of town or stone them, or they became missional follower of Jesus, joining their cause in preaching the gospel wherever they were and making disciples.
The reactions in our culture today to the preaching of the gospel is not the same as it was in scripture for the most part. Its now more of an attitude of indifference. The disciples of Jesus Christ now have been watered down by political correctness. We come to church, we study the bible, but when it comes to making disciples and being bold in our faith, we really dont want to hurt people’s feelings. It just isnt the proper thing to do regarding sharing Christ in public. The worst thing that can ever happen to you as a follower is Christ is to become civilized in our faith.
If you really read the Bible cover to cover, and took the teachings of Jesus literally, how different would your life look? Thats the question I am currently asking myself. How different would my life look? Just going to church, being a good person, and attending bible study doesnt make you an obediant follower of Christ. Just because I happen to be in the ministry doesnt mean I am an obedient follower of Christ. We are not saved by association with the church!
A soldier is not considered a soldier just because he wears a uniform and lives on a military base. A soldier is a soldier because he is obedient to his commanding office, and will willingly give his life to accomplish his or her given mission. There is nothing more important than the mission a soldier is given. The mission is everything. Let me ask you the same question Im asking myself….
Is the mission, the commands of Christ, everything in your life? Because this is one question that we cannot afford to be wrong about. Personally, for myself, I want to be sure about this. Is Christ really everything to me? Is there anything more important in my life! When Jesus was speaking the the rich man in Luke, the rich man asked what he had to do to become Christ’s follower. Jesus answered he must sell all his possession and give them to the poor. The rich man held his possession as a far greater treasure than Christ, and rejected Jesus.
What is your mindset regarding this world we live in? The Bible said Jesus created humanity for HIS GLORY! He created everything for himself! I dont think Jesus is glorified if our only goal is to live a happy little life. We are here on a mission for Christ! How many of us are active soldiers on this mission? I dont believe Jesus is going to say, “Well done my good and faithful servant” to those who made Christ as an accessory to the life they desired. Rather I believe those words are reserved for those who have built their lives around Christ. True joy comes out of serving the mission of God.
John Piper once said, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” Ive heard of married couples saying they need to work on strengthening their marriage first and foremost. Then after that is done they will come to Christ. People say I need to achieve all my dreams to be happy first. Then they claim they will serve Christ. Thats kind of like someone saying, “I want to get in shape so I can start jogging.” If you jog, you’ll get in shape. If you are obedient to Christ and his mission, your marriage will grow stronger. Your life will be more joyful. And you will serve a greater purpose than merely living for yourself.
Ive grown to love writing this blog because its sort of like a venue where I can share exactly what Christ is showing me in my own walk. I dont have all the answers. All I know for certain is the truth I read in scripture. And Ive got to know for myself just how obedient I am to Christ. As Francis Chan once asked, “Am I am man who truly even wants the will of God?” I think its a question far to few of us ask ourselves. We can’t afford to be wrong about this.
I love listening to my grandfather talk about his younger days. One of the coolest things is to hear my grandaddy talk about his school days. He will talk about things they did, and mischief he and his friends got into. One of his good friends growing up was a boy by the name of George Lindsey. Most TV Land fans today know him by the name Goober. George Lindsey became an actor as an adult. And his most well-known role was as a loveable mechanic on the popular Andy Griffith Show. My grandaddy said they used to play hooky, (thats skipping school) and go fishing or swimming in a pond all the time. Grandaddy has even told me about pranks Goober used to pull on the teachers. They were friends because they knew each other. They were friends because they cared about each other. They were friends because they spent time together.
It’s amazing how the definition of friendship has changed in just a few short years. Not long ago, I heard someone boasting that they were friends with a celebrity. I began to ask them how they knew this famous person. They replied that they were friends on Facebook. The internet has totally redefined the word friendship. Friendship has gone from once being a very personal, intimate thing to being very impersonal. According to the internet, you really don’t even have to know someone to be their friend. It seems now days you can just know of someone and know nothing about them personally and have a relationship. Once friendship required an investment in another’s life. It required a sacrifice of time in order to build a relationship. Now friendship is non sacrificial and non-committal. Friendship in our modern society is as easy as clicking a button.
This new shift in relationships is not only damaging to us as human beings, but it can also be damning by allowing us to be deceived. This new mindset as it pertains to friendship has slowly watered down what a true relationship should be. Even our relationship with Jesus. One popular T-shirt became a fad and is still being sold to this day. The slogan on the shirt reads, “Jesus is my Home Boy.” Sadly, many of the people I’ve seen wearing these shirts lived a very worldly life. Its kind of like their way of being able to live life on their own terms regardless of how sinful their actions may be, but still call Jesus their friend. There again, a real relationship God is watered down and made to be as easy as putting on a t-shirt.
Look at your friends Facebook pages. The majority of them claim under religious beliefs to be Christian. Some even take it a step further and put that they are a Christ follower. Yet many of the same people who would claim to know Jesus post pictures and status updates on their pages that are the opposite of everything Jesus taught in scripture. We are not friends with Jesus because we clicked “Like” on a Christian fan page. We are not friends with Jesus because of what our T Shirts may say. And just because someone says they know Jesus, doesn’t mean that Jesus would claim to know them.
Jesus made the Heavens. He made the earth and the planets. He made everything that exists in all of creation. That must mean he also made friendship. So if Jesus created friendship, shouldn’t we seek to know his definition of friendship? It would be like me telling a man who was painting a portrait of a boat that his portrait was actually not of a boat, but a banana. The man painting the picture is the creator, and he alone has the right to define his creation. So what does God say about friendship? Who does God consider our friends? I can promise you this….Facebook’s definition of friendship doesn’t even come close to God’s.
“You are my friends if you do what I command.” John 15:14.
The ones Jesus calls his friends are those who obey him. But how can you obey someone unless you spend time with them? Contrary to what the T Shirts says, Jesus is not your home boy. He is your King. He is your Lord. He is the Savior of the world. And he wants to be your friend. If you live more for your own fleshly desire than for Christ, He is not your friend. This may anger some people. You may think, “What right do you have to say who is Jesus friend and who isn’t?” But look at the verse above. I didn’t say it. I’m just repeating what Jesus said.
Jesus never said you have to be sinless to be considered his friend. But he did say you have to obey him. And that means that if we are his friends, we will constantly be seeking more after him than our own desires. Real friends of Jesus are growing daily in Holiness and sanctification.These are two common words thrown around in church very regularly. But few people actually know what these words mean.
The word Holy in the Hebrew is defined as being separate. So when you hear, “The Holy Spirit”, think of a separate spirit. Then you must ask yourself, “Separate from what?” Separate from the ways of the world. Thats why the angels sing “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord almighty.” Thats why when Moses asked the question to God, “Who are you?” The Lord replied to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” You see if an alien came down to this planet and asked me to describe myself, I could point to any other person and say, “Im like that human being.” But God had no one to compare himself to. God is separate from everything in creation. That is until the day God finally could point down from Heaven to a humble Jewish Carpenter and say, “Im like Him.”
1 John 1:6 “So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth.”
The term Sanctification is simply growing daily in our pursuit of holiness. Are you daily being sanctified or more separate? If we are not striving to be more Holy, or separate from the world, with our lives daily, we remain enemies of God. Here is what one pastor said speaking on holiness. He said, “The reason we even struggle with this sin is because we are not pursuing holiness. If Christians would grow in holiness, then they would stop being a slave to their sinful nature.” Growing in Holiness will make us separate from the world in our thinking and actions. But we cannot grow in Holiness, unless we have the Holy Spirit dwelling within us. And we cannot have the dwelling of the spirit unless Jesus has become our friend.
Here are some of the best ways to being pursing Jesus as your friend. The first step begins with becoming holy or separate from temptations of the world. And then growing in that sanctification daily.
1. Submit To God
You must come to a point of surrender. Its not just believing in God. Its not just saying Jesus is your friend and living contrary to his commands. Its repentance in your life. And repentance at its most basic is simply just giving up. Its to stop fighting against God. Stop fighting against your conscious and what you know is right. Stop justifying your sin. Just stop and give up. Surrender your life over to Christ. Begin to ask yourself who has Lordship over your life! If your base how you live life on feelings, culture, peer pressure, or selfish desires, then you have Lordship over your life, not God. However, if you begin to seek to know what God says about how you walk, how you talk, what you watch on television, and how you live your life, then God has Lordship. But know this…God doesnt want to be Lord over some parts of your life and not others. He wants it all. Submit all aspects of your life over to Jesus. If you say he is Lord of your life, the let him be Lord over all areas of your life.
2. Choose To Stop Sinning
Although Satan is responsible for many terrible things, he doesnt make you sin. Satan is a tempter, but he is not sovereign or able to control everything like God. You cannot stand before God and blame living a sinful lifestyle on Satan. That falls on you and you alone. In submitting to God, you must choose to stop sinning. This begins by examining your life and pinpointing the areas that you know are dishonoring to God. This may cost you popularity or friends. This may cost you money and material things. One thing is for sure, whenever we choose to follow Christ we will have to give up something. Turning from a sin that we have grown to love can be tough. But thats when we, as John Piper put it, “Make War on the sin.”
If your sin is drunkenness, make war and dont go hang out ever again at the bars. This may cost you friends. But again, ask yourself who has Lordship over your life, your friends or God? If your sin is lust, this may cost you a relationship or even more. If lust is claiming Lordship over your life, end that sinful relationship or take your computer and throw it in the garbage. Whatever it takes to rid yourself of the chains that hold you in a sin, take action.
3. Seek To Be Friends with Jesus
Read your Bible daily. Become a regular member of a church. And seek to know what God says about our lives as opposed to what the world says.
“God has called us to live holy lives, not impure lives.” 1 Thessalonians 4:7.
God has called us to live separate from this world. We cannot be a friend to God and be a friend to the world at the same time. You either love God or hate him. Matthew 6:24 tells us this. If you love the things of this world and reject Gods commands then no matter what your lips say, you prove that you actually hate God because you hate his commands.
“For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people. And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God,” Titus 2:11-12.
We are to live in this world, but not be of it. God says we are to seek Wisdom in his word. And we are to be devoted in everything we say and do to the Lord Jesus Christ.
“Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. 22 On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ 23 But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’ Matthew 7:21-23.
Are you Holy or do you break God’s laws? Are you seperate or are you just another example of modern-day sinful living? Would Jesus call you his friend or tell you to depart from Him. That even though you may have known his word and attended church, in judging your life….he never knew you. Dont be a friend of Jesus as Facebook would define friendship. Be a friend of Jesus in truth by living a holy life in obedience to His perfect word. Friendship with Jesus is not as easy as clicking like. But it holds far more benefits than any earthly friendship you will ever experience.
Imagine for a moment that you discovered your closest loved one is addicted to a very strong drug. And if this loved one continued using this drug, it would eventually cost them their lives. Doing your best to intervene, you convince them to check into a rehab clinic for a few weeks. There, your loved one is around others with the same addiction that he or she has. The addicts are meeting daily with a councilor from the clinic who is telling them to be clean, they must completely turn from their drug use. The councilor is telling them that they must replace the time they once used seeking this drug with a more positive pastime. They must develop new desires.
There are some addicts that really take these words to heart. But a few of the addicts have a different mindset. A few troubled addicts begin to tell your loved one that in recovering from any addiction, its alright to fall of the wagon every now and then. They tell your loved one that they should strive not to use drugs, but if the urge gets too strong, its alright to use. Because they tell your loved one that eventually, they will get things right.
So your loved one comes out of the rehab clinic and back into society. But the first week after getting out of rehab, you catch your loved one using the very same drug once again. Very concerned, you ask them what they are thinking! Your loved one responds, “Its alright, I am a new person since going to rehab. I met a very nice councilor and I am following his advice of staying clean. But other addicts have told me that its ok if I get high now and then. Because no one is perfect and everyone does it.”
You can never be free from a drug if you keep allowing yourself to be enslaved to it. And it would be apparent to you that your loved one cared more about what other drug users said about rehabbing than the councilor who honestly knew how to recover. Your loved one tells you that the clinic councilor is a person who can help them become a clean person. And so even though they continue to use, since they have spent time around the councilor, they are clean. But that is ridiculous. Because a drug addict can never be clean unless they take the advice of the councilor and turn from that drug completely.
One of the most joyous things in ministry is to hear someone say that they want to know the Lord. But it can also be very frustrating. Because when someone claims that they are following Jesus and living a sinful lifestyle at the same time, their actions betray their profession of faith. You cannot claim to be a follower of Christ and continue to live in addiction to sin. You cannot claim to be a Christian and yet use the excuse of God being a forgiving God. And just as the loved one decided to believe in other drug addicts methods of recovering from addiction, you cannot listen to other sinners and use the excuse, “We all sin, so God understands.”
If a drug addict continues in his rehab saying, “We all fall off the wagon once in a while so my use in rehab is justified”, it will eventually cost him his life. Sin is addictive. Maybe even more so than a drug. And just like a drug, if you continue living in it with no repentance, or turning from it, then it will lead to an eternal death. A drug councilor is a healer. But he cant heal you unless you turn from the drugs. And God is forgiving. But he offers no salvation unless you repent from sins in your life.
People twist scripture to make it mold more to their sinful lifestyle.
“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” Romans 3:23.
This is one of the most quoted verses in the Bible. And it is true. We have all fallen short of the glory of God in sin. No one is without sin except the Lord Jesus Christ. So since we are all sinners by nature, and it says this in the Bible, cant we just live however we want knowing that God forgives? I mean doesnt our sin magnify the grace of God since he is forgiving? If our sins make Christ’s grace even greater, then we can just continue sinning, right?
“What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” Romans 6:1-4.
What the apostle Paul is saying in this passage of scripture is that if anyone can use Christ’s grace as an excuse to go on sinning, then they do not know Christ. The resurrection of Jesus is representative of our sinful life. Just as Christ died under the weight of our sin, he rose to new life. In the same way, when we say we know Jesus as our savior, we are claiming to put to death striving to fulfill our fleshly desires and being a new way of life in seeking to live as Christ.
“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. ” Colossians 3:5-10.
Paul tells us once we begin to follow Christ, the sign of a true believer is one who puts away all evil desires. Everyone sins. But notice what Paul says. He acknowledges this, saying those who are saved in Christ ONCE walked in these evil desires. In the life the ONCE lived! But now they live their lives striving to avoid sin and live for Jesus.
So many people profession to know God make statements that show their true hearts. I heard Pastor Mark Driscoll tell the story of a man who came into his office for counseling. Pastor Mark was surprised to see this man, because he had been a very faithful church member. What he said floored Pastor Mark. The man said that he was divorcing his wife and leaving his kids to be raised by her. When Pastor Mark asked why, this faithful church member said that he wanted to live life for himself for a while. He openly admitted that he wanted to date around, to party, and to just have fun while he was young. He said he knew biblically it was wrong, but claimed that everyone sinned and that God would forgive him. In spite of Pastor Mark’s efforts to change this man’s mind, he ended up divorcing his wife and doing as he pleased.
No regard to the hurt he had caused in his wife and the pain to come when his kids got older. And he justified his sin by claiming the God loves everyone and he would be forgiven. But what this man was doing was committing idolatry. He was making God into a God he felt comfortable with. He was changing certain aspects of Jesus and twisting scripture so that he may be justified in his sin. God is loving. But God doesnt love everyone. He loves those who love him and repent. Those who do not love God show it by not obeying his commands. They are not children of God but Children of wrath.
“If you love me, keep my commands.” John 14:15.
We can claim to love God. But if we disregard his commands in exchange for loving our sins more than him, our words are empty. If you refuse to turn from your sins and choose sin over Christ, you do not know God, you are not saved, and you are on a road leading to Hell. Jesus does forgive, but in order to receive that forgiveness, you must die to your old self and begin new life living under his Lordship. You either follow Christ or follow your fleshly desires. And only following Jesus will lead to eternal life.
Some may not like my reply and may try to justify themselves like the Jews did. Some may say, “Hey, wait a minute! I’m already a Christian.”
In the book of John, Jesus is basically telling the Jews that they are not children of God due to their sin. The Jews argue back with Jesus. If we were to put this story in todays terms, ts kind of like they were saying to Jesus, “Dont judge me, Im a Christian.” Look at what the Jews say to Jesus.
“We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God himself.”
42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. 43 Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. 44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! 46 Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? 47 Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.” John 8:41-47.
If you are claiming to be a Christian yet choosing to continue on in sin instead of repenting, my reply would be much like Jesus’ reply in these verses.”If you are a Christian, then why do you continue to do the things that the devil does? Why do you continue to sin? The whole world is under the control of the evil one and yet you love things that are in the world; therefore, God’s love is NOT in you!
“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Fatheris not in them.” I John 2:15.
” Then I would say, “Turn from your sin and realize that God provides a way for you to stand up under EVERY temptation.
“No temptationhas overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be temptedbeyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” I Cor. 10:13.
Have faith in God. Rely on Him. In the Hebrew language, Holy means to be set apart or separate from. We are to be separate from the ways of the world. Make every effort to be holy.
“Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.” Hebrews 12:14.
If there is no difference between how we as followers of Christ act, and those who live for themselves, we will not inherit eternal life!
“Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially,live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear.” I Peter 1:13-17.
If you are in Christ, you are not following the ways of the world.
“Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).
These two verses sum everything up. Our WHOLE duty is to fear God and keep His commandments. Yet, there are so many who claim that this is an impossible duty to fulfill. “Sure,” they say, “we can obey God sometimes, but of course we will still sin.” They say this despite the fact that they have no Scripture to back up what they claim. So, many professing believers EXPECT to continue to sin and therefore they do because without faith in God to keep them from sin, they will surely fall–guaranteed.
“They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him” (Titus 1:16). They have a form of godliness going to church every week and being “spiritual” MOST of the time, but when it comes down to it, they have not accepted God’s provision to overcome sin and thus they deny the power to be godly. What is this provision that God has made for Christians to overcome sin? It is the grace given us by God sending His Son. Through the blood of Jesus, we can overcome, “for everyone born of God overcomes the world” (I John 5:4). Many professing believers have read passages like Romans 6 and I John 3 that state VERY CLEARLY that we are no longer slaves to sin and that those who are in Christ do NOT continue to sin:
“We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” Romans 6:2
“You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness” (Rom. 6:18).
“No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him” (I John 3:6).
Despite these and MANY other clear passages throughout the Bible, many do not have the faith to fully believe, so they may turn to ask a friend who helps them twist scripture and condones their sin. Then they FEEL much better thinking that they can continue in sin. So these people are like seed sown along a path: they “hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts” (Luke 8:12). So I ask you, do you have faith to believe the Bible? Have you accepted God’s provision to overcome sin in YOUR life? Do you really know what it means to be a SLAVE of righteousness? I pray that you will consider these things. I long to see more people living a victorious life in Christ overcoming sin.
We grow in holiness when we begin to follow the Lord. And His power will sustain you and keep you from falling. I pray that you will listen and believe the Bible and come to true faith in God. Give up those sins in your life and repent. The more you grow in your relationship to Christ, the more distant you will begin to feel from those evil desires. And the more you will begin to desire the things of God.
Just as a person who was once addicted to drugs cannot imagine living without the pleasure the drug provides them, when they are truly clean from it, they cannot imagine going back to it. Because their lives are so much more fruitful. And they have new desires that are good. Sin is no different. Be it drug addiction, sexual addiction, or simply living contrary to Gods word for your own fleshly desires sake, the life God has planned for you is far more satisfying than anything the devil’s world has to offer. But the only way to realize those new desires is to die to the old ones. And to begin to follow Jesus Christ with your whole heart and life. Everyone one sins. But not everyone continues willingly living in their sins.
Belief in Christ is not enough. For even Satan believes in Christ, but he chose to live contrary to the commands of Jesus. Satan believes in Jesus, but never repented and changed. Therefore his belief is not enough to save him. Satan will spend an eternity in Hell. So many are spitting images of Satan. They claim to believe in Christ, but they choose to live in their sins instead of following Christ. Because of this, as the verse above in John 8 pointed out, they are not sons of God. According to Jesus, their father is Satan. And because of their lack of repentance, they will spend eternity with their father in Hell.
God knows the desires of your heart. Desires that you may have yet to even realize. Because you’ve never really sought Christ.
“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” Matthew 6:33.
We get so mad at God when our lives get in a mess, and blessings are not added to our lives. But maybe it is because we have been seeking the wrong desires. Maybe it is because we have yet to seek God first, and to die to ourselves. Seek him, knowing that there is joy unspeakable in knowing Christ. Seek him, knowing the growing in holiness is more exciting than any sin Satan has to offer. And seek him knowing that judgement is closer than we think. And on that day, we will be judged according to the life we lived. God will declare you lived as a child of God or a child or wrath. The measuring stick will not be what the world did or what our friends convinced us would be ok. Rather it will be Jesus Christ and the example give to us in scripture. Who are you listening too right now to justify your life? Your friends and society, or the word of God? It is your choice. Choose carefully. Your eternal destination depends on it.
There is just something revitalizing about the word harvest. It’s a time of new beginnings. For the farmer, it has always marked an end to the hardships of sewing a generous crop. Days and months are spent plowing fields. If the farmer is lucky, the field will be very fertal.
Though there have been instances of infertal soil. The farmer pours all of his life into tending to his field in anticipation of the coming harvest. The crop will no doubt endure trials of harsh weather threatening to spoil what was growing.
Weeds and tare will grow along side good wheat in hopes of tarnishing the crop. But the farmer never gives up. He never has the mindset that his crop will never make it. His eyes are supremely focused on that coming day. The farmer’s life is about one thing and one thing only. He could care less about the trifles of this world. His heart is in reaping a successful harvest.
When Jesus came and saved me three years ago, I immediately felt a hunger to grow in my knowledge of Christ. And one of the most intriguing imagery used by Christ was when he spoke of the harvest. Jesus spoke in terms of a harvest on more than one occasion in the new testament. One of my favorite parables is in Matthew 13:24-30. It is the parable of the wheat and the tare.
“Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’
He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them.Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.”’
Such a clear story alluding to the Christian life. Jesus couldn’t have put it any clearer. There are wheat, and there tare or weeds. They grow together, side by side. Examining a stalk of wheat and a tare, you would quickly see that the only way to tell them apart is to open the heads of each stalk. The tares would be empty, while the wheat would be full of seed. In the same manner, there are children of God, and there are those who will deny Him. Although people may look similar on the outside, it’s what inhabits their bodies that makes the difference. And on that day of harvest, the unrepentant will be cast away into Hades just as the stalks of tare found their final resting place in the fire.
Jesus went on to use the allegory of the harvest when giving his disciples their most important marching orders on the purpose for their lives prior to his crucifixion. So many self professing christians will claim to be followers yet have more of a laxidasical approach to preaching the gospel and reaching the lost. We live as though time is on our side, and if not today, there will be another sunrise in which we may plant the seed of salvation. But that is contrary to what Jesus said about the harvest.
“Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!” John 4:35.
There is to be an urgency in the life of a believer. It is a missional mindset that should be predominant over anything in our lives. I dare say it should be all-consuming. The great theologian Leonard Ravenhill went so far as to say that a true Christian should have anguish in his heart over people he may see daily that are void of salvation. If we are not living our lives on mission and for Christs harvest, then we are no better than the wicked tare that sprout disguised as wheat. We are not to think Christ’s return may be far off and that we have time a plenty to warn unbelievers of his coming wrath. As Jesus tells in the verse above, the harvest is very ripe, meaning he could come at any moment.
Jesus mentions the harvest yet again in the verse that served as the name for our ministry in Panama as well as the name of this blog. This was said to his disciples in the beginnings of his earthly ministry.
“Then He said to His disciples,“The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” Matthew 10:37-38.
It doesn’t take a seminary graduate to realize that the harvest Jesus keeps referring to is mankind. We are Christs creation. And on that day, we will be ripe for harvest. For mankind is plentiful, just as any harvest. But the laborers, the ones that are committed to seeing that the harvest be fruitful, they are few. Therefore as believers, we are to spend much time in prayer. Not for God to bless us with health, wealth, and the deepest materialistic desires of our hearts. Prayers such as this would be the mark of a tare. But for Christ to call others unto himself for his great glory. That they might be raised up, called, and justified in living a life of proclaiming his great name to all nations.
These laborers the Jesus spoke of in Matthew 10 are true committed followers of the Lord. Towards the end of his earthly ministry, Jesus makes their calling clear. This account that has become known as the great commission has become the mantra for my life. It defines who I am as a person. And it clearly sheds light on how the life of a believer in Christ is to live their life. It is in obedience to these final orders recorded in Matthew 28 that we as christians can distinguish between the wheat and the tare. Between those who proclaim to follow Christ and those who are truly his adopted sons.
“Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had appointed for them. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted.
And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.” Matthew 28:16-20.
The blueprint for their lives had been laid out. They no longer lived for themselves. They had been called to a greater purpose. As have you. As followers of Christ, we are all called disciples. And if our lives do not show the same level of committment as those who walked beside him within the pages of scripture, chances are we are deceiving ourselves. If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, then you have been called into the harvest. Why would Jesus use the comparison to a harvest when relating to the most serious of matter. Each time Jesus talks about a harvest, he is alluding to ones spiritual salvation. And when Jesus comes back for his bride, that will be the final harvest he spoke of so plainly.
For the farmer, the end of a fruitful harvest season is a time of celebration and feasting with all those who are family. The hard work of reaping and toiling in the land is finished. Still don’t see the correlation between the harvest and following Christ? Isnt it ironic that just as a huge feast marks the end of a long harvest, so scripture tells us the reaping of God ‘s harvest will be no different.
“Then the angel said to me,“Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” And he added, “These are the true words of God.” Revelation 19:9.
How does your life look right now? Is it defined by the American Dream of building a better you? Or is more comparable to one anticipating a coming harvest? Are you constantly planting seeds in the hearts of unbelievers and persistent in making sure they grow through intentional discipleship? Is your life marked by the example of a farmer, sacrificing his own life for the good of the crop? Or have you become enslaved to complacency?
It is my prayer that God use the writings of this blog as a tool to raise up laborers willing to go boldly into the harvest with their lives. Just as the disciples, in Christ, your life is no longer your own. But in this bondage to Him, we find real purpose. Pray for the Lord of the harvest to raise up new disciples. Pray that our children would one day become missionaries who carry the banner of Christ to an unreached nation. Jesus said it best, the christian life is a harvest. And the privilege is ours carrying the seed of his great name to soils that are in need of a living water. The harvest is ripe indeed. Will you be willing to enter?