What If Persecution Comes To America?

-Can It Happen Here?

We sit in our offices & our homes watching the stories of persecuted Christians play out, from afar, on our monitors & our TVs! Christian persecution happens in other nations; but, not ours! We may not say it out loud; but, the unprecedented freedoms that Christians have enjoyed in this country, through the years, have led us to some unrealistic— even UNBIBLICAL— expectations. I’ve seen it in political rhetoric! Many American believers have a sort of entitlement mentality; like, persecution just can’t happen here!

-What If That’s Not God’s Way?

Now let me be clear—I do not have a death wish! I pray that the persecution of Christians will not spill over our borders & into our land! I pray for God to send revival to His Church; that, the Church will fall deeply in love with God again & out of love with the created things of this world; that, God will open the gates of heaven to the spiritual refugees all around us & awaken them to faith in Christ; and, that God will do all that without a loss of freedom & without persecution here. But…. what if that’s not God’s way for us? What if it’s part of His Sovereign plan to bring judgment to our sinful nation; and, as He often did with Israel in the Old Testament, use nations even more sinful than our own to bring about His judgment?

-No “Land Contract” With God

The Apostle Peter talks about this: “For it brings favor if, mindful of God’s will, someone endures grief from suffering unjustly. For what credit is there if you sin and are punished, and you endure it? But when you do what is good and suffer, if you endure it, this brings favor with God. For you were called to this, because Christ also suffered for you…” 1 Peter 2:19-23. God uses persecution to make us look more like Jesus! That’s what Peter says here! Many Christians feel justified to be angry & lash out at those who persecute or harm them! We desperately need the Holy Spirit’s help to understand how we’re supposed to respond to suffering, persecution & mistreatment in a way that makes us look more like Jesus; and, we need His grace to live it out!  There is nothing in Scripture that would lead us to believe that we, here in America, have some type of “land contract” with God! Only one nation, in the history of the world, has benefited from a “land contract” with God; and that was Israel!  We may love this land that we live on called America, but God has not promised us that we have any right to keep it! To hold onto it!

-When Death Is Gain

When Paul wrote the Church of Philippi, “For me, living is Christ and dying is gain”; He was saying that he loved Jesus so much that to lose everything in this life in order to be with Him was “gain.” Jesus was worth more than anything he might have or experience in this life. Death was a “GAIN” to him! If it should be God’s will to bring persecution to America, I pray God’s grace to ask my tormentor’s this question: “In Jesus I have my sins forgiven; He has restored my relationship with God my Father; I have an eternal home in heaven that’s being prepared for me right now; what can you offer me that’s better than that?” Let us live, above all else, as “citizens” of heaven! We are “strangers” here in this world! This is our “temporary residence” according to the Apostle Peter (1 Peter 2:11-12). Let us check our patriotism at the foot of the cross! If we belong to Jesus, our longing is for a better place than anything America can give us!

What Happens After We Die?

-Death Has A Certain Anxiety Attached To It

That question has a certain anxiety attached to it, doesn’t it? I’m convinced that even the most devout follower, of Jesus Christ, approaches death with some anxiety. You can be secure in your faith & your relationship with Jesus! You can believe that you’re going to spend eternity with Him; but, still have a certain fear because of the “unknown”! There’s always some anxiety when we’re forced into something new; what does it feel like to die? In part we fear death because it’s beyond our control, isn’t it? It’s that image of the Grim Reaper lurking around the corner; stalking us; and, we never know “when” he’s gonna show up, do we?

-Let Not Your Hearts Be Troubled

John 14:1-6 begins with Jesus’ words to His disciples:  “Let not your hearts be troubled…”; and, He tells them why in v.6:  “…because I am the way, the truth & the life.” If you’ve placed your trust in Jesus’ atoning work on the cross then you don’t have to fear death because Jesus IS your life! The fear of death can paralyze you; but, knowing you have eternal life in Christ sets you free from that fear! And, in that text, Jesus tells the disciples that they don’t have to fear death because after they die, they get out of here! In Romans, chapter 8, the Apostle Paul says that “…we know that the whole creation has been groaning together with labor pains until now.” And, not just creation at large, but, “…we also groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our bodies” (vs.22-23).  Every genuine child of God knows that groaning!

-I Will Come Again

That’s why we love these words:  “I will come again,” Jesus says in John 14:3, “and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” That’s a great death benefit, isn’t it? We get out of here! No more heartaches & betrayals; no more worries & anxieties! Jesus said:  “In this world you will have trouble.” And, don’t we know it? Jesus shared another benefit in v.2— after we die, we get a room in God’s Big House! “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told that I go to prepare a place for you?” God has a house! Not a hotel! Not an Inn; but, a big house! He’s not going to run out of space; and, if you have life in Christ, there’s a room reserved for you, with your name on it! We’re not going to be guests in a lodge! We’re His CHILDREN! We’ll live in His house with Him! In v.3 Jesus said:  “I will take you to myself!” That’s the best part of death! We “inherit” Jesus!

-We Don’t Grieve Like An Unbeliever

Jesus is the real “treasure” that we seek; and, we’ll have Him — ALL of Him— when He takes us to Himself! In Paul’s 1st letter to the Church of Thessalonica, he wrote: “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, concerning those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve like the rest, who have no hope” (4:13).  I have watched many friends & loved ones die; and, I grieve! But, not for them! I don’t wish that they could come back to me! I would never wish that upon them! I would never wish for them to come back to this place! I grieve for ME! That I remain behind! While I suffer & mourn the temporary loss of their friendship, I rejoice for them! I’m jealous of them; and, I long for the day when we’ll be reunited in a better place; but, NOT HERE! Oh, there’s some tension there, isn’t there— we still have Jesus’ Kingdom work to do while we remain! But, we don’t hold too tightly to anything here! Even so, come Lord Jesus!

No Sexually Immoral-Conclusion

-One Sin On A List Of Deadly Sins

In previous posts, we’ve pointed out that God includes homosexuality as just one sin on a list of deadly sins. The Holy Spirit of God inspired the Apostle Paul to write down these authoritative words of Scripture:  “Don’t you know that the unrighteous will not inherit God’s kingdom? Do not be deceived: No sexually immoral people, idolaters, adulterers, or anyone practicing homosexuality, no thieves, greedy people, drunkards, verbally abusive people, or swindlers will inherit God’s kingdom.  And some of you used to be like this. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)

-The Other Sins God Condemns

Look at the other sins God condemns with homosexuality— “sexual immorality” (That’s heterosexual sin!), “idolaters”, “adulterers” (Have you ever lusted after someone you’re not married to? Jesus calls that “adultery”!), “thieves”, “greedy”, “drunkards”, “verbally abusive” (I think we’ve all been guilty of that!) and “swindlers.” So, why do so many of us focus on just one of those sins? Why aren’t we equally as aggressive in calling out everyone else’s sins on this list? All sin is deadly!

-The Power Of The Gospel To Change Lives

But, Paul makes the point, in v.11, that the power of the Gospel can change every sinner’s life—  “…some of you USED to be like this. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified…” Some in the Corinthian Church USED to practice homosexuality… USED to be adulterers, thieves, drunkards, etc. But, no longer! They’ve become “new creatures” by the justifying grace and the sanctifying power of the indwelling Holy Spirit! Don’t ever give up on a loved one practicing homosexuality! Love them just like you’d love anyone else trapped by any other kind of sin!

-How Equally Repulsive God Finds My Sin

I once held animosity toward anyone living a homosexual lifestyle. God helped me overcome those feelings by rehearsing with me how equally repulsive He found all my particular sins! I am as broken & depraved as anyone involved in homosexual sin! I take no delight that my sins are somehow less repulsive to God! My battle with sin continues & will continue until God gives me a resurrected body like Jesus’! I’ve been a believer for nearly 52 years, at the time of this writing; and I STILL need a Savior! “God, help us to speak the truth IN LOVE into this conversation!” God loves every sinner! And, He calls them out to repentance & a new life in Christ!

-In Summary

I came across a quote that’s been attributed to Jonathon Parnell. It summarizes very effectively the point I’ve attempted to make in the last 4 posts related to the subject of all sexual sin, including the sin of homosexuality: “We don’t hate those who embrace homosexuality, we love them enough to not just collapse under the societal pressure. We speak the truth in love into this confusion, saying, simultaneously, ‘That’s wrong’ and ‘I love you.’ We’re not the left; we say, this is wrong. And we’re not the right; we say, you’re loved. We speak good news, with those sweetest, deepest, most glorious words of the cross — the same words that God spoke to us — ‘You’re wrong, and you’re loved.’” How desperately we need to speak the TRUTH in LOVE whenever we speak to another sinner! Let us just be like 1 beggar leading another beggar to bread! Amen? (NOTE: This is the final segment of a 4-part series, posted in this blog site, on the subject of “Homosexuality”)

No Sexually Immoral-Part III

-But You Were Washed

This is what you used to be like! Those are the words the Apostle Paul wrote in his 1st letter to the Church of Corinth:  “Don’t you know that the unrighteous will not inherit God’s kingdom? Do not be deceived: No sexually immoral people, idolaters, adulterers, or anyone practicing homosexuality, no thieves, greedy people, drunkards, verbally abusive people, or swindlers will inherit God’s kingdom.  And some of you used to be like this. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11) Make no mistake, God’s inspired Word condemns the homosexual lifestyle along with all other forms of sexual sin! But, don’t make it a bigger sin than God does!

-God Hasn’t Changed His Mind

Despite attempts to “explain away” this text, there is not one passage of Scripture anywhere that indicates that God has changed His mind about homosexual behavior.  Let’s talk about sin! Let’s define it!  Let me just expand on that a little bit—because He ALONE is God, He has the right to declare “sin” to be whatever He determines it to be. He alone is the divine lawgiver! If He declared it “sin” to drive a pink car then sin it is! If He declared it “sin” to be a football fan then sin it would be! God has created everything with divine order. Because of our sin & rebellion, in the garden, our natural bent from conception is self-will and rebellion (Psalm 51:5).  It’s futile to fight against Him (Psalm 2).

-Unconditional Surrender

We can try & play God with our life! We can rebel against Him by practicing a homosexual lifestyle, or, any of the other 8 sins mentioned here; but, we’re not gonna win! The only acceptable response to God is the “unconditional surrender” of our will & all our ways to Him— Not grudgingly! God is not the big “killjoy” in the sky! His commandments are for our good! He is benevolent & “well-intended” toward us! And, everyone who submits to His will & to His way finds the ultimate joy in their obedience— despite the difficulty of overcoming addictive behaviors!

-His Commands Are Not A Burden

For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome”— 1 John 5:3.  The commandment is not burdensome, but that’s NOT to say that overcoming the former sins will be easy! Sins that have become “addictive behaviors” will require the ongoing support & encouragement of mature believers who “disciple” them in their faith! But, God’s indwelling Spirit can give them victory in the same way that He gave victory to many in the Church of Corinth.

-The Key Word

What is damning, according to this Scripture, is the “practice” of homosexual behavior! God does not eternally condemn a sexually immoral “act”. He’s not condemning to hell anyone who’s ever been guilty of idolatry, adultery, homosexual behavior; or, anyone who’s ever stolen, been greedy, drunk, or verbally abusive! Or, NONE of us could be saved! God not only removes the sin from our account when we confess it and trust Jesus to save us; but, He gives us His Holy Spirit to indwell us and slowly deliver us from the sin that once enslaved us! The condemnation is for “practicing” a “lifestyle” that God condemns! An unwillingness to confess it as sin— to agree with God about it—is what condemns a person. That’s the test! The person who loves God will give up their sin; including their sexual sin! To live a habitual life of rebellion is what confirms a person’s lost condition!

No Sexually Immoral–Part II

-To Judge “Sexual Sin” Rightly

In last week’s post, we noted that God has no “hierarchy” of sin when it comes to sexual sin. To judge “sexual sin” rightly is to agree with God that “Sexual Sin Is Sexual Sin Is Sexual Sin.” So, don’t make homosexual sin a bigger sin than God does! God’s holiness is repulsed by all sexual sin! We concluded that from the text of Paul’s letter to the Church of Corinth:  “Don’t you know that the unrighteous will not inherit God’s kingdom? Do not be deceived: No sexually immoral people, idolaters, adulterers, or anyone practicing homosexuality, no thieves, greedy people, drunkards, verbally abusive people, or swindlers will inherit God’s kingdom.  And some of you used to be like this. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)

-The Evidence Is In The Lifestyle

If you study the context, of Paul’s letter, you’ll see that he’s drawing a distinction between the “unrighteous” & the “righteous”; or, the “unbeliever” & the “believer”; or, the “unsaved” & the “saved.” And, he uses an individuals “lifestyle” or “manner of life” as evidence. One of his ongoing themes— in both letters to the Corinthians— is that true belief always produces a changed life! In his 2nd letter, Paul writes: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come” (5:17) The verb tense there speaks of continuing action. Some translations say, “...old things are passing away, and all things are becoming new…” This speaks of the Holy Spirit’s work in us; that it’s one of progressive sanctification; or progressive spiritual growth!

-True Believers Are Not Who They Used To Be

A genuine believer is NOT who they used to be— and, that includes their “human sexuality”! In v.11— in considering those who fail the test in v.9-10— he says to the Corinthian believers, “And some of you USED TO BE LIKE THIS…” Some of you USED to be caught up in the deadly lifestyles mentioned! There’s always a “before” and “after” for the believer—  “before Christ” a life of habitual sin; and, “after Christ” there’s repentance and change. There is not one passage of Scripture anywhere that indicates that God has changed His mind about homosexual behavior! God has the right— as GOD— to declare “sin” to be whatever He determines it to be. He alone is the Divine Lawgiver. If He declared it a sin to drive a pink car or to be a football fan then sin it would be! Are we clear on that? Genuine faith comes to agree with God about the former lifestyle— including our sexuality!

-Examine Yourselves

That’s NOT to say that overcoming the former sins will be easy! These sins may have become “addictive behaviors”; and, they require the support & encouragement of mature believers who “disciple” them in their faith! But, God’s indwelling Spirit can give them victory! Interestingly, this is how Scripture always teaches us to judge whether faith is genuine. Genuine faith; or conversion, is not proven by saying a prayer; being baptized; or living a life filled with good deeds. Rather, the Word of God reflects back to us a changed life! Like a mirror, we view our life according to God’s Word. “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith. Examine yourselves. Or do you yourselves not recognize that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless you fail the test” (2 Cor. 13:5). Is Jesus Christ in you? Are you looking more like Him every day? That’s the test! The person who loves God will give up their sin; including their sexual sin!

No Sexually Immoral–Part I

-The Fear Of Being Misunderstood

My greatest fear in addressing the subject of homosexual sin is not the negative repercussions I might face for taking a Biblical stance on the matter. My greatest fear is being misunderstood; and, being painted as hateful, mean-spirited & unloving toward the LGBTQ+ community.  It seems like the media is doing everything possible to force everyone into choosing one of two camps— the camp that “celebrates” homosexuality; and, the camp that “hates” it!

-Reject Both Camps!

The camp that celebrates it is trying hard to lump everyone, who disagrees with them, into the camp of homosexual “haters”— “if you don’t support them, you hate them”! While the other camp says, “if you don’t hate homosexuals, you support them.” They’re the militants who get all red-faced, with veins popping out of their necks, whenever they talk about it. I REJECT BOTH CAMPS! Here’s the Scripture we’ll be considering over the next few posts:  “Don’t you know that the unrighteous will not inherit God’s kingdom? Do not be deceived: No sexually immoral people, idolaters, adulterers, or anyone practicing homosexuality, no thieves, greedy people, drunkards, verbally abusive people, or swindlers will inherit God’s kingdom.  And some of you used to be like this. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)

-The 9 Specific Sins Listed

There are 9 specific sins listed that God says give cause to miss heaven; and, 3 of them are sexual in nature— “no sexually immoral… adulterers, or anyone practicing homosexuality…will inherit God’s kingdom.” So, let’s get to God’s bottom line on homosexuality— “Sexual Sin Is Sexual Sin Is Sexual Sin.” God doesn’t have a separate list for those living a homosexual lifestyle. In fact, he paints with a broad brush when it comes to sexual sin—  “No sexually immoral people.” God’s holiness is repulsed by all sexual sin! So, here’s the main point of this post— Don’t make homosexual sin to be a bigger sin than God does! –Sexual Sin Is Sexual Sin Is Sexual Sin!

-The Progressive Work Of Sanctification

We speak of the Spirit’s work in us as one of “progressive sanctification”; and, that’s how Scripture always teaches us to judge the genuineness of our faith! To look in the Word of God & view it like a mirror. Does it reflect back to us a changed life? And, a changing life? Do we pass the test? What Scripture teaches about our “sexuality” is a litmus test.  God calls you out for your heterosexual sin just as much as He calls out the person trapped in homosexual sin; or the one addicted to pornography!

-There Are No Degrees Of Sexual Sin

In my last post, I discussed “respectable sins”; or those sins that seemed to get less attention than the “biggie sins.” Telling a little white lie or modest speeding are a couple that come to mind! It is common for sinners, like us, to rank those sins as less deadly than others! But, while some sins may create more chaos, pain & suffering in your life, make no mistake about it, God condemns all sins equally when it comes to eternal consequences! The one telling the little white lie is equally condemned; and in need of a Savior, as is the person living in sexual sin. So, in that sense, we ought to identify with everyone in the LGBTQ+ community. All of us have been separated from our Creator by our sin! The distance to God, through salvation by faith in Jesus’ atoning work on the cross, is the same for every sinner! There are no degrees of sexual sin! Come Back Next Week: We’ll get into Part II of “No Sexually Immoral”

Divine Slavery

-A Slave Of Christ Jesus

The Apostle Paul introduces himself, in his letter to the Church of Rome, with these words, “Paul, a SLAVE of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle and singled out for God’s good news” (Romans 1:1) I respect the editors of the Holman translation of Scripture for their decision to use the word “SLAVE”. Many translations have chosen to use “servant” or “bondservant” instead of “slave” out of respect for our human brothers and sisters that have been, and continue to be, subjected to the inhumane cruelty and bondage of human slavery.  But, here’s the fact – that word in the original Greek language is “doulos” and it means “slave”! So, if we believe the Scriptures are the inerrant, inspired Word of God (and I do!) then we’re left with the cold, hard truth that the Holy Spirit of God inspired Paul to use the word “slave”.

-Moved By The Holy Spirit

It was NOT Paul’s choice! He was moved by the Spirit of God to use that exact word – for a purpose! A “slave” – in the Roman world – was “owned”! A slave was purchased, “bought with a price”! They received no wages for their efforts; and, didn’t have any rights of their own. They were the personal property of the slave owner.  A “servant”, on the other hand, had rights – they were free to quit; and, they were compensated for their work. They belonged to no one! So, I was meditating on Paul’s words to the Church of Corinth, “Don’t you know that your body is a sanctuary of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) While he doesn’t use the word “slave” (“doulos”) he does use descriptive phrases that define slavery – “you are not your own” “you were bought at a price.”

-I Am Not My Own

Now, it’s not like I’ve never thought about this before! It’s not like I haven’t preached this passage before – probably numerous times! But, I grasped its meaning in a whole new way – I had an “epiphany”! I am God’s “slave”! I was “purchased” by the blood of Jesus Christ – “bought at a price”! I am not my own! Everything that I tend to see as “mine” is not mine! It all belongs to Jesus – because He bought me! If I live my life as an “owner” of my life then I’m NOT HIS! I can’t have it both ways – I’m either “free” to live as “owner” of my life & with the consequences of that decision! (Not really! Sin is the ultimate cruel taskmaster!) Or, I’m a “slave” to God!

-Does God Approve Of Human Slavery?

Let’s be real! God opposes every kind of sin against humanity. “Kidnapping” and “slavery” are condemned – “He who kidnaps a man, whether he sells him or he is found in his possession, shall surely be put to death” (Exodus 21:16) “If a man is caught kidnapping any of his countrymen of the sons of Israel, and he deals with him violently or sells him, then that thief shall die; so you shall purge the evil from among you.” (Deuteronomy 24:7) ‘Nough said? I thought so! So, why does God inspire Paul to use the word “slave” to describe our relationship with Him? I don’t pretend to know all the reasons! But, clearly, God sets Himself apart from mankind that would enslave other humans! He is love! He is benevolent & well-intended toward us! To be a “slave” to Him is to enjoy the BEST LIFE we could ever have – He is not a “killjoy” in the sky trying to spoil our fun! All His commandments are perfect & for our good!

I Come Quickly

~This Is My Last Post Until Wednesday, September 14th~

-The Bible’s Last Chapter

It’s nearly impossible to miss the theme of the very last chapter of the Bible. Three times, in Revelation chapter 22, Jesus speaks of His plan to return:  “Look! I am coming quickly,” He says in v.7, 12, and 20.  It’s unmistakable! Jesus wants the world to know that, even as He fulfilled the prophecies of His 1st coming; so He will fulfill all the promises of His 2nd coming! And, He doesn’t want anyone to miss it! He wants everyone to know that He’s coming back. And, when He does, it will happen quickly. Some have misread Jesus’ words to mean that He said He was returning “soon” when He told John to write down these words; as in chronologically, it would happen soon. And, because it’s been 2000 years since He said this, they say it’s not going to happen! But, Jesus didn’t mean that He would come “soon”; as in chronologically! He uses the word “quickly” which means suddenly!

-His Return Will Be Sudden

When He returns, it will be sudden! There will be no time to prepare because it will happen so quickly! That means you have to be ready! You have to make your preparations before His return, or it will be too late. That’s the intent of Jesus’ words. Make your preparations now to confess your sin & your brokenness! Make your preparations now to ask Jesus to be your Savior from sin! Make your preparations now to be reconciled with God. There’s a sense of urgency! If you think you’ll wait to see if Jesus actually returns, before you give Him your life, it’ll be too late because His coming will be sudden & quick, with no warning other than what we’ve been given in Scripture. When Jesus returns there will be no time to get ready! You have to be ready!

-Are You Prepared For His Return?

Here’s what’s tragic— most people are better prepared for bad weather than they are for Jesus’ return! Right? You need to be prepared! Some of you aren’t prepared! Why? Why would you put yourself in such a vulnerable position? This is the All-Mighty God of creation we’re talking about! Why would you put Him off? Why would you ignore what He’s spoken to you in His Word? When you are truly prepared for Jesus’ return, there’ll be no place you’d rather be than with Him.  The description of the new heavens & the new earth, in Revelation 22:1-5, is a continuation from the previous chapter when an angel shows up & begins to give the Apostle John a tour (Revelation 21:9). He sees a pure river that flowed with the “water of life.”

-Hunger And Thirst

And, God told John, “I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts” (21:6). You may remember that Jesus shared similar words in His Sermon on the Mount:  “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (Matthew 5:6). If you don’t hunger & thirst after God and His righteousness than heaven won’t suit you & you’re not prepared for Jesus’ return. Your life is still wrapped up in this world:  “…the LUST of the flesh, the LUST of the eyes & the PRIDE in one’s lifestyle…” 1 John 2:16.  If that’s what you live for, you won’t like heaven! But, if you thirst for holiness; if you thirst to be more like Jesus, then you’re prepared for His return! Your thirst will be satisfied by the river flowing from the holy, righteous, pure “…throne of God and of the Lamb…” (22:1,2).  And, the Tree of Life will also be there (v.2). And, what’s on heaven’s menu? Probably not McDonalds! We’ll come back to that next week!

Consider It Joy To Be Tested!

-Are We Prepared For Persecution?

It seems it’s time to ask ourselves if we’ve prepared our children and our grandchildren for a time when it might be against the law to be a Christian in this country! It doesn’t seem like the church, in general, has done a very good job of that! We have “Americanized” what it means to be a follower of Jesus! Christianity was birthed in a world that crucified its Founder! Jesus said, “If they crucify Me, they will crucify you!” The 1st-century follower of Jesus was considered a revolutionary! Do you know what the Roman government did with revolutionaries? They killed them!

-We’ve Sanitized The Faith!

All but one of Jesus’ disciples were killed or martyred for their faith! American Christianity knows nothing about that kinds of tests and trials. We’ve sanitized the faith! Somehow, we’ve accepted the lie that all you have to do is ask Jesus to be your Savior and you’ll never have another problem! Many believers have learned to look down on an individual who struggles in life like they’re just not very spiritual! We’ve accepted the lie that we’re entitled to live in a Christian, God-fearing, Bible-honoring America! But, God never made that promise! Quite the opposite!

-Called To Be Jesus To The World!

God calls us to be revolutionaries; He calls us to be Jesus to the world that crucified Him! He calls us to love them as Jesus loved them; even if it means dying to see them saved! God’s revolutionary looks a whole lot different than the world. Our revolutionary warfare is fought by the Spirit; not like Peter attempted in the Garden. Jesus told him to put away his sword. This war is fought on our knees in prayer! Our sword is the Word of God! He intends we take the Gospel to everyone around us! That’s Christ’s commission! The book of James is a dynamic declaration of what real discipleship looks like; how it’s fleshed out even as we go through testing.

-Responding To Trials & Tests!

You need James’ message because all of us are either coming out of a testing, we’re in the middle of a trial or test right now, or we’re heading into one! No one leaves this world unscathed. So, let me point out how James, under the divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit, tells us to respond to the trials & the tests & the disappointments of life! “Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing” James 1:2-4. What? Consider it a joy to be tested by God? That’s what he said!

-Committed To Facing Trials!

We need God’s supernatural help if we’re going to be committed to facing our trials with a joyful heart as James says! We need God’s help because “joy” is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-26). That means that your flesh cannot produce a joyful heart! It’s incapable! Let me add that he’s not talking about “temptations” to sin here. We’re not supposed to be filled with “joy” when we face temptations to sin! We’re supposed to FLEE those kinds of temptations the Apostle Paul told Timothy (2 Tim. 2:22-24). James, here, is referring to the trials, tests, and difficulties of life! And, our flesh will never respond with “joy” when those things enter our lives! Because of our sinful flesh, our natural response is never going to please God, is it? Our flesh always wants to please our flesh! A spiritual response is counter-intuitive for us. It’s not natural! It’s God’s work in us! So, what James is calling for here will require that we crucify our flesh!

Shining Like Stars In The World!

-God Enables Us!

Over the last few posts, I’ve asked you to read with me from the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Philippians, chapter 2. In writing to this church, Paul shares something significant in v.15, “So that you may be blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world.” God intends that we would shine like stars in the world as He enables us & gives us the desire to have the mind or attitude of Jesus. Go back earlier in the chapter & re-read verses 5-11.  God will enable us to shine like stars in the world when we empty ourselves of self-glory as Jesus did.

-Empty Yourself Of All Self-Glory!

Consider that phrase, in v.7, where Paul says that Jesus “…made Himself of no reputation…” It means He “emptied Himself.” The word, in the original Greek language, means “to empty, or to pour out.” In a practical sense, the word means “to give up status or privilege.” When Jesus “…made Himself of no reputation…” or “emptied Himself,” Scripture means He willingly set aside some of the privileges He enjoyed as God.  Paul says that Jesus also took on the “form” of a slave. The word “form” means “the exact essence.”

-The Exact Essence Of A Slave!

Jesus was the exact essence of what a slave looks like, but He took it on voluntarily. No one forced Jesus to do it! He willingly took the form of a slave! He willingly came to earth! He willingly died so we could live!  Then, Paul says He came “…in the likeness of men.” In other words, He wasn’t just God in a human body. He took on all the essential attributes of humanity— He experienced all the emotions, the pain, and the suffering of betrayal & death! So, here is the application— Paul calls us out, as the church, to think of ourselves in the same way as Christ who emptied Himself! To set aside self-glory; and, become slaves to one another in the church, until it spills over into our city!

-Serving Our City With The Mind Of Christ!

Until we serve the people of our city in a way that the mind of Christ would direct us! God will also cause us to shine like stars in the world as we humble ourselves of our self-importance. In v.8 Paul says, “And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” Jesus so humbled Himself that when a man looked upon Him, many of them only saw a “man.” He had no glory glow about Him; no halo as artists have erroneously depicted Him. He just appeared to be a man to them. He left the glory of heaven where He was “King of Kings & Lord of Lords.”

-Angels Worshiped him In Heaven!

In heaven, Jesus couldn’t go anywhere without angels bowing down to worship Him & singing Him songs of praise! While He could have strutted onto this planet with a spectacular display of His omnipotence, His omniscience, His holiness, and His justice— so that no one could mistake Him for anything other than the God He was— instead, He humbled Himself so that many disrespected Him & saw Him as nothing more than a mere man! Application? Paul said the Church of Philippi filled his heart with joy (v.3) because they humbled themselves of self-importance. When they esteemed the needs & interests of others as more important than their own & become more concerned with the rest of the faith community’s needs above their own, that’s when they were thinking like Jesus. That’s Christ IN YOU! The Spirit produces the mind of Christ IN YOU! We can’t! But He changes our minds & attitudes when we trust Him.