Do You Believe It Can Happen Again?

Jesus’ Great Commission

The book of Acts is an exciting book to read if you’re a genuine follower of Jesus Christ. Filled with the Holy Spirit, the early Church was bold & intentional to obey Jesus’ Great Commission to “make disciples”; and, the results were inspiring! On the Day of Pentecost, as Peter and others preached the Gospel in the Power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, it says  “…that day there were added about three thousand souls” (ch. 2:41). Wow! The 1st church started with 3,000 people! And then we read that “…the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved” (ch. 2:47).  A couple of chapters later we read, “Many who heard the message believed…and the number of the men came to be about five thousand” (ch. 4:4). The next chapter uses the term “multitudes” to describe those added to the church, “…all the more believers…multitudes of men and women were added to their number” (ch. 5:14).  From that point, the text says the number of disciples was “multiplied”; and, “…the word of the Lord was being spread through the whole region” (ch. 13:49).

Disciple-Making Math

That’s the math of disciple-making— God first “added” to the church; then, “multitudes” were added; and, finally, the number of disciples “multiplied.” Once the Spirit begins to “multiply” the number of disciples, you have an incredible movement of God! What’s in your heart as you reflect on those events? Is it simply “historical” to you— another great BIBLE STORY that doesn’t hold much meaning for today? Or, do you believe that God still works like that when His people are genuinely broken enough to repent of their disobedience to His Commission; and, begin to intentionally love people & disciple them into the kingdom? Do you believe it can happen again?

The Fields Are White

It was like a couple of years ago that I had the opportunity to be part of a Gospel Coalition meeting in Omaha; and, I found it incredibly refreshing talking with several “20-somethings” who were passionately taking the Gospel to the city of Omaha. The number of new believers, coming to Jesus, is happening so quickly that they hardly have enough workers to disciple them all! By faith, they simply believe what Jesus said: “The fields are white, ready to harvest…pray the Lord of the Harvest, that He will send forth laborers!” Oh, how the church, here in the West, needs to faithfully & passionately pray that same prayer!

Yes! It Can Happen Again

Steve Smith, who wrote “A Discipleship Re-Revolution”, said this: “A discipleship revolution ignited a firestorm of loving evangelistic zeal and fervent obedience that took the kingdom into the remotest corners of the known world in a period of years & decades, not centuries…This process of winning new believers and training them to witness to others who believed & witnessed to others cascaded out in ripples that touched the farthest reaches of the empire.” Hey Church— let us repent! Let us come back to “ground zero” on this matter! For too long we’ve simply waited for unbelievers to just show up at our Worship services! For too long we have held onto unbiblical strategies for growing the Church! Jesus said, “I will build My Church” Matthew 16:18. The Church belongs to Jesus! And, He already gave us the strategy for building it! We are called to “make disciples”! That’s the way we change America and the world!

Growing Up Spiritually In Community

The Greatest Commandment?

We’ve often pointed out that the world generally obsesses over the “self.” But, God, in the Scriptures, directs us to be “God-focused” and “others-focused”! When Jesus was asked, “What is the greatest commandment?” He responded, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27). Love God supremely; and love others in the same way that you love yourself! That means looking out for their best interests in the same way we look out for our best interests.

“Self-Centeredness” In Our Churches

Unfortunately, this “self-centeredness” has trickled down into our churches; so, even our spiritual growth is seen as something accomplished as an “individual.” For many modern believers, here in the West, being part of a church or a “community of faith” is seen as “supplemental”, and not “essential”, to our spiritual growth. We believe the Scriptures debunk that individualistic mindset.  God uses our local church— our faith community— to grow us at a deeper & more intimate level than can be accomplished alone.

Build Up The Body

Paul often reminded the local churches (as he did the Church of Ephesus in ch.4:11-16) that they were to function as a “body” functions; not as a group of self-centered, self-absorbed individuals! The “work of the ministry” is to “build up the BODY”, he said. The spiritual growth God intends to accomplish in us individually happens in the context of the local church body. It’s NOT that we don’t grow as “individuals”; we do! But that growth comes, in part, through our interaction with others! God uses our fellowship & even our fights to sanctify us! He teaches us humility, forgiveness, and how to resolve conflicts. When we live an isolated life outside of the church we live as though we are autonomous!

Only God Is Autonomous

Only God, however, is truly autonomous! He alone answers to no one! We must give an account of our lives to God; and, He has devised the church body to keep us accountable! It’s His plan that by holding ourselves accountable to other believers we will be stretched & matured so that we might hear a “well done good & faithful servant” when we stand before Him! We are called to “bear one another’s burdens”; and, those burdens come in different shapes and sizes. Sometimes we are burdened by sin. At other times, our burden is physical or emotional; and, God intends to use our brothers & sisters, in Christ, to help mature us!

Why Are We Here?

Since making disciples is the main reason why a church exists, everything in the corporate body of the local church needs to be aligned in a way that funnels people toward these discipleship environments, the most notable of which is the relational small group”—from the chapter titled “Rethinking Our Practices” p.171 in Jim Putnam’s excellent book,  DiscipleShift.  Depending on the English translation of the Scriptures that you use, there are between 60-65 “each other” or “one another” admonitions in the New Testament. All of them relate to the interaction of believers in the body of a local church! I would conclude that it’s not even possible to obey those “each other” or “one another” commands unless we are part of a local community of faith! God uses even our “bad experiences” in the church to sanctify & grow each member!

How Important Should Politics Be?

-The Reaping & Sowing Principle

In my last post I talked about the Church’s well-intended; but, disastrous decision, to exchange Jesus’ commission to “make disciples” in the hope that their political clout— as a “Moral Majority”— could change our country, for the better, by electing the right individuals to office & through legislation.  Five decades later, we’ve discovered the accuracy of God’s word in Galatians 6:7, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.” It’s the reaping & sowing principle!

-A Biblical Theology Of Politics

The Church has severely shrunk in size; and, for the most part, the strategy of the “Moral Majority” of the 1970s and 80s, has failed to elect God-Honoring public servants or pass God-Honoring legislation. However, let us NOT get back on the pendulum; and, swing it to the other extreme, making government & politics of no importance! That’s reactionary, and it’s not a Biblically acceptable response either! What we need is a Biblical Theology of the “Christian & Politics.” Our Theology; and our Doctrine always have to begin with God! He’s the starting place for everything.

-Government Was God’s Idea

The earth is the LORD’S and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it” Psalm 24:1.  “For the earth is the Lord’s, and everything that is in it” 1 Cor. 10:26.  Government was God’s idea! He created it—  “Submit to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist are instituted by God…the one who resists the authority is opposing God’s command, and those who oppose it will bring judgment on themselves” Rom 13:1,2.  The principle in Scripture is that God is Sovereign over human governments; and, uses them to advance His ultimate plans (Prov. 21:1;  Dan. 2:21; 2 Chron. 20:6).  At the same time, God blesses the nation that chooses Him (Psa. 9:17; 33:12; Isa. 60:12; Prov. 14:34).  There’s an element of man’s free will involved.

-Personal Responsibility Required

He’s made us a free moral agent; and so, people often get the government they’ve “chosen.” There seems to be some personal responsibility required; especially, if we have the freedom to choose our public officials as we do here in the United States of America. If we’re given the opportunity to choose good governments that exalt God, that’s what we’re called to do! Paul told Timothy to pray for good governments— “…for kings and all those who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity that provide a peaceful atmosphere for us to do the Lord’s work…” (1 Tim. 2:1,2).

-Balancing The Tension

In Philippians 3:20, Paul puts government & politics in its proper perspective—“But our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Peter says to “…conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your temporary residence here” 1 Pet. 1:17. It’s ultimately a matter of “identity.” I must view my identity as a “citizen of heaven” and a “temporary resident” of this world and my home country!  The moment I lose sight of that I’ve made my nation an “idol”! As one whose identity is “in Christ”, my goal must always be to pursue Christ as the prize! At the same time, we’ve been blessed with the privilege and responsibility to vote! And we must vote our conscience, based on our understanding of Scripture! But, then we leave it there! We leave the results in the hands of our Sovereign God! No anger or rudeness toward leaders that God has installed for His eternal purpose! Now we pray for those leaders!

Does God Get Disappointed With Us?

-A Big Disappointment To God?

I know of a Youth Pastor who handed his students a 3-inch nail & told them to keep it in their pockets. Whenever they had a sinful thought, sassed their parents, or mistreated a classmate, they needed to reach in their pocket & poke that nail into their finger ‘til it hurt. “Draw a little blood,” he told them, “that way you’ll remember the pain those actions are causing God. You’ll know how disappointed He is with you right now!” Maybe that’s the picture of God that someone painted for you when you were growing up! Maybe you live every day thinking that you’re nothing but a big disappointment to God! Maybe you’ve messed up so badly & so many times that you think you could never make God happy with you!

-God Is Never Surprised or Frustrated

Well, here’s a statement that’ll rock your world—  “If Jesus is your Savior, God will never be disappointed with you!” Disappointment is comprised of 2 elements: surprise & frustration! People disappoint us when we’re surprised by something unexpected that they did; and, we’re frustrated by it! If Jesus is your Savior, God will never be disappointed with you because He is “omniscient”; or, “all-knowing.” Because He’s omniscient, He’s never surprised or frustrated! He’ll never say, “Wow! I never saw that coming!” The psalmist said, “Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I stand up; You understand my thoughts from far away…You are aware of all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue, You know all about it, Lord” Psalm 139:1-6 

-God Knows Everything About Us

God knows everything about us! So, we never surprise Him! Not once is the word translated “disappoint” ever used, in the Bible, about God! An All-Knowing God can never have His hopes or expectations fail! Now, I understand that concept of “hurting God” or “disappointing” Him by our sin! It just doesn’t seem to be a sentiment that can be supported by Scripture! God is omnipotent, or all-powerful! How can an all-powerful being ever be hurt? God is also omniscient, or all-knowing! So, He would know, in advance, if something would hurt Him— assuming anything could— and He would avoid it, right? The only hurt or pain ever inflicted on God was when Jesus went to the cross voluntarily; and suffered for the sin of the world! That was planned from eternity! God planned to endure pain & suffering so that the repentant might be redeemed & relationships with God restored!

–God’s Theology Of Forgiveness

Ultimately, He’s never disappointed with us because all our sin has already been paid for by Jesus on the cross! It’s been replaced with the “righteousness of Christ”! So, grab hold of God’s forgiveness! God’s forgiveness, through Christ, is total! What God offers, through Jesus’ substitutionary work on the cross, is a radical, sweeping removal of every sin you’ve already committed & every sin you will ever commit for the rest of your life! Review Colossians 2:13-14 and Psalm 103:12—He’s “removed our sins from us as far as the east is from the west”! So thorough is God’s forgiveness that we were forgiven before we ever sinned—our names were written in God’s book before the “foundation of the world” Revelation 13:8. He no longer holds our sin against us—“…God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them…” 2 Cor. 5:19. So, does God get disappointed with us? No! How could He when He no longer holds our sins & our missteps against us? He’s canceled our debt of sin!

Why Is Their Evil & Suffering?

-Difficult Questions

That is a hard question! Some of the most difficult questions I’ve ever had to answer begin with “why”— Why did my baby die? Why does a loving God allow suffering? Why is there hunger and starvation in the world? Why does God allow terrorist killers like ISIS to exist; and, why does He allow them to kill Christians? Why do sex trafficking, human trafficking & slavery exist if God is in control? Why earthquakes, tsunami’s, hurricanes & tornadoes if God is love? First, I’ll not try to pretend that there’s an easy answer to these questions! I’ll try not to offer the usual “pat answers” & smugly look the other way!

-God’s Judicial Act Against Sin

I would ask you to open your Bible to Romans 8 as I intend to reference it through this post. In v.20, the Apostle Paul makes a difficult observation: “For the creation was subjected to futility—not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it…” That seems like an obvious reference to Adam & Eve’s “Fall” in the garden! He’s saying that our present suffering, in part, is the result of God’s judicial act against Adam’s disobedience.  So it’s not wrong to wonder aloud about why all these bad things happen! What’s wrong is when God is the focus of our rage! What we need to do is look in the mirror! We’re the problem! We’re the reason for all the evil & suffering in the world! When Adam sinned, the curse God placed on sin was passed down to every succeeding generation! Humanity’s sin against God is the reason we’re faced with all the trouble in the world! 

-Our Teeth Still Ache

There’s an old Hungarian proverb that says:  “Adam ate the apple and our teeth still ache.” It means that because of Adam’s “headship” over the human race, his sinful deed was passed down through our human nature. His “headship” also carries the idea that we all sinned “in” Adam; or, if given the same opportunity, we all would have sinned just like he did. So, that’s where all the “futility”, the groaning; and, the corruption began. God followed through on His threat that, “…the soul that sins shall die.”  Though it sounds bleak, v.20 finishes out with these words, “…in the hope that the creation would be set free from the bondage of corruption.” In other words, pain and suffering will not continue forever! There’s a day coming when ALL of creation— including those who put their faith in Christ to save them— will be redeemed from this world’s “futility”! 

-The Justice Of God

God’s act was just and righteous; and, it carried with it a purpose. After their sin, God removed Adam & Eve from the Garden of Eden, Genesis says, so they would not eat of the “Tree of Life” and be eternally separated from Him. He, therefore, placed the curse on creation “…in the hope…” that it would reveal, to us, our brokenness & depravity; and, set us free from our bondage to sin. So, when our “why” questions are directed at God—almost like an accusation—they’re misplaced! We need to stand in front of a mirror, when we ask “why”; and, humbly admit: “All the pain & suffering in the world is because of my sin ‘in Adam.’ All the ‘suffering’, all the ‘natural disasters’, all the ‘futility’ is my fault!” Our “hope” is ultimately not in this world; but, in the Resurrected Christ who will one day resurrect our broken bodies in Glory! We don’t blame God for evil & suffering! We praise Him because He’s the One who delivers us from it! Hallelujah!

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!

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!

Joy In Our Trials

-Consider It A Great Joy!

In James’ introduction to his epistle, by the same name, the Spirit of God prompts him to write:  “Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials” (1:2). Say what? Did he just say that we ought to consider it “joy” whenever we’re facing trials?  Yup, sure did! So, what are some of our natural responses to difficulties and problems? Not very joyful are they? 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 of “joy” is counter-intuitive for us! It’s NOT natural! It’s God’s work in us!

-An Unavoidable Situation

That phrase, “…whenever you experience various trials…” is interesting.  It literally means that it’s an “unavoidable” situation! It’s not “IF” you will experience trials; but, “WHEN.” In other words, you cannot prevent it! You cannot control the various trials of life. I fear that some of you have gone through life feeling a great sense of guilt. You’ve convinced yourself that the reason you’ve had that crisis in your life is that you’ve done something wrong, and God is getting back at you for it! That He’s out to get you! That’s not the case! That’s not the loving, gracious, merciful God who eagerly forgives our sin when we confess it; and cleanses us for our unrighteousness (1 John 1:8-10). When James uses the word “consider” in that verse, he means for us to make a conscious commitment. We have to make a conscious commitment that whenever trials or tests or troubles come that we’re going to count it “joy” because it means that God is working in us! He’s using us for His purposes!

-God Puts You On Display!

If this becomes a struggle for you, let me offer you some Scripture to put to memory! When you memorize Scripture, you give God’s Holy Spirit the tools He uses to strengthen your faith and correct your walk with God! The Apostle Paul wrote to the believers in the Church of Corinth:  “But thanks be to God, who always puts us on display in Christ and through us spreads the aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For to God we are the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing” (2 Cor. 2:14-15).  God uses the tests & trials in your life to put you on display! “Here’s Jesus in the flesh,” He tells the unbelieving world. He’s announcing to everyone around you! He wants to show the world, by your response to the testing, that Jesus is more valuable to you than a perfect life without struggles; that you still pursue Him despite your trials! 

-Spiritual Maturity!

James is teaching his readers to let God use the testing to produce spiritual maturity in their life. It’s “…the testing of your faith…” he says in v.3 that produces “endurance.” One of our former members, who’s moved away, runs marathons. A marathon is 26.2 miles. He didn’t just start running marathons one day. In fact, if you ask him how far he could run when he started, he’d tell you he wasn’t able to get past the 1-mile mark. But, he kept running, stretching it out to 5 miles; then 10, 15, and 20. Until he could endure 26.2 miles. That’s what the testing of our faith produces is endurance, James says. When you’re a new believer you get tripped up easily over every little test in life. But, God uses it to build spiritual endurance in us! That’s why we consider it joy! We don’t consider it joy because we enjoy the trials. Rather, we face the trials with a joyful heart because we know that God is using those things to produce spiritual endurance in us. 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.