God Loves Generosity!

-He Loves The Cheerful Giver!

In fact, to quote the words of the Apostle Paul, to the Church of Corinth, accurately, “…God loves a cheerful giver…” 2 Corinthians 9:7.  God is generous! He gives us everything we “need” the Scripture says; and, an awful lot of our “wants” also! He is a good God! And, His expectation is that we would become more and more generous as we are sanctified & made a new creation in the image of His generous Son, Jesus!

-There Are Expectations!

And, He has those expectations, of us, with good reason—He has given us His Holy Spirit to indwell us & change us! That means we can give “in the flesh”—giving sparingly or reluctantly! Or, we can give “in the Spirit”—to give willingly & generously & cheerfully as a work of the Spirit in our life! Generous giving is the supernatural work of God’s indwelling Spirit! That “in the flesh” attitude comes from a belief that God is a TAKER rather than a GIVER!

-A Giver Or A Taker?

If we believe that God is a TAKER, we’ll also give sparingly & reluctantly! We’ll see His requirements of a tithe & offering as taking away something that’s “MINE”; or, something “I’ve WORKED for.” But if, in our heart, we see God as a GIVER we’ll see all our financial blessings as coming from God; not, from ourselves! Our financial decisions ultimately reveal what we think about God! God is a GIVER! That is His nature! He gave life to Adam & Eve. He gave them a beautiful garden home! He gave them a choice! And, when they made the wrong choice & sinned against Him, He gave His Son—because, “God so loved the world that He GAVE His only Son…” So, He gave the world a 2nd chance at redemption through Jesus & the Cross!

-He Gives So We Can Give!

And, as followers of Jesus, He gives to us so we can be a blessing; and, give to others! This is an amazing truth from God’s Word! Whether you’re rich, by the world’s standards; or, poor like the widow who gave her mite, God has given us our stuff to make givers out of us. That’s exactly what Paul told the Church of Corinth: “And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance [or: make every grace abound to you], so that you may always have enough of everything and may provide in abundance for every good work” 2 Corinthians 9:8. Get that? God gives us what we have so we can be generous!

-It’s All His Anyway!

He gives us enough, so, that if we manage it rightly, we’ll have what we need to be GIVERS! Now, the implication is that if we say we don’t have enough to give, that we’re mismanaging what He’s given us! Or, God’s Word is incorrect! Paul actually expands on this in v.10— “…the One (GOD) who provides seed for the sower and bread for food will provide and multiply your seed and increase the harvest of your righteousness.” In other words, God gives on BOTH sides of our giving! He gives us “seed” before we give; and, He multiplies it & provides a harvest for all the righteous deeds we can do in regard to giving! That’s God’s promise! He gives all of us what we need to BE GIVERS! Though, in His Sovereignty He may give more to some than to others; so, that they can give MORE! But, we’ve all been GIVEN to GIVE! That brings God glory!

 

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How Do We Fight Sin?

-It’s About Your Thought Life!

The Apostle Paul paints a picture, of what spiritual growth looks like, in his letter to the Church of Colosse. He tells these young believers:  “…if you have been raised with the Messiah, seek what is above, where the Messiah is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on what is above, not on what is on the earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with the Messiah in God.  When the Messiah, who is your life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory” Colossians 3:1-4. Let’s think about the implications of Paul’s words—he seems to be saying that a successful fight against sin is won in the “thought life”, right? The battle against the “weeds” of sin is fought in your mind; which, means that it’s either “won” or “lost” in the mind!

-Who Or What Are You Thinking About?

I believe Paul is teaching us a principle that spiritual growth always relates to how highly & how often we THINK of God; and, conversely, how infrequently we think of ourselves! Using farming terminology, meditating on God & His Word is like spraying ROUNDUP on the weeds of sin in your life; and, dwelling on your self is like fertilizing those weeds! Part of the Holy Spirit’s ministry is to empower us to root sin out of our life; while, living for ourselves is the main cause for sin to thrive in our lives! So, let’s talk about how God’s Spirit supports our work to root out the weeds of sin.

-Your Identity Is Hid With Christ!

Paul reminds the Church of Colosse that their “identity” is in Christ! So, any believer who hopes to be successful in the battle against sin, has to know who they are! See your position in Christ—“…so, IF you have been raised with Christ…” he says in v.1. Your spiritual growth & victory over sin doesn’t begin with YOU, it starts with JESUS! If you know Him as your Savior, you need to figure out that you’ve been raised with Him—Paul is pointing to the bodily resurrection of Christ the 3rd day after His crucifixion; and, he’s telling the believers in Colosse, “…you’ve been RAISED with Him….” You DIED with Him in v.3; and, “…your life is HIDDEN with the Messiah in God.” You DIED with Him! And, you’ve been RAISED with Him! Though you were “…dead in trespasses & sins…” you’ve been made ALIVE, in Him, because Jesus rose from the dead & is ALIVE!

-Know Your Position In Christ!

In one sense, Paul says that our salvation—our place in heaven—is already SEALED! It’s a DONE DEAL! In the mind of God, He’s already raised us up and seated us in the heavens. “But God,” Paul writes the Church of Ephesus, “who is rich in mercy, because of His great love that He had for us, made us alive with the Messiah even though we were dead in trespasses. You are saved by grace! Together with Christ Jesus He also raised us up and seated us in the heavens” Ephesians 2:4-6. We take hold of our identity when we begin, with the Spirit’s help, to kill the weeds of sin in our life; or, to “mortify” the deeds of the flesh. My sinful life was the “old” me; but, that’s no longer who I am! I’m set free from the power of sin!

More Like Jesus & Less Like You!

-So, How Are You Doing Spiritually?

At a recent Small Group meeting I asked this series of questions: “How are you doing Spiritually? And, on what criteria do you base your answer? How are you measuring your walk with Christ?” I’ve found when I just ask the 1st question—“How are you doing spiritually?”—that everyone says, “Good! Good!” Have you noticed that? I mean, that’s MY typical response to that question! It’s a question that needs qualifying! It needs those follow-up questions. On what basis can I say, “Good! Good!” when someone asks me how I’m doing spiritually?

-Is It About What We Do?

Do we measure our spiritual progress by the things we DO? Be careful! Don’t quickly dismiss the things we DO & say that, “…it’s only what’s in the HEART that matters.” If our HEART is right with God it WILL impact the things we DO, right? Jesus said: “If you love Me, you WILL KEEP my commandments.” At the same time, we can DO all the RIGHT things for the WRONG reasons, can’t we? We can do things to be SEEN of men; and, Jesus called that hypocrisy!

-Practicing The Spiritual Disciplines

Several months back I received a call from a young man who got saved in my youth group, in Colorado, several years ago. He asked if he could interview me for a seminary class he was taking. The interview included a line of questions based on how I lived my life according to the so-called “Spiritual Disciplines”—or, practices found in Scripture that promote spiritual growth. They’re habits of devotion—like prayer, fasting, public & private worship, meditation, making disciples—and, they’re all activities that Jesus’ followers are commanded to do! In fact, Jesus practiced most of them Himself! In answering the question, for the interview, I prefaced my answer with this caution—we are NOT godly just because we practice certain spiritual disciplines!

-The Error Of The Pharisees

That was the great error of the Pharisees, wasn’t it? They believed that they were godly BECAUSE they practiced certain things!  You cannot separate what you’re doing on the OUTSIDE by who you ARE on the INSIDE. What you DO matters! But, who you ARE matters even more! Here’s what I’m trying to say—Spiritual growth happens, in your life, as you become MORE like Jesus & LESS like you! That’s what’s expected if you’re truly His disciple!

-Where Spiritual Growth Happens

Based on several NT passages, I believe that our spiritual development occurs BEST in the context of a “faith community”; or, a church! Being a disciple of Christ does not begin with something WE do; but, with something that Christ DID! That’s the Gospel! He redeemed our broken relationship with the Father by His substitutionary atonement on the cross! He took away our sin! He paid the penalty we should have paid so that the Father might grant us forgiveness, grace, mercy & love! He adopts us into His “family”; and, it’s His family that makes up the church!  That becomes our new identity! We’re no longer citizens of this world; rather, Scripture says we’re “temporary residents” here! And, it’s within the “family” atmosphere, of the “church”, that God prunes us so that He might accomplish our sanctification!

 

Handling Conflict In The Church!

-Tolerance Advocates Not Very Tolerant!

It amazes me how quickly the advocates of “tolerance” sound off & run off everyone who disagrees with them. Not very tolerant, are they? The Apostle Paul tells the Church of Rome to knock off that kind of behavior. He says that God intends to grow you spiritually as you learn to willingly put up with one another—“Each one of us must please his neighbor for his good, to build him up” (Rom. 15:2). We don’t join a faith community to please ourselves! The purpose, for becoming a church member, is to please our neighbor “…for his good, to build him up.” Or, to “edify” if you prefer to use the theological term!

-Be Other’s Focused!

It’s a matter of focus—our interaction, in the body, should be “other’s focused”, not “self-focused.” Like Jesus, we’re here to serve others; not, to be served! Only when we put up with each other; and, bear with the weaknesses of others, will God use us to help construct the spiritual lives of others! It’s having the mindset of a “discipler”—someone who helps others grow as a disciple of Jesus. There’s no better motivator than Jesus Himself. God will give us grace to put up with each other; and, to build up each other, as we look up to Jesus for our motivation!

-Fix Our Eyes On Jesus!

As we fix our eyes on Christ, we remember that He did not come to please Himself; but, He made Himself a servant (See Philippians 2:5-11).  Paul said:  “For even the Messiah did not please Himself. On the contrary, as it is written, The insults of those who insult You have fallen on Me” (Rom. 15:3).  He’s quoting Psalm 69:9 and referring to Jesus. He embraced the insults of mean-spirited, hateful people; and, on the cross He bore the reproach that we should have bore!

-How Jesus Loved!

We love like Jesus loved when we willingly endure each other’s “heat-of-the-moment” hasty words; and, rather than returning evil for evil, we seek to resolve the conflict & make peace! We extend grace! So, look again at the progression of Paul’s words in Romans 15—if we’re going to be strong enough, in our faith, to “put up” with weak or prickly people (v.1); and, “build them up” (v.2) when we’re tempted to smack them, we have to “look up” to Jesus (v.3); and, “grow up” in our faith (v.4).  We won’t get that kind of counsel from the world!

-Understand The Scriptures!

Paul tells the Church of Rome that we can only have that Christ-like mindset as we understand the Scriptures—or, those things which were “written in the past” (v.4). It’s only through the “instruction” and “encouragement” of the Word, he says, that we have any hope of enduring those difficult relationships in life. And, we will never “grow up” in our faith if we run away from every uncomfortable or difficult relationship in our faith community. We need to remain faithful to one another as a testimony to those outside the Church. In a band there are all kinds of different instruments & a variety of musicians playing them. But, bring them all together under the direction of a capable conductor & they can produce beautiful music together. That beautifully illustrates the Church when Jesus is doing the conducting!

 

Your Good Works Offend God!

-Because Jesus Already Did It!

Being a disciple of Jesus does not begin with something we do; but, with something Jesus already did! When Jesus went to the cross, He redeemed our relationship with the Father.  A relationship broken by our sin against Him! By Jesus’ death on the cross, He paid the penalty, for our sin, that we should have paid so that the Father would be just to grant us forgiveness, grace, mercy & love.  By Jesus sacrificial act, He made a way for the Father to actually adopt us into His family when we accept the work of His Son & His payment on our behalf.

-Don’t Disrespect Jesus’ Sacrifice!

But, Jesus’ work, on our behalf, is only effective when we quit trying to work our own way into the Father’s favor! We must accept God’s offer of salvation through Christ alone by grace alone; and, cast aside any hope that our good deeds might impress the Father.  Can you see how offensive it is to God when we try to make ourselves presentable to Him? We trample on His Son’s sacrifice when we try to impress God with our “perceived” good deeds! We spit in His face & tell Him His Son’s work on the cross wasn’t good enough; that, we need to “add” our own. What God requires of us is nothing more than humility & brokenness, along with a confession that we’re not worthy & incapable of ever becoming worthy of the salvation He offers us!

-Are You Heaven’s Citizen?

What we need is a new start; a new beginning; a new birth! “You MUST be born again,” Jesus said. He was referencing a “SPIRITUAL” birth. Your “physical” birth makes you a citizen of this world; but, only your “spiritual” birth can make you a citizen of heaven! That becomes your new identity! You’re no longer a citizen of this world; rather, Scripture calls you a “temporary resident” here! Your citizenship is heaven! And, that’s where we have to begin when we start a conversation about “spiritual growth.”

-An Identity In Christ!

You have to be sure of your identity—in Christ—before you can ever hope to mature as a disciple of Christ. That, in fact, is what Paul said happens at the moment of faith. Here’s how the Amplified Bible expands on the meaning of Paul’s words:  “Therefore if anyone is in Christ [that is, grafted in, joined to Him by faith in Him as Savior], he is a new creature [reborn and renewed by the Holy Spirit]; the old things [the previous moral and spiritual condition] have passed away. Behold, all things have become new [because spiritual awakening brings a new life]” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

-You’re Not The Old You!

If you’re a believer—or, a disciple—of Jesus, you’re no longer that OLD you. You’ve become; and, are becoming the NEW you—the spiritually born again you! And, one day God will finish the work He began in you that day you were converted—that’s the coming day of “glorification”! Until that day, God will be at work, in you, sanctifying you. That’s a big word—SANCTIFICATION—but, break it down to it’s simplest form & it’s the process by which God makes you more like Jesus and less like you! He does that, in part, by revealing to us our sin, convincing us to forsake it, and, empowering us to actually overcome it!

 

Daniel: Taking Ownership Of Our Wrongs!

(NOTE: This Continues A Series Of Posts On Daniel’s Life)

-I Was Wrong!

It’s been said that the 3 most difficult words in the English language are: “I Was Wrong!” Husbands, how hard is it to say, “I Was Wrong” to your wife? But, let’s be fair, ladies, it’s just as difficult for you to say those 3 words too, isn’t it? It has to be the result of the fall, right? We’ll do almost anything to avoid saying, “I Was Wrong”—we’ll say, “Man! I messed up” or “I fumbled that one” or “I goofed” or “I blew it”. We’ll say, “My Bad” or “Oops! I made a boo-boo”! All of those are easier to say than, “I Was Wrong!” They minimize our wrong! I mean, how bad can a “boo-boo” be, right?

-Being Transparent With God!

This post is about taking ownership of our sins. It’s about being transparent with God , and, with each other about our sin. If there is any hope for revival across our nation—and, God only knows how badly we need it—we need to learn how to say those 3 words: “I Was Wrong!”  “I Was Wrong, God! Here is my sin! I confess it! I agree with you about it!” For the world to experience a revival, it has to begin with God’s people! The Apostle Peter wrote: “…the time has come for judgment to begin with God’s household…” It’s gotta start with those who claim to be Jesus’ followers! We can’t pray for national revival & ignore our own personal need for repentance! We dare not call out the sin of the lost & wink at our own failure to confess our sin!

-Blessings & Cursings!

As we turn to chapter 9 in Daniel’s prophetic book, it begins: “In the first year of Darius, the son of Ahasuerus, a Mede by birth, who was ruler over the kingdom of the Chaldeans: In the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, understood from the books according to the word of the Lord to Jeremiah the prophet that the number of years for the desolation of Jerusalem would be 70.” Let’s stop there, for a moment, and include some really important background! You might recall that Daniel’s story, in chapter 1, begins with Babylon’s King Nebuchadnezzar laying siege against Jerusalem & taking Daniel & many of the Israelites into exile! Do you remember why? They were being punished! They failed to confess & repent of their sin! They failed to tell God, “I Was Wrong!” And, God fulfilled a promise He had made to Israel 850 years earlier in Deuteronomy 28—Blessings, to Israel, for obedience! Curses for disobedience!

-Don’t Test God’s Patience!

Just as God had dispossessed the Canaanites & other people groups from the land because of their evil ways, God dispossessed Israel from the land because they became evil! One more thing to consider: Israel’s sinful disobedience was a gradual thing! Sin always is! As the nation, of Israel, became more and more evil, God sent prophets to warn them! He would extend grace & mercy if they would just repent & turn from their sin! But, there is always an end to God’s patience & long-suffering; and, through the Prophet Jeremiah, God confirmed that His judgment was coming! It was inevitable, irreversible & non-negotiable! He even told Israel to quit praying for revival; and, to pray for their captors instead! By way of application, it’s time Christ’s Church in America wake up! It’s time we confess our sin of idolatry! We’ve strayed so far from Jesus’ Commission to His Church; and, we’ve given great occasion for the enemies of God to blaspheme! Wake up, Church! Let us repent & return to the work of the Lord in faithfulness!

 

 

Daniel: God’s Mercy Has A Limit!

(NOTE: This Continues A Series Of Posts On Daniel’s Life)

-Do Not Test God!

So, how long will God extend mercy, toward the habitual sinner, before He finally breaks out in judgment against him! No one, but God, actually knows! But, Scripture is clear that it’s incredibly dangerous—and stupid—to test God! He does have a limit; and, the Babylonian King Belshazzar discovered it according to the prophet Daniel’s account in chapter 5 of the book named after him! As the grandson of King Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar should have known better! By his grandfather’s own testimony, he knew that God had judged him to live like an insane animal for 7 years until he acknowledged that God was Sovereign over all the affairs of man; and, that all of life’s “stuff” is a GIFT from Him. But, Belshazzar continually turned his back on God until God, in judgment, turned His back on Belshazzar. And, that would be the tragic ending to Belshazzar’s life.

-He Died A Fool!

His was a wasted life! He became a “byword”; or, a moral proverb! He should have known better! But, the words of judgment, “…you…have not humbled your heart, even though you knew all this…” haunted him at the end (v.22).  He died a fool! What about you? You need to know that pride invites God’s judgment! You need to know that human wisdom is inadequate! You need to know that God’s patience can run thin! It can be exhausted! You need to know that God’s Word is certain; and, that there’s no escaping God’s judgment!

-You Need An Advocate!

God’s Word says, for certain, that “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one of us may be repaid for what he has done in the body, whether good or worthless” (2 Corinthians 5:10).  You don’t want to stand, before Him, alone because the deeds you’ve done will never earn you salvation! You need an advocate! You need Jesus to stand beside you! You want His atoning work, on the cross, for your sin to be applied to your account! Only by accepting His Son, Jesus, will God “…vanquish our iniquities; and…cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.” (Micah 7:19) He’ll “…remember them no more…” (Isaiah 43:25); and, “…remove them as far as the east is from the west…” (Psalm 103:12)

-You Are No Longer Ignorant!

I urge you to turn to Jesus! Don’t come to the end of life; and, say, like King Belshazzar, “I should have known better.” It matters not what you’ve done with your life up until now! If you humble yourself before God, He will extend to you His love, mercy and grace! Dedicate the rest of your life to serving God by the power of His Holy Spirit! You’re flesh isn’t enough! You’re physical strength isn’t enough! You need Jesus! You can’t “UNDO” what you’ve “DONE”; but, you can change the course of your life moving forward! We serve the God who makes beauty from ashes! He loves to set the sinner FREE! He redeems and makes all things new; including, your life if you’ll just give it back to Him!