Through the renewing of our minds, we should be conformed into the likeness of Jesus and point others to God
God is the Creator and sustainer of all things and has designed creation to be in relationship with Him. We have all been given a will or a free choice to walk in relationship with our Creator or not. The Garden of Eden was a perfect place, yet mankind chose his own ways over God’s ways and thus, was removed from the garden. Heaven is a perfect place, yet some angels chose their will over God’s will and were cast out of heaven. Here on Earth, we all have been given that same free will to choose to follow or abstain from walking with God.
We are all created in God’s image, yet we struggle to relate to the one we were created to be like. Scripture teaches us that upon Salvation, our minds are to begin the process of renewal (from old ways of thinking to new ways of thinking). It also tells us that it was God’s plan from the beginning for those that love Him, to start looking more like Jesus. This is a picture of an actual conversion.
Romans 12:2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Romans 8:29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn of many brothers and sisters.
Holy Spirit – Sent by God and He ALWAYS points to Jesus
In chapter 14 from the book of John, Jesus promises the Holy Spirit to his disciples. He actually said that it was better that he go back to heaven, so that the Spirit will come. In this instruction to his followers, Jesus described the role of the Holy Spirit as one brings, truth, helps teach us, and advocates on his behalf.
v26 “But the Advocate, The Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything that I have said to you.”
From this short passage we learn that The Spirit is a gift sent by God. He teaches us & reminds us of the things that Jesus taught. He advocates and testifies on Jesus’ behalf. We know that The Spirit guides us in all truth and doesn’t speak on His own. Instead, He tells us what He hears and what is yet to come. He glorifies Jesus because he receives direction from Jesus regarding what to show us.
Jesus – Came so that we might know the Father and He ALWAYS points to the Father
There was a time between the end of the Old Testament prophets and the coming of Jesus where the voice of God was not heard (like an unanswered text message for 500 years). Religious Leaders of that time had the books of Law, given to Moses by God as a guide on how to interact with Him. However, they did NOT have a relational worldview of who God was, like man did back in the Garden of Eden. When Jesus arrived on the scene, he was the first person to ever begin talking about God as a Father. Jesus came to restore mankind’s perception of God’s identity as a Father who loves His family. Everything Jesus did was what He saw the Father doing, similar to The Spirit only speaking what He hears (John 15:13).
John 5:19 Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.
Jesus is the only way to know the Father. Everything he did or said was intentional to point toward God. There is a unity between Father, Son, Holy Spirit that serves as a picture for us to see what our relationship with the Creator should look like. We have the invitation to walk in the same type of unity with God. If Jesus is fully submitted to the Father and Holy Spirit is fully submitted to Jesus, then we too can live a life fully submitted to The Holy Spirit.
Jesus showed us what it looks like to love others in a way that caused others to love him in return. He showed us how much Father, Son, Holy Spirit love one another. If we are yielded to the leadership of the Spirit, (reference Romans chapter 8) then our self-will has been put to death. We are children of God who were created in His image, are having our minds renewed to think like God, and are predestined to walk with Him as part of His beloved family. Our self-will has no power over us if our flesh has been truly crucified with Christ and we are living empowered by The Spirit of God. As part of God’s family, we are then heirs to all that He has to offer. This is very good news for us!
As we ponder this, we ask for renewed minds and renewed hearts. Guide us Holy Spirit and teach us how to walk in a manner that points to the Father. May our focus remain on God and His eternal Kingdom as we model what it is like to be co-heirs with Christ. We exalt the person of Jesus in our lives as we give the glory to God for adoption into this Kingdom family. We go forth as Ambassadors of the Kingdom from which we represent, so that the world around us will know your heart and desire for them.
We believe that Jesus is alive, and The Spirit of God is pursuing people daily for them to encounter the love that He has for them. God is speaking to those who are willing to listen to His voice. Jesus said that He did nothing on his own, but only what He saw The Father doing. Jesus was empowered by The Holy Spirit. And He promised that God would send the Spirit to be our helper.
The work of Holy Spirit is to testify about Jesus. His mission was to glorify The Father. As members of the family of God, we have been given the tools to do the same and be agents to a broken and hurting world for the glory of God. Holy Spirit is One who empowered Jesus and is the One who empowers us.
What does it look like to be fully surrendered to the leading of Holy Spirit in our lives? It is dying to ourselves and living for the glory of God. It is placing a higher priority on the voice of God than the opinions of others (or even ourselves). Today, be encouraged to live your life to its fullest and bring glory to the One who has made a way for you. Live a victorious life being Empowered by The Spirit. You can walk it out with His help.
Are you influencing the world or is the world influencing you? I believe that many of us can answer yes to the first question, but how about the second one? How much impact do you have on the area that you live in? Can an entire city become transformed by a single righteous person?
Proverbs 11:11 tells us that “through the blessing of a righteous man a city is exalted, but by the mouth of the wicked it is destroyed.” We all have a part to play when it comes to making a difference in our community and the lives of those around us. We are all shifting the atmosphere in one direction or another. In order for us to shift the atmosphere in a positive direction, I would like to offer 5 things to remember when influencing positive change:
You are Righteous in God’s eyesonce you have been “born again”
Paul wrote to the Galatians “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but it is Christ who lives in me.” Father God sees Jesus when He looks at us. He sees a finished work and Jesus’ righteousness, not our own. I believe that when we are in right standing (righteousness) before God that He not only pours out His favor and blessing upon us, but also on those who are in close proximity to us. Maybe that is unsaved family members living in your household or maybe it is a group of people on a plane or bus that you are on. They are all blessed just because you are there, and the favor of God is upon your life. We know from Genesis chapter 18 that Abram pleaded with God for the city of Sodom. God answered Abram in verse 32 saying that He would not destroy the city on account of just ten righteous men. As I look at America and the division that has taken root in this country, I am reminded that there are many more than ten righteous people who love the Lord in this country. There are many people who serve God every day and are walking in love as we are all commanded to do. They are all favored by God and His blessing is also on those around them. God also sees you as righteous and will bless those who are close enough to you to get some of the overflow of His goodness in your life.
2. Guard your heart and mind in Jesus
Do not allow yourself to become distracted by the negative. If the enemy of your soul can get your focus, then it becomes easier for you to entertain or partner with a divisive spiritual climate. Though there is a great deal of focus placed on turmoil by the world culture, there are many good things happening every day all around us. “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, anything that is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things and The God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:8
Though there is a great deal of focus placed on turmoil by the world culture, there are many good things happening every day all around us.CLICK TO TWEET
It is too easy to focus on the polarizing issues of the day and either resign to either a hope-deferred mindset or engage those who do not agree with you in a combative mindset. In America the political spirit has many people (even many Christians) taking sides and opposing those who do not agree with them. The onslaught of political ads during election seasons has become an overwhelming barrage of mud-slinging that produces more of “putting down” the opponent than promoting a candidate’s actual agenda. People are quick to side with those who hold similar views and throw their Christian beliefs aside when engaging the opposition of their political affiliation. Now having said that, I am about to throw some real gas on this fire. There IS a racial and social divide in America. I am sensitive to the fact that there is no doubt the presence of social injustice at work in this country. However, we see all too often where the fires of divisiveness are being stoked by what is shown on TV, talked about on radio, or read about in the news. I see protests for racial, social, and gender equality happening to raise awareness for a cause. In some cases, it inflames the passion of those who do not agree with this form of protest to the point that you wouldn’t even know that they were Christians by reading their posts on social media. The fact that I am even writing this likely has different people responding differently internally, based on their view of what is “right or wrong” in their own eyes. Guard your hearts and minds, beloved. Do not get distracted or engage the trap to pin us against one another.
3.Have a heart for Reconciliation
“God has reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” 1 Corinthians 5:18
We do not need to land on one side or another when it comes to public opinion. Extend grace toward those who do not agree with your views, just as God has extended undeserved grace to you. Jesus taught about this in Matthew 18:21-35. When we make the conscience decision to accept Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord, we are giving up our right to voice an opinion on who is right and who is wrong. Doing so would be us operating out of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Jesus bled, died, and rose again so that we wouldn’t have to live out of that tree. Instead of partnering with the divisive spirit that is working towards tearing relationships apart, Christians should be rising above political, cultural, and social differences to walk in unity with those who might think differently than them. This does not mean that you must agree with those who oppose your views. There are certainly some non-negotiables to the faith that cannot be ignored. However, Christians should absolutely be motivated by love and not by being “right” concerning their view on a matter. We have been given the ministry of reconciliation, not the ministry of tearing one another down.
Being right or wrong doesn’t make you any more or less powerful of a person, but walking in unity with others will always release power. In Genesis 11:6 God Himself says “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this [building the Tower of Babel], then nothing they plan will be impossible for them.” Unity is key to changing the atmosphere in your community. It works both in positive and negative influence.
4. Walk in a Mindset of Hope
Proverbs 13:12 says that “Hope deferred makes the heart sick…” Why would you ever want to agree with the hopelessness that you see in today’s news cycle? Stand on the promises of God and remind yourself that God is not capable of lying. Followers of Jesus should be a company of people who live their lives longing for the promises of God to be fulfilled. Jesus himself is a promise fulfiller! Now, the promises of God are a whole other subject that can be discussed at a different time. But you should know what God’s promises are, and you should celebrate when you see them being fulfilled. The second half of Proverb 13:12 says “but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” Living out of this tree is the gift of God when we make Jesus our Lord and Savior. Believe for the greater outcome and see the best in others. Learn to view others through the lens that God sees them through. This may be difficult at first, but it is key to being an agent of change and walking in a mindset of hope.
5. Focus on the one in front of you
So, can one righteous person transform an entire city? I don’t know, but what I do know is that we can all carry personal revival in our hearts. If you have ever been around someone who carries a faith for revival you would agree with me that what they carry is contagious. One person can influence one person and so on. When you begin to believe for something together with others in agreement, there is power released in the spirit. Influence those who are in your sphere of influence and God will grow that sphere.Be a positive influence on those who God has placed around youCLICK TO TWEET
Remember that you are righteous in God’s eyes. Guard your heart so not to be caught up in the things of this world that entice and distract you from your purpose. Walk with a heart of reconciliation and a mindset of hope, seeing the best in others. Be a positive influence on those who God has placed around you and He will cause a “ripple effect”. Being a difference maker starts with a single person who is willing to make a difference. Nothing is impossible for God so imagine how we can collectively transform our cities by coming together in this common purpose. Look around; those around you are already being blessed.
Creation all Around us is Singing the Praises of His Glory
In today’s environment most of us are living very busy lives. We are working more hours, longer days, and we are more attached to technology than ever before. We labor all week in our occupations while waiting for the weekend that is filled with personal activities and is over before we know it. Sometimes we need to pause and reflect on the world around us like the saying “Stop and smell the Roses” instructs us to do. Do we see that God is in the mundane day to day grind? He is there, and He is speaking to us daily, like an adoring lover who just wants to be noticed. If we are listening, we will hear Him.
Take a Look Around
While taking a pause from the burdens of daily work, I am writing this while on vacation. Many of us take a trip for a few days during the summer to gain some rest and relaxation. I am sitting on an island beach watching the waves come upon the shoreline. My thoughts shift back and forth as I ponder the vastness and magnificence of Creation. The sea goes on for as far as I can see, just like the sky is only interrupted by the occasional cloud that passes by. On the horizon, I can faintly see the skyline of a city on the mainland, but only if I am focused and looking for it. So many buildings are just a speck from my perspective when I glance at the horizon. If I were not looking closely, I would not even notice that they are there. In each of those city structures, there are multitudes of people. I assume that most of them are going about their day to day lives, and many of them are not aware of the magnificent love that Jesus has for them. Many of us think and act as if this world rotates around us. We are guilty of believing that we are the center of everything; however, the vast greatness of God goes beyond our understanding. His love for us goes beyond our ability to see, fathom, or comprehend. Like the city on the shoreline, if we are not aware of His love and focused on it we could very easily not even notice that it is there.
So many buildings are just a speck from my perspective when I glance at the horizon. If I were not looking closely, I would not even notice that they are there.
To be honest, I think that my favorite thing about the shore is the breezecoming off the ocean. There is a constant, steady breeze that gently washes over me as I take in the scene. It is not overpowering or abrupt. It is constant and unwavering, relentless in its continual movement. It brings relief from the hot sun as it creates an atmosphere of comfort and tranquility. Like the wind, the Holy Spirit is always in motion. Though we cannot see Him, we know that He is there. We can only see and feel the effects of His passing by or through us. He is known as the Comforter, and like a gentle breeze on a hot beach, He is the perfect element to create an “I want to be in this place” kind of atmosphere. He is relentless in His pursuit of us. He is the first person of the Godhead that any of us encountered because no one receives the revelation of who Jesus is without Holy Spirit engaging them first. On a hot sun-scorched beach, everything around you is reflecting the sun and intensely magnifying the heat, and there is little that brings more comfort than this steady, cool, relentless breeze.
A Higher Level
While the breeze brings some relief from the heat and reminds me of the Spirit, there is one thing that intensifies the cooling comfort of the continual wind, and that is getting wet. Once you have submerged yourself in the water, the measure of relief from the heat is increased. It is the same wind, but the breeze seems cooler once you have been in the water compared to when you were dry. The spiritual parallel here is that a baptism of the Holy Spirit is an upgrade from just being aware of the Holy Spirit. Even when you were still dry the breeze kept you from being overcome by the heat. However, now that you have been drenched by the water, the wind does much more than relieve you from the heat. You go from a place of just getting relief, to a place of being able to thrive in an overheated environment. In this picture, the Holy Spirit is both the water and the wind. He is the wind because He is the source of comfort and relief when we live in a world of trials that try to consume our peace. He presents a way for us to not be overcome by the heat pressing in from every direction. He is the water because once we have been baptized into Him, there is an increased ability to overcome our environment or situation. You not only survive the heat, but you thrive while in it!
As I sit on the beach and look out at the sea, I am staring down a concrete pier that was constructed for boats to come in and dock. The pier is basically a concrete wall that divides the sea at the shoreline. The water on the right of the pier cannot touch the water on the left of the pier. On the left side of the pier the water is clear, and I can see the ocean floor at depths of 30-40 feet. When in the water I can see fish swimming right up to me and the beauty of God’s creation leaves me speechless. On the right side of the pier, however, is a complete body of water polluted by seaweed. The water is brown, and you couldn’t see your feet if you were to stand in the water ankle deep. You see, the waves of the ocean are bringing the seaweed onto the shoreline. In doing so, it corrupts the space where we would seek refuge from the heat, the place where we get wet! The brown water on the right side of the pier is like the sin in the world and our lives. If the Devil can take the one thing that helps us to thrive in an overheated trial of life and corrupt it so we never get wet, then he has successfully prevented us from experiencing what it is like to thrive in our current situation. Far too often, believers settle for the breeze and stay out of the water. The breeze is nice, and it brings comfort. There is nothing wrong with the breeze, and we should all appreciate it on a hot day. However, there is a greater level that God has for us to experience, and He has made a way for us all to get wet if we choose to.
Like the concrete pier, Jesus has solidified an impenetrable wall that keeps any pollution from entering the space that we occupy. This is not to say that we live perfect lives once we come into relationship with Jesus, but what I am saying is that it is His Righteousness that God sees when He looks at you or me. Jesus allows us to receive a fresh baptism of clean cool water, and once you have experienced being soaked you will never want to be content with settling for “just the breeze” ever again. He has created a safe environment for us to experience the thing that will position us to thrive in our situation. I will also add that being in the water is much more fun than sitting in the sand!
He (Jesus) has created a safe environment for us to experience the thing that will position us to thrive in our situation.
While sitting here among many others on a crowded beach, I figure that some (maybe most) fail to see the skyline of the city on the water’s horizon. Similarly, many fail to acknowledge God’s unfailing love or experience it in their own lives. Likewise, I wonder how many people sitting on this beach take for granted the constant breeze itself. Their focus may be on something else and they are unaware of the supply of relief and comfort that is unwavering. It is harder to ignore because it is constant, but even when it is hitting us right in the face like the wind, many of us fail to see God providing the resources we need and the fact that the Holy Spirit is tirelessly pursuing us. Lastly, it seems impossible to ignore the great atoning sacrifice that our Lord Jesus has paid for us. As I look at the water on the left and the right side of the pier, I figure it is impossible for people not to recognize the difference. It is so obvious in the natural: brown water vs. crystal clear water. Yet, many people fail to understand how Jesus has separated us from a life of sin and death, putting us in a positional advantage to thrive. Creation all around us is silently singing the praises of His glory. I pray that God gives us eyes to see it in the everyday environment that we live in. His glory covers the earth and is all around.
Recognizing when God is moving and Partnering with that move of God
Have you ever looked around and seen that the world has changed a lot from the time when you were growing up? It appears pop culture has changed a great deal from when I was young, and even a greater deal from when my parents were children. Even looking at just a few years back, I can see a significant difference in what was socially acceptable compared to today where almost anything goes.
Embracing the Shift of God
In just one generation, they have seen more technological advances than many generations before them.
I sometimes think about how much our grandparents have witnessed in their lifetime. They witnessed the transition from horse and buggy to us putting a man on the moon. In just one generation, they have seen more technological advances than many generations before them combined. I have been told that 80% of people do not embrace change well. How do you handle change when it happens?
People are creatures of habit and most of us live pretty routine lifestyles. We wake up, eat breakfast, go to work or school, come home, eat dinner, spend some time doing an activity that we enjoy, and go to sleep. We develop a comfort zone, where we live within the confines of things that feel safe and familiar to us. So, when a change in our day to day routine happens, it causes some sort of an emotional response. Some people get angry when their comfort zone is penetrated by things beyond their ability to control, while others become frightened of the unknown situation that they find themselves in. Many people simply wish that things were the way that they used to be and never truly embrace change.
Now, change is all around us and it can be seen even if we are not looking for it. The four seasons of spring, summer, autumn, and winter are a picture of how our environment shifts. We must adjust with the season that we find ourselves in, or we will not thrive in it. If we were to dress in our swimsuits during the winter wishing that it was still summer instead of wearing pants and a coat, we would be foolish. Ecclesiastes tells us that “there is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the sun”. We should be mindful of the “big picture” around us and try to see what God is doing in the season that we are in right now. We also need to be watching for signs of the next season, so we can adapt to the shift before it is upon us.
I love watching those shows of people living on the frontier in Alaska. They are always working at preparing for the season that is ahead of them. During the summer, they know that they only have a few short months to prepare so that they will be ready for the long winter. They are intentional about what they are doing to put themselves in the best position possible for what life has in store for them in the next season. They enjoy the season that they are in, but they are always looking forward and preparing for the shift.
Like those living on the frontier, we too must be anticipating the thing that God has in store for us. We cannot “live in the past” and expect to thrive in the “now”. Adapting to the change around us helps to keep us relevant for the thing that God is doing in the world. We do ourselves and those around us no good if we are stuck in the past. Remember that the Israelites complained about wanting to be back in Egypt while Moses was leading them to the Promised Land? They were unaware of what was ahead of them, and they were focused on being where they had been. If we fail to adapt and embrace change, then opportunity to partner with Heaven will pass us by. Religion says that we must do things a certain way, because we have always done them that certain way. This is why there are so many denominations with differing perspectives on the Christian faith. But what if we were to blow with the wind as the Spirit moves? What if we were to look at today and seek out the thing that God was doing? When a shift happens and we find ourselves in unfamiliar territory we should embrace the fact that God is doing a new thing and be glad to be included in it. Don’t miss out on the great adventure that God has for your life by being stuck in the last season.
“The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.”
God separates the wheat from the chaff. Within our lives there is always a sifting taking place. We must let go of the things that He is taking away and embrace the new things that He is providing for our lives. The one thing that will never change is God’s word. Isaiah 40:8 tells us that “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.” Stand on His word and hold on to His promises. Also, be willing to allow the Spirit to lead you into places that you have not yet experienced. It may be out of our comfort zone, but our comfort zone expands as we are led by the Spirit. I am looking forward to experiencing the new thing that God is doing in our midst.
I like to have nice things. When I am preparing to purchase something I usually lean toward getting the better, more expensive model that has more features and offers more longevity. I don’t see as much value in buying something that will wear out or break shortly after the purchase. With that said, sometimes I feel that we live in a “throw away” society. A place where many people buy something as cheap as possible and then toss it once it has lost its value. Everywhere I look, there are discount dollar stores filled with items that will only last so long. In either example, there is a cost that we are willing to pay to obtain the item that we want to have.
It is Free, but it will Cost you Everything
All other relationships will not last; there is only one eternal relationship that you must be certain of.
Jesus speaks to his followers in Luke 14 about the cost of being His Disciples. He basically said that if we are going to follow Him, we are going to have to be fully committed. He requires a devoted commitment if we choose to follow Him, and He wants us to count the cost first. How many of us can say that there are other things in our lives that we put before Jesus? What we place our focus on is what we worship. We may not like to admit it, but in one case or another almost all of us have to say that there are things in our lives that compete for our attention.
When was the last time you counted the cost? Here is what Jesus said in Luke 14:26-27: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters – yes, even their own life – such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”
In this statement, we are given a very clear model of what type of disciple Christ is looking for. In His reference of the cross, Jesus is foreshadowing events yet to come when He made this statement that requires total self-sacrifice. The message is clear – “Cling to Me alone and forsake all others to do so.” All other relationships will not last. There is only one eternal relationship that you must be certain of.
As believers, we must count the cost of being followers of Jesus, and we must be willing to face whatever is in store for us when we decide to follow Christ. There will be times in our walk where our obedience to His voice must outweigh what our own will desires. In those instances, we have a choice to make, and that is to echo the words of Christ in the garden when He prayed to His Father “Not my will, but your will be done.” In the context of Luke 14, Jesus referenced one who plans to build a tower, the fact that they must associate a cost, and they must budget enough funds before starting such a project. A person who starts to build but cannot see the project to completion or is not capable of supporting the needs of the task leaves an unfinished product for others to see. This person is then open to ridicule by those who see a building left unfinished. Jesus also spoke of a king who evaluated his ability to overcome his opponent before making war against an adversary. If that king determined that he could not overpower his enemy, then he would send a convoy to them and make peace rather than proceeding into battle. The point is that we must first evaluate the cost.
God has forgotten our past and is only interested in our future.
There is a mandate for us to evaluate ourselves and determine first that we are willing to give it all up before we follow Christ. While Jesus’ sacrifice is sufficient for all, and it is the Father’s desire that none shall perish, Jesus still calls those who follow Him to be devoted to him alone. In Heaven there is no allowance for serving two masters. In Luke 9:42 Jesus said, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the Kingdom of God”. Once you begin to walk in tandem with Jesus, there is no looking back. God has forgotten our past and is only interested in our future. There is no cost, nor could we ever earn what He has paid for if we tried. We cannot earn our way into heaven and eternity by completing a certain list of requirements. Relationship is a free gift for those who are willing to receive it. What is required, however, is a devotion which costs us everything that we value and hold dear. We must ask ourselves where our heart focus lies.
Jesus wants to be our first and only love. He desires to be our top priority and He leaves no room for competition. His love for us is jealous of any other loves we have. To follow Him means to go wherever He leads us. He always provides a way for us to choose Him, but many of us prioritize other things ahead of Him. Again, where our focus lies tells us what we are worshipping. In some cases, many of us fail to let go of our past and move forward with Him. I urge you to cling to Him and don’t look back. Jesus is not interested in our past. He is only interested in our future, and the plans that He has for us. Choosing a future with Jesus contains both challenges and blessings. All the blessings He has for us will outweigh the challenges in the end by far.
Take a moment and evaluate the cost that Jesus paid for us. He paid the ultimate price to win us back from death, which speaks to the value He places on each one of us. Now count the cost of following Him. Reflect for a moment on how much we value the relationship we have with Him. Is it a dollar store value, or is it something we must invest in that will last the test of time?
Have you ever played a sport or competed in a competition where you just knew that you were going to beat your opponent? When we watch sporting events on television there are usually one or two people who stand out among the other players. They are the type of people who want the ball in the last seconds of the game. These type of people possess confidence in themselves. We pull for them to come through in the “clutch”.
I believe that the level of our expectancy often determines the level of success we walk in.
There is something attractive about people who are confident. People who possess confidence can walk into a room full of strangers and strike up conversation with seemingly little effort. Likewise, people who lack confidence are less likely to strike up a conversation with a total stranger unless spoken to first. Picture your stereotypical middle school dance with all of the boys on one side of the room and all of the girls on the other side of the room. Only those who possess some level of confidence will end up dancing with the girl/boy they like because they first need to approach the other party and engage them. Confident people expect when they engage someone that they will receive a positive response. I believe that the level of our expectancy often determines the level of success we walk in.
What we believe about something has a profound impact on how we approach it. Somebody who believes that they are likable can make friendships much more easily than someone who believes that no one likes them. The reality may be completely different from their belief that no one likes them, but the belief drives the reality at times. If the expectancy of a person is that no one wants to give them the time of day, then the fruit of that belief in a lie will eventually come to pass. That person will end up having trouble making friends. Their expectancy sets the bar for their success.
We are double-minded and unstable if we say one thing and expect something else to happen.
So, why is it so easy to believe negative things about ourselves? In my experience I have seen people who are quicker to believe good things about others than about themselves. How about our belief in God? Do we have confidence that our prayers will be answered if we call upon Him? Yeah, we believe that He will heal a sickness for someone else, but what if we are the one who needs a healing? I ask these questions to challenge us to determine where our confidence lies. The fact remains that we have an enemy who has no problem lying to us if it will keep us from experiencing freedom. We also have a Father in Heaven who is good and wants to set us free. What we believe has a profound impact on how we approach life, and ungodly beliefs can stunt our expectancy levels.
Think about a child who is learning how to swim. If their parent is in the pool telling them that they will catch them when they jump into the pool, the child will only jump if they trust that they will actually be caught. If their expectation is that their parent is reliable and will keep them safe, they will go for it. If there is any lack of confidence that they will be caught there will be some hesitation to take that leap of faith. The child’s expectancy sets the bar for their success and growth!
I believe that the level of our expectancy can either propel us into greater experiences with God, or prohibit God from moving in our lives to the measure of which He desires. Our baseline is reflective of how we see God. By knowing His character we can conclude that it is His will to see people healed of sickness and disease (even ourselves). He does not desire for anyone to perish. Jesus had a man ask him once if he could heal his son who was sick. Jesus’ response was to question the man in return “Can I? Of course I can.” You see, the man’s expectancy was unsure of Jesus’ willingness. God is more than willing to intervene on our behalf and He is expecting us to walk in confidence of Him. If we were created in His image, then why are we not walking in the same expectancy that He has of Himself?
If we pray for someone who needs surgery and ONLY believe for the doctors to have favor when they are operating on the person, we are limiting God. God will work with that prayer and the doctors may have favor. However, we are less likely see God intervene and heal the person supernaturally if we are not expecting for that to happen. God is bigger and greater than any of our imaginations. Nothing is impossible for Him to accomplish. So why do we limit Him with small prayers, for small requests? I encourage you to start praying big prayers and believing for greater results when you approach God in prayer. I believe that if we begin to pray and ask God for grand things, He is capable of answering those prayers as easily as answering small prayers.
Can we begin to adjust the way we approach the King? We are to understand that the Kingdom is near us and we release it every time we petition Him on behalf of someone else. James wrote that if we ask for wisdom, we should expect that we will receive what we ask for. Otherwise, we are double minded if we say one thing and expect something else to happen. Far too many times people have put a governor on what God wants to do in our lives. We can’t out-dream, out-give, or out-love Him. His love for us is far better than anything the world can offer. Just like that athlete who wants the ball at the end of the game, we should be confident in God as we approach this life. Just like the child who is learning to swim, we enjoy a greater experience when we trust Father. It is always more fun in the pool than remaining on the edge and never taking the leap. The miraculous is within your reach if you walk in miraculous expectation.
The Building Block that will Produce a Hope-Filled Generation
How do you respond when something in your life happens that either causes you to suffer or tests your faith? Bad things happen all the time and believers were warned by Jesus that there would be persecution. It is in these moments that we have to stand on what we believe, rather than how we feel. The letter that James wrote to the Jewish believers says that we should consider it pure joy when we experience trials of many kinds. He stated that the testing of our faith produces perseverance. Likewise, the letter that the apostle Paul wrote to the Romans tells us that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance produces character, and character produces hope. Though these two authors were writing to very different audiences, they both agree on the fact that suffering produces perseverance. What does it look like when your faith is being tested? How do you react to those situations? While it may not be an enjoyable time facing the trials of life, we can take the advice of both James and Paul to embrace the process of trial and know that God will produce something good on the other end of the trial if we just persevere.
The World Needs Hope
The great preacher Charles Spurgeon once said that it was by perseverance that the two snails made it onto the ark. Perseverance is having your mind set on something. It is defined as steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success. It is having a never-quit attitude and always looking to The Lord for guidance until you see the desired result. If you give up at the first sign of difficulty, or when your prayers are not answered the way that you think they should have been, you are exercising zero faith. Hang in there and wait on God to provide for you. He is a good Father who knows exactly what you need. The good news is that you don’t need to have great faith in order to see a miracle in your life, you only need faith the size of a mustard seed. So continue to press in by believing God for great things in your life. Never give up. Never lose hope.
Our Christian walk is not a sprint, but more like a marathon and we should mature as we grow through it. God is always speaking and using real life lessons to mold us into more mature believers. We need to be able to look at and evaluate the things that we are walking through, because the Teacher is always instructing. While the testing of our faith produces perseverance, the result of developing the will-not-quit attitude develops character. The type of person that we are when no one else is around to see us is a good way to describe our character. When we have good character we can be trusted by others and trusted by God. Trials in our lives just give us more opportunities to persevere.
A solid character plus an attitude of perseverance allows us to have hope. Hope is similar to faith, which is believing for things even before we see them. Hope adds an element that the thing that we are believing for is good. Hope is something that Christians have, and that the entire world needs. The fields are ripe for harvest as the world is without the very hope that believers have found in Jesus Christ. When the world is met with trials and their faith is tested, they are often quick to give up on God. This is because they do not have hope and the character to persevere. When a believer has their faith tested, they should make a mental decision to believe that God will prevail in their situation. This is hope.
In conclusion, the almost too-good-to-be-true news is that our Father in Heaven longs for us to develop into mature believers who walk with character and hold on to hope. We are to become more like Jesus every day as we grow and mature. While God is not the one who tests our faith (He does not test us and cannot be tested, James 1:13), He does use all things for the good of those who He has called to His purposes (Romans 8:28). So no matter what life throws at us, and regardless of where we are spiritually today, there is always opportunity to persevere and grow. It is a tool that builds character and establishes hope within us. The perspective of mature believers in Christ will see tested faith as an opportunity to respond in a manner that will help them grow. Go forth and persevere as we embrace the testing of our faith. It will only make us stronger.
The term Christian means “little Christ”. Part of being identified as a Christian should involve an association with being like Jesus. Jesus was a reflection of the Father, and we are to be a reflection of Jesus. So, what does it look like to “be like Jesus”?
Salvation and Multiplication
Romans 10:9 states that If you declare with you mouth “Jesus is Lord” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. It is easy to become a Christian because there is really no effort needed on our part. Salvation comes with verbalization of Christ’s Lordship, and belief that He lives today. It cannot be earned, but is freely given to all who accept this eternal truth. However, if we are truly obeying the command of Jesus, we would be making disciples, not just converts to Christianity. Some of the last words of Jesus before he went back to the Father in Heaven are found in Matthew 28:19: “Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them everything that I have commanded you”.
To make disciples, we must first be a disciple. A disciple is a follower or student of Jesus. We have been commissioned by Him to go and make other disciples, who (if obedient to the teachings of Jesus) in turn should be making more disciples. This principle of multiplication to cover the Earth was not a new concept at the time Christ spoke this command. Adam and Eve were told to multiply and fill the Earth in Genesis 1, and Noah’s family were told to multiply and fill the Earth in Genesis 9. The Great Commission was Jesus restoring a Heavenly mandate from the beginning to increase and cover the land with those who represent His kingdom. There are far too many people who make the decision to become a Christian without responding to the mandate that we Christians were given to reproduce. When Jesus talked about how to see a true or false prophet, He said that we would know them by their fruit. He also spoke about recognizing true or false disciples: “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me ‘Lord, Lord did we not prophesy in your name and in your name, drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers’” (Matthew 7:21-23). The words of Jesus in this scripture should motivate us in our walk with Him to know Him and do the will of the Father. A disciple knows their teacher and studies to learn all that they can from them. Jesus came to Earth to model for mankind what the Father looks like. Jesus said that when you look at Him you see the Father because they are one and the same. As disciples of Christ we should not only be a reflection of who Jesus is, but we should be teaching others how to be a reflection of Jesus as well. We will produce fruit after our own kind, just as would any seed-bearing plant. A disciple’s desire is to know and follow in their teacher’s footsteps. Don’t just know of Him, but really learn to know His ways. As we interact with others, we want to represent who Jesus is to them through our actions. Teach others what you have learned and model for them what it looks like to be a disciple. My prayer is for all who come to the knowledge of Christ to reproduce after the one who they are reflecting. This is the will of the Father, that the world may know His great love for them. Go and make disciples who will be fruitful and multiply.
“Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me” (John 14:21). John the beloved was a man who loved Jesus, and he was desperate for Christians to walk in love. He is known in scripture as the disciple whom Jesus loved. The books in the Bible that were penned by his name have the common thread of love through them, and he did not mix words in his letters. You are either for Christ or you are against Christ. In 1 John 1:5 he says: “God is light and there is no darkness in Him at all. If we claim to have fellowship with Him yet walk in darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.” How then do we walk in light, as God is light, and have fellowship with Him? Jesus told his disciples that if they truly loved Him, then they would obey His commands. John captured the story in John 14:15-31 where Jesus comforted His disciples prior to His arrest and crucifixion. Jesus promised them that if they obeyed what He had taught them, then He would ask the Father to send them the Spirit of Truth. He went on to describe how He is one with the Father, and the Father is one with Him. Just as they are one with each other, they are one with Holy Spirit as well. “Jesus replied, ‘If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own, they belong to the Father who sent me’” (John 14:23-24). There are two sides to this proverbial coin. As Christians who obey the teachings of Jesus, we are showing our love for Him. In living this way, we open ourselves up for God to come and make His home in us as His temple! Jesus went on to tell the disciples that the Father would send the Holy Spirit to remind us of all that Jesus taught. We can always rely on Holy Spirit to point us toward Jesus. The other reality is that those who do not obey the teachings of Jesus are those who do not love Him. This may seem like a harsh statement, but it is Biblically accurate. In reality, they often love themselves more than they love Him. Those who fall into this category are showing by their actions that they have aligned themselves with the world instead of with God. They continue to walk in darkness, even if they claim to have fellowship with Him.
Reliance on Holy Spirit
Being obedient to the teachings of Jesus is not a hard thing to do when we are reliant on Holy Spirit’s power to guide us. In fact, when we love someone, we are motivated to do what pleases them because of our love for them. Those who are married would not do something to disappoint their spouse based on a set of rules that they live by or have been given. Rather, they choose to do things that would be pleasing to their spouse because of the relationship that they have together. They would not want to do anything that would harm their relationship and put distance between themselves and their spouse. In the same way, it pleases the Father when we live in a manner where we allow Holy Spirit to guide us through life, and remind us of the things that Jesus taught.
Just as Jesus is one with the Father, we are to be one with Holy Spirit. There is nothing that we cannot overcome if we are obedient to the commands of God, and this is because Holy Spirit empowers us to be obedient out of love for God. Where we might sometimes not choose correctly in our own strength, the Holy Spirit gives us power to make decisions that are in obedience to what Christ has taught us in the face of temptation to choose otherwise. We see Jesus telling the disciples that the spirit of man is willing, but the flesh is weak when they could not stay awake to pray with him in Gethsemane, in Matthew 26:41. We can see from this story that even when we want to do the right thing, our flesh will sometimes let us down. Fortunately for us, Holy Spirit has come from Heaven to help empower us to overcome worldly desires of the flesh. Not only does He remind us of what Jesus taught, but He strengthens us to make good life decisions in accordance with those teachings. We have been set up for success with the tools needed to be obedient. “This is love for God: to obey His commands. And His commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world” (1 John 5:3-4). Be encouraged today to walk in the light and follow the commands of our Lord. Don’t just know what the Bible says; do what it says. In this you are showing your love for God and you are aligning yourself with Him. Like the apostle John, be known for your love of Christ and His love for you. Allow love to motivate your obedience.
When you begin to talk about living holy lives, many people have a common misconception that we could never achieve such a thing as to become holy. Fortunately, we do not have to do it in our own strength, and through Jesus it is possible to achieve holiness. Inevitably, we all will fall short in accomplishing the goal of living holy if we try to achieve this goal on our own. We can agree without debate that God the Father, the Creator of the universe, is a Holy being. In fact, it is His Spirit that was sent to be a helper to the Christian believers. Holy Spirit was sent by the Father to remind us all of what Jesus taught while walking on this Earth (John 14:26). However, when it comes to us being holy, we are not even in the same league as the Creator. So, how do we live holy lives as we are told to in 1 Peter 1:15-16? “But as he who has called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’” Peter was referencing Levitical scripture from the Torah that speaks to the Israelites about being clean and obeying God’s commandments. Simply put, we are God’s children and He calls us to obey Him. God does not expect us to live perfect lives, but He does expect us to listen to Him and obey what He tells us to do. How many parents out there see their child as perfect even though their child may be disobedient? Parents see their children in a different light than others may see them because of the love that they have for their children. Others may view the same child as difficult to put up with. A disobedient child tests a parent and may irritate others. Proverbs 17.21 tells us “To have a fool for a child brings grief; there is no joy for the parent of a godless fool.” We do not want to be the foolish child that this proverb speaks of. God has an expectation for us to be obedient to his commands. Jesus said that if we love Him, we will obey what He has taught us (John 14:15). We do not want to bring grief to our Father in Heaven because of our disobedience. We are to honor our Father and keep his commandments.
Obedience Over Sacrifice
We are called to live holy lives because God is holy. We can see a picture of how God chooses obedience over sacrifice in 1 Samuel 13. Saul had been anointed by Samuel, and was made the first king over Israel. Samuel told Saul that he would visit in seven days and sent Saul on his way. During Saul’s reign as king, Israel was in constant conflict with the Philistines. During this time, Saul’s son Jonathan had attacked an outpost of Philistines and instigated a conflict to arise between the two nations. Saul understood that Israel was outnumbered and his soldiers were beginning to desert him. The troops that stayed with Saul were very afraid of the Philistines. Saul waited on Samuel to come, but he didn’t arrive within the seven days, as previously stated. So, to prevent more of his troops from scattering, Saul offered a burnt offering to the Lord, instead of waiting on Samuel.
When Samuel arrived, he exclaimed “You have done a foolish thing. You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you; if you had, He would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time. But now your kingdom will not endure…” (v 13:13-14). We see a character flaw in Saul in this story. Saul was more concerned with how the people of Israel looked at him as king than with what was right in God’s eyes. God is more interested in those who obey His commands than those who go through religious activities. Everything in the world already belongs to Him, so the only thing that we have to offer is our obedience and submission. Saul’s kingdom could have been established over Israel forever if he had not taken matters into his own hands. Sometimes we try to make things happen instead of waiting on God. Just like Saul not waiting on Samuel to arrive to make an offering to the Lord, we too can try to live holy by our own strength. When we do this, we will end up failing in some fashion every time. We must rely on Holy Spirit inside of us to live holy lives. It is only through God’s grace that we can live in obedience and submission to Christ.
Chosen To Live Holy
God has given us all grace for certain things. It is by God’s grace that we are believers today and not living the life of sin that we used to live. So, because God’s grace has restored us into relationship with Him through Jesus Christ, we are now positioned to live holy because Christ is alive in us. This doesn’t mean that we live perfect lives, not at all. We still fall short on many occasions, but there is now something inside of us that wants to be holy as God is holy. Holy Spirit lives in the believer who has accepted that Christ has paid a debt for us. In fact, we can see in scripture that we were chosen before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless, “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight” (Eph 1:4-5). We were predestined to be positioned in Christ Jesus, before the creation of the world! In turn, we are positioned to live holy lives, because God the Father sees His Son Jesus as Holy and blameless. We are in Him just as He is in us. It is Him living through us that make us capable of living holy lives. Just as a parent sees their child through a different lens than others, God the Father sees you and me through a different lens because we are his children. All we can do to live holy lives is to know our position in Christ; He is in us and we are in Him. We must understand that we cannot live holy lives in our own strength, but we can live holy lives as Christ lives through us. He is our righteousness, because without Him we are nothing. Apart from Him, we cannot accomplish anything but sin. However, through Him we can overcome the world because He lives in us and He is greater than the spirit of this world.
Having the right tool for the job is essential in any trade. From buttering your toast with a spoon to mowing the lawn with a pair of scissors, I could give you endless examples of how using the incorrect tool, would only make a job more difficult. However, having the right tool can make all of the difference… when you put that tool to good use.
The purpose of this post is to engage the reader and encourage you to do something for The Lord. This blog is a new tool that Tree of Life Church wishes to use to promote the mission of our congregation. That is, to equip believers to cultivate relationships with those who do not know Christ.
You know those scissors that I had mentioned before? It would seem kind of silly to use them to mow your lawn, especially if you also owned a riding lawn mower. Well, that is what it is like in the Kingdom of God when we refuse to allow Holy Spirit to lead our actions. Doing things the best we know how, using our own understanding to make decisions, is like using those scissors to cut the grass in your lawn. Yes, you can cut the grass with them, but there is a much better way. They make a tool for that!
Why would anyone not use the great gift of Holy Spirit when He is available for free application? Jesus has imparted this gift to His followers and many of us are still using scissors to cut the lawn. The good news is that we can begin to utilize God’s tools and gifts at any time. Just like this post, Tree of Life is beginning to use a tool that we have not utilized before. Ask Jesus today about revealing Holy Spirit in a greater capacity to you. Then, use the tools that God has given you to advance His Kingdom in everything that you do.