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.
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.