Christianity

Christian, Why Are You Joining the World?

Since I was a teenager I have marveled at the love that so many who call themselves Christians have for the world. They enjoy its entertainment, they wear its immodest clothing, and they follow hard after its philosophies. And, in fact, I have struggled with my own love for the world as I have traversed through this life.

Worldliness seeps into so many areas of our lives. Not only do we love our worldly entertainment that espouses such things as sexual immorality, profane language, and sorcery but we also find it tempting to trust in human wisdom and philosophies for solving our problems. We are quick to join causes that have anti-biblical core values. (Currently, the Black Lives Matters movement is the perfect example of this. People who call themselves believers are standing in solidarity with a movement that goes against all that the Bible teaches.)

We also see such a great passion to be in line with the fashions of this world that women who call themselves Christians bare their almost naked bodies on social media, thinking nothing of it. They present themselves as sexual objects, putting men at great risk for sin as they navigate these almost pornographic photos. How tragic this is!

Worldliness has made its way into our conversations, which are often about nothing that really matters, and also into our homes, where we focus on grades and sports and self-esteem instead of Christlikeness, self-sacrifice, and serving Jesus.

It’s literally everywhere and most of us probably aren’t even aware or have given it that much thought. The need for separating ourselves from the world is rarely taught in churches anymore–even solid, biblical ones.

Today I’d like to take a look at some of the costs of turning away from the world, and then look at some of the rewards of this life-changing decision.

If we purposely choose to not love the world, it will bring some unpleasant consequences, such as–

You sacrifice being cool. People think you are old-fashioned and fuddy duddy at best and extremely strange at worst.

You sacrifice friends. Most friends, even “Christian” ones, do not want to be around someone who is sold out for the Lord and turning their back on the world. In their eyes, this eliminates all the fun and brings wayyyy too much guilt. They don’t want anyone making them feel guilty about their own worldliness.

You sacrifice worldly gain. There are often times when the Christian is passed over for promotions because of their biblical stand. They are ignored, antagonized, and mocked because of their stances against certain things that just aren’t popular.

You sacrifice popularity. And this may be the hardest one for most. Everyone wants to be popular. It is a powerful thing to be liked by others. Swimming against the flow is not for the faint of heart.

But not loving the world brings many wonderful consequences, too–

You deepen your relationship with Jesus Christ. For example, I am amazed at the growth that took place when I was willing to surrender my entertainment to the Lord. Because I have experienced this, I continue to carefully examine any entertainment in light of the Word. I would much prefer to be close to the Lord than to experience an hour or two of pleasure.

You develop far more meaningful friendships. Friendships that are based on a mutual desire to please the Lord, no matter what the cost, are far more deeper and much sweeter than those based on common interests or anything else. The fellowship I have with like-minded friends is far, far more richer than anything I have ever experienced.

You learn to enjoy life in a fuller way. When I was filled with worldly entertainment, I scoffed at those who enjoyed simple things or certain types of music. But as I have eliminated much that was worldly in life, I have found a whole new world of wholesome things to enjoy. What once would have seemed simple or mundane has blossomed into interesting and far more entertaining and enjoyable than any blockbuster movie or top ten song.

You learn how to think again. I believe that intellect and critical thinking has been greatly stifled by modern entertainment. When you start to examine things in light of scripture, you start your brain on the path to critically thinking. This is important in light of all aspects of our lives and it’s a great exercise for your brain in order to live the best life you can that is pleasing to the Lord.

You look different than the world, which gives opportunities to explain why. When someone says they are a Christian but they do everything an unbeliever does, including dressing immodestly, watching the same ungodly movies, listening to the same vulgar radio station, and joining the same anti-biblical causes, there are certainly no questions asked. But looking different affords us many opportunities to share the Gospel. If we have been transformed, then we should look transformed. 

 

Worldliness is something that is not discussed much these days in the evangelical world. And yet it yields such a deadly blow to any spiritual growth. Filling our minds with the things of this world, looking like this world, being like this world renders us spiritually stunted and utterly ineffective for use in God’s Kingdom.

We often talk in our family about how, even in our quest to eliminate worldliness, we are probably far more worldly than we even realize. It is amazing how that world sneaks in in the most unexpected places.

But the first step for us all is recognizing this and making efforts to eradicate it small step by small step.

I know, from my own experience, that, if you are genuine believer, you will not be sorry! The rewards of turning away from the world far, far outweigh the costs. Giving up the world as we choose to follow Christ is such a small price to pay for the wonderful rewards that are ours when we do so!

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Here are some verses that explain how worldliness should have no part of a Christian’s life. I hope that you will find them convicting and confirming of what I have said above–

John 15:19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.

Romans 12:2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

I Corinthians 3:19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their own craftiness”;

Ephesians 1:1-5 And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the [a]course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),

Philippians 2:15 that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,

Colossians 2:8 Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.

Titus 2:11-12 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, 12 teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age,

James 1:27 Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.

James 4:4 Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

I John 2:15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

Attacking Messengers, Crucifying Dissenters, and Belittling Questioners

Over the past twenty years or so, I have experienced the vitriol of those blindly following a person or a cause. Social media is the mecca for such interactions and to post a dissenting comment has made anyone come to expect sarcasm, anger, and even hatred. I have talked with others who have experienced this, as well.

This dynamic takes place anywhere people are gathered online. It seems a lot worse right now, but perhaps that is because so many of us are relegated to online interaction. Somehow when people get online, they remove all inhibitions. They would never, ever talk to someone face-to-face the way they talk to someone online. At least, I hope they wouldn’t!

But there are a lot of debates and disagreements and controversies going on online right now and I wanted to make you aware of a few things to look for as you watch this all take place.

By the way, while this does take place in the secular world quite a bit, we understand that they are unbelievers and have rejected God’s ways. While it is interesting to observe, it is certainly not surprising. However, it borders on tragic that this is the same approach of many in the evangelical circles. People that you trust. I encourage you to look for these as you encounter quarrels and controversies in these current days.

It is a three-pronged approach, where one, two, or all of these prongs may be used to put down the “enemy”. I wanted to make you aware of them because it is critically important that we recognize them and then move them aside in order to look at the real issue at hand. They are a decoy. They are a smoke screen to draw your eyes away from the real issue. Don’t be deceived.

Here are the three prongs–

1. Attack the Messenger. Instead of answering the accusations, they will attack the messenger. They will call them all kinds of names, put them down, make them out to be unloving, unkind, divisive, and unintelligent. They will dredge up old sins. They will cast doubt on their integrity. This trick is as old as the books, but don’t let them fool you. And, hey, in some cases, maybe the person sharing the message is some of those things. This still doesn’t release us from investigating to see if what they are saying is true. Beware character assassination. It is a bright red flag and should lead you to mistrust, rather than to trust, the person conducting it.

2. Crucifying Dissenters. How dare you disagree? You are NOT allowed to disagree and so we will crucify you with our words. I am not sure when the world changed but I see leaders encouraging their followers to act like this. Secular and Christian alike, their followers are using words to spread venom and hatred and, rather than discouraging this type of thing, the leader seems to encourage it. This is because it is an important part of the three-pronged approach. They are counting on their followers to silence anyone who disagrees. Blind loyalty yields a passion that will stop at nothing to defend its subject.

3. Belittling Questioners. If someone simply asks a question, they are belittled and mocked. If an accusation is raised and an honest questioner simply wants to find out more, they find out very quickly that, this, too, is NOT allowed. No questions may be asked of someone who has been faithful to the Lord for fifty years. No questions can be asked of the governor. No questions can be asked of the singer or the author or the pastor. No questions can be asked of the government or the politician. No questions allowed. Period. If you dare to ask them, people will call you selfish and question your character. They will call you names and ridicule you. All this, for simply asking a question.

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As I write this, my heart is heavy. It is especially heavy because I see this being used in the Christian world as much, or even more, than in the secular world. It is a treacherous world we live in these days. Please be on the look-out for these things. They are signs that all may not be right. Not a guarantee, of course, but definitely worth some research.

Before I close, I want to add one more {very important} thing–

As believers, we are called to respond differently! People are watching us. They see what we post and they are reading it.

Everything we post, whether it be a tweet, a Facebook post, a comment on a post, a comment on a news article or blog post, and anything else should be carefully worded with LOVE. There should never be biting sarcasm, anger, or vitriol spewing forth from our keyboards. This is a dishonor to our heavenly Father.

Make no mistake about it: We are in a spiritual war.

As we fight it, let’s be an asset to our King through truthful, loving, and kind interaction with others. Satan wants nothing more than to create havoc and chaos within the church. We can’t fall for his bait.

I don’t know where all this is headed. Or rather, I think I do. The world and the church has gone off in a direction over these past twenty years or so that I find most disheartening. But, thankfully, we know God is still on the throne. As His servants, may we carefully discern and examine all things. As His witnesses, may we do all we can to be a bright and shining light in this increasingly darkening world.

 

Will I Come to God on His Terms or Mine?

People do many things in their efforts to be right with God. Mostly it boils down to being a “good person”, whether this be by good works or, even more specifically, is accomplished by a list of rules or rituals set up by someone long ago.

Then there are the thousands–perhaps millions– who declare that God doesn’t care if you are good or bad because He loves everyone and would never send anyone to hell.

Perhaps it is a bit presumptuous for us to tell God how things are?

And yet this has happened since the creation of man.

Cain thought he would tell God how things are (Genesis 4). We aren’t given many details, but we know that Abel brought an acceptable animal sacrifice while Cain brought an “offering of the fruit of the ground” (v. 3). Prideful Cain was, in essence, telling God what offering would be acceptable in His sight. When God didn’t agree with him, he grew so angry he went out to the field and killed his brother.

Instead of humbling himself before God and admitting that he was wrong, he murdered his own brother.

While few people let their pride go to such lengths, we are all born with it. It is pride that insists that we are innately good. It is pride that says I can determine on what terms I can be reconciled with God. It is pride that says I get to make the rules.

But guess what? God already made the rules. He had a plan of salvation for sinful man that he laid out long before we took a breath. That plan is in the Bible, which is God’s Word.

I have to just stop here for a brief moment and just remind you that there is much proof that the Bible is God’s Word. Both archeology and science show its reliability. The fulfilled prophecies (including Israel becoming a nation in 1948 against all odds) are truly miraculous. There are many reasons that we can know that God’s Word is true. I read Why Believe the Bible a few years ago which was so helpful. Answers in Genesis has a series of articles here. Men were even converted while trying to disprove the Bible (Part 1 of this series is here). And here is one more article on the Bible’s Proof. You can even find a whole sermon series by John MacArthur on this topic here.

But, may I remind you, when it comes right down to it, belief in the Bible and what it says is a matter of faith. We can have all of the proof in the world and still choose not to believe. Okay, back to our topic…

If the Bible is true (and it is!), then it is there that we will find out how we get right with God. He is God. He sets the terms and determines the way this is possible. He even determined if it was possible, because He could have chosen to let us die in our sins and go to hell without creating any way of salvation at all. We must understand that this is about marvelous grace and amazing love and abundant mercy.

Adam changed the future of the world with just a bite of fruit. Through him, we inherited our sinful nature (Romans 5:12). This is the first point of contention for so many. How dare you call me a sinner? I am a good person. Look at that guy over there and that woman over here. THEY are awful. I look amazing by comparison.

But the Bible says we are all sinners. We are born condemned sinners (See I John 1:8-10; Psalm 51:5; Romans 3:9-12). Until we can admit this, we are hopelessly lost. God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6)

When God opens our eyes to this truth, then we will understand our need for a Savior. Until then, we think we can do things our way and on our own terms.

Thankfully, it doesn’t end there. The Bible goes on to tell us of how God sent His Son into the world to die for our sins.

I Corinthians 5:21 puts it like this: For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

I John 4:10 says this: In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

In other words, Christ died in our place. Think of that for a moment. Jesus died for our sins and we can stand righteous before God through His blood shed for us. And only because of this. On our own, we have no merit whatsoever.

As we go on to study God’s amazing plan in His Word, we come to understand that accepting this free gift is something we must do. We aren’t automatically given this reconciliation just because were born as a human being on the earth.

No, instead we see that God has set it up that we must call on Him (Romans 10:13). We must believe (Romans 10:9). It is a conscious choice.

These are God’s terms. There is no other way (John 14:6).

But, oh, how prideful man is.

Just as Cain demanded that God accept his sacrifice and grew angry when he didn’t, so man insists that he gets to determine his own way of salvation. Whether it be through a set of rules or a list of good works, he believes that he can do enough to reach God.

But the Bible tells us that we can never be good enough. That we can do nothing to be right with God. That we are in desperate need of His grace and mercy.

We must come to God on His terms.

But, oh, the peace that is ours when we do!

Trying to pridefully reach God on our own terms yields only doubt and turmoil and frustration.

But peace can be ours, if we will but turn to Christ alone for salvation.

I leave you with the lyrics of one of my favorite hymns–

I stand amazed in the presence
Of Jesus the Nazarene,
And wonder how He could love me,
A sinner, condemned, unclean.

How marvelous! How wonderful!
And my song shall ever be:
How marvelous! How wonderful!
Is my Savior’s love for me!

 

 

 

(If you are not sure you understand salvation or you desire to know more, please don’t hesitate to email me at Leslie {at} growing4life {dot} net. I would love to talk more about this with you.)

 

 

Truly Free

In America, we pride ourselves on our freedom. We are the “Home of the Brave and Land of the Free”. Well, in two short weeks, from March 6-21, 2020, the illusion of freedom came crashing down around our heads and we recognized that we aren’t free at all.

Using fear, the media and government literally paralyzed our whole society and economy. We are NOT free. We are not free to gather. We are not free to go to a restaurant. We are not free to shop. We are not free to run a business. We are told where we can and cannot go and what we can and cannot do.

Really, when it comes right down to it, we are just part of the masses (like a herd of cattle) that can be moved this way and that and we have NO control in the matter.

I am not here to question the validity of what’s going on. Perhaps this is what is best. I am simply pointing out the fact that within two short weeks, many of the freedoms we counted on have been totally stripped away.

This gives a whole new light to the words of Jesus in John 8:32–

“And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

We thought we were free, so we’ve probably never given a whole lot of thought to this verse. But don’t we view it in a whole new light during a time where our taken-for-granted freedoms have been removed?

It is truth that sets us free. It is not a government or a corporation or a country. It is the TRUTH.

This is the only reason that genuine Christians can experience peace and joy in a time like this. Oh, sure, we still struggle. We fear, we are anxious, and we worry. But as we fill our minds with God’s Word and lay our needs, wants, hopes, and dreams at the feet of Jesus, we find that peace “which passeth understanding” (Phil. 4:6-7).

Christians are at peace with God through repentance and faith. Repentance of sin and faith in Jesus Christ’s work on the cross alone. With this, comes new life and, along with it, a child-like trust in God’s Sovereignty. Only this brings freedom.

It is truly my hope that this unprecedented time will lead many to the cross, which is the only place peace, joy, hope, and true freedom can be found. Nothing can touch us if we belong to Christ. Oh, praise His name!

 

 

 

Are You Ready for Death?

Kobe Bryant and his daughter died a few days ago. Along with thousands of other people. Those two weren’t the only ones who faced God on Sunday, January 26. Many passed from this life to the next. Some were expecting it and many, many, like Kobe, were not.

None of us knows what day we will leave this earth. That’s why it is so critical that we are ready to go at all times.

This isn’t going to be a long post. I just want to encourage you (and myself) to know, without a shadow of a doubt, that we are ready for the inevitable. 100% of us will die. The question is not “if”, it is when.

So here are just a few thoughts for us all today–

1. If you do not believe the Bible is 100% true, then what are you basing your belief about the afterlife on? Is it a man? A religious system? And on what is that person or system basing their beliefs on about the afterlife? This is one area of life we cannot afford to get wrong! This is the difference between heaven and hell. Between a life of eternity with God or an eternity without God. We owe it to ourselves to thoroughly research this. If you don’t believe the Bible, then I challenge you to actually put reasons to your belief. Make sure that you’ve done a thorough study. While true faith isn’t based on logic and rationalism, it is often the starting point of the search for many.

Don’t be an ostrich with your head in the sand when it comes to the subject of death.

(If you wonder what the Bible teaches about life after death, you can read more here.)

2. If we do know where we are headed, then shouldn’t that change how we live? Shouldn’t we be more interested in treasure in heaven than treasure on earth? Shouldn’t we be more interested in pleasing God than pleasing people? And shouldn’t we spend more time looking in the mirror of the Word than the mirror in our bathroom? Remembering how close death is for all of us should really remind us of (or even change) our priorities.

3. If we do believe the Bible is true and we are confident that we will spend eternity with God through our faith in Jesus Christ alone, then a good majority of us really need to ask ourselves these questions: Why aren’t we more passionate about our faith? Why are we so caught up in all of the stuff that is so temporal? Why don’t we care more that so many are not going to be in eternity with us, given their own declarations and wicked lifestyles?

Is this not a sobering thought? The co-worker next to you could get in his car tomorrow and crash. The unbelieving family member could face his Maker next week. That terminal diagnosis could be told to our lost spouse or parent in a month.

Are we praying fervently for them? Are we taking the opportunities we are given to share the Gospel? Be sure that I am not talking about smashing them over the head with it in a harsh way. But, rather, are we having heartfelt discussions with them? Are we pointing them to the anchor of the Word?

Dear friends, life is short. Our days are like grass. May we seek the things that are above. May we live each day with eternity in mind.

 

As for man, his days are like grass;
As a flower of the field, so he flourishes.
16 For the wind passes over it, and it is b]”>[b]”>bb]”>]gone,
And its place remembers it no more.

Psalm 103:15

 

If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.

Colossians 3:1-4

 

 

Should I Expect to Understand Everything?

The other morning we were talking in Bible Study about how there are just some things we can’t understand. I mean can we really wrap our brains around how we are chosen by God (Ephesians 1; John 6:44) and yet we have a free will to choose Christ? (John 1:12-13). Or can we comprehend how God moved men to write the Holy Bible–using their own styles and personalities–and yet every word written by each of those fallible authors was and is the timeless, infallible, and inspired word of God (2 Peter 1:20-21)? And then there is prayer. I am supposed to pray (Philippians 4:6) and yet God has already ordained what will happen (Daniel 4:35; Acts 2:23)? How can this be?

I am here to tell you that I have no idea. I can’t fully understand quite a few things that I believe scripture teaches.

And, honestly, I am okay with that. Now, in writing that I am okay, it may lead you to believe that I am simple-minded and too easily satisfied. But, before you set your opinion, let me try to explain exactly why I am okay.

The other day my daughter told my three-year-old grandson that they were going to go vote. Here’s a bit of the conversation–

As she was explaining that mommy and daddy were choosing between two men who would help make decisions for our state, he asked a very wise question:

“Is one red and one blue?”

Amazed that he actually chose the right colors that signify the two political parties, she said “Well, yes, something like that.”

“Can we vote for the red man since that is my favorite color?”

She laughed and responded “yes, because the red man believes a lot of the same things we do.”

So far, so good.

However, she realized how little he really understood when he asked this question after they were done voting: “Now that we are done ‘boating’, can we bring the red man home with us?”

(Our family all had a good laugh over this story.)

Now we can see that he really didn’t understand. And, actually, there was really no possible way for him to understand. As my daughter said, he doesn’t even know what a state is yet. He is absolutely incapable of understanding the voting process.

Of course, we’d never expect a three year old to fully understand this process, would we?

SO why then do we expect to understand everything God understands? If there is such a large gap between the comprehension of a three-year-old and an adult, then how much bigger of a gap must exist between the comprehension of a created human and the God of the universe?

Consider Deuteronomy 29:29–

The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.

You see, there are secret things that we can’t understand. There are questions we can’t answer. And there are doctrines that are totally beyond our comprehension.

At some point, we need to accept this.

It is pride and arrogance that demands understanding. It is the idolatry of intellectualism that pushes man to insist he can make sense of it all.

This pride and idolatry has led to broken relationships, messed-up families, and split churches. Scripture gets twisted to mold God and His ways into something that makes sense to our human brain. How important that we take scripture literally and at face value–even if it doesn’t make sense or seem fair.

While the Bible does contain some puzzling things, oh, how much we can understand. God has revealed what He wants us to know. What we need to know, we know.

The world and even many in the church will call us foolish for not insisting on knowing every single detail. But who cares? Just like a three year old can’t understand voting, so a human brain can’t fully understand how God works. We must bow humbly before our King and realize that God is way bigger than us and His ways are much higher than ours.

 

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts.

Isaiah 55:8-9

 

 

There Are Only Two Roads

Let’s say you live in Arkansas and you are headed to California for a nice long beach vacation. You load your suitcase in the car trunk, you grab a travel mug full of hot coffee and get behind the wheel. You turn on your car and take a moment to plug your destination’s address in your vehicle or phone GPS. Soon you are on your way.

You are ten or twelve hours into your trip when you get a phone call. Your mom is deathly ill in Florida and needs you right away. There is a rest stop a few more miles up the road and you pull in to reset your GPS. Instead of going west, you are now going to go east. You have a total change of direction.

Unfortunately, all of the major highways going east are closed. You turn on to a dirt back road that is hard to travel. But you have to go home. That is your destination and you have to get there. Nothing will deter you.

Now think about this in light of our spiritual journey.

There are so many people who say with their mouths that they are headed home to heaven. And yet they appear, by all accounts, to be on the major highway that is headed in the opposite direction.

So here’s the thing: We can’t be on both roads.

It’s comforting and easier to think we can be on both roads. After all, there are many who have died that made a profession of faith in Jesus Christ as a child and yet lived very unholy impure lives. If they can travel on both roads at the same time it will mean they are safely in heaven–a very comforting thought to a grieving spouse, parent, or friend. And, too, if we can be on both roads at the same time, then how we live matters not at all. We can live to please self, doing whatever want, and still end up in heaven. How easy is that? Heaven becomes like a fire insurance policy that we have tucked away in a safe somewhere.

Of course, we know, both from experience and from scripture, that this can’t be. Just as we can’t set our gps for California and expect to end up in Florida, so we can’t travel on the broad road and expect to end up in heaven. Just as we can tell someone we are headed west when we are headed east, so we can say with our mouths that we are headed to heaven when our gps is actually set for hell.

When we are genuinely saved, the Holy Spirit stamps a new address on the gps of our heart. We immediately turn off that broad road and onto a rocky, difficult road that is going the other way.

There really are no exceptions for this.

We know this because of what God has said in His Word–

Matthew 7:13-14 Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and [d]difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.

There are two different roads. And if we are a true Christian we are on the narrow one.

I say “true Christian” because, quite honestly, I tremble to think how many have been fooled into thinking that they have guaranteed a place in heaven because of a prayer they said in fifth grade (or at camp or at VBS). Genuine conversion is always evidenced by a changed life. The saved person always changes their direction (read I John and James to get a better understanding of this).

So if we realize there are two roads and we can only be on one of them, let’s think for a moment about what these roads look like, practically-speaking:

The broad road is quite full of people. It’s an easy path and it’s very comfortable. Many church members are on this path, as it encompasses not only the blatant sinners but the moral, self-righteous ones, as well. Anyone who has not repented of their sins and trusted Christ alone for their salvation is on this road, whether they be atheists or the very religious. There are generally few, if any, battles with self or with the enemy because both are very happy with the direction that is being taken. Oh, there is the occasional battle due to a sense of duty or perhaps the external rules of man, but no major battles with self or the enemy occur on this road.

The narrow road, on the other hand, is rugged and difficult. On this road we can expect the antagonism and jeers from those on the broad road. There are many skirmishes with our flesh and battles with the enemy because they are trying, often desperately, to turn us back to that broad road. We get so exhausted but God is so faithful and gives us strength for another day. It is on this road that we find such sweet fellowship and support. Because it is not a road well-traveled, we truly treasure the others we find traveling on this same road and often quickly count them as true friends. Not that there aren’t issues because the travelers are, after all, sinners. But love is the rule of this road. Even though the road can be extremely hard to travel, we travel with confidence. We have an incomparable Guide and we know our destination.

 

So which road are you on? Which road are those you love on?

Of course we can’t know about anyone else and it is important that we don’t make any judgments about this. We can’t know, for sure, if someone is on the broad road or the narrow road. But thinking through this honestly and according to scripture will lead us to pray differently and also change how we converse and discuss when given the opportunity.

This is scary stuff. Most of us have grown up in a world of easy-believism (where a prayer guarantees salvation and needs not be evidenced by a changed life). The ramifications of this insidious lie of Satan’s are horrible and so far-reaching.

For, after all, truth is truth, no matter what someone “believes”. As Christians, we must make sure that our beliefs line up with the truth of God’s Word! We must always ask: What does the Bible teach?

Even if it makes us uncomfortable and we don’t like it, we have to face the truth. And one truth that is not popular today but is still true nonetheless is this:

There are only two roads. And they are going opposite directions. 

 

 

The Domino Effect

Once upon a time there was a young man. He married his high school sweetheart and together they had a few kids. But one day, after several years of marriage, this man chose not to turn his eyes and his heart away when he looked at a woman who was not his wife. Eventually this choice led to a broken-hearted wife and devastated children who would struggle to heal from his rejection for years to come.

He made a choice for his “personal happiness” and, yet, his happiness wasn’t the only thing affected.

Stories like this have happened over and over again throughout history. Replace the pronouns. Sometimes it is wives who do this same thing. For personal happiness and gain, a choice is made that negatively affects the rest of someone’s life. Forever.

You may have been on the receiving end of something like this. And it’s not always an affair. But it is always sin.

Galatians 5:19-21 is a great list to reference for these “domino effect” sins–

Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: [d]adultery, [e]fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, [f]murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Each one of these sins–when chosen–does not affect the sinner alone. It affects all those who surround the sinner.

As sin grows, it spills over on to those we love and on to all those that are in our circle.

We can change their day by an angry outburst or we can change their life by choosing adultery.

Thankfully we know through many examples (David, Peter, etc) in the Bible that we can choose repentance and we can be restored after we make sinful choices. But, after all is said and done, the consequences remain.

Better to not have made the sinful choice at all.

I don’t think we often give much thought to how our daily choices are affecting those around us.

The first example I gave was an extreme example, right? Kids from broken homes –especially homes with a parent who disappears or, maybe worse yet, uses them as a pawn in a battle–have some extra challenges to work through in life.

But let’s think further how our even our most mundane choices affect our kids, grandkids, and anyone who is watching us.

What are some of the things that have a domino effect on our families and circle of friends?

What about how we handle affliction and trials? Anger and discontentment often snake their way down family trees. Are we setting a godly example in how we respond when things don’t go our way?

What about choosing to live in an unhealthy way or being unwise in how we spend money? We set our kids up for failure because they are always watching. And, often, they will choose to live how we chose to live. Think about your life right at this moment. Would you want the children in your life to have your life? I am not talking about the things we can’t control–like diseases or unexpected financial setbacks. I am referring to being wise and godly in the choices we can control.

What about how we fill our minds (tv, movies, books, music)? Are these leading those who are watching us towards God and His Word or are they leading them away from Him?

What about choosing to extol a false teacher? Giving credence to a false or heretical teacher puts our friends and family in grave spiritual danger. Deception often starts by a casual comment, such as “have you read the book…?”

You see, these choices aren’t ever just about us. And these choices have the potential to lead someone toward the broad way or the narrow way. Very few things are neutral. By our example, we lead those who are watching us towards a godly life or towards a carnal life. We encourage them to walk in the Spirit or to walk in the flesh.

So you think no one is watching you at home when you privately watch that terrible tv show?

Well, that might be true. Maybe only God knows that.

BUT…

You think that show isn’t affecting you?

All that goes into our brains–whether we will admit it or not–affects us. And this, in turn, affects others.

Our philosophies; our sensitivity to worldliness; our choice to follow human wisdom or God’s wisdom; our love for God–these are all affected by what we fill our minds with. And this mind-filling will, quite naturally, spill out on to others in our conversations and our discussions.

No sin is private.

Unless you are living on an island far far away with no one else on it, there is a domino effect.

We may feel this more acutely as a parent. (Oh, the weight of being a godly example when you are a parent!) But this doesn’t disappear as we move into our grandparent years. And it still exists, even if we never have kids or are a single adult living alone.

People watch us.

Choices may be made to abandon Christianity or to embrace it by someone watching how we live.

 

Interestingly enough….

This domino effect also works the other way around.

When we live lives that please God and we obey His commands, we find that this also affect others. As they watch us, they are emboldened to live for Christ or they are drawn to His Word. We can encourage them to live for Him by our choice to live for Him! We can encourage them to be courageous and stand for Truth by our choice to live courageously and stand for Truth!

We can have a good influence on others or we can have a negative influence.

But we will have an influence.

What kind of influence will you have? When you have left this earth what will have been your domino effect?

May we give this serious consideration before it’s too late.

 

 

Real Christianity

I was talking with someone recently and they were mentioning to me how most Christians seem to believe that the most important character trait any believer should have is that they are a “nice person”. While being nice is a good thing, being a Christian is so much more than just this. But, I, too, have found that “niceness” seems to trump telling the truth, forsaking the world, and even sharing the Gospel.

There is a real clash of philosophies going on currently. What makes it especially tragic is that this clash is taking place between two groups of people who would call themselves Christians.

One is right and one is wrong. We need to look in the Bible and study it to find out which is which.

It is only through the study of the Word that we can finally understand that Cultural Christianity is not Real Christianity. When someone calls himself a Christian, we must comprehend that there are two very different definitions for this word.

This became so clear to me as I prepared to speak on this topic last weekend for the women of a small Baptist Church. I thought I’d like to share some of what I learned here today.

What is Real Christianity? And how is it different than Cultural Christianity? Let’s take a look–

First, Christianity is based on the Bible alone. God’s Word is the authority for our faith, and this authority is derived from the fact that God has complete authority and He tells us that the Bible is His Word. (see I Thess 2:13; Romans 13:1; Matthew 28:18)

As opposed to Cultural Christianity: Here we find a faith that is based on experiences, feelings, and emotions. We hear things like “God told me” or “God wants me to be happy”. The Bible quickly shrank in importance and influence as the focus of this false religion turned towards these things.

Second, Christianity is a rational, logical faith. It makes sense. It is based on a rational understanding of scripture. While there are some things that are mysteries to us, these things are not irrational. We are called to use our minds (and not shut them off) when we are saved. (see I Corinthians 2:16; Ephesians 4:22-23; 2 Timothy 1:7)

As opposed to Cultural Christianity: Where we find a religion that is based on mysticism. Doctrine, Theology, and Bible Study are discouraged, as the focus turns towards the subjective and the sensual. It doesn’t have to make sense. Holy living and separation from the world is scoffed at and deemed unnecessary while special messages, visions, and impressions become the litmus test of true faith. A rational understanding of sin and repentance and salvation is irrelevant in a religion that makes experience the only thing that matters.

Third, Man is a sinner. There is nothing we can do to make ourselves right with God or to earn eternal life. (See Romans 3:10-12; Isaiah 64:6)

As opposed to Cultural Christianity: Which teaches that man is basically good. The only thing he really needs Jesus for is to fix his problems. How often have you heard a CCM song or blogger talk about how beautiful and worthy you are? That is one of the easiest red flags to spot in cultural Christianity.

Fourth, Salvation comes through Jesus Christ alone. There is no other way to God (John 14:6), it is not of works (Romans 3:27-28), and it must be understood and acknowledged by the person (John 3:16).

As opposed to Cultural Christianity: Where we will find a variety of heresies regarding this. First, we will see many religions accepted as “Christian” that require works. Religions such as Catholicism, Mormonism, and Jehovah’s Witnesses are clearly false, since they require works in addition to Jesus’s finished work on the cross. We will also find the heresy of Universalism, which says that all men are saved, whether or not they know Jesus personally. The author of The Shack has publicly acknowledged that this is what he believes and yet his books are still labeled “Christian”. That’s because it is a cultural Christian book but certainly not a biblical one.

Fifth, Christianity is God-Centered. Our choices, decisions, and life direction should all be based on what will most please God. We desire to submit to His will in all things. We are willing to sacrifice our own desires in order to live a godly life. (See Romans 12:1 and Galatians 2:20)

As opposed to Cultural Christianity: Here we find a self-centered religion filled with mantras like “Follow your dreams” and “Find your purpose”. It is in this kind of Christianity, people rationalize their sin because they are their first priority. God is to bend to their wishes and desires and they call on him to do their bidding like one would call on a fairy godmother or magic genie.

Sixth, Christ calls us to live a holy and pure life. (I Peter 1:13-16). We strive to live a godly life filled with the fruit of the Spirit (Romans 12:9-12; Galatians 5:22-26), decrease sin in our lives (Romans 6:12-14), and to separate from the world (James 4:4 and I John 2:15).

As opposed to Cultural Christianity: Where we find that relevance is all that matters. Separation from the world and holy living are viewed as negative and legalistic, while the “be like the world to win the world” is the only form of evangelism. (Which is obviously not working, by the way. Because this method is not found in scripture. Anywhere.)

Seventh, Christianity is about the cross. Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross for our sin and his resurrection and victory over death is the message of Christianity. It is what happened at the cross that makes us right with God and gives us the promise of eternal life. (see Romans 5:10, I Corinthians 5:18-19)

As opposed to Cultural Christianity: Where we find a false religion that is centered on finding personal purpose, understanding my worth, or making the world a better place.

 

And so you can so obviously see that, when we actually sit down and open our Bibles and do a comparison, these two religions–although going by the same name–are nothing alike. In fact, they are polar opposites.

One centers on God. The other centers on man.

One has a high view of God and a low view of man. The other has a low view of God and a high view of man.

They are two separate religions. Two separate and utterly different religions.

So don’t be fooled.

I encourage you to keep these differences in mind as you talk with fellow believers, evaluate materials for your home or church, bring in special speakers, choose what books to read, what pastor to listen to, or what radio station to turn on.

Be diligent, be steadfast, be cautious.

 

Test all things; hold fast what is good.

I Thessalonians 5:21

 

How Does a True Christian Act?

If you live in the United States almost everybody is a Christian. It’s the religion they identify with and, oftentimes, it has been passed on from generation to generation. If one goes to a church that uses Christian names like “God” and “Jesus” and other terms from the Bible, there is an assumption that one is a Christian–even if there has never been repentance from sin or personal trust and belief in Jesus as Savior. (Actually I guess there are even many people who consider themselves Christians that rarely, if ever, even step inside a church.)

Of course, we know from the Bible that a genuine Christian has repented of their sins and trusted in Christ alone for salvation. When this happens, we are made into a new creation. Isn’t that a glorious thought? The old things are passed away and all things become new (2 Corinthians 5:17).

So what does this new creation actually look like? How does this person act? What signs show that they are a new creation and not just a false convert?

Romans 12 gives us just such a description. It’s a great litmus test for us, giving us specific things to look for as we examine our lives and test ourselves to see whether or not we are in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5).

Many of us are very familiar with the first two verses of Romans 12–

I beseech[a] you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your [b]reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

Paul then takes a few verses to talk about spiritual gifts and the Body of Christ and how it should function. But when we arrive at verse 9, we find out exactly what a genuine Christian should look like on a day-to-day basis.

Before we spend some time looking at Romans 12, let’s remember one extremely important thing. The Christian life is not–and never will be–about perfection. None of us will ever be the “perfect Christian”.  Our focus must not be on being perfect but on testing our heart’s desire and our direction. What direction are we going? Are we growing in these things each year? Do we look more like Christ as we mature in the faith? What is our attitude about these things?

All of us will struggle with some more than others. And that’s okay, too. If we know there is a battle, then we know the Holy Spirit is hard at work, convicting us and showing us how we can grow.

So let’s take a look at the description of someone who is a new creation that we find in the second half of Romans 12, starting with verse 9–

Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.

A genuine Christian will–

1. Love without hypocrisy

Hypocrisy: the practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behavior does not conform; pretense.

We should love without pretense. A genuine love that stems from our hearts.

2. Abhor what is evil.

Abhor: regard with disgust and hatred.

We should hate that which is evil. We should not be bringing it into our homes via our radios, phones, iPads, and TVs. We should not find ourselves entertained by books, movies, and music that glorifies evil. Instead we should abhor them. I speak specifically to this because I believe this is where many true Christians allow entrance of evil into their lives.

3. Cling to what is good.

Cling: hold on tightly to.

We must put a firm grip on the truth and pure doctrine. Don’t let go just because someone tells you to. Don’t compromise because it is easier. We must hold fast. (I Thessalonians 5:21)

10 Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another;

Be kind to our fellow brothers and sisters in the Lord, giving preference to them. This same thought is echoed in Philippians 2:3-4.

Kindness is fairly trendy right now. It is cool to be kind. And that’s not a bad thing. But the kindness referred to here is the kindness we should show our Christian brothers and sisters and flows from a heart that is a reflection of our heavenly Father’s and His love for His children.

11 not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord;

A true Christian is diligent and fervent as they serve the Lord. This means they are not lazy or apathetic. They serve the Lord with their whole heart, in whatever opportunity He has given them.

12 rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer;

The genuine believer knows that his hope goes beyond this temporal earth, and so his hope remains steady no matter what happens. He is patient in trials, all the while continuing steadfastly in prayer.

13 distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.

True Christians meet the needs of their fellow believers. And they are given to hospitality.

Hospitality: the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.

Hospitality is not really all that popular anymore. Few people open up their homes to guests outside of family. And I have to admit, the modern life’s pace doesn’t lend itself well to hospitality. But is this a good enough reason to ignore this little phrase?

Perhaps having a hospitable heart is more about our attitude. Do we open up our homes freely when we are given the chance? Do we make people feel comfortable and welcomed, no matter where we meet them? Do we gladly share our resources and time as we are given the opportunity?

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.

Christians bless those who persecute them. We love our enemies (Matthew 5:43-48). This is humanly impossible. You do realize this, right? Only a true believer could bless the one that is hurting them. Do we love our enemies? Do we pray for them? Do we care for their souls? This is a great sign that we are a genuine Christian. If we struggle with this one, perhaps our first step should be to pray that God would help us to do this.

15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.

Fellow Christians rejoice and weep with one another. Instead of jealousy and envy making us sulky at a Christian sister’s good fortune, we are genuinely glad for them. And when bad news hits, we weep with them. We surround our brother or sister with Christian love and care.

16 Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion.

True Christians are humble. Their opinions about themselves are not inflated and they are not boastful. They are no respecter of persons and they don’t care about someone’s popularity. They will talk freely with and offer their aid to anyone, no matter their age, sex, race, status, or reputation.

17 Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men.

Christians do not take revenge on those that have hurt them. (Connects pretty closely to blessing those that persecute us, doesn’t it?) We are known for our regard of good things (true, right, holy) by anyone who happens to be watching us.

18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.

It is not possible to always be at peace with all people. Some decide they hate you and, no matter what you do, you can’t change their minds. But this verse gives us comfort. If it is possible. God clearly recognizes that it isn’t always possible. But as much as it depends on us, we are to be at peace with all people. Have we done all we can to bring about peace with those around us? This should describe us, as believers.

19 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 Therefore

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
If he is thirsty, give him a drink;
For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.”

Again, we are faced with our attitude about our enemies. Genuine believers are not to live with revenge burning in our hearts. We are to actually do the opposite and reach out to an enemy in need. We are to do this and let God take care of the rest. Only God could enable a heart and mind to love an enemy in this way. Only God.

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

And, finally, a genuine believer is not overcome by the evil of this world. Instead, we overcome the evil with good! We know that God is in control, no matter how evil this world gets and that He will triumph! Our job is to shine His light and go forth as witnesses in our homes, work places, on the sidelines and bleachers of athletic events, in our churches, and when we are shopping. Any time. All times.

____________________________________________

The Bible functions as a mirror (James 1:22-24) and Romans 12 is an especially painful place to look at my reflection. While I do see some of these in my life, I also see much need for growth. I hope that this glance at this chapter has encouraged and challenged you, like it has me.

May we cast aside our pride and may the Holy Spirit fill us with a desire to be more like Christ as we continue on in our life’s journey. I am so thankful that we have the Bible to cast light on our path and to show us which direction we should be headed. Let’s try to live out Romans 12 this week and every week. And in so doing, may we shine brightly for Christ in this dark world!

 

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