Category Archives: Character

Giving everything

Passage: Mark 14:3-9

Key verse: Mark 14:3  And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head.

In the days leading up to Jesus’ death on the cross, He taught some of the greatest lessons of His earthly ministry.  At Bethany, days before His crucifixion, Jesus was annointed for burial by a woman willing to give all she had.  Here we can all learn about sacrifice.

While some plotted to kill Jesus, His disciples remained in denial about His certain death, despite many warnings.  The woman at Bethany, however, stood apart from everyone else.  Her concern was not with who would be the greatest, or how much money she could get for selling her oil.  Her mind was set on full devotion to Jesus.  Sitting at the feet of the Lord, she annointed Him with the costly oil.  It’s a picture of how much more He meant to her than her earthly possessions did.

Are you willing to give it all in full devotion to Jesus Christ?  Can you say that you’ve given your whole life to Him?  Is following Him more important than anything else?  Jesus gave Himself, suffering on a cross, willing to be considered cursed, for the sake of our reconciliation with God.  Heaven was bankrupted of its most precious treasure all for us.  Now what are we willing to give up?

Work out your salvation

Philippians 2:12-13  Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Though we can’t earn salvation through good works, not all of the effects of salvation can be seen immediately in us and we’re called to persevere in our faith and “work out” our salvation.  As we progress in our walk with Christ, God works in and through us.

At the point we would call conversion, we do become new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17), our old nature dying and our new nature being in Christ.  It’s through persevering faith, though, that we really take on the new attributes of a Christ-follower, the fruits.  The Holy Spirit works in us “to will and to work for His good pleasure”. This means our very desires begin to change because of God’s work in us.  We don’t just change because we think we’re supposed to change, we change because we now desire to do so.  Our wants begin to align with God’s will and purpose.

When we follow Christ, we take on His plans as our own and God has us bring about His will by transforming us to be more like Him.

Proper motivation

1 Timothy 1:5  The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.

In our lives as Christians, we can often get caught up in thinking that we’re just supposed to do certain things, obey the rules, and work for God.  The problem is that sometimes our motives are all wrong.  We do things because we’ll be noticed or we do them because we want God to think more highly of us.  The Lord, whether we realize it or not, cares very much about our motives.  He cares that we do things out of love, a pure heart, and sincere faith.

We shouldn’t do things just because we’re going through the motions of what we think we’re supposed to do and we should never do good things out of selfish motives.  A good deed done for personal gain is worth nothing.  God’s work in us, our sanctification, should lead to fruits that bear witness to Him.  Selfish good deeds do no such thing.

Follow the lead of Matthew 5:16 and let your light shine so that others will glorify God because of it.

That you may obtain the glory of our Lord

2 Thessalonians 2:14  To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

He who began a good work in us will see it through to its completion.  He’s called us not only to salvation but to sanctification.  In shaping us and forming us to be more like Christ, God is bringing glory unto Himself.

When we are sanctified through the work of the Holy Spirit we bring glory to Jesus.  All glory unto Jesus is also unto the Father (John 10:30).  When we are growing into the image of Christ, we desire more and more to do the will of God the Father.

Our part in this, as Paul tells the believers at Thessalonica, is to stand firm.  We must hold on to the Gospel which we have been taught because the process of sanctification can be painful. When we face various trials, we need to focus on what God has done and what He will do.  It’s not only for our own good that He calls us to be made into the image of Christ, it’s also for His glory.

———-  What have you been through that’s been painful but you realize has been for your own benefit or God’s own glory?

Justified

Romans 8:30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

Justification belongs to those that believe on Christ Jesus for salvation.  If you’re saved, you were first called, but the thing is, not all who are called receive justification.  How is this verse reconciled in light of the fact that not everyone who receives God’s invitation to salvation responds to it?  The calling here can’t refer to the invitation, but must refer to an effective call of the Holy Spirit on the life of the one who would believe and become justified.  Those He chose from the beginning are those who received this call.  If you’re a Christ-follower, that’s you.

You’ve been chosen with a purpose and with that comes justification.  In other words, you’ve been declared “not guilty” because Jesus took on your sin when He died on the cross.  Your sin is forgiven.  With that comes a promise.

You’ll be glorified on the last day.  This is to say that you’ll receive a new body, a resurrection body.  It’ll be perfect, free from all the flaws our current bodies entail.  When God called you, He equipped you for faith and He justified you when you followed Christ.  This is not without reward.  When you get to see Jesus, you’ll be justified, sanctified, and glorified.

Conformed to His image

Romans 8:28-29 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.  For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

Romans 8:28 has got to be one of the most quoted and memorized of all Scripture.  It’s important to know that God purposes all things to work together for good.  But when you pay close attention to the latter half of the verse, you see the need to read on.

Paul is stating that there are some who are called by God to fulfill His purpose.  In context we learn that those who are called are also to be conformed to the image of Christ (see also 2 Thessalonians 2:14) in order to bring about that purpose.  The work of the Holy Spirit within us brings about our sanctification which numbers us among the brothers/sisters of Christ.

So what’s our part in this?  What application do we make out of this truth?  Trust, for one thing.  Do you trust that in all things, in all areas of your life that God is active and present, working things towards His purpose?  Do you trust that He is conforming you to the image of His Son through the events and circumstances of your life?  We’ve got to trust that, even when things aren’t going as we planned, our Creator chose us from before creation (Ephesians 1:4) to be part of something bigger than ourselves.  His plan calls for the lives of HIs people to be transformed into the image of Christ and He brings that about one step at a time (2 Corinthians 3:18).

Spiritual Disciplines – Solitude

Matthew 14:23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone

In our busy world, one of the easiest disciplines to disregard is solitude.  We can become so busy or so immersed in this life that it’s actually uncomfortable to be alone in a quiet place.  We may feel like we’re wasting time or that there’s something else we should be doing.

We must not forego silent communion with God.  It’s in this time that we really hear from Him in our souls.  God admonishes us to “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10) and in this quiet He speaks.

Quiet time with God is not the time to plan out the day’s events or necessarily the time to reflect on past events.  It’s a time to speak to God, but minimally.  When we get alone with the Lord to spend time with Him, it’s mostly a time to listen.

We can hear from Him in a number of ways.  The Lord speaks to us through His Word, the Bible, He can speak to us through the Holy Spirit, or through a still, small voice, just to name a few methods.

The important thing is that we are listening and receptive.  He is knocking on our door, ready to come in and communicate, if we will just take time to let Him in.

Spiritual Disciplines – Sabbath

Mark 2:27 Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.

We are commanded to set aside a day of Sabbath (Exodus 20:8) and yet this is one of the most forgotten or ignored acts in the lives of believers.  To many, grinding to a halt once a week seems impractical, maybe even impossible.  But God told us to do it, and even did it Himself to set the example.

Sabbath was made for us (Mark 2:27 and parallels).  We need to rest, both our minds and our bodies.  It doesn’t need to be legalistic.  Not everyone is capable of taking Sabbath on the same day of the week.  We need not follow the Mosaic Law on Sabbath, just to devote a day to rest and to God.  Sabbath is not about rules, it’s about taking the time to stop and listen to God (Psalm 46:10).

Sabbath is a gift to us. Not only do we get to recharge, but we get to regain perspective, hear from God, and reset our agenda.  Sabbath is the reset button we’re all looking for.  A time to re-prioritize, recuperate, and restart.

Spiritual Disciplines – Bible Study

Acts 17:11 Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

While it is true that pastors receive a word from the Lord and speak it to the people, it is equally true that they are human and therefore capable of error.  The best way to grow spiritually after hearing a message is to check it against the scriptures. Though man is errant, God’s Word is not.

Each follower of Christ must, absolutely must, spend time reading and studying the Bible individually. Church services, Sunday school, and Bible study are all great to attend, but they are intended as a corporate experience among the believers.  Private study of God’s Word coupled with prayer will yield personal results.

It is not enough to say that you believe everything the Bible says if you do not know what it says.  We must learn the context of the original writing to fully understand how a verse speaks to us today.  Many misinformed or uninformed Christians wander about with no foundational knowledge of the Bible’s principles.  False doctrines come about when well-meaning Christians interpret scriptures to support an agenda.

Personal time with the Lord, reading His Word is an essential part of a Christ disciple’s life.  God’s Word ought always to be on our hearts and on our tongues.  The Bible is a disciple’s playbook and we must learn from it in order to live according to God’s wonderful plan.  How amazing that our heavenly Father speaks to us though this text!  How can we  not study it everyday?

Spiritual Disciplines – Fasting

Matthew 6:17-18 But you, when you fast, anoint your head, and wash your face; so that you are not seen by men to be fasting, but by your Father who is in secret, and your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you.

Many churches and individuals begin the new year by fasting and praying for spiritual renewal and awakening.  Fasting is a wonderful discipline and it’s sometimes misunderstood.  It’s important to understand what fasting is and what it’s not.

Spiritual fasting is not a diet, or at least that’s not the main purpose.  One may lose weight on a fast from all food or become healthier on something like a Daniel fast, but the purpose is connection with God.  Even if the reason behind your prayer and fasting is related to health and healing, make the spiritual communion with God the primary focus of your fast.

A fast is not something to be done in order to look spiritual or to get attention.  Jesus warned about pride in association with fasting and public prayer.  Don’t fast for the attention it may bring.  There is no reward for fasting with selfish motives.  If possible, don’t make an issue of the fact that you’re fasting.

A fast is sacrificial.  Not all fasts call you to give up all food.  Some don’t even deal with food, but rather abstinence from activities like TV watching or a break from any contact with sources of news.  All fasts require some sort of sacrifice.  Remember when it gets hard that it’s not meant to be comfortable.  In our hardship, we are drawn closer to God.

A fast is personal.  Even if you’re fasting as a group, you should be connecting with God personally during this time.  If someone else decides that they can’t go on with the fast, continue on.  Don’t judge them for their personal decision, but don’t allow their change of plans to excuse you from your connection with God.

A fast is planned.  It’s not recommended that you jump into a fast without laying out a purpose, and end date, preparing your body, and praying.  Give yourself some time to plan your fast. Some people even like to consult with their doctor before starting.

Fasting is effective.  Various passages in God’s Word point out the power that is in fasting and prayer.  However, it should be noted that fasting does not guarantee answered prayer. (2 Samuel 12)