Category Archives: Character

His completed work

Philippians 1:6  And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

The foundation for our spiritual growth is our recognition that our Creator, who began a good work in us through salvation, will bring that work to completion through sanctification.  We need to look back at what He’s already done so that we can remember how good He’s been and keep in mind that He’s faithful and will remain active in our lives.  We can have confidence that God will never let us go.

Sometimes we need to act on what we know to be true instead of what feels true at any given moment.  Feelings are a big part of who we are since we’re spiritual beings, but they can often be misleading.  When it feels like God isn’t living up to His promises, but we know that He’s faithful and won’t let us go, we need to rely less on feeling and more on what we know to be true.

One way we know that we can rely on God is though His Word.  Story after story is documented of His faithfulness to His people.  This, along with the evidence in our own stories, gives us hope that He will indeed complete the work that He began.

———-  Reflect on where you were spiritually 5 years ago, 2 years ago, one year ago.  Think about how much God has done to develop you into the person He created you to be.

Give your best, first

Malachi 3:10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.

Giving is not always included in material about spiritual disciplines for Christian life, but it is important not to neglect this discipline.  Nowhere else in Scripture does God tell His people to test Him.  When we are told to give as a test of the Lord’s goodness, we can believe that He will live up to His promises.

Take note:  giving is not about money.  The Sovereign Creator of the universe does not need your dollars and cents.  He wants your devotion, your obedience, your love.  He wants your life to be about Him and that means not holding on to earthly things.  He wants to be first in your life.  By giving the first of your finances, the first of your time, the best of your affections, you are showing God that He is first in your life.  And that doesn’t just have to be the “tithe”.

Tithing is not about the numbers.  Some bicker about how much one is to tithe (10% of gross income vs 10% of net income, etc).  Ideally, we would all give much more than just 10% of our income.  It’s not about the numbers, it’s about the heart (2 Corinthians 9:7, Mark 12:41-44).  There is no set number on how much to give, but there certainly is a command to give (Malachi 3, Numbers 18).

The principle to remember in this discipline is that “whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously” (2 Corinthians 9:6).  We must give God our best, first.

Love Jesus more than anything

Mark 12:30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.

Someone once asked Jesus what God’s greatest command was (Mark 12:28). He answered that it was to love God with everything we have, more than we love anything else. That’s a difficult thing for most of us. We love a lot of things.

Think about some things that you love. You love your family. You may have a pet that you love. Maybe there is a hobby you can’t get enough of. Or there could even be things like your career or the success you’ve achieved that have become objects of your love. God is saying to love Him more than you love anything else. Anything at all.

There was another person in the Bible that asked Jesus what He had to do to get into heaven (Matthew 19:16). Jesus answered Him that he had to give up all of the things that he loved more than he loved Jesus. The very rich man had a ton of stuff he had acquired. The man couldn’t part with his possessions because he had begun to identify himself by them, so he didn’t give up anything and he went away from Jesus very sad. What that man needed to realize was that Jesus is better than anything that he loved in his life. What you and I need to realize is that anything we could give up for Jesus is worth it.

We should love Jesus so much that we want what He wants. We should want to be like Him and want to do what He did. When we make Him most important in our lives, we’re starting to really live for God. When He’s our treasure, and we love Him above all, we can be transformed.

Living sacrifice: All that you are

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

God did an amazing thing for us in sending Jesus. He not only redeemed us and saved us from eternity in hell by forgiving us, but He adopted us into His family and now calls us His own children. Because we’re now His, He’s ours, we are not our own, we have been bought with a price. And our response to His mercy and grace is to give Him the one thing He wants – ourselves, to glorify God with our bodies. Our thoughts, our words, our work, our actions, our desires, our time, our talents, and our treasures. Not just all we have, but all we are. This may sound unreasonable, but trust me, the trade we make works in our favor. Like the man in the parable who sold all he had to buy a field where a great treasure was buried, our lives are so much richer with Jesus than with anything we’re unwilling to trade for having Him.

Matthew 13:44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

Submitting ourselves to Him pleases Him and brings about a transformation that we could never accomplish on our own. Jesus is better than anything we trade for Him.

Living sacrifice: Presenting your heart

Matthew 19:21-22 Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

What is it that you want in life? Better question: is it what God wants for your life? I think this is the big hang up for people when it comes to presenting our whole bodies as a living sacrifice. The human heart wants what it wants, and sometimes that something destructive or sinful, and yet we can’t let go of it. Our desires can be very powerful. Look at the rich, young ruler in Matthew 19. He asked Jesus what he had to do to be saved. He said he kept the whole Law and obeyed God. Jesus told him the one thing he still needed to do was let go of what he was holding on to – his possessions. He couldn’t do it, and he missed out on something better. Some people interpret this story all wrong. It’s not about selling all of our stuff. It’s about giving our all.

We do surprising things to get what we want, things we’d never have thought we’d do. Our motives are shaped by what’s in our hearts. What are you holding on to that’s keeping you from being transformed? If Jesus is better than anything else we can have; what’s stopping you from letting go and trading what you want for what God wants?

When we submit our motives, God gives us desires that please Him. God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.

Living sacrifice: Presenting your feet

Proverbs 16:9 The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.

Have you ever thought you knew what you were supposed to do, only to have it all fall apart and just not work out? I’ve been there with my life. I thought I had a future in politics. It seemed promising, but the deeper I got into things, the more frustrating it got and the less I seemed successful. It was only when I started letting go of what I wanted and letting the Lord direct me that I realized He had something greater planned.

It can be hard to let go of having our own way. We put in a lot of hard work to move in the direction of our own goals. When it comes to surrendering those for the sake of what God wants for us, it’s an incredibly humbling experience.  His plans are always better than ours though.

Think about what you want out of life. Where are you going and how are you going to get here? Now ask if your goals fit into God’s bigger plan. If you can’t answer yes, what will you do to align with Him?

When we submit our moves, God gives us destinations.

Living sacrifice: Presenting your hands

Hebrews 13:16 Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

Ministry: This is the work of your hands. The things you choose to do. One who’s been transformed works as though they’re working for the Lord and not for man. If you’re transformed, you care about what God wants you to do more than about your hobbies and personal ambitions. You set to work for what matters, not just for what you want.

I’ve often heard pastors talk about how God wants our time, our talents, and our treasures. These are all related to the hands. With our hands we can hold on to things, or we can share things. We can use our talents for ourselves or for God. We can spend our time doing selfish things or on things that matter. Where are you spending your most valuable assets?

I did a lot of fruitless things in my life before realizing what the Lord wanted me to do. The problem was I was trying to do things without allowing the Holy Spirit to work in and through me. Nothing was succeeding because of my unwillingness to submit and trade what I wanted for what He wanted. When I finally recognized that His way is better, I traded in false gods and gained purpose.

When we submit our ministry, God gives us duties to accomplish. We all want to do something worthwhile, but what God gives us to do is far greater than anything we can think up.

Living sacrifice: Presenting your mouth

Hebrews 13:15 Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.

We praise God with our words. We represent God with our words, for better or for worse. We can make Him look good or make Him look bad. As an example, think of Christians you know who are always encouraging and sharing the gospel and Christians who are always griping or complaining. Think about someone like Billy Graham and compare them to some grumpy old guy in church, or maybe a group of protestors who claim to speak for God. Who makes you want to hear more about God?

We don’t like being told what we can and can’t say. We have freedom of speech to say whatever we want! Yes, we CAN say whatever we want, but not everything that can be said should be said. Out of the heart the mouth speaks, so if there are ugly things being said, then it’s not a mouth issue, it’s a heart issue. A transformed heart leads to words that build up, not destroy, encourage, not hurt, praise God, not defame Him.

I have the spiritual gift of sarcasm. You say something to me and I will likely have some smart comment to throw back at you in relatively quick fashion. I’ve got to watch it, because sometimes I can hurt others, even though I didn’t intend that to be the outcome. I have a daily responsibility to submit my mouth to God. Can you relate?

Have you laid this down before God and said, “Lord I want to speak words of life. May the words of my mouth be pleasing to you?”

When we submit our mouths, God gives us declarations. He’s not about giving us a script, but He empowers us to speak life.

Living sacrifice: Presenting your mind

Romans 12:1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

There are many of you reading this who have tasted and seen what a transformed life in Jesus is all about. You know just how good it is. But there are some of you, maybe even some who have sat in church services for years, who remain the same as always. Untransformed. You’ve never been changed and maybe you’re wondering why. That was me too for a long time. I knew the truth and I believed it, but I was unchanged. When I finally surrendered my will for God’s I was truly transformed. That was my fresh start.

So let’s talk about presenting our bodies as a living sacrifice as an act of spiritual worship. God doesn’t want all we have. He wants all we are. We display what we value with our bodies. If we’re followers of Jesus, we use our bodies to make Christ known. That’s why we sacrifice what we are.

Presenting your whole body, your whole self, is comprised of 5 things, maybe more, but I’m going to talk about 5. Your Mind, your Mouth, your Ministry, your Moves, and your Motives.

Mind: So much begins with a single thought. Attitudes, feelings, actions – they can all go wrong if our thinking is wrong. That’s why Paul urges us to be transformed by the renewal of our minds. It’s the beginning of it all.

Sometimes we, I think men especially, try to compartmentalize things. We think, “Sure, I’ll work for God, I’ll give to God’s work, and I’ll try to talk in a way that’s pleasing to God. But I’m not willing to give up my sinful thoughts. I’m gonna hold on to those.” We can’t separate all of these things from each other, though. We’re being told to present our whole selves, not just some aspects. If we’re unwilling to let God have lordship over our thoughts, we can’t be transformed. This means I need to not just have positive thoughts, but submit my thoughts to the authority of Christ.

If you’re thinking right now, “I could never do this. My thoughts are outside of my control!” That’s exactly my point. It’s not about you controlling your thoughts, it’s about saying, “God, I want to think with a renewed mind and I want my thoughts to please you.” And letting Him be the Lord of your thoughts.

When we submit our minds, God gives us discernment. He doesn’t control our thoughts like we’re robots, He helps us to think with a healthy mind to please Him.

Living sacrifices

Romans 12:1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

Let’s look at the key word “living” in the phrase “living sacrifice.” It’s easy to just move right past that, but we have to think like the Romans here as we read this. The Jews back in the Old Testament had a sacrificial system where they killed an animal in order to meet the requirements God had put on them for forgiveness of their sins. Even the Pagans had a sacrificial system that involved death. The concept of a living sacrifice is new. It’s foreign. I can seem them going “What does he mean “living sacrifice?” It sounds like 2 words that contradict each other. How can something living be a sacrifice?

Paul says we have only 2 choices. Sacrifice ourselves for righteousness, that is life, or for sin, which is death. There are no other options.

A living sacrifice is two things, it’s spiritual because only one who has been made alive by Christ can BE a living anything, and it’s ongoing. It’s not a one shot deal. We’re living out our sacrifice.

Romans 6:13 says, Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.

The sacrifice we’re called to doesn’t bring us salvation or forgiveness. That’s finished. Jesus already did that. God found a way to be merciful to sinners in Jesus Christ. He sent Him on a mission to earth to redeem mankind through His sacrifice. But our sacrifice is in response to His and that’s what makes it, as Romans 12:1 says, “acceptable to God.”