Category Archives: Discipleship

A life lived for God is an honest life

Ephesians 4:28 Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.

A new life that comes about after being transformed by God is a life that leaves behind many old things. Habits, hangups, crudeness, lying, stealing…the list goes on.

Some of us in our old lives were thieves, taking anything we could get our hands on just because we wanted it. God’s people don’t live that way, though. We understand that all things really belong to God, not to us. Ripping someone else off doesn’t just hurt them, it hurts our relationship with the Father. He didn’t create us to be thieves.

If there’s one thing that God is not about, it’s selfishness. A deceptive lifestyle that cheats others only benefits the cheater and it’s not what God intends for His people. He’s called us to care for other people, not just ourselves (Philippians 2:3). This means that in our work and in our choices, we should have others in mind. We should be seeking to benefit them so that God can be glorified (Matthew 5:16).

For one of His people to steal is for the world to view God as a thief.  Making an honest living is not just the right thing to do, it shows others how God’s people live and brings Him honor.

May we grow to maturity

Ephesians 4:13-14 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 

It should be obvious to every Christ follower that we are to aim to grow spiritually. Just as we would notice something was terribly wrong with a person who has not physically matured past infancy, we should see it as a problem when a Christian has not grown past spiritual infancy. The thing is, though, we don’t.

It’s far too common for those of us who profess to follow Jesus to be content with spiritual youth, never even trying to get past the first stages of Christian life. We overlook it in our own lives and we often overlook it in the lives of others. We get stuck in a place where surface level understanding is accepted and we miss out on a whole lot of blessings that only come with maturity.

To return to the physical to spiritual comparison, think about this: If a child never matures past infancy, he or she can never enjoy certain benefits like driving, marriage, living independently, or even just keeping friends. Likewise, in the spiritual life, there are many things that can only be enjoyed by those who move past the elementary things of the faith. Living in communion with other believers, weathering the storms of life with unshakable faith, finding answers to life’s questions within God’s Word on your own, genuinely worshipping, and praying as one who is close to God are really all much deeper if we have grown and matured.

Paul seems to be warning the church in Ephesus that they will believe anything if they don’t mature spiritually. His image of being tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine is a good picture of many Christians today. Let us all decide that we’re going to pursue spiritual growth and a better knowledge of God so that we can really experience Him in a greater way. Let’s vow also to help others towards this goal.

His glorious grace

Ephesians 1:6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.

You know what’s best about the blessings of God? We don’t have to earn them. In fact, we can’t earn them. We can be rewarded for good deeds, sure. But the spiritual blessings of God, with which He was blessed us through Jesus Christ, cannot be obtained by anything we do.

That’s good news!  That’s better than good news!  The truth is,we’re all sinners, regardless of how much good we’ve done in this life here on earth. To compare anything we’re capable of doing for the good of mankind to what God has done and will do yet, is like saying we’ve learned all there is to learn after reading one children’s book.  It’s absurd!

Our Father’s grace is so wonderful, so glorious, that we can’t even comprehend just how amazing it is. We ought to be thanking Him every moment of every day.  We ought to be thinking about all He’s done for us in Christ. Take a moment. Start by writing just one spiritual blessing you’ve received from God and focus on that today. Tomorrow, think about another. At the end of a week, look back on all of the blessings you’ve recorded and rejoice.

Romans: Sharing with Christ

Romans 8:17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ,provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

We, the adopted children of God, are now officially sons and daughters of the King of Kings.  And what does this mean beyond the fact that we are forgiven of our sins and brought into fellowship with God as part of His family?  It means we get everything.

Everything?  Yes, if we are children of God then we are heirs, just as Jesus Christ is the Heir of all things (Hebrews 1:2).  What’s His is ours.  That’s…the glory and the suffering.

We’re called to more than just living a good life here and now on this earth when we enter into God’s family.  We are given incredible gifts from the Father, but there is more to this life than what we receive.  We have the privilege now of sharing with Christ in His sufferings.

Because we’re children of God, those who aren’t may take offense to our disposition and seek to harm us, whether physically or just emotionally and spiritually.  We may not always be happy all the time because in this world there is evil and injustice that will not be eradicated until Christ returns.  Oh, but when He does, we get to share in His glory.  When that time comes, everything in this life will have been worth it.

Romans: God’s kids

Romans 8:16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God

What a precious gift salvation is from the Lord!  Yet even in this wonderful news there is more.  Not only has God saved us and freed us from sin, but He’s adopted us!  He didn’t have to do that for His enemies, and yet He did.

But we all run the risk of falling into doubt, don’t we?  We doubt His love for us, we doubt the forgiveness we’ve received, we doubt that we’re truly His.  And it’s there that we see that the gifts just keep pouring in.  He’s done all these things for us and still there’s more.

In those times of doubt we find that we have a Comforter.  It’s the Holy Spirit who bears witness to our spirits that we are indeed children of God, adopted by the Father of Lights.  Yes, He is our loving Daddy who would spare nothing for our sake.  He never wants us to forget that or to lose sight of it.  He keeps giving by reminding us through the Holy Spirit that we are His and He is ours.  Great news.

Meditation on the Word

Philippians 4:8  Finally, brothers, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

 

It’s not enough to just hear the Word.  Showing up to listen to a sermon each Sunday is only the beginning of Bible study because you can never get everything you need from a one hour (or less) message.

 

So while you listen, take notes.  Write down the things that strike you, the passages that grab your attention.  Throughout the week, take another look at what was taught.  Take the time to actually think about the Scripture and the application you can make into your own life.  How can you live out this message?

 

This is so important because merely hearing something does not mean it’s going to stick.  Understanding begins with hearing, but it’s got to be meaningful beyond the moment you hear it.  God’s Word is so powerful it’s for all times.  In any and every circumstance you face, it’s good to think about what God has to say.  Move beyond hearing and begin thinking, pondering.  Take the time to meditate on all God has revealed of himself.

 

 

 Look for this and other devotions like it in Matt’s newest Devotions for Disciples book, available soon!

What if God Doesn’t Care

Sometimes it’s hard not to wonder if God actually even cares.

I mean we know He does, or, at the very least, we think He does. It tells us in Scripture He does, and what are the words to that children’s song? “Jesus loves me, this I know, because the Bible tells me so.” After all, if He cared enough to create us, if He made the promises that He made, assuring us that they are the same, that His love, bound to us through Christ, is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8) there has to be something to the idea that He actually cares. Yet, sometimes it feels more complicated than that, does it? Sure it’s the faith of a child that saves, making way the path to Heaven, (Luke 18:17) but we don’t stay children forever, eventually we put away childish things (1 Corinthians 13:11) and adult problems follow us.

During those times God can seem so far distant, He can seem so far removed as we pray for a sign, for any sign that He still sees us, that He still contends with our cause, that He still cares. There are those times when, for as much as we know that He is there, we just don’t seem to feel it, at least not like we did, at least not like we should, and it’s hard. More than anything else it hurts as we just want so badly for Him to make His presence to be known, to let us know He’s still there, that He still sees us. If there is a Hell, if it is being removed from the presence of God, then those moments sure seem like they are as close as you can get to it on earth, aren’t they?

The thing about it is that, whether we feel His presence or not, whether we see His hand or not, God is there, and there isn’t a moment, a second, an instant where He doesn’t care. (Matthew 6:25-34) We know this not just because the Bible tells us that He loves us, that He is always there for us, that He cares for each of us individually with hope and grace, mercy and faith, but because He is the God who gave His only Son as the great sacrifice to wash away our sin and our guilt, to chase away all those problems big and small that would keep us separated from Him. (John 3:16)

You see, this temporal existence is the last great battlefield, and the Devil, our old adversary, he does everything he can to prove to us that Hell does exist, not just as a spiritual plane but as physical one too, and that this, right here is it. After all, if he can convince us that God doesn’t see us here, if He doesn’t see our pain and our anguish here, then is there really a God, is there really a Heaven or a Hell beyond any of this or is it just a moral argument devised millennia ago? After all, for as much as it can be made to feel as much like Hell as it can, our existence this side of Paradise can’t really be made to feel as splendid as Heaven itself, for however close we may wish or want it to be.

It’s not that God doesn’t care, or that He doesn’t understand. It’s that it’s easier for us to believe that He doesn’t see it than it is for us to accept the truth: amidst this life there are going to be struggles and hardships that seem like they are more than we can handle, there are going to be things in it that are going to cause us so much pain we don’t necessarily know what to do, and yes, God doesn’t necessarily stop them from happening. Why? Because even through them He has a plan for them, He has a lesson He teaches us (Jeremiah 29:11) and He knows nothing the Devil can throw at us is more powerful than we are when we put our hope, our faith and our trust in Him. (1 Corinthians 10:13) Just because we know something is painful now doesn’t mean it can’t lead to something amazing in our future now if we let God show us what it means, just like we can’t know if God takes something painful from us now it can’t lead to a greater pain or a deeper anguish in the future. The nature of faith has to be in the trust, as we put everything we don’t know in the hands of a God who does.

Never for a moment believe that God doesn’t care. He does, and, even in your hardship He is sparing you from some greater challenge, some greater hardship, waging a perpetual battle against sin, death and the Devil for you. He is doing it in ways we can’t understand and can’t conceive, and all He asks of you is a little bit of faith as He guides you through it all. It’s here then that we realize that when we can’t see God or hear Him we need to rely on our other senses, on a greater spiritual sense to find Him. When we do, we know then not only does He care for us, but that He also carries us. It’s then that though that purpose may be lost on us for the moment, we are drawn to the greater moments nearer to eternity when all purpose is revealed to us.

Romans: Spirit-led sons of God

Romans 8:14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.

 There are two types of people in this world.  There are those who are led by the Holy Spirit and there are those who are lost.  There are no other options.  When left to our own wisdom to guide ourselves, we get nowhere.  Only by the Holy Spirit can we talk in the way God has for us.

To some, this may seem a ridiculous notion, pointing to the achievements of secular mankind who has not consulted God or been Spirit-led in their discoveries throughout the ages.  It is an interesting observation, however, those who think that mankind has the potential to know all there is to know, thus disproving the existence of God, are disregarding the fact that God created all there is to discover.  The achievements of man are of no eternal consequence.

But those led by the Spirit are children of God, adopted into His family.  We have been the recipients of the greatest gift of all time: God himself.  There is nothing of greater eternal significance.  It doesn’t matter what we accomplish in this temporary life in regards to greatness because true greatness is only found in one place.  It is God’s to give.

Romans: Make War

Romans 8:13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

 It is once again reiterated in this verse of Romans 8 that living in the flesh means death and living in the Spirit means life.  You have to ask yourself then; how can I make sure I’m living in the Spirit?

The Apostle Paul uses an interesting phrase here by saying “put to death the deeds of the body” and you will live.  How can we put the deeds of our own bodies to death?  How can we cease to live according to the flesh, which is such so easy to find ourselves doing?  We can’t just say we’re living for God, we have to walk in His ways.  It’s not a one time choice, it’s a daily matter of picking up our cross and following Him.

Contrary to popular view, the Christian life is not promised to be easy or painless.  In fact, it can be more painful than living in sin.  Each and every day of a Christian’s life, he or she must choose to make war against the nature of the human.  To live according to the Spirit is a choice that results in help and guidance from the Lord, but it also must mean we consciously make war against the sinful flesh we live in.  We want to do this, but we should do that.  We shouldn’t do this, but we’re inclined to do just that.  It’s a fight, but it’s not one we wage alone.

God is on our side.  Nothing else can come up against us and win.  Make war on the flesh.  Choose to live according to the Spirit.