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Cleaning up

1 John 1:9 (ESV) If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

When it comes to cleaning up our lives, many people get things backwards. If you think that you’ve got to clean up your act to become a Christian, you don’t understand how this thing works. You and I are incapable of getting ourselves cleaned up until after we give things over to Jesus.

All of the hurts, habits, and hangups that keep us from following after the Savior are exactly the things He came to heal us from. We don’t get ourselves into shape before going into the gym, we go to the gym to get into shape. Likewise, we don’t come to Jesus after we’ve saved ourselves. We go to Him for salvation.

If you’re struggling with something right now that’s keeping you from giving your life over to Christ, like I was before I took that step, look what God’s Word has to say about the subject. There’s no command to “get right” before coming to Him. There is, however, plenty to be said about giving ourselves over to Him so that He can be the one to cleanse us.

Don’t get it twisted. Jesus does the cleaning up. We’re not able to do it on our own, even if we try our hardest. God isn’t impressed with our efforts, He wants our repentance. What are you waiting for?

Desire reconciliation, not revenge

lightstock_160956_medium_user_3963721“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” 

-Matthew 5:38-39

The way of Jesus Christ is often counter-intuitive, often counter cultural. The way of the world is to get back at those who have wronged us. And why is that? It’s because human nature instinctively drives us to defend ourselves and we feel a sense of entitlement to seek an “eye-for-an-eye.” The way of Jesus, though, is to forgo our entitlement and let go of our right to get even.

It’s hard, isn’t it? Think about the last time someone did something to you that was deserving of revenge. What did you do? Did you store up resentment? Did you take action to get what you deserve? Or did you turn the other cheek? Depending on your answer, I would ask you how you felt about your decision. Did it give you peace? Did it help your relationship? Did either of you benefit from your choice?

God isn’t just about do’s and don’ts or listing off rules to make us unable to do anything. He’s actually very concerned with our character, with our relationships, and with our spiritual maturity. Giving up the right to seek revenge, even when no one would fault you for doing so, isn’t about being weak. It’s ultimately about having the peace of God. It’s about having the character of Christ. And it’s about reconciliation with others.

This doesn’t mean to become a door mat or to accept abuse, but it does sometimes mean sacrifice. It’s not easy, but it wasn’t easy for the one sinless man who ever walked this earth to be executed for wrongs that He didn’t commit either. Next time you face the option of getting even or getting peace, pray for guidance. Choose the way of Christ.

Let your light shine

lightstock_827_small_user_3963721Matthew 5:16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Jesus spent most of the Sermon on the Mount telling His followers about the Kingdom of God and about who they are. He didn’t begin by telling them anything to do, He led up to that. The Sermon on the Mount is mostly descriptive, not prescriptive. First came the statements and the definitions, then came the mission.
In Matthew 5:14, notice that Jesus does not tell His followers to go be the light of the world. He tells us that we ARE the light of the world. We are the light of the world because God illuminated our hearts so that we’ll know Him. He then shines through us for others to see Him and know Him. Our testimonies as Christians are not always verbal. Sometimes it’s the good works we perform that ultimately lead people to see Jesus working in our lives. So what are “good works?”
There are obvious things that we can do for others to show them the character of God, like caring for the poor and loving the lost. There are other things that might not be as obvious, attitudes of the heart that manifest themselves in our actions. Sometimes pointing the way to God is as simple as doing things without complaining. One thing is for sure, others are watching. We are the light of the world whether we want to shine or not.
Salvation brings transformation and a Christian who has no good works to show for their transformation isn’t a very good witness. The Bible is very clear that works don’t save us from God’s wrath and reconcile us to Him. Only Jesus’ work on the cross can do that. It’s equally clear, though, that we’re supposed to do good works. We’re created with a purpose and given a mission, to point others to the Father by shining the light He’s put within us.

Serve others unselfishly

TETRRF-00005979-001Mark 10:45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

 

 

 

Here’s a basic principle for remaining healthy: eat the right stuff, don’t eat too much, and exercise. That same concept can be applied to spiritual health as well. Study God’s Word, but don’t just sit around studying, put it into action. Serving others is spiritual exercise.

Someone once told me early on in my Christian life that it was time for me to stop just reading all the time and put the Word into practice. I was afraid to do it, worried that I was unqualified because I still had so much to learn. But he was right, if I was ever going to start living the way God wanted me to live, I’d have to walk out of my room and start serving other people.

Let’s look to our example of how to love and serve: Jesus. If anyone ever had a right to be served by everyone else, it was Jesus. Despite the fact that He simply could have ordered everyone to bow down to Him as their King, He chose instead to become servant to all. He didn’t come to earth to be served, but to give His own life.

Now, what’s holding us back from giving unselfishly for the sake of others knowing Him?

Awe: What God has done

Psalm 103:1-5  Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Even if God had never done a single thing for you, He’d be worthy of your praise. Just His characteristics alone are something that brings us to a place of awe. But He has done so much for you and for me that we can’t neglect to think about those things and stand in wonder.

Maybe you’re racking your brain, thinking, “What has God done for me?” If you have to ask, it’s a good indication that you’ve lost your awe for Him. Think back into the past, look at where you are in the present. Is your heart beating? Are your lungs breathing in air? That, in and of itself, is an amazing thing. There’s so much more though.

His love for you knows no bounds. The Creator of all things provided a plan for your redemption, rescue from your ultimate demise, and a way to adoption into His very own family. He sacrificed the greatest treasure in all of heaven, His own Son, for your sake, that you might be in a right relationship with Him. Think on that. Mediate on that. How do you feel about it?

When we lose our awe for the Lord’s greatness, it’s worth looking back and taking stock of all the things He’s done, not the least of which is the provision of salvation for our souls. He refreshes, comforts, guides, loves, and shows limitless grace. How can we not be amazed when our eyes are open to such things?

If you’ve lost your awe, pray. Admit to Him that you need to regain that sense of awe and ask Him to reveal himself. That’s a prayer that never goes unanswered. Search the Scriptures. Look at all He’s done for all of humanity. He is truly awesome.

What are some things you can share from your own life experience that have you in awe of God?

What is the Church?

1 Corinthians 1:2 To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours

It’s one of the fundamental questions that every Christian must ask. What is the Church? Is it a building? A group of people? A movement?

The Bible is rich with descriptions of and metaphors for the Church.  There’s no limit to wide array of illustrations given. The Church begins with the children of Israel in the Old Testament, carries on into the New Testament, and is ultimately commissioned by Jesus in the flesh.

This thing, this “Church,” is worldwide, local, immediate, and imminent. One thing is for sure, the tie that binds those who are called the Church is Jesus Christ, the cornerstone. Those who call on His name are His people. He is theirs and they are His. The Church is His.

In the following weeks we’ll be looking deeper into what God’s Word has to say about the Church. What do you say that it is?

Ripe for the Harvest

Romans 1:13 “I want you to know, dear brothers and sisters, that I planned many times to visit you, but I was prevented until now. I want to work among you and see spiritual fruit, just as I have seen among other Gentiles.”

It’s that time of the year for the farmer. He has plowed the land. He has prepped the soil by fertilizing it with nutrients. He has laid seeds and carefully watered his fields. He has watched his seeds sprout and grow into big, healthy plants. And now, after much hard work and great patience, it’s time for the harvest. He gazes over his field to find…none of his plants have produced any fruit?

That scenario seems silly doesn’t it? Minus a catastrophe, a farmer who has put a lot of hard work into planting a field expects to see fruit when the harvest comes. In the same way, when we invest our time and resources into others, we should expect to see the Lord do a work in peoples lives. Paul didn’t say I want to work among you and maybe I’ll see some of you grow. He said I want to work among you and see spiritual fruit. Why? Because he had seen the Lord work in these people before and expected Him to do it again.

Now, I know what you’re saying to yourself. I do invest in people at the church and I have seen people grow in their walk with Jesus. It’s worth pointing out here who Paul is speaking to. Paul is speaking to the Gentiles. A people group that was far from God and considered wretched and unclean. See where I’m going with this? Did you just get a little uncomfortable in your seat? Good, because I know I just did and I’m the one writing this devotional. While it is not only good, but it is actually God’s will for us to disciple the next generation, He has also called us to reach out to those who are far from Him. Those who are wretched and unclean, as we all once were. Those who are outside our church walls, and outside of our comfort zone for that matter.

We can’t choose one or the other. God is inviting us into His work, and His work involves both discipling and reaching the lost. Jesus said in Matthew 9:37 “The harvest is great, but the workers are few.” Will you work the fields today? Better yet, will you work the fields today expecting Jesus to do a miracle is someone’s life? I pray today that if anything has prevented you in the past from reaching out to someone, just as Paul was prevented from reaching out to the Romans, that God would give you the opportunity and the courage to be bold in His name.

Got A Light

Matthew 5:14-16  “You are the light of the world–like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden.  No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.

Luke 11:36  If you are filled with light, with no dark corners, then your whole life will be radiant, as though a floodlight were filling you with light.

We usually separate The Beatitudes from the following verses about being salt and light and don’t put the two concepts together but I think that shining our light has some prerequisites.

Living for him with the attitudes and character that please him will make you a bright light in this dark world, if you are not doing that then there won’t be any light, you will look like everybody else that is living in the dark. But if you are living the beatitudes lifestyle you will stand out.

You are going to be strange in a world that seeks happiness in favorable circumstances and pleasant emotions, the world tells us to look out for ourselves but God’s expectations are different, he taught that happiness is found in living for him and when we live for him we will be a shining light in this dark world.

You have the potential to be the light, as a child of God you already have the light in you but you have a choice whether you will let it shine out for everyone else to see. Are you going to put a lamp shade or even worse a blanket over it so that it doesn’t help anybody else?

The light of good deeds are for God’s glory, don’t put the light on yourself so that you will get the credit, the world needs the real source of light and what it can do in their lives. If we live like his chosen people and have the beatitude attitude then we will want our light to shine on Jesus instead of ourselves so that they can see his love and kindness. That’s what this dark world needs.

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All He has his yours

Philippians 4:19 “And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.”

A father loves his children and wants what is best for them. He doesn’t want to see them burdened and stressed out, but strives to see them overflowing with joy and peace. A father will lay awake in bed at night thinking about his children. He would go to the ends of the earth and give all he had to make sure his kids are provided for. If our earthly fathers love us this much, how much more does our Heavenly Father love us?

Your Heavenly Father wants to supply all your needs and it is not His plan for you to be full of anxiety or weighed down with worry. God bankrupted heaven for us when He sent His only son, that through faith in Christ, we would not only have eternal life with Him but also have the right to become His children. If God loves us that much, do we seriously think He is not going to take care of us?

When a thought like that enters your mind, just know that it is the world trying to separate you from your relationship with your Father. Don’t let the obstacles and troubles of this world separate you from the rich inheritance that He has in store for you. God’s love for us is perfect and so is His provision. It was His grace that saved us from our sinful nature and it’s by His grace that we will live. He’s your eternal dad and He loves you very much. All He has is yours.

I’m So Happy

Psalm 92:4-6 You thrill me, Lord, with all you have done for me! I sing for joy because of what you have done. O Lord, what great works you do! And how deep are your thoughts. Only a simpleton would not know, and only a fool would not understand this.

Psalm 16:11 You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever.

Psalm 119:47 How I delight in your commands! How I love them!

In the Declaration of Independence we proclaim that we have been “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” It seems pretty obvious that the average American really likes the pursuit of happiness part.

Right about now the song “Happy” by Pharrell should be going through your head. Our entire culture is built on seeking happiness in the things that the world has to offer. The world has a lot of cool stuff but the problem is, it doesn’t bring very much happiness for very long.

Long term happiness isn’t found in hanging out with ungodly friends, listening to the advice of self-help books and horoscopes, accumulating more cash and conforming to the cultural input around us, these are all dead-end streets.

Happiness in God’s presence
Psalm 16:11

Can you be happy in God’s presence? Maybe his presence is a scary thought instead of a pleasant one, if so then there are some changes that need to be made. We should be happy in his presence after-all that’s where you will spend eternity if you are a member of his family.

Happiness in God’s word
Psalm 119:47

Can you be happy in God’s word? Does the idea of studying God’s word sound like a total bore? If we realize that these really are God’s words then we should be excited to hear what he has to say and we should be motivated to live according to his commands.

Happiness in God’s work
Psalm 92:4-6

Can you be happy in God’s work? Sometimes the work that he is doing in our lives is painful and it may seem like there isn’t any reason to be joyful. When we really think about it and look at the blessings that we have it is easy to see that he is at work and that he has blessed us and we can put our hope in him despite the circumstances.

I will remember the enthusiasm of the Psalmist in these passages of scripture, he is so excited at these three thoughts, God’s presence, his word and his work in my life should energize me each day.

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