Personal Growth

DO YOU WANT TO BE GREAT IN HEAVEN?

The disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:1-4)

Great in heaven.

Wow, that sounds too wonderful to be true!

But look again at Jesus’ description.

The great in heaven are not those with big ministries or impressive gifts. Neither is it necessarily those who have gone through horrible circumstances.

Jesus tells us, it is to humble ourselves like a child.

Humility is a perspective and lifestyle that we must “turn” to – it is not our natural way.

However, it is a way that any believer can follow. Humility is an approach to life in which we can all become proficient.

Greatness in heaven has nothing to do with the measurements and standards that the world uses or that we typically think of.

You don’t need a high IQ or extensive training

You don’t need an abundance of resources

You don’t need leadership gifts or a high position

You don’t need circumstances to go your way

You don’t need years of Christian heritage

You need the direction of God’s word and the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit.

Humbleness can grow in us bit by bit each day.

Greatness in the kingdom of heaven is an invitation Jesus has given to you. Greatness in the kingdom of heaven is a reality which can become yours.

The question to us is not can you become great in the kingdom of heaven. The question is whether it is important enough to you to “turn” away from anything that keeps this path from being the one you are following.

SIMPLY PROFOUND

It is a simple truth. 

My fullest and uninterrupted joy, contentment, happiness, satisfaction and delight will be when my heart is entirely given to Jesus Christ. 

It is simple, because I don’t have to figure out where to place the focus of my life. I don’t have to search for life’s answers. It is always Jesus! If I set the entirety of my mind and heart on Jesus I will experience the greatest possible joy in this world. 

The reason is creation. 

I am a created being. I was purposefully designed by God to know and enjoy him. This is my highest purpose for existing. 

The proof is heaven. 

My eternity will be wondrous, because I will be a Great Commandment person. My heart will overflow with inexpressible joy when my heart no longer withholds anything from Christ. 

This is a profound truth. 

Nothing is more important to understand, and nothing will bring more benefit to your life. Right now an army of activities and responsibilities are demanding your time and attention. However, none of them are as vital to your everything than the person of Jesus!

Love for Jesus is what makes life work.

Love for Jesus is how I get back on track.

Love for Jesus is how I begin each day.

Love for Jesus is how I filter all circumstances.

Love for Jesus is how I assess each day.

Love for Jesus is where I give my best efforts.

Love for Jesus is what my soul is searching for, and every substitute will leave my soul wanting more. 

Jesus will satisfy, he truly will.

WHEN ENJOYMENTS CROSS THE LINE

 

What makes an enjoyment idolatrous?

John Piper in one of his articles did an excellent job of digging into this matter. Through a series of 12 points, Piper helps us recognize when our enjoyments are being misused.

In short, he wants us to make sure all our enjoyments are completely God-centered.

If you consider any of these points to be “too picky”, it may be a sign that you need to look more seriously at God’s call for you to be a Great Commandment person.

Here are Piper’s 12 points of self-examination:

Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it is forbidden by God

Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it is disproportionate to the worth of what is desired

Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it is not permeated with gratitude

Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it does not see in God’s gift that God himself is more to be desired than the gift

Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it is starting to feel like a right, and our delight is becoming a demand

Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it draws us away from our duties

Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it awakens a sense of pride that we can experience this delight while others can’t

Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it is oblivious or callous to the needs and desires of others

Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it does not desire that Christ be magnified as supremely desirable through the enjoyment

Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it is not working a deeper capacity for holy delight

Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when its loss ruins our trust in the goodness of God

Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when its loss paralyzes us emotionally so that we can’t relate lovingly to other people.

THE COMMON SIN THAT NO ONE DOES

Gossips

No one wants to be called a gossip, and I doubt many people think they are a gossip.

Yet, gossip is widespread!

This means gossipers are plentiful. It also means that people don’t understand gossip or their own inclinations toward it.

An excellent book that walks us through the nuances of gossip is “Resisting Gossip” by Matthew Mitchell. You can read my review of this book.

Tim Challies drew from Mitchell’s book to write his own article on the subject, “The Five Gossips You Will Meet”.

The purpose of Mitchell and Challies (and now me) is two-fold:

1)  Help us identify and protect our lives from the influence of each form of gossiper, which includes not allowing them to use us to extend their sin.

2)  Help us examine and identify aspects of gossip which may already be in us. Even if you are fairly certain that you are not a gossip, there may be fragments of gossip lurking in you.

Why should you bother giving attention to the subject of gossip? Because God gives his attention to gossipers and He clearly is not pleased with the practice. In fact, it is somewhat shocking to see the company in which God places the sin of gossip:

Since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. (Romans 1:28-32)

The seriousness in which God takes gossip should be motivation to scrutinize our lives and make sure we are not allowing any trace of this sin to hide in us. This includes as the passage above points out, “giving approval”, which encompasses encouraging gossipers by giving them an audience.

THOUGHTS FOR DRY or DEAD BIBLE READING

Do you struggle to consistently read God’s Word?

You are not alone, but in the end, there are no excuses!

We are commended to abide in God’s Word.

We desperately need to abide in God’s Word.

We rob our life of richness when we fail to abide in God’s Word.

Whatever your reason for not establishing this habit, the answer is to stop minimizing the person of God while you maximize the importance of your own activities.

The failure to pray and read the Bible is not a time or scheduling issue, it is a love and submission to God issue.

The consistent, engaged and responsive reading of God’s Word will revolutionize your heart. Don’t miss God’s wealth of wisdom and goodness, because of a lousy excuse.

Do you struggle to keep your reading fresh?

You are definitely not alone there either.

Every faithful and mature Christian has walked through this struggle – many times.

I find that opening my Bible with the perspective that God is an amazing person who wants to speak to me as I read, is helpful.

John Piper’s latest book, “Reading the Bible Supernaturally: Seeing and Savoring the Glory of God in Scripture”, is an excellent resource in this area. I hope to post a review on this book next week.

Until then, read this helpful article by Tim Challies, “Simple Ways to Spark a Lukewarm Devotional Life”. He mentions a few books at the end of the article. “Habits of Grace” by David Mathis has my high recommendation.

Another idea is to talk with fellow-believers who show a love for God. Relax over a cup of coffee and discuss ways to freshen your devotional time. Anyone who loves God will be glad to talk with you and pray for you about these matters which are precious to them.

Even if you feel dry in your devotional life, take joy in the fact that you are laboring at it. Take joy in the wonderful reality that you want God to fill your life. Most people are grievously blind and dead to these desires.

God wants to bring a fresh breeze to your time with Him. He rejoices in the time you give. It is never dry and empty to Him!

THE DANGER OF SPIRITUAL TOXINS

There are a lot of opinions about being healthy, but every serious view recognizes that we must focus on more than one component.

Good health involves how we eat, how we exercise AND what we eliminate from our lives. If we are serious about our physical health, we don’t shop in the junk food aisle (at least not too often).

In a similar way, spiritual health requires attention to more than one area. We will not be healthy if we pray, but ignore God’s Word. Our soul will be anemic if we read the Bible regularly, but ignore the community of a local church.

However, just as important as what we take in, is what we cast out. As Paul writes in Romans 13:14 put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires”.

We live in an extremely toxic world. Unless we are intentionally ridding our system of these toxins, they will affect our spiritual health. Even the world recognizes this as a general principle, as evidenced by the rigorous attention given to the effects of secondhand smoke.

The difficulties we face in eliminating toxins are many. Not only are these toxins common, they can be subtle. Pride, and the self-centered attitudes that our human nature consider to be normal, the Word of God rejects as ungodly!

If we are to rid ourselves of spiritual toxins, we must be serious about self-examination. And if we are to be successful in self-examination, we will need the help of Scripture and the community of God’s people.

Pastor John MacArthur gives us some direction is this article “Eliminating Spiritual Toxins”.

Physical health has significant benefits, but they cannot compare to having a healthy soul. 1 Timothy 4:7-8 tells us:

“train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come”

JUST BE FAITHFUL WITH YOUR TODAY

James-4-14

by Debbie Huber

I recently read a blog article where the author made a point that stood out to me:  “Just be faithful with your today”.  Many of us allow regrets from the past to prevent us from doing what we know is best today.  We can beat ourselves up over the things we did not accomplish or would do differently from the past.  We also tend to habitually put things off until “tomorrow” or expend a lot of mental energy worrying over the future.  These thoughts can often paralyze us so we are not faithful with the things God has entrusted us with for today. 

Are you waiting to begin having your personal time reading the Bible daily until circumstances are better (….your child sleeps through the night, or until your work schedule changes, or until summer comes, or until you are less tired…)?

            Make a plan today and begin.  There will always be events of life that seem like they are obstacles.  Make reading God’s word a priority TODAY.

Do you feel like your children are too old and it is too late to begin reading the Bible together as a family?

            It is never too late to begin reading the Bible.  Apologize to your children for putting it off and approach it as a privilege, not a chore!

Is there tension in your marriage and you have pulled back emotionally?

            Repent of your selfishness and seek God for your marriage TODAY. 

Are you putting off joining a small group until after your child’s sports season?

            Do not wait!  Demonstrate to your family that God is most important.

Are you neglecting hospitality because you are not happy with how your home is decorated?

            God has put you in your home today, be content in it and do not be ashamed to share your life with others.  He has called us to be faithful with what we have. 

Have you been putting off sharing the gospel with a coworker?

            Ask God to help you do it today.

Have you been meaning to call your struggling Christian friend but are dreading getting into her “messiness”?

            Pick up the phone today.  Do not neglect God’s imperative to “bear one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2).

“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”  Psalm 118:24

SERMON LEFTOVERS 4.03.17

Is our thinking shaped by Christ?

 

1 Corinthians 6:12-20

 

Paul corrects their misuse of freedoms

1. Paul is probably quoting their words of defense in vs 12-13 

They were using their freedom from OT dietary law as cover for temple feasts involving prostitutes

v13 implies they were also pointing out that since the body dies, how it is used is unimportant

2. Paul corrects the starting place of their defense

Yes, we have freedoms in Christ, but our rights are never our starting place

God, and how we honor him is always our starting place (v12 what is “helpful”)

When we begin with our freedoms, they will “dominate” us (this includes activities we use for escape)

Whatever doesn’t place God in his rightful place, is trying to take that place

 3. Paul then corrects their view of our physical body

It’s true this body is corrupt and will pass away; but that is only half the story

v14 God raised Jesus’ body and He will raise ours!  God values this body He created

Great Commandment living calls for God to be first in all that we are – all the time

 

Paul brings in the implications of our union with Christ (vs15-20)

He gives 3 you-should-know statements flowing out of our union with Christ

God is always our starting place in life, and Jesus is our starting place with God

 1. You should know that you have been joined to Christ (v15)

This is why the gospel is so powerful and our confidence in it is so great

If you’re a member (part) of Christ, think how obscene it is to take part of Christ into sin

When God is not our starting place, we minimize the great truths we have in the gospel

2. You should know that sex has a covenant purpose (vs16-17)

The world doesn’t start with God, so sex and its implications are only viewed physically. God gave sex to build a unique oneness in marriage. Its effects are more than physical

Just as we become one flesh in marriage, we are now one spirit with the Lord. This makes sexual immorality especially corrupting to us. It abuses what has a spiritual purpose

3. You should know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit (vs19-20)

When you engage in sin, you take the Holy Spirit with you

When God is not our starting place, we think that our sin is a personal issue. God says no! 

v19 “you are not your own” – you are responsible for you, but you are not in charge of you

v20 you were bought with a price” – God became flesh, died, and took the wrath we deserved, our debt is great

 

What can we learn from the attitudes in this passage that seem culturally foreign to us?

1. Cultures change, but their foundational motivations don’t

Every culture exalts itself, rather than God; only the church is cross-centered

Keep in mind chapters 1-2, the world’s view of wisdom is upside down

All thinking, attitudes and opinions, no matter how culturally common, must be sifted by Scripture

2. Any defense of sin requires foolish self-deception

We can easily look with distain on the Corinthian’s behavior and defenses

Yet, every sin in your life is just as indefensible (this includes sins of omission)

Every argument you use to minimize your sin is contorted and foolish

3. Paul gives us two unchanging actions of godliness

#1  v19“Flee sexual immorality” (and any other form of sin)

Recognize that sin is dangerous . . we must go in the opposite direction . . with urgency!

#2  v20 “Glorify God in your body”

We don’t “flee” aimlessly!   We have a direction and it’s toward the person of Christ!

To glorify not a vague idea, it’s specific actions of making God far above all

This includes glorifying him “in our body”. So let’s “do” what shows God that he is far above all!

IT’S NOT A CHORE!

You should be thoughtfully reading God’s Word on a regular basis.

But you already know that.

A good definition of regular is each day. There will be days when circumstances get out of control and you miss your reading time. When that happens, don’t drift into guilt. Simply thank God for his graciousness and pick up again the next day.

I cannot remember ever hearing a Christian tell me they didn’t think Bible reading was important. But I know there are many Christians who have not consistently established a habit of regular Bible reading.

The most common excuse we use is that “We don’t have time”.

But I think the actual most common reason is that we think of it as a burdensome chore.

In an article on the desiringGod website, David Mathis wrote:

“One of the biggest scams Satan has running is the lie that reading the Bible is a chore.”

I hope you will consider reading his entire article, “Treat Yourself to the Voice of God”.

David, not only encourages us in what Bible reading is – he also presents several helpful and perhaps unexpected tips for enjoying regular Bible reading.

If you enjoy David’s article, I highly recommend his outstanding book, “Habits of Grace”.

 

SERMON LEFTOVERS 3.06.17

Wisdom Follows Humility

 

1 Corinthians 4:6-21                   

 

We all make a life choice concerning whose perspective is upside down, God’s or that of the world. The Corinthians had not chosen well as evidenced by their divisiveness. Paul has answered by contrasting the wisdom of God with that of world. Now he unmasks the motivation behind their choices.

 

The wisdom we follow is a pride issue

All human history and the gospel are connected to this reality (compare Gen 3:1-6 and Mt 4:3-10)

1. Paul uses confrontation, to help the Corinthians see their true selves

He asks three who – what – why questions (v7)

There is no mystery concerning the answers; all we have is from God, which takes away our reasons for boasting

But unless we know God clearly, we will not see this basic reality

Even believers drift if God’s Word does not anchor our minds

We desperately need the conviction not to go “beyond” God’s Word (v6)

Paul had “applied all these things” i.e. the truths of chapters 1-4

Paul has doggedly pressed this conviction on us – how has it impacted you?

Beware, it is not just the world that tries to draw us “beyond what is written”

There are some in the church who diminish the infallibility and authority of God’s word

Discernment matters concerning what we read and who we hear

2. Paul uses sarcasm to help the Corinthians see the foolishness of their pride

They had an exaggerated view their maturity, so in v8 Paul uses exaggeration

Then he makes comparisons in v10 using words they probably used about themselves

When we compare ourselves to others, we usually use a one-sided and distorted storyline

3. Paul uses his own example of humbly resting in Christ

Paul is no longer using hyperbole, this is how he lived!

He is uplifting the seemingly ‘upside down’ biblical perspective of humility

The world resents life that looks like (v11)

The rich and wise would have mocked Paul for demeaning himself in physical labor (v12)

People ridicule those who have a v13 lifestyle

Humility as lifestyle is upside down to a world that is self-centered

Then why would any of us want to embrace it and be content!?

It’s the way of wisdom, for it is the way of Christ (Philippians 3:8)

What is truly upside down, is the so-called wisdom of the world

If you know Christ and have his gospel, the choice of where wisdom is found should not be difficult

To help us joyfully agree with the worthiness of Christ, we need to be immersed in praise of him

 

Paul presents their response options

Paul has firmly “admonished” them: how will they receive it? (vs 14-17)

(1)  They can justify themselves and reject his assessment

(2)  They can be self-focused in “shame” and pull away

(3)  Or they can humble themselves and follow the example of godly wisdom

Paul offers himself as an example, because he has “applied these things”

We are all called to be disciple-makers; and part of that is being an example

You don’t need to be a perfect example, you can be a committed example

We can show that we are committed to “applying” the wisdom of God instead of our own

We can show that we take joy in the wisdom of God instead of our own

Paul has softened his tone from confrontational to fatherly

But these believers must still decide how they will respond (vs 18-21)

The wisdom of the world has influence, but it’s devoid of power

The wisdom of God consists of power, so serving his “kingdom” has power

     The wisdom of the gospel is ‘the power of God for salvation’

     The wisdom of God is power to make life whole

     The wisdom of God is power to sustain and lift you in every storm

If you are in Christ and you embrace his word, your life will have power