Personal Growth

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

 

HELP FOR THE OFFENDED

unoffendable

 

I read books in heaps.

But it is not often that a book impacts me as strongly as the one I am recommending to you this month.

After a few pages, it was hard to concentrate on the book, because I was so excited about reading and recommending it.

Let’s get right to it.

Beg, buy, borrow (please don’t steal), “Unoffendable: How Just One Change Can Make All of Life Better” by Brant Hansen.

Here are some reasons you should make reading “Unoffendable” an immediate priority:

 1.  Being offended is a common occurrence. We are all regularly touched by offendable stuff, and we need help in maintaining a godly attitude.

 2.  Being offended has become a profession. There are people who appear to get offended as their main purpose in life.

 3.  Being offended is seen as a right. It’s not.

 4.  Christians polish their ‘offendability’ by telling themselves it is righteous anger. Brant does an excellent job clarifying what the Bible says in this area.

 5.  Brant writes well, with a sense of humor – which always helps. Unless that offends you.

 6.  Your life will be challenged in good ways, because you will be encouraged to live with a focus on serving Christ rather than your own sensibilities.

TOO DESTRUCTIVE TO IGNORE!

Destruction is a word we use to express radical loss.

Destruction is a fearful word for good reason, and destruction is an accurate way to describe the consequences of pornography.

Pornography is a monstrous problem in our culture, in the church – and perhaps in your life.

If you don’t struggle with pornography, you know many people who do!

A struggle that was thought to be mainly a problem for young men, has now seeped into every corner of the culture, affecting men and women – young and old.

Tim Challies regularly provides excellent articles and resources on the subject of pornography through his blog @Challies

In time for Valentine’s Day, he gathered 10 of his best articles covering many aspects of this plague. There are articles specifically geared for men, women, and parents. His list contains a brief synopsis of each article to help you choose which to read.

At the end of the post, Challies gives his suggestions on the most beneficial books to read on purity and pornography, for men and for women.

Pornography is too destructive to ignore.

 

MAKING PROGRESS!

 

Earlier this week, I shared Richard Baxter’s list of 20 hindrances to living fully for God.

Today, I have a list from William Perkins, who is often called the Father of the Puritans. His list comes from the positive side. He gives 6 evidences that we are committed to progressing in godliness.

Find encouragement from where you see yourself in this list. And gain wisdom by adopting those you still need.

1.  We have an earnest and hearty desire in all things to further the glory of God.

2.  We show a care and readiness to resign ourselves in subjection to God, to be ruled by his word and Spirit, in thought, word and deed.

3.  We have a sincere endeavor to do his will in all things with cheerfulness, being conscience of everything we know to be evil.

4.  We walk upright in our lawful calling, while by faith rely on God’s providence, so that we are content with whatever He sends.

5.  Every day we humble ourselves before God; wholeheartedly seeking his favor through Christ; being daily renewed in faith and repentance.

6.  To continually maintain a fight between the flesh and the spirit, drawing on grace and resisting what pulls us from God.

WHY AM I NOT MATURING AS I WANT?

 

Every Christian is called to be a Great Commandment person who loves and serves God with all that we are. Yet, we all recognize that we still have progress to make.

If we are serious about loving and living for God more fully, then we need to be serious about specifically identifying what is getting in the way.

Once we are clear minded about obstacles, we can prayerfully and humbly make true progress in rising above them. This is not only important for God’s honor, it will flood your life with grace and lift your heart with joy.

Richard Baxter was a puritan pastor who wrote extensively on what it means to live fully for God. In one of his treatises, he listed 20 hindrances of conversion.

As I read over his list, it occurred to me that for the most part, this is also a list of what hinders us from being Great Commandment people.

Tremendous progress can be made once we identify one or two areas of stumbling and then daily seek God’s grace to overcome them.

This is Baxter’s list of hindrances with my own comments in italics:

(1)  willful neglect of the means of grace – this includes the habits of godliness God has told us to follow

(2)  bad company

(3)  gross ignorance of biblical truths – how can we know them well, if we are rarely in God’s Word?

(4)  unbelief – as Christians, we don’t believe all biblical truths as fully as we think

(5)  thoughtlessness – when we read the Bible or hear a message and shutdown as soon as it’s over

(6)  hardness of heart – every time we push off the Holy Spirit’s voice, we build up a callous

(7)  great esteem and interest in the world 

(8)  habits of sin subduing the mind – yes, every sin does affect us

(9)  foolish self-love and presumption 

(10)  counterfeit conversion 

(11)  living among strong temptations to sin

(12)  scandal and division in the church – divisiveness harms the church and our witness to the world

(13)  the poor education of children – parents are not all Bible experts, but all parents can read and talk about the Bible to their children

(14)  striving against the Holy Spirit

(15)  half-heartedness in religion

(16)  delay 

(17)  failure to follow through on good beginnings – this is one reason we need the example and accountability of biblical community

(18)  misunderstanding some Scriptures – bad teaching makes it harder to mature

(19)  pride and unteachableness – the Bible shows pride to be the great root of sin

(20)  willful obstinacy

CHRISTIAN, WHAT IS OUR LIFE?

John Newton was a former slave trader who became a pastor. He is famous for his hymn “Amazing Grace”.

Near the end of his life, when Newton spoke before a group of people, a careful listener recorded this outline from Newton’s sermon. It is an encouraging reminder for every Christian

I am not what I ought to be.

Ah! how imperfect and deficient.

Not what I might be,

considering my privileges and opportunities.

Not what I wish to be.

God, who knows my heart, knows I wish to be like him.

I am not what I hope to be;

ere long to drop this clay tabernacle, to be like him and see him as he is.

Not what I once was,

a child of sin, and slave of the devil.

Though not all these, not what I ought to be, not what I might be, not what I wish or hope to be, and not what I once was, I think I can truly say with the apostle,

By the grace of God I am what I am!

FORGET MAKING NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS

Forget Your New Year’s Resolutions

Life is not going to improve because you resolve to try harder. But life can become increasing fruitful if you consistently respond to God who has already pursued you

If you are in Christ, you cannot keep your life from reaching its highest possible crescendo! This is because God has already resolved to complete his work in you!

“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” (Philippians 1:6)

“Those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified” (Romans 8:30)

“God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:4-7)

The intention of these passages is to assure us that God is absolutely committed to completing the ultimate purpose he had in saving us.

In Romans 8 and Ephesians 2, notice how the end result of our salvation is spoken of in the past tense. This shows us, that in God’s eyes it is a finished work – that even our failures cannot stop!

I am not saying we shouldn’t bother to put effort into being faithful.

And I am not saying it doesn’t matter if we are spiritually half-hearted.

My point is that the foundation to why we “can” be faithful and fruitful, does not start with our earnest commitment toward making life work. It comes out of God’s irrevocable commitment toward all who trust in His Son.

“In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:9)

“Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me” (Philippians 3:12)

In these verses, we see that God is the basis – even for our responses to Him. This is not an invitation to give less effort. Rather, it is an encouragement that our efforts flow out and are held up by God’s faithfulness.

We will fail, we will face dry times, and at times we will feel utterly useless for God.

But that is only a partial reality. There is a greater reality, which is God’s resolution to never give up on those who belong to him.

Instead of a New Year’s resolution, start meeting God who has already come to you.

God has given his word to you, read it

God is here every morning, spend time with him

God’s graces are new every morning, praise him for them

Your children are God’s gift to you, let them see you are committed to him

God has established the Church to build you up and to use your gifts, commit to it

God has made us his ambassadors, be a person of the gospel

Yes, these actions require resolve from us.

But be encouraged that God makes it work. He does the heavy lifting.

Instead of a making a New Year’s Resolution soon to be abandoned. Start responding to God who is already pursuing you.