Christian Living

Helpful articles to encourage followers of Jesus.

Are You An Enemy of the Cross?

You need to make sure that you are not an enemy of the cross. There are dire consequences.

Let me explain from Philippians 3:18-21. This passage teaches us the difference between enemies of God (or the cross) and citizens of the kingdom of heaven.

Some walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. They have enmity with, are in opposition to the cross of Christ–not just that they don’t like it or just refuse to accept the message of the cross, but enemies conveys that they are actively opposing the message of the cross.

What is the message of the cross? It is at least:

  • the shed blood of Jesus Christ;
  • the forgiveness of our sin;
  • the breaking of the bondage to sin;
  • the release from eternal torment and damnation apart from Christ;
  • the fullness of life on this earth, filled with hope and guidance from the Holy Spirit.

And yet, some live in opposition to this!  Philippians 3:19 describes the enemy of the cross.

Their end is destruction.

This makes sense because the cross represents the release from eternal torment. If you live as an enemy to the cross of Christ, then you are heading down a road to destruction.

Instead of destruction, though, Jesus made a better way: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16, ESV)

Their god is their belly and they glory in their shame.

Belly is a way to refer to appetites/desires of a person. Those who live as enemies of the cross are letting their desires take the place of God. “They glory in their shame” can be understood in at least a couple ways:

They glory or boast in things they should be ashamed of.

We see this today:  

  • The high school student bragging about girls he slept with;
  • The drunkard celebrating his activities from the past weekend;
  • People not only engaged in sinful behavior but parading it around.

They improperly boasted in glorious things

Some commentators think this passage refers to those who claimed to be associated with God but truly were not. They lived under the law and found their worth there.

Some Bible translations say “their glory is their shame.” The understanding is that they were boasting in things like circumcision and dietary laws they followed—things that would have been to their glory as the people of God—but because of how they spoke about it or because of their pride, they were actually shaming themselves.

Their minds are set on earthly things.

Makes sense, doesn’t it?  The enemy of the cross doesn’t have an eternal perspective, so they can only set their minds on earthly things. Life is all about their desires, and the current situation becomes life or death to them because they have no other framework from which to evaluate it.

This is the life of an enemy of the cross. Does it describe you?  If so, the good news that God has graciously allowed you to be a citizen of the kingdom of heaven. The next post will describe how that status affects your life.

 

Own Your Faith. You Can’t Borrow It.

We sometimes act a certain way because someone is watching. In the presence of a teacher, we might sit up straight and pay attention. In the presence of a parent, we might stop picking on a sibling.

The same could be true with our faith. It is easier to act like a Christian when someone you consider to be a spiritual mentor is watching.

In the letter to the Philippians, Paul wrote, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. . .” (Philippians 2:12, ESV) The Philippians have obeyed the gospel message about Jesus. They were to continue living by faith in Jesus, following the commands of God, whether Paul was with them or not. Living by faith should not only be done when seen by some kind of spiritual leader in your life.

The same is true for us: Our obedience and lifestyle of faith is based upon Jesus, not some other person.

Notice how v.12 says work out your own salvation. Own your faith. You can’t borrow it. The Philippians weren’t made holy by Paul; they were only made holy by Christ when they responded to Him for salvation. If their faith was authentic, then they should continue to work out their salvation, to let it take its effect in their lives.   

Some people try to act better in the presence of certain people, but genuine faith is not a show. Paul was telling the Philippians to live a life committed to Jesus whether or not he was with them.

Some will try to take the title of Christian because they were born in America or because their grandmother was a godly lady and took them to church. But you can’t borrow someone else’s faith. You must make it your own by repenting of your sin and believing in Jesus Christ.

Faith is not dependent on a spiritual leader. It is a relationship with Jesus Christ.

 

The Fleeting Pleasures of Sin

Was that mingling into sin worth it?

  • That outburst of anger that seemed to relieve some pressure;
  • That venture into pornography that seemed to fill a need;
  • That indulgence of pride that increased your confidence even at the expense of other people’s feelings;
  • That bout of drunkenness that made you forget some of your troubles until you came to your senses with your troubles intensified;

There is pleasure to sin. But the Bible is clear that sin’s pleasure is fleeting. The writer of Hebrews uses Moses’ life to illustrate this point.

“By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.” (Hebrews 11:24–26, ESV)

Moses could have continued to experience the lavish and at times unrighteous lifestyle of growing up in Pharoah’s court, but instead, he chose to fully associate himself with the people of God even though it would lead to mistreatment (since the Israelites were slaves at that time to Egypt). He considered mistreatment for the cause of Christ to be more valuable than all the treasures of secular Egypt.

The pleasure of sin is fleeting. It goes away. Then you’re back to where you started–the pressures, the needs, the confidence, the troubles–the things you desired or tried to eliminate are still there, and sometimes even more complicated because of the sin in which you engaged.

The problem is that you’re left with the same result after sinning than what you had before:  the guilt of sin that has been passed down to every person since Adam (Romans 5:12), and the result of sin: spiritual death (Romans 3:23 & 6:23).

So how do you fight past the temptation of sin’s pleasure? You keep your eye on the reward. That’s what Moses did. He knew there was something greater coming in the Lord than what the world would offer. Moses wasn’t perfect, and neither are we. There will be times we give into sin, but remember that whatever you believe is being offered by that worldly temptation, there is something so much greater in Christ.

Look to the reward of Christ, not the fleeting pleasure of sin.

The Holy Spirit Gives Confidence in Salvation

Maybe one of the most asked questions by Christians is: how do I know I am saved?

 
We all want a good guarantee with important parts of our lives.
You want insurance on your home to guarantee the replacement of your belongings.
You buy that extra protection on that electronic device or appliance so you are guaranteed that it will be fixed or replaced.
You make sure there is a good warranty on that vehicle so you are guaranteed that it will run like its supposed to.
You want your bank to be insured so your money is guaranteed to be there.

In very simplistic terms, then, how do you know that your salvation will have its effect on your life?  How do I know I am saved?

One area of Scripture that answers this question (not the only one) is 1 John 4:13-15, so we will look deeper into this passage.

 

Verse 13 says ”By this…” John uses this phrase to introduce a concept he really wants to make sure his listeners grasp. In fact, it appears 11 times in this letter.
By this we know that we abide in him and he in us. So, what is this? The guarantee of the Holy Spirit. I hope you will be encouraged and gain confidence through this post. this message.
I want to point out a natural movement we see in the text, which consists of three parts. Let’s start at verse 14 first. We see apostolic authority here– John was one of many who saw and testifies about Jesus. So, understand here that it’s not just someone talking without experience. You can trust what you’re reading because it is written by someone who is speaking out of what he has seen.

1st Part of the Movement: v.14

The movements follow a pattern: this happened, then this happened. The first movement: He saw and testified that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16, ESV)

Apart from Jesus Christ, you are perishing and will perish eternally under the wrath of God. But God has made redemption possible for you. The Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.


2nd Part of the Movement: beginning of v.15

That happened. Then this:  whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God.  Jesus came to this world and finished the work that is necessary for you to be redeemed. But Romans 10:9 tells us, “…if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”  
The second part of the movement is that you have to confess Jesus. It’s not enough just to know that Jesus came into the world. Many people are smart enough to know that Jesus was a real man on the earth, but there must be a belief behind this confession, like Romans 10:9 says.
So, the 1st part is that the Father sent his Son into the world. That happened.
Then, what is to happen is that every person has to decide to confess Jesus Christ. To believe in their heart that God raised him from the dead and that he has paid the penalty for sin and brings victory in this life.
That happens. Then, the 3rd movement.

3rd Part of the Movement: end of v.15

When you confess your belief in Christ, you will be saved. So this happens: God abides in you and you abide in God. Theologically this is called our union with Christ. Wayne Grudem summarizes it:  “We are in Christ, Christ is in us, we are like Christ, and we are with Christ” (Systematic Theology, p. 1256).
Millard Erickson gives 4 implications of our union with Christ (Christian Theology, 3rd Edition, p. 882-883):
We are counted righteous.
We now live in Christ’ strength.
We will suffer.
We have the prospect of reigning with Christ.

Now, even with these three events being true in your life, some might wonder, how do I know this has all happened?

 

The Guarantee

This is where the guarantee of the Holy Spirit gives you assurance.

 

Let me ask:
Do you feel the conviction of sin?
Are you conforming to the image of Christ?
Are you learning and discovering biblical truth?
Are you finding liberty/freedom over sinful thoughts, words, actions?
Are you experiencing the guidance of the Holy Spirit, often evidenced by peace you will feel?
Are you telling others about Jesus, being his witness?
Are you loving others?

This is the work of the Holy Spirit in you. That is evidence of the salvation inside of you.
Look at the similarities to what Paul wrote:

13In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,  14who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. Ephesians 1:13–14 (ESV)

Specifically, the Holy Spirit seals the believer and guarantees the believer’s inheritance.
“Seal” generally means to put a mark upon something as a sign of its authenticity. Believers are sealed. And the Holy Spirit is the “guarantee” of the inheritance we have in Christ. The Holy Spirit is valuable enough to give the believer a sense of security by which to live faithfully until that great inheritance comes.
The Holy Spirit doesn’t come and go. You are sealed, which is the link to the secure eternity we have in Christ (inheritance). This should give you confidence.

 

photo courtesy of Xavier Mouton Photographie 

The Foundational Attitude You Need During Difficulty

Joni Eareckson Tada became a quadraplegic at 17 years old. Her faith resounded despite the obstacles and she leads an organization for people with disabilities. In her book, When God Weeps: Why Our Sufferings Matter to the Almighty, she wrote:  “Subdue your heart to match your circumstances.”

My guess: it is hard to bring our hearts under control when our circumstances seem out of control.

Circumstances arouse feelings, emotions, and words, which are the overflow of our hearts (Luke 6:45). Perhaps they lead us to not think clearly through certain situations. In fact, many circumstances can lead to confusion, anger, and resentment to the point of not seeing the reality of our circumstances because our hearts are out of control.

We might wish we weren’t in a particular circumstance, but we have to face the reality. Joni had to realize that she was going to be in a wheelchair. She talks about her earliest struggles, but at some point she chose to accept her reality and glorify God through it.

While you should have many supporters and might seek counseling and medical care during difficult circumstances, the Apostle Paul reveals two foundational ingredients to a mindset that will lead to persevering and glorifying God: prayer and the Holy Spirit.

Now that might sound so simple, but sometimes we neglect even the most simple, foundational things during difficulty. Paul wrote to the Philippians:

“… Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.” (Philippians 1:18b–20, ESV)

He was in prison when he wrote that. His confidence through difficulty came through prayer and the help of the Holy Spirit. In other words, our attitude through difficulty must start with a humble reliance on God’s help.

Are you struggling? Start with prayer and asking the Holy Spirit to guide you through your reactions and actions.  

Why Our Church Is Starting A Prayer Walking Ministry

Tonight at 6:00, the Central Baptist family will join together to prayer walk in some of our surrounding neighborhoods. This is the start of our 1st Wednesday Prayer Walking ministry. While it is starting as a monthly ministry, my hope is that our people will see its effectiveness and we’ll do it even more down the road.

I’m thankful for those who are helping organize this ministry. As we met to brainstorm and plan, the intention was clear: we believe God will bless and bring opportunity through our efforts to pray for our neighbors.

Here’s why our church is starting a prayer walking ministry:

  • We believe prayer is commanded by God (1 Thess. 5:16-18)
  • We believe churches should be houses of prayer (Is. 56:7; Matt. 21:13)
  • We believe we are to love our neighbor (Matt. 22:37-39)
  • We believe that we should intercede for others, and that the Holy Spirit will intercede for us even when we don’t know what to pray (1 Tim. 2:1; Rom. 8:26)

Our hope, then, is that going into our neighborhoods will increase our opportunities to pray for, witness to, and serve our neighbors, effectively loving them. We want to be a house of prayer where people know that we love them enough to lift them up before our Father in Heaven.

Your Kingdom Won’t Last

Pinterest has created the impression that everything you do must be perfect. The problem isn’t that weddings shouldn’t look nice or that every craft and recipe you attempt shouldn’t be Food Network worthy, but this facade of perfection can make you feel inferior if you don’t attain that standard.

It is not wrong to have nice stuff or do your best on every pallet board craft, but it is easy to develop a mindset where you put all your worth in what you have and what you do. The Bible talks about this: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”  (Matthew 6:19-21, ESV).

Earthly treasures don’t last forever, and sometimes they can be taken from us quickly. If all our identity or purpose is wrapped up in those things, then we will quickly lose purpose and feel defeated.

Like Micah. I wrote about his natural desire to worship (which we share) last week.

After he set up his own house of worship with his own idols, carved images, and priests, he thought God would bless him (Judges 17:13). But the Danites came through his area and took his Levite priest, ephod, household gods, carved image, and metal image (Judges 18:14). After Micah confronted the Danites, this really sad verse appears: “Then the people of Dan went their way. And when Micah saw that they were too strong for him, he turned and went back to his home” (Judges 18:26, ESV).

Micah’s kingdom could not stand.

Neither can yours.

All that will last beyond our years on earth is our legacy, whether good or bad, and the things we did that had an eternal impact. The people we ministered to and witnessed to, the ministries we supported that continue after our time on earth. The earthly pursuits won’t matter when you stand before God one day. After all, “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36, ESV)

 

Photo by Bart Anestin on Unsplash

People Naturally Desire To Worship A God

When the cat is away, the mice will play. This cliche is seen in the last chapters of Judges, and we tend to live according to it when we do not think there is an authority in our lives.  

A great example of this is at the end of the book of Judges (ch.17-21). It begins with Micah and his mother in “The hill country of Ephraim”—not a new location in Judges:

  • It is the place of Joshua’s burial (2:9);
  • Ehud sounded his trumpet there (3:27);
  • Deborah held court there (4:5); and
  • Gideon sent messengers there to call up the men of Ephraim to go against the Midianites (7:24).

Look how different it is by the end of Judges though! The phrase “there was no king in Israel” occurs three times in chapters 17-21 (17:6; 18:1; 21:25). When there is no king, people will do what is right in their own eyes. In other words, they will become their own kings or submit themselves to all kinds of other kings.

We see a natural desire for worship in Micah and his mother, and we share this natural desire.

The short story—Micah had stolen 1,100 pieces of silver from his mother but returned it to her. Her response:  “. . . I dedicate the silver to the LORD from my hand for my son, to make a carved image and a metal image. . .” (Judges 17:3, ESV)

Do you see anything in her response that doesn’t make sense? This shows how far off the Israelites had come in their thinking and beliefs–Micah’s mother would dedicate the silver to the Lord IN ORDER FOR it to be made into a carved image and a metal image. The 2nd commandment directly forbids this: “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.” (Exodus 20:4, ESV)

But Micah wasn’t done there:

  • v.5- he sets up a shrine, which is essentially is “the house of God.” This is an abomination because there was only one house of God at that time and it was in Shiloh, which is even noted in Judges 18:31.
  • v.5- he sets up his son as a private priest. First, priests are to be public, not just for one person. Second, is his son even qualified?
  • v.7-13. Maybe Micah did realize the qualification part of this, even though he didn’t care, because he finds a Levite and asks him to be his priest.

Levites were the priestly class of Israelites, so Micah got that right. But God was not Micah’s authority, and his confusion is revealed in Judges 17:13: “Then Micah said, ‘Now I know that the LORD will prosper me, because I have a Levite as priest.’”

Not only did Micah’s mother dedicate the silver to the Lord to be used to make idols, but Micah presumed upon God’s blessing of his ungodly decision to create a place of worship outside of Shiloh with carved images and idols.

They naturally desired a god: something to rule over them, look up to, and try to please. People today share the same natural desire to worship by setting up their own places of worship and idols (whether physically or mentally).

Why would people do this? Let me offer two reasons:

  1. All people are made in the image of God (Gen 1:27), meaning at least that people have a soul and are able to have a personal relationship with God. In other words, every person is created to glorify and worship God, and when they don’t worship God, that longing to worship is still there. Instead of worshipping who they were created to worship, though, people will create all kinds of idols and other pursuits to fill that void that can only be satisfied in God.
  2. The law of God is written on people’s hearts. “For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them” (Romans 2:14–15, ESV). Because people are made in the image of God, we naturally have the law of God written on our hearts. There is a general sense of right from wrong in every person, though sin can so horribly cauterize the ability to discern the difference. As John Piper said, people “. . . have enough knowledge of the moral law of God in their hearts by virtue of being created in God’s image so that their consciences are conflicted: sometimes approving, sometimes disapproving.” So, people are naturally pursuing morality, and that will lead to some kind of religion in their life.

Are you naturally desiring the One True God, or is your natural desire to worship misdirected?

 

Photo by Pablo Heimplatz on Unsplash

 

Why I Am Working On the SCBgO Podcast

There were months of planning and now we are 3 episodes into the SCBgO Podcast. The leadership of the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio (SCBO) approved the idea, episode guests have been so gracious in recording, and I hope people will listen, learn, and enjoy!

The idea came because I believe we need to celebrate what the Lord is doing around our state. As I have served the convention in an elected position the last year and a half, I have heard more testimonies of amazing ministry across Ohio.

Church members can often feel disconnected from the activity of their state convention, but we have the technological means to solve that problem. That’s exactly why the SCBgO Podcast exists: to motivate you to be active in Mission Ohio.  

Even more specifically, here’s why I am working on the SCBgO podcast:

  • To inform listeners of what is happening around the SCBO. Some might not know that First Baptist Church in Vandalia changed their name to First Light Church (listen to episode 1), or that individual churches can call the IMB directly and partner with missionaries around the world (listen to episode 2). Some of our church members might not know what the H2O network of churches is, and that H2O Columbus sent out 19 people to the University of Indiana to start a new church (listen to episode 3). When people know about this activity, they can praise God for it and pray for those leading it!
  • To inspire listeners with practical ideas they might be able to use. There might be a church leader who is wondering how to go multi-campus, or a church member who really desires their church to be more active in global missions. Maybe hearing something on these episodes will inspire them to take the next step. The conversations in these episodes are intended to be practical and the show notes include helpful resources from which our listeners can benefit.
  • To motivate listeners to be committed to Mission Ohio. I hope that someone would hear what is going on and would be encouraged that they are not alone. There are 750+ churches in the SCBO who are fighting the good fight of taking the gospel to our neighbors and beyond. Feeling disconnected can lead to feeling lonely, but we need every one of our churches active in the mission of reaching Ohio. There are plenty of people in Ohio who have not been saved by Jesus. We have work to do, and maybe someone will be motivated by these episodes to keep going!

 

Who is knocking it out of the park in a certain area of ministry that I need to interview for an episode?

Our View of God is Diminished When We Choose To Sin

Samson exemplifies this principle. Judges 16 records the popular encounter between Samson and Delilah. The main point of that chapter is Samson’s flirting with presumptuous sin, and any one of us are like Samson in the way that we set our affections on something ungodly and are blind to any obvious attempts of that thing to lead us astray. Samson finally told Delilah the truth about the secret of his strength after he had tricked her three times.

Here is a simple but profound point that struck me when I noticed it. When Samson told Delilah the truth, he said “…A razor has never come upon my head, for I have been a Nazirite to God from my mother’s womb. If my head is shaved, then my strength will leave me, and I shall become weak and be like any other man” (Judges 16:17). Interestingly, he uses the name Elohim for God there instead of Yahweh, the Divine name.

Elohim certainly can be a reference to Yahweh, but it can also be used to refer to all kinds of gods. Delilah, a polytheistic Philistine, might have thought nothing of what Samson said because that’s how any one of her gods could have been addressed. In fact, the Philistines use Elohim to refer to their gods in this very chapter (four times in verses 23 and 24).

Right before he tells Delilah what it would take for him to break the last stipulation of his Nazarite vow (therefore, sinning against God), he refers to God in a way that couldn’t be well distinguished from any other so-called god. Samson’s view of God diminishes as he chooses to sin.

The same can be true for us. A temptation has risen to the level of being a god to you, and the One True God is nothing more than another option in a world of many gods.

It changes though. Samson has a moment at some point after his capture and imprisonment where he comes back to the realization that Yahweh is God, not himself or anyone or anything else. In verse 28, Samson called out, “O Lord God, please remember me…” Here Samson cried out Yahweh. He knows who the One True God is. He returns to having a proper view of God.

So, the question for you: what is your view of God when you are tempted beyond what you think you can handle? If He is nothing more than another option in a world of options, then you’re sure to rely on yourself and give in to sin. But if you view God properly as holy, righteous, and able to strengthen you in times of need, then you can choose and live in righteousness.

Photo by Elena Taranenko on Unsplash

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