Faith

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.

 

Five To Focus 53. 4 Reasons For Stagnant Faith

The glory of the past and shame of sin are the first two reasons discussed in this episode on why you might be stagnant in your faith. Next week, Ryan will discuss another two reasons. Let this be an opportunity for personal reflection to see if you are pressing on for the what the Lord has for you (Philippians 3:13-14).  

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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.

 

Five To Focus 49. It Has Been Granted To You

If you have been given the chance to know the Creator of the Universe, to be forgiven of your sins, to be declared righteous by God through Christ, to receive the eternal reward of heaven instead of the eternal punishment of torment in hell upon death–If you have been given this chance, then why would you choose anything else?

Scripture: Philippians 1:29.

 

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Don’t Negotiate With God

Last week we looked at Jepthah’s example in Judges 11 of how to lead with faith by being empowered by God’s work in the past. This week, let’s finish that conversation by knowing that leading with faith means we are persuaded by God’s promises for the future.  

Jepthah seemed like a rational guy when negotiating with the king of the Ammonites. But when the King of the Ammonites would not listen war couldn’t be avoided, Jepthah moves into battle with the Spirit of the Lord upon him.

It is important to note that God empowered Jephthah for the battle that is coming, and Jephthah had already declared that the king of the Ammonites was really messing with God, not him. You would think that Jephthah knew that he was being used by the Lord to bring about justice on the Ammonites. But then you read the crazy account of verses 30-40, which centers on Jepthah’s vow to the Lord in Judges 11:30-31:

And Jephthah made a vow to the LORD and said, “If you will give the Ammonites into my hand, then whatever comes out from the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the Ammonites shall be the LORD’s, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering.”

The first thing out of his door when he returned home was his only child–his daughter.

Why did Jephthah feel like he has to make a vow to the Lord when he clearly knew God’s work and power in the past?

He sounds like a desperate, scared person at the end of his rope—if you do this, then I’ll do that.

Jephthah is not persuaded by God’s promises for the future. The Spirit of the Lord was already upon Him. Instead, he reverts back to negotiating, but this time he tries to negotiate with God and not men. Negotiation has its place among people, but don’t negotiate with God–you really do not have anything that He needs.

Negotiation can be masked as making a commitment. If this, then that. Lord, I’ll do anything if you just help me…  But it’s a form of bribery. Lord, I really want a certain outcome, so I’ll offer up my services to you.

You’re basically saying God, you really need what I have to offer, so why don’t you do this, and then I’ll let you have what I have to offer.

What a flippant statement to make to the Creator and Almighty of the Universe! Negotiation is the antithesis of faith because we aren’t trusting God to do what we know he can do; we’re trying to bribe God to do what we think he should do.

When you lead, you need to be persuaded by God’s promises for the future. In other words, leading with faith based upon the promises you find in God’s Word. You need to submit your decisions and actions to the Word of God.  

We need to lead with faith, powered by God’s work in the past and persuaded by His promises for the future.

 

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Let God’s Track Record Keep Your Leadership On Track

This is the craziest request I’ve seen by a young man asking a potential father-in-law to marry his daughter.

Adoniram Judson, the first Baptist missionary from America, married Ann Hasseltine on February 5, 1812. They boarded a boat two weeks later and headed to Burma, where they had a rich marriage and a fruitful ministry.

Before he married Ann, she told him he had to get permission from her father. And so he wrote him a letter:

“I have now to ask, whether you can consent to part with your daughter early next spring, to see her no more in this world; whether you can consent to her departure, and her subjection to the hardships and sufferings of a missionary life; whether you can consent to her exposure to the dangers of the ocean; to the fatal influence of the southern climate of India; to every kind of want and distress; to degradation, insult, persecution, and perhaps a violent death. Can you consent to all this, for the sake of him who left his heavenly home, and died for her and for you; for the sake of perishing, immortal souls; for the sake of Zion, and the glory of God? Can you consent to all this, in hope of soon meeting your daughter in the world of glory, with the crown of righteousness, brightened with the acclamations of praise which shall redound to her Saviour from heathens saved, through her means, from eternal woe and despair.” (Quoted in Courtney Anderson, To The Golden Shore: The Life of Adoniram Judson [Valley Forge: Judson Press, 1987], 83.)

If you have ever read about George Mueller, you will be familiar with the amazing accounts of how God provided bread and milk for the children in the orphanage where he ministered.

How could Mueller and Judson’s father-in-law lead with faith? Because they had confidence in God’s character; they could stay on track because of God’s track record.

I’m encouraging you to lead with faith, and I think we do that by being powered by God’s work in the past and persuaded by His promises for the future. I’ll explain the first part of this today through Jephthah’s example in the book of Judges, and then I’ll explain the second part next week as we seek how to lead with faith.

In Judges 11, Jephthah was brought in to lead Israel in battle against the Ammonites. Jephthah showed that he knew and was guided by God’s work in the past. He didn’t run recklessly into a fight. Though he was a “mighty warrior” he attempted diplomacy first.

He sent messengers to communicate with the king of the Ammonites, asking him why he was attacking Israel. When the king gave an answer, Jephthah gave a rebuttal. He gave historical facts (v.14-22), declared that it was the Lord’s work (v.23-24), questioned the timing of the fight (v.25-26), and reminded the King that his problem is actually with the Lord, not with Jephthah (v.27-28).

This was leading with faith that was powered by God’s work in the past.

Leadership can be scary ground. You might not know what to expect. You’re not sure which decisions to make or how it will affect people. But as a Christian, we have to be empowered by God’s work in the past. We find comfort in knowing the character of God and how He will lead us.

Jephthah had to find some comfort in knowing how God has worked in the Israelites in the past. He was confident that the king of the Ammonites was really battling against the Lord. That’s a battle Jephthah would stand in because he knew he wasn’t alone.

When you consider your leadership, always remember God’s character and what he has done in the past because that is going to remind you how He will continue to work.

Photo by Andrew McElroy on Unsplash

Five To Focus 39. Remember What the Lord Has Done

Never forget. We hear those words spoken about September 11, 2001, but they can be a powerful help for you in times of trouble when you remember what the Lord has done.

 

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Five To Focus 38. Fight Your Struggles With Firm Faith

1 Peter 5:6-9 is the passage referred to in this episode to help you see why standing firm in your faith is the way to combat the striggles Satan presents in your life. See the connection between your faith and Satan’s attempt to devour you.

 

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Five To Focus 09- What Does Specific Prayer Reveal About Your Faith?

How do you respond when someone asks how they can pray for you? And what could that reveal about your faith? Let this episode prompt you to pray specifically, following the example of Jesus and Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46-52). But let it also challenge you to think about what you are doing for the Lord that requires His power.

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