A Springboard for You

For a better life and a better eternity

How Not to Be a Lukewarm Christian

icefire

Introducing Laodicea

The church in Laodicea is famous, though I’m sure if they knew it, they would not be pleased with their legacy. We all know Laodicea was the lukewarm church and Jesus was ready to spit them out of His mouth (Revelation 3:16). But what exactly does this mean and how can we use their example as a springboard for our own spiritual lives?

For a long time, I read and preached this metaphor as I had heard it from others. Perhaps you have heard it presented this way. The temperatures represent a scale of spirituality. Hot was being on fire for the Lord with amazing zeal. Cold was being as absolutely uninterested and unconcerned about the Lord and spiritual things as possible. In fact, it was more than a lack of interest, it would represent a positive animosity to God and His things. Lukewarm, on the other hand was somewhere in the middle. It was not complete animosity or apathy. But, it wasn’t complete zeal for God either. It represented the person who cared enough to “go to church” perhaps but was just resting on their laurels and not working for the Lord at all.

With this reading, Jesus is saying He would rather the Laodiceans be His complete and utter enemies than act like they are His friends but not really serve Him.

Perhaps that is Jesus’ meaning with this metaphor, but more recently, I have read it differently.

The Tale of Two Drinks

This metaphor is a picture of useful drinks versus useless drinks. We have to ask what makes hot and cold drinks useful. Hot drinks are useful, especially on a cold day because they are comforting and warming. I drank a hot cup of coffee while driving in my cold, heaterless car this morning. It was most useful and I wish had more even now. The cold drink is useful on a hot day because it is refreshing and cooling.

But what happens if the useful drinks are left to sit on the counter for an hour or two? They lose their distinction. As we learned from high school science, the difference in temperature between the drink and its environment will begin to regulate each other. The energy from the hot drink will dissipate. The warmth from the air will heat the cold drink. They will both become tepid, lukewarm and useless.

Now, stop and think. What happened to these drinks?

They lost their distinction. I needed a hot drink on that cold day. I wanted a cold drink on that hot day. These drinks lost their usefulness because they had become just like their surroundings. Instead of having a great impact on their environment, their environment had an impact on them.

Do you see now what Jesus was telling Laodicea. His point was not that He would rather they be His clear enemies than just so-so. He was saying He wanted them to stand out and be different from their environment. He wanted them to impact those that surrounded them. Sadly, the reverse had been true and so they were to Jesus like the tepid cup of coffee–disgusting and useless.

The Springboard for Us

What’s the springboard for us? Stand out. Be different. Don’t try to blend in. Don’t try to make everyone like you spiritually. If that happens, you have probably become useless to the Lord. We are only useful to Him to the degree that we are different from our environment and therefore make an impact on it. Today, don’t worry about what everyone else thinks about your spirituality. Embrace it. No, don’t flaunt it Pharisaically as if you are special for your spirituality. But don’t hide it either, embarrassed that someone might find out you are a Christian. Let your light shine before men so that they might see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

November 10, 2008 Posted by | A Springboard for Your Spiritual Life, Christian living, Discipleship | , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

5 Keys for Standing Out in the Crowd

Have you ever read the first ten chapters of I Chronicles? Talk about chloroform in action. I generally just scan through them and try to get done with them as quickly as I can. However, stuck smack in the middle of this droning roll call of humanity stands I Chronicles 4:9-10.

Now Jabez was more honorable than his brothers and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, ‘Because I bore him in pain.’ And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, ‘Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil that I may not cause pain!’ So God granted him what he requested” (NKJV).

Apparently, when God got to Jabez’s name, He wanted to call attention to it. It is as if when God was going through this roll call and He got to Jabez, He stopped and said, “Whoa! Wait a minute. You need to know about this guy.” But what was it that made him so special? Why did he stand out in the crowd? As I consider these two verses, I notice five keys in Jabez that will help us also stand out in the crowd.

1. If you want to stand out in the crowd, don’t let the crowd determine where you will stand.

Can you imagine being named “Jabez”? That sounds bad enough for us today just because it is so archaic. But when you recognize that it meant “Causes pain,” you suddenly realize how bad it really is. Every day of his life, just by hearing his name, Jabez was called “causes pain.” Can you imagine hearing day in and day out that you are nothing but a pain to those around you? After a while, you might begin to believe it. Jabez’s mother prophesied his life for him. She told him over and over again that he would be nothing more than a pain. But Jabez refused to listen. He prayed to God that he would not cause pain.

These kinds of prophecies go on all the time. Every day parents, professors and peers prophesy our lives. Some times it is positive. Some times it is negative. Each day some children are told they will be doctors, lawyers and even presidents. Others are told they will be hoodlums, thieves and crooks. Some are called the class star, some the class clown. Some are Daddy’s girls, while others are Momma’s boys. When we hear these message over and over again, we begin to believe them. 

Don’t.

You do not have to be limited by the prophecies of your parents, professors and peers. You, like Jabez, can stand out in the crowd if you will simply throw yourself on God’s mercy and let him help you be all He has planned for you. Don’t let the crowd determine where you will stand.

2. If you want to stand out in the crowd, stop standing still and start going somewhere.

Jabez had goals. He wanted an enlarged territory. Within the context of his mother’s prophecies for him, this is impressive. It demonstrates a great mindset. He wasn’t trapped within his circumstances. He would step out of those and pray that God give him a blessing to help him with his plans. 

What plans do you have? While we are not of this world, we are in this world. God has not demanded that we hole up in monasteries and have no involvement or plans within this world. We are allowed to have goals. We are allowed to have plans. Yes, we must keep them within the confines of God’s will understanding that we will be judged. However, if we just stand still, we will never stand out. No, don’t get bogged down in worries about the future. But look ahead. Plan ahead and ask God’s blessing on your future as well as your present.

3. If you want to stand out in the crowd, stop standing and start kneeling.

Sadly, so many have focused on what Jabez prayed, even turning it into a mantra of sorts to be repeated as if the words themselves are magical that they have missed the real point. We must not so focus on what Jabez prayed that we miss the important point is that Jabez prayed. Jabez was not more honorable because of what he prayed. He was more honorable because he prayed. He was more honorable because the fact that he prayed represented that he relied on God.

When God wanted us to know about Jabez, he didn’t tell us a out his property, his prowess, his predecessors. He told us about his prayer. If God were going to point us out to the world, would He have anything to say about our prayer life? The fact is, we can only stand out if we rely on God.

I think that is why these two verses are even here. In the books of Chronicles, God is going to tell all kinds of stories about all kinds of people. In reality, they are all judged based on how they measure up to Jabez. Do they rely on God or on idols? Do they pray to God or to false gods? That will be the dividing line between those God blesses and God condemns.

If you want to stand out in the crowd, you can’t do it alone. God has to be on your side. So, stop standing and start kneeling.

4. If you want to stand out in the crowd, recognize you aren’t standing on your own two legs but on legs God has given you.

Jabez recognized that he could not enlarge his own borders. From the beginning of God’s dealings with the Israelites, He pointed out that He would be the one to enlarge borders. Jabez grasped that and instead of relying merely on his own strength, he relied on God’s strength.

Too often today, we have a “pull myself up by the bootstraps” mentality that says we don’t need help. We have this idea that we can do things all on our own and only need God for really big things. That just isn’t true.

You realize, of course, that the only reason you are breathing today is because God is letting you, right? You realize, of course, that the only reason you are moving today is because God is letting you, right? You realize, of course, that the only reason you are walking today is because of the legs God has given you, right?

The fact is, apart from God we can do nothing. Therefore, if we want to stand out in the crowd, we must start recognizing any real strength comes from God and not from us. We can’t do this on our own. We have to rely on God.

5. If you want to stand out in the crowd, don’t let Satan cut off your legs.

Jabez understood that committing evil would be contradictory to what he was asking of God. He did not expect, as too many do today, to live however he wanted and still receive God’s blessing. However, he also knew evil was too powerful for him. Therefore, he asked God to keep him from evil so that he would not be a pain to others.

We need to recognize this. We may have all kinds of plans. We may even say we are relying on God and offering all kinds of prayers. However, if we are going from our prayers to simply walk in sin, Satan will cut our legs out from under us and we will not stand out in the crowd. Sin is diametrically opposed to what God wants for us. If we want to stand out in the crowd, we need to turn from our sins.

Keep in mind the last two points, however. We will not overcome sin on our own or by our own power. We will only be able to do that by relying on God. This is not about proving to God how great we are. This is about recognizing how weak we are and just surrendering to Him to help us overcome.

 

What a great example Jabez is. He stood out in a crowd and we can too. But we have to follow these same five steps.

If you would like to read more about this or hear a sermon I have presented on these very same points. Feel free to check out the presentation made to the Franklin Church of Christ at the link below.

Jabez: A Man Who Stood Out in the Crowd

November 3, 2008 Posted by | A Springboard for Your Spiritual Life, Christian living, Overcoming Sin, Success | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Three Questions for a Real Disciple Learned from Someone Who Was Only Almost a Disciple

The Rich Young Ruler

We’ve all heard of him. The man presented himself as a great disciple who had kept God’s law from his youth. But in the end, we find out that really he was only almost a disciple. I don’t want to be in that boat. I want to be a really, truly, totally and all the way a disciple. How about you? 

When I examine his story in Luke 18:18-23, I find three questions that will force us out of the shallow end of discipleship and push us into the deep end of true discipleship.

Three Questions

Question #1: Do I live as though Jesus is merely good or truly God?

The Rich Young Ruler called Jesus “good teacher” and Jesus called him on it. Jesus wasn’t questioning His own deity. Rather, He was highlighting a problem the man had. He called Jesus good, but did he really believe Jesus was the ultimate good? Did he recognize that Jesus was actually more than a good teacher and that He was God in the flesh?

We listen to a good teacher when we want to. We listen to a good teacher when we like what he says. We listen to a good teacher as long as we still think he is good. We take a good teacher’s words as advice, something to do when we get around to it. That is not how we take God’s words. Jesus’ words are not just good advice, nice suggestions or possibilities. Jesus was more than a good teacher. He was and is God. Therefore His word is law. 

When we live as though Jesus is truly God, then we surrender to His word. When He says, “He that believes and is baptized will be saved,” we believe and get baptized. When He says “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger,” we don’t let the sun go down on our anger. When He says “Treat others as more important than yourself,” we treat others as more important than ourselves.

Why do we do this? Because we know Jesus is not just a good teacher. He is the Great God.

Question #2: Who is my God?

The Rich Young Ruler said he had followed all the 10 commandments since his youth. He had not committed theft, murder, false witness or adultery. He had honored his father and mother. What a great man he was. How could he not possibly be a great disciple and inherit eternal life?

As we study this text, we realize this poor man actually was lying to himself. One of those commandments said, “Do not have other gods before Me.” Yet the Rich Young Ruler clearly had a god before Jehovah. His God was his material goods. He couldn’t possibly sacrifice them to have the eternal life God offered. Through that, he demonstrated who his real god was.

So, who is your God? Learn the lesson of the Rich Young Ruler. We can easily lie to ourselves and tell ourselves that Jesus is our God and runs our lives. Instead of just trusting what we’ll say when put to the test, let’s examine our lives. Where do we spend our time? Where do we spend our money? Who are best friends? What would we not give up if God asked? These questions can help us cut to the chase.

Or ask a friend. Ask your spouse. If you have kids, ask them. “What do you see is most important in my life?” They’ll be able to tell you and that can help you determine who your God really is. Don’t be like the almost disciple and simply trust your intellectual answer to the question. Dig deep and examine with rigorous honesty.

Question #3: What do I value?

At first glance, the Rich Young Ruler appeared to value eternal life. He came asking about it. Further, he claimed to have scrupulously kept the law since his youth. Even more, he was willing to go beyond that asking what more he needed to do. 

However, as we see the story unfold, we find out that he did not truly value eternal life. Eternal life was not a driving core value. It was merely an aspiration. He would like eternal life if he could get it but not at the expense of his material goods. Through we find out what was his driving core value–Money. He valued money and material goods. That drove his decisions. He would be happy to keep God’s law until God’s law told him to give up his goods. 

What do you value? Again, don’t just accept whatever you say when asked this intellectual question. We all know the right answer and can give it whenever asked. Instead of looking at this intellectual answer, we need to examine our lives. What drives our choices? Is it the pursuit of God’s kingdom and righteousness or is it the pursuit of wealth, fame and influence? 

 

Be careful. As we can see in the Rich Young Ruler, these are tough questions because we can so easily deceive ourselves. Don’t just ask them once. Ask them repeatedly. Question yourself like this regularly. Question your choices with these questions, especially those big life decisions like where will you work, who will you marry, where will you live, with what church will you work. 

Don’t be only almost a disciple like the Rich Young Ruler. Be all the way a disciple.

ELC

October 27, 2008 Posted by | A Springboard for Your Spiritual Life, Christian living, Discipleship, Growth, Spiritual Growth | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Amputation (an excerpt)

The Gospel of the Kingdom: Studies in the Sermon on the Mount

 

Check out the book today!

Check out the book today!

 

from Chapter 13, “Morality and Marriage: Matthew 5:27-32”

 

Amputation

On April 26, 2003, Aron Ralston was trapped between a rock and a hard place. Hiking and rock climbing alone in Easter Utah, his right hand was crushed between a shifting boulder and the rock wall o the gorge he was navigating. Over a period of five days he made various attempts to free himself. He chipped away at the boulder. He tried to construct a pulley with his ropes to move the boulder. Nothing worked. When he ran out of his water supply, he was certain of death. Since no one knew where he was and they would not find him any time soon, he tried one final desperate plan. He broke both bones in his forearm. Then, using what was left of his dulled cutting tool, he amputated his own right arm. He repelled into the canyon and hiked out to meet searchers. Nobody wants to lose an arm. However, when the choice is lose an arm or lose a life, the arm is not so bad.

If we would take such drastic measures to extend our temporal life a few years, how much more ought we do them to preserve our eternal life? Jesus said if our eye or hand makes us stumble, we should amputate and throw them from us. It is better to lose a body part than our soul. Many who struggle day to day to lead pure lives would find immense success in spiritual growth if we would employ spiritual amputation.

To be sure, this is about spiritual amputation and not physical. Hands and eyes do not really make us stumble. The part of our body with the biggest problem regarding purity is the brain. If we take Matthew 5:29-30 at its most literal regarding the body part with the biggest problem, well…you see where that leads.

Consider what these verses teach us to do. When we sin, we must not simply confess our sin, but consider what led to it. How did the fall begin? Do we see a pattern? Because jesus made this statement in the context of sexual morality, I will keep my illustrations there; but the point applies to all sin–from outbursts of anger to lying to gossip to stealing.

When you have fallen into sexual immorality, whether physically or mentally, ask how you got there? Where did it begin? Did it begin with a magazine ad? did it begin with a song on the radio? did it begin with unlimited access to the internet? did it begin with a character on a tv show? did it begin with an emotional relationship at work? What led to the sin?

How many Christians have returned again and again to an affair with a co-worker after repeatedly repenting, mourning and committing themselves to sexual purity? What needs to happen? A spiritual amputation. They need to quit the job. “But Edwin,” someone will say, “I need the money. I won’t be able to find another job that pays as well. And I have to eat. I have to have a roof over my head. If I give up this job, I will lose my house.” This job is your hand caught between a boulder and a rock wall. It is killing you and destroying your eternal life. It is better for you to lose your house and even miss a few meals than to be thrown into hell.

How many Christian men, even preachers, have returned again and again to the sinful world of internet pornography after repeatedly repenting, mourning and committing themselves to purity? What is needed here? A spiritual amputation. At the very least they need to limit their internet access with strict filters and accountability parameters. They might even need to get rid of internet access entirely. “But Edwin,” some will say, “there is a lot of good stuff on the internet. Plus, when I use those filters, there are some good sites I can’t access. After all, Biblical research and finding pictures for my PowerPoint presentations are so much easier with full internet access.” But the internet is killing you and destroying your eternal life. It is better for you to lose access to the decent stuff, it is better for you to have to research the old fashioned way, it is better for you to have boring PowerPoint presentations than for you to be thrown into hell. 

How many Christians have returned to lustful passions because of magazines, movies, tv shows or particular songs on the radio after repeatedly repenting, mourning and committing themselves to mental purity? What is needed here? A spiritual amputation. They need to discontinue their subscription to the magazine. They need to avoid those kinds of movies or stop watching that show. They need to quit listening to that song (perhaps even the entire cd or radio station). “But Edwin,” some will say, “this is just entertainment. I can’t live in a box. I have to live a little and have some fun. Aside from that, everybody is reading, watching and listening to these things. If I quit, I will be behind the times and look like an oddball.” These things are killing you and destroying your eternal life. It is better for you to look like a behind-the-times oddball who can’t join in on the conversations about the latest music, movies or magazines than for you be thrown into hell.

Please notice the little word beginning both of the verses under consideration. jesus began both statements with “IF.” IF your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out. IF your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. Jesus did not command everyone to tear out their eyes or cut off their hands. Aron Ralston cut off his right arm to survive. That doesn’t mean all rock climbers must.

In our efforts to lead morally pure lives, we all have different struggles. I may have to spiritually amputate something you don’t and vice versa. Just because my eye causes me to stumble doesn’t mean everyone has to tear out their eye, nor should I try to make them.

Allow me to illustrate. When I first watched CSI, I became addicted. I loved the mystery. I loved the detective work. I loved watching how they figured out who was guilty. It was great. Then came CSI: Miami. It was awesome too. However, at some point I realized the repeated sexual themes were impacting my mind. Many times, i was no longer entertained by the detective work but defiled by the immodestly dressed characters  and caused to stumble in my mind because of the sexual scenes. Eventually, I had to excise CSI and CSI: Miami from my life. Does CSI cause everyone to stumble? Probably not. Can I say that because it made me stumble everyone has to amputate it? Of course not. However, if it causes you to stumble, get rid of it.

We must be honest. It would have been pointless for Ralston to say, “I don’t think the problem is my arm caught between these rocks. I’m not going to amputate.” In the same way, it is eternally pointless for us to hang on to the very things that make us stumble.

When we think about Ralston’s story, most of us wonder if we could do what he did. “I just don’t think I could cut off my own right arm,” many of us say. Sadly, there are too many Christians saying the same thing when faced with Jesus’ words. Let’s buck up. Jesus will give us strength. Let’s amputate what will destroy our eternal life.

October 13, 2008 Posted by | A Springboard for Your Spiritual Life, Christian living, Overcoming Sin, Spiritual Growth, Success | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

3 Attitudes and 4 Questions for Life Changing Bible Study

We can study our Bibles for all kinds of reasons. We may want to teach a class. We may want to answer a question. We may want to prove our point. We may want to have a little encouragement to make it through our day. We may want some comfort. We may want to win a debate. At various times, these are all great goals for our Bible study. Sometimes, these are exactly the things we need to do as we study.

However, if these are the only things we do with our Bible study, we haven’t allowed God’s word to be all it was meant to be in our lives. You see, God didn’t give us the Bible so we could teach others. He didn’t give us the Bible so we could prove our point. He didn’t even give us our Bibles merely to comfort us. No doubt, we can use it for these things, and should at times. But God gave us the Bible to change our lives. He gave us the Bible so we might not be conformed to the world but transformed by the renewing of our minds (cf. Romans 12:2). 

How should we use our Bible so it will change our lives? II Timothy 3:14-17 provides the pattern.

But as for you , continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work (ESV).

Proper Attitudes

First recognize three attitudes you need to have as you come to the word of God.

  1. The Scriptures are sacred and holy writings. The pages, binding and cover are not holy. We shouldn’t establish rules about how to treat the bound volume we call a “Bible.” However, the message within is holy and sacred. It deserves our respect as we read and study it.
  2. The Scriptures are a source of wisdom (perhaps “the” source). If I turn to the Scriptures to receive wisdom, I am admitting that I am not all wise and I need help. If I can’t come to the Scriptures with this attitude, then the Scriptures will never help me.
  3. The Scriptures are from God. We don’t like people telling us what to do. When we read the Bible, we are not reading what people tell us to do. We are reading what God has told us to do. We need to remember God is our creator. He knows how we work. We need to understand His way works. We don’t read the Bible to argue and bicker about every little nuance because we need to figure out all the rules in order to make the cut. But we do need to make sure we are simply submitting to the Word because God’s way works.

 

Life Changing Bible Study Questions

  1. What do I learn from this study? If the Bible is profitable for teaching, I should ask what I learnfrom every study I conduct. Whether I’m conducting a text study, a book study, a topical study, a character study or whatever kind of study, I should ask what do I learn. I answer this by asking all kinds of subordinate questions like who was being addressed, who was writing, who was speaking, what was the historical context, etc. Perhaps one of the best ways to answer this question is to study with the view to teach. If you were going to teach someone about this study and have to field questions about it, what would you say. Sadly, this is where most people end their study. This is a very important part of study, but it is not the end. It is not even the main goal. It is only the beginning.
  2. Where do I fall short according to this study? A reproof is a gentle admonition. A reproof is proving or testing something to bring about conviction. It really has the idea of admonishing because of error and proving the error so change can occur. If the Scriptures are profitable for reproof, they are profitable for convicting us where we need to change. If we are going to have life changing Bible study, we have to ask where we are falling short. I know we don’t like this. Most of us want Bible study that simply says where we are doing things right so we can be pumped up to move on with our day. However, we need something to expose where we are falling short so we can grow. If we want life changing study, we have to begin by seeing what we have learned says about how we measure up and where we fall short.
  3. What must I change because of this study? Now we are starting to let the rubber hit the road. If we are falling short, what must we do to correct it? I’m told the word for correct here carries a picture of taking something that is toppled over and setting it upright again. This is where we plan to change what we have been doing. This is where we figure out what needs to be adjusted. We can only have life changing Bible study if we ask this very hard question. What needs to change? How do I fix what has fallen over?
  4. What habits must I develop based on this study? Now we are getting to a life change, because we do not simply answer this question with a pencil and paper. We answer it with action. The Scripture can train us and discipline us. It can show us the habits and lifestyle we need to adopt to be right with God. Having figured out where we fall short and having made a plan to correct it, now we bring it into our daily lives by living out the habits Jesus is encouraging in His word.

When we have done these things, our lives have been changed. It is not an easy process. But it is a worthy process. Don’t just let the Bible be a decoration in your home. Don’t let it simply be something you carry around. Don’t even merely let it be something you use to convince others you are right. Use it first and foremost to be God’s tool to change your life.

 

 

I think this process is so powerful, I highlight in my book “Give Attention to Reading” a simple plan for studying through the New Testament in six months. In every reading, I encourage the reader to ask these questions so every reading can be as deep as you need it to be. Learn more about “Give Attention to Reading” at my daily reading blog. Or purchase the book to have a practical help in having life changing Bible study. Whatever you do, make sure you don’t just read your Bible, but you let it change your life.

 

Have a great week and remember to let God’s word change your life this week.

ELC

October 6, 2008 Posted by | A Springboard for Your Spiritual Life, Bible Study, Christian living, Spiritual Growth | , , , , | Leave a comment

What I Have Learned About Preparing for Temptation: Part 4

 

Over the past two weeks, we have learned several activities and attitudes to prepare us for temptation:

 

  1. Repentance
  2. Confession
  3. Bible Study
  4. Prayer
  5. Poverty of Spirit

 

      You might be tempted to believe we are ready to face any temptation. (Then again, you might not, after all, I am writing another article.) There is one more preparation we need to make and it is illustrated in Acts 4:23.

      Earlier in the chapter, Peter and John were arrested and taken before the rulers, elders, scribes, High Priest and many of the high-priestly family (Acts 4:5-6). The council charged the two apostles not to speak in Jesus’ name and then threatened them (Acts 4:18, 21). I’m sure these threats included imprisonment and physical harm. This is what we call temptation.

      Then we read Acts 4:23. “When they were released, they went to their friends…” (ESV). They didn’t have to develop friends. They didn’t conduct a survey to see if anyone might be on their side. They already had friends on whom they could rely. They had already developed these relationships.

      In order to prepare for temptation, we need to develop strong relationships with other Christians. If we wait until we face the temptation and then scan about for someone to help, it will be too late. Let’s face it, we are only comfortable making those kinds of calls and having those kinds of conversations when we have already developed a good, friendly, supportive relationship with someone.

      I know I have often failed in this step of preparation and I’ve paid for it. The failure sometimes comes with good intentions. We believe we will simply rely on God to overcome temptation, but doing so forgets that God works through His children. Ephesians 3:20 reminds us God does great things by His power working in believers. The reality is, we are not really relying on God if we are not relying on God’s children. Further, we won’t rely on God’s children in our moment of need if we haven’t already developed a good relationship with them.

      Ask this question. “If I was tempted to ___________ this week, who would I call to talk it over, pray and gain support to do the right thing?” If you’ve got several in mind, that’s great. Make sure you keep working on those relationships. If you don’t, stop everything and figure out some relationships you can develop to be ready.

      

Wrapping Up the Series

Remember, Satan is a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. He wants to devour you. Use these tools to help you prepare for temptation:

  1. Repentance
  2. Confession
  3. Bible Study
  4. Prayer
  5. Poverty of Spirit
  6. Relationships
Don’t wait. Satan won’t. Temptation is coming and you need to be prepared.
ELC

 

September 12, 2008 Posted by | Christian living, Overcoming Sin, Preparing for Temptation, Relationships | , , , , , | Leave a comment

What I Have Learned about Preparing for Temptation: Part 3

Whether we like it or not, temptation is coming. Maybe the past few days have seemed kind of lax for you and you are starting to feel comfortable, like you have this overcoming temptation thing down. Trust me, as soon as you get settled in that, Satan will pound you. He is just looking for a more opportune time (cf. Luke 4:13).

We have already learned several activities that prepare for temptation:

1. Repentance

2. Confession

3. Bible Study

4. Prayer

However, none of this will get us fully ready to face temptation if we do not have poverty of spirit.

Matthew 5:3 says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (ESV). The word translated “poor” in this text (ptochos) is extreme. It doesn’t mean, “Hey, buddy, can you spare a dime? I need a boost.” It means, “If I don’t get help, I’ll starve.” Thus, being poor in spirit is the spiritual equivalent of Lazarus in Luke 16:19-21.

Poverty of spirit recognizes I have nothing to offer God. I can’t pay for my forgiveness. I can’t even work my forgiveness off by being good enough for the rest of my life. I have no bartering power. The reason I have no bartering power is because I have no power at all.

So long as we think we are somehow powerful enough to face temptation with only a little help now and then, we will inevitably fall. That is the heart of I Corinthians 10:12, “Therefore let anyone who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (ESV). If we think we are standing on our own legs we won’t make it. Only when we recognize we walk on legs God has given us can we overcome the temptation. Because only then will we let God fight the battle and rely on the strength He gives.

Paul demonstrated this in II Corinthians 12:7-10. When he thought he was strong, he was weak. But when he realized how weak he was, then he relied on God and then he was strong because of God. As Ephesians 3:20 says, God is able to do far more abundantly than we ask or think by the power working within us. Philippians 2:12-13 explains we can work out our salvation with fear and trembling because God is at work within us.

Rest assured, Satan will tempt you greater than you can handle by yourself. But he cannot tempt you greater than your strength when you are relying on God. Why not just pick up your poverty of spirit and rely on God? Do it now. Don’t wait until your are faced with temptation. That will be too late. Recognize your poverty now and rely on God now.

September 8, 2008 Posted by | Christian living, Overcoming Sin, Preparing for Temptation | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What I Have Learned about Preparing for Temptation: Part 2

Satan is vicious. He roams like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour (I Peter 5:8). Just like we wouldn’t go on a safari in lion infested territory without preparation, we need to prepare to face Satan’s attacks. We have already learned we begin with Repentance and Confession. In this post, we need to see the place of Bible Study and Prayer.

We all know Psalm 119:11. “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (ESV). Clearly, if we want to avoid sin, we must spend time in Bible Study. We do this to know what sin is. We can’t even accomplish the Confession we have already discussed if we do not learn the mind of God through His revelation (cf. I Corinthians 2:11-12). Consider Matthew 4:1-11. Even Jesus overcame sin because of what was written. He knew what was sin and He knew how to respond when Satan attacked because He had stored up God’s word in His heart.

We also need to study God’s word to learn Satan’s attacks. II Corinthians 2:11 speaks of knowing Satan’s designs so we won’t be outwitted by him. From Eve to Peter, through Bible study we see how Satan tempted others. Learning how he attacks prepares us and helps us respond well.

At the same time, we need to develop a healthy habit of Prayer. No doubt, we will need to pray in the moment of temptation. The only way to be strong enough to pray in the moment of temptation is if we have developed a strong habit of prayer when we weren’t being tempted.

Consider the example of Daniel in Daniel 6:10. Daniel was able to keep praying when it was illegal because it was what he had done previously. Prayer was his ingrained response.

We must remember our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against powers too great for us (cf. Ephesians 6:10-13). We can’t win this battle. But God can. Therefore, we need to develop a healthy relationship with God through prayer. As Ephesians 3:20 says, God can do far more abundantly than we ask by the power working through us. However, this means we have to ask.

Further, as the model prayer demonstrates in Matthew 6:13, God is able to keep us from and deliver us through temptation. How many temptations might we avoid in our lives if we simply make this prayer a habit even when we aren’t being tempted?

What is your plan for study and prayer this week? Schedule it out and then make sure to fit it in. Don’t do this to check it off your Christian living list, but because this is what works. This is what will help you overcome those temptations.

May God richly bless you as you draw closer to Him.
More importantly, may you richly bless God. 

August 26, 2008 Posted by | Christian living, Overcoming Sin, Preparing for Temptation | , , , , , | Leave a comment

What I’ve Learned about Preparing for Temptation: Part 1

 

“I can overcome anything except temptation.” An overly used one-liner and yet overly used because it is overly true. It certainly has been overly true in my life. With that in mind, I want to share with you what helps me face the daily battle, what helps me prepare for Satan’s attacks. This is the first part in what looks like will be a four part series on how to prepare for temptation. Of course, who knows what I might learn over the next several days that gets added in. I hope it helps.

 

 

Preparing for Temptation: Part 1

Regrettably, the “Just Say No” tactic that sounds so good in the safety of our assemblies doesn’t always hold water when we are face to face with Satan’s weapons on the battlefield. We need some real help to overcome temptation. What should we do? Like any battle, without preparation, we will fall. There are several things we must do to prepare; in this article, I want to share two—Repentance and Confession.

The first thing we have to do is Repent. II Corinthians 7:10 says, “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret…” (ESV). We have already sinned (Romans 3:23). This isn’t about getting perfect people to stay perfect, but helping sinful people avoid future sin. Without repentance, the battle is already lost.

Repentance is a change of mind leading to a change of action. If we still think some sin is alright, not that bad, not a big deal, a social faux pas, a mistake or any other mitigated concept, change of action will not take place. Only when we mourn our actions and change our minds will we overcome temptation. As long as I believe there’s not really anything wrong with having bitterness, wrath or clamor toward my wife and kids, I will not stop. Oh, I may white-knuckle it for a while to please other people, but it will always creep back in. I must rethink my sins and see how bad they really are.

At the same time, I also need to Confess. I John 1:9 says if we confess our sins, God will forgive us. Forgiveness is a prerequisite to salvation, but that is not why I bring it up. Confession literally means to say the same thing as. In spiritual things, it means to say the same thing as God about something. Thus, confessing my sins to God is not merely admitting I sinned. Confessing means verbalizing exactly what God thinks about the sin.

If I want to overcome sin in the future, I have to get God’s view of something entrenched in my head. I have to see it the way God sees it. I have to speak about it the way God speaks about it. When I confess my sins to God, I’m agreeing with Him. I am communing with His mind. I am connecting with His thoughts and ways. The point is not that we have to hit a checklist of confession for each sin to be saved. The point is working through the exercise of seeing what God sees and thinking like God thinks is necessary if I want to live God’s way.

If I don’t repent of and confess my sins, I won’t make it when the temptation hits again. So let’s start here. Be honest. What are your sins? What does God say about them? What are you going to say about them? Feel free to write out the list and work through them one by one. God will help. God will forgive. You will grow.

May God richly bless you as you draw closer to Him.
More importantly, may you richly bless God.

August 23, 2008 Posted by | Christian living, Overcoming Sin, Preparing for Temptation | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Jesus’ Gospel is Powerful Enough To Save

I have now heard it all. Okay, maybe not. But surely this is close.

Some church is offering gas cards to get folks to visit. I have no doubt some folks will proclaim, “How innovative! How creative!” Some might say, “Wish I had thought of that.”

I say, what happened to Romans 1:16: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (ESV).

I can already hear someone say, “Now Edwin, we believe the gospel is God’s power to save, but we’ve got to get people here to hear that gospel or they won’t be saved.” I say, what happened to Mark 16:15: “And he said to them, ‘Go…'” (ESV)? God didn’t ask us to figure out ways to get people to “come to church.” He asked us to go to them. It might be one thing if a congregation was giving free gas to its members so they could travel the highways and byways talking to folks about the gospel. But since when is our job to figure out how to get people to come to church? 

But that’s not all. Do we really want to be the people who say God’s gospel is powerful enough to save, but only after a certain point? Do we really want to be the people who say the gospel is not powerful enough to save people from start to finish? Do we really think God needs us to get them so far and then He’ll take over? Or do we think the Gospel is powerful enough to get people interested in hearing it and then in obeying it?

Perhaps the problem is the average Christian is, well, average. Maybe if we could move beyond being unremarkably average and really let the Gospel change our lives, other people might get curious about what is going on in our churches. 

I can also already hear someone else say, “Now Edwin, we are not ashamed of the Gospel.” Let’s get real. When our Vacation Bible Schools look more like county fairs with free crafts and bouncy rides, we certainly aren’t saying we think the Gospel can hold its own. When our assemblies look more like rock concerts or club hopping, we certainly aren’t happy with just the Gospel. When we are trying to get people to “come to church” by appealing to their fleshly desires with free gas or with parties for the teenagers, mixers for the young singles, babysitting for the parents and other such appeals, we are saying we just don’t think the Gospel alone will cut it. When someone asks us, “What do you have for my kids?” and we bow our heads, kick the dirt and say, “Just the Gospel,” we are showing embarrassment and shame. We should be able to hold our heads high and say, “We have the Gospel that saves. We have it for you, for your kids, for your grandkids and for everyone in your whole family.”

Let’s face it, a church giving away free gas will get more people in the pews. But free gas doesn’t put anyone in heaven. Only the gospel of Jesus can do that. God is not saying to us, “Help me. I’ve got the saving gospel but no one wants to listen to it. Do something, please.” 

Why don’t we just live the gospel, teach the gospel and let the gospel govern our churches. Yes, I know not many people are into the gospel. Not many people are going to want to “come to church” if all they get out of it is the gospel message. But what good are we doing trying to manipulate people into hearing the gospel? What good are we doing saying God’s gospel is not enough to save people from start to finish?

I’ll say it again, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…”

ELC

August 8, 2008 Posted by | Christian living, evangelism | , , , , , , | 6 Comments