What is your response to who God is?

Those who have seen God are never the same.  The children of Israel asked to see the Lord of Moses, but when they saw the Lord they were afraid and ask Moses never to allow them to see God like that again [see Daniel 10:7-10, Luke 2:10, Acts 9:3-4].  In Revelation 1:9-18, John saw the awesomeness of Christ and fell as a dead man.  People who see God are left with an awesome, fearful, and unforgettable impression of who God is.

stop-drop-and-rollA response to seeing God is similar to one who is on fire.  What is the normal trained response or actions for someone who is on fire?  Stop, Drop and Roll. Just as that is a memorable way to deal with being on fire it is also a great way to respond to God.

STOP to take a long look at who you are and who God is. 

And I said:“Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:5)

Isaiah sees that his spirit is on fire.  Hot!  Isaiah is deeply impacted by seeing God.  As he glimpses God’s holiness and glory he says, “Woe is me.”   This is not “whoa!” but “woe!”  In ancient times “Woe” was a pronouncement of judgment on those who dare disobey God’s Word (cf. 5:18-23).  It was a shot to the heart, a punch in the kisser, and a kick to the spiritual stomach.

As Isaiah gets a glimpse of God and he’s devastated.  He got a peak behind the curtain of the holy of holies and is found out. He’s caught. He’s ashamed. He’s afraid.  He speaks a judgment upon himself as if to say, “I’m toast!”  It’s not an understatement—Isaiah’s freaking out. He is no longer shocked by the sins of the king or Israel but by his own sin.  Before he pointed one finger at Israel but now points three back at himself.   He sees no ones sin but his own in the presence of God.  Isaiah thinks he’s toast.  He knows he deserves to be.  That he is still alive is a wonderful thing.

This is a good thing for us to see.  We are good at pointing of the sins in others, but bad dealing with our own.  We play the comparison game with other Christians and pride ourselves on not being as sinful as the other Christian.  Jesus said to the religious leaders who were shocked at the lifestyle of the prostitute, “Whoever is sinless throws the first stone.”

We are a people of “compare-ers.”  We compare our actions to those of others to see whether we are acting right.  And, quite honestly, compared to all the people in the world, Isaiah was probably one of the best people there was.  But when he saw the glory of God there was no comparison.  Although Isaiah was better than most people, he knew that he was filthy compared to God’s pure holiness.  Isaiah admitted that he was a sinner. He had no excuses for his sinfulness.  He had no one to blame.  He had no where to run and hide.

I believe there is a great need to reintroduce the word “woe” to our devotional vocabulary.   When you finally take a moment to look at who you really are and who God really is.  Our “Woe!” can lead to “Whoa!” which leads us to the next response.

DROP to your knees and receive God’s forgiveness.

Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said:“Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” (Isaiah 6:6-7)

There is something very interesting and weird going on here that is being illustrated.  In Isaiah’s day, their was a pagan practice called the “washing of the mouth.”  wash your mouth outSimilar to washing ones mouth out with soap it was a ritual that took an inanimate idol and made it inhabited by a god.  The image would be purified and cleansed to be ready for a god to dwell in it.  The cleansing ceremony Isaiah experiences is quite similar, but ironically God chooses Isaiah to cleanse and be His spokesmen to the pagan idolaters.

So what could Isaiah do about his sinful condition? Absolutely nothing!  What did God do?  Everything.  God’s messenger flew to Isaiah, took a burning coal from the altar, and touched his lips.  Fire is used in the Bible to purify things (Malachi 3:2-3).  This burning coal from God’s altar was a symbol that God was the One who made Isaiah pure.  Only God can save someone from his sins (Revelation 7:10).  God did not just cover up Isaiah’s sin. God took Isaiah’s sins away!  Isaiah’s sins would not be remembered or talked about ever again because God took them away!

I am so glad the story doesn’t end in verse 5.  Isaiah is not left feeling the heat of his sin.  He feels the forgiveness and restoration of God.  He is not left feeling afraid, guilty or shameful.  He feels true freedom.

When Adam sinned in the garden there were three consequences of sin that happened.  First, guilt.  He broke one of God’s rules.  Second, shame.  He want to hide from God and cover his nakedness.  Third, fear.  Adam was afraid for his life as death was introduced into the world.

You might know firsthand the the affects of shame, guilt and fear.  Maybe shame seeped into your life because of a hidden or naughty habit, a relationship crossed certain boundaries, or a detail about you if uncover you would haunt you forever.  Maybe guilt got the upper hand because you felt like you’d never measure up to the standards of someone or you just can’t quite quit that nagging guilty pleasure.  And guilt manifest itself in depression, self harm, eating disorder, or blame shifting.  Maybe fear trapped you because of various unknowns, via threats breathed down upon you, or someone holding dirt on you that if leaked could tarnish your reputation and future.

We often look at guilt, shame, and fear as bad, which they are if used as tools against someone or yourself.  However, God uses them for good as a tool to motivate you not to go there again and to seek rest in God’s forgiveness.

Notice how God’s pursues forgiveness in Isaiah.  He he does this with you too.  He pursues you through the work of Christ on the cross that shed His blood as your substitute so that you might be forgiven and free.  Have you known the forgiveness of God?

Just as God took away all of Isaiah’s sins, God wants to take away your sin also.  He sent His Son, Jesus, to become the holy sacrifice that takes away your sin. Just look at what the Bible says  God does with your sin.

  • God purifies your sins by the blood of Jesus (1 John 1:7).
  • God takes your sins from you as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12).
  • Your sins can never be found (Jeremiah 50:20).
  • God forgives you of your sin and cleans you from all wickedness (I John 1:9).
  • God will trample on your sins under His foot. Just imagine God stomping His foot on your sin! And God throws all your sins into the deepest part of the sea (Micah 7:19).
  • “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:6-9)

If you have not done so, it is time to drop your shame, guilt, and fear at the feet of Jesus who will forgive you today and forever.

ROLL up your sleeves and get going.

And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.” And he said, “Go…” (Isaiah 6:8)

Again, the verses do not end after 6-7.  Isaiah is not immobilized or handicapped.  He is not out of commission and sidelined because he has blown it or because he is a sinner.  Interesting, after God took away Isaiah’s sin, he hears God speak!  So often he is silent because our sin is like putting in earplugs.

What does God say?  After God cleanses Isaiah He commissions him: see to it that My people know I am forgiving too.  It is no irony that Isaiah’s commission is similar to Jesus commission to his followers in Matthew 28:19-20.

Commonly, commissioning follows cleansing.  Cleaning is God’s path to making you ready, useful, and humble for the task he has you to do.  One who is forgiven is forgiving and goes and tells of God’s great forgiveness.  That’s the goodness—the gospel—in a nutshell.

God was looking for the person who would be His messenger.  Isaiah didn’t hesitate.  He wanted to be the one used by God.  Isaiah sees who God is.  He is wowed.  He says WOE!  And God wipes away the fear, guilt, and shame of his sin.  Isaiah is pure and clean in God’s eyes.   He is ready to be used by God.

Likewise, Jesus came into this world to rub shoulders with people harboring loads of shame, guilt, and fear.  He came to free you from it.  He died for the sinner so that the sin would no longer have any power.  So that you could know the greater power of forgiveness and be used by God as an example of what God does through Jesus.

“So Jesus also suffered outside the gate (where atonement was made) in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured… Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” (Hebrews 13:12-16)

Today you stand at the altar.  Will you stop and humble yourself before God and see him as he is?  Will you drop to your knees and enjoy his forgiveness?  Will you roll up your sleeves and let others know who God is?  How will you respond?  Let God touch your lips that you might taste his goodness and sweet forgiveness.

 

Coming up next: the result of responding to God in obedience

Previously in this series: God is

 

DOWNLOAD QUESTIONS:

In Isaiah 6:5. Isaiah responds to his vision of God.   What does Isaiah immediately become aware of?   In other words, when you see the holiness of God, what do you see in yourselves?  Have you every experienced that before?

Why is it important to learn about who God is?   Why is it important to see God not as you want to see Him, but as He truly is?

What does it mean to you STOP, DROP and ROLL as Isaiah explains it?  Why is this important to remember as a follower of God?

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3 benefits of repentance

repent

Repentance. I’ll just come out and say it. It’s a word I don’t like to hear. It’s difficult to talk about. It’s often an awkward topic. It isn’t easy or comfortable or catchy or natural. However, I believe it is one of the biggest things that is lacking in my spiritual life and maybe even in yours.

The Bible is not shy when it comes to talking about repentance. We kind of know this already, right? In fact, it is the most common term and sermon topic in Scripture. “Repentance” or “return to the Lord” is mentioned over 1,000 times in Old Testament alone. The message of repentance was in the mouth of every prophet. Their sermon was like this, “(Clear throat) Good morning congregation. (Deep breath) REPENT! (Awkward silence) Okay. Let’s pray.” That was their message. It was all that needed to be said and heard.

In the New Testament, the message isn’t much different. John the Baptist’s message was: repent (Mark 1:4). The apostles first preached that people should: repent (Mark 6:11). Jesus tender, yet tough, said in his first sermon, “Repent and believe.” (Mark 1:15) Jesus shared the story of the prodigal son, the poster boy of repentance, that heaven rejoices over one sinner who: repents. In Revelation 2:5, Jesus says to the church: repent. As the church goes global in Acts, what was the apostle Peter’s message? “Repent.” (2:38; 3:19) God’s heart from the front cover to the back cover of Scripture that we would be tenderhearted, submissive, quick to respond to the Spirit’s conviction and repent of sin.

2 Corinthians 7, our text today, is the most concentrated teaching on the topic of repentance in the Bible. This is Paul’s listen-up-and-get-ahold-of-this sermon on repentance. The goal of this message is that you and I would repent. I will challenge you to do as God has challenged me to do throughout this text. I want to practice what I preach, but also preach what I practice. Will you join me?

Have you ever had to say a hard thing, confront sin, or call someone to repent? No one wants to do it, but there come times when you have to say hard things. As you come to 2 Corinthians 7, you see Paul had to write some hard things. In a previous, unknown letter, Paul, pleaded with the church to restore a sinful brother. The church rightfully disciplined a man for causing division in the church, but when the discipline worked and he repented, the church held it over the man and was not welcomed back into the fellowship. But now, Paul, in this letter, praises them for doing the hard thing, the right thing. What you and I discover from this text are three amazing benefits of repentance.

1. Repentance is good (vs.8-9).

While not easy, repentance is good. Even Paul had mixed feelings about his letter to Corinth (v.8). On one hand he had regrets (for the grief it caused) but on the other hand he did not have regrets (for the repentance it produced). While at times painful, repentance has its purpose. Just as parents do not enjoy disciplining their children, Paul did not enjoy the sorrow he brought to the church. He did not like seeing them in pain. Yet their pain was “only for a while.” And in this, Paul, rejoiced like a parent who sees their child experience small pain by his hand only to see them escape greater pain by their own hand (v.9).

Repentance is good because God uses the short-lived sorrow to protect you from greater sorrow and greater harm in the future (cf. Hebrews 12:7-11). If Corinth did not repent, the church could have been shattered by its sin and shortage of Christlikeness. Repentance is the funnel through which blessing flows. Lack of repentance brings misery, despair, and as we will see, death.

Repentance is good because it takes stubborn, callused, dull-hearted people and makes them tender towards God’s heart. Remember this: Repentance is a gift from God. The most dangerous thing you can say is, “I will repent when I am ready.” It’s dangerous because only God readies a heart for repentance (cf. Acts 5:31; 11:18; 2 Tim.2:25). If you wait until you are ready you will only get hardhearted. Sin is the blockage that kills the heart, but repentance is bypass surgery that God does WITHIN you and it “leads to salvation without regrets” (v.10b). Repentance is that good.

2. Repentance is change (v.10a).

What is true repentance? By definition repentance means change of mind; a turning away from evil to God; a 180 from my hearts desires to God’s heart. Repentance without change is not repentance.

There are three common components of repentance as seen in Scripture. First, there is a recognition of sin. I must recognize that I have sinned. I must see that I have offended God. Yet recognition alone is not repentance. Repentance is not simply regret or remorse or feeling bad about something bad I did. I can feel sorry about something and immediately do it again. Thus Paul compares the difference between godly grief and worldly grief (v.10). Worldly grief is when I feel bad because I looked bad to others. Godly grief is sorrow is when I recognize I have offended God. Grief that leads to repentance is as Charlie Brown would say, “Good grief!” Yet I don’t have to sink into grief because I have received the forgiveness of Christ (1 John 1:9). The sin under all other sin is the lack of joy in Christ, but Jesus was the one who suffered and was miserable for my sin. Repentance is my pathway to joy.

Second, there is repentance of sin. I must admit that I am wrong or have been wrong. This is often the hardest thing to do. Repentance is not mere confession or saying what God says about sin as if that will make God happy with me. Repentance is not about keeping God happy. God is not a magic genie who grants wishes when on his good side. This makes repentance selfish. I don’t please God to get or to escape consequences of sin. I cannot manipulate him nor is he is not obligated to me.

Third, there is a returning to the Lord. I must leave my sin behind. I must come to God. I must make a clean break. I must come to him as I am. I can wallow in the sin-confess-sin-confess cycle trying to do it on my own or I can come to my Lord. Jesus said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

This is illustrated in the parable of the prodigal son. When you repent, you are like the prodigal son. You don’t have it all together. You are living in the pig style. You come to your senses. You change your mind. You don’t want to think for yourself. You come to the end of yourself. You think about your father. You run back home to him still messy and smelling like the stench. You come as you are. You know you are unworthy to be your fathers son, but the father runs to you, gives you his best robe and throws you a party.

Biblical repentance is recognizing your sin, repenting to it and returning to the Lord. When was the last time you did that?

3. Repentance bears fruit (vs.9,11).

“The reach of our repentance should match the reach of our sin. Private sins demand private repentance. Sins that can be seen by many necessitate a repentance that can be seen by many. And while we ought to forgive each other seven times, and seventy times, and even seven times seventy times, looking for the fruit of repentance is not the same as being unforgiving. Ronald Reagan was right: trust, but verify.” – Keven DeYoung

The beauty of repentance is what it produces. It produces things on the inside that are reflected on the outside. Acts 26:11 says there are “deeds of repentance.” In other words, repentance produces fruit (Matthew 3:8). While the list in 2 Corinthians 7 is not sequential or exhaustive, it gives you a sense of the affects of repentance (vs.9-11).

First, repentance produces godly grief over sin (v.9). “Grief” is soul anguish, a heart wrenching and heart changing emotion. Its a grief that says you can never be the same again. Second, repentance produces revulsion towards sin (v.11) The word used is “earnestness.” What used to please (attracts) you now repulses (detracts) you. Sin sickens you. Third, it produces restitution towards others (v.11b) It produces a desire to “clear yourself,” to make it right, right away with those your sin has injured. Fourth, it produces revival toward God (v.11c) You have a “longing” to walk with God. Fifth, it turns your eyes forward, not backward (vs.8-9). Repentance sees “no loss” and is “without regret.” It walks into the future full of freedom.

Repentance happens both as a process and a crisis. It happens over time and it happens at a point in time. Repentance is not a place I visit or a place I go and get over it. It is the place I live. I must never get over it. I never want to leave it. Just like Disney World. Who wants to leave Disney? Give me a room at the castle! God desires a lifestyle of repentance.

Martin Luther launched the Reformation with hammer and nail, nailing “The Ninety-Five Theses” to the front door of Wittenberg Cathedral. Do you know what the first theses stated? It said, “When our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, said “Repent”, He called for the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.” What Luther saw as he unpacked the Scripture is that repentance is the way we progress in the Christian life. Repentance is the fruit you are growing deep and strong and rapid in the character of Christ.

How do you respond when confronted? How do you respond when the Spirit convicts you? How do you respond when you know you are wrong? How do you respond when you have sinned against another person? When was the last time you had godly grief over sin that produced repentance? Don’t wait. Repent. Be free. It is good.

warnings to religious people

woe to you

“No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar or under a basket, but on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light. Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness. Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness. If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, it will be wholly bright, as when a lamp with its rays gives you light.” (Luke 11:33-36)

Religious people close their eyes to Jesus (the Light of the world). In Luke 11, the Pharisees and lawyers had such eyes. They eyes were darkened. On the outside they appeared holy and righteous, but the opposite was true about their insides. Their insides were without light, full of pride and unbelief (vs.37-41). Therefore Jesus gives some serious warnings to religious people. In fact, he gives six warnings:

WARNINGS AGAINST STEALING PRAISE THAT GOD DESERVES.

1) Do not brag about what you give to God (v.42, i.e. tithes & services). Religious people don’t care for people or God, the care about how holy people think they are.

2) Do not love the good seats in God’s house (v.43). The Pharisees paid good money for the good seats—the seat where everyone had a good view of them.

3) Do not love titles. The Pharisees were more concerned about their name than the name of God (v.44). Their fame will die with them in the grave, but God’s fame lasts forever.

Jesus trumps the Pharisees. Jesus is title is: Son of God, King of Kings, and Savior of the world. He is seated: at the right hand of the Father, the seat of supreme authority. His fame will stand the test of time and one day all will bow at His feet.

WARNINGS AGAINST GUARDING YOUR IDOLS TOO TIGHTLY.

4) Do not burden (intimidate/bully) people with rules stacked upon rules (v.46). The lawyers made their living studying the law and enforcing them upon others. They don’t love Jesus or people, they only love being in control of rules and making sure others are keeping them.

5) Do not kill the prophet who calls you to repent (vs.47-51). In the Old Testament, Israel killed the prophets they did not like. The religious people will kill Jesus too.

6) Do not make the Scripture to fit your agenda (v.52). Instead, search the Scriptures to understand God’s plan. The only way to God is not religion, it’s Jesus. Religion gets in the way of redemption. Not only do religious people not understand they prevent others from understanding too.

Jesus trumps the lawyers. He is the author and perfecter of the law. He willingly dies a sinless servant so that the unrighteous could have His righteousness. Jesus is the key to Scripture. He is the Door (cf.11:9-10). Knock and you have eternal life.

In conclusion, each of these warnings has something in common: They show the condition of man’s heart, which is full of pride and idols. Now, it’s easy to point fingers at religious people, but if you were honest, you and I can be just like Pharisee or lawyer? Where has religious thinking distorted your heart? What sins of religious belief or action do you need to repent of? What does repentance look like in those areas of your life? Will you let Jesus’ light shine inside out?

pouring Miracle-Gro on sin

A friend reminded me the other day,

“Moving to another culture is like pouring Miracle-Gro on sin.”

Our family just moved to Quebec and in 8-months we will move again to North Africa. Transition has been our middle name for the past year. Transitions or changes in life can be like pouring Miracle-Gro on sin; sin grows more intense and gives a way to old weeds–you thought were dead–to come back with rabid enticement.

For the last 8-years I’ve lived in the same place, had a stable job, but this month we moved to a new country filled with cultural differences and language barriers. This has caused Sarah and I to uncover dirt about ourselves–until now–-we had been ignoring successfully. Sins like pride, self-reliance, and fear of failure keep popping up like dandelions on what we thought was well manicured Astro Turf.

Normally my sins are like Post-It notes stuck to my back. everyone else can see them but me. In this present season I am seeing my sin and my limitations more clearly. It is here the gospel message shines most brilliantly. Christ gets on eye level, embraces me as His brother, and reminds me that He has taken my punishment (or Post-It notes) upon His back.

How do you handle change?

Change happens. It can be a promotion at work, lay-off, move to a new house, crisis, trauma, stepping into an abnormal situation, or a host of other scenarios. Your response to said situations can determine your vulnerability to sin. The key to handling change is rooting yourself in the character of God.

Do you prepare your heart for times of transition?

Sarah and I have been through enough of these seasons in the past year to understand that we have to be prepare seriously for the next season. We have found that if unprepared our marriage and parenting can quickly become full of gnarly weeds. Small attitudes quickly become ugly, temptations become more tempting, and the Light increasingly is choked out.

Here are some ways Sarah and I have been able to deal with changes and transitions (especially new moves or new cultures) while in the process of pulling out the weeds:

1.    Review the gospel daily.
2.    Write down promises of God that give you hope.
3.    Resolve to obey Christ through the season of change or transition.
4.    Cultivate godly friendships and allow them to ask you the hard questions unexpectedly.
5.    Prepare for the changes and transitions with a band of prayer partners.
6.    Keep communication channels open and confess sin quickly.
7.    Ground yourself in the Word and resting in its Truth.

The LORD is my portion;
I promise to keep your words.
I entreat your favor with all my heart;
be gracious to me according to your promise.
When I think on my ways,
I turn my feet to your testimonies;
I hasten and do not delay
to keep your commandments.
Though the cords of the wicked ensnare me,
I do not forget your law.
At midnight I rise to praise you,
because of your righteous rules.
I am a companion of all who fear you,
of those who keep your precepts.
The earth, O LORD, is full of your steadfast love;
teach me your statutes!
(Psalm 119:57-64 ESV)

why Sunday Sermons are necessary but not sufficient

The statement is not: why the Word of God is necessary but not sufficient nor why Jesus Christ is necessary but not sufficient? That would be heretical and not in-line with the biblical text.  The Bible is clear; Jesus and the Bible are sufficient in themselves. Jesus is the sufficient Savior.[1] And the Bible is the sufficient revelation for knowledge of God’s saving plan for humanity and spiritual truth for living.[2]

The statement is: why Sunday sermons are necessary but not sufficient. This still might sound heretical or hazardously mischievous to some. It is not that Sunday sermons are not valuable or important. The preaching of the Word of God is extremely important. Jesus preached,[3] His followers preached,[4] and you are called to preach the gospel too.[5] God places a priority on preaching in His church. However, Sunday sermons standing alone are not sufficient for spiritual growth in the church.

Why are Sunday sermons necessary?

First, God commands the Word to be preached. How will anyone hear the Word of God unless it is preached? [Romans 10:14-16] Second, the faith of God’s people comes in conjunction with the preaching of His Word. [Romans 10:17] Third, hearing the Word encourages doing the Word [James 1:19-25]. An hour-long Sunday sermon that does not affect the other 167 hours in your week is wasted stewardship of the Word.

Why are Sunday sermons are not sufficient?

First, hearing the Word does not mean there is an application or reproduction of the Word [cf. Matthew 23:3]. Second, preaching the Word must be followed up with intensive and active discipleship. Third, the role of the sermon giver is also trainer and discipler, which involve more than preaching, but exemplifying the message and mentoring the hearers to live the message too. A pastor who simply preaches or teacher who just teaches is missing a key component with their message: multiplication of messengers and ultimately Christ worshipers [note: 3 types of pastors and churches].[6]

Pastor as Clergyman Pastor as CEO Pastor as Trainer
Pastor is… Preacher and service-provider Preacher and manager Preacher and trainer
Sunday is… Service of worship Attractional meeting Gathering of worshiping disciples with their Lord
Outside of Sunday… Occasional services Range of events and programs Disciples reaching out to make disciples
Pastoral care through… Counseling and visitation Small groups People ministering to people
Church is like… A small corner store with one employee A department store with numerous staff A team with an active captain-coach
Tends to result in… Consumers in maintenance mode Consumers in growth mode Disciples in mission mode

How can you maximize the Sunday sermons Monday through Saturday?

First, seek to apply the big idea of the sermon to your marriage, parenting, work, school or daily living. Prayerfully, practically and purposely apply the sermon. Second, gather together with your churches small group to discuss the sermon and minister to one another by applying the Sunday sermon [cf. Acts 2:42-47].  Stir up and serve one another through the preached Word.[7] Third, share what you learn from the sermon with someone who does not go to your church. When it comes to Sunday sermons: Listen up. Soak it up. Live it up. Step it up. Love the Word. Speak the Word. Live the Word. Spread the Word.


[1] Cf. Hebrews 1-10; Colossians 1:15-22; Acts 4:12; Romans 10:9-13; Philippians 2:6-11; 2 Timothy 1:8-10

[2] The New Testament writers constantly appealed to the scriptures as their base of authority in declaring what was and was not true biblical teaching:  Matthew 21:42; John 2:22; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 1 Peter 1:10-12; 2:2; 2 Peter 1:17-19, cf. Acts 17:11, Matthew 4 where Jesus uses the Scripture to defend the temptations from the devil.

[3] Cf. Matthew 4:17, 11:5; Mark 2:2; Ephesians 2:17

[4] Cf. Acts 5:42, 14:7; Romans 1:15, 15:20; 1 Corinthians 1:23, 9:16-17, 15:11-14; 2 Corinthians 10:16; Galatians 1:11-17; Ephesians 3:7-13; Philippians 1:15-18; Titus 1:3

[5] Cf. Romans 10:14-15; 1 Timothy 5:17; 2 Timothy 1:11-14,  4:2

[6] Chart is adapted from The Trellis and the Vine, by Colin Marshall and Tony Payne, Mathias Media, Kingsford, Australia, 2009. pg.101.

[7] Cf. Hebrews 10:23-25; Romans 12; 1 Corinthians 12

key to understanding your heart

Have you ever had a set of keys that you just did not know what they unlocked? I use to have a small box of mysterious keys I no longer knew what they unlocked. I still keep many of them around just incase I have a door or padlock that I cannot open. Hopefully you are not missing a key to something important that I’ve borrowed and forgot to give back to you? It is frustrating not having a key to unlock something valuable to you [i.e. home, car, safe, etc.]. Sometimes it might feel like your heart is locked and you do not have the right key to understand.

In review, last week was a discovery of what is the matter with your heart. Luke 6:43-46 describes your heart like roots. Whatever you root yourself in that is the fruit you will grow. If you are rooted in evil you will bear evil fruit. If you are rooted in Christ you will bear Christlikeness. The only way you can change your heart is to understand what rules it. According to Ezekiel 14:1-5, your heart is infected by idols. The Bible is like a locksmith that opens the door to your heart and remedies its perilous condition. Today, let’s allow the Bible to be like a locksmith.

An examination of the condition of your heart shows a serious inner conflict [James 4:1-10]

James 4:1-10 is an expansion of the fruit and root illustration. James begins with the fruits and makes his way down the tree trunk to the roots. James reveals the fruit that hangs from everyone’s life is: conflict. Humans have a huge amount of conflict in their lives. You might not realize the amount because you are so used to it. Conflict might be as casual as who gets to use the bathroom first, who gets the last donut in the box, or what pizza toppings you want. Or the conflict might be as colossal as an abusive spouse, disgruntled boss, or rebellious children.

James calls you to do something radically different with your angry responses to human conflict. Rather than looking outside yourself to explain your anger, look inside your heart. James says your fights and quarrels “are at war within you.” You are angry and fight because that is what you desire and what you allow to rule your heart [i.e. idolatry]. Desires come from your heart. Desires of the heart are not all wrong nor are the fights always evil. The ability to desire was designed by God for good. However, human desires have become distorted through sin because you exchange worship of Creator for creation, which is spiritual adultery [4:4]. You give away your love for God to something else.

The heart is your control center. Your heart thinks, remembers, feels, desires, craves, experiences, makes choices, and acts. In other words, your heart is the base of operation for your cognition, affection, and volition. What your heart believes will affect your attitude, behavior and actions. Relationships, society, and culture might all influence your heart, but they are not the cause of your hearts control. You are in control of your internal responses to what is happening externally. What should your response be to sinful external influences? “With confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that you may receive mercy and find grace to help in the time of need.” [Hebrews 4:14-16]

There are a few common influencers on your heart that if not examined carefully can cause damage swiftly: anger, foolishness, despair and fear. Anger is like a like a hot flame that can inflict pain in its path and forgets about forgiveness and service. Foolishness does not think about the consequences of immediate satisfaction and forsakes seeking wisdom. Despair is like a wandering vagabond that gives up too soon on the path to paradise and foregoes trusting Gods promises. Fear has a firm grip on the opinions of man and an eye on the trial, rather than being unleashed by the love of God. How do desires take control of your heart? Let’s discover a deeper look at how our desires can be influenced towards sinful responses. Here is the digression how desires take the escalator downward:[1]

Changing your desires does not begin with controlling your temper, watching your tongue, or 4-step conflict resolution. Change is initiated when you “submit to God.” [4:7] You have to give up bowing your heart to foe-gods. Smash those idols and restore your allegiance to the One True God. Wash your hands clean and purify your hearts. When you radically destroy your idols and humbly restore with your Creator by drawing near to Him, He draws near to you [4:8].

Your heart problem can only be remedied by the power of Christ [Galatians 5:13-26]

God is like a master physician who knows your greatest need, gives your heart a true diagnosis, and provides you ultimate healing through the gospel. Do not be swayed by the allure of an alternate gospel, cheap grace or self-help. These will wreak havoc on your heart filling you with bondage, darkness and desperation. It is only the power of Christ that will remedy the sinful condition of your heart and give you the motivation for future healthy heart change. Christ does not desire you to be conformed to the image of this world, but to be transformed in the renewing of your mind. How does this transformation take place?

First, serve one another in love [5:13-14]. It is much easier to stir up a conflict that to serve another in love. “I want that donut,” is a natural response fighting for the right to eat the lonely donut in the empty box. It shouldn’t sound so Sesame Street to share that donut because you desire to serve someone else. To serve is the reason Jesus came. He did not come to be served. That makes Jesus strange. What King would stoop so low as to be a servant? Jesus did.

Second, understand the conflict is between your flesh and the Spirit [5:15-23]. Your flesh still desires to be rooted in the old dirt of your former sinful life [vs.19-21, 26], but your new life desires to be rooted in Christ [vs.22-25]. The fight is over the sacred territory of your heart. Who will you allow to be king, captain and champion of your heart—you or God?

Third, if you serve only yourself you will destroy all your relationships [5:14, 26]. Living in the flesh will crush others faith, break others hearts, crush their spirits, and grieve the Holy Spirit. The way you respond to conflict can either devastate or rejuvenate your relationships. Use your conflicts as an opportunity to influence others towards restoration.

Fourth, saying “no” to sinful desires is possible through the cross of Christ [v.24]. As a follower of Christ you have been united with Christ through His crucifixion. In other words, you died with Christ. When Christ rose you were raised to new life. In Christ, you have been given a Samurai Spirit, which in whom your have the daily help and power to resist the control of your sinful desires.

It is wise to ask yourself tough heart questions as if you are getting a thorough examination from the heart doctor.[2] You would not want to be careless because your condition could be as serious as an impending heart attack. When you ask questions of the heart do not rebuttal. Willingly accept the facts as they are and use them to motivate you towards change. Heart change sometimes seems like you are rowing upstream, but don’t stop midstream because you will swiftly drift backwards [cf. 1 Peter 3:18].

In conclusion, the gospel, particularly the cross, is the only remedy for your sinful heart condition. If you have never opened up the door to your heart to God today is the day. He holds the keys to your kingdom. He is the door to new life. Only He can give you a new heart that is fully satisfied in Him. Make Christ the passion of your heart today.

For further reading on the heart check out:

Idols of the Heart and “Vanity Fair” [David Powlison]

Understanding Influences on the Human Heart[Mike Emlet]

4 Common Heart Themes [Garrett Higbee]


[1] Chart is adapted from How People Change, Paul David Tripp, P.??

[2] 5 Heart Revealing Questions to Ask Yourself: 1) How important is ____ to you? 2) What do you like about ____? 3) How does ____ help you deal with life? 4) How is ____ helping you with God? 5) How can God and other help you with ___?

the heart of the matter

Why do I do the things I do? Why am I so angry? Why is my friend so depressed? Why was my family awesome one day, but now it seems like guerilla warfare? Why do I get angry in traffic? Why is she so critical and controlling? Why is he so ungrateful? Why is she so afraid? Why won’t he talk? Why am I the way I am? The simple answer is: the heart.

What is the heart? The heart is not just a muscle that pumps blood, the shape of a card you receive on Valentines Day, nor where romantic feelings come from. It is said that you cannot understand a human until you understand the heart. The Bible describes the heart as your inner man [spirit, soul, mind, emotions, passions, will, etc.]. The heart is the real you, where your beliefs affect your behavior. It is the control center of a your life.

There is something seriously wrong with your heart. Your control center has a glitch in the main frame. What is the matter with the heart? It is stained with sin. Sin is like the fat that clogs your heart from functioning properly. Sin is like eating a constant diet of junk that will eventually kill you if you do not do something about it. Sadly, there is nothing you can do about it. However, God has done something about it. He has given you Christ whom if allowed will do surgery on your heart opening up the clogged arteries and capillaries so His life-giving power can clean you from the consequences of sinful living.

The Bible Uses a Tree to Illustrate Heart Change: Fruits & Roots [Luke 6:43-46]

When the Bible speaks about fruit, it is usually referring to the responses to your behavior [what you do and think based on what you believe]. The fruit is what speaks in Luke 6:43-46. Jesus says something very powerful about words [i.e. fruit]: they flow from the heart [cf. Matthew 5:21-30].

Now it is important to understand that people and situations do not cause you say what you say or do what you do. Why can’t people cause you to sin? This may fly in the face of modern psychology and self-esteem talk, but you alone are responsible for the way you respond to people and situation. People and situations might influence you to sin because you are being blamed, threatened, manipulated, piled on with guilt, or spoken to unjustly, but you are the root causer of your responses to these influencers. Your words and responses are revealed in the fruits of your heart.

You can recognize a tree by the fruit it bears. If you plant apples what do you expect to take root? What if you plant giant pumpkin seeds? How about an acorn? The type of seed you plant is the plant that will grow. It is unnatural to plant a pumpkin seed and discover a few years later an oak tree. When you are dealing with plants you recognize there is an organic connection between the roots and fruit. The same is true with people—the roots of your belief bear the fruits that resemble

When the Bible speaks about roots, it is usually referring to your heart [where beliefs are born, incubated and grow]. You have the kind of fruit you bear because of your roots. You will speak and act the way you do because of what is in your hearts. The heart is how you function. Your sin problem is a result of our heart [cf. Matthew 23:25-26; clean cup]. You cannot change your behavior until you change your heart.

How can you change your heart? It begins by a change of belief [roots], which will affect your behavior [fruit]. When I was growing up my gramps had an apple tree. The apple tree didn’t produce many apples. It began to produce dry, wrinkled, brown and mushy apples. Knowing my gramps he would try to remedy this problem. Let’s say gramps went out to the tree with trimmers, a staple gun, stepladder and a box of Washington apples he bought from the grocery store. He decides to cut off the bad apples and puts on the new store bought ones. Did he fix the tree? Stapling apples will not help because the new apples will rot too. Change that doesn’t reach the heart [roots] does not last. Cosmetic changes never satisfy. Are you stapling? What kind of fruits are you trying to staple in place of actually changing?

To Change Your Heart You Need to Understand What Rules Your Heart [Ezekiel 14:1-5]

In Ezekiel, the spiritual leaders of Israel come to the prophet because they have questions they want to ask of God. As they come to the prophet he sees something is wrong with them. What is wrong with them? [Idolatry] What kind of idols? [In their hearts] These idols run deeper than cultural or religious idols they are idols inside the heart of man.

What is God’s response? Idols in the heart are a ”stumbling block before the face” Ezekiel 14:3 If you put your hands in front of face and walk about the room you will not make it far without stumbling. That is exactly God’s point about idols of your heart; eventually, they will cause you to sin.

An idol is anything that rules me other than God. Sin is fundamentally idolatry [cf. Romans 1:21-25 & Matthew 6:19-24]. Idolatry is the great exchange: creation for the Creator. Here is a great truth from this passage: Whatever rules your heart will exercise inescapable influence over your life and behavior. You live for some kind of treasure. Whatever you treasure will control your heart, “where your treasure is your heart will be also.” [Matthew 6:21] Whatever controls your heart will control your behavior, “no one can serve two masters.” [Matthew 6:24]

Isn’t it impossible to know the heart of another man? Yes, you can only see the outside of a man [behavior]. However, Hebrews 4:12-13 tells you that the Bible is like a scalpel. It cuts through layers of flesh and exposes the condition of your heart. Although you do not have x-ray vision to any mans heart, God and His Word do. The Bible is a heart-revealer. The Word of God has the power to change your heart. That is the Bible compares itself to a surgical tool that can cut to the innermost part of your soul—the heart. For without heart change, there is no real change. Here are some great x-ray questions to ask to see the condition of your heart, preparing you for potential heart change:

What do you love? Hate? What or who do you trust? Who do you seek to please? Whose opinion matters most? Who are your role models? Who do you want to be like? What makes you tick? If this were your last day on earth what would you do? How would others describe you on your deathbed? What is your definition of success? What would make you feel rich? What brings you greatest joy? What do you desire, crave, lust, and wish for? What desires do you serve and obey? What is your life aim? Goal? Purpose? Where do you bank your hopes? What do you fear or worry about? Where do you find refuge, safety, comfort, escape or security? What do you pray for? How do you live with yourself? Where do you find your identity? How do you define what you are?[1]

Next week we will talk more about understanding your heart and in the weeks that follow how to guard your heart from influencers in our world seeking to distract you from giving all your heart toward God.


[1] Taken from an article by David Powlison, X-ray Questions: Drawing Out the Whys and Wherefores of Human Behavior, The Journal of Biblical Counseling, Volume 18, Number 1, Fall 1999. Pgs. 2-9

walking in new life

Change is a part of life. Changes happen around you all the time. The seasons are constantly changing, your body changes with age, styles of hair, clothing, and home decor change, and technology changes so fast that it is difficult to keep up-to-date. Change is part of the world that God has created. Though you live in a world that is changing it does not mean you like it. Most do not like change.

Now there is a part of change that we do appreciate and enjoy—newness. We enjoy spring when all things become new. We enjoy babies being born. We enjoy having a fresh clean new look. We like getting new cars, home, or toys. Most people dream about what it would be like to live a new life. If you can have a new life what would you do?

If you are in Christ you have a new life. Now when it comes to this new life in Christ, God does not just want to save you, He wants to change you.[1] Paul compares the new life in Christ as a walk—or way of life. When Paul talks about “walking in a manner worthy of the calling you have been called” [4:1-3] he talks about more than a temporary fix [or new habit for a new year]; rather walking in new life is changing into a whole new way of living.

do not walk as you once did [Ephesians 4:17-21]

Paul shares the truth of walking in new life with urgency and divine authority, “you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do.” [v.17a] He is not throwing out suggestions or casual comments, rather it is as if he were saying, “I share this with you, and insist on it in Christ.” Paul calls believers not to walk as they once did before Christ, so he contrasts the way an unbeliever with the new life in Christ. Can you identify 7 characteristics of the Gentiles lifestyle? [vs.17-19] They can be summed up by three marks of an unbeliever.[2] The picture you get of our plight without Christ is not pretty.

First, you were futile in your thinking [v.17b]. Futile in thinking means before Christ your thinking failed to produce the results or failed to achieve the goals. Your mind was always searching, but never finding satisfaction. You were left feeling empty, falling prey to foolish idolatries, and fumbling for answers because you are not in touch with true reality, rather restless with trivialities. Most thinking of an unbeliever is rooted in self, which asks, “How can I change things?” When a follower of Christ asks, “How does Christ change things?”

Second, you had a Godless outlook on life [v.18]. You were estranged from God. You were like foreigners in an unfamiliar land without a compass or sense direction. You were walking, but getting nowhere. You did not know your way because you have no understanding of God because you were visually impaired spiritually. You were ignorant to His purposes and plans. Your knowledge of Him does not translate into a relationship with Him. It is not so much what you know, but what you do with what you know. Before Christ you deliberately refused and rejected a Godward life leaving you hardhearted toward the way of God.

Third, you were controlled by your moral callousness and consuming passions [v.19]. You had spiritual leprosy that dulled your sensitivity to sin. You are unable to exercise self-control because you had no power over your cravings. You had no shame. Your life was like a spiritual episode of the Jerry Springer Show. You were morally depraved and consumed to please only yourself. You were in a vicious cycle of wanting to stop sinning, but not knowing how nor having the right motivation.

I told you, the picture of our plight was not pretty. As I read down through this list I am sickened by my former spiritual state. I think that is the point. You should have a bad taste in your mouth over your former way of life. This is not the way a believer has learned Christ [vs.20-21]. Now the prerequisite for a changed life starts with godly desire to change [cf. 2 Corinthians 5:17]. Your thinking changes the way you act; God-centered thinking leads to God-centered action. How can you change your thinking you ask? Hold tight.

how to walk in new life in Christ [Ephesians 4:22-24]

A changed life and God-centered thinking are the fruit of your salvation in Christ. Jesus is more than just the Savior of sin; He is the change agent for all spiritual growth. When you begin a relationship with Christ you can expect a lifelong journey with Him. Paul shifts his attention from your former way of walking to walking in the new life. He gives three ways to walk away from your former way of life. This is how the gospel affects your thinking:

First, kill your old self [v.22]. Why does the old self need to be put off? It is corrupt through and through with deceitful desires.[3] Think of an old building that is no longer safe and without hope of being fixed. Instead, it needs to be demolished. Likewise, the old man full of sinful decay needs to be trashed. Do not hold on to the remnants of your former way of living. It destroyed you then and will seek to destroy you now.

Second, renew your mind [v.23]. Once the old self is destroyed it needs to be replaced with a new structure. At this point we allow God to remodel our mind from the foundation to the structure to the interior décor. God is not concerned about a beautiful looking building on the outward; He is challenging us to consider the inward. He wants to renew our control-center—the mind [cf. Romans 12:2; Colossians 3:10]. Before our relationship with Christ our mind was motivated by self, but in Christ He moves in to be at the center.

Third, replace the old by putting on righteousness and holiness [v.24; cf. Col.3:12]. God not only author salvation, He wrote the manual on how to live following salvation. Remember, Christ came not just to save you, but to change you form the inside out. As Timothy Keller says, “the gospel is not just the ABC’s of your faith it is the A-Z’s” of your spiritual growth. You created in the likeness God, but in Christ you have the power and motivation to become like Him [2:10; Galatians 6:15]. What is God like and what are you to strive to be like? He is righteousness and holiness [v.24].

How can you know if you are really changing in Christ? As changed follower of Christ walking in the way you will have a godly response to trials, know the sins you struggle with a growing desire to walk away [Galatians 5:19-21; Colossians 3:5-9], you humbly allow others to confront you in love, you enjoy accountable from others for change, and you involve God in the change process giving Him all the glory. Have you experienced the new life in Christ like this?

Do you know why railroad tracks are 4ft. 8 ½ inches apart? These measurements are rooted from the English who set train tracks into motion, but their width apart has a long history. 4ft 8 ½ inches is the width wagon wheels are apart, the width of ruts in the road, the width of Roman chariots, which all come from the width of two horses butts put together. We are people who do not like change.

If you are like me, there are many areas in your life that you would still like to change. Walking in the way of Christ is a life long journey of growth and changes; the new life is just the beginning. What changes do you need to make in your thinking? Are you ready to allow the work of Christ to help you walk in His ways?


[1] Cf. 1:6,12,14; Matthew 5:16; 1 Peter 2:12

[2] Cf. Romans 1:20-23; 2 Corinthians 4:3-6

[3] Cf. Romans 6:6; Colossians 3:9; 1 Corinthians 2:14; 15:33; 2 Corinthians 11:3

changing tracks

Changing Tracks

Having no emotion,
What notion?
Being stagnant as a rusted locomotion!
Stationed

Don’t know why?
As I try,
That desert tear ducts lack cry
Electrified

A build up,
Trained playing pup.
The water to the brim of a cup.
Dumped

My hair falls out,
Then I pout.
Attitude, behavior, character drought.
Clouted

Want to sleep,
No past to keep.
Still can’t get into the deep.
Weeped

In whisper voice,
Uplifted praise.
Honest prayer to Lord Jesus raised.
Rejoiced

Unrepentant sin,
World crashing in.
No matter what, Satan can’t win.
Grinned

Calling above,
Hearts shove.
Curvy, hilly highway–minds drove.
Loved

Now is emotion,
Great notion!
Moving swift as a shiny locomotion.
Restationed

a fruitful look at forgiveness

We have defined forgiveness as a decision to treat an offender as if the offense never happened at all. Forgiveness is a choice. Forgiveness is an event, not a process [i.e. Jesus on the cross]. Forgiveness is not forgetting, rather it is not dwelling. Forgiveness is like taking a trash bag full of pain and hurt and throwing it away. However, many people like to go to the dump and dig through their old dirt, but that gets you more messy and stinky.

The Bible paints a picture of forgiveness as a tree with deep roots and healthy fruits. The Bible uses this illustration to say that what comes out of a man’s mouth shows you what is in his heart [cf. Luke 6:43-46]. The root of the matter is the heart. The fruit is our behavior. Ephesians 4 gives a practical principle of how to test the quality of fruit by getting at the root issue. God has not called us to be fruit inspectors; rather we are to be root investors.

When I hold onto unforgiveness I will produce destructive fruit [Eph 4:31].

We often ignore or fail to realize the cost of unforgiveness. The cost of unforgiveness is loss of intimacy with God, loss of relationship with others, and stunted spiritual growth [i.e. put off—bitterness, rage, anger, etc.]. If I do not deal with my ungodly anger quickly it will soon be snowball that ends in a deadly avalanche.

I want you to get a real look at forgiveness [Is.55:8-9 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”]. This is not just a passage about the bigness or smartness of God, in the context it is about His forgiveness. You see we measure our forgiveness with a yardstick: Are they worthy of my forgiveness? And how much am I suppose to forgiven them? God’s forgiveness cannot be measured or compared to our view of forgiveness. Our forgiveness is so little compared to God’s. We cannot conceive the boundaries on God’s forgiveness.

When I unleash forgiveness I produce delightful fruits [4:32a]

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another.” When I put off the fruits of the old man and begin to live as the new man Christ created me to be I begin to bear fruit that is in His likeness [cf. Gal.5:16ff]. His image has rub off on me. You cannot fake this kind of fruit for long. It is the result of an intimate relationship with the maker and sustainer of the universe.

Growing up my grandpa Dale had a few apple trees. The apple tree didn’t produce much. It just produced dry, wrinkled, brown and mushy apples. Let’s say gramps decided to fix the tree one year. He went out to the tree with trimmers, a staple gun, stepladder and a box of apples he bought from the store. He cuts off the bad apples and puts on the new store bought ones. Did he fix the tree? Stapling apples will not help because they will just rot too. Forgiveness that doesn’t reach the heart [roots] does not last. Cosmetic changes never satisfy. Are you stapling fruit? You can know if you are forgiving person if you have the freedom to give your best, most, and greatest to God and others without reservation.

Why do I need to be forgiving? What is my motivation? [4:32b-5:2]

“As God in Christ forgave you…” When I forgive I am most like God [cf. Matthew 6:12]. I want to be forgiving because I realize how much I have been forgiven. Stop for a moment. Think about all God has forgiven you. Are you amazed? How can you not be impacted by that truth? Think about those you are having a difficult time forgiving. How can God’s forgiveness motivate you to forgive today?

I am certainly no trekkie, but in conclusion we are going to take forgiveness through to the fourth dimension. Here is how we must deal with unforgiveness: First, defer to God. All forgiveness is from God—He is the final frontier [John 20:22-23]. Second, decide to take the initiative. God gives the grace, and you must you decide to enter the race [cf. Lk.15:20; Rom.12:18]. Third, disengage from your emotions. Even if you don’t feel like forgiving that is not an option [Gal.5 “fruit of the Spirit”; Is.43:25]. Fourth, the final dimension is to deliver your enemies to God through much prayer [cf. Luke 6:27-28].

transformodification

Does God want to change my sinful behavior into behavior that glorifies God? You bet. However, you must be careful that you do not make behavior modification the goal of discipleship. God desires transformation in His followers.

“When morphing [transformation] happens, I don’t just do the things Jesus would have done; I find myself wanting to do them. They appeal to me. They make sense. I don’t go around just trying to do the right things; I become the right sort of person.”[1]

People will come to your church to know more about God [in fact, this was the number one survey reason why teens come to FUEL]. People are curious how God fits into their life. They take the bits and pieces they like or pick and choose the ideas they are convinced will change their situation. However, viewing God like this is no different that believing He is a psychologist, medical antidote, or genie-in-a-bottle.

Changing the outside of a man doesn’t mean his insides are changed [cf. Matthew 23:25-26]. In other words, asking an unbeliever to be like Christ is similar to asking an alcoholic to quit drinking cold turkey. The alcoholic may go to AA, find community, and successfully quit his/her drinking addiction, but often trade addictions [i.e. begin smoking] because they are not encouraged to deal with the root issue of their addiction. Encouraging a non-follower to change attitudes and actions without the heart motivation doesn’t lead to lasting or permanent change. They will eventually fail because they do not have a relationship with Christ or true connection to the community of Christ [His church].

If we teach change before teach about Christ we are setting our disciplees up for disaster. Changing behavior to be like Christ without having a relationship with Christ can feed pride, give false assurance, and create an I-am-all-right-with-this-now attitude. Behavior on the outside might appear Christ-like, but on the inside they have a twisted and wicked heart. Whatever rules the heart will exercise inescapable influence over the person’s life and behavior.[2] I am reminded often that God is solely after obedient hearts.

“These people come near to Me with their mouth and honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me. Their worship of Me is made up only of rules taught by men.”[3]

Don’t piecemeal God into your life; He wants to break you so that you give Him everything. I want to encourage those I am discipling to or in Christ to stop fitting God into their plans and start fitting their life into God’s plan. I want to help them count the cost of commitment to Christ. Help facilitate change of the heart first and foremost to see God bring about transformodification [and yes, I did make the word up].


[1] John Ortberg, The Life You’ve Always Wanted, Grand Rapids, MI. Zondervan, 1997. 23.

[2] Paul Tripp, Instruments In the Redeemer’s Hands, P&R Publishing, Phillipsburg, NJ, 2002, 68.

[3] Isaiah 29:13

hokey-pokey theology

Who doesn’t love doing the Hokey-Pokey?  I suppose it is in my Polish roots, but this song never gets old It is a classic song of putting various body parts in, then out and shaking them all about.

The song Hokey-Pokey can remind us a lot about biblical change and the God of change. There are often sinful areas of our life that we are willing to put in or give up to God, but other areas we are not so willing. God asks us to put our left foot in, but also our whole self. God doesn’t want us to be hokey or pokey when it comes to biblical change.

First, if we desire to be like Christ we must be the real deal like He is. There are too many fake-n-bake Christians [especially on TV] who display hokey lives.

Second, when it comes to biblical change God desires us to change right now and not procrastinate while waiting for a better day or becoming pokey in dealing with habitual sins. Rather the Bible says we are to put off our old ways and put on the new [cf. Ephesians 4:17-32; Colossians 3:1-17]. Christ says if we commit our lives to Him we are a new creation.

Now I do not think that the meaning of the song Hokey-Pokey is about being hokey or pokey. It is a joyful party song. We would have more joy in our lives if we would allow God to changes us from the inside out. Here is my take on some new lyrics for Hokey-Pokey teaching a bit of theology:

Put your new self on, put your old self off,

Put your new self on and make a joyful shout,

Don’t be Hokey Pokey or God will turn your life inside out,

That’s what it’s all about!

renovations

renovation site

Have you ever been involved with renovations before? I remember after my house flood a few years ago I had to renovation about 75% of my home. Renovations usually take longer than they tell you it is going to take (3-4 months), cost more than they tell you (way more), are messy and inconvenient, and you wonder why you started the renovation process in the first place.

When we are convicted we need to change sinful habits in our lives they often feel like renovations. Now when the renovations are complete we love the results. Here are are a few truths about renovating types of change:

Change comes with pain. Change hurts at times. When were uncover secretive sinful areas and live in the light the process can be painful. It can be painful because we fail at times trying to change. We don’t like the change and like a magnet we are drawn back to our old ways. As the saying goes, “Old habits are hard to break.” Yet if you continue in your sinful habits you will continue to reap a sinful lifestyle:

Galatians 6:7-8 says, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.”

sunflower-seeds-stripedI live in Indiana, so this farming analogy God uses in the Bible makes sense. I understand that if you sow corn you will reap corn. If you sow soybeans you will reap soybeans. Now if you sow a sinful lifestyle you will reap destruction, but if you sow the Spirit you will reap life. It is that simple. If you think you are superman or superwoman and that your sin will never affect you it is time you drop your cape. You cannot cover in your sin for long, nor can you break sinful habits without the supernatural power of God. If you think you have super powers of your own: Hosea 8:7 say, “They will sow the wind and reap the whirlwind” Prov.22:8 “He who sows wickedness reaps trouble.” Reaping sin is like reaping up the villain and giving him strength rather than killing it.

spin cycleChange comes with cycles. Like a washing machine goes through spin cycles before the clothes get clean, so we go through cycles before we grow in the process of change. The usual cycle goes something like this: Change > Conflict > Growth. There comes a point in the change process that is a battle. The conflict is tough. The desire to give up is there. God encourages us to fight our way through the crowd of conflict because the result will be glorious.

Change comes with a cost. Change can’t be bought at the dollar store. Change isn’t cheap. Our change cost a life. It took the bloodshed of God and the death of Christ to make the payment for your sinfulness. Jesus doesn’t want to just save you; He wants to change you.

Change comes with radical rewards. Our normal response to change is resistance. We resist because of the conflict. Most do not like to deal with conflict, but if they do not fight through it with God’s help they miss out on the reward. The reward is not removal of the mind, but a renewal the mind. We will use more of our minds for Christ.

Remember Prov. 28:13? “He who conceals his sin does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.” God will shower you in His mercy. You cannot handle the amount of mercy and grace He gives. I have had this David Crowder song stuck in my head the past few weeks. There is a line in the song that goes like this:

He is jealous for me, Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree, Bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy.
When all of a sudden, I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory, And I realize just how beautiful You are,
And how great Your affections are for me.

We are His portion and He is our prize, Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes,
If grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking. And Heaven meets earth like an unforeseen kiss, And my heart turns violently inside of my chest, I don’t have time to maintain these regrets, When I think about, the way…He loves us.

We are under construction and the renovation of change in our life comes with pain, cycles, cost, but has radical rewards.

hide-n-seek

hide and seek

What was your favorite game as a kid? When I was a kid I really loved to play hide and seek. You remember begin a little kid and finding that secret spot where no one could find you? As an adult we get better at hiding and our secrets more difficult to be found. No one might know you have been struggling with an eating disorder because of a poor self-image, cutting to stop the other pains in your life, bathing your eyes with pornography or abusing substances to drown out the noises and pressures you feel.

Have you ever noticed how little-little kids play hide and seek? They want you to find them. In fact, when you sneak around the room saying, “Where are you?” They say, “Over here!” They do not get the fact yet that you are suppose to stay quiet and not be found. They have childlike innocence. We need to be more like those little-little kids with God. Uncovering our sin, before He covers it. Wanting to be founds and saying, “I am here!”

We see an example of this in the book of Mark [5:25-26]. Except it is not a kid, but an older woman. Can you picture the scene? There is a loud noise from the crowd. Everybody wants to talk, touch and tweet with Jesus. In the midst of the crowd Jesus has an interesting encounter with a woman hiding in the crowd who desired to change.

This woman had been hemorrhaging for 12 years. Women, think of it as a 12 year straight period. In the Jewish culture she would be considered unclean. Therefore, she would have been rejected religiously, socially and more. Maybe you can relate to this woman. I know I have at times. You feel like you are hemorrhaging with sinful habits, bad decisions, secret junk and no one can help. You are just a face in the crowd.

What can we do when we are in a situation like that? We can learn a lot from the example of the woman in this text:

1. Quit Trying to Change on Your Own [5:27-28]. This woman came to the ropes end. She is rejected, spent and tried it all, and failed. We often make attempts to make drastic changes in our lives only to fall flat on our face. Discouragement creeps in and we no longer make any attempts to change.

There are numerous ways people try to change their secret sin struggles: money, self-help, work, medicate, recruit others to sympathize with you or ignore it all together. None of these permanently deal with the problem, rather they just deal with the symptoms, not the problem, bring others into sin with you, and create bigger and harder issues to deal with later. Without realizing it you have become a puppet and these so called easy fixes are like the puppeteer controlling your life. The truth is: if you do not kill the sin, sin will kill you.

This woman had no promise that Jesus would heal. Maybe He would reject too. Many think that God cannot change them. So they keep themselves covered by concealing their sins. We are professional concealers. Think of all the household items you own that conceal [ie. White Out, table cloth, make-up, bandaid, etc.]. Are you a professional concealer?  Don’t conceal, deal with sin by allowing God to heal it.

2. Fight through the Crowd to Find Christ [5:29-32]. The woman is desperate to change. She fights through the crowd. She swims against the current of those who reject her. Decisions of faith are often a fight. Faith goes against the norm. Faith is often the opposite message you hear from friends, culture or school. I remember when put my faith in Christ it was an all-in-and-no-looking-back leap.

It is not that Jesus didn’t know who touch Him; rather he wanted to recognize the woman. Sometimes we think that if we uncover our sin to God that He will humiliate us, when He really wants to honor us in front of the crowd.

3. Confess your Sin and Be Free [5:33-34]. Pride is what usually prevents us from falling before the feet of Jesus. Humble yourself and uncover your sin and let Christ free you from the guilt and shame of secret sin. Face your fear by falling at the feet of the one who wants to heal you permanently.

Quit playing your childish games and be like the little-little kid that wants to be found, “I am here!”

Hide no more in your sin. Seek the protection of your God. “You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with shouts of deliverance. I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.” Psalm 32:7-8

change that covers it all

crazy costumes for kiddos

Halloween. Tis the season for costumes. Sometimes it is fun to change into a costume to represent or pretend to be something that you are not. We cover up who we really are to be something we are not. Do you remember some of your favorite costume as a kid?

Everyone has something they want to change. Some want to change their appearance, others, situation in their life, and others bad habits. When it comes down to it changing is difficult. Change might excite you or scare you to death.

Since this week is the holiday to horrify, I have something shocking to tell you: YOU CANNOT CHANGE!! Think about it. It is true. Sorry to burst your bubble, but you cannot change. Alone. As hard as you try you cannot change on your own. It takes supernatural help to make lasting and permanent change. It takes the hand of God.

God is a God of change. Though interesting enough the Bible says, “I do not change.” [Mal.3:6] How is this possible? How can God be a God of change if He does not change Himself? God is the only One who can help us change things in our lives. When we open the lids of our souls and allow Him in He will change us from the inside out. Sure I can change things in my life, but only God can bring about lasting and permanent change. Without Christ and His salvation we are just trying, trekking and tweaking superficial change. What we need is supernatural change. Only Christ can give us the capacity to change. He changes us by gives us the power and desire to change.

You see we are masters at keeping areas of our lives covered and unchanged. Like the vendors in big cities who sell Foakleys, Fo-purses, Fo-jewery, and Fo-movies, we can become Fo-Christians who model Christ-likeness on the outside, but on the inside we are dirty rotten sinners. We have all lived lives like that before. We show one thing, but reality we are another. Yet we cannot cover up for long.

What we cover, God uncovers.

You might have heard it said that “Sooner or later your sins will find you out.” [Num.32:23] Like a celebrity tabloid your dirt will be revealed. Proverbs 28:13 says, “He who conceals his sin does not prosper…” Nothing good comes from covering up our sin. If we try to cover it up we will never discover the life God wants us to live.

When we cover ourselves in sin, we cover ourselves in darkness [1 Jn.1:5-10]. We cannot walk in the light. We stumble and fall over our sin. It is time to step in the light. What we cover, God uncovers. But that is the first half of the verse. Aren’t you glad that God doesn’t leave us hanging there? Proverbs 28:13 goes on to say, “…but whoever confesses and renounces [sins] finds mercy” That is good news.

What we uncover, God covers.

The word “confess” means, to agree with God about your condition. It is saying, “I see that I am a sinner.” It is telling the truth to God. God is not surprise, “You did what!?” Of course God already knows that you are a sinner, but He enjoys it when His children admit it.

It does not stop at confession. We must “renounce” our sin. In other words we are to leave it behind, turn from it, walk the other way, chose the Light, repent. This is the moment God does His supernatural changing work inside of you. When we uncover our junk the blood of Jesus covers our sin [1 John 1:8-10]. He covers us with His mercy and forgiveness.

Are you inconsistent with church or personal Bible study because you are afraid of changing in Christ? Do you hang around sinful sympathizers to cover up your sin and keep your junk and funk from God? The key to change is: uncovering your sin and allowing God to cover it in His mercy. Confess and renounce your sin today.

Note: this message is adapted from ineed2change.com