Thursday, November 29, 2012

Confidence vs. Conceit

There is nothing wrong with being a confident person; however, it does matter what or Whom we put our confidence in. Either our confidence is ultimately in God or in ourselves. One is faith and the other is arrogance, pride, and conceit. We need only look to one of the most powerful men ever to walk the earth to discern the difference, for it is a lesson he himself had to learn.

Daniel 4:28-30 says, “All this happened to Nebuchadnezzar the king. Twelve months later he was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon. The king reflected and said, 'Is this not Babylon the great, which I myself have built as a royal residence by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?'”
Here we see Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon, in all his glory and pride. His confidence was in what he himself had built, and he gave no credit to God for giving him the kingship and the kingdom. He believed that he built this great ancient empire by the might of his own hand and for his own glory. In his mind, there was no need to glorify God or thank Him because he was the center of the universe and the source of his own benefit. It can be very difficult to recognize dependence upon God and to give Him all glory, not just some for “helping.” Either God is our all in all and the only sufficient One, or He is not. For Nebuchadnezzar, God wasn’t even deserving of some glory, and he gave Him none.    God had a purpose for Nebuchadnezzar, and He knew that Nebuchadnezzar could and would praise Him if only he had his eyes opened. However, for a man of such great pride, it would take a great fall.
Daniel 4:31-33 says,“While the word was in the king's mouth, a voice came from heaven, saying, 'King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is declared: sovereignty has been removed from you, and you will be driven away from mankind, and your dwelling place will be with the beasts of the field. You will be given grass to eat like cattle, and seven periods of time will pass over you until you recognize that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind and bestows it on whomever He wishes.’ Immediately the word concerning Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled; and he was driven away from mankind and began eating grass like cattle, and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair had grown like eagles' feathers and his nails like birds' claws.”
Even before Nebuchadnezzar had a chance to finish his arrogant sentence, God passed judgment on the king. He took away the throne and took away his sanity so that he was like an animal, eating grass like cattle. All his peers saw what happened to the king, and a more humbling scenario couldn’t have been conceived of. This lasted seven years until he realized that God was King and that he was merely a steward of God’s earthly creation. Even his throne was a gift and blessing of God, not something he deserved or merited. It was God’s ordaining, not his dictating, that held ultimate sway.

Daniel 4:34-35 says, “But at the end of that period, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever; For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, And His kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, But He does according to His will in the host of heaven And among the inhabitants of earth; And no one can ward off His hand Or say to Him, 'What have You done?'”

It is interesting that Nebuchadnezzar was able to praise God first and then his reason returned to him. If he was totally mentally gone, he wouldn’t have been able to pray. So even though he was acting like an animal, there was enough going on inside his head to still call out to God. God left him with enough mental capacity to understand and appreciate what it was like not to have the ability to release himself from this seven year bout of crazed behavior. When he was finally ready to acknowledge God as having all power, God let him have his sanity back. He learned that he couldn’t dictate things to God and that there was an Authority higher than his own. He realized that he was nothing compared to God in terms of all possible aspects. He recognized a greater kingdom than his own, and he finally understood his dependence upon God, even for his own sanity, let alone for his throne. He understood that he was but a man and that God deserved his praise and worship.

There was no reason that the king’s peers would allow him to rule again, but they did by God’s grace. His counselors and nobles began to seek him out, realizing that he had great wisdom even if they didn’t realize that it was God who was adding surpassing greatness to him. But Nebuchadnezzar realized just Who it was Who was giving him favor. He learned that God is just and not cruel, teaching him a lesson out of love for His glory so that he would glorify Him. The most important thing he learned was what he said last, that God is able to humble those who walk in pride. This is what separates those who are confident in God and those who are confident in themselves. The prideful and arrogant are wicked because they don’t believe or acknowledge that God is able to humble them. They don’t fear or respect Him, let alone glorify and worship Him. It is very tough to be a haughty, pride-filled person when being fully aware that God could make us bound up in a shell of insanity at any point should He see fit. He could take all our possessions away or afflict us with ailment after ailment. Because God is just and holy, He won’t harm people for no reason. In ordaining these events for Nebuchadnezzar, God actually reached out to Him in extravagant mercy, laying it on thickly for seven years. Finally, Nebuchadnezzar repented and turned to God. If we need humbling as God’s children, if we wrestle with believing that we are fully dependent upon God, or if we struggle to submit our ways to Him, He will gladly show us the truth. The process may not be pleasant, but the end will be.   

Confidence in self is always a phony confidence because the foundation is mere dirt. That, after all, is what man is made from (Genesis 3:19). Godly confidence, on the other hand, is an assurance not of one’s own ability but of God’s power working in and through His faithful and obedient children for His glory and not for our own. It is a boast not in man but in God, thereby giving Him all the glory. Nebuchadnezzar was confronted with this kind of confidence once before by Daniel, who stood in his fiery furnace unfazed by his commands. This minion, about to be executed, had more confidence than he did because of his God. That which had previously stirred Nebuchadnezzar to wrath (Daniel 3:19) now moved Him to worship.  Indeed, there is a God who is more powerful than the king (Daniel 3:15).

May God rid us of any confidence that comes from the wrong place, for such is sin and glorifying only to self. May we be confident people because we are confident in God.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Payment plan

For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Hebrews 10:30-31
Someone may be in debt to you. They may owe you money, a reputation, an apology, a job, or a childhood. But God is asking you to let go and let Him. Let Him handle this. He has a payment plan for those who are in debt to his children. It may mean He wipes their slate clean with minimal repercussions. It may mean their stiff neck forces God to bring them to the end of themselves through trials and tribulations. Or, it may mean that what awaits them is an eternity of reaping in hell what has been sown on earth. But God’s position is one of judge and jury. You do not have to carry this burden or responsibility. Your role is to forgive and to trust God with the proper judgment and consequence.

Life gets complicated and draining when we take on the responsibility of making sure a person gets what he deserves. This is arrogant and unwise on our part. How can we know what others deserve for their injustices, neglect, and self-absorption? Our role is not to play God, but to serve God. Playing God is a never-ending disappointment. We were not made for that role. Only the Almighty can fill these shoes. And He does have it under control. There is no indiscretion or blatant injustice that is off His radar screen of sensitivity. He picks up on every “little” sin.

So, rest in the assurance of knowing God will pay back in His good timing and in His good way. Give this person or issue over to God. Do not bear the responsibility of executing payback time as if you trying to live out a James Brown song. Your role is to forgive and let go. God’s role is to establish a payment plan of justice and judgment.

You can bring reconciliation to a fractured family relationship by forgiving. Once you have forgiven, trust God to administer whatever punishment He sees as fitting. He may see a broken and contrite heart in your offender that leads to their salvation and freedom in Christ. Your forgiveness and unconditional love may be the very thing God uses to illustrate what they can experience up close and personal. Forgive and give. Forgive them of their hurt, insensitivity, and selfishness; then give them over to God. Trust Him with His repayment plan. He owns the payback process. His vengeance may be swift, it may be delayed, or it may be dissolved. Regardless, you do the right thing, and trust God to do the same. Vengeance is His, not ours. Payback time is up to God. We have enough in our own lives to consider. Pray for yourself and others to avoid falling into the hands of judgement of the living God, for it is a dreadful thing.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Always Remember

“Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the LORD your God redeemed you. That is why I give you this command today.” Deuteronomy 15:15

God gives good memories to His children. The foundation of what He did has freed them by His great grace and love. Sin shackles the soul with insensitive servitude. Its memories are filled with fear, false hopes and fleeting pleasures. But redemption from Jesus buys back those who step onto the auction block of belief. Sin brings heartache, but Christ brings comfort and joy. God memories make a heart smile in gratitude and obedience.

Remember we were lost, but now we are found. Remember we lived for ourselves, but now we live for others. Remember we were guilty, but now we are forgiven. Remember we were selfish, but now we are unselfish. Remember we were proud, but now we are humble. Remember God was distant, but now He is our heavenly Father. Remember Jesus was a good teacher, but now He is our Savior. Remember the Holy Spirit was strange, but now He is our personal guide. We remember God and our faith flourishes.

“They remembered that God was their Rock, that God Most High was their Redeemer.” Psalm 78:35

Do you suffer from spiritual amnesia? Do you regularly recall the radical love of Christ? He loves you as a beautiful image of His creation. He loves you to the point of laying down His life on your behalf, so by faith you can die to sin and live His resurrected life. The Lord’s ransomed love for you is a special memory of sacrifice. He died for you. 

Yes, remember how He brought you out of citizenship in this world to become a citizen of His kingdom. You serve a risen Savior, not a lying serpent. Your allegiance is to Almighty God, not the almighty dollar. You walk in the light, not in the darkness. Your soul is prayerful, not self-reliant. Your body is a temple of the Spirit, not an object of abuse. Your mind is renewed by truth. Thus, remember who you are: a child of God!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A lil give an take

"Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” Job 1:21

The Lord gives and the Lord takes. He gives life and He takes life. He gives relationships and He takes relationships. He gives blessings and He takes blessings. He gives prosperity and He takes prosperity. He gives opportunities and He takes opportunities. He gives health and He takes health. He gives and takes but He still deserves all our praise, worship, and adoration.

It is easy to praise God when He gives us good things, but it is hard to praise Him when He takes away what we feel is a good thing. Yet, it is the power of praise to the Lord that empowers our faith to endure and mature during these times. Praise to Jesus prompts us to persevere in belief and obedience. He realigns our heart and mind to heaven's expectations instead of bowing to earth's demands. When God gives it’s a blessing and when He takes it is a blessing. He knows our needs 100 times better then we do.

"As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy." James 5:11

Furthermore, the Lord is full of compassion and mercy. His character is not cruel, but caring. He is not harsh, but kind. The Lord is gracious, not mean spirited. However, He is jealous for you. He delights in you for who you are, and who you can become by His grace. His loyal love will not allow you to be enamored with someone or something that competes with Him. Christ removes any competitors of exclusive devotion to Him.

Therefore, you can be content and grateful for the lot in life God has given you. Perhaps He has you in your current career or situation for the growth of your character, spiritual maturity, and competence. Sometimes He rains down grace and other times the sun of adversity beats down in a sweat of suffering. The Lord gives and takes in His timing for His glory. Thus, hold loosely His blessings and burdens, and be ready to receive His great grace and love.

Monday, November 12, 2012


“Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied, “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.” Jonah 1:12

Disobedience is indiscriminate in its influence. One person’s mismanagement of money can bring down the financial fortunes of a company, church, ministry, government or family. One bad decision can cause a series of negative scenarios. Sin is not experienced in a vacuum, its tentacles of trouble wrap around innocent lives.

Because Jonah ran from God he brought into relationships his baggage of disobedience. Innocent bystanders became victims of one man’s foolish behavior. We all have to examine our hearts and make sure we are not projecting our problems onto other people. Are we bringing unresolved anger into our marriage or workplace relationships? Are we running from God or toward God? Indeed, obedience is the remedy for disobedience.

“For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.” Romans 5:19

Are you comfortable with a sin that brings discomfort to those around you? What will it take for you to release it to God, before He releases you to the enemy? Yes, willful disobedience is a dangerous game. It is like an unrighteous round of Russian roulette that commits spiritual suicide. But you do not have to gamble with God. The bets of bad behavior are off when you confess, repent and turn to Christ. He brings calm to the storm.

Moreover, if you are an innocent bystander to another’s bad behavior, look to God for relief. Give them to Him for His care and concern. It is hard to not be fearful of their fate and yours, however you can trust Jesus to judge wisely. Your obedience to Christ models the cure for your friend’s disobedience. And, be willing to release the relationship, so they suffer the consequences and believe God. Pain can produce obedience and salvation.

Friday, November 9, 2012

A long wait yet, it's worth it

In this fast paced, micro wave, instant culture that we live in the term wait is nearly considered profane language. No one wants to hear it, but it is something that all of us have to do, but none of us like doing it. Everyone needs a rush and no one wants to wait. There are nearly 1 billion people in America out of work right now and they are waiting on an employment opportunity. There are people in ICU and CCU at local hospitals and if you frequent the waiting room right now they will tell you that they are waiting on the test results, waiting on the doctor to stop by and waiting to see what the diagnosis says. There are people that are standing in line at Wal-Mart and they are waiting to get to the register, older people are waiting to be appreciated for their years of hard work, young people are waiting to be grown so that they can leave the house and come home when they please, and poor people are waiting to win the lottery so that they can
see what it feels like to be rich. Even though we are all in a rush, waiting seems to be the order of the day.
You see, everyone has to wait! But, there comes a moment in your wait when the wait is over because your turn is next! And that's the Word of healing that the Lord has given us today from His Word! Here's the Word for you today. God has watched you wait long enough and He is about to move on your behalf because He is in your area and your turn is next!
In the Gospel according to St. John 5:1-9 there is a story written of a man who had to wait a long time before his healing came. After thirty eight years his turn came next! God never forgets us no matter how bad it seems. Now here's a good question for you to consider, how do you know when your turn is next?

You know that it's your turn when waiting has become your place of worship. Real worshippers don't just worship at church. But, they worship in a place called the waiting room. It's the place where you are trapped between where you are and where the Lord is taking you and instead of complaining you have just learned how to say thank you while you wait for your change to come. This man in the passage has been waiting for thirty-eight years. Two years short of an entire generation. The amazing part about this record is that we have no complaint launched at all by this waiting warrior. Why? Because he has learned the art of waiting. Here's a great devotional question for you to consider. Have you learned to worship while you wait? If so, what proof do you have? (Read Psalms 40:1-2; Isaiah 40:28-31).

You know that it's your turn when life is at its worse and winning is a matter of spiritual warfare. Here's the truth about waiting, it can make you want to quit, give up, walk away, and throw in your towel. But, that's when you have to roll up your sleeves and say to yourself "I've come too far to give up now! I've just got to wait!" The man in the text has to fight to stay sane. It is spiritual warfare at its best. He has an internal condition, that is causing external problems. He is paraplegic and to make matters worse he has "so-called" friends who are determined to rob him of his blessing. The text puts it on this wise, "every time the water is troubled another steppeth down before me." But, here's what he decides to do, he fights for what he has until he gets what he wants! Here's the greatest footnote of the day, waiting can be a place of warfare and you must find ways to encourage yourself until your healing comes. And the way that you do that is to remind yourself that the Lord is still faithful no matter how long you have to wait and He is not going to let you down. (Read Prov. 3:5-6; Psalms 121:1-3).
You know that it's your turn when the Word brings healing your way. When you are the one waiting you have questions for God. We ask God questions like "why me?", "how long?", "when will my breakthrough happen?", and "if you're God, why won't you help me?" But, when your turn is next and your wait is over, God brings you a Word that has within it questions for you. Jesus asked this man, "do you want to be made whole?" In other words, are you ready for your situation to change? Now here's what's deep. The man in the text does not say yes. The lesson is that when it's your turn, it's your turn even if you're not ready for it. Nothing can stop your turn from happening, not even you. God has some questions for you right now. Listen to His Word to those that are unemployed, God says, "what's that in your hand?" If you just start with what you've got I will do the rest. Listen to His Word for those hurting, confused, bewildered and down, "who told you that you were naked?" God is saying "I know your condition but I am getting to redo your position so that blessing flows in your direction" Here's the healing word of the day, RISE!!!! That's what the Lord wants you to do because you've been down too long. (Read Romans 8:28).
You know that it's your turn when the was of your past becomes the witness for your future. Keep this in mind and never let it leave you. God allows you to be next so that you can tell the rest. If you don't tell it you've missed it. Jesus tells this man to rise, but He also tells him to take up his bed and walk. The same bed that held him down is now what he is told that he should hold up. The stuff that's been keeping you down will soon become the thing that you lift up. The Lord will not let you throw it away and hide it. But, He wants you to take it with you so that the world will know that you have been delivered and set free. It is a witness that your turn was next. Here's a great concluding question, how would you act if your turn was today? Don't wait until it happens, worship while you wait and know that your turn will be next

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Collecting square pegs

“The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.” Luke 7:34

Jesus was a friend of sinners. Yes, Holiness helped unholiness. Godliness gave to ungodliness. Perfection served imperfection. The sinless mingled with sin. Christ was guilty of influencing the guilty toward God for He was God. He ate with them, He drank with them and He laughed with them. His life of love was irresistible to those who lacked true love. His clear, authoritative teaching gave hope, forgiveness, and peace. Like spiritual sonar Jesus came to seek and save the lost. His heart broke for the broken.
We are all sinners, yet there is a difference between a sinner who knows Jesus and a sinner who does not know Jesus. Because we have been saved by the grace of God, we know a better way than the way of waywardness. Like any good father our Father in heaven wants a relationship with His children. By faith in His son Jesus we have full access to God. We are friends with Jesus, so we can befriend others for Jesus.

“And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend.” James 2:23
Are your friendships only with those within the faith? Are any what have been tabbed as outsiders a part of your circle of influence? If so, wonderful—if not, pray for a person who needs your loving hospitality. Like an athletic team you have a home court advantage when you invite someone into your home. Show them a good time, so they can see that God is good by your unselfish service. Sinners need a safe environment to feel accepted and be real.

Maybe you accept an invitation from an unsaved friend on their terms. It may be a golf game, a football or basketball game, a dinner, a social event, or a party. Be pleasant, not preachy. Be a friend with no agenda but to love and be loved. Do not compromise your Biblical convictions — you are in the world without being of the world. Some will find you crazy for your crazy love, but love nonetheless. Sinners need a friend. Are you a friend?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election day thoughts as a Christian

“Then the commander said, ‘I had to pay a big price for my citizenship.’ ‘But I was born a citizen,’ Paul replied. Those who were about to question him withdrew immediately. The commander himself was alarmed when he realized that he had put Paul, a Roman citizen, in chains” (Acts 22:28–29).

Citizenship in a free country means something, especially for Christian citizens. Citizens who are followers of Christ have a platform to live out the teachings of Jesus. A responsible Christian citizen models his Biblical values and principles modestly. Beliefs lived out are truly beliefs, while those unapplied are not real beliefs.

“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:22–24).
This applies to our political beliefs as Christian citizens. We can endorse an independent political party, but we are not autonomous from the Almighty’s influence. Paul was persecuted for his faith, but he still spoke the truth with humble boldness. If we say we believe in the sanctity of life, then we elect congressmen or women who do the same.
If we say we believe in a government that spends less and balances a budget, then we elect leaders who will make hard choices and implement fiscally conservative changes. If we say we believe in free enterprise, then we elect statesmen and women who support the system, even if it requires businesses to fail. Responsible Christian citizens care more.
Because our citizenship is in heaven, we always keep an eye on eternity’s expectations while we deal with earthly issues. It is not creating an entitlement-motivated government that becomes the savior of the masses. On the contrary, it is a political system that ensures the freedoms and liberties of its citizens are not threatened and removed. A diverse people can only be truly unified around common values and principles espoused by God.

Monday, November 5, 2012

He reigns

God reigns over the nations; God is seated on his holy throne. Psalm 47:8
 God reigns over the entire earth. The Lord reigns over everyone. The sun never sets on the omnipresent shadow of our Savior Jesus. He is the greatest in power, high and lofty in dominion, extremely eminent in wisdom and elevated in excellence of glory. Our God reigns, He reigns in war. He reigns in peace. He reigns in crisis. He reigns in calm. He reigns in economic catastrophe. He reigns in economic prosperity. Our God reigns. He reigns over evil. He reigns over good. He reigns over nations. He reigns over individuals. Our God reigns.

He reigns from His holy throne. His is not a throne soiled with corruption and self-serving scenarios. His throne is full of grace, mercy and truth. His throne is marked and defined by holiness. It is a throne that has never been stained with sin, corrupted by cover-up or defiled by injustice. God is seated on His holy throne. He never sits dismayed or in a dilemma. God does not wring His hands in worry. He sits in serenity, for He knows His own power and sees that His purposes will not miscarry. He sits on a throne from where He dispenses truth and wisdom. Therefore, approach His holy throne boldly but reverently.

Furthermore, God reigns over the human heart. It is here that we can submit to or spurn the Lord’s authority. We are wise to jettison the latter. It is in submission to our reigning King Jesus that we come to know His will for our lives. Obedience leads to opportunity. Because our God reigns, He can be trusted. His rules are for our good pleasure. Christ is not a cosmic killjoy. His rules are inviting when we are in right relationship with our reigning King. It is when we resist Him that we foolishly push back from His gracious guidelines. Therefore, love Him and you will love to follow His statutes. Indeed, our God reigns in love and holiness. It is easy to follow an unconditional lover. He reigns lovingly.

Therefore, we have reason to celebrate Christ’s reign. His kingship brings praise to our lips. We have no real reason to worry or stress out because our God reigns. We can put the kibosh on our complaining and murmuring because our God reigns. We can rest in a peaceful sleep at night, not toss and turn in distrust, because our God reigns. We can let go of control and not be controlled because our God reigns. We can give Him our grief, sorrow, and sin because our God reigns.

Our God reigns for the purpose of His glory and His glory alone. It is all about Him and His eternal aspirations. Our God reigns for righteousness’ sake. Our God reigns for the sake of the gospel. Live like He reigns. Live free and by faith. Tell all whom you have earned the right to tell. Your God reigns. Validate your words with your life of faith and faithfulness. Your God reigns. He reigns now and for evermore

Friday, November 2, 2012

Spoken Word

Words are powerful things. God has revealed Himself to us in detail in His written Word (2 Timothy 3:16-17). It is the Word preached that, when heard, can lead to repentance and salvation (Romans 1:16, 10:17). It is the Word that just by its very reading can move hearts and change minds (1 Timothy 4:13). Jesus Himself is even referred to as the Word (John 1:1). Language and communication are God’s inventions, and, as such, Satan has great interest in perverting them. That is what the evil one does, taking the good things of God that can be used for edification, grace, enlightenment, and love and making them into something vulgar, dehumanizing, and certainly not pointed to the glory of God. As Christians, we need to recognize that there are jokes that we shouldn’t laugh at, there is gossip that we shouldn’t participate in, and there are words that we shouldn’t use.

Bridling the tongue is a very difficult part of the believer’s life, but it is one that we cannot dare to ignore. James 1:26 says, “If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man's religion is worthless.” Part and parcel to sanctified living by the power of the Holy Spirit is controlling the words we speak and focusing on saying only that which is useful for edification and God-honoring purposes. Ephesians 4:29 says, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” Believe it or not, I have heard some professing Christians argue that using some degree of foul language is purposeful to convey certain truths or feelings. Some even try to claim that Paul used what we refer to today as curse words or swear words when he spoke of his former life without Christ as being “dung” (Philippians 3:8). The word skubalon, translated as “dung” or “rubbish,” carries extreme revulsion as of excrement, but it was not a parallel in any way, shape, or form to the curse words used today in our time, in our language, and in our culture. The reality is that Paul, who spoke of dung while being under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is the same Paul who in Ephesians said that we should use no unwholesome word. So either unwholesome means that Christians can speak the same derogatory words that the world speaks, or Paul was consistent in his own application of his admonition for God-honoring language. The truth is that Paul was willing and able to state something strongly without crossing the line into worldliness.

“Unwholesome” carries the meaning of rotten, putrid, corrupt, of poor quality, unfit for use, worn out, and worthless. We can all think of words, discussions, outbursts, and conversations that fit these criteria. Worldly talk does not bring grace to the hearer or to the speaker, and it most certainly does not edify. It only defiles. As Jesus Himself said in Matthew 15:11, “It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man.” Pure and undefiled religion before God involves keeping oneself unstained by the world (James 1:27). Part of the way we demonstrate the legitimacy of our walk with God is by not letting even a hint of the immorality of the world impact our speaking and conversations. Ephesians 5:3-4 says, “But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints; and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.” Filthiness is translated from sapros, the same word used in Ephesians 4 for unwholesome. Gutter talk and dirty words are certainly in view here. Silly talk is from morologia, meaning foolish words. By not thinking through what we say before we say it, particularly in light of Biblical truth, we likely will say things that we will later regret. We should focus on making our words purposeful. Jesus always lived His life with purpose and objective. Sure, we can expect that He made some degree of small talk, but it was also with a God-inspired agenda, seeking to create an opportunity for the gospel. He didn’t waste words on pointless gibberish, and neither should we. Coarse jesting is translated from eutrapelia. This includes any rude or abusive remarks such as a racist attack or personal insult. It is the student making fun of the teacher or another student. It is the locker room degrading into sex jokes. Sexual innuendos, a plague in our day, is certainly in view here. We would do well to follow Paul’s admonition in Colossians 3:8, “But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth.”

Our words betray our hearts by revealing who we really are and what we really think. Some people can control their tongues better than others, but unless their hearts are right, eventually evil speaking will pour forth from their mouths. This is why we need to objectively evaluate our walks with Christ by taking a look at what we laugh at, what we say, and whether our words are abusive to others or offensive to God in any way. Our words should edify, minister grace, and demonstrate how thankful we are to be changed from the inside out and freed from language that defiles, debases, and dehumanizes. The apostles couldn’t help but speak of Christ and His glory and gospel, and, even under duress, they spoke praise and thanksgiving. We, under much less severe conditions, too often refuse to give thanks and rather speak malice, anger, abuse, and filth. As God’s people, let us be those who minister healing to others through kind and gracious words and who stand out as an example from the world by speaking truth and not by speaking filth. In many ways, we are, after all, what we speak.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Ain't no half stepping

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” Matthew 7:21-23

There is a false religion that is absent of authentic faith in Jesus Christ. A person who lacks a real relationship with the Lord can know all the right words to say, but does not know the Word that became flesh. This fake follower of Jesus may mislead other church members, but they can’t deceive the ultimate judge—Almighty God. A desperate plea after death does not change an eternal conclusion determined in life. A false faith fails.
Therefore, we are all wise to examine our hearts and ask the Holy Spirit to validate our conversation to Christ. It is the Spirit of our Heavenly Father that drew us to Himself and it is the same Spirit of God that affirms our faith. We do not pass from death to life by just living in a household of faith—we come to Christ by taking hold of faith in Him. Our transaction of trust in Jesus seals our soul’s fate to be with Jesus. He keeps us secure.

“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.” John 6:44
Are you a counterfeit follower of Christ or a true disciple? Are you sure of your salvation? If you are in doubt, seek out your Savior Jesus who can remove your concerns. Cry to Him in confession and repentance from your sin of unbelief and embrace your Lord in fidelity of faith. Just as marriage is a public commitment of a man and woman, so your conversation is a public commitment of your total trust in Jesus. Other sincere saints who humbly seek the Lord surround you in prayer and support, and God offers assurance.
So seek the Lord with an honest heart and He will keep you pure. The Holy Spirit is able to flush out false religion and replace it with genuine faith in Jesus. He is able to remove unscrupulous motives and exchange them for a motivation of love and obedience. Yes, examine your heart, but more importantly allow the Lord to do a spiritual examination. God validates your salvation on this side of death, so there are no surprises on the other side. So, confess Jesus as Lord now and there will be no doubt about your confession later.