February 19, 2013 § Leave a comment
“And let us consider…not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:25 NIV)
Don’t give up church.
The first part of this plea from the writer of Hebrews charges the church not to give up meeting together as believers. You can be a Christian and never meet in a church, because “we have a great priest” in Christ (vs. 21) wherever we are. But who would want that kind of misery? There is much to gain from regular church fellowship. A great benefit is spelled out in the second message of this verse:
Don’t give up, Church.
Go to church and be found “encouraging one another,” something you can’t do outside a community of believers. In fellowship, we can encourage brothers and sisters in our salvation because of the Lamb’s once for all sacrifice (vs. 10), in assurance of forgiveness (vs. 22), in right living (vs. 26), in confidence in what we believe (vs. 35), in perseverance in the faith (vs. 36-39).
I belong to a church that is not without struggles, as is true with any church. I’m grateful for this dual exhortation. I won’t give up on my church, and as a part of it, I can encourage others not to give up God’s work that the church was made to do for His glory.
December 4, 2012 § Leave a comment
This time of year we may experience more often than usual the feeling of a full stomach. When you’ve had enough to eat, you know you can’t fit any more food in you, so you stop… unless you’re a Rottweiler.
The human heart is like a vacuum too. If it feels empty, we will fill it. Sometimes we choose poorly in the filling of our hearts. Once sin finds a home in our heart and mind, showing up in our habits and lifestyle, there’s really just one way to eliminate it effectively. In a practical sense, it can’t be simply removed or forgotten. When you pull something from a vacuum, low pressure forces draw it—or something else nearby—back into it. It must be replaced, selectively, with something good.
There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus.
~Blaise Pascal (French Mathematician, Philosopher and Physicist, 1623-1662)
Pascal recognized the vacuum in the human heart that only found true satisfaction in God. Paul encouraged Christians to “set your minds on things above, not on earthly things”, (Colossians 3:2) and warned against superficial vices: “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.” (Ephesians 5:18)
Choose to ingest Him—through prayer, reading His word, practice worship and right living, and fellowship with other believers. When you are full of something good, there simply isn’t room for lesser things.
“Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.” (Romans 8:5-11)
October 5, 2012 § Leave a comment
God calls people to action. Here are a few of many such callings to “go” in Scripture.
The call of Abram (Genesis 12:1-9): “The Lord had said to Abram,’Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.'”
The call of Isaac (Genesis 26:2-6): “The Lord appeared to Isaac and said, ‘Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land where I tell you to live.'”
The call of Moses (Exodus 3:10-12): “‘So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring My people the Israelites out of Egypt.’”
The call of Jonah (Jonah 1:2): “The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: ‘Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.’”
Jesus calls His first disciples (Mark 1:17): “Come, follow Me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out…”
Jesus sends out seventy-two to preach (Luke 10:3): “‘Go! I am sending you out…”
The Great Commission for all believers (Matthew 28:19): “‘Therefore go and make disciples of all nations…'”
The last call is Jesus’ parting mission for His followers. If we are His follower, it’s likely that someone in our lives took this mission seriously. And if we are His followers, this is our mission too. Christians are supposed to lead others to Jesus. We also are to be living for God, reading His word, praying, worshiping, fellowshipping with other Christians, and striving to be like Christ, putting our Creator first in our lives and loving our neighbors as we do ourselves.
But have you asked yourself, are you ready to really live out the Christian life? Are you prepared to present the Gospel to someone? Are you confident you can give an adequate defense for your faith? Have you memorized enough scripture? Do you read the Bible and pray daily? Have you gotten your Bible college or seminary degree? Or at least taken some good notes at Bible camp? Are you a regular and active member in your church? Are you mature enough? Have you forgiven your enemies and kicked all your bad habits? Theologically, do you know your stuff well enough talk about God to the really smart guy in class or at the office that likes to throw around million dollar words?
When we look at the examples in Scripture of God calling people into ministry, we almost never see a prolonged time of preparation or training for the ministry. God just says “go.” The truth is, if we wait until we think we are “good” enough and therefore ready to fully embrace Christianity, we won’t be ready in this lifetime.
Paul, after writing about what it means to live like a Christian, admits he is far from perfect:
“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things…. Only let us live up to what we have already attained.” (Phil. 3:12-16)
Paul knew he wasn’t there yet, but he knows he needs to press on with an eye on the prize, not on the past or even so much on the present. Christians are a work in process, but during the process, we need to work. Waiting until we are good enough, old enough, smart enough, spiritual enough, confident enough, or some other arbitrary point of progress is the biggest thing that can keep us from progress. Some things we need to wait for and prepare for, but a committed pursuit of Christ isn’t one of them. He didn’t wait to pursue you—“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock.” (Rev. 3:20)
Speaking of Christ’s pursuit of you, if you’re looking for motivation to get serious, gratitude for His pursuit ought to be enough. Think long and hard about the great lengths the Savior went on our behalf, and getting in the game ought to be an easier decision.
Considering the brevity and mist-like consistency of life (James 4:14), how can we delay becoming a full-fledged disciple of Christ? Life is fleeting. The people you can have an eternal impact on will come into your life and they will leave your life, often unexpectedly. They may even take their own life or have it stolen from them. Meanwhile, here we sit, just across the street or across the hall or across the classroom aisle quietly preparing to one day be a Christian so we can reach out to them.
There’s another motivation that is hard to see without experience that comes from faith: I invite you, as Jesus did (John 1:39, 43), and the disciples did (John 1:46) to make other disciples: “Come and see.”
More than once Paul compares the Christian life to running a race. What would it take to get in the race, instead of strolling along the sidelines or just warming the bench waiting for confidence to arrive? Get this: To train for a race, you do the same thing you do in the actual race. You run. If you feel you need to train first to whole-heartedly go after Christ, then whole-heartedly going after Christ is your training—and the race. (Related post: Don’t Settle for Half)
If you’ve been putting off getting serious about Jesus, today is the perfect day to get serious. What on earth are you waiting for? There is nothing on earth that will prepare you, and it’s heaven that we are seeking anyway. Press on, and start today!