Just Because You Say It Enough Times Doesn’t Make It True

Scripture Study:  Matthew 7:21-23

A Powerful Jesus Straight Talk Moment:

“Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’, will enter the Kingdom of heaven.”

Saying that Jesus is LORD doesn’t make it so.

Let me say one thing very clear as I begin this study in Matthew,  Neither Jesus or I am talking about a works theology of earning His grace and salvation.  In fact, there may be some reading this who’ve tried that method.

Jesus indicates on the Day of Judgment…

Clearly, these are individuals who believe they’ve done a lot…

They believe that the stuff they’ve done is going to gain them entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven.  And it’s not little stuff either…it’s preaching…teaching…blogging…engaging in spiritual warfare with demons…it’s miracles!

Jesus isn’t talking to the crowd here, He’s talking to the Church.  He’s talking to people who defend themselves with these words:

  • “In Your name we prophesied!”
  • “In Your name, we cast out demons.”
  • “In Your name, we performed miracles!”

It sure seems to me that the problem here is the statement, “In Your name.” 

Jesus uses this statement 3 times in Verse 22.

My point is that doing stuff in “the name of Jesus” makes you feel good, but if you have no real relationship with Him…if He doesn’t really know you and you don’t really love Him…it’s worse than doing nothing at all, because it leaves you in a state of deception.  In my opinion, and it’s just ‘my opinion, it’s one of the most heretical and damning teachings of the Church today.  Its certainly one of the greatest tools that our enemy, Satan, uses to deceive people who have a loose association with Jesus in the Church today:

“Let the stuff you do become more important than the Leadership of Christ.”

“Let Him just be a name you speak and not a Savior you personally love and serve.”

David Platt, in his book “Follow Me” writes this:

I have a friend – let’s call him John – whose first experience to the concept of hell was during an episode of Tom and Jerry when he was young.

During one particularly vivid scene, Tom was sent to hell for something bad he had done to Jerry.  What was intended to be a humorous cartoon scared John to death, and he later found himself at church talking with an older man about what he had seen.

The churchman looked at John and said, “Well, you don’t want to go to hell, do you?”

“No,” he responded.

John paused.  After an awkward silence, he realized he was supposed to repeat after the man, and so he hesitantly responded, “Dear Jesus…”

“I know I’m a sinner and I know Jesus died on a cross for my sins,” the man said.

John followed suit.

“I ask you to come into my heart and to save me from my sin,” the man said.  John echoed what he had heard.

“AMEN,” the man concluded.

Then the nice, old gentleman looked at John and said, “Son, you are now saved from your sins, and you don’t ever have to worry about hell again!”

Surely what that man told my friend John in the church that day was not true.  Surely this isn’t what it means to respond to Jesus’ invitation to follow Him.

And yet, this story represents the deception that has spread like wildfire across the contemporary Christian landscape:  “Just ask Jesus into your heart and repeat this prayer after me and you will be saved!”

Should it alarm us that the Bible never mentions such a prayer?  Should it concern us that nowhere in Scripture is anyone ever told to “ask Jesus into their heart” or to “invite Christ into their life”?

Yet this is exactly what many professing Christians have been encouraged to do, and they’ve been assured that as long, as they say, certain words. recite a particular prayer, and with every head bowed, every eye closed, (‘no peaky’), told to raise their hand, check a box, sign a card, or walked an aisle, they are Christians and their salvation in eternity is secure.

IT’S NOT TRUE!

We’ve taken the lifeblood out of Christianity and put Kool-Aid in its place so it looks and tastes better to the masses, and the results…are catastrophic.

According to Jesus, “Many…” scores of men and women believe they are saved when they are not.

In Matthew 7, Jesus isn’t talking to atheists and pagans.

He’s talking to people who are associated with Himself and His ministry.  They assume their eternity is safe and will be shocked one day that it’s not.  Even though they professed their belief in Jesus…even did all kinds of works in His name, they never really knew Him…and He never really knew them.

I don’t know about you but His response is heartbreaking.  It sometimes keeps me awake at night and it burdens my soul.

“I never knew you…depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.”

The New International Version (NIV) of the Bible uses the word “evildoer” for “lawlessness.”

Maybe this straight talk reveals the truth of real SALVATION…and the real issue.  Remember, Jesus is using the word “EVILDOER” toward people who thought they were “good”…because they did good things.

The word Greek word “kakos” [bad, evil, wicked] reveals the inner character of a person.  The iniquity, the sin, the wickedness lives in us all.

The inner wickedness and sin cannot be cured in a name association with Jesus or by doing “good works”, that would be like putting running shoes on a corpse.

In Luke’s gospel, someone asked Jesus. “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?”

And here’s His answer:

The narrow door (the gate) is the only way in, and once the owner of the house shuts it, it’s too late.

Here’s the picture:  The door’s shut, but people are knocking and pleading to get in.  But, it’s too late!

And the owner’s response to all the knocking…Luke 13:25 b.

“I don’t know you or where you come from.  Away from me all you evildoers.”

“We hung around you Jesus…we listened to your teaching…we ate and drank your meals.”

“Away from me…you never dealt with your sin…you never knew me…I never knew you.”

No wonder verse 28 records:

“There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth.”

The heartbreak is basing your life on the false hope that “Hey, Jesus is my friend”…but you never died to your sin, you never surrendered your life to His ownership, you never accepted His grace, and now it’s too late!

It all comes down to the truth:  If your heart isn’t open to understanding how much we need God’s grace, you can say a thousand prayers, be baptized over and over again, work your fingers to the bone in Church and you’ll still be lost.

Remember this scripture that the apostle Paul wrote to the Galatians:

What Jesus is addressing in His straight talk in Matthew is the difference between those who know about Him and those who live in Him.  It’s the difference between working for Jesus to earn His favor and walking with Jesus out of an overflow of faith.

When you or I…or anyone else is “in Christ”, we haven’t “received a get out of Jail free card.”  We haven’t been redeemed because we just believe in something.  We’ve died to self and we now have Christ “IN” us through the gift of the Holy Spirit.

If you are no different than you were before or you are no different than the rest of the world around you…

You’ve been DECEIVED and you are not a Christian.

The Barna Study Group Research, published on Agust 4, 2011 is revealing!

Almost half of all Americans claim to be “born again” Christians (I don’t know of any other kind! ).  Out of this group of “born again” Christians, researchers found that their beliefs and lifestyle weren’t indistinguishable from the rest of the world.  Many believe that “works” can earn them a place in heaven, others think that Christians and Muslims worship the same God, and an ever-increasing number describe themselves as only marginally committed to Jesus.

After reading the study, I think the one thing that’s abundantly clear from these statistics:

There are a whole lot of people in the world that think they are Christian but are not!  There are a whole lot of people who think they’ve been born again, but are dangerously deceived!!

Now I understand the concept of different levels of spiritual maturity…babes in Christ versus grown-up followers, but Jesus didn’t come to make good people better, He came to raise dead people to life, and that can’t happen in someone’s life and it not be noticeable in attitudes and actions.

Here’s is an illustration I came upon in my reading this week that I think really fits here:

Imagine you and I set up a meeting for lunch at a local restaurant, and you arrive before I do.

You wait, and wait, and wait, but 30 minutes later, I still haven’t arrived.  When I finally show up, completely out of breath, I say to you, “I’m so sorry I’m late.  When I was driving over here, my car had a flat tire, and I pulled over on the side of the highway to fix it.  While I was fixing it, I accidentally stepped into the road, and a Mack truck going about 70 mph, suddenly hit me head-on.  It hurt, but I picked myself up, finished putting the spare tire on the car, and drove over here.”

If this were the I shared, you would know I was either deliberately lying or completely deceived.  

WHY?  Because if someone gets hit by a Mack truck going seventy miles per hour, that person is going to look very different than they did before.

Jesus isn’t a pussy-cat…

He’s the Lion of Judah and if you come face to face with Him, the Word of Creation, the Sovereign Lord of the Universe and He reaches down into the depth of your heart, saves you from the slavery of sin and transforms you to follow Him…you are going to look different…very different!

So what happens when the Mack truck of God’s glory and forgiveness hits us?

There’s repentance and baptism and resurrection of new life by the Holy Spirit.  And, we begin to look like Jesus in this world, according to 1 John 3:1-10.

DON’T BE DECEIVED!

___________________________________________________________

CREDITS:

Sources:  Interlinear Bible; Vinne’s Complete Expository Dictionary Of Old And New Testament Words by W.E. Vine.

Images/Photos:  Google Image Search.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); New American Standard (NAS); New King James Version (NKJV).

 

Staying Focused Despite the Distractions

A family was driving through the back country roads enjoying a fun day out and Dad was driving while looking for a particular county park to picnic at.  As he drove down the county roads they became more and windier and narrow and as they drove down one of these back roads, he saw a sign that read, “Naturist site ahead.”  Now, Dad had a problem, for the lane was too narrow to turn around; he didn’t want his children to see things they shouldn’t see.  Unable to turn around and unable to back up in reverse, the car carried on forward.  Then suddenly it happened!  Out of nowhere appeared 4 adults on bikes, ALL NAKED.  Before Dad could call out, “Don’t look, kids,” one of his young children beat him to it and called out, “Dad, look!  Those people aren’t wearing cycle helmets!”

Now that’s what I call being focused!

Scripture Study:  2 Corinthians 10:1-18

Despite all the distractions those kids in the backseat of the car were, they focused on one thing!

In this chapter in 2 Corinthians, Paul stayed focused despite the distractions!

Those distractions came in the form of the Apostle’s opponents.

One of the themes found in this second letter to the church at Corinth is the apostle Paul having to defend his apostleship.  Since Paul left this Church in Corinth to go on his third missionary journey other people had come onto the church.  These others came into the Church with their own agenda (false ideas).  They were mixing the old way (Judaism) with the new way (the Gospel of Christ).  So they were altering the message of the gospel from FAITH alone in Jesus to FAITH in Jesus plus works.  Those works taught that a person had to adhere to certain Jewish laws, rituals, and customs if they wanted to be truly SAVED.

Now as soon as you ADD anything to the gospel, it is no longer the gospel!

The emphasis changes from Christ alone, to Christ PLUS…

  • The book of Mormon
  • The teachings of the Watchtower Organization
  • A need for our own good works
  • To man-made rituals and religious ceremonies.

The GOSPEL is complete in itself!  It cannot be improved.

That’s why it is the Gospel (‘Good News’), because it doesn’t rest on us, it depends on Christ.

And when we mess up and fail time after time, Jesus never did and never will!  So we are always accepted in Him and have all that we’ll ever need in Him alone.

Defending the MESSAGE/GOSPEL

The Apostle Paul defends his message/gospel:  We are SAVED by GRACE through FAITH in Jesus Christ alone!  (Ephesians 2:8-9)

And in defending his message, he will need to defend his authority, his apostleship.

I Follow Christ’s Example (vs. 1):

“By humility and gentleness of Christ, I appeal to you…”

The apostle Paul was from Christ, and therefore acted like Jesus.  But his critics (false teachers), and we all have critics, loved to boast in men. [i.e. 1 Corinthians 1:21]

And then in 1 Corinthians 3:21…

[21] “So then, no more boasting about human leaders!  All things are yours, [22] whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas…”

The Church at Corinth had been “swept off its feet” by the personality and charm of false teachers.

These preacher/teachers were teaching that Paul was weak and unimpressive.  But they had the real power!

Notice Paul’s response to these accusations:  “By the humility and gentleness of Christ.”

He tells them that he’s not weak, but meek (gentle).

Only once in the Bible does Jesus describe Himself.

It’s not a claim such as “I am the…etc.”, but an actual description of His inward character.  The encyclopedia has devoted over 20,000 words to describe the person of Christ, yet Jesus used just TWO WORDS:

“GENTLE AND HUMBLE”

Paul, like his master, demonstrated an attitude of meekness (gentleness). 

MEEKNESS means “strength under control” (The Examiner – meekness-strength under control – March 26, 2017).

It’s kind of like a wild stallion that has been broken and now tamed.  It still has as much power as when wild, but now that power is bottled up for the master’s use.

The apostle Paul was never weak!

Paul had risked his life for this Church!  But he was meek (gentle), and he didn’t lord it over the people, he served the Church.

The imposters wanted to dominate, to be seen and recognized as important.  They were what I might call, “Power-house preachers.”  But that in itself didn’t mean displaying the power of God.

So what is the challenge for all of us at this point?

To be MEEK like Jesus, to control our power for a greater blessing of others.

I Use Spiritual Weapons (vs. 3-6)

Deception has always been featured strongly in warfare.  And the purpose is simple.  It’s to gain an advantage so that you can take more ground.

Now the apostle Paul didn’t use carnal (fleshly, worldly) WEAPONS.  He didn’t rely on a ‘strong personality’ or on ‘manipulating’ people.  Instead of relying on human wisdom, human abilities or physical ability, Paul used the WEAPONS of Christian character and the truth of God’s Word.  If you want to show that a stick is crooked, just place it next to a straight stick.

Paul warns them that when he returns, he will smash their clever arguments, smash their false doctrine, and bring to God anyone led astray by false teachers.

NOTICE verse  5:

It’s not performance but obedience that God wants from us.

So the apostle will turn back people’s hearts and minds and place in OBEDIENCE.  And just a note here:  Paul was out to build up and not tear down (vs. 8).

BUILDING UP IS A SIGN OF CHRISTIAN MATURITY…

Tearing down, destroying, is a sign of immaturity.

I remember when my children were little, crawling around on the floor when I would sit down with them with their building blocks, building a tower in front of their eyes.  Then, as I pretended not to be watching, they would crawl over to the tower and knock them down, giggling as they watched them fall and then we would play the game all over again.  But over the months the game changes.  Instead of destroying, knocking the tower of blocks over, they wanted to help me build one.  And why the change?  Because Building Up, creating was a sign of their maturity.  Tearing down, destroying, was a sign of their immaturity.

The Sign of A Healthy Leader In Their Concern to Build Up

Anyone can tear down, anyone can find fault, anyone can become a critic.

But it takes effort and character to build up people and churches.

I Don’t Judge by Appearance (vs. 7-11)

Don’t be fooled by appearance.  Appearances can often be deceptive!

Have you ever wondered what the apostle Paul looked like, what he was really like, in person?  I certainly have!  I think of him as a cross between Clint Eastwood and Tom Cruise– a tough, no-nonsense type of guy!  In my research, I have found it remarkable that only one description I could find of Paul in history and it wasn’t in the Bible.  It was in debatable writing called, “Acts of Paul and Thecia.”  (the work is not inspired, so it may/may not be a true description of him).  [See footnote [t].]

“A man small in size, bald-headed, bandy-legged, well built, with eyebrows meeting, rather long-nosed, full of grace.  For sometimes he seemed like a man, and sometimes he had the countenance of an angel”

You get the impression the apostle Paul wasn’t a looker.  His physical appearance wasn’t too impressive.  And that idea is backed up in this chapter, verse 10:

2 Corinthians 10:10 (NIV)

[10]  For some say, “His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing”

To paraphrase:  “His letters pack a punch but he isn’t much to look at and his preaching is boring!”

Paul knew this is what his critics were saying and so he picks up on this and plays on it in verse one:

I, Paul, who am “timid” when face to face with you, but “bold” toward you when away!

The apostle Paul didn’t judge by outward appearance.  The opponents of Paul did!

They said he doesn’t have the physical presence of a Peter or the eloquent speaking skills of an Apollos.  He hasn’t the dynamism we have when we preach, he is just ordinary!

God is never impressed with outward appearance.  But sadly, so often we are!  We need to constantly be looking deeper at people!

A classic example that comes to mind is 1 Samuel chapter 16.  When David, the skinny runt of the family, was chosen by God to be king over his bulky battle-scarred brothers!

“The Lord does not look at the things man looks at.  Man looks at the outward appearance but the Lord looks at the heart.”

I Let God Do the Commending (vs. 12-18)

‘Check-A-Trade’ is an organization and a resource for local trades in the area i.e. builders, roofers, etc.  And whoever uses their services can give feedback on the ‘Check-A-Trade’ website.  The idea being your customers are the ones who commend you to other people looking for a reliable and good tradesperson, rather than you choosing them because of their advertising and good publicity.

That principle of being COMMENDED by another is what the apostle Paul has in mind here.

The critics and opponents of Paul were part of their own mutual appreciation society who thought highly of each other.  But all they do, says the apostle, is “boast” about themselves.

The word “boasting” is used 12 times in this letter (2nd Corinthians) to the church, which is far more than any of Paul’s other letters,  And it literally means “to glory in.”

While his critics “glory in” their wisdom, accomplishments, and judgments, Paul says in verse 13, that he will only “glory in” the tasks that God has given him.

The apostle Paul goes on to subtly remind the readers and his critics the ultimate goal of the Church…

Not to sit around admiring one another’s assets but rather to see the kingdom of God expand!

Paul reminds us that a Christ-focused ministry is about the gospel going forth into new territories and not about “reworking” something already established.

He put himself out to start a Church in Corinth and now he wants that Church to help in sharing the gospel message in the region beyond (vs. 16).

Missionaries David Livingstone, Robert Moffat, and the Apostle Paul

They all had one thing in common:  A Desire to Share the Gospel to Those Who Had Never Heard!

This was their burden!!

What’s yours?

Verse 18:

As far as commendations are concerned, the only pat on the back the apostle Paul was looking for was from God.  Paul was never impressed by what people thought of him.  He only ever wanted ‘The Father’s approval’.

___________________________________________________________

CREDITS & FOORNOTES

Footnote [i] :  New World Encyclopedia.- Physical description of the apostle Paul.

Images/Photos Used:  Google Image Search.

Bible Translations:  New Living Translation (NLT); New International Version (NIV); New King James Version (NKJV); The Amplified Bible (AMP).

 

 

 

The Spirit and Soul of Man

Scripture Study:  3 John 1:2

I’ve been reading lately through the Apostle John’s three letters and this brings me to the scripture passage in this post:  3 John 1:2.

I believe by and large that Christians don’t have a total understanding of what it means “our soul to prosper.” (AMP)  In my meditations of God’s Word, I believe it would be enlightening to understand what the SOUL is first before going on.

Many people say the SPIRIT and the SOUL are the same things, however, the Word of God differentiates them.

Hebrews 4:12 (NIV)

[12] For the word of God is alive and active.  Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

If the soul and spirit were the same things then why would there be a need to divide them as the Word of God is saying here?

The meaning, the thoughts, and intentions of the HEART are not the same as the thoughts and intentions of the soul.  Since they are different and need to be divided,  it would be beneficial to understand this and know why this needs to be so.

WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENCES?

Why is it so important to know the differences to have a prosperous soul?

I believe it’s critical for us to understand the difference.  I believe it’s vital in order to know when we are receiving something from God and something that’s just flesh.

I know God is Spirit and that He always communicates with our born again spirit, not with our flesh, or mind or soul.  I believe it begins with the Word of God, as the writer of Hebrews says.  We have to start here.  The Word of God is a divider of spirit and soul.

The word HEART is often synonymous with spirit in the Bible.  It’s not talking about the physical beating heart but our spirit.

Jesus said this…

We know He wasn’t talking about physical birth.  He specifically said, “born of the spirit.”

It’s the SPIRIT of man that’s born again.  We know this because He goes on to explain in verses 6-7:

“Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.  [7] You should not be surprised at my saying,  ‘You must be born again.'”

God’s Word tells us…Proverbs 20:27 (NIV)

[27] The human spirit is the lamp of the LORD that sheds light on one’s inmost being.

It is man’s spirit that communicates with God, and also where God communicates with us, not our intellect or emotions.

BORN AGAIN OF GOD

God’s life has been imparted to the one who acknowledges Jesus as LORD.  So, if the spirit of man is “born of God”, then what is the SOUL?

Well, we know it’s not the spirit and we know that it’s not the flesh, so what’s left?

EVERYTHING ELSE is left!

  • Our emotions,
  • Our intellect,
  • Our thought processes, and…
  • Our Minds

All are things that are NOT born again.

Now that brings up an interesting question:  “If we are born again…” then isn’t our SOUL born again too, isn’t our SOUL saved too?  At least I’ve asked that same question and it gets to the heart of this study.

The writer of Hebrews says this…Hebrews 10:39 (AMP)

“But our way is not that of those who draw back to eternal misery (perdition) and are utterly destroyed, but we are of those who believe [who cleave to and trust in and rely on God through Jesus Christ, the Messiah] and by faith persevere the soul.”  

The literal translation says “preservation of the soul.”  (Strong’s Greek 4047)

James said this– James 1:21 (NLT)

James was writing to BELIEVERS and not to the lost.  He didn’t mean to save your spirit.  Their spirits were already born again.  He said the engrafted (rooted) word, which is able to save your soul and is able to save your mind.

Our minds or souls are not born again, they have to be RENEWED by the Word of God.  This is a process that takes time while being born again happens instantly; the moment you confess Jesus as LORD.

James goes on to say…

This is about hearing and putting the Word of God into practice, or action.  This is part of the renewing process.

Paul said in Romans 12:1-2 

[1] I appeal to you therefore, brethren, and beg of you to view of [all] the mercies of God, to make a decisive dedication of your bodies [presenting all your members and facilities] as a living sacrifice, holy (devoted, consecrated) and well pleasing to God, which is your reasonable (rational, intelligent) service and spiritual worship.

[2] Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you].  (AMP)

Paul here is talking about the presenting of your bodies and minds to God.  He said, BE TRANSFORMED by the renewing of your mind.

James said receive with meekness the engrafted Word which is able to save your soul.

The engrafted Word…Renew your minds…Save your soul.

They both said a similar thing about renewing, restoring and saving the mind or soul.

The 23rd Psalm said a similar thing (Psalm 23:3).

[3]  He refreshes my soul.  He guides me along the right paths for His name’s sake.

He Restores My Soul.

We are BORN AGAIN of the spirit but our soul must be renewed with the Word of God.

The mind will be dominated by the body if it’s not first RENEWED by the Word of God.

We will be dominated by the flesh and not the spiritual without this receiving process.

In order for your soul to prosper,  it must be dominated by your spirit!

In order for your spirit to dominate your soul or mind, you must receive the engrafted Word of God.  This will SAVE your soul!

You might be saying, I just don’t see this.  All you do is have to look at any mental health institution and you will see people who have lost their soul.  The world is full of people who no longer have control over their mind and have given it over to forces that now control them.  Maybe this wasn’t their original intention but it’s the end state, none of the less.

Our MINDS must be RENEWED by the Word of God.

SPIRITUAL MATURITY.

In order to grow up to spiritual adulthood, we must allow our spirit to dominate our mind and begin to walk the walk of FAITH.  It can’t happen any other way and there are no shortcuts in this process, only diligence in God’s Word.

As the Apostle Paul said, this is our reasonable service (Rom. 12:1).

Only the RENEWED MIND can dominate the body.  The mind or soul will take sides with our spirit because we have renewed it with God’s Word.

Your spirit by the power of the Holy Spirit will then and only then be able to have control of the CARNAL mind.

The Renewed Mind Is The Beginning Of The Process, Which Is The Salvation Of Our Soul  [Romans 12:1-2]

I have to ask the following questions at the end of this post: 

Do you know Jesus as your Lord and Savior?

Do you want to be a joint heir with Christ?

If so, I urge you to earnestly pray this prayer.

Heavenly Father, I come to you in the name of Jesus, Your Son.  Your word says, “…the one who comes to Me, I will most certainly not cast out” (John 6:37).  So I know You won’t cast me out, but you take me in.  And I thank you for it.

You said in your Word, the “whoever” (that’s mecalls upon the name of the LORD shall be saved.”  (Rom. 10:13)  

So I am calling on Your name.

So I know You have saved me now.

You also said, “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is with your heart that you believe and is justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.”  (Rom. 10:9, 10)

I believe in my heart that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.  I believe He was raised from the dead for me to be righteous.  And I confess Him now as my Lord, because your Word says, “…so that we might become the righteousness of God.”  (2 Cor. 5:21)

And I am SAVED!  Thank You, Lord!

I can now truthfully say, I see myself as a born again child of God!!

I give Glory to God!!!

AMEN

If you prayed this prayer, be sure to share your new faith in Christ Jesus in the comment, reply section at the bottom of this page.

___________________________________________________________

CREDITS:

Photo/Images:  Google Image Search.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); or where noted in images or in the text.

 

WHAT IS A CHRISTIAN?

A small child [in the cartoon series Theopolis] gazes up at the eyes of his father and asks the question…WHAT IS A CHRISTIAN?

When I read the dialogue in the cartoon I thought the father gave a reasonably good answer to his son.  He emphasized communication with the Father, seeking first the Kingdom of heaven, displaying the fruit of the Spirit in one’s life.  It wasn’t a bad answer.  But imagine the father’s shock if you can when the son asked if he had actually seen such a person!

Is it possible, as the above cartoon suggests, that we sometimes talk a good talk, but walk a poor walk?  We might be able to tell others what a Christian is–may even profess to be one ourselves–but have we ever shown them?

The 3 W’s That Explains What A Christian Is And How We Can Demonstrate Who We Are

#1.  WHAT WE ARE, 1 John 3:1 (NIV)

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!  And that is what we are!  The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him.”

John here turns his letter from the world to God.

The world’s glory may be glamorous and enticing, but also shallow and momentary.  What the world gives today, it takes away tomorrow.

God gives something permanent, something authentic, something life-changing, something eternal and something to gaze upon in [VERSE 1 (NKJV)]:

IT’S THE LOVE OF GOD!

Those who have been born of God, meaning those that practice righteousness (2:29), is now “called children of God.”

RIGHTEOUSNESS begins with faith and ends in LOVE.

The reason we are told to “BEHOLD” is to see what great love the Father has bestowed upon us.

“Behold” (idou) means to sense and see, and to see with awakened understanding.  It calls one to stop and think about this amazing truth and what we are to sense, see and marvel at is the GREAT LOVE God has given us.

LOVE is agape, denoting divine or the highest form of love.  The whole wonderful plan of SALVATION begins with God.  And while we were once enemies, God loved us and sent His Son to die for us (Rom. 5:8).  His LOVE is so great that by the NEW BIRTH experience, we are now related to the One Who is the Divine Creator of the Universe and can call him Father!

We Are The Children Of God!

We receive from Christ a new nature, a godly nature, and thus are called children of God.

We shouldn’t expect the world around us to understand this thrilling relationship because it doesn’t understand the awesomeness of God.  This love and resulting sonship are foreign to the world.  Only a person who knows God through Jesus Christ can appreciate what it means to be called a child of God.  Unfortunately, we have become so accustomed to EXPECTING God’s love we no longer stand in awe before it.  In fact, we actually take it for granted.  We even think of it as something God owes us.

When I was a young romantic boy in elementary school, I remember taking the DAISY PETAL TEST sitting on a bench in the lunch arbor.  I had a crush for weeks on a girl and holding a flower in my hand while looking across the table at her and saying as I pulled each petal off, “She loves me, She loves me not.”  I also remember “the look” when she reached for the same flower, pulling off the last petal and said, “He loves me not.”

There’s a much better and more reliable way to know if God loves us!

It’s considering all that He does for us.  And if there’s still any doubt, then think of what He did to SAVE us!

The Bible says that “God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  (Romans 5:8)

We can become confident in the knowledge of God’s unfailing LOVE because He has proven it beyond all question on the Cross.  We have been reborn into the family of God as His children and the recipients of our Father’s LOVE.

THIS AMAZING LOVE MADE US CHILDREN OF THE KING!

This brings us to our second point:

#2.  WHAT WILL WE BE?  (verse 2)

The emphasis in verse two is on what the children of God will be in the future.

The reference here is, of course, to the time of Christ’s return for His Church.  Having spoken of our present dignity as children of God, John now speaks of our FUTURE DESTINY.

We Are Privileged Children.

Our privileged opportunities in this world are understandable and within reach of all who will lay hold of them abiding in Christ Jesus.  But, the reluctant glories in the world to come are still veiled.  For the BLESSINGS there are connected with the RESPONSIBILITIES here!  The fact that God expects future development as seen in verse one and then seen again in verse two, is where the beloved (“friends”) are addressed as CHILDREN OF GOD.

Child implies that future development is to be expected.  A child has such potential as they grow.  We look at them as children with hope and expectation but don’t know how they’ll turn out.  Some who seem to have so much potential and opportunity throw away their lives.  Others you didn’t think will amount to much accomplish great things.

So it is with the children of God.  Many who are first will be last and many who are last will be first.

The appearance of Christ brings about changes or results in God’s children.

The results of Christ’s appearing is that we will be like Him.  This future fact of being changed into Christ’s likeness is presently known.  KNOW means “perceptive knowledge” that brings one to the point or place of understanding and then conviction.  The fact that we KNOW now is because of the PROMISE given from the Word and the Holy Spirit in supporting our confidence in the truth of our future state,

A Butterfly Emerges!

What an amazing sight to see a Monarch Butterfly emerging from its cocoon and arraying the beautiful colors overs its wings before taking flight.  Who would think that such beauty could come from a drab cocoon?

But a much greater miracle awaits the child of God!

Encased by this body, we look for that day when “the dead will be raised incorruptible and we shall be changed.”  (1 Cor. 15:52)

For now, we live in these earthly bodies, but not forever.

One day, perhaps soon, we will be made perfect and complete.  We shall see our Savior face to face, and wonder of wonders, we shall be like Him!

God’s LOVE for us doesn’t stop with the New Birth.

God continues ministering to us and transforming us into His image until the revelation of Jesus causes the final, culminating revelation of who we are in Him.

Those Christ purchased at His Cross will be perfected at His coming.

#3.  WHAT WE SHOULD BE (v. 3)

Verse 3 teaches us that if we hope in our transformation at the return of Jesus, then we should keep on, keeping on purifying our lives.

1 John 3:3 (NIV)

[3] Everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.

So, everyone who has the HOPE purifies, or frees oneself of contamination.

Purify ( Grk., hagmos), is the cleanliness of heart, soul, and spirit of thought, word, and action.

“Purifies himself” means that we must totally surrender to God, so that by His Grace (His unmerited favor), we may separate ourselves all that defiles us.  It’s a continuous process.

Our Goals As  A Believer…

Our goal should be pure just as Christ is pure.  Not to judge our lives by other people, but by Jesus, who is the standard or goal toward which we are to move towards.  God’s desire is that we are conformed to the image of His Son (Rom. 8:29).

As we read the Gospels carefully and thoughtfully, prayerfully, then you will develop an appreciation for the character, integrity, wisdom, and strength of Jesus.

When I didn;\’t know as much about Jesus as I know now–and I’m still learning daily–. I wasn’t as impressed with Him as I am today.

All the work of transformation is because of the Father’s LOVE for you and me.

Because the Father loved us and sent His Son to die for us, we are children of God.

Because God loves us and lives within us, He wants us to live with Him one day.

SALVATION from start to finish is an expression of the LOVE of God.  We are saved by the GRACE of God (Eph. 2:8-9; Titus 2:11-15).

The provision for our SALVATION originated in the LOVE of God.  And since we have experienced the LOVE of the Father, we should have no desire to live in sin (the “flesh”).

An unbeliever who sins is a creature sinning against his Creator.  A Christian who sins is a child sinning against his Father.  The unbeliever sins against the LAW; the believer sins against LOVE.

One Day The Trumpet Will Sound And We Will Ascend!!!

The time to get ready for that turmpet blast is now!  Go to Christ Jesus and become PURE like Him.  That will prepare you in making the ascent–to the glories of Heaven!

Is the hope of being like Jesus a powerful inspiration/motivation in your life?  If it is, you will be purifying yourself as the Holy Spirit transforms your image of Christ.

Are you feeling perplexed by the questions…WHO AM I?  WHERE AM I GOING?

What comfort it is as  a TRUE BELIEVER in Christ to have God’s authoritative answers in the Bible:

WHO ARE WE?

John calls his readers “children of God” (v. 2).

WHERE ARE WE GOING?

John 14:1-6 tells us that one day He will receive us into our eternal home [body?] He is preparing for us.

When you know Jesus, you know who you are and where you are going

______________________________________________________

CREDITS:

Dictionary:  Know, Knowledge: Baker’s Evangrlical Dictionary of Bilical Theology.

Photos/Images:  Google Image search.

A Butterfly Emerges:  Youtube 

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP), or as noted in images or text.

 

 

 

Becoming A Loser!!

Scripture 2 Peter 2:7-8

Seriously, I pondered giving this blog its title.  You might think it’s little unkind in thought.  However, my point in the title wasn’t unkindness, but to simply summarize the overall outcome of Lot’s life.

Lot lost everything of any value in his life.  To put it short, it’s the result of Lot putting his WANTS ahead of God’s WILL.

Lot is an example of a Christian who tried to live as close to the world as they could with the mistaken idea it wouldn’t affect him.

Many Christians today are doing much the same as Lot.  Trying to live as close to the world as possible without being affected by it.

It’s living a tightrope existence.

It is attempting to live with one foot in the WORLD and one foot in God’s KINGDOM.  But this way of living can’t be done.  Inevitably, it will lead to a fall!  Jesus said, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”  (Luke 9:62)

He also said, “No one can serve two masters…” (Matthew 6:24 a.)

The point is that you can’t live for self and the world while at the same time being committed and pleasing to your heavenly Father.  It’s a spiritual impossibility.

Trying to walk with the world and with the Lord at the same time simply can’t be done.  Those two ways of life cancel out each other!

You might ask at this point, how is trying to walk with the world makes Lot a “spiritual loser”?

Lot became a spiritual loser because of:  [1]  HIS WEAK DEVOTION TOWARD GOD.

He had great assets and wealth  (Genesis 13:5-6)

NOTE:  The Bible doesn’t condemn anyone for having riches.  Scripture does say however, there’s condemnation for our trusting in riches  (1 Timothy 6:17).

[17]  Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.  (NIV)

Lot’s problem wasn’t his riches, but his ‘worldly’ attitude.

Like the world, Lot had the idea that the value of his life was dependant upon what he possessed.  He had relegated first place in his life to what he had accumulated.

Great Assets Won’t Make Up For Weak Devotion to God.

Riches in and of themselves will not make one happy, as this true story illustrates [*See Footnote [i] ]:

Many people think money is security, but 1 Timothy 6:9 warns that it can be just the opposite.  A few years ago, columnist Jim Bishop reported what happened to people who won the state lottery:

Rosa Grayson, of Washington, won $400 a week for life.  She hides in her apartment.  For the first time in her life, she has “nerves.”  Everyone tries to put the touch on her.  “People are so mean.  I hope you win the lottery and see what happens to you.”

All the “WINNERS” hoped and prayed for sudden wealth.

All had their prayers answered.

All were wrecked on a dollar sign

“If the child of God is to be successful by God’s standard, the love of their life must be Jesus.  That’s true whether you are a pauper or a millionaire.  Most of us are richer than we know”

[By Chuck Rasmussen.]

Lot Had No Altar Of Worship

Genesis 12:7-8 (AMP)

[7] Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said,  “I will give this land to your posterity.”  So Abram built an altar there to the Lord, Who had appeared to him.

[8] From there he pulled up ][his tent pegs] and departed to the mountain on the east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; and there he built an altar to the Lord and called upon the name of the Lord.

Even when Abram (Abraham) strayed, he always came back to the ALTAR  (Genesis 13:1, 3-4).

So let’s look at this whole account a little closer:

[1]  Abraham journeyed down to Egypt (a type of the world in scripture), to escape the famine in the land of Canaan.  And because he had disobeyed God in this, he had nothing but trouble from the time he arrived there.  But the first thing Abraham did after coming out of Egypt was to return to the ALTAR art Bethel (which means “the house of God’).

A Good Trip to the Altar is the First Step in Shedding the Influence of the World Upon One’s Life.

In total contrast to Abraham, Lot’s main concern was his assets, not the ALTAR.

I couldn’t find from Scripture the slightest hint that Lot was really committed to God, although he was a believer.

He was extremely weak in devotion to God.  It was this flaw in Lot’s life that resulted in his eventual ruin.

A Christian who is weak in their devotion to God is an easy target for Satan.  Many Christians today have great assets, even many spiritual activities,  BUT NO ALTAR!  Everything else in life is rather meaningless without fellowship with the LIVING GOD!!

His Worldly Departure From God.

It all began with division (Genesis 13:7)

It revealed Abram’s dignity – Genesis 13:8 (NIV)

[8] So Abram said to Lot,  “Let’s not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herdsmen and mine, for we are brothers.”

Notice the submissive spirit that’s demonstrated by Abraham.   It’s a characteristic of one who is walking with God in a cooperative attitude.  I don’t mean cooperation at all costs; but in general with the desire to help and minister to others, rather than demanding for one’s own way.

According to the custom of that day, Abraham had the right of FIRST CHOICE for he was the eldest of the two men.  But it’s precisely here that the maturity and dignity of Abraham that shinned.  He permitted his nephew, LOt, to have the right of FIRST CHOICE.

It Revealed Lot’s Worldly Desires – Genesis 13:10

[10] Lot looked up and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan was well watered, like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt, toward Zoar.  (This was before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah).

I can just imagine at this point that Lot, in thinking to himself, “Uncle Abram is a fool to give me the right of first choice.  But that’s his mistake.  I’m going to get the best I can, while I can!”  However, this brings out the trusts of the two men.  Abraham trusted the God of the Altar, while Lot trusted the greatness of his assets.

It Resulted In Lot’s Wrong Decision (Genesis 13:11 – Amplified Bible)

[11] Then Lot chose for himself all the Jordan Valley and [he] traveled east.  So they separated.

Sin and worldliness are always a CHOICE on the part of the Christian.  The Bible bears this out in Paul’s writings, when he says,   “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires”;  “For sin shall not be your master…”  (Romans 6:12, 14a)

Let’s look at the progression of Lot’s worldliness:

  1. He LOOKED toward Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 13:10).
  2. He CHOSE the plain of Jordan, where Sodom and Gomorrah were located (Gen. 13:11a).
  3. He JOURNEYED toward Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 13:11b).
  4. He then PITCHED his tent toward Sodom (Gen. 12:12).

Have you ever ‘flirted’ with sin?  To trifle or toy, as with an idea you knew was a sin?

Holy Spirit made a point in mentioning that Abraham “lived in the land of Canaan” (v. 12a), the land of promise, while Lot CHOSE to pitch his tent “…toward Sodom” (v. 12b), a city where its reputation was well-known for lustful pleasures.

His Wicked Dwelling Place Among the Godless.

Lot chose to live among a promiscuous, unprincipled in sexual matters, society.  Notice God’s description of the men of Sodom (Genesis 13:13):

Now “the men” weren’t merely your so-called “good ole boys” having fun on Saturday night.  They were sexually depraved, bad to the bone, criminal types (Genesis 19:2)

This city was wholly given over to deviant sex (Genesis 19:4-5)

[4] But before they lay down, the men of the city of Sodom, both young and old, ALL THE MEN from every quarter, surrounded the house.

[5] And they called to Lot and said,  “Where are the men who came to you tonight?  Bring them out to us, that we may know (be intimate with) them.”

Later in the story, Lot offered his two virgin daughters to this depraved mob, who ignored his offer altogether (Genesis 19:8).

It just blows my mind to think that Lot would have stooped so low to make such an offer.  But this just reveals how badly Sodom had influenced Lot’s heart and mind.  Rubbing elbows with SIN produces a calloused heart.

Can you imagine a BELIEVER living in a place like this and being comfortable with it?  Don’t forget–it happened gradually.

He Lingered Though Judgment Loomed.

Genesis 19:14-16 (NIV)

[14] So Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who were pledged to marry his daughters.  He said, “Hurry and get out of this place because the LORD is about to destroy the city!”  But his sons-in-law thought he was joking.

[15] With the coming of dawn, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Hurry!  Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away when the city is punished.”

[16] When he hesitated, the men grasped his hand and the hands of his wife and of his two daughters and led them safely out of the city, for the LORD was merciful to them.

There’s A Sad Truth Here:

Whether or not people will listen to your message depends on how you have lived before men.

Just because you’re telling the TRUTH, it doesn’t earn you the right to be heard.

Lot’s own family thought he was crazy when he started to talk to them about God and Judgment, because he had lived without regard for God for so long, and everything he said seemed like a joke.  His walk didn’t back up his words.

He Lost All That Was Dear To Life.

#1.  Lot lost his wife. (Genesis 19:26)

#2.  Lot lost his relatives in the destruction of Sodom.

Genesis 19:14  (His sons-in-law wouldn’t listen to him.)

#3.  Lot lost his integrity as a child of God.

Genesis 19:30-38  (Lot’s two remaining daughters got him drunk and committed incest.)

All of this now brings us back to my title:  BECOMING A LOSER

Lot became a spiritual loser because of:

  • HIS WEAK DEVOTION TOWARD GOD.
  • HIS WORLDLY DEPARTURE FROM GOD.
  • HIS WICKED DWELLING AMONG THE GODLESS.

Maybe it’s time for you to come back to the ALTAR!

____________________________________________________________

CREDITS & FOOTNOTES:

Footnote [i]:  “Won The Lottery” by Bible.or.

Music Video:  “O Come To The Altar” – Live Elevation Worship – Youtube.

Photo/Images:  Google Image Search.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); AMPLIFIED Bible (AMP), or other translations where noted.

Credit Commentary:  Lot: From Sodom To Salt Sermon by Carl Allen – 2 Peter 2:4-10.

 

 

 

SERVANT’S HEART

SCRIPTURE STUDY:  1 Peter 5:1-4

After my devotional reading this morning in 1 Peter 5, I wanted to take a specific passage and apply it to a larger theme of SERVANT-HOOD answering the question that many of us deal with:  “How can I help my Church?”

What do you call a chicken crossing the road?

Poultry in motion.

What do you call a boomerang that doesn’t work?

A stick.

Where do you find a dog with no legs?

Right where you left him.

What do call cheese that isn’t yours?

Nacho cheese.

What do you call a Christian who isn’t serving?

A CONTRADICTION~

You and I have been redeemed for a reason…

Another way to say it is, we’ve been SAVED to SERVE… we’ve been mobilized for ministry?  That’s why when we are NOT serving in some way, in and through the church, it’s a contradiction.  Because to be a follower of Christ means you are a servant of Christ Jesus.

As we go through this passage of Scripture, I want to apply the words of Peter to a larger theme of SERVANT-HOOD and answer the questions.

Help Your Church By Serving “willingly” (verse 2 a.)

  • “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers-not because you must, but because you are willing…”

I’m not a Bible teacher or a Christian Blogger because that’s what I chose to do.

I could have chosen to do many other things in furthering the cause of Christ.  But God CHOSE me to teach and write.  Since I know that this is my calling, then I SERVE willingly.

I’m not fighting to surrender; I’m freely and willingly serving.

So many Christians today are useful in their churches to advance the gospel but they are not willing, they refuse.  That has always confused me over the years.  Some may feel unworthy and inadequate; some feel that it will cost them too much.nnSome may feel like it will require too much sacrifice.  On and on the list could go, but the Scripture is clear.  If we have been CALLED to serve, or if we have talents and abilities to serve, then we must not reject His call!

The Scripture says, “but because you are willing, as God wants you to  be” (NIV)

It’s God’s desire to surrender your life to Him – Your talents and your abilities to be used by Him in His service.  You surrender willingly, not because you are forced.

Help Your Church By Serving Eagerly – (vs. 2) “but eager to serve”

DEFINITION:  eager : An adjective. 

synonyms:  enthusiastic, fervent, zealous, passionate, motivated, wholehearted, dedicated.

I love to watch someone who is fairly new to the church, and they’re a fairly new believer, and the first opportunity they can do something in the church for the Lord, you can see the eagerness they have.  They get to the church doors early and they stay late to help clean up.  They are EAGER to serve.  They can’t wait to get after it.

Losing the Eagerness –

How in the world do we get to the place in our Christian lives, where we lose that eagerness to serve?

There’s also a flip side of the person that is eager when that person who does some type of service because no one else will take it!

Usually, the ACT OF SERVICE is done without any heartfelt sense of service to God, because quite frankly. we didn’t feel called to do it –  “I know it needs to be done, but no one else sees the need, so I guess I’ll have to do it again!”

The Scripture says that ALL of us, not 20 percent of the people doing 100 percent of the work, but ALL of us be eager to serve.  Not because I’m obligated to do it, or any other matter for that reason, but because I want to have an impact in the kingdom for eternity – “but be eager to serve.”

Helping Your Church By Serving As An Example For Others –  (verse 3)

“being examples (patterns and models of Christians living) to the flock (the congregation)”  [AMP]

This is what can really hurt the church body of believers.  When we SERVE as an example, not preaching and teaching one thing, then doing another.

If “Mel” is going to be an example, then my walk will match my talk, and my talk will match my walk,

Titus 2:7 (NLT)

If I’m going to be an EXAMPLE for others, then I need to truly be a person of INTEGRITY.

Integrity means that you are the same person when no one else is looking.  In other words, if I claim to be a “good Christian” on Sundays to everyone at church, but when I get home, I view pornography, I drink till I can’t stand up. that’s not a person of integrity, that’s a true genuine hypocrite.

With us as genuine believers, the person we are on Sundays needs to be the same person the rest of the week.  If I’m going to help the church, then I need to SERVE as an example for others.

Helping Your Church Will Ensure A Heavenly Reward – (verse 4)

[4]  And [then] when the Chief Shepherd is revealed, you will win the conqueror’s crown of glory.  [AMP]

This is why we do what we do, this is why we stay up late getting ready for acts of service, whether it’s a special event, studying for a Sunday school lesson, or going over a song, or praying with someone who is hurting.  This is why we do all those things.  For the approval of Jesus!

Every single one of us, when we meet Jesus one day, will want Him to say, “Well done good and faithful servant, you have done everything I equipped you to do.  You used every talent I give, every ability I allow you to have or learn, every opportunity I set before you to SERVE…you took it.  WELL DONE!!”

The Apostle Paul reminds each one of us in Ephesians 6:8…

A Story of An Old Potato Farmer –

After lightning struck on an old shed, a farmer was relieved because now he didn’t have to tear it down.

The rains came and cleaned off his car, and that saved him from having to wash it.

When asked what he was doing now, he replied, “I’m waiting for an earthquake to shake the potatoes out of the ground.”

If we are going to have a SERVANT’S HEART, we can’t just wait for something to happen.  Jesus said we’re blessed when we do something.

I’ve found in my own life over the years of service FOUR ACTIONS…steps that you might apply to your own life:

  1. SERVE whenever you can.
  2. SERVE wherever you can.
  3. SERVE whoever is in need.
  4. BE WILLING to do whatever it takes.

Let’s live our lives as obedient and humble servants.  Don’t be a contradiction!!

____________________________________________________________

CREDITS:

Photos/Images:  Google Image Search.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); New Living Translation (NLT); Ling James Version (KJV).

 

 

 

 

Except the LORD Build the House…

A recent study found that there were 195 million un-churched people in America.  This makes America one of the top 4 largest “un-churched” nations in the world. [Statistics August 22, 2015].

Each year 3,500 churches close their doors forever, while only 1,000 to 1,500 new ones are started in the same timeframe.  In the small town that I reside, with 3 churches on every corner, it’s hard to believe there’s a need for more churches.  BUT THERE IS!

While writing this blog, the church I attend has sent a missionary team to the Philippines to help build a church facility where church planters are sacrificing, serving and doing their part to spread the good news.  What we must understand in our efforts that we nor anyone else can build a church!  God is the One Who builds a church!

We are told in scriptures that “Except the LORD build the house they labor in vain that build it” (Psalm 127:1).

Unless the LORD builds it, those who labor are laboring in vain.

There are many people who are good at building things (I’m not one), but a nice building doesn’t qualify as a great church!

We (the people) Are the Body of Christ…Not A Pile of Brick and Mortar!

I know of some churches that are thriving without “nice facilities.”  There are congregations meeting in movie theaters, warehouses, strip malls and old barns doing great work for the Lord in their communities.

On the other hand, there are countless brick buildings with large white steeples, padded pews, and stained glass windows who have plateaued, dead, and dying.  We tend to measure a church’s success by how many cars there are in the parking lot, or how many people are in the pews and how much money has been taken up on Sunday morning offerings.

A church can give all the appearances of being successful and still be a failure according to God’s standard.  On the other hand, a church may meet in someone’s basement with a handful of members who are obedient and faithful and God sees them as a success.

There always seems to be a new program, a flyer or e-mail promoting the latest and greatest “church growth method.”  And oh, how many church growth seminars I’ve attended over the years.

Don’t get me wrong, I would love to see my church filled to capacity in every service to the point that we have to tear walls out and build on.  With that being said, I have some good news!  God wants our churches to grow.  He wants the church down the street to grow.  God wants new churches to be built and God wants old churches to be revitalized.

We have the privilege to be a part of the process.

BUT, if any church body is going to grow, if a TRUE CHURCH is going to be built, then it will be built by God, NOT MAN!!!

There’s an area of theology that wants to understand all aspects of the church.  It’s known as ecclesiology derived from the Greek word “ekklesia”. That’s a term referring to a gathering or assembly of believers.  This involves more than attending church.  IT’S ABOUT BEING THE CHURCH! –

1 Corinthians 12:27 (NIV)

[27]  Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

Fellowship, worship, edification, and ministry are all performed by people, not builders.

As a result of their persecution, the first century Christians often met secretly in people’s homes.  And over time things have enlarged into what we see and have today.

In this week’s Blog-Text…

…we can get a glimpse of God’s building program.  Turning to 1 Peter 2:4-10 we’ll examine together how God builds a church.

VERSE 4 – GOD’S VISION FOR THE CHURCH

Come to Him [then, to that] Living Stone which men tried and threw away, but which is chosen [and] precious in God’s sight.  [AMP]

Since the beginning, God had a plan for His church.  God chose His own Son to be the Cornerstone of the Church.  In 1 Peter 1:20, Peter revealed the fact that God had this plan before the world began.

[20] He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.  [21] Through Him you believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and glorified Him, and so your faith and hope are in God.  [NIV]

In the Word of God we have several images portraying the Church:

THE CHURCH AS A BODY – Ephesians 4:15-16

THE CHURCH AS A BRIDE – Revelation 21:9

THE CHURCH AS A BUILDING – 2 Corinthians 6:16

The Image Of The Church As A Building – [verse 5]

“[Come]  and, like living stones, be yourselves built [into] a spiritual house, for a holy (dedicated, consecrated) priesthood, to offer up [those] spiritual sacrifices [that are] acceptable and pleasing to God through Jesus Christ.  (AMP)

How amazing is it to think that before the world began we were part of God’s master plan!!!

Any church begins with a VISION.

And this is the right way to start.

Proverbs 20:18 (NIV)

“Plans are established by seeking advice, so if you wage war, obtain guidance.”

We must remember that “Faithful people do not build the church of Jesus Christ.  Jesus Christ builds His church through faithful people.” [author unknown]

Not only did God have a “Vision” for His church, But He also prepared the proper foundation for His church.  His only Son laid that foundation – 1 Corinthians 3:11

[11] For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.

The Foundation Of God’s Church – Verse 6

Here Peter speaks of the “Chief Cornerstone”.

CORNERSTONE is defined as 1) Literally, a stone that forms the base of a corner of a building, joining two walls.  2) Metaphorically, an important quality or feature on which a particular thing depends or is based.

Jesus is both!

He is literally and metaphorically the Cornerstone of the Chruch.  The “Cheif cornerstone” is the basic, essential, and most important part of a building and it’s the foundation.

In these verses Peter references Isaiah 28:16 – “So this is what the Sovereign LORD says:  ‘See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who relies on it will never be stricken with panic.”

God has laid the foundation (Christ) and the Jews rejected Him (verses 7-8).

Any church that’s ever going to be successful for God…MUST BE BUILT ON JESUS CHRIST!  Not people, Not traditions, Not man-made measures of success, Nothing other than Jesus!!!

The Motivation For God’s Church – Verse 5

The chief cornerstone is where all measurements begin.  Every other stone was laid in relation to the cornerstone.

Jesus Christ As The CAPSTONE

 

Peter says that WE, the church, are “living stones, built up into a spiritual house.”  That means that Jesus is the CORNERSTONE, and we are the building blocks.

God is building a spiritual house,  He is putting all of His children in the place where they belong.  He’s joining us with one another.  Simply stated, we are the church that God is building.

Peter also mentions that we are “a holy priesthood”. –

A priest was the one who had access to God.   We have that access!

Hebrews 4:16 (NIV)

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

And as a part of the priesthood, we present “offerings of spiritual sacrifices” –  HOW DO WE DO THAT?

WE OFFER OURSELVES – We offer service, we offer prayers, we offer worship, we offer thanksgiving, we offer praise!

We are “priests” in the sense of being servants.

But Jesus is our Great High Priest!!!

This verse tells us as the church body, that “Spiritual sacrifices” are the motivations of God’s church!

This all may come as a surprise to many in the church today but somewhere along the way, people came to the conclusion that the church was all about them.

They leave the church on Sunday and complain because:  Someone didn’t shake their hand – The service was too dry or too long – Some say it was too shallow – Some don’t like the music because it was too old – Others didn’t like it because it was too new!

The Apostle Peter was a man who went hungry and thirsty following Jesus.  A man who left everything he knew behind to be Christ’s disciple.  He was cursed, beaten, imprisoned, persecuted, and eventually crucified for the cause of Christ Jesus.  Can you imagine what his response would be if he heard some of the self-centered garbage coming from our mouths?

Regardless of your motivation, God’s motivation for His church is that His people “as living stones offer Him spiritual sacrifices!!!”

But since the beginning, there have been those who were opposed to God’s Church.

The Opposition to God’s Church – (verses 7-8)

The Cornerstone that we’ve come to lean upon for strength is the same Stone that those who reject Him stumble and fall over.

Since the beginning, Satan has opposed the church.  And he has used many others to come against it as well!  We see this in Scripture with the Pharisees – It was seen in the Roman government – It has been seen through 2,000 years of church history – And we see it each and every day on our T.V. screens:  Islamic terrorist are beheading people just because they are Christians.

Here in America, the atheists have succeeded in taking God out of schools, courthouses, and government.  Even many churches throughout the land that bear the Christian name have rejected the TRUE Gospel – Jesus makes it quite clear in Mathew 12:30, “Whoever is not with me is against me…”  There are numerous people who not only reject Christ, but they are opposed to God’s church.

Though there’s much opposition to face we find in these verses as a mission for those who belong to Him.

Our Mission As The Church – (Verse  9)

Along with God’s VISION for His church comes His Mission for His people.

WE ARE CHOSEN!

God chose us!!!

What a BLESSING and a PRIVILEGE it is to think that the God of all creation chose us not only to be His people but to accomplish a specific task.  God does BUILD the church but He has chosen to use us as His laborers!

HE CALLED US!

We Are Called! (V. 9)

“…from DARKNESS into LIGHT”

Psalm 40:2 (AMP)

“He drew me up out of a horrible pit [a pit of tumult and of destruction], out of the miry clay (froth and slime), and set my feet upon a rock, steadying my steps and establishing my goings.”

We were once dead in trespasses and sins.

JESUS called us out of that DARKNESS!

Peter says that He CALLED us into His marvelous light- He SAVED our souls – He CLEANSED our sins – He CHANGED our lives,

WE ARE THE CHURCH!!!

And when He did all this…He had a MISSION in mind for us to accomplish for Him.  And once the LORD calls us unto SALVATION, He then commissions us to work in the Kingdom for Him!!!

We Are Commissioned – (V. 9)

[9] “…that you may declare praises of Him”

Peter states that as a result of our being CALLED OUT of darkness and into the marvelous light, we should show others the way of the goodness of God.

Just before Jesus ascended He left His Apostles with some final words for His church – He didn’t say build the biggest buildings you can! – He didn’t say make sure you have the best youth program in the communities – He didn’t say to fill the seats on Sundays by any means necessary! – He didn’t say to have the most vibrant music ministry in the land! – He didn’t say make sure to preach eloquent sermons!

His final words were about the church’s MISSION:

Acts 1:8 (NIV)

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

What Is Our Mission For The Church?

It is for the “living stones” to “make more living stones”.

The people of God are to GO…and “make disciples”.

When people see us they should see something different…that we are special!!

In fact, we find in this very text that we are – LIVING STONES – A CHOSEN GENERATION – A ROYAL PRIESTHOOD – A HOLY NATION – A PARTICULAR PEOPLE.

We Are God’s Church!!

The People of Purpose!!

Great things happen when God builds the House!!

____________________________________________________________

CREDITS:

Dictionary:  “Cornerstone” – Merriam-Webster Dictionary; Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary Of Old and New Testament Words by W.E. Vine, Merrill Unger and William White Jr.

Photo/Images:  Google Image Search.

Music Video:  Youtube – WE ARE THE CHURCH – Youtube – Rend Collective – Build Your Kingdom Here

Bible Translations:  New Internation Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP).