Modern Manipulation Of The Gospel Message

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

Many in the church today have fallen prey to a massive misconception when it comes to the message of the Gospel.  Theologically progressives have manipulated the Good News . . .

Changing the focus from upward to inward . . .

From serving the Savior to serving the self.

Far too many people imagine that somehow

God’s warning to Pharaoh has been changed

From “Let My people go so they can serve Me”

To “Let My people go so I can serve them.”

The church today – and particularly the church in the Western world – is full of the misguided, who have absorbed “gospel-lite” messages designed to meet felt needs and who believe that God exists to serve their ends, satisfy their needs, and quench their thirst for all things material.  But this is not what the Gospel is all about!  The Bible warns us in 1 John 2:15, “Do not love the world or anything in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15) and in Revelation 4:11, “Your are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power . . .”  

Here are three questions for you to ponder in order to discern if you have manipulated the Gospel message in any way:

  1. Why do you attend church?
  2. Why do you pray?
  3. Why do you tithe (assuming that you do tithe) your income?

If these Christian disciplines are part of your life simply because you desire to please your God and praise His mighty name, then the message has not been manipulated in your mind.  But if you attend church, pray, and tithe in order that you might get something in return, you can be sure that the message has indeed been manipulated.

It comes down to two words:

Duty and devotion.

If you do these and other things

For God out of a sense of duty

(Inasmuch as the Christian disciplines are our duty),

The message has been manipulated.

But if you do these and other things

Out of a sense of devotion,

Because your heart beats for nothing

Other than the Lord Jesus Christ

And you are overwhelmed with love and thanksgiving

Because of what God has already done for you

– NOT what you hope He will do in the future –

Then you can be sure that the message

You are responding to is the one

The Master delivered 2,000 years ago.

Here is another way to put this: Ask yourself, “Do I do what I do for my own gain?  Or for the Savior’s glory?”  To be sure, God has promised to meet all of our needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19), but there are two things we must remember.

First, we must never define “wants” as “needs” – and we all have a natural tendency to do just that.

Second, we must always remember that God will meet our needs in His time, in His way, and for His glory.  And often the outcome won’t look anything like what we expected it to!

In closing, and I pray for a deep and abiding encouragement for your soul, regardless of where this message found you today.  God is God, and is worthy of all our praise, glory, honor, and obedience.  When what we do for God is done simply because we could not do otherwise, we can know for sure that we have not manipulated the Gospel message and that our heart is beating for nothing smaller than our Master.

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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The Christian’s Call To Holiness

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

13Jan  How many thousands of people have repeated a prayer and publicly announced that they were a follower of Jesus Christ only to fall away back into the world?  The answer to that question cannot be fully comprehended.  Many estimate the number of false Christians to far outnumber the true Christian population which is a staggering thought to consider.  Yet, it seems that was what Jesus communicated in Matthew 7:13-14 as He differentiated between the “many” and the “few” in relation to the false Christian and the true believer.

Throughout time, a certain category of Christianity has emerged under the name of carnal Christianity.  This category is the product of a certain belief that claims it’s possible to have Jesus as Lord and Heaven as your home while living in open sin and remaining in love with the world.  Not only is this a harmful belief system, it’s simply unbiblical.  In short, there is no such thing as a carnal Christian – the Christian can manifest tendency of thinking and living in the flesh (The Bible speaks of this in 1 Corinthians 3:1-3 where Paul discusses the difference between being spiritual and carnal and concludes by saying, “For you are still carnal, for where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men,”) but God knows nothing of a “carnal Christian.”  The carnal Christian is like a unicorn walking around in an open field – it’s an impossibility.

The Call To Christian Holiness

To be a Christian is to be a child of God.  What God expects from His people is a life of holiness.  The Bible states in 1 Peter 1:15-16, “Be holy for I am holy” where Leviticus 11:44 is referenced.

God has always

Had one goal

For His people

And it’s holiness.

The Bible emphasizes In Ephesians 2:10 the fact that God has before ordained that His people walk in a life pursuit of holiness.

Far too often people miss the point of the Levitical laws.  They turn them into a system of positives commands and negative prohibitions when in reality something far bigger is taking place.  For instance, God was not merely forbidding the Israelites from enjoying a good BBQ sandwich in the dietary laws; God was positioning His people to be a distinct and separate people from the rest of the world.  The Levitical laws were used to separate the people.

God is holy and has called us into a life of holiness.  Paul urged the church at Ephesus to be imitators of God (Ephesians 5:1).

The pursuit of our lives

Should be on becoming

Conformed to the image of God

Rather than being

Marked by the world,

The flesh, and the devil.

That was our former way of living and we have been called out of that lifestyle.  Look at what the Bible says in Ephesians 3:1-3, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”

Notice that the Bible emphasizes that the believers in Ephesus (true about all believers regardless of geographic location) were once dead in their trespasses and sins.  This spiritual deadness caused them to walk (a statement about lifestyle) in a manner that was following the prince of the power of the air (a title for Satan).  This entire lifestyle is focused on satisfying the depraved passions of the flesh.  It should be noted that this passage begins by describing this pattern of living by the believers in the past tense.  In other words . . .

Before a believer’s conversion

Their lifestyle is carnal,

But carnality is not

The description of the believer

In the present tense

(After conversion).

According to Titus 1:8, the Christian is called to be “hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined.”

An undisciplined life

Centered on satisfying

Depraved cravings

Is not the picture

Of a pursuit of holiness.

It’s the picture of a life

That’s pursuing the world.

Conversion Results in Sanctification

When God saves a person, He not only saves that person from the penalty of their sin, but He likewise removes the shackles of sin and gives the individual victory over sin. Why would anyone believe that the God who can transport people into the His presence in eternity could not remove sin from a person’s life before they cross over the precipice of eternity?

The Christian’s life will be a constant battle against the flesh (Romans 7).  However, God calls the Christian to present himself as a living sacrifice – one that is holy and acceptable to God (Hebrews 12:1-2).  As a result of conversion, the child of God will love God more than the world or anything this world has to offer (1 John 2:15).  As John makes clear, “if anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”

Sanctification is the progressive process whereby the child of God puts off the deeds of the flesh while putting on the clothing of holiness.  Look at how the Bible describes this process in Ephesians 4:22-24, “To put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”

Salvation should be viewed as a whole, rather than merely a compartmentalized focus on the soul.  The work of salvation impacts the entire person: body, mind, and soul.  The renewal of the mind comes as a byproduct of the changed heart at conversion. New desires and affections for God emerge which change priority lists, goals, lifestyles, and nearly every other detail of the human’s existence in this present evil world.

Conversion without sanctification is not genuine salvation.  Carnality is not a description of a child of God.  When a true child of God walks off the straight and narrow path – the Spirit of God will not allow that to be an ongoing pattern.  There will be a chastening of the disobedient Christian that brings about correction.  This process could come in form of a sermon preached where the Spirit deals with the sin internally resulting in repentance; It could be a private rebuke by a fellow Christian out of love; It could come in form of church discipline (Matthew 18:15-20); and for the obstinate, God has more severe methods of correction (Hebrews 12:3-17).  God will sanctify His people and Christ will have a pure bride.

Charles Spurgeon once remarked, “Christ will be master of the heart, and sin must be mortified.  If your life is unholy, then your heart is unchanged, and you are an unsaved person.  The Savior will sanctify His people, renew them, give them a hatred of sin, and a love of holiness.  The grace that does not make a man better than others is a worthless counterfeit.  Christ saves His people, not IN their sins, but FROM their sins. Without holiness, no man shall see the Lord.”

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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The Problem Only Jesus Can Solve

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

10Jan  In any effort to solve problems, we are unlikely to agree as to what the solution of a problem is, unless we agree as to the nature of the problem.  The religions of the world offer an enormous range of solutions to human problems.

  • Some propose various forms of religious self-help exercises;
  • Some advocate a kind of faithful fatalism;
  • Others urge tapping into an impersonal energy or force in the universe;
  • Still others claim that mystical experiences are available to those who pursue them.

One of the critical questions to ask is this:

What constitutes

The irreducible heart

Of human problems?

The Bible insists that the heart of all human problems is rebellion against the God who is our Maker, whose image we bear, and whose rule we seek to overthrow.

All of our problems, without exception, c

Can be traced to this fundamental source:

Our rebellion and the just judgement of God

That we have received by our rebellion.

This must not be misunderstood in some simplistic sense.  Someone has rightly said, “It is not necessarily the case that the greatest rebels in this world suffer the greatest pain in this world, on some simple tit-for-tat scheme.”  But whether we are perpetrators (as in hate, jealousy, lust, or theft) or victims (as in rape, battery, or indiscriminate bombings), our plight is tied to sin – ours or that of others.  Further, whether our misery is the result of explicit human sin or the fruit of a “natural” disaster, Genesis 3 and Romans 8:18-23 insists that this is a disordered world, a broken world – and that this state of affairs has come about because of human rebellion.

God’s two-fold judgment on the Adam and Eve sin is striking. The first (Genesis 3:16), which promises pain in childbearing and disordered marriages, is the disruption of the first designated task human beings were assigned before the Fall: male and female, in the blessing of God, being fruitful and increasing in number (1:27-28).  The second (Genesis 3:17-19), which promises painful toil, a disordered ecology, and certain death, is the disruption of the second designated task human beings were assigned before the Fall: God’s image-bearers ruling over the created order and living in harmony with it (1:28-30).

With perfect justice God might have destroyed these first rebels.  He can no more ignore such rebellion than He can deny His own deity.  Yet, in mercy He clothes them, suspends part of the sentence (death itself) – and foretells a time when the offspring of the woman will crush the serpent who led the first couple astray.  One reads Revelation 12 with relief, and grasps that Genesis 3 defines the problem that only Christ can solve.

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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Six Ways to Jump-Start Your Spiritual Life

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme
9JanIt happened just after the end of the college football playoff game between Georgia and Oklahoma.  As the two teams exited the field, after Georgia defeated Oklahoma in a thrilling double-overtime victory, one of the Georgia players spotted the Oklahoma quarterback and shouted those two words at him: “Humble yourself!”  It was unique enough that the video clip spread across the internet.  You can hear lots of things after a football game, but you will rarely hear anyone shout, “Humble yourself!”

It remains good advice for all of us.  Someone has said, “If pride is the first sin, then humility is the first virtue.”  Years ago . . .

I learned

The First Rule

Of the Spiritual Life:

He’s God

And we’re not.

All spiritual growth starts with this truth.  Until you grasp what it means, you are still in spiritual kindergarten.

James 4:6-10 explains out what it means to humble yourself in the eyes of the Lord.  In this passage we discover six steps that unlock the path of God’s blessing for his children.

  • Would you like to know God better? Humble yourself!
  • Would you like to receive God’s approval? Humble yourself!
  • Would you like to break through to victory? Humble yourself!
  • Would you like a closer walk with God in 2020?

Well then … Let’s look at these verses because it will help you jump-start your spiritual life.

# 1: Take a Knee.

The Bible says in James 4:6-7a, “But He gives more grace. Therefore He says, ‘God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.’  Therefore, submit to God.”  Humility doesn’t come naturally to most of us.  It’s the virtue which, if you think you have it, you probably don’t.  D. L. Moody used to pray, “Lord, make me humble, but don’t let me know it.”

No one likes being told what to do.  We would rather be in charge of our own life, and that’s why the whole notion of surrendering our pride to the Lord sounds strange at first.  But . . .

  • There is no other way to get better.
  • There is no other way to be healed.
  • There is no other way to be forgiven.
  • There is no other way to find a new life.

We can fight the Lord,

Or we can surrender

Everything to His control.

When we fight, we lose.

When we surrender in faith, we win.

A missionary saw this sign painted on the side of a bus in Nigeria: “Man no be God.”  That sums it up, doesn’t it?  You aren’t God, you never were, and you never will be.  Start there, and you’ll be on the right path.

 Humility grows best in the rich soil of God’s grace.

Don’t pray for

More humility;

Pray for

More grace.

Pray that God will

Pour out His grace

In your heart

So that you

Will only boast

In the Lord.

The proud man must constantly remind you how great he is.  He brags because he wants you to praise him.  But if you have to tell me how great you are, how great could you possibly be?  The braggart brags because he’s trying to convince you (and himself) of how great he is. The humble man doesn’t brag because the truth speaks for itself.  He leaves his reputation in the Lord’s hands because it doesn’t matter to him what others think.  He wants God’s reputation to become great in the land.  What happens to him doesn’t matter as long as the Lord’s cause goes forward.

Walking in humility means you confess your sins, you forgive your enemies, you admit your mistakes, and you don’t brag about how great you are.  It also means you serve others with a smile, not with a frown.

“God opposes the proud” – Don’t let that happen to you . . . “But gives grace to the humble” – So pray for the grace you need.

Take a knee . . . You’ll be glad you did.

# 2: Fight Back.

The Bible says in James 4:7b. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  This is both a command and a promise.  If we submit to God, we may be sure that when we resist the devil, he will flee from us.

We have no power

In ourselves

Against the devil,

But

He has no power

To use against us

When we fight

With God’s power.

By ourselves, we can’t win;

With God’s help, we can’t lose.

The word “resist” is a military term.  It means you stand and fight. You don’t run away.

We are to flee temptation,

But

We are to fight the devil.

That means taking up the armor of God and standing in the evil day (Ephesians 6:10-17).  Satan is like a football coach studying the opposing team.  He has “game film” on us, he knows our weaknesses and our strengths, and he uses what he knows against us.  If he can get you discouraged, he’s already won the battle.  He knows when you lose your temper.  Satan isn’t equal to God, but he’s a lot smarter than you or me.

Don’t be surprised when he hits you out of the blue. Fight back!

Don’t be surprised when he comes to you with a seductive temptation. Fight back!

Don’t be surprised when he whispers in your ear in a moment of weakness. Fight back!  The devil is a murderer by nature (John 8:44).  He will destroy your career, your marriage, your family, and your ministry if you let him.  You’ve got to stand and fight.

  • Fight back with the Word of God.
  • Fight back by singing great hymns.
  • Fight back by praying to Jesus.
  • Fight back by leaning on your brothers and sisters.
  • Fight back by confessing Christ openly.
  • Fight back by coming to the Lord’s Table.
  • Fight back by fleeing every temptation.
  • Stand and fight, child of God! Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

# 3: Draw Near.

The Bible says in James 4:8a, “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.”

The question is not,

How near is God to us,

But rather

How near are we to Him?

Every married couple understands that proximity is one thing, but intimacy is something else.  A couple may be seated on the same couch but be miles apart from each other.  They may sleep together but not share the same bed spiritually.  It is quite possible to be married and live entirely separate lives.

 Drawing near to God

 Starts in the heart.

Take another married couple and watch them for a moment.  She may be knitting or playing the piano.  He may be reading a book or listening to her play the piano.  Minutes may pass without a word being spoken, but they are happy together.  He has drawn near to her, and she has drawn near to him.

If we come to God with that same desire to know him, He will draw near to us.  You do not need to be an advanced Christian, or a super-saint, or a deep Bible student.  The newest saint and the weakest believer may know God’s presence.  Years ago I heard the question put this way, “If God feels far away from you, who moved?”  It’s never the Lord.  We may know His presence and feel His pleasure if we truly want it.  He will draw near to you if you draw near to Him.

# 4: Clean Up.

The Bible says in James 4:8b, “Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”  We must cleanse our hands because they are dirty with sin.  We must purify our hearts because they are divided, and we are distracted.

This means we stop making excuses for . . .

  • Bad attitudes,
  • Casual unkindness,
  • Clever put-downs,
  • Dabbling in pornography,
  • Bragging about our accomplishments,
  • Envy of others,
  • Bitterness,
  • A critical spirit,
  • Prayerlessness,
  • Our need to be in control,
  • Giving in to despair,
  • Hating our enemies instead of loving them,
  • And for our failure to do what we ought to do.

Here’s a useful way to apply this truth.  Take some time to get alone with God. Pray this simple prayer: “Lord, show me the truth about myself.”  Then write down what the Lord shows you.  In my experience, you can’t do this in ten minutes, and you can’t do this when you are busy or in a hurry.  It takes time to open your heart to the Holy Spirit.  When I have done this, I have been appalled at what the Lord reveals to me about my own heart, but then I am glad for the cleansing that comes from confession and repentance.

The Bible gives us a wonderful promise in Hosea 10:12, “Sow to yourselves righteousness; reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the LORD, tile He comes and rains righteousness on you.”  Plowing is hard work because it means digging up the rocks and pulling the weeds that keep the good fruit from growing.  But if we by God’s grace do the hard thing, the Lord promises to send the rain that produces a new life with new joy and fresh fruit from heaven.

# 5: Get Serious

The Bible says in James 4:9, “Lament and mourn and weep!  Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.”  What God is saying does not sound like the typical sermon that we hear preached today.  It doesn’t sound like “God’s best for your life now,” and it doesn’t sound like “the that wins.”  In fact, this verse runs counter to the “I want to be happy all the time” version of Christianity that is very popular in America today.

Some would consider this verse as out of place.

  • Be wretched – Who wants to be wretched?
  • Mourn – The exact opposite of “don’t worry, be happy.”
  • Weep – That’s a real downer.
  • If we laugh, we should stop it and start mourning.
  • If we have joy, turn it into gloom.

I’ll be the first to agree that this verse, stated this way, seems like a downer.  But let’s step back and ask ourselves what James means by all this.

Is he a kill-joy?  No, that is not what he is trying to be.  Is he a frowning Puritan? That’s not fair because the Puritans were supremely happy in God.

James wants us to get serious

About our relationship with God.

When theologian R. C. Sproul died in December 2017, Russell Pulliam wrote an assessment of his life in the Washington Post. He located Sproul’s huge influence in the fact that he believed in the theology of John Calvin.  That led to this sentence: “Sproul believed that we are more sinful than we usually think we are.”

That’s spot-on accurate, both as a statement of what Sproul believed and of the true American self-assessment.  Most people, even those who don’t go to church, would agree they are sinners. That is, no one’s perfect, we all make mistakes, and so on.  It’s not hard to get people to agree with that concept.

But the Bible goes much further.

It tells us that sin has infected every part of human life, that we are spiritually dead, spiritually blind, lost, separated from God, and without hope in the world (Ephesians 2).  The Bible reveals the solemn truth that “all have sinned” (Romans 3:23).  We have all missed the mark.  The whole human race is lost, broken, dead, blind, deaf to God’s truth, in a state of perpetual rebellion, and so separated from God that we are under His wrath, and bound for eternal punishment in hell.

That’s what God says

About the whole human race.

That’s God’s verdict on you and me.

If you don’t believe that, or if you think that’s too harsh, or if you can’t handle the truth, then this verse will make no sense to you.

It all depends on how messed up you think you are.

Small sinners need a small Savior.

Moderate sinners need a moderate Savior.

Big time sinners need a big time Savior.

We are all big time sinners!

Once we see our sin as it really is, we will see ourselves as wretched and mourn and weep.  We’ll stop laughing and start crying.  We’ll let our joy be turned to mourning.  And that opens the door to the abundant life we all seek. This promise comes true whenever we decide to take God seriously.

# 6: Stay Low

The Bible says in James 4:10, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.”  I heard Dr. Jimmy Draper talk about some advice he sought from Dr. Howard Hendricks when he was being considered for the pastorate of First Baptist Dallas, Texas.  Dr. Hendricks’ reply was simple: “Lie low and exalt Christ.”

That’s a good word for all of us.  We can brag on ourselves, or we can exalt Christ, but we can’t do both at the same time.  That sentence stands as a powerful admonition for every Christian.  It is great advice because it describes two choices.

You can exalt yourself,

Or you can exalt Christ,

But you can’t do both.

When we decide to lie low and exalt Christ, there is no limit to what the Lord may choose to do through us.

I began this blog by talking about one football player who shouted at another football player, “Humble yourself!”  What he said to his rival, God says to us. His message is crystal clear.

We can be blessed, but we must humble ourselves.

We can change, but we must humble ourselves.

We can experience the abundant life, but we must humble ourselves.

In the early days of 2020, many of us are thinking about how we can get a fresh start and make a new beginning.  James 4:6-10 shows us the path that will jumpstart your spiritual life. In the Kingdom of God, the way up is down.  If you humble yourself, the Lord will raise you up.

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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Do I Make Resolutions For My Sake Or God’s?

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

3Jan  I’ve gained a few pounds over the holidays.  With all the delicious food and candies put before me between Thanksgiving and Christmas it was not hard to do.  My face is a bit fuller and my clothes are a bit tighter.  It’s time to take action.  So what is the popular thing to do?  Make a New Year’s resolution.  Whether you have ever made one or not, everyone knows someone who has.

  • We resolve to stop procrastinating.
  • We resolve to get out of debt.
  • We resolve to eat right/lose weight/exercise.
  • We resolve to read our Bible and pray everyday.
  • We resolve to do something designed to help us better ourselves by creating good habits or overcoming bad ones.

As I pondered my resume exercising and eating right, I was convicted about how I had framed the situation in my mind.  There were two problems.  First . . .

I had an unbiblical view of the problem.

Second . . .

I had an unbiblical motive for fixing it.

As I explain what I mean, I encourage you to look at your own life to see if you have made the same errors I did.

My unbiblical view of my problem is tied to the human tendency to minimize the seriousness of sin.  Rather than seeing my overeating as disobedience and sin, I downgraded it to the status of a bad habit.  We do this all the time.  We take things that the Bible calls sin and we sanctify them and dress them up so that they look more like a simple problem.

One major problem with this is that . . .

We view our bad habit primarily

As something that is

Holding us back rather than

Something that is

An offense against

The holiness of God.

With that view comes a certain lack of urgency in addressing the problem.

That is why so many people

Convince themselves that

They can wait until January 1

To break the “habit.”

But if we viewed

The situation as sin,

Then there is

A sense of urgency

Because to wait

Until January 1

Is to compound

The offense against God.

My sin, gluttony, has become what some might call an acceptable sin.  “Everybody does it,” especially during the holidays.  We joke about it.  We accept it as a weakness to overcome.  We don’t confront it in ourselves and we certainly don’t confront it in others.

But what does the Bible say?  In Deuteronomy 21:18-20, the rebellious son is referred as “a glutton and a drunkard.”  Proverbs 23:20-21 tells us, “Be not among drunkards or among gluttonous eaters of meat, for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and slumber will clothe them with rags.”

Ezekiel 16:49 describes the sin of Sodom: “Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.”

Gluttony is not a bad habit . . . It is sin.

Is there something in your life

That you have downgraded

To the status of a bad habit,

But that God has declared to be sin?

If so, we shouldn’t think of

A New Year’s resolution

As an adequate solution.

Rather we should address

The sin with repentance and obedience.

So, my first mistake was having an unbiblical view of the problem.

My second mistake was having an unbiblical motive for fixing it.  What was my motive for resolving to exercise and eat right? To look better and feel better about myself.  In other words . . .

My own pride

Was what moved me

To do something

About my weight.

I wanted to better myself.

This, of course, is the natural motive when I have first convinced myself that my problem was a bad habit rather than a sin.  If what I am doing is not regarded as an offense to God, then I am free to see my breaking this bad habit as doing something to better myself.  It is completely self-centered.  The gluttony was self-centered in that it was born out of a desire to please my own flesh, and the solution to that problem was self-centered because it was born out of a desire to please my own pride.

When I have an unbiblical view of my problem

And an unbiblical motive for fixing it,

Both are disobedient and dishonoring to God.

Both the problem and the solution are sin.

So, what is the appropriate motive for addressing the issue?

A desire to glorify God.

God saved us so that we would

Be holy and blameless

Before Him for His glory

(Ephesians 1:3-14.)

My motive for addressing sin in my life should be so that I will be sanctified in my behavior, becoming holy and blameless so as to glorify God.  The concept of bettering myself is nowhere in the picture.

Many Christians will resolve to improve their devotional life this year.  That is a worthy goal  They should understand that to not spend time in God’s Word and in prayer is sin since we are commanded to do both (Ephesians 6:17-18; Philippians 2:14-16; Colossians 3:16; 1 Thessalonians 5:17; Hebrews 5:11-14).  The proper motive, rather than being a desire to feel good about ourselves, is the desire to be obedient and glorify God.

Any New Year’s resolution intended to address something that the Bible calls sin should be discarded and replaced with a biblical view of the problem and biblical motive for change.   It is not an issue of bettering oneself.  It is an issue of obedience.  Whether your sin is literal gluttony or “spiritual anorexia” (no devotional life) or anything else, there should be a sense of urgency that will not allow us to wait until  January 1 to act, and there should be a conviction that will not allow us to stop on January 3.

Let’s not downgrade our sin and let’s not make our own benefit the highest reason to address our sin. May the glory of God be our supreme motive for all that we do.

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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Our Role In Revival By Addition Or Subtraction

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

2JaN  I don’t know any Christians who don’t want revival.  We would all like see God “revive us again, that Your people may rejoice in You.”  (Psalm 85:6).  But what happens when genuine, God-sent revival occurs?  Many times what happens is much different than we think.   I believe God adds some things and takes away some things.  The title for today’s blog came from a joke I heard some time ago that went something like this:

Two pastors were exchanging the latest news. One said, “Did you hear about the revival we had at our church?”  “No,” replied the other pastor. “How many new members did you add to your rolls?”  “None,” the first pastor exclaimed, “but we had some very helpful and necessary subtractions!”

Here is a word of exhortation for us all.

If we ever find ourselves in the midst of a revival,

Let’s make sure we are on the side of addition and not subtraction!

The book of Acts shows us that the early church was marked by both kinds of “revival,” as the Sovereign Lord both added to and subtracted from His church.

You might remember the account as told in the Book of Acts where 3,000 souls were added to the church (Acts 2:41), and then latter 5,000 more (Acts 4:4).  What a revival that must have been!  But we must never overlook the growth of the church that took place by divine subtraction also.  In Acts 5:12-11 we read about Ananias and Sapphira, who came under the divine discipline of the Almighty and were removed from the church.

Revival isn’t a matter of collective church growth only; it begins in the heart of the believer.  We can start our own revival by adding something to our personal walk with Christ or by subtracting something.  Here are a few examples of some good things to add that can strengthen our walk with Christ:

  • Daily devotional time.
  • Consistent prayer.
  • Regular church attendance.
  • Volunteer for an outreach or ministry project.
  • Join a small Bible study group.
  • Regular resting in Jesus.
  • Go on a mission trip.
  • Share Jesus with those you know.
  • Daily exercising you faith.
  • Growing in your faith and knowledge of the Lord Jesus.

Here are a few things that are good to subtract that just might be hindering our walk with Christ:

  • Television time.
  • Internet time.
  • FaceBook Time.
  • Burning the candle at both ends.
  • Spending more than we make.

There may be several other things you can identify to add or subtract in your own life. Take some time to consider just how God would have you start your own revival in your life.  You can be certain of two things: it will be for your ultimate good and bring ultimate glory to God!  Let’s be open to what God wants to do in our lives this coming year that will answer our longing for God to “revive us again . . . “

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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Beginning Again … Not Starting Over

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

1JanWe know that the Bible tells us in Romans 8:28 that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to his purpose.  At the beginning of a new year, there is a lot of talk about “starting over” and “getting a clean start in life.”  I know what people are trying to say, but experience has taught me that it would be far better to say “beginning again” rather than “starting over.”  Starting over suggests a clean slate with the past wiped away.  The problem with this approach is that it attempts to eliminate your story up to this point.

Now, I understand that all of us would like to eliminate parts of our past story for a variety of reasons: broken promises . . . unfulfilled dreams . . . unaccomplished goals . . . hurtful or harmful experiences . . . sins we would rather forget.  But eliminating those ugly episodes would dishonor and minimize the person we have become today.  Why?

Because everything in our past

Has brought us to our present,

And these things will be used

By God to prepare and propel us

Into our promised future.

And I do mean everything!

  • Past wounds witness
  • Past scars speak  
  • Past pains produce
  • Past failures fortify
  • Past difficulties deliver

Notice what our verse for today does not say; it does not say, “All things are good.” There are some pretty dreadful things that happen in this life, because we are sinful people living with other sinful people in a broken world.  But what Romans 8:28 does say is that God works all those dreadful things for your good.

  • God is working your wounds for your good.
  • God is working your scars for your good.
  • God is working your pains for your good.
  • God is working your failures for your good.
  • God is working your difficulties for your good.

God is working everything for your good, and that is why we ought not try to erase our past or escape from it.

God was in it then,

And He is working it

For our good even now.

So instead of thinking about “starting over” in 2019, I encourage you to consider “beginning again.”

You begin from right where you are.

You acknowledge, receive,

And own your past,

Trusting that every portion

Of your past story

Will be used by God

To produce the absolute best version

Of who you are and

What God has placed you here to do.

I love the way the Amplified Bible renders Paul’s description of Abraham in Romans 4:20-21 — “No unbelief or distrust made him waver (doubtingly question) concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong and was empowered by faith as he gave praise and glory to God, fully satisfied and assured that God was able and mighty to keep His word and to do what He had promised.”

There are those times when you and I are assailed by doubts and questions.  We wonder what possible purpose there can be in our pain.  But when those thoughts come, banish them to the pit where they belong!  Do not waver in your trust in the promises of God, because He who began His good work in you is “able and mighty to keep His word,” (Philippians 1:6) and He has promised to use every bit of your story to conform you to the image of His beloved Son, Jesus Christ.

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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Thankful For All That God Is And All He Had Done

Grace For The Journey

31Dec  As we approach the final days of this decade, I think it is helpful for all of us to get a little bit contemplative about the last ten years.  I don’t know about you, but I have experienced that sense of things moving more quickly as we get older.  That reality has been difficult to deny as we wind up the last of the “two-thousand-and-teens.”  It hardly seems possible that it was twenty years ago when we were all wondering if the world was going to implode on Y2K – would some unavoidable computer glitch shut down the global grid?  Of course, that never occurred, and we have been able to continue cruising through the first two decades of the twenty-first century.

The Bible says in Psalm 143:5, “I remember the days of old; I meditate on all that You have done; I ponder the work of Your hands.”  The psalmist wrote of his practice of slowing down and intentionally centering his thoughts on God’s ways and God’s works.  The highest place upon which he could set his mind was on the goodness of God. I think we would benefit greatly if we did the same thing as often as possible.  When I get intentionally thoughtful towards God, I become increasingly thankful toward Him.

I want to end this year, and this decade, with prayerful thoughts and words of praise on how wonderful and awesome God has been to me.

Thank You, Father, for another year filled with Your grace. Thank You for shepherding me through intense and difficult moments I never would have signed up for if You had asked us.  Thank You for the wisdom and depth of faith you supplied me through trials and testings that took me outside of my own resources and capacities.  Thank You, Father, for new friends I made this past year and how they have enriched my life.  Thank You for reinforcing to me that my relationships are far more valuable than my possessions.  Thank You for Your astounding mercy and grace as throughout the decade I said goodbye to those that I would have kept by my side forever if it had been in my power.  Only by Your grace did I not fall apart in my grief, never to arise.  Thank You, Father, for sustaining grace that I could only experience in the moments where it was needed.  You have upheld me with Your hand during each day. You are an unspeakably great and good God.

Thank you, King Jesus, for ruling faithfully and wisely over the entire world and universe for another twelve months. With the psalmist, I am humbled when I consider all that You have done, I see the work of your hands.  Even though the nations rage and proud, ignorant men beat their arrogant chests in thunder and fury, while American politicians continue to direct their empty streams of polluted platforms, You, Lord Jesus, abide in the strength of Your decrees which abide forever.  What joy it will be when the foolishness of man is forever silenced by Your uncontested authority.  I am immeasurably blessed today to think on this one thing: the Word of my Savior and King eternally endures, and He have the final word.  Every other voice will fall silent.  All that will be heard will be the bending of every knee just before the global confession that Jesus Christ is Lord.  I say reverently, Jesus, that I cannot wait for this moment to come.

Thank you, Holy Spirit, for patiently abiding with me as I sometimes stumble my way toward my appointed finish lines.  The more I know You, the more humbled I am that You are willing to abide with me in the midst of my too-frequent follies.  I say such foolish things at times – things unfitting for those who are forgiven and redeemed. I bark and bite at others instead of blessing and building them. I am prone to grieve Your holy heart.  I quench the flame of Your power within me because I spend unprofitable time dialed in on things that will not matter in eternity.  You are the undeterred teacher and trainer of my heart.  You strive with me, yearning to bring about the full manifestation of who I am in Christ.  I so deeply need You!  It is not my might that sustains me.  It is not my power that wins the day.  It is You, Spirit of God, who inhabits me, empowers me, sanctifies me, seals me, gifts me, and delivers me. Thank You for being God in me!  Thank You that, as with the Father and the Son, Your special mercies to me are new every morning.  Do not relent, Holy Spirit!  Let the glory of Jesus be released through me in greater measures as I decrease, and He increases in my life.

With the psalmist, we must remember Who is our God.  With the psalmist, we must meditate upon the goodness of God toward us.  With the psalmist, we must ponder in childlike wonder the marvelous works of God.

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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A New Attitude For A New Year

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

30Dec  As we come to the close of the year, I think all of would like to begin 2020 saying, “This is the year that the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it!”  But perhaps depression, one of the great afflictions of our age, is dulling your spirits. In today’s blog I want us to look at God’s Word and see how one man exchanged depression for joy to begin a new emotional era in his life.

The Bible says in Psalm 42:5, “Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance.”

Our attitude is very important.  The Bible says in Proverbs 23:7, “For as a man thinks in his heart, so is he . . “  Because of the circumstances and situations many have faced in their past and current life, they may cause us to have a soar view of life which will affect how they look at the New Year.  I want to use today’s blog to offer some good Gospel News that will not alter our attitude about the coming year but also affect our actions.  The key for this to happen is what we are going to focus on.  The Bible says in Psalm 45:1, “My heart is overflowing with a good theme …” 

There are three biblical truths from Psalm 42:5 which are necessary if we are to have a good “theme” for our lives in the coming year.  This verse that will give each of us the insight and power to have a new attitude for the New Year.

1) My Condition.

Three key words describe this man’s condition. First, downcast“Why are you cast down, O my soul?”  One person translates this: “Why are you down in the dumps?” Other translations say, “Why are you so sad?” or “Why are you discouraged?”  All of us face this reality at times in our lives.  There are many things that can cause us to be downcast or discouraged.  Sometimes we can’t prevent them from happening but a good first step in getting through these feelings is to recognize what we are feeling.

A second word is disquieted.  The psalmist goes on to say, “…” and why are you disquieted within me?”  The Hebrew term conveys the idea of “an unpleasant sound, a commotion or clamor.”  It refers to unpleasant music in the soul.  One person translates it this way – “Why are you singing the blues, O my soul?”

The third word is mourning in verse 9, “… Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?”  The Hebrew for “mourning” is means “to be ashen, dark and dingy.” The reference may be to one’s facial expression or to the garments of sackcloth worn by the grief-stricken.

Can you identify with this man’s condition?

2) My Circumstances.

The writer was one of the sons of Korah, Israel’s renowned musicians and worship leaders. Yet, he begins Psalm 42 telling us he feels separated from God.  Evidently this man is exiled both spiritually and geographically.  He has been taken from Jerusalem, away from his normal ministry in the temple courts (verse 4). Where is he?  Verse 6 offers a clue: “O my God, my soul is cast down within me; Therefore, I will remember You from the land of the Jordan, and from the heights of Hermon, from the Hill Mizar. Deep calls unto deep at the noise of Your waterfalls.”  This man is in the far north, at the headwaters of the Jordan, in the foothills of Mount Hermon.  The word Mizar means “little,” perhaps referring to a smaller hill in the Hermon range in the area known as Caesarea Philippi or Banias.  Here the springs and creeks plunge from the mountains, crashing and roaring and forming the beginnings of the Jordan River.  Second Kings 14:14 tells of a time when King Jehoahaz invaded the nation of Judah.  He swept into the temple, looted its treasures, and took some of the temple workers hostage to the north.  We don’t know if this is the historical setting of Psalms 42, but it fits.  Perhaps one of those hostages wrote this psalm.  Have you ever had a time when you felf alone and separated from family and friends?  Have you ever felt downcast and disquieted?  Exiled? Far from where you want to be in lif

3) My Cure.

This man is determined not to give in to despondency or self-pity.  He’s going to fight with three lifelines.

Talking to God. Psalm 42 begins as a prayer; and as he prays, this man’s confidence grows and his courage returns, as we see at the end of 42:5 and where he repeats it in Psalm 43:5.

Talking to Others. In Psalm 42:2, the writer is no longer praying; he is talking to you and me, to his readers, to whoever will listen. There are seven billion people in the world, yet we long for someone to talk to.  That’s why support groups, chat rooms, and bars are so popular.  But you don’t need a bar or chat room.  Find a Christian friend, open up, and share your heart.  Ask others to pray with you.  We’re never as strong as when kneeling side by side with a friend in need.

Talking to Myself. The psalmist also learned how to talk to himself – “Why are you cast down, O my soul? Why so disquieted within me? Hope in God . . . !” He is addressing himself.  We often listen to ourselves when we should talk to ourselves.  We have negative little voices inside us, playing discouraging tapes in endless loops.  We need to eject those tapes, take ourselves in hand, sit ourselves down, and give ourselves a talking to.  We need to learn to preach to ourselves God’s wonderful good news truth from His Word.

If you’ve been singing the blues, talk to God about it; talk to a good friend; and talk to yourself.  Those three lifelines will be like a triangle of triumph and will enable you to say: “Why are you cast down, O my soul? Why are you disquieted within me? This is the year that the Lord has made. Rejoice and be glad in it.”

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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Living from the Inside Out

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

  It is two days after Christmas.  Most of us still have Christmas on our minds.  Because of that I want to start out my blog today with this story: A man in south Florida ordered a Christmas tree from the Christmas tree capital of the world – western North Carolina.  It was a 9-foot blue spruce, and it was beautiful.  When It arrived, he put it up and his family decorated it with ornaments collected from around the world, along with golden beads, tinsel, a thousand lights.  It was the most beautiful Christmas tree in the neighborhood.

Outside the window in the back yard were other trees.  They didn’t have any lights, ornaments, or tinsel; but they had something better – they had roots, sap, and life – and they had oranges, tangerines, and grapefruit that kept coming season after season, year after year.  No one had to hang any fruit on those trees.  These trees produced them from within. They came from the inside out.

The Christmas tree that the man brought in for Christmas and the trees in his back yard represent two different views of the Christian life in particular:

A lot of people in this world call themselves Christians, but their faith and lives are not really rooted and grounded in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  They have no fruit that comes through the presence and work of the Holy Spirit.  They hang a lot of ornaments, tinsel, and lights on their lives, and they make an impression.

But they are living

From the outside in.

The Bible describes other kind of person is like a tree planted by rivers of water that brings forth its fruit in season (Psalm 1:1-3).  Their leaves also do not wither, and whatever they do honors God and contributes to the increase of His kingdom.

One view is that of religion

Trying to live from the outside in;

The other view is that of the Christian life

Living life from the inside out.

I believe the Lord gave us the Sermon on the Mount to show us the difference between those two approaches to spirituality.

We sometimes call the “Sermon on the Mount” our Lord’s Inaugural Address.  He introduced it with what we call the Beatitudes in Matthew 1:1-12, the statements that begin, “Blessed are….”

And then in Matthew 5:17-20, Lord declares the theme of the entire sermon – and the key sentence is verse 20: “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.”

This sermon is all about righteousness.

What is righteousness?  I

t is being in a right relationship with God

That enable us to live exactly

The way God wants us to live.

It is a life that corresponds

To His holiness, love, and purity.

As someone put it, “It is right living from God’s of view – right-living-ness, righteousness.”

Now the people who appeared to live that way in the days of Jesus were the Pharisees, a Jewish group that had very strict and high standards.  Everyone thought they were the holiest people around.  But Jesus said in effect, “No, they’re not!  Their righteousness is only on the outside …  It is only on the surface.  They are like Christmas trees, bedecked with righteous ornamentation, but inwardly they are dead.  Let Me tell you what genuine righteousness and godliness is all about” – and He preached this Sermon on the Mount.

I believe Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount for three reasons:

First, to define and describe true righteousness and godliness as God sees it.

God’s kind of righteousness is different than man’s.  Man focuses on what he can do or should do.  God focuses on the heart – man must be right from the very core of his being if he is to be accepted by God and be righteous.

Second, to preview for us the kind of life He Himself was about to live.

He described for us in advance what the world would see over the three years of His public ministry.  The death of Jesus Christ would have been worthless and wasted had He not been sinless, or righteous.  He had to offer Himself as a sinless, pure, and perfect sacrifice.  So, Jesus came to demonstrate what a truly sinless, righteous, perfect personal person is like.  He tells us in Matthew 5-7, and then He shows us in Matthew 8 – 28.

But there is a third reason Jesus gave us the Sermon on the Mount – To show us the kind of life He wants to form within us by the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.

It isn’t a righteousness

That is from the outside in

– That’s religion –

Man’s attempt to please God;

It’s the growing righteousness

Formed within us

From the inside out

By the Holy Spirit.

That’s the theme and the purpose of the Sermon on the Mount.  Jesus introduces the sermon with the Beatitudes, then states His theme, and in Matthew 5:21, the Lord brings it down to right where we live and shows us how this works out in the various applications of life.  In the remainder of chapter 5, He shows us how this works in four different areas of life.

  1. It’s Not Enough to Avoid Murder on the Outside … You Must Avoid Hate on the Inside – Matthew 5:21-26.

Verse 21 says: You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, “You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.”

Murder is an outward act.  Every year in the United States funerals are performed for thousands of murder victims, and in each one of them a person had been robbed of the most precious possession they owned – their own life.  But, in this verse, Jesus is saying in effect, “Even if you don’t physically murder someone, you are still breaking the commandments and requirements of God if you carry around hatred for them in your heart.  God sees your hatred just as He sees every act of murder.”

Verse 22 says: “But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca’ (which was an Aramaic term of contempt, like we would say, “Idiot!”) is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

You can go through your whole life without murdering anyone, and yet be guilty of murder in your heart because of your hatred for another person.  Hatred is akin to murdering someone in your heart.

Of course, we all get mad at other people occasionally.  But when that anger turns into hatred, it becomes a venom that poisons the one who has it.  So, what should you do?

Verse 23 tells us: Therefore, if you are offering your gift on the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.

If you’re getting ready to put your offering envelop in the collection plate or go online and make a gift to some ministry, but you remember you’ve got a angry heart toward another person, then your gift to God isn’t going to do much good.  The Bible tells us, before we can worship properly, we need to get our heart right toward that other person.

Verse 25 says: “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.”

In other words, if you pursue your anger, hated, and bitterness toward somebody, it will double back and cost you more than you want to pay.  Try to avoid lawsuits and taking your neighbor to court.

We live in a complicated world, and Jesus is speaking in simple terms.  It’s not easy to navigate every particular situation, but in general He is telling us that it’s not enough to refrain from murder.  The heart of a righteous person has Teflon as it relates to hatred and bitterness.  Those attitudes just cannot stick to us, because we have the coating of the love of Christ within us.

I don’t know about you, but for me this is not an easy process. I remember once when someone who was a very good friend betrayed me and did something that hurt me deeply.  I felt an incredible amount of anger. I felt rage, and tremendous hurt.  Some of you know that kind of feeling.  I am glad to say that, today, I feel no anger, no rage, and no bitterness toward that person.  How did that happened?

  • First, I had to pray my way through it.  I was so upset I’d go for long walks, thinking through it, praying through it, and asking God to help me with my emotions.
  • Second, I had to come to a point of truly putting it in God’s hands.  Now, I’ll be very honest with you.  This is one of the hardest things I ever have to do – When I have a painful situation, to bring it and give it the Lord.  But I cannot turn the corner in my own emotions until I do that.
  • Thirdly, I needed to forgive that person whether or not he asked me to or deserved it.  It is not a matter of feelings or fairness; it is a matter of obedience – Matthew 6:14-15.
  • Fourth, I had to give it time.  Healing takes time.
  • And then I had to seek reconciliation with that person (Matthew 18:15).  This might not always be possible, for it depends on the other person.  If they are unrepentant or unwilling to change, sometimes you just have to walk away.  But if there is humility there, you need to seek to restore your friendship.

And as that happened with me, I know it happens with a lot of people.

  1. It’s Not Enough to Avoid Immorality on the Outside … You Must Maintain Purity on the Inside – Matthew 5:27-31.

The second area Jesus brings us is sexual purity.  Look at verse 27: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’  But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

In other words . . .

Righteousness is not just a matter

Of the way you act on the outside;

It’s what’s going on

In your mind and heart.

The truly righteous person is righteous from the inside out.  Jesus said, “It’s not enough to keep yourself from premarital or extramarital sex.  You’ve got to train your mind and heart and eyes to maintain purity.”

In fact, Jesus teaches you have to go to great lengths to do that.  Look at verse 29: “If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut if off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.”

Let me paraphrase . . . You’ll notice that all the way through the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus uses hyperbole to make His point.  Here is what I think He is saying – If your smartphone or computer keeps getting you into moral trouble, give it up.  People lived for thousands of years without them, and it’s better to be without your smartphone or computer than to have your whole life, mind, and eyes constantly corrupted.

  1. It’s Not Enough to Avoid Divorce On the Outside … You Must Nurture Your Marriage on the Inside – Matthew 5:31-33.

In the Old Testament, people could get divorced easily.  This led God to declare how this is contrary to what He wants in Malachi 2:11, “… For Judah has profaned the LORD’s holy institution which He loves …” and in Malachi 2:16, “For the LORD God of Israel says that He hates divorce …”  Sexual immorality will damage and destroy your marriage.  God wants you to have a happy home, a happy marriage.  It’s not enough to avoid divorce on the outside; you’ve got to nurture your marriage from the inside out.

In other words, it’s not enough just to seek to have biblical, moral, and legal justification for divorce.  You’ve got to learn to love one another from the heart, and, never think about divorce.

The other day, I read the story of a man named Warren Rausch, who lives near Minneapolis, and his story illustrates this perfectly:

“I’d like to share about my near divorce experience. I remember the day my wife and kids left our apartment.  I remember not caring if I ever saw them again or if they came back. The week goes by and I’m denying that there is anything wrong, that pornography or selfishness is a problem for me and causing this division and darkness, not understanding why she and the kids had left me.  I wondered how I could pay the rent bills, and give them money. And then I would think of leaving it all behind and moving out of the country so that I wouldn’t have to pay child support if we got divorced.

There was such a spiritual battle going on,

I claimed Christianity, but wasn’t living it.

There was a pull of wanting to be single and live the single lifestyle. Going to the strip club and the pornography did nothing to fill the void I was feeling. My pregnant wife and two kids weren’t even filling that void that I had had. I had this overwhelming sense of hopelessness and despair. I was really depressed, I wondered why God was doing this to me, why He let sex and porn have such a strong pull on me, why He had let my wife and kids leave. A few months after my family had left me, and after so much emotional rollercoaster of feelings I decided I wanted to end it all.  I think I had sent my wife an email to the sort of me wanting to take my life. That night I sat in the living room with a 9mm handgun in my hand asking God to take my life, to end this despair and hopelessness I felt.  I cried for what seemed like forever, exhausted and emotionally drained I ended up putting the gun away, and falling asleep.  I woke up the next morning, with a new sense of hope.  I knew it was Jesus who had taken away the desire to pull the trigger that night.  I felt like God had heard me, like he cared for and about me.  I decided to dedicate my life to Him, not knowing if I had really done it before.  I had a new sense of appreciation and understanding of God’s love, mercy, and grace.  

I had head knowledge of this,

But had never experienced it

On the emotional and spiritual level

Like I had through this.

So, combined with a rededication to Christ, and a determination to restore our broken, deteriorating marriage, I started reading books on defeating pornography, I got hooked up with an accountability partner, and started going to counseling, going by myself, and then as a couple.  I took the initiative to ask forgiveness from my wife and her family for how I had treated her, I took full responsibility for my actions.  Prayer was huge in helping restore our relationship.  A couple months later and after lots of Godly counseling my wife and kids moved back in, and we continue to grow as a couple, with Christ leading our family.”

It isn’t enough to avoid divorce on the outside; you have to nurture your marriage from the inside out.

Now, in the remainder of the chapter, Jesus goes on to describe area after area in which this true.

  • In verses 33-37, He said it’s not enough just to tell the truth when you’re under oath; you must practice integrity from the inside out.
  • In verses 38-42, He said, it’s not enough to go the first mile; you have to be willing to go the second mile from the inside out.
  • In verses 43-48, He said, it’s not enough to love your neighbors, you have to love your enemies from the inside out.

This is righteousness.  It’s not a Christmas tree with external ornaments; it’s a fruit tree planted by the river, rooted in Christ, and bearing the fruit of the Spirit.  This is true righteousness; this is the life that Jesus came to demonstrate; and this is the life He wants to replicate in us.

As I studied all this, my mind kept going to a phrase that I want to end with from the Galatians 4:19. “… until Christ is formed in you.

The apostle Paul was worried about the Christians in Galatia because they had a lot of external ornaments and a lot of internal confusion.  And he said that he was suffering pain like a woman in childbirth “until Christ is formed in you.”  

That is the best and only definition of righteous living that I know  . . .

Christ must be formed in us.

That involves a process.

Trees don’t grow to maturity overnight.

We have to abide in Christ

And let God form

His life and character within us

– And that’s a lifelong effort.

God wants us to be righteous . . . not only being right with Him and living in the right way.  The coming year demands that we live from the inside out.

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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