Saturday, January 19, 2013

Growing Increasingly Christlike

I recently had a conversation with another Christian who said something to the effect that not all Christians will attain a high level of Biblical knowledge or Christlikeness, and that is okay. While I agree that many will indeed voluntarily forego Christian maturity, I disagree that it is okay.

Romans 12:2 commands: “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

The Bible makes it clear in 2 Peter 1:2-11 that we are to finish strong with the gift we have been freely given:

     “Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
     For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.
     Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” 

Note how many times this verse talks about knowledge. Knowledge of what? Jesus Christ. We are to be increasing in the knowledge of Christ so that we are increasingly Christlike in every area of our life.

With the Bible and all of the Bible commentaries and Bible study software available today, there is no excuse for flatlining as a Christian.

“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.” Ephesians 1:17

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Who Will Rescue Me From this Body of Death?

My last post ended with:

"And you’re different only when you are no longer so self centered to think that you can fix you when you are the problem."

So, how did I become different?

First, my eyes were finally opened to this funny thing called sin.

I discovered a radio station that I tuned into out of curiosity of the call letters WPFF which I saw on a bumper sticker. I tuned into the pastor who preached at 9:00 a.m., and within days was feverishly writing into a notebook everything the man said because it was all so new to me and made complete sense. This pastor told me about sin. And as I listened, it dawned on me that sin was my problem! After 38 years of searching, that was it! And Jesus, the pastor taught through the radio waves, was the answer

Week after week I tuned in, at first incredulous that nobody in my hometown or family had ever explained this before and then frustrated that the Christianity I have come to know and love was snubbed and smugly mocked by the adults who were in a position to mentor me when I was growing up and attending college.

And so, at age 38, through the teaching of a radio pastor and the ensuing full immersion into a Christian community, I finally found the answer to why I am broken: sin; and Who it is that can rescue and transform me: Jesus.

Thus began the fixing of my eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of my faith (Hebrews 12:2). Through His Word, His Holy Spirit and His gift of new life, I have been freed of the baggage of me. I am not perfect, as any born again Christian is not perfect. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23).  But Matthew 5:48 says, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” John MacArthur comments on this verse: “He who is perfect could not set an imperfect standard of righteousness. The marvelous truth of the gospel is that Christ has met this standard on our behalf.” 

This is further backed up by 2 Corinthians 5:21, 6:1-2: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. As God’s fellow workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. For he says, ‘In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.’ I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.”  

This is the point where I feel as though I cannot even begin to explain the process of God in transforming hearts and minds: “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! ‘Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?’ ‘Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?’ For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen” (Romans 11:33-36).

Salvation is so unique to each person. I want to explode sometimes for lack of being able to put it into words, and can only conclude by saying that, until a person allows God to grab them, they will never “grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge” (Ephesians 3:18-19).

So I end this abruptly, with nothing more to say except to implore us to chase after God with every fiber of our being, desiring our will to line up with His will, our love to overflow with His love, our strength to grow out of His strength, the joy of our salvation to be the root of our humility, and His perfect love to cast out all fear of everything and everyone, including ourselves and our sin. It is my prayer that His righteousness boots out our self-righteousness so that we can, in times of desperation, call out, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?”  (Romans 7:24).  I pray we hear His faithful answer: “I will.”

God promises in Isaiah 41:10, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

And so we are equipped by God through faith to go forth in His care, freely surrendering full authority to Him, confident that He is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us (Ephesians 3:20).

“So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more. 
You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” Ephesians 4:17-24

Friday, January 4, 2013


When I stopped making New Year’s resolutions it meant that I also gave up month-of-May resolutions, birthday resolutions, week-of-September 7 resolutions, wedding anniversary resolutions, new home and job resolutions, etc. etc. Pick a day out of a hat and I could declare, "From this point on, I am going to do 50 sit ups every day." Or, "From this day forward, I will never again eat an Oreo cookie." 

How ridiculous, because what we are doing is putting faith in a date on a calendar to be our savior from ourselves or choosing new surroundings like plaster walls and carpet to be our inner change.

Look how well trusting in a date has worked for the end-of-world hobbyists!

Look at how taking a new job has made so many people “happy” or how many new houses have “saved the marriage.”

But, you may protest, what about resolve? Okay, let’s look at resolve: "I resolve to do this, I resolve not to do that." Think about it logically and ask yourself, “How has that worked for me in the past?” “How is it working for me today?” “Will resolve still be there a month from now?” “How well does ‘my resolve’ stand up to temptation and the influence of others?”

Thinking logically about resolve always leads to my favorite question, which is, “How can I help me if I am the problem?” 

Resolve, at minimum, is only a platitude, and, at maximum, an attitude. It isn’t an action. And even if we can act on our resolve, it is bound to last only temporarily, as mine always did when I tried secular humanist self-help routes to stop drinking.

Don’t get me wrong: I understand human resolve can be strong. I could go three months on sheer willpower and determination and succeed in not drinking. But each sober day was a horror of listening to the clock tick each and every minute of my “success,” only to go to bed declaring "victory," dreading waking up the next morning faced with having to live through another day like that again (and for the rest of my life). 

People say they don’t believe in hell. Well, I’ve tasted hell on earth and living like what I’ve just described is it. It is the very bondage the Bible talks about. It is darkness. I was caged by my efforts to free me. And that, my friends, is hell, believe it or not. I may not have been physically pouring alcohol down my gullet, but I sure wasn’t free of its grip. I wasn’t free of me. And the harder “me” tried to free “me” the more chained I became. My record of physical self-sobriety was three months. But remember, the mental addiction to alcohol remained. And so I drank again, without fail, after several repeats of existing 3 months sober.

I can't say it earnestly enough: A resolve to believe in ourselves when we have nothing to offer is foolishness and a waste of time. It’s time to stop lying to ourselves with the line, “But this time it’ll be different." The only time “This time will be different” is if this time, YOU’RE different. And you’re different only when you are no longer so self-centered to think that you can fix you when you are the problem.

(Part two of this post will appear soon)

“Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil.” James 4:13-16