Thursday, July 31, 2008

Losing the Case

To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? But you yourselves wrong and defraud--even your own brothers!
(1 Corinthians 6:7-8 – ESV)

So now you see where we need good strong churches in order to keep in step with the gospel when we are in disagreement and have disputes with other believers. However you might now say, “well okay, we should settle these things in church not in court, but there aren’t any good churches around, that is why we don’t belong to one, and we couldn’t possibly let it go then”. Well, actually yes, that IS what Paul is saying, to let it go. You see, if you don’t have a church, you are losing out on your opportunity to get this thing solved in a Christian manner, because Paul says if you cannot work it out there, you should just let it go.

Paul is saying that the believer who demands their legal rights in the face of this apostolic counsel always loses the case in God's sight. What becomes visible in that individual is their own selfishness, and also the fact that by demanding their rights in a court of law, they are basically saying that they don't believe God with his power and wisdom can work in the circumstances to accomplish his will. They trust the court system more than God himself. Paul says, “Not only do you not bear it, you return fire, looking to inflict wrong”.

Paul's point is that it's better to lose financially than to lose spiritually. Even when we're clearly in the right legally, we don't always have the spiritual or moral right to insist on it in public court. If we've been wronged or defrauded, we're called to forgiveness, not bitterness. If our fellow believers can't convince the brother to make things right, we're better off to suffer loss and injustice than to bring a lawsuit. Paul is only expanding the word Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:38-40). These hard words are absolutely contrary to the standards of the world that we live in today. When we're deprived wrongfully, we're to cast ourselves on the care of God, who will work for our good and for his glory. We can pray to the Lord who can change hearts and deal with injustice. We must not trust the legal system to do that, because it won't. When we aren’t willing to lose something for the sake of Christ we have already lost.

Have you ever been tested in the area of losing something for Christ’s sake? Sometimes we need to just let it go, to show mercy and so receive mercy from Christ (Matthew 5:7). All who are godly in Christ will suffer persecution (2 Timothy 3:12), but most just try and find every way out of it they can. They don't have to worry about failing a test they don't have to take. Many will never submit to discipline, either from the church, or in some degree to the scriptures themselves. They never give up the right to be the final arbiter, and this is the glaring problem in many so-called Christians. They say one thing, but they actually believe another, and it will eventually show itself as true that they were false. The gospel truth is that submitting to God means that we also have to submit to one another.

However, most people don’t want to submit themselves to God’s people. They want the gospel to get them out of hell, but they are willing to put others through hell for their own self-interest. They haven’t enjoyed the Christian life because they won’t die to themselves. They want everything easy; at every point they want support and praise. Then, when some trouble comes, as it inevitably will, and an ungodly but attractive alternative presents itself, they have no moral center on which to depend. They had never, for the sake of Christ, made a decision that cost them something; and they aren’t about to start now. However, real professions of faith manifest themselves in a principal death to self-interest, in a principal commitment to the cause of Christ and His gospel. What is normal for a true Christian is taking up one's cross and following Jesus; we lose our lives but we gain all the more (John 12:24). Let us consider one another as we consider what Christ means to us (Philippians 2:1-11).

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

No Recourse, No Remorse?

I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers, but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers?
(1 Corinthians 6:5-6 – ESV)

Paul laments that the Corinthians are so immature that it seems as if there is no one mature enough to handle these things. We had ought to be maturing in our Christian life, growing in grace and the knowledge of God, so that we may use our biblically informed conscience and scriptural principles to help mediate if necessary. In this life, there will always be problems and disputes, disagreements and vigorous debate, even among believers. The question is will we step up to the plate and develop our lives according to Christ so that we don’t have to run to court over every little thing?

It is not that Paul never had any disputes; godly people can disagree. Paul had to confront Peter in Galatia, (Galatians 2:7-15), but Peter later joins in strengthening the churches of Galatia as well (1 Peter 1:1). Paul may have severe differences with people but he aims at reconciliation, as we see with Barnabas (Acts 11:22-30, 13:1-3, 15:36-40 / 1 Corinthians 9:6) and John Mark (nephew / cousin of Barnabas – same as gospel of Mark / Acts 12:25, 13:13, 15:36-40 / Colossians 4:10 / 2 Timothy 4:11). So Paul isn’t saying that he doesn’t expect disputes, certainly he does. It is that he expects them to do other than they had been doing. He expects them to take care of matters without having to involve the unbelievers.

Now if we are required to answer a charge or to testify, we have to respond, because as Christians we live under the law of the land just as much as anyone else. There are times when we need legal clarification of different kinds of agreements such as contracts, real estate deals, and insurance coverage. There are some things that only a court of law can provide interpretation of. Sometimes, tragically, the quarrels or disagreements between Christians over financial issues and property issues get so tangled that they do have to have a secular court step in to render an expert legal judgment.

In a criminal matter, a believer may need to sign a complaint against another believer who has broken the law, because sometimes failure to do so would condone the lawlessness. Any time that a Christian is being divorced by his or her spouse, the law requires a secular court to be involved. That may also be the case for child abuse, spousal abuse, financial irresponsibility, or child neglect. In those kinds of situations a parent or spouse may be forced to seek court protection.

But with all those exceptions to the principles of 1 Corinthians 6, going to court should always be seen as the last resort. The exceptions do not negate the rule; they prove its use. And our motive must be to glorify God, never to gain selfish advantage. We must be concerned about the cause of Christ in the life of the other party; that must be central. Reconciliation, restoration, redemption, repentance; think about it.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Real or Reprobate?

So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church?
(1 Corinthians 6:4 – ESV)

Paul is talking about being real, not just saying that we believe in Jesus for our salvation and then living just like we used to. No, we have different way now. The gospel means our salvation and it also means we as brothers and sisters are one in Christ (1 Corinthians 6:17) and that we will all be together forever in heaven, and so that has implications for how we live here on earth.

When Paul describes the Roman judges as unrighteous (vs.1), he is not suggesting that they are unjust in their judgment. The term simply means non-Christian in contrast to the saints, the believers who are part of the family of God. Paul is saying why are you, the justified, trying to find justice among the unjustified? You say you trust Christ but not those He has entrusted His life to? Why go to the courthouse before the church house?

This passage and its implications about nominal Christianity speak volumes. The principle derived from God’s character applies. For example, it should be obvious to Christians that they cannot just claim, “God hates divorce”, etc., etc, when a man beats his wife, uses all the money to buy drugs, abandons her for days on end, and then won’t submit to church discipline. Then that man wants to believe he can claim scriptural warrant? Preposterous! If the man willfully does these things, he may have a problem and may be able to be rehabilitated, brought to repentance, and restored, reconciled, etc. The man or woman is not free in the Lord to divorce without consent of the church. However, if a person won’t even submit to God’s way through the process of a restorative church discipline model, he is either fooling himself, or lying to God and us about his supposed conversion to Christ. He would then be considered as an unbeliever and be rightly charged with abandoning his wife.

This is what Paul was talking about in 1 Corinthians 5, 6, and 7, he is describing the fact that although these people may have been believers, they weren’t acting like it, they were still caught up in resolving things like unbelievers. They were not living out the implications of the gospel, of being a part of the body of Christ. The scriptures are replete with the idea that we must not use the bible as a cloak for sin, and also that we must not use the bible as some sort of justification for our wanting to do things our way first and appealing to the Word of God second, as some sort of defense mechanism. Paul contests this ill-informed logic in verse 12 of chapter 6.

This passage cannot be used like some try and use the “you have to forgive me” bible backup for their obvious, willful injustice. It is amazing how many so called “Christians” have no interest in doing the will of God in their daily lives, but who somehow become bible scholars when it suits their agenda. These types of people will be far worse off on judgment day than your garden-variety pagan. They took the name of the Lord in vain.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Don’t go to Court, go to Church

Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life!
(1 Corinthians 6:2-3 – ESV)

We have in the body of believers all the resources necessary to settle disputes-truth, wisdom, equity, justice, kindness, generosity, and the mind of Christ, according to the scriptures. If we have this tremendous privilege of spiritual judgment in the future, and that ministry we're going to have will be based on principles of understanding, wisdom, and justice that we have available now in the Scriptures, then we can certainly trust them for handling disputes among ourselves right in this life. In the ordinary cases of life, the point is that if two Christian parties can't agree between themselves, they ought to ask fellow Christians to help settle the matter for them, and then be willing to abide by their decision.

Paul is not saying that the secular court system is entirely bad, or that being a lawyer is somehow ungodly. No, far from it, because Paul appealed to and benefited from Roman justice in Acts 18. Paul’s concern here is more specific. His concern is the arrogance that Christians show when they make the dirty laundry of their internal struggles public. These Christians don't care what other people think. Justice was dispensed in Corinth in the public square or the marketplace. So when someone hauled a brother or sister into court there, they weren't just settling a dispute. They were holding the church itself up to public scrutiny and ridicule.

Paul is not saying this is only an individual matter. There will come times when true believers have to have some mediation. Paul is not saying it is strictly up to the grieving parties to settle the issues all alone, no, he is saying that the church instead of the secular courts become the place of mediation. The decision by these Christians to go to court reveals how little respect they have for the church's authority and ability to settle its own disputes.

Of course, in today’s climate of people who think they are Christians but do not actively, vitally belong to any church, this becomes extremely problematic. With no church discipline in place, or marginal “professing” Christians as one or both of the “combatants”, it is therefore difficult to avoid some scenarios. Especially when someone is a professor and wants to use this as some sort of shield. It doesn’t mean that the two parties must work it out without the oversight of the church. Paul is saying that Christians should settle their disputes in the light and oversight of the church; in other words, the elders and congregation are the church court, as it were.

This is another reason why the idea of “you don’t have to go to church” is such a demonic, yes I said demonic, lie. God has given and structured the church so that it can take care of these things, but when people don’t believe in the authority of the church, they destroy part of the foundation for their lives. The truth is that mavericks have authority and responsibility and accountability issues. You cannot expect to have authority with God’s people (by using God’s Word) if you will not accept the authority of the local church. That is simply nonsense, and the whole New Testament testifies to the fact that vital membership in a local church is a non negotiable as a way of life for the Christian.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Friday, July 25, 2008

So Sue Me!

When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints?
(1 Corinthians 6:1 – ESV)

Paul clearly says in this verse that it's wrong for a Christian to be looking to sue another Christian in the secular courts. Now before you get all worked up and start giving me exceptions, realize that I’ll cover those within this series of posts, and stay with me. Paul isn’t talking about never going to trial, or just letting everything go, he is talking about a mindset, an attitude. He is speaking of acting in accordance with gospel truths, which he will go on to explain.

First, notice the word “dare”. That word implies that such an action is an affront to God and to the body of Christ as well. Christians ought to be able to manage their own conflicts without going into secular courts. He doesn’t say don’t dare to go to law at all. Notice that Paul says “instead of the saints”. As Christians we will have disputes, we will have to sort out the legalities, but we have a right way and a wrong way to settle conflicts, and as the family of God we settle family business in house. I would refer you to Philippians 4:2-9 for a biblical model of dealing with disputes in the church between members. Of course if one person is a Christian and the non-Christian takes you to court, well, that is another matter, you might have no choice.

Paul is not saying that Christians have no recourse. The point here is that when we are dealing with two professing Christians, instead of going to the secular court system, we need to entrust our case with the church. Family matters should be dealt with “in house”. Now that doesn’t mean that the two parties have to hash it out alone, or that one is automatically let off the hook if they cannot come to an agreement. No, it doesn’t mean you just have to let it go, it means instead of going to secular court, you have another place to go, before the church. You try and work it out together, and then if you need help you go to the church for mediation.

If a professing Christian tries to claim these verses as justification of why you cannot have any recourse against them, and then they won’t submit to the church and its diligent judgment and due process, then that person is only trying to use the bible as a means to avoid responsibility. If I were that person’s pastor, I would doubt the validity of the person’s faith, and I would most certainly take disciplinary action against them.

Now if the dispute happens and these involved parties in fact DO belong as vital members of church, but two distinct churches, or denominations, well, then, it may mean that the elders of both churches should meet, and anyway, you see how messy it can get. Paul I’m sure knew this, but he was speaking out against the propensity of the Corinthians to rush into these matters without giving consideration to their brothers and sisters in Christ. To look to the secular way before even considering the church way is to dare to deny the means God gives us as Christians.

It depends on the individual case. The principles are the same, but the situations are not. Of course, like other matters of living the gospel, those looking for a way out will abuse this. God knows our hearts, and He knows our willingness to do the right thing or not. Many will just try and do what they think they need to in order to get around God’s will or subject themselves to the controlling influence God, His Word, and His people over their lives in any form, fashion, or degree. They would trust unregenerate people and secular means to settle their claims (not that all in the judicial system are; some lawyers are actually saved! We ought to have as many Christian lawyers, judges, and legal personnel as we can, they are the ones who have a greater wisdom), as if they believe that the secular world would be impartial, when actually, the enemy of our souls is involved more directly when he might have a chance to besmirch the Christian witness. Satan loves to see Christians sue one another!

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Thursday, July 24, 2008

60 Seconds (8)


Peter Marshal was a Scottish-American preacher. He became pastor of the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, D. C. in 1937, and twice served as U. S. Senate Chaplain. On one occasion, he broke all precedent for prayer in the United States Senate by praying: “Help us to do our very best this day and be content with today’s troubles, so that we shall not borrow the troubles of tomorrow. Save us from the sin of worrying, lest stomach ulcers be the badge of our lack of faith. Amen.”

In Luke 12:29, Christ admonished, “Do not have an anxious mind.” The word for “anxious” means, “all up in the air about something,” that suggests “hovering between hope and fear, restless.” Further, He stated in Matthew 6:25, “Stop perpetually worrying.” The word “worry” itself comes from an old German word which means “to choke.” Then, through the years, the term came to be used to denote “mental strangulation.” Maybe this is why John Wesley stated that he would just as soon swear as to worry.

Once when Martin Luther felt very despondent, he heard a bird singing its evening song. Then he saw it tuck its head under its wing and go to sleep. He remarked, “This little bird has had its supper and now is getting ready to go to sleep, quite content, never troubling itself as to what its food will be or where it will lodge on the morrow. Like David, it abides under the shadow of the Almighty. It sits on its little twig, content, and lets God care.”

In 1 Peter 5:7, we are told to “Cast all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” The word “cast” means to throw something away or throw it onto something. The same word is used in Luke 19:35 for throwing garments on a colt in preparation for riding. It expresses a definite act of our will in committing to God our worries, giving them up to Him, and allowing Him to take responsibility. George Mueller reminds us, “The beginning of anxiety is the end of faith, and the beginning of true faith is the end of anxiety.”

There is on record in an early Greek manuscript, the name of a man called Titedios Amerimnos. The first name is a proper name. The second name is made up of the word which means “to worry,” with the Greek letter Alpha prefixed to it, which makes the word mean the opposite of what it formerly meant. It is thought that this man was a pagan Greek who perpetually worried, but who after being saved, stopped worrying. So he was called, “Titedios, The Man Who Never Worries.” Remember, when we put our cares in God’s hands, He puts His peace in our hearts.”

Dave Arnold, Pastor, Gulf Coast Worship Center, New Port Richey, Florida

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Submitted to Scripture

But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.
(Hebrews 5:14 – ESV)

It would seem that there is no end to people whom use the Bible as a tool but instead of being instructed in righteousness, they are looking to lessons in self-satisfaction. When a teacher consistently tries to back up their points by appealing to scripture, it can be difficult for the undiscerning to realize what is going on. However, if we understand the scope and sweep of scripture, we can learn to discern a counterfeit when we see it.

The first step along this road is to realize what the problems are, what God has done, and what God calls us to do. The problems as the Bible defines and describes them are sin and guilt. However, to the person who reads the Word of God but is not actually submitted to it, the main problem is a lack of fulfillment and sadness. To the flesh minded faith, salvation and satisfaction are found in your living out your story, instead of true faith, where salvation and satisfaction are found in proclaiming His story, and living out the truth of that in your own life experience.

We cannot learn to discern if we cannot learn to submit, and for someone who is a Christian, submitting to God happens at the basic level of scripture. If we cannot do that, we are only fooling ourselves. We need to heed what the Word says about submission to God and worshipping through the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:1-2). Then we can begin to grow in the knowledge of God and not submit to every fad and fraud that comes to us in the guise of the godly. Our “powers of discernment” need the power of the Word of God.

The King James renders this part of the verse as “to have their senses exercised to discern” but this is unfortunate for today’s English, because it can be easily misunderstood. It is not simply our physical senses that grow sharp, but our minds, our spiritual senses, as they are renewed by and tethered to the Word (Hebrews 4:12 / Ephesians 4:23).

We must be committed to a lifelong process of learning His Word (Matthew 28:18-20 / John 8:31-32). Our goal then becomes to grow to maturity in and unto Christ (Ephesians 4:15-16 / 2 Peter 3:18). The flesh minded faith wants to find its “true self” while the true faith is concerned with dying to self and living for God. You cannot serve two masters; you cannot live for the flesh, chasing all those temporal things you used to before you knew God, and call that serving God. We will either be submitted to scripture, or we will be exercising our flesh minded faith.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Blood Bought and Brainwashed

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
(Romans 12:1-2 – ESV)

Look at the words here, renewed, transformed, discerning. You have to be changed and you have to make up your mind that you will give God your mind. You have to do it now; you can’t wait to do it when you want to, as if you can just turn on the switch any old time you think you need it. If you already have your mind made up that way you won’t make the right decision when it counts. That is why you have to make this decisive decision today. If you don’t make the sacrifice you won’t make the sacrifice when it counts. You have to make up your mind ahead of time or your body will lose that battle almost every time. You know the truth, now be set free.

You will have to make a sacrifice. The grace of God in Jesus Christ is free indeed, but living the Christian life will cost you your life. All who desire to live a godly life in Christ will suffer persecution (2 Timothy 3:12), and if we cannot present our bodies as a living sacrifice, who are we fooling but ourselves into thinking that we will make the choice to endure persecution when it comes our way. We won’t, we’ll avoid it every time, and will never make a decision that costs us anything. That isn’t Christianity, following Jesus means taking up our cross. If you make that decision to be a living sacrifice today it will cost you, but if you wait, the price doesn’t go down, it goes up. The longer you wait the worse it will be. If you are truly God’s child, Satan and his minions have you marked, and if you haven’t made that sacrifice, no wonder you keep getting beaten up by the world and your own flesh. You had better make up your mind today, friend.

The battle ground between conforming to the world and being transformed is within the mind of the believer. Christians must think differently. The problem with many Christians is they live based on feeling, or they are only concerned about doing. The life based on feeling says, "How do I feel today? How do I feel about my job? How do I feel about my wife? How do I feel about worship? How do I feel about the preacher?" This life by feeling will never know the transforming power of God, because it ignores the renewing of the mind. The life based on doing says, "Don't give me your theology. Just tell me what to do. Give me the four points for this and the seven keys for that." This life of doing will never know the transforming power of God, because it ignores the renewing of the mind. There are those that know a little bible, who try and learn a little more every once in awhile, and who think that they balance feelings and doing, and they think this is what makes them discerning. These are the type of people, and there are thousands of Christians like that, I have been like that, who think that testing the spirits is taking some verses like 1 Corinthians 12:3 or 1 John 4:2-3 and making it the be all end all, or worse, think they have some sort of discern-o-meter thing they can just feel when they need it.

Now discern this: God isn’t against feeling and doing. He wants us to live with passion, and He commands us to be doers. Yet feelings and doing are completely insufficient foundations for the Christian life. The first questions cannot be "How do I feel?" or "What do I do?" Rather, it must be "What is true here? What does God's Word say?" The question of discernment isn’t “is it real?” but “is it right?”

The first step starts today, let’s commit our minds to Christ, let’s follow the way the Spirit is leading us, into God’s Word that we might be renewed in our minds, that we might be transformed, that we might be able to discern what the will of God is, day after day, that we might live it out, with lives fully pleasing to God, bearing fruit in every good work.

If you really want to know God, you will have to commit to knowing His Word. You may be blood bought but are you brainwashed? Have you already made this decision, really now? I am not asking if you read your bible, I am asking if you have made this singular commitment. If you have, well, have you continued to yield to God’s Word, be honest, is it first in your life, or are your feelings or your doings? We know what God’s will for us is today; it is time to make that commitment, let’s make that sacrifice, and then let’s continue to live it with a life poured out in merciful service to the glory of God, for Christ and in His name, amen.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Monday, July 21, 2008

Bible Brainwashing

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
(Romans 12:1-2 – ESV)

Let’s look at this process backwards and forwards. You are transformed by the renewing of your mind, which starts by presenting yourself as a living sacrifice, which is allowing your mind to worship God. This would be done by reading, studying, praying, pondering, meditating on, and sharing God’s Word.

You present yourself; you yield yourself up as a living sacrifice, set apart for God’s work, which is to worship Him with your mind. As you do this you are renewed, and this renewal produces a transformation. This transformation allows you to discern what God’s will is. It is quite obvious actually. When you know God’s Word you know God’s will. And if God’s Word is the controlling influence in your life, and you have yielded your body as a living sacrifice, your biblically informed and saturated mind (read: heart) will control your body (read: actions) and you will indeed be living out God’s will for your life. You will pass the tests; you will “prove” what is the good, acceptable and perfect will of God.

In the most basic sense, the body only does what the mind tells it to. I am not talking about automatic or involuntary actions like breathing and such. I am saying that you don’t pick up that bottle and drink it unless you thought about it first! Our mind controls the conscious actions of our bodies. Our arms and legs do what our mind tells them to do. It is like when you want something off of the shelf, and you are thinking that, so you grab it. Your mind dictated to your body. The way to get your body under control is to yield your mind to God. So to present yourselves as a living sacrifice you must yield your members as instruments of righteousness (Romans 6:13 is in the present tense) and this means you must yield your mind first (Romans 6:11 – consider, ponder, meditate on, think about it, reckon it as so). When we try and yield our bodies first we have things out of order.

You learn to discern. What we need is not a new skill or a new technique, but a new heart, and it starts by yielding your mind to God, continually. We must not neglect this, but nourish it. We must be filled with the Spirit of God by being filled with the Word of God. Then we will become that living sacrifice, we will be dead to self, and alive to God.

It is about obedience from the heart, and this starts with the head (same thing really). It isn’t about yielding like let go and let God (passivity only), or yielding meaning “let anything that feels right take me over as long as they say the name of Jesus” mysticism. It is making the decision to let God’s grace fill your mind and it is found in His Word. This is all predicated on “the mercies of God”, His forgiveness of our sins, it is not simply a moral command. We hear a lot of challenges for us to do more and do better – but without hearing about the forgiveness of sins. However, any real growth must be based in grace, not grit.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Friday, July 18, 2008

Learn to Discern

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
(Romans 12:1-2 – ESV)

Friend don’t put God on your agenda, get on God’s agenda, and let me tell you something, His agenda may not be for you to have a good life according to the world’s standards, or even your own supposedly godly standard. Remember Habakkuk 3:17-19? Are you prepared to follow Christ no matter the cost? Are you going to present yourself as a living sacrifice?

In his book The Knowledge of the Holy, A.W. Tozer says "what comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us." After all, "the history of mankind will probably show that no people has ever risen above its religion, and man's spiritual history will positively demonstrate that no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God." If no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God, the same is true of individuals. We can never rise above our idea of God.

How we think about God influences how we live for God. We ought to get our ideas about God from the bible, don’t you think? Jeremiah 9:23-24 – What comes into your mind when you think about God? I am not talking about new age visualization nonsense; I am talking about the fact that we need to be shaped in our thinking by the Word of God.

The renewing takes some time, and even then we are to be testing things by it. Now this is where this whole passage is leading. The goal of a renewed mind is that we would be able to discern, to test, and so therefore to know, what is good, what is right, what is acceptable, what is mature, what is godly, what is the will of God, and then live that way, and learn to always be living that way.

This is a real concern because we can correctly identify something but then fail to apply it correctly. We know some bible but not enough of it, just enough to be deadly to ourselves and to others who we poison. A big reason why we misapply scripture is because we are only looking for a way out of sacrifice when Jesus is the way in. We are looking for scripture to perform for us, for God to perform for us, instead of us performing to the dictates of scripture regardless of what happens.

Now this isn’t done by just knowing facts about the bible, or even facts from the bible, but knowing the God of the bible, and knowing His will, His way, with His wisdom. Not just right thinking, but right values. This isn’t simply about memorizing more verses, although that is good. It isn’t just about trying harder to be good. This is about learning to value Christ above all else, and to be able to taste His goodness so that you pass the tests of faith when they come. You will know what Christ is like and when something isn’t up to standard, to avoid it. Its value is seen for what is really is, pleasure for the moment but poison for your soul. You learn to discern.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Don’t Buy the Lie

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
(Romans 12:1-2 – ESV)

As I have said before, believing a lie is the genesis of sin. Every sin you commit is because of some lie you believe. If you long to offer up your body as a living sacrifice so that your whole life becomes a spiritual act of worship and displays the worth of Christ above the worth of the world, you will have to be renewed in your mind. You will have to continually be immersed in the truth that Christ is more valuable and precious than anything the world has to offer.

We need new minds; we are fools to be wise in our own eyes. Your way won’t work, not if you want to give God the glory. It is also true that too many people think they know the scriptures when they are seriously deficient on that score. Their lack of discernment proves it. These verses tell us clearly that if we are being renewed in our minds we will learn to discern.

Now this isn’t about your intellectual development, Paul is talking about submitting your mind to God’s Word. This isn’t really about intellect it is about submission. Not getting smart, but getting wise. Now Paul is also saying we don’t just do it any old way we want, he is saying this is the start of the process. Just like baptism, there is a start to the process of renewing your mind. If you haven’t actually ever made this definitive commitment, you have missed something critical and you need to make that sacrifice today. Many people have read or studied the Word of God but haven’t presented themselves to God in this way. They seem to grow a little but they stall out. Here it is, in the scriptures, a definite decision to be made. This will transform your bible reading into discipleship training, where you learn to obey from the heart, and you learn to discern God’s will. This is the start of seeing God from more than a human perspective.

Both “conformed” and “transformed” are in the present passive imperative, a command to yield continually. In other words, never allow the world to fashion you, but always allow your mind to be transformed by God’s Word.

Let me give you a bit of discernment right now. Not being conformed doesn’t simply mean not doing those same old dirty things you used to do. Paul is not talking primarily about being good little boys and girls. The Christian alternative to immoral behaviors is not a new list of moral behaviors. When Paul says don’t be conformed to this world he is speaking about not chasing after the same things the world does.

How many times do we think we are being godly just because we are Christians? We see books and television and crusades and teaching and preaching about getting the most out of this life. The false gospels promote God and godliness as the means to happiness, and it isn’t that God doesn’t want you to be happy, but happiness to them is defined the same way the world defines it, as having all you want, and perhaps enough to give out some to others, so we don’t seem so self centered, as if this excuses the heart behind it all. If we are promoting this sort of false gospel, we are in effect saying that we have nothing different to offer than the world, than other systems of thought and other religions; we just have a better way to get it, or we believe that it is sanctified if we do.

Christianity isn’t some way to become a better you or to live your best life now. Christianity is Christ, and to live for Him now, and to trust in Him to justify and sanctify you, not in your own best efforts. It is to be conformed to His image, to glorify Him not because we are at the top of the class, but because we have Him at the top of our list no matter what class we find ourselves in. To the Christian the way of sacrifice and suffering is the way of true victory, as we embrace our call to become like our Master.

Yes we can desire healthy bodies, happy homes, successful careers, solid relationships, and many manifold blessings here on earth. It is not wrong to want to be successful in what you are called to do. But our call is first and foremost to Christ. The problem is when these other things become our primary motivation, for we can strive for these things without striving to be godly, it’s exactly what the world is doing, striving for those same things, only we add God to the mix. Then we gain things and think this means we are gaining godliness, supposing that gain is godliness (1 Timothy 6:5 – KJV), when nothing could be further from the truth.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Changing Your Mind

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
(Romans 12:1-2 – ESV)

The sacrifice of our bodies isn’t a sacrifice to pay for sin; it is our spiritual sacrifice (1 Peter 2:5). Your spiritual act of worship, the reasonable service, this is what the presenting is, not that the presenting is reasonable, but that the spiritual worship IS the presenting. Paul says to do it then describes what it is.

In other words, how do you present your body as a living sacrifice? You do it by worshipping God with your mind, by submitting your mind to divine discipline. Obviously you cannot be renewed in your mind unless you have submitted your mind. Renewing your mind means you must be presenting your mind first, it is yielding your mind to the transforming power of God through His Word. It is learning to live from the inside out. Of course that really is what everyone is already doing, what they think is what they do, but we are now redeemed by the blood of Christ, and we have the Holy Spirit living on the inside of us, and we can be renewed in our minds and live out the implications of the gospel as we speak and preach about.

I want to make sure you get this. It is not simply “present you body as a living sacrifice and that is your spiritual act of worship”, it is “Worshipping God with your mind is presenting your body as a living sacrifice”. The mind is first in the order here, and it is an important distinction. In order to present your body as a living sacrifice, you worship God with your mind. When Paul speaks of presenting your bodies he is speaking of how you act, the whole of your life. Not how your body looks, but how it acts.

Your body is important, but it is controlled by your mind. You are transformed by the renewing of your mind. God is not trying to change our bodies to look like supermodels; no God is trying to change our hearts that we may look like models of Christ. So your body is important, what you do is important, but how you think will determine how you look, like Christ or like the rest of the world. God wants our bodies to deliver acts of mercy and worship towards Him; not bodies that say look at me, but look at Christ! Our bodies, in other words our actions, should show the fruit of spiritual exercise.

Yes we should take care of our bodies, but we should renew our minds first. By the way, just because worship starts with our mind that doesn’t mean you cannot be physically expressive in worship, it means the mind comes first. Worship isn’t just singing some songs on Sunday, or turning on the car radio to the Christian station and singing along. Those things are great, sure, but our whole lives are to be lived as worship to God, and the way to start accomplishing that is to be renewed in our minds. Yes we are supposed to worship God with our bodies, but the way to start that is to worship Him in and with our minds.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Retrain Your Brain

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
(Romans 12:1-2 – ESV)

I want to focus on a principle that many might think they agree with, but that they need reinforcement on. You don’t need to know the religious language alone, and just knowing the verses without really knowing what they teach and how to apply them only means you grow in your own estimation, but not into Christlikeness. We need more than that; we need God’s revelation to cause a revolution in our hearts, our minds, and our actions. But there is a right way to do that and many wrong ways of doing that. These verses teach us something essential about living and developing in the Christian life, and that is what I want to talk about.

The “mercies of God” is a summary statement of all Paul had taught about in chapters 1-11. On the basis of this Paul is exhorting them to action. The Christian life Paul describes in chapters 12-16 is built on the truths from chapters 1-11. The mercy of God to us is through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This all blew Paul’s mind and he says, therefore, let your mind be filled with God also. We are governed by sin or governed by God. We are to build our lives based on His mercy, we who have been forgiven are to become forgiving people. But before we can live lives of overflowing mercy toward each other we must be taught and developed in lives of worship toward God. Before we can give our lives away in service and glory to God we must give Him our lives in worship.

Now presenting your body as a living sacrifice entails worshipping God with your mind. Many bible versions render the phrase, “which is your spiritual worship”, as “which is your reasonable service”, or “your rational service”. This doesn’t mean, “it is the least you can do”, or simply “it is a fair, and logical thing to do”. The phrase here means, “worship rendered by the reason”. This comports with Ephesians 4:23 – “and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds”. The spirit of your mind means your mindset. It is worship using your reasoning, spiritually, further demonstrated by the next verse, which speaks of transformation being accomplished by the renewal of the mind. Reasonable service is a life of worship according to God's Word. Never is the Christian called upon to set his mind aside; rather he is to employ his mind, to exercise his mind to act based upon the truth that God has revealed.

“Present” is in the aorist tense, denoting a singular event. The inference in our text is that we are called to a specific commitment. That commitment leads to a lifestyle. We offer our minds in worship to God, which is the living sacrifice; our bodies are dead to sin, and our minds alive to God. We need a new train of thought, and we must first make that commitment to get on the right track, and then we must continually be trained to have it.

You may have been reading the Bible for many years, and might have even profited from it and grown closer to God because of it. However this passage teaches that one of the first steps of true discipleship is to make that once for all commitment to be in submission to God’s Word. This is the commitment that you are making that many people fail to make; they have failed to see what Paul is teaching us in this passage. This is the thing that will keep you from picking and choosing texts and verses and trying to work out your own discipleship plan cafeteria-style instead of letting the Word of God dictate to you. We must let the Bible retrain our brain on God’s terms not use the Bible as we wish. Then we will see the Word of God come alive in our study and in our circumstance. We will prove what the will of God is in our experience. This is how it is started.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Monday, July 14, 2008

60 Seconds (7)


A grumpy rider on a Chicago city bus complained constantly during his ride. He complained about the constant stopping, the air conditioning, etc. As he was finally stepping off the bus, he stopped to scold the driver, making a terrible public scene. As the disagreeable passenger was leaving, a voice called out, “Just minute, you left something behind.” “What?” the ruffian demanded. “A very bad impression,” a gentle old lady answered. The word translated “murmur” means to find fault or to complain. This is an evil which is forbidden in the Scriptures.

There are numerous illustrations of murmuring in the Bible. The Israelites started murmuring almost as soon as they had been delivered from Egypt (Exodus 14:11; 15:24). On many occasions, in their wilderness journeyings, they complained and found fault (Exodus 16:2; 17:2, 3; Numbers 11:1 – 4; 21:5). Murmuring has been described as tempting God (Exodus 17:2), and Scripture makes it very clear that it provokes God (Numbers 14:2 – 11). There are records of punishment for murmuring (Numbers 11; 14:27 – 29; 16:45, 46). The late world-wide radio evangelist, C. M. Ward, was correct when he warned, “God will not give an audience to a griper.”

In John 6:41, the Bible records, “The Jews complained about Him, because He said, ‘I am the bread which came down from heaven’.” Arthur Pink wrote, “These Jews were ‘murmuring,’ and it is a significant thing that the same word is used here as in the Septuagint (the first Gentile translation of the Hebrew Old Testament) of Israel murmuring in the wilderness. In few things does the depravity of the human heart reveal itself so plainly and so frequently as in murmuring against God. It is a sin which few, if any, are preserved from.”

In Psalm 144: 14 and 15 we read, “There should be no complaining in our streets…for happy are the people whose God is the Lord.” Rev. Richard Stephen, vicar of a church in Cheshire, England, reminded his congregation, “Our forefathers did without sugar until the 13th century, without coal fires until the 14th, without buttered bread until the 16th, tea or soup until the 17th, without gas, matches or electricity until the 19th, without cars, canned or frozen foods until the 20th. Now, what was it you were complaining about?”

Billy Graham wrote, “Some anonymous wise man said, ‘If Christians spent as much time praying as they do grumbling, they would soon have nothing to grumble about’.” “Do all things without complaining,” Philippians 2:14.

Dave Arnold, Pastor, Gulf Coast Worship Center, New Port Richey, Florida

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Friday, July 11, 2008

God So Loved

For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.
(John 3:16 – NET)

Many bible versions render the opening words of John 3:16 as “For God so loved the world”. Of course this is true, but the way that this is worded can confuse the primary meaning for some folks. When the bible says, “God so loved the world”, it is primarily speaking of the manner in which God loved the world. It is not simply that He loved the world “so much” as in the degree, but also the manner of that love, that He loved it in this way, that He gave His Son. John is emphasizing the manner in which He chose to express His love to the world, through the giving of His Son, which itself portrays the degree to which God loved the world as well.

Hebrews 11:17-18 uses the same Greek word for “only son” – Isaac wasn’t Abraham’s only son, but he was one of a kind, the heir. The Apostle John uses this word to differentiate Jesus from the other children of God (John 1:12). We are sons (children) of God by faith, but Jesus remains unique. 1 John 4:10 – In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

You see, you can love someone so very much but still not be able to help them overcome that problem they may have. Our love may be absolutely pure and sincere, and we may muster all the power we can, but it still not be enough to save someone from their situation. Yet God loves us so much and was and is able to overcome our greatest problem, our only problem in being reconciled to Him, our sin. And so in this way, through the giving of His Son Jesus Christ, God loves the world and whoever believes in Christ will be reconciled, redeemed, in right standing before God. They will not perish in eternity but have everlasting life. His love is enough.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Remind Your Mind

Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.
(Ephesians 6:11 – ESV)

The armor of God is a state of a renewed mind because of truth. It is not something we must put on as if we have taken it off, so much as it is something God has put on us, and we put it on by reminding ourselves of it. It is imperative only in the fact that it is indicative. We remind our mind that we have been initiated in the Truth and accepted into the beloved by praying to God. God knows the Truth and we are calling on God to fulfill His word, that we believe in what He says about us as the redeemed. Prayer using scripture is powerful in that it relays our confidence in God's word, our faith in His promises, our trust in what He says.

The breastplate of righteousness, for example, is the fact that our righteousness is the righteousness of Christ. We are justified, declared righteous by faith, and the shield of faith protects us from attacks by the enemy, and the breastplate is a covering over our heart. This is not so much like a literal thing, but in essence. We know what the scripture says, and we are renewed in our minds to believe it. This protects us from losing the battle when we are under attack and strengthens us to be reminded of that as we claim the truth in prayer, as we go into each daily battle recognizing that we ARE wearing it. It isn’t a matter of having to put it on in the sense of, “oh no we forgot it, were doomed” but, “yes we can survive the attack because we have been clothed”. We remind our mind and are renewed in hope once again. Talk to your self about what God has done before your self talks to you about what you have done.

The schemes of the devil revolve around trying to get the Christian to turn from the righteousness of God and to look at their own righteousness, and then to have the believer realize that they have failed God. This is true, we have all fallen short of the glory of God, but when the devil comes calling, when he tries to fire the flaming arrows of condemnation at us, when he tries to talk us out of it, we need to remind our mind of what God has done, and talk ourselves right back into it (Romans 8:1).

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Cheek to Cheek, or Tooth and Nail?

But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.
(Matthew 5:39 – ESV)

When Christians are attacked are they supposed to defend themselves? Does our Lord’s word here mean that we are to be complete pacifists? This is a very misunderstood concept, and we need clarification. This word from Our Lord isn’t intended to teach us to invite more attack upon being attacked, but to rather take it and not strike back. In demonstration, when smitten on the face, Jesus did not strike back but He did answer (John 18:22-23).

What Christ is teaching is the principle that we are not to seek absolute retribution, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, but rather to allow space for God to judge (Romans 12:19/ 1 Peter 2:21-23). This is about our means of defense. We can speak up for our position (Acts 22:1, 25:8, 26:2 / 1 Corinthians 9:3). We can defend ourselves from being killed (Luke 22:36-38) but not look to be on the offensive (Matthew 26:52).

This situation Jesus is speaking of is different than self-defense. Self-defense is preventative, not retaliatory, and retaliation is what the admonition to “turn the other cheek” addresses. When Jesus says we are to turn the other cheek, He is saying that as Christians we are to act differently, not looking to do as we once did as unbelievers (Matthew 5:40-47). We are not supposed to try and protect our honor, our reputation, and our dignity at all costs (1 Peter 3:14-17).

Otherwise, if we are never to defend ourselves, the full armor of God isn’t something we should use, is it? No, on the contrary, we are taught to resist the devil (James 4:7). We do not wrestle with flesh and blood in the sense that the forces behind the attacks on our mind are orchestrated by the devil (Ephesians 6:12). When the enemy attacks our minds we are to battle back with the truth of God’s Word.

Sometimes, however, attacks can come against our physical person, and the full counsel of God must be brought to bear. We are not supposed to return fire when fired upon for witnessing of Christ. We are not supposed to be aggressors, of that we can be certain. We defend the faith (Jude 3 / 2 Corinthians 10:3-5), but not fight tooth and nail for our own self-interests (Romans 12:16-21 / Philippians 2:3-4 / 1 Peter 3:9). In other words, we don’t fight to prove we’re right.

However, we may fight to prevent wrong. It depends on the situation, of course. When someone physically attacks us they are under the influence of the enemy. If it is while we are witnessing, then yes, we shouldn’t retaliate if they insult us or even if they hit us (1 Peter 4:13-14). However, if it is an “unprovoked” incident, say during a robbery or break-in of your home, then it is our duty to fight off the intruder with the necessary force. You may be able to talk the person out of it, but sometimes you don’t have time to talk.

When the enemy uses a person to attack we need to understand the truth of God’s Word concerning these matters. Defend the faith from false religion, definitely. Defend your honor with physical violence when someone falsely accuses you because you are a Christian? No, turn the other cheek. Defend your wife and children when someone breaks into your home at night and is trying to kill them, yes, and do it tooth and nail.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Friday, July 04, 2008

The Guiding Hand

Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.
(Psalm 51:6 – ESV)

Your effectiveness as a Christian, in prayer and in all of life, is directly tied to your intimate relationship with Christ. The more intimate, the more sanctified, and the way to know Christ intimately is to know His sacrifice. The more we experientially sacrifice, the more intimately we know Him.

However, I am talking about sacrifice on His terms, not ours. That would include our obedience, because it is to sacrifice our fleshly desires. Hebrews 12:2 – it was for the joy of the sacrifice that Jesus gave His life, and He had to come to that place in Gethsemane, honestly pleading, and that is where we must start too. Don’t just give up something if there is no joy in it, first go to God and plead with Him, tell Him the truth about why you don’t want to give something up, and be willing to let Him make you into a joyfully sacrificial Christian.

Submit to the Guiding Hand instead of always opposing where it is leading. You know God is leading you to do away with that sin, but you want to save it till some later time when you think you will be stronger, more ready. By doing that you are opposing God. Instead you must learn submission by allowing yourself to be influenced by the Spirit, putting to death the deeds of the body when and while they appear before you, in those moments.

It is not your well mapped out battle plan that gets the job done, but submitting to God’s plan as revealed in time by experience and circumstance presenting themselves to you, and then the question is do you have faith? Yes we are to be willing and intentional about killing off sin, but we must remember, “The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the LORD” (Proverbs 21:31), and He is the one who brings us to battle.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Thursday, July 03, 2008

You are the Reason

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,
(Romans 3:23-24 – ESV)

Why is their sorrow, and why is there suffering? Why is there so much pain and confusion in the world, so much chaos and destruction? These are questions that have vexed all of humanity from time immemorial. The answer to all of these is the same thing, and it may come as a surprise.

The problem is you.

I mean you, personally, singularly, you, it is all your fault.

It is your sin that has damned mankind. You are the reason, you are the one who has sinned, and you are the reason the entire universe is on a collision course with hell and destruction. Now you aren’t the only one who has ever sinned, we all have, but your sin alone is enough to cause all this trouble. That is how destructive sin is. It ruins perfection.

Think about it, if a baseball player got a hit every time at bat, he would have a perfect batting record. But as soon as he didn’t get a hit one time, he would then not be perfect. He would have no chance to reach perfection again. Once perfection has been lost it cannot be found in the same place again.

However, in Christ we can be declared righteous, perfect, without fault before God. And so while you are the reason for all this mess, Christ is the reason you don’t have to pay in eternity for it. Think about that the next time you want to blame someone else for the world’s problems.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Cookie Cutter Christianity

Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.
(2 Timothy 2:21 – ESV)

Too often people only want an answer, a solution, a key, a method, a formula, steps for success, or whatever, because they just want to be done with a situation, not to actually learn from it. They would just be done and never let God mold their heart.

The truth is that many have placed God in a compartment of their lives, within their comfort zone. Oh, they will be stretched once in a while but always on their own terms. They seem willing to conform themselves to a standard, but it is really all about doing only what is necessary to achieve some sort of blessing they are after or to avoid some punishment they think they’ll get if they don’t fly right.

However, the answer to this isn’t to just fill up the other boxes we have made, putting God in all our compartments. He could be in every part of your life and still not have your heart. That is why we see people whose lives are nothing but ministry still fall all the way down, because they thought that the only way to avoid themselves or to avoid actually submitting to Jesus was to fill all their time doing things for God. Friend it isn’t about doing things for God. Doing things for God is great, but that isn’t what gets you further on the highway to holiness.

Complete Christianity starts with the bedrock of trusting God despite any requirement of sacrifice or any outcome. If you look at what the Apostle Paul writes in Philippians 3, you will notice his recipe for resurrection power, if you will. Now this is the big picture, the aerial view of the highway to holiness. It is the big picture of the process but it is not the details because what God uses in your life is your own experience. It is the same Jesus, but a different journey, the same principles, but with different people, the same narrow path, but with different perspectives.

This isn’t cookie cutter Christianity; just because we are all in the same process doesn’t mean we all go through the same experiences. It isn’t just “do this and this” and then “poof” like magic you get it all and you’re done with it. It is a continual process with, hopefully, continual progress. God always knows how to find our weak spots, and He always seems to hit us where it hurts. That is why what “works” for someone else may not work exactly the same way for you. It is also why it always seems like we have to “go through more” than the other guy. Stop worrying about that, he is probably thinking the same thing about you anyway.

Our problem is that we just don’t want to be vulnerable; we cover it all up. All this does is delay the divine directive. Instead, the more we submit to it the more we will see it work. Stop trying to fit yourself into the mold you think Jesus will be pleased with, and start letting it happen for real.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Of Dollars and Discipleship

… people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.
(1 Timothy 6:5 – ESV)

Paul tells Timothy of something simple but also something sinister here. We can easily ascertain that we should not believe that being godly is supposed to be our ticket to the big time. We may benefit without being sinful, but our mind and heart should not be in it for the money. Godliness is not to be looked at simply as a means of profit.

Yet the application of this verse is broader than that. The idea that money, status, influence and supposed success are measures of spiritual capital is not a new phenomenon in church history, or limited to Christianity in the western world today. Preferential treatment, inclusion or exclusion based on wealth or perceived status, and such things have always been a problem. Paul speaks of it in 1 Corinthians 11:20-22. James speaks of it also (James 2:1-9).

People think that if they have money they are special to God or that this means they are pleasing God and doing “it” right. Others who haven’t yet “arrived” think that if they are “doing things right” that they will receive money, status, or influence. Other people think that those with money are to be listened to as leaders, because it must mean that they are more spiritual or doing better in their relationship with God. Many have been taught that if their life situation is more stable that this somehow means they are doing it right, as if upward mobility was the goal. In many circles it is like the goal of godliness or the measure of godliness is to go from “struggling” to “stable” to “successful” to “significant”, as if money was the manifestation of this. However, notice it is not given in the list of qualifications for leadership in the Pastoral Epistles.

It is as if the progress in dollars is the progress in discipleship. Now a case could be made for believing that your spiritual growth can be measured in dollars. That is, in a sense, perhaps by the percentage of dollars you give but never the amount of dollars you have. The New Testament doesn’t talk of gaining money it talks of gaining godliness. Yes, we should strive to gain financially so that we can provide for our family, our church, and our missionaries and for emergencies, etc. That is good stewardship of our resources and making good use of our time and talent for the glory of God. If you can be an entrepreneur and make millions legitimately, ethically, and morally, then that can be good. If you have the intelligence to make money as a medical doctor, great, use that brain and go as far as it will take you. Just be sure not to look down on those with less intellect or skill, or those with less desire to read and learn than you.

Yes, it should be true that as you grow in biblical wisdom you will be making better choices which in turn should result in decreasing debt and increasing productivity and probable financial benefit. As this happens your biblically informed conscience will guide you to be a giver, and under normal circumstances you will probably see blessings from that, as you become a better steward of your substance. So stewardship is a big yes, but spirituality isn’t the direct instrument of financial gain. Otherwise, when rich or famous men and women become Christians they should get an instant platform. Unfortunately that happens all too often anyway.

When you see someone who is “doing well” and also has some spirituality or biblical knowledge, don’t assume they are a leader or are supposed to be one or are automatically a good one. “Oh”, you say, “but God is blessing them!” Don’t be so sure.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©