Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Can You See Me?

In Luke 6:46, Jesus said – Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? He is talking about hypocrisy. He is talking about character. 

Character can be described as someone’s personality, the way you act, think, and feel. When we speak of a person of character, we mean to say that they have a good character. This is a person of quality. This is someone who can be described with words such as mature, noble, wise, true, trustworthy, dependable, discerning, prudent, and other such qualities.

When we speak of godly character, we are talking of someone whose character reflects the person of Jesus. This person has a good moral character, according to biblical standards. Of course, no one does this perfectly. But we should do this purposefully. And someone who is growing in their character can be said to be growing in practical, lived out righteousness.

Bruce Waltke said – the righteous are those who are willing to disadvantage themselves for the advantage of others, the wicked are those who are willing to advantage themselves at the disadvantage of others. I think that is also a great way to describe a person of godly character.

It takes character to see character. Lots of people can see obvious things. But some things are not so obvious to some people. You need to learn to discern. And you can grow in this godly discernment, not in order to judge others, but so that you will know real, godly character when you experience it. And, so you can know the charlatans, and the false teachers, and such. Because sometimes, these false prophets can seem like good people. They don’t get into any public trouble. They support good causes. But their goals are not as godly as some might think. Their mouth says godly things. But their heart is aimed at worldly things. They are deceived and deceiving others. 

How can you know who they are? How can you discern for yourself? How can you protect yourself? How might you help them see the truth?

It takes character to see character. When you are developing your godly character, you start to recognize more readily those that really know God. You begin to realize more easily those that are quoting scripture but not living scripture. You can learn to see the people who are just putting on a front, or those who are just fooling themselves, or trying to fool others.

You can tell when someone’s direction is toward God, and when someone’s desires are godly or ungodly. It may not happen with one event. But it does become obvious over time. 1 John 3:10 says – By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. 

This is about what someone’s values are. And this would include, not just what they say, but what they live, what they live by, and what they live for. And a lot of people are fooling themselves with this. There are many people who are still bound up in their sin. There are many with selfish aims, justifying them in the name of helping people. There are many who are immersed in the Christian culture, and advancing in Christian ministry, but who are dead or declining spiritually. There are many who seem to be fruitful, but they aren’t truly faithful. They are still the center of their own world. For them God is at best a means to an end. But for the person of godly character, God is the means and the end himself.  

Now, you don’t have to wait until you’re fully following God’s word before you can legitimately quote God’s word and benefit from God’s word. Learning to live according to God’s word is a process. You learn to discern. When you are in the process, you will grow closer in your direction towards God, deeper in your desires for God, and maturing in your discernment of God. And the more you grow, the more you know.

Again, it takes character to see character. In other words, it takes godly character to recognize others with godly character. Lots of people admire the obviously admirable qualities of others. But godly character isn’t always so obvious. It takes character to discern the character of others, both good and bad. A maturing character matures your spiritual vision. 

One of the marks of a maturing character is knowing how to be patient with pretense. Sometimes people put on a front, even when they are striving to get real with God and his word and his people. Patience is required, even with those you know are just playing the game. 2 Timothy 2:24-26 says – And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will. 1 Thessalonians 5:14 says – And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. Being patient is part of being discerning, which is part of godly character.

The deeper your godly character, the more you will see the truth. As 1 Timothy 5:24-25 says – The sins of some people are conspicuous, going before them to judgment, but the sins of others appear later. So also good works are conspicuous, and even those that are not cannot remain hidden. Sometimes it takes a while to see if people are intent on growing in God’s grace, or if they have even been saved by grace at all. But it becomes obvious. Character can’t hide. 

There are people who you might not realize that are very much of godly character. They quietly live out a quality life, and give all the glory to God. They aren’t perfect, but they know the one who is. And they don’t need to parade their character. God sees them, and so can you. It becomes obvious. Those who are of a godly character can see people for what they are, even when others may not. People with godly character don’t need to prove anything. You don’t need to be insecure if your security is in Jesus Christ. And you don’t have anything to prove if Jesus has proven himself to you.

Maybe no one else can see you. But God sees you. And so do I. I can see you. Can you see me? 

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Friday, June 23, 2023

You Can Overcome

In the book of Revelation, chapters 2-3, Jesus is speaking specific words to each of seven different churches. The content of each letter is different. But there is one common thread that ends each letter. At the end of each letter, Jesus says that it is possible to conquer, to be an overcomer. And whatever the context, the idea of overcoming adversity applies to every church, and every person, in every era. Jesus is making the idea clear; whatever sin, trial, trouble, pain, problem, persecution, or hard providence you are going through, you can go through it as a conqueror, an overcomer.   

Hear what Jesus says, again and again. Revelation 2:7 – To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life. Revelation 2:11 – The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death. Revelation 2:17 – To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna. Revelation 2:26 – The one who conquers…to him I will give authority over the nations. Revelation 3:5 – The one who conquers… I will never blot his name out of the book of life. Revelation 3:12 – The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Revelation 3:21 – The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.

Make no mistake about it. Conquering is possible. You can overcome. Whatever the circumstance. But it doesn’t happen by applying the power of your will. It happens by the embracing the power of God’s will. It happens by faith. In John 16:33, Jesus said – In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. When Jesus says “take heart,” he is telling you to have faith. Jesus has overcome the world, and he is applying that victory to those who are his. 1 John 5:4 shows this when it says – And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith

In Revelation 12:11, Jesus speaks of saints overcoming the Devil. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. In this verse, the blood of Christ is presented as the ground for the victory. This is why they were able to conquer; the blood of the Lamb. And they lived out what they believed in. This is what it means when it says that they overcame by the word of their testimony. They had faith in Jesus. They believed in the blood of the Lamb. So, they overcame based on their faith. That is their testimony, their legacy, for they loved not their lives even unto death. They conquered by being martyrs. They achieved victory by dying. That is what their overcoming looked like.

But how were they conquering by dying? It sounds like defeat, not victory. And it looks like they were overcome, not that they overcame. But this is scripture. And it says they overcame the Devil by dying. And this is the truth.

Think about how Jesus overcame. And how that applies to our overcoming. Jesus conquered by dying. He conquered sin, death, hell, and the Devil. He rose again, and ascended into Heaven. Talking about how Jesus conquered death, and thereby defeated the Devil, Hebrews 2:14 says that through his death Jesus will destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil. And then Hebrews 2:15 applies this to your life by saying that through his death Jesus has delivered his people from being slaves to the fear of death. That is the big picture and the bottom line. 

Now, hear me clearly. Overcoming isn’t just for martyrs. And the Bible doesn’t teach that the only way you can overcome the troubles of life is through death. Hallelujah, we will overcome through death! But this power to overcome because of Jesus applies to living your life as well. In Christ you have overcome death. And because you have overcome, you can overcome, and you will overcome. You don’t have to fear death, so you don’t have to fear life. In Christ you have conquered death, so you can conquer life.

It is about a mindset of faith. In Christ, I have won the war. So now, in faith, I can fight the battles. And no matter how bad I lose, I still win. No matter how overcome I get, I still overcome. No matter how vulnerable I become, I’m still victorious. I believe in the blood of the Lamb. This is my testimony. Jesus conquered death, and I will conquer life, because Jesus has conquered me. Has he conquered you?  

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Friday, June 16, 2023

The Secret of War is Peace

Romans 5:1-2 says – Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 

I am a sinner saved by grace. But I am also a saint standing in grace. I surrendered in my war against my king. And now I fight battles in his name. And all the while I have peace.

I used to use my own sin in my battles against God. But now I battle against my own sin in the name of God, by the power of God, to the glory of God. And I can do all of this because I have peace with God.

Wave the white flag of surrender to Jesus, and serve him as your king. And you will learn how he spreads his peace down in your soul. And you will see the difference in your life. 

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Thursday, June 08, 2023

The Process of Repentance

In 1 Thessalonians 1:9, the Apostle Paul says that the Thessalonians turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God. This is Paul talking about their repentance. There was a change in their lives, caused by a change in their hearts, which was giving them a change of mind, and changing their direction. They turned from their idols and they also turned to Christ. And understanding how these things work together, this is of the utmost importance, and what we are talking about today in this video.

Repentance means that they had turned around, but also that they were turning around. It was a definitive break from their former lives. But it was also continuing to walk away from their old way and learning to walk a new way. Repentance isn’t about perfection; it is about direction. If you are walking towards God, you are living a repentant life. There will be some steps back and some steps forward at times. But the direction of your life will always get turned around towards Jesus.

Turning to God from idols and serving the living and true God, these should be happening together. That is not only the goal but the only way to truly repent. It is two parts of the same process. You see, people can leave an idol, and not turn to Jesus. They can take up some other idol. And some people start serving Jesus, but they still cling to an idol. The way forward in this process is that you learn to leave your idols behind like the Thessalonians did. How was that? They turned from their idols in order to serve Christ. Part of successfully putting off the old is by putting on the new.

And this is a process. You don’t become completely repentant or fully sanctified the first day you get saved. The first time you repent isn’t the last time you repent. In the first of his famous 95 Theses, Martin Luther said, “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, 'Repent,' he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance." A repentant lifestyle is by necessity an ongoing process, a walk. Even if we never falter, we are all still on a road of repentance, towards God, with faith in Jesus Christ. 

But we get impatient and we get frustrated. We have turned, and yet we are still in “the process of the turn.” Yet no matter how well you are doing, it is still a process. When Paul says you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, you see the process happening there. And Paul was talking to them about their process of repentance by pointing to the other evidences of salvation that he mentions in 1 Thessalonians 1:3-8. Paul points to his own process in Philippians 3:8-14. And he gets specific about the process and how that looks in regards to specific sins in Ephesians 4:17-32.    

Here is a brief, practical way that describes the process. You go from “I don't need it,” to “I don't want it,” to “I can't stand it,” with the ultimate reason being because God’s not in it. You can be “done with” something for a long time before your motivation is as sanctified as it can be.

In Paul’s day, people were still bowing down and sacrificing to manmade idols of wood, metal, and stone, etc., but not so much today. But the concept is still the same. People had served idols because they felt that they must serve them or they would not receive the protection or blessing they wanted. People today have idols when they think there are things they cannot live without, or that they cannot be happy without.

The word “serve” in vs.9 is from a Greek word that means slave. People are slaves to their idols, and they become slaves of Christ. They drop this other thing that they are in fear of losing, in fear of not having, in fear of thinking they cannot live without it, that they won’t be happy without it. And they now serve Jesus, in the fear of the Lord. Jesus has become the one ultimate thing in their lives, the one thing that everything else revolves around, the one thing that matters most, the one thing they cannot live without, the one thing that they find their significance, satisfaction, and security in. Instead of being a slave to some dead thing they are a slave to the One who is Life itself. 

Now let me tell you that you can do this, if you will apply your faith. You see, in the path of the process, you begin to discover something. The process isn’t just some matter of an increasing willpower. Rather, it is a truth that you need to tenaciously hold onto, and have faith in, because it makes all the difference. Here it is: Repentance toward holiness is not some awful process of losing your happiness.

This is where faith comes in, because the battle is that the world, your flesh, and the devil try and convince you otherwise. They try and deceive you into thinking that holiness means no happiness. Every time you try and tackle some sin, that old lie comes back at you again. But the truth is that holiness means you find new reasons for happiness, and being happy in Jesus and the things of God, this is how you find true joy, without having to find some temporary fix or sinful coping mechanism.

Remember that, and preach that to yourself. THAT is how you learn to live out the process of repentance.  And remember this when you are dealing with others who are also in the process. Paul wasn’t nitpicking every little detail of the Thessalonians process. He was cheerleading before correcting. He wasn’t cynical, he was celebrating. We need to go and do likewise. Amen. 

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Friday, June 02, 2023

The Ministry of Confirmation

Paul, Silas, and Timothy had all spent a very limited time among the Thessalonians. Paul and Silas only about three weeks. And Timothy probably not more than a few months at most. But they saw enough, heard enough, and experienced enough to know what was going on, and how the Lord had saved them, and was growing them. And so, they knew how to thank God for them, and pray for them. And you can thank God for those you disciple who grow in the grace of God. And those you disciple can thank God for your genuine discipleship.

You see, with Paul, Silas, and Timothy, it wasn’t just that they had ministered to the Thessalonians. By their ongoing testimony, the Thessalonians were ministering to them. This was not just ministry from Paul, Silas, and Timothy to the Thessalonians, this was ministry from the Thessalonians to Paul, Silas, and Timothy. Why? Because they became confirmation to one another.

Think of this in terms of a pastor and the congregation. It does me well to see you grow. In 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20, the Apostle Paul says – For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy. In Philippians 4:1, Paul says – Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved. In 3 John 4, the Apostle John says – I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. It does me well to see you grow. And it does you well to see me stay the course. In 1 Timothy 4:15-16, Paul said to Timothy – Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. 

This isn’t just about a pastor and his congregation. This is about all believers, one to another. It does others well to see you grow. And it does you well to see others stay the course. Genuine testimony is genuine ministry. 2 Corinthians 1:14 says – on the day of our Lord Jesus you will boast of us as we will boast of you. When you see someone grow, you see that God is still doing his work in people. When you see someone stay the course over the long haul, you see that God is continuing to do his work in people.

And I’m not just talking about those who always stay perfectly upright on the straight and narrow path. I’m talking about those who may veer back and forth, and up and down and all around the path. They slid back, but now they turn back, because God not only saved them, it is God who is keeping them. We need to continually see people who are turning back around to Jesus. Don’t stay stuck. Throw your hands up in surrender, and Jesus will pull you out of your trouble and into his loving arms. He never let you go. Now is the time to feel his embrace. I know exactly what I am talking about. I’m a confirmation for you. That was me, that is me, and if that is you, come on back, we’re all waiting for you. 

You can learn, you can grow, you can improve. And you can turn to God in repentance and faith. So that, even when you’re not really doing so well, you can show yourself to be a good example of how to get better. People need to see good examples of what repentance really looks like. To know how to get back up after falling down. This is a confirmation that God doesn’t throw people onto the scrap heap of life. He pulls them off. Again, and again.

Confirmation is powerful. When you’ve been a believer for many years, it’s a joy to see people coming to the faith. And when you’re a new believer, it’s a joy to see long time believers continuing in the faith. And everyone needs to see people turning back to the faith. Never discount the witness of God’s ongoing work in peoples’ lives. Expect it. Look for it. Be a part of it. And thank God for it. Those who are newer in the faith are an encouragement to those who are mature in the faith. And those who are seasoned in the faith are an example to those who are young in the faith. It is a living ministry that we should be thankful to God for, and remember.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©