Marks of the True Christian (Romans 12:9-21)

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Let love be genuine. (Truly place the well-being of others above your own.) Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. (Allow evil to cause uneasiness in your spirit. Don’t let it have a foothold, sin should not be overlooked in your life. Focus on the things of God and see His peace and joy in those things, not worldly imitations.) 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. (Always encourage and lift up one another as you would a best friend. Be a force that lifts up and never tears down.) 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. (Don’t be lazy in pursuing the purpose of God with your life. Let the passion for Jesus in your spirit show through as you serve the Lord and make His name known through your reflection of His nature, which He has placed in you through the Holy Spirit.) 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. (Seek first the Kingdom and God’s purpose, then your hope will find a foundation in Him. Allow God to work through tribulation to combat complacency. Seek Him in prayer for strength, direction and understanding.) 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. (Be one of the tools God uses to build up the Kingdom. Allow the gift He has placed in you to contribute to the body of believers known as the Church. Be accommodating and open to the many gifts that come together in the name of Jesus.)

            The following verses are completely contradictory to the ways of the world. This is proof that they are of God because His ways are contradictory to the ways of fallen man. His light opposes the darkness and eternal life through mercy opposes the death in sin. If our hearts and actions were to resemble the description in the following verses, we would change the world to resemble something closer to what God designed originally. Let your own well-being be laid aside for the bigger picture that is God’s Kingdom. Suffer by letting your personal satisfaction and comfort, which are temporary, become second to growing the people around you. The ways that the Holy Spirit describes through Paul below are the real way to win hearts for Jesus and truly love those that are in this world. Imagine the compassion below being shown to you at your lowest point, when you were at your emotional ugliest. How much of the darkness that had crept into your heart would have been forced out by the light of God shown through the unconditional love and self-sacrifice shown below. Sacrificing yourself isn’t always laying down your life. Sometimes is laying down your comfort, your pride, or the walls you’ve built to protect yourself from emotional pain. Let Jesus take that from you. Place your fear at His feet. Let your fearless vulnerability draw the lost to the Lord. Be different because the Kingdom you serve does not resemble the world that it is saving.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty (do not exalt yourself above another), but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. (do not be too blind to see God’s new direction) 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. (Even at the expense of you comfort and pride) 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” (Their wrong of another will be magnified in the light of your love through the conviction of God) 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Overcome the evil of this earth with the goodness of God. Be the difference you were designed to be.)

Exponential Jesus

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          It seems that some people have an easier time with obedience and their walk with the Lord. We should never compare our walk with anyone else’s because we were fearfully, wonderfully, and uniquely design for a purpose that we may not fully understand until me meet our Savior in Heaven. But since the community we are called to with other believers has us bearing one another’s burdens, I’d like to explore part of the psychology of our walk with God. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2)

          God begets God. When we focus on God and His design described in His Word we develop a sustaining focus on Him. That focus allows His way to permeate through us and grow in everything we do. As our focus grows the ways that God can intervene in all facets if our life become clear. The Bible talks about lineage and family trees and uses the term begets. Father begets his son and that son begets his son and so forth. The definition of beget says: “give rise to; bring about.” A focus on the ways of God gives rise to more God in you and make God more able to use you through your obedience. This works for His attributes as well. Peace begets peace, joy begets joy, love begets love, and faith begets faith. When the power of God allows the fruits of His Spirit to take root in your heart, they become your new natural, your new foundation. The more you see these attributes growing in you and manifesting in your life the easier it becomes to allow them to move in and through you. Your confidence in the power of God grows and the way He wants to use you becomes clearer. This is why Jesus gave the instruction to seek first the Kingdom. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:33)

          Unfortunately the opposite is also true. Sin begets sin. The deceiver looks for opportunity to turn small sin into a snare and let that compound into larger sin. This can become true as we justify our sin and make it so common that its impact becomes ignored so it grows unchecked. The deceiver can also turn the conviction of sin into guilt and let sin grow through a weakened focus on the Lord. We are told not to allow the deceiver access to our minds to prevent this. Give no opportunity to the devil. (Ephesians 4:27) If we allow sin to become common and don’t stand up for our conviction we let the new normal drift from God. The more slack we give to the darkness the more it will take, and the pull away from the light becomes faster and less obvious. This is true both in society and in our individual walks with the Lord. Take inventory of your heart and see what you may have been letting slide by and turn those things over to God. His love and mercy are made available to us in Jesus. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)

         This idea of exponential growth in the Spirit or decay into sin is part of the way our minds work. The term that I have heard used is ‘positive feedback loop.’ What you feed back into your system will be the basis for your next steps. Letting God in will allow Him to guide your steps as He does for the righteous. The steps of a man are established by the LORD, when he delights in his way. (Psalm 37:23) In the same way letting the ways of the deceiver become normal will feed the darkness and dim the light God has placed into your heart. Through God’s perfect love and mercy He allows us to turn back into His arms at any place in this journey. He wants the positive cycle to begin when you are ready to let a moment in His love beget an eternity in His presence.

Jesus Centered Marriage/Relationship

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         God created us, man and woman, in His image. As men and women we are created to represent a duality in God that He has designed to be unified in covenant marriage. Man is not designed to be alone so God created a partner to sanctify him in a threefold relationship with Him. 12 And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:12) The Bible describe God’s design for marriage and also His desire for the role of the husband and wife as individuals to accomplish His bigger purpose. Each piece of God’s kingdom has a purpose that it cannot understand when isolated, but when it is woven into the tapestry that is God’s kingdom the beauty of the larger picture is undeniable. The same holds true in marriage. A spouse’s Christ-centeredness allows them to fulfill their God-designed role within the relationship. A couple with individual foundations in Jesus can grow together and support one another as opposed to requiring constant support from only their partner. Let’s look at the individual roles in marriage and how that shows itself to the world in a Jesus centered marriage.

           Men are called to be the head of their marriage. The requirement for that to function according to God’s will is his submission to Christ. But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God (1 Corinthians 11:3). Submitting to Christ is following His example and making sure that your actions resemble the example Jesus gives to us. Men should be leaders with a heart that resembles Christ through submission to Him. This heart shows itself through gentleness, selflessness and understanding. 19 Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. (Colossians 3:19) Men are called to love their wives as Christ loves the church. 25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and blameless. (Ephesians 5:25-27) If read carefully this scripture shows that the husband can directly contribute to the sanctification of his wife through the love of Jesus their relationship. A woman under the spiritual covering of a Godly man can blossom into the woman God designed her to be. She can thrive in her beauty and bring that beauty into the world through her relationship with Christ and her husband.

           Women are the most important source of support through respect for their husbands. Women can shine the love of Jesus in their relationship through grace and patience in their marriage. Just as the Christian husband is called to submit to the Lord, the Christian wife is called to submit to a submitted husband. This may be viewed as weakness but it is actually a position of strength. Christ’s power is made perfect in what the world calls weak. The heart of a good man is softened by the grace and mercy of God shown through his wife. 11 The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. 12 She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life. (Proverbs 31:11-12) Having a Godly woman as an unconditional support creates passion and power in a man. A soft and safe place to land each day renews energy to face the next. Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. Do not let your adorning be external… but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. (1 Peter 3:1-4) It’s through love that a wife can soften the heart of her husband made calloused by the attacks of the world, more so than any words.

                  The most beautiful part about God’s covenant is also the most difficult for humans to deal with. That part is the fact that one half depends on the other. Man’s ability to love and cherish is wife is made possible by her respect and support, and a woman’s respect and support hinders on her feeling loved and cherished. This is where a reliance on each person’s relationship with Jesus is so vital. His example of love was unconditional. While we were all still sinners He gave His life to redeem us. We did nothing to earn His love just like the actions of one spouse should not dictate the actions of the other. This is also where the selflessness of love shows its power. Nothing wins a heart like love that is undeserved and unconditional. If a man leads in love, his wife will support in love if both are centered in Christ. It is through a marriage founded in Christ-like love that we can always show God to the world. Children can see what the love of the Father looks like through their parents and these marriages become role models for the lives that the Lord allows them to impact. We are not meant to do this alone, and we don’t have to when each partner understands their role and what that looks like in the bigger picture designed by God. Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? (Ecclesiastes 4:9)

Brothers and sisters, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:1-2) People sometimes forget that even though we are married we are still brother and sisters in Christ. Bear the burden of your spouse and restore them in a spirit of gentleness. Let God and His love for you fuel a selfless and unconditional love that makes your marriage all that God desires it to be.

God’s Spirit vs Man’s Flesh

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          Any believer has struggled with the duality that exists when we accept Christ and receive the Holy Spirit to fill our once calloused heart. God takes away our heart of stone and gives us a heart of flesh. God’s children become vessels for the Holy Spirit to manifest itself in their lives and reflect His light to the rest of the world. Even with the power of God dwelling inside us we still struggle with the pull of sin as our flesh tries to draw us into worldly comforts and pleasures. The pieces of Romans 7 below show Paul, the greatest New Testament advocate for Jesus, discussing the struggles of the duality that exists in the converted believer.

15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. (The Holy Spirit shows us our sin through conviction. Taking a view of our sin through spiritual eyes allows us to see how it differs from what God desires for us. God has written the law upon our hearts and we can sense its goodness.)  17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. (The power of God inside us creates a duality that allows us to see the sin we are born into. We sometimes find ourselves repenting to the Father for sin and feel helpless in our struggle with the pull from the fallen nature of our flesh. We must rely on the power of God and not on our own strength to as fuel for this struggle. This is why we should spend time in His Word and in Hos presence to focus us for each day’s battle.) 21 So I find it to be a law (always present struggle) that when I want to do right, evil (temptation) lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being (spirit), 23 but I see in my members (flesh) another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. (Romans 7:15-23) We see the law of sin, which guides the flesh, pulling against the law of God, which guides our spirit, in constant battle within believers. One side has the positive charge of God and the other has the negative charge of sin and the energy that is created between the two is conviction. Because we are made new in Jesus, given a new heart and a renewed mind we are able to sense the energy in our internal polarity and allow that conviction to guide our hearts to Christ and His love, which outweighs the law of sin.

For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code. (Romans 7:5-6)

          Living in the flesh drives people into sin and the worldly pleasures that create a bigger void. Those are the fruits of death that drive us away from God and His Spirit. God allows the conviction that His love creates to draw us to Him and the eternal treasure we build for ourselves as we walk in His light allowing His Spirit to guide us in the battle with the flesh. The duality and conviction in a believer’s heart, many times, leads to guilt and that was never the purpose. That guilt is of this world because there is so condemnation for those who are in Christ. That misguided guilt should be refocused as conviction that proves the Father is calling you into His arms. Believers should not let that conviction manifest into shame but smile because that feeling proves that the Holy Spirit has your heart and God’s love is allowing you to battle your flesh as you work toward sanctification. Find comfort in your conviction, find strength in your duality, and know that your Savior allows you to be forgiven as you realize that the sin of your flesh is not who you are anymore. See the struggle of sin with your new spiritual eyes and let the love of God fuel you.

God Shows Himself to All People

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          In the following piece of scripture it is revealed that God reveals Himself to all people. He makes His presence and power clear through His creation. Every person in this world has had a moment where they marvel at nature, an indescribable joy, a new born child, the kindness of a stranger or some other moment that caught their attention. They are looking into the face of God and have no idea how to explain the way their spirit seems to illuminate in the presence of the power of their Creator.

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man….. (Romans 1:18-23a)

          God makes His presence clear to all and it is the darkened heart that denies the source. The heart is blinded by false wisdom, pride, arrogance, and sometimes shame that covers God’s presence. They idolize the things of this world and are willing accept the happiness of earthly moments as an exchange for the joy found in earth’s Creator and Sustainer.

They exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature (creation) rather than the Creator (Romans 1:25)

          God puts eternity in all men’s hearts. He has put eternity into man’s heart (Ecclesiastes 3:11)  He creates a longing that is meant to seek Him but gets soiled in man’s fallenness and then given over to addictions (alcohol, drugs, pornography), sin (greed, lust, envy), and idolatry (money, sex, vanity, attention); all in attempt to fill a void that only the Father can fill. How many people that seem successful by worldly standards later admit that they are truly empty? They sink deeper into despair when they are lost because the world they are meant to shine light into by reflecting their creator blows out the flame they have built for themselves. They seek a powerless source and neglect the only everlasting God.

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

          God, in His infinite wisdom, even went so far as to come to earth in the flesh and show His love to us through His teachings and eventually the sacrifice of His body as an atonement for our sin. He presented His plan in the Old Testament through prophecy and then fulfilled it in Jesus. He made the Word flesh so that His glory could be visible. God literally loves us so much that He left Heaven and stood among us to fill that void and reconcile us to Him. God has made His presence clear throughout history and the arrogance and blindness of man has seen them explain away God in exchange for something they can control and take credit for discovering. Science does nothing more than give man a false sense of power and control. It doesn’t explain away God, it just proves His methods and shows His glory to a world that must sink deeper into the darkness to avoid the eternal light.

32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. (Romans 1:32)

          All history shows people seeking God. The Greeks had gods that lived on Olympus, the Egyptians built statues and monuments, and many other religions have designed gods to suit their desires and fit into a cultural box they have created. The true God placed that longing into all men and then showed Himself through creation for all time. He has no need to change to suit man so they have chosen to change Him into a powerless imaginary god or deny Him all together in their pride and arrogance. Know that all men have felt His calling, they have felt the emptiness only He is meant to dwell in, and they have seen him with their eyes.

          It is up to us as believers, who have allowed His Spirit to dwell within us, to reflect His light and His love so that the lost can find their way home; because we are more proof that God is going to show Himself to every person we will ever meet.  

Reflecting God Together

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          Some of the most difficult and yet most rewarding things we can have in life is relationship. If we narrow that down to the relationships of Christian believers with one another it creates a unique, potentially volatile, and potentially powerful environment. The passion that our Savior invokes is beautiful but sometimes misplaced when believers try and reflect their gift or ideal onto other people on the same journey with Jesus. It’s difficult to see two Christians unable to respect and love the uniqueness that each brings to the Church and potentially to each other’s lives.

         There are many times that people expect a reaction, a particular overlap of ideals or opinion, and that causes turmoil that doesn’t need to exist. The Lord put an analogy on my heart and it prompted me to write because I was also shown a few pieces of scripture that stoked a fire for this topic.

       We see in Isaiah where even God Himself realizes that anger pushes away the potential relationship that only the love of His new covenant through Christ can allow. For I will not contend forever, nor will I always be angry; for the spirit would grow faint before me, and the breath of life that I made….I struck him; I hid my face and was angry, but he went on backsliding in the way of his own heart. (Isaiah 57:16-17) This is often the case when emotion causes an angry reaction where no resolution can be reached and God’s love is absent. In turn a soft heart created through the reflected love of Jesus allows His light to be reflected in the situation and lasting growth and resolution to truly exist.

         A mistake we see, and the basis of my analogy, is when people have difficulty accepting the different views, reactions, and personalities in a church family. They want the relationship to involve a “mixing” of ideals to form a comfortable commonality. I imagine a person with a “red” personality/viewpoint trying to walk alongside a “blue” personality/viewpoint. In order for either of them to feel accepted or understood they try and create a comfortably “purple” relationship/situation. If the emotional/ideological mixture is an “oil based blue” and a “water based red” there is an unconformable tension. The boundaries that exist keep a resolution/relationship from existing. Now imagine for a moment that each of God’s children was allowed to reflect the light of God into the situation as they are loved and accepted for the beauty and uniqueness of their light. The two lights discussed above would make the beautiful purple light needed to flourish. Neither color requires mixing to be complete, but the completeness found in Christ reflects His light and allows their unique spirits to shine. Now imagine we have many lights reflecting God into the church. All of the colors in the light spectrum reflected together create a perfected white light that IS God’s love. their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (Colossians 2:2-3)

         I hope that anyone reading this can not only see the uniqueness and value of others but also those same qualities in yourself. God made you in His image to reflect His light into the darkness created by sin. When you pursue the Lord and encounter other lights on your journey, reflect yours as brightly as you can. You don’t have to be understood or understand the others. You don’t have to have a commonality to love one another and grow. If there are ten different colored lights in the same fixture/situation/church, the world will only see the glorious “white” of God reflected in union through love  A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)

Jesus: For Our Sake

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30 Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not mine. (John 12:30)

        Many times as we read the gospels, where Jesus is walking among the people, he says something similar to the quote above. Lazarus died so that God could reveal Himself through Jesus to the people. The quote above was when Jesus entered Jerusalem on His way to the cross and God audibly confirmed that His name has been glorified through the Son. God speaks out loud as Jesus is baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan so that people would hear. We can think about the fact that any time Jesus prayed out loud to the Father it was for the sake of those who were witnessing it. He was part of the trinity, He is God, so any audible prayer was said so that you could hear what a perfect heart sounds like in communication with its creator.

        Now think about the times that Jesus did things for the people’s sake and they would or could not comprehend it. He was indignant as He went to the tomb of Lazarus to raise him because the people could not understand. They cried because they could not comprehend that ‘the Resurrection’ was walking in their midst. “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26) Now imagine how His heart must have ached knowing that He was going to go to the cross to be crucified for a world that did not understand. Even His followers could not comprehend the way the events were unfolding at that time. Jesus went to the cross for our sins willingly but imagine His hurt when He was unable to help them understand. He did all thing for their sake even though they could not receive the message.

        We are called to be the image bearers of Jesus and to be witnesses to His life and message. Do you sacrifice yourself for the sake of the lost? Do you take the extra steps to allow the spiritually immature to draw closer to understanding through you? We are called to live not for ourselves but for the Kingdom. That command sounds very big and might be intimidating since we are saved by a Savior who sacrificed His life literally. We can rest assured that the Spirit of God will make it possible, but also that our obedience to the Kingdom could be as simple as being patient and smiling while we explain the truth of God or being calm and showing the believers who are dependent on milk how to cut their spiritual teeth on the meat of God’s Word. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready (1 Corinthians 3:2) you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food (Hebrews 5:12) Take the time to love others for the sake of God’s Kingdom, let that love show even when it’s hard for the sake of the immature or lost, let your heart reflect the light and love of God for your sake as you draw closer to the perfect image of Christ. As you reach out to the world remember the blood poured out for your sake so that you could pour out love for someone else’s.