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.)

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)

No longer Rejected

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And he sent messengers ahead of him, who went and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make preparations for him. But the people did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. And when his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” (as Elijah did) But he turned and rebuked them. (And he said, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of; for the Son of Man came not to destroy people’s lives but to save them”) And they went on to another village. (Luke 9:52-56)

          As I was reading this above passage this morning my spirit was stirred. I see the Samaritans as a representation of the unfortunate people who struggle because they haven’t received the fullness of the Lord through Jesus Christ. This could be unbelievers who know nothing of His love and it could also be believers who have never surrendered in order to know the depth of His love through receiving Him. In both cases we see people who are refusing to receive the presence of Jesus. I see no reason to pass judgement on this. I believe that even the most devout follower has moments of self-sufficiency where they try and move in a way contrary to the expressed will of God. We are all “Samaritans” until we receive our Savior and then we have moments of relapse as trials and temptations shape and mold our faith. With this in mind the rest of the passage spoke to me in a more meaningful way.
         I see two responses to people who are struggling with receiving Jesus or walking in His fullness. I see James and John who remind me of the legalism found in many churches today and I see what Jesus has to say. How many of you have made mistakes in your life that cause shame to dwell in you? How many of you have felt rejected when you try and become vulnerable with those in the church in expressing that shame? How many of you have felt reconciled to God in repentance only to feel condemned by a church that is supposed to represent Him? I see two disciples who were closer to Christ and His teaching than anyone the church today can offer make this same mistake. They fail to see the flaws in this world as the reason God became flesh and dwelled among us. He allowed His blood to be spilled as the sacrifice that erased rejection from sin. Yet the church and its believers can still manage to drive away those who thirst for the living water. I know this doesn’t apply to all churches. I am speaking to those who carry the weight of shame and get hurt through a spiritless congregation. Please see what the true reaction of a Spirit lead church should look like through the words of Jesus Himself.

          Jesus responds to His disciple’s desire to punish these people with a rebuke followed by His beautiful truth. “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of; for the Son of Man came not to destroy people’s lives but to save them.” He rebukes the crookedness of their spirit and then simply states His earthly purpose. There is salvation in Christ, acceptance of your repentance, and unconditional love from the Father. Do not accept unloving condemnation as the heart of God. The heart of God is found through the sacrifice of Jesus. I hope that you will draw close to God when those on earth can’t reflect a love they may not understand. I hope that the hearts of the church will soften and see the opportunity found in repentance of the lost, and the opportunity to show the love of God through Jesus to even the most rejecting heart. Let Christ be the Leader and you can make a difference.

Finding God, Losing People

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       As we grow closer to God we not only grow away from the things of this world we also create a distance from other believers who’s walk is different from ours. It might be that God’s timing or direction for them differs from ours. It is important to support those around us while still seeking our own growth in God through His Spirit. There will be times where people will be unable to support your steps and upward calling. That can be to your advantage in many cases. God guides your steps, lights your path, and is the source of your calling. Your first resource for growth in your spiritual walk should always be the Spirit God has sent to dwell in you. The Holy Spirit should always be the source of your conviction and truth. Allowing the Spirit to be your filter as you seek God through His Word and through Spirit driven sermons means you can receive what the Lord has for you specifically. The living Word of God can speak to you a different way each time you seek guidance through its pages. Allowing the Holy Spirit, which dictated every word, to speak to you with scripture means you can get exactly what you need in your time with the Lord.
        There are times when we look around and realize that our walk with God has brought us to a place of unique experience with Him. He speaks to us and grows us in ways that are specific to how He made us. There will not always be someone to share that moment with. It is those times we can take our love and gratitude directly to God, our Source. We can use those moments of revelation to worship and praise Him.
Seeking fellow believers to walk with is God’s desire, but we cannot rely on human counsel as our primary source of revelation and growth. People are fallible where God is not. He designed you and seeks to mature you in His way at His pace. Your growth will drive the right people closer to you and some people away from you. Some of the people who were closest to you in your worldly life will be the furthest from you as your spirit matures. Let God bring people into your life that will develop you through His Spirit. Seek God first and let the Spirit be your counsel.
       We are each uniquely design as part of the body of Christ (the Church). He created us and now grows us in different ways to strengthen His Church. Allow God to grow gifts in you that you can bring to grow His Kingdom here on earth. Don’t let people pull you from God’s unique design for you. Make God first and let His light shine forth from you to serve Him and His purpose for your life.

What is a Leader? (6 of 9)

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Without Ego/ Pride/ Arrogance– Pride drives people away. Leaders are admired in their humility. People have trouble connecting with leaders who think too highly of themselves. It’s in the leader’s ability to take in fresh viewpoints that they connect to the people around them. In the eyes if our creator no one of His children is better than the other. We were all created in unique ways for His purpose. We must never seek to be any better than anyone else, we must look to grow in the unique qualities that each one of us bring to the table. Only together can we get any closer to understanding the infinitude of God. (Philippians 2:3) Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. (Matthew 20:26) It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant

 

What is a Leader? (1 of 9)

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The indwelling of the Holy Spirit makes us examples to a world that is lost in the chaos caused by sin. This in turn makes us leaders as our example guides people to reconciliation with God through Jesus Christ. As leaders by example and not just words, we should strive to meet the standard God has for those who believe in salvation through Jesus. This extends into our home, workplace, and anywhere we have the opportunity to glorify God. (1 Peter 5:2-4) Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away. We must be: (2)Trustworthy, (3)Guiltless, (4)Set Apart, (5)Discerning, (6)Humble, (7)Consistent, (8)Prosperous. 

Old Testament Law vs New Testament Love

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                We find the 10 Commandments given to Moses (Exodus 20) fulfilled and overshadowed by the 2 Commandments of Jesus Christ (Matthew 22:37-40). God says that those who fear and love God will obey His commands. Obeying the law was impossible in the flesh, through fear. The entire Old Testament proves that. Obeying the commands of God is only possible with the Holy Spirit, through love. The OT gives us the law of sin and death, Jesus gives us the law of spirit and life. (Romans 8:2) For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. The OT tells us what is right while Jesus and the Holy Spirit equip us to do it. The OT law gives us condemnation, Jesus gives us grace and mercy. (John 1:17)  For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. OT law isolates people from one another in sin, love brings us together. The law is made weak by flesh, love is made strong by the spirit. (Romans 8:3-4)  For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

                “Rules without relationship leads to rebellion.”      -Josh McDowell