The True Cost of Following Christ

Believing in Jesus isn’t something that’s unheard of among most people in America. In a 2015 Gallup poll, an astounding 75% of Americans claimed to be Christians. With the growing stark opposition of Christian values regarding abortion, homosexual marriage, feminism, and transgenderism in this country, I’m hesitant to put stock in the piety of those claiming Christ and His Word as their foundational truth. Something isn’t adding up. It seems as though many have been deceived into a false sense of assurance—perhaps a false deity based on morals rather than grace through faith in Jesus and His redemptive work on the cross.

Consider the words of Jesus in John 12:25-26: “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.” The true cost of following Jesus is the call to essentially give what He gave—His life. As morbid as this verse may sound, Jesus’ purpose in saying this was to give the hope of freedom from this world. The world may offer ungodly momentary and fleeting pleasures, but Christ offers the freedom of eternal life through the pursuit of holiness in Him.

This world and its sinful desires will pass away. (1 John 2:17), but there is freedom in Christ. There is freedom from the bondage of sin that we are all naturally born into. A popular, but damning, modern evangelical proclamation is that because of forgiveness of sins in Jesus, we are free to sin—to be carnal Christians. “Grace abounds!” Amen, but In verse 25 above, you can see that Jesus’ words firmly dispute that claim that His followers and servants are able to live carnally. Whoever loves sin and remains in it as a way of life will perish, but if we cherish Christ and His commandments above all, there is life. Jesus bids us to follow him unto death so that we may live.

What does this death that Jesus is referring to look like? It isn’t necessarily outside the realm of a very real and physical death. After all, all but one of the Apostles suffered horrific deaths for the sake of the Gospel. Why should our lives be any differently? While death by persecution is very possible for the Christian, there are other meanings we can draw from this text.

“They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” Ephesians 4:19-24

The death that all past, present, and future Christians everywhere are called to is the death of our old self. In Christ, our spirit is regenerated and are transformed to no longer desire sin, but desire the things of God. However, in our flesh, we still are tempted to give in to sensual behaviors, and there is a very real battle between flesh and spirit in this life. Contrary to the popular evangelical position mentioned above, this is a battle that every Christian is called to fight. And if we take Jesus seriously in John 12:26a, failure to fight this battle will result in losing one’s life eternally.

This doesn’t mean the Christian never sins. This doesn’t mean that we all don’t fall into snares and traps the enemy has laid out for us. No, what sets the Christian apart is the war that is waged on sin. What sets us apart is the fleeing from sin and pursuit of holiness. The litmus test is to first determine whether sin essentially bothers you. If you ultimately feel no conviction other than a moralistic, shallow guilt over your sin, you do not know Christ. If there is no true, change-producing desire for Christ and His character, you do not belong to Him. Romans 6:15 and following outlines the freedom from sin that we have in Christ Jesus. How can we be free from sin and remain captive to it?

The core of the Gospel is that Christ, being perfect and blameless, condescended to incarnation and though tempted in every way, lived the sinless life that we could not. Giving Himself up as a sacrifice for His people, Jesus took on our sin, and bore the wrath of God that we all deserve. In return, He clothes us in His righteousness so that we would stand blameless in Him before the Father, shattering the bondage that death and sin had over us. Who can go on living a life practicing sin if this is true for them?

The true cost of following Christ is the death of self and pursuit of Him. Put off the old, and put on the new—every single day. If you are in Christ and still struggle with sin (that’s all of us), rest in the Father’s promises. “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). What this means for our sanctification is that the Father planned it, the Son secured it, and the Spirit brings about the fruit of it. If you are in Christ, the victory has already been won. If you are a true follower of Christ, He is faithful to carry you through it all.

 

 

 

 

 

Fathers, Don’t Let Netflix Raise Your Kids

I’m ready to admit what needs to be admitted by a majority of fathers out there. I’m guilty—guilty of letting the world raise my kids. I’m guilty of lazily passing the buck on discipling my two daughters while they develop worldviews from Netflix & YouTube. I’ve allowed the tablets and phones to become full-time babysitters. Hoax or not, the recent Momo Challenge  embedded in YouTube videos should be enough for parents to say, “enough is enough” — especially for fathers.

I began realizing the problem several months ago. My wife and I started feeling conviction about the media that we were allowing into our home. The content, available through the video-streaming apps we subscribed to, was becoming increasingly sin-glorifying. We couldn’t trust ratings alone and had to research nearly every title before watching. Even some of the most kid-friendly TV shows exhibit an indifference towards sin. If can get into trouble due to the sheer availability in my living room of shows that glorify immorality, how much more vulnerable are my kids within the privacy of their iPads?

In chapter 6 of Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians, he begins by giving a direct command to children and fathers of that church. He writes: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother’ (this is the first commandment with a promise), that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land” (v. 1-3)Many Christian parents know that verse by heart; it’s cited quite often in our house. However, I believe what’s given in verses 1-3 is the fruit of the command specifically given to fathers in verse 4.  Paul Continues, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Paul is telling us that the fruit of biblical instruction within the home is obedient children.

Therefore, we made the very difficult and unpopular decision, to honor the Lord through the removal of Netflix and other streaming services from our home. Suffice it to say, the decision was questioned by our kids. We could see the idol of entertainment in their eyes come crashing down. But in the end, they understood that mom and dad were simply trying to trust and obey God — which is ultimately what we want to display to our children the most.

Being passionate fans of The Office, my wife and I weren’t necessarily thrilled with giving up mind-numbing entertainment either. There were some (shallow) concerns. I really didn’t want to be that weird Christian guy at work that doesn’t watch TV or know anything about the latest shows. That’s a Christian’s main concern, right? Our flesh was desperately clinging to anything to keep us from quality time with our kids, as well as the Lord.

Fast-forward a couple of months, and I’m harvesting the fruit of our instruction. Instead of constant bickering between my kids, I’m noticing more quality time spent together playing games and really getting to know each other. I’m noticing a lot less attitude and insubordination from them (imagine that!). As a family, there is more daily engagement, more fervent prayer, more Scriptural immersion, and more love. This is such an answered prayer in my home!

Contrary to what the world tells us, there is no neutrality in our thoughts. Consider Paul’s exhortation elsewhere in Ephesians:

They [worldly gentiles] have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:19-24)

We will all renew our minds with something. The question then becomes are we renewing minds through worldly media or the Word of God? For husbands and fathers, that call to steadfastness is heavier than we often realize. Not only are we responsible for pouring into the Scriptures for the renewal of our minds, but we’re also to lead our families in the renewing of theirs. After all, there is no neutrality in our children’s minds, either. The eternal truth gained from a twenty-minute family Bible study can quickly fizzle out after a few hours of Netflix on a tablet.

When I look back at all of the hours that my kids have witnessed me aimlessly scroll through the emptiness of social media and entertainment instead of paying attention to them, I’m ashamed. If we desire our children to cherish God’s word more than the world, we must lead by example. We cannot claim the supremacy of Scripture with our mouths. while giving our eyes, ears, and essentially our hearts over to the pleasures of the world (Matthew 6:21). Fathers should be leading by sacrifice. Meaning, that instead of spending our time chasing entertainment, we should be setting the example of love by pouring into their souls with God’s Word — even after a long day.

What chance does a child, ungrounded in the promises of God, have against the schemes and lies of Momo? Before we get too bent out of shape and point the finger at YouTube, let’s be proactive in equipping our kids for their own spiritual battles. Teach them about the Spiritual armor listed in Ephesians 6. Teach them that there is a very real, and a very powerful enemy who hates everything that a Christ-exalting family displays. Teach them how to guard against the fiery arrows soaring towards your family. For many, those arrows come through backlit screens.

Fathers, the dilemma we find ourselves in is whether or not we are risking family’s safety at the expense of entertainment. It’s to be expected that cutting the streaming media cord may seem foolish, legalistic, and over-the-top to some; that’s certainly understandable, as everyone has their own convictions. Yet, one thing is for sure — God takes fatherhood seriously. Therefore, a father should take his command to disciple and shepherd his family in the fear and admonition seriously as well.

 

 

This article first appeared on Patheos.com

Please be sure to check out my good friends at The Chorus in the Chaos

Lay Aside the Weight of Lust

Lust is a killerand a serial killer at that. Men and women have fallen into the sinful grip of lust since the beginning of time. We first see lust come on the scene in Genesis 3:6. When Eve sets her gaze upon the tree that God had forbade her and Adam to touch, she lusted after it. The Hebrew verb originally used to describe what Eve thought about the tree is ḥâmaḏ, which means to desire lustfully. Eve desired and lusted after wisdom. At least thats what she thought. In reality, she desired what we all desire when giving in to the temptation of lust. She desired to be like God. 

 

When we fuel the fires of fleshly passions by giving into lust, we are telling God that we know better than He does. We are telling our creator that His plan for us to remain pure wont quite cut it. Isnt that the angle the serpent took when tempting Eve? But the serpent said to the woman, You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’” (Genesis 3:4)

 

Its time for believers to lay aside the weightiness of lust, and fix our gaze upon Christ. (Hebrews 12:1) Here are 10 methods and reasons to help you overcome your battle with lust:

 

 

1) Pluck out your eye

 

 

Jesus probably isnt commanding that you literally perform a self-enucleation. In Matthew 5:29, I think He is going to such an extreme to emphasize the danger of this particular sin. In other words, lust is so incredibly deadly, that we need to do whatever is necessary to flee from the temptation. Even if it means removing your eye. 

 

So what are some ways that we can tear out our eye, so to speak? I think you should ask yourself which door the temptation enters from. Once you have that door in your cross hairs, blow it away. For instance, youre scrolling instagram one evening, an attractive woman scrolls across your screen, and satan begins to whisper lustful temptations in your ear. What does Jesus say about this situation? Its better for you to delete the friend, or delete your instagram account, or even smash your phone than to risk spending an eternity in hell. 

 

2) Your eternity is worth it

 

Fighting lust is essential to your salvation. Hebrews 10:26 says that a truly regenerated person will not go on living in sin. That means if youre just training your sin to hide better instead of killing it, there no longer remains a sacrifice for your sin, and fiery judgment awaits you. 

Its definitely an eye-opening verse. But if youre not fighting your sin, I would much rather advise you to work out your salvation than to make you feel better about your sin by downplaying the dangers of it. If youre alive in Christ, you have the victory through Him. You will stumble, but get up, dig in the word, and keep fighting. God is for you. 

 

3) Suit up

 

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. Ephesians 6:10-11

 

I think Paul systematically lays out the armor of God as though hes getting ready for the days battle. You cant expect to fight sin in the flesh if you dont have your armor on. Lay a foundation for each day by reading the Word, meditating on that Word, and praying to the father. I encourage you to read through Pauls description of the whole armor of God in his letter to the Ephesians, and apply it. 

 

4) Watch what you watch 

 

We live in a pornified culture. My wife and I struggle to find a show or movie to watch that isnt filled with nudity or sexual references. We have a strict no-nudity policy when it comes to our entertainment. This policy isnt just for our kids purity and protection, its for ours as well. It doesnt honor God (or my wife) to be entertained be the things that dishonor Him. 

 

Satan will try to plant seeds of destruction wherever he can. Hell try and justify your freedom to watch these shows and blame it on legalism. Dont buy it. Be proactive against this scheme by researching what youre about to watch. Dont let the enemy get a stronghold in your mind by allowing nudity on your tv. 

 

 

5) Gods design for you is better

 

Whether youre a spouse, parent, or single, God has designed you for a purpose. Lust isnt part of that design. He has designed you to be a minister to your wife or husband, to be a spiritual leader to your family, or to be a minister to your peers. Lust enters the mind and tears that design apart. 

 

When we give into lust, we shift the focus of our lives from this design onto ourselves. This is the enemys plan. He doesnt give a rip about your self-gratification. Satan only wants you to focus on anything but God. The enemy doesnt place the idol in front of you to make you happy. Its only purpose is an attempt to pull you away from glorifying King Jesus, push you face-first into sin, and keep you there. Try and see the bigger picture here. Know the tactics of the enemy. Start doing what God designed you to do. 

 

6) Realize who you are in Christ

 

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? (Romans 6:1) Jesus came to seek and to save the lost. His atoning death on the cross paid the debt for your sin. His resurrection means He has the victory over your sin. If your faith is in Christ, you too have that victory. 

 

A great lie from the enemy that I believed most of my Christian life was that there was no escape from the grip of porn. If you get anything from this article, let it be this: You are not a slave to lust. Jesus victory over sin made it possible for you to say no to sin. Your lust was nailed to the cross and you are alive in Christ. Walk in that victory today, not defeat. 

 

7) Fear God

 

By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for, and by the fear of the Lord one turns away from evil. (Proverbs 16:6) The fear of the Lord mentioned in this proverb isnt the same fear a child has of an abusive father. Rather, its the type of fear that stands in awe of your Heavenly Father. This type of fear is motivated by the reverence of God. 

 

To fear God means to honor Him with obedience. Its cultivating a deep relationship with the Lord by marveling at His power. He commands us to fight our sin. He commands us to take up our cross and follow him. Who are we to disobey? He is our redeemer and sustainer. His breath fills our lungs. Meditate on who He is. Pray for a deeper fear of God and to know him better. I assure you, lust will never survive it. 

 

8) Be accountable

 

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. (James 5:16) Lust is a nearly impossible battle to fight on your own. Confession of sin is absolutely key to fighting it. The enemy will tempt you to keep it hidden. Hell try to convince you that youre the only one that struggles with lust. The reason that he wants this is because he knows sin thrives in darkness. 

 

Find your pastor, a brother/sister in Christ, or your spouse, and come clean. Pray for healing and restoration in your life. When we drag sin into the light, we can see it for what it is. Lust cannot survive in the light. 

 

9) Value women more

Lust and pornography change the way your brain is wired when interacting with people. Over time, youll start to view women differently. Youll start to view them as a product instead of a person. Youll only consider what they have to offer you rather than who they area person created in the image of God. 

 

This is actually the anti-gospel. 

 

Instead of viewing women through the lens of self-gratification, view them as Christ would view themeither a sister to be loved and protected, or a soul in need of a savior.   Repent, and pray for God to turn your affections towards Him. When we truly treasure Christ alone, we automatically value life. 

 

10) Jesus is better

 

Lust operates like any other sin. It promises instant pleasure, but delivers destruction. The promise of the enemy is death veiled in beauty. Just like satan tempting Eve, promising vast wisdom, that promise came with a deadly price. Concealed within the promise was the end of perfect communion with the Father, and the fall of humanity.

 

Jesus promises, on the other hand, are not the veiling of death. His words are the promise and deliverance of eternal life. They are a solid rock ground to stand on. He is the way, the truth, and the life. Lay the weight of lust upon Him and find rest that only Christ can give. 

 

 

(Find this piece along with many other articles written by Topher Haddox featured on Crosswalk.com)

Why Our Resolutions Fail

It’s difficult to believe that 2018 has come to an end. For many, the new year is a chance to start over. It’s a chance to start the new year fresh with a new version of yourself that is, in some way, better than last year’s version. Your plan might be resolving to shed off those holiday pounds (raises hand), read more books, pray more, give more to charity, or perhaps something as simple as a resolution to let no unwholesome talk come out of your mouth (Ephesians 4:29).

I think most of us can remember making a similar resolution last year and the year before that. A few nights ago, my wife and I were joking about our inabilities to stick to diets. We laughed about a “juice fast” that we attempted last January in order to lose a few pounds and have healthier bodies. I believe that 30 day fast lasted about 30 minutes.

Whether it be personality-wise or physical appearance, most people have something that they want to change about themselves. However, the desire is always to change for the better, not worse. You never hear about someone making a new year’s resolution to generally be more hateful towards other people; or resolving to just let themselves go physically. No, our resolutions are usually an attempt to live a less-sinful life in the new year.

Although they may not admit it, even non-Christians borrow from the Biblical worldview to set moral goals to meet. (Hashtag that’s for another article.)

“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.” (Ezekiel 36:26-27)

I think the failing point is that more often than not, we attempt to modify our behavior without addressing the real problem: our hearts. We can’t expect outward change without inner renewal. Because our thoughts and desires naturally drift towards lust and idolatry, this poses a problem. How do we achieve change if we’re unable to produce it on our own? Our only hope for true inward change is through the Father.

Paul wrote about this struggle in his letter to the Galatian church. “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.” (Galatians 5:16-17) So the problem that we want to resolve this year is to not gratify the desires of the flesh. How do we do that? We walk by the Spirit by fervent prayer and meditating on God’s Word.

“But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (vv 18-21)

 You might be thinking that this is a little heavy-handed to be talking about a New Year’s Resolution. That’s because what we’re calling a resolution, the Bible calls repentance. It’s the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. If we are led by the Spirit, we will produce the fruit of the Spirit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” (vv 22-24)

To me, the fruits of the Spirit sound an awful lot like the things we’re resolving to produce this year. Instead of trying to produce this fruit on our own, lets resolve to be led by the Spirit and witness Him produce these things within us as we begin to desire what He desires. Witness your patience overcome your anger. Witness your kindness grow towards other people. Witness your body become healthier because of self-control. And most importantly, witness the overwhelming love and joy you find in Christ Jesus.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christian, Stop Loving Like a Coward

If you’re a professing Christian who has spent any time on the internet this month, I’m sure by now you’ve heard about the issue regarding CCM artist, Lauren Daigle. While I don’t want to beat the dead horse that is the controversy surrounding her, I feel slightly alarmed at the response from professing Christians supporting her decision to evade a hard question regarding the sin of homosexuality. Don’t get me wrong, the question was an absolutely difficult one to answer— but not because the Biblical truth is blurry.

It’s difficult to answer because of the division that claiming that truth would cause. That division is exactly what Jesus warned His followers about in Mark 13:13, You will be hated by all for My name sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. I don’t believe Jesus meant that the world will hate us because we evade hard truths, only when we stand firm in them.

Jesus does not call Christians to evade truth. If we back-track a few verses in Mark, we find the preface to v13 supporting that claim. “But be on your guard. For they will deliver you over to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them. And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations. And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. And brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death. And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

 Some found Lauren’s response to the question of homosexuality being sinful in the eyes of God to be loving. “Who am I to judge?” Daigle responded. The fact is, we as Christians are commanded to judge. “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. (Ephesians 5:11) I realize that Lauren is certainly capable of getting it wrong like the rest of us. There is surely grace to be found for my sister in Christ. However, my hope in the outcome of this situation is that instead of defending her actions, we learn from it. It’s ok to get it wrong, as long as we can admit that we got it wrong.

 The reason that neutral approach to sin isn’t loving is that there’s no call to repentance. There’s no exposing of sin. How can we, as believers of the Gospel, bring something into the light if we are unwilling admit that it’s in darkness?  The analogy couldn’t be truer—It’s like watching someone walk towards the edge of a cliff while you cheer them on by only tell them God loves them.

True love is sacrificial. In John 13:34, Jesus gives a new commandment to love one another just as He has loved us. Christ loved us by laying down His life for us. His ultimate sacrificial love for us was displayed on the Cross. Following the commandment in v34, how can we claim to love others sacrificially when we are unwilling to lay down careers, relationships, and possessions (much less our very lives) for sinners? I pray that we are given the boldness to speak truth in the face of difficult and divisive questions. I pray that we don’t retreat and hide behind a false notion of love disguised as cowardice. When we’re asked to give an account for what is true to the Father, I pray that it deeply offends, and that the Holy Spirit convicts through the Biblical truth we speak.

Repentance is what sets Christians apart from the world (Matthew 3:8). If we do not call sinners to repentance, who will? We cannot buy into the lies from satan that it’s unloving to do so. Jesus did not anoint His church to fall into an attitude of indifference towards the sins He died for. The truth of Christ divides. “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Matthew 10:34-39)

 Perhaps if we actually believed the Gospel, we would be eager to proclaim the truth of it rather than searching for a loophole to remain on neutral terms with the world.

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” (Romans 10:14-15)

 

There Is Room At The Table

It’s been some time since I have updated the blog. I could probably get away with blaming the hiatus on a major career change, or possibly use my need for family-time as a possible reason. It’s a stretch, but I could probably even blame it on sheer laziness; too many irons in the fire. If I could be completely honest though, those excuses only make up for about 6% of the reason. No, if I were to be completely honest, I can only blame it on one thing: shame.

I had given into a form of shame-filled depression. I couldn’t really pinpoint the source of the shame, but it was there nonetheless. I felt like I was in shackles. I bought into the lies. I drank the kool-aid. I gave into the enemy’s accusations. I was right where satan wanted me—idle.

I was convinced that there was something especially wrong with me that somehow the Cross wasn’t powerful enough to overcome. I would ask myself “how could God love someone like me?”. I had completely tuned out the Gospel.

For a couple of months, whenever I would think about writing an article, updating the blog, or even sharing my faith with someone, my mind would immediately be directed into the thought pattern of self-disqualification. I was convinced that God didn’t want to use someone like me anymore. I had blown it one too many times. I was too dirty, and too prone to sin. I was at the point of doubting my sonship and adoption into His family.

I should have expected to shift into that mindset, though. It comes with the territory of neglecting private time and communion with the Father. I was so distracted with the stress of every-day life that Jesus took a back seat in my mind. Prayer was the first to go, then devotional and bible reading. Since I was convinced that I wasn’t authentic in my Christianity, what was the use? A fake Christian doesn’t need those things. A fake Christian only needs to portray needing those things to others.

However, a fake Christian doesn’t long to be justified. Only a true child of God longs for communion with Him. I longed for that, but I had convinced myself that the Gospel was true for everyone— except for me.

Embracing shame and guilt after repentance is like telling Jesus ‘Your death on the cross wasn’t enough to pay for my sins. I’ll pay the rest of it.’” – Dale Partridge

 

The empty seat at the table

Like the parable of the prodigal son, I wanted to return to my Father. Though the son had squandered his inheritance, there was still room for him at his father’s table. As 1 John 1:9 proclaims, the same is true for our heavenly Father. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” If you are battling shame, one of the enemy’s most crippling weapons, I want to remind you that there is still room for you at the Father’s table. Our ability to overcome shame and guilt over sin is blood-bought. If we believe in the Gospel, we have to believe in that.

Don’t spend another minute under the enemy’s foot. Repent and be free. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1

You Can’t Have Jesus Without Doctrine

I’ve noticed a dangerous anti-doctrinal pattern lately. There is an idea that’s becoming more and more familiar among my generation of professing believers. It’s the idea of simplicity; to not get bogged down with doctrine, and just keep it simple by only focusing on Jesus.

On the surface, the notion sounds biblically harmonious. What could be wrong with simply focusing on Jesus? It most certainly seems liberating to be free from the dividing lines of doctrine, but I believe there is a soul-threatening danger cloaked within it. And I believe that’s exactly where satan wants you to blindly stay.

The reason that biblical-sound doctrine is so vital to the believer is because without it, we are at the mercy of our feelings and our own instincts about who Jesus really is. If we don’t search the scriptures to know Him more, we simply won’t know who we’re following, or even how to follow Him. Here are a few examples of the Jesus that is followed when doctrine is removed:

  • It could be the Jesus that you’ve created in your mind that strangely resembles you. This Jesus never offends you because He overwhelmingly and passively agrees with everything you think. The only biblical quote from this Jesus is “Judge Not!”. This Jesus never divides, and He never offends. He is only love; but not the biblical love. No, this type of love never calls out sin and never calls for repentance. It is the type of love that unconditionally accepts everyone the way they are without change. And because doctrinal truth to stand on is given up, the standard of truth for this Jesus is at the whim of cultural influences. This Jesus is restricted and bound only to how you believe He should be. Sadly, this is the Jesus that most people will believe in. 
  • It could be the Jesus that was created by God. This Jesus isn’t part of the Triune God, He is a creation. Better yet, He’s actually the Archangel, Michael, personified. This Jesus is believed in by over 8 million professing Christians worldwide. But Because sound doctrine is of no concern, there is no standard of truth to stand on to know that this is not the biblical Jesus. 
  • It could be the Jesus that turned out not to be the Son of God, but only a good prophet. This Jesus, while certainly performing miracles and signs, did not atone for anyone’s sin. He was a created man, in time, dying a natural death, according to the will of allah. Sound too farfetched? 24% of the world’s population believe in this Jesus. Thats 1.8 billion (and growing) people blindly following this false Jesus. 

These are just a few examples of the many ways satan can deceive you if you are not grounded in scripture. Matt Chandler says it best: “If you’re not confident in the authority of the Scriptures, you will be a slave to what sounds right.” I believe that’s where many fall today. 

Don’t despise doctrine 

While biblical doctrine isn’t required for salvation, it is required for spiritual growth. You will never spiritually outgrow the Word of God. The Bible can be as shallow as needed for the new believer, and the theological depths can ascend far below what is needed for the battle-scarred saint. 

You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. 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 5:13

The more you immerse yourself in scripture, creating a sound-doctrinal truth to stand firm on, the more you can discern who Jesus really is—and who He isn’t. Remember, the enemy wants you to keep it simple; not wanting you to know who the biblical Jesus really is. Don’t buy into it.