Don’t trust your gut about God

I’ve recently found myself in a string of conversations about theology. Writing about the things that I write about, the subject of God naturally comes up during everyday conversations. Some good, some bad. Some fruitful, some…not so much. While I’ve had my fair share of heated conversations about the Father, even if I disagree with the other person, most of them prove to be beneficial to growing closer to Christ.

I have found that, when discussing God, the conversation can quickly turn into presuppositions about Him. This is where it can turn ugly pretty fast. People will naturally insert their own ideas about the attributes of God. But the truth is, our human mind just can’t comprehend the unimaginable holiness of God. And that’s ok. That’s how He designed us. 

The Holy Spirit indwelling in His people creates the ability and desire to know Him more, and to do His will (Philippians 2:13). One of the ways that satan can deceive, is to encourage you to trust your gut about God. If the Bible makes God seem cruel or unrighteous in certain ways, we have to bring that to Him. It’s tempting to try and contrast and compare God to our own sense of what we feel is right and good, but that will always fall short. 

The Bible must always be our compass on the journey to knowing God more. It’s perfectly ok to wrestle with scripture. We all do. The problem arises when we trust ourselves more than we trust His Word. When it comes to reading and interpreting the Bible, the only thing to compare our interpretation of the Bible to, is the Bible itself; never our own presuppositions. 

Pray for a greater understanding of Him and He is faithful to reveal His ways through His Word. 

Make me to know your ways, O Lord;

teach me your paths.

Lead me in your truth and teach me,

for you are the God of my salvation;

for you I wait all the day long.

Psalm 25:4-5

Who do you boast in?

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:4-10

When I read this text, I can’t help but notice the essence of what Paul is describing: God’s deep ocean of grace. Even before the beginning, there was grace (Ephesians 1:4). While we were dead in sin, slaves to our passions for this world, hating everything that is righteous, He chose to extend grace to His people.

So when we think about our salvation, who do we boast in? If you’re like me, you have the tendency to boast in yourself. I mean, look at all the work I’m doing for Him! I serve my church, help lead worship, serve the homeless, help a men’s weekly Bible study, share the gospel, shepherd my family, tithe, read my bible daily, pray daily, write a christian blog, and even find time for a catechism or two. Surely I’ve earned His grace right?

In Philippians 3:4-7, Paul has a similar list of credentials that far surpasses mine. If there was a man in his time that could boast about his self-righteousness, it was Paul, a self-described Hebrew of Hebrews. Killing it at keeping the law. But even with all of his achievements, he counts it all as complete rubbish (v8).

Our righteousness can’t be found in ourselves. For those who place their trust in Christ, it is only found in Him. His righteousness is imputed to us. We didn’t earn it. The debt has been paid in full. There is nothing that we could ever do to earn more grace, or even less grace. The second we turn faith into a work produced, we take away grace. We see in Ephesians 2:8 that faith is a gift from God. Not because of anything we did, or anything we will do, but because of the immeasurable riches of his grace.

The word grace is used repeatedly in this post because that’s because it’s the word I want you to focus on when you think about your relationship with God. It’s easy for us to default to our list of good works when we size up where we stand with the Father. We all do it. But our works, while produced by faith, are good and should be walked in. Not boasted in. We are only able to do these things because of God’s grace, so boast in Him.

Just Do You: A Deadly Direction

I’ve noticed several billboards around my city over the past few months. I’m not even exactly sure who the organization is that the billboard is supposed to be advertising, but they usually feature a person that has accomplished something significant in his or her life. This is apparently accredited, in some way, to a rebellion against a certain establishment. Therefore, if someone wants to be like the person that’s featured, you have to simply do what the slogan says: Just do you.

We probably overhear some version of this credo nearly every day. Its wired into our culture. It’s a pretty consistent message in the world. It says that if there is any sort of reproach for the way you are, don’t let them oppress you. Just be yourself. Just like the late Robin Willams puts it:

quote-there-are-no-rules-just-follow-your-heart-robin-williams-84-9-0987

The message is warm and fuzzy. It feels good. Its a universal statement of individuality that is meant to create a sense of confidence by placing yourself and your well-being above all others. But it’s an empty, surface-level, and superficial mindset that does anything but address the real problem of being yourself: Yourself.

The problem with following your own heart is that the heart, a metaphor for human will and emotion, is deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9). Satan will whisper in your ear that you can trust yourself; that you don’t have to obey the commandments of Christ, or anyone else for that matter, because they cramp your style. Is this because Satan wants to show support of your individuality? No. Its because he knows that following your own natural passions and desires will lead you straight into his ultimate goal for you, the wide gate of destruction. (Matthew 7:13)

Being yourself in today’s culture means being led by your natural passions and desires, and not by the Holy Spirit. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 1 Corinthians 2:14

When your heart is quickened by the Holy Spirit in the hearing of the gospel, it is regenerated and your gaze is fixed on Christ. (Titus 3:5) You are a new creation. No longer a slave to sin and death, but a slave to righteousness (Romans 6:18) Jesus doesn’t give you your natural desires. He makes you alive, and changes your heart to desire glorifying Him.

Doesn’t leave much room for Just do you.

I’m not talking about your sense of individuality. God made each one of us for the purpose of His own glory. I believe He beautifully makes our personalities extremely unique to serve that purpose. We were never meant to be clones of each other. However, if your sense of individuality overshadows who you are in Christ, thats a problem.

The Bible says Christians will be tempted to give up and just be themselves. Putting on the new self (Eph 4:24) will create a war between your new spirit of righteousness, and your old nature in the flesh (Gal 5:17). This is a war that you must fight until you die. Satan wants you to just do you. Why? Because its throwing in the towel, and its deadly. If the enemy can get you focused on just being yourself, then you won’t be focused on Christ.

Who we are in Christ

Just in case you’ve forgotten, here are a few things the Bible says we are if we are in Christ.

  • Redeemed and Justified through faith in Jesus. God sees Christ’s righteousness imputed to you. There is no distinction. (Romans 3)
  • No longer a slave to sin and death. (Romans 6)
  • A child of the holy, all-satisfying, all-knowing, sovereign God of the universe. Not too shabby. (John 1:12)

If you ask me, Just do you sure does place the bar low. Being who you are in Christ is infinitely better.

Grace & Peace

4 Ways Satan Wants To Devour You Through Facebook

Social media has no doubt changed the way we think and live, but how beneficial is that for those in Christ?

I believe that social media can be an effective platform for the spread of the gospel. There are plenty of Christ-centered resources in the online community that I use on a daily basis to help me grow spiritually. But if we’re honest, we probably spend a small portion of our time advancing our spiritual growth, while the rest is spent on aimless scrolling. We spend hours a day consuming endless information, pictures and videos without any safeguard for our minds. For Christians, I’ve found that this is dangerous territory. This potentially turns the mind into an open plain, with satan prowling through the grass like a lion, waiting to devour. (1 Peter 5:8)

Here are 4 ways the enemy wants devour you through social media:

1. Satan wants your marriage

It starts with a like here, and a like there. She’s only a friend. You justify the innocent interaction of the like button because it doesn’t cross any solid lines. You gradually push the boundary line further and further back. Maybe the likes and comments lead to private conversations. Remember, sin is never satisfied with the amount of you it has.

Sooner or later you are hiding conversations from your spouse. Before you know it, you’re involved in a mental, perhaps even a physical affair.

Many studies show that Facebook is the most common place that an affair starts. I’ve seen it happen to close Godly friends that thought they would never get to that point.  Unless you have safeguards in place, it can happen to you.

I used to roll my eyes when I saw couples with joint facebook accounts, or shared passwords. But now I get why most of them do it. Those couples realize the dangers. Those couples are fighting for what they have.

Give your spouse access to your social media. Believe me, having that accountability is absolutely necessary. You are far less tempted to hide anything. And if you have anything to hide from your spouse, it is more than likely sinful.

Catch the foxes for us, the little foxes that spoil the vineyards, for our vineyards are in blossom.” Song of Solomon 2:15

2. Satan wants your pure thoughts

If you are fighting the sin of lust, I suggest taking a break from social media; perhaps even indefinitely. Your relationship with God is infinitely more valuable than Facebook.

Aimlessly scrolling through the mind-numbing newsfeed is one of the most dangerous things a Christian can do. In my experience, that’s where pure thoughts go to die. We live in a pornographic culture and it is almost impossible to avoid while scrolling. Couple that with the ease of giving into lustful thoughts and its a disaster for holy living.

The temptation to scroll back up for one more look is even more dangerous because its privately done. Satan will whisper that its ok to look because theres no harm. Who’s going to know? It can be your little pet sin. But just like I mentioned in the previous section, it won’t stop there.

Unfollow, unfriend, or delete your account if you have to. Remember the areas that caused you to stumble before and run the other way. But don’t merely run from them, run to the open arms of Christ Jesus. Run to the promises of His Word.

Matthew 5:8 tells us that the pure in heart will see God! Keep your heart pure and fixed on the Father. Get rid of anything that might hinder that. Its absolutely worth it, and absolutely deadly if you don’t.

The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. 1 Peter 4:7

3. Satan wants your time

Social media is a very handy tool that satan uses to rip your attention and affection from God. John Piper quips “One of the great uses of Twitter and Facebook will be to prove at the Last Day that prayerlessness was not from lack of time.” 

Ouch.

If you compare your daily amount of time spent on Facebook to prayer, how does it measure up? If the former is greater, I wouldn’t simply shrug that off. Psalm 1 tells us the blessed man meditates day and night on the Word of God. How can we know what to pray unless we meditate on His word? How can we read the Word, much less meditate on it day and night if we’re constantly scrolling through social media? We’re simply choosing the pleasures of this world rather than spending time with the God of the universe. It’s that simple.

Because we’re not pursuing God like we should, we get bored and are attempting to fill the void with constant entertainment. I’m guilty of pulling up Facebook at the slightest bit of boredom. Its almost second nature to us now. But what if God is wanting to meet you in your boredom to reveal His purpose to you?

Get away from the constant newsfeed noise that the enemy wants to use to fog your mind.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my rock and my Redeemer. (Psalm 19:14)

4. Satan wants your worship

I don’t mean devil-worshipping as in pentagrams, black robes, or any of that garbage. What I’m talking about is much more subtle and inward-focused. Social media can train us to worship the idol of self. We essentially create mini shrines of ourselves, striving for praise via the almighty Like. 

Satan wants you focused on yourself. If you’re inward-focused, you won’t be focused on Jesus. Satan wants your source of self-worth to only be found in the empty praise and attention of others, not the atoning blood of Christ.

You can’t be self-absorbed and have compassion for others. If the enemy can keep us distracted by keeping our faces buried in a screen, then we won’t be able to see the hurting world around us. We certainly won’t be missions-minded if we’re consumed with  our own lives.

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves (Philippians 2:3)

In 1 Corinthians 10:31, Paul tells us to glorify God in the way we use social media. We can either wield Facebook for God’s glory, or Satan’s. I pray that this opens your eyes to a few of the ways we may be glorifying the enemy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We essentially create mini shrines of ourselves, striving for praise via the almighty Like.

Let Easter be the beginning, not the end.

Another Easter has come and gone. Bible back on the shelf, and pastels in the hamper. The “Chreaster” christian cliche is a pretty common one. Usually the congregation triples on Christmas and Easter. My wife and I sat in our usual spot this morning (because baptists jokingly have assigned seating). I looked around with a happy heart, noticing our sanctuary was filled with unfamiliar faces, as well as familiar ones. I wondered who they were. I wondered if they were believers. I wondered if they would be back.

Fighting the initial self-righteous and judgmental thoughts , I began to pray that the Holy Spirit would turn their hearts to Him and reveal truth in the sermon. If you’re a believer, would you take 5 minutes to pray for those who attended your church as well?

Resurrection High

We usually refer to this day as Superbowl Sunday for Christians. Resurrection Sunday and the week leading up to it, we remember the atoning work that Christ accomplished on the cross, reconciling His people to the Father (Romans 5). We remember that Jesus overcame sin and death, and was raised from the grave (1 Corinthians 15) We remember that He ascended to the right hand of the Father, and He is returning for His elect (Ephesians 1, Matthew 24).

I don’t know about you, but I was overwhelmed with the truth of the gospel this morning. I felt like I was worshipping at the feet of the King. “Church was good” would be such an understatement. Why is every service not like this? Why do I go through the motions the rest of the year? The truth of the gospel was just as true last Sunday as it was this morning. It is true every day until I stand face to face with Jesus. What is different about today?

Monday Is Coming

As we wake up and start our work-week, lets remember the same truth that set us free the previous day. Lets fall on our faces each day in order to seek the will of Christ. Let’s not let the busyness of our lives break the fellowship we have with Jesus. He is still Risen. He is still King. That is a truth to remember every day, not just Easter.

Grace and Peace.

America can’t be our savior

I recently had an opportunity to watch a film about The Voice of the Martyrs founder, Richard Wurmbrand. Richard was a Lutheran pastor during the 1940’s and was imprisoned in Soviet-occupied Romania for speaking out publicly against communism, claiming Christianity and communism were incompatible. He stood up as a well-known citizen in his community and defended the name of Jesus. Right in the middle of a pro-communism rally. Right in the face of evil.

1948mugshot Before being kidnapped, imprisoned and tortured daily for 14 years, Wurmbrand led a secret church in his small apartment,  even baptizing new believers in his bathtub. Because atheism was the state religion of the Soviet Union, it was illegal to practice Christianity. He had a great love for the soviet soldiers, and risked his life daily to share the gospel with them. He risked everything he had to love the very same people who persecuted him. He didn’t withdraw preaching the gospel when the laws of his country were changed.

If you’re anything like me, seeing a story like this makes me grateful to live where I do. I really dodged the persecuting bullet. Although, part of me is quite jealous. I want that passion. I want that boldness. I want that zeal for spreading the gospel like Richard had, but I think those things almost always come under pressure. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:10) How badly do we want that blessing?

Christians in the US can’t really empathize with Mr. Wurmbrand. We are free to worship as we please. What if that changed? Lets face it – we love our American comforts. We love being able to profess Christ and the Gospel as long as its legal to do so, and doesn’t rock the boat too much. We blame “taking God out of schools” as the reason for school violence, but why on earth did we teach our kids to stop praying when the government banned school-sponsored prayer?  Why did we teach them to withdraw the gospel because the world told us to? We cower far too easily. The message we’re sending to our kids is that even when the smallest means of persecution arises, its ok to cease preaching and praying in order to not offend the lost. Nobody kicked God out of anything, God’s people just stopped being bold.

We cannot expect the American church to thrive when it depends on the world to give it permission to do so. I think we should begin to realize that America isn’t God’s precursor to the Kingdom of God. If we actually lived out the words of Jesus, we would be hated here too (Matthew 10:22). We can’t depend on our rights, legislation, or candidates to make things easy for us to advance the Kingdom. We can only depend on Christ and His supreme sovereignty to provide us with the necessary faith to handle the inevitable persecution.

Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12)

Paul warned Timothy that the persecution he was suffering wasn’t limited to himself, but  is promised to every believer in Christ. The American church hasn’t exactly had to deal with the extent of suffering that Paul had to endure, but what if it was coming? Its happening across the globe today, why not here? I’m not sure we’re ready. We would rather point the finger at the lost for making things inconvenient for us to spread the gospel than rejoice to suffer under the banner of Christ and His Kingdom (1 Peter 4:12-13)

We as a church aren’t preparing ourselves the right way. We should be leaning into God’s sovereignty while the country grows colder to the gospel. We should be trusting that God’s purpose will prevail no matter who the current president is. I remember reading posts from so many believers absolutely panicking over the thought of Hillary Clinton becoming the next president. The only relief was on election night, but not because their hearts were quickened to the sovereignty of God. Only after Trump was elected president did they feel confident in their future, as if somehow we’re safe now. We are showing the world that we put our trust in ourselves, not the Father.

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.

Paul is painting a grim picture of the last days. There is no reason to expect laws of the United States to remain partial to Christianity. While there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with wanting those laws to remain partial, it is sinful to place our trust in them.

We protect and defend our rights as American Christians no matter the cost, but certainly don’t share the same zeal when it comes to the gospel. We often respond with pride, hate and bigotry when another group pushes an agenda that goes against Christianity. Rather than respond with love, we belittle the emotions of the lost that are confused about their gender because we don’t understand. Instead of coming to the table with the love of Christ, we publicly announce that we’re going to boycott certain stores with a certain bathroom policy. Instead of exhausting all efforts to bring Christ to the classrooms, we scold the younger generation for walking out of their classrooms in protest.

The fact is that our country is changing, and God is in complete control of that change. Our hope and joy as Christians should only remain in the promise that God is working all things for the good of His people (Romans 8:28). Possibly in this life, but definitely in eternal glory with Him.

The American church still has one job; to spread the name of Christ to all nations. American Christians must stop getting preoccupied with trying to control our own comforts and rights in this country and simply focus on Christ. We’re only sojourners. He is our home, not here. Jesus is our savior, not America.

Don’t lose your salvation

Growing up in a southern Baptist church, the salvation process was fairly easy. There was a prayer to repeat, and a card to fill out. Many confessed and went through the process, but why did so many fall away? Why did they go back to living like the world? I think what we created was an immensely false sense of assurance in something that just wasn’t there.

Don’t get me wrong. Repeating a line and filling out a card aren’t necessarily bad practices. But what if that form of evangelism actually did more harm than good? What if we valued the numbers more than we did the salvation? We never taught them about justification, sanctification, or the necessary war on their sin. We never finished the whole gospel. When we called it a night at “you’re forgiven”, we left droves thinking they could pick up their cross, leave it at the church door, and go on living their lives without change. What a dangerous and false gospel we created.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Let me be clear, the goal here isn’t to give anyone a false sense of comfort. It’s only to warn against the tactic of the enemy. If your assurance of salvation is based on the belief that you don’t really have to fight your sin because it’s forgiven through the blood of Christ, you have bought into satan’s lie; in essence, losing your salvation. Not because you once had salvation in Jesus and now you don’t, but rather, you never had it to begin with. One of my favorite quotes from AW Tozer sums it up: “The Holy spirit never enters a man and then lets him live like the world. You can be sure of that.”

the power of the gospel

The gospel doesn’t end with “you’re forgiven”. That’s only the beginning. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. (1 Peter 2:24) To die to sin is to die to self. The old me was a slave to sin, totally depraved, and unable to escape the bondage of it on my own accord. Christ’s redeeming work on the cross changed this for me. He called me out of death into life, revealing my sin and my need for Him. He created in me a new purpose and a desire to glorify Him in everything I do. It would be a contradiction for me to claim this truth, yet continue practicing in sin. (Hebrews 10:26)

The reason that habitual, unrepentant sinning is a sign of an unregenerate person is because it reveals the heart’s desire. In Romans 6, Paul tells us that we are no longer slaves to sin if we are alive in Christ. In other words, the new desire in our hearts will be to glorify Christ, and we now have victory over sin because of Him. We don’t have to sin anymore. That life-long sin of lust that you just keep falling into? You have the power over it. The problem is that there is a false sense of assurance that we really don’t have to dig our heels in and fight being pulled in. We believe we can jump into the pit of sin because Grace abounds. Honestly the stakes in our mind just aren’t high enough.

Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. (Romans 6:12)

We can’t put sin in our crosshairs until we attack the root. If we don’t attack the root and just attack the conduct, that is simply behavioral modification and not the gospel. The problem is rooted within, and that problem is preferring anything above God. That is what happens when we sin. We are telling God “my plan is better, and I desire this thing more than I desire you.” We must put our sin to death. Our salvation depends on it. (Romans 8:13) Not because we are a child of God one minute, and then the next minute we have sinned too much for the power of the Cross, but rather, if we go on sinning and aren’t convicted into repentance, we are fooling ourselves if we expect to enter the kingdom. I pray that God quickens our hearts to the gospel and moves our affections for Him.

backsliding 

I have gone astray like a lost sheep;
seek thy servant,
for I do not forget thy commandments. (Psalm 119:176)

I am in no way suggesting that we will live a perfect and sinless life after conversion. We see in the above text that it is possible for a saint to backslide and go astray, but we also see that the psalmist isn’t content with his backsliding. God’s law is written on his heart, therefore he longs for God to allow him to return. He is waging war on his sin.

Lean on the promises

God’s promises to His people are all throughout the Bible. Learning them to recite to yourself when battling the flesh is a good and wise practice. One of my favorite promises when temptation rears its ugly head is Matthew 5:8, Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. It reminds me of the wedge that is driven when I sin. I want to be reminded that communion with Christ is infinitely more valuable than this counterfeit pleasure.

Rest in the promise of your perseverance. 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)

I urge you to make sure that you have assurance of salvation through the grace of Christ Jesus, lining up with the truth of the Bible, and not our own watered-down version of the gospel. In Philippians 2:12, Paul warned the church to work out their salvation with fear and trembling. Did we sign the card in the hopes of simply escaping hell? Or are we actually devoting our entire lives to the glorification of Jesus? Let’s be sure, because salvation is only found in the latter.