"As Christians we are not only to know the right worldview... but consciously to act upon that worldview so as to influence society in all its parts and facets across the whole spectrum of life, as much as we can to the extent of our individual and collective ability." Francis Schaeffer
Based on Proverbs 7:21-27It’s interesting how, in this Scripture, the unsuspecting man followed the prostitute to his demise. Oh how her beauty, flattery, and persistence wore him down. Yet he was an active participant in his own deception. Thus, he blindly, yet willingly, followed her to her home, supposing he was about to have the time of his life. Unbeknownst to him, he was marching toward his undoing. Observe the language…
Out of ignorance or naiveté, these three creatures fell prey to the traps set for them – a decision (so to speak) that would cost them their lives.
We are the same. We may see great big obvious temptations for what they are. But the serpent’s craftiness is found in his subtleties. It is the consistent smallness of our daily surrenders to those subtleties that lead us into the slaughterhouse, the noose, and the snare. A compromise here and there will have a powerful snowball effect in our lives. We often have no idea when we say “yes” to that first, small, seemingly insignificant trifle of a temptation, that it is the first step on a path that will lead to our destruction. We unwittingly pay a price that will cost us dearly – our very lives… our families… our ministries… and so on.
Questions for Reflection
May the Lord bless you as you think on these things.
Grace and Truth,
Question: How do you think a spiritually alive person learns what to desire and how to obtain it? (cf. Colossians 1:9-14 and Philippians 1:9-11)
Answer: Here are some bullet points of what the texts above reveal…
We must pray non-stop, asking God to fill us with the knowledge of God’s will – through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.
We must pray that we may live a life worthy of the gospel – of our Lord – and that we may please him in every way.
We must pray that we will bear fruit in every good work and that we may grow in the knowledge of God – strengthened with all power…with God’s might.
We must pray that we will have great endurance and patience.
We must pray that our love abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight. This will enable us to discern what is best. It will enable us to be pure and blameless until Christ returns. It will fill us with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ. This will glorify God and be a praise offering to him.
And yet, God will not give us such wisdom, knowledge, discernment, depth of insight, etc., just because we want it…just because we ask for it. To be sure, we can’t obtain such things without him, but we will not receive these gifts and graces without active participation on our part.
I believe this is what it means to “let the words of Christ dwell in us richly” (Col. 3:16). This is surely what Jesus meant when he said that we are to abide or remain in him and he and his words will abide or remain in us (John 15).
God fills us with his Spirit (Eph. 5:18) as we pursue him for all we’re worth in prayer and digging deeply into his Word (i.e., more than a two minute devotional). We must study God’s Word, meditate upon it, share it, teach it to others, and obey it. This is how God’s Word abides in us and dwells in us richly.
This is how the Holy Spirit conforms us into the likeness of Christ. It’s how he transforms us – through the
renewing of our minds (Rom. 12:2). It’s how we begin the process of offering our bodies as living sacrifices to the Lord (Rom. 12:1)…of growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 3:18).
To restate the prayers of Paul from Colossians and Philippians, it’s how we are enabled (including even given the desire to be enabled) to live lives worthy of the gospel, lives that will please God, lives that will bear fruit in every good work, lives that will be pure and blameless until Christ returns.
Sanctification – or growing in holiness or Christlikeness – will happen in no other way. Nothing truly worth having or achieving happens easily and without effort and intentionality…including this. But the reward will be far greater than we can even imagine.
Grace and Truth,
In his commentary on the Sermon on the Mount, John Stott reminds his readers that if Matthew 5:3-12 (the Beatitudes) is about a Christian’s character, then Matthew 5:13-16 is about a Christian’s
influence in this world. I have always loved the words of Matthew 5:13-16 which describe that Christian influence as salt and light. To me they represent the best of what the right balance of inward piety or holiness and outward action should be.
As Stott says, Jesus doesn’t tell us to go out and be salt and light. He tells us that that’s what we already are in Christ… as those who are new creatures in Christ and whose character is reflected in the Beatitudes. It’s similar to Peter’s words that we are holy so we should go and be holy. We are to “go be who we already are,” Jesus and Peter seem to teach us.
As I said, I love this text because it strikes an important connection and balance between inward piety and outward action. The inward and private pursuit of the devotional life… of introspection and reflection is vital… but if it never moves one forward to “live” the life of Christ, then it can become an empty and useless form of asceticism. A person can become quickly self-absorbed
in their own stuff if one’s piety never leaves the prayer closet or Bible study. To be sure, in my opinion, this is not the greatest threat to the church today. Would that more people spent more time in the prayer closet and Bible study. That leads me to the other side of the coin.
As important as outward action (good works, etc.) is, if godly character is not undergirding and directing it, then it can become nothing more than the cause de jour. It can also become a judgmental and self-centered way to build yourself up. Not only that, without the knowledge of Christ and the godly character that comes from that relationship, such action can quickly lead to burnout and disillusionment because, to paraphrase Jesus in John 15, the branch was attempting to do all the work without being connected to the vine. Thus, the branch lacked sustenance, power, and direction.
To live as the salt and light that Jesus declares we already are is to exercise the godly influence of the Kingdom of God in the midst of the decay and darkness of the Kingdom of this world. I won’t exegete the text here, but that’s the gist... at least part of it... of what I hope to accomplish in and through my ministry.
I see a key focus of my ministry as educating, equipping, and encouraging disciples of Jesus Christ to take up the call to extend the Lord’s Kingdom into every sphere of their lives as salt and light. Whether it’s building up one’s own faith and character to more faithfully live as salt and light or living out that faithfulness at home with one’s family, with friends, at school, at work, at church, in their neighborhood, community, city or town, in our culture or in our world… I want to help folks
live out their (our) calling to be salt and light in today’s world.
I believe that God calls each Christian, at least at some level, with the Call of Issachar. That is, we're called to know the world (culture) in which we live, work, etc., so that we might be this very salt and light influence. This website is one of the means toward that end.
In and through the posts that I provide each week, I hope to encourage disciples of Jesus Christ to grow in their understanding of their world so that they can more clearly see how our Lord claims every sphere of it as his own. I hope that this material will do more than inform those who read what I share, but will actually equip them to minister to those God has entrusted to their care in their various spheres of influence.
May God add his blessing toward that end.
Acts 14:22 – strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said.
I have been the Minister of Discipleship at Southside UMC since 1999. During that time I have discovered that as each year goes by, I learn new things about ministry and more and more of what’s really important versus what’s merely urgent. (They are not usually the same things.). But there are some constants that keep me grounded and focused. These “constants” are the heart and soul of what I pray my ministry is all about.
Today’s scripture emphasizes another area of my ministry that I also regard as its heart and soul. Acts 14:22 says that after Paul and Barnabas preached the gospel and won a large number to Christ, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch to “strengthen the disciples and to encourage them to remain true to the faith.” Why? Because “we must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.”
Jesus tells us in the Sermon on the Mount that the path of discipleship is narrow and hard. It is not for the weak-of-heart, nor for the half-hearted. There are obstacles around every turn, as Christian discovered in Pilgrim’s Progress. And we know this much is true: many who begin do not make it to the end.
That is why a ministry of “strengthening and encouraging” is so vital. We need to be constantly built up in our faith and reminded of the joy set before us that makes all of the trials and tribulations worth our effort.
I count it as a singular blessing and privilege to be able to minister to fellow travelers as we walk this pilgrim’s path together. To be allowed to help strengthen and encourage followers of Christ to persevere on their journey is a calling for which I thank God with all of my heart.
But you don’t have to be ordained clergy to serve others in this way. Every Christian is called to come along side his or her brother or sister in Christ and aid them in their pursuit of the Celestial City (which is reason #102 why you should read Pilgrim’s Progress). To act as an agent or ambassador of God’s grace in the life of another is a holy honor indeed.
So let me encourage you to open your eyes. Look for those people in your life whose gait has slowed of late and whose feet appear to be stumbling more than usual. Walk along side them and build them back up in the faith. Remind them of their gracious and sovereign Lord who daily calls them home and who promises that their arduous labor will not only be worth it for them, but will also bear glorious and everlasting fruit for others.
Grace and Truth,