I am breaking my blog silence to offer a prayer at a historic moment for America. Today we inaugurate our 45th President, Donald Trump. After a contentious election season, our country is more fractured than ever. Following the prayer of Daniel in Daniel 9, I offer this prayer in hopes of inclining my heart and mind towards God alone and not Washington D.C.
Father, we come before You today humbled by Your holy will. Before the foundation of the universe You determined who would rule the nations of the world. You set in motion, and directed, the events of history to culminate in this day. Today America inaugurates its 45th President, Donald Trump.
Along with the prophet Daniel, I agree that we, America, have sinned. We have done wrong, acted wickedly, rebelled, and turned away from Your commands and ordinances. We have not listened to Your Word through our pastors and teachers. We have not lived worthy of the high calling You have called us to. You are righteous and holy, and we are worthy of the shame our behavior – before, during, and after this election – has brought upon us. Shame is ours because we have sinned against You and You alone. You have made happen the promises You gave us for our rebellion, by giving us over as a nation to depravity, to do and believe what is false; by giving us over to wicked leaders; and by giving us over to a depraved mind that rejects Your goodness for our own imagined righteousness.
But compassion and forgiveness belong to You, O Lord, though we rebel against You and refuse to obey Your standards. Because You alone are righteous, we beg You to turn Your anger and wrath away from our country, because our sins and those of those before us have turned our country into an object of scorn and ridicule among the nations of Your creation.
Create us in a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within us. Restore Your people to the joy of Your salvation, bring a lost society to repent and believe in Your Son Jesus Christ, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from us. Turn Your eyes to us and see the lostness and desperation of our culture. There is nothing in us worthy of You, yet we beg You to exercise Your great mercy and compassion towards us. Lord, hear! Lord, forgive! Lord, listen and act! My God, for Your own sake, do not delay, because Your city and Your people are called by Your name.
I pray today, O Lord, that You will place your hand on the new President. I pray that You will guide him in the path of the righteous in all he does. Move him away from the foolishness and grievous error he has displayed to our country. Place in him a desire to do only what is best for our country, that he may do the most good for the most people. I do not ask that You grant so foolish and stupid a request as “Make America Great Again;” rather I ask You to make America Yours in heart, mind, and action just as You are indeed in possession and control of all creation.
I beg You, Most High, to make Your Son Jesus Christ known to Donald Trump truly, and not in the way so many of us have stupidly, foolishly and naively believed this past year. Remove Trump’s heart of stone and give him a heart of flesh that is receptive to You. Cover him with the blood of Jesus that his sins might be washed white as snow. Cause him to repent of his sins and believe in Your Son Jesus Christ, that he might be saved. Let his lips cry out to You, “God have mercy on me, a sinner! I believe; help my unbelief!”
Convert us, great God, to Your Son as well. Convict us to our core of the rebellion we have done against You. Turn our eyes to You that we might be healed of our national nightmare. Make us seek Your forgiveness, Your mercy and grace and truth. Preach to us the Gospel of Jesus Christ so clearly that no man, woman, or child can deny the truth of their condition and turn to You for salvation. Let revival sweep our nation, beginning in each one of us and our households. You, and You only, can do this, loving and just Father.
I thank You for hearing my prayer. I beg You to act that Your name might be glorified in Your mercy as it is now glorified in Your judgment of America.
In the name of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, by the power of Your Holy Spirit within me, I pray. Amen.
Hello! It has been a long while since I have posted here, but recent happenings have prompted a momentary return.
Nearly 10 years ago, I tackled this question. I attempted to address common answers to the question and seek out a biblically faithful answer. I made sure to give a deeper background and foundation for the discussion than most answers provide. With the plethora of Planned Parenthood abortion videos going around this year, I felt it prudent to gather the series under one post for ease of access. The series is as listed below.
Infant Salvation Prolegomena: Original Sin
Infant Salvation: Beginning Assumptions
Infant Salvation: The Age of Accountability
Infant Salvation: Infant Regeneration Part 1 and Part 2
Infant Salvation: The Call of Christ to Children
Infant Salvation: Final
At some future date I may decide to review and revise these posts, but I am still quite satisfied with this series and its conclusions. I pray you find these posts helpful as you consider the issue.
There is a fountain filled with blood
Drawn from Immanuel’s veins;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood
Lose all their guilty stains…
What a promise! The one hope of all humanity! The blood of the perfect, spotless Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!
This is the Gospel message. Believe in Jesus, and you will be transformed. No more will you face an empty pursuit of your own desires. You will pursue something greater and lasting. You will find fulfillment in humbling yourself in the sight of the Lord.
There is absolutely nothing that can defeat the blood of Jesus! Nothing you have done could possibly cause him to turn you away. Nothing you have done will cause him to cast you out once you are his. His blood bought you away from the wrath of a God who must punish sin. There are no returns or exchanges in God’s economy!
Believe in Jesus today!
Oh, the blood of Jesus!
Oh, the blood of Jesus!
Oh, the blood of Jesus!
It washes white as snow!
It’s time to vote! IF you have not already voted, please take a few minutes to pray and read this post, a partial repost from the 2008 election.
In the midst of all this nonsense as this election cycle comes to a close, what should we as believers do?
1. Realize that God is firmly in control of the election.
Romans 13:1 says very clearly that no one rules unless God has given him the power to rule, and no one rules now without that power from God (NCV). This means that it is God alone who decides who will become President of these United States, and he will use our votes to make it happen. No matter who wins this election, he is the winner only because God has allowed it to be so. This should humble us who are believers and cause us to think seriously about the people God has allowed to attain public office. It should cause us to seriously pray about our vote and how God would have us use that vote to bring about his purposes.
This is not to say that if it becomes clear that God is going to allow a blasphemer such as Obama (I couldn’t get more obvious about what I think there, could I?) to assume office, that we should cast our vote for that person. What that tells me is we should vote for the candidate who most reflects God’s righteousness and justice, and if that candidate does not win, we should praise God that he has given us the perfect opportunity to proclaim his Gospel in a land that may no longer hunger and thirst for righteousness. In other words, we should become voices crying in the wilderness.
Look at the evil kings of Israel or even the foreign kings that oppressed and enslaved Israel, or even better, the Roman emperors under whom Christ and his followers were persecuted and killed. Even more clearly, Communist China! All of these were allowed to ascend to power by God alone, and those who loved righteousness and justice were to actively work to bring about those qualities in their countries. But notice how that worked – such righteousness and justice was not preached with success, as a rule, until such despotic blasphemers were allowed to rule! When all was well and good, the people ignored God’s command for holy living. Then an evil king came and solidified their unrighteousness. It was not until an unbeliever conquered the nation that the people hearkened to God’s gospel and repented. It may well be that America needs the same thing.
2. Realize that our government is working for God.
Romans 13:6 makes it clear that the government is “God’s public servants” (HCSB) and have given their time to this work. This means we should submit to those who are in public office. Submit to Obama and Biden. Submit to Romney and Ryan. Submit to your state and local senators and representatives. Don’t believe me? See Romans 13:1 again – “Everyone must submit to the governing authorities” (HCSB). Romans 13:7 tells us we should “show respect and honor to them all” (NCV).
3. Pray for our government.
1 Timothy 2:1-2 is very, very clear about this – I tell you to pray for all people, asking God for what they need and being thankful to him. Pray for rulers and for all who have authority so that we can have quiet and peaceful lives full of worship and respect for God. This is good, and it pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to know the truth.
Why pray for our elected officials? Romans 13:4 says that “government is God’s servant to you for good” (HCSB). Awesome. They are there to do good for us! And one thing that can be said about both candidates this election is that they are trying hard to present an agenda that they are convinced will benefit Americans. No wonder we should pray for them – we need to ask God to keep them on that path, and to show them a more excellent way!
You can’t get clearer than that, can you? Pray for Romney and Ryan. Pray for Obama and Biden. Pray for your state and local senators and representatives. The upside to doing this is huge – we will be able to live quiet and peaceful lives full of worship and respect for God! And if we are able to live this way, we will do the most we can to spread the Gospel to as many people as possible!
This past Sunday my pastor, Tim Bender preached on “Christians and Government.” In his message, he gave us Six Ways to Direct Your Vote.
1. Vote Biblical principles over Party.
Do you agree with everything the party promotes? Does the party follow biblical principles? Don’t be fooled by a platform that looks and sounds good, but directly goes against the Bible!
2. Vote Biblical principles over Pork.
Do you want to waste federal money just to help your area? Do you want to do the most good for the most people or are you just out for your local economy? Don’t be fooled by promises to help just your area!
3. Vote Biblical principles over Pocketbook.
Are you out to fatten your bank account? Or are you out to see that people who actually need help get the help they need? Remember, Scripture says money is a root of all kinds of evil. Don’t be fooled by money!
4. Vote Biblical Principles Over Person.
Are you voting for a relative, a co-worker, a friend? You have no special interest in that person that would be served by voting for them? You may know that person much better than the voters! What if this person is a chronic liar? Would you still vote for him/her simply because of your relationship? Don’t be fooled by your relationship to a person!
5. Vote Biblical Principles Over Popularity.
Are you voting for someone just because they are your idol, they’re good-looking, they’re cool, they’re awesome? Don’t be fooled by how popular a candidate is!
6. Vote Biblical Principles Over Political Speech.
Does the candidate’s personal life and political record match up? Do they really believe what they are saying? Are they “walking the talk?” Or are they just “singin’ and dancin’;” that is, saying what they need in order to get your vote? Don’t be fooled by what a person says; check their record!
When You Vote Today
Having said all that, when you vote today, I only ask that you do one thing before you enter the booth and pull the lever. Ask yourself if the people you are planning to vote for give God the most glory. If not, please, please, PLEASE re-think your vote and vote for someone else! Also, please do not waste your vote by voting for a third party candidate who has no chance of winning. That shows at worst a detachment from the reality of the situation, and at best a lack of common sense. How different could this nation have been if all those third-party votes actually went to one of the two candidates who actually had a chance to win!
I will not waste my vote on a third-party candidate, no matter how tempting it is to do so. I will not waste my vote by not voting. I will honor God by backing a candidate who has a direct chance to win, and of those who do, I will vote for the one who I am convinced by Scripture and conscience is the most God-honoring choice among them. Therefore, I am convinced for personal, common-sense, and Scriptural reasons that the most God-honoring choice this election is Mitt Romney. If he wins, to God be the glory. If he does not, to God be the glory. The Gospel will have a greater platform to be proclaimed no matter who wins, and in the end that is all that really matters!
The Southeastern Conference has at long last released the 2012 Conference Football Schedule after a month of hand-wringing and anticipation by the fans! At first glance, things just got a lot easier for a lot of teams. Let’s take a look at the Tennessee schedule.
Sept. 1 – NC State (Atlanta)
Sept. 8 – Georgia State
Sept. 15 – Florida
Sept. 22 – Akron
Sept. 29 – at Georgia
Oct. 6 – Open
Oct. 13 – at Mississippi State
Oct. 20 – Alabama
Oct. 27 – at South Carolina
Nov. 3 – Troy
Nov. 10 – Missouri
Nov. 17 – at Vanderbilt
Nov. 24 – Kentucky
(Home games in bold)
As I said, things just got a lot easier. Compared with the schedule of the last two years, the Vols have really hit a good time to make great strides. A team largely composed of juniors and sophomores with a lot of experience, with good freshmen coming in; Tennessee should finally be able to reap some rewards. This is not to say there will be a season of contending for titles; I don’t think that’s going to happen until 2013. I tweeted earlier today that in this schedule, there are only 3 sure wins, one sure loss and 8 “I dunno” games.
I fully expect to see wins over Georgia State, Akron, and Troy. Possibly by three touchdowns minimum. I also fully expect a loss to Alabama. It’s the other games that give me pause, as I honestly have no idea what to say. Yes, I’m including Kentucky in that category after this year’s debacle. Let’s try to break this down.
Sept. 1 – North Carolina State
Did anyone watch the Belk Bowl outside of Louisville? I didn’t like what I saw. NC State has an offense that could really light it up if it executes. I don’t think they have the defense to stop Tyler Bray and Co. If the Vols figure out how to run the ball in the offseason, it will be a long day for NC State and this will be an easy win. If we have the same rushing ineptitude of 2011, this could be a very tight game. This is a true toss-up game that will go a long way to telling us what the 2012 Vols will be like. PREDICTION: Tennessee, 31-28
Sept. 8 – Georgia State
I know nothing about Georgia State. I do know that they’re small enough not to pose any real threat unless we have another day like last November in Lexington. A I-AA team that went 3-8, the Panthers are going to get embarrassed in Knoxville. PREDICTION: Tennessee, 65-7
Sept. 15 – Florida
For once, I have no idea how this game is going to turn out. Last season was competitive even with the injury to Justin Hunter putting the Vols behind in a hurry. The defense should be better able to handle a Florida still trying to find its way on offense, and Florida will immediately have played Texas A&M the week before in what should be a tough game. Florida does not have the continuity of Georgia and will be looking to find its identity in this game. I see this game also going close, and I think this could possibly be the year we finally beat Florida again. PREDICTION: Tennessee, 24-21
Sept. 22 – Akron
Akron only won a single game last year. I’m not sure I really need to talk much about this one. PREDICTION: Tennessee, 55-0
Sept. 29 – at Georgia
I see Mark Richt’s team carrying their 2011 momentum over into 2012 with a very forgiving schedule. Georgia could quite possibly run the table, though I don’t see them winning the SEC Championship nor going to the BCS Championship if they do. If they can get through Vanderbilt, they will come into this game 4-0 with a full head of steam. I’m not sure, with their continuity (unlike Florida), that Tennessee is ready to get past Georgia. Chalk this one up as the first loss of the season. PREDICTION: Georgia, 28-17.
Oct. 13 – at Mississippi State
I really hate not knowing. The Bulldogs put beatdowns on everyone in Dan Mullen’s first season in Starkville, but with no one surprised by them in 2011, they slipped to 6-6. This is another team that also could be unbeaten if they can get past Auburn in September. I’ll be watching their game against Troy if it’s on TV, as the Vols play them later on. Since Tennessee is traveling to where there is more cowbell, I’m going to chalk this one up as a second loss. PREDICTION: Miss. State, 26-24
Oct. 20 – Alabama
You know what I absolutely love? The Third Saturday In October. It returns with a vengeance to Knoxville. On the actual Third Saturday in October! The Vols could well be playing the defending national champs (depending on the outcome of the upcoming game), and Alabama will be reloading. As much as it pains me, I don’t really need to explain that this will be a loss, unless the Vols play a perfect game. Look for Bama to pull away in the 4th quarter. PREDICTION: Alabama, 35-21
Oct. 27 – at South Carolina
Again, I don’t know. This is grating at me. We should know by this time whether or not the Gamecocks continue their offensive shenanigans or if it has settled into a Spurrier offense. If they continue their struggles, Tennessee should win big this time around. Since they will have played Vanderbilt, Missouri, Kentucky, Georgia, LSU, and Florida already, South Carolina could be hurting and looking for a big win. I think this time around the Vols will have Tyler Bray to finish the job. PREDICTION: Tennessee, 38-21
Nov. 3 – Troy
Another team that only won 3 games last season. Look for another blowout. PREDICTION: Tennessee, 48-7
Nov. 10 – Missouri
I’ve said this too many times already: I don’t know. The Tigers were only competitive in one of their losses, but they beat a ranked Texas and a ranked Texas A&M. I don’t know how they’ll respond to a higher level of competition in the SEC. They still have 3 non-conference games to schedule, but a glance at what they currently have shows they could have zero wins by the time they play Kentucky 2 weeks before this game. I don’t think they’ll beat anyone on the conference schedule before then. I’m gonna say Tennessee has a big conference win here. PREDICTION: Tennessee, 45-10
Nov. 17 – at Vanderbilt
This is the one game on the schedule that actually scares me. Vanderbilt got scary good in a hurry, and very easily could have been 10-2 instead of 6-6. They will be bowl-eligible before this game, I believe, unless the Miss. State effect shows up and no one is surprised by them this season. This will be a close, hard-fought game. I want to believe the Vols don’t want a repeat of the OT game and get this done in regulation. PREDICTION: Tennessee, 24-21.
Nov. 24 – Kentucky
I want to believe this Vols team will be out for blood after the embarrassing showing in Lexington, which I attended, and a game which I will never be going back to Lexington for after the way Kentucky fans treated us. I still want to see a game in Rupp Arena, but after that I’m done with Lexington. The Mildcats will likely have only won 3 games by the end of the season and coming up on a Tennessee team that will be out to answer for 2011. PREDICTION: Tennessee, 45-17.
Final Predicted Record: 9-3
This is an extremely optimistic prediction. 8-4 or 7-5 might be more realistic, but I do think there will be surprises for us vs. Florida and South Carolina. If there are major injuries again this season, 7-5 is the bottom line. Let’s all look forward to football time in Tennessee 2012!
Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up. (KJV)
I was asked a very good question this week. What does it mean to humble yourself before God? This is a critical question for those of us who are Christians, so I decided to devote a blogpost to this topic. Let’s jump right in.
What is humility?
C.J. Mahaney states that humility, as the Bible defines it, is honestly assessing ourselves in light of God’s holiness and our sinfulness. The word “humble” is used 73 times in the Bible (in the English Standard Version), and nearly every single occurrence of the word is in the context of acknowledging one’s sinfulness before a holy God. An example that sums up this definition is found in 2 Kings 22:18-20:
But to the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of the LORD, thus shall you say to him, Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: Regarding the words that you have heard, because your heart was penitent, and you humbled yourself before the LORD, when you heard how I spoke against this place and against its inhabitants, that they should become a desolation and a curse, and you have torn your clothes and wept before me, I also have heard you, declares the LORD. Therefore, behold, I will gather you to your fathers, and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace, and your eyes shall not see all the disaster that I will bring upon this place.'” And they brought back word to the king. (Emphasis mine)
Notice that to humble oneself is to be penitent before God, especially after hearing His word. To be penitent is to be regretful or remorseful of one’s sin, to repent of sin, and to seek God’s forgiveness for sin. It recognizes that one is hopeless apart from God’s grace towards us. It throws oneself in desperate trust on His mercy.
The New Covenant expands on humility
But that’s not all. This is very much an Old Testament definition so far. In those 73 instances of the word humble we see some remarkable fleshing out of the word once we start seeing New Testament examples. While it is certainly evident in the Old Testament, in the New Testament we see a much greater emphasis on the source of the Old Testament commands: pride. Jesus defined pride in its relationship to humility in this way: “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:12)
So we see that pride is exalting oneself, to think of one self more highly than others, including God. Directly addressing this, Paul wrote to the Roman church, “I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think….” (Romans 12:3) We are not to have unreasonable pride in ourselves. Why should we be proud of ourselves at all? After all, we are wretched sinners who deserve only Hell! “There are none who are righteous, no, not one; there are none who understand, no one who seeks after God!” (Romans 3:10-11)
God Opposes Pride
Why is pride so bad? Because it directly challenges God. Remember, humility is acknowledging our sinfulness and need for God’s grace. Instead of desperately trusting God’s grace to remedy our desperately sinful condition, pride stands up and says There’s nothing wrong with me! I’m just fine the way I am! I don’t need God’s mercy! I don’t need Jesus! I can handle it! I’ll take care of my problems! I can get to heaven on my own strength!
What a crock of rancid yak butter.
Scripture repeatedly warns us that those who refuse to humble themselves before God suffer dire consequences. For example, God through Moses and Aaron asked Pharaoh, “How long will you refuse to humble yourself before me?” (Exodus 10:3) We all know what happened there – plagues, horrible plagues, culminating with the death of every firstborn Egyptian son. All through Scripture are examples of those who refused to acknowledge their sinfulness before God and paid the price. It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Hebrews 10:31).
Scripture tells us that God actively opposes the proud, while actively assisting the humble. “The LORD sustains the humble but casts the wicked to the ground.” (Psalm 147:6) “He mocks proud mockers but shows favor to the humble and oppressed.” (Proverbs 3:34) “For the LORD takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with victory.” (Psalm 149:4) Sometimes God allows things to happen in our lives to force us to stop getting a big head. Our bubble needs bursting! Sometimes all we need to end a time of trial, struggle and suffering is to stop, step back, take a deep breath, and say, “Ok, Lord. I get it. Help me to meditate on my sinful attitudes and actions, to beg your forgiveness, and trust that Jesus has secured your forgiveness forever on the cross.”
How To Cultivate Humility
With all this, how can we learn to be humble? What can we do to cultivate an attitude of humility in ourselves? C.J. Mahaney, again, has some excellent suggestions for us to meditate on.
- Reflect on the wonder of the cross of Christ.
AS EACH DAY BEGINS:
- Begin your day by acknowledging your dependence upon God and your need for God.
- Begin your day expressing gratefulness to God.
- Practice spiritual disciplines — prayer, study of God’s Word, worship. Do this consistently each day and at the day’s outset, if possible.
- Seize your commute time to memorize and meditate on Scripture.
- Cast your cares upon Him, for He cares for you.
AS EACH DAY ENDS:
- At the end of the day, transfer the glory to God.
- Before going to sleep, receive this gift of sleep from God and acknowledge His purpose for sleep.
FOR SPECIAL FOCUS:
- Study the attributes of God.
- Study the doctrines of grace.
- Study the doctrine of sin.
- Play golf as much as possible. (Stephen’s note: or some activity that gives your mind release)
- Laugh often, and laugh often at yourself.
THROUGHOUT YOUR DAYS AND WEEKS:
- Identify evidences of grace in others.
- Encourage and serve others each and every day.
- Invite and pursue correction.
- Respond humbly to trials.
I have not attempted to treat this subject exhaustively, but rather to define what it means to be humble, why it’s important, and to give us some suggestions for cultivating humility. I’m indebted to C.J. Mahaney’s short book Humility: True Greatness in putting this post together.
Resources on Humility
C.J. Mahaney – Humility: True Greatness
Wayne A. Mack – Humility: The Forgotten Virtue
William P. Farley – Gospel-Powered Humility
Stuart Scott – From Pride to Humility: A Biblical Perspective
Donald Whitney – Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life
John Bunyan – The Fear of God
So then, in this way, my dearly loved brothers, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord, dear friends. I ask Euodia and Syntyche to agree in the Lord. And I ask you, my faithful friend, to help these women. They served with me in telling the Good News, together with Clement and others who worked with me, whose names are written in the book of life. Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let everyone see that you are gentle and kind. The Lord is coming soon. Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And God’s peace, which is so great we cannot understand it, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is anything excellent and worthy of praise, think about these things. Do what you learned and received from me, what I told you, and what you saw me do. And the God who gives peace will be with you.
Paul begins the last chapter of Philippians expressing again his joy. Remember, the entire book is about having joy no matter what! The Philippian church is a great source of joy for Paul. In fact, he tells them they are his greatest possession! They are his “crown.” He does not mean that he “owns” the church. No, the church belongs to Jesus! What he means is that God gave him the charge of growing the church there and equipping it for the Lord’s work. They are “his” in that he is responsible for them and wants to see them become successful, faithful, and to glorify God. In the same way, Pastor Tim and I have great joy to have you as members of this church. We have great joy to be the pastors of this church. We want to see you become mature, successful believers, able to do anything the Lord asks of you! But how can you do this if you do not “stand firm?” To be successful, faithful believers who glorify God, we must stand strong. But how? Paul gives us two ways of doing this.
One way to stand strong is to be in agreement. It is a powerful thing for a church to be in agreement. A church of one mind, as Paul taught us in an earlier chapter of this book, is able to do anything the Lord wants.
Paul gives the example of Euodia and Syntyche. These two women had some kind of disagreement that was bothering the church, and it bothered the church enough that Paul felt he had to say something. Interesting to this is that Paul says both women are faithful Christians who helped him spread the Good News about Jesus. But yet they had a disagreement! The problem seems to be that they allowed their disagreement to upset the church. Perhaps they did not follow Matthew 18:15-20?
Good Christians disagree all the time. This side of heaven it is impossible for us fallen people to agree 100% on everything. What is important is how we handle our disagreements. Matthew 18 teaches us that we are to keep our disagreements private as long as possible, until it is obvious we are unable to settle it between ourselves. If I cannot solve a problem with another Christian by myself, privately, then I am to get trusted brothers or sisters to come with me and try to solve the problem privately again. Only if that fails am I to bring this problem to be settled by the church! It is a sad thing if your church has to step in and solve your personal issues. It is even more sad if you refuse to settle them on your own. We need to reach agreement among ourselves before our disagreements hurt our church the way these women had hurt their church. Stand strong by agreeing in Christ!
The best way to stand strong is to always rejoice in the Lord. Why is this?
- If you have joy, it is hard to be negative.
- If you have joy, it is hard to have conflict or drama.
- If you have joy, it is hard to give in to temptation.
- If you have joy, it is hard to not love people.
- If you have joy, it is hard to not love Jesus!
A joyful person is difficult to tear down. Satan wages war against joyful Christians, because he knows their joy in the Lord is infectious! Sometimes Satan will use your circumstances, your family, your friends, your job, your school, etc. to try and steal your joy. How can we have joy in the face of spiritual warfare and physical realities?
HOW TO ALWAYS HAVE JOY
Paul gives us several ways to always have joy:
Be “gentle and kind” or “reasonable.”
Be gentle and kind with each other. Some translations use the word “reasonable.” Be fair with one another. It is difficult to be negative, confrontational, and unloving when you are kind to people. Even better, it is difficult for others to be that way to you! Kindness, especially in the face of others wronging you, is the biggest and best “revenge” one could get. Kindness is like burning coals to those who do evil (Romans 12:14-21).
Don’t worry about anything, because Jesus is coming.
Why are we so worried about “stuff?” Why do we worry about our economy so much? Why do we worry so much about our money, jobs, school, families? Jesus is coming! He has and will take care of everything we need! And when he comes, we will no longer want for anything! “How much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11)
PRAY! PRAY HARD!!!
Prayer is so very important in the life of a person who loves God and belongs to Jesus. Oftentimes we do not see God work in our lives because we have not asked him to work in our lives (James 4:2-3). If we are standing strong in Jesus, the Bible promises us that our prayers will be successful. “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” (James 5:16) But there are certain things we must be sure to do in contrast with what the world would have us do when we pray.
- We must pray to God alone. We must not pray to anyone other than the God of the Bible. We do not pray to Allah. We do not pray to the Mormon or Jehovah’s Witnesses god. We do not pray to Buddha. We do not pray to pagan gods and goddesses. And we most certainly do not pray to “saints!” None of these can hear our prayers, least of all “saints.” Only God in heaven can hear our prayers (1 Kings 18:20-40), prayed in the name of Jesus (John 14:12-14) by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:26-27).
- We must pray with urgency and desperation. We must beg God to do something! We must be serious and desperate for him. We must cry out to him in total dependence.
- We must pray with thanksgiving. We must thank the One who has commanded us to pray to him, that he might bless us. We must thank him for the many blessings he has already given us, for the blessings he is now giving us, and the blessings we are begging him to give us in the future. After all, God does not have to give us anything!
Paul promises that if we will do these things, we will have joy AND peace!
THINK ON THESE THINGS!
Paul teaches us that another way to have joy is to think on several things. We are to think on what is:
- True. We need to keep our eyes open for what is true. That is why we listen carefully to everyone and compare them against Scripture. If we are not listening, nor comparing with the Bible, we cannot know if someone is teaching us falsely. Be like the Bereans in Acts 17:11!
- Honorable. Does this person/thing honor God? Does it acknowledge that God is who he says he is and that he has sent his Son, Jesus? Does it acknowledge Christ as the only way of salvation?
- Just. Is the thing right? Is the thing fair? Is it right or fair in the same way or similar to the way God is?
- Pure. Does it mirror God’s purity? Nothing in this fallen state can ever be truly pure, but we can look for examples that echo the purity of Christ.
- Lovely. Does it reflect the beauty of God? Does it reflect the beauty of Jesus? Does it reflect the beauty of Scripture?
- Commendable. Does it do a good work? A good job?
- Excellent or worthy of praise. Does it reflect the excellence of Jesus? Does it make you praise God?
It is very hard not to be joyful when thinking on these things!
FOLLOW YOUR LEADERS!
Lastly, Paul teaches us that to have joy, we must follow our leaders.
This does not mean that we are to be blindly obedient or to copy everything we do. We are not independent fundamentalists! This means we are to follow the example set by our leaders. How do we do this?
Watch your leaders. Watch how your pastors, teachers, deacons, etc. serve the Lord. Apply their example to yourself. Figure out from watching them what interests you about serving the Lord and what you think you can do or may be called to do.
Listen to your leaders. Pay careful attention to what they teach you. Pay careful attention to their instructions. If they are teachers of the Word, their teaching will be as life and breath.
Learn from your leaders. Don’t just watch and listen, learn! Seek to understand what they have taught you through your observation and listening. Apply it to your life. Let their teaching change you. Let their teaching change how you face life and the world.
Practice what you have learned. Don’t just blandly accept what you see, hear, and learn – PRACTICE IT! You will never have joy if you just agree in your mind, you must actively be joyful! You must choose, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to act joyfully whatever circumstance you are faced with. You must choose, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to trust what the Bible teaches no matter what your family, friends, school, job, or the world may say about it. You must choose, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to believe and trust in Jesus alone for your salvation, no matter what anyone else says. You must put into practice what God would have you learn and know!
And the best part is, God has promised to be with us if we will but do these things!
A FINAL WORD
I want to leave you with some final thoughts about what we’ve talked about today. Let’s compare how the world says to have joy with how the Bible says to have joy.
- The world says that joy means overcoming circumstances. Instead, the Bible says joy means trusting Jesus because he has ALREADY overcome our circumstances! All of our sins, hurts, struggles, hopes and dreams were overcome on the cross once and for all. We can have joy in Jesus alone!
- The world says that joy is something you must do. Instead, the Bible says that because Jesus has already done all that is necessary, the only thing we can do is trust and obey God. We must believe in Jesus, trust him with our lives, and obey him until we die or he returns!
- The world says that joy means having or doing “stuff”. Instead, the Bible says that joy is not found in “stuff,” but in agreement, gentleness, and thinking on what is good. “Stuff” can never satisfy nor bring joy. What it brings is temporary. It only lasts as long as the new car smell. But the joy that Jesus gives is not temporary, but permanent. It is eternal. And it is only for those who belong to him!
DO YOU HAVE JOY?
Do you have joy? If not, maybe you need to seriously think about what we’ve learned today. Maybe you need to let go of what the world says. Maybe you need to put aside what your family and friends have said. Maybe you need to stop believing the lies Satan has told you about having joy. Start believing today in what God has said is the way to have joy – believe and trust in Jesus alone. Following him is the only way to have true joy no matter what may happen in your life!