What God Wants You To Do Today

So many stumble through life with no sense of purpose. I sometimes look back on my day, week, or month and wonder exactly what have I been doing. What worthwhile thing have I accomplished? Have I made a difference to my family, to my friends, or to my community?

Thinking about purpose, consider the following info-graphic on suicide statistics in the state of Louisiana:

 

According to the same website, in the United States an average of 121 people commit suicide each day. That’s 44,165 per year!

Why so many suicides? Individuals take their own lives when they feel their physical or emotional pain is overwhelming and they cannot see past it. They don’t have a reason to live. Life no longer holds purpose or meaning.

I wonder what the rates of DEPRESSION in the United States might be. We distinguish between clinical depression and emotional depression, because the two are not synonymous. But how many are depressed because of their life situation, because their life holds no significant meaning in their own estimation?

Many of us, failing to understand God’s ordained purpose for our lives, fall into unhealthy and destructive cycles of selfishness in which we cease to care about others and focus almost entirely on our own needs, desires, and comforts. Have you fallen into such a cycle? Think about the following verses which show God’s plan for your life, and compare your actual life with God’s vision:

He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the LORD require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6.8)

Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean;
Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes.
Cease to do evil,
Learn to do good;
Seek justice,
Rebuke the oppressor;
Defend the fatherless,
Plead for the widow. (Isaiah 1.16-17)

But if a man is just
And does what is lawful and right;
If he has not eaten on the mountains,
Nor lifted up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel,
Nor defiled his neighbor’s wife,
Nor approached a woman during her impurity;
If he has not oppressed anyone,
But has restored to the debtor his pledge;
Has robbed no one by violence,
But has given his bread to the hungry
And covered the naked with clothing;
If he has not exacted usury
Nor taken any increase,
But has withdrawn his hand from iniquity
And executed true judgment between man and man;
If he has walked in My statutes—
And kept My judgments faithfully—
He is just;
He shall surely live!”
Says the Lord GOD. (Ezekiel 18.5-9)

Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. (Philippians 2.3-4)

“Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’
“Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’
“And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’” (Matthew 25.34-40)

Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world. (James 1.27)

We could add so many verses, but these suffice to show God’s intent for His people. He wants us taking care of others, treating others as more important than ourselves. The work He gives us to do is so simple! Amazingly, when we submit to God’s vision for our lives and give ourselves for others, we find great purpose. Only a truly wicked and selfish person feels miserable after helping his neighbor! As Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

So what is my purpose for today? I should be helping someone, doing for someone, pouring myself out for someone. If I go day after day only serving myself (what do I want to eat; what do I want to do; when can I get back to my hobby?), life will fade into meaninglessness. But the more I submit myself to others’ needs, desires, and comforts, the less I think of myself, and the greater my own sense of blessedness, joy, and overall enjoyment of life becomes!

If you feel miserable and depressed, listless and aimless, try doing something for another. It’s exactly what God would have you do today. May God bless you as you labor in His kingdom.

Can You Really Control Yourself?

With God, all things are possible.

Can you control yourself? God commanded self-control, and what God commands He also enables His children to accomplish. If you are a Christian, walking with Christ, walking according to the Spirit, God has already given you the power to overcome the flesh!

Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin. (Rom. 6.4-7)

Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace. (Rom. 6.12-14)

We can excuse ourselves: “I just cannot conquer this sin.” We allow it to fester and hang around in our lives without challenge.

Notice God did not say, “Let me control you,” but “Control yourself.” We reign over our own bodies, hearts, and minds. He certainly helps and empowers us in our self-control, as we see from the the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

To Titus Paul wrote that older men should be “temperate,” that older women should not be “enslaved to much wine,” that younger women be “subject to their own husbands,” and that Titus himself should “be an example of good deeds.” All of those traits have self-control in their base. Paul uses another term with the older men, younger women, and younger women: they should be “sensible.” Many translations express this word as “self-controlled.” Thus, God expects self-control at all stages of a Christian’s life from the aged down to the youth.

Remember teenage Joseph, handsome in form and appearance, solidly refused Potiphar’s wife’s advances, saying, “How can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” (Gen. 39.9). She pressed him hard, one day grabbing him and trying to drag him into her bed, but “he left his garment in her hand and fled and got out of the house” (Gen. 39.12). What a courageous young man, who saw sin so clearly, and who refused to cross a line God had drawn!

With God’s help we can all have this kind of self-control!

I do not say that a worldly-minded, fleshly-thinking person can have this control–for he allows his flesh to control him. But God bestows great grace upon us, His children, that we might flee youthful lusts and get out of the house!

Let us bring our children up in the Lord in such a way that they might know Him and the freedom from sin He grants through Jesus Christ. And let us also take hold of His grace, knowing that God’s grace brings salvation for all people and trains us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions. God’s grace empowers us to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age (Titus 2.11-12).

Walk in the light, dear brothers and sisters!

Christian Habits: Dwelling on the Word

When we were of the world, we thought and acted like them, but now that we know Christ (or rather are known by Him) our habits have changed (and are changing). You must be “transformed by the renewal of your mind” (Romans 12.2), an inward change which results in a new lifestyle.

Take the apostle Paul for example. After fighting tooth-and-nail against the Christian “sect” (as he saw them), Christ knocked him into the dirt and showed him how much he would have to suffer for Christ. Immediately he reversed course, as he began to publicly proclaim Jesus as the Messiah, reasoning with anyone who would listen. One day he killed Christians; the next he loved and joined them.

So it is with all Christians–there is a definite change in our habits. One day we are of the “sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 2.2); the next we are falling on our knees praying to Jesus as Lord and King, submitting to His every command. One day we wonder what this whole “Christianity” thing is about; the next we cling tightly to our Bible, knowing it is the inspired and holy word of God.

Not everyone’s conversion feels quite so dramatic, but we must understand the change involved in stepping from the world into the family of God.

One of the first signs of a changed heart, a converted mind, a reborn soul is that intense love for God’s word as absolute, bedrock, divine truth. Paul prays for the Ephesian Christians:

Eph. 1.15 For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you and your love for all the saints, 16 do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers; 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe.

Paul wanted the Christians to know certain things about God and about their salvation. How would they come to know these things?

Eph. 3.3 …by revelation there was made known to me the mystery, as I wrote before in brief. 4 By referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit; 6 to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel, 7 of which I was made a minister, according to the gift of God’s grace which was given to me according to the working of His power. 8 To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ, 9 and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things; 10 so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places.

Through the Holy Spirit, God made known to Paul the mystery of the gospel. Paul wrote it down, and he preached and taught that gospel. Those are the means by which God chose to continue revealing the gospel of His Son–through the reading and teaching of Scripture.

God put the church together in great part to give us an environment which fosters growth in the word.

Eph. 4.11 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. 14 As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; 15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.

All those gifts God gave the church in verse 11 have to do with teaching and preaching at some level–the passing along of God’s word. Notice the benefits of staying in the word and continuing in a steady teaching / learning environment:

  • You will be built up in Christ
  • You will attain the unity of the faith
  • You will come to know the Son of God
  • You will grow up in Christ
  • You will take part in the growth of the whole body of Christ, the church

Every Christian should habitually be in the word, whether it’s listening to the Bible read or taught (by a competent teacher!) or reading and studying for himself. Is your life characterized by a love for the word and a continual hungering and thirsting for righteousness?

STAY IN THE WORD!

Why Did God Choose You, Dear Christian?

Picking CherriesWhy did God choose Israel? Was it because they were smarter than other nations? Were they better looking? Were they a nation of mighty warriors, stronger than others? Did they exhibit a stronger faith in the One True God? Was it something inside them, a strength of character or virtue?

God obviously chose the nation of Israel above other nations of the world to be in a special relationship with Him. Does that sound unfair? I would agree. Notice what God says in Isaiah:

But now, thus says the LORD, your Creator, O Jacob,
And He who formed you, O Israel,
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name; you are Mine! (Isaiah 43.1)

“Do not fear, for I am with you;
I will bring your offspring from the east,
And gather you from the west.
I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’
And to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’
Bring My sons from afar
And My daughters from the ends of the earth,
Everyone who is called by My name,
         And whom I have created for My glory,
Whom I have formed, even whom I have made.” (Isaiah 43.5-7)

“You are My witnesses,” declares the LORD,
“And My servant whom I have chosen,
So that you may know and believe Me
And understand that I am He.
Before Me there was no God formed,
And there will be none after Me.” (Isaiah 43.10)

“The beasts of the field will glorify Me,
The jackals and the ostriches,
Because I have given waters in the wilderness
And rivers in the desert,
To give drink to My chosen people.
The people whom I formed for Myself
Will declare My praise.” (Isaiah 43.20-21)

“But now listen, O Jacob, My servant,
And Israel, whom I have chosen:
Thus says the LORD who made you
And formed you from the womb, who will help you,
‘Do not fear, O Jacob My servant;
And you Jeshurun whom I have chosen. (Isaiah 44.1-2)

“Remember these things, O Jacob,
And Israel, for you are My servant;
   I have formed you, you are My servant,
O Israel, you will not be forgotten by Me.
I have wiped out your transgressions like a thick cloud
And your sins like a heavy mist.
Return to Me, for I have redeemed you.” (Isaiah 44.21-22)

“I will give you the treasures of darkness
And hidden wealth of secret places,
So that you may know that it is I,
The LORD, the God of Israel, who calls you by your name.
For the sake of Jacob My servant,
And Israel My chosen one,
I have also called you by your name;
I have given you a title of honor
Though you have not known Me.” (Isaiah 45.3-4)

I ask again, based on the above Scriptures, “Why did God choose Israel?” What a swelling of pride the Israelites must have had when they heard Isaiah preach those words. Or would they have? The wild thing is, Israel had departed from following God as their only God; Yahweh was no longer “the Holy One of Israel” as Isaiah reiterates. In most of these last chapters of Isaiah, God declares “I am Yahweh; there is no one like Me.” He defends Himself this way because His chosen people had departed from Him to serve idols–or at least include idols alongside Him. But God will share the stage with no one, for the greatest of all commandments is this: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind. No room remains for other gods, other loves, or other desires.

Notice the last verse listed above (Isaiah 45.4) ends with “though you have not known Me.” What a slap in Israel’s face! God had lavished grace upon them, but they still didn’t know Him.

Why did God choose them? He chose them NOT because of who they were but in order to show His grace, His love, His redemptive power in them! He chose them despite who they were. He chose them, as Isaiah 43.10 says, “that you may know and believe Me and understand that I am He.”

God stated similar sentiments concerning Abraham in Genesis 18.19:

“For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of Yahweh by doing righteousness and justice, so that Yahweh may bring Abraham what he has promised him.”

He didn’t choose Abraham because he commanded his children in righteousness but that he would command his children in righteousness. Do you see the difference? God chooses NOT because of who the we are but in order to change and bless us despite who we are. He hammers this point home in Deuteronomy:

“For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but because the LORD loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers, the LORD brought you out by a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.” (Deuteronomy 7.6-8)

Do not say in your heart when the LORD your God has driven them out before you, ‘Because of my righteousness the LORD has brought me in to possess this land,’ but it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD is dispossessing them before you. It is not for your righteousness or for the uprightness of your heart that you are going to possess their land, but it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD your God is driving them out before you, in order to confirm the oath which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Know, then, it is not because of your righteousness that the LORD your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stubborn people.” (Deuteronomy 9.4-6)

Why, then, dear Christian, did God choose you? What can we say about God’s chosen today (“But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION” — 2 Peter 2.9)? Have you been chosen because you are good or despite the fact that you are a sinner? Have you been chosen because you somehow deserve it or because God wishes to show His glory in and through you? We often define grace as “unmerited favor,” but do we really believe that definition? Nothing in me deserves God’s blessing–nothing at all! Yet He has seen fit to save me through the blood of His Son Jesus the Christ. He showed me the gospel and drew me to Himself, despite who I am.

All I can do is praise and glory in the wonderful work of God!

Narrow-Minded Christians

One WayIn the way the world defines narrow-mindedness, Christians fit the bill!

As long as you don’t say Jesus is the ONLY way to salvation…as long as you don’t insist in a ONE TRUE GOD who revealed Himself only through the Bible…as long as you don’t stand against sin ABSOLUTELY…then the world will accept you as an open-minded Christian. And the world loves open-minded Christians.

We have a tiny problem, however, and that is–or, rather, He is–Jesus.

Yes, Jesus claimed to be the ONLY way by which to access the Father: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14.6). Jesus taught there is only ONE GOD (Mark 12.29). Jesus preached ABSOLUTELY against sin (see Matthew 5.21-48, which ends with “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect”). Jesus traced sin to the recesses of the human heart:

“What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” (Mark 7.20-23)

Love your neighborHowever, He taught us not to be narrow in choosing who we love. In fact, we should liberally love all those around us, no matter their sins and no matter their station in life. Didn’t Jesus present the story of the good Samaritan in order to show us love crosses all ethnic, social, and whatever other boundaries?

So, dear neighbor, I cannot condone your sinful habits, but I attempt to love you like Jesus loves you. I cannot amiably accept your god, but I can still do what is right towards you. Because I love you, I’ll tell you about the One True God comprising the Holy Father, His only begotten Son, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.

This world hates that kind of narrow-mindedness, but God loves it because it’s the truth. I’ll stick with Him, not the world.

So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4.18-20)

But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5.29)

A Christian’s Acts of Worship

Pagan TempleHistorically, men have worshiped gods of all shapes, colors, and sizes. With a wide variety of activities, they have attempted to prove their reverence, devotion, and fear. From burning incense to hurling a human victim into the fire, from bowing the knee to cutting the body, from performing holy washings to performing holy sexual acts, people have worshiped their gods.

Disciples of Jesus Christ stand upon the shoulders of the Jews when it comes to religious acts of worship. However, we do not perform all the acts of worship the Jews did because we recognize God has changed some requirements. In fact, we might say He has relaxed the requirements. The Jews had many specific forms of worship which were commanded of them–such things as the Levitical priesthood system with all their duties of washings, keeping the tabernacle, playing specific musical instruments, burning incense on specially-crafted lavers, sacrificing animals each morning and evening, etc. Thank God He does not require these of us today! (Although, if He had, we would be compelled to obey Him in all these things, just as were the Jews.)

Praying KenyaToday, God has commanded an astonishingly few acts of worship, and He has not so much commanded them as He has granted them to us for our own good and growth. What ritual does the Christian have except to meet together in a regular assembly to eat the Supper of the Lord? Should we meet in the evening, in the morning, or at lunchtime? God has not specified. Should we meet all day or only for a few hours? God has not specified.

God has told us of what the Lord’s Supper consists (bread and fruit of the vine–see Matt. 26.26-29 and 1 Cor. 11.23-26). How much of it should we eat; how much should we drink; how should we distribute it among the disciples? Again, God has left much of these things for us to decide.

CommunionAs we read through the New Testament, we find the disciples regularly met together (Acts 2.42-47; Heb. 10.25-26); sang together (Matt. 26.30; Acts 16.25; Eph. 5.19); prayed together (Acts 1.24; 2.42; 4.24-31; 12.5); taught one another from Scripture (1 Tim. 3.16-4.4); read publicly from Scripture (1 Tim. 4.13); devoted themselves to one another (Acts 2.42, 46-47); and ate the Lord’s Supper together (1 Cor. 11.17ff; 10.14-22; Acts 20.7). Although the word “worship” is not directly associated with any of those activities, other words such as “praise” and “thankfulness” and “joy” and “gladness” and “glorify” are used–words which give us the sense of a worshipful attitude behind the activities.

When we come together as a church, our main goal is to encourage one another and provoke one another to love and good works (Heb. 10.25-26; Eph. 4.11-16; 1 Cor. 14.3, 12, 15-19, 24-25, 31). In a word, we are to edify (build up) one another. This building up of one another serves to glorify God, and is, therefore, a beautiful form of worship and includes many acts of specific worship. When we act properly as the church of God, as we continue in holiness, as we provoke one another to love and good works, we build up the temple of the Lord, and God is magnified.

But there is much more to an individual’s worship which he does apart from his brethren. We will consider more in the near future.

The Political Christian? World Says…Word Says

American PoliticsWORLD: “The worst possible thing that can happen is that a Democrat/Republican president is elected.”

WORD: “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.” (Rom. 13.1)

WORLD: “If my presidential candidate doesn’t win, I’ll take to the streets in protest. The other person won’t be MY president!”

WORD: “Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.” (Rom. 13.2-4)

WORLD: “I’m not going to pay taxes. Paying taxes is unconstitutional.”

WORD: “Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.” (Rom. 13.5-7)

Helping HandWORLD: “I don’t like that person who is running for president. Therefore, I shall share every news story I find that tears him/her down. I like this other person, so I shall share every news story I find which builds him/her up.”

WORD: “You shall not bear false witness.” (Rom. 13.9) “speaking the truth in love” (Eph. 4.15).

WORLD: “If someone doesn’t agree that my presidential candidate is the right one for our country, I’ll let them have it with both barrels blazing!”

WORD: “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” (Eph. 4.29-32)

Christian Leaders: Servants

Drill SeargentWhat do we look for in a leader? Strength. Uncompromising zeal. Putting others in their place and always winning fights. Scrappy, tough, resilient. Destroying competition.

Well…that’s often what the world looks for in a leader.

Jesus challenges and colors our understanding of leadership and greatness in His kingdom:

“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Matt. 20.25-28)

It’s not about lording it over others, getting them to do what we want. It’s not about exercising authority over others, always getting our way.

Setting the TableGodly leadership centers on serving others. In fact, Jesus used two words in our passage above—servant and slave—to express this thought. Servant in the Greek is diakonos, from which we get the word “deacon.” Slave in the Greek is the word doulos, from which derives the modern-day “doula,” one who assists during childbirth.

The diakonos was a minister of some sort; the word was often used of a waiter serving tables. Jesus used the verb form (diakoneō) of Himself: He “did not come to be served, but to serve.” Jesus was a deacon servant to us, going so far as to wash His disciples’ feet in John 13 and then offer His body as a crucified sacrifice!

How ought we, then, to serve one another?

Latest Sermons

We just updated the sermon archive to include the last two Sunday morning sermons:

How First Century Churches Used Collected Money (download)

What Is a Real Christian – Part 2: Complying with God’s Terms of Salvation (download)