Emotionally Fat but Spiritually Famished

A few weeks ago, my wife and I were driving home from Church. We pulled into our driveway, stepped out in our nicer clothes, guitar in-hand, and proceeded to walk up the driveway.

For some context, there’s a church across the street from us, so there are usually cars parked beside the road sunday morning.

Anyways, an older lady was walking back to her vehicle and she noticed us.
Seeing our clothes and guitar she deduced we had come from church. She asked us if we had, and we said that we just came back. Her reply at that point was something that’s stuck in my heart for weeks now, not so much for her motives (which i’m sure were pure), but rather for the deeper significance behind it.

What were her words you ask? Just two – “Good job!”

Why is this significant? Because, as a Christian, going to church isn’t a “good job”. Church was never meant to be something that you do once a week, you get a pat on the back, and then you live your week like the rest of the world (Colossians 3). Stepping foot in a building doesn’t automatically make you a Christian, or even a “good” christian, if there ever was one (Romans 3).

The real question is “what is a Christian”?

-The American churchis emotionally fatbut spiritually famished-.jpgThis american “christianity” has shaped us into a lifestyle of comfort, materialism, and godlessness under the guise of “i-go-to-church-a-few-times-a-month-so-im-a-christian” mentality. This is not Christianity. The buttery-smooth speakers who entice the flesh with little regard for Christ and him crucified. Never mentioning death to self, never mentioning that you could die for being a christian, only plopping you down in a seat and allowing you to consume until you’re emotionally fat and spiritually famished.

And before i’m misunderstood, attending church is VERY important in the Christian life. Or, i should rephrase, meeting at a church house and having fellowship with THE Church is essential to the christian life (Hebrews 10:24-26).

From scripture, there’s an interesting connection that i noticed while teaching the 7th and 8th graders a few weeks back. I asked a trick question, “what’s the difference between a christian, and a disciple?”.

***dead silence***

Me – “Nothing!”

If you are a Christian you will be a disciple. Matthew 28:19 equated sharing the gospel with making disciples. It’s not different. If you want to see people saved you MUST see them discipled. It’s not a “come to the front” moment, it’s a “lay down your life, give everything you have, and submit to a Christ into a life of godliness”. This doesn’t sound comfortable!

We want our cars, our houses, our boats! We want security! But Christ says to lay them at his feet. Don’t cling to them. Having a house or most anything isn’t sinful. But our hearts can so easily entice us into relying on them for our joy rather than Christ.

As one of my favorite songs says “You possess your possessions or they posses you” (Switchfoot – “If the House Burns Down Tonight”).

And I think that’s the danger of so called american Christianity. We love being comfortable, rich, and fat, more then we love Jesus. And this is an eternal error.

Sure, there’s a whole lot more to being a christian then what I’ve mentioned, but I want to make this clear – If you are a Christian, you are a disciple, and you are to die to yourself and make disciples. Don’t neglect fellowship with the saints. Don’t just go, sit down, and leave. Fellowship is building each other up, maybe encouraging, maybe rebuking.

But either way. I think the American mindset of Christianity has it all wrong.

So, as you see the myriad of people coming in tomorrow for Easter Sunday, welcome them with open, loving arms. But don’t sugar coat the gospel message. The Christian life isn’t easy, but it’s so very worth it.


Key Verses:

Matthew 28:19
Colossians 3
Hebrews 10:24-26

 

 

 

A Radical Response To the Gospel

As I was studying to teach the 7th and 8th grade lesson on Acts 19, I was struck with the Ephesian people’s response to a horrifying discovery: Their pagan magicians could not contend with the power of Jesus.

The sons of Sceva (the pagan magicians) were meddling in places they shouldn’t have been meddling. They saw all the wonders that Paul was saying and doing in Ephesus, and thought that all they needed to do was invoke the name of Jesus, and maybe they too would be able to command demons and heal the sick.

In verse 13 they try to command a demon, but what happened to them would horrify anyone who found their hope in pagan worship. The demon literally said “Jesus I know, Paul I recognize, but who are you?” and proceeded to beat them and strip them and send them running.

So now the high and mighty sons of sceva were brought low by the power of satan. And all the people finally understood – these men do NOT have the answers.

Though i’m taking some liberty, i can imagine the people were comparing the two people – Paul and the disciples vs. the sons of Sceva. The two don’t even compare! One can command demons and heal the sick in Jesus’ name, and the other? Well, they get beat to a pulp for even trying. Based on the response of the Ephesians, I can imagine they listened to what Paul was preaching and many of them believed.

The power of the gospel is greater than we realize. The transformative power in the hearts of people as a result of the gospel is apparent in this passage. They ended up burning 50,000 pieces of silver’s worth of pagan books! That’s right around $5,000,000 worth of idolatry.

That’s the equivalent to:

  • 185 Ford 2018 F-150 Trucks
  • 12,500 GoPro Hero 5 Blacks
  • or, 6,501 iPhone 7 Plus’s

As Christ said, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”. I think the Ephesian people who believed the Gospel were beginning an act of repentance in burning this paganism out of their lives.

This echoed in the ears of the silversmiths, who crafted the idols. They would lose their livelihood, so what did they do? Well, they were going to lose their pride and money, so they rioted and chanted godless things. Sound familiar?

All this to say, a radical gospel changes people radically. You can’t have one foot in the world and one foot in holiness. You’re either being swept away in sin’s current, or your swimming against it in the Spirit’s power.

Do I have that ‘crazy’, ‘foolish’, ‘radicalized’ faith that the world looks down upon? Am i friends with the world? Or have i renounced my pagan practices (or maybe, addiction to money, entertainment, etc.) and allowed God to burn them out of my life?

The Bible makes clear that true disciples of Jesus make disciples, and look radically different from the world. Is this true of us?

My Trophies

Ever gone to that conference and got a ton of free books? Or perhaps your friends have some fantastic new titles that you really want to read. 20160430_120023.jpgI can relate to both. A couple of years ago my wife (then girlfriend) and I went to a counseling conference in Lafayette Indiana (read about here!). Of course I purchased many great books that are still sitting on my shelf collecting dust (besides one I’m currently reading).

I don’t know if it’s because I’m a slow reader, or perhaps I just don’t take the time to read each day, but I walked into my apartment and realized I’d only read about 10% of them. I had turned my Christian books into trophies, not tools. They had become pseudo status symbols of my walk with Christ, hoping people would assume that I’m an avid reader who devours great Christian authors.

God really convicted me on this and I’ve begun to be more diligent to read more. Self-discipline is something I need more of. Whether it be to stop watching Netflix and read, or take my work break to open the scriptures, I’m trying to commit to use my time in a more profitable way.

And I’m not saying owning books you don’t read is bad, I’m just saying for me, I found that I had become lazy and just bought them for a sub-conscience (now conscious) want to feel more spiritual or godly. But God’s shown me (quite obviously) that the only way they can help me grow in godliness is if I actually sit down and open the pages.

 

 

We Need Community

During the whole process of moving into a new apartment (and the moving process in general) I felt something lacking in my soul. During my one semester of college I was learning about ministry, but not actively engaging in the local church. This was part of my problem.

Sure, we were going to a church, but with school, work, and marriage, we didn’t have time like we used to. We also didn’t have a close fellowship of believers that we knew well.concert-731227_1920.jpg

Fast forward to getting out of college and moving.

Now we’ve found a local Church that we’re committed to and God has blessed us with another godly couple that we’ve been getting to know. This has been a huge blessing and encouragement in our lives!

And that has been what’s lacking: Community. It’s not enough to go to the church house and hear a message and leave. The Church (believers) are meant to encourage and hold each other accountable. Without taking that extra step of getting to know other Christians in your local Church, your walk with Christ will be greatly hindered.

And mine was hindered for many months. Busyness got the best of our lives during college and we neglected to get connected with other believers. My spiritual life has been worse off for it.

So I encourage you, get involved in your local Church. Say hello to someone, ask the pastor where you can serve, and just get plugged in! You’ll be amazed what God does in your heart through the encouraging fellowship and service with other saints in Christ.

 

 

 

Being a Christian Is Not Easy

I was recently reading an article highlighting “great things about being a Christian”. Most of them were outward things, i.e. having great friends, clean fun, etc. Of course it’s always good to count your blessings and be thankful for the outward gifts we have from following Christ, I just tend to be hesitant when only presenting this side of it.

The reason I’m hesitant is that it’s only half of the story. Yes, Christ died for your sins and rose again. We have that amazing forgiveness, and I am quite literally eternally grateful for it. But we can’t forget the other side of the gospel, the war against sin.

Before I say a few things just be clear that we must talk about grace, we must talk about forgiveness, and we must talk about the great things Christ has done for us. But when we present the gospel to someone, they need to know that they become a christian for God himself, not for what He can give them.

What we also must talk about is the fact that being a genuine Christian means that we will suffer, we will be mocked, and we will have to fight sin until we die or Christ comes back.

A few convicting scriptures that have taught me a lot about not getting comfortable and always being on guard against sin are as follows.

     1. Luke 9:23 

Take up your cross. Anyone who will come to Christ must take up the bloody torture device that ultimately killed our savior. And we must deny ourselves. cross-66700 (1).jpg

Taking up our cross today tends to mean wearing a cross around our necks. It’s commonplace, not offensive, and quite easy in western culture.

But what Christ was getting across (no pun intended) was that
we must live our lives in such a way that we die daily to ourselves and live in obedience to Christ, even if it means physical death.

Christ quite literally took up His cross and said these things with full-knowledge that He would die. So when He tells us to take up the worst torture device known to man and to deny ourselves, we should take it quite seriously.

     2. James 1:27

True religion. It sounds like an archaic term, but truthfully James is highlighting that genuine faith produces works. Among these works should be the care for the orphans and widows in need.

In Romans 8:15, we’re also reminded that every Christian that has ever lived was adopted by God Himself. We care for the orphans because we too were once orphans. In Christ we are adopted by God, and we can call to him saying, “abba!” or “Daddy!”.

Every Christian, according to this verse should be aware and be helping in some way those in need. Whether through financial giving or practical service, that’s between you and God. But we can’t do nothing.

For a great resource from Desiring God, follow this link!

A sobering statistic is that if one in every three self-proclaimed churches adopted one Child, every eligible child in the system would have a home. So what am I and the rest of going to do to help?

3. Matthew 5:43-45

Despite killing sin and loving and caring for our neighbors, Christ keeps raising the bar. He tells us to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us.

This holds countless implications. One being that we were once enemies of God ourselves. And yet God still chose to save us. When we love our enemies we are being Christ-like.

Another great resource that is very timely on persecution and Christians being murdered, “Should We Pray for ISIS to Be Saved or Destroyed?“.


 

In conclusion, being a Christian is in fact amazing. It is filled with joys and victories over sin, but only through obedience to God in Christ.

The gospel is the power to save and to keep, and the way God keeps us is through his working in us to kill sin, love our neighbor, pray for our enemies, and ultimately find our joy in him alone.

 

Forgiveness Is Now

As the new year has come around I’m currently working towards memorizing all of Romans 8. Whether that takes me all this year or a few more months.

I really don’t mind if it takes me that long. I just want to be able to quote it to myself and others at any given time. After all, the longer I meditate on it, the deeper it may soak. And in my experience, verses that take me a long time i tend to be able to recall much more vividly.

One way I process my thoughts is through writing. So i thought that as i work towards memorizing this beautiful passage, sharing what I’m learning from it will help concrete the words in my memory and their meanings in my heart.

“There is therefore now no condemnation…”

In the beginning of Romans 8 Paul makes a “therefore” statement. Why?

We need to look back at the context of Romans 7. winter-20234.jpgHe speaks of the law of sin and being released from the law. Paul struggles with wanting to do good, but seeing that evil is “always” close at hand.

With sin and the struggle constantly a reminder of his and our sinful state, the beginning of a new chapter powerfully shoots down many misunderstandings concerning the law.

But first look at the present tense. There is.

The reason this is huge is because it means that forgiveness for those in Christ is right now. Not later, not a year ago, but right now.

As the quote that’s been floating around says, “God doesn’t love a future version of you, he loves you right now”. This verse reminds us of this. God is pleased with us despite.

And God not condemning us isn’t even our doing! It’s Christ’s death on the cross that accomplished this. We didn’t earn this present tense forgiveness, it was given by God through Christ.

This personally reminds me of the radical nature of God’s forgiveness. God looked at Christ and saw my own filth on the Him. He then looks at me and sees Christ’s perfect righteousness. That’s radical. To my fallen mind that’s insane.

When’s the last time I treated someone with that radical Grace? (Eph 4:32)

Or maybe in better words, when’s the last time I really believed God looks upon me with that kind of Grace?

I think there’s a connection between the two.

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