We Must Be a Broken People

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Our Church has been finishing up a five-part series. The last of which was on the

 

“perseverance of the saints”. This biblical idea basically means that though our salvation is secure, we as Christians will persevere in our faith until the end. We won’t throw our love for Christ aside, we won’t give Him up. Ultimately though, we recognize that God is the one at work within us, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.

Contemplating this concept is difficult for me. God clearly calls us to turn from our sins and always be repenting and turning back to Christ. This being the fruit and proof of salvation. And then there’s the other side: it’s ultimately God who’s doing the perseverance in and through us. It’s crazy to think about!

However mind-boggling God’s sovereignty is, He is teaching us much through our Wednesday night home-groups through our church. We talk in a group of 12-18 and

 

discuss the sermon from Sunday. We read through selected scriptures and open the floor for discussion. We eventually got on the topic of “how to recognize those who are persevering and those who are not”. Because, what sets good-works-salvation-bob apart from by-grace-through-faith-alone-Nolan? We externally do the same things, don’t we?

God led me back to a verse in Luke 18:10-14.

 

“Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

This account is always a humbling reminder of what a broken heart before God looks like. It’s not flashy, it’s not proud or arrogant. It’s not perfect, It’s just broken.

We look at the pharisee and think he looks pretty good, by cultural standards. And the tax collector is pretty much the scum of the earth. At face value we could make a judgement call and say the Pharisee is “persevering”, but is he?

Jesus is getting deep here. The pharisee is pompous and arrogant before God, flaunting his spiritual “goodness” (aka filthy rags). He thanks God he’s not like other people. He thanks God He’s not like “those” people. He’s literally placing his good works on a false scale. This made up scale places the Pharisee as creator, the “other people” as the measured standard, and rigs it to go in his favor. He tries to “trick” God into thinking he’s good.

The contrast is this lowly tax collector. By societal standards, a thief, a swindler. The scum of the earth. But his prayer sounds much different. “be merciful to me, a sinner!” He recognized his sinfulness before God. He realized that he deserved nothing other than condemnation. And he physically expressed it by beating his chest is anguish over his separation from God. Naturally from the outside you’d think “this guys screwed up!” and he certainly was. But there’s a difference between these two screw-ups.

One was broken. One was not.

We have this idea in the Church that if we show our brokenness we will be shunned. And this should never be the case. This ‘scum of the earth’ Jesus was referring to was not scum to Him. But rather this man was the one who was saved in the end. Not the one who “looked good”.

“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” – Psalm 51:17

An arrogant, thinks-they’re-put-together-person is not persevering in Christ. They are persevering by themselves.

A broken, contrite heart recognizes their own flaws. They turn to Christ for forgiveness and reveal themselves to be the truly persevering. And what does the latter example have that the former doesn’t? The Holy Spirit himself.

As a Church we must be a broken people. We must. Without brokenness and vulnerability what do we have? White-washed tombs and people not getting the spiritual nourishment they desperately need. We must be broken before we can be healed.

A Man Without Community

As each day went by this week I’ve been continuing my trek through the Bible chronologically each morning. I wake up, eat breakfast, sip on some coffee, and do my best to dig into God’s word. The typical distractions of a smartphone and news feeds attempt to divert my attention, and they do succeed some of the time. It’s helped me immensely to just leave the phone in another room. But that’s just me.

Anyhow after getting through a portion of Genesis the plan then skips over to a book called Job wherein we find a man (named Job) who had life by the horns, quite literally. He had 500 yoke of oxen after all.

Reading a chapter of Job every morning has led me to some conclusions:

  1. Job had a great life
  2. He then lost every earthly thing
  3. His community of “friends” didn’t make it any better
  4. God was still glorified in it

Job had a great life by any standard. He had a thriving farm, a wife, and some kids. tree-648788.jpgBut it didn’t stay that way. Men stole his oxen and murdered his servants and a storm felled the place where his children were. His life quickly unraveled before his eyes. His wealth, his children, and soon his health were all taken as a test to show Jobs unwavering devotion to God.

Right where I am in my reading is where his “friends” chime in to say their peace in this situation. In chapter eight, Bildad pleads with Job to repent and ask God for mercy, to which Job replies in chapter nine that he is in the right, he hasn’t sinned in this situation.

His other jovial companions, Eliphaz and Zophar mock Job’s words. And still Job clings to the truth that he is in that situation not because of his sin, but because of God’s sovereign plan.

The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.

Imagine being personally blamed for the death of your children and the loss of all your earthly possessions! I can’t imagine the deep sadness and temptation to despair. His solace was knowing that God was in control and God had a plan he was working for good. Job didn’t have Romans 8:28 as we do, but he lived it out far better than many of us ever will.

In these first chapters it’s amazing that we don’t see an account of genuine friends encouraging Job and helping him. It seems his pool of friends were a bit shallow.

This makes me immensely thankful for the community of believers called the Church. As Gods people we are called to help those in need, clothe the naked and feed the hungry. Job didn’t have that. He was scraping his skin with clay pots for relief.

If you still don’t have many close christian friends, hope in Christ. Seek community in the local Church. You’ll find it’s an indispensable privilege we take for granted so much.

We don’t have to go through life’s hardships alone as Job did. Job didn’t have the Church, but we do. Take advantage and get plugged in.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

James 4

In James 4 he writes quite a few things that might catch us off guard, “cleanse your hands.. purify your hearts, you double minded…” and he then goes on to say that we should put our laughter aside and mourn. What does he mean? Stop being happy? Put joy aside?

I don’t think James is trying to tell us that we shouldn’t have joy in Christ, or that we shouldn’t laugh. This is one of those passages you need to read the previous verses and those after to fully understand.

James begins the chapter with where all fights and quarrels come from, namely us! Our hearts want what we shouldn’t and ask with evil intent which then creates a discontent in us that puts our wants and needs above God’s sovereignty.

There are some very strong words throughout, “whoever wishes to be a friend with the world makes himself an enemy of God”, “You adulterous people”, and many more. Take the time to read James 4 if you haven’t already.

In today’s day and age “friendship” has become a very shallow term, if you meet someone for the first time, you can find them on Facebook and become “friends”. Everyone has a lots of friends, but compared to Bible times, we all have a lot of acquaintances. Back in the first centuries there wasn’t any internet or Facebook or Twitter to follow what our “friends” were doing, they had to seek out and actually invest in other people’s lives.

So that puts a whole new definition of “friendship with the world”.

Though as a Christian I’m blood-bought in Christ, this passage still says he “yearns jealously over the spirit who dwells in us” so even a Christian can and will struggle with the woo’s and temptations of the world. But take heart! The Holy Spirit dwells in us and gives us light to see our sin and turn and seek Christ again.

And that brings us back to the main point, why so grim? Why not fight sin with joy, not mourning?

I think this kind of “joy” is a superficial joy. If the recipients of this letter had complete joy in Christ, then there wouldn’t be a point to this! So they must have had a superficial joy that stemmed from a lack of conviction and a lack of seriousness over sin.

So James is telling them and us to stop trying to be so superficially happy in the midst of struggle. If you’re not taking sin seriously, you need to mourn over it, grieve that you’ve sinned against an infinitely holy God who loves you despite your shortcomings. That sin nailed Jesus to the cross, and all we’re doing is laughing it off?

Taking sin seriously isn’t always gloomy, though initially it hurts and our hearts are pained through it, we then can see God for who He is. We read and see that He “opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” which is such a hope for us!

He gives so much grace, and because of that amazing grace, I don’t want to sin against Him, I don’t want to be friends with the world.

Why would I settle for murky sludge when I have an infinitely beautiful savior demonstrating His amazing love on a cross?

Thanks for reading some of my various thoughts on James! I wrote this because of a great sermon I heard by Matt Chandler titled “Worldliness/Godliness” click on that or the picture for the link!

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Some Resources For You!

I decided, because I had to go and update my auto insurance (which took a decent chunk out of my normal writing time) to give you all a list of awesome resources I have found invaluable in my walk with Christ, below are links and pictures, enjoy!

(click on the pictures for the link)

Desiring God
-For everything related to The Bible and life, plumb the depths of their many articles and sermons!
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Bible Gateway
-A great resource for looking up and reading scripture!

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Plugged In
-When it comes to new movies, it’s hard to tell how crude it’s going to be. Plugged In gives you every instance of Sexuality, Cussing, and anything else before you even watch it!

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Downcast (APP)
-The BEST podcasting app i’ve ever found, though it’s only on iOS, the interface is clean and easy to use. I found ALL of the sermons I listen to and easily download them daily. I great tool for sermon and teaching consumption.

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Gospel Community

A community built on and driven by the Gospel is a powerful thing. The gospel empowers a community of believers to forgive, love, confront, and much more in a way that cares for other believers’ souls and nurtures our own.

Now I’m not referring to Church alone, though that is a necessary gathering of the Saints in every way, and I can’t and won’t minimize that vast importance of a local church body. heb 3n 13But within the Church there are those who wish to pursue deeper relationships with other believers outside of the Church House, and this should be encouraged by our local pastors and overseen in a Biblical way, so as not to start some heresy.

So in my case, one of my deacons started a small group where we meet and go through a book called “Gospel Centered Discipleship” where we talk about things we as a body need to be doing and truths we need to be applying to encourage, exhort, and come alongside our brothers and sisters in Christ. Though the book certainly isn’t easy or comfortable at times, it has shown me the immense value of having a group of brothers and sisters who are in unity together share how we’re doing in life and in our walks with Christ. Also of even more encouragement are a smaller group a brothers (within the group) who I can encourage and be encouraged by for more personal struggles that are closer to home for us guys.

All said, being in a gospel community is of the utmost importance for these (and many more) reasons:

  • It’s a time to be transparent and real about struggles. (instead of just saying “oh… I’m good… u?”)
  • We can be accountable to (in my case) godly men who care for my soul.
  • I can help keep other men accountable.
  • It’s a time to pray for each other.
  • It’s a caring atmosphere to lovingly convict (and be convicted) of sin.
  • Rigorous Bible study.
  • Much, much more!

Anyways, thank you for reading and I hope that you find (under the authority of your local pastor) a small group to be a part of. It’s an indispensable gift God has given us as provision to fight sin and love God. If you don’t know where to start, talk to your Pastor about him starting a book study, I’m sure he’d be happy to see someone exited to grow more in Christ.

The Amazing Gift Of Community

Night_Maze     So this past Saturday, I went to the “River of Life Night Maze”. It’s basically a Christian event from 5pm-Midnight where they have big inflatable obstacle courses, games, etc, an amazing speaker, and a corn maze! On top of that, a bunch of my friends who were off to college a few months ago were on a ministry trip to help out so the Night Maze would run smoothly and effectively.

It was a great time. Quality time with close friends I hadn’t seen in a while, a great message from an amazing man of God i’ve known for a while, and just plain corn maze awesomeness! Seriously, corn mazes at night are fantastic. Loved it.So at this little outing, I was very encouraged, I had laughed so hard it hurt, and beat my good friend at an obstacle course game. (My favorite type of inflatable game.)

So all in all it was great. Great time, great friends, great God.

It was encouraging because there are times in my week where I just need to get out. Get out of the house, see new sights, or just the occasional brief change of scenery.
My life is pretty simple, nothing too amazing, nothing too terrible about it, it has its highs and lows just like anyone else. I wake up, I eat, I have school, I have work, I have plenty of things that keep me busy throughout the week.

But I’m sure there’s plenty of us who just need something more every now and then. What with the daily grind of life, and the times it seems just too monotonous and hopeless and you feel just plain down. (I don’t know about some of you, but that’s me a lot.)
So I tried to medicate the problem, asking myself:
“Do I need more time in my bible?”
“Do I need to sleep more?”
“Should I pray more?”

All those are good options, and we always need to make sure we’re getting a proper amount of each, but those didn’t seem to be the problem.
So usually at this point I begin to pray and ask Jesus for some wisdom in my predicament of (we’ll call it) loneliness.
Why do we feel lonely? Why as Christians do we say Jesus is enough and then turn around and feel lonely? Is it unbiblical to be lonely? Is it ok to feel even a little bit down?

These questions always run through my head. And, for me, the answer usually isn’t any I listed. (Although sleep is a legitimate problem at times I admit.)

The Answer? (For me at his point.)
It’s people.

Godly people Jesus has placed in my life to encourage and lift me up and show me Jesus through how we talk, laugh, and interact.

Community, The Body of Christ.

I’ve heard of many Christians who live lives thinking if they “need” people, or if people encourage them, it’s somehow an idol in their hearts and interactions should be strictly platonic, because, after all, shouldn’t Jesus be enough?
Well, yes, He should.
But, we’re really missing something. Jesus commanded us:

“not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
~Hebrews 10:25

We see clearly in this verse to “all the more” seek the community of godly people, not neglecting it! How encouraging is that? We’re to have friends and love and serve people, and God does it for His glory and our good! (Romans 8:28)

Pretty encouraging! I was so encouraged seeing my friends this weekend and seeing how God’s been working in their hearts and minds, and I hope and pray anyone reading this would remember to seek out godly people for help and wisdom, and to find a good, bible-teaching Church to grow in community and service with other believers!

Seriously, when Jesus commands something of us, He knows best. So believe that and be encouraged!