“About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature.” (Hebrews 5:11-14a)
Stacey Irvine ate almost nothing but chicken nuggets for 15 years. She never tasted fruits or vegetables. She occasionally supplemented her diet with French fries. One day her tongue started to swell and she couldn’t catch her breath. She was rushed to the hospital, her airway was forced open, and they stuck an IV in her arm to start pumping in the nutrients she needed. After saving her life, the medical staff sent her home, but not before they warned her that she needed to change her diet or prepare herself for an early death (Story by Kenneth Berding).
Here is a woman who had plenty of opportunity to eat the way she needed to be healthy and strong, but she opted to eat primarily chicken nuggets neglecting the very nutrients she so desperately required. When we read this story we may think to ourselves, “How foolish can someone be? Why wouldn’t she simply mix in some fruits and veggies for a well-rounded diet? Why would she neglect her health in that way?” But before we criticize her let’s take a look at our own lives. We may not be guilty of neglecting the physical nutrients we need, but are we guilty of neglecting ourselves of the spiritual nutrients we need?
In the above verses the author of Hebrews is scolding his readers for their spiritual diet. He is telling them that, “though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food.” His readers ought to be growing in their knowledge of God and in their spiritual maturity. But rather they have neglected the Word of God, becoming spiritually unhealthy.
And if we are not careful, the same could happen to us. We have plenty of opportunity to read God’s Word, go to Bible studies, and to hear sermon’s preached, but so often we neglect these things, becoming spiritually weak. And when we do this we hurt ourselves. We need the nourishment found in God’s Word to grow and thrive in the Christian life.
Paul in Colossians 3 tells the Colossian Christians that they are to “let the word of Christ dwell” in them “richly” and the Psalmist, in Psalm 119, declares that he has “stored up God’s Word in his heart.” And we too, need to be a people who regularly soak up the Word of God. It should be on our minds and in our hearts with regularity. God uses His Word to show us Himself and He uses His Word to transform our hearts and minds. Without it we will not grow, but rather we will be weak and immature in the faith.
Let’s not neglect that which is good for us, but rather let us regularly consume God’s Word for greater enjoyment of Him and greater growth in our Christian walk.
I recently read that about 68% of Americans own pets. That’s a high number. I would assume that number drastically increases, however, if you were to ask what percentage of Americans have ever owned a pet. It seems that all of us have owned at least one pet at one time or another. For some of us it was a dog, for others it was a cat, while yet others had a hamster, lizard, or goldfish. The bad thing about owning a pet, though, is that those pets die (especially goldfish) far too soon. A pet’s life typically lasts 10 to 15 years, if you’re lucky, and then it’s over. When your pet dies you might bury it in the backyard, go to the animal hospital to have disposed of, or in the case of a goldfish flush it down the toilet. These are normal things to do when your pet dies. What is not normal is to bring your pet back around to your house and take if for a walk, or feed it, or spend time playing with it after it has died. That would be abnormal. In fact, that would be insanity. When a pet has died we treat as if it has died. We don’t take it back out for walks.
I think we would all agree that a person who digs up a dead dog and begins to play with it or take it for a walk has lost their mind. Well, every time we sin, we are essentially digging up our dead sinful self and dragging it around with us.
The Bible teaches us that if we have trusted in Jesus as our Savior, it is because a drastic change has taken place inside of us. So drastic, in fact, that the Bible says that we have died and been raised to new life in Christ (Colossians 3:1,3; Romans 6:2-11). By the grace of God, we are new creatures with new desires, “the old has passed away; behold the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). If the old has passed away, we are to bury it. We are to put away that sinful behavior (Colossians 3:8) and live for God (Romans 6:11).
There is a new King of our heart and a new commission on our life.
We are to set our “minds on the things that are above” (Colossians 3:1) and “put to death, therefore, what is earthly (sinful) in us” (Colossians 3:5). By grace we have been saved from the enslavement of sin, and by grace we are to put away the sin that remains – burying it far away.
As grotesque as is the image of a man walking (literally dragging) his dead dog down the road, it is far more horrendous that a Christian would dig his old sinful self out of the grave and begin dragging him around, and yet that is what we are doing when we sin.
Thankfully, Romans 6 tells us that we have been raised with Christ by the glory of the Father so that we can walk in newness of life. This new life is in Christ and it far outshadows the old life. When we fill our minds with Christ and seek Him, the old self becomes less alluring.
Let’s attune our hearts to King Jesus and walk with Him while we leave the old self behind.
For you have forgotten the God of your salvation and have not remembered the Rock of your refuge; therefore, though you plant pleasant plants and sow the vine-branch of a stranger, though you make them grow on the day that you plant them, and make them blossom in the morning that you sow, yet the harvest will flee away in a day of grief and incurable pain. (Isaiah 17:10-11)
In 1863, Abraham Lincoln said:
“We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth, and power as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.”
We can be the same way, can’t we? We too can get so preoccupied with the things of this world, even good things, that we forget God. We can become so self-reliant and self-confident that we forget our need for God in all areas of life. And that should not be.
In the above verses, from the book of Isaiah, we can see that God is bringing judgment to Israel because they had forgotten the God of their salvation. He was not on the forefront of their minds, in fact, it sounds like He was not on their minds at all. They had set Him aside and moved on to other things.
This is a dangerous way to live.
There are consequences to disregarding God.
He should never be on the back-burner. God in His mercy has rescued us from our helpless state by sending His Son, Jesus, to die in our place. He has shown us tremendous mercy and grace when we were in no place to deserve it. He is the God who has showered us with His common grace and blessed us beyond our comprehension in His Son. He is the God of our salvation. How can we now forget Him? May that not be true in our lives.
May God be at the forefront of our minds in all we do.
“It happened, late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch and was walking on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful. 3 And David sent and inquired about the woman.” (2 Samuel 11:2-3a) (Read the entire chapter here). Things only went downhill for David from there. Author and Pastor John Piper once said, “Avalanches of evil begin with a single pebble of sin.” This truth could not be seen more clearly than in the story of David from the verses above.
According to the text late one afternoon, as David was presumably lounging around his palace all day, he decided to get up and take a walk out onto the king’s roof top. Once outside his eyes fell upon a beautiful woman as she was bathing. Now in that moment, he could have decided to hide his eyes and turn away, but rather than leave it alone, he chose to indulge himself and inquire about the woman. Once he found out who she was, he arranged for her to come over to his house. Upon her arrival the text tells us that David slept with the woman. You can see already how this situation has turned from bad to worse very quickly. It does not take much for sin avalanche. Not only had David’s lust turned into premarital sex, but to make matters worse, both David and the woman he had slept with were married. The snowball is increasing in size as this sin grows bigger and bigger.
Not long after David and Bathsheba’s affair, Bathsheba sends word to David that she is, in fact, pregnant with his child. This news seems to trouble David as he is now in fear of being caught in his sin. So he attempts, unsuccessfully, to get Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, who is out in battle, to come home and to sleep with his wife so that no one would think anything of Bathsheba’s pregnancy.
However, when David’s first attempt at cover-up failed, he decided to have Uriah put in the front lines of battle so that his death was sure. This was his second attempt at covering up his sin (and we find out later it failed as well 2 Samuel 12). So what started with lust ended in adultery and murder. Rather than nipping sin in the bud, David allowed his sin to grow, and it quickly grew out of control. And the same thing can be true for us. We can play with sin and play with sin and think we are doing just fine, but before we know it things can get out of hand and our sin has ruined us. Sin can ruin our reputation, ministry, even our lives. And if we continue in it without repentance it will lead us to hell.
There is no such thing as a “small” sin. All sin is rebellion towards God and can lead to “avalanches of evil.” We are to set our eyes on Christ and live for Him, leaving our sin behind. John Owen once wrote, “be killing sin or it will be killing you.” Let’s strive every day, by the grace of God, to treasure Christ above all else and to snuff out our sin before it burns out of control.
The good news for David is that his story didn’t end there. By God’s grace he realized his sin (2 Samuel 12:13) and asked God for forgiveness (Psalm 51) and although there were consequences to his sin (2 Samuel 12:7-14) ultimately David was forgiven. David was well aware of God’s forgiveness for sin (Psalm 32:5) and we can be sure, by God’s grace, he was forgiven from all of it. What great news.
And the good news for David is also good news for us. There is forgiveness for sin. Complete forgiveness. That does not mean that there are not consequences for sin and we should take it lightly – sin is dangerous – but by God’s grace all our sins can be forgiven when we admit our fault and turn to Jesus (Psalm 32:5; 1 John 1:9 ). Praise God for His grace and mercy toward undeserving sinners like you and me.
In Mark chapter 5 we are introduced to a demon-possessed man running wild in a graveyard (read the story here).
The man could not be held captive. He was so strong that he could break chains and shackles to pieces. He would spend night and day crying out and cutting himself. He had become a real concern to the locals (i.e. trying to bind him) and a danger to himself. Mark chapter 5 begins with Jesus meeting this demon-possessed man face to face.
As soon as the demon-possessed man sees Jesus he bows down at His feet and begs Him to be merciful, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me” (Mark 5:7). After conversing with the demon-possessed man, Jesus casts out the evil spirits from him and finally the man was at rest. No longer would he have to live in the graveyard crying out night and day in agony. He had been delivered. Jesus rescued this man from his hopeless situation and brought him to his right mind.
After being rescued, naturally, the man desired to go with Jesus and to be with Him. He begged that Jesus would let him come along. The passage tells us, “As He [Jesus] was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. And he did not permit him but said to him, ‘Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.’ And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled” (Mark 5:18-20).
The man in our passage begged Jesus for something and it was a good something – he wanted to be with Jesus.
But Jesus said “no” to his request.
He denied the man’s request to go with Him and rather told the man to stay where he was and to become a missionary in his hometown. And that is exactly what this man did. He went away and began to proclaim how much Jesus had done for him. The man desired to do one thing, but Jesus had another plan for him. And now the area of Decapolis had a Christian evangelist actively sharing the good news of Jesus. In God’s wisdom, this man’s request was denied so that he could do the work Jesus desired Him to do.
Here’s where this meets you and I.
Youand I may cry out to God with our requests, even good, godly requests, and God may say, “no” to those requests. So often our gracious God answers our prayers with a “yes”, but at times He may respond to our prayers with a “no” or “not right now” and we need to know that in those instances it is for the best. God is by no means required to give us anything in prayer as if it were a conversation between equals. God may have other plans for us. Plans that are much better than we ever could’ve dreamed up. He may be sending us in another direction altogether.
Bottom line: He knows what is best for us and we need to trust Him in that.
When we pray we need to pray, “not my will God, but Yours be done” and trust in that knowing that God’s ways are better than ours.
There are many questions we have to answer each day: what will I wear to work or school? What’s for breakfast? Lunch? And dinner? What project should I tackle first? How will I respond to this e-mail? How will I accomplish this task? What will I say to this co-worker? How will I help this customer, client, or student? How am I going to pass this exam when I didn’t study?
There are many questions to answer each day.
But what if someone were to ask you today for a definition of the gospel, how would you respond? What is the gospel? How do you put it into words? The answer to this question is of vast importance. The gospel is the central message of the Christian faith and is something that all Christians should know by heart. So what is the gospel?
The short answer: The good news of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection on behalf of sinners (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
To answer the question more fully allow me to explain.
It is important to know that the word “gospel” means “good news.” The gospel is the good news of Jesus Christ. But before the good news becomes good news we must first know the bad news. The bad news is that all have sinned (Romans 3:23) and the penalty for that sin is death (Romans 6:23). We have sinned against an infinite God and we deserve an infinite punishment. There is nothing that we can do to fix this, no good work or righteous deed can take away the punishment we deserve (Romans 3:20; Titus 3:5). This puts us in a bad position. We have sinned, we deserve punishment, and we cannot make amends for our wrong doing.
But the good news of the gospel is that God sent His Son Jesus into the world (1 John 4:10) to live the life that we were supposed to live but failed (1 Peter 2:22), and to die the death that we deserved in our place (Romans 5:8). Then three days later He rose victoriously from the grave defeating sin and death (1 Corinthians 15). He then ascended into heaven (Acts 1:9-11) where He rules and reigns at the right hand of the Father (Ephesians 1:20-23) and will one day return to judge the living and the dead (John 5:27-29).
And now all those who by grace turn from their sin and put their faith (Ephesians 2:8-9) in Jesus’ redemptive work will escape from that judgement, be forgiven of all their sin (Colossians 2:13-14), and will live for all of eternity with God (John 3:16). That is the gospel! That is the good news that we are to cherish each day. That is the good news that we are to share with this lost world.
The gospel is not only good news, it’s the best news! Let us never forget what God in His mercy has done for sinners like us. Let your heart rest and rejoice in the graciousness of God.
“But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning—lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.” – Mark 13:32-37
We have all become accustom to hearing the predictions of the day that Christ will return. Joseph Smith, the father of the cult religion Mormonism, claimed that all Mormons alive in 1830 would live to see Christ’s return. He was wrong. Harold Camping not once, but twice, predicted the date that Christ would return. First, he claimed Christ would return September 6, 1994 and when that did not happen, he later stated that Christ would return May 21, 2011. Again, he was mistaken. Anyone who claims to know the day or hour that Christ will return is wrong. We simply do not know that information.
The above passage in Mark tells us that no one knows the day or time that Christ will return, only that He will return and we are to be ready. We may not know when He will return, but we can be sure that He will. And as a result we are to be, as Jesus tells us here in Mark, like servants diligently doing the Masters work until He returns. We should be making a concentrated effort to live for eternity even now. We should not be sleep-walking through this life spiritually, we should be awake and alert, actively pursuing a life that means something for Christ.
Paul echos what Jesus says here when he says in Ephesians 5, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16). And also in Colossians 3 when he writes, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth (Colossians 3:1-2). We don’t know when Christ will return, but we know He is returning and therefore we need to make the most of the time.
We get so caught up with work and school and deadlines and vacations and weekends and future plans that God gets placed on the back-burner. So often we live life and God is not on our mind and His work is not in our plans. And that should not be the case. D.L. Moody once said, “Our greatest fear should not be of failure, but of succeeding at something that doesn’t really matter.”
And what matters is Christ. What matters is living in light of eternity. Let’s be found diligently doing Christ’s work when He returns or calls us home.
“Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Phil. 2:5-8)
A few years ago my Nephew Eli and I were playing with Lego blocks. We had stacked them all into a giant tower. It was our creation. We designed it and we put it together. When we were finished he leaned in close to me and with a mischievous smirk on his face whispered, “Let’s knock it down.” And we could have done that. We designed it. We created it. We put it together. We could do whatever we wanted with it. It was our creation. I suggested, however, that we show his dad what we made, so we did. And then I believe we knocked it over. It was a lot of fun.
I enjoyed my afternoon designing and creating block towers with Eli. However, if you were to ask me if I would ever willingly become a block in order to save other blocks (if I could ever do such a thing) I would think you were crazy. Never would I lower myself to the point of being a block to save other blocks. Why on earth would I ever do that – not a chance.
But this is exactly what Jesus did for us. We are told in John 1:14 that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” He became one of us in order to save us.
Philippians chapter 2 tells us that Jesus (the Creator of the universe, who was God Himself) “emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
Jesus humbled Himself and took on flesh in order to die for sinful humanity, and as Paul makes clear in Romans 5 “one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:7-8). Jesus didn’t die for a people who were warm and welcoming toward Him, but He died for rebels far from Him. When it comes down to it how often are we willing to help those who are against us? Typically not very. However, Jesus lays down His life for sinners like you and me.
He left heaven, and all its splendor, to dwell among us. Jesus came to save sinners. What a gracious God we serve. I know we are right smack dab in the middle of the hot summer months and Christmas is over and done with until next December, but it is never a wrong time to consider what God has done for us in Christ. God left heaven to become a “block” in order to save other blocks.
“I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:11-13)
Not long ago a read a story about a man who became envious of his friends because they had larger and more luxurious homes. So he listed his house with a real estate firm, planning to sell it and to purchase a more impressive home. Shortly afterward, as he was reading the classified section of the newspaper, he saw an ad for a house that seemed just right. He promptly called the realtor and said, “A house described in today’s paper is exactly what I’m looking for. I would like to see it as soon as possible!” The agent asked him several questions and then replied, “But sir, that’s your house that you recently had me list. That’s your house you’re describing.”
So often we are like this man – discontent regardless of our circumstance.
Whether we are rich or poor, successful or unsuccessful, old or young, we always seem to want more – never content with our lot in life. We often allow our circumstances to dictate our contentment. Our joy depends so heavily on bank accounts, good health, and fulfilling relationships. One day, we could be on top of the world and then something negative happens the next day and we are in the valley of discontentment.
Wouldn’t it be nice to be content regardless of your circumstances? That is how life was for Paul. He had learned to be content in all situations of life. Look at how he describes himself here in this passage. He writes, “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.”
In all circumstances of life, Paul had learned to be content. Even in the midst of persecution, imprisonment, and suffering Paul was content. What was his secret? Paul tells us in the next verse. He writes, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” The reason Paul could be content in all situations of life was because he had Christ. He knew that in good times or bad times, in times of plenty or in times of want, no matter what, he had Christ and that was enough.
Paul’s contentment was not found in his circumstances, bank account, or status in world; his contentment was found in the God who gave His life so that he could live. Paul knew that one day He would spend eternity with God in heaven and that is where he found contentment.
This is a good reminder for us.
Regardless of our circumstances in life, if we have Christ we have it all, and in Him we can find contentment.
Pastor Francis Chan once said, “When I disagree with something in God’s Word, I just assume that I’m wrong.”
These are tremendous words of wisdom. Today so many people, including many Christians, tend to make moral and ethical decisions based on their own feelings and emotions rather than on God’s Word. Someone might say, “I am not sure how I feel about that” in regards to something that is clearly identified as wrong in Scripture. But when it comes to the truth of God’s Word it is not about our feelings, it is about facts. It’s not about what is subjectively felt, but what is objectively true.
The content of the Bible is not true because you agree with it, it’s true because it is God’s Word (“Your Word is truth” – John 17:17). There may be things in the Bible that are contrary to popular public opinion, in fact we can be sure there is (God’s absolute sovereignty, salvation through Christ alone, waiting until marriage to have sex, marriage between one man and one woman, male headship etc.,), but we don’t believe it because it’s popular public opinion, we believe it because it’s in God’s Word. This is so important for us to remember in a world where truth is relative. The Bible teaches us that truth is not relative, it is absolute and we can find that truth in God’s Word.
The next time you are tempted to give in to something that is contrary to God’s Word because it is the popular public opinion, or the next time you come across a passage of the Bible that rubs you the wrong way, remember it is not true because you agree with it, it is true because it is God’s Word. The Bible, not popular public opinion, has final authority over our feelings.
Believe the Bible.
Trust the Bible.
Obey the Bible.
“And all the people gathered as one man into the square before the Water Gate. And they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses that the Lord had commanded Israel. So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could understand what they heard, on the first day of the seventh month. And he read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand. And the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law. And Ezra the scribe stood on a wooden platform that they had made for the purpose…And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was above all the people, and as he opened it all the people stood. And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground. Also…the Levites helped the people to understand the Law, while the people remained in their places. They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading” (Nehemiah 8:1-8).
In this passage we are told that the Word of God was read to the assembly from morning until midday and then it was explained so that the people could understand what was being read to them. There were several hours spent on the reading and explaining of God’s Word. Several hours!
Can you imagine if we spent several hours reading and explaining God’s Word to each other in our church services today? We would probably sit restlessly in our seats, anxiously looking at our watches, and murmuring under our breath, “When will this end; I have things to do?” But why are we this way? You will notice in the passage above that the people “…told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses…And the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law.”
So not only were these people attentively listening to the instruction of Scripture, but they were the very ones who demanded to hear it. And even more than that, we can see here in verses 5 and 6, that in response to the Word being opened and read that the people worshiped God. They asked to hear the reading of the Bible, they listened attentively while it was being read, and their response was praise and worship toward God.
When we open up God’s Word, whether we are alone at home or in a worship service surrounded by other believers, our response should always be praise and thankfulness to God. When we examine the words written in Scripture and see who God is and what He has done on our behalf, how could our response be anything but worship?
Let us not be a people who drag ourselves to church and restlessly sit through the teaching and preaching of God’s Word, but rather let us be a people who hunger for God’s Word and desire to learn it.
In Hebrews 13 we are told that pastors must give an account for those they watch over (Hebrew 13:7). We see this again in the epistle of James where we are told that pastors will be judged with greater strictness (James 3:1) as they have tremendous influence over the church. Pastors have been given a very weighty task – to shepherd God’s people (Acts 20:28). This is an enormous responsibility that at times can be daunting. Certainly there is great joy in pastoral ministry. It is a tremendous privilege and blessing to shepherd God’s people. However, at the same time, the toll of ministry can truly cause pastors to become overwhelmed, discouraged, and even burnt out. It is so important that we lift our pastors up in prayer regularly, asking God to guide their every step.
Here are three ways we can do this:
Pray For His Walk with Jesus
It is important that we pray for our pastor’s spiritual growth. We want him to be a man who is walking closely with Jesus and who is striving to be more and more like Him everyday. Over the years the church has had it’s fair share of pastors who have fallen in moral failure. Certainly we do not want this to be true of our pastor. However, sin and temptation are never far away (Genesis 4:7). Therefore, it ought to be our prayer that God would guard our pastor’s heart from sin. The Bible calls for our pastors to be men who are above reproach (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:6 ) and that needs to be our regular prayer for him. This includes all areas of his life – his family relationships, his work relationship, his personal friendships, and ultimately his walk with Jesus.
Pray For His Preaching
Every week our pastors stand before their congregations and preach God’s Word (hopefully). This is one of the most important, if not the most important, things he does. God’s Word is spiritual nourishment to God’s people. It helps them to grow into mature, healthy believers. Therefore, it is important that the church is served a hearty portion of God’s Word each week. Pray then, that God would guide our pastors each week in their sermon preparation and study. Pray that they would rightly divide the Word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15) each time they step into the pulpit. And most importantly, pray that God would be magnified and that we would grow through the preaching of God’s Word.
Pray For His Leadership
There are many decisions to be made, people to counsel, and problems to solve when a person is in pastoral leadership. In each instance we want our pastor to lead wisely and in a way that honors God. We want him to be moving in the direction that God would have him go. This requires prayer. We need to pray that God would grant great wisdom to our pastor as he leads the church (James 1:5), meets with individuals, and plans for the future. We want each step our pastor makes to be guided by God.
Prayer is a crucial component to the Christian life and your pastor needs to be included in your regular prayers. Don’t just think of your pastor as the one who should be praying for and helping you – he is just as much in need of prayer as any person. Never stop praying for your pastor. He covets your prayers, he needs your prayers, and your prayers will have an impact.
John Owen wrote these famous words: “Be killing sin or it will be killing you.” Likewise, Charles Spurgeon wrote “If you do not die to sin, you shall die for sin. If you do not slay sin, sin will slay you.”
Great minds think alike, right? This idea was not original to Owen or Spurgeon it came long before them from the pages of Scripture.
Paul commands, “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions” (Romans 6:12).
John writes, “Do not love the world or the things in the world” (1 John 2:15).
Peter exhorts, “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct” (1 Peter 1:14-15).
Time and time again the Bible commands us to flee sin, fight sin, and hate sin. The one who has been saved by grace through faith is now called to live a life that represents Christ well (Colossians 1:10). We are to be holy as He is holy. A call to holiness is a call to wage war on sin.
How can we do this? The good news is that we do not do this alone (Philippians 2:12b-13). God is at work within us to make us more like Him and we can have peace in that. But there is still work to be done.
Here are four practical ways we can fight sin:
It’s so easy to fill our minds with thoughts, plans, dreams, and fantasies that don’t honor Christ. And our actions will follow wherever we let our mind wonder. The Psalmist had come to realize that knowing, meditating, and memorizing Scripture was crucial in fighting sin when he wrote, “I have stored up Your Word in my heart, that I might not sin against You” (Psalm 119:11). Like a squirrel who stores up food to prepare for the long winter, so the Psalmist stores up God’s Word in His heart to prepare him for the long road ahead full of temptation. There are endless benefits of spending time in God’s Word.
Avoid Bad Company
The Bible makes it clear that, “Bad company ruins good morals” (1 Corinthians 15:33). The people you associate with will have great influence on your life. The more time you spend surrounding yourself with morally corrupt people, the more you will become indifferent towards the sin that you so often see and experience. This is exactly the opposite of “do not be conformed” (Romans 12:2) and it will hurt you in your pursuit to fight sin. If you desire to wage war against your sin then you need to have people of godly character in your life. The people you are spending most of your time with should be those who love God and desire His best for you. Striving to have godly people in your life doesn’t mean you can never converse with sinners, it means your closest friends and mentors should be striving for the same thing you are – holiness!
Avoid Tempting Circumstances
In Mark 9 we read, “if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off…And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off…And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out…'”(Mark 9:43b-48). These verses can be summed up like this: if there are people, places, things, or situations in your life that frequently cause you to sin then you need to distance yourself from them. You need to do whatever it takes to remove yourself from those vices. If you constantly struggle with purity while surfing the internet then maybe it’s time to get rid of your internet or set up some accountability. If you struggle with drunkenness when you hangout with a certain crowd then maybe its time to stop hanging out with that crowd. If you tend to get really angry and lash out at others while engaging in a particular activity, then perhaps you need to back off of that activity – or “cut it off and tear it out” as Mark tells us. Yes, it will be painful, but this is how serious sin and it’s consequences are. If there are people, places, things, or situations in your life that cause you to frequently sin then you need to remove them from your life, at least for a time, until you get that sin under control.
Jesus in in Matthew 6 tells us to pray in this way, “Our Father…lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:9b-13). Later in Matthew 26 Jesus commands His disciples to “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation” (Matthew 26:41a). Also in Psalm 141 the Psalmist prays, “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips! Do not let my heart incline to any evil, to busy myself with wicked deeds in company with men who work iniquity, and let me not eat of their delicacies!” (Psalm 141:3-4). In all these verses we can see that there is a real correlation between fighting sin and prayer. If you desire to fight sin then you need to be a person of prayer.
Fighting sin is a lifelong battle. Praise God we do not fight sin on our own. God is with us and works in us to make us more like Him, yet we are still called to fight sin ourselves. We do this by meditating on God’s word, spending time with Godly people, avoiding tempting situations, and having an active prayer life asking God to help us fight sin.
At times we have the tendency to avoid big words or to shy away from them. It’s good to keep things simple but we must remember, the main thing isn’t the only thing. Here are five words that all Christians should know.
Regeneration is the gracious act of God whereby He brings to life the spiritually dead and causes them to turn in faith to Him (Ephesians 2:1-9). Each and every one of us is born spiritually dead – which means there is no desire, or even ability, within us to follow after God on our own (Romans 3:10; 8:7-8). We are dead in sin and cannot initiate a relationship with God. Therefore, it takes the miraculous work of God for us to be brought into a saving relationship with Him. He must first replace our heart of stone with a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 11:19) before we will turn in faith to Him. If it were not for God’s gracious work of regeneration, sinners would remain in their state of deadness forever. It is only by God’s grace that unbelievers come to life spiritually and turn in faith to Christ.
Justification is a judicial term that has huge theological significance. To be justified is to be declared righteous. It’s as if you were sitting before the judge in a court room and he declared you not guilty, although you were guilty. This is what has taken place in the believer’s life. By grace through faith in Jesus, the believer has been declared righteous (not guilty) before God (Romans 3:24-25). This declaration was not a result of self-works or effort, but of Christ’s work on behalf of the believer (Galatians 2:16). Therefore, when God the Father looks down on the Christian He does not see the sinners that we are but He sees His Son’s righteousness in us (Romans 5:18-19).
Propitiation has in mind the appeasement or satisfaction of God’s wrath. As a result of our sin we have offended a holy God. We deserve punishment. That punishment is the wrath of God being poured out on us for all of eternity (Romans 6:23). God is just and therefore must punish sin. His wrath must be satisfied or else He wouldn’t be just. However, at the same time God is also merciful. In His mercy He sent His Son, Jesus, into the world (John 3:16) to satisfy His justice by absorbing the wrath that we deserve in our place (1 John 2:2). Jesus took our punishment in our place. At the cross of Christ we see both the justice of God (sin being punished) and the grace of God (Jesus taking that punishment for sinners) being poured out. Jesus’ sacrificial death satisfies (propitiates) God’s wrath for those who trust in Him.
To redeem something is to buy it back. It is, as one person put it, “to transfer ownership to the one paying the price demanded” (Bob Burridge). Unbelievers are slaves to sin (Romans 6:20) and it’s consequence (Romans 6:23). We have all sinned (Romans 3:23) and therefore we are all slaves to sin and death. We owe an eternal debt for the offense (sin) that we have committed against God. We cannot pay our way out of this debt. Left to ourselves the weight of our sin debt will crush us and rightfully so. However, by the grace of God Jesus came to give His life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). He came to purchase His people by His blood. Ephesians tells us that, “In Him [Christ] we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses…” (Ephesians 1:7). Also Revelation 5 says, “…You [Christ] were slain, and by Your blood You ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9). Jesus has paid our sin debt by His blood and freed us from our bondage to sin and death. We are free to live for Christ and free from sin’s penalty only because Jesus paid our penalty. He redeemed His people.
To sanctify means to set apart. Sanctification is the work of God to set a special people apart for Himself and the work of Christians to grow in their in godliness. Those who by grace have come to faith in Christ are those who have been forever set apart by God as His special people (Acts 26:18, 1 Corinthians 6:11). This aspect of sanctification is God’s work. Christians, however, are also involved in sanctification. From the day that they come to faith in Christ to the day that they die, they are to be progressing in the faith. Although the believer is involved in this work he is not alone in it. God is at work within him. The book of Philippians makes this clear. Paul writes, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12b-13). Here we can see the believer’s responsibility to grow in the faith. He is called to work out his own salvation – prove it to be true by living righteously – but He is not called to do it alone. He is enabled by God’s power within him. The same grace that justified him sanctifies him. The Christian has been set apart from this world by God and is now on a life long journey to mature in the faith.
Five, simple yet profound, words to build your lives on.