Foundations – Holiness – Part 4

(Click here to search for all the posts in this series…)

Matthew 16:24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. (NKJV)

In our Foundations series, we’re looking at the basic fundamentals of Christian living. Obviously, as a new believer, these are critical truths that need to be taught and instilled as we disciple our new Brothers and Sisters. If you are a mature Christian, then it is never a waste of time to inventory your own walk to make sure that the fundamentals have not been neglected over time or lessened in importance. Let’s review what we’ve covered so far:

  • Obedience – in my opinion, obedience is the fundamental trait of Christianity. Find out what God says, and do it. It is the mortar that holds everything together. Were this simple truth emphasized and practiced in Christianity today, the vast majority of the problems, shallowness and silliness that we see going on, would simply vanish. Obedience is also the source of many benefits: security, assurrance, fellowship and blessing. 1st John is a great book to read to discover this truth. (1John 2.3; James 1.25; 1John 3.22; Deuteronomy 13.4; 1Samuel 15.22)
  • Discipline – Desire equals discipline. Discipline is the self control to make choices, despite feelings, to gain that which we desire the most. We renew our minds daily in God’s Word and in prayer to make God’s desires our desires. Then we make the willful choice to do whatever it takes to achieve those Godly desires regardless of our feelings, emotions or what our flesh is wanting. (Romans 2.12; Matthew 5.6; Matthew 16.24)
  • Cross Carrying – We live in a time where Christianity has become very comfortable and very casual, something that is foreign to Scripture. True Christianity is at odds with how the worlds lives, so we must expect ridicule, persecution and opposition. We are not talking about obnoxious Christianity that seeks personal attention. We are talking about holy living, love and truthfulness about sin. These things will convict and anger the world around us. Casual Christianity feels good and costs little – and you get what you pay for. True Christianity comes at great cost – the sacrifice of our life for His, taking up our cross and following Christ. (Matt 16.24)

Holiness

It is unfortunate that the word “holy” has taken on a different meaning for most people, Christians included, that smacks of legalistic rigidness, intolerance of others and almost a fringe kind of religious kookiness. When some people hear about “holy living” they think of monks in robes living in a temple humming all day or quaint pilgrim-like people who believe electricity is of the Devil.

That’s a shame. Given the blatant worldly state of “average” Christianity today, we have done a very poor job teaching and discipling about holiness. This is puzzling given that living a holy life is the primary essence of living the Christian life.

So what is holiness? How do you be “holy”? Simple… it’s being like Christ. It’s changing anything in your life that is not pleasing to God. It’s submitting all your decisions and plans to God’s direction. It’s walking like Christ, talking like Christ, looking like Christ and becoming like Christ.

It’s a shame that the marketing monster got a hold of the phrase “what would Jesus do?” and wore it out, because it is a great question to ask yourself all day long, over and over. Better yet, ask yourself “what DID Jesus do?” then open your Bible and find out. Ask God in prayer for wisdom (James 1.5) and He will tell you what Jesus will do.

Being holy is simply living, talking, acting, choosing, speaking and serving the way God would have you to. It is the conscience, willful and purposeful choice to surrender every single aspect of your life to God’s direction and will. Do what God says to do. Change what God says to change. Think about what God would have you do every second of every day.

Live like Christ. Act like Christ.
Talk like Christ. Serve Christ.
That is what a holy life is
on a practical, every day level.

The Bible has volumes to say about holiness. The book of James is a very practical book about living the Christian life. 1st John is a great book for principles of living a holy life. The Gospels are full of Jesus teaching on how to live holy. Let’s look quickly at one passage from the Apostle Paul that gives some very practical, basic and easy to understand direction about living a holy life:

  • Romans 12:9-21 Let love be without hypocrisy.
    Don’t be a hypocrite. Don’t say one thing, then do another. Don’t claim to be a Christian and not live like one.

  • Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.
    Hate sin. Turn from anything that is not Godly. Don’t just have a negative disposition about sin – HATE IT. Get your mind and heart to a point where wickedness repulses you and disgusts you. (sin, not the sinner; we are to love people, but hate the sin). Actively embrace, seek out and hold on to what is good and Godly.

  • Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another;
    Love people; serve them. Place others over yourself in importance. Give up your rights to be first, to be recognized and to be esteemed. Holds others in esteem over yourself, submitting your will and desires to theirs.

  • not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord;
    Never give up. Don’t be lazy with your Christianity. Be enthusiastic and serious about serving God.

  • rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer;
    Be joyful that you have hope of eternal life. When facing the trials of this life, be patient, because you know that God is in control and will never forsake you. Be in constant communication with God (prayer).

  • distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.
    Give, give, give and give some more. If you believe that God owns it all, and will give you all you need, then you can NOT give more away than God can supply.

  • Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.
    When you are mistreated, no matter how severely, remember Jesus words to those who crucified Him, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

  • Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another.
    Learn to relate to others, empathize with them. Honestly care about other people’s lives. Stop your own life long enough to sincerely care about someone else’s. When is the last time you simply had joy for the sake of someone else’s joy? When is the last time you cried with someone because of THEIR sadness?

  • Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion. Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men.
    Don’t consider yourself to be above others. Jesus came to seek and save the lost, not hob-knob with the elite and proud. When you really think you have become wise, stop and read the Bible for a while and see how much of your wisdom is from God, or from your own mind. Never return evil for evil, but kindness and blessing. Even Hitler could be nice to those who were nice to him. Christians alone have the power in Christ to love those who mistreat them. Do good in all things to the very best of your ability.

  • If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
    Do your best to be at peace with everyone. Sometimes they won’t allow peace, but you can have peace even if you know that you have done everything God would have you to do to obtain peace. Don’t seek revenge; that is God’s territory. He will right every wrong and settle every injustice in His own time. If someone is your enemy, do good to him so that God will be glorified. Always overcome evil with good. God will give you the strength to do so, and by this you will demonstrate Godliness to a wicked world.

Those are very practical ways to be holy. Living a holy life is a foundation of the Christian life. Could you imagine a professional of any other type who did not live a life that was in accordance with his profession? What would you think of a doctor who did not live his life according to his oath as a physician? What about a pro football player who was overweight, never worked out and didn’t study his playbook? What would you think of a soldier who didn’t train, have courage and be loyal to his country?

What about a Christian who doesn’t live like a Christian or doesn’t learn about how to be a better Christian? Or doesn’t have courage, loyalty and commitment to God?

Holiness is not religion. Holiness is not for the “super-Christian”. Holiness is not some weird concept that only nuts embrace. Holiness is a foundational requirement of Christianity and simply means that in all ways, at all times, we are willing to change our lives in any necessary way to become more like Christ.

Lord God, Help us to be a holy people. Help us to understand what holiness is, and to be able to teach others about this basic principle. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Contemplation: Is your life marked by holiness? Do you seek actively and daily to change your life to be more Godly and more like Christ? In truth, do others see you as holy or worldly? If worldly, does that bother you? Should it bother you? Can you be a Christian without being holy?

Application: Holiness is a foundational part of Christianity. Holiness is not religion. Holiness is not for the “super-Christian”. Holiness is not some weird concept that only nuts embrace. Holiness is a basic requirement of Christianity and simply means that in all ways, at all times, we are willing to change our lives in any necessary way to become more like Christ.

James 1:22 – But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (NKJV)

  1. What is the most obvious Bible truth you have learned today?
  2. What change in your life needs to be made concerning this truth?
  3. What specific thing will you do today to begin that change?



(seriesid:41)


Foundations – Cross Carrying – Part 3

(Click here to search for all the posts in this series…)

Matthew 16:24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. (NKJV)

In our Foundations series, we’re looking at the basic fundamentals of Christian living. Obviously, as a new believer, these are critical truths that need to be taught and instilled as we disciple our new Brothers and Sisters. If you are a mature Christian, then it is never a waste of time to inventory your own walk to make sure that the fundamentals have not been neglected over time or lessened in importance. Let’s review what we’ve covered so far:

  • Obedience – in my opinion, obedience is the fundamental trait of Christianity. Find out what God says, and do it. It is the mortar that holds everything together. Were this simple truth emphasized and practiced in Christianity today, the vast majority of the problems, shallowness and silliness that we see going on, would simply vanish. Obedience is also the source of many benefits: security, assurrance, fellowship and blessing. 1st John is a great book to read to discover this truth. (1John 2.3; James 1.25; 1John 3.22; Deuteronomy 13.4; 1Samuel 15.22)
  • Discipline – Desire equals discipline. Discipline is the self control to make choices, despite feelings, to gain that which we desire the most. We renew our minds daily in God’s Word and in prayer to make God’s desires our desires. Then we make the willful choice to do whatever it takes to achieve those Godly desires regardless of our feelings, emotions or what our flesh is wanting. (Romans 2.12; Matthew 5.6; Matthew 16.24)

Commitment

I had a hard time trying to figure out what to title this message because there are several aspects that make up what I finally summarized as “cross carrying”:

  • Being serious rather than casual about your Christianity
  • A willingness to change whatever needs to be changed rather than simply continuing to live pretty much the same way with a little Christian window dressing
  • Having a strong conviction about your faith that is not ashamed to stand up and stand out when necessary
  • An attitude of sacrifice that says nothing about your life is off limits to being changed, discarded or redirected in keeping with your Christian walk
  • The level of commitment that truly leads us to “take up our cross” and follow Jesus

Seriousness. Willingness to change anything. Strong conviction. Sacrificial heart. Commitment. I couldn’t think of one word to describe all those things, but they fit into a single idea that is fundamental to being a true Christian. It is the idea that Christians should be different, live different and act different than the world. Yet, it is more common today, you might even call it “the norm”, that the average Christian is only slightly different in lifestyle and behavior than the non-Christian. Whether language (cursing, gossip, criticism, topics), dress (immodesty, status-seeking), entertainment (movies, music, recreation), pursuits (personal recognition, materialism, comfort), how we spend our money (on comfort, recreation, luxury and more “stuff”) or how we spend our time (on personal gain or pleasure)…. there is not a whole lot of difference, on average, across the board, between those who claim to be “taking up their cross and following Jesus” and those who are “looking out for number one”. There’s very little discernable difference between professing “living sacrifices” and those who are “living for myself”. It’s hard to differentiate between the “holy priesthood” and the “what’s in it for me?”.

How can “living sacrfice” and “looking out for number one”
be so opposite in meaning, and yet look identical
in the lives of most people who claim to be a Christian?

Something must surely be wrong with that. How can descriptions that are so diametrically opposed and so utterly opposite still look almost the same when played out in life? The answer is obvious, and yet, ignored. Somehow this glaring inconsistency is overlooked, excused and rationalized – which is par for the course in the human heart.

Even still, c’mon folks… a simple exercise in honesty brings this to the forefront. I know I wear out this saying but “if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and looks like a duck”, guess what? It’s a duck! Yet, it is the standard of the majority of Christians today to “walk like the world, talk like the world, and look like the world” and then proclaim not to be worldly, but to be a Christian. ONLY IN RELIGION, PARTICULARLY CHRISTIANITY, CAN WE ACCEPT SUCH CONTRADICTION WITH A STRAIGHT FACE. This type of inconsistency would never fly in business, sports, finances or pretty much anything else.

Matthew 16:24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. (NKJV)

It is fundamental to the Christian walk, that we should be committed to actually living, talking, looking and acting like Christ-followers. Let’s quickly look at each of my opening bullet points:

Being serious rather than casual about being a Christian

1 Peter 4:7 But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers. (NKJV)

Friends, all signs point to the Lord’s imminent return. Even if He tarries, the world is seeing less and less of authentic Christ-following. We are rapidly returning to a world “as in the days of Noah” where all of mankind is eating, drinking and partying (when they are not busy killing each other). The world mistakenly thinks that because God is patiently withholding judgment for our wickedness, that He must either be unconcerned, or worse, that He doesn’t exist.

It is human tendency to conform to the world, which is why God warned us about it (Rom 12.2). As Christians, we often apply the “two second rule” that we use to teach safe driving. As long as we stay “two seconds” behind the car in front of us, we’re being safe. So we stay “two seconds” behind the world’s standards, and we feel “safe” as Christians because we’re “better than the world”. The problem is, the world is not our standard, God is. As a Christian, if you’re following two seconds behind the world, you’re not even on the right road to start with! We need to be serious about our faith, and get on God’s highway and use His standards.

Now is the time for Christians to return to being serious, alert, watchful and discerning. We need to take our Christian walk seriously and not just treat it as another certfication, achievement or goal that can be checked off. Nor do we need to fool ourselves and believe that casual Christianity is authentic Christianity. Ignorance is NOT bliss. Oh, it might be for a few years here on earth, but a casual attitude towards God that allows you to enjoy the world now, and still profess Christ with your mouth, may end up having you hear those dreadful words, “depart from Me; I don’t know you” (Luke 13.27).

A willingness to change whatever needs to be changed rather than simply continuing to live pretty much the same way with a little Christian window dressing

Romans 12:2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. (NKJV)

I tread lightly trying to explain or comment on this verse. Do not be conformed to this world. Who among us that name Christ can honestly say that the world is not shaping our lives, and that we have not conformed to it, at least in part? The reality is, we still live in a sin-cursed world and a sin-cursed body, so we will fight the tendency towards becoming worldly until the day we are free from this sin-curse (Rom 7.15). There are only two options for humans: we are either fighting this battle of transformation, or we are totally given over to being conformed to the world. There is no middle ground. Passivity is like a canoe on a river with no paddles. You WILL go the direction the river takes you.

The Christian fight to be transformed into Christ’s image is akin to rowing hard up-stream because you are going against everything the world wants to see happen. If you have to ask yourself whether you are rowing or not, then you aren’t. This work of transformation is so intense and must be so deliberate, that there is no mistaking whether or not you are engaged in it. If you’re wondering whether you are or not, you’re not. But you should be. You can start today. How? By renewing your mind through Bible study, prayer, fellowship with mature believers and accountability to God and other Christians.

You’re either being conformed to the world, or you are actively and seriously engaged in an effort to be transformed into the character of Christ. It’s one of the two. Which one for you?

Having a strong conviction about your faith that is not ashamed to stand up and stand out when necessary

I realize there is a tremendous amount of pressure in society today that causes Christians to want to be camoflauged. Political correctness, over-sensitivity, and a generally antagonistic attitude towards Christianity (which the Bible predicts) makes it difficult for Christians to WANT to be open and public about their faith. Notice I said “want to”. The problem is, it doesn’t matter if we want to, or if we feel like it. We are called to take up our cross and follow Christ without shame:

Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. (NKJV)

Mark 8:36-38 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” (NKJV)

Let’s be honest. I know it’s tough to face embarrassment. I know it’s hard to be ridiculed. I realize that it can cost you personally at work or school to actually be a Christian. I know that it is uncomfortable to be singled out as the trouble maker, or the “self-righteous, holier-than-thou hypocrite” when you take a stand for Christ either by evangelizing or standing against sin. All those things are true, and I dislike the discomfort as much as anyone. I lose the battle frequently and miss opportunities that God is CLEARLY putting in front of me because of my own self-concern and lack of boldness. I will answer for my cowardly moments some day when I am made painfully aware that my own personal comfort was more important that being bold for Christ.

Mercifully, today is a new day, and God is a God of new beginnings. We always have TODAY to begin being unashamed of our Lord and living a Godly life in this wicked generation. We can’t change the past, and we know that while we have “loss” accounted to us for missed opportunities and cowardice, God forgives us when we ask, and simply wants us to BEGIN TODAY to be unashamed of His Son.

We are ashamed of Christ when our discomfort, embarrassment and feelings win out over our willingness to boldly proclam Christ, and live a holy life, lest we “offend” the world. If you claim Christ, and yet the vast majority of people who know you or work with you “aren’t sure, but think maybe you are a Christian”… then it should be time to do some serious praying about these verses. Anyone who has spent any length of time with you should have no question about your faith. Remember, if you walk like a duck, talk like a duck and look like a duck, no one will wonder if you really are a duck.

You do not have to be obnoxious to be bold for Christ.

Let me note however, this is not the same thing as the obnoxious, inappropriate, Bible-thumping blowhard who “stands out” simply to get attention for himself rather than for Christ. “In your face, cram it down your throat, look-at-me” Christianity is an abomination to God. Our Christianity should be on display by our Godly words, our holy standard of conduct, our unashamed communication of God’s truth, our humility, our willingness to serve others, our endurance of unkind treatment and most of all, our love (Luke 10.27). You do not have to be obnoxious to be bold.

An attitude of sacrifice that says “nothing about my life is off limits to being changed, discarded or redirected” in keeping with the Christian walk

Romans 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. (NKJV)

“Living sacrifice” is quite a stark contrast to proclaiming Christianity and changing little (or nothing) about your life. “Holy and acceptable” screams change – change of habits, change of thoughts, change of how our time and money is spent, change of attitude… change of life. A Christian’s life should be marked by consistent, apparent and effective change whereby we take something in our life that is like the world, and we transform it to something that is like Christ. If you reach a point where you believe there is nothing to change, then you are in a truly dangerous situation. Ask any mature Believer and they will tell you that the more they grow in Christ, the more they see about their life that still needs to change.

We need a level of commitment that truly leads us
to “take up our cross” and follow Jesus
.

“Carrying our cross ” sums this all up because that is the key ingredient. We need a commitment to not be casual about Christ. A commitment to change anything in our lives that has not been transformed into Christ’s image. Being committed to an unashamed witness and testimony to the world about our Savior, demonstrated by our conduct, words and love. A commitment to being a “living sacrifice” giving up anything and everything that is not holy and acceptable to God.

In short, a commitment to take up the cross, your cross, and give up your life, give up your pride, give your ambition, give up your personal desires…. give it all up and surrender it to Jesus allowing Him to be the Master we proclaim Him to be.

Lord God, help us to be committed Christians, learning all that it means, counting all the costs that come with it. Help us to surrender all to You and make You Lord, as well as Savior. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Contemplation: Do most people who know you, know without a doubt you serve Christ? If you were honest, would you say that your life is more transformed to the world or Christ? If other mature Christians were to offer an observation, what would they say about you? Worldly, or Christ-like? If you claim Christ, yet live like the world, on what basis are you secure about the authenticity of your salvation? Can a person walk like the world, talk like the world and look like the world and honestly believe they are not “of the world” (Christian)?

Application: We live in a time where Christianity has become very comfortable and very casual, something that is foreign to Scripture. True Christianity is at odds with how the worlds lives, so we must expect ridicule, persecution and opposition. We’re not talking about obnoxious Christianity that seeks personal attention. We talking about holy living, love and truthfulness about sin. These things will convict and anger the world around us. Casual Christianity feels good and costs little – and you get what you pay for. True Christianity comes at great cross – the sacrifice of our life for His, taking up our cross and following Christ.

James 1:22 – But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (NKJV)

  1. What is the most obvious Bible truth you have learned today?
  2. What change in your life needs to be made concerning this truth?
  3. What specific thing will you do today to begin that change?



(seriesid:41)


Foundations – Discipline – Part 2

(Click here to search for all the posts in this series…)

Matthew 16:24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. (NKJV)

In our Foundations series, we’re looking at the basic fundamentals of Christian living. Obviously, as a new believer, these are critical truths that need to be taught and instilled as we disciple our new brothers and sisters. If you are a mature Christian, then it is never a waste of time to inventory your own walk to make sure that the fundamentals have not been neglected over time or lessened in importance. Let’s review what we’ve covered so far:

  • Obedience – in my opinion, obedience is the fundamental trait of Christianity. Find out what God says, and do it. It is the mortar that holds everything together. Were this simple truth emphasized and practiced in Christianity today, the vast majority of the problems, shallowness and silliness that we see going on, would simply vanish. Obedience is also the source of many benefits: security, assurance, fellowship and blessing. 1st John is a great book to read to discover this truth.

Discipline

What is discipline? I can start by telling you what it’s not. It’s not taught much anymore, from a Christian, secular or social standpoint. Our society is now based mostly on comfort, entertainment and indulgence of feelings and flesh. Discipline is not taught, it’s not practiced, it’s not understood and it’s not considered important (except, ironically, when it comes to getting fleshly things like money or achievement). That’s hardly arguable. Discipline is:

  • Training expected to produce a specific character or pattern of behavior, especially training that produces moral or mental improvement.
  • Controlled behavior resulting from disciplinary training; self-control.
  • Control obtained by enforcing compliance or order.
  • A systematic method to obtain obedience: a military discipline.
  • A state of order based on submission to rules and authority: a teacher who demanded discipline in the classroom.
  • Punishment intended to correct or train.
  • A set of rules or methods, as those regulating the practice of a church or monastic order.
  • A branch of knowledge or teaching.

It’s no wonder discipline is out of vogue. Look at all those legalistic, stuffy, old-fashioned, judgmental terms in the definition: character, training, control (oooo…. especially bad), obedience, punishment, rules. Just the definition alone could be argued by typical western standards to be outdated and unenlightened.

Desire + Self-Control = Discipline

I see discipline as primarily, and realistically, made up of two main elements: desire and self-control. Why desire? What does that have to do with anything?

We get what we desire. We find a way. We find time. We find energy. We find the money. We find the answer. It is a basic human characteristic (most of the time used selfishly) that we find a way to get what we TRULY want whether it’s good or bad. For instance, how many of you fellas out there will admit that often as husbands we have the “discipline” to tell our wives that we “just cannot afford that right now”… but somehow we can find the money to buy new golf clubs or a new truck? Any hands? Okay, now all the cowards and liars raise your hands.

What’s the difference? DESIRE. Deep down, whatever it is you truly want, you will find a way. This should make us really question our true desires when we don’t “have time” to read our Bibles, pray or help others. Consider this illustration:

A student approaches a Teacher and declares, “I desire to learn from you”. The Teacher responds, “very well, follow me.”

The Teacher leads the student to the ocean and motions for him to follow into the water. When they are about chest deep in the water, the Teacher grabs the student and forces his head underwater. At first, the student is calm, thinking, “this is just part of some test, he will let me up in moment and I will impress him”. After a minute passes the Student begins to worry and struggle. Soon he is desperately trying to surface and becomes frantic. The Teacher holds the student under the water to the point where the struggling ceases and the student almost passes out. Upon releasing him, the student angrily gasping for air shouts, “Are you crazy! You almost drowned me!”.

The Teacher looks calmly into his eyes and says, “when you desire to learn from me, as much as you desired to get a breath, then return, and I will teach you”.

A drowning man will do ANYTHING necessary to get air. True desire is equal only to what you will do (discipline) to get the object of that desire. This desire is what Jesus meant by “hunger and thirst for righteousness” (Matt 5.6).

This is where self control makes its entrance. Self control is the process by which we will do WHATEVER IT TAKES to get the object of our true desire. Often this manifests itself in the pursuit of evil. Too rarely, it manifests itself in Christians who are willing to make any change, and any personal sacrifice, to become the holy man or woman God is calling us to be.

Self control is simply a decision making process that considers the choice to do what is right, what is needed and what is necesarry, a higher priority than how we feel about it. Let me say that again because it’s important.

Self control is the process by which “choosing”
is a higher priority than “feeling”.

Choosing to do right over following how you feel. Choosing to obey God instead of doing what you feel. Choosing to NOT do something even if you feel you want to. Choosing to go left when your feelings want to go right because you know that left is what God wants.

It’s flesh versus spirit. The spirit is willing and the flesh is weak. Discipline is your spirit having priority over your flesh. Discipline is your will having priority over your feelings. Discipline is choosing to do whatever it takes to achieve your desire, regardless of what your feelings or flesh want to do.

Of course there is one more key ingredient here: you have to have the right DESIRES. How do you get the “right” desires?

Romans 12:2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. (NKJV)

You get the right desires from God by renewing your mind every day. That is why Bible study and prayer are so crucial. That’s why DAILY consistent, routine study of God’s Word is vital to authentic Christian living. You know what God desires by reading what God has revealed to us. As His desires become yours, then you begin to choose those desires over your own feelings. Put it all in the blender, cook it with some prayer, and the next thing you know, you’re serving up discipline.

How many times have you been told “don’t go overboard with Christianity. Everything in moderation. Don’t go crazy”? The idea of moderation certainly applies to every HUMAN thing, but not Godly things. God is the only thing we don’t have to worry about “over indulgence” in. There is no such thing as too much Godliness.

Desire equals discipline. Discipline is the self control to make choices, despite feelings, to gain that which we desire the most. We renew our minds daily in God’s Word and in prayer to make God’s desires our desires. Then we make the willful choice to do whatever it takes to achieve those Godly desires regardless of our feelings, emotions or what our flesh is wanting.

Now, you may think “well, I desire to be Godly, but I still can’t discipline myself”. A person may proclaim a desire (“I want to be close to God”), but until that person is willing to do WHATEVER it takes (discipline; ie,actually spending time in prayer and reading God’s Word), it is a mere statement of sentiment, not true desire. The quality and authenticity of any desire you may have is only as genuine and sincere as what you are willing to do to get it. What will you give up? What will you re-prioritize? What will you suffer? How will you spend your time and money? What actual choices are you willing to make to get that desire? Whatever those choices are; whatever self-control you are willing to exercise… that is the genuine measurement of your desire.

When it comes to Godly discipline, no part of your life is off limits. Your time, your money, your leisure, your entertainment choices, your habits, your language, your friends…. even your family (Luke 14.26) – discipline demands that we choose God (and His desires which our now our desires) and change WHATEVER needs to be changed in our life to obtain those Godly desires.

That is what true discipline is: the willingness to make the choice to obtain God’s desires regardless of what we want to do no matter what the cost.

Lord God, help us to understand what discipline is and to seek it from You. Help us to desire what You desire and we pray for Your strength to make any choice necessary to obtain those desires regardless of feelings or flesh. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Contemplation: Do you have discipline? Or do you simply live a life of doing whatever you happen to feeling like doing? Can you name anything you have changed, given up, or sacrificed in order to obtain a Godly desire? How many things can you name right now that you are doing because you feel like it, when in reality, you should be doing something different to cultivate your Christian walk?

Application: For the most part, we live to please our flesh whether by leisure, sleep, entertainment, food, sex, romance, companionship, etc. Of course, none of those things are bad when done with Godly discipline. To the contrary, they are God-given blessings. But when we live for them to the neglect of God, then Godly discipline is missing. Discipline is a primary key to Christian living – choosing to seek what God desires over our own desires no matter how we feel about it.

James 1:22 – But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (NKJV)

  1. What is the most obvious Bible truth you have learned today?
  2. What change in your life needs to be made concerning this truth?
  3. What specific thing will you do today to begin that change?



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Foundations – Obedience – Part 1

(Click here to search for all the posts in this series…)

1 John 2:3 Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. (NKJV)

(Previous devotionals can be found at www.seriousfaith.com)

I am often asked by new, casual, lukewarm or struggling Christians “what are the basics of being a Christian?” I understand where they are coming from. Sometimes we just need some direction, some instructions… something we can get our mind around that is easy to understand so that we can begin to make real changes in our life.

For the new Christian, these are obviously things they have never known. For others who may profess Christ, but show no signs of Him in their life, maybe they have never been taught the basics of Christian living, or perhaps they were taught but it never made it from their head to their heart and changed their lives.

If you are a mature Christian, for several reasons I hope you don’t wander off during this series. First, have you evaluated your own life recently to make sure your foundation doesn’t have cracks or crumbling areas that need repair? If someone were to ask you this moment, “what are the basics of living a Christian life?”, could you tell them? Could you mentor them, train them and hold them accountable (discipleship)? Finally, no matter what the reason, or what stage of spiritual maturity you are in, it is NEVER a wasted effort to go back and spend time reviewing and reconsidering the “basics”. A mature Christian will understand that 1) there is always room for improvement, 2) there are always fresh ways to apply the same principles, and 3) it is a good thing to renew your mind periodically with the foundations of how to live a Christian life.

Why “foundations”? Foundations are the supporting structure, the floor, the surface, the start of something. The foundation of a house must be stable and well built for the rest of the house to be safe and steady. The foundation of a roadway must be carefully prepared so that the road will not crack, crumble and fall apart.

Likewise, a Christian must build a firm foundation on which to construct his Christian “house” (life). For the sake of these messages we are going to assume that true salvation has occurred, and that your foundation is being built on solid bedrock (Jesus Christ). Salvation through Christ is the start of your Christian building. We’re going to be teaching about the foundation you build after that point. Again, think of building a house. Jesus is the solid bedrock that you are going to build your house on. Now you’re going to learn how to build a firm foundation on which your Christian life will be constructed.

Obedience

There can be no more simple, easy to understand or important aspect to your Christian life than obedience. There’s no mystery to it, there are no magic tricks, and there is nothing EASY about doing it.

Everything about your Christian life and growth, starts and stops with obedience. No matter how much Bible you know, if you don’t obey it, it is worthless to you. No matter how many ways you DO obey God, if you choose in ONE way to willingly, and knowingly, disobey Him, it will destroy your entire Christian walk. Consider these things about obedience:

  • Deuteronomy 13:4 You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice; you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him. (NKJV)
    It doesn’t matter if you understand or agree with God. If you know to do something, or not to do something, you obey. God will give you understanding in His way, and in His time. Sometimes, I believe God doesn’t allow us to understand something simply to 1) test us to see if we will obey anyway; and 2), teach us to obey even if we disagree or don’t know why. It’s much like the Army officer who orders his men to “take the hill” under heavy enemy fire. It doesn’t matter whether the soldiers understand or agree; they must obey because their “Master” has ordered it. Our obedience without question also demonstrates our trust in God, that whatever He tells us to do, is the perfect thing we need to do.

  • 1 Samuel 15:22 So Samuel said: “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, As in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams. (NKJV)
    It is better to obey than sacrifice. In other words, religious ceremonies, good works and Christian deeds are worthless if they are not done in obedience. No amount of Christian activity, or religious involvement, will do us any good if we are not simply obeying God’s Word and His direction in all aspects of our life. Remember, God knows your heart, your REAL heart. You cannot fool Him by being at church all the time, and involving yourself with all sorts of religious things that make other humans think you are really spiritual and Godly. The Lord sees through all that, straight into your heart. If you are not obedient, “religion” is useless.

  • Philippians 2:12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; (NKJV)
    True obedience, is obedience when no one is looking. The REAL you is the YOU that no one sees. It’s the you at home alone. It’s the you in the hotel by yourself. It’s the you in the car on the drive home. It’s the you that is the you when there is no one around. If you are not obedient when people aren’t looking, then you are not an obedient person. If you are a “good Christian” when you are around other Christians, but like the world when no other Christians are present, you should question whether you are a real Christian or not. True obedience isn’t about convincing other people you’re a Christian. True obedience is about doing everything God asks because you were bought and redeemed from hell, and now God is your loving Master.

Obedience is not something that is one sided: you obey God and that’s all there is. No, obedience comes with many blessings and rewards. We obey God, and there is much to be received from that obedience:

  • James 1:25 But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does. (NKJV)
    The person who hears God’s word and does it (obeys) is blessed in what he does. God will bless your obedience. You can rest assured that every single time you obey God, and do what He commands, He will bless your efforts. What does “be blessed” mean? It means you will receive and recognize some tangible benefit. It might be joy, or spiritual growth. It might be a physical blessing such as health or income. It might be happiness, or a surprising result you never expected. It will ALWAYS be a guilt-free satisfaction and peace that you are “right” with God because of your obedience.

  • 1 John 2:3 Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. (NKJV)
    How many times have you asked (or been asked), “how can I know if I’m really saved?”. Well, I like to NOT complicate things and so I’ll just take the Bible at its word. The Bible says if you keep God’s commandments (obey) you can KNOW that you know the Lord.

  • 1 John 3:22 And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight. (NKJV)
    When we are obedient, whatever we ask from God, we will receive. Of course, if we are obedient, then we will only be asking for those things that are His obvious will, and that we know He wants us to have. If you are thinking right now of primarily material things (money, cars, houses, etc), then you are missing the mark. While God may very well want you to have those things, if that is the primary image that pops in your head when you hear “ask and you will receive”, then you still have a ways to go before understanding what this promise is. This promise is conditional on keeping His commandments. If we keep His commandments, we know His mind and His will. We will know what God wants us to have, then when we ask for it, He will give it.

  • 1 John 3:24 Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us. (NKJV)
    We can know that we are in Christ, and close to Him if we are obeying Him. Think about the times in your life when you felt like God was distant, or not real. You can bet, that 99.9% of the time, it was because there was disobedience (sin) in your life. Disobedience hinders our closeness and fellowship with God. Obedience draws us close to the Lord, and gives us assurance of His presence.

In my opinion, obedience is the first, and easiest, foundational Christian characteristic to understand. To the best of your ability, simply choose to do whatever God is asking, commanding or directing you to do. If you obey God in everything you know, and every way you can, with an honest heart, making no excuses, and not neglecting learning His commandments (Bible reading), then you have captured the core of the Christian life: find out what God says, and obey it.

The basic truth of Christian living:
Find out what God says, and obey it.

You can only obey what you know. That is where reading the Bible, having a spiritual mentor (such as Paul was to Timothy), and learning from other mature Christians and Bible teachers will help you to know what God has commanded. Primarily, it should come from reading the Bible, and asking God for wisdom (James 1.5).

If you are a new Christian, a struggling Christian, or a lukewarm Christian (profess Christ but live like the world), then OBEDIENCE will be one small step to get you moving in the right direction, one giant leap for your Christian growth. For mature Christians, obedience remains the primary source of your salvation assurance (1 John) and the primary characteristic that feeds the rest of your spiritual life.

Lord God, Help us not only to obey, but to understand how it pleases you, and blesses us. Help us to model obedience by our own example, and not just with words. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Contemplation: Is your life marked by obedience? Do you think someone can truly be a Christian and not, as a rule, obey God? Do you have complete security and assurance that you are saved? Do you have close, intimate fellowship with the Lord?

Application: If you are not growing spiritually, it might be that you are not obeying God in all things. If you lack assurance of your salvation, or feel distant from God, obedience is the most likely reason. If you are a new Christian, then obedience is your first step and learning to obey God will become the primary characteristic in your life that will allow you to grow as a Christian.

James 1:22 – But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (NKJV)

  1. What is the most obvious Bible truth you have learned today?
  2. What change in your life needs to be made concerning this truth?
  3. What specific thing will you do today to begin that change?



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