My new book, Bless-ed! Fifty-Two Weekly Blessings You Have as a Believer and How to Help Your Lost Friends Find Theirs is now available on Amazon here. I have copies if you are interested. I will send you a copy for $10 (which includes shipping). Here’s Blessing #52 in Bless-ed:
BLESSING #52: The Blessing of Certainty!
“For my part I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream.” (Vincent Van Gogh)
There is a blessing which believers have which drives some unbelievers crazy! But I’ve never felt that the emotional or mental state of my lost friends should cause me to deny one of Christianity’s greatest gifts. Let’s think about this wonderful blessing that we have. We who follow Jesus —
52. WE HAVE THE BLESSING OF CERTAINTY!
THE BLESSING There have been some strong opinions expressed against this truth. One writer says, “One of the few certainties in life is that persons of certainty should certainly be avoided.” Hmm. I guess that includes him.
Another expressed her perspective: “Certainty is a cruel mindset. It hardens our minds against possibility.” (Ellen Langer). Bertrand Russell — the philosopher who wrote “Why I Am Not a Christian” — said, “The demand for certainty is one which is natural to man, but is nevertheless an intellectual vice.” [Do I detect a tone of certainty in his statement?]
But every day we live by faith combined with a form of certainty, right? We don’t have to lab test the food we’ve just ordered from McDonald’s, do we? We trust that no one has poisoned our lunch. We may not realize it, but whenever we step on an elevator we are fairly certain that its cables will not suddenly snap and send us to the hereafter. When a family member says they love us, we’re pretty sure we can take them at their word.
THE BIBLE But what is the certainty that is our blessing? We are not talking about mathematical or scientific certainty, arrived at by specific steps or well-defined experiments. No, life is more than a test tube. Our certainty is the highest degree of probability that what we believe is worth believing.
God’s Word has much to say about certainty. Granted that particular word isn’t used that often, but the biblical promise is that we may know particular truths without questions which drag us down into doubt. Here are some representative certainty statements from the epistle of 1 John:
1. There is abundant empirical evidence for believing in Jesus Christ (1:1- 4).
2. We can know for sure that we have come to know God (2:3, 13, 14; 3:24).
3. We know the truth (2:20). We know that we belong to the truth (3:19). And we know what love is (3:16).
4. We know it is the last hour (2:18).
5. We know we are the children of God (3:1). And we know who the children of the devil are (3:10).
6. We know who has been born of Him (2:29). We know that we have passed from death to life (3:14). We know that we have eternal life (5:13).
7. We know that God listens to us (4:6).
One may read 1 John and see many additional statements of certainty that do not begin with the words “we know.”
1. Those who resist Christianity’s truth claims do so from their own worldview. Read over Acts 17 (Paul’s engagement with five groups at Mars Hill) and make a few notes on his evangelistic approach. At what points does he express his certainty in Jesus as the Savior?
2. In his book The Myth of Certainty, Daniel Taylor challenges doubting Christians, arguing that doubts are a normal and healthy part of the Christian life. Taylor says in effect, “Don’t leave your church and Christianity simply because you have doubts. Instead, embrace your doubts, live with your doubts, be satisfied with probable truth.”88 Consider reading Taylor’s book. Do you agree with Taylor? Why or why not?
3. Read one of Os Guinness’ books, either In Two Minds: The Dilemma of Doubt and How to Resolve It or God in the Dark: The Assurance of Faith Beyond a Shadow of Doubt. Guinness does a nice job of explaining the meanings of “faith”, “doubt”, and “unbelief.” Take some notes on either book and discuss it with a friend.
4. PRAYER Pray that your confidence in the truth of the gospel is noticed by your unsaved friend. If it comes up in conversation, ask your friend what evidences he thinks he needs to believe the gospel.
Tags: "Bless-ed!", blessing, certainty, doubt, knowledge, sanctification, self-discipline
My new book, Bless-ed! Fifty-Two Weekly Blessings You Have as a Believer and How to Help Your Lost Friends Find Theirs is now available on Amazon here. I have copies if you are interested. I will send you a copy for $10 (which includes shipping). Here’s Blessing #51 in Bless-ed:
BLESSING #51: The Blessing of Godly Discipline!
“Too often, we forget that discipline really means to teach, not to punish. A disciple is a student, not a recipient of behavioral consequences.” (Daniel J. Siegel)
In thinking about the many blessings we enjoy — or should enjoy — as followers of Christ, some are quite positive on the surface (genuine joy, assurance of forgiveness). Others not so much. The blessing we want to consider now is one for which we should be grateful, but often aren’t. As followers of Jesus —
51. WE HAVE THE BLESSING OF GODLY DISCIPLINE!
THE BLESSING We’ve all experienced the toddler in WalMart whose mission at the moment is to punish his parents and to drive everyone else crazy with his tantrum. He’s not wet or hungry or hurt. He’s just angry that he’s not getting his way. And he is enlisting everyone else into his misery. He is in need of godly, loving, intentional parenting. But so are we. As one writer said, “The proper attitude towards a child’s disobedience is this: ‘I love you too much to let you behave like that.’” What should be God’s attitude toward a wayward adult believer?
THE BIBLE God’s Word has much to say about His disciplining His children. The bottom line is that God will bring circumstances (difficult people, challenging events, financial lack, personal illness, etc.) into the life of His child for His purposes.
The book of Proverbs says much about God’s loving discipline – granted, several of the injunctions to discipline concern children (such as the not sparing the rod text in Proverbs 13:24). Proverbs 23 commands parents not to withhold discipline from a child (v. 13) and Proverbs 29 says that disciplining one’s children will give the parents peace and “the delights you desire” (v. 17). We’re told in Proverbs 22:15 that “folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far away.” One writer says, “Children need to learn to take responsibility for their actions so that they do not become adults believing that nothing is ever their fault.”
But folly is hardly limited to children. I have several friends who are foolishly turning away from the Lord. One of them actually has concluded that Christianity isn’t true so he’s free not to feel guilt and shame about his sins!
Here are several specific points from the book of Proverbs about God’s discipline of His people:
(1) The term “discipline” is joined with terms like “rebuke” (3:11) and “correction” (10:17; 12:1; 13:18; 15:10). Who among us would challenge the idea that we need God’s rebuke and correction? Often.
(2) Several negative responses are possible regarding God’s discipline. We may “despise” or “resent” His correction (3:11), “ignore” His work in our lives (10:17), “hate” His actions in helping us (12:1), “disregard” (13:18) or “spurn” (15:5) what He is seeking to teach us.
(3) The bottom line is that God’s discipline in our lives is an evidence of His love for and delight in us (3:12).
(4) There are three consequences of resisting His discipline. First of all, the person who hates correction is described as “stupid” (12:1). Second, that person is told they will come to poverty and shame (13:18). Third, the one ignoring correction “leads others astray” (10:17).
(5) Encouraging words are said by God toward the one who responds positively to His discipline. They are showing “prudence” (15:5), gaining understanding (15:32), and “counted among the wise” (19:20)
1. We can’t declare with certainty when one is “under God’s discipline.” But we should always ask, especially when life is hard, “Could it be that the Lord’s hand is heavy against me because of some area of my life that needs to be changed?” Ask yourself that question honestly this week.
2. We’ve seen that the book of Proverbs certainly has a lot to say about discipline. The New Testament passage that is classic here is Hebrews 12. Study that chapter this week and write out ten conclusions you come to about the discipline of the Lord.
3. Consider reading through the book of Job at one sitting (this is the idea of unit-reading a book of the Bible). Why were Job’s friends wrong when they thought he was being disciplined by God for some sin?
4. PRAYER Does God discipline the unbeliever? Yes, if we mean that He will use whatever circumstances are necessary to bring someone to saving faith. If your lost friend shares some difficulty with you, prayerfully consider sharing some of what you’ve learned about God’s actions in your life.
Tags: "Bless-ed!", blessing, choices, decisions, discipline, habits, sanctification, self-discipline, will of God
My new book, Bless-ed! Fifty-Two Weekly Blessings You Have as a Believer and How to Help Your Lost Friends Find Theirs is now available on Amazon here. I have copies if you are interested. I will send you a copy for $10 (which includes shipping). Here’s Blessing #50 in Bless-ed:
BLESSING #50: The Blessing of Meaningful Decisions!
“Good and evil both increase at compound interest. That is why the little decisions you and I make every day are of such infinite importance. The smallest good act today is the capture of a strategic point from which, a few months later, you may be able to go on to victories you never dreamed of. An apparently trivial indulgence in lust or anger today is the loss of a ridge or railway line or bridgehead from which the enemy may launch an attack otherwise impossible.” (C.S. Lewis)
We are thinking about the many blessings which the Lord has given to His children. One that I know I need to consider more fully is that of my ability to make good and godly decisions. The choices we make truly matter in the life of the child of God. For that reason, I believe we Christians —
50. WE HAVE THE BLESSING OF MEANINGFUL DECISIONS!
THE BLESSING In his marvelous book The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis has a demon lamenting the fact that God gives His people freedom to make godly choices. Lewis writes, “Desiring their freedom, He . . . refuses to carry them, by their mere affections and habits, to any of the goals which He sets before them: He leaves them to ‘do it on their own.’” By God’s grace, we choose to become the people God wants us to be.
This idea of meaningful choice is highly significant to the believer. Every day we face hundreds if not thousands of decisions. Some are innocuous. Some critical. And what we decide — every day — matters.
THE BIBLE Joshua rehearses the history of God’s deliverance of Israel in Joshua 24:14-15 and says the following:
“Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
Our choices matter. Some for this world. Some for eternity. Joshua could not have made the issue clearer: the Lord or idols. But the power to make that decision rests in the hands of the Israelites: “If serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves . . .” And Joshua makes the point that they could choose between the gods their ancestors served or some new gods of the Amorites. He then declares without reservation: “But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
The frightening fact is that we can decide against the Lord, against His will for us, against a relationship with Him. The Lord Jesus laments in Luke 13:34 —
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.”
The terrifying part about human beings is that we can choose to make horrific decisions. Here Jerusalem — guilty of killing the prophets God had sent to them — refuses to be gathered under the wings of their covenant God. Jesus’ longing to draw people to Himself can be contradicted by those made in God’s image who refuse to accept His invitation.
1. Do you look at your everyday activities as a series of decisions that you can make? Are you aware that the next action you take holds the potential of life-changing or eternity-changing power? What one critical decision are you facing for which you need prayer from another believer that you would make the right decision?
2. Think this week about a decision you need to make that will advance your walk with the Lord. How does the Holy Spirit fit into that process? Read Romans 8 each day this week, asking the Spirit of God for wisdom as you face that decision.
3. Read Gary Friesen’s Decision-Making and the Will of God or Bruce Walke’s Finding the Will of God: A Pagan Notion? The latter will pull you away from a kind of Christian divination and toward good decision- making. The former is a classic well worth reading. Take notes on what you read and discuss either book with a friend.
4. PRAYER Be candid in explaining to your lost friend how you make important decisions in your life. Perhaps God will use your testimony to cause him to think about the greatest decision of trusting Christ.
Tags: "Bless-ed!", attitude, attitudes, blessing, decisions, Finding the Will of God, sanctification, will of God
My new book, Bless-ed! Fifty-Two Weekly Blessings You Have as a Believer and How to Help Your Lost Friends Find Theirs will soon be available on Amazon here. I have advanced copies if you are interested. I will send you a copy for $10 (which includes shipping). Here’s Blessing #49 in Bless-ed:
BLESSING #49: The Blessing of A Biblical View Of Time!
“The greatest gift you can give someone is your time. Because when you give your time, you are giving a portion of your life that you will never get back.” (anonymous)
There are so many blessings that the child of God has in knowing Christ. And while it may be true that an unsaved person enjoys some of the blessings that God gives through His gracious providence, many of these gifts are received only when one trusts Christ and becomes a member of God’s forgiven family. One gift which helps believers focus on faithful living is that of time. We who know Christ —
49. WE HAVE THE BLESSING OF A BIBLICAL VIEW OF TIME!
THE BLESSING Albert Einstein once said, “The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.” We who know Christ believe that our infinite God is timeless and uses the sequential events of life for His glory. He values time and our response as time-bound creatures to the collection of moments we call minutes, hours, days, months, years, etc. As stewards of the time God gives us, believers see time as a gift of their Redeemer to do His work and enjoy His world.
THE BIBLE What does God’s Word, the Bible, have to say about time? One immediately thinks of the section of Ecclesiastes where the writer says “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens . . .” (3:1). Made famous by the musical group The Birds, this section of God’s Word lists certain events (such as a time to be born and a time to die) as under the sovereign oversight of God. The term “time” is used 888 times in the Scriptures, often referring to a sequence of human events.
What principles about time must the believer keep in mind in this life? (1) We are to be faithful stewards of the time God gives us. We should be “redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:16, KJV). Concerning unbelievers, Colossians 4:5 says that believers are to “walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time” (KJV). As Alice Bloch has said, “We say we waste time, but that is impossible. We waste ourselves.”80 Our time is not ours; we are only the managers of the hours and days God entrusts to us. (2) We are to intentionally use the time we have to serve the Lord. Our distracted culture believes it can multitask. In reality divided attention is inattention to what lies before us. The missionary martyr Jim Elliot once said, “Wherever you are, be all there. Live to the hilt every moment you believe to be the will of God.” This includes interruptions. Jesus used interruptions to do what lay before Him as He served His Father (see Mark 5 where Jesus is on His way to raise a dead girl but is interrupted by the woman with the issue of blood). (3) We are to commit our time to the Lord who knows the future. We are to use the time the Lord gives us to serve Him, to minister to others, to enjoy His world, to rest, to ponder His goodness to us.
1. The psalmist prays, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Ps. 90:12). Do you view time as your own? If so, confess that to the Lord and ask for His help in viewing time as a loan from the Lord. Review Blessings 39-41 and Paul’s statements in Philippians 3.
2. Ask yourself some hard questions: How much time do I spend in leisure activities? How much time do I spend with lost people? How much time do I spend in serving the people of God? How much time do I spend reading and studying God’s Word?
3. Read the little pamphlet The Tyranny of the Urgent by Charles E. Hummel. He describes the telephone as a great interrupter. How do you look at your cell phone?
4. PRAYER Spending precious time with our loved lost ones is really critical. But we will spend eternity with the family of God. Spend significant time with your lost loved one. And pray that he may come to know the Lord of time.
Tags: " Jonathan Edwards, "Bless-ed!", attitude, attitudes, blessing, sanctification, time
My new book, Bless-ed! Fifty-Two Weekly Blessings You Have as a Believer and How to Help Your Lost Friends Find Theirs will soon be available on Amazon here. I have advanced copies if you are interested. I will send you a copy for $10 (which includes shipping). Here’s Blessing #48 in Bless-ed:
BLESSING #48: The Blessing of Godly Attitudes!
“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, the education, the money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company… a church… a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past… we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you… we are in charge of our Attitudes.” (Charles Swindoll)
As we continue to think about the many blessings we enjoy — or should enjoy — as believers in Jesus, one of the overarching ones reminds us of our internal struggle to honor God in our everyday lives. The blessing I’m thinking of highlights much of the Christian life. We Christians —
48. WE HAVE THE BLESSING OF GODLY ATTITUDES!
THE BLESSING Life is full of situations to which we can respond in either a godly or ungodly way. The believer has the potential to respond to challenging circumstances, unexpected situations, and unwelcome surprises with attitudes that come from his or her new nature in Christ.
THE BIBLE How often have you responded to a situation and later thought, “I could have handled that much better”? Some of the godly attitudes that occur to me are: (1) Thankfulness. We are to give thanks in everything (I Thessalonians 5:18). One of the characteristics of the man without Christ is a failure to give thanks to God (Rom. 1:21). (2) No bitterness. We are not to allow a root of bitterness to grow up in our hearts when things don’t go our way. Ephesians 4:31 says, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” (3) Kindness. We belong to a kind God. God’s kindness provides rain for the crops, food for our bellies, and joy for our hearts (Acts 14:17). God’s kindness leads people to repentance (Rom. 2:4). His grace is described as “his kindness to us in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:7). The coming of the Lord Jesus to accomplish salvation is expressed as “when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared” (Titus 3:4). Kindness is one of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22); we are “clothe” ourselves with kindness (Col. 3:12). (4) Forgiveness So much in Scripture concerns the issue of forgiveness, an attitude of releasing another person from the penalty of sin. We are to daily forgive our “debtors” (Matt. 6:12). If we don’t, our Father won’t forgive us (Matt. 6:14-15). We are to forgive those who repent (2 Cor. 2:7). We are to forgive as God has forgiven us (Col. 3:13).
1. Have an honest time, alone with yourself, asking the question, “What ungodly attitude do I need to work on with the help of God’s Spirit? What Scriptures will help me in this battle?” If you can’t think of anything, ask someone who loves you what they think you should work on!
2. Is there someone you should apologize to for a poor attitude on your part? Confession is good for one’s soul — and will identify an area that needs work. It is humbling, but spiritually healthy, to admit a less than biblical attitude.
3. Should we forgive those who have hurt us — but haven’t repented of their wrongdoing? Can I withhold my forgiveness until the other has confessed their sin against me? How would you relate this issue to verses such as Matthew 6:12-15 and Colossians 3:13? Is forgiveness the same as reconciliation? Read the excellent book The Bait of Satan by John Bevere which is really helpful in this issue of attitudes.
PRAYER 4. Having godly attitudes may be the strongest aspect of our witness as Christians to our lost friends. But we need to be with them for them to see how the Lord gives us right responses to life’s circumstances. Pray for your witness to your friend — and that he would find the Lord and begin the same journey to godly attitudes.
Tags: " Jonathan Edwards, "Bless-ed!", attitude, attitudes, blessing, sanctification
My new book, Bless-ed! Fifty-Two Weekly Blessings You Have as a Believer and How to Help Your Lost Friends Find Theirs will soon be available on Amazon here. I have advanced copies if you are interested. I will send you a copy for $10 (which includes shipping). Here’s Blessing #47 in Bless-ed:
BLESSING #47: The Blessing of Righteous Judgment!
“The gospel that does not warn from impending wrath and judgment is no gospel at all! Jesus did not come to save good, moral, self-righteous individuals. He came to save sinners who were on their way to hell!” (Mark Escalera, Sr.)
“You Christians are so judgmental! Jesus said we are not to judge!” I am sick and tired of hearing that misquote from Matthew 7. Jesus’ command was that we not judge hypocritically.
One scholar put it this way:
“We live, in the twentieth century, in a world without judgment, a world where at the last frontier post you simply go out—and nothing happens. It is like coming to the customs and finding there are none after all. And the suspicion that this is in fact the case spreads fast: for it is what we should all like to believe.” (A.T. Robinson)
But isn’t it true that we all long for a just universe where evildoers will receive their appropriate punishment and the righteous be rewarded? The problem is that everyone thinks they are in the category of the righteous! Only those in Christ are forgiven and righteous. So we believers possess the blessing of truth which the Bible gives about reality. We have —
47. WE HAVE THE BLESSING OF RIGHTEOUS JUDGMENT!
THE BLESSING We are clearly told in God’s Word that the Judge of all the earth will do right (Gen. 18:25). As the psalmist struggles with the wicked prospering in this life, he takes the long view and says that it was not until —
“I entered the sanctuary of God;
then I understood their final destiny.
Those who are far from you will perish;!
you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.” (Ps. 73:17, 27)
There are two and only two categories of human beings: Those who can enter the sanctuary of God and those who are far from God.
THE BIBLE God is a God of justice — and He will cast the wicked (those who have not fled to Christ for salvation) out of His presence (Matt. 7:23; 25:41), confining them away from God’s people forever. Psalm 98:9 says “He will judge the world with righteousness, and the people with equity.”
The Bible teaches that there will be a Great White Throne judgment for those outside of Christ and the only verdict will be that their names are not in the Book of Life (Ps. 69:28; Phil. 4:3; Rev. 3:5). They will then be cast into the lake of fire to be punished forever (Rev. 20:11-15). The Bible also teaches that there will be a Judgment Seat of Christ for believers and they will be judged according to their faithful service (2 Cor. 5:10). The issue will not be salvation, but faithfulness. Rewards will be given (or withheld) based on one’s sacrificial living for Christ.
I came to Christ as a teenager primarily out of a fear of God’s judgment. I have written extensively on the issue of final judgment. You might want to read my defense of the doctrine of eternal punishment in my book The Other Side of the Good News: Contemporary Challenges to Jesus’ Teaching on Hell.
1. When we speak of God’s judgment, we need to do so in an autobiographical way. In other words, we have been saved from God’s wrath by His grace. How can you speak of God’s judgment with someone this week with love and wisdom?
2. I saw a billboard advertising a junk removal company that said, “YOU CALL. WE HAUL. NO JUDGMENT!” Someone has said that “The fear of being labeled judgmental has left our culture with the lack of good judgment.” What Scriptures teach that we —and the church — are, indeed, to judge?
3. Read the 18th-century sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” by Jonathan Edwards. It is easily found online. Do we need more sermons like that one today? Why or why not? Discuss this sermon with a friend this week.
4. PRAYER How should you pray for your lost friend in light of God’s judgment? Do not succumb to our culture’s optimistic opinion that “Everything with be okay with everybody.” It might help to write out several prayers for your friend’s present spiritual state before the Lord.
Tags: " Jonathan Edwards, "Bless-ed!", blessing, judgment, sanctification, vengeance, wrath
My new book, Bless-ed! Fifty-Two Weekly Blessings You Have as a Believer and How to Help Your Lost Friends Find Theirs will soon be available on Amazon here. I have advanced copies if you are interested. I will send you a copy for $10 (which includes shipping). Here’s Blessing #46 in Bless-ed:
BLESSING #46: The Blessing of a God-Given Sexuality!
“Nothing has stolen more dreams, dashed more hopes, broken up more families, and messed up more people psychologically than our propensity to disregard God’s commands regarding sexual purity.” (Andy Stanley)
We are continuing to think about the many blessings which we enjoy — or should enjoy — as followers of Christ. When those who don’t know Christ live sexually pure lives, they are an anomaly and thought foolish by the world. But we believers have every reason to honor God with our bodies because —
46. WE HAVE THE BLESSING OF A GOD-GIVEN SEXUALITY!
THE BLESSING The God who made us created us as sexual beings. When that gift is abused, personal and societal tragedy results. Our culture encourages thinking of oneself first, pursuing any desired pleasure (at whatever cost), and defending one’s choices regardless of the fallout. God’s Word, the Bible, is quite specific in its instruction about our sexual lives.
THE BIBLE Hebrews 13 does not mince words when it says, “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral” (v. 4). Here we have three clear concepts: the honoring of marriage, the purity of the marriage bed, and God’s judgment on those who reject His guidelines. We read that, “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality . . .” (1 Thes. 4:3). The bottom line is that we should give all that we have to our Creator, especially our bodies. We read in 1 Corinthians 6: 13, 18-20 —
“The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. . . . Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.”
There is a level of personal self-destruction that accompanies illicit sexual activity. The believer in Christ has every reason to honorably treat his or her body as a temple of the Holy Spirit.
The Bible is also quite clear (contra our culture) that homosexual behavior is an abomination to the Lord. Genesis 19, Leviticus 18 and 20, Romans 1, 1 Corinthians 6, and 1 Timothy 1 pointedly argue against homosexual practice (which is the acting out of same-sex attraction).
The biblical norm is heterosexual fidelity between a husband and a wife. The sexual relationship between such a couple may be Peter’s emphasis when he writes —
“Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honor unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.” (I Pet. 3:7, KJV)
Some Christian leaders (such as Tony Campolo) have argued that Jesus said nothing about the homosexual issue. This isn’t true, for the Lord clearly said, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh” (Matt. 19:5). That sure sounds like His affirming heterosexual marriage, doesn’t it?
1. This volatile issue is one about which the Christian must not remain silent. We are to be a friend of sinners like the Lord Jesus was (Matt. 11:19). Do you have any gay friends? How are you treating them? How does the Apostle Paul treat the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 6:11?
2. Take the time this week to read the chapters listed above (Genesis 19, Leviticus 18 and 20, Romans 1, 1 Corinthians 6, and 1 Timothy 1), thinking through the specific verses having to do with homosexual behavior.
3. In defending same-sex, monogamous relationships, Matthew Vines says that same-sex orientation is “a created characteristic, not a distortion caused by the fall.” His book God and the Gay Christian argues for such relationships. His book is carefully critiqued by Christopher Yuan in his article “Why ‘God and the Gay Christian’ Is Wrong About the Bible and Same-Sex Relationships.” Found at: https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2014/june-web-only/why-matthew-vines-is- wrong-about-bible-same-sex-relationshi.html.
4. PRAYER We believers must affirm a positive view of the God-given gift of sexuality. Be bold in your witness without being needlessly offensive as you confront the cultural majority. Pray for your lost friend that he would see the Bible’s wisdom and come to know the Lord.
Tags: "Bless-ed!", blessing, homosexuality, sanctification, sexuality
My new book, Bless-ed! Fifty-Two Weekly Blessings You Have as a Believer and How to Help Your Lost Friends Find Theirs will soon be available on Amazon here. I have advanced copies if you are interested. I will send you a copy for $10 (which includes shipping). Here’s Blessing #45 in Bless-ed:
BLESSING #45: The Blessing of God’s Sovereignty!
“If God has done what you think he should do, trust him. If God doesn’t do what you think he should do, trust him. If you pray and believe God for a miracle and he does it, trust him. If your worst nightmare comes true, believe he is sovereign. Believe he is good.” (Craig Groeschel)
As we continue to count our blessings, there is one which colors everything in life, every circumstance we encounter, every trial, every hardship, every joy that life presents to us. We who have trusted Christ —
45. WE HAVE THE BLESSING OF GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY!
THE BLESSING “Sovereignty” is a big theological term that indicates the greatness of God in all the aspects of life. The late J.I. Packer, author of Knowing God, wrote, “Men treat God’s sovereignty as a theme for controversy, but in Scripture it is a matter for worship.”68 To trust in God’s sovereignty means we are confident in His character and His control of our lives.
THE BIBLE The issue isn’t whether the Bible teaches God’s sovereignty, but how man’s free will relates to God’s overall control of everything. In the midst of his overwhelming losses, Job declared, “I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted.” (Job 42:2).
We read in Isaiah 45:7-9 —
I form the light and create darkness,! I bring prosperity and create disaster;!
I, the Lord, do all these things.
“You heavens above, rain down my righteousness;! let the clouds shower it down.!
Let the earth open wide,! let salvation spring up,!
let righteousness flourish with it;! I, the Lord, have created it.
“Woe to those who quarrel with their Maker,! those who are nothing but potsherds! among the potsherds on the ground.!
Does the clay say to the potter,! ‘What are you making?’!
Does your work say,! ‘The potter has no hands’?
Both light and darkness, prosperity and disaster, are direct (or indirect) actions of our Creator God. The psalmist declares, “Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him” (Ps. 115:3). As we think about God’s sovereignty, we must also — and thankfully — recognize His goodness. For an all-controlling God who is not good is terrifying!
The believer in Christ is given the assurance of this truth in Romans 8:28. There we read, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” His providential plan is worked out through human beings. We read in Acts 4:27–28 the following —
“For truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.”
God sovereignly allowed a man to be born blind in John 9 so that God’s works would be manifested in his life. God the Son sovereignly allows His friend Lazarus to experience death so that the Son’s glory would be shown by His raising His friend from death (John 11). As R.C. Sproul puts it, “Those who understand God’s sovereignty have joy even in the midst of suffering, a joy reflected on their very faces, for they see that their suffering is not without purpose.”
1. How easily we put our confidence in our desired, envisioned answers to our prayers, instead of in the Lord and His wisdom. This week read over the following quote from the author Jerry Bridges each day and discuss some practical applications of it with a friend:
“God’s sovereignty does not negate our responsibility to pray, but rather makes it possible for us to pray with confidence.”
2. Think about the whole area of missions this week and ponder this hard- hitting quote from David Platt:
“A high view of God’s sovereignty fuels death-defying devotion to global missions. Maybe another way to put it, people, and more specifically pastors, who believe that God’s sovereign over all things will lead Christians to die for the sake of all peoples.”
3. Read the classic book by J.I. Packer entitled Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God. Consider discussing each chapter with a friend over the next few weeks.
4. PRAYER Pray for yourself that you would trust God’s sovereignty when you go through challenges. As Spurgeon put it, “When you go through a trial, the sovereignty of God is the pillow upon which you lay your head.” Share with your lost friend how God is sustaining you in your trial. And pray for his coming to Christ.
Tags: "Bless-ed!", blessing, God's sovereignty, sanctification, sovereignty
My new book, Bless-ed! Fifty-Two Weekly Blessings You Have as a Believer and How to Help Your Lost Friends Find Theirs will soon be available on Amazon here. I have advanced copies if you are interested. I will send you a copy for $10 (which includes shipping). Here’s Blessing #44 in Bless-ed:
BLESSING #44: The Blessing of God’s Goodness!
“The greater your knowledge of the goodness and grace of God on your life, the more likely you are to praise Him in the storm.” (Matt Chandler)
The great theologian Willie Nelson once said, “When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around.” As we count our blessings, we are thinking about our lost friends who don’t yet have them. One of the more prominent blessings in Scripture is the fact that —
44. WE HAVE THE BLESSING OF GOD’S GOODNESS!
THE BLESSING The believer in Jesus faces the same trials and disasters as his unbelieving friends. But Christians are convinced that “God is good — all the time!” In our present culture in which many people think they can “self-identify,” the Lord identifies Himself in Exodus 34 with the following words – “The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth” (v. 6 KJV).
THE BIBLE The theme of God’s goodness seems to saturate God’s Word. The devil challenges God’s goodness at the very beginning of creation (Gen. 2-3). He causes Eve (and Adam) to doubt God’s goodness, implying that God is trying to protect His territory. The Evil One’s attacks on God’s character have not ceased yet.
We learn the following truths about the goodness of God in the Scriptures: (1) In Exodus 33 Moses asks to see God’s glory and God says, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you . . .” (v. 19). His goodness is equivalent to His glory. (2) God’s people are to revel in His great goodness (Neh. 9:25; 2 Chron. 6:41), enjoying His great goodness in the land He gave them (Neh. 9:35). (3) The psalmist declares that God’s “goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life” (Ps. 23:6). I learned Psalm 23 in the King James Bible as a youth and I thought that there were three things that would follow me (although I didn’t know what the first one meant): “surely,” “goodness,” and “mercy”! (4) Believers ask for God’s help “out of [His] goodness” (Ps. 69:16; 109:21). We dare not use our goodness as any kind of collateral. (5) There is a communal aspect to God’s goodness, for the psalmist says, “Set me free from my prison, that I may praise your name. Then the righteous will gather about me because of your goodness to me” (Ps. 142:7). (6) Those who turn away from the gospel are described as those “who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age” (Heb. 6:5). (7) Our being called into salvation is wonderfully described by Peter when he writes, “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” (2 Pet. 1:3)
1. The obvious question for the believer is: “What shall I return to the LORD for all his goodness to me?” (Ps. 116:12). The author Ann Voskamp makes the point that “When you’re overwhelmed with the goodness of God to you — you overflow with the goodness of God to others.” How might you overflow this week to others?
2. In The Chronicles of Narnia we have the dialogue between Mr. Beaver and Lucy. Lucy asks about Aslan, “Is he — quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.” “Safe?” said Mr. Beaver. “Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe! But he’s good. He’s the king, I tell you.’”65 How do we confuse God’s goodness and safety, do you think? Has He promised us 24/7 safety?
3. In his book Your God Is Too Safe, Mark Buchanan writes, “Holy habits are that: the disciplines, the routines by which we stay alive and focused on Him. At first we choose them and carry them out; after a while they are part of who we are. And they carry us.”66 If you and I appreciate God’s goodness, we will pursue holy habits. Read Buchanan’s book and discuss it with a friend.
4. PRAYER Someone has said, “If God’s goodness isn’t enough to make you believe in Him, nothing will.” Point out something specific about God’s goodness that you’ve seen in your own life to your lost friend and invite him to rejoice with you in that something.
Tags: "Bless-ed!", blessing, goodness, goodness of God, sanctification
My new book, Bless-ed! Fifty-Two Weekly Blessings You Have as a Believer and How to Help Your Lost Friends Find Theirs will soon be available on Amazon here. I have advanced copies if you are interested. I will send you a copy for $10 (which includes shipping). Here’s Blessing #43 in Bless-ed:
BLESSING #43: The Blessing of Redemptive Repentance!
A famous rabbi was asked: “When is the best time in a man’s life for him to repent?” The rabbi replied, “Repent the day before your death!”
We are counting our blessings as we think about those who are not yet believers and so haven’t received what we have received. Pausing to ask, “What do I really have as a Christian?”, is a worthy exercise. And some blessings might need more highlighting and explanation. For us in the family of God. For that reason, I believe that we followers of Jesus —
43. WE HAVE THE BLESSING OF REDEMPTIVE REPENTANCE!
THE BLESSING Whatever is meant by “redemptive repentance”? Being members of God’s family through the finished work of Christ means that we can, at any moment, recognize whatever sin we find in our lives, turn away from that sin by repentance, and move on in the Christian life.
THE BIBLE Repentance, in many ways, seems to be an aspect of the Christian life which has been marginalized, forgotten, perhaps even thought of as unnecessary (except for initial salvation). There have even been some Christians who have said that repentance isn’t even necessary for initial salvation (but such a position is contradicted by passages such as: Mark 1:15; Ezek. 18:32; Acts 5:31; 11:18; 20:21; 2 Cor. 7:10; etc.).
It is said that a very cautious clergyman in Detroit once challenged his congregation with these words: “Dearly beloved, unless you repent of your sins in a measure, and become converted in a degree, you will, I regret to say, be damned to a more or less extent.”
But the Bible has much to say about repentance — and its importance! Here are some truths that leap out at me from God’s Word: (1) Repentance is a gift granted by God (Acts 11:18; 2 Tim. 2:25). Romans 2:4 asks a very critical question: “Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?” (2) God’s desire is that all repent of their sins and come to Christ (Acts 2:38; Ezek. 18:32; Luke 13:3; Acts 17:30; 2 Pet. 3:9). The story of the prodigal son tells us that the angels rejoice over a sinner who repents (Luke 15:7). (3) Repentance is required for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38; 5:31; 17:30) and for the understanding of God’s truth (2 Tim. 2:25). (4) Repentance is for believers who recognize and turn from their sins (2 Tim. 2:25; Rev. 2 and 3). (5) Both saved and unsaved may choose to turn away from repentance and will subsequently receive God’s judgment (Isa. 30:15; Ezek. 18:30; Rev. 2:21-22; 9:20; 16:9, 11).
1. Should repentance be a daily exercise for the believer? Discuss this question with a friend. How does the Lord’s Prayer relate to this question?
Our Father which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.” (Matt. 6:9-13 KJV)
2. Write out a prayer of repentance for something you have done or thought or felt. You need not share this with anyone except the Lord. Be specific about your sin and research which verses in Scripture help you confess it and, subsequently, find cleansing. Scripture tells us to confess our sins to each other (James 5:16) that we may be healed, so you might consider sharing your prayer with a trusted friend.
3. Listen to the message “What Is Repentance?” by the late R.C Sproul.62 Take some notes on that message and email or text a friend on what you have learned.
4. PRAYER Share with your unbelieving friend a bit of your story when you repented of your sin and trusted Christ. Don’t preach. Just share from your heart how God convicted you. Pray that He will do the same for your friend.
Tags: "Bless-ed!", blessing, choices, desires, repentance, sanctification