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STUCK! Chapter One: Who’s in Charge?

Whew! That was a lot of questions to read — and think about — in our last post. In this first chapter we want to emphasize the issue of personal responsibility. Who’s in charge of your life? Now, the spiritual answer is “Jesus.” But we both know that that’s only sometimes true.

There may be splotches of spirituality in your life once in a while, but the bottom line is that you control your daily activities. You decide what to think about. You choose what words to use and when to use them. You have the power to live your life 24/7 without recognizing that it is the Lord who gives you your very next lungful of air to breathe.

The “Let Go and Let God” Myth
In the 19th and 20th centuries there was a movement sometimes referred to as the “Victorious Christian Life” movement. Also called “the Keswick Movement,” its basic message was a kind of passive Christian living which stressed God’s work in making us like Christ. That’s all well and good, but what about personal responsibility?

The “Get Up! And Get Going!” Truth
What impression do we get from the Scriptures about growing in the Christian life? As I read my Bible I’m challenged to roll up my spiritual sleeves and get to work! We read in 2 Peter 1 that we are to “make every effort to add to your faith . . .” (v. 5). We then have the list of those seven hard-to-achieve godly qualities (goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, mutual affection, love) which we are to add. These qualities won’t be given to us as Christmas presents, awarded to us for faithful church attendance, or bequeathed us when a spiritual family member dies! WE are to ADD these qualities to our lives! The question is: Are you making “every effort” in adding these necessary components of the Christian life?

Please notice several hard-hitting conclusions to which Peter comes in this passage. The first conclusion concerns the one who is following Peter’s command and is adding to his faith: (1) Adding these virtues will keep one from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of Jesus Christ (v. 8). Please don’t miss the point that one is to possess these qualities “in increasing measure.” We don’t get a one-and-done dose of self-control or perseverance or love when we roll up our sleeves and take responsibility. No. These qualities are to increase.

The second conclusion Peter makes relates to the one who doesn’t have these qualities and, presumably, shows no interest in working toward them. (2) The one who doesn’t have these qualities has become blind and forgetful. Peter states that he “is nearsighted and blind” (v. 9). One who is near-sighted sees only what is in front of them. They have no vision of that which is distant or far off. He or she can’t see what lies ahead. They see only what’s close to them. It’s bad to be near-sighted. It’s worse to be “blind.” That’s quite a charge Peter makes here in verse 9. The one not working on these virtues is not just near-sighted, but blind. Blind to what God wants to do in and through his life, blind to the sins that need to be shed, the temptations that need to be avoided, the opportunities which need to be taken advantage of.

I’m 72 and I sometimes forget things. Forgetfulness comes with old age. This person who is not actively seeking to add these virtues to his faith is like an old man who is constantly forgetting. What is this one who’s not making the effort forgetting? They are forgetting that they have been forgiven! Can there be a worst thing to forget? Not working at adding these virtues to one’s faith means the atoning work of Christ was worthless, ineffective, of no lasting value, and suitable for forgetting.

There are many other passages that challenge the believer to take responsibility for his spiritual life, to get going, to refuse spiritual stagnation. For example, we read in Jeremiah 6:16, “Thus saith the Lord, ‘Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.’ But they said, ‘We will not walk therein.’” (KJV). Enoch walked with God, we read in Genesis 5:24. He didn’t just stand around. And one day God essentially said to Enoch, “Enoch, we’re closer to my house than to yours. Why don’t you just come home with me?”

We are talking about the issue of sanctification, of course. If we find ourselves “stuck,” God provides steps that we can take to move on in the Christian, to really begin to walk with the Lord, to advance in godliness. But to do so involves answering the most foundational question in our study and we will do so in our next chapter.

 
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Posted by on July 11, 2022 in STUCK!

 

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Time for a Great Commercial (“PARTICIPATION” TROPHIES?)

This commercial expresses great truth about competition, reward, and the fact that some teams and players perform better than others (on a particular day).  The spirit of competition necessarily involves some winning and some losing.  Those who “lose” need to lose with grace and with honest words of congratulations to the winners.  Those who win need to show humility and kindness to those who lose.  Just like in the NFL.  Not.

The victory dances in the end zone by some NFL players are ridiculous.  Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 8.18.52 PMI heard of one coach who pulled a player aside after his taunting two-step in the end zone and said, “Son, it would be nice if you acted like you had been in the end zone at least once before!”

The Bible emphasizes more than participation in the Christian life.  It demands our best efforts at competing, not against one another, but against our less-than-thoroughly committed selves.  Paul declares in Philippians 3 – “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (v. 14).

I Corinthians 9 has much to say about competing — and winning:

19 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.  24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. (I Cor. 9)

Our lives should be dedicated to WINNING others to Christ (vv. 19ff).  We need to be flexible to win Jews, to those under the law, to those not having the law, to the weak.  “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.” (v. 22).  [I’m afraid that for many Christians the motto is, “I have become a few things to a couple of people, that I might not be inconvenienced.”]

He then moves to the image of a runner.  All the runners run (participate), but “only one gets the prize” (v. 24).  “Run in such a way as GET THE PRIZE.” (v. 24).

Those competing in the games go into strict training to get a non-lasting crown.  We should go into strict training to get an everlasting crown (v. 25).

We should not run like someone running aimlessly, not fight like a boxer who is punching thin air.  No, we must gain mastery over ourselves and not get disqualified for the prize (v. 27).

We need to know our goal, aim at our target, go into strict training, and live for that great reward: Christ’s words “Well-done, good and faithful servant!”

 
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Posted by on November 3, 2015 in competition

 

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Psalms of My Life (Psalm 108)

Psalm 108

A song. A psalm of David.Screen Shot 2015-04-17 at 5.59.10 AM

My heart, O God, is steadfast;
    I will sing and make music with all my soul.
Awake, harp and lyre!
    I will awaken the dawn.
I will praise you, Lord, among the nations;
    I will sing of you among the peoples.
For great is your love, higher than the heavens;
    your faithfulness reaches to the skies.
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;
    let your glory be over all the earth.

Save us and help us with your right hand,
    that those you love may be delivered.
God has spoken from his sanctuary:
    “In triumph I will parcel out Shechem
    and measure off the Valley of Sukkoth.
Gilead is mine, Manasseh is mine;
    Ephraim is my helmet,
    Judah is my scepter.
Moab is my washbasin,
    on Edom I toss my sandal;
    over Philistia I shout in triumph.”Screen Shot 2015-04-17 at 6.00.46 AM

10 Who will bring me to the fortified city?
    Who will lead me to Edom?
11 Is it not you, God, you who have rejected us
    and no longer go out with our armies?
12 Give us aid against the enemy,
    for human help is worthless.
13 With God we will gain the victory,
    and he will trample down our enemies.

 
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Posted by on August 12, 2015 in the book of Psalms

 

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