"But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect." 1 Peter 3:15

Saturday, December 11, 2010

What people think

I heard some words of wisdom from a grandfatherly friend today.

"When I was 20, I worried what others thought about me. When I was 40, I didn't care what others thought about me. When I was 60...I realized others weren't thinking about me!"


Oh to learn to measure our worth as the image bearers of God, so deeply valued that our Creator died for us! So much more valuable than the thoughts (or lack there of) of those around us!

Saturday, December 04, 2010

My Struggle, My Freedom

I have a pretty typical testimony for a kid who grew up in the church. At least, that's what I thought.

I prayed "the prayer" when I was 5 or 6. I'm sure that I didn't understand everything I was committing to, but I did know who Jesus was (at least pretty well for a 6 year old), what he did, and that I would much rather be with him for eternity then in Hell.

As I grew older I began to have doubts. Not to the divinity of Christ. Not to the saving power of what he did for us all on the cross, or the proof of his divinity through his Resurrection. No, I simply doubted who I was to Him. In Him. Was I really in Him? I doubted my salvation. Honestly, I've wrestled with these doubts my whole life, But I Knew I made a decision for Christ and I Knew what I believed. So why? Why doubt? I pushed it all away as spiritual attacks or simple insecurity. I kept my doubts as to who I was to Christ pretty secret. I might talk about them, but very rarely did I let people now that the doubt I was describing was my current state of being. How humiliating for a Christian College graduate and youth pastor to wonder if he were truly saved! But when you can't shake something so eternally significant, it sends a person soul searching.

Pastor Skip has been preaching about the Holy Spirit. The ultimate sign of a true believer is the presence of the Holy Spirit in their life, because He is promised to all believers. A couple verses that have really grabbed my attention lately are these:

14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.--Romans 8:14
22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!--Galatians 6:22-23

These verses are very clear. Those who are Christian's are led by the Spirit. It's not the "good Christians" are led by the Spirit (there are no levels of Christianity--you, me and the Apostle Paul are all on the same plain). Its not we should be led by the Spirit. Its not that we get some advice from the Spirit every now and then. No! The Holy Spirit is not Jiminy Cricket. He is God! He takes the keys, we become the passenger. The Holy Spirit is in the driver seat of our life. He leads the way. That describes the life of a Christian.

When looking at the fruits of the Spirit, it doesn't say it would be nice if a Christian displayed these qualities. It doesn't say certain Christian's produce certain fruit (I'm the banana of Patience and you are the apple of self control). No! It says these are the things the Holy Spirit produces in the life of the believer. They are present and growing in the life of every believer.

I looked at my life and I had to say, I don't know if I see these things as true in my life. I mean really, really true?

If the living, all powerful Creator God was living inside my life, wouldn't I be certain of something like that? I mean, if I can be aware of something as small as the flu bug inside of me, I should be aware of the omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent God! I don't think a God that big can hide! If a God that big was in a tiny package like me, I--and everyone around me--should see him spilling out.

So, things just didn't seem to be adding up. I believe in Jesus Christ, yet I don't know that I see the evidence of the Holy Spirit in me...and I should. Ephesians 1:13 says,

"...And when you believed in Christ, he identified you as his own by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom he promised long ago."

There is no special incantation, no magical formula, no task to complete that could make me a Christian or fill me with the Holy Spirit. It is only (and completely) belief in Christ. He saves me, I don't.

9 If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved. Romans 10:9-10

Haven't I done that? It just doesn't add up. I see so many people who would claim to believe in Jesus--believe they believe in Jesus--and yet there is no fruit to suggest this is true.

You can fake fruit, but eventually everyone will be found out. Grape soda doesn't grow on a vine.

There are two pretty important words in that above verse--Lord and Believe. It is good to grasp what they mean.

This is how I understand these words.

God carries all authority in Heaven and on Earth. All other authority is myth. God simply lends his authority to others, but ultimately all authority is His. This is the authority that he gives to Jesus Christ our Lord.

God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church. --Ephesians 1:22

To believe Jesus Christ is God incarnate is to believe that he carries ultimate authority. To believe he is the ultimate authority is to submit to His authority.

Believing in Christ means submitting to Christ.

This is what it means to call Jesus Lord.

So many of us desire to have Jesus be our Savior, but He cannot be our Savior if he is not our Lord.

Oh, how I beg you to hear and accept these words!

The Holy Spirit will not lead a life that has not submitted authority over to Jesus. I could "believe" all the right things, but not submitting authority to Christ showed that I didn't really make Jesus my Lord. Which shows I didn't truly believe that He is my authority. I think that is what Matthew 7:21-23 is talking about when Jesus says,

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

They thought they belonged to Jesus. They really believed it! But they weren't obedient. They never handed over their false authority to the Ultimate authority. And for that reason, they were sinners believed righteous; lost souls believing they were chasing Heaven, but destined to Hell.

Luke-warm Christianity is a myth, a lie from the pit of Hell. We MUST know our authority, because the consequences are eternal.

I've believed myself a Christian all my life. Was I? Had I truly submitted? I don't know. But this is no guessing game. No more playing around. I'm handing over all authority. I want Jesus to be my Savior and Lord. If he is going to be one, he must be both. I want to be led by the Spirit, producing good fruit. I don't want to doubt any more. I know who I belong to because I believe. I really believe.

24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. 25 Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. 26 Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another.--Galatians 6:24-26