What is faith in action?
How do we take the things we believe to be true, and move into the realities we want to live in?
First of all, God tells us through His word that "...without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him." (Hebrews 11:6 ESV)
So, the actions that follow faith cannot be adequately realized until faith is in place.
It's not enough to "want" to do good. Faith in God alone brings true repentance.
In fact, II Corinthians 7:10 tells us that the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There's no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death." (NLT)
I've been thinking about the things in my life that I tend to place above God.
I was reading in Deuteronomy when Moses instructed the children of Israel to destroy idols in their lives...not to allow any part of it to remain...to smash...to burn.
Naturally, my mind went to my life in the modern world. I know there must be idols that I place above God. I asked Him to show me the things that I need to smash...to burn...to destroy.
One of the things He spoke to me about was my need to control. So much of my life revolves around how I want things to go. I want to have the say. I want to decide. I know best.
Whether that control exercises itself in how I want my day to go, or in what I decide to do with my time, or what I put in my body, I realize that I have a tendency towards personal dictatorship.
I want what I want, when I want it.
We don't often admit that.
We pretend that because the things we want are "acceptable," that it is okay.
In a Christian's life, nothing is supposed to take a place of authority over God.
And, if I'm being honest, there are things that threaten His place as Boss every day.
You may have similar experiences.
You have given Him your life. You have asked Him to be the Lord of everything.
You want Him more than anything...
And, somewhere between the wanting and the doing, you find yourself succumbing to the element of control in your life. You find yourself making excuses for your lack of self-control.
You tell yourself the lie that you can work on that problem tomorrow.
You lie to yourself.
I do too.
Wouldn't you know that a day after God spoke to my heart out of the Book of Deuteronomy, He also spoke to me through the Sunday church service!
We sang this song...
We bow our Hearts
We bend our knees
Oh Spirit come make us humble
We turn our eyes from evil things
Oh Lord we cast down our idols
So give us clean hands
Give us pure hearts
Let us not lift our souls to another
Give us clean hands
Give us pure hearts
Let us not lift our souls to another
And God let us be
A generation that seeks
That seeks your face
Oh God of Jacob
When our Pastor started speaking, conviction flooded my heart and mind once again.
He talked about the need to "clean house..." Asking God to remove any of the "respectable sins" that might be residing in our life.
All weekend I've been thinking about what that is in my life.
I don't want to allow anything (no matter how small) to have first place in my heart.
And, control...the need to control is the thing that keeps inching up to first place.
Our Pastor suggested that we go home and write down the thing that God is speaking to us about. I knew as soon as he said it what my subject matter would be. I knew what I would be asking God to change in me.
The need to control.
But, aren't we supposed to control?
Doesn't the Bible instruct us to have self-control?
Yes it does.
Read this passage from II Peter 1
"To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you."
I should be fine, right?
Control is needed.
Yes it is...
We just need to have the right control.
Self control is "restraint exercised over one's own impulses, emotions, or desires."
I've got that down when it comes to "normal sins." You know, the ones everyone says you should stay away from. The biggies like adultery, lying, stealing, murder. Yeah... I'm self-controlled.
But, am I self-controlled in the more acceptable sins?
Do I have a tendency towards gossip (self-control over my tongue)
Do I spend my time and money wisely?
Do I focus on myself and my desires more than the desires of God?
Do I have a tendency towards selfishness?
Is there anything in my life that means more to me than time with God?
If we break down some of the words in that passage, we can get an idea of how to live an abundant, victorious life.
Diligence - "persevering application"
Faith - "allegiance to duty or a person : loyalty" also, "strong belief or trust in someone or something"
Moral Excellence - "conforming to a standard of right behavior" "greatness, superbness"
Knowledge - "information, understanding, or skill that you get from experience or education"
"awareness of something : the state of being aware of something"
Self-control - " restraint exercised over one's own impulses, emotions, or desires"
Perseverance - " continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition - the action or condition or an instance of persevering : steadfastness"
Godliness - "believing in God and in the importance of living a moral life"
Brotherly Kindness - Synonyms...benevolence, courtesy, grace, indulgence, favor, mercy, service
Love - "unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another" "the object of attachment, devotion, or admiration"
It is kind of like a path...
Faith...Moral Excellence...Knowledge...Self-control...Perseverance...Godliness...Brotherly Kindness...Love
Faith leads to morality...power through the Spirit of God...Then, we must arm ourselves with the knowledge of God's Word... and ask Him what areas in our lives need self-control. Then, through perseverance (a continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties) we press on to Godliness...are able to live a life of brotherly kindness, and show true love to those around us.
When I know the areas that I tend to put above God, I can search for good ways to keep myself accountable. I can set up good parameters...boundaries...etc.
If I know the things that steal my time and affection,
I can limit those things.
There are many things that are not wrong, when used in moderation.
Most of the time, we are very much aware of what it is that steals our affection from God.
We aren't usually walking in ignorance, but rather we are walking in disobedience.
May we fall on our faces before God, and ask Him to cleanse us from all unrighteousness... especially those areas where it seems okay to fudge a little.
Idolizing our families over God.
What we put in our bodies.
What we say to other people.
What we spend time thinking about.
“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might." (Deuteronomy 6:4-5)
There is only ONE thing - ONE priority that should always be first in our hearts.
We know what it is.
Now, let's live it out.
"Father, I ask right now that you would fill us with your power and strength to follow you in the way you ask to be followed. May we walk in your paths...the straight paths, all the days of our lives. May we never allow anything to come before you and your rightful place in our lives. And, if we become aware that we are allowing other "gods" to form in our lives, may we repent of this sin, and look to you for the strength to be victorious in those areas. Amen."
Image via Unsplash
I've been thinking about purpose lately.
Do I have one?
If I do, is it a good one?
Does it involve goals that are higher than my own well-being?
Goals are important.
Purpose is good.
Direction is profitable.
And, I can't help but turn to the Bible to read more about what Christ's purpose was on this earth.
If, as a Christian (follower of Christ), I want to live like Him, then I want to catch His vision.
In Luke 4, Jesus reveals that He is the Messiah, and what His purpose was on earth...
Beginning in verse 16,
And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up.
And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read.
And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
What a beautiful verse.
What a faithful promise.
And, what a meaningful purpose.
Today, and every day, I want to ask God how I can:
1. Have the Spirit of the Lord fall on me.
2. Be anointed to proclaim good new to the poor (this isn't just the poor financially, by the way).
3. Proclaim liberty to the captives.
4. Proclaim sight for the blind.
5. Liberate those who are oppressed.
We can all have a part in each one of those things.
We can pray that God's Spirit would rest upon us. We can ask Him to forgive us of any un-confessed sin in our lives. We can repent of those sins and ask for His favor to rest upon us.
We can ask for His strength and anointing to give us the courage to proclaim His good news.
We are all sinners, in need of a Savior.
We are one decision away from an eternity without God.
Christ is the answer to all of our questions, and asking Him to be Lord of our life brings peace.
We must be a part of bringing liberty to the captives.
There are slaves all around us...even in our country.
Pray that they will be released.
Act in whatever ways you can to bring freedom to those who are held captive.
There are excellent organizations that are bring hope to the hopeless...let us fight alongside them!
Tell those who can not see that there is a way their eyes can be opened.
And if they refuse to see it, then pray that God will open their eyes for them.
I heard an amazing story not long ago of a good friend of mine who came to understand what it meant to follow Jesus Christ. She explained that she had been blind for so many years, and suddenly (after many faithful times of prayer by her friends and family), she said it felt like God had removed the blinders from her eyes. Her eyes had literally been opened... sight had been declared for her.
We can all have a part in God's plan.
We can pray with conviction and faith.
We can plan with courage.
And, finally, we can act.
We act, knowing that God is on our side, and ultimately He will be the one to see His plans unfold.
He is in control.
His purposes will prevail.
And, yet, He invites us to join Him on this journey of significance.
I choose to step into that today.
And, I am praying that you find this place of purpose for your life as well.
May the Lord bless you and keep you.
May He make His face shine upon you.
And, may He give you peace.
Image via Unsplash