Indwelling Sin

So, for today’s entry, we’re going to discuss what most of culture and even among Christians is considered a subject that must not be discussed. Sin. And more specifically, Indwelling Sin—this is sin that remains in a believer after their profession of faith in Christ. So, going forward, I will discuss 4 questions around this topic:

  • What is it?
  • How does it present itself?
  • What do we do about it?
  • How do we kill it?

To most believers, they have never heard of this topic. They may have heard of the doctrine of Sanctification. That is the process by which God makes us more like Him, ultimately achieving this when we receive our glorified bodies. Now, this process is different from the others in which this doctrine we do have a hand in, and it is in cooperation with the Holy Spirit. “Wait a minute” you might say, “I thought our salvation was by faith alone, not by works—how can we have a hand in something that Scripture says ultimately belongs to God?” And you would be right—however, our sanctification requires extreme efforts on our part as well. And hopefully, you will see what I am talking about by the time you reach the end of this entry. For the most part, I will be using a lot of Scripture, but Romans 8 will be the foundation of everything I will speak to—my own personal and spiritual opinion is that all of Scripture comes to bear in Romans 8, that you see everything God has been doing and will do in Romans 8, and what our part is in it!

So, Indwelling Sin—we come to the first point I wish to talk about, WHAT IS IT? Simply put, it is anything and everything that is earthly in me. Philippians 4: 8 states this:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Paul commands us to think on these things, which if our minds and hearts are completely centered on Christ, we will be thinking about these things—if they are not set on Christ, then we will begin to think of things opposite to what Paul writes in Philippians 4:8. On the same token, Colossians 3:5, which is an extensive list, but not at all a comprehensive one, lists the following: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness (idolatry). Then Paul writes in the same breath about emotions—anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk. Simply put, sin is anything that is the completely opposite of God—to use the lesson from Child Evangelism Fellowship, it is anything we think, say, or do that does not please God.

And that leads me to the second point—HOW DOES IT PRESENT ITSELF? How does sin remain in a believer after coming to Christ? See, turning away from sin is a constant state for the believer—it never ends. There is always things to try to distract us from Christ. Romans 6:12-13a states:

Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness…

Here we see Paul making mention of something called “members” as instruments…so the question has to be asked—what are the members of our bodies? Simply put, it is our hearts, minds, eyes, hands, feet, and mouths. Going back to a teaching that Jesus gave about Anger and Lust, let’s take a look:

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.

~Matthew 5:21-22

And also:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.  If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.

~Matthew 5:27-30

From these two teachings from Christ, we see him equating that what one feels in the heart, they might as well have already committed the sin, in fact they already have from God’s perspective. What is in our hearts is what causes us to sin. Moving on, I come back to Romans 8:13, at least the first part, where Paul states:

“For if you live according to the flesh you will die…”

You see, Paul writes here to believers in Rome, and to us! God is giving a warning to those who think they are in Christ but continue to live in their sin or continue to let sin reign over them. See, Paul writes in Romans 8:13 a warning. And there are two possible responses that people could have to the warning—the born-again believer will welcome this warning with thankfulness, fear, and trembling before God. The believer will say, “thank you God, for the warning and the blessings you give to me from your Word.” The person who might be play-acting at being a Christian, and I know that is a strong word to use—playacting—but a person who lays claim to Christianity and lets sin continue to have a hold of their life is playing a very, very dangerous game of Russian Roulette…That kind of person might have a response to this kind of message of “I don’t need that kind of talk…yes resisting temptation is important, but how dare you say that if I don’t fight with my sin that I will die and go to hell.” In fact, in culture, we saw this play out recently in a show, and no—I DO NOT WATCH THIS SHOW, but what happen plays exactly to what I’m talking about. It comes from The Bachelorette…To give some background, both the lady who was the Bachelorette and one of the bachelors laid claim to Christianity, and the discussion of sex came up. Here is what the bachelor, Luke Parker, said on the show:

“So, let’s talk about sex and how the marriage bed should be kept pure,” said Parker at the time. “I had an encounter with God. I was in the shower and God was speaking to me. I realized that I wasn’t the man that I wanted to be. And I’ve been working on being the husband that I want to be for my future wife.”

Alright, now this blew up into a whirlwind of controversy because this seems to be such a novel concept in culture—especially for men. But honestly, that encounter with God that Mr. Parker is alluding to, caused him to want to walk more closely with God and become the man that God desires him to be for a wife. I am not confirming that Mr. Parker is a Christian, I do not know him and only God truly knows his heart, however, here is what the bachelorette, Hannah Brown, said:

“I have had sex, and, honestly, Jesus still loves me…Guess what? Sex might be a sin out of marriage, pride is a sin, too, and I feel like this is like a pride thing,” Brown said. “I feel like I’ve finally gotten clarity on you and I do not want you to be my husband.”

Wow—can you see the difference in the responses? Yes, Jesus might still love her, but he is also calling her out of that lifestyle. Paul writes in Romans 6:1-2:

“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?

Now, going back to Romans 8:13a, look at the word die. Going to the Greek translation on this, the word for this is apothnesko, and breaking this word down, apo means “away from” and this prefix intensifies the meaning of the second half thnesko which means “to die,” so to put it all together, it is a separation that goes with dying. Separation from what? In the context of Scripture, it is a separation from God and our spirits ultimately die.

Now back to the word members…Romans 8:5a-6a says the following—For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh…For to set the mind on the flesh is death…” Our minds can be both a physical and spiritual muscle. It can be like my hand here. I can take my hand and SET it on something. The same can be said for our minds. What else is a member? Our mouths—James in 3:6 writes that the “tongue can be a great instrument of unrighteousness.” We can build up or tear down with our speech! Finally, our hearts. In James 4:8 and Proverbs 4:23 calls for us to cleanse our hearts and to guard it because from it flows springs of life. Essentially, what flows from the members and our bodies is what’s in the heart!

That brings me to my 3rd point—WHAT DO WE DO ABOUT IT??? The second half of Romans 8:13 gives us an action—putting to death. Going to the Greek again, this word, death, the Greek word is thanatoo, which is a metaphorical sense of putting to death. If you go further to Romans 8:36, there is a different Greek word, sfage, which means to slaughter. We are to die to ourselves each and every day. There is a book called “Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave” and the author, Edward T. Welch, had this to say about self-control:

“There is a mean streak to authentic self-control. . . . Self-control is not for the timid. When we want to grow in it, not only do we nurture an exuberance for Jesus Christ, we also demand of ourselves a hatred for sin. . . . The only possible attitude toward out-of-control desire is a declaration of all-out war…There is something about war that sharpens the senses…You hear a twig snap or the rustling of leaves and you are in attack mode. Someone coughs and you are ready to pull the trigger. Even after days of little or no sleep, war keeps us vigilant.”

Now, John Piper is a little more direct in his thoughts, he says:

I hear so many Christians murmuring about their imperfections and their failures and their addictions and their shortcomings — and I see so little war. Murmur, murmur, murmur. “Why am I this way?” Make war! If you wonder how to make war, go to the manual. Don’t just bellyache about your failures. Make war!

In several areas of Scripture we see talks about crucifying our old selves and taking up our cross to follow Jesus…Well, what are crosses and the purpose of crucifixion? DYING. Now violence was mentioned, well we must ask this—violence against whom or what? Not other people. Not other people. In my life, this violence must be done only against one person—ME. Fleshly Tom doesn’t love God—he loves things like food, sleep, and entertainment before God…You see, in Christian circles, we hear things like “the devil made me do it” and that is FALSE. We constantly find ways to do a Satan thing, like laying of hands and prayers against Satan…and that is extremely important—For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” That’s important! But Satan can NEVER make me sin! Satan doesn’t nearly that kind of power! In Romans, Satan doesn’t even show up until Chapter 16, and that’s just a mere mention, a mere footnote for Him. The only person who can send me to Hell is myself! And so, that brings me to my 4th and final point…

HOW DO WE KILL SIN??? And Romans 8:13 states that we are to do it by the Spirit. But how do we do it by the Spirit? Well, let me work backwards for a moment—the way that it looks like in daily living is taking drastic measures to remove sin from our lives! Remember that teaching about lust that Jesus gave in Matthew 5? He said to cut off our hands and to gouge out our eyes—but did he mean this in a literal sense? No—what he meant is remove the opportunities that would give rise for us to actively sin! Now, the next thing is how do we identify those things that would give us opportunities to sin? Well, take a look at these 4 passages of Scripture, and I think they are fairly self-explanatory:

  • “but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night” ~Psalms 1:2
  • “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” ~Deuteronomy 6:6-9
  • “and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God…” ~Ephesians 6:17b
  • For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” ~Hebrews 4:12-13

Doing all of these things will produce what Philippians 4:8 tells us to do and what is found in Galatians 5:22-23. Against sin, only ONE thing is named as an offensive weapon in spiritual warfare, and that is the Word of God.

~Tom

The Supremacy of God (Isaiah 6:1-8)

The Supremacy and Wrath of God and Christ

(Isaiah 6:1-8)

 

To begin this, it’s important for me to establish where I’m coming from on this in two different quotes I’ve found. The first is from Dr. David Wells, an author of a book titled No Place for Truth: Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology? Dr. Wells writes:

“The disappearance of theology from the life of the church, and the orchestration of that disappearance by some of its leaders, is hard to miss today, but oddly enough, not easy to prove. It is hard to miss in the evangelical world—in the vacuous worship that is so prevalent, for example, in the shift from God to the self as the central focus of faith, in the psychologized preaching that follows this shift, in the erosion of its conviction, in its strident pragmatism, in its inability to think incisively about the culture, and in its reveling in the irrational.”

And then from the late RC Sproul, founder of Ligonier Ministries, who has said the following:

“We live in a day when people say that theology doesn’t matter. This is what David Wells was decrying in his book, No Place for Truth. What counts is feeling good, being ministered to in our psychological needs, and having a place where we can feel the warmth of fellowship and have a sense of belonging and relevance. Theology is something that divides and stirs up controversy and debates. “We don’t need doctrine,” we are told, “We need life.”

At the heart of Reformed theology is the affirmation that theology is life because theology is the knowledge of God. And no more important knowledge exists to inform our lives than the knowledge of God.”

Ever since I took my first theology class at Grace University, a topic I didn’t really know existed, I had a whole new encounter with God and my faith exponentially grew—I was able to wrestle and understand my faith in way that began to help me live it out, because I began to understand that God could be known in certain ways He revealed to us in Scripture. I was able to study and get to know God in a way that I hadn’t gotten to know previously, and I began to know the outskirts of God. And in this, I found the Supremacy of Christ in different aspects…Aspects that began to help me know and pursue to know God. Some of those aspects I would like to just discuss, and these are simply the aspects that God revealed to us through His Word. And it is my prayer that we all press on to know God in these ways and how it affects our lives day to day!

Read with me Isaiah 6:1-7…

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train[a] of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!”[
b]

And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”

Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”

 

To give some background on this passage, King Uzziah was one of the great kings of Israel, reigning for 50 years, according to 2 Chronicles 26. It was an uncertain time for Israel, as the nation saw great things done by God in the nation during his rule! Isaiah then had this dream…

Here we can clearly see the Supremacy of Christ. And there are SO many attributes of God contained in here that just on looking in Scripture, you can identify. Sitting on a throne, surrounded by angelic beings, he establishes his Supremacy before Isaiah. Bear with me as I just go through a lot of them…

We must get to know Christ in the supremacy of His deity. Christ is equal with God in all of his attributes and in the trinity, in a holy relationship with each other.

We must get to know Christ in the supremacy of His eternality—it blows the mind to know that Jesus Christ never had a beginning! He is the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End, the Alpha and Omega. Christ said that before Abraham was, I am! Christ was there at Creation and throughout all human history!

We must get to know Christ in the supremacy of His constancy! Can you imagine this—to have virtues that will never ever change—Hebrews 13:8 says that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. It would be amazing to have this, to have a character such as this!

We must get to know Christ in the supremacy of His knowledge! Christ has infinite knowledge, so much so that it would make all the information on the internet look like a Dr. Seuss book and such knowledge of atoms and subatomic realities that the likes of Stephen Hawking could only dream of, and make his knowledge look like that of a farmer’s almanac!

We must get to know Christ in the supremacy of his wisdom! Christ has never been perplexed by any problem whatsoever. We’ve seen examples of Christ’s wisdom in action both in Christ himself and in King Solomon—being able to look at a situation or problem and just knowing the answer right off the bat! It’s that kind capability that makes me envious of people who can do math without having to write it out!

We must get to know Christ in the supremacy of His authority! Christ said in Matthew 28 that “all authority in heaven and earth has been given to me!” To change seasons and with which he governs the universe establishing the path of the planets!

We must get to know Christ in the supremacy of His Providence! Nothing surprises Christ! He sets up kings, tears down kings, ordaining some for glory and some for wrath! By His providence, He knows when birds fall and are born, and by which not a single hair on anyone’s head turns white or black!

We must get to know Christ in the supremacy of His Word! Without His word, nothing happens. He upholds everything in the universe by the His Word! Giving life to those in Scripture with 3 words—“Lazarus, come forth!” or with one word—“I said to you, in your bones, LIVE!”

We must get to know Christ in the supremacy of His purity! Jesus Christ never ever sinned. He lived a life of perfection, all the way to the Cross and after, being tempted so that we could see His humanity and resisted for our sake!

We must get to know Christ in the supremacy of His wrath and justice! Christ is in heaven, storing up almighty wrath—and one day, it will explode upon this earth with a fury the likes no one has ever seen, so much so that people will turn to the mountains and beg them to send rocks to crush them so that they will not have to face the wrath and justice of Christ. Whenever I see or hear people ask “where is our supreme God?” in the wake of persecutions and beheadings of Christians around the world, I simply think and say He is in heaven storing up all of his wrath and waiting to deal out on those who commit such sins. It is not a hard question to answer biblically…

We must get to know Christ in the supremacy of His servant-like obedience! Christ kept every single one of His Father’s commands all the way to the cross, establishing for us an open relationship with God again!

We must get to know Christ in the supremacy of His grace! Which gives to us sinners life. To walk on this earth in relationship with Him for the rest of our days—this two second slice on earth and then spending eternity with him or not.

There are many other attributes to know Christ’s supremacy in—meekness, tenderness, lowliness, love, gladness, severity, invincibility, dignity, simplicity, complexity, resoluteness, calmness, depth, and courage! When we get to know Christ in these ways, we have ONLY just BEGUN to know the outskirts of the Supremacy of Christ.

And if it seems to you that you can’t see Christ’s supremacy in these areas…realize these things:

Christ’s supremacy exists at the top of Mount Everest 29000 feet up and then all the way down to bottom of the Pacific Ocean 36000 feet down in the Mariana Trench. Christ is supreme over all plants and animals from the peaceful blue whale to the microscopic killer viruses. He is supreme over weather and movements of the Earth such as hurricanes, tornadoes, monsoons, earthquakes, avalanches, floods, snow, rain, and sleet. Christ is supreme over all chemical processes that heal and destroy such as cancer, AIDS, malaria, flu, and all the antibiotics and healing drugs that we don’t deserve. Christ is supreme over countries, armies, and governments. He is supreme over Al Qaeda, terrorists, kidnappings, suicide bombings, and all the beheadings.  He is supreme over all the nuclear threats from Iran, Russia, and North Korea. Christ is supreme over politics, elections, and debates. He supreme over all media, sports, entertainment, and leisure. He supreme over all education in the universities regardless of what they are teaching. He is supreme over all the scholarship and researches. Christ is supreme over all business, finance, industry, manufacturing, and transportation. He is supreme over the internet and all informational systems—as Abraham Kuyper famously said once, “There is not 1 square inch on planet Earth over which the Risen Christ does not say MINE! I RULE IT—I AM SUPREME OVER IT!”

What does this have to do with Isaiah’s dream in Isaiah 6? You see all of this, in Christ sitting on the throne, surrounded by Seraphim, smoke everywhere, the train of his robe filling it up, and the foundations shook at his word! And then you hear the seraphim singing HOLY, HOLY, HOLY. To clarify this, when you see repetitions in Scripture like this, it means this—Holy, Holier, and the Holiest! Nothing is above Him.

But what application does this have for us? Look to Isaiah’s response—“woe is me, I am lost, I am a man of unclean lips and of a people with unclean lips!” Isaiah despaired when he saw God—why? Because he saw the supremacy and holiness of Christ was before him and he stood there, an unclean sinner—he would be struck down! He couldn’t get to know God, let alone stand before him in his sin…

And it is the same for us—why? We can’t get to know God in our sin because the wrath of God rests upon us. And I believe this is an under-preached attribute of God, because it makes people uncomfortable—we only want to hear about the attributes of God that make us feel good. This goes back to the quote I read earlier—that we tend not want to wrestle with these things and truly getting to know God because it divides, it makes us feel uncomfortable. And so we fail in getting to know God.

And to show how we must wrestle with the Wrath of God, we look to see Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane. Here we see Christ praying in a way we’ve never seen him pray before…He is under so much stress that he is sweating drops of blood. What can be causing Christ so much stress? It wasn’t the cross, it wasn’t the beatings, it wasn’t the upcoming trial…Christ was going to face and take on the cup of God’s wrath. In this narrative, we see Christ present two cups…one he gave to his disciples at the Passover meal, the other, he took for himself, one that not a single one of us could take ourselves. To understand this, look to Jeremiah 25:15-29 which says:

Thus the Lord, the God of Israel, said to me: “Take from my hand this cup of the wine of wrath, and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it. 16 They shall drink and stagger and be crazed because of the sword that I am sending among them.”

17 So I took the cup from the Lord’s hand, and made all the nations to whom the Lord sent me drink it: 18 Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, its kings and officials, to make them a desolation and a waste, a hissing and a curse, as at this day; 19 Pharaoh king of Egypt, his servants, his officials, all his people, 20 and all the mixed tribes among them; all the kings of the land of Uz and all the kings of the land of the Philistines (Ashkelon, Gaza, Ekron, and the remnant of Ashdod); 21 Edom, Moab, and the sons of Ammon; 22 all the kings of Tyre, all the kings of Sidon, and the kings of the coastland across the sea; 23 Dedan, Tema, Buz, and all who cut the corners of their hair; 24 all the kings of Arabia and all the kings of the mixed tribes who dwell in the desert; 25 all the kings of Zimri, all the kings of Elam, and all the kings of Media; 26 all the kings of the north, far and near, one after another, and all the kingdoms of the world that are on the face of the earth. And after them the king of Babylon[a] shall drink.

27 “Then you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Drink, be drunk and vomit, fall and rise no more, because of the sword that I am sending among you.’

28 “And if they refuse to accept the cup from your hand to drink, then you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts: You must drink! 29 For behold, I begin to work disaster at the city that is called by my name, and shall you go unpunished? You shall not go unpunished, for I am summoning a sword against all the inhabitants of the earth, declares the Lord of hosts.’

 

Let’s put this in perspective—close your eyes. Imagine you have come to the home of the most desolate and poor person for coffee. You come in, and you see the conditions of their home. Animal waste is all over the floor, the kitchen is such a disaster that would make the Health Inspector keel over. You sit down at the kitchen table, and the owner of the home gets an unclean cup and pours coffee from a pot that would turn your face green. Finally, the person pours in creamer that you are so sure has to be expired and has gone bad…and then gives the cup to you and you can just see all kinds of unmentionable things in the cup and afraid to drink it when the person who gave it to you goes DRINK IT!

That’s what happened in Gethsemane… Christ was reckoning with God—I have to drink this? Please, no! And God is telling Christ—DRINK IT! The victory was won at calvary, but the battle and war was fought in Gethsemane. It blows the mind to know that Christ took this on, that he was crushed for us. This seems like some kind of cosmic child abuse, but it blows the mind even more to know that Christ willingly took it—the cup is empty! This was the coal that that took away Isaiah’s sin—the altar that always was kept burning as a symbol of God’s holy wrath and hatred of sin took it way! DA Carson wrote that if you want to see the love of God, look to the cross, but if you also want to see the wrath of God, look to the cross.

Because of this, the door is open to us! Get to know Christ! Dive into the Scriptures, don’t just give it a little nudge and then go off to do what you really want to do—SWIM in it, immerse yourself in God’s word. We can get to know him, love him, talk with him! The greatest gift of Christ’s sacrifice is not eternal life, but in getting to know God in all of his entirety through Scripture and in fellowshipping with Him through others. Because of this, we can be like Isaiah when Christ calls “who will go for us? Whom shall I send?” We can say with confidence Send Me.

My Sermon

This is so late, I know, but this is the sermon I preached last May

 

Serving One Another: Imitating Christ’s Example of Servant-Leadership

 

Alright, so in putting together this message, I struggled with different approaches on how to break this down. Serving one another—Scripture calls all followers of Christ to do this. And the command is simple and straightforward. There is no room for interpretation. As I thought long and hard about how to explain such a black and white command, my thoughts turned back to when I attended Grace University. The school’s mission was a break down of John 13:1-17. To create servant-leaders for the home, the church, and the world.  Here is what John 13:1-17 says:

12 When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. 16 Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant[c] is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

 

 

So, that helped me to move forward—in following Christ, what does a servant leader look like? What are the characteristics of a leader? What are the characteristics of a servant? And to what extent does Christ call us to fulfill this calling?

Servant Leadership at Grace had 7 different leadership disciplines to integrate into their lives, but for right now, I will cover only 4 that I think pertain to every follower of Christ.

  1. LEADERSHIP
    1. A Servant-Leader is a biblically literate student.
      1. “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” Deuteronomy 6:1-9 speaks of diligently studying the Word and commands of God. A follower of Christ in his or her walk is someone who knows, understands, and applies God’s Word to every aspect of their lives. Culture today constantly wishes that we do not bring and live out God’s Word in the public sphere. It’s okay if you practice it at home, but that’s where it stays. For the follower of Christ, this is not possible. Ravi Zacharias, of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, writes the following about how the current society views religious beliefs: “secularization generally held that religious ideas, institutions, and interpretations have lost their social significance. People liked the idea of a secular society and a secular government. But in terms of moral values and ethics, they never checked into the internal assumptions of secularization that made it wide open to almost any view on any subject… In pluralism you have a competing number of worldviews that are available, and no worldview is dominant. But smuggled in with pluralization was the absolutization of relativism. The only thing we could be sure of was that all moral choices were relative and there was no point of reference to right and wrong…Last is privatization, which is an accommodation to the religiously minded. If secularization and pluralization were going to hold sway, what does society do with the large number of people who are spiritually minded? Being spiritually minded was okay as long as people kept their spiritual beliefs private and did not bring them into the public arena.” And this kind of thinking is prevalent today in the American Church—the lack of church’s teaching what God says about certain topics in today’s society is leading to young people walking away from the faith and letting culture dictate what is right. Removing the sense of absolute truth leads to chaos in a society, leading to a society of men without chests as CS Lewis would say. Two final things on this—first is a poem by Steve Turner called The Atheist’s Creed—this poem sums up what culture and society generally preaches.(READ POEM). With that poem now in your mind, listen to what Ligonier Ministries, an organization ran by the late RC Sproul has to say. They do a survey every two years to find out what the theological temperature of the American Church. Here is what they concluded in 2018: The 2018 State of Theology survey reveals deep confusion about the Bible’s teaching, not only among Americans as a whole, but also among evangelicals. There is something very wrong when a majority of Americans can give the correct answers to basic Bible questions and at the same time say that their beliefs are purely a matter of personal opinion. These results show the urgent need for sound biblical teaching and the bold preaching of the gospel. Millions of people do not understand the holiness of God, the reality of sin, and the one way of salvation in Jesus Christ. There is much work to be done, but it is our hope that these findings will serve the church in its efforts to reach more people with the faithful proclamation of the truth of God’s Word.
      2. Not only is a disciple someone who knows and understands God’s Word, but he or she puts it into practice. This means that a Servant Leader is a Critical Thinker and an Engaged Citizen.
        1. 2 Corinthians 10:5, Paul writes that we destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God. Going back to what I said previously, the Church in the last century has pulled itself more and more from society, removing itself as a light to the lost. As a result, we have seen society devolve into chaos and many evils have arisen as a result. The most evil I can identify is how American society has begun to treat its children. From the unborn to children in foster care, the church has decided to hide God’s truth within the walls of its buildings, but has failed to carry God’s truth and light into the world in everyday life and living. We hear things that we know ultimately are false truths, but are afraid to confront them out of fear for our own reputations. One of my favorite people to listen to, Ben Shapiro, says that if we hear something that we know to be false, don’t be afraid to embrace the fire. Challenge it, use truth to confront evil at its outset and let God do the rest. The prophet Daniel’s friends, Meshach Shadrach and Abednego (Veggietales just calles them Rack, Shack, Benny) confronted a falsehood and God was ultimately glorified in how they shared God’s truth to King Nebuchadnezzar. A follower of Christ is not just present in society, but is in engaged with it to bring God’s truth and light to the lost and unredeemed. Summit Ministries identifies 10 different disciplines that follower of Christ must be knowledgeable in—Theology, Philosophy, Biology, Psychology, Christian Ethics, Sociology, Law, Politics, and History.
  • To finish off this part of the message, a Servant-Leader is also an Obedient Disciple.
    1. A follower of Christ combines everything into this. He or she acts consistently with Scripture’s commands. They submit to proper leadership, is in good local fellowship in a body of believers, and understands that all forms of leadership are God ordained and we are required to obey our leaders, so long as the commands and laws of our leadership do not directly conflict with the Word of God. In John 13, Christ directly commanded us to be obedient, just as he was. Starting in verse 12, “When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his plac, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example., that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.” What is Christ’s example? Turn with me to Philippians 2:1-8, where we see Paul expanding on what Christ’s example is
    2. “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” And this brings us into the opposite end of the spectrum in serving others—exercising humility. Culture says that in order to lead others, you must be ready to make all the decisions, to rule over others. Christ says the opposite—Jesus has said that, if I can simplify his words, to serve is to lead, to lead is to serve. And a foundational tenet that every disciple of Christ must have is humility.
  1. SERVANTHOOD(HUMILITY)
    1. God’s call to us is to serve – and that is difficult.  It is difficult for many reasons – most of which is our pride, which gets in the way.  In fact – if you’ve been paying attention to the previous sermons what is one word that has come up?Humility! That is what we will need.  Let me take a few moments to give some indications of humility and then show you how it is a precursor to serving.”
      1. HUMILITY SEEN BY GOD
        1. Jesus was the best and most humblest person to ever walk the earth, and he was accused of being arrogant. Why? John 5:18 says it all! “This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.” So what’s the expectation on his followers in this? It’s that we won’t be able to escape the accusation of arrogance as well. We can be the most humblest of men, but since we believe and teach that Jesus is the only way to God, we will be accused of being arrogant. There’s no way to avoid that. But in being humble, when others accuse us and we maintain our walk with Christ, we will heap burning coals upon their heads. John Calvin reflected on these words by Augustine—“As the orator, when asked, What is the first precept in eloquence? Answered, delivery: What is the second? Delivery…And the third? Delivery. So if you ask me in regard to the precepts of the Christian Religion, I will answer, first, second, and third: Humility.” So in this part of the message, I hope you will be able to understand the kind of humility that Christs wishes us to emulate. There are just 6 traits I would like to go over.
      2. HUMILITY GIVE GOD THE CREDIT
        1. 1 Corinthians 1:26-31—“For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.  But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are,  so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption  so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” The humility here that we are supposed to learn is that it’s glad that God gets the credit for choosing us according to His will, not ours or by anything we’ve done. The reason God does it this way is so that no one can boast of themselves in this, but boasts in God. Christlike humility takes our bragging away and puts it on God…Can any of us be happy and glad that God does it that way? HUMILITY RECOGNIZES THE GIFTS OF GOD
  • HUMILITY RECOGNIZES THE GIFTS OF GOD
    1. 1 Corinthians 4:6-7“I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another. For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?” Christlike humility tells our spirits that everything we have and receive is a complete and total free gift of God. And this further removes the ability to boast in ourselves because any talent, intelligence, skills, gifts, looks, the family we come from, possessions, wit, and influence—any pride that we have in that is removed because the Christlike humility we have tells us that it comes from God, and not of ourselves.
  1. HUMILITY ACKNOWLEDGES GOD’S PROVIDENCE
    1. James 4:13-17“Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” Have you acknowledged that God is in control of everything? Right down to the very beating of our own hearts? Do you acknowledge that when you arrived at Hope today, that it was God who willed you to get here? Christlike humility acknowledges that it is not our will or plans that matter, but only God’s will…As Jesus stated in his prayer in the garden before he was arrested, not my will be done, but yours. This is by far probably the hardest for any believer to accept, because we like to believe we have free will, but even Romans 9 says that we don’t have that, and that to submit our will to the will of God is by far the most freeing in this, because we have completely acknowledge Christ as lord and master over our lives.
  2. HUMILITY CHERISHES THE GOSPEL
    1. Colossians 3:12-13—“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” Are you willing to forgive others readily? This is rooted in the gospel. God’s forgiveness of us is through Christ. Christlike humility is gospel humility. It’s not just copying Jesus in his willingness to die for others, but this is enabled in us because he died for us.
  3. HUMILITY SERVES OTHERS
    1. Philippians 2:3-8—“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,[a] who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,[b] but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,[c]being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” This is the crux. Humility is ready to serve. It requires us to get low and build others up. It looks to the needs of others and gives time and effort to help with those. This is what Christ did. Humility measures everything by these questions: Is it serving the good of other people or am I feeding my ego? Am I feeding the faith of others?
  4. IN ACTION
    1. So what does all of this look like in the service of others? It’s radical love in action. Going back to the Grace Mission statement, it lists 3 places it wants servant-leaders to be—the home, the church, and the world. Those are the three mission fields. And Christ commands us to live out being servants in all three.
      1. Home—whether you are married with kids or you are living on your own, Christ wants you to make this an everyday thing. Living out his commands in the privacy of our home. If in private, we cannot or are unwilling to follow His commands, then how can we in the other two spheres?
      2. Church—Scripture says that we are to be a part of a body of believers. In a community of believers, we can serve one another and lift each other up. We do life with each other that goes beyond just Sunday worship. If you hear about someone struggling with something in their life, reach out to them, ask them about it, ask to pray with them, and then follow up with them. For this express purpose, I have a journal where I write my prayers to God, where I am able to remind myself of what others are going through in their lives and I try to the best of my ability to follow up. A family is not built on just getting together one or two times a week, but through making sure that they are having their needs met on a physical, spiritual, and emotional level. God designed us to not be alone, but rather to be in the company of others and build relationships.
  • The World—Most people take this to mean overseas missions. But to me, it can just mean talking with your neighbor over the fence. How many of you remember the old Tim Allen sitcom, Home Improvement? Any of you remember his friend and neighbor Wilson? The guy who always had his face hidden by some object? Whenever Tim Allen’s character ran into a situation that he wasn’t sure how to navigate, he could always rely on Wilson to talk to and receive helpful wisdom, odd and eccentric as the wisdom sometimes was. Reaching the world doesn’t require you to go overseas, but sometimes just crossing over and visiting your neighbor.
  1. In regards to serving one another, most would look to Christ or the apostles of best examples of how to serve one another. But I tend to think about another man who was much like us—who could only learn about Christ through God’s Word. If you ever have time, look up the man named William Wilberforce—he was the architect that brought down slavery in the British Empire. The first hurdle he had to overcome was abolishing the slave trade. From the time he was 21 to his death, he spent his life in British politics, and for 20 of those years, he fought with a passion to abolish the slave trade. He firmly believed that this was in service to Christ, and serving his fellow man. He was ridiculed by many for his attempts, but ultimately he succeeded, at nearly the cost of his own life. That is what Christ and God call us to do—serve one another and be ready to make huge sacrifices in working for God to bring others into a right relationship with Him. I believe that the reason that we see a decline in traditional belief in God is that we, and I am speaking of the American Church in a general sense, tend to have worship services that are light-hearted and not challenging. No one would think that with everything going on, that people might be going to hell, even some people that we thought were followers of Christ. Serving one another requires us to make others who aren’t in Christ aware of the position they are currently in before God, and to those nominal Christians, making them aware of the precarious position they find themselves in before God as well. If you want examples of ways you can personally serve, look here in the body of Hope—see if there are people you can reach out to. In the community, where we are supposed to be showing mercy and justice, I work in the child welfare field for PromiseShip, where their mission is Helping Families Be Families, children in need of people just showing that they care and love them. I’ve invited here members of my old team I used to work with—the PromiseShip PSW team. If you can, go up to one of them and ask how you can help them serve the families in need in Omaha, I’ve also invited my good friend, Ryan Pramberg. He’s the director of the Millard North Campus Life Club for Omaha Youth for Christ, they are getting ready to hold their Over the Edge event in a week. These are just two ways you can reach out to OUR mission field, which is the city of Omaha. In closing, I just have two final things. I have the lyrics to a song by one of my favorite Christian Heavy Metal bands I would like to read to you, don’t worry I will not subject you to their actual music. And then, during the offering, I would like you to just watch this video before I close us in prayer. The title of the song is called The Harvest by Wolves at the Gate, and it is in reference to Christ calling the world a field ready for the harvest, but the workers are few.
    1. The valley is wide and the canyons are deep
      For a harvest is ready of that which to reap
      Many before grabbed a sickle to shear
      But their days have past and your time is near
      So listen to me
      and heed my words see
      The world will tell you
      that we are foolish
      My words are not of simple flesh and blood
      My words are not of simple flesh and blood
      There is a famine of truth and love
      So we must press forward, forget what’s behind
      But still we must go and advance His Word
      But still we must go
      We must go now!
      We must go now!
      No looking back we press on
      No looking back we press on to the kingdom of God
      Have our hands worked the fields for Your glory?
      Or have our tongues spoken of Your story?
      Have our feet seen the pain in the labor?
      Or have we wandered off and wavered?
      Racing the clock with our selfish involvement
      Pacing our walk till the sun falls, the day’s spent
      Have the stalks seen the blade of your sheer?
      And will you labor and work for your rest, rest is near?
      If only I can see things through Your eyes
      Ignite in me a burning flame
      Forsaken life I count it as loss for the sake of the cross
      So listen to me and heed my words see
      The world will tell you that we are foolish
      Hear you now the Master’s voice it calls
      Hear you now the Master’s voice it calls

To the American Body of Christ

Alright, so it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything, and that has been due to a ton of life changes such as a new better job that is still very time consuming and energy consuming. I am heavily involved in my church now, being an Elder and handling church business matters. Now, things have settled down to a point where I can certainly begin to write again and pay some attention to my blog.

So, I wish to address something that I see more and more in the American Church, more from the generation that is 25-35 years old. So without further ado, I would like to write a letter to that demographic in the body of Christ, given the turbulent times we are in…

 

To those in Christ in the American Church,

I see more and more of this becoming prevalent in the church among my generation. I see the topic of “racial justice,” a heavier focus on the topic of race, making decisions based upon racial justice, and then a division of people forming based upon how they voted. It is not wrong to study such a thing, in order to better share the gospel. For Paul writes:

“For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.”

~1 Corinthians 9:19-23

Being all things to all people requires studying different things. However, I have seen those in the church, some I know, have gone down the road of making decisions about the church, those in the church, based upon the topic of race and racial justice. And that, from what I can see in Scripture, is not biblical nor good witnessing. So, allow me to address this.

Starting at the beginning, we see God saying, “Let us make man in our image.” This is the cornerstone—everyone is made in God’s Image. Imago Dei (Genesis 1:26-29) is the doctrinal term. This is the foundation for the gospel. Sin has marred God’s image upon us, a giant black stain, and this all required Christ to come, bring the message about the kingdom of God, dying for our sins upon the cross, and rising again securing our ability to come into a right relationship with God through Christ. Not only did Christ do that, but he knocked down the ethnic barriers between everyone.

Starting with what Paul states in Galatians 3:28-29, Romans 8:16-17, Acts 17:26, 1 Corinthians 12:13,  and Ephesians 4:1-16 that there is no indication of “race” or anything that would be a part of the church. The only differences in the unity of the body of Christ is on terms of functionality. And in the functionality, it is all about advancing the gospel.

If one of us goes into a church, and just looks with what everyone else looks at, and makes decisions based upon the racial makeup of a church, then one has committed a sin of prejudice and partiality—regardless of whether you make the decision against a predominantly white, black, Hispanic, or Chinese church.

Making such decisions on race as to who to worship with is inherently wrong. We see this in the story of the Prophet Jonah—Jonah refused to go to Nineveh to share God’s message, but without God’s message, the people of Nineveh would NEVER have repented and turned towards God. If you refuse to go to a church based upon the racial makeup of the church—ask yourself this question: Could you be making the same mistake as Jonah? Could you be depriving that church the ability and knowledge that you might have that could help them in that endeavor? I have heard of communities here in Nebraska where they have committed racial prejudices in their own church congregations against those who are ethnically different, and maybe not sharing the faith! For a small example, please read this story about a foster youth who followed Islam whose foster parents made her go to church with them, pray with them, made her eat pork, etc. (https://unl.newsnebraska.net/?p=70831&fbclid=IwAR0n7FYHMyGEfcJPnxaE3rh2vgvmLPkOgg4wr13xFQ5kD0mUOQ_meyGZK_g). Forget the legal ramifications, they tainted their witness with this poor girl!!! The lack of knowledge both legally and spiritually is staggering in this account!

In this, we have CLEAR commands from God, in 1 Samuel 16:7, John 7:24, Proverbs 24:23, Romans 2:11, 2 Chronicles 19:6-7, Acts 10:34-35, 1 Timothy 5:21 and James 2:4-13 talking about outward appearances and distinctions, and God warns of the dangers within of judging just on those, and then God even says it’s worse when we act on those prejudgments. God cares about the heart of a person. For what’s in the heart determines whether a person is good or evil in the sight of God. In James it speaks that what comes out of the mouth is what’s in a person’s heart, and Proverbs advises us to guard our hearts well for it is the “well-spring of righteousness.” Martin Luther King Jr. builds off of this saying in his I Have A Dream speech that he dreams of a day that people judge his children not by skin color but by their character, and if the heart is bad, the character is bad. A person’s skin color has NO bearing on their character.

Now, let’s move on to a specific topic of prejudging and acting on unbiblical judgments, specifically to America and a source of great current divide both in America at large, and more specifically the American Church—voting and Donald Trump. Let me ask anyone and everyone reading this question—if you have stated you don’t want to associate yourself with Trump or Clinton supporters (I know currently there are other candidates that some wouldn’t support, but I think the two camps currently can be captured in those two names), but Jesus went into a church that entirely was comprised of Trump supporters or Clinton supporters, would you follow Christ into those churches? Let’s not get into the shades of grey of specifically what Christ would do in those churches, but just sticking to the principal question of that—would you follow Christ into either of those churches? We know that from the character of Christ in Scripture, he would.

If you have said to yourself or publicly that you cannot worship in a church with ______ supporters (fill in the blank), and you know of people who are honestly Bible and Christ following people, because you believe the way they voted was unbiblical or unChristlike, have you not committed the sin of partiality and judgment? Preferring others over those? Regardless of reasons, you WILL eventually have to worship with them, regardless of your own personal convictions. This is something that SHOULD NOT divide the Church, for it has NO bearing on a person’s salvation in God. And if you fault the evangelical church in America for Trump, and the people within, let me pose this other question:

If you fault that part of the body of Christ for Trump, and you lay Trump’s election squarely at their feet and tell them what they did was wrong, would you not, by extension, be blaming God for Trump and saying God was wrong?

Let’s have few looks at what Scripture says…

“He changes times and seasons;
he removes kings and sets up kings;”

~Daniel 2:21a

“for his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
and his kingdom endures from generation to generation;
35 all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,
and he does according to his will among the host of heaven
and among the inhabitants of the earth;
and none can stay his hand
or say to him, “What have you done?”

~Daniel 4:34-35

“Many are the plans in the mind of a man,
but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.”

~Proverbs 19:21

“Our God is in the heavens;
he does all that he pleases.”

~Psalm 115:3

“declaring the end from the beginning
and from ancient times things not yet done,
saying, ‘My counsel shall stand,
and I will accomplish all my purpose,’”

~Isaiah 46:10

“For kingship belongs to the Lord,
and he rules over the nations.”

~Psalm 22:28

“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.”

~Romans 13:1-2

 

I’ll let God’s Word do the speaking here, but I will ask this—do you believe that God raised Donald Trump up to be president? I firmly believe this. I don’t say that DJT is a “chosen one” at all, only that God raised him up and ordained that DJT would be president, at the beginning of time. This is why I don’t worry about leaders or things that disappoint me in culture or current events, because I am secure in the knowledge that God ordained it would happen and that it is working to HIS purpose, not ours.

In conclusion, we will all worship God side by side in heaven, regardless of political affiliations. So, in application, I leave you with these pieces of Scripture:

For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

~Romans 10:12-13

 

“The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.””

~Mark 12:31

 

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

~Philippians 2:3-4

 

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!””

~Revelations 7:9-10

 

IN HIM

Tom

Depraved Indifference: Are you a Wilberforce?

In a couple weeks, I will be preaching at my church. The topic will be Serving One Another. However, my sermon will take a winding path to show what it looks like to serve others. By this, I mean in order to serve others, a disciple of Christ must know the length to which Christ calls us to serve.

We live in a postmodern age. Christianity is under attack from the secular world, as it always has been. In the past, Christianity came under attack in the form of physical wars on battlefields, but today’s attacks come in the form of ideological and philosophical battles, some of which the Church is ill-equipped to respond to. In the 1900s, the Church withdrew from society when the social gospel was gaining popularity, and the it was pushed further out of the public sphere when President Johnson’s War on Poverty began. As such, we’ve lost sight of the extents that Christ has called us to. To that end, we’ve gained an attitude of depraved indifference to those around us, those who need Christ the most–the poor, brokenhearted, orphans, etc. Like the Church at Ephesus in Revelation 2, the Church has forgotten its first love and refrained from the works it once did.

In serving others, Christ calls us to the point of extreme self-sacrifice. To the point of shedding our blood even. When you look at the horrors in the world today, what is your overall response? Do you look away? Do you go “Oh my gosh, that’s horrible.” (Hotel Rwanda) and then go back to what you’re doing? Or are you moved to do something about it? Are you moved to do something about injustice in your own backyard? Do you have a neighbor who suffers? What have you done to reach out to those people to bring them closer to love and redemptive power of Christ?

When I think of everyday men in history who gave their lives to remove injustices in culture, I think of William Wilberforce. He fought for over a quarter of his life (20+ years) to abolish the British Slave Trade, and then more years of his life to abolish slavery…and he succeeded. Not alone mind you, but he was alone for the most part in Parliament in his calls for the fight against slavery. He saw it as such an anti-Christian thing to do to look at someone in slavery and not to do anything about it.

Wilberforce writes:

“”God Almighty has set before me two great objects, the suppression of the Slave Trade and the Reformation of Manners (morals)”

Wilberforce was not just a political pragmatist, but a God driven man who had watched the morals of Christendom wane away, most are afraid to rock the cultural boat. If we as Christians do not speak out and act against the injustices in culture–from abortion to orphans and the homeless.

Please realize that I am not on a social justice kick here-but the church has failed to respond with the love of Christ on social issues.

Christ has given us an example to live up to–and it requires us to sacrifice our time, our comfort, and in certain instances our lives for His Gospel. “I must decrease so that he may increase.” 

Now, this posting simply a preview to what I wish to say exactly. I will post my actual sermon in a couple weeks as well as hopefully a sound (hopefully a video) recording of me giving it. That will come up on May 26th, so stay tuned to hear and read what exactly being a Servant and Soldier of Christ must look like…

Family

So, for the past two weeks–from January 18th to February 3rd (at the time I am writing this, I am still currently on vacation, and am, in fact, writing this before I sleep and in the home of my cousin and her family). Since starting this vacation, nothing has happened as I thought it would in my head leading up to it. I thought it would be all fun. Son of a gun, God had a different plan…as He normally does when it comes to me and my life. I have gotten to know and reconnect with my cousin mainly through Facebook and we have grown close than we had been when we were younger, granted having 400+ miles of distance does prevent that happening between family members. But from the moment I stepped off the bus in Minneapolis, the servant’s heart that God placed within me has been on the go go go. Like stepping off the bus that takes USMC Recruits to Parris Island–the moment you leave it, you never switch off. I had no idea that I was going to end up ministering to my cousin and her husband in many different ways. God slammed me into a stormy situation that had yet to happen and was already starting to brew. Now, granted, my cousin and her husband could have handled everything on their own and made through it alright–when both of their kids get sick at the exact same time and have to still get everything else that has to be done accomplished while taking care of two younglings, it’s doable just extremely tough. In my mind, I committed a series of cultural faux pas’ as it were being a guest in their home. I served them immensely throughout these past several days. Now, before y’all go and just say I’m bragging on myself, I want to say that is not what I’m doing here, I had no idea this was going to happen. But through this, God has taught me tons to myself, and He slammed me into a serving opportunity that I had not had in several months that pushed me so hard. And I wanted to share the lessons

And while this was supposed to be a vacation, it ultimately wasn’t–but I still wouldn’t trade it for anything. I have gotten to know my cousin and her family on a level I probably thought wasn’t going to be possible.

Follow my train of thought here as I have studied Scripture, seeking out what God was trying to teach me on this the past week, or reminding me of things already known, but had to be brought to the surface again…

  1. Taking Care of Family
    1. 1 Timothy 5:8
      1. But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
  2. Servant Leadership
    1. John 13:1-17
      1. Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.” When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

  3. Christian Living
    1. Romans 12:1-13
      1. I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function,so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

These 3 passages of Scripture arose many different times in the time I’ve spent with my family. And it’s been amazing to look back and reflect. I can’t even go into all of what I’ve learned because, as you can see from the Scripture, they ALL came into play. At the end of it all, what was supposed to be a time of fun, refreshment, and a break from life turned into a time of being busy and ministering to my family who, while it was a totally huge need, still needed help and God showed those opportunities to me where I could step in and serve them.

And through all of this, I got to know my cousin, her husband, and their children in an intimate way that truly brought us closer together. Closer, I say, than simply being cousins–I can certainly say that after all of this, I have gained another set of siblings, and by extension, a nephew and niece by adoption if I might be so bold as to say so. And I pray to God that I get to keep continue to getting to know them.

For me, family is not something that is defined and limited by labels in that community of people, especially when it comes to biblical mandate. Christ broke down barriers. There is no slave or free, Gentile or Jew–there is only Christ and His church. Christ never subscribed to labels except that which He knew he had the divine authority to apply to Himself. For me, if I am with others from the body of Christ, I only see a brother and Sister in Christ, and they are deserving of the love of Christ that fills me when they need someone to serve them.

And my cousin has been such a gracious host–dealing with my normal antics that surely drives others crazy while dealing with the craziness in her own life. She has great patience, thoughts, and understandings about a great many things, as does her husband. And it is my extreme pleasure to have them in my life and to continue to getting to know them and hopefully continue to do life with them.

And so, as I lay here at 12:22AM typing this, I pray that if they both read this, they know and understand that this vacation of mine, while it may not have turned out the way I thought it would and should–God took it and used it both to remind me what it means to follow Him, be a leader and servant for His Church, what it means to be a part of a family, and what constant Christian Living looks like. It has been a huge blessing to me and I am glad and happy all of this has taken place. And I gained a new brother and sister out of the deal 🙂

 

Good night!

~Tom

Back from Hiatus

To my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ of the world,

Sorry all for the prolonged hiatus. It’s been a very busy year for myself. I have been confirmed by my church as a deacon and then later as the Chairman. So this next year will be a trying one and a busy one as I learn what God has for me in these roles. But recently, I came across John 13:1-17 and Ephesians 4:1-16. Both of these passages encompass two aspects in following Christ—being a servant leader in your community (John 13) but then expands out to encompass the body of Christ as a whole. First, let explain to you what the word “community” means to me. The word, when spoken, drives up the image of the surrounding neighborhood that you live in. And this is true, but for the follower of Christ, that word blows up into being MORE than your immediate neighborhood. It’s your work, it’s the friends you hang out with, it’s your church—if you are surrounded by people in different aspects of your life, then that is your mission field that Christ has assigned to you to reach out and serve them. Establishing relationships and meeting people where they are at is the best way to remove the bad image that the body of Christ has received in recent years—reach out to those who are Catholic who had their faith shaken by the scandal earlier this year, give a coat to a man living on the streets, volunteer to shake a bell for the Salvation Army—make your presence known on the streets as to who you are—a redeemed and broken follower of Christ.

Regarding the Ephesians passage, this is meant for your edification. Worshipping with a body of believers is meant to refresh and encourage you, and to see what God has to teach you that morning. Everyone has a hymn and a saying as Paul said in his letter to the Corinthians. No one is just there, God has a purpose for you in His church and it ultimately glorifies him.

 

Prayers and blessings to you all, I hope to be writing more in the future as I step into the new roles that God has for me in the next year.

Embracing the Fire

The beginning of Ezekiel 33 tells us that God made Ezekiel a watchman for Israel. Jeremiah was a prophet who tried to warn Israel about the upcoming consequences of the nation’s failure to live up to their part of the covenant with God. Daniel and his friends were placed in positions of power in a nation hostile to their faith—and yet they wielded their influence for God’s glory, even when it might have caused strife with people. Paul was not afraid to get into a war of words with people who disagreed with him and the message he brought. In all, Scripture is filled with people who used the gifts they were given for God’s glory, and sometimes that meant reasoning, arguing, debating, etc.

3 times this year, I have been called out 3 different times that I’m essentially compromising my witness because of the things I post on social media. And yet, my opinion is that these people don’t know the gift sets that God has blessed me with to use for Him and His kingdom. But first, allow me to do two things to make things clear—I am not writing this to bring attention to me and make people go “oh poor Tom.” That is not my intention, either with this post or any other post on any other platform. The second is to make clear the reason why I post the things that I post.

Now, what are my gifts. Allow to first say what are now my gifts….Primarily, I am not:

An evangelist.

A preacher

A healer

An apostle

A prophet

What I am is a particularly good writer, critical thinker, and good at discipling. These are the skill sets that God has given me.

God calls us to be engaged in the culture but not to become part of it. Practicing the idea of extreme ascetism is not biblical. When I was in college, people were afraid to engage in topics of politics or social topics because they didn’t want to argue or they saw no point in debating—whether on social media or in person. But here’s the thing—most of these people who hold to the idea of “Do evangelism, Not (insert action)” don’t realize that when they evangelize, they are being offensive and will definitely cause argument and strife. The gospel, by its very nature, is offensive and argumentative because it makes a claim of exclusivity. So, by simply evangelizing, they will be stepping into a world of argument. And if one hasn’t sharpened that skill to make persuasive arguments and know how to talk and counter ideas, then that person’s witness has been compromised, for they will have failed to show and represent what God’s kingdom stands for effectively and clearly. Jesus says that he came with a sword that would divide friends and family—the sword being the Gospel and God’s Word.

The reason I engage in the topics I talk about and post the things I post is not to start an argument, but start a discussion in the hopes that it will open up an opportunity to share Christ. But I am not primarily an evangelist, but a discipler. To me, someone who has disciples is one who is knowledgeable, reasonable, teaching, and understanding. I have done this in mentorships, my job, and in my church. Another reason I engage in politics is that the topics upon which that realm includes, is because those topics were made political when they never should have been. But since those who have taken a decisive stance against God have made these topics political by dragging them into that realm, it has become necessary to educate myself on them and then share what I read and observed with others. Political learning has become necessary in order to steer the realm of politics effectively and to engage with those people who are very hostile to God. God calls us to be Salt, Light, Watchmen, Ambassadors, Soldiers, etc. And the one thing all of these have in common is to know God’s Word well and to represent Him well. If you’re afraid to engage in the culture and to educate yourselves on topics, then you’re part of the problem that faces the American body of Christ. The body of Christ in America has become what John in Revelation has called lukewarm and God will spit us out if we do not become on fire for him—in ALL manners.

 

I embrace the fire—I’m not afraid to walk towards it. But if you don’t want to argue or reason with people, which is a dying skill, then you are the ones who are unprepared.

If you read writings by Matt Walsh, Ben Shapiro, John Piper, Ravi Zacharias, and others on these very topics I have addressed myself but have no problem with them doing it—then your calling me out rings hollow.

Now, if you’re going to practice reasoning, arguing, and persuading there are two skills from the Bible you will need to practice:

“Be slow to speak, quick to listen”

When talking to someone who holds another belief or viewpoint than yours, listen to them first and wait for them to make their point. Then present yours in a clear, calm, concise way.

 

Meditate on God’s Word

Know what God’s Word says on a particular topic but most importantly, know how to communicate it to the secular world that doesn’t mention the Bible, since the secular world doesn’t consider the Bible an authoritative source.

Faith Crisis

My friends and fellow readers,

Sorry that I have had an extensive absence from writing.

Since December, my life has been in constant upheaval. From car troubles, to getting seriously sick, to having a job transfer, to issues with my personal life, I have not had a moment to myself to really think about everything, and quite honestly, I have really been questioning my faith.

But then I came across the story of Jesus and Peter walking on the water–we all know the story right? Jesus is walking on a very stormy lake towards his disciples who are struggling to get the boat they are in to the shore, they see Jesus and think that he is a ghost. Jesus assures them that it is him and Peter asks to come out on the water.

You know the rest.

Several times these past 6 months, I’ve floundered like Peter and have failed to really rely on God. I’ve wondered what will happen. Like Peter, I took my eyes off of Jesus and focused upon the fierce waves of life around me and I started to sink in the water. And the one difference between me and Peter is that I failed, multiple times, to call out to Jesus and God to save me.

But you know what, even though I never called out to Him to help me, He still was faithful to me and He showed up in numerous ways to make sure I did not fail and had everything  I needed to keep going in life. Like he did with Peter, before I started to drown, He caught me by the hand, pulled me out of the water and back into the boat, and got into it with me.

See, when Jesus promised to never leave or forsake us, He meant it, even when we fail on our part, He catches us because He promised he would do so. That is such a powerful reminder and such a great reassurance that He will.

God is our salvation, our strong fortress, and our refuge. Christ promised that he would never leave us or forsake us and that he would make sure that we would have everything we would need to live, because God knows that we need them to live and to carry out the purpose that he has for our lives

So remember, when it looks like that your life is at its lowest, just look at what God has given you to keep going and don’t ever take your eyes off of Him and become fearful of the storming waves surrounding you, Christ is right there with you.

I hope to provide many more insights from God that He has shown to me with you soon!

Roaring Lions

God is a roaring lion.

That is a very simple fact. Do you feel like you’re surrounded by the enemy and that you don’t know which way to turn when you’re challenged on your faith? Do you feel like that if you open your mouth others are going to shout us down? Well, we have forgotten that God has the louder voice. He has the power to quell those voices, but we have to be brave enough to stand up in a situation and engage the person or persons who wish to fight against God’s truth.

I realize I haven’t written in a while, my job has been crazy busy and I have had some awesome opportunities arise in my life. But now, going forward, I would like to start a series on how we should be roaring lions—being salt and light—in our culture. This series is going to cover the book of Daniel—a man, along with his friends, thrown into a culture hostile to God and His Word. Daniel was a man who had multiple opportunities to stand for God, and took them even when it was unpopular and even when he was facing death.

I am hoping that through this series, we can learn walk as Daniel did—being an ambassador for Christ, an ambassador in chains, A ROARING LION. Remember Lion King? Simba who was young couldn’t roar like his father? But then later in the movie, when he came back to face Scar, he was a spitting image of his father Mufasa, and his roar was just as terrifying—we are to be the very same. We are to be Christ-like but it is His voice that people are to be hearing. We are to lambs with the faces of lions.

 

Join me on this trek, will you?