If you get to talking to certain people long enough, you’ll end up hearing some sort of story that you have no business hearing. Not everyone has a battle with this, but some do. I've heard gossip brought up as if it were some sort of issue just for women. As a man, let me be very clear about this: men are just as guilty of gossip as women. Sin doesn't choose a gender. This is rather pervasive in the world and yes, in the church as well. I know this may be shocking to you, but even the pastor of your church could be guilty of this from time to time as well. We have all done this in one way or another.
When you look at this sin in light of scripture, you can see how common and how invasive it is. You will also see exactly what God thinks about it. I have written previously about the tongue and you should go back and read that article, but this isn't going to be just a different approach. No, in this article we will look at a specific sin, gossip.
In light of scripture, we can see many warnings against this and descriptions of what it will do.
A dishonest man spreads strife,
This sin of gossip can; and will, destroy relationships. Personally speaking, it has ruined more than one friendship for me in the past. Someone goes around someone else's back and speaks out of turn without having the entire picture. Or even understanding of the picture and starts a spark of dissension between people and, there you have it, the trust is lost. Once this trust is lost it is a hard thing to get back. The verse says “a dishonest man” so you can see that honest people aren't going to make a practice of this.
I'm sure I could write a long article about how the world is evil and how gossip flows out of the unbelievers mouths like water from a river. However, I want to focus on the body of believers right now. How, you might ask, has this invaded the church and how can I spot it? Well simply put, open your ears. I have been in groups of people gathered to discuss the Bible on Sunday morning— or on any other day of the week — and we usually have a time of prayer request. You can see it, gossip, here hiding and veiled in a request for someone who isn't there. It may sound like “Well you know Jerry? Yeah well he and his wife aren’t having a good go of things financially so we should pray for them.”
I have literally heard a statement like this and it's absolutely disturbing. While Jerry and his wife may have some issues, it's not that person's place or right to bring that up. How can this be better approached? By mentioning you have a friend who needs your prayer and not mentioning their names. It all boils down to one simple thing. Do you believe that God is who He says He is? Is God truly All Knowing? If you agree that He is such as the Bible says He is, then you have no need in bringing up that person's name. Unless the fact is that you like to stir up issues or spread rumors, then if that be the case you're in sin and you need to repent. Truly caring for someone means that you are praying for them when you're told about the issue and that you will guard their secrets and issues as a brother would help another. That's in fact what we are, isn't it? Family? If you are saved then you are a part of the family of God in which we are all adopted children and we must treat each other that way.
Family protects one another and cares for each other. We as Christians are much more than family though. We are a body, the body of Christ. An arm doesn't cause problems for the eyes or ears for the feet. Christians should not like to spread strife or, a more common word that we use these days, conflict. Do you like causing problems with other people? I'm sure you don't. If you start gossiping that's what it will lead to. It's a dangerous game to play with others' problems or even perceived problems that may only seem like an issue to you because you don't have the full picture. If you see an issue, go and speak to that person and don't let it go any further. Let what is said between those speaking.
I personally pray about this from time to time. I often find myself using scripture in my prayers because it just encapsulates my heart and what I truly want to say and pray. One of the verses I think on is from Psalm 141:3
Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth;
As Jesus said in John 15:5 “Apart from me you can do nothing” and it rings true with this as well. Truly this is a harmful sin that can irreparably damage friendships and keep us from having true and close fellowship with one another. I dare say, this is the reason most people don't actually open up; they are afraid of being hurt and their issues spread around like seeds on the farm in the springtime. Keep the trust and keep it to yourself. Pray for one another and love one another. Cling to Christ and His word. He is the solid rock on which we stand and His Word is our guide for life.
Sola Adfectus or Sola Scriptura
When you read the title, you might scratch your head and ask “why are you using Latin?”. Well, if you do some studying on church history you will see that one of the five main points that were furthered or pushed through to reform the Church was, Sola Scriptura. That statement translates to “Scripture alone” and is important because at the time of the Reformation, the Roman Catholic Church taught that what the pope said was just as important, and carried as much weight, as Scripture. That being the case, the reformers of that time came up with that saying “Scripture Alone.” This means, no matter what anyone may think or say, Scripture is the final authority on any matter for us and influences us in all aspects of our lives.
Now that we have a basis of why “Scripture Alone” is so important, let's look at the first half of the title. Sola meaning “alone” just like for Scripture Alone, Adfectus in Latin means feelings. This is a serious issue, believe it or not. Do we live by our feelings? Do we base our life's decisions or the manner in which we live by our feelings? Are we teaching in our churches that we can worship God however we feel? Is it possible that it has reached the pulpit down to the pews?
If you were to walk into almost any large church in America you might be able to hear in the music a lot of reference to the feelings of the author of the songs being sung. Or if you were to sit through some sermons in those churches you might hear the pastor say something to the effect of “I want to share what's been on my heart.” Or even “this scripture means this to me…” You see, God is very specific about a great many things in Scripture and a great many in America, and even across the world, do not pay attention to that. Many decide to put their ideas or feelings into the songs and sermons which end up going against Scripture and dishonoring God.
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. - 2 Timothy 3:16-17
All Scripture literally means all of it, all the way from Genesis to Revelation. So that means we should be able to look at the Word of God and be able to teach others and reprove each other or correct others and ourselves so that we may be complete. We will be equipped for every good work that will honor God. If we are to honor God with our lives, we should be living by the precepts and examples written down for us in Scripture.
When a preacher preaches a sermon, it should be based off of scripture in its entirety. Meaning that, if what they are teaching only aligns with 99% of Scripture, then we have to throw away whatever does not align with Scripture. When Paul the Apostle preached to the Bereans, what did they do? They went to the Scriptures to see if what he was saying were true. If they did that to an apostle, how much more should we be doing that with our pastors or teachers? We have to take these things seriously because when we die, no one will stand before God with others. We go before God alone once we die.
So if someone believes a false gospel, what happens? If someone believes in a false version, or non biblical version of Jesus, what happens? If you believe in a false Jesus who isn't a real one, much like JW’s do, how can you be saved? I have said before that God isn't all loving, He has far more many attributes. So let me encourage you to search these things out in Scripture and weigh whatever you read from anyone who writes it against Scripture to see if it aligns with it. See if the songs that you are singing in church align with Scripture. See if how you are living aligns with Scripture.
There is a warning in Scripture for a future time which I believe is here now. Its from 2 Timothy 4:3-4
For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.
If we allow our feelings to influence our faith, that is where we will end up. Far too many people and churches have fallen prey to this way of thinking. Let it not be so in the body of Christ. Let us cling to the Word and cling to Christ in all that we do and say. Let us check everything against the Word and make sure that what we believe, teach, and share with others truly aligns with what God has so lovingly given us!
Being an Encourager
I moved to the Houston area three years ago. After my arrival here, my family and I started looking for a church to attend with hopes to join. We enjoyed visiting some churches and some, to be honest, not so much. Honestly, I don't miss the “hunt” for a church. I am thankful for where God has placed us.
One of the first places we visited is the church we actually ended up eventually joining. One of the reasons that I enjoyed being there was the people. One of them specifically caught my attention from our first visit. You see, the church we were visiting has Sunday school an hour before service for all ages. After that, we scoop up our kiddos and all join in for service. It was while we were in that Sunday school class for adults that I had the pleasure of meeting one of the most influential men I have ever met.
His name was Mark Stewart. He was a big guy. I don't mean that as an insult, either. He was as tall as he was strong. As big as he was, he was just as kind, caring, and genuinely interested in talking to you. When he asked “How was your week?” you knew he actually wanted to know. This man eventually became one of my closest friends.
This large, loving man was one of the best examples I have seen on how to live for Christ and on how to be an encourager. He was the main teacher in our Sunday school class and he always started the class with a question. “How has God been good to you this week?” he would boom from the front of the class. Usually after a few seconds of silence he would then start reminding all of us that each breath we have is a gift, and the food that we have is a gift. At first when he asked that question I laughed, but after his explanation, I was convicted. God is good to us all the time even when we don't even recognize it.
Even though Mark is now with our Lord, his memory will continue to live on because of how brightly he shined his light into the darkness of this world. As I thought about him after his passing I, in a way, compare his relationship with me or so many others in which he was influential, with the one between Paul and Timothy.
They spent much time with each other. It was a true and loving friendship. If you look at how Paul talks to Timothy and addresses him, you will see the love and kindness in his words.
To Timothy, my true child in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. - 1 Timothy 1:2
He calls him his “true child in the faith.” This is such a loving way for Paul to address his faithful friend. Timothy wasn't a physical child but “in the faith.” You see, Paul was a mentor to Timothy. He helped train him up and did much in the way of ministry with him. I suggest you go through and read Acts and 1st and 2nd Timothy. Paul, while preaching the Gospel in the area Timothy was from, Lystra, shared the Gospel with Timothy's mother and grandmother. In that time Timothy repented and believed in Christ alone as well. Timothy went out with Paul and became a faithful worker alongside him.
The letters of Timothy are so kind and filled with guidance, teaching, and direction on how to steward people in the faith. It is also filled with encouragement for Timothy as he was a leader at that time. It was truly a wonderful friendship and a great thing for Timothy to have in his life; someone to lovingly guide him with wisdom, knowledge, and godly discipline.
This is what I had in my friend who is now with the Lord. This is what we should all have in our lives. We as men need older, wiser men who are willing to pour into us. Ones who will ask us the real and hard questions and call us to live out our lives in a God honoring manner. Those who will continually point to Christ and all the while speaking scripture in almost every conversation. I know I said men, but this also goes for women. Each woman of the body of Christ needs a godly woman who, much like the men, will pour into them as well.
We all need to have a “Paul” in our lives. We all should have a Timothy in our lives as well. If you think that you have nothing to offer, you're wrong. God can and will use you in ways you can’t imagine. Mark had almost 500 people at his celebration of life ceremony. He touched so many lives because he lived out his faith and he truly cared for people. He was the example I had and one I pray I live up to. So, seeing the way that Paul lived his life and the way he helped train up and mentor others, let me ask you a question.
Do you have a “Paul” in your life? Or, do you have a “Timothy”? Are you helping the new believers? Are you helping others live in a God-honoring maner? If not, let me encourage you to do so. It's something that will truly help you grow no matter which role you are playing.
The Ditch of Apathy
I often have felt myself pulled in many directions at one time. As a Christian, husband, father, and employee I feel the constant pull to share my focus in many directions at one time. I know the urge to want to shut down and just veg out on the couch and go mindless for a while. The constant yearning for my attention from, what feels like, everyone can be overwhelming. I am sure I'm not the only one who is in this boat.
On average, most people are awake for 16 hours a day. We all have that constant pull for our attention and grabbing for our focus. We have the world constantly pushing its truth —which is a lie— down our throat. We have an enemy, the devil, and his minions, trying to distract us all very often. Then we have our own attention spans, as short as they are, being led away from what is most important. That brings us to what has been on my mind lately.
Apathy is a tough thing to deal with; that feeling of just not having any motivation to focus on Christ or His Word. While being pulled in so many directions as well as having the fiery arrows flung our way, it's easy to slip into the ditch of apathy. The fact that it's easy points to the fight with our sinful nature and the fact that we want to spend time in God’s Word points to the yearning of the born again spirit that has been given to us once we are saved. So while considering this issue, I was going through the book of Romans. In Chapter 12 verse 2, you can see the direction for us so that this problem of apathy won't be so tough or happen as often for us.
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. - Romans 12:2
We are given a clear warning and directions on how not to fall prey to the warning. The warning is to “not be conformed to this world.” What does your life look like? Do you look like everyone else in the way that you live your life? Do you have the same worldview? If you do, you need to start asking yourself some serious questions about your salvation. We are to live holy lives and to be examples to the world. I like the way John MacArthur said it when he said, “You are the only Bible some unbelievers will ever read.” Convicting, right?
Next, we are told how not to end up being conformed to this world. It says to “be transformed by the renewal of our mind.” What does that look like? Simply put: Read your Bible. Read it daily, and read it often throughout the day. In America we have this idea of our “quiet time” or “devotional time” being the only way for us to connect with God or the only time that we spend time with Him. While I find it very important and integral, it's not the only time of our day that we should be “devoting” to God. The entirety of our lives should be devoted to God, not just the morning time before we get busy and forget Him the rest of the day.
Renewing your mind in His Word is a balm to a weary soul. It goes with the old saying “garbage in, garbage out.” The same applies here. The more you read Scripture, the more it will come out in your speech and in your thought life as well. This “renewing your mind” is a wonderful thing to safeguard you against apathy.
With your mind being renewed and heart safeguarded from apathy, you will have the ability to do what this verse says next. You will be able to “ discern what is the will of God.” Often I hear the question, “What is His will for me in my life?” This is how you determine that. You protect yourself from being conformed to this world by renewing your mind and then you are able to figure that out. Obviously, prayer is an important part of that equation. Also, wise and godly counsel from brothers and sisters who will be using the Word of God to counsel you. That's how you determine what is good and perfect.
This Scripture is also pointing to the fact that you will be safeguarded against heresy by this renewing of your mind. You can spot a fake from a mile away when you have spent time studying the real deal. That's how the U.S. Mint trains their employees; They have them spend a large amount of time studying the real money so once they are presented with a fake, they can spot it without hesitation.
Same thing with this as well. You will be able to tell the difference between Godly counsel and ungodly counsel. You will be able to tell the difference between a false doctrine and the Truth. Only by being in His Word daily and often throughout the day, will you be able to renew your mind. I've said it in the past and I'll say it again: singing hymns and psalms helps with that. Learning creeds and confessions will help with that as well.
That deep ditch of apathy can drag you down and keep you that way if you let it. That would be a big win for the enemy to keep you distracted and apathetic. So, fight! Cling to Christ and His word. Read your Bible often, pray often, sing often, and share His beautiful Gospel often. Our Great God deserves every moment of our attention, praise, and devotion. Keep your mind on Him and His Word and you won't fall to this attention grabbing, fiery dart attack, apathetic style of life. Will you have to fight against it? Absolutely. But He, and only He, is worthy.
The Weight of the World
Have you ever felt like the entire world around you is weighing on you? As you go day by day, the days are seemingly flying by, and it feels like nothing changes except the challenges you take on? It could be anything, really. Financial situations going off the rails, relationships falling apart, church issues, or problems at work. Whatever it may be, you may feel like everything is depending on you. I know this feeling well. I understand what it's like to hardly be able to sleep because of being stressed to the max and trusting in myself to handle everything.
While I was going through scripture and thinking about this, I just so happened to be in the book of Colossians. It really is encouraging to go through scripture and have God Himself minister to you with comforting words bringing things to light when you absolutely need them. As I looked at the first chapter, verse 17, I came across 6 words in it that shook me to the core.
And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. - Colossians 1:17
In this verse, we see the preeminence of God in all things. The fact that everything in all creation is after Him because He is the Creator of all. Everything, and I mean absolutely everything, in all of creation is under His control. Nothing is out of His reach and, as R.C. Sproul would say, “There is no rogue molecule."
In this text we also see that everything that is, is held together by His power. That means that the air that you are breathing right now is because He is causing it to exist. Processes by which your body can take in that air and put oxygen into your body and keep you alive-- which, if you have ever looked into, is an immense amount of steps -- is all caused and directed by Him. The gravity that is holding you to the earth only works because He has commanded it to. The sun or the stars only shine because He has commanded them to. The trees that grow do so because He causes them to grow.
The spiritual growth you experience is because He causes the growth. The food that you eat, He has provided a way for you to get it. The fact that any of us are saved at all from the punishment we deserve as sinners is because He has provided a way. You see, God has unmitigated and unchallengeable sovereignty over absolutely all things. This may or may not be a hard thing for you to accept. Your acceptance or non acceptance of this fact does not make it true or not true. As the old saying goes, “It's His universe not mine.” Your thoughts are not the final authority on things, His are.
If you remember I said I found 6 words that really rocked me and made me look at this verse anew. They are “in him all things hold together.” It's what I've been driving at for most of this post. God is in control, always, and everywhere. There is no place, no time that we can escape His presence. Let's look at it this way. If you are going “through the valley” as some would describe times of hardship or sorrow, He is with you. If you have problems going on in your life, He is there. If we can say that we trust God with our eternity, how then can we not trust Him with our right now? It seems illogical because it is. Please, brothers and sisters, be encouraged by the Fact that God Is In Control at All Times. Let me leave you with a part of a Psalm that I love to read when I'm going through tough times. It's Psalm 95:1-8.
Oh come, let us sing to the Lord;
Christ in Everything
I love thinking about Jesus throughout my day. Though honestly, far too often, I find myself not thinking of Him and what He has done for me. I have gone over this many times in my mind and considered what that statement “Christ in Everything” really looks like. The Scripture that comes to mind when I talk about this to others is John 15:5. The clarity of that verse is very intense.
I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. - John 15:5
This is one of those “I am” statements that Jesus makes that really makes you want to stop and think on what He is saying. If you read this verse in context, you see what He is saying here is very serious. A warning comes before this verse and after this one as well. The warning is of being cut off and thrown away. Not just thrown away, but burned up in the fire. Strong words indeed but needed words. We have to understand what happens if we aren't saved or “in Him”. You see the Gospel— which means good news— comes after the bad news. The fact that we are all sinners and all deserve the wrath that Jesus bore for us on the cross instead of us receiving that wrath that He bore. The forgiveness and new life that we find in Christ and Christ alone becomes so beautiful when you stop to truly focus on that.
Far too often I find that many have this soft view of eternity; we are told by some pastors and theologians that not being in heaven with God is just not being in God's presence. That's wrong and unbiblical. If someone isn't saved, they don't just go away to a sad place. It's a real and serious issue that should be discussed and preached a little more than it is now. If hell isn't being talked about, you're not hearing the entire story. Just like if someone is giving the Gospel and not telling people they need to repent and believe in Jesus and Jesus alone for their salvation, they aren't giving a true Gospel presentation.
However, if we are a “branch” and we find our life in Him, the only way that we can accomplish anything, like bearing fruit for example, is possible if we are in Him. If we are in Him and He in us, we don't just bear fruit, but much fruit. What that looks like is different for everyone. However, as Christians, we should all be bearing fruit. There are many verses that describe what the fruit is and what fruit we should be bearing, so I encourage you to go and do a study on them.
To be abiding in Him first off, is to be saved. You cannot abide in Him and find your strength in Him without first being saved. Only those who are His can truly abide.
What does it really look like though to “abide”? That is a serious thought I would like you to think on, though. To stop and wonder, “How do I apply this to my life?” That's what I've done in the past and what I try to do often. What does that look like? Well, the way I try to focus on it is, His sacrifice, our salvation because of it. Stay in prayer as much as I can, which if we're all honest, isn't as much as I would like. Trust that He is sovereign over whatever is going on in my life and know that He is worthy of all my praise and focus.
Reading His word daily and hiding it in my heart so that I might not sin against Him is one of the best ways that I try to abide in Him. He is the King of kings and Lord of lords, and only He has paid for my sin. I know who I was and I know what I deserve. Knowing Who He is and who I was, I can't help but to cling to Christ. My one and only true Hope.
Abiding in Him is vital. If you are a Christian, you are hungering to abide and you will be yearning for that time with Him. You will be seeking after God and getting to know Him better daily by reading scripture and being in prayer. We all go through our ebbs and flows but it is a journey that takes a lifetime. Don't focus so much on the issues of your life because honestly, as scripture says, our life here is but a vapor. We should be looking forward to our future with God and cling to the promises that we have in Christ. Have joy in Christ and abide in Him! It's all about Him and only He is worthy.
Praising Him in song is another great way to stay focused on Him. I don’t have the best voice there is around but I sing nonetheless because He deserves my praise and worship! I would encourage you to do the same. Don't just sing along to a song though. Listen and sing to songs that make you think. Listen to the words that remind you of who He is, what He has done. I'm not picking a type of music but the subject of the music itself.
You see, no matter if you're in prayer, reading, singing, or even sharing the Gospel we should be staying focused on the fact that the only reason we are still breathing is because of Him and His grace and mercy towards us. This kindness leads us to lean closer and cling to Him. The Author and Perfecter of our faith! So my dear reader, abide in Him and cling to Him always. Seek after Him in all that you do. No matter what you do, do it unto the Lord!
Love One Another
This seems like an easy one to talk about and even write about and while that may be true, it's one of the hardest things to actually put into practice. If you're a human and you have lived your life for any length of time, you have been wronged in some way by someone else. You have felt that pride that we all feel that, somehow, you deserve more than the other person. It seems as though you have this thing inside you that is pushing you to believe that you are the “top dog.” When someone who isn't your family acts out in a certain way that gets on your nerves, you just want to cut ties and never talk to them again.
How is it then, that we are told time and time again, in Scripture, to “love one another”? How can we do this? What does this love really look like? In this next verse we see Jesus summing up the 10 commandments into 2 short ones. Short, but intense. The first has to do with our relationship with God and the second has to do with the relationship that we have with each other. The second one is what we will be looking at.
"The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” - Mark 12:31
You see that we are told that we are to “love your neighbor as yourself’. I have read this so many times and even quoted it to others many times. When I first started saying this to others, I have to admit that I truly didn't think about the implications of it. There was almost this “wise” feeling I had when I said it. It's funny when you think about it. The wisdom is found in God and in His Word, not in us. However, it is our Sword to use.
When you stop to think about what it truly means to “love your neighbor as yourself” and you actually focus on how to do that, you can see how hard this really is. I have used an example in the past before. Imagine you are walking outside to take the garbage out and you're walking barefoot and you accidentally step in some animal mess. What is it that you do? You go inside after gagging and wash it off, right? Well, imagine someone you don't know walks up to you with that same mess on their feet and you just reach down to wash it off.
Seems funny right? Well, you need to have the same compassion and care for others that you have for yourself. When you truly stop to “love your neighbor as yourself”, you stop thinking that you should come first in all things. If you're a husband, wife, father, or mother this goes into practice in that instance as well. When your wife or child gets hurt, you stop to take care of them. That same kind of idea goes into “loving your neighbor as yourself.” You look to take care of people in any way that you can. If you see someone in need, you help them as much as you can. If they are rude, you forgive them and move on. If they are hungry, you feed them. If they are thirsty, you give them something to drink. I hope by now that some of this might start sounding familiar. Maybe even like the good Samaritan example found in scripture.
If you remember that the example used there in Scripture was used to show how the “religious” elites were acting in those days and how fake they were and really missing the mark. I often wonder though, how would we, as modern Christians, measure up to them. Would we have a lot in common with them? Would we be seen as caring more for ourselves than for others? Do we really stop and consider what this really means? Are we so self centered and selfish to think that we are better than others?
I hate to admit it, but I haven't always loved my neighbor as much as I love myself. I have walked by people who were asking for change or help and not stopped to think about it. By the grace of God, I have grown in that area, but I still wrestle with it in other ways. I have seen others struggling with issues in their life and not stopped to offer up a prayer or Godly advice from Scripture.
If we are to truly do this, it goes beyond just caring for others’ physical needs. Do we care enough for others to share that beautiful Truth from Scripture that we have hidden in our hearts? The Gospel! To truly care for someone else as we do ourselves goes way deeper than just feeding or clothing someone, which truly is important and needs to happen more often. If you take a look at the early church in the book of Acts, you see them taking care of each other and spending time with one another. Beyond that, you see God adding to their number day by day. Yes, people were being saved by God and His grace because of the Gospel being shared with them by the Church.
So if we are to do this and put this into practice, we have to be more attentive to others and their true needs. Jesus is what they need for their salvation. Yes, feed them and, of course, clothe them. Take care of their bills if need be or even a place to stay but much more than that, give them Christ! Give them the Gospel and the offer of salvation that is offered in and through Him and Him alone! We need to be reminded of that sweet beautiful Gospel daily and so we should share it with others daily as well. I pray this encourages you to truly “love your neighbor as yourself.”
Have you ever met someone that you instantly enjoyed being around? Someone who you can say is a genuine person, who cares about others? You see how they interact with other people and say to yourself, “This person is truly caring.” Then after getting to know them a little better, possibly even that day, you come to find out that they aren't a Christian. After finding this out it may confuse you and boggle your mind how someone who isn't a Christian can care so seemingly deeply for others.
We, as people, often compare ourselves to one another. We use each other as a standard of measurement on how we are doing. We look to others as examples and guidance on how we should live our lives. As Christians though, what are we to use to measure ourselves? What is our plumb line for us to go by?
I have had this conversation many times with many people, believe it or not. I have even had this conversation with many Christians and it usually goes the same way. I start off asking them if they are a good person. I will tell you this: 99% of people and yes, even most Christians, will say that they are good people. If you, however, examine Scripture, you can see that there isn't such a one. Then, I go through the Ten Commandments with them and one by one, they admit that they have broken each of the Ten. I then explain that we shouldn't compare ourselves to each other, but to God and His standard.
If you look at Matthew 5:21-30 you will see that Jesus did this as well. This is the Sermon on the Mount. You see that Jesus is taking the law and turning the heat up. It isn't just about “breaking the law” but also about what's in your heart. Just before this, He said in verse 17, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” Jesus isn't doing away with the Law, but using it in His teaching to the people.
“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. So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.
You see, we are to compare ourselves to the standard that we can’t meet to show us how much need we truly have for a Savior to save us from our sin. We see in Romans 3:10-11 we are told that there is no one righteous.
as it is written:
We can also see that our hearts are deceitful and wicked Jerimiah 17:9 and the intentions of our hearts are wicked in Genesis 8:21.
The heart is deceitful above all things,
And when the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma, the Lord said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man's heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done. - Genesis 8:21
Just by this quick examination and look at Scripture we can see that we truly are not good people. We truly do not have the best of intentions in our hearts even when we try to do good. We see that God truly knows us and who we are. The next time you meet someone and you think that they are a good person, remember that we are to use the standard of God to measure and remember to use that standard in our witnessing encounters as well. It is a tool to use that God has given us. We can test ourselves and our intentions with it as well.
We shouldn't use a horizontal, human to human standard but, a vertical one, which compares us to God. God speaks very much about this and I encourage you to do your own study on this. There is much more Scriptural support for this matter that I didn't include in this article that only solidifies the point: we really aren't good people at the core and there is not a good person out there. There is only One that is good and that is God. If you are saved and you live by that standard, others will more than likely say you are a good person. All glory goes to God, however. The Holy Spirit lives in you and is guiding you. May God get all the glory He is due for He is worthy and only He should get the praise. If someone compliments you, give glory to God because the only good that is in you is because of God. Soli Deo Gloria is a saying I encourage you to remember. It means To God Alone Be the Glory. Let that be the point of your life, let that lead you in how you live.
“Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?’” - Hebrews 13:5-6
The writer of Hebrews makes a clear point here. In this section of the letter, the author is giving some very clear direction on Godly living and how to conduct ourselves. I would encourage you to read the entire book of Hebrews in one sitting to help understand the scope of what is being stated here. But for our purposes, we will just look at these two verses.
When I first decided that this is what I was going to write on, I went through many scriptures and I found this scripture to be both directive and encouraging at the same time. This point he makes here is very clear on Godly living and not having fear.
When I stop and I think about “The Unknown”, it brings to mind all of the uncertainty that comes with just living a normal life. There is so much that we don't know and so much of which we can't be absolutely certain. God and His word is not one of those things.
The uncertainty of our financial future is one. Not because we don't plan and practice good stewardship but because we are never promised tomorrow. If the country falls then so will the financial system. What will we do then? Our children's salvation is yet another. Again, not that we don't raise them up in the fear and admonition of the Lord but, this one is out of our hands. We raise them according to God and His instruction we find in the Bible and it is up to God and His sovereignty to save them.
The bridge we’re driving over may fall. We don’t know if the engineer who designed it was competent or not. We don’t know if they used the proper materials or if they cut corners while assembling it. We just go about our days with so many unknowns and trust that things will work and with confidence, cross that bridge. We take that one step after another and live our lives completely ignoring all the possibilities that are out there. We think it normal that things operate in the manner that they do and that it will always be that way.
So, why is it then, that when things get tough in our life we start panicking about what we will do? We start freaking out when we feel like we are backed into a corner. If your bank account is empty and there is no food in the pantry with mouths to feed, what do you do? Do you stress out and worry about how you will feed them? Or, do you make plans and trust God to provide?
Here in this section of Hebrews we see a clear direction of what we are to do when we face hard times and the unknown.
“be content with what you have, for he has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you.' So we can confidently say, 'The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?'”
True contentment, the kind that brings peace, comes from a full trust in God and that He will, and does, provide for you in every way. From the next breath you take to the food you eat and even the job you have to provide for you, and your family. Think of it this way, every beat of your heart is a gift of God. We don’t deserve to live. We deserve eternal punishment. But God with mercy and grace that He has patience with us.
We see this mercy that is shown here:
“so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” - Matthew 5:45
This should be encouraging for us. We also see that we are told that “The Lord is my helper.” How could we want anything more than this? The one who spoke everything into being, the one who holds all existence together by His power, is our helper. The One and Only True God, helps us. So then, you see the result of that in the last part of this section. “I will not fear”. We have absolutely nothing to fear. We don’t need to fear man either.
You see when we feel like the entire world is caving in on us and we are absolutely alone, we aren’t. God is with us. God is omnipresent. This means He is everywhere at all times. We can never get away from God. Let's end with another scripture I pray that drives this home for you.
“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” - Romans 8:38-39
The Lord is with us and nothing can separate us from Him or His promises He made. Rely on Him and trust Him in all things and at all times. He will not fail us. I'm not preaching a prosperity Gospel but I am saying that God will take care of you. He can bring peace when you feel nothing but anxiety and comfort in times of pain. Focus on Him and His word in times of confusion. Cling to Christ and His Word and the God of all the universe will be with you always.
Have you ever been studying something or reading a book and what you were reading just mentally assaulted you? This is what this was like when I first did my study on the subject of the tongue; the speech we should have as Christians. When I read what Scripture has to say about it, I felt crushed. Not that I had a filthy mouth or that I cursed all the time, or even used course language as a practice. Yet, I found myself feeling the conviction over the lack of true holiness I found in my speech.
If you haven't done this kind of study in Scripture yet, I suggest that you take this as a task for the near future. We are told to glorify God in all that we do (1 Corinthians 10:31). Speech is not excluded from that list. So let's take a quick look at what we are told about speech or the tongue.
For “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit;” 1 Peter 3:10
Here we see a kind of result before we see the direction on how we are to achieve the end result. We are told to keep our lips from speaking deceitfully and our tongue from evil. That means not gossiping, spreading rumors, thrashing someone with our speech, but speaking with kindness and love. There is so much more to say about this little section but to save time, let’s just say, speak to others how you would like to be spoken to.
In the next verse we see the stark reality of the small possibility of us doing this all the time.
“but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” James 3:8
It may not be possible for us to tame the tongue fully, but that doesn't mean that we should not work on this minute by minute. This is not a legalistic style of discipline I'm talking about. It's a conscious effort to having a holy speech pattern and way of talking.
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29
This is a clear direction from the apostle Paul on the manner in which we should be speaking. He tells us what kind of speech we shouldn't have and then encourages us with the type of conversations we should have. It should seem clear at this point, at least I hope it does, that our speech should be clean and uplifting to all those around us. However, it's not just for them but for us as well. I have often encouraged myself— and yes even brought conviction to myself— while speaking to others.
When someone comes to me with a sin they are dealing with or an issue they may have and ask for advice, often I find myself feeling guilty for not following my own advice more than I do. Often we know what the right or good thing to do is and we don’t do it. Be encouraged, though. Even the apostle Paul felt the same about himself.
For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Romans 7:15
Just because this is true for all of us doesn't give us a license to sin, rather, a realization that we will not be free from this fight with our flesh, or sinful nature until we are with the Lord. Also, remember that your words do affect others.
There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. Proverbs 12:18
So with this I pray that you think of what you say before you speak and I pray the same for myself. There is an old saying and it says this: “God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason.” We may never completely have control over our speech but may God forbid we ever give up the fight. Bathe yourself in His word and let what is in your heart come out of your mouth and may what be in your heart be His word. Renew yourself in the words of life that are found in Scripture.