The Wrong Mindset

The Wrong Mindset

Luke 16:16 – “The Law and the Prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and everyone forces his way into it.”

Several years ago I was speaking at chapel for the football program at Averett University. We were set to play Ferrum College that day. Ferrum had a tremendous football history while we had very little tradition. Yet that day we fully anticipated winning the game. I spoke that morning on David and Goliath, that we were like David but we could still win the victory. After the service, the head coach said “come here we need to talk”. I went over and he said all week I have been telling them that they aren’t the underdog, that we should expect to win, that we aren’t the little guy, and now you told them just the opposite. I quickly apologized but pointed out to him that in the end David did win the battle.

Later that day Averett marched into battle against Ferrum and after double overtime came away victorious. I smiled at the coach and told him jokingly David wins again. I understood what he was saying though he wanted the team to believe in themselves, he wanted them to know that they were a good team, he wanted them to know that they weren’t the underdog. A team’s mindset is important.

We see that with the church and I am convinced in many ways that we as the church of Jesus Christ has the wrong mindset. Think about the memes that you see posted on Facebook by Christians or the things that we say as Christians, many of those statements or pictures have a defeatist mindset. Many of those things indicate that we have a “woe is me” attitude. We talk about how bad and how terrible things are, and we usually follow it up with “and it’s only going to get worse.” All of this may be 100% true, but it still doesn’t mean that the church is defeated. Jesus Himself said that “the gates of hell would not prevail” against His church. That is a pretty bold statement isn’t it? Especially when you consider that after He made the statement He was crucified. It seemed that the gates of hell had prevailed. Except for one thing, one huge thing, one gigantic thing, Jesus burst forth from the grave 3 days later. Not defeated but victorious. So why do we as followers of Jesus have such a defeatist mindset? Why are we all “woe is me” all the time? When in reality we as Christians are the very people who should NEVER be woe is me.

Yes things are bad, yes sin abounds, yes our culture increasingly seems to want Christianity pushed aside. Yet the church still isn’t defeated, the Kingdom of God is advancing, not retreating but advancing. We shouldn’t be woe is me, but instead we should be glory to God. Or as Jesus put it in the Lord’s prayer, “for His is the Kingdom, the power, and the glory forever.” He is all powerful, His kingdom is coming, He will be glorified, and yet we live as if we are losing the battle and we are scared to death. It is time for us to change our mindset. As Russel Moore points out in his book Onward, “we aren’t slouching toward sin, but we are marching to Zion.” The true church of Jesus Christ is victorious and the Kingdom of God is coming, so what do we do as we wait? We pray, we trust, we rejoice and we love knowing all along that God is all powerful and that God has all things under His control.

Active Faith

Active Faith

1 Peter 3:15 -“But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.”

Growing up there were many Biblical passages that I deeply loved (Phil 4, Psalm 23, John 10) but there were some that were extremely challenging and the Great Commission in Matthew 28 was one of them. “Go there and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” Go and teach, which means go and tell. Every time I read it or heard it, it reminded me I have a responsibility to go and tell others about Jesus. I am called to live my life in such a way that my identity is found in Jesus and I have to tell others about Him.

Those are hard words for a teenager to hear. Go and tell others about Jesus. Most teenagers when I was growing up didn’t want to talk about Jesus. Cars, girls, music (and not necessarily in that order) this was the substance of our conversations. If I tell others about Jesus they will think I’m strange, they will think I’m extreme. They might even label me a fanatic. I can’t tell anyone about Jesus, but I am told by Jesus in His word that I am supposed to “go and tell”. It is my responsibility and my calling.

Then I heard 1 Peter 3:15, “always be prepared to give an answer to anyone who asks the reason for the hope that you have…..” What a relief! I’m supposed to tell but only if I’m asked. Now I could go back and talk about all those things that teenage boys normally talk about. Peter was telling us to sit back and passively wait to be asked. Or was he?

On closer examination of the passage and much to my dismay, that wasn’t what Peter was saying at all. He wasn’t saying sit back and wait to be asked, he was saying live so differently, live so passionately for Jesus that others ask you why you are different. Live out your faith very actively and very passionately. This isn’t a sit back and wait passage, rather it is a live boldly for the glory of God passage. Be so active in your faith, that others see Jesus in you. Be so active in your faith that others say you are different. Let the love of Jesus shine through, which means you will be living out your faith and naturally talking about Him, and thinking about Him because out of an abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. What Peter is saying is be active in you faith and in your love for Jesus.

Think about Him, talk about Him, live like Him and people will ask. Then when they do ask tell them about Him. Tell them about Jesus, share with them the beauty of the Gospel. And do so with gentleness and respect. In other words when you are telling someone about Jesus don’t stop acting like Jesus, continue to walk in His footsteps, love people even when you are telling people about Jesus. If they don’t agree with you? That is okay, still treat them with gentleness and respect just like Jesus did. Jesus was not always meek and mild, in fact many times He had very powerful and harsh words for people, but most of the time it was for those who claimed to be religious and yet didn’t love people. He turned over the tables of the money changers, He talked about hell, He rebuked people, but when He spoke to those who were caught in sin He spoke to them with love. He spoke to them with gentleness and respect. We are called to do the exact same thing.

Live out your faith actively and boldly, love like Jesus did and then people will ask why are you different? Then when they ask, tell them Jesus makes all the difference in the world, and when you tell them that, do it with love. After all that is what Jesus did.

Surprisingly Short

Surprisingly Short

1 Peter 4:4 -“With respect to this (not engaging in sin) they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery”

Peter uses a surprising word in 1 Peter 4 and that is the word “surprised”. He is telling the church that he is writing to to live in such a way that it surprises the people around you. Specifically he is saying do not engage in these sins and when you do not join the world in those sins it will be surprising. Surprising because everyone is doing it. Surprising because for those Christians they used to live that way, they used to jump at the chance to jump into sin. But not now, now things are different. Now they have been changed by the grace of God, so Peter is telling them to live out that change. Don’t go back to living the way that you lived before. Live differently than the world, and in doing that you will surprise people. You will surprise people with the grace of God and with the power of God.

The Greek word that he uses there is actually a word that is pronounced “xenizo”. It is a word that means you are a guest now act in a surprising way. The Greek word is actually a lot deeper than what we get in English. What Peter is actually saying is, you are a guest in this world so do not join those who are at home in this world in the sins of the world. It is a very powerful statement, live differently than the world because this world is not your home. Don’t live like it is. Don’t get caught up in its lusts, don’t get caught up in its worries, don’t get caught up in its lies and messages of hopelessness. Live differently because this world is not your home.

Live not with a worldly perspective but with a heavenly one. Remember that your home is in heaven and you are citizens of the Kingdom of God. This world is not your home, you are here for a while but don’t get to comfortable, don’t long for the world. Instead keep your eyes on eternity and long for the Kingdom. That is your real home, with your Father, Almighty God. Live with your focus on Him and on His love and on His promises.

Reasons We Don’t Rejoice

The Reasons We Don’t Rejoice

Psalm 118:24 – “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

Sometimes I find myself on one of those “do you remember when” type websites. There is something fun about looking back and remembering. Remembering the games we used to play or the shows we use to watch or the places we use to go. It can be very enjoyable and can create a sense of nostalgia within. There is nothing wrong with looking back and remembering. In fact for us as Christians we should look back and be thankful for the people and opportunities that God has blessed us with, we should look back and see how God has been faithful and how He has delivered us. There is nothing wrong with looking back.

There is also nothing wrong with looking forward. We ought to think and pray and dream about the future. We especially ought to live with our minds firmly entrenched on the Kingdom of God and we should live thinking about heaven. After all Jesus was able to endure the horror of the cross because of the joy that was set before Him. There is nothing wrong with prayerfully and joyfully looking forward.

Yet if we are not careful both of these things can steal away our joy. If we live only thinking about the good old days we will miss out on this day. For instance if I live thinking only about the past and how good things were then or how simple they were then (in reality they weren’t simple), then I will miss out on today. I will miss out on living today, in this gift that God has given me, the gift of today. That is why the Bible says “this is the day that the Lord has made let us rejoice and be glad in it.” If we live in the past we will miss out on the present. Take time to look back and be thankful, take time to laugh and to rejoice and days gone by, but most importantly take time to live in the now. Take time to rejoice in the now because this day is a gift from God and it deserves its own rejoicing.

On the flip side if we only live thinking about the future we will miss out on the present. If our thoughts are I’ll be happy when I make more money, or when I finish school, or when I have kids, or when summer is finally here, or when I get married or whatever then we will miss out on today. And there are a lot of reasons to rejoice in today. You are loved by Almighty God, if you have a relationship with Jesus you are forgiven of your sins, He is with you, and yes you do have the promise of heaven to look forward to. Again theres nothing wrong with looking forward but there is something wrong if it keeps us from rejoicing in the now.

There are a lot of things that can steal our joy away. There are a lot of things that keep us from rejoicing. If we believe our best days are behind us we won’t rejoice. Can I tell you a beautiful truth? If you are a follower of Christ your best days are ahead of you. If we believe that we have to have something in the future to make us happy we will again miss out. What we do have in the future (the inheritance of the Kingdom of God) does make us happy and give us reason to rejoice, but that is not an earthly thing but a heavenly one.

Of course these aren’t the only things that can steal our joy away. Living with regret can, living with worry can, being fearful can. But in a lot of those cases we are still looking back or looking forward in the wrong way. Worry and fear are about the future and regret it about the past. We need to make sure most importantly we have made plans for eternity, but then we need to make sure that we are living in the present and rejoicing in today. This is the day the Lord has made let us be glad and rejoice in it.

Blessed!??

BLESSED!??

1 Peter 3:14 – “But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled.”

Let’s cut right to the chase, these are bold words. Peter’s words are extremely bold and would have certainly gotten the attention of the reader. You are blessed if you suffer, you are blessed if you are persecuted. What? That makes absolutely no sense. Blessed if you suffer? We don’t want to suffer. Blessed if you are persecuted? We certainly do not want persecution. Peter however writes to a church that is getting ready to suffer and be persecuted and he says to them you will be blessed.

Don’t read that and think he is saying materialistically or something like that. Don’t water it down. The word blessed in the Bible means happy or joyful. He isn’t saying that God is going to give you material possessions or anything like that if you suffer for your faith. This has nothing to do with the godless health and wealth theology. This is reality. Persecution is coming and you are blessed when it does.

Why does Peter say what he says? Because of what Jesus said. In Matthew 5:10 Jesus says, “blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.” You can be happy even if you are persecuted, you can be happy even if you are killed for your faith because yours is the Kingdom of heaven. What a bold statement, but what a true statement. This world only lasts for a few years, but eternity is forever. So Peter is saying to the church live with an eternal focus. Keep your eyes on the prize and you can be happy and joyful regardless of the circumstance. That is a life changing truth.

We aren’t being persecuted but Peter says you can be joyful even if you are. You can be joyful when people are skeptical of you. You can be joyful when people disagree with you. You can be joyful when life is hard. You can be joyful when you suffer loss. You can be joyful when life is a tangled mess. You can be joyful when chaos reigns. Why? Because of the promise of heaven. This is not a pie in the sky thought but it is reality. Followers of Jesus are given the promise and the gift of heaven. The Bible says we are “co-heirs with Jesus”. So when life is hard, God is still good. When things are difficult you still have the promise of heaven.

I used to not want to hear about the “sweet by and by” as heaven has been called, but in reality that sweet by and by makes all the difference in the sorry here and now. If you don’t believe that look at the life of Paul. Persecuted, imprisoned, stoned for his faith, hungry, shipwrecked, beaten, left for dead and still he was joyful. Why? Because he knew that Jesus was with him and that even if he were to die for his faith he had heaven to look forward to.

Of course Paul is not the only example. Think about Stephen, he stood up and boldly proclaimed Jesus and called the people to repentance. How did they respond? They killed him. But even while he was being hit with rocks he prayed, “Lord do not hold this sin against them.” When did he do that? After he saw the heavens opened and Jesus (the Son of Man) standing at the right hand of God. He was able to love even when he was being killed. He was also able to still be joyful because the Bible records for us his death with these words, “he fell asleep.” That is a picture of peace. Stephen died at peace, because of Jesus and because of the promise of heaven.

We can have joy and peace regardless of the circumstances because of Jesus. We can have joy and peace because circumstances are just temporary drops in the sea of eternity. So live out your faith today, deeply committed to Jesus because of who He is and because of His glorious promises.

A Beautiful Identity and Calling

1 Peter 3:13-14 – “Now who is there is harm you if you are deeply committed to doing what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake you will be blessed. Have no fear of them or be troubled.”

Peter is writing into a culture that is getting ready to undergo persecution. Christians are getting ready to be killed for their faith. They are getting ready to be hurt, ostracized, isolated, and even martyred. So what does he say to them? Stay deeply committed to Jesus. Keep doing good. This would become the identity of the church in the first century. They would be known for their commitment to Jesus and by the good that they did. They would be known for their faith and for their love.

He doesn’t say to them stop doing good, or quit acting as ambassadors of Christ. That would have certainly have been the safe thing to do, but its not what Peter says. He says live in such a way that people see Jesus in you. Love other people, care about other people, live differently than the world. This will cause people to take notice and then when they ask you why you are different, tell them about the hope that you have in Jesus. Tell them that the Gospel has transformed you. Tell them its not you, but its the grace of God that makes the difference. Don’t run from your identity as Christ-followers let the world know, even if they persecute you. The easy thing would be to hide out and stay silent, but that is not how they are called to live. They are called to live with boldness and with love.

We are as well. We aren’t persecuted today thankfully, even though many people would say that Christians are increasingly isolated in our world today. We are considered irrelevant or extreme. A recent survey says that 52% of the people in America are skeptical of Christians. So what do we do? What does the church do? What do we do as individual followers of Jesus? We stay deeply committed. That commitment will shine through in a world where commitment doesn’t mean anything. If we are committed to Jesus, to living out our faith not just inside the church but outside the church, then the world will have to take notice. If we are committed to loving people inside the church and outside the church then the world will take notice. They will have to ask why are you different? And the answer is of course JESUS.

Another survey said in essence that many people think the church can be a force for good in the world, even though they aren’t sure how. Peter tells us how, love other people. Jesus of course told us the same thing when He linked loving others with loving God when He was asked what the greatest commandment was? We are called to love. That doesn’t mean we compromise truth. We don’t compromise God’s word but as Peter alludes to it is possible to not compromise and to love others. Jesus came into this world with grace and truth. We as His followers must display both to the world. If we just display grace, then sin is widely accepted and even encouraged. If we just display truth then we are dogmatic and uncaring towards people. Jesus calls us to follow Him which means to be people of grace and truth.

There is a surprising insight here, we can love people that we disagree with. Christians have done it for centuries. When the black plague hit many people, including the political leaders and doctors were running away and leaving people to die, Christians stayed behind to help the sick and dying, even though they were risking their own lives. Christians have established hospitals and cared for people with deadly diseases since the first century. When the ebola crisis hit who ran into the places where the virus was raging? Christians they ran in with grace and with truth. Even today in communities where Muslim people are being killed by Muslim terrorists who is there caring for them? Christians. They certainly do not agree theologically with them, and they aren’t watering down the Gospel that says there is one way to heaven and His name is Jesus, but they are reaching out with His love to a people that need His love.

What is our identity? We are followers of Jesus. What is our calling? To be deeply committed to that and to reach out to this world, even those that disagree with us with His love. Let us remain deeply committed as Peter says no matter what.

Sunday’s Child

Sunday’s Child

1 Thessalonians 5:5 – “For you are all children of the light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness.”

Christian artist Phil Keaggy recorded an album in 1988 called “Sunday’s Child”. The title song off of that album included these lyrics:

“Monday’s child was feeling blue,
Tuesday’s child who noticed you,
Wednesday’s child was full of woe,
Thursday’s child was dressed up
With no place to go.
Friday’s child and Saturday
Out there running wild.
Since she’s met the King of hearts
They call her Sunday’s child.”

The lyrics of course play on the poem of the same name that also talks about “Sunday’s Child.” Keaggy uses those lyrics to discuss a person who does not have a relationship with Christ verses a person who does. He discusses a lady who is sad, who feels alone, who has the weight of the world on their shoulders, who tries to deal with life with stuff and with the ways of the world. It is poetic but it is sad until she meets “the King of hearts,” and she becomes Sunday’s Child. This is of course a poetic way of describing a follower of Jesus Christ.

What he is saying is there are really only 2 ways to live, you are either lost or found. You are either Monday – Saturday’s child or you are Sunday’s child. The Bible says you are either walking by the flesh or walking by the Spirit. You are either a child of God or a child of the world. You are either walking in light or living in darkness. There is no other way to describe it. You are either lost or found. You can be a child of Monday or Saturday and still be lost. Sunday’s Child however has met the King of hearts, Jesus Christ, and they are now changed.

Of course it is after that the challenge comes. The challenge is for us who are followers of Jesus, who are Sunday’s children if you will, to let that change us, to let it transform us on every other day of the week. Yes we will still feel blue but that is when we remind ourselves of the love of God that was displayed on the cross of Calvary. Yes we may (like Tuesday) feel forgotten and it is then that we have to remind ourselves that Jesus hasn’t forgotten us, in fact He has promised to “never leave us or forsake us.”

We may feel hopeless and full of woe, but we have hope. Hope that our sins are forgiven, hope that we are children of God, and hope that we have heaven to look forward to. Because of that we aren’t dressed up with no place to go, but instead we live with a purpose, clothed in the righteousness of Jesus and on our way to Him.

Since we are Sunday’s child there is no use “running wild”. We will still sin, we will fail, and sometimes fail miserably but it is then that we have to remind ourselves that God’s grace has forgiven us of all our sins and we run to His grace.

We are Sunday’s Children and the challenge is to let what happens on Sunday effect every other day of our lives. In other words the challenge is to live to glorify God Monday-Sunday.