Growing In Godliness Blog
By Mark McCrary
Last week in parts of the Southeast there was a cellphone outage that lasted for several hours. It wasn’t uncommon to see people staring at their phones in disbelief, fighting that growing feeling of disconnection from information and relationships. What if someone can’t reach me? What if I can’t reach someone? What’s happening in the world while I can’t access the internet? I can’t Tweet or even post about this in real time on Facebook and Instagram! A sigh of relief went out when cellphone service went back up and phones stirred with life once more.
Would to God we were so distraught when disconnected from God. Sin has in fact disconnected all of us from God—“But your sins have separated you from your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you” (Isaiah 59:2). When man first fell in the Garden, the Holy God could not have fellowship with an unholy people. The same happens when you and I sin today. At some point (which varies from person to person) we are disconnected from God, cut off from information from God and how to live a meaningful life; cut off from the only One who blesses us; cut off from a relationship with the One who loves us more than we could ever imagine; and given wholly over to sin and all its destructive power. Ultimately, cut off from real life given only by Jesus (John 10:10). We desperately need that connection.
But Jesus said in John 10:10, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” Jesus came to give us information about the Father and—importantly—to reestablish that relationship disconnected by sin through His sacrifice.
Forget about the phone; have you been disconnected from God? You need that connection—and it is there! If you aren’t His child and would come to Him in faith, ready to cast aside the very thing that separates you from God, you may be baptized and have all your sins washed away (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Gal. 3:27)—you can be reconnected with God. If you are His child but you have wandered away, like the father of the prodigal, He still waits for you if you will only come back.
Who Can Be Against Us?
By Mark McCrary
It seems that a lot of Christians are down and out right now, discouraged by recent events in our country. Let’s find a few words of encouragement from God’s word—Romans 8:31-39…
“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: ‘For Your sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”
Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Christian, have hope! Trust in God in difficult days!
By Mark McCrary
Interpersonal relationships are crucial to us as human beings. One of the first statements of God regarding us was, “It is not good that man should be alone” (Genesis 2:18). But, sometimes relationships, as important as they are, are challenging to maintain—even among Christians. There are times when brothers and sisters in Christ don’t get along with one another.
One of the greatest skills necessary in those moments is the very one that is often not found: the ability to actually listen to others in conflict. So often, we formulate preconceived ideas about what someone thinks, what their motivations are, what they are really getting at; then, our reactions are based not on what they are saying or doing, but on our preconceptions of what they are thinking and meaning. As a result, communication stops, and conflict arises. This happens in homes, in churches, in businesses—everywhere there are people.
What can we do about this?
“So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:19-20).
Within the context, James is likely addressing our need to listen to God and His instructions to us, but it certainly also has great application in our relationships with one another. How much we would be helped if we slowed down and just listened! Not formulate a rebuttal! Not vent all my frustrations! Not psychoanalyze my opponent at the moment! Not even view the one with whom I am in conflict as my opponent! Saber rattling really does little good in such moment other than encourage the one with whom we disagree to rattle their back at us. Here’s a crazy idea: simply listen. Take it in. Seek to understand. Not necessarily agree; just understand.
Something radical might happen if we would only do this. We might find we don’t disagree. At the least, perhaps we would find we are a lot closer to than we think. God urged Israel in Isaiah 1:18, “Come, let us reason together.” May God help us to have the same attitudes as husband and wives, parents and children, elders and congregations, and brothers and sisters in Christ.
What a wonderful resolution it would be to listen and think about what others are saying more. What a wonderful resolution it would be to stop shaking our fists so much and open our ears more. We would likely find that God’s ways are actually better than man’s wrath at bringing about peace.
By Mark McCrary
“And a man shall leave his father and mother…”
Though the above quote from Genesis 2:24 is written in the context of marriage, it assumes the necessity of children leaving their parents and establishing their own lives. This is not to say parents no longer have any influence over their lives; simply that that influence is diminished. To paraphrase John the Immerser, they increase while their parents decrease.
The painful truth of parenting is we raise our children to let them go. If you think about it, this ultimate goal of God for those children He has entrusted to us is really counter to everything we have done! We love, protect, and guide them over the course of 18+ years; we wake them up, get them ready, check on them at night, watch who their friends are, make sure they are eating right, that they brush their teeth, eat their vegetables, clean their rooms, bandage their skinned knees, doctor their ills, comfort their sorrows, etc. All these actions and more entwine our lives together closer and closer.
Yet, there comes a time God expects us to let them go— to send them out into the world. How could God require such a thing? Does He not understand how frightening of a prospect and how emotionally painful this is?
God knows letting go is necessary. At some point, training wheels must come off and our children must decide for themselves what they will value in life. They must discover who they will be. They cannot do that while under the wings of their parents. Children need to be let go. To some degree, the faith of a child is imposed on them. But, saving faith is not imposed; rather, it is chosen and embraced.
God understands this first hand. After giving instruction through the Law of Moses and giving them Canaan, God let the children of Israel go. “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…” (Joshua 24:15). Deuteronomy is another great text on the necessity of God’s children needing to choose. The constant story of the Bible is that of a Father expressing His love, instructing His children, then “sending them off” to decided if they will honor Him and His guidance. Many did and do; many didn’t and don’t.
In the same way, as parents we do what we can for 18+ years, then let them (hopefully) put into practice what we have taught them. In reality, the letting go is most of the time not a one-time action, but more of a letting the rope out slowly until we come to the end of it. We hold our breaths and pray with each decision that they make. We hurt when they choose poorly; we delight when they choose properly. But, we must let them go, for they cannot truly find God unless they find Him for themselves. This is God’s plan.
Does the Holy Spirit Call A Sinner to Salvation?
By Mark McCrary
Do you believe in Holy Spirit conviction? That the Holy Spirit comes upon a person personally and convicts that person of their sin? Are you waiting—should you be waiting—for such an event? Does the Holy Spirit call a sinner to salvation?
The answer is an unquestionable “Yes!” the Holy Spirit calls sinners to salvation. Perhaps the real question is, “How does the Holy Spirit call sinners to salvation?” The manner, we will see as we examine scripture, is not an overwhelming burden of guilt put upon us in a miraculous way, but rather the overwhelming burden of guilt which comes through the message of the Bible delivered by the Holy Spirit.
The message of the writers of the New Testament was not conjured up on their own, but it was given to them by the Holy Spirit. Jesus, before His crucifixion, said to His apostles, “When He [the Holy Spirit—MM] has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come,” John 16:8-14. This passage tells us several things: First, that the Holy Spirit indeed convicts the world of sin, righteousness and judgment. He shows what sin is, what righteousness is, and because of the deliverance of His message, the world stands in judgment. Second, His message came from the Father and was delivered to the apostle-- they would have “all truth”—and they in turn translated that truth to mankind (1 Corinthians 2:6-16; Galatians 1:11-12). What is promised here is the conviction of the world through the message delivered by the Holy Spirit to God’s messengers.
Now, if the Holy Spirit personally came onto a person and convicted them, Acts would be the logical place to find such a thing—it is, after all, the book of conversion. However, this is not what we see. What convicted the Jews on the day of Pentecost when the first sermon after the resurrection of Christ was preached (Acts 2)? We are not told that the Holy Spirit came and moved these listeners in a unique or individual way. They were convicted of their sins when they heard the message of the apostles. “Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Men and brethren what shall we do?’” (Acts 2:37). When Cornelius was converted (Acts 10), it was due to the preaching of the gospel once more by Peter. While we are told the Holy Spirit fell on them, it was not to change their hearts, but to confirm to the listening Jews that this was the will of God (v. 45; 11:15-18). When Lydia was converted, God opened her heart not through a direct operation of the Holy Spirit on her, but through the preaching of Paul (Acts 16:14). In each the conversions took place because the message was preached.
Notice what Paul wrote in Romans 10:14-15, “How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!’” From this passage, how is it that one learns the “glad tidings of good things”? Does the Holy Spirit come upon one and convict them of the truth of it all? No, one hears what is preached reacts—just as those did in Acts.
One final passage should cement this idea. Paul speaks of us being “called” in 2 Thessalonians 2:14, but this calling is not a personal calling from the Holy Spirit to the individual. “…To which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The calling of an individual, according to the inspired apostle Paul, is one through the preaching of the gospel.
“What is the big deal?” one may ask. The big deal is if you are waiting for the Holy Spirit of God to personally call you, you are waiting for something God has never promised in scripture, and you are waiting for something that will never happen. If you are a sinner and are reading this now, understand: The Holy Spirit is calling you through the message of the Bible. This is your invitation! God is in fact calling you right now by the message penned by his disciples some 2000 years ago-- He is calling you with the Bible. Let’s stop waiting for something He has not promised and let’s start listening to what He has given. The gospel of Jesus Christ given by the Holy Spirit is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16), and it is powerful enough to convict those who are ready to receive it.
Does the Holy Spirit convict people of their sin? He certainly does, but it is through the message of the Bible. We encourage you to listen to that message today.