Growing In Godliness Blog

Growing In Godliness Blog

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Getting Out of God's Way

Sunday, July 31, 2016
Getting Out of God's Way
By Tristan Ganchero
 
Imagine that there is an apartment building on fire. There are people trapped inside, and the fire is getting worse every second. We hear the sirens of a fire truck approaching and we feel a sense of relief as the firemen get out and approach the building. Help has arrived. But before they are able to enter the building, someone stops them, pulls them aside, and tells them that the situation is too dangerous. They might lose their lives. What would the firemen say? “Get out of the way! This is our job. We know the consequences. Every second we waste talking to you is one less second we have to save those who are trapped inside!”
 
We wouldn’t think very highly of anyone who tried to prevent firemen from saving those who were trapped in a burning building. But we often find ourselves hindering the work that needs to be done in our relationship with Jesus.
 
In Matthew 16:21-23, when Jesus began showing His disciples that He must suffer, die, and rise again in order to save them, Peter took Him aside and rebuked Him. Peter was hindering Jesus from getting the job done. So what was Jesus’ response? “Get out of the way, Satan!”
 
Peter had his own selfish plans for Jesus and it blinded him to God’s much bigger, better plan of salvation. We do the same when we choose our own selfish plans for our friendships, dating relationships, marriages, families, careers, education, etc.
 
So how do we get out of God’s way so that He can truly help us and fulfill His much bigger and better will in our lives? We get out of God’s way by...
 
#1 Trusting Him
God’s wisdom and understanding far exceeds our own (Romans 11:33). We need to trust that what He has revealed in His word is for our good, always, even if obedience means suffering physically or emotionally for a time (James 5:11).
 
#2 Following Him
Speaking of suffering, right after Jesus rebukes Peter in Matthew 16:23, he goes on to explain that those who want to follow Him must “deny himself and take up his cross” (Matthew 16:24-28). Picking up a cross doesn’t simply mean “bearing a burden” for a period of time. If someone was carrying a cross back then it meant that they were being executed. Our old self of sin needs to die through baptism (Romans 6).
 
#3 Living for Him
Having been united with Christ we need to remember every day that our lives are not our own. We live with Him, and in Him, and by faith in Him. And He lives in us. (Romans 6:5-11; Galatians 2:20).
 
#4 Thinking like Him
Peter hindered Jesus’ work because he was not “setting [his] mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” Our minds need to be constantly renewed by the power of the Holy Spirit through the word that He has revealed. We need to develop the mind of Christ by practicing humility and serving one another self-sacrificially (Philippians 2:1-11).
 
This mindset, and the path it leads us down, may prove to be difficult and filled with suffering, but we are in good company because that was Jesus’ path to glory. In that, we can rejoice with Paul because we too want to attain to the resurrection from the dead (Philippians 1:29; 3:8-11).
 
So how do we get out of God’s way so that He can rescue us from death and continue the work He began in us (Philippians 1:6)? We need to trust Him, follow Him, live for Him, and think like Him.
 
God bless.

Add To Your Faith

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Add To Your Faith

By Randy Case, Jr.

Growth is a requirement for all Christians if they desire to be pleasing to God.  The Hebrew writer rebuked the brethren for not growing as they should.  The writer states that they ought to have been teachers, but they still needed the milk of the word and were unable to handle solid food (Hebrews 5:12-13).  They failed to apply themselves to spiritual matters.  Therefore, they were still in need of teaching and were unable to teach others.

Many individuals put on Christ in baptism, but they do not grow as the Scriptures command.  God demands Christians to develop certain characteristics.  The book of 2 Peter was written to encourage Christians to continue to grow spiritually.  Peter tells us that we must add certain things to our faith (2 Peter 1:5).  Faith, the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1), is the foundation.  Peter gives us seven qualities that are extremely important in 2 Peter 1:5-7.  As children of God we must possess virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection and love.  Virtue is defined as moral excellence.  Knowledge is spiritual discernment or understanding what is morally right or wrong.  Self-control indicates discipline.  Steadfastness refers to patience and the ability to maintain self-control.  Godliness is characterized by a God-like attitude, doing what pleases Him.  Brotherly kindness denotes a fondness and caring for individuals.  And love seeks the best for the object of our affections.  Peter states that these characteristics must be found in us and they must increase (v. 8).  If these abound, then we will not be ineffective or idle as Christians.

In Galatians 5, Paul gives us a list similar to Peter’s.  Paul describes the “Fruit of the Spirit” as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  Love is the foundational element upon which everything else stands.  It is an “agape” love, which is the highest form of love.  The joy that we are to have is not based on outward circumstances.  A Christian’s joy comes from knowing that they have the hope of heaven as promised by the Creator, despite their situation.  We must have a peace with God, with ourselves and with others.  This peace is a tranquility of mind that no one outside of Christ should have.  Patience indicates being long tempered.  We must seek to be kind to all, willing to help those in need, especially Christians.  Goodness refers to moral excellence that does not tolerate error.  Christians have a standard to live by and that is found in Scripture.  Faithfulness is a characteristic that simply carries the idea of being loyal.  Our loyalty and allegiance must be to God in EVERY circumstance that we encounter.  Gentleness or meekness is strength under control.  And self-control requires us to restrain, or keep, ourselves from giving in to Satan’s temptations. 

Baptism is an important part in obtaining salvation.  But, it is only the beginning.  If we fail to develop the characteristics that Paul and Peter talk about, we become near-sighted, forgetting that we have been cleansed from our former sins (1 Peter 1:9).  We should never be satisfied with our present growth.  Let us always add to our faith!

Everything I Needed to Know About God I Learned... Throughout My Life?

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Everything I Needed to Know About God I Learned... Throughout My Life?

By Mike Cox

"What hinders me from being baptized?" This is the question that the Ethiopian Eunuch asked Philip in Acts 8:36 as they had been studying the Bible together. One of the big hindrances to obeying the Gospel that I have heard throughout my time as a Christian, is that people feel like they don't know enough to be baptized. This even applied to me before I became a Christian. What exactly is it that one needs to know to be baptized? How much does one need to know to be baptized? Not as much as we may think.

There are things that we need to know and come to terms with before we make the decision to become a Christian. We must first hear God's word (John 5:24), and we must believe (Mk. 16:15-16) in God. In doing so, this means that we have to acknowledge that we have sinned. Romans 3:23 says, "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God". We then must repent (turn away) from our sins (Mk. 1:14-15). Philip tells the Eunuch in Acts 8:37 that "if you believe with all your heart you may" be baptized. This is followed up by the Eunuch's confession of his belief in Jesus Christ and subsequently his baptism in verse 38 of Acts 8; Acts 2:21 and Mk. 16:16 are also commands for baptism. When we do this there is a level of commitment involved which can also be hindrance to some when they are considering becoming a Christian. We must then remain faithful until death (Revelation 2:10). This can seem like a daunting task when we feel we don't know enough about the Bible or we are overwhelmed with the expectation that we must live perfectly and without sin. As previously mentioned, we all have sinned and will sin. We all sin, but the difference between believers and non-believers when we sin is seen in how it affects us and how we try to not repeat that sin. We strive to live righteously.

We have a lifetime to learn of and about God and what is required of us. We all must start at the beginning. First Peter 2:2 references a time period where Christians are "newborn babes", that "desire the pure milk of the word", that we may grow. Does a star athlete start out at the top of his sport? No, they obtain a higher level as they learn and apply what they have learned. This is the same principle for Christians. We must apply what we've learned about God's word and expectations throughout our lives. We must mature as Christians and have a greater level of understanding and purpose. If our expectation is one of perfection from the start, it will be a daunting task to follow God and get to Heaven. Keep in mind that all have sinned and those that make it to Heaven will do so because they made the choice to make a commitment to follow God - and they kept it. The second part of this is God's grace that is bestowed upon us; God's unmerited favor given to us even though we sinned. Hebrews 11 highlights some of the faithful followers of the Bible. Even they had their struggles with sin. It is important to note that while God's plan may have occurred through these people, they weren't perfect either.

As previously mentioned we know very little at the beginning. If we keep this in perspective and strive to grow as Christians and grow closer to God, we CAN get to Heaven with God's grace. As Paul said in Philippians 4:13, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me". This goes for us as well.  No master craftsman ever started out that way, it occurred over time as they learned their craft. Being a faithful Christian is a life long journey to draw nearer to God and ultimately dwell with him in Heaven.

Do Our Emotions Excuse Us From Self-Control?

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Do Our Emotions Excuse Us From Self-Control?

By Christy Ganchero

A few weeks ago, I took part in a fruit-of-the-spirit themed girl’s night. I had the privilege of sharing my thoughts about self-control with several young women, all of whom showed great excitement about spiritual things. However, I realized later on that I forgot to cover an important question related to the final fruit of the Spirit: Do our emotions excuse us from having self-control?

At a young age, women realize that there are times when our emotions are difficult to control, especially during our monthly cycle. It is no longer taboo in our society to talk about menstruation, or the bundle of emotions that comes with it. In fact, the internet is full of memes and jokes concerning PMS. Most of these portray women as having a monthly nightmare mode, which takes over our bodies and causes us to have uncontrollable anger, sadness, and aggravation. We have to deal this internal monster for one week out of the month, or a quarter of our lives.

Our culture says two contradictory things about women in this conversation. On one hand, feminist propaganda states that women and men are essentially the same. They say that the differences between men and women are just figments of collective imagination. On the other hand, postmodern progressivism encourages women to say, “I can completely lose control, and that’s okay, because I am a woman!” These two ideas cannot mix. A man cannot experience a menstrual cycle, which is biological proof that the two sexes serve different physical functions. But a woman cannot behave however she wants to just because she is a female biologically – she is also a member of the human race, which has God-given reason and intellect. We would never condone men assaulting women because “they can’t control themselves.” Both men and women will be held accountable for their actions (2 Cor. 5:10).

What does the Bible say regarding women and self-control? In Titus 2, Paul instructs young women to be “self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive” (Titus 2:5). All of these things require us to reign in our emotions and serve others above ourselves. How can we accomplish this? Paul gives us the answer a few verses later:

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. (Ti 2:11-14)

God’s grace trains us to live with self-control. And this grace was given through Jesus Christ, who died in order to purify us from sin. Jesus felt deep, raw emotions, yet He exercised self-control and went to the cross. Because of His sacrifice, those who have been born again and have received His Spirit have the power, by faith, to exercise self-control in all things, just as He did.

Rethinking Our Walk in Christ

Saturday, July 02, 2016
Rethinking Our Walk in Christ
By Tom Rose
 
Christians desperately need to know how we can have a positive, optimistic, spiritual future while living in a disintegrating, chaotic and increasingly non-Christian society that threatens to take us down with it. A second urgent challenge concerning the Christian life is that it is so daily. It seems we never get a break because the world never stops its relentless, daily attempts to squeeze us into its mold. Both of these chronic issues can be solved by understanding Roman 12:1-2.
 
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God,
that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to
God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed
to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind,
that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect
will of God.”
 
Let’s begin by looking at the term sacrifice. We have been trained by our culture not to believe in sacrifice, but rather to believe instead that we can have it all. Indeed, we have everything we need at our finger tips with the touch of an app or a nearby shopping mall where we can get it instantly just by sliding a plastic card. However, Paul reminds these Roman Christians that when they were baptized into Christ, they chose to turn their body into a “living sacrifice” – one where the old man of sin is dead and buried and a new creature arises to live a new kind of life in sacrifice to God (Rom 6:3-11).
 
The concept of self-sacrifice is a prerequisite to the second idea in this passage: the renewing of our minds. The kind of sacrifice God requires comes from a renewal, a transformation, of one’s mind and life. Indeed, one cannot separate the idea of sacrifice from the concept of renewal as it is the transformation of our minds that will keep us from being conformed to the world in which we live.
 
But why did these First Century Christians entertain such a radical idea? The answer lies in the term “therefore.” In chapters 9 through 11 of Romans, Paul develops a sweeping view of God’s redemptive plan for Jews and Gentiles showing both are saved by the mercy of God. In those three chapters, which immediately precede the word “therefore,” the word mercy occurs nine times, and yet it occurs not a single time in chapters 1 through 8. In 12:1, Paul makes the connection between God’s mercy and our self-sacrifice by proposing: in view of the mercy God has offered, sacrifice yourself to Him, kill your old sin-infested self, and open yourself to a new life He offers by His loving mercy. He even adds that it is reasonable, logical, and credible to do so!
 
Although some of my readers are probably saying to themselves, “Yes, I’ve got all this, but what about this crazy world and all of its relentless pressures?” Return to the text where Paul lays out a twofold challenge in 12:2 to every child of God: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Rom 12:2). To better understand these two options, let us look at the meaning of these two words.
 
Be Conformed – Gk. Suschematizo, to become together with (like) another figure or shape. Only found twice in the New Testament where the word refers to “conformity to the world” in Romans 12:2, and “conformity to the lusts of the world and flesh” in 1 Peter 1:14.
 
Paul commands believers in Rome not to allow the world to conform them to its agenda, values, culture, norms, priorities, or expectations. The influences pushing at us from those external forces is powerful and unrelenting. In essence, it is loud, powerful and unstoppable. Perhaps two translations of this passage will help us get a better understanding:
 
“Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold.”
J.B. Phillips, The New Testament in Modern English
“Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it
without even thinking.” Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase from
The Message
 
The phrase “without even thinking” illustrates that the pressure to conform is so constant, so ongoing, so pervasive that it becomes part of the environment and thus, we no longer notice it.
 
Be Transformed – Gk. Metamorphoo, to form with. This compound word comes from our familiar word metamorphosis which is the process whereby a caterpillar turns into a butterfly.
 
What is most revealing about these two words is that both are always rendered in the passive voice. This means no one independently conforms or transforms himself, but rather is conformed or transformed by a process initiated by a power outside himself. In this verse, God has given Christians two commands, obeying the second gives us the power to obey the first.
 
DO NOT be conformed by the power of the world around you;
that power which comes from Satan.
DO submit to the process of transformation. The power to do
that comes from God and His Word.
 
It is vital to comprehend that it takes both an external and an internal effort to accomplish the renewing of one’s mind. The external dimension is exposure to the Word while the internal dimension is a cultivated heart and mind that want to be renewed.
 
What we learn from God’s Word and submission to Him does not change anything about our external circumstances. The world may still deteriorate; we may be persecuted or otherwise suffer. But what will change can be our minds, and that makes all the difference. The apostle Paul was one of the most abused, persecuted, and oft-imprisoned men who ever lived (see 2 Cor 11:23-28). Yet Paul was one of the most chronically joyful souls regardless of his circumstances or state of need (Phil 4:11). His joy and confidence came from his renewed mind and its strong connection to God.
 
We as Christians are to be a source of inspiration, making a difference in this world. In His first sermon Jesus urged His believers to be “salt” and “light.”
 
“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how
shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown
out and trampled underfoot by men.
You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot
be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but
on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good
works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Mt. 5:13-16
 
If we dare live our faith in open and transparent ways, the rest of the world could well see Christ living in us (Gal 2:20). In pre-refrigeration days, if a slab of salt-cured pork went bad, nobody blamed the pork. They blamed the quality, amount, or application of the salt. Salt and light radically impact everything they touch. People were attracted to Jesus because He was different. In Him they saw something that neither the Romans nor the established Jewish religion had to offer. Today, every time the world comes in contact with a Christian, a transference of hope, love, and relevancy should occur. If we are being transformed by that same Christ, people will be attracted to Him through our manifestation of His righteousness, His purpose, His love, and His unchanging ways.
 
Finally, we must address the daily struggle that confronts us living a faithful life as God’s children. In another reference to renewal Paul says, “The inward man is being renewed day by day” (2 Cor 4:16). Here, just like in Romans, the words are present-tense verbs, showing that it is a continuing, ever-present, never-ending reality that requires our “day-by-day” diligence.
If we will allow our minds to be renewed continually by the Word of God, we will spot immediately when we, or the world, have gone off course and need correction. We will not drift slowly, carried along by the winds of change. Rather, we will implement corrections in our course countless times each day – and that is why keeping the faith is such a daily occurrence.
 
A Christian who is transformed will learn the will of God, live the will of God, and love the will of God. Is it any wonder that a great Bible teacher, D.L. Moody exclaimed, “The Bible was not given for our information, but for our transformation.”

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