Growing In Godliness Blog

Growing In Godliness Blog

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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.”

Making a Name For Yourself

Monday, June 13, 2016
Making a Name For Yourself
By Paul Earnhart
 
“I charge thee in the sight of God, who giveth life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed the good confession…”
(1 Timothy 6:13)
 
The Roman Empire had thousands of provincial officials in the course of the 500 years it ruled the Mediterranean world. Few enough are even known by name, and only one is remembered – Pontius Pilate. Though there is information about this provincial governor in both Josephus (Antiquities, XVIII, iii, 1-3; Wars, II, ix, 2-4) and Philo (Legatio ad Gaium), the largest portion of our knowledge of him comes out of the New Testament gospels.
 
The interesting thing about Pilate is that, hung up in an obscure district of the Empire, he seems to have been an ordinary man out to make his mark in the world. He was a middle class Roman with ambition for better things.
 
Pilate had nothing but contempt for the troublesome people of his district and when they presented him with a virtual ultimatum for the execution of a prisoner they brought to him, he balked. In addition to his stubborn resistance to being manipulated, there remained in him some residual sense of justice. The governor’s examination of the prisoner persuaded him that the charges were empty, based on religious differences, even jealousy (Matthew 27:18), rather than criminal activity. Pilate may have been in many ways a brutal, insensitive man. When his seizure of the sacred (corban) treasury in Jerusalem caused a public clamor, he sent his soldiers to mingle with the crowd in civilian clothes and beat to death the instigators (Luke 13:3). But the case of Jesus was outrageous.
 
The problem was that the Jews were stubbornly insistent. Their threat to report him to Caesar as guilty of harboring anti-government agents was disquieting (John 19:12). Though a bit laughable from the one who murdered the apostle James, Philo quotes Heord Agrippa I as saying that the Jews “exasperated Pilate to the greatest possible degree, as he feared lest they might go on an embassy to the Emperor, and might impeach him with respect to other particulars of his government – his corruptions, his acts of insolence, his rapine…his cruelty and his continual murders…” (Legatio ad Gaium, 38).
 
Prudence would have directed Pilate to protect his office and give the Jews their pound of flesh. But there was the prisoner’s disquieting claim to be the Son of God which the Jews, in exasperation, had finally blurted out to him (John 19:7); and his own wife’s urgent warning to leave this “righteous man” alone (Matthew 27:19). Pilate was a man caught between justice and ambition, between his conscience and his career.
 
If Jesus was a criminal, He should have been summarily executed. If He was innocent, as Pilate confessed, He should have been immediately freed. But the governor did neither. Instead, he tried to escape his dilemma by compromise – a proffered deal, the brutal beating of an admittedly innocent prisoner – yet, nothing worked. He had to choose. He could send Jesus to the cross and save his career plans, but how could he take responsibility for condemning to death a man whom he, himself, had pronounced innocent?
 
Pilate sought refuge in confusion. The issue was complex. How could any mere man be expected to settle such troublesome questions? “What is truth?” (John 13:38). And then, at last, when he could not save his job and justice too, he protected his job and shifted blame for his knowing perversion of justice to the Jews. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said, as he symbolically washed his hands, “It is your responsibility” (Matthew 27:24, NIV).
 
The real irony of Pilate’s story is that he was a man seeking a name for himself. For him, Jesus was a minor, if troublesome, inconvenience on his road to fame and fortune. And yet Pontius Pilate is remembered in history, not because of his own great achievements, but because of his brief encounter with Jesus of Nazareth.
 
It is easy to see and to jump on the moral cowardice and grave miscalculations of a Pontius Pilate. But how do we differ from him? How often do we sell out moral principle, and the Son of God, just to work out our own carnal ambitions? Every man and woman who turns aside his duty to God, to family, and to others, just to hold on to some worldly dream in no way differs from the governor of Judea. We can plead that we tried almost everything to escape being untrue to what was right, but so did Pilate. We can plead confusion, that the issue is not clear, that it is disputed by good people, but so did Pilate. We can blame our moral and spiritual lapse on the wickedness of others, but so did Pilate.
 
What is the lesson in all this? That in trying to make a name for ourselves we can easily wind up like Nabal, with the name of a fool. Worldly ambition can easily blind men to real value. Otherwise, Pilate would have known that Jesus was not his problem, but his salvation.

Choosing to Adopt

Saturday, June 04, 2016
 
Choosing to Adopt
By Jerid Gunter
 
Since becoming a father seven short months ago, I’ve started to learn about the love of a father firsthand. I’m certainly in the beginning stages. Still yet, I love having the title “daddy”, and I wouldn’t trade my baby girl for anything in the world. I find myself mesmerized by my daughter every day. Simply stated, I love being a dad. Really, in many ways, I think it’s pretty natural for me to feel the way I do about my daughter, as she’s my “flesh and blood.”
 
What about for those who adopt children? At least from the outside looking in, the kind of love from an adoptive parent to an adoptive child seems to have a different layer (or maybe multiple layers). I’m certainly not suggesting the love I have for my daughter or any parent for their own biological child is any less, but with all of the additional elements of an adoption, there are hurdles that must be crossed, which isn’t quite the case for biological parents. Let’s just consider a few of the obvious ones:
 
1. The child may not resemble you.
This has to be one of the most fundamental challenges that potential adoptive parents have to come to terms with. Perhaps the child has different colored hair or eyes than you. Not really that big of a deal. However, maybe the child is a different race than you. That’s a bit more obvious isn’t it? For some parents, it’s not an issue at all. However, others are very self-conscious about this, and even put in special requests for not just the same race, but the same hair color and eye color as the parent(s) too. They want the child to resemble them as much as possible.
 
2. The cost to adopt is expensive.
Another fundamental obstacle with adoption is that the cost to adopt a child can be extremely expensive. According to americanadoptions.com, the average cost of an adoption from 2012-2013 through an agency was nearly $40,000, while an independent adoption was only about $6,000 less. That’s quite a price to pay to provide an innocent child, who didn’t choose to be in this situation, a home.
 
3. You don’t have to do it.
While adoption is most definitely an incredibly selfless and compassionate act, the bottom line is: you don’t have to do it. As noted in the previous point, adoption is very expensive. Let alone, the psychological hoops you may have to jump through before deciding to go through with it. The truth is, you’d be taking on a responsibility that you don’t have to take on if you don’t want to. There’s no firing squad waiting outside your door if you choose not to adopt.
 
OK, now take all of those points and apply them from the vantage point of God and His willingness to adopt you, me, and anyone else who wants to be part of His family. When you really think about it, it’s incredible to consider:
 
1. We didn’t/don’t resemble Him.
I’m sure most of us know Romans 3:23 by heart, and in some ways we may take comfort in that passage, knowing that all of us have sinned. Certainly, we all resemble each other in a spiritual sense, but we don’t resemble God. Even in the flesh, Christ was sinless (1 Peter 2:22). God cannot and will not associate with sin. He hates it (Proverbs 6:16-19). He is holy (Isaiah 6:3).
 
We couldn’t look any more different from God in our sin. How comfortable do we feel about Romans 3:23 now?
 
2. The cost to adopt us was incredibly steep.
While the adoption of a child is most certainly a costly endeavor, there’s no dollar amount that can convey the price God paid in order to adopt us. To consider the fact that God hates sin, yet still loves the people who have committed the sins (directly transgressing His will) is just incredible itself. We all know John 3:16, that He loved/loves the world (mankind – His creation) so much, that He gave His only Son to die for us. As Paul stated in Romans 6:23, the payment for sin is death, yet God freely offers eternal life through Christ. If anything, we should be making payments to God for this adoption to take place, but He’s already paid for it.
 
As any adoptive parent would expect to receive their child’s love, appreciation, and obedience, God certainly expects the same of His adopted children, because the bottom line is…
 
3. He didn’t have to do it.
As much as we may say it from the Lord’s Supper table or from the pulpit or in our songs, I’m afraid I might (perhaps you do too) have an issue with entitlement. We live in a “hand-out” society and really the only thing we need to have our hand out for is to be smacked…hard. Shame on any of us if we live our lives believing we’re entitled to anything, and most especially salvation. As Christians, how quickly we may forget that we didn’t resemble God at all when we came to Him with our sin. He didn’t have to make His Son available and Jesus always had a way out (Matthew 26:53), but God’s love exceeded it all (Romans 5:8).
 
Christian, take joy in your adoption! Find humility, knowing that it’s obvious we didn’t resemble God in any way. But at the same time, have resolve, knowing that through the blood of Christ, we can work towards resembling Him in the way we live our lives for our Father each day. What a loving Father we have, who by adopting us, not only calls us His children, but heirs unto salvation (Romans 8:12-17)! “Praise the Lord, I am His child!”

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