They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.” (John 4:42)
This statement does not only contain a proclamation of faith. It is “pregnant” [so to say] with an idea and a necessary step of all of our spiritual development as Christians. Let me explain. At first, when we are new believers we take much of what we now know of God on faith. We believe what our Bible teachers tell us and what our Preachers reveal in their sermons about the character and heart of God. That is wonderful, and it should be that way… …for new Christians.
The question we must confront and answer for ourselves is the heart of John 4:42; simply stated this way: “At what point have you stopped depending on others’ faith and started trusting in Christ for yourself?” We must, in our spiritual development, come to the point where our faith is just that — “OURS.” We must experience the goodness and faithfulness of God. We must also experience His chastisement, His rebuke that brings growth and molds our character ever more into the image of His Son. We need to open our eyes and see how He has been moving and continues to move in our lives. We must learn for ourselves that He is trustworthy, and that Romans 8:28 really IS true; no matter the circumstance. Without a concentrated, intentional effort on YOUR part, you will NOT have a faith of your own….you will, sadly, ride the coat tails of those brothers and sister who were brave enough to trudge ever onward and upward in Christ.
So today, my brothers, I call you to step off of whatever spiritual ”coattails” you are riding on, be uncomfortable, get your feet wet, and stand [on your own feet] for Christ. I promise there will be difficulties, trials, hardships and pain on this road…. But I also guarantee that the journey only gets sweeter and more fulfilling with every step you make with Christ. Follow Him. No matter where He leads. No matter the cost. The reward for doing so is absolutely immeasurable! Just ask David:
“You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:11)
Do you know people that irritate you? Do you have some friends or family members that you find annoying? No, these are not trick questions, just honest ones. The Holy Spirit wrote the Bible to help you deal with irritating, annoying people. And, as always, God’s answers are not our answers.
The church in Philippi was having some people problems. So, Paul wrote a letter to address their concerns. There is much for us to consider in Philippians about relationships. But, I just want to focus on one point today.
God wants you to consider the irritating, annoying people in your life as being more significant, more important than you are. Now, obeying God’s command to do this will not, necessarily, make these individuals less irritating. I can hear someone saying, “Oh great! I obey God, but I am still stuck with the irritation.”
Let me put this in context. Let’s say the president of the company you work for is an irritating individual. In addition let’s say that one of the maintenance crew is also irritating. Is there a difference in the way you respond to these individuals?You might well be grumpy towards the maintenance worker, but would you also be grumpy towards the company president? The response is no, I wouldn’t be grumpy with company president. Why? “Well, isn’t obvious, he is the one who hires and fires. He may be irritating, but he is more significant.”
Now you understand the strength of Paul’s argument, “Consider others more significant than yourselves.” You wouldn’t fuss at the company president, but at the maintenance worker, why not!
You see, when you interact with other people and they are bothersome, you forget that you are a sinner. If you focus just on the irritations of others, you forget how irritating you might be to them.
Trust God and see what happens when you begin to treat that irritating, annoying person in your life as being more significant than yourself. They may or may not change, but your love for God definitely will!
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus… Philippians 2:3-5a
Jay Younts is the Shepherd Press blogger. He is the author of Everyday Talk and other materials on parenting. He has been teaching and speaking on parenting issues for 30 years. Jay and his wife, Ruth, live in Fountain Inn, South Carolina. He serves as a ruling elder at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Moore, South Carolina. He and Ruth have five adult children
Cool weather, the briskness of morning, a chill in the air, fall is here; and with it a change in the seasons. At the changing of every season, I am reminded of how God’s creation, even after “the fall” functions much in the same way as it did when He first created it. Each year the leaves change, the nights grow longer and all that is green fades off to sleep until Spring. What if Creation did not obey the Creator? What if the world around us rebelled in much the same way we do. Imagine the chaos we would live in If it did [not that it could].
Genesis 8:22 says: “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.”
Creation will faithfully serve the Creator without question, without complaining, and without ceasing. Can you see the value of the obedience of Creation in the mundane, uninteresting, and common, every-day things? We depend on Creation doing “its job” without fail. We set our calendars, make our plans, plant our fields, and know when to harvest- all based on the seasons. Don’t you see just how much depends on being faithful in the “small things?” My pastor spoke recently about how important this is! Imagine what history would have been like if David had disobeyed Jesse and refused to take that bread and cheese to his brothers in the camp-the very day that God had ordained and purposed for David to slay Goliath! One small, seemingly insignificant act of obedience was the key to great victory and fulfillment of destiny in David’s life. What blessings are you forfeiting today? Who are you letting down today? What God-ordained destiny are you forsaking today, because you will not obey, in the mundane?
“And Samuel said,
“Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,
as in obeying the voice of the Lord?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
and to listen than the fat of rams.” (1 Samuel 15:22)
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge [Proverbs 1:7a], to obey is better than sacrifice [1 Samuel 15:22b]; therefore, to know the Lord is to love the Lord; to love the Lord is to serve the Lord; to serve the Lord is to obey the Lord; to obey the Lord is Wisdom. Wisdom is the faithful, obedient application of all we know of God to the will of God, motivated by our love for Him.
“Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” (John 14:23)
Get up! Get out there, and do those mundane, boring things God has called you to do! Today’s battles and today’s service prepare us for tomorrow’s challenges and makes us ready to receive and fulfill our God-given, God-ordained destinies!
Rise up, Men of God, and let’s be “All that we can be” for the glory of God!
In the age we live in, we are surrounded by and inundated with various types of technology. It seems as though almost everyone (under a certain age) is involved in social media, gadgets, smartphones, texting, status updates, and “tweeting” most everything that happens to them every day. Along with this unbridled dispensation of personal experiences and thoughts comes many opinions and various points of view. Everyone, and I mean everyone, seems to have something to say nowadays. My grandmother always told me that opinions are much like armpits: “everyone has them, and sometimes they stink!”
I think we, as a society, we may have lost sight of the true meaning of our “freedom of speech.” We should always stand for what is right, just and Biblically correct, and defend those things with all our might. In, and of itself, there is nothing wrong with expressing how you feel, or sharing experiences. However, just because we have the “right” to say whatever we want, doesn’t mean that we should say everything we think, or that we should always voice our opinion. The problem is that many of us have completely forgotten how to “filter” these things and choose what should and should not be said.
In the Book of James, we read that the tongue can be used for both good and evil, that it holds great power for either encouragement or destruction and that, like a spark that births the fire that consumes a great forest, our words can start a chain-reaction that can bring great devastation in the lives of others. I believe in using the internet, social media, and any format available to spread the Gospel, to encourage other brothers and sisters in Christ, and to speak life into the lives of other people. With that being said, I believe we all should think a little more before we speak, consider the weight of what we say and choose our words wisely. I fear that many Christians care more about being heard than they do about being “right.” If we are not careful, we may teach the generation behind us that “speaking your mind” is more important that “speaking the truth.”
“A GENERATION OF FOOLS DOES NOT RAISE UP SAGES…BUT EVEN GREATER FOOLS.” –Hevyn Allen
The more mindful we are of what we say, the more likely we will be to use our words to uplift, to encourage, and the benefit those around us. I challenge us all to spend more time in the Word, and in prayer, so that we will have the wisdom to “speak the truth in love” as those opportunities arise.
“Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.” (Ephesians 4:15)
Consider the words of Paul in the following quote from 1 Corinthians, chapter 10:
23 “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. 24 Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.
31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 32 Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, 33 just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.
Notice that Paul said that he did what he did so that “they might be saved.” When we speak to others, when we “tweet” our update our Facebook status, may we all be mindful of the power that our words have, but most importantly, let us strive to conduct ourselves in a manner that brings glory to God, that encourages others, and that gives those who are lost a reason and the desire to come to know the God we serve! As Christians, we have a responsibility and a calling to mingle our thoughts, our speech, and our lives with God’s Word. As the Psalmist so eloquently put it:
“Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.” Psalm 19:14
Ever wonder just how many opportunities we either squander, ignore, or just miss to share our faith or encourage others? I came across this story about John Wesley and just had to share it:
Wesley And The Robber
As John Wesley rode across Hounslow Heath late one night, singing a favorite hymn, he was startled by a fierce voice shouting, “Halt,” while a firm hand seized the horse’s bridle. Then the man demanded, “Your money or your life.”
Wesley obediently emptied his pockets of the few coins they contained and invited the robber to examine his saddlebags which were filled with books. Disappointed at the result, the robber was turning away when Mr. Wesley cried, “Stop! I have something more to give you.”
The robber, wondering at this strange call, turned back. Then Mr. Wesley, bending down toward him, said in solemn tones, “My friend, you may live to regret this sort of a life in which you are engaged. If you ever do, I beseech you to remember this, “The blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanseth us from all sin.””
The robber hurried silently away, and the man of God rode along, praying in his heart that the word spoken might be fixed in the robber’s conscience.
Years later, at the close of a Sunday evening service, the people streamed from the large building with many lingering around the doors to see the aged preacher, who was John Wesley.
A stranger stepped forward and earnestly begged to speak with Mr. Wesley. What a surprise to find that this was the robber of Hounslow Heath, now a well-to-do tradesman in the city, but better still, a child of God! The words spoken that night long ago had been used of God in his conversion.
Raising the hand of Mr. Wesley to his lips, he affectionately kissed it and said in tones of deep emotion, “To you, dear sir, I owe it all.”
“Nay, nay, my friend,” replied Mr. Wesley softly, “not to me, but to the precious blood of Christ which cleanseth us from all sin.”
Tan, P. L. (1996). Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times. Garland, TX: Bible Communications, Inc..
Often, the choices we make in our every day lives affect more than we realize. For example, what if John Wesley reacted to the robber in a different way? What if he responded in anger, or even forcibly resisted the robber [like many of us would have] ? Think of the implications for his life, and for that of the robber’s that would have had! This story reinforces that fact that God is fully in control of everything, that He endlessly orchestrates our lives such that we are used by Him to achieve His purposes [Romans 8:28], and that our actions [and our sins] do not only affect us, but those around us. In this example, we see two truths from God’s Word being lived out. The first, from the book of James:
“So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” (James 4:17)
Wesley listened to the urging of the Holy Spirit, and obeyed the will of God when he called out to the robber the second time. The second truth we see comes from the writings of the prophet Isaiah:
“so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11)
God had a plan when He allowed Wesley and the robber to meet. He intended for this encounter to be the one thing that truly brought about change in the robber’s heart. We all have that one event, experience, etc. which brings us to the point wherein we realize that we need a Savior! May we all, each day, look for and take advantage of any and all opportunities to spread the Gospel, to encourage one another, to teach one another, and speak the truth [God’s Word] in love. PAY ATTENTION!! -your life or someone else’s may be “hanging in the balance”!
“People who live without God face five dangers. It stifles the prayer life. It makes them a friend of the world and an enemy of God. They neglect God’s will in their lives. It produces insult and slander of fellow believers. It produces people who plan their lives without seeking God.” –T.D. Lea, Holman New Testament Commentary, 1999.
James chapter 4 deals with this topic. The fact that verse 1 uses the plural “quarrels and fights” tells us that this was an ongoing problem for those to whom he was writing. But, isn’t this an ongoing problem for all of us? Do we not all struggle with our own fleshly desires and passions daily? Any personal goal that contributes to one’s own accomplishments rather than to God’s will or plan for one’s life can be listed among these “evil desires” to which James refers. Examples of this include, but are not limited to: money, reputation, success, and possessions.
At the root of the issues to which James addresses is what is today known as the philosophy of hedonism. In my reading, I have come across many definitions for “hedonism,” so I will offer a very basic one for our purposes here:
“Hedonism is the belief that the chief purpose of living is to satisfy self, above everything and everyone else.”
In James 4:1, the Greek word used for “desires” is the same that is related in the history of its meaning to the English word “hedonism.” Jesus used the same word in Luke 8:14 to describe individuals who were “choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures…and fail to mature.”
These desires are remnants of our former nature, before we were saved, but they constantly attempt to surface and take control of our lives. Romans 7:14-15 speaks to this:
14 So the trouble is not with the law, for it is spiritual and good. The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. 15 I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.
These desires will remain with us while we are here, on earth. As Christians, it is our duty to:
“fight the good fight of faith” [1 Timothy 6:12]
“taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” [2 Cor. 10:5]
and remember that:
“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” [1 Cor. 10:13]
Remember when Jesus stood before Pilot to be questioned? What did He tell Pilot? I find it interesting that Jesus said very little when being questioned. You see this portrayed in movies as well. When this scene comes us, often the actor portraying Jesus just has this solemn, strong-silent look on his face while Pilot asks him what should be done, what “crimes” is He guilty of, etc…
So, as I’m reading today in 1 Peter 2 about how we are a chosen race, a royal priest hood and that we belong to God. Our purpose, 1 Peter 2 tells us, is to proclaim the “excellencies of him who called you” and verse 11 specifically calls us to “abstain from the passions of the flesh.”
The key verse, for me, was verse 12:
”Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.”
A few things I want to point out:
1. Our conduct is to be honorable (Jesus’ conduct always was)
2. Others WILL speak evil against you…just give it time and it will happen (people spoke evil of Christ)
3. If we have honorable behavior, others will notice and see that behavior (everyone saw Jesus behaving honorably)
Here’s the most important part:
4. WHEN others see us behave honorably EVEN when we are wrongly accused or being spoken evil of, it is a TESTIMONY to others..it will amaze them…perhaps shock them. They will then have to give God the credit for this behavior, because we all know that a person is not capable of such behavior in and of themselves. Others will realize that NO one is THAT good unless God is in them. God is glorified when we live like this.
Jesus is our model of behavior and the goal we all shoot for, right? He is our standard of excellence and our goal is to become more Christ-like, right? What did HE do before His accusers? How did HE treat those in authority? Look at what he said in Mark 12:17 when He was talking about whether or not one should pay taxes:
Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they marveled at him.
They MARVELED at him. Why? When you are this committed to the will of God and refuse to bend, even when questioned, people notice, there are amazed and many times they are shocked at such behavior. Our human nature tell us that it’s “ok” to bend the rules and compromise what we believe in when it is convenient or profitable to us…but Jesus NEVER did. And that is why HE is our example.
IF we are truly to emulate Christ and become more like Him, we must do this in EVERY area of our lives, not just those that are convenient and easy. We must dig, deep into the depths of our souls, and bear all of ourselves to Him to be forged into His likeness…even if this means that we must suffer or feel pain. Wasn’t it Paul that said to live is Christ and to DIE is gain? (Philippians 1:21)
I leave you with this final passage from 1 Peter 2 to meditate on, and it is my hope that we all will never tire in our efforts to be more like Christ.
22He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.
14:23 (ESV): ”And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on
the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone,”
hear the voice of the Lord…to know His will.
This is a desire shared by, I dare say, every individual who calls Jesus
their Savior. How do we know what He
wants? How do we know what it is that we
should do in this life? Are we pleasing
Him by the way we live, act, speak, think, and treat others? It is one thing to say that we want to please
the Lord, but as James reminds us, we must “be
doers of the Word, and not hearers only.”
we, like Jesus, are not stealing away to find that time and place where we can
be alone with God, then there is absolutely NO WAY we can know the Father’s
will. One can only know the Father’s
will by spending time Him. Our lives are
so busy today, and time is always a precious commodity. All of us have the same amount of time every
day. Spending time with the Father is
not an issue of time, but an issue of choice.
We make time to do in our lives what we deem important. So the question becomes, “Is the Father
important enough to us to spend time with each day?” Jesus proved by His actions that he Father
was the most important person in His life.
Time after time, Jesus made conscious effort to remove Himself from the
crowd so He could draw near to the Father.
James 4:8 teaches us to “Draw near
to God and He will draw near to you.”
we are to know the Fathers’ will and live in a way that is pleasing to Him, we
must spend time with Him. No matter what
is going on in the world, no matter what problems we face, He is the solution. Let us thank God for loving us as we are, and
for loving us enough not to leave us as we are.
He has chosen to lead us (through
our relationship with Him) into a life of wholeness.
“So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”