Posts Tagged 'God’s will'

Panic Podcast: 7 Things God Expects From Christians, Part 6

Good Friday morning! We made it through another week relatively unscathed, and we’re ready to study the Bible. We’re in the Book of Joshua today, so open your Bible and we’ll get started.

 

 

Here’s a picture of the phone I reference at the beginning of the podcast, the Unihertz Titan. It’s available on Amazon.

 

Panic Podcast: 7 Things God Expects From Christians, Part 3

Its Monday, in case you didn’t know. Thanks for dropping by for another week of Bible studies and fellowship. I don’t know about you, but I’ve come to really appreciate our time together; there’s nothing better than God’s people studying His Word together. One benefit of the absurd time in which we find ourselves is that I have met some wonderful people I otherwise wouldn’t have. So, if you’d like to use the comments section to say howdy or ask a question or leave a prayer request, please do.

Enjoy the the third part in our series 7 Things God Expects From Christians and God bless you!

 

James, Part 4

download-4

It’s a classic movie, but it’s wrong. God should be your pilot, not your co-pilot! If He’s your co-pilot, it’s time to switch seats!

The very first thing you notice as chapter 3 ends and chapter 4 begins is the sharp contrast between how one chapter ends and the other begins.

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.  Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.  (James 3:17, 18  NIV)

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?  You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God.  (James 4:1, 2  NIV)

Those were some Christians James was writing to!  Of them, he wrote:  “You desire but do not have, so you kill.”  I hope James was exaggerating.  But you never know.  Worldliness isn’t a problem unique to the American Church of the 21st century.  It’s always been a problem – the elephant in the sanctuary pastors are afraid to confront for fear of offending a member or two.  James, however, wasn’t afraid to address the issue.  And it should be addressed in the strongest possible terms because worldliness isn’t just the polar opposite of righteousness; it’s something that destroys a Christian testimony, makes God look bad, and rips apart churches.  It causes non-Christians to shake their head and roll their eyes in derision when Christians, who know better, are caught displaying worldly attitudes.

Far from being worldly, Christians are called to be righteous and to display the righteousness of Christ through their lives.  That’s a challenge for Christians today, as it was during James’ day.

Controlling your desires

If you think the early church was characterized by peace and harmony, you couldn’t be more wrong.  Just after Pentecost, we are told:

All the believers were one in heart and mind.  (Acts 4:32a  NIV)

But that didn’t last long.  Within a decade, the young church looked a lot like our churches today, filled with quarreling, hard feelings, envy, and selfishness.  In the first verse, James is likely using figurative language but his point is well taken.  Actual killing wasn’t going on, but worldly attitudes were killing relationships and breaking hearts, giving truth to the old saying:

Wars without come from wars within.

How we treat other people starts with our attitude – not about the people, but about the world.  If we set our hearts on the world and what the world can give us, we are in trouble.  When we “covet,” we necessarily end up hurting other people as the object of our desire becomes more important than the person or people in our lives may be.  A.F. Harper observes –

The basic trouble is that you allow unholy desires to possess your spirits.  Those desires if uncleansed and unchecked lead to spiritual disaster.

The Christian is potentially the most deluded person on earth.  They covet.  They desire things contrary to God’s will.  So they engage some prayerful chicanery –

When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.  (James 4:3  NIV)

The worldly Christian is so spiritually dull he doesn’t know what God’s will is.  He foolishly imagines that his wants and desires constitute God’s – will so much so that he prays for his wants and desires not knowing he’s wasting his time.  Naturally God won’t give him the answer he’s looking for since that answer isn’t His will in the first place!  Deluded and frustrated, this carnal Christian gets the wrong idea of God.  To Him God can’t be trusted and his faith just “doesn’t work,” so why bother?  Having a worldly attitude always results in a ruined spiritual life.

But James is also trying teach us a little something about prayer.  James had wrote –

You do not have because you do not ask God.  (James 4:2b  NIV)

We ought to be asking God for everything in our lives, but our motives have to be right.  The things we are asking for need to be within God’s will and our motives need to respect that will.  If God doesn’t give us what we’ve asked for, we shouldn’t then turn around and covet the thing.

Why is it important to control our desires?  Why is worldliness and a worldly attitude so bad?  It’s not just bad form, it’s a outright sin.

You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.  (James 4:4  NIV)

James likens worldliness to adultery.  Straddling the line, as any driver can tell you, is dangerous.  You’re always safest on your own side of the road.  A Christian can’t straddle the line for long, either.  You can’t be a friend of God and a friend of the world at the same time.  James isn’t teaching a new thing.  Jesus said this –

No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.  (Matthew 6:24  NIV)

Worldliness is like spiritual adultery.  Of this attitude, one Bible scholar noted –

Worldliness is succumbing to the seductions of a fallen world.  Worldliness is being concerned with worldly affairs to the neglect of spiritual needs.  Worldliness is the state of being directed by the outward influences of the surrounding culture.  Christians must reject worldliness.

The opposite of a worldly attitude

Or what do you think the Scripture means when it says that the Holy Spirit, whom God has placed within us, watches over us with tender jealousy? But he gives us more and more strength to stand against all such evil longings. As the Scripture says, God gives strength to the humble but sets himself against the proud and haughty.  (James 4:5, 6  TLB)

If we belong to God, our worldly attitudes necessarily have to go.  If we, for whatever reason, cherish as friend worldly attitudes, we become – we make ourselves – the enemy of God.  But the opposite to a worldly attitude is that of humility.  Augustine cleverly noted –

It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels.

We’re not exactly sure what Scripture James had in mind when he wrote verse 5, but his point is well taken.  God wants our undivided attention.  God has placed within every believer His Holy Spirit, and He is intensely concerned about our attitude.  And the Holy Spirit will help any believer who wants the help to overcome any worldliness that may be lingering in his life.

It may well be that James had Exodus 34:14 in the back of his mind –

Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.  (NIV)

Our God is a jealous God and He allows no rivals; He refuses to share our love with any other so-called god.  It’s our complete loyalty, love, and devotion He’s after because those are the things He has given us.  The best thing we can do to build our relationship with God into a strong and functional one is to humbly admit our worldly tendencies and then allow the Holy Spirit to change us.

A worldly Christian is in love with himself and the world; he is always looking for ways to make himself feel good.  He may go to church, sing in the choir and to everybody appear to be a model Christian.  Yet if he refuses to come closer to God he is condemned by God because of his pride.

Get close to God

In our struggle against worldliness, there are two things we should be doing all the time:

So give yourselves humbly to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.   (James 4:7  TLB)

A great  many Christians want the latter without bothering with the former.  But the truth is, you can only resist the devil IF you first “give yourself” or “submit” to God.  Very simply that means living in obedience to God.  So if you can’t obey God, you won’t be able to resist the devil, hence you will sin, or more accurately, you’ll forever remain in the rut of sin, unable to get out of it.

It seems like such a no-brainer, it’s a wonder all Christians aren’t running around, resisting the devil all the time.  But we know that certainly isn’t the case.  As to why so few are, the answer is found in the word – humbly.  We are supposed to be submitting to God humbly, but since so many of us have problems with that part of the deal, we choose to sin.

Make God part of your life

The theme of the last paragraph of James 4 is a simple one:  Self-centered living produces Christians who ignore God’s will.

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.”  (James 4:13  NIV)

That’s probably addressed to you.  And to me.  We all make plans, and we naturally expect God to fall in line with them.  Dr McGee, in his commentary on the Bible, makes an interesting comment about Christians who “make big plans for the future.”

It has taken me a long time to learn just to play it by ear.

That’s a tongue-in-cheek thing to write, but he’s not wrong.  We all have to  make plans, but in all our planning we have to be very careful not to plan God out of our lives.  God does exist and we need to plan our futures around Him and His will.  Being a worldly Christian doesn’t always mean behaving like the prodigal son or Judas Iscariot.  Sometimes worldliness manifests itself in something as simple as indifference – indifference to God in the form of disregarding His presence and His will.

What is the mark of a true Christian as opposed to a “cultural Christian”?  It’s this:  A true, born again believer in and disciple of Jesus Christ not only believes that God exists, but he lives like he believes He exists.  A cultural Christian believes in God but lives as though He doesn’t exist by never considering His will for their daily lives.

Why is it so important for Christians to  seek after God’s will and to live according to it?  Verse 14 provides the obvious answer:  We don’t know what the future holds.  Human beings without consideration of God, foolishly make plans as if they know what they will be doing or where they will be living years down the road.  We act as though we are secure, but the opposite is the truth.  We are frail.  We are, in God’s long view of things, here today and gone tomorrow.

Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”  (James 4:15  NIV)

But really, James was just echoing thoughts of Psalm 102:11-

My days are like the evening shadow; I wither away like grass.  (NIV)

And that’s why Christians (and intelligent sinners) shouldn’t live presumptuous lives.  God should always be the “silent partner” in all our plans and work.  He should be consulted and His will followed when He reveals it to us.  As one scholar put it:

The boaster forgets that life depends on the will of God.  The right feeling is, both my life and my actions are determined by Him.

It’s not what we say but how we live that shows the world that we belong to Christ.

 

 

Help For Your Family: Direction

Huh?

Huh?

Christians think they know all about God’s will.  We talk about it all the time.  But we have a love/hate relationship with it.  When times are good, we love God’s will.  When we have a new car or a new child or a new job, we celebrate God’s will.  Yet, when times get tough, all of a sudden God’s will isn’t nearly as understandable or attractive as it used to be.  Yes, God’s will seems great when life is going our way.  What about when life isn’t so good?  How do we reconcile God’s will with sickness?  Or poverty?  Or war?  How do we find out God’s will for our lives?  Just how involved is God in our daily lives?  Or is He that involved?  Let’s find out together.

1.  God has a plan.  Whether you like it or not!

God’s knowledge, Psalm 139:15, 16

You were there while I was being formed in utter seclusion! You saw me before I was born and scheduled each day of my life before I began to breathe. Every day was recorded in your book!

Psalm 139 is incomparable when it comes to Biblical teaching on God’s omnipresence and omniscience.  God knows everything.  He knows what we think.  He knows what we say.  It’s good to know that God knows when we are hurting or confused.  It’s foolish to imagine that we can scheme to sin without God knowing.  This is something about God that either comforts us or gives us reason for anxiety.  At the same time, God knows not only our thoughts, but also our hearts and intentions.  Nobody can claim to know what’s going on in another’s heart.  But God can, and this psalm tells us why.

God’s knowledge of us is so complete because He knew us before we were even born!  People who oppose unrestricted abortion quote verses like these, and rightfully so.  God is intensely aware of us and working in us even while were in the womb.  God saw the psalmist, as He sees us, while he was being formed.  God recorded his development day by day.  Thoughtful people have long believed this:

You have made me, and yet you destroy me.  Oh, please remember that I’m made of dust—will you change me back again to dust so soon?  You have already poured me from bottle to bottle like milk and curdled me like cheese.  You gave me skin and flesh and knit together bones and sinews.  You gave me life and were so kind and loving to me, and I was preserved by your care.  (Job 10:8—11  TLB)

You may think it’s extreme to speak of God knowing an embryo so well.  But the Bible speaks of it as fact.  It’s not extreme.  God’s knowledge of us is perfect.  Given that truth, how can we fear that God is unaware of our circumstances?

Jeremiah’s calling, Jeremiah 1:1—5

The Lord said to me, “I knew you before you were formed within your mother’s womb; before you were born I sanctified you and appointed you as my spokesman to the world.”  (Jeremiah 1:4, 5  TLB)

The prophet Jeremiah’s ministry spanned the tenure of no less than five kings.  He had a long, distinguished, sometimes rocky career.  But it was not a career of his choosing; God had specifically set Jeremiah apart to do the work of a prophet.  Jeremiah was chosen, appointed, and sent to be a prophet to the nations.  He was not his own person.  The call of God is inescapable.  Notice how these verses are written.  God had ordained Jeremiah before Jeremiah had born.

The great apostle Paul had a similar experience to that of Jeremiah:

But the Lord said, “Go and do what I say. For Paul is my chosen instrument to take my message to the nations and before kings, as well as to the people of Israel.  (Acts 9:15  TLB)

God indicated to both of these men that He had specifically chosen them to do certain things and go certain places beforehand.  God had a plan for them, as He has a plan for you, too.  The plan for you may not involve preaching or prophesying or mission work, but God has a plan nonetheless specifically for you.

Jeremiah’s response, Jeremiah 1:6—8

Jeremiah was young when God informed him of the call on his life.  Being young, of course, Jeremiah felt unworthy and under prepared to do the work.  God knew all about Jeremiah’s fears and calmed him down.  He did the same for another young minister, Timothy:

Don’t let anyone think little of you because you are young. Be their ideal; let them follow the way you teach and live; be a pattern for them in your love, your faith, and your clean thoughts.  (1 Timothy 4:12  TLB)

Interestingly, Timothy’s call was to be manifested by what his actions; in Jeremiah’s case God would give the prophet words to speak.  In each case, as well as that of Moses, there was a co-operative effort in the working of God’s will.  Timothy, Jeremiah, and Moses had a part to play—they had to do something, but not just anything—to fulfill God’s will.  Yes, God gave them the words and direction, but the correct action(s) had to follow.

2.  Finding out God’s plan

Mercy and truth, then trusting Proverbs 3:3—5

Never tire of loyalty and kindness. Hold these virtues tightly. Write them deep within your heart.   If you want favor with both God and man, and a reputation for good judgment and common sense, then trust the Lord completely; don’t ever trust yourself.  (Proverbs 3:3—5  TLB)

This is the advice from one father to his son.  It is also part of God’s inspired Word and is therefore also applicable to us.  What we are reading here is not just good, common sense advice, it is how God wants us to live!  It is therefore God’s will for us.

So, living right is what God wants Christians to do.  Living right means living the way Scripture tells us to.  It only follows, then, that a Christian needs to know what the Bible says.  If the Word is in our minds and in our hearts, it’s truths will be manifested in our actions.

As we live like this, trust in God is essential.  We cannot trust ourselves because we are not trustworthy.  Even the saintliest among us is still a redeemed sinner, contending with his sinful nature.  Sin is always looking for way to jump in and get his attention.  This is why we cannot trust ourselves and why we must trust in the Lord.  Sometimes His ways may not make sense to us.  That’s why trusting the Lord is essential.

Healthy fear, Proverbs 3:7, 8

Don’t be conceited, sure of your own wisdom. Instead, trust and reverence the Lord, and turn your back on evil; when you do that, then you will be given renewed health and vitality.

Fearing, or revering the Lord, is healthy.  A lot of people miss the point of these verses.  If you are trusting the Lord you will do your best to avoid evil.  The result of this—avoiding evil—will be good health.  We can see how this is possible.  And trusting in the Lord also brings about a certain healthy benefit.  It’s wonderful to learn to trust Him rather than yourself.

Paul advised Timothy:

“A person who calls himself a Christian should not be doing things that are wrong.”  (2 Timothy 2:19b  TLB)

“Doing things that are wrong” is simply getting into sin.  If you are a Christian, it is God’s will that you stop doing things that are wrong.

God’s will, Romans 12:1, 2

And so, dear brothers, I plead with you to give your bodies to God. Let them be a living sacrifice, holy—the kind he can accept. When you think of what he has done for you, is this too much to ask?  Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but be a new and different person with a fresh newness in all you do and think. Then you will learn from your own experience how his ways will really satisfy you.

When Paul tells his Roman friends to “give their bodies to the God,” he is actually referring to the whole person (see Romans 6:11—13).  Chrysostom’s thoughts are helpful here:

How can the body become a sacrifice?  Let the eye look upon nothing evil, and it has become a sacrifice.  Let the tongue speak nothing shameful, and it has become an offering.  Let the hand do nothing unlawful, and it has become a burnt offering.  Nay!  This is not sufficient; we need the active practice of the good.  The hand must do alms, the mouth must bless them that curse, the ear must give attention without ceasing to divine lessons.  For a sacrifice has nothing impure, a sacrifice is the firstfruit of other things.  And let us therefore with our hands, our feet, and our mouth, and all our other members, render firstfruits unto God.

Since our actions descend from our thoughts, Paul makes it clear that we must change our habitual ways of thinking.  This is God’s will!  When we love Jesus, our thought life must necessarily change and be brought into line with His.  This is not an option, and it is something we ourselves must do.  God won’t do it for us.  It is our responsibility to make a conscious effort to change the way we think.  If we want to please God, and if we want to walk in God’s will, then we have no choice.  Of course, God will help us, but our part is to appropriate that help through prayer, Bible reading, and even things like wholesome fellowship with other believers.

3.  Live according to God’s will

It’s one thing to know God’s will, but it’s another to actually live according to God’s will.  Sometimes what He wants isn’t what we want.

Life in Christ, Philippians 1:20, 21

For I live in eager expectation and hope that I will never do anything that will cause me to be ashamed of myself but that I will always be ready to speak out boldly for Christ while I am going through all these trials here, just as I have in the past; and that I will always be an honor to Christ, whether I live or whether I must die.  For to me, living means opportunities for Christ, and dying—well, that’s better yet!

Paul was keenly aware of his witness for Christ.  He didn’t want to do anything in his life that made Christ look bad.  Would that all believers had this attitude!  John, in one of his letters, mentions that when Christ comes to take His church home, some believers may stand with Him in embarrassment.

And now, my little children, stay in happy fellowship with the Lord so that when he comes you will be sure that all is well and will not have to be ashamed and shrink back from meeting him.  (1 John 2:28  TLB)

Verse 21 is really the philosophy of life all believers should adopt:  to live Christ, do die gain.  What does that mean?  If to live is Christ, then to die would be more of Christ!  The most important thing any believer has in his life is not his family or his career or his bank account; it’s Jesus Christ.  The most important thing a person can do in his life is having fellowship with Him.  That leads to a powerful and accurate witness, which is what Paul wanted more than anything.

Knowing Christ, Philippians 3:7, 8

But all these things that I once thought very worthwhile—now I’ve thrown them all away so that I can put my trust and hope in Christ alone.  Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the priceless gain of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have put aside all else, counting it worth less than nothing, in order that I can have Christ…

Paul lived a deliberate life.  He was educated.  He was dedicated.  He was a hard worker, whether he was persecuting Christians or making them.  He had an impressive resume.  And yet Paul considered all of his achievements as less than nothing in comparison to knowing Christ better.  In fact, he would dump all of his life before Christ because it amounted to nothing.

When Paul experienced the risen Lord on the Road to Damascus, that conversion was life changing!  It literally changed everything about Paul.   When a person has that level of devotion to Christ, living to please Christ is of primary importance.  Living to please Christ is simply living according to His will.  It has been said that 95% of God’s will is revealed in His Word; the rest of it He expects us to seek after and discern.  It’s not always easy or popular living according to God’s will, but it is always smart.  Paul had perfect perspective and that helped him to live right.  David Brainerd wrote:

We should always look upon ourselves as God’s servants, placed in God’s world to do His work; and accordingly labor faithfully for Him.

On this, Paul would agree!

Direction in life; for the Christian it’s a whole lot easier to discern than some of the crazy signs out there.  But knowing is not the same thing as doing.

Given a choice...I'll take the fine.

Given the choice…I’ll take the fine.


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