We either believe in Jesus and follow Him, or we don’t. We either believe His Word and live by it, or we don’t. We do the works and deeds of Jesus, or we don’t. We are either a Christian, a Christ follower, or we’re not.

Christianity is very black and white. But it gets grey and muddied when we allow the creep of our self-entitled, politically correct, religiously post-modern culture to influence our lives. This is where we find ourselves playing the game of Christianity. Beware, it’s a loosing game invented by the devil, a smokescreen for the real thing.

The game of Christianity is clear, Instead of living by God’s Word, by grace and faith and love, by the leading of Holy Spirit, we live by what is convenient and popular, by what man invents, and by the dictates of our flesh.

Picking and choosing scripture we love, ignoring scripture that contradicts our choices, we reason away and excuse our open disobedience and rebellion to God. Of course we’d never call it open disobedience or rebellion, we cloak it in religious sounding speech and expertly make it sound like we are wise and mature Christians. Lot’s of people are fooled. God is not.

We want God’s grace without responsibility. God’s will and purpose without submission to His process. God’s generous hand of blessing without His strong hand of faith and character development. We want the cross without the sacrifice. And the trappings of worldly success at the expense of truly honoring and obeying Holy Spirit.

Don’t live like this. It’s powerless Christianity. It’s religious counterfeit. 

Live an all-out full-on relationship with Jesus. Deep, and growing deeper, intimacy is the only real Christianity. It won’t be popular or convenient. It won’t always feel good or look pretty. It will often be painful and require much of us. It’s not for the faint hearted. Nor is it for the self-seeking, self-promoting person who is full of their own agenda.

Christianity is very simple. It’s very black and white:

  • Follow Jesus.
  • He is our only life.
  • Get in on what Jesus is doing.
  • Be where He is.
  • Do what He is doing.
  • Say what He is saying.
  • Live to serve others.
  • Allow Jesus full reign in your heart and mind; then…
  • Jesus is the only King reigning in your heart.
  • Live fully by the truth of His Word. No compromise. No excuse. Obeying God’s every word–not man’s.
  • Have your eyes fixed on Him. Take up His vital cause of reaching the world.

Jesus lived in perfect obedience to the will of the Father. He said, “I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught Me. The One who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do what pleases Him.” John 8:28a-29.

Imagine, the One Man who had the right to His own opinion, He lived in perfect obedience.

His desire was to live in perfect obedience and model this as the way we should live: perfect obedience to the will of the Father is the way Jesus wants us to live. 

Some may say (or even scoff pridefully), “This is impossible! This is Jesus. He is perfect. He is God!” You are right. But when has our impossibility ever stopped God asking us to do the impossible? It’s humility that accepts God’s impossible ask.

Jesus, while being fully God, took on human form and emptied Himself, Philippians 2:7, of His own divine power so He could model for us a human life fully yielded to, empowered and led by Holy Spirit. And just as Jesus said, “I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught Me… for I always do what pleases Him…” He wants us to be able to say the same.

I am not confident in my own ability to live in perfect obedience. I cannot. My own efforts are filthy rags, Isaiah 64:6, Romans 3:10. I cannot work, sweat, give, or strive enough to perfect me. So I must stop looking at me, stop all the self-evaluation and self-improvement pep talks, and turn my full attention to the perfect One, Jesus.

2 Corinthians 3:18 says, we… beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same (perfect) image… this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. Holy Spirit transforms us into the very image of Jesus. Holy Spirit empowers and leads us into perfect obedience to the will of the Father as we continue to behold Jesus: when we turn our full attention to Him.

I cannot perfect me, but He is (fully) able… and His power is at work within (me) us, Ephesians 3:20.

In John 8:29, Jesus says, the One who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, this continual awareness of God’s presence only happens through intimacy. Never presumption. Only intimacy.

God longs for intimacy with us. There are no shortcuts to intimacy. It is through our daily, ongoing commitment to this relationship that we hear His voice, yield to His will, and respond with confident obedience. This is the how Holy Spirit leads us to obedience, and we can say, I always do what pleases Him, John 8:29, just as Jesus did.

When Jesus said, I have brought You glory on earth by finishing the work You gave Me to do, John 17:4, He was saying, success in God is complete obedience to God, alone. Nothing more, but definitely nothing less.

It’s no small thing that God asks us to live the same way Jesus did. We cannot do this in the flesh, but by living empowered and led by Holy Spirit we can. God never asks us to do something that He doesn’t also supply the strength we need to do it.

God wants us to confidently say, “I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught Me. The One who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do what pleases Him,” John 8:28a-29.

Yield to Him today, stop striving, and ask for His great help. He gives it generously…

Our lives bring glory to God by living in perfect obedience to the will of the Father.

Red-faced guilt

Romey Ritter —  November 17, 2016

As a Christian, we don’t walk out of our house in the morning looking to sin. We are aware of much of the big obvious sin and generally want to avoid it, and God gives us the help we need to avoid it.

I wonder though, if we even recognize some things as sin?

  • Intentionally a Christian will go find someone to share some juicy gossip with.
  • Intentionally a Christian can’t wait to say, let me tell you about so and so… Or, did you hear about…?
  • Intentionally a Christian may look to find fault and criticize a brother, a sister, a leader, or a church.
  • Intentionally a Christian will make a mocking joke, laughing at someone, but there is a definite disrespect in the mocking joke.
  • Intentionally a Christian will ruin the reputation of another.

Are we so accustomed to these conversations in church that they don’t seem like sin? Are criticism and gossip so much apart of normal everyday conversation that we are inoculated to their deathly stench? Do we think tearing down another person is something God gives His heavenly nod of approval to?

Isaiah was a man of God. God’s servant. God’s leader. Used by God mightily. He loved God. His life of loving obedience reflected His faith in God. And yet in a vision when Isaiah came face to face with God, he suddenly become blindingly aware of his unclean lips. Isaiah wasn’t thinking about His good life of serving God. He wasn’t thinking, Yep, I’ve earned a pat on the back from God! When Isaiah came face to face with God, he was made blindingly aware of his unclean words. All of his faithful service to God didn’t matter. Isaiah’s loose words had become his undoing and he cried out…

“Woe to me!…I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.” Isaiah 6:5 NIV. In the Message version, it says Doom…I’m as good as dead. Every word I’ve spoken has been tainted…corrupted!

What are unclean, tainted, and corrupt words? Criticisms, judgements, gossip, backstabbing, fault-finding, cynicism, mocking. Unclean words are words spoken out of resentment, selfish ambition, vain conceit, or jealousy. They are self-righteous words, and words spoken out of pain and unforgiveness. They are words of blame.

If our words are anything but loving, encouraging and covering, they are words set on fire by hell, James 3:6. They come from a place in our heart where we have allowed negativity, resentment, bitterness, or jealousy to grow up and rule. No matter how we try and justify it, it’s a lack of love.

Our words are the overflow of our heart, Matthew 12:34. Our words always reveal what’s in our heart. Every thought, attitude, and intent will find it’s way onto our lips.

Negative words have a destructive force, words can kill, Jeremiah 9:8. Words separate close friends, ending relationships, Proverbs 16:28 &17:9. Words can divide churches, families, and peoples loyalties.

If we allow unclean, tainted, and corrupt words to come from our mouth, we set ourselves up as an adversary to people. Satan is the Adversary. If we bring accusation against people, ripping and tearing them to shreds, we literally manifest Satan and his plans to ruin the lives of God’s people. Truth!!

If we gossip, criticize, entertain negative thoughts and conversations, we are giving our mouths over to Satan to use against people, God’s people. It’s so damaging to the church. If we gossip, criticize, etc, we are responsible for damaging God’s precious people.

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be, James 3:10. With our tongues we murder our brother and sister, 1John 3:15.

Perhaps that’s why Isaiah stood red-faced and guilty. Upon coming into the Presence of Almighty God, he suddenly understood that not even the slightest negative word can be spoken out in an uncaring or unloving manner. Anything that is against love is sin. 

Just when Isaiah saw God and realized his sin, God forgave him fully, Isaiah 6:6-7. We too get forgiveness. Jesus has taken care of it all. If we get honest with God, confess our sin, we immediately receive his forgiveness. He is faithful and just. If we confess our sins, we can rely on Him to forgive us everything, 1John 1:9.

God hears everything we say and knows everything in our heart. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs, Luke 12:3. We can’t surprise or shock God by our confession, He knows everything. If we get honest, own up, and repent, we get His loving forgiveness.

Repentance is realizing something is sinful and having true Godly sorrow for the sin. A change in our behavior will be the result of our repentance; loving, kind, and grace-filled words will be the fruit of our repentance.

An amazing thing happens when we repent, the full weight of the guilt and any associated fears or anxieties are immediately lifted off us.

Isaiah’s example shows, the closer we draw to God, the more we become aware of the many ways we can offend Him through sin. His extreme beauty and absolute holiness draw us closer and cause us to rely on Jesus more, every day–and we realize our life-long debt is to walk in love with people.

As we become more aware of the many ways we can offend God through sin, we will have an ever DECREASING desire to find fault in other people, and we will walk in ever-increasing grace and love for them instead.

God wants nothing short of our complete dependence on the life of Jesus for forgiveness of our sins and for Jesus’ example of how to love others. Whoever says he abides in Him (Jesus) ought [as a personal debt] to walk and conduct himself in the same way in which He walked and conducted Himself, 1John 2:6.

Related Posts:
Character Disturbance
Gossip
Pretty Little Lies

You Have a Compass

As a kid I was fascinated with maps. This will date me, but this was before GPS and turn-by-turn directions! I would sit for hours studying interesting places and how to get from one place to another and plan hikes. But when you begin your journey, you realize that although the map stays the same, what’s in front of you is constantly changing and doesn’t look exactly like the map. New trails, washed out trails, changing weather conditions, and though I know I am supposed to go North, how do I know where North is??

Enter the humble compass.

A compass does 1 thing — it keeps pointing North. It is my reference for where I am currently headed. The map tells me where I am and where I need to go. The compass tells me in which direction to take the next step. Obstacles along the way require frequent side steps which then require constant compass checks for course corrections. Without them, I can easily end up headed in the opposite direction without me realizing it!

The Bible, God’s Word, is our spiritual map. It lays a path before us in line with God’s redemptive plan for mankind.

The Holy Spirit is our spiritual compass. He was given to us by the Father to guide and empower us, to bring the words of our map, the Bible, to life.

But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; He will speak only what He hears, and He will tell you what is yet to come. John 16:13

Without a compass, your journey becomes a LOT more difficult. A map was always designed to be guided by a compass. The Word of God was always meant to be guided by the Holy Spirit.

As a kid, when I learned there was such a thing as a compass it changed my perspective. When I learned how to use a compass, suddenly the journey was a lot easier. I started taking on more difficult hikes. Terrain and distance didn’t matter, I knew where I was going and I knew how to get there. If I got lost, the compass always put me back on the right path.

When I discovered the Holy Spirit, I couldn’t believe I had ever tried to live the Christian life without Him. Being continually filled with the Spirit has been the most empowering thing in my life. He’s a constant voice giving direction to me when other resources are silent. If I get off track, He gently nudges me back in line. So if God seems silent in your life, I encourage you to get your compass, be filled with the Holy Spirit and listen to Him as he guides you on your journey. Your life will never be the same.

A Lesson from AW Tozer

Romey Ritter —  October 14, 2016

Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which each one must individually bow (Jesus Christ). So one hundred worshippers meeting together, each one looking away to Christ, are in heart nearer to each other than they could possibly be were they to become “unity” conscious and turn their eyes away from God to strive for closer fellowship (it’s false human loyalty). ~A.W. Tozer

Eloquently stated Mr. Tozer!

Tozer is, of course, speaking about unity and where true unity comes from. If our eyes are diverted from Jesus and look to man, the teachings and traditions of men, we end up tuned to each other. This is a warped version of unity–a religion that is social.

religion that is social looks good. It entertains. It may grant success. Yet, it is powerless. But because it’s social, we like it, or think we are supposed to like it; everyone else seems to…

Socialization is conformity. We conform to whoever or whatever is around us. We give up our convictions of Truth and even ignore the Holy Spirit to follow a crowd. It’s hard to turn your back on a crowd, all those voices, sometimes respected voices. 

Why did Paul say to the church, do not conform to the pattern of this world, Romans 12:2? He was saying, do not be socialized… not to the world, not to a crowd, not to a religious form, not to man’s traditions. These are all powerless and we begin to look like, sound like, taste like, feel like, love-or-hate like, whoever or whatever we socialize to. If it’s man our faith will be powerless.

Jesus is the standard. By continually fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, Hebrews 12:2, we are transformed by the renewing of our mind, Romans 12:2. And as we are being transformed into His image, 2Corinthians 3:18, we grow more like Him in nature and character. It is in this place that our hearts will be nearer to and filled with true love for each other. This is the unity Tozer is speaking of.

There are moments in our lives when God seems silent. There can be several reasons for this but sometimes, He just simply chooses to be. As we discussed in a previous blog When God is Silent, this may be because God wants us to use the tools He has already given us to discern His will and make wise decisions. Be encouraged that God’s silence does not mean his absence. He is the omnipresent God whose Spirit dwells in every believer (2 Timothy 1:14, Romans 8:9, 1 Corinthians 6:19). He will never leave you and never forsake you (Deuteronomy 31:8). Whether you hear Him or not, He IS there. But what do we do when we can’t hear Him?

A primary way God speaks to us today is through His Word, the Bible. Many question how a book written so long ago could be relevant in today’s digital age. Haven’t we outgrown that stuff? Isn’t the bible just a bunch of rules and regulations for people who lived in the Dark Ages? Isn’t it just a book written by man to keep the world from chaos? Good questions.

The bible is a book like no other. More than just the 10 commandments, the Bible is the most historically accurate book ever written, full of beautiful poetry and stories that even Hollywood couldn’t make up, and contains a surprising breadth of topics. There is wisdom for raising kids, healthy marriages, managing finances, and finding a life partner but it is so much more. That’s because the Bible does not just contain the words of God. It is the Word of God. The Word of God was in the beginning and is God.  The Word, embodied in Jesus Christ, made His dwelling with us. He brought life that was light to all mankind (John 1:1-3). The pages of the Bible we have today reveal Jesus as the author of life, the light of the world, and God’s great plan of redemption for all mankind. Because of this, the Bible is not just an instructional manual on good moral behavior. It is the Word of God that requires something more than knowledge — it requires relationship.

Hebrews 4:12 tells us that the Word of God is alive and active. Living things require relationship. To fully understand the Bible you need to develop a relationship with the Word. This begins by giving your heart to Jesus (the Word made flesh), being filled with the Holy Spirit, then studying to present yourself to God approved, a workman [tested by trial] who has no reason to be ashamed, accurately handling and skillfully teaching the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15 AMP). When you develop a relationship with the Word through spirit-filled study and application, you begin to discover the power it contains. Words on a page, no matter how well crafted, lack the power to change a person. Only a relationship can do that, and relationships require action.

A preacher named Charles Stanley used to teach was that if you haven’t heard from God in a while, go back and do the last thing He told you to do that you didn’t do. Perhaps God is silent because He is waiting for us to act on what we already know. As James 1:22 says, Do not merely listen to the Word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what is says. If you want to hear God through His Word, action is required.

Psalm 119:11 says, I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. The key to hearing God from the Bible is to apply what you’ve read. When you do, the Word gets hidden in your heart; ready for whatever circumstance life throws at you.

Psalm 119:105 also says, Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. We live in a world that can get really dark. God’s Word is our light to get us through the darkness. LIGHT IT UP! 

So if you feel God has been silent on an answer you need, the first place to look is the Bible. If you don’t know where to start, just Google “bible verse ____” and include the topic you need to know about. Don’t just read what the links say. Look the verses up in your bible and read them. Read the whole chapter to get the context. Read several passages on the same topic to get an overall view from God’s perspective. You’ll soon see the answer you’re looking for has been in the Bible all along waiting for you to discover it.

Light it up!

Next up: When God is Silent: Use Your Compass