4 “Simple” (though not easy) Steps to a Passionate Relationship with Jesus Christ!

 

“Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all. Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.”

~1 Timothy 4:15-16

Christianity is about your relationship with God, not merely a religion.  Your salvation depends on accepting Jesus sacrifice for your sins.  It’s a free gift.

You were created to have a very real, personal, intimate relationship with God. That relationship is blocked by the barrier that sin creates, since God is holy. The penalty for sin is death.

God still loved you enough to want to pursue a relationship with you. Period. It meant so much to Him that He was willing to sacrifice His Only Son, to shatter the barrier that sin created, and allow you to come into His Presence, and fellowship with Him.

When you accept His forgiveness for your sins, it’s important to learn all that you can about obeying His ways (which are all designed for your best life ever!), and honoring and pleasing Him, out of gratitude and love because of your salvation, not to earn your salvation.

The way that we do this is by following what God says in His Word. I’d like to share with you how to have that relationship with God that you were created for, once you have accepted Him as Lord and Savior of your life.

Living a God-honoring life is not only do-able, but is crucial. When God gave so much to make this relationship possible, we owe it to Him (out of love and appreciation, not grudgingly or out of terror) to follow the path that He established for us to follow.

Here’s how to live that life:

It starts with diving into God’s Word (His Personal Love Letter to you!!!)  There is so much in there to learn – Who God is, what He’s done for you, the plans that He has for your life, the “owner’s manual” of this life – including eternity, etc.  

Life is full of distractions and it’s so easy to let time slip away.  I’d like to share with you how to please God by developing a deeper relationship with Him.  There are 4 things that I highly recommend (all 4) to do just that.

1 – Spend the first 1/2 hour (at least), and the last 15 minutes of your day with God.  Set an appointment with Him, time and place, and keep it! In this place, have a notebook or paper, a pencil or pen, and your Bible. Grab a cup of coffee or tea, and meet with your Creator, Friend, Lover, Savior, and Lord!

Matthew 6:33 says, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” 

Use this time to pray in preparation for your day (the opportunities and obstacles that you know you will encounter – difficult situations, people who need Him, etc., as well as any unplanned problem that may arise) In praying in preparation – God is already preparing our hearts for what we need to encounter, but when we “team up” with Him on it, we are more in tune to what He wants us to do in any given situation than how we want to handle it.

Then, open your Bible, pray for Him to reveal Himself to you through His written Word.  Then read a passage. As you read, ask these questions (and write the answers that apply – this helps to solidify the thoughts in your heart).

* Does this passage tell me something about God that I already knew, knew but hadn’t thought about in a while, or didn’t know?  If so, what is that attribute, and how does it affect my relationship with Him?  What will I do now in light of this characteristic?

* Does this passage tell me something pleases God?  If so, is this “something” an everyday part of my life?  If so, make note to keep it there and grow in it. If not, decide to add it (not if you should), and make note of how to do that.

* Does this passage tell me something that displeases, disappoints, or angers God?  If so, is this “something” in my life?  If not, make sure to put barriers up to keep it out.  If so, decide to remove it immediately (not if you should), and make note of how to do it.

When you leave your appointment, take Jesus with you through your entire day.  Picture Him right there with you. Imagine yourself wearing a name tag that says, “Jesus Christ, as portrayed by ……….”.

For the last 15 minutes of your day, get alone with God, and give Him an account of how you spent the resources that He gave you for the day (time, energy, love, grace, mercy, forgiveness, money, talents, etc.).

Maintaining this step keeps us accountable to God for our daily lives. Don’t miss this time even (especially) if you feel you have failed Him. Knowing that this accountability time is coming, makes us truly mindful of what we do with our resources for the day.

Don’t forget to thank Him for Who He is and what He’s done.

2 – Find a Bible-believing, Bible-teaching, Bible-reading, Bible-living church, and become part of it. God established the church for many reasons.  Among the most important are, fellowship, encouragement, opportunities to learn, opportunities to teach, and accountability. All of these areas are crucial in your walk with Christ.

Hebrews 10:25 says, “not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” 

3 – Saturate your home and life with the things of the Lord, carefully guarding the shows/movies, music, and reading material that you allow to enter your heart.  When we watch shows/movies, or listen to music that glorifies or even justifies, or accepts sin as “okay”, we become desensitized to how God sees sin – as an abomination.

Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.”

1 Timothy 4:15-16 says, “Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all. Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.”

4 – Find a mature Christian (of the same sex) to be a friend/confidant/accountability partner. This is very important. Someone who knows you, can sometimes see things “creep” into your life subtly that you may miss yourself.  This type of encourager is very important.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 says, “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. 10 If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.” 

I hope this helps you as you study God’s Word to grow closer to Him.

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Living Undefeated – Part 2

And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.

~Mark 16:15

Okay, now, I’m going to build on the analogy that I used yesterday about a homeless person who is “saved” from the streets.

There are 2 choices that they could make, once they are off the street.

1 – They can chose to stay as far away from the street (and the other hurting people living there) as possible –

or

2 – They can return, knowing they will not return to this lifestyle – but sharing their unlimited resources with those that are still on the street – thus “saving” them, as well.

As Christians who are living a holy, God-honoring life, our responsibility is to share His grace, love and mercy with those who do not know Him.

We cannot do that effectively if we are still living a life that is so similar to theirs.  If we say, “Come with me, let me show you a better way of life.”, and we just take them to another place on the street that looks no different than where they were, do you think they would take you seriously?  Probably not.

But,

If you take them to a nice home, offer them a job, make the unlimited supply of resources that you have (remember – they ARE unlimited) available to them, and show them a better way, they, too, would not want to return to where they were.

So, whether we live a defeated life – wracked with sin, or a victorious life – conquering sin daily – will have a direct impact on our effectiveness as witness of the Gospel that is so desperately needed in the lives of many hurting people in this world today.

This is why it matters how we live!

Living Undefeated – The Victory is Ours!

Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. ~ Romans 8:37

This is one of the most powerful promises in the Bible, yet so many Christians today are living a completely defeated life.  Why? I think the answer to that question can be found earlier in chapter 8 of Romans.  Let’s look at verses 5-8:

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.  For to be carnally (fleshly) minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.  Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

It really breaks my heart to see Christians living a life that says, “I’m a sinner, always have been, always will be – just the way I am”.  God’s Word clearly states otherwise.  Let’s look at 2 Corinthians 5:17:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold all things have become new.

Now, let’s look at Romans 6:5-7:

For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with (rendered inoperable!), that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed (cleared) from sin.

Reading these verses, and meditating on them, letting them re-adjust our mindset, and change our thought patterns from “I will always sin” to “I am not a slave to sin”, is the key to living a fruitful, victorious Christian life.

Think about this for a minute:

You are someone who – both through circumstances beyond your control, and through poor choices made – find yourself living on the street. (Please don’t think that I’m saying that all who are on the street chose to be there!  Just an analogy for being born into sin (circumstances we cannot control) and sin that we take part in my choice (consequences for choices).)

Now, one day, someone comes to you and says, “I want to give you a better life! Accept this gift of unlimited wealth (literally never ending!), and use it to change your life.”

Would you just say, “No, thank you, I’m just a poor victim of my circumstances, and I think I’ll just stay here.”?  I don’t think so!

Would you take the money and buy a new home, clean yourself up, and then return to the streets every night?  I don’t think so.

Would you say, “I’m just going to end up back on the street anyway, so I may as well just go back there.” ?  Again, I think not.

As ridiculous as those examples are – those very actions are performed by Christians every day of their lives.

Why, when we have an endless supply of God’s strength in us to live as He’s called us to live, do we insist on lowering ourselves to our previous sin-saturated lives.

Christians are saved by grace, through faith, dead to self, dead to sin, but alive to live a holy, God-honoring life, through the power of His righteousness.  I think it’s high time that we started living like the King’s kids that we are.  It’s time for us to stop dragging His precious name through the mud by living a life that fails to show His power, His love, His mercy, and His grace, as well as His ability to make us into new people – dead to sin.

Totally Submitted – No More Excuses – Part 4 (Conclusion…..for now)

“I know also, my God, that You test the heart and have pleasure in uprightness. As for me, in the uprightness of my heart I have willingly offered all these things; and now with joy I have seen Your people, who are present here to offer willingly to You.” ~ 1 Chronicles 29:17

Okay, so we’ve tackled the first two excuses for not obeying God’s Word – now, for the last one – “God knows my heart.”

I find it interesting that when I get this one, it is, more often than not, accompanied by the other two…

“You’re being legalistic, and judging me….but God really knows my heart.”

To this, I simply say…

What a sobering thought!

Yes, God does know your heart….

  • He sees the rebellion that keeps you from obedience
  • He sees the desire for control that keeps you from surrender
  • He sees the pride that keeps you from submission
  • He sees the selfishness that keeps you from serving Him and others
  • He sees the bitterness that keeps you from forgiving
  • He sees the conceit that keeps you from conforming to His standards
  • He sees the fear that keeps you from sharing Him with others
  • He sees the desire for comfort that keeps you from sacrificing any of yourself for Him or others
  • He sees the arrogance that keeps you from living life His way
  • He sees the foolishness that it takes to even make this statement in defense of our defiance to Him.

So, knowing that God does see your heart, already knows all of your barriers to obedience – isn’t it time to break down those barriers in the name of Jesus Christ, and give God the complete surrendered submission that He so greatly deserves?

Let our prayer, daily, be this:

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
Point out anything in me that offends you,
and lead me along the path of everlasting life.

~ Psalm 139:23-24

Totally Submitted – No More Excuses – Part 3

“Behold, I set before you today a blessing and a curse: the blessing if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you today; and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn aside from the way which I command you today, to go after other gods which you have not known.” ~ Deuteronomy 11:26-28

Okay, so, today I’m addressing the “That’s Legalistic” argument.  I hear this a lot – regarding a lot of different topics that define how we live our lives, from the television shows we watch, the music we listen to, the materials we read, to the way we dress, the way we talk, and the amount of time we spend reading and studying the Bible.

So, do you think it’s legalistic to expect your children to obey you?  Would you allow them to pick and choose which ones of your rules they would obey?  Of course not!  Why? Because you have the rules in place for a reason – for them to learn discipline, for their well-being, and for their safety.

Hmmmm…………maybe, just maybe (tongue in cheek here – of course this is true), maybe, God gave us His “rules” for our own good.

I think it’s time for us, as Christians to remember (and live) the rules, guidelines, precepts, and commands that we are given in the Bible.

The Ten Commandments are not the Ten “Suggestions”.  It’s time that we start acting like it, and living out the God-honoring, holy, blessed life that we were created for – that God paid a High Cost for.

He has given SO much for us to have this relationship – what do we give Him in return?

How can we dare to be so arrogant as to give Him any less that complete obedience, complete commitment, and complete submission?

How many times have you wanted to reward your children with a special treat, trip, or gift – if they would only be obedient and honor you, so that you could (of course, you can’t reward dishonor and rebellion – right?)?

Okay, how many times has God wanted to reward you with a special blessing (though this should not be our motivation), but He can’t, because of our dishonor, rebellion, and disobedience?

Our attiheartitude should be so set on obeying whatever the Lord tells us to do, that, if we opened up His Word, and saw that He wanted us to wear a clown’s nose every Wednesday for the rest of our lives – we would simply say, “Okay, where do I get one”, find one and wear it obediently without questioning, without justifying why we can’t, without flat out refusing to do it – just simply obey.

Totally Submitted – No More Excuses – Part 2

For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged.  But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned by the world. ~ 1 Corinthians 11:31-32

Today’s post is totally summed up in the above verse.

Taking the first reason excuse that I am faced with, “You’re judging me!”

Think about this for a minute…..

You come to my door, knock on it, and I open it.

You come in, and proceed to tell me how excited you are!  You have a very important meeting with your boss.  You are just sure that this meeting means a promotion and a raise!

I just happen to notice that you have a huge black smudge across your forehead.

Do I think to myself, “Hmmmmm……I wonder if I should say anything?”?  No, out of concern for you, for this meeting to go well, I would say, “Ummmm……you might want to clean up your forehead, first.”

Would you look at me and say, “You’re judging me!” …….

Probably not.

You would probably find a mirror (and a washcloth) and take care of the problem.

Why would I feel a responsibility to do this?  Because I have a vantage point that you don’t have in your overall appearance.

Sometimes, in life, we have faded so subtly into sin in our lives that we don’t see it.  This is why it is so important to (in love ONLY) hold someone accountable

So, when, out of concern for your relationship with God, and your testimony before others, I would mention what I observe in your life, why is it considered “judging”.

If you would have looked into the mirror for yourself, before heading out to see me, you would have spotted the smudge for yourself (and I bet the next time, you would look in the mirror for yourself).

If you were in a burning building – would it be judging for me to tell you it’s on fire?

If you were standing in the middle of a busy highway – would it be judging for me to tell you to move?

If you were about to take a bite of firehouse-hot chili – would it be judging for me to warn you that it’s hot?

No, just as in the very same way it is not judging for me to say, “You know, I see ______ in your life, and it’s not good for you spiritually, or for your testimony as a representative as God’s Word.”

If more people would be willing to stand up for what is right and what is wrong in our lives (according to God’s Word), how much different would Christianity look today?

Totally Submitted – No More Excuses – Part 1

Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them.” ~ John 14:21

Addressing sin in someone else’s life is never easy – but, it is crucial to do so.
Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins. ~ James 5:19-20
This is even more important in the role of an accountability partner.
I’ve had many responses to these situations.  They typically boil down to three responses:
  1. You’re judging me.
  2. That’s just legalistic
  3. God sees my heart.

I will, Lord willing, spend the next three days posting the responses to those three statements.

First, I’d like to address the issue of sin in our own lives.  We cannot help anyone else turn away from sin, if there is a blaring sin in our own lives.

Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. ~ Matthew 7:4-5

Note that this does not say, “Don’t remove the splinter from your brother’s eye because of the plank in your own.”

Living a God-honoring, holy life is not only possible – but very do-able (as I’ve blogged over and over again).  This is true, not because of any goodness in or of ourselves, but by our dying to self, and allowing the Holy Spirit to dwell in our hearts and live through us.

So, now that we see the need for addressing sin in the lives of those around us (remembering that nothing matters but eternity), I will, over the course of the next several days, be giving the answers that I use when given the three reasons, excuses above.

Love Is Blind – God’s Way

Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins. ~ 1 Peter 4:8

We have all heard the phrase – “love is blind”.  We’ve come to understand to mean that those who are in love are blinded by that love to see the object of their affection’s flaws.  We’ve come to think of it as a fault.

I don’t think that this is what God means.  This phrase isn’t a definition of a fault.  A simple fact that we should be aware of and avoid.

No, I think that God meant this as a command.  An order to a soldier.  I think that this is an intentional call to love blindly.  Overlooking the hurts that are caused by those that we love.

Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 13 that love keeps no record of wrongs.  This is loving blindly.

It’s not easy, but it is simple.

Love one another.  Love is easy when the person reciprocates that love.  Love is easy when it’s someone that we have a lot in common with.  Love is easy when the relationship benefits us.

True love only comes through knowing Christ – and loving as He loved.  Blindly.

He loved us – even while we were sinners. (Romans 5:8)

He died for us – even while we were sinners.

He forgave us, and those who crucified Him – even while we were sinners.

“Lord, please let me love this way.  Help me to see others the way You do.”

Eternal Salvation

Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.  Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?  ~ Hebrews 10:28-29

I heard a preacher recently say that he was shocked by the number of people in his congregation who believed that they could lose their salvation…..

The “debate” of whether or not you can lose your salvation is a very heated one is the church today.  And has even become a barrier (isn’t that just what Satan wants) between churches and denominations.

I’m not going to get into that debate.

Here’s the thing….

Do the people who believe that you can lose your salvation live like they believe that you can?

Are they behaving in a more God-like manner (you’d think they would, if they were scared of losing their salvation)?

Do the people who believe that you cannot lose your salvation tend to turn the sacred common as in the verse above?

Are they taking for granted that, because the “accepted Christ” they’re covered?

I believe that the real issue is whether or not someone has actually become a Christian in the first place – wholeheartedly devoting their lives to Jesus Christ – surrendering to His Lordship, totally repenting (turning away from) their sins, and living a life that honors God in every area.

There are many passages of Scripture that give us eternal security, but, unlike God’s unconditional love for us, these all seem to have one condition attached – obedience.

Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. ~ Matthew 7:20-21

For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother. ~ Matthew 12:50

So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses. ~ Matthew 18:35

You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy.  He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels. ~ Revelation 3:4-5

So much emphasis these days is placed on God loving us as we are, and accepting us as we are, and both of those are true.

But, so many skip over, or forget that God doesn’t  leave us the way we are.

Look at the instance where Jesus Himself forgave the sin of the woman caught in adultery..(John 8:10-12).  He tells her to “Go, and sin no more.”

So, instead of being shocked at how many people think they can lose their salvation – I think we should be shocked by how many people do not walk worthy of that salvation – and teach them how to do so.

God’s Answers To Our Prayers

For I know the thoughts and plans that I have for you, says the Lord, thoughts and plans for welfare and peace and not for evil, to give you hope in your final outcome. ~ Jeremiah 29:11

Praise!!! Unspoken prayers answered! God is so faithful all the time.

The key, in life, as well as in answered prayer, is understanding that God ALWAYS answers our prayers – sometimes it’s what we want – a big “yes”, sometimes it’s “no”, and other times – “not right now”.

Just as with our kids, (even more so, you know, since He’s God) God sees upcoming events, circumstances, and possibilities that we cannot see. He answers our prayers in the way that a parent answers requests from a child – with the best interest of the child at heart.

I love what David A. R. White’s character in “God’s Not Dead” says, “God gives us exactly what we would ask for, if we knew what He knows.” Think about that for a minute.

If Joseph would have known the greatness he would have aspired to (by God’s hand), it would have been easy for him to endure and trust God through what he had to go through, but, that would have been knowledge and sight, not faith…

Real faith in God – trusting Who He is and What His Nature reveals about Him – would be easy if all of our prayers were answered the way that we would want them answered.  No, real faith, where the rubber meets the road, is choosing to see God’s hand in the answers that we don’t want – the “no”‘s and the “not-right-now”‘s.

 

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