Perspective: “We Can Admire And Worship Jesus Without Doing What He Did”

Introduction

Personally, I take great delight in gleaning new knowledge, insights and lessons from God’s Word and through various Biblically-sound teachers. I am thankful that God has created human beings with a rich intellectual capacity to think, reason,  problem-solve and rationalize on the varying complexities of life. Specificially, Christian Scholarship has presented us with an unprecedented level of access to innumerable academic Christian-based resources. While I do believe that God has worked powerfully through Christian Scholarship over the decades, I cannot help but recognize a subtle but very real danger that it sometimes poses to the Church today, namely incentivizing passivity. 

Do We Know How To Live Like Jesus?

It is no secret that much of those within the Church within the prosperous West has become spiritually-apathetic and lukewarm with our faith. One only needs to compare and contrast the state of the Church today to that of the Early Church in the Books of Acts to easily see the major differences between the two. Why is this? I cannot recall a point in time historically when Christians have been so well-educated and well-resourced, yet if we are honest with ourselves, it feels like we are missing the mark when it comes to our approach with Christianity. Despite our best intentions with all our scholarly teachings, our professional conferences, our debating with world renown thinkers, our academic book-writing, and our other academic pursuits, we have forgotten about what it means to truly live like Jesus. Shane Clairborne in his book, “The Irresistible Revolution”(Clairborne, 2006) puts it like this:

We can admire and worship Jesus without doing what He did. We can applaud what he preached and stood for without caring about the same things. We can adore his cross without taking up ours. I had come to see that the great tragedy in the church is not that rich Christians do not care about the poor but that rich Christians do not know the poor.

Even though this book was released back in 2006, Clairborne’s observation is still very pertinent to the way in which much of those within the Church still behave today. Paradoxically, I believe that our intellectualization and our scholarly approach towards Christianity has the potential to legitimize our passivity towards living authentically living like Jesus. 

Living Like Jesus through Knowing the Poor

Like it is possible to know about Jesus without truly knowing Jesus, it is also possible to know about the poor without actually knowing the poor. One of the central reasons for why Christians do not care for the poor like we have been called to is simply because we have not spent enough time with them to really know them. Instead, we foolishly rely on generalizations and stereotypes to inform our opinions of what the poor are like, when the truth is that they are more similar than different to us contrary to popular opinion. You can only fully see this when you decide to invest time interacting directly with the poor. No amounts of literature can serve as a replacement with actually spending time face-to-face with the poor.

After all, how can you love someone if you have not spent time with them to even know them in the first place? It would be like an absentee father returning after his children have grown up claiming to love them, despite the fact that he neglected to spend any time with them to know them, let alone genuinely love them.

The parable of the sheep and the goats describes what will happen on Judgement Day with believers and unbelievers. Within this parable, Jesus likens our service to the “…least of these brothers and sisters…” (Matthew 25:40) as our service towards Him!

Beware of “Intellectualizing” Christianity

It does not matter how much you know about God or even about the poor for that matter, if you fail to act on this knowledge. Frighteningly, it is possible to live your entire life as a “Christian” who is a perpetual student of the Bible with vast intellectual head knowledge while completely failing to live as Jesus commands. There are plenty of people like this today as there were back in Jesus’ Day(Pharisees, Sadducees, other experts in the law). It is not wrong to desire to grow in the knowledge of God and of the Christian Faith, in fact the Bible contains exhortations(see 2 Peter 1:5-6) to do this very thing. What truly matters is what will you do with this acquired knowledge? Will you let it remain stagnate in your mind while it amasses proverbial cobwebs? Or, will you let it re-shape the affections of your heart as you imperfectly but intentionally live like Jesus commands us?

Prayer

King and Lord Jesus,

Forgive us for failing to love others like you so clearly have commanded; please help us as a Church Body to live like You called us to live. Rather than staying within the comfort of our Christian Ivory Towers of Academia, I pray that Your Holy Spirit empowers and emboldens us to reach out towards those living within those hard-to-reach areas among our communities. I pray that You lead us towards action as You enable us to overcome the spirit of lukewarmness and apathy plaguing much of the Church in the West. Let your Kingdom be on earth as it is in heaven where the first are last and the last are first! In Jesus’ Powerful Name, I pray, Amen!

 

Perspective: “Wake Up Church!”

Christian, have you fallen into such a religious stupor where you are no longer awake but you have instead become like the “walking dead”? Have you backslid in your faith where you have provided backdoor access for the enemy to gleefully regain power in areas of your life you thought you already gained victory over? Are you sick and tired of being sick and tired? Have you recognized that your strivings and well-intentioned efforts are inadequate to successfully fight this battle of faith? Have you reached the end of yourself?! If this sounds like you, you are right where God needs you–emptied of yourself so that He can indwell and mightily work though you with His Holy Spirit. You don’t need more lukewarm, entertainment-driven, half-committed Christianity, what you need is the infilling of the Holy Spirit Himself Who will be given only as we die to our fleshly-selves! Stop playing games with God by trivializing sin and start providing your faith with the weight of seriousness that it requires!

Please heed this message closely.

We are living in spiritually-perilous times today. It grieves me greatly to concede that much of the glory of God has departed the vast majority of churches today. In fact, very few Biblically-rooted and Spirit-Filled churches exist today. The Church has largely become insitutionalized and commercialized; God’s house has gradually become a den of thieves rather than a house of prayer(Mat 21:13)! I am sure that Jesus would not hesitate in overturning the tables of the money-changers within most churches today like when he cleansed the temple during his earthly ministry (see: Mat 21:12-13; Jn 2:14-17).

Church, why are there more Christian denominations today than ever before, yet instead of experiencing anything even close to a revival, we have difficulty moving past our nominal-christianity(not real Christianity)? Andrew Bonar, the great hymn writer in Scotland once said, “I looked for the Church and I found it in the world. I looked for the world and I found it in the Church.”

Shockingly, the greatest hinderance to revival today is evangelism because evangelism needs to be organized whereas revival cannot be organized! Most of today’s modern church system is organized, regimented and structured in such a way where true revival is simply not possible. The way this man-made religious system is designed would make it impossible for any such revival to become ignited, let alone flourish. Sadly, it would be over before it even started; the strict institutionalized controls in place intentionally stifle such spiritual awakenings.

The harsh truth, however, is that we don’t want God to disrupt our status quo. We are quite comfortable with the way things are so why would we expect for God to change the state of the church? One of the major reasons we do not see revival emerge today is because it is too costly to die to self and we are content to live without it!

True Church revival starts on an individual level. God only needs a few true, dedicated, all-in believers to accomplish His Kingdom-Furthering Purposes. He cannot and will not work through lukewarm, part-time Christians regardless of how big in number they may be. Today’s modern church is more than ample evidence of this! God is after quality and not quantity. As believers who are desperate for God to move among the nations, may we all repent from our sinful ways. Otherwise, we will run out of time and on judgment day Jesus will plainly tell us, “…I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!’ (Lk 13:27).

Insight: 3 Practical Ways Believers Live Immersed in The Holy Spirit(Part 2 of 2)

 

In the first part of this series, I discussed the importance of living in the fullness and the power of the Holy Spirit through abiding in Him by humbling yielding to the Lordship of Jesus. Today, I would like to explore three practical ways in which believers can live immersed in the Holy Spirit. Unquestionably, the believer’s heart must be humble, repentant and submitted to God so that His Spirit can operate undeterred by the works of the flesh. This is an over-arching focus that will be interlaced throughout each recommended way. Being humble and taking up our crosses daily is at the core of what it means to live in Christ and to clothe ourselves with the righteousness of Christ.

Supportingly, in Paul’s letter to the churches of Galatia, he instructs believers:

“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do”(Ga 5:16–17)

Here are 3 practical ways for believers to live immersed in the Holy Spirit:

  1. Pray in the Spirit: Those who have been born again by the power of the Holy Spirit(see John 3) have been gifted with the very Spirit of Almighty God when they gave their lives to Jesus by humbly trusting and surrendering by faith through grace. Therefore, as believers we are now children of God who are new creatures with a new identity in Christ having been seated with Him in the Heavenly places(Eph 1:3-4)! We have been filled with new affections, desires, goals and with this comes a beautiful God-Ordained purpose to which we have been called. However, being adopted into God’s Family also means that we will now be in the enemy’s crosshairs. We are in a spiritual battleground and so we must be prayerfully in communion with God because prayer is the primary lifeline by which we are spiritually strengthened to defend ourselves against the attacks from the enemy. Without prayer, there is no fuel to power the Holy Spirit for the believer making us increasingly vulnerable to sin, leading to backsliding and failing to live the life of spiritual victory. It all starts with prayer. Our time spent in prayer will exponentially increase as we see our own spiritual depravity and our infinite need for God. Similarly, our humbled postured hearts will lead us to a deeper desire and sincerely-recognized need to be steadfastly in prayer!
  2. Renew Our Minds by Abiding in God’s Word with Spiritually-Opened Eyes: Even an atheist can read and study the Bible. Interestingly, there are even secular Biblical scholars who have attempted to use Bible verses to disprove the existence of God! In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells His followers, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will”(Mt 11:25–26). God delights in it when His creation recognize their need before Him and raise the white flag in surrender. It is only when we come to the end of ourselves that God’s Spirit can move and accomplish the surgical procedure within our hearts. Consequently, we must approach reading God’s Word with reverence and humility recognizing that it is all Truth even and especially when it contradicts our lifestyle. Otherwise, it will turn into an academic exercise resulting in people being puffed up with Bible head-knowledge rather than the heart-transforming Words of Life like God intended(like the Pharisees and experts of the law). When we read the Bible with spiritually-open eyes and an enlightened heart, everything changes! The words of God’s Holy Book will literally come alive and they can now have their intended heart-transformational impact. The veil from our hearts, even as believers, needs to continually be removed so that we unlock the Bible within the Bible. This will only happen through walking uprightly and obediently with God in unbroken fellowship. Sins needs to be confessed and repented from, or else our spiritual-vision will be blocked and we find ourselves chasing after the things of this world.
  3. Work Out What God Has Already Worked In (Faith Without Works is Dead)– God intends for His people to not merely be consumers of Christianity but rather to become partakers in helping to build His Kingdom on earth. For clarity, we are not doing this to be saved, rather, we are doing this because we are saved. Once we have been built-up and equipped spiritually, it now our commission to go out and share the good news of the Gospel with those around us in tangible ways! After all, what good is it to be in prayer and to be full of Bible knowledge if we do not actually do anything?! We must let Christ’s love stream freely in us but also through us and towards others as the Holy Spirit delights in! Our hearts should be so overjoyed with this glorious gift of salvation that we cannot help but share this gift with others. Oftentimes this may simply look like being the hands and feet of Christ through serving by meeting the physical needs of those in the community at a homeless shelter. Other times, it may extend to verbally sharing our faith with co-workers and others in our spheres of influence. James teaches us that true Christianity is “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world”(Jas 1:27). It is entirely about extending our love towards others as an overwhelmingly thankful response to the love which Christ has shown to us on the Cross when He obediently accepted death on the Cross, dying the death that you and I should have died!

Father God,

I pray that you help us to walk immersed in Your Holy Spirit! Liberate us from a life characterized by mediocre Christianity and fan the flame of Your Spirit within us so that we can be productive disciples during our short-time within this life! Help us to come together as a Church and to repent from our sinful ways starting on an individual level so that Your Holy Spirit may work as He desires! In Jesus’ Name, I pray, Amen!

Insight: Do You Have the Holy Spirit or Does the Holy Spirit Have You?(Part 1 of 2)

Once we have placed our saving faith and trust in Jesus Christ alone for our salvation, God graciously sealed us with the precious gift of the Holy Spirit. Because salvation is derived from the finished atoning work of Jesus on the Cross, our deeds will never be righteous enough to earn us our salvation. As believers, the loving work of Christ on the Cross mightily liberates us to be all who God has purposed us to be. We now have this remarkable assurance that our salvation is not contingent on our overall performance as Christians. While I do vehemently believe that genuine believers cannot lose their salvation, I do believe that it is possible to live a defeated life as a Christian failing to live in the fullness of what God has ordained.

Have you ever wondered why so many Christians are merely scraping by within this life? They may go to church faithfully, know all of the right things to say within Christian Culture, avoid committing the obvious sins, and even become involved in a ministry or two. But, they are still struggling with the same addictions and struggles that they have for decades as Christians. They may have accepted Jesus as their Saviour, but not as the Lord of their life; they have not wholeheartedly surrendered every area of their lives to Jesus. Why is this? Why would a Christian choose to live a mediocre life with a divided allegiance? What I believe God has taught to me through His Holy Word and through other mature believers is the importance of being immersed in the Holy Spirit.

When Christians are born again, they are born of the Spirit. Through the atoning work of Jesus on the Cross, our heart of stone is exchanged for a heart of flesh. God’s Spirit now resides within each and every believer who has believed on the Lord Jesus Christ. The believer certainly has the Holy Spirit but does the Holy Spirit have the believer? There is a significant difference between the two–the difference between simply surviving as a Christian and actually thriving as a Christian. The Holy Spirit deeply desires to be actively involved in the believer’s life rather than to be restricted to the confines of the believer’s body. He wants to overflow as a stream of life towards everyone whom the believer comes into contact with. The Holy Spirit wants to radically transform your life as a believer so you can live the life of victory God has destined for you to live. Jesus has already overcome this war and the dominion of sin, but it is up to us to walk in step with the Holy Spirit. The invitation is there. Will you respond to it or ignore it like so many already do? God will not infringe on our free will; we either want Him or we don’t, it is as simple as that!

Humility is one of the secrets to the Holy Spirit controlling, leading and empowering the believer. This is counter-cultural and a major threat towards our westernized mindset(which has affected much of the church already). God’s Spirit cannot work as it intends to when we place confidence in the flesh or when we become prideful. Pride and humility are opposing forces. Until we humble ourselves and repent before our mighty God, we will be stuck in this spiritual stalemate. We need to get on our knees before God and confess our sins. We should not ritualize this confession like so many do, but we should weep and mourn over our sins recognizing how depraved we are before a Holy and Just God.  It is then and only then that God’s Spirit may begin to work within us as Spirit-led and Spirit-empowered believers.

Secondly, there must be a willingness and openness to receive the fullness of the Holy Spirit through abiding in Him. An interesting observation from Jesus’ earthly ministry is His repeated emphasis on Him being One with God the Father. For example, in John 14, Jesus teaches His disciples, “Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves”(Jn 14:11). Once Jesus ascended into Heaven, He poured out His Holy Spirit(John 14:26; 15:26) onto all those who would believe. The person of the Holy Spirit is co-equal with God and Jesus. Unfathomably, God has purposed for His very Spirit to dwell inside each believer. Now, each and every believer has direct access to God through Jesus by means of the Holy Spirit! It is pivotal that we as believers comprehend the importance that the Holy Spirit has for us in our lives.

Jesus teaches in John 15, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing”(Jn 15:5). Please listen closely and hear what Jesus is saying here! If we do not abide in Him, we can literally do nothing of spiritual worth! We are fruitless, ineffective and destined for destruction if we do not abide in Him. The way in which we abide in Jesus is through abiding in what Jesus gave us before He ascended, that is His Holy Spirit and His Holy Word! There is no other way to fruitfully live the Christian life. It is through the indwelling Holy Spirit within individual believers where the spiritual body of Christ is now capable of living within and among huge numbers of people at a time. Jesus exemplifies this awe-inspiring truth when He teaches in John 14,“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father(Jn 14:12). Jesus was not referring to the quality of the works, but rather the size and quantity of the works from this multiplying effect from disciple-making. Because Jesus is residing in each believer through His Spirit, He is able to replicate Himself as many times in order to broaden and extend His reach to further His Kingdom.

In conclusion, as followers of Jesus who are called to model the way in which He lived, we must be one with the Holy Spirit. In addition to the Holy Spirit residing within us, we must reside in the Holy Spirit through being immersed within Him. This is primarily accomplished through humbling ourselves and through being one with the Holy Spirit, much like how Jesus and the Father are one(John 14:20).

Stay tuned for next time where I plan on showing how this would practically look in our lives as Christians seeking to live immersed in the Holy Spirit today.

Father, please humble your Church before You. Help us to repent over our sinful ways and return back to our first love, Jesus. Provide us with an openness and willingness to have you move within our hearts anew! I pray that the Holy Spirit will overflow within each believer’s heart and stream into every area of our lives so that we can powerfully transform the lives of those around us! In Jesus’ Name, I pray, Amen!

What The Enemy Does Not Want You to Know

Key Biblical Text

“For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,  being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete”(2 Corinthians 10:3-6)

Introduction: Too Busy to Focus on the Spiritual

Have you ever stopped to consider that what we see in the physical realm is only a portion of what is actually happening all around us? I think that it is a safe assumption that most of today barely have enough time for ourselves, let alone to ponder on the spiritual realities within this world.

Life in modern society is moving at such a frighteningly-fast pace that we barely have sufficient time to get our day-to-day tasks accomplished. Statements such as: “I just don’t have enough time”, “I’m too busy for this”, or “There aren’t just enough hours in the day to finish what I need to accomplish” are ubiquitous to the average person today. While it is not necessarily a sin to be busy, what I fear is happening today is that we are being greatly distracted from the things that truly matter in the context of eternity.

Westernized Christianity Waters Down The Spiritual

It is my assertion that the teaching among most Christian Churches within the West does not provide enough focus on the spiritual warfare surrounding Christians. Yet, the Bible repeatedly underscores the importance of recognizing the spiritual realm as something very real and also something which Christians must prepare themselves against.

In the West, we have this prevailing humanist and materialist mindset which overshadows much of the way in which we think and operate as a society. Secular psychology is an incredibly influential and authoritative force even to the degree that it has begun to infiltrate the Church. Almost everything, including the things of spiritual origin, can be merely theorized into these humanist “boxes of understanding”. Christian Colleges and Universities have begun to incorporate psychology-counseling into the teaching curriculum for those studying to become pastors and teachers.

We Are in All-Out Spiritual War

Christian, do you know that you have an enemy who will stop at nothing to annihilate your faith? If you do not recognize how high the stakes are, then surely what reason would you have to equip yourself for this spiritual warfare? There is an old quote that teaches that the greatest thing the enemy ever pulled off is to convince us that he doesn’t exist. The schemes of the enemy work best when those being deceived are ignorant to what is actually happening. Therefore, I think that it is also fitting to say that one of the greatest things the enemy has pulled off is to convince the Church to downplay the importance of spiritual warfare. Perhaps one of the leading causes for why much of the Church in the West has fallen asleep stems from its ignorance of spiritual warfare. We are called to make war with sin so that we can grow in holiness and righteousness, but how can this happen if we are not even aware of the type of battle which we are involved in?

Spiritual Strongholds

GotQuestion.org provides a Biblical View on Spiritual Strongholds below:

The enemy is firmly entrenched; these strongholds have been guarded for thousands of years, presenting a great wall of resistance to the Truth. None of this deters the Christian warrior, however. Using the weapons of God’s choosing, he attacks the strongholds, and by the miraculous power of Christ, the walls are breached, and the bastions of sin and error are battered down. The victorious Christian enters the ruins and leads captive, as it were, every false theory and every human philosophy that had once proudly asserted its independence from God…Sharing the gospel is not the only time we see resistance. We can also face demonic strongholds in our own lives, in our families, and even in our churches. Anyone who has fought an addiction, struggled with pride, or had to “flee youthful lusts” knows that sin, a lack of faith, and a worldly outlook on life are indeed “strongholds.”

I believe that understanding and being able to identify spiritual strongholds in our lives as Christians is one of the first steps to conquering them. Interestingly, a significant degree of our spiritual maturity and growth as Christians is dependent on how effectively we make war with these spiritual strongholds. Each day we wake up, we are faced with a decision to equip ourselves with the armour of God or not. We must understand that even though God has finished the work through His Son on the Cross, we are responsible to continually walk in obedience and to access the spiritual means of grace freely given to us. The spiritual toolkit in the form of God’s armour and the reservoir of His grace is definitely there for the Christian, but it still needs to be accessed by faith in order to be effective.

Tragically, so many ignorant Christians fail to live their spiritual lives in victory and instead choose to live defeated lives. As they listen to the lies of the enemy, they begin to believe them. These lies gain a foothold in the minds of the believer leading to a crippled and ineffective life as a Christian. Rather than reclaiming the authority they have in Christ in order to overcome the dominion of sin, they allow themselves to remain spiritually-complacent and unfruitful.

The Solution: Live by The Spirit through Repentance, & Equipping Yourself with God’s Armour 

God will not provide us with the spiritual victory as long as we are not surrendered to Him. We need to die to self so that Christ through His Holy Spirit will reign and actively work through us as one of His instruments. In the West, I fear that we often intellectualize Christianity and that we restrain it to some kind of futile head knowledge while the heart remains unchanged. If our faith does not manifest in commensurate righteous actions and deeds, then we may be wise to question whether we have a saving faith or not. James 2:14-17 teaches:

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. 

The core teaching is not that it is works that saves us, but rather the point is ultimately: What is the point if our faith is not accompanied with works? Our hearts, not merely our minds, needs to be transformed. It is then and only then that the Holy Spirit will reside within us and empower us to conquer the spiritual strongholds in our journey. As we abide in Christ(through study and application of Scripture), the Holy Spirit works mightly in our life while demolishing those strongholds in the process!

In addition, equipping ourselves with the armour of God as detailed in Ephesians 6:10-18 is essential. Without which, we will inevitably compromise our Christian living and our faith will eventually be sifted like wheat as Jesus Himself reveals the enemy’s intentions to Peter(Luke 22:31). I find this analogy about the Christian from GotQuestion.org helpful as it relies on Ephesians 6:14-17 for its framework:

Our weapons are not physical, for our warfare is spiritual in nature. Rather than guns and tanks, our weapons are those of the “full armour of God” and consist of “the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God”(Ephesians 6:14-17)

 

Prayer

Father,

I pray that you awaken your Church to the spiritual battleground around us. Please strengthen us as we ready ourselves for battle in this spiritual fight. Thank-you for providing us with the spiritual weapons of warfare to be victorious over the dominion of sin. Help us to walk in step with Your Holy Spirit to experience the fullness of the plan to that which You have called us in Christ. In Jesus’ Name, I pray Amen.

 

Reference:

https://www.gotquestions.org/spiritual-strongholds.html

Insight: What is Dividing the Church More Than Anything

Unity among those who belong to the body of believers(the Church) is radically important. When the Church is divided among itself, how can it possibly stand in the face of opposition? Jesus said it best when He tells us that “If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand”(Mark 3:25). In order to be fruitful for Kingdom-furthering purposes and effective for defending ourselves against spiritual warfare, we need to come together as fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Yet, precisely the opposite is happening today within the Church. There is such a high degree of envy, jealousy, bitterness, backbiting, slander, and gossip among those claiming to be apart of the same Church Body. The world already has enough of this! The last thing that it needs is a Church comprised up of professing believers who cannot even co-operate among themselves. Therefore, the Church will not be able to render sustainable change within the world until those within it begin to work together instead of against one another.

Paul warns us in his letter to the Galatians of the following, “If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other”(Galatians 5:15). Being destroyed by one another is exactly what the enemy wants to happen within the Church. He couldn’t be happier when he sees church members in disagreement with trivialities over non-essential doctines and when pastors are under constant scrutiny over every move they make. Church divisiveness is a breeding ground for all kinds of evil and it is where demonic activity can thrive. Being distracted from the things that truly matter is what the enemy wants. When he succeeds, the work that God commissions His Bride(the Church) to take part in is greatly encumbered.

Perhaps one of the reasons why we don’t see persecution as strongly within the West is because the enemy does not view the Church here as much of a threat. We are too busy arguing and debating among one another about whose doctrinal views are right that we completely miss the whole point of Christianity! What an absolute tragedy! There are lost souls who are seeking for people to point them to the Truth of the Gospel but we are too busy fault-finding and gossiping about other Christians to even notice. Until the time that we swallow our pride and humble ourselves before God and among one another, true life-impacting change will not happen. How can it possibly?! The enemy and his demons are far too strong in comparison to a divided Church body. As Christians we all have our unique roles to play within the Church Body. God purposed it this way for the intention of drawing us together as perfectly demonstrated within the eternal fellowship in the Trinity. He created us as relational beings who are in need of being united within the Church. A Church Body that is united while upholding and guarding the Truth of Christ is unstoppable and it is capable of accomplishing the unimaginable!

Father God,

Please strengthen Your Church through unifying it and re-shaping it into all that You have purposed it to become as Your Son’s Bride. I pray that you humble all of us by helping us to plainly see the sin in our own hearts as opposed to pointing out the sin in other people’s lives. Lead us into repentance from all the gossip and slander we have taken part in through cleansing our prideful hearts. Most importantly, help us to show the world what it truly means to be a disciple of Jesus, as we undertake Your Kingdom-Furthering work on earth with the strength from Your Holy Spirit. In Jesus’ Name, I pray. Amen.

Perspective: Why Our Trust Must Be Rooted in Christ and Not Christianity(Religion)

Preface

Have you ever stopped to consider and ponder that Christianity is not the same as Who Jesus Christ is? Christianity as a religion is comprised up of imperfect humans who are gradually being transformed into the image and likeness of Christ. Christ is perfect, Christians are not. Sadly, one of the main stumbling blocks I encounter when witnessing to others is their exposure to a misrepresentation of the Christian Faith. Therefore, as Christians, we should not be placing our faith in fellow Christian brothers and sisters on a micro-level and/or even towards Christianity on a macro-level. We are equally broken–Christian and non-Christian–who are all in as much of need for Jesus as the next person. Yet, we regularly put other Christians on pedestals almost on a daily-basis, commonly without consciously thinking about it. The tragic result is disappointment when they do not fulfill our expectations, but, more significantly, it is a diminishment of the all-sufficiency of God. In turn, we end up idolizing other Christians, rather than placing our unwavering faith in Jesus Alone for our salvation and spiritual growth.

Christianity Cannot Save You, But Jesus Can

Within the West, I believe that we are at a comparative spiritual-disadvantage to that of poorer parts of the world. We have so much material wealth, abundance, and prosperity to the degree that it becomes easy to trust and depend on things other than God Himself. Christian resources are almost too readily accessible, thereby presenting the temptation for us to exchange these Christian supplements in the place of diligent study in God’s Word.

What I believe is one of the leading causes of lukewarmness within the Christian Church in the West today derives itself from the false belief that the Church saves us. The implicitly-held belief among several Christians in the West is that as long I attend weekly church service, partake in helping through various ministries and fulfill the requirements of other rituals, then I am saved.

Church-goers swiftly become enticed by the allure of comfortable Christianity. Even lesser known local churches have such an unparalleled access to ministry resources. It becomes almost too easy to become spiritually-lazy through relying wholeheartedly on the local church to feed us, while we ourselves lack the spiritual disciplines. In doing so, we place too much weight on the pulpit and we begin to ignorantly think that we absolutely need an intermediary between ourselves and God in order to grow in faith of Jesus. Devastatingly, the local church slowly, but surely takes the place of Jesus. Rather than trusting in Jesus and His finished work alone, the mindset of the church-goer shifts to placing their trust in their church instead. Paradoxically, the local church becomes an idol and stifles the spiritual life of the believer which Jesus graciously provided. Rather than being a faith in Jesus by grace alone, it subtly evolves into a religion by self-effort.

Disclaimer: I do believe that all Christians need to actively be apart of a local, Biblically-Rooted Church. However, I also believe that the purpose of the Church is to equip its Saints to boldly go out and point others to Jesus. We need to be cautious to never forget that our foundation is built upon Jesus and that He is the Only One worthy of our full allegiance. 

Religion by Self-Effort vs. Salvation by Faith

The major implication for those who idolize their church is that they re-enter into the bondage of law and rule-keeping, the very thing that Jesus has already saved them from. For church-goers, this manifests itself in the form of religion when Jesus Christ by faith is replaced by religion through self-effort. Because it is impossible to earn our salvation or to somehow work our way to heaven, those who place their trust in their own righteousness will perish in the end. The figure below helps illustrate the differences between the two:

O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? (Galatians 3:1–4).

Those attending the church of Galatia had naively returned to works of the law even after having begun by the Spirit. I think that it is important for us all to do a self-examination to ensure that we have not fallen into the same trap. Paul provides us with instruction on how God desires for His children to live by in verse 11 below:

Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith (Galatians 3:11).

Believers must live by faith in Jesus out of reliance in the future grace which He extends to all who trust in Him. This reliance can only come when the believer’s heart is rightly postured before God. No amount of sacrifices, good deeds, and/or religious rituals will ever be enough because God doesn’t delight in external performance. As seen below, God desires a surrendered, repentant, and humble heart from us. It is then and only then that He can provide us with a new nature in order that we can live the resurrected life as His new creation!

For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise (Psalms 51:16–17)

Heavenly Father,

Forgive us for anytime that we have trusted in anything other than Your perfect righteousness for our salvation and continued spiritual growth. Help us to continue to live by faith in You Alone. Remind us that Your Son, Jesus, has torn the veil between us and You which has provided us with direct access to Your throne of grace. This is something that no religious teacher can ever provide. Provide us with rock-solid confidence in You as we seek journey and grow with you in faith. In Jesus’ All-Sufficient Name, Amen!

Don’t Be a People Pleaser!

People Pleasing Defined

Although the terminology of “people pleasing” may not necessarily always be associated with when it is occurring, I still believe that the activity of “people pleasing” pervades much of our lifestyles even as Christians.

“Psychology Today” defines the characteristics of a people pleaser as follows:

A people pleaser is one of the nicest and most helpful people you know. They never say “no.”  You can always count on them for a favor.  In fact, they spend a great deal of time doing things for other people. They get their work done, help others with their work, make all the plans, and are always there for family members and friends.

Issues with People Pleasing

There is nothing inherently wrong with the desire of being there to help out those who are in need. In fact, as Christians we are called to love others self-sacrificially, which would certainly include those times when it is inconvenient for us. Two pivotal issues need to be expanded upon in order to better grasp why Christians should never allow the worldly activity of “people pleasing” to infiltrate their service to God.

  1. Motives of Heart Any professing-believer who serves others in order to curry the favour and the respect from other people is clearly not doing it for God. The person ought to examine the motives of their heart to identify why they choose to serve others. They should ask the question: Am I doing this for God’s glory, or for my glory instead?
  2. It is Impossible to Please Everyone– When you try to gain everyone’s approval, the inevitable result is that you will gain no one’s approval. Apart from this heart attitude being completely unbiblical, it is also completely self-defeating because it will never succeed. The simple truth of the matter is that you cannot please everyone, regardless of how hard you try! I believe that God designed it this way so that we would be drawn to Him in humility. If and when this form of unhealthy behaviour persists and develops into a patterned behaviour, it will lead to an array of adverse physical health effects. For the Christian, their spiritual vitality will also be neutralized and they will become very unfruitful. God has never intended for us to live in such a harmful way.

 

Personal Confession

I am somebody who has struggled with the sinful pattern of people pleasing for most of my life. God has blessed me with a kind attitude and a heart for serving others but there are times when my motives go unchecked causing me to fall into the “performance-trap”. What I mean by this is that I begin to care more about what others think about me than what God thinks about me. Tragically, when I do this I am essentially telling God that His approval is not enough and that I want more. I become forgetful and I need to be reminded that I already stand right before God which is immeasurably more meaningful than the approval of man. Even as believers, we need repeated exposure to the Gospel either through self-preaching or preaching from others. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why Jesus likened us to forgetful sheep and also why we have been given God’s Holy Word to read over and over again.

Hope in the Gospel

This right standing(justification) is not as the result of what I could ever accomplish, but rather, what Jesus has accomplished when He accepted the punishment for my sins on the Cross. When God looks at those Who place their trust in Him as Saviour and Lord, He sees His Son, and with us He is also well-pleased. This is precisely the Truth which sets Christianity apart from all world religions. God has already reached down to us in and through His Son, Jesus, where He has paved The Way for us to Heaven. We cannot work to somewhere earn it, all we can do is accept it humbly with open arms. Not only does the Gospel free us from the need to perform to please others, it also provides us with right relationship to the Only One True God where He sees us perfectly.

How God Instructs Us How To Serve Others

When it comes to serving others, God expects His children to act very differently in comparison to those who are of the world. Fascinatingly, it is possible for unbelievers to possess an appearance of spirituality without actually possessing a saving faith. 2 Timothy 3:5 refers to this said cohort of people(fully described in verses 2-5) by describing them as possessors of, “…the appearance of godliness, but denying its power”. Clearly, this is a superficial and a vain attention-capturing form of godliness which is of the flesh, not the spirit. Verse 4 even supportingly describes them as “swollen with conceit”. At the core, it starts with the intent of the heart, which only God has the ability to see and know fully. This is both terrifying and reassuring at the same time. On the one hand, we can fool others with our “righteous deeds” while God cannot be fooled. On the other hand, because our hearts lay open before God, He knows when our deeds are genuine despite what others may think. When we do good deeds so that we are noticed and given recognition before man, the gratification we receive from this temporary approval is the full extent of our reward as seen below in Matthew 6:1-4:

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

We are called to serve in the utmost humility and surrender to God alone because it is not about us; it is about God and Him getting the maximum glory. This can only happen as we decrease and He increases(John 3:30). The point I believe that Jesus desires to drive home is that when our hearts are postured in the right way before God, the fruit that we bear will be an overflow of what has been supernaturally sown within the roots of our new heart. This simply cannot happen in our carnal and fleshly state. The only undefiled and pure fruit yielded that will last eternally is the fruit that comes from a redeemed heart. And only Jesus can provide us with this redeemed heart!

I pray that Christians may be challenged and encouraged to live unwaveringly for the glory of God knowing that we are 100% approved by Him no matter what the world tells us. Please solidify the awe-inspiringly beautiful foundational truth that our identities are safe and secure in Jesus Christ! In Jesus’ Name, I pray. Amen.

Reference:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/shrink/201210/are-you-people-pleaser

Insight: “Church, Please Ensure that Your Leaders Practise What They Preach at The Very Least”


Beware of False Teachers within the Church

The Church, particularly within the West, is in serious danger today. I do not say this for the sake of needlessly instilling fear in people(esp. believers), however I also cannot overemphasize the importance of what I am about to share. Within 2 Peter 2:1-3(emphases below are mine), we are plainly forewarned about the presence of false teachers within the Church:

But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.

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