How do we know if we really love God?


I had a short but interesting discussion today with someone and it went like this:

  • Me: Do you love God?
  • Them: Yes
  • Me: How do you know whether you love God or not?
  • Them: I don’t understand what you mean
  • Me: Does God love you?
  • Them: Yes
  • Me: How do you know whether God loves you or not?
  • Them: Because the Bible tells me so.
  • Me: Do you love God?
  • Them: Yes
  • Me: How do you know whether you love God or not?
  • Them: I suppose the Bible will tell me?

They were absolutely right! To love God the Bible says that we must first accept His love for us in Christ (1 John 4: 10) and then it describes with clarity what our lives would look like if we loved God and it has much less to do with feelings that it does with obedience (summed up in 1 John 2: 3 – 6).

 

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August 15, 2012 · 1:55 pm

Is there an “X Factor” that makes a church successful?


X Factor (Netherlands)

I assume you are familiar with the term “The X Factor”? Simon Cowell has helped a bit with that. By definition, it is something you can’t quite describe that makes someone or some organization special and or successful. Some might call it the Midas touch – everything they do seems to turn to gold. But is there and “X Factor” that can make a church successful? I believe there is but it is not unknown, just not always correctly identified.

  • Is it clarity of the vision?
  • Is it the quality of the leadership?
  • Is it the excellence of the programs?
  • Is it the charisma of the senior pastor?
  • Is it the quality of the preaching?
  • Is it the way the church seeks to meet the needs of its people?

All of those play a greater or lesser role in making up a good church. But the Bible is clear that ultimately none of those are “The X Factor” of the church. They are important, and God uses them, but they are not “The X Factor”. They are not what ultimately make the church successful.

Well what is it? I believe the answer lies in (amongst other passages) John 16: 5 – 16. In John 13 – 17 Jesus spends some quality teaching time with his disciples preparing them for His sacrificial and substitutionary work on the cross for the sins of the world and their sacrificial gospel mission on earth to tell the world about what Jesus has done on the cross after He returns to heaven to His Father. Jesus makes it very clear that this gospel mission will be very tough for His disciples because although they know the good they will be doing, the world won’t see it that way and will hate them for it like they did Jesus. And in fact it becomes clear that the gospel mission that Jesus sends them out on is impossible for them to accomplish. They possess no X Factor that can turn the hearts of spiritually dead people who hate Him and His disciples into people who are spiritually alive and love Jesus and His disciples and are willing to sacrificially serve the world with the good news themselves. It is going to take a miracle to change spiritually dead people into spiritually alive people. And only God can do that. And so in John 16: 5 – 16 we see (and this is the main point of this blog entry) that the X Factor that makes any church successful in its gospel mission is the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit and we have to depend on Him to do that and use us in the process.

So the X Factor that makes any church successful in its gospel mission is the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit. But that doesn’t mean we are not involved. We have to depend on Him to do that and use us in the process. And how do we depend on Him? Yes we get stuck into continuing the gospel mission given to the disciples doing whatever we can to be witnessing disciples for Jesus. But we must realise that unless the Holy Spirit works, all that we are and do will not achieve what will make the church successful in its mission.

But how do we show that dependency on the Holy Spirit? Just keeping these things in mind? Yes, we must keep this in mind, but the way we show our dependence is on God the Holy Spirit to is to PRAY! A helpful definition of prayer is “expressed dependency on God”. Read Ephesians 6: 10 – 20 to get a sense of that.

So how successful do we think our church are? And what I mean by that is how many people’s lives are we seeing being changed by the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit through us? I suspect that while there are many good churches, there may not be too many successful churches. And I wonder if that is so because we do not pray for it to happen (as usual we have to live in the tension between God’s sovereignty and our action). But maybe we do not express to God just how dependant we are on Him for that to happen through us? Or express just how willing we are for that to happen through us? Also, however much we may pray privately and in small groups, but how often as God’s family do we pray together?

“I have seen many men work without praying, though I have never seen any good come out of it; but I have never seen a man pray without working.” James Hudson Taylor “We are too busy to pray, and so we are too busy to have power. We have a great deal of activity, but we accomplish little; many services but few conversions; much machinery but few results.” R. A. Torrey

“I would rather teach one man to pray than ten to preach.” Charles Spurgeon

Can our churches be successful? That is can we make a great gospel impact on our communities? Yes we can. Will it happen in the way we envisage it? Probably not. But one thing is for sure, if we don’t pray urgently for it we will never know!

Let’s pray for the Holy Spirit to pour out His power on and through us for gospel living and success. Let’s ask Him to:

  • Revive our hearts
  • Revive our families
  • Revive our churches
  • Save many in our neighborhoods, town, cities and countries through us

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Do you get defensive when criticized?


Shout emoticon

I do! And I am trying not to! An article I read made me put down this reflection while on Sabbatical:

Sabbatical reflection 8: It is easy for us as Christians to get defensive when people criticize us but we must all learn to remember that we are worse than our critics know (we tend to have amnesia about our sinfulness when dealing with critics) and yet still loved by God because we are in Christ.

We are worse than our critics know. If we had a DVD that we could eject from our heads and on that DVD was everything we had looked at as the visuals, everything we had said and thought as the sound track, our real motives supplied by God as the subtitles… how many of our critics and even friends would know that about us? I rest my case. It is also worth reflecting on Paul’s honesty in Romans 7: 15 – 20 and John’s reminder in 1 John 1: 8.

And guess what? God sees all on that DVD and yet in Christ still loves us deeply! Paul’s solution to his sinful condition is the loving grace of God in Christ! Romans 7: 24 – 8: 4. And John’s solution to the fact that we are sinful is the same. 1 John 1: 9 – 2: 2.

So bring on the critics they will only criticize about surface stuff and none of that will change how much God loves us in Christ!

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Dealing with Anonymous Critics


Ministry Matters™ | Articles | Dealing with Anonymous Critics.

A very helpful (as usual) article by Ron Edmonson on something that many of us have to deal with.

Anonymous with Guy Fawkes masks at Scientology...

 

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Youth and Gossip


Ministry Matters™ | Articles | Youth and Gossip.

There is a fine line between talking about someone and the sin of gossip. This helpful article helps us to understand when we are crossing that line. And while gossip is clearly not just a youth problem this article was written from that angle.

Gossip t

 

 

 

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Do our lives trample on grace?


Old Bible

Is it just me or is the common Christian strategy for living life now: “Be as much like the world to show the world that Christianity is not about rules and regulations but a relationship with God”? Which in my observation ends up being, “I can do whatever I want as long as I say I am a Christian, kind of stand up for Christian things and marvel at the wonder of grace.”

And while I wholeheartedly agree that true Christianity is not about rules and regulations, is it not true that all healthy relationships have boundaries? And if that is so I fear that many who call themselves Christians live like there are no boundaries in their relationships as Christians with God and others.

Paul when talking at the end of Romans 5 about how the law made sin “increase” but as sin increased so grace increased then goes on to say in Romans 6: 1 – 4, “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”

If we are saved by grace our relationship with God and people will be characterized by the boundaries of “new life” grace living found in the Bible and made possible by the power of the Holy Spirit. Which amongst other things will mean that we will be concerned to live:

  • Differently from the world in a way that will make us look a bit out – 1 Peter 2: 11 – 12
  • A holy life – 1 Peter 1: 13 – 16
  • Loving other Christians deeply from the heart – 1 Peter 1: 22
  • As law-abiding citizens – 1 Peter 2: 13 – 17
  • As good employees even if your employers are not that great – 1 Peter 2: 18 – 19
  • As godly husbands and wives – 1 Peter 3: 1 – 7
  • Not holding grudges or “getting back” at people – 1 Peter 3: 9 – 12
  • Ready to tell as many people the gospel as possible – 1 Peter 3: 15
  • With love but at an appropriate distance from sinful stuff that those who are not yet Christians plunge themselves into – 1 Peter 4: 1 – 6
  • Hospitably without grumbling – 1 Peter 4: 9
  • Serving in and through the Church – 1 Peter 4: 10 – 11
  • Willing to suffer for Christ because you are living the above – 1 Peter 4: 12 – 14
  • Humbly not arrogantly especially to people older than you – 1 Peter 5: 5 – 6
  • Without anxiety about all this – 1 Peter 5: 7
  • Self-controlled and firm in the faith – 1 Peter 5: 8 – 9

I suspect we all need to rethink our “Christian” ways of living, understanding that the way we show the world grace is not to trampling on it by living self-centered, world-like lives but by living within the Biblical boundaries of the freedom we have in Christ!

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Who gets to R.I.P?


 

A rest in peace sign.

Over the last few weeks there have been a number of tragic deaths.  

There was another addition to the “27 club”. Amy Winehouse joined a group of celebrity musos who all died tragically at the age of 27 – Kurt Cobain, Jimmi Hendrix, Jim Morrison and Janis Joplin. But not just celebrities, also people in Norway, the middle-east, Africa and the list goes on and on.

It is interesting to note that short on the heels of all these tragedies are the jokes about them (perhaps our coping mechanism?). And while some are quite funny, I suppose, it is desperately tragic that these people had to die like this!

But there is something I find even more tragic! You see it on the social media, on TV, in magazines and in the newspapers… and that is that more often than not when someone dies people will say “RIP” – Rest In Peace. And my question is how do they know? How do they know that these people are now resting in peace? Have they actually been over there to see? How do we know that anyone rests in peace after they die? Is it just wishful thinking? Or is it just a nice thing to say like “bless you” after someone sneezes?

Actually saying “bless you” after someone sneezes possibly originates from the great bubonic plague of centuries ago – as sneezing was thought to be the first sign of having the plague.

And “Rest in peace” comes from a Latin expression wishing eternal rest and peace to someone who has just died and actually comes from an old form of funeral service in the Christian Church which went, “May his soul and the souls of all the departed faithful by God’s mercy rest in peace.” Which in turn came from the Bible in Isaiah 57: 2, “Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death.”

So the question is who gets to R.I.P eternally?

According to the funeral service it is the faithful. But who are the faithful? Is everyone faithful and so everyone gets to rest in peace? And faithful to what or who?

According to the Bible it is those who walk uprightly. But who are those who walk uprightly? What does that even mean?

And in the funeral service and all over the Bible it is all by God mercy. But who does God give mercy to so they can rest in peace? Everyone? Just some people?

Well, the only explanation I can give you is from the Bible, from God’s Word, because God is the only one who knows what happens after death (He is there) and why.

It starts in Genesis 1 + 2 where God creates everything and then on the 7th day rests. What does that mean? Was He tired? No. The rest was when God stopped creating and enjoyed His creation – especially the relationship He had with people as we see in Genesis 2. The paradise was a place where people could rest in the peace of a wonderful relationship with God.

But unfortunately as good as it was, in Genesis 3 we see people rebelling against God and instead rest we un-rest as people come under the dreadful burden of sin, death and judgment from God. Paradise was lost. No resting in peace for anyone! Just unrest between us and God and when people die they do not R.I.P.

But in God’s grace and mercy He promises to turn that dreadful situation around in Genesis 12: 1 – 3 – blessing instead of curse, rest instead of unrest.

Which doesn’t happen until Jesus (who is God in the flesh) comes to earth and makes peace on the cross between God and man by dealing with the sin, death and judgment that caused the unrest.

We see this in the announcement of Jesus’ birth: Matthew 1: 21 – 23: She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus (Which means “The Lord saves”), because he will save his people from their sins.’ All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ (which means ‘God with us’).” Luke 2: 14, Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

And so only Jesus can offer rest. As He looks forward to what He would do on the cross Jesus says about this burden of sin, death and judgment in Matthew 11: 28 – 30, Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Rest In Peace is only accomplished on the cross: 1 Peter 3: 18, For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.”

That is how the gospel is described on Acts 10: 36, You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ…”

And only those who accept Jesus as the only way to rest in peace can R.I.P. And in the New Testament those who accept Jesus are made the faithful and upright by God’s mercy. Romans 5: 1, Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…”

Have you accepted Jesus as your Savior, your Forgiver, you Peacebringer?

Rest In Peace can only be said to those who are followers of Jesus!

Colossians 1: 19 – 22, “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation…”

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