Just this past week Diane and I recorded a brief video where we look back at how we have been continually challenged to keep growing and digging into the Word. This has been challenged and fueled as we have attempted to disciple our own children and now an entire college student body. There has never been a time that we have more fully realized that we ourselves are still in the process of being conformed to the image of His Son. I guess that reinforces the idea that the best teaching comes from the overflow of what God is doing in your life.
“Nothing I have to do today is as important as the people I will meet.” That is a pretty good way to start your day. How quickly we become so consumed with what we have to do and where we have to go that we become blind to people around us.
We seem to power through our schedules, checklists, and agenda’s without even seeing what matters to God…and should matter to us. We are selfish by nature and quickly become caught up with what we have to do. We have little time or space for interruptions. And yet Jesus always seemed to have time for interruptions, for people—much to the frustration of His disciples. We, like those disciples, can tend to see people as a series of distractions, rather than a series of divine appointments. The next time someone steps across your path and blocks your way, stop and remind yourself who you are and why you are here. People.
“And his disciples said to him, ‘you see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?'” Mark 5:31
It is possible to just move from one kind of worldliness to another. Both reveal a life that neither sees or affirms a right view of God. That can be with or without religion.
Timothy Keller, in the introduction to his new commentary on Galatians, writes:
The Galatian Christians had been pagans, who were under the slavery of literal idolatry—’the basic principles of the world’ (4:3, 8-9). But here Paul once more makes his radical claim that pagan idolatry and biblical moralism (ie: keeping the laws of the Bible) are basically the same thing. The Galatians had been amoral liberals, and now they were about to become very moral conservatives.
Worldliness has many faces. The picture you have in mind of what worldliness looks like may or may not be accurate. One thing is true, however; at the core, it is a life that neither sees or affirms a right view of God.
Most of us have an idea in our minds of what “worldliness” does or doesn’t look like. But, worldliness comes in many forms and has many faces. Worldliness is life without God. It is when He is not part of our thinking, our calculations, or our moment by moment life orientations. It can come in the form of self indulgent paganism or it can come in the form of self righteous phariseeism. It is when we are living life on a horizontal plane rather than on a vertical plane – one that is God—focused.
We are challenged more than ever before to live with that vertical focus. Even technology seems to pull us down to a constant barrage of messages that preoccupy us with the horizontal view. We lose touch with a right view of God and the ability to respond to that right view. And we become worldly… even when are “doing God’s work.”
Last week I challenged our students with how Christ has rescued and continues to rescue us from this present evil age. If you have time, you can listen to it here. And if you haven’t taken a look at the small book, Worldliness, by C.J. Mahaney, I would recommend you pick that up as well.
Conrad Mbewe joined us this year for our annual Heart Conference and brought two outstanding messages on the sufficiency of the gospel (message 1 & message 2). I first met Conrad several years ago in his home country of Zambia and have grown immensely in my appreciation for what God is doing through him. In this video clip we talk about what we learn from each other.
Why do you do what you do? Answering that question will reveal something very important about you. In a world where we make much of how we look, what we do, and what we don’t do—God looks beyond all of that to the motives of the heart. These are the true revealers of who we really are.
I have been sharing a five-fold request I began praying in in 2008 (see previous post). My final request has been, “may you (Lord) receive all glory, honor, and praise in everything, and may I be hidden in the cross of Christ.”
The glory of God should be the motive and end of all we do. Only when we live for His glory do we really ever succeed. And living for His glory can only come as we find our identity in the cross of Christ.
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. (Galatians 2:20, 6:14.)
But beware; living for God’s glory and not your own is not something you decide one day and never have to address again. It is a daily decision you must make. Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”
Look deep into your heart and ask yourself; “Why do I do what I do?”
Here is a quote I recently came across:
Sadly, although our intentions are good, we leave kids without the tools to self-regulate. This is why the average college student is in touch with his or her mom or dad eleven times a day. Or why 80 percent of students plan to return home after college. They are unable to be autonomous adults. They usually want the autonomy, but they may not be ready for the responsibility. Once again, they’ve been overexposed to data but underexposed to real-life experiences. It’s all virtual—or artificial—maturity.
Read more from Tim Elmore in his book, Artificial Maturity.
Whatever God’s will is for your life, it will be impossible. That is the way He works. That is the way He leads—in a path of impossibilities. These drive us to the God-dependance we need to succeed.
The Lord has promised to meet our needs as we follow Him. It is this promise that we have, not a visible stockpile of resources to calm our anxieties. To be honest, my flesh would rather see something stockpiled than have to believe something I can’t see. But, that is not the way it works. The Christian life works by faith. God Himself is our assurance. We need to believe that.
The fourth of my daily requests (see original post) is for God to “provide for my needs—for they are great.” The longer I live the more needy I become. Funny how that works. You might think that over time we need God less, but the opposite is true. Though we may gain knowledge, experience, and gather earthly goods, we only become more painfully aware of our weakness and inability. These words mean more to us now than ever before, “Give us this day our daily bread…” (Matthew 6:11).
If you have a little time read these words from Matthew 6:25-34:
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
We all love to give our perspective, offer our opinion, and counsel others how to live. That’s because we are generally confident that we have figured life out and that people are eager to hear what we have to say. In truth we are probably more interested in hearing ourselves talk more than anything else.
Others might grow by hearing us talk, but not much. They are more likely to grow if we drive them to the Word and encourage them in the process of discovery. This way truth becomes their own. Discovery can ignite an internal path of transformation, while rules, regulations, and lectures are more likely to numb the mind and chill the heart.
Let’s drive others to the Word and to the joys of discovery.
“Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” (Acts 17:11)
This is not the time to quit doing what you know is right. Sure it is hard! Change causes friction—and if you are to be moving from where you are to where you need to be, you will have friction, there’s just no way around it.
We must pray for boldness and grace as we follow through with what He has called us to do. This is the third request (see earlier post) that I have made to God, “Lord, give me boldness, because I know that doing the right thing is going to be hard…really hard. And, give me grace. Help me to have a right spirit through it all and help me to be full of joy.”
When attacked, there are two reactions that I find ever lurking in the back of my mind. The first is just to quit. The second is to get angry. Neither one of these will produce anything that pleases God. So, daily, I find myself running back to the Word, arguing myself back to truth, then praying through every part of this exercise of faith. It is not just “God’s will” for the ministry, He is also busy changing my life. I can say, “I don’t need this,” but God is bringing exactly what I need. Through this very struggle, I come to know Him more fully.
The fight—being criticized, judged, and misrepresented. This is what we don’t like, and this is what can make us want to quit. But remember, this same tension will also break us and drive us to greater levels of dependence—and fruitfulness. It’s worth it. Don’t quit.