“Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin.” 1 Peter 4:1
Christ suffered in the flesh for doing good and for being the Messiah. He had a mindset that went against what was common at the time. Since Christ suffered, Paul tells us to arm ourselves with the same way of thinking, think the same way that Christ thought. As His followers we will suffer in the flesh, since those who think like Christ have ceased from sin. Think like Christ. Do what’s right, even if it leads to suffering.
Since we are in Christ we focus on what’s truly important. Christ focused on the bigger picture. Instead of listening to the mindset of the day, He stuck to His purpose. Because of this, He went through with the plan and now we have forgiveness of sins. The world will tempt us to desert Christ. We don’t join in because we have developed a new mindset. We are reborn and no longer live like the world.
“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Romans 6:1-2). Paul’s reasoning is that if we have died to sin, why would we continue to live in it? We say no to the world because we have died to sin. The old life, the way we used to think, the way we used to act, the way we used to talk, is dead. We have a new mindset that is focused on God and eternal life.
Galatians 5:24 says, “And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” Do you belong to Christ? If the answer is yes, then you no longer own yourself. God owns you and He expects us to have a mindset that mirrors His own. Self control is essential if we are to live Christ-like lives. To do this we must develop a new mindset. A mind that thinks differently from the majority. Making this choice won’t always be easy, but it’s what our Father desires of us as His children.
We’ve all been there. You make the decision to start going to the gym. You have a goal and vision set in place so you head to the gym and start working out. Sadly, you won’t see any progress after the first day. You could even spend 12 hours working out nonstop and still look the same (just sweatier). One trip won’t give you instant results. Two trips and you’ll still look the same. Honestly you won’t see much difference for quite some time. No one knows exactly when, but eventually you’ll start to see progress. If you have a deeply-rooted commitment and continue to workout even with a lack of visible progress, eventually you will get results. However, this period of time spent working out and seeing nothing can be a challenge to overcome. It takes drive, commitment and consistency. It all must be based on a deeply-rooted desire to achieve your goal.
The moment you are baptized doesn’t make you perfect. One day of studying scripture doesn’t make you a bible scholar. One worship service doesn’t make you holy. But if you have a deeply-rooted desire to be like Christ, you are consistent in study, things will begin to change. Christianity takes commitment and consistency to have the results God wants us to have.
Acts 2:42 says, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” These Christians were devoted to the teaching and fellowship. This is exactly what God wants from each one of us.
So how is our dedication to Christ? Is it consistent? Do we have a deeply-rooted desire to imitate Christ? This won’t happen overnight. It is my prayer that as children of God we dedicate each day to him. Wake up with the intent to be a light, and you will be amazed at what happens.
I want to discuss something I know all too well. Procrastination! Procrastination isn’t a good thing. It’s not something we should be really good at either. By definition it is “the act of delaying the doing of something that should be done.” There can be many attributes that lead us to procrastinate, none of which are good. Delaying things, putting things off happens in our everyday lives, but also in our spiritual lives.
When it comes to our spiritual lives, do we wait and put off doing things that our Father loves for us to do? Do we let it affect how and when we spread the gospel with others? Does it keep us from inviting people to church or talking to people about our faith? What about forgiving others that have hurt us? Holding onto that anger, letting go of that anger, or learning to love one another as God would have us to do? How about obeying the gospel? Do we wait and put these things off for another time? The answer is yes to all these things. It absolutely keeps us from doing things now! Procrastinating is essentially like saying “I don’t want to or have the desire to do these things right now”, but we should.
We should want to spread the gospel to every one. Mark 16:15 tells us “go unto all the world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.”
We should forgive others quickly, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32) and (Matthew 6:14) “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you” (Ephesians 4:26-27) “be angry and do not sin, do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.”
We are to love one another! “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12) “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (1 John 4:11)
We are to obey the gospel. If we have heard the gospel and know we have a spiritual need; to delay doing anything about it is dangerous. We don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow. (James 4:14) says, “Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time then vanishes.”
Several things cause us to procrastinate. Worry, stress, being anxious, sometimes even laziness. God has taught us not to worry or be anxious about anything (Philippians 4:6). The Bible says plenty about being lazy. (2 Thess 3:10), “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.” (Proverbs 18:9) says “Whoever is lazy in his work is a brother to him who destroys.” (Colossians 3:23) says, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord, not for men.” If the things we do in our lives, in our hearts, is for the Lord; we won’t wait, we won’t delay doing these things because we are motivated by the desire and focus to please our Lord, and to finish the task now, not later.
I understand that not all of us are procrastinators – and good for you! But since I am one, I say this with love and empathy for those that are. When we, and I mean myself, put off things that the Lord wants us to do, we might get the task done but I can’t say that we are giving Him our best. God deserves our best. Our Father loves us, he is our biggest fan and does not wish any of us to fail. He desires for us all to be with Him in Heaven one day. He blesses our lives daily and gives us these opportunities to do His will and share it with others so that they have a chance to be with Him also. And yet we wait, we put things off till tomorrow. We shouldn’t wait to spread the gospel with everyone, we shouldn’t wait to talk to people about Jesus and share with everyone the good news. Don’t wait to forgive others for wrongs they’ve done when our Father is willing to forgive us right now. Don’t wait to show love to everyone because our Father demonstrates his love for us daily. And by all means don’t wait to obey the gospel because none of us know what tomorrow will bring. That’s why it is important to do things now, not later.
We need to give God our best, whether it’s our daily lives or our spiritual lives. If you struggle with putting things off, waiting till tomorrow to make things right, don’t wait any longer.
In Romans one we find that Paul feels a great debt to the lost in the world around him because he’s got a message from above that people need to hear from him. He’s strongly convinced that if he doesn’t speak up, he hasn’t only failed spiritually but he’s failed the people who pass him by. Later in his letter he’ll write,
“Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation. 2 For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge. 3 For not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” – Roman’s 10.1-4
From these verses we can learn a thing or two about the life of Paul and it serves as a mirror that reflects back to us our own priorities.
His heart: It’s filled with a desire to spread the message of salvation to others.
Paul is motivated by the amount of people walking around in darkness. What motivates us? What provokes us to action? For Paul, it was simple. There’s a great number of lost people in the world and we’ve been given an uncertain amount of time to make that number smaller.
His eyes: They’re looking for those who might be saved.
Paul is looking for those with a zeal for God, but who aren’t following Him correctly. There are people who are on fire for God, but their fire is misdirected. In other words, we should be looking for that fertile soil.
His mind: Understands that there’s only one law and one path that the saved are walking.
Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. The righteous are the only people who truly believe. That belief is in the singular way to God. Paul was an effective soul winner because he was convinced that there are lost people who will remain lost if he doesn’t act. He was convinced that God’s way is the only way, and he is responsible for the opportunities to share that message with those God places in his life.
If our motivation isn’t to seek and to save the lost, our priorities must be rearranged.
The apostle Peter reveals to us that we must make several changes if we desire to grow in God’s Word. The first step is to prepare the heart. 1 Peter 1:22 says, “Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart.” To truly grow in God’s Word we must prepare our heart. Peter’s command is to love one another from a pure heart.
Scripture is a blessing, but not everyone will receive it with joy. In the parable of the soils in Luke 8 Jesus tells us that not everyone will receive the word. Some will never accept it in the first place, some will show joy at first, but eventually fall away, and some will accept the word implanted with joy and stay faithful.
For the word to be in us, we must prepare our hearts to accept what we will find. Peter commanded a sincere love from a pure heart. For this to take place we must put others first. The world doesn’t act this way, but is filled with selfish people who are only interested in themselves. God’s Word cannot be in this kind of person. There must be a change of heart to that which is pure. This can all be done by seeing others as more important than yourself. A selfless heart is a saved heart.
The second step in letting God’s Word grow in us is to have a proper desire for the word. Many Christians recognize the power of God’s Word, but they lack the desire to study and grow.
1 Peter 2:2 says, “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation.” The Greek word for “long” means “to have a strong desire for.” We are to have a strong desire for scripture. By doing this we grow in our knowledge of salvation.
It is vital that we long to learn more about God. That we desire to know more about our salvation. That we learn more about how we are to live as God’s children. The more we learn the more we will want to read scripture.
The first time you go to a gym you hate it. You hate the soreness, the fatigue, the sweat. But after a month or two you begin to look forward to that feeling. You look forward to going to the gym. I don’t know, you may call that a mental illness, but it really is true. Just think the next time you open your Bible, you are reading the very words of God. He wanted you to see and learn what He has to say.
The more you dig, the more you will want to learn. And this is the proper response to scripture.
Long for it. Desire it. Chase after more than anything else, and you will see the change that comes.
What is the most dangerous word? Anger, wrath, revenge, retaliation? The most dangerous word doesn’t “sound” dangerous, doesn’t “look” dangerous, it hides its dangerous ability, but it is the great enemy of advancement. It leaves tasks undone, books unread, programs unlatched, and resolutions unkept. It is a very great enemy of the church. It is the great enemy of the soul. It causes people to be lost. It is Satan’s favorite word. If he can get you to say it and say it often, he may not destroy your faith in the Bible or God, but he will definitely win the battle. That word is tomorrow!
Proverbs 27:1 says, “Boast not thyself of tomorrow, for thou knows not what a day may bring forth.” We’re not even promised the rest of this evening, let alone tomorrow. There are two reasons: You may lose the desire or you may lose an opportunity. There are two scriptures:
2 Corinthians 6:2: “For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted and in the day of salvation have I succored thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”
Hebrews 3:15: “While it is said, ‘Today, if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts as in the provocation.”
You can lose your desire, owing an apology, a thank you note, or something you needed to do. You can lose your opportunity, to see a family member or being busy at work.
The danger of delay and tomorrow is losing your desire and/or opportunity! It is losing the desire and opportunity to become a Christian or dying before repenting. Don’t put off to tomorrow what you can do today!
Joshua 24:15 says, “And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” Joshua said this before the Israelites in the hope they would follow his example with no intention of turning back.
In Acts 26:26-27, we see, “Festus said with a loud voice, Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad. But he said, I am not cmad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness. For the king knoweth of these things…” Then King Agrippa said, “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.”
Then, Jesus said, “I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day; the night cometh, when no man can work” (John 9:4). The same is true with our lives! What about those that do not obey the gospel of Christ? Hebrews 9:27 says, “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment!” If you are willing to live how you’re living, you’ve got to be ready to die in your current condition. If you are not, don’t wait for tomorrow!
The definition of homesick is “experiencing a longing for one’s home during a period of absence from it.” It’s the feeling a college student experiences in their first few months away from home. It’s a desire to get back to the people you love and to be back in a familiar place. Whether it’s a business trip that takes you away for extended periods of time or even a vacation, that feeling of opening the door and being back home is amazing.
We sometimes sing a song in worship that speaks of this longing. “I’m kind of homesick for a country. To which I’ve never been before..” How can we long for a place we’ve never been? This is a homesickness like no other. It’s unique in that the desire to be there is based on the descriptions of heaven we read in scripture.
We are to long for heaven more than our earthly home. How can we do this? “No sad goodbyes, will there be spoken. For time won’t matter anymore.” Aren’t you homesick for a place without goodbyes? A time when we will never have to stand over the coffin of a loved one again. A place where cancer and sickness can’t take our loved ones away. Heaven is a home where we will never have to experience the pain and grief that comes from death.
Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:53-55, “For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”” For too long death has won. For too long people have felt the pain that death brings. But one day, death will be swallowed up. No longer will death be able to torment us. Our eternal home will be a place free of death. There won’t be any funeral homes, graveyards, or hospitals because heaven is a place where no one will ever die again. I’m homesick for a place I’ve never been because in that wonderful home we will never say goodbye.
“But godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6.6 ESV).
Recently, the battery of our 2014 Chevrolet Impala died while I sat in the local hospital’s parking lot. Of course, we did not realize that it was “just” the battery at the time. The problem seemed worse. As my dad and I were in a difficult situation, stranded in the hospital parking lot, we had the car towed to our local mechanic. Luckily we thought to facilitate everything through our local auto insurance agent, including our car rental. That choice certainly made things smoother. While our mechanic repaired our Impala, we rented a 2020 Toyota Corolla. I will be honest. I really liked the Corolla. I was a little disappointed when the mechanic called to let us know we could pick up our car.
Isn’t that odd? There is nothing wrong with the 2014 Impala. Cosmetically, it looks good. It has low mileage. It is like one of those mythic cars that little old ladies only drove to church on Sunday. Yet, the Corolla had cool little bells and whistles. An alarm sounded if I drifted over the middle line or the line on the shoulder. (I heard that sound a lot, taking the many curves as I went over the mountain. It can be hard not to approach the middle or shoulder of the road when the road is curvier than it is straight.) The rental also had some driver-assist feature coupled with the cruise control that turned the wheel according to the road surface marking detected by its radar. Consequently, it handled curves well and had a good fuel economy. The only “negative’ was that road noise seemed more significant in this lighter automobile.
Here is the question. From whence did my sudden discontentment arise? It is not as if there is a need for a new automobile. Yet, driving a new car for a few days made me feel like I was missing out on something. It may be, too, that I was subconsciously acknowledging my desire to change something (anything) in my life. However, the problem with that thinking is that it reflects a lack of gratitude for my current blessings. Were I to go and buy a 2021 Corolla tomorrow, my happiness would be short-lived. Those elated feelings might last a few months or a year, but the pleasure would fade. What’s worse is that I would end up making myself more miserable by saddling myself with new debt as I paid off the car over several years. Indeed, discontentment is not a problem solved by material gain.
Our emotions are complex. Indulging the lust of the eyes and flesh and the boastful pride of life may act as a placebo, obscuring the underlying problem. Still, there is no cure for discontentment besides gratitude and acceptance. As Paul reminds us, God supplies our every need (Philippians 4.19). Thus, we should be content with food and covering (1 Timothy 6.8). Should God bless us with more, it is a sign He expects more from us (Luke 12.48). And we are to be looking out for the interests of others (Philippians 2.4). Therefore, “while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith” (Galatians 6.10 NASB1995).
When you realize you are a citizen of another country and have your provisions as you make your way home, you, too, will feel contentment. It will certainly give you greater peace of mind. Then comes the realization that salvation and a loaf of bread are worth more than all the gold in Fort Knox. Yes, “godliness with contentment is great gain.”
Yesterday was an emotional day. As expected, our attendance was a fraction of our normal size. The current threat is not yet over, but it was a stride toward what we pray is an imminent return of many more. Even from behind the masks and with the required social distancing, the joy and excitement was palpable. From preschool children to even a few octogenarians, our local brethren once again were able to do as God’s people have done for 2,000 years. We had others, mostly in higher risk categories or in daily contact with those who are high risk, who parked outside and tuned in via FM transmitter. They were in proximity with each other and able to fellowship with those around them and many on their way into and out of the building. A great many at home tuned in to the Live Stream and let us know of the hope and joy they feel that we’ve taken this step, several letting us know that as soon as is medically safe they will be there, too.
Our godly, wonderful shepherds have agonized over how to “return to normal” legally, wisely and safely. At the heart of most of their discussions and “church business” is how this “layoff” or separation or disruption will effect the faith and dedication of us sheep. Their hope is that we will view this situation as one that, for a time, made us a church full of “shut ins” that we could accommodate through virtual services (and later drive-in services) to help keep us connected rather than seeing this as the permanent arrangement or to excuse choosing other activities over assembling when there is no such crisis in place.
None of us knows the future, and it is hard to predict how every individual will respond post-pandemic. But, the heart of each of us will be at the heart of the matter as we prayerfully decide the timetable for our return. To shape and guide us on that spiritual journey, God has given us insight into the hearts of His saints through the centuries to influence our spiritual hunger. Here is but a sampling:
David: “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord'” (Psa. 122:1; notice also Psa. 27:4).
Zechariah: “The inhabitants of one (city) will go to another, saying, ‘Let us go at once to entreat the favor of the Lord, and to seek the Lord of hosts; I will also go (some versions: “Let me go too!”)'” (8:21; the whole chapter is beautiful)
Luke: “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42; context shows them together day by day publicly and privately)
Hebrews’ writer: “Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds” (10:24, in the context of the assemblies).
But it’s the sons of Korah’s words in Psalm 84 that I want to close considering.
He saw assembling as “lovely” (1)–Appealing!
He saw assembling with “longing” (2)–Attractive!
He saw assembling as “logical” (3)–Appropriate!
He saw assembling as “lasting” (4,10)–Advantageous!
He saw assembling as “lavishing” (note “how blessed” throughout)–Abundance!
The separation and disruption was not of our choosing, but it might have and adverse effect upon us and cause us to forget the blessings of being together in praise and worship to our God. May the inspired words from saints like these help us fortify our souls as we anticipate the time when we are able once again meet each other in His presence for worship!
You can learn much by observing nature. Not only can one know God by looking at nature (Romans 1.18-20), he can learn specific lessons on various topics by looking at specific aspects of God’s creation (e.g. ants teach industry, Proverbs 6.6-8). I was watching a humorous scene outside my office window recently and was reminded of this.
Our household, despite being full of “dog-people,” has cats for “pets.” Let’s just say that we feed the cats and provide them outdoor shelter for keeping mice, moles, and snakes away from the house. In many respects, they’re feral but become domesticated long enough to eat the kibble we put out. And, if they feel like initiating it, contact resembling petting may occur. If there is one thing I don’t like about cats, though, it is their murderous nature. Even though well-fed, cats will kill for sport. 1
This latter observation creates a conflict for someone who has always enjoyed feeding and watching birds as well. We had to give up putting out birdseed when the cats became a part of our household. At first, the birds avoided our house. Yet, kittens learn by watching adult cats. If adult cats don’t teach kittens how to hunt, they aren’t as successful at it. As the senior hunters have passed from disease and predation or gone fully feral, being chased off by other cats, the birds have begun coming back without our encouragement. Frankly, I think a few of those “birdbrains” must be rather smart.
One such smarty was teasing one of our cats the other day. He or she served as a good example of the tempter. As Angelo, a cat with a pattern of “angel’s wings” on his back, was slowly climbing up a budding, dogwood tree, the bird did not fly away. Instead, the avian adversary just side-stepped further to the right out on to thinner branches. The higher Angelo climbed, the thinner the branch on which the bird rested became. It seemed as if the bird knew that if Angelo tried to pounce on him or her, he would go crashing to the ground while he or she would just fly away. Angelo really thought about his situation. It took him several minutes, but he finally understood that despite his prowess, continuing towards his coveted prize would lead to his harm. Thus, to his chagrin, he slowly made his way back down the tree to the safety of the ground below.
Herein is the lesson from nature. The tempter will lure you out from “relative safety” in order to bring your desire close, only to ensure when you pounce on it, you will end up falling flat on your face (consider Romans 6.23). We must ensure we are aware of where we are (Hebrews 2.1-4). The branches upon which we make our way may grow thin quickly, depriving us of a solid foundation, and causing us to fall.
Of a truth, no one ever sets out to fall, he just fails to appreciate the gravity of the situation. Keep your eyes on what lies beneath your feet (1 Corinthians 10.12).