Learning To Be Like God

Learning To Be Like God

God created man in His own image. That means God intended for us to be just like Him. Obviously, that doesn’t mean we will be divine beings with supernatural powers, but it does mean that God wants us to have His characteristics.

Unfortunately, when Adam and Eve sinned, that all changed. Adam and Eve acquired a sin nature which has been passed on to us. The sin nature is a defect of character, and it prevents us from being like God.

However, God is gracious, and He has a plan to correct this problem. It’s called salvation. God sent Jesus into the world to pay for all the sins of mankind. That enables God to forgive men. However, men have to agree that they are sinners in need of forgiveness, and they have to accept God’s offer of forgiveness. When they do, God comes into their lives and begins to make them just like Him – which was His original plan before Adam and Eve sinned.

One of the characteristics that God works on is love. God wants us to love like He loves. His love is unselfish and unconditional. It ALWAYS wants the best for others, and it always leads to patient endurance.

People often tell me that they want to be more patient. I have even said that on many occasions, because I am not the most patient person. So, here’s the way to learn patience — it’s to love like God loves, and the only way to do that is to let Him teach us.

Galatians 5:22-23 says,

“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!”

The expression, “No law against these things”, means these behaviors cannot be legislated. You can’t pass a law that says love others or be joyful, or be patient or whatever.

Notice the first fruit is love. That’s God’s love – the kind of love we have been talking about. The passage says the Holy Spirit produces it, and He does it through our circumstances. So, when we are in a situation where we are called to love like God — we HAVE to ask Him to produce that kind of love in us — and we have to do it right then and there.

I recently had a situation where I had to do that. One of my extended family members decided to visit us. Unexpectedly. He called the day before and asked us to pick him up at the airport at 5:00 AM the next day. Needless to say, I was not pleased. So, I asked the Holy Spirit to produce in me love, so I could love him like He (the Holy Spirit) loves him. I found myself being courteous and gracious the entire time he was with us.

We have only talked about letting the Holy Spirit teach us how to love like God. However, we can ask Him to do the same for all the qualities listed in the Galatians 5:22-23 passage. That’s joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. As we allow Him to produce these fruits through the circumstances of our daily lives, we will become more and more like God. However, it’s a process. That means it takes time and diligence. However, it’s worth it.

If you haven’t yet done it — I strongly recommend that you give it a try …

Strength From God

Strength From God

2 Thessalonians 3:3 says, “But the Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one.

In this verse, Paul focuses on the struggles that were besetting the Thessalonians. They were new Christians and were under attack from Satan. However, Paul knew that the Lord was faithful.

Paul identified two things that God would do for the Thessalonians. He said God would strengthen them and guard them against the evil one. The evil one is Satan.

So, what is Paul talking about?

Well, strengthening is where God provides His strength in place of our human strength. That’s something God says we can ALWAYS count on. Let’s look at Deuteronomy 31:6.

“So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them (enemies). For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”

How good is that?

Paul also said that God would guard the Thessalonians against the evil one. That meant that God would limit Satan’s access to them.

Both strengthening and guarding are necessary to resist the strategies of the devil. Now I know Paul was talking to the Thessalonians, but this is true for us as well. If we try to resist the devil on our own — without what God offers — WE WILL FAIL. Has that ever happened to you?

OK, so how do we use this?

The answer is doing what is called “pleading the promises”. What that means is we find a promise of God that pertains to the situation we are involved with, and we ask God to do what He promises.

So, let’s say we believe Satan is attacking us. We can “plead the promise” in Deuteronomy 31:6. We can do that through prayer. Let me show you how.

Dear Lord, You tell me in Deuteronomy 31:6 to be strong and courageous. You tell me not to be afraid or panic. You promise that You will go before me and You will not fail or abandon me. I believe You. Right now I believe I am under attack from Satan. Here’s what’s going on ______________________________________. I trust You and I ask You to strengthen and guard me from him – just as You promised to do for the Thessalonians in 2 Thessalonians 3:3. Thank You for doing that. In Jesus name, I pray. Amen.

That’s a prayer God will ALWAYS answer, because it lines up with what He promises to do. God is faithful and He will ALWAYS do what He says He will do.

So, the next time you feel that you are under attack from Satan, or under attack from any other place, try it out. I know you will be amazed….

The Day of the Lord Part 3

In 1 Thessalonians 5:6-8 Paul gave the Thessalonians a command.

“So be on your guard, not asleep like the others. Stay alert and be clearheaded. Night is the time when people sleep and drinkers get drunk. But let us who live in the light be clearheaded, protected by the armor of faith and love, and wearing as our helmet the confidence of our salvation.”

Paul says, “be on your guard”. That means watch for the signs that Jesus predicted about the Day of the Lord. Be clearheaded means don’t let anyone tell you that there are other signs. Don’t fall asleep means don’t become complacent – keep looking for the signs. Continue to live in the light means continue to follow the Word of God.

Paul told the Thessalonians that they had special protection. They had the armor of faith and love and the helmet of salvation. So, what are these elements of protection and how do they work?

Well, first of all – let’s talk about faith. Faith – for all that it is or isn’t — is based on God’s love. That’s why Paul calls it the armor of faith AND love. Let me explain what I mean. God loves us unconditionally. To demonstrate His love, He has given us over 7000 promises of things He wants to do for us, and when we believe His promises and act on them – our faith is increased. That’s because God always does what He says He will do, and as our faith grows – we start depending on God more and more.

Let me give you an example. Let’s look at Isaiah 41:10.

“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.”

This is a great promise of God. It says when we believe that God is with us — and that He’s our God. He will do 3 things. He will strengthen us – help us – and hold us up. How good is that? That’s everything we could ever need. And when we see God doing these three things — our faith grows, and our trust in God grows. That’s the key to living the Christians life.

OK, let’s talk about the helmet of salvation. Salvation acts like a helmet, because it protects our minds. Satan loves to play with our minds. One of his favorite strategies is to point out our failures and weaknesses and tell us that God is disappointed in us. The antidote to these attacks is salvation. Salvation tells us that God has removed our sins, and He’s making us perfect. Yes, we’ll still fail — and we’ll still have weaknesses — but that’s not the end of the story. God will complete His work and make us perfect. So, you can see how salvation protects our minds from Satan’s lies.

So there you have it. The Day of the Lord is coming. There are signs that we can look for which herald its arrival. We need to look for them and be ready ………

The Day of the Lord Part 2

Several weeks ago we began a discussion of the “end times”. We talked about an event known as the “Day of the Lord”. We said this is when Jesus comes back to take His church to heaven and end world history as we know it.

Jesus’ disciples were aware that these events were coming, but they wanted to know when. So, they asked Him, and He told them. Jesus said one of the “signs” of the coming events is called the “birth pains”. Let’s look at what He said in Matthew 24:3-8.

“Later, Jesus sat on the Mount of Olives. His disciples came to him privately and said, ‘Tell us, when will all this happen? What sign will signal your return and the end of the world?’ Jesus told them, ‘Don’t let anyone mislead you, for many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah.’ They will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and threats of wars, but don’t panic. Yes, these things must take place, but the end won’t follow immediately. Nation will go to war against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in many parts of the world. But all this is only the first of the birth pains, with more to come.’”

Jesus used the term, “birth pains” to describe a series of preliminary events which lead up to the “Day of the Lord”. He said there will be a proliferation of false teachers. Some will even claim to be the Messiah. Many people will be deceived. And He said there will be lots of wars, famines, and earthquakes all over the world.

So, let me ask you. Do we see these things happening today? Absolutely. Some say even in increasing amounts. But here’s the important question. Are these things occurring in sufficient amounts to inspire a one world government to form? In our last blog we talked about this. We said a one world government — with a leader known as the antichrist – is predicted to be in place at the time the Day of the Lord occurs.

So, do we see that happening now? In other words — is there someone on the world scene today that says, “The world’s a mess, but I have the solution for world peace and economic harmony. Please follow me.”

I don’t see anyone like that – at least not yet.

When a woman is pregnant, birth pains are the signs that the birth of her child is eminent. In the case of the “Day of the Lord” birth pains are wars – rumors of wars and all the other things that Jesus predicted. I believe these birth pains will set the stage for this person known as antichrist to rise to world prominence.

So, back to the question — when are the birth pains going to start? Have they already started? No one knows for sure.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:4-5 Paul talked about this. Let’s look at what he said.

“But you aren’t in the dark about these things, dear brothers and sisters, and you won’t be surprised when the day of the Lord comes like a thief. For you are all children of the light and of the day; we don’t belong to darkness and night.”

When Paul starts with the words, “But you” — he is making a transition from a prior statement where he talked about people who were ignorant of the signs of the end. He says the Thessalonians are not ignorant. He says, “You are not in the dark”. He says they are children of the light and the day. He says people who belong to darkness and night can’t see the truth of God.

And then in 1 Thessalonians 5:6-8 Paul gives the Thessalonians a command.

“So be on your guard, not asleep like the others. Stay alert and be clearheaded. Night is the time when people sleep and drinkers get drunk. But let us who live in the light be clearheaded, protected by the armor of faith and love, and wearing as our helmet the confidence of our salvation.”

Paul says, “be on your guard”. That means watch for the signs that Jesus predicted. Be clearheaded means don’t let anyone tell you that there are other signs. Don’t fall asleep means don’t become complacent – keep looking for the signs. Continue to live in the light means continue to follow the Word of God.

Paul told the Thessalonians that they had special protection. They had the armor of faith and love and the helmet of salvation. So, what are these elements of protection and how do they work?

Well, that’s what we will talk about next time. Until then have a great week…

Recasting The Vision Part 2

More About Vision Recasting At River Recovery Church

Last week we described the vision for River Recovery Church. For purposes of review I put the River vision into this blog. Here it is:
We believe God has called the “River” to make disciples (followers of Jesus) by teaching them to obey all of His commands.

“Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20

Why the “River”?

• We believe Jesus has the answers to life’s problems. We all have problems that impact our lives. Often, when these problems get out of control, they can cause more serious problems. We need answers, and the answers are found in Jesus’ commands. We ask you to come and find out what He says and try it out. If it works — GREAT! YOU ARE ON THE ROAD TO HEALING! If you come away unconvinced that the answers work, you haven’t lost anything except a little time.
We implement what Jesus says is true. At River Recovery Church we believe that Jesus created the universe and everything in it. He knows how things work. That puts Him in the best position to fix things that are broken, and He wants to do that. We just need to give Him a chance. Jesus said,

“Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends. Revelation 3:20
Jesus is knocking. Do you hear Him? He wants to come in and spend time with us. So, open the door and invite Him in!
We know that Jesus heals. One of Jesus’ favorite questions was, “What can I do for you?” Many people said they wanted to be healed. Jesus always responded, and He healed everyone who asked. You can expect the same from His as well – all you need to do is ask Him.
• We ask you to come to the “River”. We meet every Sunday at 11:00 am, and we also offer Celebrate Recovery every Friday night at 7:00 p.m.

Our Core Values

• We love God and we love our neighbors
“Jesus replied, ‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and your entire mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your NEIGHBOR as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40
We meet needs
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.” Matthew 25:34-36
OK, that’s the vision. Let’s talk about our plan to fulfill the vision.

We plan to identify needs in the community that we can meet. We will start in the immediate area around our church. There is a senior center located nearby, so we believe this is a good place to begin. To help identify ways to serve the people in this center, we are going to do the following:

1. Form a community outreach team. Members will be from River Recovery Church as well as people from the community who are interested.

2. Meet with the management of the center and tell them of our interest in helping the people in the complex. We will ask for their recommendations of what we can do.

3. We will ask permission from the management team in the center to send a letter to each resident. The letter will introduce our church and ask them to tell us areas where they need help.

4. As the seniors let us know about their needs, we will mobilize to meet them through our community outreach team.

5. And as we meet needs of the seniors, we will tell them about Jesus and invite them to the “River”.

At the “River” …

• We will preach the gospel.
• We will explain the commandments of Jesus.
• We will talk about how to be blessed by obeying them.

That’s our simple plan. If you have any comments or are interested in participating, let me know.….

Recasting The Vision Part 1

Recasting The Vision at The River

There is an interesting story in the Book of Nehemiah about the dynamics of accomplishing tasks.

Nehemiah was a Jew in the Assyrian court of King Artaxerxes. He was the cup bearer to the king. This job was a very responsible and prestigious position.  In those days it was common practice to assassinate a head of state through poisoning, so the cupbearer would taste the king’s wine before the king would drink it. As a result of this position Nehemiah and the king became close.

One day Nehemiah learned that the walls of his beloved city, Jerusalem were torn down and were in shambles. Walls around a city were the most important means of defending a city against marauders. Nehemiah became visibly distressed, and this was noticed by the king. The king asked Nehemiah why, so he told him. He told the king about the condition of the walls in Jerusalem, and he told the king that he a plan to rebuild the walls. He asked the king for the necessary time off from his job — as well as all the resources he would need to accomplish his plan.  The king granted his request.

So, Nehemiah recruited some fellow Jews and journeyed to Jerusalem. When he arrived, he implemented his plan to rebuild the walls. About halfway through the project the people started getting tired and discouraged and wanted to give up. They lost their sense of purpose and, as a result, became overwhelmed with fatigue, frustration and fear. The people were concerned that they would be attacked by their enemies while they were working on the wall, So Nehemiah did two things:

  •  He reorganized all the work crews by appointing armed guards in each crew.
  • And re-energized the people by recasting the vision.

Alright, we can understand setting up armed guards, but what does recasting the vision mean? Well, very simply it’s reminding everybody in an endeavor about the goals of that endeavor. It’s reminding them of the purpose of the organization and why they are doing what they are doing. In Nehemiah’s case, he reminded the people of the importance of rebuilding the walls. The walls were necessary to defend God’s city from invaders.

This story has great application for the River church. It occurred to me that we have not talked about our vision in a long time. The River vision is what we are appointed to do and how we are going to do it.

So, I decided to “recast the vision”.

Here is the River Vision:

We believe God has called the “River” to make disciples (followers of Jesus) by teaching them to obey all of His commands.

“Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20

Why the “River”?

We believe Jesus has the answers to life’s problems. We all have problems that impact our lives. Often, when these problems get out of control, they can cause more serious problems. We need answers, and the answers are found in Jesus’ commands. We ask you to come and find out what He says and try it out. If it works — GREAT!  YOU ARE ON THE ROAD TO HEALING! If you come away unconvinced that the answers work, you haven’t lost anything except a little time.

We implement what Jesus says is true. At River Recovery Church we believe that Jesus created the universe and everything in it. He knows how things work. That puts Him in the best position to fix things that are broken, and He wants to do that. We just need to give Him a chance. Jesus said,
“Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends”. Revelation 3:20

Jesus is knocking. Do you hear Him? He wants to come in and spend time with us. So, open the door and invite Him in!

We know that Jesus heals. One of Jesus’ favorite questions was, “What can I do for you?” Many people said they wanted to be healed. Jesus always responded, and He healed everyone who asked. You can expect the same from His as well – all you need to do is ask Him.

We ask you to come to the “River”. We meet every Sunday at 11:00 am, and we also offer Celebrate Recovery every Friday night at 7:00 p.m.

Our Core Values

  • We love God and we love our neighbors
    “Jesus replied, ‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and your entire mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your NEIGHBOR as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40
  • We meet needs
    “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.” Matthew 25:34-36

 Our plan

We identify needs in the community that we can meet.

  • We mobilize to meet them.
  • We tell people that we are doing it in the name of Jesus.
  • We invite people to come to the “River”.

At the “River” …

  • We preach the gospel.
  • We explain the commandments of Jesus.
  • We talk about how to obey them.
  • The result is changed lives.

Next week we will talk about how we implement the vision. Until then, have a good week …

The Day Of The Lord

In this blog we are going to talk about a future event known as “The Day of the Lord”. This event occurs during the last the last seven years of earth’s history which is often called the “end times”. During the “end times” God does several things:

• First He removes the Jesus’ entire church from the earth, and He takes it to heaven. That’s called the Rapture.
• The second thing God does (AFTER THE RAPTURE) is pour out progressive judgements on the world. His goal is to motivate people (who are left after the Rapture) to repent.

During his second missionary journey Paul went to Thessalonica. He was there a short time, but he preached the gospel and taught basic Christine doctrine to the Thessalonians. Unfortunately, he had to leave prematurely due to severe opposition from the Jews. However, he maintained contact with the Thessalonian believers through his letters. He would write to them and they would write him back.

In one of their letters the Thessalonians expressed concern that they had missed the Rapture and were in the period of God’s wrath, because they were experiencing heavy persecution. Paul responds to their concerns. Let’s look at what he said in 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

1 Now concerning how and when all this will happen, dear brothers and sisters, we don’t really need to write you.
2 For you know quite well that the day of the Lord’s return will come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night.
3 When people are saying, “Everything is peaceful and secure,” then disaster will fall on them as suddenly as a pregnant woman’s labor pains begin. And there will be no escape.
4 But you aren’t in the dark about these things, dear brothers and sisters, and you won’t be surprised when the day of the Lord comes like a thief.
5 For you are all children of the light and of the day; we don’t belong to darkness and night.
6 So be on your guard, not asleep like the others. Stay alert and be clearheaded.
7 Night is the time when people sleep and drinkers get drunk.
8 But let us who live in the light be clearheaded, protected by the armor of faith and love, and wearing as our helmet the confidence of our salvation.
9 For God chose to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out his anger (wrath) on us.
10 Christ died for us so that, whether we are dead or alive when he returns, we can live with him forever.
11 So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 NLT

In verses 1-2 Paul assures the Thessalonians that the Rapture had not occurred.

Paul says nobody knows when the Rapture will happen. It will come unexpectedly – like a “thief in the night”.

The problem was the Thessalonians misread the signs. They thought the Wrath of God was underway, because they were experiencing persecution. And since they were still on earth, they thought they missed the Rapture.

Now the Bible does teach that Christians will have troubles and difficulties in this life. It’s part of the daily walk. Jesus told us that in John 16:32-33.

“But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when you will be scattered, each one going his own way, leaving me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me (He is talking about when He will be arrested). I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

Jesus says since He had trouble in this world — His followers (Christians) can expect the same. However, Jesus said He overcame the world – meaning He prevailed over His troubles – so we can do the same. The Thessalonians were having troubles to be sure, but they were not God’s wrath. They were experiencing the trials and sorrows that Jesus had predicted.

In verse 3 Paul talks about another sign of the “Day of the Lord”.

He says there will be a general feeling of peace and security on a worldwide basis. That makes sense because the “Day of the Lord” is a worldwide event. So, that raises a question. How can there be peace and security all over the world? We know how much strife is in the world is right now. There are wars — rumors of wars — natural disasters — pestilence – poverty — death – decay – and so on. How can that all change to an environment where everyone is feeling comfortable and secure — on a global scale — if you can imagine! That seems impossible.

However, the Bible teaches that there will be a one world government at that future time. There will be no more superpowers like there are today. There will still be large groups of people – like the Russian bloc and the Chinese bloc – and others.

The Bible teaches that the leader of this one world government will be a person known as the Antichrist, and the economic system of the world will be under his total control. So, it’s conceivable that there could be worldwide economic stability. And wars (which are normally economically driven) will be less likely since military power will also be under his control.

Paul says that’s when disaster will come – he says it will come like a woman’s labor pains.

I am sorry to have to do this — but I am going to stop our discussion right here. That may seem a bit arbitrary, but there is so much more to discuss. So, I have decided to cover it in our next blog or blogs. Next week we will get into labor pains and how they fit into the end times scenario.

Until then, have a great week …

Living To Please God Part 3- Living The Quiet Life

Live the Quiet LifeLove Them Even More

In our last two blogs we have talking about how to please God. Today we are going to finish up our discussion, and to help us do that we are going to look at 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12.

9 But we don’t need to write to you about the importance of loving each other, for God himself has taught you to love one another.
10 Indeed, you already show your love for all the believers throughout Macedonia. Even so, dear brothers and sisters, we urge you to love them even more.
11 Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before.
12 Then people who are not Christians will respect the way you live, and you will not need to depend on others.

In verses 9-10 once again Paul is talking about love. In our past blogs we said love is the first fruit of the Holy Spirit. For that reason many Bible commentators think that it’s the most important fruit.

Paul himself has commented on the three cardinal virtues – faith, hope and love, and he said love was the greatest. Jesus told us that love was the salient characteristic of His disciples. So, it seems appropriate that Paul would come back to love, and exhort the Thessalonians to keep on loving – more and more.

The Apostle John told us that GOD IS LOVE, so if we want to become more like God — we must learn to love like God. In verses 11-12 Paul gives some general advice on how to do that. In verse 11 he says, “Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands.”

I think most people would agree that our lifestyles in this country have become generally frantic. People are constantly coming and going — moving and doing. Very little time is devoted to reflection and quiet contemplation. Paul says we need to slow down and focus on our own lives.

Do you know that God wants us to be quiet? He tells us in Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God”. It’s not God’s way to compete with a din of noise and distraction. He wants us to slow down, so we can hear Him.
In verse 12 Paul says, “Then people who are not Christians will respect the way you live, and you will not need to depend on others.” Paul is talking about one of the keys to evangelism., which is being a good witness to non-believers. When Christians exhibit lives full of love — lives that are under control — lives that are self-contained — they present a powerful testimony for Christ.

Let me close our discussion today by asking you a question. If you were to summarize Paul’s suggestions for pleasing God — with one sentence — what would you come up with? Just one sentence to summarize everything we have discussed thus far in our last three blogs.

Here’s what I would say would be a good summarization:
“Submit to the Holy Spirit in everything I do.”

I believe if we consistently did that — we would please God. Why? Because He would be directing our lives. How could we go wrong with that?

Today I would like to close our three blog series with prayer:
Lord, Thank You for these blogs. We now have the keys to pleasing You. We desire to do that. Please bring to mind our need to depend on You for everything as situations come up. Thank You for all that You have done and are doing in our lives. In Jesus name, we pray. Amen

At this time I would like to remind you that we have our Sunday service every Sunday at 11:00 am at 890 Fargo Street in San Leandro. This Sunday we will be talking about prayer. Specifically, we will be talking about how to pray in such a way as to get our prayers answered. Why not check us out?

Sanctification- or Living To Please God Part 2

Sanctification

Last week we started a discussion about living in a way that pleases God. We talked about pursuing sanctification which is the process of allowing God to change us into His image. We said this was a lifelong process, requiring daily submission to the Lord’s leading.

This is a good description of the Christian walk. It’s a moment by moment – circumstance by circumstance – focusing on what the Lord wants us to do, AND at the same time appropriating power from the Holy Spirit to do it.

Today we are going to talk about a specific area of the Christian walk where obedience is difficult but essential. We will be talking about sexuality.

In First Thessalonians 4:3-8 Paul focuses on sexuality.

3 God’s will is for you to be holy, so stay away from all sexual sin.
4 Then each of you will control his own body and live in holiness and honor—
5 Not in lustful passion like the pagans who do not know God and his ways.
6 Never harm or cheat a Christian brother in this matter by violating his wife, for the Lord avenges all such sins, as we have solemnly warned you before.
7 God has called us to live holy lives, not impure lives.
8 Therefore, anyone who refuses to live by these rules is not disobeying human teaching but is rejecting God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you. 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8 NLT

Sexual immorality was a huge problem in Paul’s day – perhaps even more than it is today. We know the Thessalonian society was pagan. The city was rife with sinful practices such as fornication, adultery, homosexuality, pedophilia, transvestism and many other sexual sins. In addition, the multi-theistic religions that were practiced in Thessalonica advocated ritual prostitution. It was believed that people could connect with the gods through the prostitutes that represented them — so it was generally felt that promiscuous sexual activity in all forms was permissible.

Paul knew that many of the newly converted Thessalonian Christians had been involved is these sexual sins, and it was necessary for them to abandon them. However, he knew that it was going to be difficult. So he addressed this problem in the verses we just looked at.

In verse 3 Paul says it’s “God’s will for you to be holy, so stay away from all sexual sin.”

We know God invented sex, but He wants it confined to the marriage relationship. He is not pleased when sexual behavior is expressed in any other way. This idea is discussed throughout the Bible. For example, let’s look at Hebrews 13:4.

“Give honor to marriage, and remain faithful to one another in marriage. God will surely judge people who are immoral and those who commit adultery.”

This passage is talking about sexual acts. However, sexual purity involves more than just physical acts – it also includes our thought life. Let’s look at the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:27-28.

“You have heard the commandment that says, ‘You must not commit adultery.’ But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

That raises a question — how does one maintain sexually purity? Well, fortunately, Paul gives us the answer in Galatians 5:22-23.

“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!”

The Holy Spirit controls the sanctification process in Christians, and He does it by producing the fruit listed in the Galatians passage. So in the case of sexual purity the primary fruit that’s needed is love.

This kind of love is called agape love, which is the way God loves. AGAPE LOVE IS THE ANTIDOTE TO SEXUAL LUST. If I loved my wife as God loves her — I would not cheat on her. I would not look at other women, and I would not look at pornography.
If I loved my brother as God loves him, I would not have sex with his wife.
If I loved my family as God loves them, I would not engage in incestuous relationships.
And so on.
OK so how do I get the Holy Spirit to implement the fruit of love? Let’s say I am having a problem with sexual lust. Since I know agape love is the antidote, I talk to the Holy Spirit. Here’s an example of such a conversation:

Dear Holy Spirit. I am struggling with sexual lust. Here’s what’s going on _________________. I need Your help. In Galatians 5:22-23 You promise to produce YOUR fruit in my life as I need it. I know this fruit is godly behavior. I don’t have the ability to produce such behavior, but I know You can and will. Please produce in me YOUR fruit of love for this particular situation. Please produce any other fruit that I need as well. Thank You for doing this. I look forward to victory over this potential sin. Amen

That’s a prayer that He will always answer, so I recommend you memorize it and use it often.

Let me close by giving you a startling fact. Paul says in verse 8 that when we ignore these teachings – WE ARE REJECTING GOD! Wow! I can’t think of anything more serious than that…. So give it some careful thought.

Next week we will finish our discussion on pleasing God.

See you then ….

Living to Please God Part 1

How To Excel in Your Christian Walk

Living the Christian walk.

How to excel in your Christian walk

In 1 Thessalonians 4:1-2 Paul encourages the Thessalonians to excel in their Christian walk. He says,

1. Finally, dear brothers and sisters, we urge you in the name of the Lord Jesus to live in a way that pleases God, as we have taught you. You live this way already, and we encourage you to do so even more.
2. For you remember what we taught you by the authority of the Lord Jesus.

Paul is telling the Thessalonians, “You guys are doing a good job in your Christian walk. However, you need to take it to the next level. You need to pursue sanctification.”

OK, so what is sanctification? That’s a good question, because many Christians today don’t fully understand what it is. They know they’re saved. They’ve accepted Jesus’ payment for their sins. They know the Holy Spirit lives within them, but they don’t know why He is there.

So let’s talk about it.

The Holy Spirit lives in Christians to change them and make them perfect. That’s God’s plan for all Christians. The problem is Christians can’t achieve perfection on their own, because they have a sin nature. So they need God, the Holy Spirit, Who can deal with the sin nature and make perfection happen. However, it’s a lifelong process. Let’s look at what Paul says about it in Philippians 3:12-14,

“I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me (Jesus desire is to make us perfect). No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.”

Two times in this passage Paul says, “I press on”. Paul is talking about cooperating with the Holy Spirit in everything he does. He says he’s only looking forward. He’s only looking at what he has to do — and how he is going to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in doing it. That’s pressing on, and Paul’s point is we need to do the same thing.

Let’s go back to the verses at the beginning of our blog. In these verses Paul outlines two essential elements in the pursuit of perfection. He talks about the priority of pursuing perfection, and he talks about the reason for pursuing perfection. Let’s talk about each one — starting with the priority of pursuing perfection.

In verse 1 Paul asks the Thessalonians to do even more.

He starts the verse with the word, “finally”. This is because in the past he has given the Thessalonians a lot of doctrine. This doctrine is covered in the first three chapters of the book of 1 Thessalonians. Now he’s saying, “Finally – after giving you all this doctrine — I want you to put it into practice”. In other words, “I want you to live in a way that’s pleasing to God, and I want you to do it more and more.”

Paul is being gentle. His only focus is pleasing God. He knows that can only happen when Christians are obedient to what Christ has commanded them to do. Jesus told us the same thing in John 14:23.

“Jesus replied, “All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them.”

This is an astonishing passage. It says when we are obedient — the Father and the Son will come to indwell us! That’s amazing! Not only do we have the Holy Spirit, but we also have the Father and Son! We actually have the Triune Godhead living in us! Now if that doesn’t blow your mind, I don’t what will!

Paul also talks about the reason for pursuing perfection.

He says, “We urge you in the name of the Lord Jesus to live in a way that PLEASES GOD…”

So based on what we have said so far, we can conclude that spiritual growth (pursuing sanctification) is LIVING IN A WAY THAT PLEASES GOD. However, it’s important to understand that this is a lifelong process. That means we have to walk in DAILY OBEDIENCE.

That describes the Christian walk. It’s the moment by moment – circumstance by circumstance – focusing on what the Lord wants us to do. AND appropriating power from the Holy Spirit to do it.

Next week we will zero in on a specific area of the Christian walk where obedience is difficult but essential. We will be talking about sexuality.

Until then have a good week …