Growing In Godliness Blog

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Be Like Christ

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Be Like Christ

By Randy Case, Jr.

The life of Christ is almost incomprehensible to the mere human. Leaving Heaven, a place where we strive to go, Jesus came to earth to fulfill God's plan. He took the form of a servant and fully obeyed the Father, humbly being put to death (Philippians 2:3-8).

We must follow Christ, imitating God and walking in love (Ephesians 5:1-2). We should WANT to fully comply with this command, after all it was Christ who 'gave Himself for us' (Ephesians 5:1).  He willingly endured the pain of the cross for us to be reconciled to God upon our obedience to His plan.

Jesus came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10) and in doing so became the greatest servant...to God and to others. This was exemplified during His life even with the words He spoke while on the cross. A servant's mentality is one of seeking out the needs of others and doing what he can do to meet those needs.

Scripture records seven statements of Jesus on the cross. Looking at the order of these, we gain further insight about His character. The first statement is in Luke 23:34, where Jesus asks God to forgive those who persecuted Him. As He hung on the cross, Jesus was focused on others, showing a love and concern for them. The second statement is in Luke 23:43, where Jesus told the thief that he would be with Him in paradise that very day. Again, a love and concern for this person. The third statement is in John 19:26-27, where Jesus addresses His mother. He made provisions for her to be taken care of by John. Jesus wasn't so preoccupied with His own suffering and death that He neglected the needs of His mother. In the fifth statement, Jesus said 'I am thirsty' (John 19:28). The humanity of Jesus is evident here and throughout the New Testament, having traits that we have (hunger, fatigue, sorrow, etc). Now, He makes a personal request.

In looking at these words, we gain insight into Jesus' priorities. Serving God and being fully obedient to His word took precedence in His life. God must be our main priority (Matthew 6:33), not family, friends or the world. Second, He was concerned with others. Even in the face of death and horrific pain, He expressed a concern for others. We should be concerned about our brethren, the sick, the shut in and those who are struggling spiritually and do what we can to help.

Being a servant is a great honor. It involves humility, obedience, joy and loyalty. In a me-first society, we should learn that we come last. Matthew 20:16 tells us that the first will be last and the last will be first. It's not all about us. A man's pride will bring him low, but a humble spirit will obtain him honor (Proverbs 29:23).

Self is the root of many problems. Selflessness is a characteristic that Christians must develop and maintain if we are to be pleasing to God. Jesus was the greatest example of a servant, lowly and humble, giving to others all that He could.

Fair Feathered Friends

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Fair Feathered Friends

By Sherry Hennecke

"Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?" (Matthew 6:26)

During one cold, snowy Kentucky morning, compassion for my backyard, fair-feathered friends--cardinal couples, cheery chickadees, whooshing woodpeckers, jovial jays, and assorted Aves-- led me to leave the warmth of my comfy afghan and hot cocoa to fill the backyard feeder with their favorite sunflower seeds. All morning long, the birdfeeder was a frenzy of activity, as the birds first cautiously approached to nearby tree branches and then, trusting in safety, came in close to be well-fed and to sustain their lives during the raging storm.

When the snowfall ceased, there was little activity at the feeder even though the same good food was there in abundance, safe and close by, freely available, good life-sustaining seed. Where did all my hungry, fair-feathered friends go? Was there better food in the forest? Were they filled and content? Had they migrated on to another feeder? Were they no longer in need of the nourishing, life sustaining seed? Throughout the afternoon, brief snow squalls would again populate my feeder with brisk activity; periods of calm weather would turn their attention away from my feeder.

These observations cause me to consider if I am sometimes a fair-weather friend to my Jesus.  Why and when do I come to my Savior for the bread of life and living water that he so freely provides for me? Do I only come to my Friend in the “snowy” times of life? Am I too often self-reliant and content? Is my attention focused on other “feeders?” Am I a picky eater or do I feast on His word? His life-sustaining seed is free, bountiful, and always available. All I need do is trust my Lord, come in close, be well fed and sustain my life in Him—every day—stormy or clear.

 

HIS EYE IS ON THE SPARROW

By Civilla Martin

Why should I feel discouraged, why should the shadows come,

Why should my heart be lonely, and long for heaven and home,

When Jesus is my portion? My constant friend is He:

His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

“Let not your heart be troubled,” His tender word I hear,

And resting on His goodness, I lose my doubts and fears;

Though by the path He leadeth, but one step I may see;

His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

Whenever I am tempted, whenever clouds arise,

When songs give place to sighing, when hope within me dies,

I draw the closer to Him, from care He sets me free;

His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;

I sing because I’m happy,

I sing because I’m free,

For His eye is on the sparrow,

And I know He watches me.

Why Suffering?

Monday, September 05, 2016

Why Suffering?

By Paul Earnhart

Job, out of his wretchedness and deep anguish, once declared, ”Man that is born of women is of few days and full of trouble" (14:1).  It may not be the whole story, but it is a significant part of it.  Early and late, all of us will face some heartbreaking adversities.  The presence of so much pain in life has caused some to question even the existence of God.  The trap in that is that we are arguing against God by a standard which cannot exist without Him.

The adversity in human life is real, not imagined.  The Bible deals forthrightly with it.  Solomon speaks plainly in Ecclesiastes not only of the presence of pain but the absence of justice in life "under the sun."  Most all of us have felt that knowing the why of all this suffering and who or what is behind it might help.  It is altogether human to probe into such things, but we need to recognize the limitations of our own knowledge (Deuteronomy 29:29).

In the fall of the year before He died, Jesus and His disciples came upon a beggar in Jerusalem which moved the disciples to ask, "Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he should be born blind?" (John 9:1).  They presumed that physical tragedy was always a result of divine judgment on sin.  Jesus' answer, "Neither . . .  but that the works of God should be revealed in him" opened up a much broader perspective on suffering.  This man's suffering had a purpose.  The disciples had seen it only as a consequence.

Where does suffering come from?  From several sources.  It can come from God, in the general suffering and death unleashed in the world after man sinned (Genesis 3:16-19; Romans 8:20), or in specific cases to humble or strengthen (Job, Miriam, Numbers 12:1-10, Manasseh, 2 Chronicles 33:10-20, and even Paul, 2 Corinthians 12:7).

It can come from Satan, through God's allowance, as illustrated in the case of the horrific suffering of the righteous Job.  Even Paul's "thorn in the flesh" was "a messenger of Satan" which God used for very different purposes than the Tempter intended.

It can come as the inevitable fruit of our own sins.  "The way of the transgressor is hard" (Proverbs 13:15).  Sin has its temporal consequences--physical, emotional and social.

Yet, at last, unless there is some direct link to our sin, it is very difficult to know the exact origins of our adversity.  And that is just as well, for far more important than knowing why we are suffering is our response to it.  Adversity, regardless of its source, is one of God's most effective tools to deepen our faith in Him and transform our lives.  So said the Psalmist: "Before I was afflicted I went astray.  But now I keep Your word . . . It is good that I have been afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes" (Psalm 119:67,72).  As C. S. Lewis once observed, "God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, and shouts at us in our pain".  And as Scripture observes, "Whom the Lord loves He chastens" (Hebrews 12:6).

The anguish of Christ on the cross reflects the influence of God (Isaiah 53:6), and Satan (Luke 22:3,4) and our own sins (1 Peter 2:24). Yet it was our Savior's trusting response to this awful suffering that enabled God to work by it something transcendently wonderful.  So it will be with us, if we choose our response to suffering wisely--especially when we don't understand why.  "For our light affliction, which is for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory" (2 Corinthians 4:17).  At last, like that ancient blind man, what we suffer here is in order that "the works of God may be revealed in us."

Getting Out of God's Way

Sunday, July 31, 2016
Getting Out of God's Way
By Tristan Ganchero
 
Imagine that there is an apartment building on fire. There are people trapped inside, and the fire is getting worse every second. We hear the sirens of a fire truck approaching and we feel a sense of relief as the firemen get out and approach the building. Help has arrived. But before they are able to enter the building, someone stops them, pulls them aside, and tells them that the situation is too dangerous. They might lose their lives. What would the firemen say? “Get out of the way! This is our job. We know the consequences. Every second we waste talking to you is one less second we have to save those who are trapped inside!”
 
We wouldn’t think very highly of anyone who tried to prevent firemen from saving those who were trapped in a burning building. But we often find ourselves hindering the work that needs to be done in our relationship with Jesus.
 
In Matthew 16:21-23, when Jesus began showing His disciples that He must suffer, die, and rise again in order to save them, Peter took Him aside and rebuked Him. Peter was hindering Jesus from getting the job done. So what was Jesus’ response? “Get out of the way, Satan!”
 
Peter had his own selfish plans for Jesus and it blinded him to God’s much bigger, better plan of salvation. We do the same when we choose our own selfish plans for our friendships, dating relationships, marriages, families, careers, education, etc.
 
So how do we get out of God’s way so that He can truly help us and fulfill His much bigger and better will in our lives? We get out of God’s way by...
 
#1 Trusting Him
God’s wisdom and understanding far exceeds our own (Romans 11:33). We need to trust that what He has revealed in His word is for our good, always, even if obedience means suffering physically or emotionally for a time (James 5:11).
 
#2 Following Him
Speaking of suffering, right after Jesus rebukes Peter in Matthew 16:23, he goes on to explain that those who want to follow Him must “deny himself and take up his cross” (Matthew 16:24-28). Picking up a cross doesn’t simply mean “bearing a burden” for a period of time. If someone was carrying a cross back then it meant that they were being executed. Our old self of sin needs to die through baptism (Romans 6).
 
#3 Living for Him
Having been united with Christ we need to remember every day that our lives are not our own. We live with Him, and in Him, and by faith in Him. And He lives in us. (Romans 6:5-11; Galatians 2:20).
 
#4 Thinking like Him
Peter hindered Jesus’ work because he was not “setting [his] mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” Our minds need to be constantly renewed by the power of the Holy Spirit through the word that He has revealed. We need to develop the mind of Christ by practicing humility and serving one another self-sacrificially (Philippians 2:1-11).
 
This mindset, and the path it leads us down, may prove to be difficult and filled with suffering, but we are in good company because that was Jesus’ path to glory. In that, we can rejoice with Paul because we too want to attain to the resurrection from the dead (Philippians 1:29; 3:8-11).
 
So how do we get out of God’s way so that He can rescue us from death and continue the work He began in us (Philippians 1:6)? We need to trust Him, follow Him, live for Him, and think like Him.
 
God bless.

Rethinking Our Walk in Christ

Saturday, July 02, 2016
Rethinking Our Walk in Christ
By Tom Rose
 
Christians desperately need to know how we can have a positive, optimistic, spiritual future while living in a disintegrating, chaotic and increasingly non-Christian society that threatens to take us down with it. A second urgent challenge concerning the Christian life is that it is so daily. It seems we never get a break because the world never stops its relentless, daily attempts to squeeze us into its mold. Both of these chronic issues can be solved by understanding Roman 12:1-2.
 
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God,
that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to
God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed
to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind,
that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect
will of God.”
 
Let’s begin by looking at the term sacrifice. We have been trained by our culture not to believe in sacrifice, but rather to believe instead that we can have it all. Indeed, we have everything we need at our finger tips with the touch of an app or a nearby shopping mall where we can get it instantly just by sliding a plastic card. However, Paul reminds these Roman Christians that when they were baptized into Christ, they chose to turn their body into a “living sacrifice” – one where the old man of sin is dead and buried and a new creature arises to live a new kind of life in sacrifice to God (Rom 6:3-11).
 
The concept of self-sacrifice is a prerequisite to the second idea in this passage: the renewing of our minds. The kind of sacrifice God requires comes from a renewal, a transformation, of one’s mind and life. Indeed, one cannot separate the idea of sacrifice from the concept of renewal as it is the transformation of our minds that will keep us from being conformed to the world in which we live.
 
But why did these First Century Christians entertain such a radical idea? The answer lies in the term “therefore.” In chapters 9 through 11 of Romans, Paul develops a sweeping view of God’s redemptive plan for Jews and Gentiles showing both are saved by the mercy of God. In those three chapters, which immediately precede the word “therefore,” the word mercy occurs nine times, and yet it occurs not a single time in chapters 1 through 8. In 12:1, Paul makes the connection between God’s mercy and our self-sacrifice by proposing: in view of the mercy God has offered, sacrifice yourself to Him, kill your old sin-infested self, and open yourself to a new life He offers by His loving mercy. He even adds that it is reasonable, logical, and credible to do so!
 
Although some of my readers are probably saying to themselves, “Yes, I’ve got all this, but what about this crazy world and all of its relentless pressures?” Return to the text where Paul lays out a twofold challenge in 12:2 to every child of God: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Rom 12:2). To better understand these two options, let us look at the meaning of these two words.
 
Be Conformed – Gk. Suschematizo, to become together with (like) another figure or shape. Only found twice in the New Testament where the word refers to “conformity to the world” in Romans 12:2, and “conformity to the lusts of the world and flesh” in 1 Peter 1:14.
 
Paul commands believers in Rome not to allow the world to conform them to its agenda, values, culture, norms, priorities, or expectations. The influences pushing at us from those external forces is powerful and unrelenting. In essence, it is loud, powerful and unstoppable. Perhaps two translations of this passage will help us get a better understanding:
 
“Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold.”
J.B. Phillips, The New Testament in Modern English
“Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it
without even thinking.” Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase from
The Message
 
The phrase “without even thinking” illustrates that the pressure to conform is so constant, so ongoing, so pervasive that it becomes part of the environment and thus, we no longer notice it.
 
Be Transformed – Gk. Metamorphoo, to form with. This compound word comes from our familiar word metamorphosis which is the process whereby a caterpillar turns into a butterfly.
 
What is most revealing about these two words is that both are always rendered in the passive voice. This means no one independently conforms or transforms himself, but rather is conformed or transformed by a process initiated by a power outside himself. In this verse, God has given Christians two commands, obeying the second gives us the power to obey the first.
 
DO NOT be conformed by the power of the world around you;
that power which comes from Satan.
DO submit to the process of transformation. The power to do
that comes from God and His Word.
 
It is vital to comprehend that it takes both an external and an internal effort to accomplish the renewing of one’s mind. The external dimension is exposure to the Word while the internal dimension is a cultivated heart and mind that want to be renewed.
 
What we learn from God’s Word and submission to Him does not change anything about our external circumstances. The world may still deteriorate; we may be persecuted or otherwise suffer. But what will change can be our minds, and that makes all the difference. The apostle Paul was one of the most abused, persecuted, and oft-imprisoned men who ever lived (see 2 Cor 11:23-28). Yet Paul was one of the most chronically joyful souls regardless of his circumstances or state of need (Phil 4:11). His joy and confidence came from his renewed mind and its strong connection to God.
 
We as Christians are to be a source of inspiration, making a difference in this world. In His first sermon Jesus urged His believers to be “salt” and “light.”
 
“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how
shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown
out and trampled underfoot by men.
You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot
be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but
on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good
works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Mt. 5:13-16
 
If we dare live our faith in open and transparent ways, the rest of the world could well see Christ living in us (Gal 2:20). In pre-refrigeration days, if a slab of salt-cured pork went bad, nobody blamed the pork. They blamed the quality, amount, or application of the salt. Salt and light radically impact everything they touch. People were attracted to Jesus because He was different. In Him they saw something that neither the Romans nor the established Jewish religion had to offer. Today, every time the world comes in contact with a Christian, a transference of hope, love, and relevancy should occur. If we are being transformed by that same Christ, people will be attracted to Him through our manifestation of His righteousness, His purpose, His love, and His unchanging ways.
 
Finally, we must address the daily struggle that confronts us living a faithful life as God’s children. In another reference to renewal Paul says, “The inward man is being renewed day by day” (2 Cor 4:16). Here, just like in Romans, the words are present-tense verbs, showing that it is a continuing, ever-present, never-ending reality that requires our “day-by-day” diligence.
If we will allow our minds to be renewed continually by the Word of God, we will spot immediately when we, or the world, have gone off course and need correction. We will not drift slowly, carried along by the winds of change. Rather, we will implement corrections in our course countless times each day – and that is why keeping the faith is such a daily occurrence.
 
A Christian who is transformed will learn the will of God, live the will of God, and love the will of God. Is it any wonder that a great Bible teacher, D.L. Moody exclaimed, “The Bible was not given for our information, but for our transformation.”

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