Growing In Godliness Blog

Growing In Godliness Blog

Transformed

Getting Back to the Basics of Being a Christian

Monday, January 23, 2023

Getting Back to the Basics of Being a Christian

By Gary Watson

As a teacher I long ago learned that youngsters cannot learn without knowing some basics such as reading, writing, math computation, etc.  Maybe we sometimes forget some basics of pleasing God.

I remember a little sentence which says that what it means to be a Christian is to know that without Christ, I am nothing.  Self examination should prompt us to evaluate whether our lives are something if we are pursuing what it means to please God.

If I am pleasing God, I will do what He wants me to do and be what he wants me to be.  Obviously, I do not deserve salvation for my meritorious works (Ephesians 2:8-10), but if I am trying to please God, I will do His works.

What will a faithful Christian do?  Here are a few suggestions for us to think about:

1). Spend time in the Word so that I will know what to follow and what not to follow.

  • Psalm 1:1-2: 1 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.

2). Pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Communicating with the Father through prayer has many beneficial blessings.  Here is one of many:

  • Matthew 26:41: Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.

3). Meet often with Christians.  We should know that attendance alone is not a good work that merits salvation, but there are several reasons that we should meet with fellow Christians.

  • First, it is a command according to Hebrews 10:24-25:

24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

  • In addition to being a command, we also worship God and remember His Son’s death on the first day of the week.  Some might ask, “Well, how often should I assemble?”  That is a works focus rather than a spiritually minded focus.  If the doors are open and you are able, assemble.

4). Let my light shine.

  • Our influence on others should be apparent in our lives.  Here again, how we live does make a difference, for our manner of life should have an influence on others for the right reason.
  • Matt. 5:13-16: 13 You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet.14 You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

5). Teach others

  • There are many ways we can teach others: verbal teaching of the Word to those who are willing to listen, inviting others to assemblies, and living a life pleasing to God are a few.

2 Timothy 2:1-2: 1 You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, 2 and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.

6). Love the Brotherhood. 

  • 1 Peter 2:17: Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.
  • The apostle John wants us to know this, as written in 1 John 3:14-18.
    14 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death. 15 Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. 16 By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17 But whoever has this world's goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? 18 My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.
  • “There are some simple signs of affection, which - if genuine - are perfectly right and to be encouraged, but do not in themselves fulfill the full measure of brotherly love. To smile and greet your brethren with warmth, courtesy and hospitality. To shake someone's hand or give someone a hug. That kind of attention is certainly acceptable and can be of service in our relationships with each other.
    “But let's not entertain the idea that these gestures somehow complete our obligation. The apostle John is telling us of the extent of brotherly love. Verse 16 requires no spin; it is not written in apocalyptic language. ‘By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.’
    “This is love for the brethren that finds ultimate expression in an act of sacrifice that is exemplified by THE SACRIFICE of all sacrifices. The question needs a lot of thought. I shake hands with my brethren; I greet Christians; I may give someone a hug and to the extent of my ability, I may write a check to help a brother in need. All of that is fine - but I'm not yet to the matter at hand. Would I give my life for the good of my brother in Christ? Let's be clear, John says we ought to! This is not about dying for buildings or even an idea! NO, this is giving yourself, your life, for your brother. That's what it means to love the brotherhood.” (By Warren E. Berkley from Expository Files 14.4; April 2007) 1.

7). Always use pure speech. 

  • God’s Word is full of admonitions about what we say and the way we say it.  James 3:10-12: 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. 11 Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? 12 Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.

James 1:19-21: 19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. 21 Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.

  • Never holding a grudge is an integral part of pure speech and proper attitude.

Eph. 4:31-32: 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

8). Follow Jesus' example.

  • 1 Peter 2: 21: For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.
  • “Jesus left us the perfect example. He is the perfect "writing copy" we must strive to reproduce in our own life. His sinless perfection is apparent from the couplet quoted from Isaiah 53:9:  "Who committed no sin, Nor was guile found in his mouth." While Peter refers especially to Jesus' perfect example of patience in suffering, Isaiah spoke prophetically of the Lord's absolute freedom from sin, as other writers and the history of Jesus' life show. No other human ever lived without sin. Even the most righteous men are examples to others only as they follow Jesus (1 Cor. 11:1). Jesus lived above sin because he had perfect self-control and because he had a perfect consciousness of God, being fully committed to him in all things.” (Earl Kimbrough in Guardian of Truth XXXVIII, No. 22, p. 1, December 1, 1994)

9). Buy the truth.

  • God’s truth is so valuable that we should invest in it heavily.  We should live by God’s truth, study His truth, make application of His truth to our lives.

2 Thess. 2:10-12: 10 and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11 Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, 12 in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

Proverbs 23:23 Buy truth, and do not sell it; buy wisdom, instruction, and understanding.

10). Not resent correction.

  • It is easy to become defensive when others ask us about our actions and words and offer correction.

Hebrews 12:5-11: 5 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?  My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him.  For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.  It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us, and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Let us strive to be Christians who please God.

 

1.The section quoted in number 6 comes from Expository Files.  Following is a quote on using material from their site: “Feel free to upload EXPOSITORY FILES into local BBS networks. And, if you want your friends and associates to have a copy, regard this as freeware; load it onto a disk and pass it on.”

2.Scripture quotes are from the ESV.

 

Ready To Listen

Thursday, February 03, 2022

Ready To Listen

By David Norfleet

For anyone that has been in a relationship for very long, you know it is easier to stick your foot in your mouth than to take it out.  We often or frequently need help with how to communicate with others effectively.  James does so by providing inspired instruction that will help in those situations. He wrote in James 1:19, “This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger.” If we would heed this instruction it would help in all our inter-personal relationships, but especially our relationship with God.  And that seems to be James’ primary application as he points to the word of God in James 1:21, “…in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls.”

So, what does it means to be “quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger” with respect to God’s word?

To be quick to hear points to an eagerness to learn and a willingness to accept the things God has to say to us.  We want instruction. We want counsel. We want wisdom from heaven. We need help. This idea is more of a disposition than an action, and it begins with humility – a recognition that we don’t have all the answers, but God does. Peter wrote in I Peter 2:2, “like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation.”  Jesus knew of the importance of this quality in His followers so He wrote in Mark 4:24, “Take heed what you hear.”

How does being slow to speak relate to a reception of God’s word? It is generally true when you're talking or even thinking about what to say you are not listening. There is proven value in speaking less and listening more (Proverbs 10:19; 17:28), but it is critical when attending to God.  In this text being slow to speak may actually mean “slowness to start speaking,” and have specific reference to ill-considered reactions to what God has said. How will we ever receive God’s instruction if we do all the talking or if we thoughtlessly react to justify ourselves, negate Scripture’s demands, or explain the Bible away?  Our attitude needs to reflect the words of Samuel, “Speak, for Your servant is listening.” (I Samuel 3:9-10)

What do you do when God’s word steps on your toes?  Maybe you’re reading it, or hearing it preached. It says something that you don’t like, because it confronts the way you think or live. Do you get angry and defensive, thinking, “What right does that preacher have to say that? How dare he tell me how to live!” Do you have these “flash-reactions” when your conscience is pricked?  That is why it is so important to be slow to anger, as an angry spirit is not a teachable spirit.  As James would write, “…the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.” (James 1:20)

Popular author Francis Chan stated, “Whenever I read the Bible and come across something that I disagree with, I have to assume I am wrong.”  He understands that the word of God and our reception of it is vital as it reveals, reproves, corrects, trains, revives us, directs us, keeps us from sin, and reveals God to us (Ephesians 3:1-4; II Timothy 3:16; Psalm 119:50, 105; Psalm 19). It is no wonder the psalmist would write, “I opened my mouth wide and panted, for I longed for your commandments.” (Psalm 119:131) If we could only get out of our own way God wants to transform us through His word, James tries to help us with that by reminding us to be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger.

Worldliness vs. Godliness

Friday, March 03, 2017

Worldliness vs. Godliness

By Brock Henry

“You and I have need of the strongest spell that can be found to wake us from the evil enchantment of worldliness.” (C.S. Lewis)

Few distinctions are more clearly delineated in Scripture than the one between worldliness and godliness. In no uncertain terms, Scripture indicates that the character promoted by the world is diametrically opposed to the character promoted by God.

This does not stop us from blurring the lines, though.

As Christians, we often swallow, with ravenous enthusiasm, the poisonous lie promulgated by Satan himself that we can have our cake and eat it, too. We delude ourselves into thinking that piety and frivolity are symbiotic.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Godliness and worldliness are not parallel paths; they are wholly divergent. And so we stand at a crossroads every time we make a decision.

Either we will take the path that leads to life and godliness, or we’ll take the path that leads to death and worldliness. (cf. Deut. 30:15-20; Joshua 24:15)

There is no middle ground. Only life or death. Only hot or cold. God will vomit out of His mouth those who are lukewarm (Revelation 3:16).

At The Heart of the Distinction

When you boil it all down, there is one defining feature that distinguishes the worldly character from the godly one: Motive.

Worldliness, at its core, is selfish. Godliness, on the other hand, at its core, is selfless. One looks inward, the other looks outward. One says, “my will be done.” The other says, “Your will be done.”

3 Biblical Analogies

Scripture uses multiple analogies to describe the drastic nature of the distinction between godliness and worldliness. Consider three of them:

Light vs. Darkness: possibly the most vivid analogy Scripture uses to describe the distinction between godliness and worldliness is that of light and darkness.

John describes Christ as the “true Light” (John 1:9), and Jesus later confirms this epithet as valid when He simply states, “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12).

It’s important to note that Christ did not say that He has the light of the world; He says that He is the light of the world. Thus, light is a defining feature of Christ Himself, not just His message. (And as Christ is one with God, it’s not surprising that John later writes of God the Father, “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5, NKJV).)

As a result, it only makes sense then that those who call themselves by Christ’s name should also be described as the “light of the world” (Matthew 5:14) and as “having the light of life” (John 8:12).

Because God defines Himself as light, and bestows this light upon all who faithfully follow Him, everything that stands in opposition to Him must necessarily be described as darkness:

• 1 John 1:6 draws a distinction between fellowship with God and “walking in darkness.”

• Christ indicates that those who follow Him “shall not walk in darkness” (John 8:12, NKJV).

• Paul indicates that we should, “Walk as children of light...and have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness” (Ephesians 5:8-13, NKJV).

• Paul also writes that the godly have been “...delivered...from the power of darkness...” (Colossians 1:13, NKJV).

• To the Christians in Thessalonica, Paul writes, “You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness” (1 Thessalonians 5:5, NKJV).

• Peter writes that the godly “...were called...out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).

In the end, godliness and worldliness are as different as day and night.

Truth vs. The Lie: a second analogy that Scripture uses to illustrate the distinction between godliness and worldliness is that of truth and a lie.

Just like Christ defines Himself by light, He also defines Himself by truth: “I am the way, the truth, and the life...” (John 14:6, NKJV). Similarly, Jesus prays to the Father that He would, “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth” (John 17:17, NKJV). Again, it isn’t that God’s word has truth, it’s that God’s word is truth.

Accordingly, those who align themselves with the Creator are described as “walking in truth” (2 John 4; 3 John 3-4) and as “obeying the truth” (Galatians 5:7).

Because God is truth, everything that stands against Him is described as the opposite of truth. Whereas Scripture indicates that it is impossible for God to lie (Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18), it describes Satan as the “father of lies” (John 8:44).

Thus, those who choose an ungodly character are described as being “...of [their] father the devil...” (John 8:44) and as “wandering from the truth” (James 5:19, NKJV). When man opts for worldliness over godliness, he “...exchanges the truth of God for the lie...” (Romans 1:25).

So, just as godliness and worldliness are as different as night and day, they are also as different as truth and a lie.

Purity vs. Defilement: a third analogy that Scripture uses to highlight the distinction between godliness and worldliness is that of purity and defilement.

Purity is yet another defining feature of God Himself (1 John 3:3). As a result, everything that emanates from Him is also pure, including His words (Psalm 12:6; Psalm 119:140), His commandments (Psalm 19:8), and His wisdom (James 3:17).

Who then is qualified to associate with God? Those who have adopted a godly character and have purified their hearts (Psalm 24:4; cf. James 4:8 and 1 Peter 1:22). Jesus reiterates this when He says, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8).

If the godly character is described as pure, then the worldly character is described as defiled:

• Jude describes certain apostates as having “...defiled the flesh...” (Jude 8).

• The Hebrew writer equates “falling short of the grace of God” with bitterness, trouble, and “becoming defiled” (Hebrews 12:15, NKJV).

• Paul, in his letter to Titus, makes a marked distinction between the “pure” and the “defiled” (Titus 1:15).

• Jesus speaks of “...evil coming from within and defiling a man” (Mark 7:23, NKJV).

Thus, just as godliness and worldliness are as different as night and day and truth and a lie, they are also as different as purity and defilement.

The Bottom Line

If we are to be people of godly character, we cannot even so much as dabble in worldliness. Godliness and worldliness are not opposite sides of the same coin, they are in fact two entirely distinct monetary systems. What works in the kingdom of this world is not even recognized by God as valid currency in His kingdom.

“No man can serve two masters,” Jesus said (Matthew 6:24, NKJV). It’s not that doing so is a bad idea, it’s that doing so is impossible. Because we cannot be both godly and worldly, we must make a choice. No other decision has more gravity than this, as what we select will do no less than determine our eternal destiny.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Cursed are the defiled in heart, for they shall not see God.

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.”