Here I am preparing to study and research for our latest podcast topic and I can’t get my brain to function. It’s not that my brain has stopped working just at this moment, but that I can’t seem to think of anything other than my immediate concerns: my family, their health, my health, our friends and family’s needs (financial and medical). Nothing seems to be able to penetrate my mind apart from COVID19, preparing for COVID19, hiding from COVID19, working around COVID19. Not only that, but I’m stuck in a place of bitterness. Bitterness regarding others’ lack of care and response to this threat.
My house sits right on a fairly busy road and I see a continuous stream of vehicles before me. I think to myself, “I should be gracious in my assumptions regarding who these people are. Maybe they are getting necessities, maybe they are traveling to and from work, maybe they are delivering goods to those who are more vulnerable than them.” But I know the human heart. I know the vileness, the self-centeredness, the pride, and disregard for others. I know it because I deal, personally, with it and I see it in my response to others during this pandemic. I want to control others and how they respond to this serious situation. I want to fill the internet with so much information that they would wake up and see the consequences of every unnecessary action they take during these days. But I can’t. And I never was meant to.
The importance of human autonomy, the preservation of being held accountable to no one but ourselves, is too entwined within our sinful fallen nature. Not that making decisions is bad, or the ability to make decisions is bad, but that we are fallen humans – sinful humans – and we will make bad decisions. We see this all the way back in the beginning, with the very first sin. The one that plunged our world into death and decay. We are given a decision and can’t look beyond ourselves. We are given decisions and are so nearsighted that we are blind. This is man apart from the Gospel. It will always be man without the intervention of God.
But with God, we can look beyond ourselves. We can receive the sight we need. But what do we need this sight to see? We need this sight to see the One that is glorious. We need sight to see the One who DOES have control. We need sight to see beyond the sins of others and to the cross of Christ that bore our own sins.
In this COVID19 pandemic, I have given in to navel gazing, focusing on others’ sins, and being near sighted. But I want to repent from that. Now. I want to repent of being short sighted about this travesty. Not that I will ignore the very real problems that my neighbors and I face, but that I will never stay there. That I wont get trapped in my head, spiraling out of control and retreating into my own mind for safety. I will look at Christ. The One who ordained this virus. The One who knows how others will respond. I will hope in His promise, that he will build his Kingdom until it is complete. That He will soon return and right all wrongs, eliminate all sin (including my own), and will reign forever.
So to stop the navel gazing, the COVID19 news staring, the observing and grumbling of others’ harmful sin, I am going to focus on Christ. Even if it seems ‘simplistic’, or familiar, I’m going to hang on to it – by God’s grace.
Hopefully over the next few weeks I will be able to share those looks to our beautiful and faithful Savior. And I pray that you would as well. Let’s hold each other accountable to this. Join me and share what you have learned of God’s character, the Gospel, and the Word.
Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD, O my soul! I will praise the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being. Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish. Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever; who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry.The LORD sets the prisoners free; the LORD opens the eyes of the blind. The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down; the LORD loves the righteous. The LORD watches over the sojourners; he upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin. The LORD will reign forever, your God, O Zion, to all generations. Praise the LORD!
This week on Women of the Table we discussed sensationalism. What it means, how it affects our lives, what implications it has on sharing the Gospel, and the like. What this article will touch on are not those things, but how we should respond to these questions: what are we to do now? Are we to ditch social media altogether? Should we never share another article of information with a sensational headline?
First, I want to remind us all that we have a story that is worthy of all our attention and more sensational (in the good sense of the word) than any fleeting, manipulative, news story could be. We have the Gospel.
Imagine with me for a moment: you’re scrolling through Facebook and something has gone viral! Hundreds of thousands of shares, likes and comments. You see a torture device as the photo and the headline says: only Begotten Son of God crucified by, and for, sinners. Now that is a sensational headline.
Consider it further, we have a TRUE account that is greater than all the sensational tactics and click-bait articles combined. We have a message that isn’t just for one political party line, a specific nation, a certain type or age – it’s relevant for everyone, because everyone will be held accountable for their rebellion against the Creator and Lord. Everyone needs the Savior to remedy our sin problem.
Now, let’s examine a trustworthy source to find the answers to our previously presented questions:
In a time when God was laying the foundation of His Church, by the Holy Spirit led Apostles and Prophets, we see the Apostle Paul approaching an audience that bears similarities to our own. An audience that had no shortage of gods, philosophies, and new ideas. In Acts 17:16-34 we see Paul disturbed at the idols in Athens, and therefore he goes and reasons with the Jews, the worshipers, and those that were in the marketplace – anyone that happened to be there. What was he reasoning with them about? Verse 18 says, “he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection.” Upon hearing these truths they brought him to the Areopagus, where the Areopagus council would discuss religion and philosophy – of which they were the governing body. This led to them hearing the truth of the Gospel, some responding in mockery and some responding in faith.
“When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some began to mock him, but others said, “We want to hear you again on this topic.”At that, Paul left the Areopagus.But some people joined him and believed, including Dionysius the Areopagite, a woman named Damaris, and others who were with them.” (Acts 17:32-34)
Paul didn’t change his story based on how it would be perceived. He didn’t cower under the Areopagus council’s inquiries. He wasn’t blown back by the pervasive search for the hottest take or newest ideas in Athens. He saw their idol worship and was moved to dialogue. He reasoned and presented the truth of the Gospel.
With this in mind:
1. Should we ditch social media?
When I reread this account of Paul in Athens, I see him approaching the place where ideas are exchanged. The hotbed of ideas and religion and also the place for everyone to gather: the marketplace. While our culture has certainly changed from commonly dialoguing ideas out in the public common areas (because we don’t have public common areas anymore), we can still take this principle and apply it to our culture today. Sadly, but truly, our biggest common area is on social media. We see people plaster their opinions, share what they find important, and even are updated with news on this platform. So, if you are in possession of a social media account, share the Gospel while you have it. Be willing to dialogue with logic, and gentleness, seeking to win souls not arguments. I will also say however, once they started mocking Paul, he left. You don’t have to entertain abuse and there is a block button if you so wish to use it 🙂
I say to use social media as a Gospel opportunity, not to the detriment of personal evangelism – in real life, to a real face. We should be opening our homes and our lives, to those who need the Gospel. As great as social media can be at posting whatever you want – you know from our episode – there is such an overwhelming amount of information, with lots of hype, that many of our attempts to share the truth may be filed away in the reader’s special filing cabinet (the mental trash can). So be welcoming, friendly, and engage with people in real life. Don’t worry if you have a lack in social skills, because social media has dulled us all in that arena.
2. Should we never share another sensational headline?
Now as much as click-bait grinds the gears of any reasonable person, studies have shown that it works. People are going to click on the sensational headline. This is just how the world operates now. While all the media outlets are competing for your attention and your click, you will see more and more sensational headlines. However, Paul writes to the Philippian church something that I think is helpful in answering this question:
“Let your gentleness be apparent to all. The Lord is near.Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:4-7)
We know that the Lord is near, so we must be gentle, anxious for nothing, prayerful, and full of thanksgiving. No matter the headline, we can have peace. If you want to share the headline, share it, but don’t forget to share that you have an unfailing hope. Preface your share with a note of thankfulness to God. Be gentle in your sharing and your commentary on a topic. We want to encourage dialogue and reasoning in an age where we have all become keyboard warriors. Once we have opened the door to dialogue, by our kindness, we can truly share the sensational hope we have in Christ. A hope that doesn’t change in circumstance, news story, or with popular culture’s ideas.
I know that this approach to sharing is not the most natural, nor am I the shining example. So, with my own “hot-take” in this article, I say that Christ has given us a hope that won’t stay hidden. He will advance and grow His church. Our small acts of faithfulness can be used by Him.
I pray that as you go about your common places you preach Christ and His resurrection, the need for repentance and faith in Christ alone for right standing before God.
Over the course of being a Christian, I’ve been called numerous things: bigot, hypocrite, self-righteous, judgemental, unchristlike, etc. Now, there’s no doubt that I have been these things at one time or another, but this name calling was mostly resultant from holding to a biblical worldview. Also, I was being called these things by those who didn’t claim to hold to such a position. However, soon after publishing a podcast episode called “Fortune Cookie Prophecy”, I was accused of something I have never been accused of before: being a Bible idolater.
I was told to be cautious, that I was wandering into “bibliolatry”. Now if you’ve listened to “Fortune Cookie Prophesy”, you know that Women of the Table hold to Sola Scriptura. We also believe that the prophetic and apostolic offices have ceased. For more on that topic, feel free to take a listen (or relisten) to that episode here: https://www.podbean.com/eu/pb-csqah-c1eb07 . For now, and to accompany our latest topic, I want to talk about bibliolatry.
First things first, what is it? Well, it’s not idolatry in the sense where you literally bow down to a Bible and pay homage. It is rather more natural, like other forms of idolatry – placing your Bible in a position over God – the only One worthy of worship.
But can we actually commit the sin of Bible worship? I’m not one to say that any sin is impossible. We know that as fallen man, we are able to take any good thing and make it a “god-thing”, but can you do that with the very word of God? What would that look like? Is this really a danger that lurks beneath our study of the Bible? Yes, and no. Next I’ll lay out my negative position to the question.
Oftentimes this term, bibliolatry, is used in a derogatory sense. It’s even used by other “Bible-believing Christians”. However, the crux of the issue lies with our view of scripture. Even many self-professed Christians that claim the necessity of the Bible, don’t hold it as the very Word of God: infallible, inerrant, and always applicable regardless of the time and cultural context. There are also professing Christians who don’t credit the Bible with special authority, believing that new revelatory words of prophecy are equally as authoritative. So, then of course if you don’t believe ALL of the Bible is true, infallible, the very word of God, and the only sure place the word of God is found today, then it would only make sense that someone could fall in to the sin of Bible worship. By solely relying on scripture, or studying it too much, we would be “limiting” God, hindering the Spirit’s work in prophesying “new words from God”. We also would be rejecting today’s gift of advanced reason and science – replacing it with errant, archaic, far-removed scripture. Herein lies the problem with the accusations of bibliolatry. One could fall into worship of the Bible if you believe there is greater truth and greater words of God to be attained or discovered. But, when we believe the truth about scripture, we know that we can’t possibly pit true reason against it. True reason and objective truth find it’s origin in God, and God has chosen to reveal Himself most fully in Christ Jesus. Where can we know and learn of Him? You guessed it – scripture.
There are even some liberal Christian ministers who conflate the idea of Bible worship to build a case for their own preferred, worldly, wisdom: rejecting the miraculous, the fantastic and supernatural found within the Bible. Some of these include: the creation account, the virgin birth of Jesus, and Jesus’ miracles.
In addition to the distrust for the fantastic, revealed in scripture, it is also proposed that one worships the Bible – rather than Jesus – if you give equal weight to the moral law, given in the Old Testament, as you do the commands that Jesus spoke. Not realizing that Christ not only obeyed the law, but gave us an even greater understanding of it’s demands. Demands that only He could fulfill.
Most of all I answer “no” to the danger of Bible worship, because I don’t see a generation that is so dedicated, so hungry, so enamored with the study of God’s word, that they would even come close to elevating it over even their own opinions and/or comfort. It is quite the contrary, it seems we create any excuse, to not read, study, and memorize scripture. Excuses range from: “I don’t want to be legalistic!”, “I’m not in ministry, so I don’t need to”, “I just have a simple faith”, “I just love Jesus”, or “I feel closer to God through other means” (music/experiences/others teaching the Word). As soon as I see a generation elbow deep in study every day, maybe I’d consider bibliolatry as an eminent threat. But in all reality, the more you study the word of God, the more you will be sanctified, seeing more clearly your sin and thus killing that sin.
Which leads to my final reason for the negative: when you truly know your Bible, you will truly know Jesus. When you truly know Jesus, it means that you are regenerated and gifted with the very Spirit that inspired the text of the Bible. Even if you are accused of bibliolatry, we must remember that apart from scripture, we won’t know Jesus. And if we don’t know Jesus, our problem isn’t just being called an idolater by another person, but BEING an idolater by rejecting Christ – before God – leading to everlasting punishment and torment, the just punishment for the crime.
One caveat to my negative position, is to the positive – yes you can be a bibliolater. You can be a bibliolater by reading scripture to the wrong end – to merit salvation, becoming righteous by your own efforts, feeding your ego, or like Francis Scaeffer says, “religious tripping.” Of course we can approach the Bible and study, sinfully, not seeking truth about God but our own satisfaction in our achievements of knowledge. However, this shouldn’t frighten you out of studying the Bible.
Instead, approach your time in the word humbly. Realizing that it is the very Word of God, that you have access to this text while a vast number around the world doesn’t. In this Book you can learn of salvation and that left to your own power you are blind, deaf, and ultimately dead. Only by God’s action will you be able to see the truth of His word. Only with His Spirit will you be renewed in your mind as you read. So if you are a believer – remember this great, unmerited gift and study – drawing near to God through his word, taking refuge and trusting it; it never changes. And to the believer and unbeliever alike: ask God for eyes to see and ears to hear. He doesn’t turn any away that seek Him, for He drew them in the first place.
Take up and read, memorize, share what the Lord has taught you and give glory to God.
With the beginning of a new year comes the motivation to start something new! We all know the feeling and excitement that a blank canvas has to offer. We picture the possibilities, buy our planners, imagine the accomplishments we will fulfill in the coming season, and make plans for future endeavors. We often pick a word or phrase with the intention to encapsulate the coming year’s trajectory of improvements. We all want a fresh start – to leave behind the mistakes, struggles, and sufferings of the previous year. I know when I gaze out on the precipice of a new year, I envision a healthier, wiser, more in control woman.
This wishing and hoping isn’t just a woman thing, a secular thing, a Christian thing – but a human thing. We see the possibility of betterment and dive in head-first saying “Goodbye!” to the failures of the previous year.
While this thought pattern and expectation may be naive or rose-colored, it is a clue to what our deepest desire is – renewal and righting of things gone wrong, a shedding of the old yucky stuff that has attached itself to us over the previous year. Yes, but the reality of it goes deeper.
You wonder why every year you hope for new and better? It’s not merely from the previous year’s failures or disappointments – it comes from within us, not something that’s merely infected an otherwise good mind and body. We are so enamored with the possibilities of the future, because we need a new future. We long for this new future. So, let me tell you of a solution.
Instead of the typical, “I will do better at x, y, and z” (which are most likely good habits to develop), let’s stop the endless cycle before it begins again in 2020. Let me remind you or tell you for the first time, what (or rather, whom) 2020 can really be renewed by:
His name is Jesus.
Jesus is the only begotten Son of God – the second person in the Trinity – the one who made all things and through all things were made.
“For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.” – Colossians 1:16
“All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” – John 1:3
God, who created the universe, you and I, the birds of the air and the fish of the sea, can create in you a new heart. Did you know that the yucky stuff that was a part of last year isn’t our biggest problem? Our biggest problem is that we rejected the Creator and worship things in his place.
“For although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking and darkened in their foolish hearts. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images of mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles”
– Romans 1: 21-23
Yes, we all worship – ourselves, our careers, our dreams and aspirations, etc., but none of these things are worthy of worship. So while God created us out of an overflow of his own Divine qualities and glory, we fashioned for ourselves broken cisterns that hold no water and crafted idols of created things. But God did something miraculous and extraordinary! He took on flesh and lived in perfect obedience on our behalf.
He didn’t just give us an example to follow, he earned our righteousness for us and willingly went to the cross – taking the punishment for all our sin. Defeating death, he rose again and now intercedes for the saints(believers). Isn’t that incredible?
We are stained with sin, corrupted at the heart, so no matter how many new years we have left on this Earth, we can’t – of ourselves – create something new and truly better. But, by believing and trusting in the work of Christ, he can! He can change you completely. Not only does he start a good work in you, but he brings the work in us to completion (dissimilar to how we often start resolutions only to quit them two months in)!
“being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will continue to perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”
– Philippians 1:6
So, I admonish you this year, don’t fret about with mere self-improvement. Don’t try to accomplish some kind of renewal that only Christ can accomplish. Don’t trick yourself into thinking you can solve your real problem with a little kale, more books, or positive thinking. Trust in Christ this year. Submit to Christ’s word this year. Believe on Him for salvation and know that he will never fail. Once your real problem is solved, you will be made new, you will be entering a new year with real, lasting, change.
Just a cursory flip through Living Waters evangelism YouTube videos, you see one of the great viruses that plague our nation – apathy. Not that we don’t care about things. It’s painfully obvious in “outrage”, “cancel”, and various other cultural terms, we care quite a lot. Unfortunately, while some occasions for care are legitimate, we get so consumed in temporal pursuits that we are almost totally absent of care for the eternal.
I wish I could say that once you become a believer you are no longer a participant of this soul sucking and life wasting sin, but I find myself melting into a puddle of apathy on a regular basis. This may take the form of procrastination in personal study of God’s word, eventually leading to falling asleep during quiet time – or even skipping it all together, not seeking to serve my community and brothers and sisters in the Lord, not actively sharing the hope that I have – seeking to make Christ known, making disciples of my children and neighbors, not taking the care to put others’ needs before my own in service that points to the glory of Christ, and the list could go on. Not only do I miss a grand opportunity to obey in these ways, but my apathy seeps down further and quenches my desire for these things. It leaves me with a smouldered flame of a past love for the Lord, that I just can’t seem to revive.
I know I’m not alone in this. I know that the culture at large is dealing with one of the greatest rates of suicide we’ve seen since WW2. I don’t find this statistic’s origin far removed from the apathetic state we find ourselves in. One way apathy can be made manifest is when we aren’t ordering our life the way we ought – with Christ’s kingdom first. Sadly, our felt need to escape a tumultuous existence, in this sin riddled world, combined with disordered affections (or the feeling of having none at all) leaves many without hope and seeking to “save” themselves from a meaningless and painful life.
Yes, apathy can drag us that far. It can blind us to the realities of eternity with the vanity of our daily grind. It can numb us to the real urgency we should possess in having a right standing with God, who we all must give an account. And it can ensnare us to not care for the eternities of those perishing around us.
Do yourself the duty to complete a quick google search of current Christian matrys – they are nearing genocide numbers. These are believers that have been spared the sin of apathy, because their life is lived in the pursuit of Christ, with all else (including their own lives) counted as rubbish. They have not held on to any earthly comforts that would invade their hearts and spawn apathetic feelings. They have their treasure in Heaven – Christ. These are the types of lives we should be living too. Sold out for Christ, serving our King, spreading the Gospel.
So, is it the same for you as it is for me? We sit comfortably fattened from our holiday meals, warmed in our homes, surrounded by the luxuries of the typical American life, and once quietly with our own thoughts, something feels heavy. The apathy we feel and vanity of life we participate in, are flooded to the forefront of our minds.
But in that moment I want to speak to you and speak to me. I want to first speak to the unbeliever: you are lost. Not in a wandering sense but in a sinful and hellbound sense. The feelings of meaninglessness are real because you have only seen and loved the world that is passing away. But God has given his son, Jesus, so that you may have life and life abundantly. Abundant life in full service to him, dying to self, risking everything because He gave everything on the cross for your sin. Abundant life eternally, with no pain, sin, or brokenness. He paid in full, the penalty for your sin, if you believe in him alone for your righteousness before God. However, if you reject this free gift, you are saddled with the payment in full and you will be called to the judgement seat to pay with your very eternal life. Until that judgement day comes, you will have to find your own temporal meaning that is fleeting and failing. I pray that you see it’s failures and come to rest in the eternal, lasting hope you can have in Christ alone.
Believers, my brothers and sisters in Christ, and myself: Walk in the manner of your calling. See what a great gift you possess, the talents that God has entrusted you with, and deal wisely with them – God will call you before Himself to assess the work you have done with his assets. Know that this is not a time to be at peace. Yes you have peace with God, but on this Earth you are fighting a spiritual battle in the name of your King. He has given you His Spirit and He hasn’t left you. Despite your apathy toward His mercy, kindness, love, and blessings, He remains with you and will see you through. This doesn’t mean that you are helpless. You are empowered by the Spirit to follow the commands he has given you: love God, love neighbor, make disciples. He has gifted you with the high calling of being an ambassador of Christ while on Earth. Make much of this opportunity. Work as though for the Lord, because you are. Enjoy the fruits of your labors that God has blessed and trust him with the growth of fruit you have yet to see. Trust that He is ever working in your heart and for your good. Cry out to Him for a heart that worships and is in service to Him for all your days. Read His word that He’s given you, because in it is the Gospel. And the Gospel will fuel you to obey and think rightly.
Finally, I’m praying for you and myself in this struggle. We don’t get to waste our lives when such a gift has been given. Don’t lose the love that you had at the beginning. Repent and believe the Gospel, see your ever present need for the Spirit’s application of God’s truth in your life. Rely not on your own strength, but on Christ. And have hope in the future life to come in eternity.
“a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice”
This week on the podcast Travis and I chatted about serving the church and how Jesus is the perfect model for selfless giving of our time and talents. Today, I just want to get into the practical side of this subject. We went over the “why”, now lets move on to the “how”.
God gives gifts to his people not primarily as a means of fulfillment for us as individuals, but for the maturing of his church. Our service to the church yields several benefits—for ourselves, for others, and most importantly for the glory of God. We cannot say that the Body doesn’t need us or that we don’t need the Body.
Before I begin I want to mention that this isn’t an exhaustive list and some of these ideas might not even apply to the church you’re apart of. Also, keep in mind your talents and abilities. If you have no idea how to play piano, then maybe don’t try out for the worship team. If you have a difficult time with organization, then heading up a planning committee might no be where God is leading you. Lastly, pray and ask God where He wants you to be.
Okay, let’s do this!
Teach a Class – Just as we mentioned in the podcast, teaching isn’t meant for everyone. Maybe teaching a children’s Sunday school class is more suitable for your abilities. Whether you’re teaching adults, teens or children, you should take this responsibility seriously.
Discipleship Ministry – Some churches have an active discipleship ministry. Talk with your pastor about how to lead a discipleship group and helping other Christian growth in their faith. Disciplining others is a great way to grow to spiritual maturity
Greet People – “Hello! How are you this morning? That’s quite a fancy shirt you got on!”. I already gave you your first greeting!
Cleaning – It’s a dirty job but someones gotta do it (lol).
Maintenance – Are you pretty handy with a hammer? Maybe you do some carpentry in your spare time? Churches could always use help with the maintenance of the building and grounds.
Prayer Team – Prayer is the most important thing we can do and it should always be our first action in all decisions. Our churches and pastors need our prayers. Consider joining a prayer team and bring your requests to God in a group setting.
Worship Team – Joining the worship band or team shouldn’t be your chance to fulfill your dream of being a rock star. This job is to help lead the church in worship to the Almighty Creator!
Nursery or Children’s Church – This is a valuable ministry especially to families who have young children that may be serving in another capacity on a Sunday morning. It’s a serious job to take care of other people’s children and may require extra patience and gentleness if you have some rowdy kids in your care (like our kids for example).
That’s just a quick sampling of places where you might find a need in your church body. If you aren’t sure where you can serve, ask your pastor! The leadership in your church would be grateful for your willingness to help and participate. And of course, bring all your requests and desires to God through prayer and the reading of the Word.
During this past week’s episode, we wandered into sluggard territory. And when I say that I wandered into that territory, I mean that I used my frequent flyer points and checked into my usual room.
Battling laziness and an unproductive lifestyle can be a real challenge. Especially if you are similar to me and you LOVE serving yourself. You love serving yourself so much, in fact, that you don’t even want to make yourself serve yourself (Prov. 26:15)
Now before we go any further, if you find yourself physically unable to function in daily life, seek out some help. You very well may be experiencing depressive symptoms and could benefit from biblical counseling or other solutions provided by a medical doctor. I’ve been there. Betsy’s been there. It’s alright to get help. It’s not alright to suffer under the guilt of a malfunctioning body.
Now back to Sluggardville.
Why is it in this day and age, where we have modern conveniences out the wazoo, we still find it difficult to get the most simple tasks completed – or even started! What’s the major malfunction??
Well, a helpful resource Do More Better by Tim Challies, has brought to my attention the real issue is not just a motivational one, but a theological one. When we have a misconstrued idea of who God is, what He has done, and how we are to respond, we can adopt or continue to live out the soul of the sluggard. We see in the beginning God modeling how He works – He created all things, they were good, and then at the end of His creating – He rested. Now before the fall, we were called to be fruitful and multiply and to subdue the earth. However, thanks to man’s sinful actions, against a holy God, our spiritual and physical realities were doomed to death. Not only that, we still are required to fulfill this command of working – but it is going to be exhausting and produce little fruit!
In the beginning of Ecclesiastes we read how our labor is futile. We work to only do it all over again. And we work for what perishes. We toil and toil, yet all we have to show for it is constant toiling.
Agh! WHY! (says every person who does the same thing day in and day out with little to no visible fruits of their labor)
But, enter Christ. God in flesh. The God incarnate. Fully man and fully God. He took on flesh, worked daily for the Lord, perfectly loving God and loving neighbor, and completed the work for us. We no longer have to strive to not be dead. Our biggest problem – solved. In Christ, we don’t get the wages of our sin. Instead we get the free gift of eternal life (Romans 6:23).
So, what does this mean for our working? How is this supposed to help me not be a lazy bum all the time? Well folks, because Christ finished the work that we couldn’t do, upon adoption as Sons we get the Holy Spirit. Through this incredible gift, we are equipped to do every good work. That’s right, we were saved so we could do good works! Because doing good works brings glory to God and our purpose is to glorify God! These good works express our love for God and love for others.
Not only that, we know that our work is not futile. Even if it seems futile (I see you toddler mom’s out there), we are working for Heavenly rewards. No longer are you working for the perishable, but when you do good works, you get to glorify God and love others; and by consequence, store up riches in heaven. These riches are even greater than any perishable wealth we gain here, because they are God fulfilling our every desire in Himself (Psalm 16:11). WIth every good work we do here, we are making the character of God known to others as well as experiencing conformity to Christ ourselves. The longing we will increasingly experience as we know and love Him to greater degrees while on Earth, will be satisfied when we are with Him in Heaven.
So what constitutes a good work? Well in James we read that faith and good works are inseparable. Good works are evidence of our saving faith. We cannot be merely hearers of the word and not doers. And these tasks, we should put ourselves to do, are works that the Lord is concerned with. In the world there are many things considered “good works” that are in fact in opposition to what God has commanded us to do. However, we know that the law can be summarized in loving God and loving neighbor. We read in Galatians that “in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love” (5:6) and that we were called to freedom, but “not to use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”” (5:13-14).
Works of the flesh (that we are not to do) are :sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealously, fits of anger, rivalries, disensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like those” (Gal. 5:19-20). But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Gal 5:22-23). We are to be imitators of God, walking in love, “as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5: 1-2). Therefore, we shouldn’t be focused on good works that benefit ourselves (immediate satisfaction, or for self-centered ambition), instead we should be laying down our lives, our wants, our goals, our comfort to display the works of the Spirit – the fruit of the Spirit.
We should be working as Christ did, laying our life down for the brethren. That means, anything you do, you are placing the needs of others ahead of your own. You live to make others successful, to display Christ to them, to empty yourself in order to fill others with the love you’ve been shown in the Gospel. Any work that fulfills the need of someone else, is a good work. Any work that requires self-sacrifice to the betterment of others, is a good work. When you are patient with your fussy child, you are doing a good work. When you do anything that relieves a burden off of someone else, you are doing a good work. When you imitate Christ throughout your day, displaying the fruit of the Spirit, you are doing a good work. Doing good works isn’t some extravagant show, most of the time, it is simply laying down of our own life for another. It doesn’t always come in the form of “look at this great achievement from my good works”. It is humble, it is meek, it is contrary the flesh and that is why we need the Holy Spirit to do them. And ultimately our overarching charge is to go and make disciples. Nothing requires more self-sacrifice, or a supernatural ability to love and put others before ourselves at every turn.
Once we have the proper view of what good works are, and how we are able to do them in the first place, we can move on to the practical stuff. This is where I can point you to a couple places that have been of benefit to me. One is Eve in Exile by Rebekah Merkle. It revolutionized the way I think of “woman’s work”. She does a fabulous job of encouraging women to dig in deep to their calling, not settling to just do the bare minimum to get by, but to make your life a testament to the ability of women in the home. Whether that is through cooking, organizing, home-schooling, creating, money management – anything that we are responsible for can be beautified and point to the glory of the Lord.
Second is Do More Better by Tim Challies. He has done such a fabulous job at laying the foundation of our true problem in fighting laziness and being unproductive. Linked below is his webpage for the book and some of the worksheets he recommends using.
Christian, I am praying now that you and I would see the field set before us. That we would reap what has been sown and grown by the Lord. That we would lay our lives down, making disciples and loving our brethren to the Glory of God.
Christian, have you ever wanted more? Have you ever looked at others’ relationship with Christ and thought:
“Why do they have that type of relationship with you, Lord, and I don’t? Why can’t I experience miraculous things in my life? Why can’t I hear God’s voice? Why doesn’t God relate intimately with me, like this other person? Am I not doing enough? Is my faith too weak? Am I doing it wrong?”
Maybe someone even came up to you, while you were content in your relationship with Christ, and suggested that you should want more – that there’s more to be had, that you could experience God in a way that is supernatural and beyond your wildest expectations.
I’m here to tell you, Christian, to stand firm.
Stand firm in the Word. The Word of the LORD. The creator, sustainer, and sovereign Lord of all. The One who spoke everything into existence. The One who always was, is, and always will be. This God, gave you His Word. Not only that, but He preserved His Word over thousands of years. He has used, faithful sons and daughters to translate it into your own language, so you can read and know it yourself. His Word is never failing, always true, more valuable than all the riches in the world, and yet understandable to us. He gave us this precious Word, that houses the way to know Him and the way to salvation. He sovereignly directed every jot and tittle to show us the plan of redemption. In it, He answers our hardest questions and provides the greatest comfort – even the Comforter Himself.
Christian, you want more? You have it all. You have the living Word of God. You want more? Read it. Study it. Know it. Because in it you know Him. In it, you know salvation.
But what about the miraculous? You want to experience God, “intimately”? Oh dear friend. I’m sorry that you have overlooked such a gift of your Heavenly Father. From before the foundation of the world He foreknew you. He set you apart to be His. He went to the cross and bought you with the highest price. He then indwells you. How much closer could you get? He never leaves you or forsakes you.
A miracle you want? Friend, He made you alive! You were dead. Dead in sin. You didn’t want Him or seek Him out for help – you were dead. But God, in His unspeakable mercy, He made you alive. He gave you life through the miraculous working of the Holy Spirit, because of the work of Christ on our behalf. Not only did He make you alive. He is making you into the image of His son. Every day, little by little, faithfully sanctifying you. He renews you by His Word and by His Spirit. He teaches you, makes you holy, enables you to love God and your brethren. You want more? Christian you have it all. You have it all because you have Christ. No amount of gifts or miraculous workings could He give that would be greater than the giving of Himself.
Am I saying that these are the only ways that God works miracles today? No. Am I saying that God doesn’t display His enormous grace in other spectacular ways? No. However, I am saying that experiencing any other miracle isn’t the point. Furthermore, these things don’t surpass the things we have already experienced or possess as Sons of God. Don’t get it twisted. What Christ purchased for you can’t be earned, can’t be mustered up by trying to increase your faith, but is guaranteed by His obedience, His perfection, His sacrifice, His power. He doesn’t make you earn what he purchased with His very life.
There’s no new levels to reach. No faith that needs unlocking. No dream destiny to be realized. No amount of miracles, riches, safety, health, or knowledge is more valuable. You have the one thing that trumps it all. You have the One who is over all. You have the fullness of God, right now, if you are in Him. Because He is God. And if you abide in Him, He abides in you. No more striving. No more wishing for more. Open your eyes. You have it, because you have Him.
If you feel that you are missing out, you don’t feel like God is moving in your life – have you sought out other gods in place of Him? Have you neglected the very Word He gave you to know Him? Have you passed on knowing Christ for an experience, a fleeting feeling of passion? If it’s so, and you find yourself without Christ, turn to Him. Cling to Him, and His work alone, for your right standing before God. Forsake the appeal of comfort, euphoria, or possessions and take hold of Christ. If indeed you are in Him, take comfort, brethren – He is with you until the end. And when He comes again, we will see Him and we will be like Him. There will be no more struggling with flesh and sin. There will be completion of all that he has started in you. Cherish His Word. Never move on from the Gospel. Because in it, we have all we could ever need – Himself.
I was brutish and ignorant;
I was like a beast toward you.
Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
you hold my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will receive me to glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Psalm 73:22-26)
In lieu of a blog post regarding our past week’s podcast – speaking the truth in love – I felt it was necessary to provide some helpful resources to first know what the truth is. If we don’t rightly understand the truth, there is no way we will be capable of speaking truth in love. If we don’t know the truth, our first priority should be understanding the truth that has been revealed to us, before speaking it to others. I’m not saying we must be the most knowledgeable before we can point others to the truth of the Gospel, but we should know the truth and the Gospel well enough to adequately discern what is true and what is false, and to say what the truth actually is. If we know His Word, we can know truth (John 17:17)
That being said, below I have compiled some resources to help you in your study of God’s word. I pray this will encourage you and provide you with tools to dig deeper into God’s word to know Him and the salvation He has purchased for His people.
Personally, I found combining these two methods to be really helpful, allowing you to get your feet wet in all of scripture and also becoming more intimately acquainted with passages or a couple verses.
Birds-eye view approach (broad lens, focusing on the overarching narrative of scripture)
follow a “whole bible” reading plan at whatever pace is manageable for you
Read Old and New Testament each day
Make sure you begin at the start of a book, not somewhere in the middle
a great resource if you need direction on what to study, with daily devotionals, reading plan, and related topical articles. Available online(for free) and in print(for an affordable subscription price, and free trial)
This list is not exhaustive, but a great starting point and contain solid, trusted ministries.
If you know of some resources you think would be a great addition to this list, email/message us and we would love to share them here for others to utilize!
More than anything, I pray you see the absolute necessity, command, and blessing we have been given in studying God’s Word. He is a great God, the God of our salvation, and we can (and should) know Him through His Word. Thanks be to God for this gift!