I believe life to be a struggle. And I think its that way because that is the way God designed it. He wants us to struggle so as to encourage us to put our trust in Him. When things go smoothly, its much more difficult to admit your need for Him. But when things are falling apart, you are forced into His arms confessing your need for Him.
In leadership, there are points in your journey that God purposely puts there to reawaken the leader to his need for God. Sometimes a leader can become so reliant on their giftings that they will rely more on themselves than they do on God.
Godly leadership must always come from a heart of knowing that we are utterly dependent on God to accomplish his calling in our lives. When we take the calling that He has given to us and try to accomplish it in our own strength it will always fail.
Think about the story of Abraham, Sarah and Hagar. Abraham was given a prophetic promise from God – a calling. God had given Abraham and Sarah the promise of a son and truly more than that, a promise of offspring that would be innumerable.
But after years of believing for that promise, they began to doubt. It was not a lot of doubt, but they began to doubt. And when doubt creeps in, one of the tendencies in leadership is to try to “help God out” and in our strength try to bring about the promises of God rather than waiting for God to fulfill what He has promised us.
“Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” Philippians 2:12-13
The Bible is filled with tough verses to interpret. Many verses are tough even for seasoned Biblical scholars. If you have been a Christian for any length of time you know that we believe that salvation is not works based. Meaning that no matter how hard you try, you cannot work your way into right standing before God. Your good works are as dung before God. He accounts them as nothing. We need the perfect work of Jesus Christ to be counted as holy, so as Christians we put all of our faith in Him and his finished work on the cross of Calvary.
In light of that, this verse in Philippians can be a tough one to figure out. At first it seems to imply that our salvation is based upon what we do. But this is not what Paul is saying at all. If you have read Paul’s letters, he clearly states that salvation is not based on works, but on faith alone in Christ alone.
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9
So Paul is not saying that we need to work for our salvation. What he is saying is that our salvation is working in us and it is our responsibility to let that process work through us. It’s not a completed process. So Paul is encouraging us to work out our salvation.
In one sense our salvation is complete. Jesus finished the work of salvation on the cross. He died for our sins. That is complete. But in the sense Paul is speaking of here, our salvation has not worked out completely in us. Salvation is a process. Once the process is started in our lives, salvation links up with sanctification. The reason these two link up is to work in us and to make us more like Jesus. The goal of salvation is not simply to save us, but with the process of sanctification, it is to conform us into the image of Jesus.
“For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” – Romans 8:29
Now the question is how are we to work out our salvation? Paul says “with fear and trembling.” Now why do you suppose he uses these two words to describe this process? I believe it is because that is how we enter into the kingdom in the first place. Remember, God does not give grace to the proud. The fear of the Lord produces humility in us and that holy fear is what Paul is referring to in this passage.
Once we are saved, we can become so comfortable with God, that we forget to have reverence toward Him. While the Bible encourages us to approach his throne with confidence, that doesn’t mean that we throw out any reverence for His name and who He is. We must always remember that we are drawing near to a holy and perfect God. He has grace and love towards us, but we show our love toward Him by showing Him respect. So Paul encourages us to work out our salvation with this fear in mind.
Some people fear change. They love the normalcy of life. They look at life and hope that everything will always stay the same. They do not embrace the many changes in life. After all, if things are good, why would you want things to change?
I heard a wise person say once that the only certain thing in life is uncertainty. Or another way of looking at that is that the only thing in life that stays the same is change. Change always happens around us. We grow older, we get married, we have children, our children grow up, we retire — things change.
Change is a healthy part of life. We enjoy the benefits of new seasons in our life because of change. For example, when my wife and I first got married, I wasn’t sure it could get any better than those first few years! We lived in a condo on the water and we spent our evenings taking walks down by the water with our little dog. It was very picturesque. And even though we both worked a lot, when I was home, it felt like we were on vacation together.
But change is inevitable. We knew we couldn’t stay in the place forever. We wanted to own a house and have children. So we moved and had four wonderful children and they brought us even more joy than we could have imagined. So things changed around us, but God was good to us in the change.
Now external change is one thing, but internal change is another. Internal change, or change in the heart, is much harder to come by. I’ve known people will a lot of self-inflicted problems get fed up and decide to move to a different city. What they soon find is that their problems have followed them to their new destination! They never addressed the internal issues, so the change in external situations didn’t result in the happiness they were seeking.
Now in church, we are no different. Many people hop from church to church and are full of complaints. They leave one church because of some minor issue that they have blown out of proportion when in reality, the real problem is not in the church, it’s inside themselves.
Fear is a powerful motivator. Corrupt governmental regimes have seen this for years. Kings and Presidents have used fear to motivate people to do what they wanted. Motivation from fear is much easier to accomplish than motivation from inspiration. The United States just recently went through an election of our political leaders in 2020. This election was marked by fear on both sides of the aisle – people being motivated to vote for or against a particular candidate because of fear.
And while 2020 was the most recent example, this tactic has been used before. As the Bible says, “there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecc 1:9). The enemy of our souls uses this same tactic to create servants through fear. We become enslaved to the flesh and to the enemy over many years by being bombarded by fear. This is a life principle: You will serve whatever it is that you fear.
The Bible connects service and fear on several different occasions. It’s not a coincidence. God knows that what you fear, you will also serve. Now it is important to reiterate that the spirit of fear and the fear of the Lord are two different types of fear – the former being profane and the latter is holy reverence. The spirit of fear seeks servants through control, the fear of the Lord creates servants through love.
“And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul,” Deuteronomy 10:12
The fear of the Lord in Deuteronomy is connected with walking in his ways or holy living, with loving God and with serving him fully. God isn’t asking us to fear Him in order to control us, He is reminding us here of who He is. When we see God seated in his proper place, when we get a revelation of who He is, then we will experience a healthy amount of holy fear or reverence toward Him.
Many times in the Bible, when a prophet or someone gets a vision of the Lord, what is the first thing that happens? They fall to the ground like a dead man. When we truly see the Lord for who He is, when we get a small taste of His glory, the fear of the Lord swells up within us and we fall down before Him.
Sadly, too often in churches today, we don’t see a fear of the Lord. What we see is prideful arrogance. We won’t even bow our knee in church because we are more concerned about what others may think about us, rather than what God thinks. We certainly wouldn’t want to lie prostrate on the ground for the entire church to see. In our arrogance, we stand in pride and as a result, the glory of the Lord doesn’t fill our houses of worship like it did in the Bible. God doesn’t reveal his glory to a prideful people, but to a reverent one.
If we truly want to live as free men and women, we must pray to the Lord and ask Him to rid us of that spirit of fear that is seeking to keep us in slavery. God is more than willing to break us out of that bondage. Jesus was anointed to set the captives free. Don’t let another day pass without letting God set you free. Pray today, “Lord, I am in bondage to the spirit of fear. I have been a slave to the fear of man and I need you to set me free. I cannot do this myself. I need you to set me free. Thank you Lord Jesus for saving me and setting me free today, in Jesus name I pray, amen.”
Today I want to discuss a topic that is dear to my heart and that is the topic of worship. And in particular, I want to discuss whether over-emotional worship music is godly or not? Or how about the opposite question…is over-intellectual music, devoid of emotions, godly?
I’ll go ahead an answer both of those questions right now…No. Neither of those scenarios are godly in my opinion. Both are missing the balance taught in the Scriptures. Worship music, meaning both the musical sound of the song and the lyrics of the song should be a balance of both intellectual assent and emotional appeal. Worship is not merely something of intellectual assent, but it’s also not a completely emotional experience.
In today’s congregations, you have two ends of the pendulum. You have the high churches that have regulated worship to be nothing more than reciting the deep theological themes of the faith, but they have done everything in their power to keep it devoid of emotion. The idea is that Christian worship should be a grand indoctrination process. We should be memorizing the great ideas of scriptures via song. And to that I Continue reading “Should Worship Music Be Emotional?”→
Today we finish out our series called American Idolatry. Over the past several weeks, we’ve discussed how idolatry is found all throughout our culture. You can see where we have made idols out of very good things. These idols cannot save us. Money, sex, identity and family are all good things, but only when they are in their rightful place. But too often, we elevate these items to the position of God and that’s when they cease to be good things, but rather they become idols.
Today we are going to look at one more area of idolatry. Today we are going to discuss the idol of entertainment. This idol is found throughout our lives. We are constantly bombarded with distractions in the form of entertainment. Over the past ten years, it almost seems like it has multiplied. We now carry around “smart phones” in our pockets so we can stay entertained all hours of the day.
In this episode I’m look at whether family can become an idol? Can something that God has ordained as the building block for society really become idolatrous. We spend some time discussing that on today’s show. I’m also experimenting with a new format to the show, so drop me a comment and let me know what you think of the new shorter format.
If you are just joining us, you’ve caught us in the middle of a series we started a few weeks back called American Idolatry, where we are looking at some of the idols that are prevalent in American culture. Now these idols can obviously be found in people groups all over the world, but the one’s I’m picking out for the show seems to be especially prevalent in American culture.
Today’s topic is the idol of identity. As we know from the book of Genesis, man was created in the image of God. We were created with a certain identity. Who we are and how we relate to God is wrapped up in our identity. Being made in God’s image has tons of implications and first and foremost it identifies us as like God, but not God. We are made to be like him, but we aren’t him. We are a copy, he is the master.
One of the problems in American culture stems from one of the things that I think makes it great, the old “pull ourselves up by our bootstraps” mentality. Americans are known to be individualists. We don’t need anyone else and we can prove it. The problem with this thinking is the face that we are made in the image of a Triune God. Because God is Triune, he is in perfect community within himself. We also should be in community. We Continue reading “American Idolatry: How Identity Becomes An Idol”→
So to kick off this new series on Idolatry, let’s first define the word idol. An idol is anything that you worship in the place of God. When we worship idols we are in violation of the first commandment and quite possibly the second: You shall have no other gods before me and you shall not make any idols. The first commandment covers the big picture: No other gods. An idol is something that we make into a god. Now some, like in Bible times, were actual items of worship, like a golden calf or in our time and buddha statue. Other idols could be ones that we can’t see, like the Sun God Ra, or in today’s case – Money.
You’ve heard the old saying, Money is the root of all evil right? Well, that’s not the actual saying, the real saying is the LOVE of money is the root of all evil. Money, like many things, is not inherently evil by itself, it’s our love and worship of it that makes it the root of evil. People for ages have worshiped at the foot of money and yet walked away broke and lost. Others have amassed fortunes of it, only to realize that it cannot be taken with them to the grave.
Jesus himself had a lot to say about money. Jesus seemed to talk about money more than just about anything else. Out of 40 parables, he spoke on money at least 11 times. This tells us how important money was to Jesus. But why? I think Jesus spoke on it so much because he knew our hearts. He knew that this is an area for struggle for most people.
I think most people find it easier to trust God with their health than their money. People find it easier to trust that God will take them to heaven than trusting God will take care of them financially. We tend to spend most of our lives worrying about money, especially if you aren’t rich. And all of this worry is really another form of worship. We worship Continue reading “American Idolatry: Money”→