Many say, “Christians are all hypocrites” as a reason for not following Christ, but it is not a legitimate one. No one is called to take up his cross and follow after Christians, but Christ alone. One will not find hypocrisy in Him.

What is that to you? You follow me! ~ John 21:22

There are many people who “believe” in Jesus but who are not saved. They know many biblical teachings and that Christ died and arose—but they refuse to repent and follow Him.

After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. ~ John 6:66 

Jesus did not come to simply love us as we are. His grace was never intended to bring forgiveness just so we can continue in our pride, vanity, immorality, drunkenness, laziness, bitterness, etc. When a person is truly touched by the love and grace of Christ, his or her life begins a process of change. 

By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. ~ 1 John 2:5-6

Faith in Christ is not passively “believing” but pursuing and aligning one’s life to Him.

Without  faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. ~ Hebrews 11:6

Visual Covenants and Taking Thoughts Captive

God takes sexual purity and fidelity very seriously, and these are issues men have struggled with throughout the centuries—including Christians. Even so, when a man of God falls into sexual sin, it is not a “mistake” and it does not “just sort of happen.”

I am not pointing a finger or criticizing those who have fallen. The struggle is real for many of us, and we stand only by grace. Yet, I want to offer some Scriptural help for those who are fighting for purity.

Much of the battle really takes place in the visual sense and in the mind, does it not. As men, we are visual. It is the way we are designed. To say we do not notice attractive ladies is to lie. Furthermore, such initial noticing is not the problem. The problems come when we take legitimate vision and store them into memory banks, then submerge these into the sewage of our lusts. Thus, the problem is not seeing a lady and finding her attractive. This is natural. However, it is the going beyond this into the realm of fantasy that leads men into peril. Before any man falls into sexual sin, he must first go through his thoughts. The entertaining of thoughts does not just happen. Persons make a choice. Godly Job says,

I have made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I gaze at a virgin? ~ Job 31:1

Job states that he made a covenant with his eyes that he would not stare and lust upon a beautiful virgin. Yes, he notices her, but that is as far as he will go with it.

Jesus says plainly,

But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. ~ Matthew 5:28

Here, the visual has gone beyond mere sight and acknowledgement of attraction. It has morphed into something, now, altogether different. We are warned of the danger of the process of the seed of desire becoming the plant of action.

But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. ~ James 1:14-15

We see this very thing played out in the life of King David. It is doubtful that many of us love the Lord the way David did. Still, we read of him:

It happened, late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch and was walking on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful. And David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said, “Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” So David sent messengers and took her, and she came to him, and he lay with her. ~ 2 Samuel 11:2-4

David did not simply notice a beautiful woman bathing. He gawked until he began to desire, and soon his desire became a burning lust. Before he ever laid with her it was brought to his attention that she was married. No, David’s fall into sexual sin did not come from mere happenstance.

We are told,

We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ. ~ 2 Corinthians 10:5

As men, we are to take control of our thoughts and bring them under the authority of Christ. Just as we are not to violate a woman physically, neither are we to violate her in the dark chambers of our minds. In fact, elsewhere we are told,

Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity. ~ 1 Timothy 5:1-2

Did you catch that? We are to treat older women as we would our moms, and younger as our sisters, in all purity. Whenever a Christian man falls into sexual sin, never does it just “sort of happen.” It begins by him not treating a woman with the purity and respect he would have for his mom or sister. Thoughts and desires were entertained before any course of action was taken. And, no doubt, God sent numerous warnings  beforehand.

Men, the struggle and temptations are real; however, the flames of passion are not kindled without first dousing desires with fuel then igniting it with a spark. If we are going to walk in moral purity, then it will require effort and responsibility. We must guard our hearts, keep our visual limited, and take our thoughts captive to the obedience to Christ. Furthermore, we must honor the women around us. In Christ, they are most certainly family, moms and sisters. We must treat them as such with all purity.

Walk Worthily of Your Calling

If we are Christians, ones who are truly born again by the work of the Holy Spirit, then we have an obligation to walk (i.e., live) in a manner that is worthy of such a high calling by God. If we are genuinely saved, we must understand what we are saved from, as well as what we are saved to. Furthermore, this salvation is not something any of us achieved because we are so great; no, it is a work of God completely done by His grace.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. ~ Ephesians 2:8-9

Walking in a worthy manner begins with humility, gentleness, patience, and love. 

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. ~ Ephesians 4:1-3

The maintaining “the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” is not some false peace, as promised by the United Nations. Also, it is not achieved by simply loving people apart from any confrontation, for we are told,

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other. ~ Galatians 5:16-17

The desires of the flesh are immoral, contentious, idolatrous, and selfish. In contrast, “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23).

The goal is more than simply having a peaceful fellowship, but that we may “attain to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to [maturity]” (Eph. 4:13), so that we are not tossed back and forth from every doctrine and teaching from the pulpit or from the university classroom.

Do you think this is irrelevant? There are a number of “preachers” and so-called Christian authors who are promoting teachings that are in direct conflict of the teachings of Christ and His apostles. There are numerous persons who profess the name of Christ, yet who are adopting the teachings of Darwin (Darwinism is not science but intellectual dishonesty, as there is no evidence to support the theory, although schools teach such hogwash as irrefutable fact), Marxism, and the behaviors of Hollywood. But the apostle writes,

Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!—assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. ~ Ephesians 4:17-24

It makes no sense, whatsoever, for persons to talk about Christ dying and saving them from their sins, only to continue living in those sins! This is a total misunderstanding of the Gospel message.

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. ~ Romans 6:1-4

The knowledge of Christ is not meant as a means to simply know some cool things about Him. No! The knowledge of Christ is to be transformative by His grace. No, none of us is perfect, this is true. However, we can—and must—certainly grow in our knowledge of Him and to be continually transformed more into His likeness.

Today, if you call yourself a Christian, are you walking in a manner that is worthy of your high and noble calling?

Recapturing the Wonder (Part 2)

I admit, so many church services are simply boring. Mind you, I understand they are not meant to be entertaining, that is not what I mean. But often they are fairly informal, nice, and passionless. Many of the songs seem to be more about how much God loves us than how majestic and awesome (in the truest sense of the word) He is. Many of today’s sermons seem either like a stale lecture or a cheesy pep rally. One will tend to hear about how cool the worship was or the fun event that went on. But how often does one hear, “God was there, today! He got our attention! It was no social club today! No sir!”

Part of the reason, I believe, is we do not go with reverence or expectancy. Furthermore, often we make church about us rather than God. In fact, there are some churches who have taken out references to the blood of Jesus in their hymnals because it is “offensive,” but take out the blood and you cease to have Christianity altogether. But I digress.

The prophet Isaiah got a glimpse of God’s glory and it changed him.

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.” ~ Isaiah 6:1-8

When Isaiah was in the presence of God, he was not only amazed but he was also convicted of his sin. Furthermore, he did not argue the point that his lips were not unclean. Be certain of this—any time a person is truly in the holy presence of God, he or she will not stand there trying to justify him or herself. Isaiah cried out, “Woe is me! I am lost!” The Hebrew word for lost is Damah, which means to cease, to be destroyed and left desolate. “This verb depicts a violent end.” [1]

The presence of God shook Isaiah to the core.

In the New Testament we read:

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. ~ Acts 2:42

It was during this time as the people devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, fellowship of believers, the Lord’s Supper, and to prayer that they witnessed astounding moves of God.

The problem today is not that God had ceased to move, bring revivals, etc.; rather, the problem is we have discarded reverence and lost our sense of wonder. When God’s Word declares something as sin, we want to fight with Him about it. We want to make everything about us and what we want, instead of coming to Him with genuine recognition that He is God (hence, we are not). 

One can only speculate as to what could happen if we were to recapture the wonder of the Lord and surrender to Him. 

[1] Spiros Zodhaites, The Complete Word Study Old Testament (Chattanooga: AMG, 1994), 2310.

Why Study the Word? (Part 3)

For the follower of Jesus Christ, it is important to understand Jesus’ emphasis on the importance of studying the Scriptures. To truly be His disciple, it only stands to reason one will accept His perception of the Scriptures. First, however, a few considerations are in order.

  • The Scriptures read in the synagogues in His day were copies of copies. Jesus trusted   not only the written words of the Scriptures but also the divine preservation of them. 
  • Jesus considered the Old Testament accounts as literal, factual history. That is, He did not interpret the Scriptures allegorically.
  • Jesus teaches that the Scriptures are authoritative, completely trustworthy, and eternal, absolute truth. 
  • Jesus, who is the Word (see John 1:1-3), equates His words to being on par with the authority of the Scriptures.

The following are Jesus’ teachings about the Scriptures.

“These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. ~ Luke 24:44-45 (ESV)

For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. ~ Matthew 5:18

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. ~ Matthew 24:35

It is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one dot of the Law to become void. ~ Luke 16:17

And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. ~ Luke 24:27

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” ~ Matthew 22:36-40

Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. ~ John 18:17

We also observe Jesus’ application of the Scriptures in the midst of temptation and spiritual warfare. When He was being tempted by the devil in the wilderness, Jesus repeatedly referred to the Scriptures. Then, when Satan also quoted Scripture, twisting them, Jesus was able to see through the deception because He had studied the Word (see Matt. 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13).

This brings us to the third reason to study the Word: the Scriptures, if we build our lives upon them, will give us a secure foundation. Jesus tells us,

Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it. ~ Matthew 7:24-27

Notice, both the wise and foolish face major storms in their lives; however, it is the wise who have prepared and built on a solid foundation. Friend, is your life being built securely on the foundation of God’s Word?

Does Jesus’ Skin Color Matter?

I am somewhat humored when people debate Jesus Christ’s skin color. Not very long ago a man decried the belief in a “white” Jesus, as this is merely a form of “white supremacy.” Now, I doubt Jesus was white or black, considering He was a Galilean Jew. Regardless, I would have liked to ask the man decrying Jesus’ “whiteness” if he was living his life for Jesus. While it is doubtful Jesus was either white or black, it is certain He was not American, European, or African. He was neither Republican nor Democrat. No group of people can ever lay claim to Jesus as if He was some sort of beast to be tamed.

Let’s say Jesus was either white or black, does it matter? Either way He calls you and I to repent of sin (our sins might be quite different, but it is still sin). He commands us to love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength; furthermore, to love our neighbor as ourself (see Luke 10:27). He calls us to take up our cross and follow Him; to forgive those who have sinned against us; to love our enemies and pray for our persecutors; and to treat others the way we want to be treated. None of these are color or ethnic issues. Regardless of His skin color, are we obeying Him and abiding in Him?

In the Gospel of John, Jesus makes seven “I am” statements:

  • I am the bread of life (6:35)
  • I am the light of the world (8:12)
  • I am the door (10:9)
  • I am the good shepherd 10:14)
  • I am the resurrection and the life (11:25)
  • I am the way, and the truth, and the life (14:6)
  • I am the true vine (15:1)

No matter the tone of His pigmentation, Jesus makes some radical declarations. Furthermore, His color is not important. Rather, it is His being that is of utmost importance. He is the living God who took on human form. We relate to Him not because of our skin color but His humanity. And taking on our humanity He paid the penalty for our sins on the cross—the sins of persons of every color and culture.

For me, I do not care what color Jesus was, nor do I care that He was a Jew. These make no difference to me whatsoever. I am just grateful that He loves us and died for us, no matter our color or ethnicity. Perhaps someone reading this is convinced Jesus was either white or black. Either way, the real issue is this: Are you yielded to Him? And is He your Savior?

The Essence of Genuine Worship

Jesus teaches us that the worship of God is to be done in both spirit and truth (see John 4:23-24), and those who truly love Him will keep His commandments (see John 14:15-24). In essence, genuine worship is marked by obedience stemming from grateful hearts. Singing, clapping, raising our hands, and tingling sensations do not necessarily prove worship has taken place. Rather, are we coming to God through Christ and yielding to His Word and Holy Spirit? If these are neglected, then genuine worship acceptable to God is not taking place. Let us not make the same mistake as Cain, who refused to worship God on His terms (see Gen. 4:1-8).