Growth as a Christian is a lot different than growing a potted plant on your doorstep. The potted plant just sits there, soaking up sun and rain, and it grows. But to be a growing Christian you need to be much more proactive. Its the "working out your salvation" that Paul talks about.
As we enter the summer months, let's think about 5 simple ways to kickstart your walk with Christ and develop greater reverence for God.
1. The "Five Page" Rule - Reading good Christian literature is paramount to a robust faith. What people don't often realize is that just five pages a day can supercharge your spiritual life. Not only will you get a good dose of biblical teaching, you can burn through a book like this one in just a month's time.
2. Double up by Downloading - Multitasking is a great way to beef up your soul. Tapping into that grand reservoir of Christian audio on the internet can make that morning commute or "treadmill time" more spiritually productive. Next time you do the dishes, tune your phone into a sermon by Tim Keller or download a podcast from Nacey Leigh Demoss.
3. Sabbath like a Jew - The Lord designed Sundays to be the "market day of the soul" for the Christian. It's a day to say "no" to the busy-ness of life and concentrate on more God. If we "keep the sabbath day holy" through corporate worship, private reflection/meditation, extended times of personal prayer, or Christian fellowship, we'll see immense changes in our spiritual demeanor.
4. Prayer Challenge - Stonewall Jackson was a great military general, but he was also a great man of prayer. He trained himself to say a prayer every time he took a sip of water or mailed a letter. While you might not pray for every gulp you take, you can add prayer to more of your daily tasks. When you pick up their toys, ask God to bless your kids. When you punch in at work, as God to clock in grace for the day too.
5. Improve Your Baptism - Your baptism wasn't just something that happened long ago and far away. It's a God given tool in your spiritual arsenal. Reflecting on it's meaning and reality can be of great benefit in fighting temptation, dissuading doubt, and confirming you in grace. Martin Luther encouraged his congregation to simply repeat, "I've been baptized! I've been baptized!" from time to time as a way of reminding them of the saving promises of the gospel.
I have published a little ebook devotional that I put together for the ladies at Hopewell Church. It is a simple examination of the central passage in all Scripture regarding Biblical womanhood.
This daily devotional is aimed at helping women in our modern age emulate the virtues of godliness crowned in the "noble woman" of Proverbs 31. In less than a month's time you will examine the worth, work, and worship of a lady who truly fears God and seeks to embody His design for her.
The file is a .pdf and is compatible with your computer and/or your mobile device.
When the world was first created, it wasn't enough to have an individual man romping around the garden by himself. Expressly put, it was "not good." So God created the woman and He knit them together in the bond of marriage.
It is of note that it wasn't just two people, a man and a woman, roaming around in the garden. They were not individualized personages. By God's mysterious fusion they had became one (Gen 2:24-25). They were now a a sort of human alloy--a united entity that we now call a family.
This new cluster was to be God's tool for the rest of the work of creation. They were to be His instruments in building His kingdom. God expressly told them to be fruitful & multiply, and to rule over the earth and subdue it. Through the family God would preserve and propagate His glory throughout the world. They would bear God's name, carry out God's work, and raise up new members of His kingdom.
The fall into sin would come and history would unravel in a much different direction. However, the original design is still very much in effect. God still uses the same old tools for promoting His causes. Families continue to be central to the preservation of the faith and rule of God.
For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. - 1 Corinthians 7:14
What does it mean when the text says that the unbeliever is sanctified (or made holy) by the believer? And how are children of this mixed relationship considered holy?
Some Baptists interprete the previous passage as saying the believing spouse has a sanctifying influence upon the unbeliever. That is to say, the unbeliever becomes outwardly more righteous bc of the presence and influence of the believer. So the unbeliever may quit smoking or stop cussing because of the godly influence of the believing spouse.
But this verse says that the children ARE holy. They do not progressively become holy, but rather, they enjoy the status of holiness. This verse must help to interpret the former. The spouse does not become progressively sanctified. He becomes holy in that he enters into the state of being holy.
This holiness, we must understand, is not an internal holiness. That can only be experienced by the believer. The holiness of the believer is patterned after the holiness of Christ himself, and is a work that is part of the regeneration of the believer's heart.
The holiness spoken of here is of another kind. It is outward; or may be called an "external holiness." It is the holiness associated with being brought into God's covenant and becoming a member of the visible church.
To be holy simply means to be "set apart." Unbelievers who are married to believer's become holy in that the are much like the utensils used in the tabernacle in the Old Testament. They are set apart from the rest of the world unto God.
In the Old Testament a Jew could take for themselves a wife from among the Gentiles. Perhaps as part of the spoil from a war. That woman would become a member of God's people. She would be "made holy" in that she had come into the covenant community and was now a member of Israel. She might not be saved, but she was definitely in a new status before God. Moreover, the children would have the right of circumcision, which meant that they would be marked as ones belonging to God.
So it is in the New Testament era. God looks upon the unbelieving spouse and the children of this mixed relationship as members of His covenant and participants in the visible church.
The visible church, of course, is made up of believer's and unbelievers, wheat and tares. It is distinct from the invisible church, which consists of all who possess true faith.
This is further verified by verse 16, which goes on to say, "How do you know whether you will save your unbelieving spouse?" Paul recognizes that the unbelieving spouse is not internally holy (i.e. saved). The unbeliever must still profess faith and experience the saving power of the Spirit which is demonstrated in the renewing the heart.
Despite the unbeliever's lack of faith, he still maybe said to be a member of the covenant community. He may be an Esau, but he is no less a part of the covenant body.
"If you will not listen, if you will not take it to heart to give honor to my name, says the LORD of hosts, then I will send the curse upon you and I will curse your blessings. Indeed, I have already cursed them, because you do not lay it to heart." Mal 2:2 ESV
Blasphemy is one of the worst possible sins in the Bible. Another passage in the Bible tells us that cursing God was a capital offense. It was punishable by death.
As we see from this verse, failure to honor God’s name results in a direct curse from God. It even says that the blessings God gives will be turned into a curse. We may think of the quail that the Lord gave to the Israelites in the wilderness. The Israelites were failing to give honor to God as the one who had just saved them out of Egypt and they did not recognize his power to sustain. So he gave them quail. But the quail, thought it was a blessing, it was also a curse—it turned into a plague.
So it behooves us to recognize how circumspect we should be when it comes to honoring God’s name and giving him the reverence he is due.
When we think of blasphemy, we typically think of taking God’s name in vain. This is the most direct form. Using God’s name as an expletive not only empties it of its infinite value, but it also uses that which is holy for profane purposes. This is also true of the diminished forms of God’s name, such as “omg” or “gosh” (God) or “geez” (Jesus).
But we must also recognize that God’s name stands for anything which is associated with God himself. So it is not just his names, but his word, worship, attributes, & works.
For instance, when a child draws a picture, you do not criticize the work and say it looks nothing like what he/she was trying to depict. Why? Because you know that you might make that child cry. The criticism of the art is an insult to the artist himself.
The same is true when it comes to God's name. When we disparage anything connected to God (like the weather or some providence He brings our way), it is a criticism of God himself.
So we must be careful to recognize the depths of the third commandment. Did you grumble at the weather this morning? The Lord produced the ice and it is one of his marvelous works. Are you not engaged in the songs you sing or giving attention to the word? That is God's worship & God's word and that flippancy is a form of blasphemy.
I remember one time in Seminary we had a break between classes. A few of us headed to the men’s room. Just as we opened the door, three guys were heading out. We were all chatting in our respective groups, and we almost collided when the door opened. I cried out, “Holy cow!” It just popped out of my mouth as a natural reaction to the close encounter. A terribly awkward silence immediately followed. It was then awkwardly broken by one student saying, “Yes, you have to watch out for those sacred bovine.”
My irreverent use of God’s most grand attribute was certainly brought home.
As we come to our time of confession this morning, let us take to heart the ways we have blasphemed God. Whether it be in the profanities we have uttered, disrespect we have shown, or irreverent attitudes we my have had towards God’s person and work, let us confess them and ask that God hold back the curses he has threatened for it.
You have pledged that you will not hold him guiltless who takes your name in vain. Lord, we confess that we have been a blasphemous people in that we have failed to honor you and uphold your majesty. We admit that have not treated the reading & preaching of your word with the highest esteem.
We acknowledge that we have not been as engaged as we should be. We have let our minds wander in prayer, we have been flippant when approaching the Communion Table, we have spent little time glorifying you and meditating on the wonder of your being.
Our Lord our God, we admit that we have not reverenced you as we ought and we beg your pardon.
Forgive us for having the heart of Esau, who would profane his birthright by selling it for a pot of porridge. Give us grace to overcome the sacrilege of the Israelites who treated the sacred Ark of the Covenant as a superstitious toy. Let us be freed from the attitude of Paul, who kicked against the goads and ignored the testimony of the saints.
Sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness. Pro 16:21b ESV
This verse gives us the true key for becoming a leader and influential person.
Having come through the election cycle we’ve seen vivid examples of anything but sweetness of speech. In the aftermath of all the heavy handed mud slinging, patronizing attitudes, and criticism it may do us good to have this reminder.
The best way to win an argument or get someone to do what we want is not through rough speech, reprimands, or authoritarian inducements. Persuading someone comes through sweet speech. That is through kind words, gracious tones, and helpful gestures.
Sweet speech is demonstrated in complimentary attitudes, profuse expressions of gratitude, and genuine interest in the good of others. That means we should go out of our way to encourage those around us, more than we criticize them. We should be ready to publicly recognize good works and a job well done. And when we do need to correct someone, it should be more medical than detrimental. By that I mean our admonishments should be couched in cordial terms, courteous, and demonstrating the highest level of diplomacy.
Unfortunately, our natures makes us condescending and sarcastic. We usually spike the ball in someone’s face, talk down to them, point out their faults, and overlook those good things in their lives that ought to be commended and given credit.
All in all, there’s a great sin of omission. God’s will for our lives is that our speech be seasoned with the friendly sweetness that would result in people glorifying the gospel and furthering obedience to God’s law.
The Duggar’s once said that this was one of the main components of their parenting method. As parents, there is much to reprimands and we can come to have the habit of chiding our children for this or that. But they said that their goal was to encourage more often than they admonish them. They aimed to inspire them to be good rather than beat it into them.
Undercover Boss – Those who are the leaders are those who have a cheerful demeanor and who know how to motivate people. There’s nothing manipulative about it. It is simply the ability to arouse enthusiasm and coax them through positive reinforcement and helpful redirection.
Lately I’ve started reading a book entitled, “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” Maybe you will have the same attitude that my daughter did when I told her the title of the book. She said, “Poor daddy. He has to read books on how to make friends.”
But the book is all about this kind of thing. It shows how people become more successful and have greater ability to increase productivity when they demonstrate a genuine love for other people.
As Christians, this is to be the standard of our speech. So as we come to our time of confession, let’s bow our heads to confess how we’ve failed, and ask for the sweetness of the gospel to persuade our hearts and minds into renewed righteousness.
Prayer of Confession
Our Father in Heaven,
Hallowed by thy name. Lord, we recognize that we are blasphemous creatures. We admit that our mouths have spoken out of the abundance of our hearts. Our speech has often been unkind and disagreeable, causing people to be provoked more to anger than to obedience. Lord, we recognize that we have sinned by not demonstrating the verbal charm that we should have. We confess that we have not loved with our lips.
Lord we pray that you may forgive us for having failed in this regard. And we pray that you would teach us by example. Let the gospel of grace be spoken to our hearts. May the fact that Christ has died and rose again enchant us. May the fact that you renew the brokenhearted and clear the guilt of sinners be that which persuades us to follow in the footsteps of your dear Son, who’s words brought life and salvation to all.
God, grant us hearts that are full of the joy of your salvation that we might in turn persuade men to embrace the Savior of men.
In Jesus strong name we pray. Amen.
"Only men who know their weakness find their strength in Christ alone."
Almighty and blessed God,
We acknowledge you to be the only true and living God, full of glory, goodness, and grace. You possess infinite perfection and are wholly above the lowly capacities of finite man. You have all life in yourself and are due from angels, men, and every other creature under heaven, all homage, obedience, and worship.
We enter this solemn and sacred time recognizing our duty to submit ourselves to you and to your authority. We join ourselves together to render you the thanks you are due for your perpetual goodness, constant patience, and supreme mercy. According to your commandment we wish to set this day apart unto you and corporately publicize the excellency of your Name.
Yet we also acknowledge the poverty of our frame. By virtue of the corruption that dwells within us we are utterly indisposed to all good and wholly uninclined to seek your face. Neither are we disposed to worship you aright. Left to ourselves we are liable to follow our fancies and increase our guilt by seeking our own delights.
For this reason we call upon you and ask that you would manifest your sovereign and gracious hand among us. Let our worship remain pure and pleasing in your sight. Turn our wandering minds towards the constant watchfulness of your loving care. Settle our distracted hearts upon the abiding greatness of your Name. Grace us with your steadfast mercy so that we might be enabled and inclined to praise the eternally blessed God who resides in heaven and is adored by the angels and saints who abide there.
And though our worship is nothing more than the pitiful offerings of destitute beggars we pray that you might receive from us our feeble sacrifices and take pleasure in the bowing of our hearts.
For this we pray in the strong Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.
Jesus was crucified on Calvary which is also known as Golgotha, i.e. the place of the skull. That his death took place here reminds us that he came to fulfill the pledge in Genesis 3:15.
Though his heal was bruised, he crushed the head of Satan and abolished the curse of death.
1 Samuel 26 is something of a repetition of 1 Samuel 24, but the lessons it teaches are certainly not a regurgitation. There are fresh teachings to be mined in this study on the Lord's Dominion and certain victory over sin and Satan.
This study guide comes with personal investigative questions, answers at the end, and some structural analysis.
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.