An Acceptable Fool

11/24/2017 § Leave a comment

Presented at this year’s Akron Alliance Fellowship Church Ladies Brunch Conference, Saturday, October 7, 2017:

I’ve come to a place in my life where I have determined, beyond any doubt, that I don’t suffer fools very well. I don’t. I’m not proud of this statement. In some ways, it is an admission of guilt; however, I will do everything in my power to make sure that the fool that I run across will never be insulted or belittled. There may be comments in my mind that I will need to take to God for forgiveness later on, but I will speak to that person with kindness and courtesy, and then later on pray for that person to get it right. I am wary of making sure that I watch what I say–or even keep my own mouth shut–lest I be called a fool, as well. Proverbs 17:28 says that “even a fool is considered wise when he keeps silent, discerning when he seals his lips.”

All of us have encountered people who can be considered as fools as referred to in the book of Proverbs. In addition, Scripture refers to some who take foolish actions, or people who lack sense or understanding. We won’t cover all of those verses here, but you get the idea. The psalms and proverbs of Scripture cover a lot of ground in this area, and the general theme that pertains to a fool involves a lack of wisdom or discipline (Proverbs 1:7), performing acts of wickedness (Isaiah 35:8) or having poor judgment (Proverbs 10:21), or even deserving to be chastised or corrected with a baseball bat–I mean, a rod (Proverbs 26:3)!

Well, the truth of the matter is that those psalms, proverbs and other Scriptures are written to describe me–especially when I am being hard-headed and disobedient. When I’m trusting in anything and everything besides Jesus Christ. I wish there were more occasions where I could say that I was a fool for Christ more than just being a plain old fool, but I don’t think I can because I know that I needed some heart surgery to take place.

One of my new favorite singers, Ms. Crystal Jackson, has a song that refers to this heart surgery. It begins as you listen to the words and sounds of the Holy Spirit as He speaks to you about your life. The Spirit is kind and cool, but He also can cut right to the chase. His Word cuts bone and marrow (Hebrews 4:12) like a hot knife through butter, and it convicts you of the life that you are living. Even with all of this cutting, paring and pruning, you can still see the character of Christ at work in your life, who declares in Matthew 11:30 that His yoke is easy and His burden is light. Sin in your life weighs you down to the point that you don’t want to carry the burden anymore. Thankfully, the burden can be lifted once you decide to turn from your life of sin (because you no longer want to disappoint God) and acknowledge your need for a Savior in Jesus Christ. The heart surgery begins there, and the Spirit joins you in your fight–but now it’s the good fight (2 Timothy 4:7)!

The words “heart surgery” are not unique. The act of heart surgery means that a surgeon is repairing damage to the heart to return it to a place where it is beating and performing as it should in order to sustain life within the patient. I’m thankful that Jesus Christ performs this surgery for me on a regular basis, because I know that I sin and fall short of His glory, and I need His Spirit to make those repairs in me. I know, in spite of my position, that I am a work-in-progress in my goal to be a faithful, loyal servant of Jesus Christ.

I’m getting better at it. I don’t take as many trips down Fools Lane as I used to. I still have a ways to go. I am still receptive to the Holy Spirit continuing this surgery that removes the heart of stone and turns it into a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 36:26-27 says “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.”

I want the stubbornness and impatience to be thrown off for obedience, gentleness and compassion, and I want people to see my life as a testimony–in my obedience, gentleness and compassion–living a life of thankfulness in Christ.

Now, that’s my short story. I don’t need to remind you what it is to be the wrong kind of fool now, do I? There are examples of being this type of fool everywhere you turn. Let me give you a quick quiz as an example. An NFL (National Football League) player, who will remain nameless, has 11 children from 10 different women. If they were running a race (the player and the women–all eleven of them together) for Top Fool, who do you think would win? And they’re off! The player is running hard, but look at the speed of the other women! It would be stride for stride all the way to the finish! And it’s a photo finish! You can’t tell who won this race, because there is no such thing as a winner in this type of race. Everyone loses, and the children involved are also on the losing side because of the lives that they now have. Being a fool has consequences that affect others in a very negative manner, and only God Himself can rescue and heal those who suffer from the fallout. His love, grace and mercy prevails over selfishness, pettiness and evil. Praise the Lord!

We need more people to become fools for Christ. This is an acceptable kind of fool. Why use the term “fools for Christ”? Because Paul spoke about this exact term in Scripture. He was giving counsel and instruction to the Corinthian church about what true leadership in Christ represents. He stated in 1 Corinthians 4:9-10 that he and his disciples were fools in Christ to the world because their message of the gospel has made them stand out in a peculiar way before others, and that they have been subject to ridicule, dishonor and oppression. There were even a couple of references in Acts (17:18 and 26:24) where Paul, in proclaiming the truth of Jesus Christ and His resurrection, was called crazy or insane. This is not hard to understand, because believers today are often referred to as “weird” or as “Jesus Freaks” (that’s an old term, too), or as “nuts.” More often than not, you are an outsider and treated differently among your friends or people you know because of your faith. It’s nothing that should catch believers off guard. I would rather be on the “weird” side than on the “wrong” side. I would rather be “left out” of a group because of my faith in Christ than be “lost” and without hope.

The passages in 1 Corinthians Chapter 1 are meant to be an encouragement to any of us who have been ridiculed or even mistreated overtly or even covertly:

1 Corinthians 1:18-19
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”

1 Corinthians 1:21
For since in the wisdom of God, the world through its wisdom did not know Him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.

And there is a reason why Jesus embraced the children who ran to Him (they saw something in Him that some of the adults, with hardened hearts, never saw). He knew of their innocence, and declared that whoever becomes like a child and humbles himself before Jesus Christ will be great in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:2-4).

Be encouraged, for God knows what you are going through. When we are down, He will lift us up! When we see signs that we are losing, He will remind us that we already have the victory! Even when we are ridiculed, He reveals to us His grace and compassion. He covets your prayers and your relationship with Him, and He will affirm you as you seek after Him and follow His instruction.

I sincerely pray that you will consider that being a fool for Christ is a much better way to live than being just another, everyday fool.

 

© Melvin Gaines

Advertisements

Who We Become in Christ

06/22/2015 § Leave a comment

God’s desire for us is to live an abundant life. It is a life not with promises of perfect health and riches, but a life that understands the relevance of Christ’s presence and a desire to be more faithful and obedient to Him. Our riches are not physical. They are in the abundance of living a life for Jesus Christ. [1] In our living this abundant life, we develop the mind of Christ and perform acts of ministry to others in worship to Him and in praise for Him.

As believers and followers of Jesus Christ, we receive the aid of the Holy Spirit who provides us with the desire to want to serve Him. We want to please Him often before we know how to do so. The enthusiasm of a new life in Christ is present (2 Corinthians 5:17), but the challenge is to build upon the enthusiasm with the actions that we believe are best in line with His will and purpose for our lives.

This is also true for “fifty-somethings” like me who have known Jesus for over twenty years. I have encouraged my church Sunday school class and congregation to always remain sensitive to the Holy Spirit as you submit your life to Him in prayer as to your focus within the body of Christ and in ministry as to your purpose. Everyone is born with at least one talent. The prayer is that God reveals to you all of your talents, abilities AND your spiritual gifts that He gives to you as you became a believer in Christ. You have to seek His wisdom and guidance in this area to reach your fullest potential.

Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life helped its readers to recognize that each person created by God has a purpose. As we read Warren’s first words of the book, “It’s not about you,” [2] it is apparent that our lives are not our own as much as we would like. We are often confronted with the reality that what we are doing in our vocational work or even within our actions in church is inadequate as we reckon with God’s calling for our lives.

The most important things that a person can do to resolve this issue include the ongoing development of one’s relationship with Jesus Christ. There must be a closeness with Christ in order to be in tune with His will and desires for you to be fulfilled. Of course, Satan and his agents will put up all sorts of opposition or obstacles that will keep you from developing this closeness. Your busyness will challenge your ability to focus on Jesus Christ, but your efforts to remain steadfast with Him and in Him makes you Satan’s enemy. Thankfully, you have the power of the conquering Holy Spirit who will cling to you and provide protection (Isaiah 54:17).

It begins with communication–His Word speaks to you and you respond in prayer. An in-depth review of His communication with you requires the quietness of meditation. From there, you can live with the confidence that God will provide direction for you as you grow in your relationship.

There may be a change of path in your vocation or even your career of service as you navigate through life, but there is nothing better than receiving the directions from the guiding hands of Jesus Christ as you move forward.

 

1 Article – John 10:10 – The Abundant Life (2000). Grace Communion International. © 2015 Grace Communion International. Retrieved June 18, 2015 from https://www.gci.org/bible/john1010

2 Warren, Richard (2002). The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth am I Here For? Copyright © 2002, 2011, 2012 by Rick Warren. Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI., pg. 21

Courageous in Christ

05/04/2014 § Leave a comment

A summary of a message presented at Akron Alliance Fellowship Church, May 4, 2014:

2 Corinthians 2:14

But thanks be to God, who always puts us on display in Christ and through us spreads the aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.

Believers in Jesus Christ are reminded by Scripture to be confident in their faith, but often, this is easier said than done. Perhaps you have experienced difficulties or setbacks in your faith because of life’s circumstances. These are completely normal and understandable. You can be a believer in Jesus Christ and experience different degrees of hardship. In these experiences, there is a lack of confidence in your circumstances.

Where does this lack of confidence come from?

  • First, it begins with a loss of focus on Jesus Christ
  • Next, it continues with doubt–something is not right, and now you’re not sure about the outcome of the situation
  • Finally, the loss of focus and the doubt is stirred up with a potion of fear.

A loss of focus is a huge distraction in your walk of faith.

Doubt is the opposite of faith.

Fear creeps in when faith is absent.

In order to get back to a place where faith can be placed at the forefront, you need to overcome the greatest obstacle that perpetuates doubt, and that is fear.

Fear comes from the available information, or a lack of information, which leads to a perception or anticipation of a negative outcome.

There are many different ways that fear become manifest in the life of a believer. Here is a top ten list that encapsulates how fear can overshadow a person’s life:

10. Losing your freedom

09. The unknown

08. Pain

07. Disappointment

06. Misery

05. Loneliness

04. Ridicule

03. Rejection

02. Death

01. Failure

Fear is a real emotion, but it is debilitating to your faith.

The result of fear, in your doubt and lack of focus, is a believer who is outside of the place where God wants you to be. It’s a place that is unsettling at best, and dreadful at worst.

Fear is not a switch that one can turn on and turn off. In our flesh, there is no such thing as an absence of fear. Fear is like a wound that needs ointment and a bandage in order to promote healing.

In order to overcome fear, which allows us to combat doubt and regain focus on Jesus Christ, there is a remedy. Fear must be suppressed with a reliance on God’s Word and the power of the Holy Spirit.

Fear must be met with courage.

Courage is the essence of a believer that drives the necessary change to promote growth of your IMAGE in Jesus Christ and the ability, in spite of any life difficulty or circumstance, to proclaim the good news for the Great Commission.

God reminds you of the importance of being courageous. It takes your mind off of the things that you are fearful of. He gives us many reminders and words of encouragement throughout Scripture.

2 Timothy 1:6-7

6 Therefore, I remind you to keep ablaze the gift of God that is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7 For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.

Deuteronomy 31:6

Be strong and courageous; don’t be terrified or afraid of them. For it is the Lord your God who goes with you; He will not leave you or forsake you.”

Joshua 1:9

“Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

 

Fear is anxiety and can be driven by impatience. God wants you to be patient.

Psalm 27:14

Wait for the Lord;
be strong and courageous.
Wait for the Lord.

 

God wants you to experience rest and comfort as you rely upon the Spirit to overcome fear.

John 16:33

I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.”

 

Fear is the absence of trust. God reminds us to trust in Him. Leave the results of your anxiety at His feet.

Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not rely on your own understanding;
think about Him in all your ways,
and He will guide you on the right paths.

Psalm 27:1

The Lord is my light and my salvation—
whom should I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life—
of whom should I be afraid?

 

There’s no need to go it alone. There’s strength and courage in numbers. Stay in a fellowship.

Philippians 1:27-28

27 Just one thing: Live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or am absent, I will hear about you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind, working side by side for the faith that comes from the gospel, 28 not being frightened in any way by your opponents. This is a sign of destruction for them, but of your deliverance—and this is from God.

 

Trusting God in your fear leads to confidence that there will be a good result…but even more than this…that God will be glorified.

Daniel 3:15-18

15 Now if you’re ready, when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, drum, and every kind of music, fall down and worship the statue I made. But if you don’t worship it, you will immediately be thrown into a furnace of blazing fire—and who is the god who can rescue you from my power?”

16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied to the king, “Nebuchadnezzar, we don’t need to give you an answer to this question. 17 If the God we serve exists, then He can rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire, and He can rescue us from the power of you, the king. 18 But even if He does not rescue us, we want you as king to know that we will not serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up.”

What amazing courage! But make no mistake about it…your courage is far from your own strength. God provides the ability for you to overcome fear and be strong in Him.

Philippians 4:11-13

11 I don’t say this out of need, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. 12 I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content—whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. 13 I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me.

 

Proverbs 3:25-26

25 Don’t fear sudden danger

or the ruin of the wicked when it comes,

26 for the Lord will be your confidence

and will keep your foot from a snare.

 

Isaiah 41:8-10

8 But you, Israel, My servant,

Jacob, whom I have chosen,

descendant of Abraham, My friend—

9 I brought you from the ends of the earth

and called you from its farthest corners.

I said to you: You are My servant;

I have chosen you and not rejected you.

10 Do not fear, for I am with you;

do not be afraid, for I am your God.

I will strengthen you; I will help you;

I will hold on to you with My righteous right hand.

 

God offers Himself to you for comfort, healing, preservation and love, which overcomes all fear. He is your confidence. He is our confidence that we will succeed in any difficult situation or circumstance.

His love overcomes fear.

1 John 4:17-19

17 In this, love is perfected with us so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment, for we are as He is in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment. So the one who fears has not reached perfection in love. 19 We love because He first loved us.

Copyright © Melvin Gaines

The Myopic Believer

04/27/2014 § Leave a comment

A message summary at Akron Alliance Fellowship Church, April 27, 2014:

When it comes to eyesight, your ability to see changes as you get older.  For example, objects close up are clear, while objects far away can be very blurry.  This is nearsightedness.  Myopia is the clinical term for nearsightedness, which means you can’t see far away.

How does this pertain to a person who is a believer?  It has to do with your faith.  There is only faith in what is seen, but what about faith when things are unseen or unknown?

What is faith?

Hebrews 11:1-2

1 Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen. 2 For our ancestors won God’s approval by it.

 

Our entire relationship in Jesus Christ is based upon faith…believing in the promises of God for salvation and eternal life. Without faith, we cannot experience any security in where we are today and where we will go when we leave here.  If you choose to live for the moment and fail to see the importance of what will come in the future, you are not relying on any hope or promises that Jesus offers.  Think about this as you live your life.  If you are living a life where there is a lack of confidence in where you stand, it has an effect on how you are living and how others see you.

Without faith, every believer reverts to a place that is most familiar—the flesh.  In the flesh, you can’t see what is in the distance.  You can only see what is in front of you.  It is the opposite of having faith.  In the flesh, we are myopic.

Symptoms of myopia in a believer:

 

1. Hidden or spoiled fruits (of the Spirit)

Galatians 5:19-25 (HCSB)

19 Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, 21 envy, drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar. I tell you about these things in advance—as I told you before—that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, we must also follow the Spirit.

 

Your flesh will prevent the Spirit from operating in your life.

Your flesh will hide the fruits of the Spirit.

Your flesh will spoil your fruits.

 

2. Short on faithing and long on complaining

1 Peter 4:8-10 (HCSB)

8 Above all, maintain an intense love for each other, since love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Be hospitable to one another without complaining. 10 Based on the gift each one has received, use it to serve others, as good managers of the varied grace of God.

 

3. Missed blessings mean missed opportunities

Deuteronomy 28:1-10 (HCSB)

Blessings for Obedience

1 “Now if you faithfully obey the Lord your God and are careful to follow all His commands I am giving you today, the Lord your God will put you far above all the nations of the earth. 2 All these blessings will come and overtake you, because you obey the Lord your God: 

3 You will be blessed in the city

and blessed in the country.

4 Your descendants will be blessed,

and your land’s produce,

and the offspring of your livestock,

including the young of your herds

and the newborn of your flocks.

5 Your basket and kneading bowl will be blessed.

6 You will be blessed when you come in

and blessed when you go out.

7 “The Lord will cause the enemies who rise up against you to be defeated before you. They will march out against you from one direction but flee from you in seven directions. 8 The Lord will grant you a blessing on your storehouses and on everything you do; He will bless you in the land the Lord your God is giving you. 9 The Lord will establish you as His holy people, as He swore to you, if you obey the commands of the Lord your God and walk in His ways. 10 Then all the peoples of the earth will see that you are called by Yahweh’s name, and they will stand in awe of you.

 

Deuteronomy 28:65-67

65 You will find no peace among those nations, and there will be no resting place for the sole of your foot. There the Lord will give you a trembling heart, failing eyes, and a despondent spirit. 66 Your life will hang in doubt before you. You will be in dread night and day, never certain of survival. 67 In the morning you will say, ‘If only it were evening!’ and in the evening you will say, ‘If only it were morning!’—because of the dread you will have in your heart and because of what you will see.

 

Here’s the problem—if these are your attributes—hidden or spoiled fruits, complaining, and unappreciative—what do other people see in you where they can be encouraged?

A believer’s actions must be evident to others in ways that are deemed to be Christlike.  Anything less is inadequate as a believer.  This myopic behavior, left untreated, can be disastrous in the long term.

God is aware of this condition and its treatment.  It’s up to the person to opt for a prescription, which begins with a growing relationship with Jesus Christ.  He wants you to have more as a believer than plain old fire insurance.

Escape through fire…

1 Corinthians 3:14-16 (HCSB)

14 If anyone’s work that he has built survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, it will be lost, but he will be saved; yet it will be like an escape through fire.

16 Don’t you yourselves know that you are God’s sanctuary and that the Spirit of God lives in you?

 

But don’t think you get a pass even in this area…God knows your heart and will call you out if you haven’t been honest with yourself…

Ezekiel 15:6-8 (HCSB)

6 “Therefore, this is what the Lord God says: Like the wood of the vine among the trees of the forest, which I have given to the fire as fuel, so I will give up the residents of Jerusalem. 7 I will turn against them. They may have escaped from the fire, but it will still consume them. And you will know that I am Yahweh when I turn against them. 8 I will make the land desolate because they have acted unfaithfully.” This is the declaration of the Lord God.

 

Your prescription for myopia as a believer:

Work on your IMAGE

Investigate – not just read the Bible, but investigate the contents of it–study and learn His Word.

Meditate – not just prayer, but meditate on the Word day and night. Discover how God is speaking to you.

Apply – Taking God’s Word and applying it to your life on a daily basis.  Knowing the Word is not enough–applying it means much more.

Grow – Learning to grow in your relationship with Jesus Christ each day and grow in your knowledge of Him.

Endure – To endure is to be able to effectively withstand any opposition that you face; especially the opposition of the enemy.

 

Ephesians 6:13-18 (HCSB)

13 This is why you must take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand. 14 Stand, therefore,

with truth like a belt around your waist,

righteousness like armor on your chest,

15 and your feet sandaled with readiness

for the gospel of peace.

16 In every situation take the shield of faith,

and with it you will be able to extinguish

all the flaming arrows of the evil one.

17 Take the helmet of salvation,

and the sword of the Spirit,

which is God’s word.

18 Pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request, and stay alert in this with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints.

The prescription for a myopic believer begins with a better relationship with the One who saved you in the beginning–Jesus Christ. He helps you in the power of the Holy Spirit in how to live life after salvation.

Copyright © Melvin Gaines

Spring Break 2013 is in Stow Ohio April 19-20

04/18/2013 § Leave a comment

We’re just a day away from Spring Break 2013!  Join me this Friday afternoon at 5pm at the Hampton Inn in Stow OH for what promises to be one of my best relationship conferences ever presented!  If you want to see your relationship with Jesus Christ really take off and become a strong testimony before others, then this is where you want to be this weekend!  We will meet tomorrow evening and Saturday morning with tips and strategies to help you on your way.  Best of all, the event is free and open for singles and couples.Spring Break 2013 is Here! (and it's free, too!)

Spring Break 2013 is Here! (and it’s free, too!)

“No One Can Judge Me” – A Christian Cop Out

10/09/2010 § Leave a comment

Living the Christian lifestyle is hardly an easy task—in fact, it is very difficult to get it right some of the time, and it is almost impossible to go from day to day without stumbling under a transgression or two.  That being said, it is easy to overcome these difficulties as God has made the permanent provision for forgiveness of sin through a belief in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  As we exercise our free will, our declaration of faith keeps us in a healthy fellowship with God.

We also, in contrast, can make the conscious decision to live a life that dances on the edge of fellowship with God—somewhere between sincere repentance on an occasional basis (most likely when things are not going well in life) and going from ride to ride in the Carnal Carnival.  If that seems like a wide swath between borderline to very bad behavior, you’re correct—it is.  A very good analogy to this can be seen as a comparative to the intent found in Scripture in Matthew 7:13-14.

Matthew 7:13-14

“Enter through the narrow gate.  For the gate is wide and the road is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who go through it.  How narrow is the gate and difficult the road that leads to life, and few find it.”

Note that this verse, which is referring to the pathway to the entrance to the Kingdom of God, has a consistent correlation with a person’s life decisions.  Is it fair to conclude that those who choose to live for Christ are willing to do so with the reverence as to whom Jesus Christ are the few, and others that choose not to follow Christ and make decisions to go their own way are the many?

Speaking of the few and the many, there are many Christians, people who proclaimed that they are saved by grace, who are living a dangerous existence.  These so called believers are bent on living on the edge—living in the world and also of the world—proclaiming Jesus during the day and creeping around at night.  This is not a criticism or characterization to the few believers that have moments of weakness, repent, and maintain a regular fellowship with God because their attitudes are based in the sincere desire to seek Jesus and please Him with obedience.  Well, what about those who are either part-time church attendees or outside of this fellowship?  I am speaking, in fact, calling out the double-minded persons who profess Christ and, at the same time, summarize their overall behavior with the infamous comments, “Well, God made me that way!” or, “Nobody’s perfect!” or, “No one can judge me!”  Really?

The distinction needs to be made about this behavior to encourage those who are seeking God with sincerity of heart and those who are play-acting their Christianity, because it is very important for each of us to remain focused on the commands of Christ, and to admonish those who are clearly not doing so.  Scripture addresses this very clearly with stipulations if the person involved is in the body of fellowship, and your conclusion of the matter will have the endorsement of Christ Himself:

Matthew 18:15-18

“If your brother sins against you, go and rebuke him in private. If he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he won’t listen, take one or two more with you, so that by the testimony of two or three witnesses every fact may be established. If he pays no attention to them, tell the church. But if he doesn’t pay attention even to the church, let him be like an unbeliever and a tax collector to you. I assure you: Whatever you bind on earth is already bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth is already loosed in heaven.”

1 Corinthians 5:9-13

I wrote to you in a letter not to associate with sexually immoral people.  I did not mean the immoral people of this world or the greedy and swindlers or idolaters; otherwise you would have to leave the world.  But now I am writing you not to associate with anyone who claims to be a believer who is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or verbally abusive, a drunkard or a swindler.  Do not even eat with such a person.  For what business is it of mine to judge outsiders? Don’t you judge those who are inside?  But God judges outsiders.  Put away the evil person from among yourselves.

More about judging within the body later.  One more verse:

2 Thessalonians 3:6

Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to keep away from every brother who walks irresponsibly and not according to the tradition received from us.

The believer who utters the defensive comment “God made me that way!” or, “Nobody’s perfect!” or, “No one can judge me!” is what I refer to as a “Christian cop out.”  With the basic understanding of what it means to be a Christian, note the reason for using the “cop out” term.  A simple definition of “cop out” is to avoid taking responsibility for an action, avoid fulfilling a duty or responsibility, or to fail to live up to expectations (Wikipedia).  It is to perform in an insufficient, negligent, or superficial manner (Wiktionary).

A cop out, in this application, does not apply in philosophy to the non-believer.  1 Corinthians 5:9-13 affirms this.  A non-believer is only going to behave according to where he or she is accustomed; therefore, it is expected that a non-believer will behave in a worldly manner.  A Christian, on the other hand, takes on the additional responsibility of living in obedience and reverence for Jesus Christ.  The expectations are vastly different for a believer’s behavior over a non-believer’s behavior.  Interestingly, even non-believers have that same expectation of believers.  They can tell the difference, and they know the difference between believers and non-believers, and it is the differences in behavior that can eventually lead non-believers to become believers.

Why am I picking on believers that are Christian Cop Outs?  For three reasons…

  • To identify these persons and their behavior for what it is—inconsistent in fellowship with Jesus Christ and a poor testimony to believers and non-believers alike.
  • Their philosophical views will invariably allow for worldly viewpoints and philosophies to filter into the church and the body of Christ.
  • To denounce this philosophy as a dangerous cat-and-mouse game with one’s Christian faith and with others who could be won for Christ.

First, let’s address one of the comments that may come forth as a Christian cop out—for example, “No one can judge me,” or “You can’t judge me.”

The comments are born out of a scriptural reference, and of course, it is taken out of context for the purpose of justification of one’s behavior (a cop out).

Matthew 7:1-5

“Do not judge, so that you won’t be judged.  For with the judgment you use, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.  Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye but don’t notice the log in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and look, there’s a log in your eye?  Hypocrite! First take the log out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

Be mindful, however, on what prompts the first 5 verses…look at verse 6:

Matthew 7:6

“Don’t give what is holy to dogs or toss your pearls before pigs, or they will trample them with their feet, turn, and tear you to pieces.”

Also, remember the narrow gate in verses 13 and 14, and look at verses 15 and 16 of Matthew, Chapter 7:

Matthew 7:15-16

“Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravaging wolves.  You will recognize them by their fruit.”

It is clear that in order for us to make a conclusion about someone or something, we have to make a judgment.  Scripture is providing us examples of persons to be wary of, especially the false teacher or prophet that intentionally deceive others to accomplish his or her goals.  In this context, the verses in Matthew Chapter 7 warn against hypocrisy, but there is nothing in scripture that claims we should never judge someone.  In reality, we do it all of the time as we make our best efforts to live our lives in righteousness:

Proverbs 31:9

Speak up, judge righteously, and defend the cause of the oppressed and needy.

Luke 17:3

“Be on your guard. If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.  And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and comes back to you seven times, saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”

John 7:24

“Stop judging according to outward appearances; rather, judge according to righteous judgment.”

One may argue that to judge someone means to condemn him or her as if you were God.  Your response would be that it is true that God sets the standard and will pass judgment at the appropriate time.  You are the bearer of the information on behalf of God.  If the Spirit moves you to speak and provide this information, let it flow.

Psalm 119:11-13

I have treasured Your word in my heart so that I may not sin against You.  Lord, may you be praised; teach me Your statutes. With my lips I proclaim all the judgments from Your mouth.

Therefore, with this evidence, the believer’s comment, “You can’t judge me” is defiant in nature and is in direct contrast to the very nature of a believer dying to self and living for Christ:

2 Corinthians 5:17

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come.

Which brings me to our first reason for identifying this philosophical cop out for what it is—an inconsistent walk with Christ and a poor testimony for all to observe.  It is easy to see that the lifestyle will not match the spoken words of a person in spiritual conflict.  There is no sincere effort to take God’s Word to heart and to break free from the ways of the world.  No one can take what you say seriously because it can’t be supported by where you go, who you choose to hang out with, or how you dress.

Inconsistency in your life comes from instability in your thought process.  It comes from failure to seek God’s wisdom through prayer and study of His Word.

James 1:5-8

Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him.  But let him ask in faith without doubting.  For the doubter is like the surging sea, driven and tossed by the wind.  That person should not expect anything from the Lord.  An indecisive man is unstable in all his ways.

Next point—Christian cop out behavior encourages compromise of the faith by allowing sinful behavior to be the norm rather than the exception.  There is division within the body of Christ because of the foothold gained, for example, by advocates of the homosexual lifestyle.  Rather than stand up for what God’s Word proclaims, many believers “cop out” and remain silent on areas where God has been clear with scriptural doctrine on this and similar subjects.  While proponents of the homosexual lifestyle advocate tolerance, God declares that He loves the person but hates the sin.  Many in the body of Christ fear derisive comments and reprisal from those who support alternate lifestyles, and, as a result, claim that it is OK to allow such doctrine in our churches.  The backlash from a lack of acceptance comes from the deception of Satan himself.  To cop out is to shrink from your responsibility as a believer in Jesus Christ.  God has declared that we have a responsibility that must be fulfilled:

2 Timothy 2:19

Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, having this inscription: The Lord knows those who are His, and everyone who names the name of the Lord must turn away from unrighteousness.

As in any area where sin is present, God wants us to remain in the world but not of the world, and to be prayerful to Him to give the proper response, when called upon, at the appropriate time.  God’s Word is never to be compromised by His people—it is to be communicated, corroborated (supported with evidence or authority, and clarified (made as easy to understand as possible).

Which leads to our third point with a cautionary verse:

Matthew 7:21-23

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord!’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of My father in heaven.  On that day many will say to Me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in Your name, drive out demons in Your name, and do many miracles in Your name?’ Then I will announce to them, ‘I never knew you! Depart from Me, you lawbreakers!’”

What does this mean?  Just because someone is giving the appearance to serve the Lord and acting on His behalf does NOT mean that this person has been saved by grace and will inherit eternal life.  To live as a Christian cop out artist is to play a dangerous game with your soul and with the lives of others within your sphere of influence.  Why?  If your life as a believer is so easily thwarted by the desires of the flesh and worldly behavior, it is a clear indication that there is a lack of confidence in the power of the Holy Spirit through the presence of Christ in your life.  Please understand that the comment about your soul is not implying that you would lose your salvation.  It does refer, however, to how you are testing to see how far you can go outside of God’s will for your life before you become an apostate, which is one who ultimately denies Jesus Christ and faith in Him as your Lord and Savior.  If your behavior cannot be distinguished from that of an unbeliever, you are on what I would characterize as “spiritual life support.”  While you may think you are doing just fine, in reality, your spiritual heart is barely beating and is likely being kept alive by the prayers and petitions of others who are concerned for your well-being.  The more that one practices sin, and becomes comfortable with it, the less likely that the same person will seek the Lord in repentance.  One dire excuse that can be seen as a cop out is that one’s sin is the result of “bad breaks” or “God coming down on me.”  This is another great deception and another game that one will play to see how far one can go in their so-called fellowship with Christ.  God will not be mocked by such foolishness.

James 1:13-15

No one undergoing a trial should say “I’m being tempted by God,” for God is not tempted by evil, and He Himself doesn’t tempt anyone.  But each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own evil desires.  Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is fully grown, it gives birth to death.

It also stands to reason that a person who declares they know the Lord and yet continues to abide in sinful behavior may very well not be saved to begin with.  Consider this scriptural litmus test:

1 John 2:3-4

This is how we are sure that we have come to know Him (Jesus): by keeping His commands.  The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” without keeping His commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him.  But whoever keeps His word, truly in him the love of God is perfected.  This is how we know we are in Him:  the one who says he remains in Him should walk just as He walked.

A Christian can never cop out when he or she is faithful and obedient to God’s Word…while it is true to say that none of us are perfect, it is not an excuse to sin and remain into sin.  We have the ability to make the decision to turn from sin and focus on the best that God has in store for us because the Holy Spirit gives us the ability to succeed in Christ and overcome any temptation that we face.  We must be our own advocates of remaining faithful to Jesus Christ and not make any excuses for our behavior.

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

When all has been heard, the conclusion of the matter is:  fear God and keep His commands, because this is for all humanity.  For God will bring every act to judgment, including every hidden thing, whether good or evil.

Copyright © Melvin Gaines. For more content, please see melvingaines.com and melvingaines.blogspot.com.

Your Faith On Trial–Are You a Good Witness?

08/21/2010 § Leave a comment

This past week I had to take part in a court proceeding involving a former employee and the company that I work for.  The former employee is suing the company for wrongful termination, and I was her final supervisor when she was terminated.  This court proceeding has evolved into a significant undertaking for everyone associated with it, including our Human Resources group, where there has been ongoing gathering of emails, file notes, disciplinary action records and employee appraisals as part of the preparation for this trial.

I was told about three weeks ago that I needed to prepare for a deposition since I was a key witness in what had transpired leading up to the dismissal of the former employee.  It is interesting to be on the “defendant” side of a trial.  With all of the information gathering and the review of documentation, I had more than enough time to think about the case.  I tried to separate my emotional reaction from the facts, but my first impression was that the plaintiff’s attorneys were definitely looking for ways to discredit me and my abilities and capabilities as a supervisor, and I understood that because I was the opponent.  The first fifteen minutes of questions that I received during the deposition were much like those in an interview, for they discussed my past experience and my job history.  In discovery, the opposition will pull any available information about who you are, and will even do a search on the Internet to see what comes up.  In the scope of witness testimony, all of this is fair game.

I didn’t like it, of course, but I had to spend a fair amount of time in preparation for the deposition.  I was prepped on the facts of the lawsuit, the questions that would likely be asked, and the possibility that all of this would likely take the majority of the day.  All of this preparation and anticipation of being deposed made for a few days of stress and evenings of a lack of rest.

It made me also think about what it would be like to be summoned to appear at a trial pertaining to Christianity—how would I prepare, and what would I say?  That is a question for all of us.  If you were to be deposed in a trial pertaining to your support or defense of Christianity, how would you fare?  I learned a great deal about the deposition process, its level of preparation and the actual event, and my contention is that it is a significant test of your abilities and your energy as you go through the process.  Your answers to questions will have an important part of the outcome of the trial.  In a like manner, if you were asked questions about your faith and trust in Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, your answers should reflect in a positive manner as to how you are walking with Christ and living for Him.

In order to be able to cut through all of the different religions and thought processes that the world presents to those who are curious about God, it is very important for believers in Jesus Christ to be articulate and well-versed when speaking about faith matters.  There is a verse in Jude that addresses believers about this very issue.

Jude 3-4

Dear friends, although I was eager to write you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write and exhort you to contend for the faith that was delivered to the saints once for all. For certain men, who were designated for this judgment long ago, have come in by stealth; they are ungodly, turning the grace of our God into promiscuity and denying our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

Here, Jude is making the point that all believers have salvation by the grace of Jesus Christ, but it is very important to make a demonstrated effort to contend, or speak up, about their faith to others.  When one is a contender, he or she is speaking up in opposition to someone or something.  Jude makes the statement to contend for the faith because there was an element of opposition—firmly established deceivers in their midst whose sole purpose was to deny Jesus Christ and to keep people from recognizing and accepting Jesus Christ as Savior.

Ephesians 6:10-13

Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by His vast strength. Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the tactics (or schemes, or tricks) of the Devil. For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens. This is why you must take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand.

This threat of the forces of evil is ever-present today in that there are many different messages that continually pull unsuspecting people, who are searching for the truth, in many different directions, and most of them are far from the truth of salvation in Jesus Christ.  The deception comes in many ways, but the end result is that there is no need to trust Christ as Savior because one believes he or she is good enough to make it to heaven on their own, or there has to be more than one way to be with God other than through Christ.  People will forsake God for their own pleasures and desires believing that there is no consequence for their actions, while others will believe that there is no eternal punishment for their life after death.  In addition, for the believer who is weak in knowledge and in their faith, deceivers are ready to pull them away to the “flavor-of-the-month” religion that may look and sound good on the surface but turn out to be a disastrous road to destruction.

Those who are believers must not just rest only on God’s Word and claim that it alone speaks for itself.  God’s Word is indeed the last word, but today’s world needs more from us as a testimony on behalf of Christ.  With all of the mixed messages that come from the ongoing distortion of God’s Word due to contextual errors of interpretation, we need to be on the outlook to stand firm and contend for the faith, and, in doing so, have confidence that what we contend for is the absolute truth—the only truth that leads to one having an eternal destiny with Jesus Christ.

Even though the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ may be ever present today, always remember that the truth is elusive to those who do not know Jesus Christ.

John 18:36-38

“My kingdom is not of this world,” said Jesus. “If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I wouldn’t be handed over to the Jews. As it is, My kingdom does not have its origin here.”

“You are a king then?” Pilate asked.

“You say that I’m a king,” Jesus replied. “I was born for this, and I have come into the world for this: to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to My voice.”

“What is truth?” said Pilate.

The deception of Satan is effective—it prevents people from seeking the truth of Jesus Christ and asking the question “What is truth?” just as Pilate did, without finding the answer.  The truth starts with our message of the love of Jesus Christ. We must step out on our faith and proclaim the gospel of Christ to effectively counter the efforts of Satan.

Going back to my discussion on the deposition process, there are areas of importance that are strikingly similar to how a believer in Christ must make a case in contending for the faith.

First, a witness for Christ must have credibility.  In order to be taken seriously as a believer in Jesus Christ, you must live your life in such a way that your statements for Christ will not be called into question.  Your life must have evidence of being different than those who live in the world.  It is OK to be in the world, for that is our field of harvest for those who need to know Christ, but we are not to live as the world does.  If we live as the world does, our testimony for Jesus Christ has no teeth—it lacks credibility.  I would not be credible witness for Christ if I lived sinfully and was unrepentant in my behavior.  Your effort to win others for Christ begins with an effective testimony as a credible witness.

Next, along with credibility, there must be a presence of Christ in your life as you live in God’s will through the Holy Spirit.  The credibility of your outward testimony is reinforced by your actions as you operate in the Spirit.

James 2:21-24

Wasn’t Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? You see that faith was active together with his works, and by works, faith was perfected. So the Scripture was fulfilled that says, Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him for righteousness, and he was called God’s friend.  You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.

Your true testimony to others is a Christ-like lifestyle, where people can see evidence of your faith as you navigate through a difficult and complex world each day.  The attributes of having respectful behavior, even in the midst of your enemies, reflects an attitude that some will not understand, while others will observe your actions in utter amazement and want to know how you manage to live in such a way.  When the time is right, the Spirit will give you the words, and the testimony.

After credibility and presence comes preparation.  To be an effective witness in a trial requires preparation.  In my case, it was a full six hours of questions, reviewing of documents, and role-playing with our attorneys.  It was long and tiring, but it was necessary.  Without it, I would not have been ready for the questions from the opposing attorney.  A believer in Jesus Christ can only remain effective in his testimony with ongoing preparation through prayer and study of God’s Word.  We are all still learning and living more about God each and every day, and we will continue to do so until we are no longer living.  We can only share our experiences with others on how God has blessed us, kept us, and preserved us for this ministry as long as we remain in fellowship with Him and His Word.  We never stop learning about Him and we never stop seeking Him and His truth for as long as we live.  This is our life preparation as we can truly share with others the wisdom of God through Jesus Christ and how we can successfully live for Christ—even when the world around us seems to be falling apart.  We need to be prepared for whatever comes our way…

2 Timothy 3:12-17

In fact, all those who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. Evil people and imposters will become worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing those from whom you learned, and that from childhood you have known the sacred Scriptures, which are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

In our presentation on behalf of Jesus Christ, it is important to focus on the leadings of the Holy Spirit. In a testimony, you need to listen very carefully to the questions of the opposing attorney.  You need to be clear with your answers by stating “yes” or “no,” and also speak clearly in order to be well understood by those present, especially the court stenographer.  If you are unsure of the question, you can ask the attorney to repeat or rephrase the question, or even ask the court stenographer to read back what was said.  All of this requires a lot of focus on what is being said.  This is quite an ordeal if your deposition takes five and one-half hours!  My point is that your focus on how God leads you is very important in your efforts to lead others to Christ.  Focus on the Holy Spirit, who has perfect timing in this area.  Your words are ordered through the Spirit, but it is God’s Word that is the key to salvation.  Our focus should always be on the power of God’s Word and proclaiming it with confidence:

Romans 1:16

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek.  For in it God’s righteousness is revealed from faith to faith, just as it is written: The righteous will live by faith.

Finally, your testimony through the Holy Spirit will always come from the foundation of truth.

John 14:16-17

“And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever. He is the Spirit of truth. The world is unable to receive Him because it doesn’t see Him or know Him. But you do know Him, because He remains with you and will be in you.”

John 16:13-15

“When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth. For He will not speak on His own, but He will speak whatever He hears. He will also declare to you what is to come. He will glorify Me, because He will take from what is Mine and declare it to you. Everything the Father has is Mine. This is why I told you that He takes from what is Mine and will declare it to you.”

When testifying in a court proceeding, you are asked to raise your hand and ‘swear to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God.’ (Yes, they still do that.)  Your testimony in a courtroom is to always deal with the facts.  The facts are not subject to interpretation.  Facts are facts, and the truth is the truth.  Your credibility and believability are at stake when you are giving testimony, and truth should always be at the forefront of what is being stated.  When it comes to your living testimony of God’s Word, there is no better place to be than in the truth of the gospel and its message.

Your faith is on trial each and every day.  Remember that the enemy is counting on those who profess to be followers of Christ to be languishing in their sin and to be ineffective witnesses for Christ.  We can no longer afford to be ill prepared for battle.  We must operate in the full armor of God with credibility, presence, preparation, focus, and truth.  With all of these, in Jesus Christ, we will be victorious in life and in our testimony.  Thanks to God for the ability to serve Him in such a mighty way!

Copyright © Melvin Gaines. For more content, please see melvingaines.com and melvingaines.blogspot.com.

Where Am I?

You are currently browsing entries tagged with believer at Melvin Gaines.