Who Needs Theology?

07/30/2015 § Leave a comment

WhoNeedsTheologyWhen I made the decision to return to school two years ago to work on obtaining my Master’s degree, I knew that it was the right thing to do. It was just as important as when I enrolled at the University of Akron part time back in 1997 to work towards my Bachelor’s degree. For anyone who considers furthering his or her education, it is admirable and beneficial to stay the course and complete the task. (It is costly, for sure, but the benefits do transcend the financial burden over a lifetime.)

I will always be an advocate of higher education and pursuing knowledge by going to school or taking online classes. Doctors, lawyers, tradesmen and various professionals are where they are today because of their pursuit of knowledge in the classroom.

Knowledge is also important from a societal picture. There are studies that indicate that graduation from high school, especially for African-American males, can make a difference in lowering crime and incarceration levels. [1]

To obtain knowledge is beneficial. Knowledge is power.

From a believer’s perspective, when we learn more about the Lord Jesus Christ as we live for Him, we obtain valuable knowledge that bolsters our faith in Him.

The more that you learn about God, the more you will recognize God’s power in your life.

Knowledge of God is powerful.

As a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, who wouldn’t want that?

In order to learn more about God, you have to be a student of God. A good student of God will search and seek after Him.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7)

Scripture encourages you to be a student of God. A student of God practices theology.

What is theology?

According to Roger Olson, “theology is any reflection on the ultimate questions of life that point toward God.” [2]

With this definition, I can make a broad, and perhaps even bold, declaration that a student of God practices theology; therefore, you, as believers, are all theologians!

Theology is very important for the believer, and it should be important because of what it means. It is the study of who God is, His attributes and His relationship with man and the universe. [3] The English word “theology” comes from two Greek terms: theos, meaning “God” and logos, which refers to “word,” “teaching,” or “study.” [4]

It stands to reason that studying who God is in your life provides you with knowledge and understanding that supports your faith and trust in God. It’s good for growth in your relationship with Him, and you learn about how to apply His Word, grow and endure as you move forward.

There must be a distinction, however, between Christian Theology, and theology from a worldly view. They both exist. Theology from the world’s perspective may indeed involve having questions about life and what that means in relationship to God, but that does not mean that the matter is given serious or prolonged thought–it may only be for a short period of time, or little more than cursory consideration. Some questions about life may be more substantive, such as “Why am I here?” or “What am I supposed to be doing?” or “Is there anything after death?” All of these are legitimate questions, but all of them will eventually lead to no real solution unless God is brought into the picture as the object that provides answers.

Christian theology goes much deeper. Anselm of Canterbury was archbishop of Canterbury and a great 12th Century theologian. He defined theology as “seeking to understand with the intellect what the heart–a person’s central core of character–already believes and to which it is committed.” [5] That’s a good way to describe the heart of a person who seeks understanding to support his faith.

Now that we have established a distinction between worldview theology and Christian theology, we need to consider the different levels of theology that exist within Christian theology, because all are not created equal.

There are real doctors and lawyers with degrees to support it, while there are actors that portray doctors and lawyers on television and in the movies. That doesn’t make them real doctors or lawyers. You wouldn’t let a doctor from Grey’s Anatomy perform surgery on you, would you? You also would not want an orthodontist to perform an appendectomy. You want the best available attorney representation instead of someone like the role actor Joe Pesci plays in the movie, My Cousin Vinny.

In the same sense, everyone is a theologian, but not everyone has the same theology. You may discover this as you speak to other people who attend church as you listen closely to what they really believe.

Many people, you may find, will not see the need for theology because it would hinder the understanding of the simple faith that a person has! It’s like saying the more you know about God from an intellectual perspective, the more that it would hurt your ability to have faith. This may sound strange to some of you, but this is a more popular belief than you may realize. The question “Who needs theology?” reflects a person’s view that one does not need a Master’s degree or a doctorate to help one understand God any more than we already do.

Some of you may remember when I spoke about Socrates, a philosopher, who declared, “the unexamined life is not worth living.” [6] He was absolutely correct. If we are serious about our relationship with Jesus Christ, there should always be an active, ongoing evaluation–a reflective look at one’s life in service to Him. If you are not actively seeking Him through His Word, meditating on it and prayerfully submitting to His will, how can one honestly know if God is speaking? A life in Jesus Christ is an active, reflective life.

With that in mind, we need to see how different theologies can be an indication of how reflective (or not) a person may be. A less reflective theology is referred to as “folk theology,” while the greatest level would be indicative of “academic theology.” In between the two are various levels of theology, defined by more or less reflective thought levels. [7] The levels are defined as folk, lay theology, ministerial theology, professional theology and then academic theology.

What is folk theology? It is a faith in God that is largely blind and based upon a traditional approach to Christianity. It is when a person states belief but cannot articulate it very well. In addition, there is a rejection of critical thinking about the belief and an acceptance of it based upon tradition, clichés and legends. [8]

Folk theology is everywhere. It can be found in virtually any setting. They are not adherents to any specific church affiliation, and they would not even consider themselves theological–yet, they are. Unfortunately, the traditionalism of this practice is contrary to any deep, careful reflection that allows a person to defend one’s faith, which is what the apostles had to do early on just years removed from Christ’s existence. A believer must be able to defend his faith in order to articulate his faith to a person who seeks the truth about Jesus Christ.

Lay theology is a step above folk theology but is, in reality, much more progressive in thought. It describes a Christian who works to understand the faith he or she holds in Jesus Christ. It is the act of putting one’s mind into the faith relationship. The root of this is in one’s seeking the wisdom of the Holy Spirit to gain this understanding.

Ministerial theology is a step above lay theology in that it now involves the teachable faith as practiced by trained ministers and leaders within Christian churches. This is the effort to put into practice formal training such as bible classes or even seminary classes to train people to learn how to read and interpret Scripture and apply it within the body of Christ and the real world.

Professional theology is best described as those persons who are qualified to train lay people and pastors to increase their knowledge. They are the ones who create an active and healthy learning environment that encourages critical thinking and reflection. They teach in seminaries and colleges with church affiliations to provide methods to be more effective in service to all people.

Academic theology is an advanced study that lends more to philosophical thinking shared with other theologians. As a practical matter, there is nothing wrong with academic theology, but its greatest criticism is that it lacks in application to real world Christian living. The challenge for the academic theologian is to reach beyond thought processes and provide ways to apply this thinking that are beneficial to lay, ministerial and professional theologians.

We’ve seen that anyone who seeks to answer the questions of life that point to God is a theologian. Knowing that there are different theologies, which one of these best describes you?

If you are honestly seeking His wisdom, you will grow well beyond those who are stuck in folk theology.

As you can see, the level of theology that is practiced has everything to do with the amount of time and effort that one puts into it. As you put your time into it, you will able to clarify and articulate Christian doctrine in a more effective manner [9] for the purpose of carrying out His Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20).

All of the effort that you put forth in pursuing greater understanding of God and His Son, Jesus Christ, is very pleasing to Him! Why? It’s simple. Your pursuit of Him means that you are seeking fellowship with Him through five key elements to enhance your IMAGE [10] in Jesus Christ:

1. Investigating His Word. To really learn about Jesus Christ, you have to do more than just read His Word. You need to dig deep into it and use the available study tools, concordances and commentaries to promote greater understanding of His Word. You can hear God speak to you even more clearly once you pray to Him for guidance as you gain this understanding.

2. Meditate on His Word. Prayer is certainly important in your communication with Him, but meditating on His Word requires an extra special time of quietness and reflection. It means “slowing down” to a place where you recognize God’s comforting presence and fellowship, and allowing His Words to permeate you to see His perspective.

3. Act on His Word. Your theology will not mean very much if you are not living in obedience to God’s Word or conforming to His will. He speaks to you and gives you advice for your benefit and for the benefit of those who you come into contact with.

4. Grow in His Word. Your theological study should bring about true growth in your Christian life. There should be a realization of more successes and fewer failures as you progress in your faith and grow in godly wisdom and understanding.

5. Endure in your faith. A believer in Jesus Christ must be prepared to not only persevere but to remain steadfast in faith. It makes the boldest statements of Jesus Christ’s presence in your life.

Remember, knowledge of God requires seeking after Him. A good student of God will search and seek after Him. It takes godly wisdom and reverence of our Lord, Jesus Christ, to see the importance of continuing to grow in knowledge.

The mind of the discerning acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks it. Proverbs 18:15 (HCSB)

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight. Proverbs 9:10 (ESV)

Theology is needed by each and every one of us in order that we, as believers in Jesus Christ, can grow to our greatest potential in service to Him.

I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, would give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him. I pray that the perception of your mind may be enlightened so you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the glorious riches of His inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of His power to us who believe, according to the working of His vast strength. Ephesians 1:17-19 (HCSB)

Who needs theology? You do.

 

 

1 Article – Crime Rates Linked To Educational Attainment, New Alliance Report Finds (2013). © 2015 Alliance for Excellent Education, Washington DC. Retrieved June 12, 2015 from http://all4ed.org/press/crime-rates-linked-to-educational-attainment-new-alliance-report-finds/

2 Grenz, Stanley J. and Roger E. Olson. Who Needs Theology? An Invitation to the Study of God. © 1996 S. J. Grenz and R. E. Olson. Intervarsity Press, Downers Grove IL. pg. 13

3 Grenz, pg. 37

4 Grenz, pg. 14

5 Grenz, pg. 16

6 Grenz, pg. 26

7 Grenz, pg. 26

8 Grenz, pg. 27

9 Grenz, pg. 46

10 Blogpost – Gaines, Melvin (2015). Characteristics of Your IMAGE. Melvin Gaines’ Blogspot. Retrieved June 12, 2015 from http://melvingaines.blogspot.com/2015/04/characteristics-of-your-image.html

 

© Melvin Gaines

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Philosophical Thinking Leads to Greater Maturity in Christ

11/06/2014 § Leave a comment

The study of philosophy has challenged me to see that a person who is giving careful consideration about matters of life, whether the outcome of their thinking is correct or erroneous, is stretching themselves for the purpose of greater understanding. A philosophical thought process requires time, effort and deliberation. It involves acute concentration and exceptional focus. In the end, it develops the mind and lends to providing answers to questions that may otherwise never be addressed or solved. It also, of course, just as easily raises more questions.

I see how philosophy, in my quest for “love of wisdom,” has helped to shape how I approach my faith and preparation in my own personal studies. Socrates got it started, and Blaise Pascal really greased my skids of interest with “Pascal’s Wager,” [1] a tremendous exercise of thinking–making a decision and being deliberate about it! I have been sharing my classroom experiences with my church family as a Sunday school instructor and even when I fill in for my pastor. I will tell anyone willing to listen that it is very important for a person to continually use reason and to evaluate and reevaluate their faith in Jesus Christ, and to continue to seek the godly wisdom and knowledge that the Spirit is ready to share at every opportunity. None of us can afford to stand pat in this area. Standing pat or accepting the status quo can only lead to complacency in our spiritual relationship with Jesus Christ. The very nature of Christian Apologetics is the result of deliberate thought, reasoning and declaration that Jesus is indeed Lord and Savior for all.

I have become very passionate about individual Christian preparation and the development of good study habits in advocating a daily two-year bible reading plan. It’s not about just reading the bible, but investigating what is being read. This means that the individual needs to analyze bible passages with cross-references and commentaries, and use prayer and meditation for greater understanding. This process can only promote the maturity of the believer in Jesus Christ and strengthen their ability to live out their faith. On the surface, you might think that people are already doing this stuff. After observing individuals, their overall bible knowledge and even some personal study habits, the reality is that there are many people who are not doing anything even close to a regular daily bible routine. Many people don’t read the bible because they don’t understand what they are reading, or it even comes across as boring. If the bible is hard to understand or uninteresting, that means there is little to no energy being expended in the thought process and expansion of one’s person faith. While many people acknowledge that they should read the bible (and there are thousands of reading plans available), there now needs to be a “training” of sorts over the daily reading approach. There must be a deliberate thought process within the bible reading plan that becomes habitual and, in turn, beneficial to the reader. The bible must be taught in such a way where people need to see that it is far from boring and that any reading time is time well spent. In summary, we all need to improve our personal habits and grow in how we think about Jesus Christ and continue to develop our faith and trust in Him.

God has always said there will be a remnant of His chosen people that will lead the way in the world, and that especially includes today (Romans 9:27, 11:5). The leaders will be the very people who are faithful in seeking Him, His wisdom and knowledge…the real thinkers about Jesus Christ. They will know how to proceed in these troubled times against all opposition and difficulty, for they will know the Spirit’s voice when they hear it to help them to endure and persevere. Many who proclaim the name of Christ at some point will fall away due to pressures and persecution, which is already occurring today (Matthew 24:4-14, 23-24), and we are not yet at the great tribulation. The people who will stand are the thinkers, the philosophers of today who love the wisdom and knowledge of Jesus Christ.
1 Article – Pascal’s Wager (n.d). From Wikipedia. Retrieved September 18, 2014 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pascal’s_Wager

Pascal’s Wager (You Wanna Bet?!)

11/01/2014 § Leave a comment

Pascal’s Wager (Blaise Pascal, 1623-1662) caught my attention because of its unique “game show-like” approach in philosophy. His position of simplicity makes the assumption that each person must ultimately come to a reckoning about God’s existence (or non-existence) and His relevance (or lack thereof) to one’s life.  It was formed under a Christian apologetic framework that did not give an option of backing away from a choice just because one does not have answers one way or the other. (More on this later as to its relevance to the unbeliever making a decision for Jesus Christ.)  It makes the assumption that (1) God exists and (2) that there is an eternity as He is eternal, and (3) that an eternity with God is a great outcome and a preferable alternative over a person’s non-existence or an existence of separation from God.

A quick logical summary of Pascal’s Wager:

1.  “God is, or He is not”

2.  A Game is being played… where heads or tails will turn up.

3.  According to reason, you can defend neither of the propositions.

4.  You must wager (it is not optional).

5.  Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is. Let us estimate these two chances. If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing.

6.  Wager, then, without hesitation that He is. (…) There is here an infinity of an infinitely happy life to gain, a chance of gain against a finite number of chances of loss, and what you stake is finite. And so our proposition is of infinite force, when there is the finite to stake in a game where there are equal risks of gain and of loss, and the infinite to gain.

7.  But some cannot believe. They should then ‘at least learn your inability to believe…’ and ‘Endeavour then to convince’ themselves. [1]

I’m not a gambler by any stretch, but the “wager” aspect of Pascal’s argument is one of its major strengths.  It rings true when you consider the decision-making opportunities of an unbeliever of Jesus Christ.  Every day that goes by for the unbeliever is a calculated risk when no decision is made in acknowledgment of Christ as personal Lord and Savior.  Without the intervention of God’s Word and the Holy Spirit, a person (the flesh) is incapable of making a decision for Jesus Christ (John 15:26-27; 16:8-11, 13); however, from the moment that the Holy Spirit provides sufficient knowledge and consciousness to a person who has yet to commit to Christ, that is essentially the moment when he or she becomes a “risk taker” as to their eternal destiny.  Can we assume that the rich man in Luke (16:19-31) knew enough about God but chose to take the fateful risk each day of loving himself and his wealth?

The weakness of Pascal’s treatise can be seen in its general criticism that it was insufficient in its explanation of who God is (or even His presence) even though he clearly presented God from a moralistic argument. [2]  His critics were largely atheists and agnostics who dismissed his argument altogether; however, they all missed the point.  Pascal’s point no. 7 (above) is an excellent one.  Even if one does not understand God or question His presence, there is no reason to not “try” to understand (Proverbs 4:7). God only asks for a person to seek and that He would provide the answers (Matthew 7:7-8). In other words, there is no excuse for not seeking Him.  Those that choose to dismiss God’s presence in spite of the realization of nature are taking the ultimate risk:

For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.  Romans 1:20 NLT

When I came to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, my knowledge of God was at a level somewhere between naivete and infancy.  Once you acknowledge Him, you gain the ability to learn more and more about Him and His ways through faith in those moments you remain in fellowship with Him because of the power and presence of the Holy Spirit.  All of this is a matter of faith.   Agnostics dismiss faith in something that they cannot conceptualize, while atheists deny God altogether and put all of their “faith” in self:

“An atheist accepts that only in a knowledge of himself and a knowledge of his fellow man can he find the understanding that will help lead to a life of fulfillment.” [3]

I wonder if Pascal had a dialogue with a non-believer who says there is no God and he responded with, “You wanna bet?!”  If I were to present this to a non-believer, I would take the approach that Pascal conveys in his concept:  “What do you have to lose?” and “Try it…you’ll like it!”  A failure to make a commitment would continually challenge the non-believer’s sensibilities in the potential to miss out on eternal happiness in Christ–the essence of lostness (Isaiah 64:6, Romans 3:10, 23).  Some people, however, will make the choice to reject Christ and live according to their flesh (where Pascal says you haven’t lost anything). [4] The person who does not believe there is a God can live a life without a moral foundation, but this comes down to the “you’d better be right” assertion, for the other side of that is being lost for all eternity if God does indeed exist.  By Pascal claiming that the non-believer must make a sincere choice (your wager, please), it presents a serious dilemma.

In my humble opinion, having a person consider Christ will take some time if there has not been given any consideration to who He is and what He is about.  The moment that a person senses that the messenger is exerting pressure or coercion over allowing for a thought process to take place would push virtually anyone away.  A non-believer should always get the sense that Jesus’ burden is light (Matthew 11:29-30), but allow for the Spirit and the Word to do the “heart surgery” necessary to compel the non-believer to make a decision for Jesus Christ (Hebrews 4:12-13).

In summary, I was intrigued with Pascal’s Wager as a method to present a non-confrontational message to a non-believer.  Even though we are challenged to go and preach the gospel (Matthew 28:19-20), we do not have the burden of explaining everything there is to know about God (because we can’t)–all we are called to do is bring it (and let the Spirit take care of the rest).

 

1 Article – Pascal’s Wager (n.d). From Wikipedia. Retrieved September 18, 2014 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pascal’s_Wager

2 Blaise Pascal, Pensées, part III, p. 59; Published 1958 by E. P. Dutton & Co., Inc. Boston MA http://www.gutenberg.org/files/18269/18269-h/18269-h.htm

3 Quote – Murray v. Curlett, American Atheist Center (n.d.), Copyright 2014 – American Atheists, Inc., Cranford NJ, Retrieved September 18, 2014 from http://atheists.org/about-us

4 Lecture – Vernon Caston (n.d.). Week 2 Lectures, p. 8 – Topics in Philosophy CST5225, Crown College, St. Bonifacius MN

Life Beyond Salvation

03/23/2012 § Leave a comment

The evidence is overwhelming and unmistakable.  God’s presence in our lives is easy to see.  Unlike the contentions of those who doubt His existence or make claims that there is no God, there are many facts that we can point to that refute or cancel out the views of the atheist or agnostic.  This is not, however, about proving God’s existence to the non-believer, for a non-believer ultimately takes a position that is similar to that of an atheist or agnostic.  To deny that God exists is to ignore the evidence of His presence.

God’s presence is evident in the miracles of nature.  Only He can orchestrate the perfection of the earth, its atmosphere, its rotation, its distance from the sun that allows for optimal life for humans on earth, and the perfect balance of resources that sustain and promote overall population growth.  Seeing the miracles of God from a distance is one thing, but knowing Him on a personal level is a completely different thing.

To have a personal relationship with God requires more than just knowing who God is, because even Satan knows who God is.  An atheist or agnostic has no concept of a personal relationship with God.  A non-believer must make a decision to accept who Jesus Christ is in order to begin the journey of having a personal relationship.  A believer in Jesus Christ, as a result, must continue to grow and develop in his or her understanding of God to have a fulfilling relationship with Him.

Successful growth in a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ is not a certainty for the believer.  It requires the believer to do what is necessary to promote the relationship.  Please note that God is always ready and always willing to develop a relationship with you.  He is not fickle in the same way that you and I are about our fellowship with Him.  We have to make the effort to meet Him where He is as we develop our personal relationship with Him.  Why is this such a difficult thing for us?  Answer:  He is God and you are not.

The essence and nature of God, summed up in a brief phrase is eternal love and holiness. There are many, many verses that support God’s love.  In addition to John 3:16-17, here are just a few:

1 John 4:9-11

9 God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent His One and Only Son into the world so that we might live through Him. 10 Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Dear friends, if God loved us in this way, we also must love one another.

Galatians 2:20

…and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.

The essence of God’s love is aptly described in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8:

1 Corinthians 13:4-8

4 Love is patient, love is kind.

Love does not envy,

is not boastful, is not conceited,

5 does not act improperly,

is not selfish, is not provoked,

and does not keep a record of wrongs.

6 Love finds no joy in unrighteousness

but rejoices in the truth.

7 It bears all things, believes all things,

hopes all things, endures all things.

 8 Love never ends.

But as for prophecies,

they will come to an end;

as for languages, they will cease;

as for knowledge, it will come to an end.

Romans 5:8

But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!

Romans 5:8 should always remind us who we are in comparison to who God is…we are sinners; nevertheless, God loves us!  The talking points that describe God’s love in 1 Corinthians are certainly achievable as long as we are practicing humility in our actions.  We have to practice humility because we are fleshly, which is in conflict of God’s nature.  We are unable to love in the same way as God’s essence of love without the Holy Spirit’s guidance.  Without the Spirit, this is who we are:

Ecclesiastes 7:20

There is certainly no righteous man on the earth

who does good and never sins.

Romans 3:10-12

10 as it is written:

   There is no one righteous, not even one.

11 There is no one who understands;

there is no one who seeks God.

12 All have turned away;

all alike have become useless.

There is no one who does what is good,

not even one.

This is why it is foolish to rely upon your salvation, through God’s grace, of course, to be sufficient in the development of your personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  Your desire to develop a personal relationship with God should go hand in hand with your desire to learn about Him.

Proverbs 1:7, 22, 29-33

7 The fear of the LORD

is the beginning of knowledge;

fools despise wisdom and discipline.

22 “How long, foolish ones, will you love ignorance?

How long will you mockers enjoy mocking

and you fools hate knowledge?

29 Because they hated knowledge,

didn’t choose to fear the LORD,

30 were not interested in my counsel,

and rejected all my correction,

31 they will eat the fruit of their way

and be glutted with their own schemes.

32 For the turning away of the inexperienced will kill them,

and the complacency of fools will destroy them.

33 But whoever listens to me will live securely

and be free from the fear of danger.”

Proverbs 2:1-6

1 My son, if you accept my words

and store up my commands within you,

2 listening closely to wisdom

and directing your heart to understanding;

3 furthermore, if you call out to insight

and lift your voice to understanding,

4 if you seek it like silver

and search for it like hidden treasure,

5 then you will understand the fear of the LORD

and discover the knowledge of God.

6 For the LORD gives wisdom;

from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.

Proverbs 9:10

 “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom,

and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

Proverbs 19:27

If you stop listening to correction, my son,

you will stray from the words of knowledge.

Psalm 119:66

Teach me good judgment and discernment,

for I rely on Your commands.

When you grasp the nature of God, His grace to you and His unconditional love for you in spite of who you are (Jeremiah 31:3; Romans 5:8), you can’t help but WANT to know more about who He is.  And there’s the rub…your desire to know Him and grow in your personal relationship with Him is based upon how serious you are about God.  In other words…”Do you take Him and His Word to heart?  Do you take God seriously?”

We already have the assurance of eternal life by trusting in Jesus Christ because His Word promises this to us (Acts 16:31).

1 John 5:11-13

11 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.

 12 The one who has the Son has life. The one who doesn’t have the Son of God does not have life. 13 I have written these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.

There has to be a foundation as you build your relationship with Jesus Christ.  He is the foundation of your faith, your development, and your growth.  A strong foundation begins with a Cornerstone:

1 Peter 2:1-8

1 So rid yourselves of all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all slander. 2 Like newborn infants, desire the pure spiritual milk, so that you may grow by it for your salvation, 3 since you have tasted that the Lord is good. 4 Coming to Him, a living stone—rejected by men but chosen and valuable to God— 5 you yourselves, as living stones, are being built into a spiritual house for a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For it is contained in Scripture:

   Look! I lay a stone in Zion,

a chosen and honored cornerstone,

and the one who believes in Him

will never be put to shame!

7 So honor will come to you who believe, but for the unbelieving,

   The stone that the builders rejected—

this One has become the cornerstone,

 8 and

   A stone to stumble over,

and a rock to trip over.

  They stumble because they disobey the message; they were destined for this.

Your growth in your personal relationship starts with Jesus Christ and continues with a key phrase—obedience to His Word.  We will only grow in Christ in our ability to maintain fellowship with His Word.

Psalm 1:1-3

1 How happy is the man

who does not follow the advice of the wicked

or take the path of sinners

or join a group of mockers!

2 Instead, his delight is in the LORD’s instruction,

and he meditates on it day and night.

3 He is like a tree planted beside streams of water

that bears its fruit in season

and whose leaf does not wither.

Whatever he does prospers.

Proverbs 3:5-6

5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart,

and do not rely on your own understanding;

6 think about Him in all your ways,

and He will guide you on the right paths.

When you remain obedient, God blesses your obedience with His faithfulness—remember that it is in God’s nature to be faithful because of His love for you (Galatians 5:22).

God also responds to our persistence in seeking Him, our patience in waiting on Him and in our desire to know more about Him:

Philippians 4:6-7

6 Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

1 John 5:14-15

14 Now this is the confidence we have before Him: Whenever we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears whatever we ask, we know that we have what we have asked Him for.

Finally, in building your personal relationship with God, it is to be done with humility.

Luke 18:9-14

9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and looked down on everyone else: 10 “Two men went up to the temple complex to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee took his stand and was praying like this: ‘God, I thank You that I’m not like other people—greedy, unrighteous, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of everything I get.’

   13 “But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even raise his eyes to heaven but kept striking his chest and saying, ‘God, turn Your wrath from me—a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this one went down to his house justified rather than the other; because everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Salvation through Jesus Christ is sufficient for eternal life, but not enough to experience the abundant life…

John 10:10

A thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.

The abundant life that Jesus refers to comes from developing your relationship with Him through the following:

  • A desire for His Wisdom
  • Obedience to His Word
  • Persistence with patience
  • Reverence to Him in humility

Pray for His wisdom and focus upon these things each and every day.  It starts in His Word and builds you up as you trust in Him and rely upon His presence.

Copyright © Melvin Gaines. All rights reserved.

My eBook is On Sale Right Now!

01/06/2012 § Leave a comment

Are you looking for eBooks for your Nook or Kindle? My eBook, Faith and Fundamentals For Living a Healthy, Christian Life, is now on sale for only $2.99.  This book can also be read on your Nook or Kindle apps for iPhone, iPad, Windows PC or Android.  Thanks for checking it out!

My eBook on Sale Beginning Christmas Day!

12/24/2011 § Leave a comment

If you receive a Nook or Kindle for Christmas, my eBook, Faith and Fundamentals For Living a Healthy, Christian Lifewill be available beginning Christmas Day for a special price (60% off) until January 31, 2012. You can also get my book if you have Nook or Kindle for iPhone, iPad, Windows PC or Android. Merry Christmas!

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My eBook – Faith & Fundamentals For Living a Healthy, Christian Life

08/20/2011 § 2 Comments

My eBook, Faith & Fundamentals For Living a Healthy, Christian Life, is now available on Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble’s website, BN.com.  If you have a Kindle or a Nook, you can read my eBook, but you can also use their free apps for iPhone, iPod Touch, Android, and BlackBerry, too!

This book of essays is from a select group of my sermons and seminars that touch on various topics pertaining to your faith and life development.  Do you know your life purpose, and if so, are you passionate about it?  The key to your success is in the development of your relationship with Jesus Christ.

Please stop by your favorite eBook reading site and thank you, in advance, for your interest.

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