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

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Just Do It! (Research Paper for Practical Christian Theology, Crown College – MN, 2015)

09/07/2015 § Leave a comment

The mission of Nike, Inc., a renowned international athletic shoe and apparel company, is to “bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world,” and they quickly add, “if you have a body, you are an athlete” (Nike, n.d.). Nike started from humble beginnings where employees were selling shoes out of their cars to become the world’s leader with global revenues of over $27 billion (U.S.) dollars (Statista, 2015).

The name “Nike,” originating from the Greek goddess of the same name standing for “victory,” (Wikipedia, n.d.) has been around for over forty years, and over that time it has defined and redefined the sports fitness industry, but not without its own missteps. It misjudged the popularity of the aerobics and fitness movement in the mid 1980s and veered off into the casual shoe market. Its growth also outpaced its management and effective decision-making (Willigan, 1992), and it had slipped from its position as the top-selling shoe (Taube, 2003). To reverse this trend, Nike hired Weiden+Kennedy, a well-known advertising agency, and they came up with the one of the top slogans of the 20th Century, “Just Do It” (Wikipedia, n.d.), which made its debut for the company in 1988. The words “just do it” propelled Nike’s popularity to its top position in the industry. Three years after the debut of “Just Do It,” the company had tripled its revenue to over $3 billion dollars, and has not looked back since (Willigan, 1992).

“Just do it” may be a catchy slogan with staying power, but it is the language of today’s lifestyle to spur people to get up and move. It is associated with good health, getting and staying in shape, and remaining active in all parts of life. This also has application within our faith.

Consider that the words “just do it” for Jesus Christ reflect a healthy relationship in service for Him. James expresses this very clearly as he addressed believers in Christ with the importance of a working faith:

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. (James 2:14-17 ESV)

A servant of Jesus Christ absolutely needs to live under the premise of “just do it” in order to live as Christ provided His life as an example for us. We are to live as servants of Christ in a world where servanthood is more of the exception than the rule. We live in a world where many have adopted “an independent, self-sufficient, survival-of-the-fittest mentality” (Swindoll, 1981). God has called us to be distinct in a positive way in the world, and to make a difference. The difference is living the “just do it” way as Jesus did:

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life-—a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).

Jesus provided a demonstration of what it is to be a servant by washing the feet of the apostles. He provided an explanation for them when He was finished:

When Jesus had washed their feet and put on His robe, He reclined again and said to them, “Do you know what I have done for you? You call Me Teacher and Lord. This is well said, for I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example that you also should do just as I have done for you. I assure you: A slave is not greater than his master, and a messenger is not greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them” (John 13:12-17).

Jesus showed them the power of servanthood, which is the essence of living a Christlike existence. To be in service for Christ is to live for Christ. He assures those who are living for Him that He will always be present in whatever is being done in His name:

If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him. (John 12:26 ESV)

You can see how “just do it” can be a launching point for a person who is eager to serve Jesus Christ. Being a servant requires a willingness to do it and it takes practice to begin to master it. But what if you don’t know where to begin this process? In this instance, the best place to begin is the beginning.

  1. Just do it (now)!

Being a servant begins with a willingness to do something that will bring a positive change in someone’s life. It does not necessarily require that you need to use any special talent or ability. It may be moving furniture to reorganize a room or to help someone move from an apartment to a new home. It may be standing at the church doorway and greeting people while handing out the week’s church bulletin. Sometimes, it means buying a meal or even some groceries for a family who is in need. In a world where people are more often self-focused then not, the ability to step out and simply do something for someone is refreshingly distinctive. It’s the beginning step in a life of servanthood.

  1. Just do it without expecting anything in return

There is a way to treat people, and being a servant is no exception to this. A servant in Christ is to live in such a way that it is natural to do the right thing for someone, and to not expect anything in return or create a burden of obligation for the other person.

The essence of “doing what is right” is the foundation of what Jesus Christ represents:

Therefore, whatever you want others to do for you, do also the same for them—-this is the Law and the Prophets. (Matthew 7:12 HCSB)

The ways of the world normally see acts of compassion with suspicion. For some people, it is difficult to accept a person’s help because it is a societal norm that the help is to be reciprocated. As a servant of Jesus Christ, your acts of service are performed with a heart for Jesus and without any need or expectation for the person to do anything in return. The moment that the burden of returning the favor is left in place, that is when Christ’s presence is less visible, and when He is less likely to be glorified as you serve. We serve Christ freely and without any burden for ourselves and for others. People need to see the light and airy love of Christ in everything that you do in service for Him:

“Come to Me (Jesus), all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 HCSB)

Our service for Christ, as we develop our heart for service, should also be an expression of what it is to live a life of freedom for Him (John 8:36).

  1. Just do it…and put some heart into it!

A servant for Christ not only demonstrates the example of Christlike behavior to others, but also learns the perspective of servanthood with the heart and mind of Jesus. As you learn more about Jesus through His Word and live in obedience to Him, He will most certainly transform you as you live as His example before others. Being refreshingly distinctive from the world means being set apart in a positive way. People will see your heart for Christ in what you do. “To be set apart involves changing from your old self to not only become a new creature, but a creature that becomes more and more Christ-like every day” (Gaines, 2015).

Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God. (Romans 12:1-2 HCSB)

Swindoll notes that a servant for Christ must change to avoid the world’s reasoning and conform to the thoughts of Jesus:

“How? By a radical transformation within. By a renewed thought pattern that demonstrates authentic godlikeness. Living differently begins with thinking differently” (Swindoll, 1981).

Living for Christ in this renewed mind will allow you to see the compassion of Christ in everything that you do for others.

Soon afterward he went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a great crowd went with him. As he drew near to the gate of the town, behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow, and a considerable crowd from the town was with her. And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” Then he came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and “God has visited his people!” (Luke 7:11-16 ESV)

Your servanthood with a heart for Jesus will be seen by people who don’t know Him personally as a wonderful introduction (and perhaps an invitation) to who He is. A servant for Christ truly is a light in a very dark world:

“You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16 HCSB)

Chuck Swindoll noted that the opportunities to reach the lost, through servanthood, are limitless, and in your service, you personally receive joy in your accomplishments through your fellowship with Jesus Christ:

“In every town, every neighborhood, and on every block there are lonely and sometimes unlovely men and women who need to experience the love of Jesus. In every city there are children who have never known a gentle touch or a loving smile.” “There are acts of love and mercy that God has already prepared for you, so that you might share in His joy–so that you might grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ” (Swindoll, 1981).

A life of servanthood for Jesus Christ is a life that embodies ministry in fulfillment of His Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). Your obedience and faithfulness to Him will be a witness for Him in everything that you do. Now, all that you need to do is “just do it.”

 

References

Mission of Nike, Inc. (n.d.). Retrieved July 18, 2015, from About Nike website: http://about.nike.com/

Statistics and facts on Nike (2015). Retrieved July 18, 2015 from Statista.com website: http://www.statista.com/topics/1243/nike/

Nike – Mythology (n.d.). Wikipedia. Retrieved July 18, 2015 from Wikipedia website: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nike_(mythology)

Willigan, G. (1992). Article – High-performance marketing: an interview with Nike’s Phil Knight. Harvard business review, July-August 1992 Issue. Retrieved July 18, 2015 from HBR.org website: https://hbr.org/1992/07/high-performance-marketing-an-interview-with-nikes-phil-knight

Taube, A. (2013). 25 Nike ads that shaped the brand’s history. Business insider inc. Retrieved July 18, 2015 from businessinsider.com website: http://www.businessinsider.com/25-nike-ads-that-shaped-the-brands-history-2013-8?op=1

Nike, Inc. (n.d.). Wikipedia. Retrieved July 18, 2015 from Wikipedia website: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nike,_Inc.

Swindoll, C. (1981). Improving your serve. Thomas Nelson. Nashville, TN.

Gaines, M. (2015). Message – Set apart for a purpose. Akron Alliance Fellowship Church. Retrieved July 18, 2015 from akronalliance.org: http://akronalliance.org/2015/01/11/set-apart-for-a-purpose/

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

Step Back to Step Forward in Christ

08/18/2014 § Leave a comment

A message text presented Sunday, August 17, 2014 at Akron Alliance Fellowship Church:

This past week, I was able to take the opportunity to use a paid day from work as a volunteer at a charity of my choice.  I selected The Emergency Assistance Center in Northfield Center OH, which is the largest food pantry in northern Summit County.  I was able to meet Joyce Hunt, the Executive Director, Lori, one of the staff members, and a group of volunteers.  The ministry there has grown in the last couple of years since Joyce came on board, and they have extended their footprint beyond the Nordonia Hills area.  They also serve the needs of residents in Twinsburg, Richfield and Boston Heights.  The need has grown over the years where they are servicing over 700 clients per month who are in need of food, clothing or even hygiene products, and they always serve every person who comes through the door with a smile and the love of Jesus Christ.  A person can select what they want according to guidelines established, and they also get free meats and bread.  The Emergency Assistance Center has partnerships with churches in the area and businesses throughout Greater Cleveland—and all without one dollar of government grants or assistance.  It is all done through donations and the selfless efforts of 60 volunteers.  They are making a difference in the community to thwart hunger and provide a lifeline to overcome poverty.  Joyce and the staff readily admit that without all of the volunteers, they could never keep up with the demand and maintain the ministry, and they absolutely believe that God is in the midst of all of it—and that He is to be glorified.

Here is one more way that kingdom work is going on for the glory of God—and giving credit where credit is due…to God and for His glory and purpose.  The testimony to others is in the sharing of the love of Christ.

Notice how all of the heart and soul of ministry certainly begins with our collective efforts of service and duty for the kingdom, and yet we see how people sincerely attribute their efforts, and especially our successes, to God.  When we see testimonies like this, know that God Himself is at the very center of our Christian faith and ministry.

In order to be able to see God truly at work in your life, you need to take a step backward in order to move several steps forward.

James 4:10

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you.

 

Exalt you in what way?

By giving you fame and fortune? Maybe—but it’s highly unlikely.

By giving you a bigger house and car? Maybe—but it’s highly unlikely.

If you’re entertaining these thoughts, you are missing the point.

In the context of the verse, the act of humbling yourself in the book of James chapter 4 means having a serious approach to who God is when you consider your overall unworthiness before Him.

James 4:1-10

1 What is the source of wars and fights among you? Don’t they come from the cravings that are at war within you?  2 You desire and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and don’t receive because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your evil desires.

Adulteresses!  Don’t you know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? So whoever wants to be the world’s friend becomes God’s enemy. Or do you think it’s without reason the Scripture says that the Spirit who lives in us yearns jealously?

But He gives greater grace. Therefore He says:

God resists the proud,
but gives grace to the humble.

Therefore, submit to God. But resist the Devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, sinners, and purify your hearts, double-minded people! Be miserable and mourn and weep. Your laughter must change to mourning and your joy to sorrow. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you.

 

God wants to see more from you than someone who talks a good game.  He wants to see how you are truly following Him, and it’s not in what you say or in how much you are doing for Him.

Ecclesiastes 5:1-3

1 Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Better to draw near in obedience than to offer the sacrifice as fools do, for they ignorantly do wrong. Do not be hasty to speak, and do not be impulsive to make a speech before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few. For dreams result from much work and a fool’s voice from many words.

 

1 Samuel 15:22-23

22 Then Samuel said:

Does the Lord take pleasure in burnt offerings and sacrifices
as much as in obeying the Lord?

Look: to obey is better than sacrifice,
to pay attention is better than the fat of rams.
23 For rebellion is like the sin of divination,
and defiance is like wickedness and idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,
He has rejected you as king.

 

Note that your success in Christ has nothing to do with your own thought process, your own ways of thinking or reasoning—all of these originate in the flesh.  In order to take steps forward in your faith and in your ministry before others, you need to take a step back and humble yourself before Him.  If you choose not to humble yourself, you render yourself useless within His kingdom.

Here’s a point of controversy, for sure—I’m not saying that you can’t do anything without Jesus.  You can do a lot of things without Jesus.  In fact, you can do many things and even see results, but be sure that you understand what those accomplishments mean according to His ways and His standards.  You may have your own standards, but how do they stand up to God’s standards?

Isaiah 55:8-9 (ESV)

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

 

You can do something without Jesus, but in the end, it amounts to nothing.

Isaiah 64:6 (ESV)

We have all become like one who is unclean,

and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.

We all fade like a leaf,

and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.

 

Isaiah wrote about these so-called righteous deeds of the Israelites but he was stating, in reality, that they were nothing more than junk before God because of their hypocrisy.  This verse is commonly known as the “filthy rags” verse.  Gotquestions.org notes that the word filthy is a translation of the Hebrew word iddah, which literally means “the bodily fluids from a woman’s menstrual cycle.” This is how we are to see how God sees our self-centered approach to the good things that we think we are doing—namely, they are as useless to Him as a soiled feminine hygiene product. [1]

The things that we think we are doing for the Lord amount to nothing that is worth keeping around.  It all comes down to thinking more of yourself than you really are when you are outside of God’s will and live in disobedience to Him.

Jeremiah 13:1-11

1 This is what the Lord said to me: “Go and buy yourself a linen undergarment and put it on, but do not put it in water.” So I bought underwear as the Lord instructed me and put it on.

Then the word of the Lord came to me a second time: “Take the underwear that you bought and are wearing, and go at once to the Euphrates and hide it in a rocky crevice.” So I went and hid it by the Euphrates, as the Lord commanded me.

A long time later the Lord said to me, “Go at once to the Euphrates and get the underwear that I commanded you to hide there.” So I went to the Euphrates and dug up the underwear and got it from the place where I had hidden it, but it was ruined—of no use at all.

Then the word of the Lord came to me: “This is what the Lord says: Just like this I will ruin the great pride of both Judah and Jerusalem. 10 These evil people, who refuse to listen to Me, who follow the stubbornness of their own hearts, and who have followed other gods to serve and worship—they will be like this underwear, of no use at all. 11 Just as underwear clings to one’s waist, so I fastened the whole house of Israel and of Judah to Me”—this is the Lord’s declaration—“so that they might be My people for My fame, praise, and glory, but they would not obey.

 

Without obedience, your works amount to nothing.

If Jesus is not in it, it isn’t worth doing it.

If Jesus is not in it, you’ve received your prize for your effort.

Matthew 6:1-4

1 “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of people, to be seen by them. Otherwise, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So whenever you give to the poor, don’t sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be applauded by people. I assure you: They’ve got their reward! But when you give to the poor, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

 

God proclaims that your fleshly works, on their own merit, amount to nothing more than soiled products or ruined underwear.  Your works are only justified when you are justified in your humble relationship with Jesus Christ.  Your works will be seen as fruits of the Holy Spirit when you humble yourself before Him.  Only then will He exalt you, and it will be in such a way where you will see His fruits in your efforts and all that you will be able to do is proclaim, “He did it!”

How connected are you with your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ?  Just as we cannot live without an air supply, we cannot be fruitful in the world, and even within the body of Christ, without the presence of the Holy Spirit.  One of the best examples of this is the study of the verses in John, chapter 15, of the vine and the branches.  It reflects the necessity of one very important element in our actions as we exist within a loving relationship with Jesus Christ, and it has everything to do with our obedience to His Word, His commands, and His will.

God wants you to see that He values your relationship with Him much more than your service.  Yes, the service is important, but not more important than Him.

If you choose to “do good with works” over a relationship with Jesus Christ, you should know that, at some point in the future, you can’t be fruitful without Him.  There is no substitute for Jesus Christ.  Your ministry depends completely upon the fruitfulness of the presence of the Holy Spirit, who enables you to minister to others.

 

John 15:1-8

 1 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vineyard keeper. Every branch in Me that does not produce fruit He removes, and He prunes every branch that produces fruit so that it will produce more fruit. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in Me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in Me.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without Me. If anyone does not remain in Me, he is thrown aside like a branch and he withers. They gather them, throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you want and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this: that you produce much fruit and prove to be My disciples.

 

Whether you remain in Him (or not)—he will not desert you or forget about you—He encourages us, and even fortifies us with His very presence.

Hebrews 13:5-6

Your life should be free from the love of money. Be satisfied with what you have, for He Himself has said, I will never leave you or forsake you. Therefore, we may boldly say:

The Lord is my helper;
I will not be afraid.
What can man do to me?

 

Jesus is the vine that allows you to be fruitful in your ministry.

Without Him, you cannot bear good fruit.

Jesus will also prune you in order for you to be fruitful.  Pruning sounds a little painful, doesn’t it?

When was the last time that Jesus used His pruning shears on you?  Was it a moment of discipline?  Believe it or not, you should be encouraged by the fact that you were indeed shown the way to repentance, for repentance means that God loves you and desires to draw you back into fellowship with Him.  Your return to fellowship means that God is pruning you to return you to fruitfulness.

Hebrews 12:3-11

For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, so that you won’t grow weary and lose heart. In struggling against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And you have forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons:

My son, do not take the Lord’s discipline lightly
or faint when you are reproved by Him,
for the Lord disciplines the one He loves
and punishes every son He receives.

Endure suffering as discipline: God is dealing with you as sons. For what son is there that a father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline—which all receive—then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had natural fathers discipline us, and we respected them. Shouldn’t we submit even more to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time based on what seemed good to them, but He does it for our benefit, so that we can share His holiness. 11 No discipline seems enjoyable at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it yields the fruit of peace and righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

What work does Jesus need to do in your life to make you more fruitful?  Does he need to do some minor pruning—or more than that?

With the knowledge that obedience to Jesus Christ keeps you fruitful, you can now see God working in your life of fruitfulness by showing the love of Christ to others.  He chose you to do the work.  What an honor it is to serve the Lord Jesus Christ!

 

John 15:9-17

“As the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you. Remain in My love. 10 If you keep My commands you will remain in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commands and remain in His love.

11 “I have spoken these things to you so that My joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.12 This is My command: Love one another as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are My friends if you do what I command you. 15 I do not call you slaves anymore, because a slave doesn’t know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have heard from My Father.16 You did not choose Me, but I chose you. I appointed you that you should go out and produce fruit and that your fruit should remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in My name, He will give you.17 This is what I command you: Love one another.

Your work in Christ will show the love of Christ to others.  You were selected to do the work for His glory.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Don’t you know that your body is a sanctuary of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God?  You are not your own, for you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God in your body.

 

Colossians 3:17

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

 

1 “Why are all of our righteous acts considered filthy rags?” (n.d.). Retrieved August 12, 2014, from http:// http://www.gotquestions.org/filthy-rags.html

 

Copyright © Melvin Gaines

A Recipe for a Missional Church

07/03/2014 § Leave a comment

One of my favorite milkshakes of all time is Chef Michael Symon’s Vanilla Bean Apple Pie Bacon milkshake.  While you can have variations within its recipe, the right amount of elements will make for a rich and satisfyingly delicious milkshake.  It has to begin with a great tasting apple pie (anything less than that would affect the taste of the shake, of course), 3 scoops of vanilla bean ice cream, 6 ounces of half and half and (the piece de resistance for me) two strips of cooked bacon!  Put them all in a blender and puree until smooth–serve immediately.  Out will come two servings of deliciousness! The end product is what we see, but the ingredients are very important to form the memorable impression of an enjoyable milkshake.  And so it is with a church’s governmental structure.  We should not be able to necessarily see the structure of a church, but the end result must be a missional church in having its greatest effect in reaching the lost. A simple definition of “missional” is to present the gospel of Jesus Christ according to the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20).  It is a process of bringing along new believers in Jesus Christ and developing them (discipling them) in order that they will grow within the body of Christ and carry on Christ’s Great Commission to others. Ed Stetzer correctly notes that “church governance should function like a human skeleton, as a necessity for structure and well-being but invisible to the naked eye.” (Stetzer, 92)  Any great organization must have a structure in order to maximize success.  A corporation starts with a mission statement and has a governing board and executives that carry out that mission.  A church, and a planting church, should have EXACTLY the same thing…a mission statement for guidance and a governing board consisting of visionary leadership.  Each person involved, in order to ensure a successful implementation of the vision, must be seeking the guidance of the Lord through the Holy Spirit and literally dying to self on a daily basis (Matthew 16:24-25; Mark 8:34-35; Luke 14:27). Without this, there will always be fleshly struggles and battles over the importance of carrying out agendas, which take away the focus from the quest to be a missional church and remaining focused on having a heart for God’s people. The type of governance for a church is as individual as the type of church plant for the target area involved.  While there is no equal in my mind to a Vanilla Bean Apple Pie Bacon milkshake, it is not for everyone.  A friend of mine tried one and acknowledged it was delicious but it caused a significant gastronomical discomfort–it is very rich.  We can agree that a church government should have a pastor-elder or a group of the same, or even go further within the New Testament examples of elders and deacons, but it really depends upon who God has called to serve and for each person involved to not count himself as more important than another believer.  Not all church plants need the same governing structure—there must be flexibility within the forming of the structure, but it must exist to fulfill the guidance and the vision of the plant.  The mission statement must reflect a missional church movement.  There must be a pastor to shepherd the church (Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:2), and ideally a great supporting cast of at least one other like-minded person, but all involved must be willing, as noted earlier, to die to self and serve under Christ.  If you see a person or persons caught up in titles or accolades in order to project oneself as significant, we are seeing too much within that structure.  If the church government is transparent, like a good recipe, we will only “taste” the end results in that people will be reached for Jesus Christ and that God will be glorified.  Amen. Taste and see that the Lord is good. How happy is the man who takes refuge in Him! (Psalm 34:8 HCSB)   Ed Stetzer (2006). Planting Missional Churches. Broadman & Holman, Nashville TN 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

A Life of Humility

10/27/2013 § Leave a comment

There are moments when you are wrong about something and it would be wise to admit it openly.  It’s times like this that you certainly wish that you were right, but everything points to you making a mistake (and hopefully it’s not a big one).  Of course, you have a choice in this matter…you can readily acknowledge your mistake to someone, or say nothing, hide behind it and point the finger at someone or something else–in other words, play the blame game.

Have you ever been around someone who never admits when they have done something wrong?  If you have, perhaps you remember the frustration that comes in having a relationship with such a person, especially if others around the person occasionally mess up. It can be very difficult to meet a person’s expectations if perfection is the only acceptable result.  A person who readily points out that he or she is “mistake-free” will invariably do more harm in relationships than good, and it’s because human beings who make mistakes can never meet the standards of a “perfect” person.

It is rare when a person is seen taking responsibility for his or her actions, and perhaps even refreshing.  In order to take responsibility, you have to check your pride at the door and humble yourself.  This message is about the act of humility.  Humility in action is the essence of godliness and the absence of pridefulness.  Using the examples I have just provided, it takes little effort to exercise pride when claiming perfection or blaming others for your mistakes because both of these prideful actions are rooted in the flesh.  Humility is in opposition to the desires of the flesh.

Humility is a character trait that must be learned and developed over time.  It must be learned and developed because we are not, in our own nature, capable of humility. As a child, you were only capable of communicating your basic needs and desires with dependence on your parents to care for you.  As you grew up, you had to learn about right and wrong, “please” and “thank you” and how to be courteous to others.  Assuming that you have learned all of these things (chuckle), humility is something that we continued to learn as we got older, and we are still learning to master it.

There is grace in humility…both for you when you exercise it, and for the recipient who receives it.  As we learn to master acts of humility, we are to be encouraged to grow in this area as it is a godly attribute.

James 4:6

But He gives greater grace. Therefore He says:

God resists the proud,

but gives grace to the humble.

The art of mastering humility will test six key areas of your life in your quest for godliness and living a Christlike existence.  These are far from being inclusive of everything but these will say a lot about who you are and your growth in Christ:

1. Your honesty (trustworthiness)

2. Your kindness (generosity, compassion and forgiveness)

3. Your patience

4. Your perseverance

5. Your respect (for others, your self-respect, self-esteem)

6. Your self control (contentment, temper)

You may have picked up that these virtues make up a number of the fruits of the Holy Spirit:

Galatians 5:22-26

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. 26 We must not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

Living a life of humility requires a believer crucifying the flesh.  It is an ongoing struggle, but the Holy Spirit enables every single believer with the capability to overcome any fleshly influence or desires.  By yielding to the Spirit, you will best be able to do the following:

  • Rely less on your reasoning and rely more on your heart

Humility has a positive effect on your thought process.  You will invariably take the approach that extends beyond your own reasoning, logic and understanding, and extend beyond the inherent barriers associated with human thoughts to those thoughts that can only come from the wisdom and knowledge of the Spirit:

Isaiah 55:8-9

8 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts,

and your ways are not My ways.”

This is the Lord’s declaration.

9 “For as heaven is higher than earth,

so My ways are higher than your ways,

and My thoughts than your thoughts.

1 Samuel 16:7

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or his stature, because I have rejected him. Man does not see what the Lord sees, for man sees what is visible, but the Lord sees the heart.”

  • Trend less towards anger and more towards peace

In order to understand the nature of peace, you need to go beyond the obvious (for example: no war, no yelling or screaming, a quiet room — these are all correct but you must consider the influence of Christ in your efforts of humility).  Jesus Christ’s influence on you in your efforts of humility will remind you of God’s grace to you and how that grace is extended to others.  When you recognize God’s grace in your life, you will readily extend that grace to others–even during those times when you have every right to be angry.

Ezra 9:7-9

7 Our guilt has been terrible from the days of our fathers until the present. Because of our iniquities we have been handed over, along with our kings and priests, to the surrounding kings, and to the sword, captivity, plundering, and open shame, as it is today. 8 But now, for a brief moment, grace has come from Yahweh our God to preserve a remnant for us and give us a stake in His holy place. Even in our slavery, God has given us new life and light to our eyes. 9 Though we are slaves, our God has not abandoned us in our slavery. He has extended grace to us in the presence of the Persian kings, giving us new life, so that we can rebuild the house of our God and repair its ruins, to give us a wall in Judah and Jerusalem.

This is especially true in areas where forgiveness is necessary.  True forgiveness is not on our own strength and ability.  It comes only from God Himself through the Spirit.  As God has forgiven our sins through grace and granted us an eternity of fellowship with Him, we are to extend the same grace to others and put aside our anger.

1 John 3:16-22

Love in Action

16 This is how we have come to know love: He laid down His life for us. We should also lay down our lives for our brothers. 17 If anyone has this world’s goods and sees his brother in need but closes his eyes to his need—how can God’s love reside in him?

18 Little children, we must not love with word or speech, but with truth and action. 19 This is how we will know we belong to the truth and will convince our conscience in His presence, 20 even if our conscience condemns us, that God is greater than our conscience, and He knows all things.

21 Dear friends, if our conscience doesn’t condemn us, we have confidence before God 22 and can receive whatever we ask from Him because we keep His commands and do what is pleasing in His sight.

Luke 17:3-4

3 Be on your guard. If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. 4 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.”

Matthew 6:14-15

14 “For if you forgive people their wrongdoing, your heavenly Father will forgive you as well. 15 But if you don’t forgive people, your Father will not forgive your wrongdoing.

Don’t let your harshness that comes from an unforgiving spirit ruin your testimony before Jesus Christ and others.  This is an area that is a stumbling block to many believers because they are failing to grasp the immeasurable grace that God has bestowed upon them in forgiveness for their own sin.  As you grow and learn more about God and this grace, you will be less resentful, less angry, and be more ready and willing to extend grace and forgiveness to others.  It’s an area that all of us need to work on, and it starts with humbling yourself before God and before others.

This also applies to how well you esteem yourself before God. Satan will trick believers into thinking that they are forever inadequate before God, when God assures us that we are made righteous before Him when we confess our sin and trust that He is true to His Word:

1 John 1:9

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Romans 8:1-2

1 Therefore, no condemnation now exists for those in Christ Jesus, because the Spirit’s law of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.

  • Know that it is not about you and that it is more about Jesus

Your relationship with Jesus Christ should be far more important than those things that would keep you from living a life of humility: your ego, your reputation, your adversarial relationships, your finances or anything that has an adverse effect on your relationship with Jesus.  A humble person is a godly person who is secure and content in himself, in his relationships and acknowledges a dependence on Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 8:5-6

5 For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth—as there are many “gods” and many “lords”—

6 yet for us there is one God, the Father.

All things are from Him,

and we exist for Him.

And there is one Lord, Jesus Christ.

All things are through Him,

and we exist through Him.

Philippians 4:12-13

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.

1 Peter 5:6

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.

Above all, humility is necessary for a person to come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

Acts 2:38

“Repent,” Peter said to them, “and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Psalm 149:4

For Yahweh takes pleasure in His people; He adorns the humble with salvation.

Romans 10:9-12

If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 One believes with the heart, resulting in righteousness, and one confesses with the mouth, resulting in salvation. 11 Now the Scripture says, Everyone who believes on Him will not be put to shame, 12 for there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, since the same Lord of all is rich to all who call on Him.

James 4:7-10

7 Therefore, submit to God. But resist the Devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, sinners, and purify your hearts, double-minded people! 9 Be miserable and mourn and weep. Your laughter must change to mourning and your joy to sorrow. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you.

Copyright © Melvin Gaines

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