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/

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Position Paper – God’s Judgment – The consequence of man’s free will or determinism?

10/26/2014 § Leave a comment

CST5225 Week 6 Position Paper

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

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

The Moral Compass

07/28/2013 § Leave a comment

If you watch television for any length of time, you will see commercials of full-length movies that feature many of the super heroes you grew up with from the world of DC Comics and Marvel Comics.  Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, The Fantastic Four, The X-Men, Iron Man, The Wolverine, and coming soon to a theater near you, The Flash, Captain America and The Justice League of America.

There is little wonder as to the huge popularity of these movies, beginning with the appeal of the spectacular special effects that bring the comic book characters to life right before your eyes.  In addition to this, all of these movies have similar compelling story lines.  The heroes of our childhood on the big screen are now a little edgier and cooler for this generation of viewers, but all of them are on the side of righteousness and good, and they battle the opposing forces of evil.

We use the movies as a way of retreat.  They help us to relax and unwind from our day-to-day routine, even with all of skirmishes and explosions that take place.  While we can relate to our super heroes battling through madness and mayhem, our personal daily experience is a similar struggle of good versus evil–except we are far from super or even heroic.  We are fallible and vulnerable, for we live in the reality of a fallen world surrounded by sin and transgression.

The news and events of each day reinforce that we are in a fallen world.  Our own behaviors are challenged with conflicts, distractions and temptations to sin.  God’s Word provides ongoing support and guidance to avoid sin, but it is up to each of us to remain consistent in this endeavor with a constant effort to seek Him and His truth.

Psalm 119:9-11 (HCSB)

9 How can a young man keep his way pure?

By keeping Your word.

10 I have sought You with all my heart;

don’t let me wander from Your commands.

11 I have treasured Your word in my heart

so that I may not sin against You.

A few years ago I presented a message on the role of your conscience in determining and discerning right from wrong.  It was noted that it is not just reliance upon your conscience to make the right decisions but it involves your inclusion of the Holy Spirit within your thought process to provide guidance.  Both the Holy Spirit and your conscience will make up what we will call today your moral compass.  For the benefit of those of you who are of Generation-Y, a compass is the ancient, old-timers version of today’s GPS system.  It provides direction and guidance to successfully travel from one point to another.  In this way, your personal moral compass guides you to make the proper response to outside stimuli based upon your morals or value system.  A compass of any type is subject to deviation and sometimes need to be corrected for accurate readings; similarly, a person’s moral compass is only as good as his or her value system, which means that the Holy Spirit is not a factor when a person’s decisions reflect poor morals or values.  It is safe to conclude that one’s poor decision-making is the result of not relying upon godly wisdom.

James 1:5

Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him.

The actual use of the term “moral compass” describes the foundation of one’s values and behaviors from a moral perspective.  I will now take poetic license to expand my definition of a moral compass as a person who gives the perception of demonstrating high moral character.  This perception, in addition, carries a high degree of influence with others who know the person. For example, you are a “moral compass” amongst your friends if you can influence others, just by your presence, to clean up the other persons’ colorful language.  A person known as a “moral compass” can have a positive effect, but he can also drive people in a different direction if the people he interacts with are of their own mind and don’t want to focus on godly things.  This should not be strange to a believer, for remember Jesus’ comments when He was in the midst of His earthly ministry:

Matthew 10:34-36

34 Don’t assume that I came to bring peace on the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I came to turn

a man against his father,

a daughter against her mother,

a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;

36 and a man’s enemies will be

the members of his household.

It is reasonable to conclude that the gospel message that you convey to others is either going to draw a person near to you, or it will push the other person away from you.  It’s the same consistent message, but it depends upon the heart of the respondent as to which direction the person will go.

Have you checked your moral compass lately?  Do you have the proper focus in looking to Jesus Christ in everything that you do?  When others look at you, do they see you as salt and light in the world, or do you just blend in with everyone else?  These are important questions for the believer, and they require honest answers.  A believer in Jesus Christ is compelled by the love of Christ and the love of other people to serve Him for His glory.  A believer, as a result, should never blend in.

Matthew 5:13-16

13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt should lose its taste, how can it be made salty? It’s no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled on by men.

14 “You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 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. 16 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.

In order to glorify God through Jesus Christ, you, as the moral compass of your sphere of influence to others, must continually show yourself as a vision of hope before those who are seeking the truth.  The very meaning of hope is to create the expectation that good things can happen in one’s life.  According to the Holman Bible Dictionary, hope is a “trustful expectation, particularly with reference to the fulfillment of God’s promises. Hope, is the anticipation of a favorable outcome under God’s guidance–the confidence that what God has done for us in the past guarantees our participation in what God will do in the future.” Hope is a key element in the knowledge and understanding that comes in a love relationship with God through Jesus Christ, and how we are to love others, as well:

1 Corinthians 13:13

Now these three remain:
faith, hope, and love.
But the greatest of these is love.

In today’s world, those who are sincerely seeking the truth will want answers; therefore, they will seek out the persons who have godly character and who demonstrate the practice of living in truth.  While some will reject the truth, believers in Jesus Christ will possess the mind of Jesus Christ and will strive to live according to His will.  A true believer will live in accordance to the Great Commission and want to see people saved for Jesus Christ.

Luke 19:10

For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost.

How does a person regarded as a “moral compass” convey this hope to others?  There are four points that we will cover today whose first letters will each spell the word “hope.”  You will stand out as a moral compass that provides guidance and direction with your daily approach in these areas:

1. Humility

James 4:10

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

Proverbs 22:4

The result of humility is fear of the Lord,

along with wealth, honor, and life.

Humility is the first step that every person must take when they first acknowledge the need for a Savior.  It begins there and continues throughout life as a believer as one grows and develops in the wisdom and knowledge of God’s Word.  This wisdom and knowledge begins with the appropriate reverence for God in your life–it requires a life of humility.

Psalm 111:10 (NIV)

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;

    all who follow his precepts have good understanding.

    To him belongs eternal praise.

Humility leads to the next acronym–

2. Obedience

You cannot love God and show God’s love to others, without being obedient to His Word.

The evidence of your obedience will be apparent in your daily, consistent approach in how you remain obedient and convicted to God’s Word.  It is your daily walk as that moral compass that will show the importance of trusting God and His Word to others.  You will show that obedience to God’s Word really matters.

1 Peter 1:20-23

20 He (Jesus Christ) was chosen before the foundation of the world but was revealed at the end of the times for you21 who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

22 By obedience to the truth, having purified yourselves for sincere love of the brothers, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, 23 since you have been born again—not of perishable seed but of imperishable—through the living and enduring word of God.

Note that this obedience requires faith, which is a necessary component in your relationship with Jesus Christ.

Hebrews 11:6

Now without faith it is impossible to please God, for the one who draws near to Him must believe that He exists and rewards those who seek Him.

3. Prayer-filled

In order to be humble before the Lord and obedient to His Word, a life devoted to prayer must be in the mix.

Ephesians 6:18

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.

Your prayers are not just personal, but also for those persons that you interact with on a daily basis.  Prayer is a mighty force when you petition God to touch the people in your life to make a decision to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  When people know that you are prayerful and are sincerely praying for them, it speaks a powerful message of your love, care and compassion for others.

4. Exemplary

To be exemplary is to set the best example of living before others.  It is when you exhibit a great demeanor, a positive presence, and exceptional behavior as a believer in Jesus Christ where others will be drawn to you.  To be exemplary is not about being perfect, or even being the best at everything you do–you still need to show yourself to be a human being that recognizes when mistakes are made and own up to them.  In sporting events or competitions, you are to be humble in victory and gracious in defeat.  Your exemplary behavior will draw people near to you, and also to Jesus Christ, when you show your love and concern for others.  This is the essence of your life as a moral compass standing up for Jesus Christ and standing out while living for Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 2:12

12 Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles, so that in a case where they speak against you as those who do what is evil, they will, by observing your good works, glorify God on the day of visitation.

John 13:12-17

12 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? 13 You call Me Teacher and Lord. This is well said, for I am.14 So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.15 For I have given you an example that you also should do just as I have done for you.

16 “I assure you: A slave is not greater than his master, and a messenger is not greater than the one who sent him. 17 If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.

The “moral compass” has an important role in the body of Christ—both for the individual and for those he or she interacts with.  It starts with the reliance of the Holy Spirit in making all decisions, and it continues as you live for Jesus Christ in providing hope to others who need to make a decision for Him.  Your mission in the Great Commission is to show others the love of Christ through humility, obedience, prayer and exemplary behavior.  It is living in the best way that you can in being salt and light in the world before others, and it begins with your faith, hope and love in Jesus Christ.

Copyright © Melvin Gaines.  For more content, please visit melvingaines.com or melvingaines.blogspot.com.

The Moral Responsibility of Leadership and Our Choice of Leaders

11/07/2012 § Leave a comment

This year’s presidential election was very close—much as expected. The margin of victory for President Obama was about 2 percent of the total number of votes cast. His victory in 2008 was only slightly larger, but the smallest of a majority is all that is needed to compel his supporters that his leadership will keep the country moving in the right direction. Only time will tell what that really means for all of us.

Prior to the election, all of us are mercilessly bombarded with information with reasons why to vote for a candidate and just as many reasons why you should not even consider the opponent. All of this is considered a “sport” by political insiders, but the combative ads and condescending rhetoric is often misinterpreted as spiteful and mean-spirited to the casual observer—it puts more people off than informs them. This approach is still very successful in shaping—or even affirming—the thoughts and views of the voters who are willing to participate. You will find yourself disillusioned if you allow yourself to get swept in like a whirlpool with all of the negative ads and election hype. In fact, some people are so put off by the process that they conclude that neither candidate is likeable or trustworthy; as a result, they choose not to vote at all. I have had many discussions with people over the years where they have concluded that it is not worth the aggravation to research and decide who the better candidate is. Much of this also has to do with the fact that it does not seem to matter to the non-voter who is in charge in Washington. The perception is that nothing really changes and nothing is getting better anyway, right?

The fallacy of this way of thinking is that it has always mattered who our president is. This also applies to any elected government official, as well. We have become desensitized to a state of paralysis over the years because of all of the bureaucracy, red tape and poor stewardship in how our tax dollars are used, but that does not mean we are to be complacent or to lower our expectations on our leadership just because “it’s always been this way in Washington.” In fact, our expectations of quality leadership in the White House and in government should be at an all time high. We should not be settling for anything less.

Leadership has a paramount responsibility to those that are being governed. A leader should be openly challenged in areas where promises are made in order to get elected when those promises aren’t kept or fulfilled. A leader should be accountable to all of his constituents in his decision-making process. All told, an elected official at all levels of government is selected for leadership with the understanding that he or she is held to a higher standard—a higher moral standard.

In the same way, these higher moral standards must never be compromised in the same way that voters should never take the easy way out in the candidate selection process. The electorate should always be compelled to pray for who their leaders are to be, and for them to hold a higher moral standard—not the standard determined by freedom of choice according to human reasoning—but God’s holy standard.

Here is where many people will depart from the use of God’s standard of viewing these matters because it is viewed as being “old-fashioned” or “unrealistic” in today’s world. My contention is that it is the only standard for looking at everything that we do and every choice that we make. Why? Simply because our lack of such a standard has been prominent throughout society, and that the absence of a godly standard has perpetuated a steady and steep decline of our societal value system. At one time in United States history, for example, our education system had a biblical foundation and principles within its classroom instruction along with a regular teaching of the bible. Today, we will only see these same practices in a private school environment, and in not nearly the same way it was done a century ago. As our educational values and standards have slipped, so too has our societal moral compass when it comes to what is right and wrong and our ability to make decisions. The absence of the bible is when decisions are made based upon what we think is right as opposed to measuring these issues with God’s uncompromising standard.

Keep in mind that God’s standard is what is good for us—it is not punitive. The world views God’s standard as inhibiting and rife with limits as to how we live. In fact, it is exactly the opposite.

“Taste and see that the Lord is good. How happy is the man who takes refuge in Him!” (Psalm 34:8)

“All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

The responsibility of leadership is to heed God’s Word and follow it as closely as possible as they make important decisions. It does not mean that a leader is to be perfect. Many complex issues that a leader faces can often lead to mistakes, but it is the heart of the leader who is sincerely seeking God’s wisdom in decision-making that leads to success in their stewardship under God. Moreover, the leader’s focus on God sets the example for those under his leadership to follow the same principles in their own decision-making. That’s the kind of trickle-down effect that we really want as a people and as a nation.

“…and My people who are called by My name humble themselves, pray and seek My face, and turn from their evil ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land.” (2 Corinthians 7:14)

President Obama’s challenge for his second term is to do more than just claim that he is making his decisions based upon biblical principles and prayerful consideration—it needs to be evident in his existing policies. The bible is very clear when it comes to same-sex marriage and abortion. While there are existing laws that may support the worldly views of same-sex marriage and abortion, it does not mean that the president has to publicly endorse them. He does not make law according to our government structure; therefore, why take a stand in support of these things? Are his public positions good for the overall moral fiber of our country, or are they merely an ongoing perpetuation of a greater moral weakness of the United States that desperately needs to be addressed? A true believer in Jesus Christ cannot support these positions and should do everything possible to educate others on what it means to resist any compromise of God’s Word. If you compromise here, you’ll find other ways to justify behavior contrary to God’s holy standards—complete disobedience of His Word. When there is prayerful consideration of how God’s standard is to be applied, God will shed the appropriate light on every situation and circumstance and provide direction. From there, you can pay attention to it or dismiss it for your own view or rationalization (at your own risk).

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and discipline.” (Proverbs 1:7)

“For wisdom will enter your mind, and knowledge will delight your heart. Discretion will watch over you, and understanding will guard you.” (Proverbs 2:10-11)

“Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him.” (James 1:5)

My continuing prayer (1 Thessalonians 5:17) is that President Obama will truly heed God’s Word in all decisions that he makes and that he will be the best possible example of leadership for our country. In our view of the existing evidence and track record, this appears to be a very tall order; however, Jesus, in the only way He can, puts it best:

“…With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26b)

Amen.

Copyright © Melvin Gaines. All rights reserved.

All verses from the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB). Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003 by Holman Bible Publishers, Nashville Tennessee. All rights reserved.

Remaining in Him

07/22/2012 § 3 Comments

Today, it is evident that believers have their work cut out for them.  The life and times of today’s world present great challenges each day, and it requires everyone who is serious about Jesus Christ to answer the call in the effort to proclaim the gospel to all who need to hear it.  Within the midst of Jesus’ command is His assurance that each believer, in facing the world’s challenges, will not be alone in our efforts.

Matthew 28:18-20

18 Then Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

The greatest difficulty in the believer’s ability to carry out Jesus’ command is not in the power of Jesus Christ and His working of the Holy Spirit, but rather in that of the confidence of the believer himself.  While the desire to be a testimony of the gospel is there, the world will challenge that testimony at every turn with its own onslaught of opposition.  This combination—a lack of confidence, rooted in a lack of faith in God’s abilities coupled with the world’s resistance of the gospel—presents enough obstacles to stop a believer’s efforts right in their tracks.

A believer has to overcome the fears that prevent the effective proclamation of the gospel to those who need to hear it.  For many believers, this is an accurate portrayal of where they are in their spiritual life.  The good news is that you can move beyond these fears with the help of the Holy Spirit, but the believer must assume the responsibility of taking the initiative to grow and develop in his or her faith in order to be successful.  Remember, God enables every believer in Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit, but the believer must acknowledge the Spirit’s power in order for Him to work.

How does a believer grow and gain confidence in their abilities through the Spirit?  Some of this begins in determining what true success is.  It is not success according to the world’s standards.  A believer should expect setbacks to occur because of the opposition it faces, but true success is in edifying Christ and devoting all accomplishments to His glory.  This is where many believers need to camp themselves as they grow in their ministry for Christ.  They need to understand what it is to remain in the Lord, which denotes getting to where He is and staying there.  This message is about remaining in Him—Jesus Christ, and what a believer must know and understand as they grow in their relationship with Christ.

To remain in Jesus Christ is much more than just believing in who He is.  The importance of remaining in Him begins with relying on Him—it is trusting in His Word.  He is the living Word.

Psalm 119:104-106

104 I gain understanding from Your precepts; 
therefore I hate every false way.

105 Your word is a lamp for my feet 
and a light on my path.
106 I have solemnly sworn
to keep Your righteous judgments.

Remaining in Him means a regular reading and meditation on His Word.

Psalm 1:1-3

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!
Instead, his delight is in the Lord’s instruction,
and he meditates on it day and night.
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.

When you remain in Jesus, you develop and strengthen your faith as you build your relationship with Him.  He becomes more important than those things of the world that, at one time, had a value to you.

Galatians 5:16-17

16 I say then, walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is against the Spirit, and the Spirit desires what is against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you don’t do what you want.

Galatians 5:24-25

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 growth as you remain in Jesus will enable you to speak boldly for Christ at every waking moment.  You are able to speak more effectively for Christ because you have comfort in His presence in your life.

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?

Remaining in Jesus requires a focus and determination that receives the benefit of growth in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Let’s examine a passage that encourages the benefits of remaining in Him and also the perils of not doing so:

John 15:1-4

The Vine and the Branches

1 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vineyard keeper. 2 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. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 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.

This passage truthfully portrays how the believer in Christ works within the body of Christ through Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  The fruit in the passage is the visible (and flavorful) result of the ministry of the believer abiding in Christ.

Psalm 34:8

Taste and see that the Lord is good. 
How happy is the man who takes refuge in Him! 

The fruit is the gospel message of Christ that is seen as evidence of the believer’s presence in Christ.  In addition, a person who remains in Christ (on the vine) is continually molded and shaped (in this case, pruned) to allow for continuing growth and development.  This leads to even greater spiritual growth that makes an even greater impact in ministry.  If there is no evidence of this fruit, the believer does not have fellowship with God.  Look at this next part of the passage in John 15 for additional emphasis as to remaining in Him and what happens when you don’t do so:

John 15:5-8

5 “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. 6 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. 7 If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you want and it will be done for you. 8 My Father is glorified by this: that you produce much fruit and prove to be My disciples.

Jesus Christ promises that our remaining in Him will produce positive results.  Keep in mind that our remaining in Him means that we are in accord with HIS will, which means that there is no conflict in seeing things as how God sees them, and acting in accordance to His will.

A condition of remaining in His will has a fundamental importance of being obedient to His Word:

John 15:9-14, 16-17

Christlike Love

9 “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.

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.

There is no downside to remaining in Christ, but He does promise the believer that any efforts to follow Him will most certainty face opposition from the enemy.  A believer who follows Christ will run into persecution run into difficulty because of Satan’s opposing forces.

John 15:18-21

Persecutions Predicted

18 “If the world hates you, understand that it hated Me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own. However, because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of it, the world hates you. 20 Remember the word I spoke to you: ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will also keep yours. 21 But they will do all these things to you on account of My name, because they don’t know the One who sent Me.

Believers must prepare for these attacks by knowing their enemy.  The best defense against the attacks of Satan is a good offense, which is to remain in Christ in the midst of the persecution.  God is our great defense—we rely upon Him by putting on the full armor of God:

Ephesians 6:10-18

Christian Warfare

10 Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by His vast strength. 11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the tactics of the Devil. 12 For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens. 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.

Remaining in Him does indeed require prayer at all times in the Spirit…consistent, persistent, faithful prayer.  We have confidence that He hears our appeals and prayers…

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.

Remaining in Christ is a place of safety for the believer against the world.  While Satan does not want to see your successes and triumphs in Christ, it is Jesus who is our ultimate protection.

1 John 5:18-20

18 We know that everyone who has been born of God does not sin, but the One who is born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him.

19 We know that we are of God, and the whole world is under the sway of the evil one.

20 And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding so that we may know the true One. We are in the true One—that is, in His Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.

Remaining in Jesus Christ is a consistent and persistent series of actions that develop the believer’s faith in its entirety.  It is done with:

  • A meticulous study of God’s Word with prayer and meditation for understanding through the teaching of the Holy Spirit
  • A desire to obey Jesus’ Word because of a growing relationship with Him through understanding—in this a believer remains in Him with greater consistency
  • A boldness to speak and act in a Christ-like manner and with the ability to withstand and endure persecution.

My prayer for you is that you will earnestly seek a growing and faithful relationship with Jesus Christ.  To remain in Christ is more than just believing that He is the Messiah.  That’s only the starting point of knowing about Christ.  Remaining in Christ is a healthy relationship of depth and breadth.  Pray for this growth in Christ in your life and make that commitment today for a lifetime of service for Him.

Copyright © Melvin Gaines. All rights reserved.

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