04/10/2017 § Leave a comment
Text from Spring Break 2017 Seminar for Akron Alliance Fellowship Church, Akron OH and guests, April 7-8, 2017 at the Hampton Inn by Hilton, Stow OH:
Day 1 – Friday
Thank you for attending this year’s Spring Break 2017 Relationship Conference presented by Akron Alliance Fellowship Church. We sincerely hope that you have a great time here this weekend, and that you are inspired and encouraged by what God has to say to you! A special thanks to the staff at the Hampton Inn by Hilton for hosting this event for the sixth consecutive year!
If you were with us in 2015 for our seminar, Your IMAGE and Forgiveness, and last year’s A PACT with Jesus: Making the Right Choices, you would have noted that both of these programs were to help its participants begin and continue the process of developing a closer, healthier and vibrant relationship with Jesus Christ. In order for a believer in Christ to grow in faith, he has to do more than just go beyond the basics. This annual seminar series provides practical methods for a present believer, and even a potential believer, to reach one’s fullest potential as a child of God living in a manner that brings praise to Jesus Christ!
Our discussion this weekend is about developing a passion for service in Jesus Christ. In order to develop this passion, there has a starting point. The starting point for this process begins with you.
Why does it start with you? It is necessary for you to undertake a self-analysis of who you are, what you are and where you are going. This self-analysis can be simple or detailed, but it should address, in some manner, the following questions (beyond just defining who you are) …
What is your purpose (present)?
What do you want to accomplish in the future (future)?
By putting answers with these questions, it merely establishes a baseline. The most important things that you are to face and reckon with over time is what is happening today, which includes for our discussion within the immediate future (days), and your goals for the future (extended months and years from now).
The answers to these questions are just a baseline for your path moving forward.
Your past formed the path that you have traveled to get to where you are today. Your past has provided defining moments of your life that indicate who you are in this moment; however, it is important to note that who you are today does not have to define who or what you will accomplish in the future, and we know this because of the change that Jesus Christ provides for us each day.
In the same way that Jesus Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit, created in you a new person, He has the ability to continue to mold and shape you into a person that can do even more things through Christ, who gives you the strength and ability to do them (Philippians 4:13)!
So when we analyze these two questions, what do you see about yourself?
I trust that, with this weekend’s discussion, you will be able to see your role in the body of Christ more clearly than you do now, and that you will also gain the desire to live your life in Christ to its fullest. You are able to do this with confidence in the knowledge that you are right where you should be in Christ. There is no better place to be, and this is how you can live your life with passion in Jesus Christ.
Part A – Under Construction
This weekend, we will be discussing a number of construction projects. These construction projects will start with you.
Your review will require self-examination and self-exploration, and at the same time, a fair amount of planning and preparation as you go.
You are always under construction because of how God shapes and moves you throughout your life. This is whether you have an intimate relationship with Jesus or even if you do not. As much as we like to think that we control our direction or even our destiny, we really don’t have that kind of power over our lives. We don’t have any control over the course of life. God is the author of all life and what happens in it. You have often heard the use of the words “God is in control.” Scripture does not use those exact words, but there are verses that support God’s predominant role in your life:
Proverbs 19:21 ESV
Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.
The life of a believer is indeed guided through the help of the Holy Spirit when making decisions. I also stated that even non-believers, those who do not have a relationship with the Lord, are also under the “God is in control” umbrella even if they do not realize it. How do I know this? Take a look at Isaiah 45:1-7:
Isaiah 45:1-7 HCSB
The Lord says this to Cyrus, His anointed,
whose right hand I have grasped
to subdue nations before him,
to disarm kings,
to open the doors before him
and the gates will not be shut:
“I will go before you
and level the uneven places;
I will shatter the bronze doors
and cut the iron bars in two.
I will give you the treasures of darkness
and riches from secret places,
so that you may know that I, Yahweh,
the God of Israel call you by your name.
I call you by your name,
because of Jacob My servant
and Israel My chosen one.
I give a name to you,
though you do not know Me.
I am Yahweh, and there is no other;
there is no God but Me.
I will strengthen you,
though you do not know Me,
so that all may know from the rising of the sun to its setting
that there is no one but Me.
I am Yahweh, and there is no other.
I form light and create darkness,
I make success and create disaster;
I, Yahweh, do all these things.
Recognition of God’s control in your life is an important aspect of effective planning. If, for example, you take into account how the weather impacts your life, your plans actually take into account the upcoming forecast. If there is rain in the forecast, it can certainly affect whether or not you will attend a baseball game or plan a picnic. If there is snow and cold weather and you love to ski, then you would plan to hit the slopes! If there is a hurricane in the forecast, you can choose to stick it out (at your own peril), or to evacuate to a place of safety. In all three of these situations, decisions are being made because of events that are beyond one’s control. In the same way, recognizing that God is in control still requires you to make a plan for your life. In going further, God would not want a person to live a life of ambiguity. Planning is essential as it is preparation for the future.
Part B – God Has a Plan for Your Life
It is reassuring that God has a plan for each one of you, as well. But it is important for us to see that, in addition to planning and preparation, one recognizes that God’s plan for your life involves recognition of who He is and what He means to your life plans.
For I know the plans I have for you”—this is the Lord’s declaration— “plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. You will call to Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.
In your planning and preparation, you are to:
- Call on Jesus Christ
- Search for Him with all your heart
- Pray to Him (and He will listen)
When you involve the Lord in your plans as you seek Him, He will make His presence known to you, and you will see how He gives you hope for the future! He keeps His promises and wants to see you succeed in whatever you do!
Construction projects start with a dream. A thought. A desire to change something for the better.
Your construction project will not be successful unless you know what you are undertaking. Your personal construction project must have a goal. What is it that you want to accomplish in this endeavor? What needs to be worked on? What needs the most attention in your life?
Let’s review what your goals are.
What are your short-term goals?
What are your long-term goals?
Use the handout (No. 2) in front of you to capture your short-term goals and your long-term goals. Write down what your short-term goals are and what goals you would like to accomplish in the future.
In order to start a fire, you need a spark. You provide the spark, and let the Spirit’s leading and guidance do the rest!
From here, you need to compare what your goals are to what you believe your life purpose is (from Handout No. 1).
What do you presently do each day?
What do you LIKE to do, and if you could, would do every day?
Who do you admire and why?
What do you love to learn about?
What can you talk about all day without getting tired of it?
What excites you? (or) What inspires you? (or both)
Part C – Passion Defined
When one uses the word “passion,” what comes to mind?
Before I delve into dictionary definitions, let’s see if we can come up with one or two word synonyms or descriptive terms that can help us define the word “passion.”
(discussion) (with note taking)
With our mini-definitions, I will provide two different definitions of “passion” from American Heritage and Merriam-Webster:
- A powerful emotion, such as love, joy, hatred, or anger.
- Ardent love.
from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition
a: the sufferings of Christ between the night of the Last Supper and his death
b: an oratorio based on a gospel narrative of the Passion Bach’s St. Matthew Passion
the state or capacity of being acted on by external agents or forces
moldable and not moldable … and many other passions of matter — Francis Bacon
a (1): emotion “his ruling passion is greed” (2) passions plural: “the emotions as distinguished from reason a study of the passions”
b: intense, driving, or overmastering feeling or conviction
with enough passion to make a great poet — W. B. Yeats
c: an outbreak of anger a crime of passion
a: ardent affection: love He had never felt such passion for any woman but her.
b: a strong liking or desire for or devotion to some activity, object, or concept a passion for chess a passion for opera
c: sexual desire a look of passion in her face
d: an object of desire or deep interest
© 2017 Merriam-Webster, Incorporated
It should be noted that the word “passion” has a number of meanings that range from the sufferings of Jesus Christ to something that borders on one losing control of himself. To help with this for our discussion this weekend, we need to highlight that the passion that we will be discussing does not encompass everything you see in these definitions, but it does capture something that may be elusive to many people when it comes to their relationship with Jesus Christ–intensity. It is this intensity through the power and enabling of the Holy Spirit, that helps a person to recognize what he or she is passionate about, and how a person lives an intentional life of service for God’s glory in Jesus Christ. It is an amazing parallel to how Jesus Christ lived and died for each one of us.
Part D – An Intentional Life of Intensity in Christ
According to John Piper, it was Jesus Christ Himself that lived with intensity His intentional life. The intensity was His desire to remain obedient to the Father as he intentionally suffered and died on the cross for each of us. His desire was to ultimately pave the way, by His actions, for every person who acknowledges Him to experience eternal life. His passion was for us! His agape love for us, from the beginning of mankind, reflects to us how much He thought all of this through, and you were included in His plan!
When you consider that you were part of God’s plan in being here to live, what do you think about this?
[Dismissal for evening]
Piper, J. (2014). The Intensity of Christ’s Love and the Intentionality of His Death. Desiring God Series. Retrieved March 14, 2017 from http://www.crosswalk.com/faith/bible-study/the-intensity-of-christ-s-love-and-the-intentionality-of-his-death.html
Day 2 – Saturday
Part 1 – Heart Matters
Your ongoing efforts of self-examination and self-evaluation are not much different from our ongoing theme of our church studies, which is learning more about your own personal relationship with Jesus Christ. In order to know more about who you are in Christ, you need to know more about Jesus Christ. There are simple reasons why this is so important:
1.) Jesus Christ is your Creator who knows all about you.
2.) Jesus promised a Helper, the Holy Spirit, for you to help you to live your life.
3.) The Holy Spirit is an intimate helper and sanctifier within your daily living.
By knowing more about Jesus Christ, you will grow more and more:
- You will see things as Jesus sees them
- He will give you greater insight into your ability to succeed in Christ
- You will do your best as Jesus wants you to be your best!
Faith Stages Handout
Powerful, Purposeful, Principled and Approachable
Trusting completely in Jesus Christ helps you to reach your greatest potential through the enabling and enriching presence of the Holy Spirit.
A passion-filled believer is:
Powerful. Your power comes from your affiliation with the Holy Spirit and righteousness. He is responsive to our needs and gives us energy through His presence.
Psalm 138:3 HCSB
On the day I called, You answered me;
You increased strength within me.
2 Timothy 1:6-7
Therefore, I remind you to keep ablaze the gift of God that is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.
A passion-filled believer is:
Purposeful. Your passion is derived from knowing your purpose. The moment that you know and understand your purpose in Christ, your flame of passion has been kindled, and there is nothing that can put it out!
Ephesians 2:10 ESV
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
1 Corinthians 10:31 ESV
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me.
When I finally determined what my life purpose was in my relationship with Jesus Christ, it gave me a new meaning to my faith and what I was striving to accomplish—not for my own benefit, but for the benefit of the body of Christ and for the purpose of winning people to Christ.
A passion-filled believer is:
Principled. In line with our previous discussions on making a PACT with Jesus Christ for effective decision-making, a believer in Jesus Christ desires righteousness and lives according to His standards of Christlikeness. He adheres to a lifestyle that honors God and keeps His commands.
Principled believers rely upon the wisdom and words of God for daily living.
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.
Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light on my path.
A passion-filled believer is:
Approachable. In the same way that God is approachable because of the redeeming power of the blood of Jesus Christ shed for all of our sins, we are to be approachable to those individuals within our spheres of influence. We are to be and remain as lights in a dark world. We are to be attractive in this world not because of our appearance, but because of our Christlike love for others. Love goes a long way in making you approachable, especially when it is shown to those that the world sees as unlovable or unattractive.
1 John 4:7-19
Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent His One and Only Son into the world so that we might live through Him. Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Dear friends, if God loved us in this way, we also must love one another. No one has ever seen God. If we love one another, God remains in us and His love is perfected in us.
This is how we know that we remain in Him and He in us: He has given assurance to us from His Spirit. And we have seen and we testify that the Father has sent His Son as the world’s Savior. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God—God remains in him and he in God. And we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and the one who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him.
In this, love is perfected with us so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment, for we are as He is in this world. There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment. So the one who fears has not reached perfection in love. We love because He first loved us.
Note that in this passage there is what seems to be a progression of faith in how we are to love one another. Note that true perfection in love comes where fear no longer matters anymore to you. Since fear is a tool of the enemy, a passionate believer in Jesus Christ is reaching perfection in love with a strong progression of faith in his or her life.
Part 2 – Abundant Life and Spirit-Filled
A passion-filled believer is living the:
Abundant life. The ultimate goal of every person, believer or not, is to live an abundant life.
John 10:10 ESV
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
What is the abundant life? It depends on how you look at it. The non-believer, or even some believers, may associate abundance with wealth or riches. That is not God’s definition of abundance. (Remember the plight of the rich man who knew what he needed to do to follow Jesus but was very sad because he couldn’t do it:
Mark 10:17-27 NLT
As Jesus was starting out on his way to Jerusalem, a man came running up to him, knelt down, and asked, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“Why do you call me good?” Jesus asked. “Only God is truly good. But to answer your question, you know the commandments: ‘You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. You must not cheat anyone. Honor your father and mother.’”
“Teacher,” the man replied, “I’ve obeyed all these commandments since I was young.”
Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him. “There is still one thing you haven’t done,” he told him. “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
At this the man’s face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.
Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God!” This amazed them. But Jesus said again, “Dear children, it is very hard to enter the Kingdom of God. In fact, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!”
The disciples were astounded. “Then who in the world can be saved?” they asked.
Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But not with God. Everything is possible with God.”
And yes, it is possible, through Jesus Christ, for you to live a life of abundance.
Jesus does not just want you to simply exist.
He does not even want you just to have what you might deem to be a carefree life. That’s not biblical.
He does, however, want you to have the abundant life. He wants you to have a life that overflows with God’s presence in every aspect of your existence. He wants you to experience the completeness of life according to His will and purpose for you. The effect of an abundant life will be the blessings of life that God will show you because of your faithfulness to Him.
Heading before this passage: Blessings for Obedience…
“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. All these blessings will come and overtake you, because you obey the Lord your God:
You will be blessed in the city
and blessed in the country.
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.
Your basket and kneading bowl will be blessed.
You will be blessed when you come in
and blessed when you go out.
“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. 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. 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. 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. The Lord will make you prosper abundantly with children, the offspring of your livestock, and your land’s produce in the land the Lord swore to your fathers to give you. The Lord will open for you His abundant storehouse, the sky, to give your land rain in its season and to bless all the work of your hands. You will lend to many nations, but you will not borrow. The Lord will make you the head and not the tail; you will only move upward and never downward if you listen to the Lord your God’s commands I am giving you today and are careful to follow them. Do not turn aside to the right or the left from all the things I am commanding you today, and do not go after other gods to worship them.
Not everyone reaches this goal because of the challenges of life and deception from Satan:
Again He began to teach by the sea, and a very large crowd gathered around Him. So He got into a boat on the sea and sat down, while the whole crowd was on the shore facing the sea. He taught them many things in parables, and in His teaching He said to them: “Listen! Consider the sower who went out to sow. As he sowed, this occurred: Some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Other seed fell on rocky ground where it didn’t have much soil, and it sprang up right away, since it didn’t have deep soil. When the sun came up, it was scorched, and since it didn’t have a root, it withered. Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns came up and choked it, and it didn’t produce a crop. Still others fell on good ground and produced a crop that increased 30, 60, and 100 times what was sown.” Then He said, “Anyone who has ears to hear should listen!”
When Jesus explains this parable (to His disciples), you can see why many people fail to live the abundant life.
Then He said to them: “Don’t you understand this parable? How then will you understand any of the parables? The sower sows the word. These are the ones along the path where the word is sown: when they hear, immediately Satan comes and takes away the word sown in them. And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: when they hear the word, immediately they receive it with joy. But they have no root in themselves; they are short-lived. When pressure or persecution comes because of the word, they immediately stumble. Others are sown among thorns; these are the ones who hear the word, but the worries of this age, the seduction of wealth, and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. But the ones sown on good ground are those who hear the word, welcome it, and produce a crop: 30, 60, and 100 times what was sown.”
When you get right down to it, the only thing that keep us from living the abundant life is our lack of faith in the power of Jesus Christ over the enemy. The enemy is Satan, who is described in John 10:10 as the one who seeks to kill and destroy, but God’s power and ability overcomes anything and everything that Satan can do. The key to living the abundant life is to resist Satan and to seek and remain in fellowship with God through Jesus Christ.
James 4:7 NIV
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
You know you are progressing towards the abundant life that Jesus wants you to have when you are advancing past the “baby milk” stage of faith and just looking at life for the basics:
Matthew 6:25-33 ESV
Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
You are worth so much more in Christ! In order to experience the abundant life, you will have to throw caution to the wind and life a life of faithfulness in trusting the words of Jesus Christ. He wants so much more for you! A passion-filled believer lives with purpose, and experiences the abundant life in Christ!
The sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit, in your ongoing fellowship with Christ, will give you the ability to produce the multiples described in Mark Chapter 4 as you live for Christ in abundance!
A passion-filled believer is:
Spirit-filled. The true abundant life can only be achieved by the believer in Jesus Christ. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is the catalyst that enables you to achieve this abundance and live a passion-filled existence!
And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit…
Being filled with the Holy Spirit is instantaneous upon accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of your life, but the Spirit does not turn the believer into a mind-numbed robot. You have to allow the Spirit to be in control in order to offset your own fleshly nature.
1 Thessalonians 5:19 ESV
Do not quench the Spirit.
Galatians 5:19-21 ESV
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Being Spirit-filled means successful living in reverence and service for Jesus Christ.
Galatians 5:22-23 ESV
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
The Holy Spirit teaches believers how to live a Christlike existence, and His lessons are invaluable as He sanctifies with His presence.
Being Spirit-filled gives you the ability to live a life a passion for Jesus Christ:
Colossians 3:12-17 HCSB
Therefore, God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, accepting one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a complaint against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive. Above all, put on love—the perfect bond of unity. And let the peace of the Messiah, to which you were also called in one body, control your hearts. Be thankful. Let the message about the Messiah dwell richly among you, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, and singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.
Part 3 – Sensitive, Servant, Sanctified, Stands Firm, Sharer of Faith
A passion-filled believer is:
Sensitive. A follower of Christ who is mature in his or her faith and lives a purpose-filled life is sensitive to his or her environment. Prayers are less about self and more about others. It extends beyond close friends and family and even reaches those who do not know the Lord and those who need encouragement. Sensitivity in Christ means love, care and compassion for others.
Look at the words of Christ in Isaiah 61 as to being sensitive to the needs of the people:
The Spirit of the Lord God is on Me,
because the Lord has anointed Me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives
and freedom to the prisoners;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
and the day of our God’s vengeance;
to comfort all who mourn,
to provide for those who mourn in Zion;
to give them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
festive oil instead of mourning,
and splendid clothes instead of despair.
And they will be called righteous trees,
planted by the Lord
to glorify Him.
Your life of sensitivity, after all is said and done, glorifies God! The softly spoken words and demeanor of a passion-filled believer represents peace and comfort for those who need simple encouragement all the way to those who are in the midst of a turbulent experience.
Proverbs 16:24 ESV
Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.
1 Peter 3:8 ESV
Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.
A passion-filled believer is a:
Servant. The desire to live in a Christlike manner in sensitivity lends to being a Christlike servant.
John 12:26 ESV
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.
1 Peter 2:16 ESV
Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.
Being a servant is exactly what Jesus Christ wants us to do before others. He set the example before His disciples:
John 13:12-17 HCSB
When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.
A passion-filled servant understands the importance of devoting his service to Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit is the enabler through the humility of the servant, and God is the one who receives the glory!
A passion-filled believer is:
Sanctified. The Holy Spirit’s presence in the believer is a sanctifying presence. Sanctification is the combination of the believer’s growth in the likeness of Christ. It is the accumulation and application of God’s wisdom and knowledge from none other than Jesus Christ, who A. B. Simpson refers to as “The Sanctifier.” Jesus Christ proclaimed that the Holy Spirit is the One who will teach and remind believers of the words of Jesus Christ.
John 14:26 ESV
But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.
The Holy Spirit works within you from the moment of your conversion in recognition that Jesus Christ is your Lord and Savior. It is best described as an ongoing cleansing process as you put off the old and grow in your new life in Jesus Christ.
2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
Sanctification is what God desires for your life. You cannot live a life of passion in Christ without sanctification, because it is the essence of an obedient lifestyle.
1 Thessalonians 4:3-7 NIV
It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister. The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit.
Sanctification does not mean a life of perfection, but it does mean that you desire to be holy as the Lord is holy (1 Peter 1:15-16). It means that the believer desires a greater faith walk and a closer relationship with Jesus Christ, and both of these requires a humble, teachable role within the presence of the Spirit.
A passion-filled believer:
Stands firm. In living according to the IMAGE of Jesus Christ, one of the most important aspects of living is under the “E” for endurance. Every believer has to endure a daily onslaught of temptation and fleshly desires. A believer has to not only endure a multitude of issues and distractions, but also must stand firm in the face of any opposition, especially any challenges to your faith in Jesus Christ. For the person who is living with a passionate conviction in Jesus Christ, it can and will be done without any hesitation or uncertainty.
Philippians 1:27-30 HCSB
Just one thing: Live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or am absent, I will hear about you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind, working side by side for the faith that comes from the gospel, not being frightened in any way by your opponents. This is a sign of destruction for them, but of your deliverance—and this is from God. For it has been given to you on Christ’s behalf not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him, having the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I have.
Standing firm means that there is nothing that can shake you from living a life of passion in Jesus Christ.
A passion-filled believer is a:
Sharer of faith. This is something that becomes more and more comfortable over time as you allow the sanctification process to continue. Sharing the love of Christ, your faith, is an act of discipleship. The believer not only shares about Jesus Christ to those who do not have a relationship with Him, but also gives encouragement to other believers as often as necessary.
1 Peter 3:13-17 HCSB
And who will harm you if you are deeply committed to what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear or be disturbed, but honor the Messiah as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. However, do this with gentleness and respect, keeping your conscience clear, so that when you are accused, those who denounce your Christian life will be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.
Mark 16:15 ESV
And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.”
Colossians 4:5-6 ESV
Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
Romans 1:11-12 HCSB
For I want very much to see you, so I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you, that is, to be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.
A passion-filled believer reflects the image of Jesus Christ for all to see, and one who readily shares his or her faith does so with confidence and assurance that the truth is being spoken.
Part 4 – Influencer, Iron-Sharpener and Instructor
A passion-filled believer is an:
Influencer. Sharing your faith, in the leading of the Holy Spirit, is influential. The words spoken are given with conviction and in righteousness to those who hear them. A passion-filled believer is speaking in accord with the will of God, who desires for every person to enter into a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
1 Timothy 2:3-4 HCSB
This is good, and it pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
There is a difference between an influencer and a coercer. An influencer shows the love of Christ in their speech to others. One who coerces is not really allowing the Spirit to work in the life of the hearer. The words spoken are to reflect the love and concern of Jesus Christ.
Matthew 5:13-16 ESV
“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
An influencer provides words of wisdom and knowledge about not just the gospel, but everything that is beneficial.
Proverbs 9:9 ESV
Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.
A passion-filled believer is an:
Iron-sharpener. The proper influence must originate from the Spirit of truth. When referring to Scripture, the believer must use these words properly in order that God is glorified:
2 Timothy 3:16-17
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.
An iron-sharpener is actively speaking about matters of Scripture to provide others with food for thought and encourages feedback from others.
Proverbs 27:17 ESV
Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.
A passion-filled believer is an:
Instructor. A believer who faithfully and consistently reads and studies the Bible is more than just a Bible student. He is an influencer, iron-sharpener and also an instructor. A passion-filled believer gives instruction on Christlike living with both words and actions everywhere he or she goes. An instructor not only shares godly wisdom and knowledge but also reflects how to behave properly and live with character in all situations and circumstances.
Proverbs 19:20 ESV
Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future.
Psalm 32:8 ESV
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
[Break – Checkout]
Part 5 – Obedient to God and His Word, Outreacher, Neighbor and New Creation
A passion-filled believer is:
Obedient to God and His Word. Being obedient to God means loving Him with all of your heart, soul and mind (Matthew 22:37), and it includes an intimate relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.
John 14:15 ESV
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”
1 John 5:3 ESV
For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.
Loving God and obedience to Him are synonymous. You cannot do one without the other. A passion-filled believer strives to live in faithfulness and trust in the Word each day.
A passion-filled believer is an:
Outreacher. Believers are not to stay amongst themselves or even within their small group of friends. Passion-filled believers go outside of themselves. They go where the Holy Spirit takes them in ministering to others, and allow the Spirit to take the lead in all discussions and opportunities to witness to others. The outreach efforts truly reflect to others the person’s love for God, reverence to God and faithfulness. This is a significant difference to those who claim to desire to minister to others. Outreachers live in this manner each day, and to be prepared to minister to others at any given moment as the Spirit prompts.
Matthew 28:19 ESV
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.
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
Romans 10:14 ESV
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?
2 Timothy 4:2 ESV
Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.
A passion-filled believer is a:
Neighbor. In order to minister as an outreacher for Jesus Christ, you have to be the neighbor as described within the greatest commandments of Jesus Christ:
Matthew 22:36-40 HCSB
“Teacher, which command in the law is the greatest?”
He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.”
In the simplest of terms, you are commanded by Jesus Christ to convey the same love to your neighbor, as a neighbor, as you love God and desire to serve Him in whatever ministry it is that you are participating in. This is offered as wisdom given that there are often many situations where your interactions with others may be misconstrued, misunderstood or flat out rejected. A passion-filled believer understands that love in ministry and service often takes time when trying to reach others for Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8 NIV
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.
So, you being a neighbor to others is the essence of Christlikeness and Spirit-filled living. Your love for Jesus Christ will shine before everyone and they will see the sincerity of your care and concern for others.
A passion-filled believer is a:
New Creation. Every day is a new day…a new adventure. Jesus Christ’s sanctifying power through the Holy Spirit transforms you as a new creation each day. Your actions of reading, studying, meditating on His Word and living out a faithful life in Jesus Christ is a constant life transition that will also show the growth and development as a new creation.
2 Corinthians 5:16-21 NIV
So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
This ongoing “newness” in Jesus Christ is an ongoing development. Our challenge is to remain close to Him, and in our closeness, obedience and service to Him, He will continue to renew us as we strive for holiness. He continues to provide us with the ability to resist sin and those things that block our ongoing transformation to a place of freedom and righteousness in His name. We are being made new every day in Jesus Christ! A passion-filled believer puts nothing above the importance of fellowship with Jesus Christ.
Your passion in Jesus Christ does not require anything complicated. If anything, it requires a simplistic, God-oriented approach. Sometimes the most obvious solutions to answers are right in front of you. My desire for you, after this discussion concludes, is to challenge each of you to really search your own heart and mind as to where you are in your present relationship with Jesus Christ and how you are living for Him. It is impossible to separate your relationship with Christ and having a good grasp of what your reason and purpose is for being here.
If it means that today is the day you begin to get deeper into the Word of God and learn more about who He is, then that will be good and proper for you. God will respond to your sincere efforts to get to know Him.
If you believe that you are already doing what the Lord would have you to do, then your place of service will be affirmed by your actions; however, you should also be prayerful that God will move you to a different area at any given moment and begin to expose you to ways where you will learn and prosper under His direction. It takes being flexible and open to learning new things, but it also means that you are sensitive to the movement of the Holy Spirit.
Your passion in Jesus Christ is in your control. Jesus has always been present in your life. He was there from the beginning (John 1:2), He was present in your past, He is present now and He will be with you in the short term and long term future. He wants you to seek Him and love Him as One who has your best interests at heart. He wants to see you succeed in Christ, and He wants you to live up to your greatest potential. He wants you to live the abundant life!
Evaluate your life today, your love for Christ, and what you can do to improve upon this. Your passion in Jesus Christ is a flame that will continue to burn brightly as you discover and live out your God-given gifts and talents. All it takes is the desire to seek Him with greater intimacy and do even more than you ever have before. God will respond to your loving commitment to Him where everyone will see you, but Christ receives the glory! Amen!
Copyright © Melvin Gaines
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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.”
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/
07/30/2015 § Leave a comment
When 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. 
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.” 
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.  The English word “theology” comes from two Greek terms: theos, meaning “God” and logos, which refers to “word,” “teaching,” or “study.” 
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.”  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.”  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.  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. 
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  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  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
07/24/2015 § Leave a comment
By Danni Moss (1964-2010)
A Repost from her blog “Because it Matters – Freedom from Abuse in Christianity”
Copyright protected, all rights reserved
This question was asked here and I know the person who asked it is one voice out of many, many more who are wondering the same thing. The answer is both simple and complex.
For the simple answer, God does not want you to remain in an abusive marriage. But before you run out the door, be sure you read the complex part of the answer, too.
Jesus stated the purpose of His coming in Luke 4: 18-19:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,
To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.
Jesus came for the purpose of healing the brokenhearted, delivering captives, and liberating those who are bruised. That perfectly describes the condition of someone who is being abused in their marriage. Jesus came to rescue people from abusive relationships!
OK, I just heard a whole bunch of “wait a minute…” voices from readers. 😉 Go with me here a minute. The church has reduced Jesus’ purpose to saving souls from eternal damnation. Do you see that in this verse? Certainly it could be considered to be part of Jesus’ stated Luke 4 mission. But why do we limit Jesus’ purpose to less than what the Word plainly states?
Nowhere in the Word is there a place where God applauds or supports abuse. In fact, abuse is inherently opposite to God’s nature. If believers are made new creatures in Christ and partakers in His nature, how can we possible justify or excuse abusive behavior by someone bearing the name “Christian?”
If we assume an abusive spouse is not a believer (which may, in fact, be supportable by Scripture) is a Christian abused partner expected by God to remain in that abusive relationship? The answer is still no. A Christian does not enable another person to continue in sin. By remaining in an abusive marriage, a Christian sends the message that the abusive behavior is acceptable – and affirms the abusers sin.
Here comes the complex part, however. God does not want you to remain in an abusive marriage. But there is also a process for addressing the abuse. If there is physical violence, even just occasionally, an abused spouse needs to call local domestic violence support and carefully, but quickly, get outside the home into a safe place. In this situation, further Biblical steps need to occur from a position outside the same home as the abuser. If there is not physical danger, all but the final step of dealing with an abusive spouse can take place without physical separation.
So what are the steps to dealing with an abusive spouse?
First, I think we are all called to bring every detail of our lives to God for His insight and timing. Almost without exception (I’d say without exception but maybe there could be one) we need to clean our own slates first. As abused spouses we need to maintain first an attitude of, “Lord, change me.” God uses our difficult circumstances to teach us things we would not learn otherwise. So we must appreciate God’s process, even in exposing our own places that need to be refined and conforming us to the image of Christ while we are dealing with an abusive spouse.
Second, we have to maintain a humble spirit, remembering that God loves us all equally. It is easy to get a prideful and judgmental spirit. We have to remember that every person is created in the image of God, even this abuser, and so is worthy of basic human respect. Gal. 6:1 says,
Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.
Third, Matthew 18:15-17 outlines a very specific process for dealing with an offender, which would include marital abuse.
Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.
But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.
And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.
So we must first learn how to respectfully address the abuse within our marriage and establish correct boundaries. This is a learning process that can take months.
If the abusive spouse does not change when confronted privately, the abused spouse is to take a couple witnesses to confront the abuser again. These witnesses should be people the abuser respects and that the abused spouse can trust. At this point, I believe professional counseling is in order. A professional counselor can, in fact, be that witness. Another of the witnesses should be pastoral church leadership. This can be problematic because pastors don’t know how to address abuse correctly. But at least give the church the opportunity to do the right thing.
If abuse continues, the Word says the issue should be told to the church. This step is almost impossible to fulfill in the modern church. Pastors generally won’t allow it because they do not understand the Word on the subject. So, the abused spouse should attempt to press the pastor to allow this step, but if the pastor refuses, the abused spouse may need to move on to the final step.
The final step is removal from the relationship. Matthew 18 says to separate from the unrepentant offender. I Tim. 5:8 says a man who does not provide for his family (provision = financial, spiritual, emotional protection and leadership) has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. God calls an unrepentant abusive spouse an unbeliever. That is not my judgment; it is God’s. I Cor. 5:11 says believers are not to associate with, are not even to eat with, a person who is verbally abusive (“railer”). And I Cor. 7:13-15 says that if an unbelieving spouse removes (walks away from the marriage covenant – which can include staying in the house but leaving the relationship) himself from the marriage, the believing wife is to let him go. It may seem backwards for the believing wife to leave – but we have to remember that the “leaving” happens when a spouse does violence to his house (Mal. 2:13-16). The believing wife who removes to safety is not the one who abandoned the relationship.
Some will say removal from the relationship should be for an open-ended period of separation (which could be permanent if there is no repentance); others recommend divorce. I recommend you have a relationship with God whereby you allow Him to direct you because there is not a universal answer at this point. It may very well be that the only way to secure safe custody of children and spousal support for those children is through divorce. This is not out of line. And if the abusive spouse chooses to remarry that will certainly be the final nail in the door to possibility of reconciliation – a choice made by the abuser, not the victim of abuse who took the necessary, and Biblically supported, steps to address an abusive spouse.
God offers hope, not a lifetime sentence, to abuse victims. If you are in an abusive marriage you need to 1) get support for yourself that will stand by you throughout, 2) be willing to take the time to work through the Biblical process, and 3) stay on your face with God throughout the process, asking Him to change you. As hard as it is, this can be the fire that makes you into the person God desires you to be. It is hard and seems far too long in the process, but God is faithful and He does work all things together for good for those who love Him.
Copyright © Danni Moss
Mossman-Tucker, Danni (2009). Does God Want Me to Stay in an Abusive Marriage? Weblog – Because it Matters – Freedom from Abuse in Christianity. Retrieved July 24, 2015 from https://dannimoss.wordpress.com/articles/abuse-in-the-christian-home/does-god-want-me-to-stay-in-an-abusive-marriage/
04/24/2015 § Leave a comment
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness. They will rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, all the earth, and the creatures that crawl on the earth.” So God created man in His own image; He created him in the image of God; He created them male and female. (Genesis 1:26-27 HCSB)
When God created mankind, He created us in His image. He did this with the intent of His creation to be in His likeness (James 3:9b). His will for His people are to live in a manner that is praiseworthy and devoted in worship to Him. Man’s image was to be the glory of God, and a woman, created as man’s helpmate, was intended to be the glory of man (1 Corinthians 11:7), and both, in this image and in worship, are to honor the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 8:23). With this, man has a responsibility to live in a manner that is worthy of His creation. With your belief in Jesus Christ as Savior, He restores you to the place where God intended for you to be—as a person who is under grace and as a new creation in Him (John 1:13; 2 Corinthians 5:17). In the same way you were created in his image, it is His will for you to live in this manner as a new creation. Christ’s sacrifice for you should compel you to put off your old nature of sin and put on the new nature and character of Christ (Romans 6:6-7, 11-12). Your image in Jesus Christ is all about the change taking place in your spiritual character (Ephesians 4:24; 1 Peter 1:16).
A believer who is fully engaged in his or her relationship with Jesus Christ is going to be a dynamically effective witness for Jesus Christ. It is the perception of the believer’s interaction with others that provides the impact of the gospel of Jesus Christ; therefore, a believer’s image is what people see (and need to see—whether you are interacting with non-believers as a testimony or with believers as a person of support and encouragement). It is this image that is the complete makeup of a believer who wants to be more than just salt and light—a bright, seasoned witness for Jesus!
The believer’s image is extremely important in three different areas:
1.) It builds and develops the person’s relationship with God
2.) It builds and develops the person’s self-worth and self esteem
3.) It builds and develops confidence to interact with others in multiple scenarios and circumstances
I will use the word “IMAGE” as an acrostic word comprising what a believer in Jesus Christ needs to do with a consistent fervor to grow in Christ and be a dynamic testimony before others.
There are five elements that we will study that make up the word IMAGE in this endeavor. In order to develop and maintain your IMAGE before others:
I – Investigate the Word of God
The development of a believer must begin with the appropriate time and effort devoted to bible reading. Even as you are developing a routine for bible reading each day, the proper development of the image of the believer must have progression in this process—the progression must continue in the achievement of levels to where you are no longer just reading the bible, but you are investigating what scripture has to say to you.
Your success as an investigator includes:
- Reading the bible daily
- Reading at a predetermined time as part of a regular schedule
- Using external biblical resources to complement your study (for example, using a Greek and Hebrew reference, concordance and/or study bible with commentary)
Investigate (v.) – to observe or study by close examination and systematic inquiry (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)
M – Meditate on the Word of God
(Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10)
Christian meditation is a form of prayer in which a structured attempt is made to become aware of and reflect upon the revelations of God. Christian meditation is the process of deliberately focusing on specific thoughts (such as a bible passage) and reflecting on their meaning in the context of the love of God. 
Meditation is reflection, consistent prayer and practice that promote greater understanding and wisdom in the application of God’s Word.
A – Act (Application of God’s Word)
The act portion of your IMAGE involves taking action upon what you have learned in your investigation and mediation of God’s Word. Taking action or applying God’s Word involves four key lifestyle elements of your faith in Jesus Christ:
- Repentance upon acknowledgment of sin to restore immediate fellowship with Jesus Christ (Matthew 3:8; Acts 3:19)
- Compliance with God’s will in your life (John 7:17)
- A desire to improve and please God (Colossians 3:15)
- Greater consistency in Christlike behaviors (Psalm 119:101-106; Romans 12:1-2)
We act upon God’s Word and His will because we are His specially chosen people, and we desire to maintain a special relationship with Him (Ephesians 2:10; Psalm 37:23-24, 73:23-24)
G – Grow
Growing in Jesus Christ is the natural progression of a healthy, vibrant relationship with Him (Ephesians 3:17-19, 4:11-15)
Growth is measured in the following:
- Continuing achievement of maturity in Christ
- Hearing and knowing when God is speaking to you
- Increased sensitivity to matters of the Holy Spirit
- Greater focus and determination
E – Endure
Bearing all things that occur in the faith with an understanding of the big picture–the love of Christ is exhibited for all to see and that Jesus Christ is glorified (Romans 5:1-5; 1 Corinthians 13:7; James 1:2-4).
Jesus wants you to not only persevere but to remain steadfast in your faith and retain boldness in your faith (in words and in your demeanor before others). It is your steadfastness that makes the boldest statements of Jesus Christ’s presence in your life.
Keep your attention on Jesus Christ as risen from the dead and descended from David. This is according to my gospel. I suffer for it to the point of being bound like a criminal, but God’s message is not bound. This is why I endure all things for the elect: so that they also may obtain salvation, which is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory. This saying is trustworthy:
For if we have died with Him,
we will also live with Him;
if we endure, we will also reign with Him. (2 Timothy 2:8-12a HCSB)
1 Christian Meditation for Beginners by Thomas Zanzig, Marilyn Kielbasa 2000, ISBN 0-88489-361-8 page 7
2 An introduction to Christian spirituality by F. Antonisamy, 2000 ISBN 81-7109-425-5, pages 76-77
Copyright © Melvin Gaines
04/16/2015 § Leave a comment
Spring Break is here! Join me for my annual Spring Break Relationship Conference tomorrow and Saturday. This year, the topic is Your IMAGE and Forgiveness! Admission is absolutely free!
If you are harboring animosity, resentment or dread over past hurts or injustices, then this two-day seminar is for you! We will discuss and share how forgiveness, with the healing power and grace of God, is the best way to conquer the past, free your mind and soul and experience true rest in Jesus Christ! Join us on Friday, April 17 and Saturday, April 18 for lively conversation, prayer time and fellowship! The seminar is free! Hotel rooms, if you choose to stay overnight on the 17th, are based upon availability.
Our program starts next Friday at the Hampton Inn in Stow OH at 5:00 PM. We will break for dinner and resume at 7:45 PM and continue until 8:30 PM, where we will break for the evening. The program resumes Saturday morning after breakfast (hotel guests only) at 9:00 AM, and we will continue through the morning and conclude at about 12 noon.
For more information, call Melvin Gaines at 234.206.0345 or visit akronalliance.org.