The Color of Christmas

12/25/2017 § Leave a comment

I have something to share with you that I have never shared to anyone except my wife.  It’s very personal.

Are you ready? Here it is…

I associate the days of the week with colors.  Yep, that’s it.  Each day of the week for me represents a unique color.

Some of you may be asking “what in the world are you talking about” or “have you been eating well lately,” and I assure you that I have been eating just fine, and maybe too well.

There is actually a name for this phenomenon.  The clinical term for this is referred to as synesthesia.  By definition, synesthesia is a stimulation of a sensory or cognitive area of the brain that involuntary leads to another sensory or cognitive path.  In its simplest form, synesthetes, depending upon how they are wired, associate colors to different stimuli.  Some people can actually associate the different sounds of music with colors.  Some will visually associate letters and numbers with individual, unique colors.

The association of colors with days of the week seems to be more common among synesthetes, and it all has to do with one’s personal perception.  This trait seems to be associated with creative people or artists, and it can be hereditary, but there is not a lot of science or psychology on this, and its probably because some people may not even realize that they have this ability.  I wasn’t able to put a name to it until a few months ago.

Anyway, for me, here are the colors that I see (as close as I can get according to my perception) for the days of the week.  Sunday is close to a white color with a warm, soft cream-like tone.  Monday is a basic blue.  Tuesday is a light gray.  Wednesday is a solid brown.  Thursday is orange, or close to what I would call a burnt orange.  Friday is a solid red.  Saturday is a bright yellow.  As I thought of this subject, I also realize that I associated colors with subjects in high school, which have nothing to do with the day of the week color scheme.  Chemistry and biology, for example, was a solid green.  English was a light blue color, and algebra and calculus were a bright red.  I have no explanation for these, but I can share that English and math were my best subjects in high school.

Many of us probably associate colors with different times of the year and we don’t even realize it.  The four seasons have relatively distinct colors for those of us who live around here.  Spring has a multitude of colors, but many will think of pink and yellow for flowers and cherry blossoms (April showers bring May flowers).  Summer is green and more green.  If you have allergies, you know about pollen, which is yellow.  Autumn means changing leaf colors and pumpkins, which are orange.  Winter is white, and sometimes can take on a rather dreary color of a slushy gray.  With that in mind, how wonderful it is to see Christmas lights this time of year!  We haven’t always had Christmas lights (before electricity we had candles, of course), but even a solid string of white lights in the evening seem to brighten up the surroundings.  Some lights that we see will cover all of the colors of the spectrum, and you can now even see colors dancing in the form of stars or angels projected onto houses with newfangled yard gadgets that run throughout the Christmas season.

Now, I like those kind of colors at Christmas.  We will kindly excuse the people who buy the gargantuan displays of Santa or Rudolph or Star Wars characters that are blown up with an air compressor only to collapse in a heap of wrinkled ruin on the lawn.  I can barely see the beauty of color when I look at those bodacious displays.

Color means a great deal to us.  There’s nothing more boring to look at than a blank canvas or pale white walls.  It’s amazing how something as simple as color stripes or accents on walls can change one’s entire perspective.  Christmas has a color scheme of its own that helps us to get into the spirit of the season after the browns, tans and oranges of Thanksgiving take a back seat for another year.  The reds and greens of Christmas are accented with the light blue colors of sparkle and the snow-white lights that reflect off of the snow on the roofs of houses.  All of these colors are quite prevalent throughout the month between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and yet they still fall short of the true meaning of Christmas.  The true color of Christmas is not in a shade or a hue, because that would be a limitation of its meaning and purpose.  The purpose of Christmas, in Himself, does not wear a red suit, sport a long white beard, or even go “ho, ho, ho!” The true color of Christmas is in the person of Jesus Christ.

He is the true color of Christmas.

Luke 2:8-14 CSB

In the same region, shepherds were staying out in the fields and keeping watch at night over their flock. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: Today in the city of David a Savior was born for you, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be the sign for you: You will find a baby wrapped tightly in cloth and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying:

Glory to God in the highest heaven,

and peace on earth to people he favors!

So when you look at all of the different colors of lights that you see when you drive through your neighborhoods, you can readily conclude that all of the lights of color that you see actually do provide a great reminder of who Jesus Christ is.  He was born as a Savior, Christ the Lord, and He came to us for the purpose of showing us what it is to be a light in the world.

John 8:12 ESV

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Since He is our light, He gives us the example as to how to live as His disciples:

Matthew 5:14-16 ESV

“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.”

Jesus wants us to share His light with others.  How are we to do this?  With love.  With kindness.  With compassion.  With a presence…words are not always necessary.  With service.  With prayer for others.  We are to be lights in a world of darkness and suspicion.  It’s no wonder that charities ramp up their efforts around Christmas to raise money.  It is a giving season, and what better way to express the love of Christ than to unselfishly give to those who are in need?

Colors are what add to the ambiance of Christmas, but all of the colors we see should point each of us directly to Jesus Christ.  So before we pan the secularism of the season and bemoan all of the light displays, let’s reflect on how the bright, colorful lights invigorate our spirits and lift us beyond the doldrums of the cold and the snow.  And if lights can brighten the night, what does Jesus Christ do for us?

How much more does Jesus Christ, with His very presence, lift us up when we are down?

How great it is that He who knows how we feel before we can express it?

How wonderful it is that Jesus shines His light of favor, mercy and loving care upon us!

With His light, I can readily declare that at one time I was blind in my sin, but now I can see!

He wants us to see Him in the light of His glory and grace. Amen. His true color is the color of light, which happens to be all of the colors that we see combined into one bright, beaming presence.  And His light has no end to it.

Remember Christ’s words to His followers: “You are the light of the world.”  He came to us in love and for the purpose of our salvation.  He wants us to see His true colors.  Not just at Christmas time, but all year round.  The color of Christmas is not limited to just one shade, hue or texture, and in the same way, let’s not limit our view of who Jesus Christ is for us.

Jesus wants you to see His true color shine.

“We are to walk in the light, beautiful light, come where His love and His mercy are bright.  Shine all around us by day and by night…Jesus, the light of the world!”*

 

*Lyrics from Jesus, the Light of the World. Words by Ken Bible and George D. Elderkin. Music by George D. Elderkin; arr. by Ken Bible © 1998, 2000, 2009 by LNWhymns.com. CCLI Song #3084764.

 

Copyright © Melvin Gaines

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Sanctification (Position Paper for Alliance Distinctives, Crown College – MN, 2015)

01/29/2016 § Leave a comment

photo courtesy of yahwehistruth.com

photo courtesy of yahwehistruth.com

 

I.  Introduction

Every person who has ever lived has a past, a present and a future.  In much the same way, the new life of a believer who trusts Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior recognizes life in the same way (Ephesians 2:1-7):

There is the believer’s life before the acceptance of Christ as Savior:

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins in which you previously walked according to the ways of this world, according to the ruler who exercises authority over the lower heavens, the spirit now working in the disobedient.  We too all previously lived among them in our fleshly desires, carrying out the inclinations of our flesh and thoughts, and we were by nature children under wrath as the others were also (Ephesians 2:1-3 HCSB).

There is today’s life in Christ:

“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love that He had for us, made us alive with the Messiah even though we were dead in trespasses. You are saved by grace!” (Ephesians 2:4-5)

There is a future and a hope supported through the faith and trust in God’s promises for the future.  It is salvation through Jesus Christ that drives the believer to move beyond his past and learn more about Jesus Christ is in the present and the future:

“More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of Him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them filth, so that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in Christ—the righteousness from God based on faith. My goal is to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, assuming that I will somehow reach the resurrection from among the dead.  Not that I have already reached the goal or am already fully mature, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus. Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:8-14).

“Together with Christ Jesus He also raised us up and seated us in the heavens, so that in the coming ages He might display the immeasurable riches of His grace through His kindness to us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6-7).

Our past, present and future is now grafted into a relationship with Jesus Christ (John 15:1-8, 1 Peter 1:3), and life in Christ came from being born again (John 3:3-8) and becoming a “new” person (2 Corinthians 5:17).  The development of this newness in Christ commences with the ongoing development of a relationship with Jesus Christ, who is now more than just Savior.  He now becomes Christ, the Sanctifier.  The present, for the believer, must now allow for the Holy Spirit to be the catalyst for sanctification, in order to be best prepared for the future, which includes living in effective service for Jesus Christ in proclaiming the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20).

 

II.  Defining Sanctification

Sanctification is the process where a believer recognizes and allows the Holy Spirit, who dwells within the believer the moment he acknowledges Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, to work effectively within all aspects of the life of the believer.  This process requires a whole-hearted effort of reliance upon the wisdom and knowledge of the Holy Spirit imparted to the believer.  In this reliance, there is a progressive growth that takes place over time that helps the believer to make effective change.  This process leads to what Paul refers to as spiritual maturity:

“…until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into a mature man with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness” (Ephesians 4:13).

This maturity comes from learning more about Jesus Christ, which comes from a healthy relational development between Christ and the believer–His sanctification of the believer.

Jesus proclaimed Himself to be the Sanctifier when He prayed over His disciples in John 17:

“Sanctify them by the truth; Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. I sanctify Myself for them, so they also may be sanctified by the truth” (John 17:17-19).

The word “sanctification” comes from the Greek word hagiasmos meaning “holiness” or “separation” (Houdmann, n.d.) and to be “set apart for special use.”  A. B. Simpson noted the following about being set apart:

“Sanctification means dedication. It is not only to separate from but to separate to.  The radical idea of the word is, set apart to be the property of another. And so the complement of this act which we have already partly described is this positive side in which we offer ourselves to God for His absolute ownership, that He may possess us as His peculiar property, prepare us for His purpose and work out in us all His holy and perfect will” (Simpson, p. 5-6, n.d.).

The sanctification process makes the believer more distinct in words and actions as he lives for Jesus Christ, and it gives him the ability to be a light for Jesus Christ in a dark world:

“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light—for the fruit of the light results in all goodness, righteousness, and truth—discerning what is pleasing to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:8-10).

 

III.  The Relationship between Justification and Sanctification

Justification is the work of God through Jesus Christ that removes the penalty of sin from believers, and Jesus Christ was the atonement for our sin when He paid the penalty.  In His actions, those who believe in Jesus Christ are declared righteous before God.

Sanctification is distinct from justification but equally as important in the life of the believer.  It involves the full participation of the believer to allow the indwelling Holy Spirit to be a partner in the growth process.

Justification by faith comes from believing in Jesus Christ as necessary for salvation.  This is first referenced in Scripture with Abram (Abraham) in Genesis 15:

“Abram believed the Lord, and He credited it to him as righteousness” (Genesis 15:6).

Paul, in the New Testament, referred to Abraham’s faith in God as the most important aspect of one’s righteousness before God (Cole, 2013):

“Just as Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him for righteousness, then understand that those who have faith are Abraham’s sons. Now the Scripture saw in advance that God would justify the Gentiles by faith and told the good news ahead of time to Abraham, saying, All the nations will be blessed through you. So those who have faith are blessed with Abraham, who had faith” (Galatians 3:6-9)

“A person is accepted by God apart from good works and solely on the basis of the righteousness of God credited to that person’s account through faith” (Cole, 2013).  Sanctification of a believer cannot occur without God’s justification, no matter what a person does to try to be good before Him.  Justification can only take place when the believer has faith in the One who atones for our sin.  Sanctification does not impact or alter God’s justification (Slick, 1995), but “we are justified that we might be sanctified. Sanctification is not a unique privilege for a few; it is the very purpose of our salvation” (Smith, 1992).

 

IV.  Positional Sanctification

When a person trusts in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, he is referred to as a believer in Jesus Christ, and it is at the moment of the declaration that he becomes justified. “All Christians understand first the first reality: that Christ’s blood has atoned for their sins and they no longer need to fear eternal separation from God” (Soper, n.d.).  He has received from God a positional sanctification from the moment that the Holy Spirit indwells the believer.  This positional sanctification “is known and experienced in full through a definitive act wherein the believer, by faith, receives the gift of the Spirit” (Smith, 1992).  The new believer is indeed “a new creation in Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

This positional sanctification is the separation of a believer in Jesus Christ to that of a non-believer in Christ, who is deemed as lost without this saving faith:

“For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world that He might condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. Anyone who believes in Him is not condemned, but anyone who does not believe is already condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the One and Only Son of God” (John 3:16-18).

Positional sanctification does not assure that a believer is in any way mature in their faith.  While the status of the believer remains that of one who is in Christ, there is room for growth and improvement.  Paul noted this level of immaturity to the believers in Corinth:

“Brothers, I was not able to speak to you as spiritual people but as people of the flesh, as babies in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food, because you were not yet ready for it. In fact, you are still not ready, because you are still fleshly. For since there is envy and strife among you, are you not fleshly and living like unbelievers?” (1 Corinthians 3:1-3)

This means that, at this stage of the development of a believer, that the only distinction between one who is saved and one who is lost is the justification of the believer through faith in Jesus Christ.  It is a distinction that allows the believer to be referred to as a child of God, forever justified through the blood of Jesus Christ (Stoll, 1996).

 

V.  Experiential Sanctification

Experiential sanctification moves beyond positional sanctification to where the believer now lives in such a way that conforms to how Jesus Christ would have him to live.  This is a life-progression of one’s faith in Christ.  As the believer recognizes the life that he has because of God’s grace through salvation and sees the importance of what God has done through this salvation, he is compelled to live it outwardly before others.  This starts with the work of the Holy Spirit with a transformation of the way the believer thinks about life and those around him:

“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).

Experiential sanctification is the path to maturity by the means of spiritual growth within a greater intimacy with Jesus Christ.  A. B. Simpson noted:

“And so the same Christ is formed in each of us; is formed as a babe and grows, as He did

on earth, into maturity in our spiritual life, and we grow into a closer union with Him, and a more habitual and intimate dependence upon Him for all our life and actions” (Simpson, p. 80, 1890).

This spiritual growth is not without conflict.  The conflict comes from the believer’s perspective of living in a Christlike manner versus the world’s perspective of living.  This conflict involves everything outside of abiding in Christ up to and including spiritual warfare (Klubnik, n.d.).  Our maturity in faith requires ongoing prayer, preparation and endurance within the growth process by relying heavily upon the power of God through the Holy Spirit:

“Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the tactics of the Devil.  For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens. This is why you must take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand. Stand, therefore, with truth like a belt around your waist,

righteousness like armor on your chest, and your feet sandaled with readiness for the gospel of peace. 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. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit,

which is God’s word. 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” (Ephesians 6:11-18).

A lack of spiritual maturity that stunts the growth of the believer is mainly due to fearfulness of the enemy, Satan.  It comes in various forms–the worries of this life, a failure to read Scripture, or even the desire to be liked by people of the world.  The enemies of Christ are thieves who seek to rob the joy of the believer.  They keep many believers from realizing and recognizing the abundant life that Jesus Christ speaks of in John, Chapter 10:

“A thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance” (John 10:10).

 

VI.  The Connection between a ‘Crisis Moment’ and Experiential Sanctification

Among the definitions for the word ‘crisis’ are “the turning point for better or worse in an acute disease or fever” or “an emotionally significant event or radical change of status in a person’s life” (Merriam-Webster, n.d.).  A moment of crisis is a turning point for a person.  It brings about, almost in a forceful manner, a change that has a significant impact on a person and the people around him.  The process of experiential sanctification involves a moment of crisis or a group of crises in the life of a believer.  While they do not necessarily need to be dire, they are certainly impactful as to the believer’s approach to life, ministry and his developing faith and trust in Jesus Christ.  A. B. Simpson notes that these moments lead to spiritual maturity that produce a lessening on one’s own strength and  reliance on oneself and a greater dependency upon the power and strength of Jesus Christ, or as he noted, “the absolute all-sufficiency of God Himself” (Simpson, p. 65, 1890).

There are two ways to view a crisis with the relationship of a believer:  it can either drive a person away from Christ, which challenges the notion that the person was a believer in the first place (John 6:60-66), or it will drive a person into a deeper love, appreciation and understanding of Christ:

“We all, with unveiled faces, are looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

This deeper love of Jesus Christ transforms a believer, in his experiential sanctification, to an unwavering faithfulness and dedication to serve Him for the salvation of the lost, even in the midst of adversity.  Paul said it well:

“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. Pray also for me, that the message may be given to me when I open my mouth to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel.  For this I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I might be bold enough in Him to speak as I should” (Ephesians 6:18-20).

God has allowed these moments of crises to occur in the life of a Christian for the sole purpose of growth and progression, but He encourages the believer to not lose heart (Sullivan, n.d.) or give up:

“So we must not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don’t give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, we must work for the good of all, especially for those who belong to the household of faith” (Galatians 6:9-10).

 

VII.  The Role Progression Plays in Experiential Sanctification

Progression as a believer in Jesus Christ means that there has been growth in living a Christlike life.  This is a necessary component of experiential sanctification.  There must be evidence of this progression that comes from remaining steadfast and opposing those things that hamper such growth:

“Finally then, brothers, we ask and encourage you in the Lord Jesus, that as you have received from us how you must walk and please God—as you are doing—do so even more.  For you know what commands we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is God’s will, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality, so that each of you knows how to control his own body in sanctification and honor, not with lustful desires, like the Gentiles who don’t know God.  This means one must not transgress against and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger of all these offenses, as we also previously told and warned you.  For God has not called us to impurity but to sanctification.  Therefore, the person who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who also gives you His Holy Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 3:1-8).

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.  Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  Since we live by the Spirit, we must also follow the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22-25).

Progression of the believer includes the ongoing desire to be obedient to the Holy Spirit and allowance of the Spirit to provide self-control over any fleshly desires.  It is the ongoing saturation of God’s Word that gives the believer the power to resist temptation and abstain from sin:

“How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping Your word. I have sought You with all my heart; don’t let me wander from Your commands. I have treasured Your word in my heart so that I may not sin against You” (Psalm 119:9-11).

 

VIII.  How a Believer is Simultaneously ‘Dead to Sin and Alive to God’

A believer has the power of the Holy Spirit through his relationship with Jesus Christ, but the flesh also remains with the believer, which also creates a significant dependence upon the power of the Spirit to resist temptation and sin.  As a person grows in sanctification, the temptations of Satan may diminish, but our earthly bodies will still commit sin:

“For I do not understand what I am doing, because I do not practice what I want to do, but I do what I hate.  And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree with the law that it is good. So now I am no longer the one doing it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh. For the desire to do what is good is with me, but there is no ability to do it. For I do not do the good that I want to do, but I practice the evil that I do not want to do. Now if I do what I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but it is the sin that lives in me” (Romans 7:15-20).

A. B. Simpson correctly noted that “temptation is not sin unless it be accompanied with the consent of your will” (Simpson, p. 37, 1890); however, it is entirely possible to resist temptation by using the proper discernment through the Holy Spirit and denouncing the temptation altogether. Simpson noted, “I will not sin; I reckon myself still dead indeed unto sin and alive unto God through Jesus Christ” (Simpson, p. 37, 1890).

God also is merciful because of the war that a believer experiences within the flesh because He is faithful in His promise that demonstrates being alive in Christ:

“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humanity. God is faithful, and He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation He will also provide a way of escape so that you are able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

 

IX.  Holiness and Why it Must Characterize God’s People

Holiness is the standard in which all of God’s people are measured.  It is only attainable because of God’s righteousness from the believer’s faith in Him.  Note the comments of A. B. Simpson and the importance of faith in achieving true holiness:

“And it is possible to any soul that will believe, no matter how unholy it has been, no matter how perverse it is; as mean perhaps and crooked as Jacob, as gross as David in his darkest sin, as self confident as Simon Peter, as willful and self-righteous as Paul–it may be and shall be made as spotless as the Son of God, as holy as the holiness of Jesus Himself, who comes to dwell within, if we will only believe and receive” (Simpson, p. 2, 1890).

Holiness depends upon faith in Jesus Christ but it also requires a serious approach and a humble attitude of obedience to His Word:

“Therefore, with your minds ready for action, be serious and set your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires of your former ignorance. But as the One who called you is holy, you also are to be holy in all your conduct; for it is written, Be holy, because I am holy” (1 Peter 3:13-16).

God’s people are sanctified—set apart—for the purpose of drawing people near to Jesus Christ.  A believer cannot attract people to Christ if he is not striving for this holiness.  He must pass the standard of Christ as a person who is approved for the work in the Kingdom:

“Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, having this inscription: The Lord knows those who are His, and everyone who names the name of the Lord must turn away from unrighteousness. Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver bowls, but also those of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. So if anyone purifies himself from anything dishonorable, he will be a special instrument, set apart, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work” (1 Peter 1:13-16).

 

X.  How I Will Lead the People I Serve into a ‘Sanctified’ Life

God led me, within a very short time after I accepted Jesus as my Lord and personal Savior, to positions of leadership within churches in the greater Cleveland area; specifically in areas of teaching Sunday school.  I had not asked Him for such a role, but after prayerful consideration, I started out teaching the teens, and then moved up to an adult class within a year.  I’m confident that God gave me such a role because He wanted to make sure that I was focused on studying His Word, which ultimately led to my studying Him more and more. I was compelled to study and grow in His Word with every new assignment:

“Above all, be strong and very courageous to carefully observe the whole instruction My servant Moses commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right or the left, so that you will have success wherever you go. This book of instruction must not depart from your mouth; you are to recite it day and night so that you may carefully observe everything written in it. For then you will prosper and succeed in whatever you do” (Joshua 1:7-8).

It has been more than twenty-five years since I was first asked to teach Sunday school.  I am still teaching it today, and it is nothing less than an honor and a privilege to do so.  In preparation for teaching, I have learned to share with my classmates more about sanctification as I have been exposed more and more to Scripture and A. B. Simpson’s teachings.  It is clear to me that my role, as God has shown me, is to bolster up the believers in class by encouraging them to seek a deeper, more intimate relationship with Jesus Christ, which will guide them into living a sanctified life:

“You will call to Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:12-13).

My class material has focused heavily on deepening this relationship with the daily reading of Scripture through a two-year bible reading plan and the development of one’s personal image in Jesus Christ.  Following the biblical reference of Genesis 1:27 (So God created man in His own image; He created him in the image of God; He created them male and female.), I developed the acronym IMAGE to describe key elements as to how a person develops an intimate, healthy relationship with Jesus Christ:

I – Investigate.  A person does not just read the bible, but investigates the contextual meaning and relevance of the Scripture in the life of the believer (Hebrews 4:12-13; 2 Timothy 3:14-17; Romans 10:17).

M – Meditate.  In order to hear how the Spirit is speaking to the believer, there needs to be a regular practice of meditation of the Scripture through consistent (and constant) prayer.  It is time well spent in developing this close relationship that sanctifies the believer (Joshua 1:8; Psalm 1:2; Philippians 4:8).

A – Act (Application).  The believer is now called to live out what he has learned in these daily readings and prayer time.  In order to be a light in the world, people need to see the fruits of the Spirit in one’s daily actions.  God will provide you with many opportunities to make a testimony of Christ before others (Psalm 37:23; 2 Timothy 2:15).

G – Grow.  This daily practice of bible reading, prayer and meditation and living for Christ is a recipe for growth within your Christlike existence.  This growth is the progression of a believer in his desire for intimacy with Christ, and Christ sanctifies the believer more and more within this process.  There is a greater desire, in this growth, to want to sin less and live more for Christ (Ephesians 4:15-16; Colossians 1:9-12; Philippians 4:13).

E – Endure.  Living a Christlike life will always have its share of challenges, including outright opposition.  Jesus calls for us to live for Him and be prepared to face any adversity because He will keep us through the entire process.  He simply calls for the believer to stand in Him and His promises.  These are all within the process of his sanctification of the believer (Galatians 6:9-10; Ephesians 6:16-19; Matthew 10:16-22; Colossians 1:11-12).

I have given emphasis to this personal development in Sunday school class and in a number of seminars that I have hosted over the past few years, and I have posted these teachings online through our church website.  I am grateful for God’s vision as to how to not only proclaim the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ, but to also provide strength and encouragement to believers in Christ, for these are the people that ultimately must stand and make a declaration of the saving power of Christ in a lost world.

 

XI.  The relationships between sanctification and Christian service

The process of the sanctification gives the believer the desire to serve Jesus Christ.  While sanctification is a process that moves the believer away from fulfilling his own desires or conforming to the world, it also gives the believer the impetus to live in a Christlike manner, remain obedient to Christ and also reach people who are lost by taking part in His Great Commission.

A. B. Simpson described one of the effects of sanctification:

“Sanctification means dedication. It is not only to separate from but to separate to. The radical idea of the word is, set apart to be the property of another. And so the  complement of this act which we have already partly described is this positive side in which we offer ourselves to God for His absolute ownership, that He may possess us as His peculiar property, prepare us for His purpose and work out in us all His holy and perfect will” (Simpson, p. 5-6, n.d.).

As a believer is sanctified and presents himself before others as sanctified, there is an ongoing preparation to get to work for Him in order to carry out His will:

“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).

This spiritual worship is whatever God would have the believer to do in whatever place or position the believer is in.  He desires to be obedient to God by living according to His will and purpose before others.  The sanctified believer is empowered by the Holy Spirit to perform this reasonable service, and its purpose is to glorify God before others:

“Now to Him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us—-to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21).

 

XII.  “The Indwelling Christ’ and the Implications for Those Professing Faith in Christ

Once the believer in Jesus Christ accepts Him as a personal Savior, the person is sealed with the presence of the Holy Spirit:

“When you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and when you believed in Him, you were also sealed with the promised Holy Spirit. He is the down payment of our inheritance, for the redemption of the possession, to the praise of His glory” (Ephesians 1:13-14).

The Holy Spirit indwells the believer and gives him the power to live, through ongoing progression with sanctification, a life that resonates that love and belief in Jesus Christ.  The proclamation of faith is the release of the joy within the believer because of Christ’s presence in his life.  A. B. Simpson noted about this joy:

“This is the deepest secret of spiritual joy; it is the indwelling Christ Himself rejoicing in the heart as He rejoiced on earth even in the darkest hour of His life, and as now, in heaven, He realizes the fulfillment of His own Messianic words in the sixteenth psalm: ‘Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoiceth; my flesh also shall rest in hope. For Thou wilt not leave my soul among the dead, nor suffer Thy Holy One to see corruption. Thou wilt show me the path of life; in Thy presence there is fullness of joy, and at Thy right hand are pleasures for evermore.’ In the fullness of joy He is reigning now, and its tides are swelling and rising to the same level in every heart in which He dwells” (Simpson, p. 21, 1890).

God desires for the sanctified believer to be filled with joy and rejoice in his love and faith in Christ before others.  Because He loves us, He wants the believer to share the love of Christ to others in professing faith in Him:

“As the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you. Remain in My love. 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. I have spoken these things to you so that My joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. This is My command: Love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you. 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. 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. This is what I command you: Love one another” (John 15:9-17).

 

XIII.  The Scriptural Evidence of a Sanctified Life

A believer who is sanctified and is growing in sanctification will reflect this growth openly and outwardly to everyone that he comes into contact with.  M. DeWayne Anderson noted, “If there is sanctification in the believer, then there must be evidence of that sanctification. Sanctification is made nothing if there is no evidence.  The definitive evidence of Christ’s great power is being demonstrated by His presence and work in our lives” (Anderson, 2012).

Sanctification means a separation from the past life and a progression that reflects a change from where the believer was to where the believer is today, and that change is visible:

“Don’t you know that the unrighteous will not inherit God’s kingdom? Do not be deceived: No sexually immoral people, idolaters, adulterers, or anyone practicing homosexuality, no thieves, greedy people, drunkards, verbally abusive people, or swindlers will inherit God’s kingdom. And some of you used to be like this. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

At the very least, a believer who is progressing in sanctification should be distinct from the life of a non-believer.  This is not about perfection, but it is about the demonstration of living a life of holiness and the production of spiritual fruit that originate from the Holy Spirit. The evidence of being set apart from the world will be in reflected in action, speech and conversation before others:

“Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, we must also follow the Spirit” (Galatians 5:24-25).

“As obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires of your former ignorance. But as the One who called you is holy, you also are to be holy in all your conduct; for it is written, Be holy, because I am holy” (1 Peter 1:14-16).

 

XIV.  The Relationship between Sanctification and the Lordship of Christ

Upon Christ’s presence in the life of a believer, he is being set apart in the world through the three tenses of salvation:

I have been saved: Justification

I am being saved: Sanctification

I will be saved: Glorification (Soper, n.d.)

Michael Houdmann noted, “In the past, God granted us justification, a once-for-all, positional holiness in Christ. Now, God guides us to maturity, a practical, progressive holiness. In the future, God will give us glorification, a permanent, ultimate holiness. These three phases of sanctification separate the believer from the penalty of sin (justification), the power of sin (maturity), and the presence of sin (glorification)” (Houdmann, n.d.).

“But it is from Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who became God-given wisdom for us—our righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, in order that, as it is written: The one who boasts must boast in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:30-31)

The key to this relationship is that God, through Jesus Christ, imparts His wisdom to us that brings the believer to recognize that He is indeed Lord and Savior.  He is the Alpha and the Omega (Revelation 1:8, 22:13) that was there from the very beginning and will be in the future when He dwells with all believers.

The sanctification of the believer requires a life of humility in order to be effective led by the Holy Spirit.  A person who desires to live a Spirit-filled life must be adaptable to change in the process of sanctification.  It requires a surrender of one’s own understanding of life and an acceptance to Christ’s role as sanctifier, and to faithfully abide in Him through obedience to His Word (Soper, n.d.).  This desire to live a Spirit-filled life is because Jesus Christ is declared to be Lord and Savior.  It is a life of humility that Christ desires for us to imitate, and the believer willing does this because of who he serves:

“Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus, who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage. Instead He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men. And when He had come as a man in His external form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death—even to death on a cross. For this reason God highly exalted Him and gave Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow—of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth—and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:5-11).

 

XV.  My Personal Experience of Sanctification: Its Effect and Implications on My Lifestyle and Ministry

I am thankful for Jesus Christ for saving me, and I am honored to serve Him in my role as a speaker, writer and instructor of His Word.  I don’t take it lightly; however, I know that my sanctification in my relationship with Jesus Christ is ongoing.

I know that he has changed me from where I was in my former life before accepting him. I am no longer lost due to the penalty of sin because of the grace of God through Jesus Christ, which provided me with immediate sanctification when I said “yes” to Him:

“But now, since you have been liberated from sin and have become enslaved to God, you have your fruit, which results in sanctification-—and the end is eternal life! For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:22-23).

I know that He set me apart to do something, but it took me a little while to determine what that “something” was.  People that I came into contact with seemed to think that I was a pastor, and that came only from what people saw in me through the Holy Spirit.  This was happening well before I had even presented my first message in 2003 at Akron Alliance Fellowship Church.  I was just beginning to see the value of trusting in God enough to show me what my talents and spiritual gifts were.  I had to see, through my own progression in sanctification, that my talents were somewhat hidden until I became an adult, but the Holy Spirit brought forth my gift to write and to speak, and He has helped me to grow in this area over the past five years.  After hearing gifted speakers such as my pastor, Gus Brown, Charles Stanley, Franklin Graham, Alistair Begg and Ravi Zacharias through live appearances and podcasts, to name a few, I realized that I still had a lot to learn.  From this, I prayed over this and, after careful deliberation, I decided to go for my Master’s Degree at Crown College, and enrolled in 2013.

I wanted to learn more and remain teachable, for I had witnessed others who wanted to assume the position of pastor in different venues but were unwilling to put in the time or effort to make themselves more biblically sound.  I wanted to make sure that my desire to speak was not an ego-driven enterprise; instead, I wanted it to be a God-glorifying exercise of faith:

“Whatever you ask in My name, I will do it so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it” (John 14:13-14).

I also learned, through my sanctification process, that God gave me the gift of discernment, which has proved to be valuable in assessing persons who have aspired to join our church in our quest for a partner in ministry.  I was very disappointed by the number of people who see ministry as a status symbol and not as an opportunity and a privilege to teach the fellowship of believers and with the desire to reach the lost.

Our church is now undertaking a transition in that we do have a new assistant pastor-in-training on board, and he is relying heavily on both the pastor and myself to help him along.  He will be challenged to grow in the faith and to trust in Jesus Christ as I have.  As for me, my journey as I work (and sometimes wrestle) with Jesus Christ over what He would have me to do will reach another step in July 2016 upon graduation, and I am pondering my next steps of training.

The illness and eventual passing of my father-in-law and the ongoing illness of my mother has exposed me to latent feelings of helplessness in my life.  I have had to reckon with the futility of living life without Jesus Christ by praying for my father-in-law’s salvation, which finally took place about a week before he died.  The experience of the daily efforts to care for him and my mother were exhausting and yet exhilarating at the same time because of the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, who provided rest in Him.  It gave me the opportunity to further deepen my relationship with Him, and He, in turn, taught me a great deal more about empathy and humility, a very important characteristic that a believer must possess in any ministerial leadership capacity.  To be clear, while these moments were emotional, I did not consider these to be Spirit-filling experiences.  This is an erroneous view of how the Spirit works (Soper, n.d.).  I had to go back to His Word and read it each day, for the ultimate joy came from fellowship with Jesus Christ through His Word speaking to me.

Jesus sanctifies me daily.  I trust in Him and His presence.  I will trust in Him, through good times and through difficulty, and my desire is to do all that I can, in my work, life and church ministry, to glorify God.

 

References

Holman Christian Standard Bible (2009). Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers.

Houdmann, S. (n.d.) – Article – What is sanctification? What is the definition of Christian sanctification? gotquestions.org. Retrieved December 31, 2015 from http://www.gotquestions.org/sanctification.html

Simpson, A. (n.d.). Wholly Sanctified. New York, NY: Christian Alliance Publishing Co.

Riser, S. (2008). The Way We Were (Before Christ) – Weblog Article. The John Ankerberg Show. Chattanooga TN: Ankerberg Theological Research Institute. Retrieved December 31, 2015 from https://www.jashow.org/articles/guests-and-authors/dr-steven-c-riser/the-way-we-were-before-christ/

Cole, S. (2013). Lesson 31: Justification by Faith Alone (Genesis 15:6; Romans 4:1-5). From the Genesis Series.  Bible.org. Retrieved December 31, 2015 from https://bible.org/seriespage/lesson-31-justification-faith-alone-genesis-156-romans-41-5

Slick, M. (1995). Article – Justification and Sanctification: What is the Difference? Nampa ID: The Christian and Apologetics Ministry. Retrieved December 31, 2015 from https://carm.org/questions/about-doctrine/justification-and-sanctification-what-difference

Smith, G. (1992). Article – Conversion and Sanctification in the Christian & Missionary Alliance.  Alberta, Canada: Ambrose University College.  Retrieved December 31, 2015 from https://online.ambrose.edu/alliancestudies/ahtreadings/ahtr_s103.html#*

Soper, J. (n.d.). Article – Sanctification. The Alliance. Colorado Springs, CO: The Christian and Missionary Alliance. Retrieved December 31, 2015 from http://www.cmalliance.org/about/beliefs/perspectives/sanctification

Stoll, J. (1996). Chapter 20 – The Threefold Elements of Sanctification. Biblical Principles for Christian Maturity. From Leadership University. Retrieved December 31, 2015 from http://www.leaderu.com/offices/stoll/maturity/chap20.html

Simpson, A. (1890). A Larger Christian Life. New York NY: Christian Alliance Publishing Co.

Klubnik, J. (n.d.). Article – The Sanctification of a Believer. BiblicalResources.org. Retrieved December 31, 2015 from http://www.biblicalresources.org/resources/christian-life/sanctification/

crisis. (n.d.). In Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary, 11th ed. Retrieved December 31, 2015 from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/crisis

Sullivan, M. (n.d.). Essay – Five Views on Sanctification. xenos.org. Columbus, OH: Xenos Christian Fellowship. Retrieved December 31, 2015 from https://www.xenos.org/essays/five-views-sanctification#My view of sanctification

Anderson, M. (2012). Article – The Evidence Of Sanctification. Website – Dr. M. DeWayne Anderson Growing in the knowledge of the Lord. Retrieved December 31, 2015 from http://www.mdanba.com/2012/01/05/the-evidence-of-sanctification/

 

How to Minister to the Dying / Personal Loss of a Loved One

12/02/2014 § Leave a comment

Ministry to any person, let alone a person who is terminally ill or who has lost a loved one, requires extra sensitivity to the person or people involved in the relationship. In order to remain sensitive, it requires the following:

1. Yielding to the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit guides all discussion, the proper words, when they are uttered, will be timely and well received.

A word spoken at the right time is like gold apples on a silver tray. (Proverbs 25:11 HCSB)

“Although there are many dos and don’ts regarding visiting the sick, I will mention only one here. Don’t engage in theological speculation. We don’t need to explain why a person got cancer. We don’t know the answer and anything we say about that is likely to be unhelpful. Point people to the promises of God. Let the Word of God do its work.” [1]

2. A humble approach. The Spirit will always have His way when you humble yourself before Him and before others. It is not that you are doing anything special–it’s actually God ministering to the person or group in your humility.

1 Therefore I, the prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk worthy of the calling you have received, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, accepting one another in love. (Ephesians 4:1-2 HCSB)

3 Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. 4 Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:3-5 HCSB)

3. Being a great listener. Sometimes the best thing is just being there and providing comfort from your presence. Words can be helpful but sometimes they are unnecessary and even inappropriate, especially when saying things that may be truthful but come across as trite or insensitive. It’s better to just extend grace, and sometimes silence, with your presence (James 1:19a).

In ministering to a person whose death is imminent, there are many verses that can be used in the midst of ministry at the appropriate time:
• Psalm 23, 27, 46, 91, 103
• Matthew 11:28-30
• John 11:25-26, 14:1-6
• Romans 8:31-39
• 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
• Revelation 7:9-17, 21-22

“God alone can lead us through death to eternal life. Death casts a frightening shadow over us because we are entirely helpless in its presence. We can struggle with other enemies—pain, suffering, disease, injury—but strength and courage cannot overcome death. It has the final word. Only one person can walk with us through death’s dark valley and bring us safely to the other side—the God of life, our shepherd. Because life is uncertain, we should follow this shepherd who offers us eternal comfort.” [2]

For the person who does not know Jesus Christ, a very good verse to share along with the gospel of Jesus Christ is Hebrews 9:27-28:

27 And just as it is appointed for people to die once—and after this, judgment— 28 so also the Messiah, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him. (Hebrews 9:27-28 HCSB)

Salvation is the key. Even if it means a deathbed conversion, it will always be my prayer that God will reach out for these persons in this situation.

For the person that is losing or has lost a loved one, words are also less important than providing comfort with your presence. If you overthink situations like this, you will wind up saying something that may be awkward or impolite. Avoid any communication that points to the reason for something like this happening as being “God’s will.” Even if it is true, such comments are inappropriate at a time of mourning and insensitive.

It’s better to say very little, for your presence alone shows that you care about the other person. It means so much more than any words you can say. A person in need should only see the reflection of Jesus Christ in your presence.

15 But as the One who called you is holy, you also are to be holy in all your conduct; 16 for it is written, Be holy, because I am holy. (1 Peter 1:15-16 HCSB)

 

1 Weblog – Ray Pritchard (n.d.). Giving Hope to Those Facing Death. Copyright © 2014, Crosswalk.com. Retrieved June 10, 2014 from
http://www.crosswalk.com/blogs/dr-ray-pritchard/giving-hope-to-those-facing-death-11577804.html

2 Neil S. Wilson, Ed. (2000). Death. pg. 133. The Handbook of Bible Application, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream IL

Copyright © Melvin Gaines

“The Talk” – When It’s Time to Share the Gospel

10/12/2014 § Leave a comment

My text for a message at Akron Alliance Fellowship Church, October 12, 2014:

“Just wait until you’re father gets home!”

At that moment, when you heard those dreaded words from your mother, a sense of dread and doom was cast over you. You knew that the inevitable would happen once your Dad would hear the story about your latest transgression. When he gets home, your fate would be in his hands. Until that time, all that you want to do is hide somewhere. For those of you who remember the movie, A Christmas Story, Ralphie was hiding under the kitchen sink because he was afraid of what his Dad would do to him because he got in a fight. I thought of hiding in a closet or under my bed a few times. Maybe the amount of time it would take to find me would make everyone forget all about what happened…or, as I would find out later, maybe not.

As a parent, when my children looked at me as I was reprimanding them with my words and my very serious tone and facial expression, I could see the looks on their faces. They saw the unhappy father instead of happy Dad, and it wasn’t very cool. Their eyes were riveted to my eyes as they listened, and they were waiting for it all to be over and done with. They were enduring what I will affectionately refer to as “The Talk.” There are different names for this event, but the most effective “talks” are those that get the point across without the need for any other punitive action. If they are done correctly, the offense that is being addressed will never come up ever again.

When considering the impact of “The Talk,” the words spoken in this communication (and it’s pretty much a one-sided conversation) are made up of the following elements:

  • A subject
  • A statement of fact or facts
  • A declaration
  • A summary and conclusion
  • A clarification (as in “Do you understand?”)

All of us have been impacted in some way, shape or form by “The Talk.” Consider that it is not always communicated in a way that it is interpreted as negative or in such a way where you are being corrected; however, it should be noted that the gospel of Jesus Christ is indeed a message of love and peace that can be received either very positively or very negatively. Why is that? It’s interesting that a message that conveys hope can be seen either as a hopeful message, or as a message of dread.

When the mailman delivers a tax refund check to you, he is the greatest person alive at that very moment. When he delivers bills to you, not so much. When he is delivering a tax bill, he becomes an agent of Satan.

An important thing to keep in mind here is that it is not so much an issue as to how one responds to the gospel message—it is simply important to be the messenger and deliver the message.

Most of you are aware of the Great Commission verses in Matthew 28:19-20, but I want to share with you how Jesus had “The Talk” with His disciples after He rose from the dead because of their fear and unbelief that He indeed had returned. Note that, at the same time, He told his disciples to go and declare the truth to all the people:

Mark 16:9-20 (HCSB)

Early on the first day of the week, after He had risen, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had driven seven demons. 10 She went and reported to those who had been with Him, as they were mourning and weeping. 11 Yet, when they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe it. 12 Then after this, He appeared in a different form to two of them walking on their way into the country. 13 And they went and reported it to the rest, who did not believe them either.

14 Later, He appeared to the Eleven themselves as they were reclining at the table. He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who saw Him after He had been resurrected. 15 Then He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: In My name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new languages; 18 they will pick up snakes; if they should drink anything deadly, it will never harm them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will get well.”

19 Then after speaking to them, the Lord Jesus was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. 20 And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word by the accompanying signs.

 

When you give someone The Talk, there must be substance within the message. There must be evidence that the words within the message have a meaning and a purpose to promote the greatest opportunity for understanding.

Jesus gave His disciples The Talk, and they listened. But even in their listening to His words, there had to be evidence to support Jesus’ words. Without evidence, the words lose all meaning and purpose. Jesus backed up each and every one of His words with evidential proof in the results of their obedience to His words. His words, as a result, became even more powerful and meaningful to them as they proclaimed the gospel.

OK, so with this in mind, we are to present “The Talk” of the gospel to others.

Maybe it will happen sometime later today. Perhaps it will even be tomorrow. It will almost certainly happen sometime in the near future.

Knowing this, are you prepared to give someone “The Talk” when the time comes?

You need to be ready. If you’re not ready now, you need to get ready ASAP.

Assuming you’re not ready, or at least not completely comfortable with this prospect, let’s take some steps to get you to a place where you’ll feel better about where you are.

First, keep in mind that the Holy Spirit is your guide in all discussions about the gospel of Jesus Christ. You’re less likely to trip over tongue-tied words if you allow the Spirit to guide you.

John 16:13 (ESV)

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.

 

Luke 12:12 (HCSB)

For the Holy Spirit will teach you at that very hour what must be said.

 

Next, you will need to read, study and pray over God’s Word in order to grow in your knowledge about Him, and as a result, become more confident in your message.

Psalm 1:2 (ESV)

But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.

 

2 Timothy 3:16-17 (HCSB)

16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

 

John 15:7 (ESV)

If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

 

Finally, and most importantly, be consistent in your life as a believer in Jesus Christ to show yourself as a true follower of Jesus Christ. Your communication will be believable as you show the evidence of a Christlike existence.

Isaiah 40:31 (ESV)

But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

 

Romans 5:1 (ESV)

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Galatians 2:20 (ESV)

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

 

Proverbs 22:4 (HCSB)

The result of humility is fear of the Lord,
along with wealth, honor, and life.

 

Again, here is how you prepare to deliver “The Talk”:

  1. Read and study God’s Word to obtain greater knowledge and understanding about your relationship with Him
  2. Live with consistency as a believer to show yourself as a credible witness for Christ
  3. Allow the Spirit to speak freely through you at all times

This is how you will be ready when the Spirit prompts you to present the gospel message to a person. When He prompts you, keep in mind that, in your testimony, it is God who prompts a person to make a decision for Jesus Christ. It will be accepted or rejected, but all that God asks from each of us is His obedience in proclaiming the message.

Let’s look again at the elements of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is not just any talk, but THE Talk…

The subject – Salvation and Jesus Christ

The statement of facts

  • All have sinned and fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23)
  • The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23a)
  • Jesus Christ died on the cross as a Sacrifice for all of mankind (Romans 3:25)
  • God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Jesus Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).
  • The gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:23b).
  • If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. (Romans 10:9, 13)

The declaration

  • Jesus is the only way to salvation (John 14:6)
  • Forgiveness in Christ begins with repentance (turning away) of your sin (Mark 1:15)
  • Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved (Acts 16:31)

The summary and conclusion – You can have eternal life by believing in Jesus Christ.

The clarification

  • “Do you know what this means for you?”
  • “Do you know what to do now with this good news?”
  • “Are you ready to pray with me?”

(A quick note: Repentance paves the way for confession, and a mere confession with believing that Christ died for one’s sins is all that is necessary for eternal life. There are no other conditions for salvation—not in how much one believes or how much one knows or understands about Jesus Christ. All of that comes as a person grows and develops in his or her faith.)

 

Copyright © Melvin Gaines

The Myopic Believer

04/27/2014 § Leave a comment

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

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

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

What is faith?

Hebrews 11:1-2

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

 

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

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

Symptoms of myopia in a believer:

 

1. Hidden or spoiled fruits (of the Spirit)

Galatians 5:19-25 (HCSB)

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

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

 

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

Your flesh will hide the fruits of the Spirit.

Your flesh will spoil your fruits.

 

2. Short on faithing and long on complaining

1 Peter 4:8-10 (HCSB)

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

 

3. Missed blessings mean missed opportunities

Deuteronomy 28:1-10 (HCSB)

Blessings for Obedience

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

3 You will be blessed in the city

and blessed in the country.

4 Your descendants will be blessed,

and your land’s produce,

and the offspring of your livestock,

including the young of your herds

and the newborn of your flocks.

5 Your basket and kneading bowl will be blessed.

6 You will be blessed when you come in

and blessed when you go out.

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

 

Deuteronomy 28:65-67

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

 

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

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

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

Escape through fire…

1 Corinthians 3:14-16 (HCSB)

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

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

 

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

Ezekiel 15:6-8 (HCSB)

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

 

Your prescription for myopia as a believer:

Work on your IMAGE

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

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

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

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

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

 

Ephesians 6:13-18 (HCSB)

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

with truth like a belt around your waist,

righteousness like armor on your chest,

15 and your feet sandaled with readiness

for the gospel of peace.

16 In every situation take the shield of faith,

and with it you will be able to extinguish

all the flaming arrows of the evil one.

17 Take the helmet of salvation,

and the sword of the Spirit,

which is God’s word.

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

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

Copyright © Melvin Gaines

A Life of Humility

10/27/2013 § Leave a comment

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

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

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

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

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

James 4:6

But He gives greater grace. Therefore He says:

God resists the proud,

but gives grace to the humble.

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

1. Your honesty (trustworthiness)

2. Your kindness (generosity, compassion and forgiveness)

3. Your patience

4. Your perseverance

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

6. Your self control (contentment, temper)

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

Galatians 5:22-26

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, we must also follow the Spirit. 26 We must not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

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

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

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

Isaiah 55:8-9

8 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts,

and your ways are not My ways.”

This is the Lord’s declaration.

9 “For as heaven is higher than earth,

so My ways are higher than your ways,

and My thoughts than your thoughts.

1 Samuel 16:7

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

  • Trend less towards anger and more towards peace

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

Ezra 9:7-9

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

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

1 John 3:16-22

Love in Action

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

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

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

Luke 17:3-4

3 Be on your guard. If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. 4 And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and comes back to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”

Matthew 6:14-15

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

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

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

1 John 1:9

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

Romans 8:1-2

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

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

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

1 Corinthians 8:5-6

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

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

All things are from Him,

and we exist for Him.

And there is one Lord, Jesus Christ.

All things are through Him,

and we exist through Him.

Philippians 4:12-13

12 I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content—whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. 13 I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me.

1 Peter 5:6

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

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

Acts 2:38

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

Psalm 149:4

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

Romans 10:9-12

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

James 4:7-10

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

Copyright © Melvin Gaines

My Published Media for the Gospel

07/01/2013 § Leave a comment

I have been blessed to be able to teach Sunday school and present sermons at my home church, Akron Alliance Fellowship Church in Akron, Ohio. There is nothing more important to me than to relay the gospel message through my words and actions everywhere I go. It’s important to me because it is also important to God that each of us presents the gospel to others, for He wants to see everyone receive the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 2:3-4; 2 Peter 3:9). Salvation is a gift–but just like any gift, you have to accept it.

My eBook is available on Amazon.com (for Kindle or Kindle apps) or BN.com (for Nook or Nook apps) for only $2.99.

My podcast is available through iTunes or through PodOmatic.com via webpage or RSS feed.  They’re free.

Each of these is my way to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. There is only one way to receive eternal life, and it is through Jesus Christ when you acknowledge your need for Him to be your personal Savior (John 3:16-17; 14:6).

Feel free to share my eBook or pass on links to my podcast to friends or family members.  If you are in need of prayer, please inbox me on my Facebook page or send me a message on Twitter (@melvingaines).  You can also visit my website and my two blogs on Blogger and WordPress.  I welcome your questions, comments or suggestions, but most of all, if you don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, make a decision for Him today.

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