Sunday, June 16, 2019

Rule of Life: A Code to Live by as a Minister of the Gospel


Here is the biblical code of ethics that I’ve outlined as my rule of life. I've borrowed ideas and thoughts from other codes of conduct for ministers and pastors in various denominations, but this one will apply directly to me.  What is your code of conduct for life?  Take some time and consider for yourself, how you ought to live your life.  

Personal and Family Life
I will place my devotion to God almighty as the number one priority of my life, above anything other concern (Luke 10:27).
I will diligently practice daily prayer, devotional reading, reading and studying of the word of God, and weekly deeper spiritual disciplines.
I will tithe a minimum of 10% of the gross of my income, with the goal of giving more and more, up to 25% in the future (Mark 12:41-44). Along with that, I will regularly give offerings as I feel led.
I will seek to live in a healthy manner, eating properly, not eating too much, while also engaging in regular exercise and weight-lifting, to remain physically healthy.
I will love my wife as second only to God. I will seek to live in mutual submission with her, submitting to each other, and not treating her harshly, but being fair and honorable in my conduct with her (Ephesians 5:25, 1 Corinthians 13).
I will love my children third, seeking to love them and discipline them in the ways of God. I will seek to treat them gently, but firmly, and respectfully and fearfully raise them up as Christians.

Congregational Relationships
I will endeavor with all my efforts to be a godly, humble servant leader of the church where I serve (James 4:6). 
I will faithfully preach the Bible as the complete revelation of God, not selectively preaching on only comfortable scriptures, or on only difficult scriptures, attempting to diligently preach and teach the entirety of the scriptures and the whole revelation of God in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
I will faithfully teach biblical Christian principles, never compromising the truth of the scripture for the sake of cultural trends, or what is in vogue in society.
I will strive with all my efforts to add to the body of Christ with evangelistic zeal and passion to win souls for Christ (Matthew 28:16-20).
I will serve with impartiality, showing no favoritism, but treating everyone equally (James 2).
I will reject bribes of any kind, including gratuities, because my needs are provided from (Proverb 15:27).
I will never steal from the corps where I serve, and I will only access the food we provide once all others have had access to choose from it as they will.
I will honor my congregational members and treat them respectfully, even if they do not return my loving respect.
I will never violate a confidence, that which is shared with me in private, unless imminent suicide is mentioned, or if violence is imminent against another person (Proverb 11:13).
I will not engage in gossip in regard to the church body or the daily work place (Proverb 16:28).

Collegial Relationships
I will respect the other congregations and not attempt to ‘steal’ members from other churches already established. (In the case of cults or non-Christian religions, this rule does not apply)
I will not engage in any forms of competition with other pastors in the area for the sake of glory or of appearing important (Luke 22:26).
I will not practice manipulative or political career climbing in The Salvation Army hierarchy.
I will refrain from speaking poorly of the officers who served before me, or came after me.
I will refrain from speaking poorly of the larger organization, unless these discussions exist in a spirit of reform and blessing to the larger organization.
I will not meddle in the affairs of appointments where I previously served.
I will be thoughtful and encouraging and respectful to any retired officers in the local corps.
I will not gossip about other ministers.
I will consider all ministers, pastors, officers, and priests as brothers and sisters who serve alongside me in the harvest of God’s commission in the world.

Community Relationships
I will serve those in the community without discrimination, serving anyone who comes to regardless of race, color, creed, or sexual identification.
I will carry the gospel faithfully in word and deed to any and all who are in the community, seeking to win as many as I possibly can to the cross of Christ before time runs out on the Earth (Ephesians 5:16-18).
I will not compromise my ethics and standards to appear to be a relatable person.
I will be a person to the community, not just a minister.  I will be a participant in the community during my off time, and a minister to the community while at work.
I will seek to meet needs in the community as led by God’s Spirit, realizing also my own limitations and the limitations of The Salvation Army in which I serve (Matthew 25:31-46).


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Wednesday, June 5, 2019

The Practice of Spiritual Direction: One on One Guidance in Faith




            The discipline of spiritual direction is defined by the classic work, The Spiritual Disciplines Handbook by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun as follows: “to give caring attention to my relationship with God, accompanied by the prayerful presence of someone who helps me listen well to God” (Calhoun, 2015, p. 16). 
Essentially the practice of spiritual direction is one person receiving Christian guidance from another person.  This example is quite common in the pages of the Bible.  We see John the Baptist teaching his disciples and helping the lost to prepare themselves for the coming of Jesus Christ.  We see Paul calling himself the spiritual father of his young mentee Timothy. We see it in the Old Testament relationships like those between Moses and his father-in-law Jethro, where one seeks spiritual advice from the other.  We see relationships like those between Elijah and Elisha, Samuel and David, Jonathan and David, Ruth and Naomi, Moses and Aaron, Abraham and Lot, and Paul and Philemon just to name a few.  Of course the greatest example we see in the Bible in the practice of spiritual direction, comes from Jesus himself who actively mentors and advises his twelve disciples. 
One powerful example from the gospels is the example of Jesus as spiritual director to Peter.  Jesus tells Peter that when he falls into the hands of sinners, and is betrayed and arrested, Peter will deny him three times. But he encourages Peter, and tells him that he has prayed for him, and reminds him to encourage the other brothers and sisters after this happens (Luke 22:31-62 NIV). Jesus instructs Peter spiritually, by reminding him that though he will deny his savior, he will “turn again” and then will encourage the others.  The conclusion of this saga comes when Jesus is resurrected and talks with Peter, asking him three times: “Peter, do you love me?” (John 21:15-25 NIV). Jesus gently guided Peter back into right standing, encouraging his repentance through three declarations of faith and love for his savior, cancelling out his three denials.  This is the epitome and greatest expression of spiritual direction. If only we could all be so lucky as to have Jesus himself as our personal teacher and spiritual director.
The timeless classic, the Pilgrim’s Progress seems to picture the character “evangelist” as a sort of spiritual director helping guide Christian toward the fullness of God, along the pathway to the eternal city. Bunyan wrote in his classic, “Then said Evangelist, pointing with his finger over a very wide field, Do you see yonder Wicket Gate? The man said, No. Then said the other, Do you see yonder Shining Light? He said, I think I do. Then said Evangelist, Keep that Light in your eye, and go directly thereto, so shalt thou see the Gate; at which thou knockest, it shall be told thee what thou shalt do.”  Christian could not quite see beyond the wicked gate, but evangelist pointed Christian toward the prize. He didn’t point to himself, or take any sort of direct authority, but simply pointed and guided Christian in the right direction.  That is the true task of the spiritual director, to guide the directee closer to the honest fullness of God.
“A spiritual director listens with one ear to God, and the other to the directee, always encouraging the directee to recognize where God can be found throughout the journey” (Calhoun, 2015, p. 133).  The idea is to help guide the individual seeking God even closer to God, and to be one whom the Spirit of God speaks through to help guide the individual. This is one of the reasons Christians are commanded to be engaged together in regular fellowship. One person can and does help another to grow closer to God, through various intentional practices. As the scriptures say, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” (Proverb 27:17 NIV). It’s interesting that in the pattern for church discipline described in Matthew chapter eighteen the first step is to go to the person directly, one on one, and seek the repentance of the individual in question.  Of course the spiritual director must be a mature Christian who is experienced in guiding Christians closer to God.  But it shouldn’t be understood as something that only a priest or trained lay leader is capable of doing.  All Christians can and should partake in spiritual direction.  Calhoun (2015) indicates the true and clear purpose of spiritual direction; the goal is to longingly drink from the waters of the river of life (Jesus Christ) and to partake in a deeper intimacy with the Trinity (p. 133).  Spiritual direction as a spiritual practice is quite popular in Catholic circles, though it has gained some popularity in protestant circles as well (Calhoun, 2015, p. 133). 
Historically the practice of spiritual direction goes back to the middle ages. It was seen as highly important and necessary to Christian faith and practice. “…not even the greatest saints attempted the depths of the inward journey without the help of a spiritual director” (Foster, 2018, p. 185).  Spiritual direction goes all the way back to the desert church fathers, many of whom were sought by travelers in the wilderness, just to receive a few words of truth or “words of salvation” as it known then (Foster, 2018, p. 185).  The Apophthegmata Patrum is one printed discourse illustrating some of the sayings of these monastic desert fathers (Foster, 2018, p. 185).  The practice of spiritual direction was also practiced by twelfth century English Cistercian laybrothers who were well known for their ability to help read and guide souls (Foster, 2018, p. 185).  The 17th century Benedictine mystic Dom Augustine Baker wrote that the purpose of the spiritual director was to be God’s usher, leading souls in ‘God’s ways’ (Foster, 2018, p. 185).  
The practice of spiritual direction can be as simple as meeting with someone weekly or monthly and sitting down in prayer, discussion, and listening that helps foster a union that draws both to deeper closeness with God.  It involves expanding one’s prayer and spiritual life to another person for the purpose of receiving help from the director to discern the voice of God and the will of God.  When meeting the two individuals involved should examine the life of the directee and help them to see where God is at work in their life.  They should pray together and ask for God to reveal His will for the directee.  The director should not set the direction of the discussion; both the director and the directee should seek to allow the Spirit to direct and control the discussion.  The director often will act as a voice that helps the directee to correctly interpret the experiences he or she is having, and how God is speaking through those experiences. This practice of spiritual direction can help the directee pay greater attention to the experience of God in their life, discerning the voice of God, mending any splits between the head and the heart, growth in prayer, finding closeness with God in the dark times, and in experiencing deep inner healing from past hurts and troubles (Calhoun, 2015, p. 132). 
            Today the practice of spiritual direction might be seen in some limited expressions within evangelical Protestantism. One could point to the practice of accountability partners who hold each other accountable in areas of sin and holiness.  Usually accountability partners will meet together regularly, or attend groups together, working to hold one another accountable before God.  This is not really a full expression of spiritual direction, but in a limited sense it does represent spiritual direction in some areas, like sin and holiness.  Another expression might be in the practice of pastoral care and pastoral counseling one on one. Often times individuals in the church will meet one on one with the pastor to discuss important spiritual concerns.  Often times we’ll see mentoring relationships develop in a more organic way between younger and older Christians who seek to help each other grow and develop in their faith.  But the truest historical expression of spiritual direction between a spiritual director and directee, prayerfully meeting together, and helping the directee to carefully discern the direction God is leading them in their life, and give words of prophecy/discernment, and prayer for the directee as they grow in their faith walk, has little expression in modern day Protestantism, though it does find some expressions in modern Roman catholic monasticism.  In these times when it is often difficult to discern the will of God, and live holy and free from sin, and find quiet time to draw closer to God, one can easily see how a renewed emphasis on spiritual direction could be a great and mighty blessing for present day protestant and catholic Christian communities.

References
Bunyan, J. (1678). The Pilgrims Progress. Boston: Judson Press.
Calhoun, A. A. (2015). Spiritual Disciplines Handbook. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books.
Evans, J. (2015). Experience and Convergence in Spiritual Direction. Journal of Religion and Health, 54(1), 264-278. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/24485255
Foster, R. J. (2018). Celebration of discipline: The path to spiritual growth. San Francisco: HarperOne.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Church Growth: How can we make sure our churches are reaching new people?


Church growth: How can we make sure that our churches are growing and growing and reaching new people? Now the goal is not simply to fill up the seats for the sake of filling up seats. The goal is to win lost people to the gospel of Jesus Christ so that they can have eternal life, and not end up in eternal torment. The urgency of this mission is exceedingly high. People die every day, and they need Jesus Christ for their souls to be safe after death. So how do we do this? How do win people to Jesus Christ, and bring them into the church, where they can learn to grow into the likeness of Christ, and maintain their salvation in Christ? I see three key approaches to building the church of Christ, they are street evangelism/door to door ministry, developing intentional relationships, and holding powerful worship meetings.

First of all, we consider street evangelism and door to door ministry. The church has sometimes struggled with simply ministering to strangers. But it’s amazing the number of stories we hear about people who got saved by strangers who came up to them and talked to them about Jesus. Some churches do very little with street evangelism, and I’d put The Salvation Army high on that list. But it wasn’t always that way. The Salvation Army started out on the streets, ministering to drunks in bars, on street corners, and at open air meetings. Yet we seem to think these methods just don’t work anymore. But I really question that assumption. I’ve seen amazing churches like Metro Praise International and their ministry “Chicago for Jesus” where they are engaged in street ministry almost every day of the week! They go out to communities throughout Chicago and set up and start talking to people about Jesus. I participated in this once, and I was amazed how the Holy Spirit moved, and how people stopped and talked to us, and were willing to listen to the gospel presentation. Research shows that the churches who do evangelism the best don’t have an “evangelism ministry” instead evangelism is “baked in” to everything they do. If they have a Bible study, afterward they go out and evangelize. If they have a meeting, afterward they go out and knock on doors. They come to their building, have a short devotional, some worship music, and then they go out. And that is exactly the purpose the building is supposed to have: It’s a launching out point to the community. We’ve sometimes become inwardly focused, trying to serve all the needs of the few people who come to the church. But instead we need to adopt a new mindset: This is our staging area for going out into the community. Street evangelism can be as simple as going to a local park or busy intersection once or twice a week, and handing out tracts, Bibles, and so on, while praying with people and sharing the gospel with people. Then you point them back to your church. But really encourage them to get plugged in at any local biblical church. This can be for as short as an hour or two. This is a great way to bring new life to a dying church. And as momentum grows one could have evangelism several times a week, like Chicago for Jesus.

Second, we look at the important church growth method of developing intentional relationships. This is a tried and true method. You train the people in the church to do evangelism with their friends and family. You have “outreach events” where you set up an event to draw people into the church. Families in the church invite their friends, and hopefully they stay with the church after the event. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t. If you have a great godly congregation who is really energized to bring new people into the church, then this sort of thing can be great. But if you’ve got a sleepy congregation who’s used to things staying the same, you may find that no matter how many trainings, and seminars, and sermons you preach on relational evangelism, that very little will change. That’s why I would pair this approach with street/door to door evangelism. Both should work in tandem.

Third, we consider holding powerful worship meetings. Worship meetings can become very routine over time. It seems like nothing changes at all. It’s always the exact same formula. We have a call to worship, opening prayer, three songs, tithes and offerings, scripture reading, sermon, response song, and benediction. Now I’m not knocking those elements at all. Those are good elements to have in a worship service. But what if we reimagined what a worship service/holiness meeting might look like? How could it be done differently, to bring us even closer to God, and deeper into His word? Let’s consider some possibilities. Imagine holding times of personal testimonies, or having an entire testimony service. Imagine having a prayer meeting, or an open prayer time during the service. What if after the sermon message, we invited the congregation to break up into groups, just people around them, and then let each group share some of their reflections on how God spoke to them through the message. There are a lot of great ways to develop the service. I like to use short videos that highlight something about God, or something about the book of the Bible we’re studying. I like to use a good powerpoint with plenty of pictures and bullet points. I like to encourage people to take notes on the message. I attended a church in the past that had a quiet time of personal reflection. As an introvert I greatly appreciated this quiet time. What else could we do? Be creative! How could we reimagine the worship service? You know I don’t recall anything in the Bible that says we have to use this exact formula for every service. It says that nowhere in the Bible, actually. How could we adapt the worship service format to help fully engage current generations with the presence of God, the word of God, and the transforming power of God?

Another note on this: We have to make sure our services are of a high quality. Is that biblical? Yes it is. The Psalms say play the instruments with great skill. The music should be well practiced. The transitions should be smooth. The sermon should be well planned and prepared. And the presence of God should be felt in every aspect of the service. It’s so sad for me to see someone go up and read scripture like they’re reading a homework assignment. Read it with the presence of God, read it as the amazing word of God that it is. It’s sad to me when a worship leader goes up there and just starts the song. No, no, no! Guide the people into the presence of God! Help the people to realize they are not just singing a song; they are worshipping the creator of the universe! It shouldn’t be normal or routine. We have to feel the power and majesty of what we get to do! Then our people will feel it too. That is really what brings people to church. They don’t want fancy programs, they don’t want relationships, what they really truly want is to know God, experience God, and live out an authentic, real Christianity. We have to pray for our worship service throughout the week. I’ve been to worship services where you can tell not a word of prayer was prayed before it, because the presence of God is largely missing. We need to praise in worship songs where the worship leader has prayed throughout the week and before service for God to reveal himself through it. We need to hear sermons where the pastor has strained in prayer over the message, begging God to pour out his heart to the body of Christ through them. So overall we need innovative worship services, quality worship services, and prayerful worship services. The people will come because they feel the presence of God, and sense His Spirit at work. If they come to a dead spiritless service, well they may stay a while for the relationships and fellowship, but eventually they’ll probably move on. So bring God’s presence with you to every service. Amen.

In conclusion, I really believe that if we develop strong street evangelism, train our congregations in relational evangelism, and innovate and develop our worship services to be powerful, high quality, and prayerfully practiced, then we will see church growth. We will see lives changed by the gospel of Jesus Christ. We will see God at work in mighty ways. But ultimately all this must be done by God. He is the one at work. He is the one who blesses us. So probably the most important thing is that we as leaders are praying every day, studying the word, and living in personal holiness. If we’re living empty lives of debauchery and carelessness, why should God bless the work of our hands? It’s amazing how much success or failure rests in the hands of one person: The leader. Be that Godly leader, and lead wisely, and you will see God at work through your ministry. Amen.



References
Borden, P. D. (2006). Direct hit: Aiming real leaders at the mission field. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press.
Chicago For Jesus - About Us. (n.d.). Retrieved May 10, 2019, from http://chicagoforjesus.net/about-us/
Platt, D. (2011). Radical together: Unleashing the people of God for the purpose of God. Colorado Springs, CO: Multnomah Books.
Seven secrets of successful evangelism. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.ministrymagazine.org/archive/1996/02/seven-secrets-of-successful-evangelism
Southerland, J. (n.d.). Live on Mission – Evangelism Training. Retrieved May 10, 2019, from https://www.namb.net/your-church-on-mission-blog/live-on-mission-evangelism-training/
Thompson, C. (2016, June 24). Train Your Church to Evangelize. Retrieved May 10, 2019, from https://factsandtrends.net/2016/06/24/train-your-church-to-evangelize/

Friday, May 31, 2019

Christians are Persecuted Severely Worldwide: Ancient Thessalonica to the Modern Era



Did you know that today in our modern world Christianity is the number one most persecuted religion in the world? Christians face murder and death for their faith every day. A great deal of persecution occurs in the following countries: Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, India, China, and the Philippines. According to the Daily Mail a UK newspaper, “245 million Christians now suffer 'high levels of persecution' in 50 countries, a rise of 30 million from last year.” Additionally, they wrote, “the Middle East is witnessing the 'decimation of some of the faith group's oldest and most enduring communities' and called for 'urgent government support'.” Mr. Hunt the united states foreign secretary commented, “I think we've all been asleep on the watch when it comes to the persecution of Christians.”

It’s interesting that the book of 2nd Thessalonians was written so long ago; in fact, it was the apostle Paul’s second letter that we have. A.D. 50 is the year that Paul wrote this letter. And now it’s 2019, so 1,969 years later. Nothing has really changed. Christians are persecuted around the world today, just like back in Thessalonica.

Paul wrote to the persecuted church saying: “Dear brothers and sisters, we can’t help but thank God for you, because your faith is flourishing and your love for one another is growing. 4 We proudly tell God’s other churches about your endurance and faithfulness in all the persecutions and hardships you are suffering. 5 And God will use this persecution to show his justice and to make you worthy of his Kingdom, for which you are suffering. 6 In his justice he will pay back those who persecute you.” -1st Thessalonians 1:3-6

Today we’re addressing the topic of what it means to be “In Christ.” And we’ll view this in the context of persecution and suffering. To abide in Christ for us will mean following Christ when people think we’re stupid. It’ll mean living for God when the television tells us we’re backwards bigots. It’ll mean believing the Bible when the news and the media and the universities and the public schools are telling us that the Bible is a lie, the word of God is false, and we’re evil, racist, and bigoted for believing it is true.

For Christians in China, India, Pakistan, Iran, Nigeria, and other countries it means something much different. It means every day, waking up, and wondering if this is the day men will come to their door, and demand that they deny Christ, or die. It means wondering if armed men will storm into your church and gun down your congregation. It will mean wondering if the government is going to burst in and arrest you for loving Jesus. It’s wondering in China if a neighbor will turn you in for a cash reward. It’s true. It’s life and death to love Jesus in much of the world.

Now, suppose I lived in one of these countries that persecute Christians. And armed men came to my door. And they said, “Hey we know you’re a Christian. We have witnesses. We know your speaking to people about Jesus. Deny your savior, or die.” And he points a gun at my head.

If I were to deny Christ, would I still be in Christ? The answer to that question is no. Suppose they kill me anyway after I denied Jesus. Where would I go? I would not be going to heaven. I would be going to hell.

Can we lose Christ? Can we lose our salvation? The answer to these questions is yes. But it’s also true that God helps us to continue to “abide in Christ” and “remain in Christ.”

This is why we keep coming to church week in and week out. This is why we attend Bible study and small group. This is why we pray and study the Bible. We aren’t one and done. The Christian life is a lifelong journey of obedient faith. But we shouldn’t be afraid. We shouldn’t be afraid of “losing our faith.”

But we should be careful to obey God’s commands. We need not be afraid, or constantly disturbed by the fear of “losing our salvation.” Instead we should obediently live “in Christ” and obey God’s commands. Recognize that God is completely sovereign over all of reality. He is in charge. And He helps us to persevere in our faith.

Paul continues writing in 2 Thessalonians 1:5 saying, “All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering.”

Paul sees that the Thessalonian church is patiently enduring trials, persecution and difficulties. He’s watching this happen, and he’s pleased, because they haven’t given up the faith. They haven’t fled. They haven’t run for the hills. They are here to stay. They are Christians.

That is the evidence that Paul sees. He sees this as evidence that they will, in the future, be judged by God as worthy to enter into the kingdom of God. But who is doing this? Who is making them worthy? God is doing this. God did this in them, and God does this in us. How does he do this? He does this through trials, persecution, and difficulties. He preserves us in a state of salvation, so that we are abiding in Christ. To abide means to remain. To stay with.

Paul continues, “6 God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you 7 and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels.”

Think about what these people were suffering. They were under severe persecution. People were being arrested, families split apart, and Christians were being killed. Many of the survivors, of this church were probably wondering: Why is God letting this happen?

Have you ever asked the same question yourself? Why is God letting this happen? Doesn’t he see my pain? Can’t he see how terrible this is?

The emotions we feel, when we’re truly hurting, when we’re truly broken, are some of the worst feelings one can experience. I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety much of my life. And in the past before I knew Christ, I experienced some of the blackest darkness one can imagine, truly dark states of mind. One just wants to stop feeling because of the way they feel.

We often wonder why young people will sometimes cut themselves, engage in self harm, or binge and purge food, and so on. Sometimes the emotional pain is so beyond words that we try to release it physically.

The dilemma is clear: God loves me, but, God who loves me won’t help me, He won’t relieve the pain as I suffer. Let me ask you this: Have you ever had to hold down a child why they got their blood drawn at the doctor’s office? At that moment as that child screams and cries and squirms it feels like the end of the world. It is like the apocalypse has personally come to that little room. And their dearest ally, their closest confidant, their own parent is the one who brought them there, and is now holding them down as they are jabbed with the needle.

There have been times in my life when I realized God led me into to the lion’s den. He brought me there for his purposes. The one whom I love, the one who saved me, who purchased me with the blood of his son, my protector, has led me into danger. And he has left me as the door shuts. And the lions growl.

Is it any wonder we are shocked and angry that God would let us feel such pain, and suffer such grief? But ultimately God is like the parent holding down their child as the doctor administers the blood test. This is for their own good, but from the child’s perspective it’s the end of the world. It’s chaos. It’s doom.

When God leads us into the lion’s den, and lets us stand there, alone, God already knows the lions will not eat us, he knows he has shut their mouth, and he can see the future, where we are resting in safety, freed from the lion’s den. But from our perspective it looks like the end of the world. But from God’s perspective, he has made use of our great struggle, to refine us, and mold us, and shape us into Christ’s own likeness. Like the blood test, it was for our own good. But like the child, we can’t see God’s perspective. Only God can see that. Which is why we have to trust him. Even as it seems the needle is diving into our arm, and we wonder if we might be drained dry… Still, trust God.

Remain in God. Remain in Christ. Because He loves us. He preserves us. He walks along side of us. We are part of his church, the body of Christ. He loves us. That’s the good part. But there is another part of this equation that we do need to address.

2nd Thessalonians verses 8 through 10: “He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might 10 on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you.”

You and I have won the lottery. We’ve found the meaning of life. We’ve found the answer to everything. We’ve received Jesus Christ as our savior, our king, and our Lord. But there’s a whole world out there, that’s on its way to hell. Untold millions upon millions, out there in the world, who refuse to obey the gospel. They don’t want Jesus. They want to live in their sins. So many people! It dizzies me as I think about it. As I walk to the coffee shop, or drive to the bank, or stop at Wal Mart, I’m often haunted as I watch the people and all their faces, wondering if they will ever know Jesus Christ, and have everlasting life.

I’m a people watcher. If I go anywhere, I’m people watching. It’s absolutely fascinating. But it’s also quite troubling, because I realize so many of them don’t have Christ. They’re alone. And they just don’t care. They’re so wrapped up in the things of this world, money, good jobs, fast cars, sports teams, shopping malls, fashion & beauty, music, art, video games, whatever it is. They’re lost. I wish I could just stop and shout at the top of my lungs, “You all need Jesus! Stop what you’re doing! Get Jesus before it’s too late!” But I never do... I don’t want to make a scene. But the truth is I probably should. Because it may be somebody’s last chance on that day. If only I could do something. If only I could do more. I’ve got to do something. Time is running out.

How lucky are we? How blessed? I used to think to myself, “I’ve never won a prize drawing. I’ve never won a raffle.” Actually I have. I’m a Christian. I’ve found the meaning of life. I’ve found the fountain of youth. I’ve found the escape hatch from this broken sinful world. How blessed are we? Wow.

So let’s not screw this up. Repent and turn away from sins. Forgive your worst enemies. Discharge your duties as a Christian. Evangelize the lost. Pray every day. Read your Bible every day. Because we shouldn’t think we’re beyond falling away from Jesus.

If you want to remain in a state of salvation, then you need to continue in obedient faith in Christ. Several key words there: “Continue.” “Obedient Faith.”

In this I see three ways we can lose our salvation. 1. We fail to “continue.” We see this all the time don’t we? Someone stops coming to church. They just go back to their previous life. They stop praying, stop reading their Bible, and just leave. They abandon the Christian life. They’ve lost their salvation.

2. Sin. What’s the opposite of obedience? Disobedience. If we are disobedient to Christ, and we live in sins of the flesh, then we will lose our salvation. If we’re living in faith in Christ, but we’re living in sin, like alcoholism, drug addiction, gossip, gluttony, rage, divisiveness, or the various other sins talked about in the New Testament, then we’re in danger of losing our salvation, and we need to repent of sin (1 Cor 6:9-11). In the same way, if we aren’t evangelizing, serving the lost, meeting needs and so on, Jesus is going to find that we’ve been lazy servants, and that can also be a situation where we lose our salvation. (Matthew 25:31-46).

3. We renounce faith. Suppose a gun is put to our head, like the example we talked about earlier, and we deny Jesus? We renounce our faith. We’ve left aside faith, we’ve failed to confess Jesus, and we’ve now lost our salvation. I suppose we could always repent of this sin, but there is something final in a public renunciation. I’m not sure how that works spiritually, but something happens there that isn’t easily returned from.

But I don’t want you to live in fear of losing your salvation, because Paul closes chapter 1 of 2nd Thessalonians by writing, “11 With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith. 12 We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

So in conclusion today, we find that God makes us worthy of his calling, and his power brings our faith to completion in Christ Jesus. He guides us along the pathways of life. So we need only trust in God, and live obedient lives of faith. God will craft us through difficulties, persecutions, and trials into the likeness of Jesus Christ. In this way we can and will abide in Christ until the very last day. May God preserve us blameless until the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. That is our prayer today. Amen.


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