We are moving in uncharted waters. Things are emotionally charged. There are many conflicting "expert" opinions about the virus and how we should respond. We all want the churches to start holding public services: it's just a matter of when. The Governor of Minnesota says it is too early. Catholics and the the Missouri Synod Lutherans are planning to ignore his order. A judge will be hearing a case about the issue on Tuesday. President Trump is demanding that churches be opened immediately. It is a fluid situation and you are hearing from many people. I hesitate to add my voice to the din, but think it is important that you know how I am thinking about this situation.
Given my conversations with European friends, I know that this virus has the potential to cause our hospitals to be overrun so I am grateful that our leaders have taken steps to be ready. I sympathize with those who have been harmed economically. While this has been hard on all of us, it has been significantly more difficult for some. I desperately want to get back to normal life, but I am concerned that opening too quickly may cause unnecessary suffering and loss of life if our hospitals cannot handle the surge. I also don't want our church to become a hot-spot. It would be a tragedy to have any of our members become seriously ill or die. Furthermore, it could damage our ability to reach into our community for a long time. We need to move with the wisdom of the Lord.
As the pastor of Word of Life, I have a deeper concern than just when we open: it is how we walk through this time together. Given the strong emotions and diversity of opinions, there is an opportunity for the enemy to sow divisions in our relationships with one another. The broader culture is one that seeks to separate issues into "us" versus "them". It is quick to assign derogatory labels to people with different opinions. This tendency can easily spill over and affect how we regard other people in the church who may think differently than we do. I want us to be an example of being unified in Christ despite having differences of opinion during these emotionally charged days.
Toward that end I am asking each of us to spend extra time in prayer and reading the Word. We need to be careful to hear his voice in the midst of this storm. So let's intentionally turn down the outside voices and seek the one who knows all things. Let's ask him to teach us and to break any sinful thought patterns that have developed in our lives. Let's ask him to purify our thoughts and give us gracious words to speak. He is the one we seek to follow together. May the fruit of the Spirit be remarkably present in our midst.
I would also ask each of you to spend time praying for the leaders over you. Pray for President Trump and his advisors. Pray for Congress. Pray for Governor Walz and local leaders. They are all faced with difficult problems and need wisdom.
Finally, please pray for the leaders of Word of Life. The elders will be meeting on Tuesday evening to pray and discern the way forward for our church. Lift them up in prayer. In fact, I would encourage you to consider fasting at least one meal that day to seek the Lord. It is that important.
May we bring him glory in these days.
Governor Walz is allowing the stay-at-home order to expire at the end of the day on May 17. What does that mean for us as a church? On Tuesday evening, the Governing Board met and anticipated this move and I would like to share with you some of our thoughts.
We are excited that things are beginning to re-open.
Like everyone, we are looking forward to things returning to something approaching normal life. We are grateful for the efforts of many people to make our online services a good time of worship together, but nothing compares to coming together as a church family.
Our leaders are trying to navigate an economic and health crisis.
We have seen in Europe the results of waiting too long to impose social distancing restrictions. We are dealing with a contagious virus that can overrun our medical system causing unnecessary suffering and death. It makes sense to curtail activities to lessen the infection rate. We also realize that our church gatherings, with their hugs, singing, laughter, and extended times together create situations where it is easy for the the virus to spread. As much as we wish we could all be together on Sunday mornings, we are committed to following the Governor's guidelines for churches as we re-open.
The current emergency declaration will allow gatherings of 10 people who keep proper social distances.
The declaration does not give us the ability to meet together as a church family. However, we want to encourage our members to connect with one another. Why not invite some friends over to watch the service together and have dinner afterwards? All of us are craving time together, so let's do what we can within the framework of the emergency declaration!
At this time there will be no meetings in the church building. The office will remain closed except for operating the food shelf on Wednesdays and Fridays from 10 - 12. We check phone messages frequently and are available via email and SMS and will respond as quickly as we can.
We expect that the Governor will gradually allow the opening of churches and other groups over the course of the summer.
We have been discussing a variety of scenarios depending upon the size of groups allowed to gather. Each scenario stresses the need for proper social distancing, lots of hand sanitizer, and extensive cleaning procedures after we meet. We are also working on how to respond should someone who attends a meeting be found to have been infectious while they were there. There are many details to be worked through in the coming weeks.
There will be adaptations in the way we do things in order to comply with the mitigation protocols that are put in place. One possibility is having a group meet in the Sanctuary and another in the Fellowship Hall, watching the service via video feed. We will be altering things like how the offering is received and how we distribute the communion elements, and what types of children's activities we will be having. We'll have more details about that as the Governor makes more information available.
It will probably be several months before things are fully back to the way things were and there may be setbacks along the way. That's okay. We are part of a missions movement, and that means that we are willing to be flexible in the way we do things and make the most of each situation.
We will continue our video streaming of services for the foreseeable future.
Once we begin holding public services again, we will be live streaming them via YouTube. We recognize that there are a number of people in our church family that are in the high risk category and may not be comfortable meeting in large group settings for some time. In addition, anyone who doesn't feel well will be urged to stay home (no more "powering through" a cold!) in case they are actually coming down with COVID-19. We want our online service to be available live for those who cannot come to the building.
I am looking forward to seeing all of you again in the near future. Use this time of relaxed restrictions to build his kingdom. Encourage one another and share the good news about Jesus!
I’ve been working from home this week.
The stores do not have some of the things I want.
Strangers seem distant and suspicious. They are not interested in conversation.
I’m missing family events like birthday parties.
It seems like a different world.
I’ve been here before.
This feels familiar.
When Janet and I moved to France it was like this. No, there wasn’t a deadly pandemic hiding in the shadows, but the life seems strangely the same today as when we arrived in France.
I worked from home because there wasn’t a church office.
The stores didn’t have many of the familiar items I longed for (No cottage cheese, really?).
I couldn’t communicate very well.
As a foreigner, people were naturally suspicious of me.
I was grateful for Skype, but I couldn’t give my granddaughter a hug through the screen.
So, what are some lessons from that time that might apply today?
1. We must deal with vulnerability.
Living in a new world puts us in a scary position of weakness. This forces us to look for security. What are we turning to in those times? It exposes what we are trusting in and what we are afraid of. This can be a good thing! We want to trust in the Lord more fully, don’t we? Being placed in this situation is a training ground for trusting Jesus. Lesson: Spend time focusing on Jesus through Scripture, worship and prayer in order to build faith.
2. There is stress on our relationships.
Adjusting to life in France was difficult at times because of the stress that it put on our marriage. One day I would be up and Janet would be down. The next day it would be reversed. Sometimes I would be crabby because of what I was experiencing and found myself needing to apologize for my behavior. These difficulties were good because they forced us to work on our relationship. You might find yourself spending much more time with family members. Use this stressful time to work on those relationships. But this means working on your part in those relationships, not trying to fix other family members. Lesson: trying times can expose relational cracks that can then be fixed.
3. We want to be independent people.
We love our independence. Standing on our own two feet is something we all aspire to. I know I do. Moving to France made me incompetent in what felt like every area of life. I didn’t know how to mail a letter. I was constantly lost. I felt foolish trying to order something at the bakery. The driving laws were different. During those months I learned the value of relationships in the body of Christ. There will be times when you feel alone. Perhaps you will be quarantined at home and need something. Perhaps you will run out of toilet paper. Perhaps you will lose your job and the money is gone. Lesson: It’s okay to ask for help.
4. There is no such thing as a small act of kindness.
When I was adjusting to life in France every kindness brought tears to my eyes. I remember the clerks in the store who were patient with my poor French. The couple that dropped off chocolates on their way to work still brings a smile to my face. The friend who helped deal with an internet service problem by making a phone call relieved so much stress that I felt like I could fly. Simple gestures made life so much better. Lesson: Be intent on doing little things to help others. It’s not only the right thing to do, but each act is immeasurably valuable.
5. We are adaptable.
It took a while, but the new and awkward became familiar and comfortable. While I hope that this “Covid-19 lifestyle” doesn’t last long, if it does, we will adjust to this new way of doing things. Aspects of this new lifestyle will become increasingly routine. Lesson: New lifestyles are difficult but become easier with time.
6. We’ll dance in the streets again.
There will come a time when this epidemic passes and we will be back “home”. And when we arrive it will feel really good. We’ll feel like the sun has finally come out after a month of clouds. We will see the old things with new eyes…and we will dance!
What have you been praying for lately?
How big are your prayers? Sometimes we forget that the God we serve is the Almighty Creator of the universe. Compared to who he is, the things we ask for are not even pocket change…they are more like pocket lint!
So what is the biggest thing that you could dare ask for?
What is the biggest thing that he could give you?
Your answer is probably too small.
The biggest thing that God could give you is himself. It’s also the best thing that he could give you.
So I challenge you this week to ask him.
Ask him to give him more of himself.
Ask him to make you more aware of his presence.
Ask him to help you see his provision and power in your life.
Ask him to fill you with a greater measure of his Spirit.
Ask him to help you hear his voice.
Ask him to show you his glory.
Not only are these prayers the biggest things you can ask, but they are also prayers that he delights to answer.
Ask him. I dare you!
“Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4
We recently launched into a study of the book of Acts on Sunday mornings. At the men’s dinner one Tuesday evening, one of the guys asked me why I picked the book of Acts. I told him that it was where I sensed the Lord wanted us to go next. For me, the decision of which book to preach through is an important matter of prayer and that is the main reason we are heading that way on Sunday mornings.
What do I expect? Why do I think the Lord wants us to go through Acts? There are several reasons.
Our study of Ephesians was highly doctrinal. Acts is action-packed with the adventures of God’s people doing what he calls them to do. The change is good for us. It will also challenge us to follow the Lord with the same intensity and passion that they did.
Acts is about church life. God designed his church to be the temple of the Holy Spirit. We are meant to have deep relationships with one another and with the Lord (1 John 1:1-4). But the book of Acts isn’t a glossy advertisement; it shows the messiness of church life. There can be people that are hard to work with and relationships can become frayed. We need to hear that and learn from what happened in those early churches.
Acts demonstrates what the power of the Holy Spirit can do. Churches naturally drift toward being powered by people rather than by the Holy Spirit. This is so common that many have never seen what the power of the Spirit looks like in the church. If they have, it has been the 9-volt battery variety. You know, just enough to say there is power there, but no one is going to get hurt. But the power of the Spirit in the Book of Acts is so awesome that people actually die (Acts 5). It is power that carried the gospel across the Roman Empire and turned the world upside down.
Acts chronicles believers living the Christian life in a hostile environment. Today we live in a country that is turning its back on the gospel. How do you follow Christ when people around you are indifferent to him? What do you do when people reject Jesus? How do you handle it when people reject you because of Jesus? Believers not only get mocked, but imprisoned, tortured, and killed in the book of Acts. We need to learn from them how to follow Christ in difficult places.
Finally, there is a hunger stirring in me to see the Spirit move as in days of old. I’m not talking about hyper-charismania where the emotionally-challenged seek spiritual highs. I mean the types of things you see in the book of Acts. Where the Word is proclaimed and the Spirit presses it home with power, where believers are witnessing to friends and strangers with the anointing of the Spirit, where there is an intense hatred of the sin in our lives and a panting after righteousness, where believers are passionately in love with Jesus, where missionaries are called and sent to the ends of the earth, where Scripture is studied and applied under the guidance of the Spirit, where the shackled are set free and the broken are healed, where the forces of darkness are pushed back, and where the King reigns supreme. That’s what I want to be a part of.
How about you?
- Pastor Karl
It’s that time of year again. In our American culture, it’s time for decorating, buying presents, baking cookies, celebrating with family and friends, singing Christmas carols, and hopefully, also worshipping the Lord Jesus, who truly is “the reason for the season”.
One Christmas tradition that is also a REALLY BIG DEAL to some people is watching Christmas movies. Even if you’re not much of a movie watcher, you’ve probably seen at least a few holiday films in your lifetime. Some are classics from way back, like A Christmas Carol, It’s a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street, or Santa Claus is Coming to Town.
We’ve also got some more modern classics, like The Grinch, Elf, and Home Alone. There are horror movies, adventure/drama movies, comedies, and romances, all with a Christmas theme.
But of all the Christmas movies available, movie experts say that one stands out as having actually changed the Christmas movie genre. Even though it was released over 35 years ago, you can still find it playing in theaters at this time of year. On television you will find marathons from Christmas Eve to Christmas Day, where one station plays the film over and over again for 24 hours straight, attracting more than 40 million viewers. I’m speaking of A Christmas Story, the film about nine-year-old Ralphie Parker, who desperately wants a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas, even though everyone keeps telling him that “you’ll shoot your eye out!”
Movie critics say that this movie was the first one to show things the way they really were for most families at Christmastime, and to show it from a kid’s perspective. Not everything was rosy in 1940 in Hammond IN, the setting for the movie. Ralphie had to contend with a bully at school and his grumpy dad at home, as well as the usual sibling rivalry with his brother. He was obsessed with getting his Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas, but it didn’t look promising. Mr. and Mrs. Parker seemed at odds with one another, and Ralphie’s mother seemed to be trying to hold the family together.
The thing that makes A Christmas Story’s success so amazing is that it was an incredibly LOW BUDGET film. Think about it…there were no real “special effects”, no fancy sets, the actors weren’t the biggest names around, and it was actually filmed mostly in Cleveland!
When it was released, it wasn’t projected to do very well, and although it was modestly successful, it disappeared in two weeks. Then a funny thing happened. With the advent of VHS players in homes, people were interested in buying movies, and A Christmas Story was in in the right place at the right time. Before you knew it, people were snatching it up and watching it in the comfort of their own living rooms. Over the years, people made it a part of their regular holiday tradition. Some people invented games and activities, contests and even conventions based on the movie. Over the last 35 years, this low-budget, unlikely film has risen to become one of the most popular American Christmas movies of all time.
In the same way, wasn’t Bethlehem an unlikely place for the King of the Universe to show up? Weren’t Mary and Joseph the least likely people to be his parents? Isn’t it kind of strange that a baby who was so poor that he had to sleep with the animals became the most powerful figure in human history? And wasn’t it shocking that lowly shepherds-people on the bottom rung of society-were the first to hear the news that the Messiah had arrived?
God the Father had it planned this way all along. He was doing a new thing. He was doing it His way, not the way that people expected. He was breaking the mold, and bringing news of great joy that was for all the people. He was fulfilling His promises and the prophecies that had been uttered centuries before. He was sending Emmanuel, “God with us”, who would save his people from their sins. That’s the real Christmas Story, no matter what time of year it is.
- Janet Emerson
The Bible is full of heroes that inspire us by their faith-filled exploits. Daniel in the lion’s den, Noah building the ark, and Elijah calling down fire from heaven capture our imaginations and create within us a yearning to follow in their footsteps.
Perhaps no one is a greater example of the life of faith than Abraham. God called him to leave his native country and go to a new land. He and his then-childless wife would eventually have more descendants than there were stars in the sky and all of the nations of the world would be blessed through him. While far from perfect, Abraham’s faithful obedience is held up in the Scriptures as a model for all of us to follow. He is called the father of those who have faith (Galatians 3:7-9).
Romans 4:20 has a great secret that points the way to developing a faith like Abraham’s. “No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God.” Abraham was in the habit of giving glory to God before he received the answer to the promise.
Many of us will remember to thank God afterwards for the blessings that he gives us. Our thankfulness may even turn to worship. Abraham glorified God even when it appeared that it would be impossible for God to keep his promise. And the practice of glorifying God caused his faith to grow deeper and more certain.
What does it mean to glorify God? The term “glory” means that something is weighty or honorable. When referring to the Lord, it means that which makes God impressive. Of course, each of his attributes is impressive. We cannot add to the “weight” of them, but by focusing on them and acknowledging them we bring him honor.
By developing the discipline of glorifying God, we change the “weight” which we allow things to have in our lives. We tend to focus on our problems. As we do, we give our problems “glory” and they become heavier in our minds. If we focus on God, he becomes heavier and our problems lighter.
What does this look like? How do we glorify God so that our faith grows stronger?
I find that I need to set aside time to worship. Sunday morning is a good place to start. The music team at Word of Life does a good job of setting the table for us to worship. The music is God-focused and invites us to glorify him. It’s possible to simply sing along or enjoy the quality of music, so I need to intentionally focus on the Lord and the aspect of his character that the music is highlighting. In my mind (or out loud) I say, “Yes, Lord, this is true about you. You are holy. You are powerful. You are faithful.” The music, along with the encouragement of the people around me singing, makes it easy to shift my vision from my problems to God.
But an hour on Sunday isn’t enough. We need to have regular times of private worship as well. Let me give you three tips to developing a habit of glorifying God:
As you spend time focusing on the greatness of God you will discover that your faith in him will grow. As your faith in him grows, you find that obedience to him will become easier. You will pray with more certainty and start to walk in the footsteps of Abraham
“I will sing of the steadfast love of the Lord, forever; with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations.” – Psalm 89:1
In this verse Ethan the Ezrahite (the writer) declares that he will sing of the steadfast love of the Lord forever. Faithful lovingkindness is a fundamental aspect of the character of God and the writer’s heart is overflowing with joy as he thinks about how his life has been sustained and blessed by Lord.
But he goes beyond simply the “God and me” focus of the beginning of the verse. He commits himself to declaring God’s faithfulness to all generations, and that is something that we need to think about. As I look at Word of Life, I see a range of ages. There are children, youth, young singles and couples, young parents, middle-agers, “primetimers”, and those who have been “primetimers” for quite a while. If the psalmist were here, he would be thinking about how he could remind each of these generations about the faithfulness of God. How about you?
Regardless of the stage of life we are in, we need to be reminded of the faithfulness of God. The young mother that is exhausted from chasing toddlers and wondering where she will find strength to do it another day needs to be encouraged. The teenager who is wondering whether following Jesus is worth it needs to be reminded that God will be faithful to bless their obedience. The elderly person who is struggling because of never-ending health problems needs to be reinvigorated with stories of the faithfulness of God. Perhaps even you need to be refreshed with a first-person account of the faithfulness of God.
One of the reasons that we gather together is so that we can encourage one another. We can listen to sermons online and we can sing along with the music on our phones, but we cannot encourage one another well without being together. That’s why the writer to the Hebrews tells us to consider how to stir one another up to love and good deeds. He then tells us not to stop meeting together, but to meet to encourage one another (Hebrews 10:25).
Can I challenge you to do something? When you are at church next time, ask the Lord to show you someone from a different generation that needs some encouragement. Then come alongside them and share a story of the faithful loving-kindness of the Lord in your life. Make the faithfulness of the Lord known to that generation. Don’t be scared, everyone likes to be encouraged with stories of the steadfast love of the Lord!
Hezekiah was a man who birthed a revival and saw the Lord do mighty things in his life. He was one of the great kings in the history of God’s people (2 Kings 18:5). He came to power following the death of Ahaz, one of the worst kings. He immediately began to bring the people back to the worship of God. He repaired the Temple and removed all the pagan idols that had been set up there. This included the bronze serpent, which Moses had made at the Lord’s command, because it had become an object of worship. It was one of the greatest revivals in the Old Testament. Hezekiah was a man who knew revival.
He also experienced victory on the battlefield. For the people of Israel, possession of the land was a sign that their relationship with the Lord was right. As revival swept Israel, the Lord gave them military victory against the Philistines who had captured some of their cities. Even more astonishing, Hezekiah saw the hand of God deliver them from the might of the Assyrians, who were the major military power of the day. Hezekiah was a man who knew success.
He also saw God’s supernatural work in his physical body. He was at the point of death when the prophet Isaiah came to see him and said, “Thus says the Lord: ‘Set your house in order for you shall die, you shall not recover.’” Hezekiah prayed and asked the Lord to extend his life because he had sought to serve him wholeheartedly. Isaiah returned with a new prophetic word, “Thus says the Lord: ‘I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Behold, I will add fifteen years to your life. I will deliver you and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria, and will defend this city.’” Not only did God heal him, he gave him a sign to verify the deliverance to come: the shadow of the sun went backwards on the sundial! (Isaiah 38:1-8). Hezekiah was a man who knew the miraculous power of God.
Hezekiah had walked with the Lord for a long time, experiencing the blessings of obedience, and therein lies a great danger that threatens to trap all of us.
Hezekiah was at the peak of his power and was standing in the stream of the blessings of the Lord when he received envoys from a distant kingdom. This is not uncommon. Rulers often exchange letters and gifts with one another as a sign of goodwill. Hezekiah welcomed these particular envoys gladly because they had traveled over 500 miles with a gift to celebrate his recovery from near-death. Hezekiah showed them around. He showed them his treasure house filled with silver and gold. He opened the doors them his entire armory with all of the weapons at the disposal of his army. He displayed the storehouses filled with all kinds of goods to them. He showed them everything.
After they left, the prophet Isaiah arrived and asked, “Who were those men? What did they say? Where did they come from?” Hezekiah explained they had come from the distant country of Babylon. Isaiah want to know what they had seen and Hezekiah told him all that he had shown them all the riches of the kingdom.
Isaiah spoke a stern word to Hezekiah: “Hear the word of the Lord of hosts: ‘Behold the days are coming, when all that is in your house, and that which your fathers have stored up till this day, shall be carried to Babylon. Nothing shall be left,’ says the Lord. ‘And some of your own sons, who will come from you, whom you will father, shall be taken away and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.’”
This is a stinging rebuke. In his desire to impress the envoys he had exposed the kingdom to great risk. That’s the practical viewpoint, but the spiritual reality is that Israel is secure as long as they are in right relationship with the Lord and Isaiah’s words expose the reality that all is not right. The riches and the people of Israel are soon to be ripped away from the land and carried off to Babylon.
Hezekiah, the king who had led the country into revival, who had known the success that comes from obedience, and who had seen mighty miracles of God, should have immediately repented of his sin and spent his remaining days doing all that he could to see that future generations would pursue the Lord wholeheartedly. Perhaps the Lord would relent like he had done before when he healed Hezekiah. Perhaps there was a chance that his sons would not be forced to serve as eunuchs in the palace of the Babylonian king.
Hezekiah heard the ominous prophetic warning from the lips of Isaiah and said, “The word of the Lord that you have spoken is good.” For he thought, “There will be peace and security in my days.” What a twisted understanding of the word of the Lord! What was a reproof he understood as a blessing! (Isaiah 38:1-8).
We must never underestimate the ability of our sinful hearts to bend the word of God to try to dull its convicting work in our lives. This danger never disappears. In fact, often those who have been walking with the Lord and experienced his blessings (revival, success, miracles) are often the most susceptible to this trap. We rest on the treasure of a life of following the Lord and it dulls our hearts and we become deaf to the convicting work of the Lord even while immersed in the Word. We think of the revival and healings we have experienced and forget that it does not make us an expert: we will always be dependent upon the Holy Spirit to understand the word of God and apply it to our lives.
We are in great danger if we think that we have arrived at a place of invulnerability because of the experiences of God we have had in the past. Paul writes, “Let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed, lest he fall” (I Corinthians 10:12). This is what happened to Hezekiah. His pride and experience made him blind to the correction and rebuke of the Lord. Because he was in a place of peace and security at the moment, he misinterpreted and misapplied the word of the Lord.
This is a warning to each of us that we must remain humble and seek to understand what the Lord is saying to us through his word. He lovingly brings correction and we need hearts soft enough to be moldable when he does, otherwise our proud flesh will distort the words and we will confuse rebuke for blessing and keep stumbling toward disaster.
In my last post I wrote about "the trap". It is a scheme of the evil one that ensnares many believers. He tempts the believer and seductively lures us into sin and then viciously attacks us when we sin. It is a strategy designed to keep the believer from from following after God.
There were two reactions to the article. Some people thanked me for exposing the trap. They realised that they had experienced this same thing themselves. One person even realised that the trap described exactly what they were experiencing. The image helped them get back on their feet spiritually and start walking with Jesus again. There was grace and forgiveness to be found in Christ.
Others were concerned that I was somehow condoning sin in the life of the follower of Christ. They reasoned that people would understand my article to think that sin was somehow okay and we should tolerate it in our lives. Nothing could be farther from the truth. "Sin is okay" is yet another trap of the enemy. It's a lie that he whispers to keep us from experiencing the freedom of a holy life.
Two Key Truths
There are two key truths that Paul says make up a "sure foundation". They are both extremely important.
The first is this: the Lord knows who are his.
The mystery of God's choosing is shrouded in his will. We were chosen before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight (Eph 1). Jesus said that he knows his sheep and that his sheep know the sound of his voice. When we come to faith in Christ we are sealed with the Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance.
If you have been born again by the Spirit of God, you have been adopted by Him. You are a son or daughter of the Most High.
You don't become a Christian by being born into a Christian family. You become a Chrisitan, in the biblical sense, by regeneration. You have to be born again. We experience several things as we are born again: repentance and faith. We repent of our sins and we believe the gospel. Jesus, the Son of God, died for our sins and rose from the dead.
You will never be more "his" than when you were born again. However, we need to remember that regeneration (being born again) is, like physical birth, only the first step of a life with the Lord. And just as a baby grows and becomes like their parents, we are to grow and become more like Jesus.
That brings us to the second key truth:
Those who call on the Lord must turn away from wickedness.
We are called to live holy lives. Sin and rebellion against God are never okay. They diminish our fellowship with God, rob us of joy and peace, spoil our spiritual fruit, and damage relationships. We are called to be holy. We must remember that!
We are to put off the old man and put on the new. We are to get rid of sinful attitudes and actions. We are to learn to live lives of love. Read Colossians 3:1-14; Ephesians 4-5; 1 Peter 1:13-16.
There is a great deception in the land: salvation without holiness. There are people who point to some past event and say to themselves, "I've got that heaven thing taken care of so I don't have to worry about that. I might as well 'enjoy life' and live like the devil!" Some point to their infant baptism and others to a "salvation prayer" at a crusade as their "get out of hell free" card. But in either, their true hearts are exposed: they are not saved. The redeemed desire to live lives of holiness! Don't be deceived: Those who call on the Lord must turn away from wickedness!
For those that build their lives on these truths the transformation can be amazing. Drugs and alcohol lose their grip. Greed turns into generosity. Anger into patience and gentleness. Despair turns to hope.
But sometimes we fall. When we do, the enemy wants us to believe that our sin has ruined our hope of heaven. That's the trap I wrote about.
But heaven was never based on our performance. We are saved by grace through faith. Our relationship with God is based on the finished work of Jesus Christ. He died for our sins. He offers us grace and mercy. From beginning to end, our salvation is based on grace. When we sin, we need to repent, receive forgiveness, and and continue to walk the highway of holiness.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Note: This article was originally posted on pastorkarlsblog.blogspot.com on November 4, 2016
Word of Life Staff
A place for the Word of Life staff and guest writers to share of themselves in writing with the Word of Life family.