II Timothy 3:1 “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud…”
7 Thoughts About the Christian Life
I would like to try to put a few things down in writing to express a little of what I have been thinking and what the Lord has been dealing with me about over the past several weeks and months. I am challenging myself and my motives, my goals, and what I am emphasizing in the ministry to be more of what the Bible teaches and less of what pleases me or makes me feel comfortable. Maybe it will help you also and lighten your burden a bit today.
#1 – Your belief about God determines how you interpret the Bible.
This could obviously be taken out of context, but the idea is simple. We have preconceived ideas about the Bible. Your beliefs about God Himself will be one of the biggest factors on what you believe the Bible says.
For example, if you believe God did not plan to preserve His Word, then you may believe that the Bible only contains some of God’s Word. There are many people who teach the Bible today is not what God gave originally. They believe man has changed the Word of God. (I am not speaking about different translations or versions of the Bible.)
If you believe that God is the one and only Creator, that there is no other God, and that Jesus Christ was sent as the Savior, then it will shape your way of looking at the Bible. Others do not believe there is only one God. There would be little reason logically for them to take the Bible seriously for their spiritual lives. There would be little more than historic value in the Bible for such people.
Each person takes a specific perspective when looking at the Scriptures. This is why our faith is of utmost importance. What you believe about God shapes how you look at the Bible. We have many differing opinions today about the Bible, but each and every opinion is shaped by the faith of that particular individual.
One must realize that beliefs can change! If you are constantly surrounded by a particular philosophy, you could easily be swayed to that way of thinking if you are not aware or on guard. This being the case, the media through its constant broadcasting in homes, cars, businesses and many public places has shaped our way of thinking and has in many cases changed our beliefs. Many of us are unaware of this gradual effect in our lives.
Is your faith in God as strong as it was when you first came to know Him? Do you still believe in Him with all your heart? If you are confident beyond a shadow of a doubt that God exists and that He blesses those who seek Him, then it will also shape how you look at the Bible.
Why would this even be necessary to say? Let me try to explain. Please follow the thought process. The following questions may seem a bit rash, but they are good questions that point out a few facts that have been forgotten by many Christians.
Is it necessary for you to own a Bible in order to be a Christian? No.
Is it necessary for you to read a Bible in order to live a Christian life? Your immediate answer to this second question may be, “yes.” However, that answer is shaped by our culture.
What if you were imprisoned and not permitted to have a Bible, could you still be a Christian and please God? Yes.
If you spoke a language in which the Bible has not been translated, could you still be a Christian and live a life that is pleasing to God? Yes.
If the printing press had not yet been invented, could you still live the Christian life without owning a copy of the Scriptures? Yes.
If you were in such a situation, then your faith would be a much more vital part of your actions. Your faith would be of utmost importance! How could you know what to do? How could you know how to treat people? You would just have to try to please God by loving Him and doing what was good to others.
Stop, go back, examine your faith! Is your faith in God as strong as that of the martyrs who died because they believed in a God who sent His Son to die for them? Is your faith rock solid?
The answer may be yes or no, but either way it will determine what you believe and how you look at the Bible!
Here are a few good verses to read…
Genesis 15:6 “And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.”
II Timothy 1:12 “For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.”
Psalm 116:10 “I believed, therefore have I spoken…”
#2 – God does not require a certain amount of Bible knowledge for you to be saved or for you to live the Christian life.
Knowledge is a great thing! Proverbs says fools hate knowledge. It also says that wise men lay up knowledge in chapter 10 verse 14. We are encouraged time and time again to seek knowledge.
However, Ecclesiastes 1:18 says that, “…in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.” Daniel 12:4 says that in the last days, “…many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.”
Knowledge can be used in the right way. Yet, many times with increased knowledge comes pride. This is one of the reasons that I Corinthians 13 emphasizes love. You can know all there is to know about a person’s sin and how it offends God, but until you love them, your knowledge does you no good. I Corinthians 8:1 says, “Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth.”
Many of us have been in church for dozens of years and we are satisfied with our spiritual knowledge. We have been through Bible college, seminary, online courses, chapel services for many years, an innumerable amount of church services, listened to thousands of sermons, read the Bible through many times, and studied the Bible from cover to cover, yet this does not make us the Christians we should be.
More times than not, we are those that are judging people all around us by our Christian standard of living and expecting people to be where we are. Meanwhile, we are showing people that all of our learning and knowledge of the Bible has not made us the Christians that we should be.
Every Christian is at a different level spiritually. God deals with each person individually as He pleases. The Holy Spirit works in conjunction with His will. He knows what needs to be accomplished in each individual’s life and works toward that end.
Let me try to give you just a few simple examples. These are just examples and comparable examples can be found about nearly any subject.
Example 1: Music is a very powerful thing and can bring back many memories! While in college, I fell asleep at the wheel and ran off the road hitting a big rock. Every time I hear the song “The Happy Jubilee” my memory takes me back to that day. It was the song I was listening to when the accident happened. It is also not hard to remember many songs that I listened to as a child. Some of them bring back great memories, but certain recordings bring back bad memories of places that I should not have been, things that I should not have done, or friends that I should not have had. So, I avoid listening to certain recordings for that reason. However, it is not wrong for someone else to listen to those same songs. As a matter of fact, it might even be good for them to listen to them. I believe Philippians 4:8 fits in well here.
Example 2: Paul gives an excellent example in I Corinthians 8 where he says that eating meat that is offered to idols is not wrong for some, but it is wrong for others. One might say that ignorance is bliss. Though one would not seek to be ignorant about everything, sometimes not knowing is a good thing. On the other hand, however, it may not be so good. Paul says that if your conscience bothers you, you should not eat it. We will come back to this example.
Many other examples could be given. Watching TV may be wrong for some and not for others. Culture begins to play a big part in some of this. As a young person, it was not uncommon in my circles to hear preachers say that blue jeans were a sign of rebellion. Possibly they were to those preachers in their childhood days.
The same truth is present in the opposite sense. The Bible shows us in the book of James that “…to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” This is the same principle in reverse. The Holy Spirit will hold each of us accountable individually according to opportunities that we were given and circumstances we encountered.
Now, let us get to the real point. It is the Holy Spirit’s job! May we let Him do the judging. So many Christians today don’t practice “love at first sight.” They practice “judge at first sight.” We are trying to do the work of the Holy Spirit for Him.
Please stop for a minute and think about this! Are you quick to judge a person’s spiritual life? Many of us would shun David for his many wives, his adultery, his brutality, or for his lying. We would despise Solomon for his idols and for his wives as well as many other things. We would think poorly of John for not being dressed appropriately or justify his actions and explain away the verses in the context. We would also have to condemn Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and if we are not careful, Jesus himself!
Yet, Paul brings a totally different perspective into light when talking about it in Romans 14. Wow! If through this article, you were to understand this point alone, my heart would be thrilled. What Paul is teaching has challenged me more than most any sermon I have ever heard.
Romans 14:10-15 “But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God. Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way. I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean. But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died.”
The latter part of verse 13 is what gets my attention more than anything. When here in the KJV he says “judge this rather,” he is saying that this is the more Christ-like thing to do. It is better to worry about your own actions than the actions of others. Start judging yourself instead of justifying yourself. Consider how your actions affect others instead of how their actions are right or wrong.
Romans 14 is an incredible chapter! It really points to how we are accountable for our actions before God and not for the actions of others. Yet we live as though we were accountable for the actions of all of those around us. We pastor our churches as though we were accountable for their actions. We are accountable for what we teach, but each individual will give account of his or her own actions directly to God.
Part of my 7th statement fits in here. I will revisit it at the end and expound on it. “#7 Everything will be exposed before the judgement seat of Christ…”
#3 – The Bible was not written to destroy our faith. It was written to help, fortify, edify, and to prepare us for the work of God. It aligns us with God.
This is an obvious statement. Most would think it is not that big of a deal. Yet in the context of what I just explained, we use the Bible to condemn people and to destroy their faith. I say this including myself. We think we have attained superiority in our Christian lives and use what we find in the Bible to hurt people. We also think that we have obtained the right to judge everyone. Yet, if someone questions our beliefs we are offended (normally, way beyond proportion).
We immediately accuse the offender of modernism or begin pointing out weaknesses in their way of living, their churches, their families, and any other area that we find fault in. Some of us defend ourselves by our church traditions or some intellectually profound theologically philosophical answer. Yes, it is as confusing as it sounds.
The Bible should be used to help people. It should be used as a guide for our faith. Yet, we hold to II Timothy 3:16 and say that it says we should reprove and rebuke. There we go. We just took the verse out of context. The reproof and rebuke is so that the man of God will be perfect and ready for good works. In the context of Timothy then, are we to reprove and rebuke the man of God? No, it is showing us that the Bible reproves us and rebukes us so that we ourselves are fit for God’s service.
Paul also tells Timothy to “reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine.” Notice how this is again given to the leader showing him how to reprove and rebuke. It should be done with all long-suffering. The Bible can be used to correct when necessary, but far too many times people are corrected by degrading, by ignoring, or by demotion in service without any long-suffering. What does all long-suffering mean?
Let us encourage people to follow the Lord. May they start right now! Is their life a mess? Possibly. Yet their heart may be closer to the Lord than our pride allows ours to be. So, what if their life is a wreck and they want to do something for God? Can they serve the Lord? Of course they can! We should encourage them to do so. There is so much work to be done for God. We like to limit service to God to what can be done within the regulations and confines of our local church system. Yet, Jesus said “go!”
The entire world is out there open and ready for imperfect people to be used by God in doing His work. The fields are white unto harvest!
#4 – The Christian life is not and cannot be mechanical or ritualistic. It should be personal, present tense, intimate, daily, spiritual, of faith, and from the heart.
There is a big difference between faith and religion. Faith is what is hidden in your heart where other people cannot see. Religion is the way you live out your faith. Religion is ritualistic, it is habitual, and many times mechanical. Yet, our relationship with God should not be that way.
Just because we have done it for so long, does not mean we are right in doing it. For years I had a personal prayer list. After some time, I realized that it was nothing more than a list of people to think about. My true prayers were not offered up for the people on the list. They were offered up for those for whom my heart was heavy. They were offered up for those for whom my heart rejoiced.
In the same manner, our religion is very mechanical. We go to church, we sing some songs, we read the Bible and hear the preaching. Howbeit, many times we forget what was preached before we reach our cars. If not so soon, then within a day or two we have almost totally discarded it unless we encounter the same reasoning elsewhere.
Many weeks we participate in organized visitation, hand out our tracts and knock on the doors. Yet, we have passed thousands of people through the week at gas stations, grocery stores, jobs, and neighborhoods and have not offered up a word that would point them to Christ. We have possibly lived our week in isolation and then tried to go win people to Christ through our religious routine.
As pastors or church members, we want to protect our testimony or the testimony of the church so much that we forget what is the real goal. Sometimes we are more interested in protecting our testimony than in following the Bible. We look at our testimony as the sacrifice we have made for the Lord. Yet, Samuel said that to obey was better than sacrifice.
We sink back into Old Testament mode and try to create another temple where people can come and find this great God which we serve. We offer the same sacrifices week after week.
It is not the size of the church that matters. It is not how much a church invests in infrastructure in order to reach people, how organized they are, how many schools they have to train people, or how much money is poured into missions. These are not all bad things, but many times they have taken the place of obedience.
I understand why we want to train people. Yet, we have become so organized that the Christian life is down to a formula. Church planting is nothing but an equation. Mission boards, church mission programs and independent agencies have book after book and lesson after lesson on how to be a missionary the right way. We hardly have the need for the Holy Spirit anymore!
What about going back to the simplicity which is in Christ? A sophisticated society has led to a sophisticated church and a sophisticated Christianity.
We believe we have found the best formula and we want to influence people through our books, our blogs, our media and our ministries. Christ said, “Go.” Go preach, go teach and go disciple. This involves a constant outward motion! Yet our motion is many times inward. Our ministry or our church and our programs are the focus of our lives.
I have spoken to dozens of missionaries who feel that they cannot make headway in God’s calling unless they are good salesmen and fundraisers. We are mechanical. We send a letter every few months, making things look good in order to ask for more money. We are afraid to change and many times live to please supporters instead of God.
Of course this is not the heart of most missionaries. Yet every missionary struggles with thoughts like these. We yearn to be honest, but many times it is hard to communicate what we think without it being taken out of context or without it being overlooked. The mechanics of mission work have removed the need for every day dependence upon the Holy Spirit. Yet, most are afraid to challenge this or change their routine.
In first Corinthians 5:7 Paul says, “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” He also says that we condemn ourselves when we don’t walk by faith. He says that whatever is not from faith is sin.
Faith is not the ability to spend more money than you have! Faith is dependence upon God. We like to compare faith. Yet faith is not visible. You cannot see how much a person trusts God.
God can see faith! He can see our innermost being and judge the thoughts and intents of the heart. One who seems to launch out by faith may just be acting in order to build himself up through his accomplishments. He may be trying to gain more visibility or more influence by increasing his ministry.
Some may invest by faith while others have ulterior motives. God is the judge and at the judgement seat of Christ all will be made known. I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but point #7 fits in here perfectly also.
We need to live by faith. Trust the Lord. No, it ultimately does not matter what others think. It does, however, matter what God has said. God is your judge and He will not judge you according to what was taught or expected of you at your church. Individually you will stand before God and your pastor will not be by your side holding your hand giving excuses for you. Stand on your own two feet. Allow the Holy Spirit to guide you in this life. Live by faith. Allow those around you to trust God. Trust the Holy Spirit to guide them just like He does you. Practice out your faith on a daily basis and allow it to guide you in your study of the Bible.
Believe in an all-knowing, all-powerful God that cares about you personally. Believe in a God who is at work in your life and the lives of all of those around you for good. Trust God with all of your heart and love your neighbor as yourself. Do good!
Daily seek to please God in your thoughts, words and actions. Serve the Lord with gladness and not with the burden that your peers are watching.
#5 – Joy and happiness are not products of a good life or a life of those that are following good doctrine. Joy comes to those that are humble and to those that know their sins are forgiven and that the Lord is still in control.
Contrary to what we many times portray, joy is not the product of attaining a certain level of spirituality. On the contrary, it comes to those who trust that God is in control of every situation. It comes to those who realize they are not in control. If you think you are in control of your life, you probably will not have real joy.
Success has nothing to do with joy. One could even think that spiritual success will bring joy to your life. Yet, true happiness is found in Jesus. He has forgiven us! We do not deserve to be His servants, much less His children.
A falsified joy comes from believing that you are pleasing God or doing Him a favor with your life. Somehow we think God is lucky to have us on His side. Even our humility is falsified.
If you are trying to live according to some law, you will only disappoint yourself every time you fail. Those who think they are living correctly by this law have just simply created a law that they think makes themselves look good. In God’s eyes we are all sinners.
Are rules important? Yes! No one would deny that rules and laws are important. Have you ever stopped and examined to see if you have ever broken a law, a rule of an establishment, or a traffic law? Don’t think too hard, you might be finding things for the rest of the day or the week.
As important as the rules are, we are all bound to break them. Even those that make the rules break them. They break them because they think they know the correct implementation of the rule in their own eyes. They break them because they are in a hurry. They break them because they forget. Take king Ahasuerus in the book of Esther, for example. He made a hard fast law then found a way to break that law legally and help the Jews whom he had made the law against.
Well, enough rambling. Living by faith is liberating! Living in humility and realizing that you are always going to fail brings you again to the mercy and grace that Jesus gives. This will bring you joy. Pride brings falsified joy. Humility brings true joy in Jesus.
No, I am not going to live up to the standards of all the wonderful Christian people around me because I cannot live that way. I may never be qualified for most of the jobs churches offer or prominent ministries offer. Yet, I will always be qualified as a child of the King! I will always be considered God’s workmanship. I can be happy living by faith as a forgiven sinner!
True joy does not come from looking in the mirror and contenting yourself with what you see. It comes from looking to the Savior and contenting yourself with who He is. Joy comes from faith in the Savior! Romans 10:11 “For the scripture saith, whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.”
Here are some verses to consider.
Isaiah 29:19 “The meek also shall increase their joy in the LORD, and the poor among men shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.”
I Thessalonians 2:19 “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?”
Philippians 4:1-8 “Therefore, my brethren dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved. I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord. And I entreat thee also, true yoke-fellow, help those women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellow-laborers, whose names are in the book of life. Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, will keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are honest, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report; if there is any virtue, and if there is any praise, think on these things.”
Psalms 34:18-19 “The LORD is nigh to them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as are of a contrite spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivereth him out of them all.”
#6 – Our familiarity with the Bible should not be confused with our relationship with God.
By now, I think you already get my point. Just because we know the Bible, we should not think that this knowledge makes us more like Christ. Until we actually put all of this to practice in our lives, it is useless.
We may have good doctrine. We may be able to quote hundreds of verses. We may be the best preacher or teacher some people know. We may be the most faithful members our pastors have in their church. Why, we may even be more faithful than the pastor. But, who are we kidding? Do you think we will outsmart God? Will we somehow escape the hypocrisy test when it is passed out? Will we not have to face pride at the judgement?
Many of us have taken on the characteristic that Paul gives in II Timothy 3 of those men who are lovers of their own selves. They are always learning, yet they never come to the knowledge of the truth.
#7 Everything will be exposed before the judgement seat of Christ… You will be judged by Christ! Don’t live to please a brother in Christ or to please you pastor. Live to please God.
Read all of Romans 14 to understand the better context of this statement. You should not be worrying about judging others, but you should be worrying about being judged by Christ. Therefore, be accountable to Him.
We will not be judged on our denomination, our circle of friends and influences, or our church. This is why the judgement will be such an eye opening experience for everyone. You are the only one that will matter on judgement day. No one will be able to help you and you will not be able to help anyone else.
Romans 14 puts the judgement seat in context of our judging of others. “But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at naught thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment-seat of Christ.”
It is my desire to be more like Christ. May this article help you as these things have helped me. My life is far from exemplary. The Lord is still working on me.
Some people may think the true church is dying. Personally, I believe it is very alive today. It is just not what we expect it to be. The church is the people! The church is not the organization. The organization may be dying, but there are still true believers and followers of Christ all over this world that gather together, worship the Lord, edify one another, and seek to share their faith with those around them. Are you one of them?