Friday, July 24, 2009

Spiritual Footprints: The Test of True Faith

"We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, "I know him," but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, God's love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did." ~ 1 John 2:3-6

We do not segment our lives, giving some time to God, some to our business or schooling, while keeping parts to ourselves. The idea is to live all of our lives in the presence of God, under the authority of God, and for the honor and glory of God. That is what the Christian life is all about. ~
R. C. Sproul

Thanks to the latest "Save the Planet-Be Green" trend, we now have carbon footprints to measure our impact on the environment. Of greater importance however, are the spiritual footprints Christians leave upon the world. These are the impressions we make upon others and are also the true test of our faith in Jesus Christ.

The problem with footprints is that they lie behind us and we are not aware of what they look like until we take the time to stop and look back. When it comes to the mark we leave on the world with regard to our witness for Christ, we often fail to recognize the effect we are having. Are we representing Christ in a way that would draw others to Him or, are we presenting a false picture of the Gospel by a lifestyle that contradicts what true Christianity is? Our lives reflect not only the influence and impact we have on the lives of others, but also who we really are. Many claim to be Christians but their lives demonstrate something else. All that we think, do and say publicly and privately reveal not only who we are but who's we are. If someone were to ask those who know you what is most important to you, what you love or enjoy the most, what would they say? As a follower of Jesus Christ, we are called to be separated from the world; we shouldn't blend in so well that we look, act and talk just like them. Our heart's desire should be to please God, not be loved by the world (James 4:4, 1 John 2:15-17).

The world is full of superficial people. Those who claim to be someone they are not. This may be more evident amongst those who call themselves Christians than in any other group or religion. People who claim to know Christ but live like the world. Products of quick & easy conversions. They believe in God and accepted Jesus (or asked Him into their heart) without any brokenness of heart; without any understanding of the Gospel. Many claim they are saved without having any sense of being lost in the first place. Jesus addressed the issue of false converts and hypocrites to show us that being a Christian is not simply being religious. Perhaps the best illustration of this was during the Sermon on the Mount...

"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!' ~ Matthew 7:21-23

Our spiritual footprints reveal the pattern of our life and that which characterizes who we are. The true test of our faith is not how religious we are nor is it simply what we claim to believe. According to Jesus Christ, the evidence of true faith is found in our obedience...

"for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them." ~ Ephesians 5:8-11

And He was saying to them all, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. "For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it." ~ Luke 9:23-24

"Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children." ~Ephesians 5:1

"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." ~ Romans 12:2

Every aspect of the life of a Believer should be Christ-centered and God-honoring. Some mistakenly confuse this with legalism. Certainly, that has been a problem since the beginning of the church however, our lives should be a reflection of God's Word purely out of our love for Him, not simply to abide by a set of rules in order to appear religious or good. The ultimate deception of Satan is to convince people they are saved when they are not. It all started in the Garden with pride.

There is a huge difference between living in obedience to Christ and living to appear holy in an effort to impress others. Our lifestyle should be set apart from the world. God has given us clear guidelines for how we are to live. Those who live in the flesh will not inherit the Kingdom...(1 Corinthians 6:9-10, Galatians 5:19-21, Revelation 21:8).

We should be regularly checking our spiritual footprints by examining the pattern of our life to see if we are in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5). Are we boldly sharing the Gospel or do we hide it? Do our activities outside of church align with our faith or do we live two separate lives? How is it that we can call ourselves Christians and yet, demonstrate a lifestyle at work, with friends or even on Facebook that contradicts the very principles that define a Christian? Sharing inappropriate jokes, using coarse language, boasting of how much beer we drank, watching movies and reading books that tickle our ears and feed the lust of the flesh, exploding in anger with those we love.. the list goes on. How can we call ourselves Christians and regularly be living like the world? It's one thing to stumble into sin, repent and move on but, when we live in it and see nothing wrong with it, something is clearly missing in our salvation experience.

A born-again, follower of Jesus Christ should be pursuing and striving for the things that leave God-honoring spiritual footprints. True, we will stumble and we will struggle but, we should be moving in the direction of the narrow way; not taking detours backwards. Some of the areas that demonstrate attributes of true faith are:

- Love for and submission to the Word of God. (Psalm 119)
- Love for the truth. (John 8:22-36)
- Love for the people of God. (1 John 4)
- Changed Life. (Matthew 7:15-20, James 4)
- Love of Holiness. (Galatians 4, Romans 7)
- Growth in sanctification. (1 John 2:3-6)
- Ever-growing sensitivity to sin. (1 John 1:8-10)
- A Right Attitude To This World. (Matthew 6:25-33, Phil. 1, 2 Cor. 5)

"Separation from the world has always been one of the evidences of God’s work of grace in the heart. Those who have really been born of God’s Spirit have always separated from the world, whereas those who are Christians only in name always refuse to come out and be separate. The subject is especially important today, because many are trying to make Christianity as easy as possible and to avoid the need for self-denial. "The world is a source of great danger to the soul. By "the world", I do not mean the physical world in which we live. When I speak of "the world" I mean those people who think only, or mainly, of the things of this world and neglect the world to come – those who think more about the body than the spirit, more about pleasing men than about pleasing God. By "the world" I mean these people, together with their way of life, their opinions, their tastes, their ambitions and their outlook. This is the world that is dangerous to the soul. This is the world from which we must come out and be separate." ~ J.C. Ryle (Practical Religion)



Sunday, July 19, 2009

Lost and Found

"We love because He first loved us" ~ 1 John 4:19

"For the Son of Man has come to seek and save that which was lost" ~ Luke 19:10

The greatest truth about Christianity is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That a Holy God would love such wretched sinners to the point that He poured out His wrath on His Son rather than on those who rightly deserved it is beyond human understanding. When we speak of the love of God, the Cross is the perfect picture of love. What makes Christianity unique amongst all the world religions is the great exchange; Forgiveness of sins, imputed righteousness and eternal life all freely offered without any effort or good works required on our part. We come as we are.

"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast." ~ Ephesians 2:8-9

What makes the Gospel so incredible is that even in our sinful, fallen state, God loved us first. Contrary to what many feel-good churches teach today, it is not us who accepts Jesus Christ nor is it us who seeks Him. Both of those would essentially be acts of works that go against what grace truly is. No, it is Christ who does the seeking and the accepting. We simply receive it through repentance and faith. If it were not for the grace of God, we would not even see our need for a savior let alone recognize that we needed forgiveness. What some call a "God shaped hole" or a life long search for purpose is actually the work of the Holy Spirit drawing us to Him. Some respond while others continue (hopelessly) looking for fulfilment in the things of the world. Those who do respond come with broken hearts, humbled by the Gospel, wretched sinners in need of salvation. They come just as they are but they don't stay that way.

If for a moment we could see all of history in a glimpse, the thing that would stand out the most would be the greatest love story one could ever imagine. God the Creator pursuing mankind despite his rebellious, adulterous, self-centered ways. Never giving up on us. Never losing His patience with us. Always looking out for us. Jesus told several parables as a way to illustrate this love God has for us. The Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) demonstrated a fathers love for a wayward son. In the below video, Paul Washer tells the story of a mothers love for her daughter and how far she went to find her. The message at the end describes what unconditional love is; similar to how God desires us to come to Him...

The Gospel invitation is to all people regardless of where you are or what you've done. The only requirement for Salvation is a contrite, humbled, repentant heart. Those who come as they are, repentant and trusting in Jesus Christ alone will be received with love by the Father.

Don't waste your life trying to be good enough (none of us are... Luke 18:19). Don't live burdened by the weight of religion that puts works as part of "The Way" to Jesus Christ. Eternal life is not found in what we do or how we live. It's not found in methods or quick prayers to ask Jesus into your heart.
When we reach the point of seeking Him, we can be sure that this too is a result of God first softening our hearts to His seeking of us through the Gospel. Likewise, Jesus should not be presented as a "quick fix" to life's problems nor should we offer Him up as a sort of "trial offer".

"Much of contemporary evangelism is woefully deficient when it comes to confronting people with the reality of their sin. Preachers offer people happiness, joy, fulfillment and everything positive. Present-day Christians are taught that all they have to do is find a person's psychological needs then offer Jesus as a panacea for whatever the problem is. It is very easy to get a response, because people are looking for quick solutions to their felt needs. But if that is all we do, it is not legitimate evangelism." ~ John MacArthur (The Gospel According to Jesus)


Wednesday, July 15, 2009


I recently came across a new book for my summer reading list. It's from Kevin DeYoung & Ted Kluck, the authors of "Why We're Not Emergent". Their new book is entitled, "Why We Love The Church". The title might throw some of you off. It's not another one of those feel-good, how to attract the seeker to your cool, hip mega-church books. Rather, it's a reminder of what The Body of Christ Church looks like and what we as members of it should be doing (as opposed to what we can get out of it).

Here's a great quote from Ted Kluck...

"Church isn't boring because we're not showing enough film clips, or because we play an organ instead of guitar. It's boring because we neuter it of its importance. Too often we treat our spiritual lives like the round of golf used to open George Barna's Revolution. At the end of my life, I want my friends and family to remember me as someone who battled for the Gospel, who tried to mortify sin in my life, who found hard for life, and who contended earnestly for the faith. Not just a nice guy who occasionally noticed the splendor of the mountains God created, while otherwise just trying to enjoy myself, manage my schedule, and work on my short game."

This book is targeted towards those who are either Committed, Disgruntled, Waffling or Disconnected with or from their local church. "Why We Love the Church" presents the case for loving the local church. It paints a picture of the local church in all its biblical and real life guts, gaffes, and glory in an effort to edify local congregations and entice the disaffected back to the fold. It also provides a solid biblical mandate to love and be part of the body of Christ and counteract the "leave church" books that trumpet rebellion and individual felt needs.

In this day and age of anything goes when it comes to "doing church", we (the Body) don't need another trend, program or market-proven formula for making church exciting or attractive to the world. What we need is a return to reverence and awe of the Church that God intended for us to build and be a part of on a local level, not just as an observer/member of the "universal church".

Everyone is familiar with Jesus referring to "the rock" on which He will build His church...

"And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it." ~Matthew 16:18

NOTE: Contrary to what the Roman Catholic church teaches, Peter was not the founding father of the church. Jesus used a sort of play on words when he spoke these words to him. Scripture clearly shows that Christ is the architect, foundation (the "corner stone"), builder and head of the church. Every believer in the Body is one of the "living stones" that make up the church.

This of course is the universal church. However, in Matthew 18:17, the focus is clearly on the local church of which all believers should be a part of. Throughout the book of Acts, we see many references to the origins of local church and then again, in the epistles we see instructions for the local church. Finally, in the book of Revelation, there are specific churches mentioned prior to the consummation of the local church with the New Jerusalem. How we "do" church is not so much as important as what we do with it. There should be no question that the primary purpose of the local church is to preach the Gospel and disciple believers to grow spiritually while sharing the good news with a lost and dying world. Everything else is secondary. We don't make the church look like the world in order to reach the world.

For more on this book, check out Frank Turk's review at the Pyromanics Blog