Yesterday, my brother-in-law, Nathan Williams, asked some questions on his blog about men and their thoughts on modesty. I tried to respond but for some reason his spam filter kept telling me my comment seemed spammy and wouldn’t let it be posted. So I sent it to him in e-mail to see if he could get it posted. He decided to post it as his blog entry today. Thanks, Nathan, for posting that. And I appreciate you striving to protect my rep by keeping it anonymous. However, I think one of the reasons we keep hearing from church after church about men falling, especially preachers and elders, is because we act like none of us ever have any real problems with lust.
relying on God
“You shall have no other gods before me.”
YHWH’s words to the Israelites at the beginning of the 10 commandments. Though we are under the New Covenant and not the 10 commandments, God still deserves to be first. But is He? Do I have other gods before the true and living God? How would I know? Here are 6 questions to help you decide if you have something in the place of God.
I have a question for you. Who killed Goliath? (If you don’t know the story of Goliath click here: 1 Samuel 17:1-54.)
David walked on the battlefield. David chose the stone. David swung the sling. David aimed the sling. David slung the stone. David wielded the sword. But who killed Goliath? According to David, God did (cf. 1 Samuel 17:46-47). What a great lesson we gain from this. King Saul wanted David to rely on his armor. That is, he wanted David to rely on the strength of a man. But Saul, though he was head and shoulders above all the Jews, must have known how useless that was. After all, he hadn’t stepped out to face Goliath. David refused to rely on his own strength or his own armor. Instead, he relied on God’s strength.
If we want to face the giants in our lives, we have to learn to rely on God’s strength. But what does that look like? Notice that for David, relying on God’s strength didn’t look like sitting at the edge of the battlefield with legs folded in on themselves, eyes closed, and arms upraised with the thumbs touching the middle-fingers, just waiting on God to send fire from heaven. It meant that David chose a stone, slung a stone, and chopped off a head. To the casual observer it may not have looked like God doing anything. But David did all these things because he was actually relying on God’s strength.
With that in mind, here are 10 practical ways for you to rely on God’s strength every day as you face your giants. These are the ways for you to choose your stones, sling your rocks, and chop of your giant’s head by relying on God.
Way #1: Give Up
I know this sounds odd. But the first practical thing you have to do if you want to beat the giants is give up…surrender. But not to the giants, to God. Today and next Monday, I am going to share 9 other practical ways to rely on God’s strength, but if we don’t get this first point about our attitude and motive right, the others won’t help us. According to 2 Corinthians 12:10, we are only strong when we are weak. Only when we recognize we can’t win will we truly give ourselves over to God and let Him win the victories through us.
If you are like me, you may have tried numerous things to make yourself stronger. “Maybe if I read my Bible more, I’ll be strong enough. Maybe if I pray more, I’ll be strong enough. Maybe if I ‘go to church more,’ I’ll be strong enough.” Do you notice who I’m still focused on there? I’m focused on me being strong enough. I’m still relying on my strength. I’m essentially choosing to put on Saul’s armor and hoping that will help me defeat the giants. I need to recognize I’m not strong enough and, therefore, give up fighting. Instead of doing things to make me strong enough. I need to do things that will connect me to God because He is strong enough.
Way #2: Walk in God’s Presence
1 Thessalonians 5:17 says we should “pray without ceasing.” But I don’t want to simply call this tool, “Prayer.” Maybe we can call it “Prayer 2.0.” We need to take prayer to the next level. Instead of praying because it is the daily Christian homework assignment, pray because you are convinced God is right there with you listening. Envision Him as a you would a friend sitting across the table from you or walking beside you. Talk to Him because He is there.
Start your day talking to Him in prayer. Could you imagine waking up next to your spouse, walking around the house with her/him, eating breakfast, getting ready, and never saying a word? I can imagine that. Sadly, it has happened at my house. When? When things were bad. When someone is in our presence and we aren’t talking to them, it means something is wrong with that relationship. So get up and tell God, “Good morning. Please stay with me today.” Tell Him anything else that is on your mind. When you go to bed at night, tell Him, “Good night. Thanks for being with me today.” Tell Him anything you need to unload before going to sleep.
Talk with Him while you go through your day. Share what you are about to do. Ask Him to help with the decisions you are about to make. Follow-up with thanks for blessings that occur. If you fall, talk to Him about why it happened. This helps because it’s hard to gossip about your co-worker if you begin by asking God if He thinks it’s okay. It’s hard to look down a woman’s flapping shirt if you first run it by God to see what He thinks about it.
Way #3: Give Thanks
1 Thessalonians 5:18 says we should give thanks in every circumstance. No doubt, this is part of walking in God’s presence, but it is so important that I want to give it its own special recognition.
Let’s face it. Bad things happen to us all the time. We live in a fallen world. People sin. Because of sin, bad things are going on and we suffer for it. When bad things happen and even good things don’t go my way, I begin to get a little bitter. How about you? I begin to get resentful. I resent my wife, my kids, my friends, my co-workers, my neighbors, my brethren. Worst of all, I begin to resent God. I start to think maybe He is picking on me. Why won’t He let things go my way? This bitterness and resentment leads me to turn away from God and start relying on me. After all, if I don’t take care of me, who will? But this always leads me into sin. When I’m taking care of me, I always get trampled by the giants.
One of the best pieces of advice I have ever received is about writing a gratitude list. Start your day with one. End your day with one. Maybe even in the middle of the day remind yourself with one. You can obviously just pray your list. But on tough days I urge you to write your list down. Something about writing it makes it real.
What are you thankful for today? Breathing, walking, eating, clothing, cars, home, friends, wife, kids, job, church, ability to read, ability to speak, ability to move, opportunity to read “God’s Way Works”… This list can go on and on. As I unload all the blessings I have received, I begin to realize God isn’t picking on me. I really don’t have it that bad. Actually, lots of things are going my way. Maybe I don’t need to turn to my sins after all. Maybe I can ignore them for another day.
Way #4: Conscious Contact with God through His Word
In Acts 20:32, Paul commended the Ephesian elders to God and the word of His grace. Why? Because it would sanctify them and prepare them for the inheritance God wanted to pass on to them. Like prayer, this was not a daily homework assignment to trudge through and prove they were good enough. It was a source of life. If only God can beat the giants, then connect to Him in His word.
Don’t read the Bible like a newspaper, just trying to get through the day’s news. Listen to God’s word for the help it is offering. Find passages that help you in certain situations and return to them again and again as needed. I return to Psalm 119:145-152 over and over again to remind me that I don’t observe God’s testimonies so He will save me, but I need Him to save me so I will observe His testimonies. I go to Psalm 141:1-5 repeatedly in the face of temptation to remind me to ask for God to take over, setting a guard over me and providing me with others who will provoke me to righteousness. I go to Isaiah 40:28-31 to remind me that God is with me and will get me through whatever I’m facing. I go to Psalm 18:1-3 to remind me how great God is. God’s word really does give life when we use it as a life-giving connection to God instead of a dead homework assignment.
Way #5: Pack the Right Bags
Romans 13:14 says, “…make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” Providing for the flesh is not the same as pursuing the flesh. “Making provision” is a picture of getting ready for a trip. When you are going on a trip you to have to make your provisions. That is, you have to pack your bags, plan your lodging, prepare your food, get your money together. You can’t possibly take your trip to Disney World if you haven’t made provisions for that trip. But making the provisions is not exactly the same as the trip itself. So, quit asking yourself if what you are about to do is actually a fleshly, sinful trip. Maybe it isn’t. But maybe it is packing your bags for one. Don’t do that either.
Sometimes the giants beat us because we rely on our own strength. That is, we pack our bags and make provisions to travel in the flesh. We think we can do that for a while but keep from actually taking the trip. The fact is if we pack our bags to travel into the flesh, we are going to submit to the flesh. We just aren’t that strong. Relying on God’s strength means packing our bags to travel with the Spirit. We make preparations to walk in the Spirit and by the Spirit.
Consider an example. Going to a buffet is not the same as committing gluttony (I choose this as an example because I still haven’t met anyone who ever commits, or should I say confesses to, gluttony). Is it a sin to eat at a buffet? No. Can some people eat at a buffet and not commit gluttony? Absolutely. But what if your giant was gluttony. What if it was whooping your backside every time you came onto the battlefield? Then eating at your local Chinese buffet is going to be packing your bags to walk in the flesh. Don’t spend all your time defending how eating there isn’t a sin. That’s not the issue. If you keep walking into a place where gluttony beats you every time, you are packing your bags to get beat by the giants. Rely on God’s strength instead by packing your bags to walk with Him.
Alright, this has gotten long enough as it is. Thanks for sticking with me this far. Come back next Monday and I’ll provide 5 More Ways to Rely on God’s Strength to Beat Your Giants.
(If you landed on this post without seeing the others in this series, let me explain what is going on here. Thursdays is my day to talk about God’s way for our congregations. Right now I’m in the middle of a series on the Jerusalem church and it’s success. This is the twelfth post in the series. I encourage you to check out the introduction to this series to know more about what is going on and to find an index of the posts in this series as they are put up. Enjoy.)
The Jerusalem Church was Devoted to God
The first great key of Jerusalem’s success was why they were even gathering together as a church to begin with. They were gathering because they were devoted to God. What they did was about God, not about themselves.
They didn’t gather for entertainment. They didn’t gather for social recreation. They didn’t become a part of the church for social status. If they did, they wouldn’t last long. Pretty quickly, the church was going to lose its social standing. Persecution would begin and being a Christian would no longer be popular or cause increased favor with the people. These Christians didn’t stay with the church because of its felt-needs based ministries. They didn’t stick around because of what it provided for their kids. These folks were part of this church because they were devoted to God.
On the day of Pentecost, they had been convicted that they crucified the Messiah. In that moment, they were left hopeless, helpless, and despairing. They cried out, “Brothers, what shall we do?” That wasn’t simply a logical question asking, “What must I do to be saved?” That was a despairing cry. “What on earth can we do? We’re doomed.” But surprisingly, Peter had an answer. “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
Can you imagine the shock among the Jews who understood what Peter meant. They could actually receive the gifts promised by the Holy Spirit through their father Abraham. They hadn’t destroyed their hope of salvation through the Messiah after all. Perhaps they had misunderstood what the Messiah intended to bring. Perhaps they had misunderstood what the Messiah really was. But they hadn’t lost all hope. God had provided a way.
No doubt, their devotion to God was born in the midst of this realization. If God had done this for them, despite their having nailed God’s Messiah to a cross and asked for his blood to be on their heads, to whom else would they want to offer loyalty and devotion?
Their Devotion Demonstrated
The devotion of these Jerusalem Christians was demonstrated in four ways.
#1 The Jerusalem Christians were devoted to the doctrine of God; they were devoted to the apostle’s teaching.
It may be hard for us to imagine. Over the past 50 years, since the advent of television, we have become so entertainment oriented and emotionally driven. These Christians did not gather around the apostles because of their wonderful speaking style. They didn’t congregate to hear the apostles because of their comedic timing or their oratorical presence. They gathered to hear the doctrine the apostles would teach. They gathered to hear what God wanted them to do as expressed by the mouthpieces of Jesus Christ.
As the apostles once told Jesus, “To whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (Luke 6:68), these disciples knew the apostles were speaking words of life on the Lord’s authority. Where else would they go?
No doubt there is a place for entertainment. Even Jesus used entertainment as an illustration (Luke 7:32). But if we really want to have the success of the Jerusalem church, we have to be devoted to God’s will and God’s word. We need to devote ourselves to hearing it. We need to devote ourselves to accomplishing it. Why? Because God’s way works.
We need to be a thinking, reasoning people, who consider the teaching of the Lord. We need to be people who weigh the words of those who would speak on God’s behalf. We must not follow the path of our culture becoming mere passive receptacles of other men’s ideas that have been foisted upon us with emotionalism and oratorical skill.
Granted, in our entertainment based society, we may be able to produce churches with 10,000 members through our ability to entertain them. However, if we want to create disciples devoted to God, we have to focus them on the apostle’s doctrine. Otherwise, the church may look like Jerusalem on the roll book, but the members won’t look like Jerusalem Christians in their hearts.
#2 The Jerusalem Christians were devoted to God’s people; they were devoted to fellowship.
The Jerusalem Christians came from their own backgrounds. This was spiritually the opposite of the Tower of Babel. In that day, a people with a common goal were divided because of varying languages. On Pentecost, people divided by their languages were brought together by a common goal. This means the individuals had their own lives, their own livelihoods, their own plans and purposes. However, on Pentecost all of that was superseded by their desire to have forgiveness in Christ. Suddenly that meant a change in their community.
Now, instead of being Parthian Jews, Median Jews, Elamite Jews, Mespotamian Jews, and so on, they were disciples of Jesus Christ. They had a new community. They had a new sense of belonging. They got their identity from a new group. This was going to engender new traditions, new ways of thinking, new values, and especially new friends (or perhaps I should say new family).
Please do not be misled by the modern idea of fellowship. When we hear fellowship we immediately jump to potluck suppers and pick-up games of basketball. The Jerusalem church didn’t build a hall for recreation and call it fellowship. No, we see their fellowship in Acts 2:44-45. They were one now and they cared for each other as one. They were a community and they had all things in common. Some Christians even went so far as to sell their own land to care for Christians in need. Why not? They were family. Though, no doubt these sellers were local and the needy were likely from faraway lands, separated from their livelihood, they saw each other as “one of us.”
Further, we some sense of fellowship accomplished together as a congregation. They met in the temple daily with one another, praising God. That is, they jointly participated as a congregation in the work and worship of the Lord. But we also see some sense of fellowship that was not accomplished together as a congregation but pursued outside the congregational setting because they were members of the same community. They met in each other’s homes, eating together and continuing their praise of God together.
If we want to have the Jerusalem success, we have to learn this devotion to God’s people.
#3 The Jerusalem Christians were devoted to God’s mercy; they were devoted to the breaking of bread.
This is not saying the Jerusalem Christians were devoted to eating. This is not reference to what was going from house to house, taking their meals. No, this was the first reference to “the bread that we break” (I Corinthians 10:16). This refers to the Lord’s Supper. The Jerusalem Christians were devoted to this memorial.
Of course they would be. What better object of devotion than the greatest reminder of God’s love and mercy. These folks had become disciples, but they hadn’t become perfect. They were growing, but they still made mistakes and sinned. They needed a continual reminder of God’s mercy and love for them. They found that in the breaking of bread, the communion.
Each week (yes, I do believe they practiced this weekly), the Christians were reminded of their Savior. What special significance must this memorial have had for these Jewish disciples who had cried out, “His blood be on us and on our children!” (Matthew 27:25). They had meant one thing, but their request was being fulfilled in a completely different sense. They had meant it in violence and reproach, but for these, God was fulfilling it in reconciliation and glory. What special significance must this memorial have had for those few who had actually witnessed the sacrifice. They had seen the body given for them, the blood of the new covenant shed for their forgiveness.
When they partook they remembered what brought them together. It was not their ancestry. It was not their works. It was not their nationality. It was their Savior. They were sinners who needed God’s mercy, so they gathered together devoted to the God who offered it to them.
The Lord’s Supper must never simply be an “act of worship” to check off the list. It is not a sporadic celebration on annual “holy days.” It is a continual memorial. We must be devoted to it. If we let that memorial slip into the background of what we do as a church, we will lose sight of the very thing that makes us a church. We will lose sight of the very reason we are gathered together. We will lose sight of the very need that keeps us turning to Christ. If we will have the success of the Jerusalem church we must be devoted to God’s mercy, we must be devoted to the breaking of bread.
#4 The Jerusalem Christians were devoted to God’s power; they were devoted to prayer.
The Jerusalem Christians understood where real strength was. They understood where the power of forgiveness and victory resided. It resided in God. They were devoted to having God work in them and through them. Therefore, they were devoted to prayer.
Let me ask you, when you hear “devoted to prayer,” does that sound like they got together and did several different things but they always had an opening and a closing prayer? No doubt prayer was a center piece of all that they did. The 120, who had been waiting on the coming of the Holy Spirit, had laid the ground work for this. According to Acts 1:14, they were devoting themselves to prayer with one accord. What does that sound like to you? Does it sound like minutes in prayer or hours? Does it sound like prayer was something they did on occasion in their meetings or does it sound like they had entire meetings just for it.
Sadly, few churches today either understand or truly believe in the power of God and the importance of prayer. Most churches spend more time making announcements than they do praying together. But not Jerusalem. They were devoted to prayer. Their leaders were devoted to prayer. In Acts 6, the apostles refused to take charge of the widow’s care because it would hinder their praying. Wow! How would that go over today?
According to Ephesians 3:20-21, God will do far more abundantly than all we ask or think by His power working in us. But do we realize what that means? It means we need to ask and think big. Prayer must be one of our main devotions if we wish to have the success of the Jerusalem church. Through it we understand that our success is not dependent upon us but upon the strength of God.
The Jerusalem church was strong and successful. But that isn’t indicated by their numbers or their programs. That was indicated by their devotion. They were no whitewashed tombs. They were devoted to God, devoted to His will, His people, His mercy, and His power. If we will have their success we must learn to mirror their devotion.
Are we teaching this enough in our congregations?
I ran across this video the other day and thought I would share. There is only one way to keep the rug from being pulled out from under you. I know this should probably be a Monday post, but I didn’t want to wait until then.
Can you guess what it is?