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Obstacles to Love

Posted on September 17, 2020 at 11:05 AM

Dear Saints,

 

The more I study what it means to love another person like Christ, the more I realize how difficult that may be. Our romantic idea of love is glamorized by books and movies to be something that is exciting for both the person doing the loving and the one receiving that love. But when the excitement wanes or obstacles get in our way romantic love soon disappears. The relationship which follows will often degenerate into a painful experience of defensive maneuvering leading to a subtle but very real hatred. The only way to prevent such a downward spiral is to understand and engage in divine rather than romantic love.

 

Faith in our new identity in Christ gives us the personal hope we need to begin to love others like Christ. Knowing that our own personal needs for love and respect are fully met in Christ allows us the freedom to love and respect others just like Jesus without expecting anything in return. That kind of unconditional and sacrificial love is what is necessary to minister to rather than manipulate others. It is the “high calling of God in Christ Jesus” for all believers and is the core purpose of our lives on earth. Fulfilling that calling brings eternal satisfaction to the soul that nothing on earth can begin to match.

 

But what happens when our efforts to love others are rejected, misunderstood, or somehow blocked by external circumstances over which we have no control? We cannot pretend it does not bother us when this happens but must be honest about our feelings when we are unable to share our love with others. Most likely we will feel hurt and angry because we have not reached a true goal of ministry in that situation. It must have been the way Jesus felt as he wept over Jerusalem prior to the cross. Such feelings are normal but need to be dealt with quickly lest they degenerate into feelings of self-pity and hatred.

 

Coping with the frustration we feel when our goal of loving others is not reached may be referred to as “spiritual trials” in which our faith in our true identity is tested. Such “tests of faith” are not for God to see how much faith we have, but rather to purify and intensify the faith we do have. The end result of such testing is always the increase of love, joy, and peace. The writer of Hebrews calls it “chastening”, or the discipline and training God gives us to prepare us to fulfill his calling. God trains all his children as proof of his love for us as our heavenly Father.

 

Although loving others like Christ is the most satisfying experience a believer can have in the world, it is not without problems and real sacrifice on our part. The author of Hebrews encourages us to “run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross…” That joy or hope is what gave Jesus the strength to endure his sacrifice on the cross and will likewise give us the strength to keep on loving others like Christ despite the obstacles and cost. “Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Spirit.”

 

John

 

 

Supernatural Above

Posted on September 10, 2020 at 1:50 PM

Dear Saints,

 

For over forty years now I have known and taught that our loving others is the sure sign that we are followers of Jesus. At first, I did not really know what exactly that meant nor how to actually do it. Neither did I understand the difference between the divine love we are called to share with others and the natural human love we are used to. But I was sure that God wanted us to love each other regardless of the circumstance we find ourselves in. Slowly my confusion began to clear as I studied the context and specific words of Jesus new commandment to love in John 13: 34, 35, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have love you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”

 

The first thing I discovered was that this command to love others was a “new commandment”. It was not to be taken simply as a continuation of the command under the old covenant to “love your neighbor as yourself”. What made this command new was Jesus’ explanation, “as I have loved you”. That little adverbial phrase describes the way we are to love as being just like Jesus loves. It tells us that our love for others is to be supernatural (just like Jesus) rather than in our own natural abilities. This new commandment calls us to a much higher level of divine love as opposed to the natural human love we can muster up in ourselves.

 

To love others with a divine love requires the power of the indwelling Spirit that Jesus went on to promise us in the same context as his new command. Through the work of the indwelling Comforter we can love like Jesus loves us. That means we can love with the divine love of God rather than rely on our natural human love. Instead of the natural conditional love (loving those who behave themselves) we can love unconditionally like God. With the comfort of the Spirit we can love sacrificially rather than only when it is convenient and even make the first move to love other just like God loved us first. In addition we can love consistently regardless of the circumstance we must face while doing so.

 

Perhaps the most important characteristic of divine love, however, is that it is intelligent and does what is best for the one loved. Rather than the simple romantic love that seeks to make others feel good, divine love does what is best regardless of the cost. It is this quality of God’s love (sometimes referred to as “tough love”) that keeps us from falling into co-dependency and simply enabling the dysfunction of those we seek to love. The intelligent nature of divine love demands the personal leadership and power of the indwelling Spirit more than any other. To say and do what is best for another in any given situation requires the insight and personal direction that can only come form Jesus himself.

 

To obey the new commandment of Jesus requires an intimate and ongoing relationship with him. It is not simply a matter of trying as hard as we can to live up to certain standards, but rather the spontaneous and effortless flow of the character of Christ to those around us. Through the power and direction of the indwelling Spirit of God we can display the love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and self-control known as the “fruit of the Spirit” in all our relationships. It is this display of the character of Christ that tells others we are his disciples.

 

John

 

Listening to Jesus

Posted on September 3, 2020 at 11:20 AM

Dear Saints,

 

In the middle of all the current chaos of social unrest, political division, and pandemic fears there is a “still, small voice” of hope that can comfort and direct all who will listen. It is the voice of Jesus expressed by his indwelling Spirit in every believer who will be still long enough to hear it. It offers both comfort and direction to those who are willing to trust it. It is the personal assurance and work of the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth. Despite the abounding deceptions and lies in today’s world the promise of Jesus concerning the Holy Spirit not only being with us but also living in us is our greatest source of hope.

 

Just before he left us in this world Jesus promised his disciples He would send them another Comforter to be with them and in them. He fulfilled that promise on the day of his resurrection from the dead when he breathed on them and said, “Receive ye the Holy Spirit” (John 20: 22). From that time forward all who are born of the Spirit by faith in Jesus are given the indwelling Spirit of Christ to teach them, remind them, guide them into all truth, and make Jesus real to them. It is the indwelling Spirit of God that grants us the ability to hear the voice of Jesus in our everyday lives and gives us the power to complete the mission he gives each of us in this world.

 

Although we have been given the gift of the indwelling Spirit, not all of us learn to appreciate and use that gift. Just last night I gave my grandson a rifle for his 12th birthday to use for his shooting competitions next year. Although he has the gift it will do him no good at all if he chooses to leave it in the closet and never use it (no real chance of that happening). Likewise, we have been given the gift of the indwelling Spirit of Christ, but we must choose to use that gift to fully appreciate it and put it to use in our lives. Learning to hear and follow the personal leadership of the indwelling Spirit in our everyday lives will give us the confidence and boldness we need to face these trying times.

 

After 40-plus years of pastoral counseling I have become somewhat “unshockable” when it comes to the problems people get into in this life. No matter what the issue is or how bad the circumstances the basic question is not what I think or say, but what God is saying that counts. Much of my counsel concerns helping Christians learn to listen to that still, small voice so they can receive the comfort and direction Jesus promised. Because Jesus is the Counselor we must learn to hear his voice to receive the comfort and direction we need, especially in this chaotic world. This does not mean that human comfort and advice is not needed or useful, but that it must give precedence to the voice of Jesus.

 

Receiving the comfort and direction from the Father has always been desperately needed but even more so in these chaotic times we are living through. As we are personally assured of our own worth we are empowered to love and encourage others in our homes, on our jobs, and in our communities. To be confident in the power of God in ourselves gives us hope for those around us as well. Listen to his voice.

 

John

 

Attack and Blessing on the Family

Posted on August 26, 2020 at 3:20 PM

Dear Saints,

 

Because the family system was designed by God to reflect his character of love it is little wonder that we have so much opposition. From the creation account in Genesis we learn that God intends to use the family system but the Enemy immediately tried to destroy that system through a subtle attack deceiving the woman and tempting the man. Using one of the most beautiful creatures God had made, the serpent, Satan deceived the woman into thinking that she really needed that forbidden fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. From the Genesis account of this attack we learn that this particular creature, the serpent, was radically different than the snakes of today in that it was able to communicate with Eve. Besides its beauty and ability to speak it most likely walked upright and developed a close relationship with the first couple.

 

Behind that talking family “pet” was Satan working out his plan to destroy the family system and usurp the authority of God. By emphasizing the negative command not to eat of the fruit, Satan deceived the woman into thinking that God was keeping her from something she thought she had to have. The deception was complete when the woman saw that the forbidden fruit was good to eat, something that would give her pleasure, and something she needed to be as wise as Adam. The lie created by the Enemy was that she needed more than what God had already given her to make her complete. Acting on that lie she took the fruit and ate it in direct rebellion to God’s command.

 

Notice that when the woman ate the forbidden fruit nothing happened. She didn’t fall over dead, so when she gave it to her husband to eat it looked like the smart snake was right. It wasn’t till Adam ate the fruit that the full consequences of their sin took its toll on them individually as well as the family system. Adam’s sin of unbelief was not so much concerning the forbidden fruit, but in his choosing the woman over God. While Eve was deceived, Adam made the choice to obey his wife rather than God. Eve’s unbelief was “I will be worthy if I eat the fruit” while Adams unbelief was “I will be worthy if I can keep my wife”. Both failed to trust God for their needs, but Adam was held responsible for their sin.

 

The immediate effect of their sin is seen in the way their own self image changed. Their eyes were open to their own nakedness and they both were ashamed and afraid. The change in their self image was from innocence to guilty and their selfishness increased as they shifted the blame for their sin onto others. Adam blamed his wife and she blamed the smart snake. Neither one of them accepted responsibility for their action but were afraid of God. Their only unity appears to be in trying their best to cover their own nakedness by sewing fig leaves together to cover their nakedness. This attempt to cover their nakedness is symbolic of our natural efforts to make ourselves look good through acts of self-righteousness.

 

Their pitiful attempt to cover their shame may have given them both a temporary sense of security and respect, but when faced with the presence of God they hid themselves in the very garden God had made for them. Calling out to Adam God demonstrated his unconditional love for his fallen children. He wasn’t playing a game of hide ‘n seek with them, but rather was pointing out their inability to save themselves. After explaining the consequences of their sin He gave what is called by theologians the “protoevangelium” or the “first gospel” in Genesis 3:15. There he promised that although the “seed of the serpent” would “bruise his heel” (a reference to the cross) the “seed of the woman” (Christ) would “crush” the head of the serpent. Despite his ability to cause pain in the family system; Jesus, as the promised seed, would bless all families of the earth with a final victory.

 

John

 

Enjoy the Storm

Posted on August 18, 2020 at 10:00 AM

Dear Saints,

 

We are living through some trying times. The pandemic is threatening us physically, economically, and socially. The political rhetoric is growing more intense and hateful, especially in this election year. The violence is escalating in our streets and communities and people are nervous and naturally looking for someone (other than themselves of course) to blame. It’s like we are in a raging storm with nothing but chaos and confusion all around us. As followers of Christ what are we to do? Most of us feel helpless in the face of the overwhelming spiritual darkness around us and are amazed at how quickly things seem to go from bad to worse.

 

In Matthew 14: 23-33 we have a familiar story in the life of Peter that serves to illustrate the hope we have despite the storm around us. It took place just before dawn in the middle of a life-threatening storm on a lake Peter had fished many times before. As a commercial fisherman, Peter had a full knowledge of the inherent dangers of being caught in a storm at night. No doubt his experience told him he was in trouble just trying to stay afloat till daybreak. Being helplessly tossed around by the wind and waves of the sea put him in a survival mode. Sound familiar? These trying times have put us all in a survival mode to one degree or another.

 

True to his form, it was in the darkest hour that Jesus came to his worried disciples. How often have we been at the end of our rope in total despair before Jesus shows up to save us? In the midst of their storm Jesus came to them walking on the water! It’s unlikely that any of those men expected Jesus to show up, much less walking on the water, so they were naturally afraid and thought they were seeing a ghost. Their cries of fear prompted Jesus to give them words of comfort and they began to recognize who he was. We don’t know how long he had been with them in the storm before they recognized him, but we do know that he was willing to come to them in the midst of their storm. Likewise, we may also be assured that Jesus is with us in the midst of our storms as well. Whether we recognize him or not, Jesus has promised to meet us in the middle of our storms in life. As our own faithful high priest he knows exactly what we are experiencing and how to comfort us. He has promised that he would be with us always and would never forsake us no matter how fierce the storm.

 

 

When Peter heard Jesus identify himself as the “I Am” he understood that he was no longer in just a fierce storm on the sea. He recognized he was in the presence of the sovereign creator and sustainer of the universe, his Lord. He saw Jesus as being much greater than the issues that terrified him in the storm. So he asked Jesus literally to command him to come to him on the water. Note this request carefully. Peter did not ask Jesus to get in the boat with him. Neither did he ask him to calm the sea or get rid of the wind. He didn’t ask him to eliminate the storm, but rather to allow him to be like Jesus in the storm. The point here is that Jesus is more concerned with giving us the experience of walking supernaturally like him than he is with making our lives more comfortable.

 

In response to Peter’s request Jesus simply said, “Come”. He immediately answered Peter’s desire to walk with him by commanding him to come. This tells us something of the willingness of Jesus to allow us to experience his own joy and comfort even in the midst of overwhelming circumstances. Peter was exhausted, frightened, frustrated, and sick of the storm and his own efforts to save himself. He saw Jesus walking miraculously and victoriously on the water without any fear or frustration and Peter wanted that kind of walk. Despite his natural conditioning as a fisherman and against his common sense and his own knowledge of good and evil he wanted to walk like Jesus. And Jesus said come! He offers the same to all of us today… “Come walk with me in the middle of your storms!”

 

John

 

No Complaining

Posted on August 13, 2020 at 11:05 AM

Dear Saints,

 

It’s easy for me to complain about the world falling apart and our nation “going to hell in a handbasket”. Politicians are corrupt liars, bureaucrats are lazy and selfish, and corporate executives are greedy and uncaring. The media focus is only on the negative and sensational, the rhetoric divisive, and the propaganda is confusing. Although I have learned to avoid a steady diet of the 24-hour news cycle on television I still get caught in the turmoil of social media and have to fight a sense of discouragement and hopelessness daily. Naturally, I think the best thing for me to do is complain about the things I don’t like believing that the more I complain the sooner things will get better.

 

But let’s carry that attitude a bit further. Getting no results from my own complaints I might search the complaints of others for those that are similar, if not exactly, like mine. The collective complaint is sure to carry more weight than an individual complaint, so I find a modicum of encouragement from others who complain as much as I do. We might even form a complaint club and encourage each other in discovering new ways to complain about the same things. If I add to the club a corrupt politician or two backed by a wealthy corporate executive and create some novel sensation for the media to feed on, my complaint club has turned into a movement.

 

As Christians we have every political right to play such games. But Paul’s advice in Philippians 2: 14 offers a better way to live, “Do all things without murmurings and disputing’s.” For most of us this advice seems to be impossible since there is so much wrong in the world around us and our only option seems to be complaining about it. In fact, if we followed this advice we might find ourselves without anything to talk about at all. Hence, another of Paul’s one liner advice in 1 Thessalonians 4: 11, “And that ye study to be quiet…” Not only are we advised to quit complaining and arguing, but also to keep our mouth shut!

 

Is Paul against free speech? Not at all. He is against hate speech. In Ephesians 4: 29 he urges us to, “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace to the hearer.” Corrupt communication is that which is meant to tear another person down, a fitting description of the majority of what is passed off as “news” today. Instead of tearing people down with our words we can actually build them up by the grace of God. Only words motivated by authentic faith and genuine love will minister grace to the hearers and edify them personally.

 

Instead of simply complaining about the people and things that we consider to be wrong in the world, we have the potential to speak words that will make a real difference. We can actually keep our mouth shut long enough to hear the indwelling Spirit assure us that we are ok despite the craziness around us. That assurance will give us the hope we need to actually speak life words to build others up. Even those with whom we disagree are people who need to be treated with the love and respect that will build them up personally and minister grace to them. Rather than magnify the problems by our complaints we can begin to find solutions by listening to the Spirit assure us personally and teach us what to say and do to love others.

 

John

 

A Chance to Shine

Posted on August 6, 2020 at 10:55 AM

Dear Saints,

 

From the moment Adam ate the forbidden fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil human nature has remained totally depraved and wicked from generation to generation. Each child born into this world as a natural descendant of Adam inherits that selfish and self-centered nature that reveals itself in the various “works of the flesh” described by Paul in Galatians 5: 19-21 as, “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these, adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revelings, and such like:”. Not a pretty picture of humanity.

 

Although we may devise and try a variety of plans to cover up the flesh (Adam and Eve tried fig leaves) nothing we do can change that depraved character. No amount of religious rituals and activities or disciplined willpower is sufficient to eliminate the selfish and self-serving desires of our nature. This is why Jesus told the religious ruler he had to be born again. We were born once into this world as a natural descendant of Adam and the only way to eliminate that nature is to be born again as a child of God.

 

Like the ruler, Nicodemas, most people are confused by the idea of being born again because their ignorance of the spiritual realm keeps them from recognizing the work of God in their lives. The good news is that God has done everything necessary to make them a new person with a new nature in Christ. What Nicodemas did not understand at the time was that God was creating a new human race in Christ that would share his character because the old humanity was corrupt and condemned. Our faith in Christ allows us to experience the reality of that new birth and gives us a new nature which Paul calls the “fruit of the Spirit” in Galatians 5: 22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and self-control”.

 

Looking at the world today it is obvious that evil is abounding. Even in our own “Christian” nation the “works of the flesh are manifest” yet more and more in every area of our culture. Because such evil originates from the depraved nature of the human race no amount of human effort can produce effective solutions. As Paul testified in Romans 7 our knowledge of good and evil combined with our own willpower to do what is right and refrain from doing what is wrong will always end in failure. Only the supernatural power of the indwelling Spirit of God can overcome that old nature we inherited from Adam and produce in us the character of Christ.

 

What is needed now more than ever are believers who are committed to “walking in the Spirit”. The promise Paul gives in Galatians 5: 16 is our greatest hope during these perilous times, “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” While not everyone, even among those who believe, will seek to be led and empowered by the Spirit of God to produce the “fruit of the Spirit”, those who do will shine as lights in the darkness with the very character of Christ.

 

John

 

Do Not Worry, Love Others

Posted on July 30, 2020 at 1:10 PM

Dear Saints;

 

One of the main problems I have with walking by faith is that it has a tendency to cause me to worry so much! Because faith is “the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen” it is impossible to walk by faith and see how everything is going to work out. In fact, the more I want to walk by faith the more evidence I see that things are not going to work out. I can imagine how they could work out, but I’m usually disappointed as one scheme after another seems to fall apart. This walking by faith business is really a pain in the butt sometimes!

 

I think this is why Jesus broke it down for us in the Sermon on the Mount when he calls on us to quit worrying about our lives so much. Using the analogy of the birds and wildflowers in nature, he illustrates the faithfulness of God to meet our needs continuously. Reminding us that no amount of worry can change us in anyway, he calls on us to focus our attention on God’s kingdom and his righteousness instead. Living “on the edge” like most of us do, this admonition to stop worrying is just as relevant today as it was when Jesus gave this sermon 2000 years ago.

 

Jesus hits the nail on the head when he refers to us as, “ye of little faith”. This is not so much a rebuke as it is an explanation of our problem. It’s not that we don’t have enough faith (the faith as small as a mustard seed is enough to move mountains), but that we seldom use the faith we have been given. Rather than trust God to do what he says he will do; we prefer to complain and freak out. Have you noticed that we still worry about things even after God has miraculously provided for us in the past? That’s because faith must be exercised daily rather than just once in a while.

 

Knowing that we are going to worry about our lives each day, Jesus directs us to “seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness”. Instead of thinking about our own needs and planning how we are going to get them met, we are told to seek the kingdom of God. This is the place where God is in charge and makes all the decisions. Seeking this kingdom means that we actually want him to decide what needs to be done regardless of what it may mean to us personally. In addition, we are to seek his righteousness meaning that we are to concern ourselves with living out the life of Christ in the midst of our circumstances. Our lives are much more than what we have and experience in this physical world, we are really awesome spirit beings who are inseparably joined to Christ. We are not here to be comfortable and have a good time, but to be Christ to others! We are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus unto good works which he before ordained that we should walk in them. We will fulfill his purpose in our lives no matter what.

 

Focusing our attention on who we really are and why we are here is the exercise of faith that guarantees we will have all that we need to get the job done. Instead of worrying about what is going to happen to us tomorrow, we are called to deal with who we are and what our purpose is today. Do you have what you need to love others like Christ right now? Can you actually care about others around you today? We have enough problems to deal with today; don’t worry about those that are coming tomorrow. Our high calling of God in Christ Jesus is summarized by the new command to love others like Christ. That we can do no matter what circumstances we face each day. Today I have a choice: love others like Christ or worry about how I am going to make it. Exercising that tiny faith, I have been given, I choose to love others believing the promise of God to meet my needs. I’ll face tomorrow the same way…seeking first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.

 

John

 

The Rapture

Posted on July 23, 2020 at 1:20 PM

Dear Saints,

 

The next major event on the prophetic calendar is what is referred to as the rapture of the saints. Although the word rapture is not actually used in the Bible it conveys the idea of “a catching away” referred to by Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4: 15-18, “For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall arise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” This event is the beginning of the second coming of Jesus to this world and will have global effects the world has never witnessed.

 

Space does not permit a full explanation of the rapture here but the fact that it will occur is not up for speculation as far as the Bible is concerned. Although there are many scoffers that doubt such an event could or would occur Jesus promised his disciples that he would come again to receive us unto himself. All the writers of the New Testament make mention of Jesus’ return and John gives a detailed description of it in the Revelation of Jesus Christ. The promise of the second coming of Christ is foundational to our hope as believers and the idea of the rapture of the saints gives us comfort in the midst of dark times such as these.

 

My understanding of the rapture along with what immediately follows in this world has been solidified by the recent events of the Coronavirus pandemic. When every believer in the world is instantly changed and caught up to meet Jesus in the air the world will view that it as a catastrophic event that mysteriously caused the death of millions. Since flesh and blood (our physical bodies) cannot inherit the kingdom those who are raptured will likely leave behind their physical bodies to return to dust. In the ensuing chaos the world will seek a rational explanation for such an event and likely conclude that these people died of some kind of global pandemic rather than believe that Jesus called them to join him in the air.

 

The removal of all believers from this world will also remove the presence and influence of the Spirit of Truth setting the stage for the “the Wicked One” to be revealed “whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders”. The anti-christ or “man of sin”, the “son of perdition”, will establish his rule over all the world in opposition to God and reveal himself as God. At last, the hidden agenda of the “New World Order” will be fully established under the power of the final world dictator and his government. Many will be deceived and put their trust in the ability of humanity to save the world.

 

Because God is gracious the rapture of the saints will be followed by a seven-year period of tribulation like the world has never seen before. It is like Jesus will grab the world by their deaf ears and shake them awake to his power and willingness to save them from themselves. During this horrific time many will turn to the Lord for salvation while Jesus systematically destroys the anti-christ and his kingdom and comes to establish his own kingdom of righteousness. Yes, the future hold many earthshaking events, but the ultimate end is righteousness and peace.

 

John

 

Babes and Brats

Posted on July 15, 2020 at 1:30 PM

Dear Saints,

 

What concerns me most about our culture today is not the blatant ungodliness (the inability to trust God) in every sector of our society, but the condition of the modern church. Besides the obvious problems associated with the manmade institutional church substituting religiosity for true spirituality and genuine religious entertainment for genuine love, the modern church today is filled with spiritual “brats”. These are believers in Jesus who have been born again but still think, feel, and act like the same old persons they have always been. They are “babes in Christ” in need of the “sincere milk of the Word” as Peter calls it so they can grow in grace and knowledge of the Lord.

 

The problem with such “brats” is their inability to walk out their new life in Christ. Being ignorant of who God has made them to be in Christ and all that he has done to meet their every need, brats continue to “walk as men” or live the natural self-centered lifestyle of law and lies. Relying on their own knowledge of good and evil rather than the personal leadership of the Spirit brats are most susceptible to the delusional power of the Enemy and vulnerable to his “seducing spirits” and “doctrines of demons”. Brats worry me more than the obvious enemies of the cross because they can turn on you thinking they are doing God a favor. Not having a solid foundation in the gospel they are easily led stray into the natural coping strategies of the flesh.

 

The most serious problem with brats in the church today is not simply their ignorance of the gospel of grace, but that they are often recognized and promoted as leaders in the body of Christ. Like the condition of the ancient Pharisees Jesus referred to as “the blind leading the blind”, religious people who depend on their own performance and the approval of others around them for their sense of worth tend to proselyte other babes in Christ. This is not a new phenomenon in the modern church but has been a real issue from the very start. Paul’s letter to the Galatian churches warned of those who would teach another of a different kind of gospel message insisting that faith alone in what God says he has done for us in Christ is not sufficient to make us acceptable to God.

 

To fight this growing problem believers need to literally “grow up”. The “milk of the Word” Peter referred to is all the Bible says about what God has and is doing for us in Christ. Spiritual babes need that milk to grow and thrive. But as they mature in the Lord they can take in the “meat of the Word” which is all the Bible says God intends to do through each of us to love others like Christ. Babes who only take in the milk will soon become selfish brats and are easily led astray whereas those who begin to take in the meat not only continue their growth in grace and knowledge of the Lord, but also begin to realize their full potential in Christ. The best way to ensure your spiritual growth is to follow the personal leadership of the Spirit in loving others like Christ.

 

What is desperately needed in every sector of our society today is mature believers who are not only born of God but know him well enough personally to love others around them. Rather than compete with and/or avoid those who are immature brats we need strong believers who will challenge their faulty belief systems, comfort their insecurities, and support their spiritual growth and development. Now is the time for us to “shine as lights in this world” as we live “in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation”. Our dependence on God and love for others will make us more than conquerors despite the overwhelming opposition against us.

 

John

 


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