Archive | September, 2013

Treasuring Christ

13 Sep

“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.” (Matthew 13:44–46, NASB95)

 

These famous parables of Jesus do not teach that a person may buy his salvation. The emphasis is on the value of finding Christ and being part of His kingdom.  The treasure in the field and the pearl of great price were so valuable that each of the men gladly sold every everything to obtain them. That’s the point – the value of Christ.  He is worth everything. He is more valuable than anything.  The Apostle Paul said the same thing only he did not use a parable…

But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ,” (Philippians 3:7–8, NASB95)

 

Years ago, I read a statement in a book that said too many people have the idea that Christ is the means to their treasure.  The truth is that Christ is the treasure. Nothing should stand in the way of your coming to faith in Him.  Don’t let a sin you want to hold onto or the opinion of other people keep you from surrendering to Christ. He is worth it all! No pleasure and no pursuit will mean more than Christ.  He is worth it all.  Treasure Him.  Come to saving faith in Christ today!

Finally, perhaps you are reading these words and you have been a believer for a number of years. Treasure Christ. Make sure He means more to you now than ever before!  Make sure you love Him more than ever before. You have followed Him, and it is worth it all!  Love Jesus, rejoice in Jesus, talk to Jesus, live like Jesus, and talk about Jesus.  He is not a means to your treasure, He is your treasure.

When you are tempted…

8 Sep

“I can resist anything – except temptation!”  – Oscar Wilde

You probably chuckled when you read that statement.  I know that because all of us know what it is like to resist temptation and fail!  However, every single one of us faces struggles and temptations where the consequences of our decisions are enormous.  Every single day in my community (and yours) there are Christians who are tempted to return that Facebook message from their old boyfriend or to take that money from their employer.  You get the picture. This week as I prepared to teach a Sunday school lesson from James 1:13-18 in LifeWay’s Bible Studies for Life curriculum, I was particularly moved as I revisited the issue of temptation.  Please allow me to share two important truths that I gleaned from these verses…

First, our temptations follow a predictable pattern.

No one undergoing a trial should say, “I am being tempted by God.” For God is not tempted by evil, and He Himself doesn’t tempt anyone. But each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own evil desires. Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is fully grown, it gives birth to death.” (James 1:13–15, HCSB)

Some Bible commentators say that v. 14 is an illusion to fishing.  Like a fish is enticed by the bait, so we are drawn away and enticed by what tempts us. Regardless, all of us realize that all temptation begins with some enticement – be it money, sex, pleasure, power, etc.  However, being enticed for a moment is just the beginning of temptation.  If it is not dealt with immediately, then we get fixated and in our minds and hearts we reach the point where we convince ourselves that it is O.K. to go ahead.  That’s the picture painted in v. 15; that is when “desire has conceived and it gives birth to sin.”  It is only after we have internally decided it is acceptable that we externally commit the sin.

Think about it. Think about your greatest temptation.  I am sure that you can immediately identify certain patterns in your temptations. Where are you and what is going on in your life when you feel the temptation most intensely?   Are you alone or with other people?   Are there similar thoughts that continue to enter your mind as justification for yielding to this temptation?   If you can identify your “pressure points” and circumstances that tend to lead you into temptation, then you can identify ways that you can avoid being tempted in the first place. Where you draw your line is where you fight your battle.

Finally, turning to Jesus is the first answer to temptation.

Don’t be deceived, my dearly loved brothers. Every generous act and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights; with Him there is no variation or shadow cast by turning. By His own choice, He gave us a new birth by the message of truth so that we would be the firstfruits of His creatures.” (James 1:16–18, HCSB)

Isn’t that interesting?  James points us to Christ and our salvation when discussing temptation. V. 16 reminds us that most temptation comes from what we perceive to be an unfulfilled need.  Most sin happens when we try to fill a legitimate need in an illegitimate way. Christ is the source that meets our needs, and He never changes and never fails!   Should you have an accountability partner?  Absolutely.  Should you take steps to avoid situations where you can be tempted?  Absolutely.  However, the first place you should always run is to your Redeemer!   He is the giver of everything you need to love Him and live for Him.

Think about a dog that has a bone.  Let’s say that you walk up to that dog and attempt to take the bone away.  What is going to happen?  You’ll get bit every time.  However, let’s say you stop by Publix and buy a fresh, juicy steak.  You walk up to that dog and place the steak on the ground. What will happen?  You can have the bone because the dog has left the bone for something far better!

You see, Christ is far better and far more satisfying than anything that may tempt you.  The more you treasure Christ, the less you will treasure what tempts you. Think about it.

A prayer of repentance

2 Sep

“Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? And who may stand in His Holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood, and has not sworn deceitfully.”   Psalm 24:3-4

“If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:8-9

People who run businesses must diligently keep track of their inventory. May times businesses succeed or fail depending on what is or is not on their shelves.  Our spiritual life is the same way, it will succeed or fail depending on what is on our shelves. How long has it been since you took inventory of your heart and life?

In the passage from Psalm 24, God’s Word makes it clear that we need to focus on Godly living (clean hands) and Godly longing (pure heart).  Have you done things lately that you know a Christian should not do?  Remember that ungodly living results from ungodly longings in our heart.  If you have ungodly longings in your heart, it is probably because you have “lifted up your soul to falsehood.”  Think about that.

The good news is that, even though every Christian still struggles with sin to some degree, there is forgiveness. 1 John 1:9 is a great comfort to the Christian who has sinned. Your fellowship and joy in God can be restored. However, that will not happen as long as you refuse to get honest about the sin in your own life. Take a few minutes and take inventory of your heart and life; then deal with what’s in there.

Several years ago, I read a prayer that a pastor in Georgia was challenging his people to pray daily. I think we need to pray prayers like this more today than ever before…

For as long as it takes, I will pray every day that You, Father God, will make all necessary changes in me, in my relationships, and in my church until such time as You are completely free to pour out Your Holy Spirit upon us in mighty, sustained, Biblically authentic waves of revival, witnessed in:

the lost being saved,
the saved powerfully demonstrating the life of Christ,
and our community impacted unto Godly focus and living