Posted: May 3rd, 2013 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: answers to prayer, believe, believe in Jesus, believing God, delight yourself in the Lord, Difficulties, faith, God's word, marriage, money, pain, pain and suffering, prayer, seeking God, trials | 1 Comment »
I used to pray for “breakthroughs.” For God to do something big, something unmistakeable to change my circumstances. Do you pray that way?
My breakthrough prayers usually sounded something like this: “O Lord, You see my situation! I really need You to come through! I need a breakthrough today!”
If it’s not finances for you, maybe it’s in your marriage you’re praying for a breakthrough. Or with one or more of your kids. Or in your work. Maybe it’s in the area of your health. I’m not suggesting you stop praying for a breakthrough, but I think there’s a better way to pray that’s more in line with how God works.
I can’t speak for you, but I know that when I’m praying for a breakthrough what I’m really saying is this: “God, I’m uncomfortable and I don’t really like it, so I want You to change my hard circumstances to pleasant ones. And I want You to do it today.”
What my breakthrough prayer is revealing is my desire for personal ease and comfort more than my desire to know God better or be conformed to His image. And yet God’s way of dealing with us isn’t to make our lives easier, it’s to make us stronger and better equipped to handle whatever comes. God’s plan is for me to know Him and trust Him to take me through, not out of my difficulties.
Look at the pattern we see in His word. God didn’t stop all the wrongs done to Joseph and then immediately rescue him when he was thrown in prison. God accomplished His purposes as Joseph went through trials not out of them. The same is true for Moses and Abraham and David and Daniel. It’s true for Jesus’ disciples. And it’s true for me and you.
God’s pattern isn’t to take us out of trials, it’s to take us through them. Rather than praying for a “breakthrough” next time, try praying for a “go through.” Trust Him for the grace, power and wisdom to go through the trial. It’s in the trial that we often experience God.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
Posted: April 20th, 2013 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: believe in Jesus, believing God, God's word, priorities, Relationships, Truth, worldview | No Comments »
Do you find it hard to understand why those two brothers in Boston would detonate bombs to kill innocent people? Or how other Muslim terrorists would fly planes into buildings to kill innocent people?
Or how could an abortion doctor from Philadelphia deliver live babies and then cut their spinal cords with scissors to complete the abortion procedure? How could someone commit rape? Why do some people go on looting sprees during natural disasters?
Why are some people in support of higher taxes and others want them lowered? Why do some people devote themselves to serving the poor while others are equally as devoted to accumulating as many material possessions for themselves as they can?
How you live your life and make choices stems from your worldview. In other words, what is the lens through which you view the world? What is it that you truly believe about yourself, about God and about this life?
So how could a terrorist kill innocent people? You first have to understand their worldview to answer that question. Perhaps they feel their god has instructed them to kill those who don’t believe as they do. That would lead them to conclude the people they are killing are in fact not innocent.
How could an abortion doctor kill babies outside the womb? Ultimately, he must believe those babies aren’t fully human. Or that they have no rights. Or that making money from abortions is more important than someone’s life.
Regardless of the question or issue–you must understand someone’s worldview before you can understand their choices.
There’s something even more foundational than someone’s worldview though. And that’s their identity. What do they believe about themselves? Who do they really see themselves as?
There are various aspects to our identity that are all critical. There’s our spiritual identity, our emotional identity, our sexual identity and our personality. There are many factors that go into the development of our identity, but in large measure, I believe it’s determined by the family in which we grew up, authority figures, our view of God and any abuse we may have suffered.
Here’s an example of what I’m talking about–let’s say a little boy grew up in a home with an angry, hard-to-please father. The predominant message at home was “you’ll never amount to anything.” The family attends a legalistic church filled with lots of rules to follow.
When this little boy grows up, it wouldn’t surprise me to learn he lacks self-confidence and views God as a divine disciplinarian who he’s continually disappointed. Outwardly though, he might be an over-achiever. He’s determined to prove everyone wrong by getting straight A’s and doing his best to follow the rules. Try as he might though, he can’t ever shake the feeling that God is disappointed in him.
Now add in any type of abuse and his identity will be even more damaged. Sexual abuse can lead to confusion regarding sexual identity. Emotional abuse can lead to plaguing negative emotions. Any type of abuse can have a powerfully negative influence on our identity.
It may seem like a small thing, but when I was growing up I distinctly remember the day my mother labeled me as “anti-social” because I wanted to stay home rather than going with my parents to a party. The subtle unintended message from my mother was “there’s something wrong with you.” By nature, I enjoy alone time. I’m energized by solitude, not people. I enjoy people, but that’s not where I get my energy. I wonder though–could some of my reluctance to be in situations with lots of new people come from the “anti-social” label I received forty years ago?
Ultimately, the only way to correct our confused or damage identities is to know and believe the truth. What God says about me is true, regardless of what my mother or coach or friends said.
Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)
So what does God say about your spiritual identity? Your sexual identity? Your emotional identity? And your personality? Unless you know it and believe it, you will live in bondage to any abuse you suffered or lies you’ve believed.
And unless you understand all this–you’ll never understand why two brothers could kill innocent people and think they were justified.
Posted: April 11th, 2013 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Fitness, Relationships, Truth | Tags: answers to prayer, believe in Jesus, believing God, delight yourself in the Lord, Difficulties, discouragement, faith, fear, God is good, God's glory, God's love, God's will, God's word, grace, Jesus, seeking God | No Comments »
Yesterday, we talked about taking a spiritual fitness test. If we’re honest, most of us would say we’re not doing as well as we’d like to do. At least that’s what I’d say. I’d always like to be further along. I’d like to bear more fruit. I’d like to be less tempted by the same old sins. I’d like to know God better than I do.
Can you relate?
Today, let’s look at the only way we’ll ever truly make progress in the Christian life. The “secret” is found in John 15. You can read the whole chapter here. We’re just going to look at one verse though. Verse 5 says:
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
It’s really that simple. Remaining in Jesus results in a life that bears much fruit.
The secret isn’t working harder or longer. It’s not trying harder. It’s not following a list of rules.
The secret is to remain in Jesus. So how do we do that?
Let’s take a look at a few passages that might help…
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness… (Matthew 6:33)
When asked which commandment was the most important, Jesus said:
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
Let’s not ever lose sight of this very simple truth: God is a person who wants to be loved and sought after.
He doesn’t need our love or attention. He doesn’t need us for anything. But He does want us. He wants us to love Him and seek Him and make Him our top priority. He wants us to surrender total control of our lives to Him. That’s what it means to remain in Him–surrendering to Him and loving and seeking Him.
Then as we remain in Him, we bear much fruit as He produces His life in us and through us and we become more like Him.
Apart from Him, we can do nothing.
It’s a very simple concept. It’s just not easy to practice. Naturally, we don’t want to surrender. We want to maintain control over our lives. We think we know what’s best for us. We’re not always convinced God is looking out for us. And so we assume control and go our own way…which always results in less fruit, less of the life we really want.
If you’re not happy with where you are, if you’re continuing to struggle with sin, if life seems void of joy and peace and purpose…then it’s time to get reattached to the vine. And then remain there by seeking Him. Remain there by making your love relationship with Christ more important than anything else.
The branch just remains and bears whatever fruit the vine produces.
Posted: April 10th, 2013 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Fitness, Relationships, Truth | Tags: answers to prayer, believe, believing God, confusion, Difficulties, discouragement, faith, forgiveness, God's character, God's word, Holy Spirit, Jesus, marriage, seeking God | 2 Comments »
Yesterday, my 17-year-old son and I took a fitness test. It’s the first step in the 60-day Insanity workout program. We’ll repeat the test every two weeks so we can chart our progress.
I thought the test was hard! My son outscored me on every exercise. My wife and daughter also took the test and I’m not sure I want to know how I compared to them. I’m okay coming in second, but I don’t want to be fourth! Of course the object of the test isn’t to compare myself to others. It’s to set a benchmark so I can see my own progress.
So this test got me thinking about spiritual fitness. What would it be like to take a spiritual fitness test? Not to compare myself to others, but to simply chart my own progress. Is their such a test? Does God give tests?
Yes, God does give tests. Here are a few examples…
Genesis 22:1-2 says:
Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!”
“Here I am,” he replied.
Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”
Deuteronomy 8:2 says:
Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.
John 6:5-6 says:
When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.
I Thessalonians 2:3-4 says:
For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you. On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts.
Clearly, God tests us. And 2 Corinthians 13:5-6 says we’re also to test ourselves:
Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test? And I trust that you will discover that we have not failed the test.
So if our goal is to become more and more like Christ, it shouldn’t be too hard to measure our progress, right? Let’s take a look at Philippians 2:3-8…
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!
When it comes to your relationships–how are you doing compared to a year ago? If you’re married, are you becoming less selfish? Are you valuing your spouse above yourself more than you used to? Do your interests come first or do your spouse’s interests more often come first? Do you look out for your own advantage or do you serve your spouse by meeting his or her needs?
When it comes to your character and your emotions–how are you doing? In Galatians 5, we see:
The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
Which are more evident in you–the acts of the flesh or the fruit of the Spirit? Would your spouse agree? Would your children? Your roommate? Your friends or co-workers?
If you test yourself and aren’t happy with your grade–hold on until tomorrow. There’s a very simple way to start improving your “score.”
I didn’t say it’ll be easy. Just simple.
Posted: March 28th, 2013 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: believing God, faith, God's word, Jesus, prayer, priorities, seeking God, sin | No Comments »
For a long time, I’ve assumed it should be easy to seek and find God. I’ve been wrong though.
Can you think of any good or worthwhile activity that’s easy?
Eating healthy and staying in good physical condition requires planning, commitment and hard work. Doing well at your job and advancing in your career can mean long hours and sacrifices in other areas. Getting a college degree requires a big financial investment and years of studying. Having a good marriage requires a lot of time and effort. Having a thick, green, weed-free lawn requires year-round attention.
Anything good requires commitment, sacrifice and hard work. So why would we think any less is required to truly find God and experience Him? And let me take this one step further. I suspect it will require more effort to find God the longer we’ve known Him. If you work out, you know the longer you train the harder you must work to continue seeing gains. I believe the same is true when it comes to God. I’m not suggesting He’s hiding from us, but let’s not make the mistake of thinking God is easy.
Hebrews 11:6 says, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” To seek Him earnestly means to seek with serious effort…and when we do, He rewards us.
And Jeremiah 29:13 says, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” We don’t find Him when we seek Him with minimal, half-hearted effort.
If you want to lose weight and get in better shape, you know it means saying “no” to the potato chips and ice cream and “yes” to healthier foods. It means going to the gym or running three miles rather than sitting on the couch.
What do you need to say “no” to, so you can say “yes” to more time in prayer and reading the Bible? What habits or sins are keeping you from seeking Him with your whole heart?
Galatians 6:7 says, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.”
If we sow little effort in seeking God, we will not find much of Him. If we sow serious, whole-hearted effort, we will find much more of Him.
I believe we can experience as little or as much of God as we’d like. So the question is…
How much of God would you like?
Posted: March 14th, 2013 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Relationships, Truth | Tags: believing God, God is good, God's character, God's love, God's word, seeking God | No Comments »
There’s something we have to understand about God before we can understand anything else. It’s a foundational belief on which all other beliefs are built. And if we fail to correctly understand it, we will misunderstand almost everything about God, ourselves and this life on planet earth. So here it is…here’s the thing we absolutely have to understand…
God is a lover and wants to be loved in return.
That’s it. That’s what we have to grasp. If we don’t, nothing else will make sense. Follow me on this for a moment.
Many people, including many or most atheists, look at the suffering in the world and either decide God doesn’t exist or that He’s evil. And I get that. I understand why they’d feel that way. Millions of people are starving to death. Others are being killed in wars. Women are raped. People are robbed and murdered. Children are abused. The wealthy enjoy life like the poor cannot. Governments are corrupt. The list could go on.
We don’t have to look very far to find enough evidence to conclude God either doesn’t exist or He’s not as good as we’ve been led to believe. I mean if God is truly all-powerful, then a good God would also put an end to suffering, wouldn’t He?
But if it’s true that God is a lover and wants to be loved by us, then free will is a must. And free will means just that–we are free to choose. I am. You are. The rapist is. Everyone is. We all get to choose how we’ll live.
We can choose to love or hate. Give or steal. Serve or be served. Sacrifice or act selfishly. Tell the truth or lie. And we can choose to love God or hate Him or ignore Him or whatever we want to do with Him. It’s our choice.
I suppose the response could be, “Well then I want no part of a God who places being loved over the suffering of human beings.”
And if that’s how you feel–that’s your right. You get to choose what you believe. But if God exists and wants you to love Him in response to His love for you–your opinion of Him or anger at Him isn’t going to change reality. In other words, you can choose to not believe in God because you don’t like Him, but it’s not going to change Him.
Personally, I believe God exists. I don’t believe He’s evil, but I do believe He’s hard to understand sometimes. I also believe He’s good–not based on the current condition of the world, but based on the fact that 2000 years ago, He was nailed to a cross to be punished in my place.
To simply put an end to suffering, God would have to put an end to free will. He’d have to take away our ability to choose, which would take away our ability to love…our ability to love each other or Him. And then it seems like we just may as well not exist.
One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
“Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” (Mark 12:28-34)
I wonder how much suffering would end if we simply did our best to obey the two greatest commandments.
Posted: February 5th, 2013 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: adoption, believe in Jesus, believing God, confusion, God's character, God's love, God's will, God's word, grace, sin | No Comments »
My wife, Robyn, and I have never adopted a child, but we have many friends who have. A very good friend of mine and his wife adopted a little girl a number of years ago who has had some developmental issues. Parenting her has been very difficult at times and she continues to be a challenge.
If I asked my friend, “If you would have known then what you know now–would you still have adopted her?”
I’m pretty sure his response would be something like, “No doubt about it! She’s our daughter.”
I’d like to think I’d be able to answer the same way. And I’m very grateful it’s how God would answer. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul said:
In love, He predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will–to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the one He loves.
That’s a mouthful, I know, but let’s look at what Paul reveals to us about God’s heart toward us. In the previous sentence, we see that God chose us before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. Now we see that He predestined us to be adopted into His family. Before you and I even existed, God chose to adopt us.
Was God surprised by our sin? Did we catch Him off guard? Did He have some regrets once He saw how we behaved?
Of course not. He saw all of our days before we took our first breath. He saw our selfish acts. He knew our evil thoughts. And yet, He adopted us anyway. Despite all of our sin, He made us His sons and daughters.
And He didn’t do it grudgingly. It was “in accordance with His pleasure and will.” God was pleased to adopt you. It was His will. He wanted you. He chose you. He adopted you. He made you His child.
And He has no regrets, because He already saw how you’d turn out. And so the result is “the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the One He loves.”
Think about that. God knew all about our sins and failures. And He adopted us anyway…by grace. And because we were adopted by grace and because He already knew all about us beforehand–there’s no danger of Him giving us back. We weren’t adopted because of our goodness. We were adopted in spite of our badness.
IT’S BY GRACE!
You are God’s child. In love, He predestined you to be adopted. And it was all by grace that was freely given to you in Christ.
If you have been living under a cloud of guilt and condemnation, then it’s time to start walking in the truth. You don’t have to be afraid that God is displeased and disappointed with you. You can live confidently in God’s love, because your Father has seen the worst about you and adopted you anyway.
Posted: January 28th, 2013 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: God is good, God's character, God's glory, God's love, God's will, God's word, grace, heaven, Jesus, marriage, money, pain and suffering, Relationships | No Comments »
I realized a number of years ago that I really don’t want to walk by faith. That’s a problem because God says things like:
“We live by faith, not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:17
“And without faith it is impossible to please God…” Hebrews 11:6
Walking or living by faith means I won’t always see how things are going to work out. That’s a really uncomfortable place to be. And I don’t like being uncomfortable. I suspect you don’t either.
I like being comfortable and I always want to see how things are going to work out. Actually, that’s not true. I don’t want to see how things are going to work out–I want things to already be worked out. I don’t want to trust God to supply what I need. I want to already have all I need. Don’t you?
And yet, that’s just not the way life works. I used to hold onto this fantasy world in which God’s sole objective was to make my life more comfortable, to make my circumstances more enjoyable, to meet all my needs and most of my wants. But since that’s not real life, I’ve had to work on letting that fantasy go. It hasn’t been easy.
But when we let go of the fantasy that a loving God would never allow pain or difficulties, we’re faced with a world in which tornadoes wipe out whole towns. Some babies are born with severe birth defects. Businesses fail in spite of hard work. Loved ones die in car accidents. Investments decline in value. Cancer takes family members from us. And “bad” people seem to have it better than the “good” people. And we’re faced with a God who’s willing to let all that happen.
Is there any hope? In this life, I mean. For those who follow Jesus, we know there’s the hope of heaven. But what about now? Are there any guarantees? Is there anything I can count on when the bottom drops out of life?
The second verse of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, says, “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Would I love to live in a world without pain and problems and broken dreams? Absolutely. And that day is coming. I don’t believe God has given up on His plan to live on earth with us in a world free of pain and problems and death. (Read Genesis 1 and 2 and Revelation 21 and 22–the first two and last two chapters of the Bible.) One day, God will restore creation to its original design.
Until then, we can experience His grace and peace. They are ours in abundance and are found in a relationship with Him through Christ. God’s grace and peace aren’t dependent on circumstances. They are available to us when everything around us is crumbling.
Grace and peace are available to us, but I believe we can short-circuit them by continuing to focus on our circumstances rather than on Jesus. I can get my eyes so firmly set on what I see happening (or not happening) around me, that God begins to feel far away, uninvolved and uncaring.
We can choose to see our circumstances through God’s eyes–that’s walking by faith. Or we can choose to see God through our circumstances–that’s walking by sight. Only one of those ways yields grace and peace.
God’s grace and peace are yours, but sometimes you have to battle to receive them…and battle to keep them. And we’ll look at that tomorrow.
Posted: January 25th, 2013 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: believe in Jesus, believing God, delight yourself in the Lord, Difficulties, God's word, pain and suffering, priorities, seeking God, sex | No Comments »
Why are you here? On earth, I mean. Why do you exist?
If the atheist is right, then questions of meaning or purpose are irrelevant. If the universe exists purely by chance, then you and I have no purpose. Of course, we could each assign a purpose to our own lives, but there’s nothing beyond that. There’s no higher purpose. Without God, we exist by accident and ultimately have no meaning.
Have you ever wondered why famous or wealthy people commit suicide? They seemingly have it all–money, houses, cars, vacation, jewelry, power and popularity. And yet, some choose to end their own lives or waste away consumed by drugs or alcohol. Without a purpose and significance, I’m left with two choices–end my life or numb my life. Without a genuine purpose in life, without true meaning, our lives are empty.
But if God created this life and knows how it should be lived, then there’s a third option: I can align my life with the truth. I can choose to believe God and live according to His purposes and plan for my life.
In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he begins by writing “to the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus.”
A saint isn’t someone who has lived an exemplary life or performed a miracle of some sort. A saint is someone who has been set apart by God for His purposes. If you have placed your faith in Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins, then you are a saint. You have been set apart from the world system, from your former way of life, from the bondage of sin and from the power of Satan. God has assigned meaning and significance to your life. He has a plan for you.
Is it possible to miss God’s purposes and plan for our lives? Absolutely. When we continue to live according to the world’s plan, then we miss out on what God says is true and all He wants to do in and through us. The world’s plan is easy to identify. It is primarily concerned with the accumulation of material wealth and possessions, maximizing pleasure and/or giving my life away to a someone or something other than Jesus. Ultimately, the world’s way of doing life comes down to this–does whatever I’m doing make me happy?
What do you desire most? What are you passionate about? What do you spend your time and money on? The answers to those questions will help you figure out whether you’re living for God’s purposes or your own.
The truth is this: God calls us saints. He says we are set apart for His purposes and plans.
Jesus said, “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”
Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
Real life is found in a relationship with God through Jesus. And as we walk with Him through life, we discover the work He has for us to do. Meaning, happiness, peace and fulfillment come as a result of living our lives aligned with God’s purposes and plans for us.
You are a saint. God has set you apart. He has given meaning to your life. If life often feels busy or hectic or meaningless or ordinary, then be sure you’re aligned with God’s truth. Are you making your relationship with Him your number one priority? And are you seeing your life and family and work as an opportunity to serve Him and reflect His glory and goodness to those around you?
You are a saint. And you can begin living like one today.
Posted: January 23rd, 2013 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: believe in Jesus, believing God, faith, God's word, marriage, money, Relationships, sex, sin | No Comments »
When I was growing up, my mother made me go to church. Fortunately, it was only an hour on Sunday morning. No Sunday nights. No Wednesday nights. No youth group. Just one hour on Sunday. Going to church seemed like a good thing to do, but as far as it actually being relevant to the rest of my life…it wasn’t. So I didn’t like going. At all. I didn’t have a problem with God. He just seemed irrelevant.
Then during my freshman year at Cornell University, I met a guy who connected the dots for me. He explained that God loved me and had a plan for my life, but there was a barrier between God and me, a barrier the Bible calls “sin.” This barrier was preventing me from experiencing God both now and forever. The good news was that Jesus died in my place and paid the penalty for my sin.
I had earned death, but instead, Jesus offered me the gift of life. That’s grace.
So the ball was in my court. It wasn’t just enough to know these things; I had to make a decision. Would I receive the gift of forgiveness Christ offered?
It all made sense to me on that winter day in February of 1982. So in the student union at Cornell, I placed my trust in Jesus to forgive my sin and make the person He wanted me to be.
As I walked back to my dorm that day, I distinctly remember the grass being greener and the sky being bluer. Something was different. Something had changed.
What actually happened to me that day? What caused me to even see the grass and the sky differently?
In the letter Paul wrote to the Colossians, he said, “For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”
The phrase “brought us into” literally means we were transferred or removed from one place and put in another. We were under the power, the influence, the dominion of darkness. As Paul says in the letter to the Ephesians, “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.”
The key word is “were.” We were in the dominion of darkness. We were dead in sin.
But if you have placed your faith in Jesus, you are no longer in that dominion. You have been made alive with Christ. You have been transferred to God’s kingdom. “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus…” (Ephesians 2:6)
What happened to me that day? Spiritually, I came alive for the first time. I was no longer in the kingdom of darkness. I was no longer relating to this world only as a physical being. I was simultaneously living in a spiritual realm, a heavenly realm. And there are things true of us in the spiritual realm, which will effect our lives here in the physical realm. Once we have placed our faith in Jesus, life is played by new rules.
But if we don’t understand the new rules or even know they exist, we will continue to live as if we were still dead in our sin, living in the dominion of darkness. Over the next few weeks, we’ll explore what it means to be transferred into a new kingdom and what it means to have a new set of truths and laws to live by.
So if the Christian life hasn’t really been working for you, if you can’t shake the feeling that there’s “something missing,” then stay tuned. Learning and living by the truth will revolutionize every area of your life–your thoughts and emotions, your work, your finances and your relationships.
“For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.” (Romans 6:6-7)