The Person-Driven Life

medium_4501890462Christian, did you know that everything God has given us is in the Person, Jesus Christ, the Son of God (Ephesians 1:3; 2 Peter 1:2-3).  Paul tells us in Ephesians 1:3 that “every” spiritual blessing is in Jesus Christ.  Not some but every!  So, Christianity knows only the Person-driven/focused life (John 14:6; 2 Cor 3:18) and the Person-driven/focused Church (Ephesians 1:22-23)!

God’s way for us is to live a life focused on the Person of His Son, Jesus Christ (Colossians 3:1-4).  To follow any program is not to follow the Person, Jesus Christ.   I’ll even go as far to say that if you focus on following the Word of God without your primary focus being on knowing the Person of Jesus Christ, following Him, pleasing Him and becoming like Him, then you are outside of God’s way and will not please God or become like Christ.  Let’s expand on all of this.

Think about the famous words of Jesus, “I am the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6).  Those are very exclusive words.  Jesus is saying, I am the only way, the only truth, and the only life.  First,  Jesus is the only way!  He is the only program! The way is a Person; the person of Christ!  Paul told us how to grow spiritually in 2 Corinthians 3:18.  He wrote: “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.”    How are you transformed into Christ-likeness (“the same image from glory to glory”)?  You focus on the Person of Christ (“the glory of the Lord”)– who He is, what He is Like as a Person and what He has done!  Then you are transformed in His image!   When Christ raised Lazarus from the dead,  he told Martha twice to focus on Him and not on Lazarus in order to see God’s purposes in that miracle (John 11:44, 40).  If she wanted to grow into Christ-likeness, she had to focus on Christ and not the amazing miracle of her brother standing there, risen from the dead. If you had been there and seen Lazarus raised from the dead, where would your focus be? On Lazarus, a man raised from the dead who will die again?  OR, on Jesus Christ, life Himself, your life, your Savior and Lord?

Second, Jesus is “the truth.”  The “truth” does not refer to programs about Christianity or about how to live the successful, prosperous, victorious Christian life!  No!  Christ, Himself, is the truth.  Christ is saying that we must go to Scripture to know Him, and become like Him (John 17:17). We don’t go to Scripture for methods, programs, steps, etc.  It is absolutely critical that we do go to the Bible and study it vigorously, but we do so to know Christ (Ephesians 1:17)!   Is the Word of God the ultimate authority in your life where you come to know and obey Jesus?   If you do not know the Word, you do not know Jesus Christ, because you do not know Him as “the truth”.  As Paul said, we learn a Person, Christ! (Ephesians 4:20).

Third, Jesus is “the life.”  Are you working too hard in your Christian walk?  Have you trusted in programs or methods to be the power in your life?  Be honest, did they really work when the trials and suffering came?   Jesus Christ is “the life” and God’s way is to let His life work through us.  Let Him work through you.   How did Jesus tell us how to become Christians and live the Christian life?  Throughout His Ministry, Jesus said, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24).  Jesus said this is a Person-driven life!  You are to only follow ONE person!  Either you are following yourself, or you are following Him.  To follow Him, Jesus commands you to “deny” yourself.  That is, to once-and-for-all disown yourself, separate from yourself!  To do this you must confess yourself as a sinner against God, unworthy of eternal life based on your own merit and works.  You are NOT the way; neither are any programs!  Follow Him exclusively by accepting His free gift of eternal life by Him being your substitute for the death you deserve as a sinner.  Thereafter, you live life by letting Him live His life through you (Galatians 2:19-2) as you not only obey Him in all things at all times but also see your obedience as His will and His strength working through you in that obedience. This is accomplished by “yielding” to the Holy Spirit in you who only wants to live Christ’s live through you (John 16:13-14). That’s following Jesus Christ!  As Christians, Christ is our life! (Colossians 3:4).  If you want to grow into Christ-likeness, live the Person-driven life!

photo credit: Fr. Stephen, MSC via photopin cc

What Did You Just Say?

small__1458972393Gossip, slander, backbiting, criticism – any form of speaking negatively about someone behind their back, is probably the number one sin issue that we experience in the daily life of the Christian church.   Yet, Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:29-30, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”   I think that if you bear with me for a few minutes, you’ll be doing a lot LESS talking from now on!

Paul begins with behavior that we are to stop immediately!  “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth”!   “No” is very explicit!  Not one, ever, should be spoken!  “Unwholesome words” are words that serve no godly purpose.  They are worthless, useless, unprofitable words!  These include not only swearing, off-color jokes, crudeness, gossip, and slander, but it also includes empty words – talking for the sake of talking!    Think about it!  How much talking would you do if NO word you spoke could be of no purpose!  You see, there’s a problem with “many words.”  Proverbs 10:19 tells us “When there are many words, transgression (i.e. sin) is unavoidable, But he who restrains his lips is wise.”

Notice how Paul says in v.29 that these words are not to “proceed from your mouth.”  Paul is indicating that they didn’t start at the mouth!  They’ve come from within.  You’ve thought them, are about to say them, and now you’ve got to stop them before you say them!  The real problem with your speech comes what you’ve been thinking!  Jesus said this in Matthew 12:34, “… For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart.”  If you’ve got a problem with unwholesome words, you’re going to need to change inside first!

Paul next tells us the behavior that we need start immediately when he says in V.29, “but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment.” Paul is teaching us what all Christian speech is to be like!   The “only” words we can ever speak are those “good for edification according to the need of the moment.”   “Edification” means to build someone up spiritually to be like Christ.   The ONLY kinds of words that will do that are Biblical words!  Paul is telling us that God intends to use every Christian word to build up His Church to be like Christ!  That places a huge requirement on your speech – on every word you speak!

Let’s examine three huge requirements that Ephesians 4:29 places on you!  The first huge requirement: You must be biblically educated.  You cannot speak words “good for edification” if you do not know the Word of God.   Paul told Timothy to “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15).  You have to have the right biblical words at the moment you speak!  The second huge requirement: You must a  biblical listener.  You have to apply your biblical education so that when listening, you can discern spiritual needs!   How can you edify the spiritual need of the moment if you do not know the spiritual need at that moment?  Isaiah knew this:  “The Lord God has given Me the tongue of disciples, That I may know how to sustain the weary one with a word. He awakens Me morning by morning, He awakens My ear to listen as a disciple.” (Isaiah 50:4). The third huge requirement: You must be a biblical edifier.   In V.29 Paul says that God expects you to speak biblically to other Christians to edify them – to grow them up to be like Christ!

Paul finishes by giving us two reasons why we must start speaking edifying words.   The first reason:  To give grace to the Hearer.  Paul finishes V.29 saying “so that it will give grace to those who hear.”  God will use your words to graciously enable the hearer to grow into Christ-likeness.   The second reason: To not grieve the Holy Spirit.   Hopefully, you know that all application is built on doctrine!  The greatest motivation we have for living a godly life is knowing and remembering what God has done for us.  God says here, “How could you possibly grieve my Holy Spirit, who is in you as My promise that you will have eternal life?”  Every time you speak, consider the two persons you are with!  Give grace to the one in front of you and do not grieve the One who is in you.   Now, did you have something to say?

photo credit: Mel B. via photopin cc

God’s Amazing Expectation of Joshua!

I'm sure this must be a real picture of Abraham. :-))  You can color him if it helps you follow this post!

I’m sure this must be a real picture of Abraham. :-)) You can color him if it helps you follow this post!

Turn back the clock over 3000 years to the day of Abraham when God promised him, “To your descendants I will give this land” (Genesis 12:7).  We know this as the Abrahamic Covenant! Over 400 years of slavery in addition to 40 years of wandering in the desert passed before God was ready to fulfill that promise.   At the end of Deuteronomy, Moses dies, and the book of Joshua opens with the Israelites in the Trans-Jordan area at the threshold of the land God will give them in fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant.

Put yourself in the shoes of Joshua at that moment.  He was born in Egypt before the Great Exodus.  We first see him in Exodus 17:9 when he led the Israelites against Amalek.  This was the famous battle that as long as Moses held his hand up, the Israelites won.  So, if you were Joshua, you had already been a military leader for the Israelites!

The next time we see Joshua is in Exodus 24:13 when he went up on Mount Sinai with Moses.  Moses went to the top where God gave him the ten commandments.  Joshua waited somewhere below that for 40 days until Moses returned!  So, if you were Joshua, you had already been in ministry as an assistant to Moses!

Moving forward, we see Joshua in Numbers 13 as one of the 12 spies sent into the promised land of Canaan as a “scout” before the Israelites conquered the land.  Remember the story?  Caleb and Joshua were the ONLY two to trust God and be willing to go conquer the land.  The other ten convinced the Israelites not to go and God judged the Israelites with 40 years of wandering in the desert.  Only Joshua and Caleb were ultimately allowed to enter the land from that generation!  Again, if you were Joshua, you had been chosen to scout out the land with 11 other select Israelites and then lived through the wilderness wandering for 40 years watching your generation die off!

Finally, we see Joshua ordained to be the future leader of the Israelites in Numbers 27 after Moses stuck the rock twice for water and God did not allow him to enter the land of Canaan.

book of joshua

That brings us to the Book of Joshua!  If you were Joshua, you are now 90 years old with 41 years of service to God under Moses!  You had been a top military leader, a top ministry partner to Moses, one of 12 spies and now the ordained leader to replace Moses!  In Joshua 1:1-4 God has just told you that it’s time to give the land of Canaan to the Israelites!

Just to contrast to what we’re going to see next, I want you to now imagine you’re the Vice President of a large corporation with 41 years of similar experience to Joshua and the Board of Directors comes to you to make you President of the company!  You would be hearing, “In the past 41 years, you have had a phenomenal set of experiences and proven yourself over and over to be capable of leading this company into the future.  We can count on you to continue performing as you have based on all the wealth of wisdom and experience over these many years.  Use this foundation and our company will prosper well into the future!”   But, that’s not what God tells Joshua…

In v.5 God turns to Joshua and says:

Jos 1:5–95 “No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you. 6 “Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. 7 “Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go. 8 “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success. 9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

I only want to focus on v.7-8 today, but to get us there, let’s summarize the points that lead up to it.

  1. You must COUNT on God’s Presence (v.5):  5 “No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you.”  You can count on God’s presence accompanying, leading, protecting, fighting with you – ensuring your success!   “Just as I have been with Moses” says a lot because Joshua saw God work directly with Moses for those 41 years!  This was a very real, proven promise!  By the way, Hebrews 13:5-7 quotes directly from this verse showing us that we can count on this too!
  2. You must PURSUE God’s Cause (v.6): 6 “Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them.”  There should be no surprise that to get God’s help, you need to be doing God’s will!  In this case, Joshua was fulfilling one of the most important promises in the Bible!

OK, we now arrive at Joshua 1:7-8:

7 “Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go. 8 “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.

The first thing to notice is that Joshua is being commanded to keep the Law of Moses as found in a book.  Literally, God says “keep all the Law” – don’t turn away (right or left) at all!  V.8 begins with “this book!”  Moses had completed the Pentateuch and especially the Book of Deuteronomy.  Joshua had a significant amount of Scripture to obey!

This command to keep the Law as found in a book is not new to Joshua.  In Deuteronomy 30:9-10 Moses said:

Dt 30:10–1410 if you obey the Lord your God to keep His commandments and His statutes which are written in this book of the law, if you turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and soul. 11 “For this commandment which I command you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it out of reach. 12 “It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will go up to heaven for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?’ 13 “Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will cross the sea for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?’ 14 “But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may observe it.”

These are strong words!  Moses said that this commandment “is not too difficult for you, nor is it out of reach.”  In other words, you know what I’m saying – it’s clear – and you can and must do this! He gives them a couple of pictures of this and then summarizes in v.14 that the Israelites had all they needed to obey God’s word!

Now, back to Joshua 1:7-8.  What did God just tell Joshua?  Answer: You must KNOW and OBEY my WORD! He didn’t say, “In the past 41 years, you have had a phenomenal set of experiences and proven yourself over and over to be capable of leading the Israelites into the promised land!”  And, commands him on HOW he is to do this:  8 “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.”  Do you know what that literally says?… “this book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall RECITE IT QUIETLY TO YOURSELF DAY AND NIGHT.” (emphasis mine).  This is followed by “so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it.”   Listen: The purpose of constantly reciting God’s word over and over and over to himself was SO THAT he would be careful to obey it exactly!!!  God finishes the verse by saying that then he’ll be successful!  Do you recite God’s word to yourself day and night so that you’ll be sure to obey it exactly as it’s written?

I love how Psalm 1 says this:

Ps 1:1–31 How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers! 2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night. 3 He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers.

What a picture!  A firmly planted and cultivated tree yields fruit and not only doesn’t wither, but prospers – in whatever!  Of course, your “whatever” is going to be God’s will if you’ve been meditating on His word day and night!

Let’s pull this all together.  Joshua is one of the most used-by-God and prepared-by-God, faithful servants in history.  Yet, when God calls him to be used for the greatest ministry of his life, God doesn’t let him trust in himself and the past.  God commands him to know His word and continually (yes, continually) be reciting it out loud to himself day and night SO THAT he is CAREFUL to obey it precisely!  Then God will give him success in carrying out the promise God made to Abraham over 400 years before!

Do you think it’s any different for you and the work God has for you to do?  Aren’t you commanded to let the word of Christ dwell richly in you (Colossians 3:16)?  Holding EVERY thought captive to the OBEDIENCE of Christ (2 Cor. 10:5)?  Aren’t you commanded to be an effectual doer of the word and not just a hearer (James 1:22-25)?   What part of these straightforward, easy-to-understand commands are you claiming you can’t understand or do (Deut 30:10-14)?!!!

Go forth in obedience and remember:

Col 3:23–2423 Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.

God bless!