The Secret to the Christian Life

The Secret to the Christian Life“As you therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.” Colossians 2:6-7
The secret to the Christian life is that there is no secret. The Colossians, like many people today, thought that if they could just find the one missing piece to their spirituality everything would fall into place. The Colossians tried legalism, mysticism, and human philosophy all in an attempt to find the secret to being complete in Christ. They bounced from one idea to another always looking, always hungry, always thirsty, but never finding the sustenance that was right their before their eyes. Does that sound familiar? It should because we fall prey to these same traps all of the time. We believe that something is missing in our spiritual lives and that all we need is to find that one missing piece that will finally make it all right.
Real spiritual growth, however, can only take place when we realize that the secret to the Christian life is that there is no secret. Paul admonishes us in these verse to walk in Christ in the same way that received Him in the first place. In other words, the Christian life is simply a matter of continually turning from our sinful, selfish way of living and trusting in Jesus. Now right away I can hear people saying, “wait a minute preacher, that’s too simple.” My response is, “do you really want it to be any harder?” This principle may be real simple, but it’s real true. Until we learn that everything we need is in Jesus and has already been provided in salvation, we will never be able to grow. Listen to what Paul says just two verses later, “For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily’ and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.” (Col 2:9-10)
What these verse teach us is that real spiritual growth does not come by trying to find what is missing but rather in becoming grounded and rooted in what has already been provided. The cross of Jesus is an inexhaustible storehouse of spiritual blessing. The more we come to understand, appreciate, and glory in the work of Christ upon the cross the deeper, richer and fuller our Christian experience becomes. Troubles can assail us from every side but they cannot move the Christian who revels in the love of Christ displayed on the cross. Satan can hurl fiery darts of temptation at us, accuse of us of every type of sin, condemn us, and remind us of every past failure but he can never defeat the Christian who basks in the knowledge that all of his sin was placed upon Jesus and completely paid for at the cross. Other people can mistreat us, misunderstand us, and even misrepresent us, but the grace of Jesus displayed on the cross still covers our life.
Brothers and Sisters the key to the Christian life is that there is no key, there is just Jesus and He is all we need.


Seven Reasons Why John Kasich Should Be the Next President of the United States

I generally do not say much about politics but after looking into all of the Republican candidates running for President, I believe that Gov. John Kasich of Ohio should be the next President of the United States.  Here are seven reasons why I think he is the best candidate:

1.) He has experience in both the legislative and executive branches of government: US Congress 1983-2001, Governor of Ohio 2010-present)
2.) He is a fiscal conservative with record of cutting government waste while at the same time creating new jobs: In congress he was the chief architect of the 1997 balanced budget act. As governor of Ohio he cut taxes while at the same time creating a $15 billion budget surplus and over 300,000 new jobs for Ohioans. His opponents for the Republican nomination cannot match this record: Scott Walker’s from Wisconsin has created a massive budget deficit and the state suffers from lagging job growth. In Lousiana, Bobby Jindal has helped to create a $1.6 billion budget deficiit.  Meanwhile, Chris Christie has seen New Jersey’s credit downgraded 9 times while he has been governor.

3.) He is pro-life: As Governor he has led Ohio to provide additional prenatal and maternal assistance for pregnant mothers and fathers. Ohio now has 18 pregnancy centers for every 1 abortion clinic (national average is 6 to 1).

4.) He has a track-record of working with people from both parties: we do not need another President who cannot work with members of the other party. 

5.) He’s not Donald Trump- This guy is a joke.

6.) He once jumped on stage a Grateful Dead Concert- not sure how this qualifies him to be the leader of the free world but it doesn’t hurt.

7.) He’s from Ohio and has a 70% approval rating there- No republican has ever one the Presidential election without carrying Ohio.

Check out the facts and decide for yourself but I am going to cast my vote for John Kasich. The bottom line is that Republicans need to get behind a candidate that can win the election but also has the ability to govern.

Seven Characteristics of True Worship

A.W. Tozer once referred to worship as the “missing jewel of the evangelical church.”  In spite of all the attention that worship gets, I fear that most Christians today do not understand what true, Biblical worship entails.  Everyone worships, but not all worship truly.  Some people worship falsely because they worship a false god.  Others worship falsely because they worship the true God falsely.  So that brings us to the question, what is Biblical worship?  Below is a list of seven characteristics of Biblical worship that I adapted from Daniel Block’s book entitled For the Glory of God: Recovering A Biblical Theology of Worship.

1.) True worship is reserved for God alone (Ex 20:3-6)

2.) True worship involves reverent awe (Heb 12:28-29)

3.) True Worship involves action (Deut 10:12)

4.) True worship expresses submission to God (Rom 12:1)

5.) True worship aligns with the will of God rather than the sinful nature of human imagination. (Ps 15)

6.) True worship encompasses all of life (John 4:19-23)

7.) True worship is both individual and corporate (Heb 10:24-25)

If you would like to learn more about these seven characteristics of worship, I invite you to listen to the following two messages that I preached at Metropolis First Baptist Church:

Click on the title to watch the message:

Spiritual Habits: Worship Part 1

Spiritual Habits: Worship Part 2

Why every believer should question God?

Is it right to question God?  For most of my life I have heard well-meaning, good-hearted Christians answer this question with an emphatic No!  But in actual experience we all know that there are moments in lives when circumstances cause us to question what God is doing.  Habakkuk is a biblical example of the benefit that questioning God has for our spiritual life.  Rather than settling for trite, simplistic theological answers, Habakkuk dares to ask God some hard questions and in the process develops a far more glorious vision of what God is like.  I would like to suggest that hard questions can serve the same function in the life of every believer.

Habakkuk wrote during a time when the nation of Judah was experiencing a time of great economic prosperity but was spiritually bankrupt.  As he looked at the injustice and wickedness rampant in the nation, his heart became incensed at God’s apparent lack of interest.  Habakkuk decides to take the issue to God and to find out some answers, so in 1:1-2 he asks, “O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? Or cry to you ‘Violence!’ and you will not save?  Why do you make me see iniquity, and why do you idly look at wrong?”  This is an honest question and one that every generation of believers is forced to ask as we look at the violence, unrighteousness, and injustice that goes on all around us.

God’s answer in 1:5—11 came as a complete surprise to Habakkuk.  Essentially, God announced that he was raising up the Babylonians to serve as his instrument of punishment against Judah.  This was not at all good news to Habakkuk and causes him to ask another question in 1:12—13.  In these verses, Habakkuk raises the question of God’s justice, “How can you use the unrighteous to judge the righteous?”  He then goes on throughout the remainder of chapter 2 describing the violence of the Babylonians.  What we have here is the classic case of asking a question and then being disturbed by the answer.  Habakkuk wants God to deal with the sins of Judah but never imagined that it would involve being conquered by the Babylonians.  So in 2:1 the prophets says, “I will take my stand at my watch post and station myself on the tower, and look out to see what he say to me, and what I will answer concerning my complaint.”

In chapter 2 we have one of the most important statements made in all the Bible, “Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith.” (2:4)  This verse would be used later by the Apostle Paul to describe the essence of our response to the gospel.  In Habakkuk’s day God was reminding the prophet and the people to keep on trusting that He was in control, even when some would question whether He was.

This brings me to the point that I want to make.  Some of the people in Judah questioned God out of unbelief while others were driven by their faith to question God.  That might seem like a play on words but in reality it is a difference of eternal significance.  Those who question God out of unbelief only deepen their situation and harden their hearts even further.  But when genuine believers question God out of a deep, abiding faith, they experience spiritual growth.  The difference is in the starting point.

Habakkuk never questions whether God exists or whether He is good.  Habakkuk starts off with a firm belief in God and a basic understanding of His nature.  But in his humanity, Habakkuk recognized that he struggled with understanding the ways of God.  He needs to grow, so he humbly asks God for a deeper revelation of His nature.  In other words, Habakkuk began his questions from a point of faith and as a result received a further revelation of God’s nature.

As believers, we can grow in our understanding of God by faithfully taking our questions to Him in prayer and submitting ourselves to the authority of God’s Word.  As we read, study and meditate upon the Word of God, He will provide us with a deeper understanding of His nature, character and ways.So if you are a believer, I want to encourage you to question God.  Some of our questions He will answer, some He will not, but either way we will grow.  But the starting point always must be faith.

Thoughts on Labor Day

Since today is Labor day I thought that I would discuss a little about what the Bible has to say about the relationship between employers and employees.  This is an area that the Bible says a great deal about but yet is rarely mentioned or discussed in the church.  Part of the reason for this is that the Bible was written in a very different economic environment that what we enjoy here in America.  The idea of fee enterprise and captialism was still along way off when the books of the Bible were written.  Instead they were written during a time when slavery was common and considered normal.  This does not mean that the Bible endorses the institution of slavery but simply that it was written in a time when slavery was a dominate institution. It also should be noted that among the OT Jews slavery was more akin to indentured servanthood than the forced slavery practiced in Europe and the United States.

A careful study of the Bible will reveal that both OT and NT writers were very careful to show that both masters and slaves had certain responsibilities towards each other.  In Exodus 21, for instance, Moses established the maximum length for indentured servanthood (six years) and sets out guidelines to protect young female servants from being sexually assaulted or neglected. These guidelines were markedly different from the practices of the cultures that surrounded ancient Israel.  Later in the book of Philemon, Paul lays the theological foundation for the end of slavery by arguing that in Christ a new relationship has been brought about by the Gospel.  Rather than relating to each other only on economic terms Philemon and the run-away slave Onesimus were to relate towards each other as brothers in Christ. In the letter to the Ephesians Paul wrote,

 Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man,knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant  or is free. Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him.  (Ephesians 6:5-9)

Notice specifically that Paul here addresses both Bondservants and Masters.  In our day, we can think of this in terms of employees and employers — each party has specific obligations that they owe to the other party.  As I think about what the Bible has to say about the relationship between employees and employers it seems to me that there are are few guiding principles:

  1. Employees owe their employers a fair days work – My dad taught me that if you are being paid for an hours worth of work, you should do an hours worth of work.  In other words, we need to diligently carry out the job we’ve been hired to do. Christian employees are under and even stricter rule because in the passage that I quoted above, Paul says that we are to work as if we are working for God and not to man.
  2. Employers should treat their employees with respect– This seems to make economic sense to me because people who like their boss will work harder for him than people who don’t but also is an obligation.  When you have been given the responsibility of managing people and determining their economic condition, you have a responsibility for treating them fairly — that means a fair wage, fair benefits, safe work environment and a genuine respect for what they do.
  3. Both Employers and Employees Should Treat Each Other with Respect If you are an employee of a company the above passage says that you are to obey your boss with a sincere heart.  Vice Versa if you are the boss this passage tells you to stop threatening the people who work for you.  When I was a teenager and in my early twenties I worked for a guy named Ed Lewis.  Ed owned a small grocery store and he was one of the best bosses that I’ve ever known.  He treated me fair and treated me with respect.  In return, I would have done anything to help him out.  Whatever he asked me to do I would do with all my strength and ability because Ed treated me with respect.

As Christians we must reflect Christ in every aspect of our lives.  This means more than just going to church on Sunday morning, evening and Wednesday night.  We are to live for Christ and reflect His character on the job as well as in the pew.  Why should people believe what we say about the gospel if they don’t see it reflected in the way we conduct ourselves in the workplace?

Pastors: Unconfessed Sin is a Cancer in Your Life

Fresh Bread

storm cloudsSteve was a Pastor with a secret.  A secret that was tearing his life and ministry apart from the inside.  Like an undetected, untreated cancer, Steve harbored a secret sin deep within his heart that was eating away at his joy, his vitality and his faith.  Unknown to anyone in Steve’s life, he was deeply addicted to pornography and lived everyday with the fear of being caught.  “Everyday one of my kids picked up my phone or asked to use my computer I would panic,” says Steve.  “I never intended for pornography to take over my life the way that it did, but over the years it slowly consumed more and more of my life.”  On average, Steve spends at least an hour a day looking at pornography.  It started ten years ago, just after his wife Maggie had their third child.  The addition of another child in their home…

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