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Archive for July, 2013

God’s Investment in Us

July 31st, 2013

Remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.

James 5:20

It is easy for us to slip into a withdrawn attitude in our Christian life, focusing on fellowship with God but neglecting to become engaged in the world. God invests in us through His truth, by His Spirit, and in His love, and He does so with the expectation that we will be made useful for His work.

We can measure our Christian devotion by the hours we spend in personal study, devotional reading, prayer, private worship, and meditation. All of these are important, and more than important, they are the bedrock of our personal spiritual maturity. Yet these are God’s investments in us that we might be useful to Him for His work as well.

Without this realization, without this tension that pulls us from being completely satisfied with our personal and private faith experience, we might languish in relative uselessness. We would be like a race car stored away in a garage somewhere, safe, clean, beautiful, but rusting out on the inside. We might look impressive to ourselves and to a few others, but God calls us to get out of our own private world and make a difference somewhere for Him.

I personally find that when I am withdrawn from others, I become proud, judgmental, critical, and self-conceited. But, when I get involved in the lives of others, though I am often humbled by my own cultural missteps, I more realistically can see myself and my world. The only ones who have all the answers to the world’s problems are those who have never been engaged in a conversation with the world about what troubles them.

But even if we do have solutions for what troubles people - and I do believe we have the answer in Christ for sin and guilt, for spiritual death and life, for meaninglessness and purposefulness in life - it would still do not one any good unless we told them. Love that gently comes alongside those who need the grace, mercy, healing, and hope of Christ, that graciously turns them from going the wrong way to going the right way, that love that reaches out to another in kindness, can be God’s instrument to turn someone from death to life.

Salt is no good to anyone if it only remains in the saltshaker. It needs to get out to make a difference. God has invested in us that He might use us. How does God desire to use you? Who has He placed on your heart?

Evening Devotionals ,

Separating Who from What

July 30th, 2013

In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world—just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace.

Colossians 1:6

Our language often betrays our thoughts and perspectives. We speak of the Spirit of God as an “It” and demean His majesty. The Spirit is “He,” and is just as personable as our Lord and as the Father. But sometimes - and this verse above is an example - the biblical writers personify a thing for emphasis.

Paul wrote of the gospel like it was a person - a simple literary technique often used by great writers - and he did so to separate the minister from the message. The power that brought conversion into people’s lives was not from the convincing method of the preacher or evangelist. It was from God. God through the gospel message, and more than that, though the life and death and resurrection of Christ, and through the conviction of the Spirit, brought life to people, bearing fruit all over the world. He did not remove God from the gospel, rather he emphasized the power of God through the gospel over the persuasive power of the preacher.

Our weakness is to think of the Spirit as an “it” and to think of the preacher as the real power behind the worship experience. Those of us in ministry need to especially guard against this temptation to minimize God and maximize ourselves. It is not mostly about me ministering to people in my power. It is about me letting God use me in His ministry, connecting people to Him. He is the great “Who” behind the “what” of the work.

Jesus said, “No one may come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:44). The power we need is not just the power of human presence that impresses for a while, but the power that belongs exclusively to God, and that is the power that raises us from the dead. It matters little whether someone was impressed by a preacher or by the spirit (small “s”) of a worship service. It matters greatly whether they felt the call of God in their hearts that came by His Spirit and responded to Him in repentance and faith.

Doctrinal Studies, Evening Devotionals, The Core ,