The Current Of Complacency

The waywardness of the simple will kill them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them. (Proverbs 1:32)

Complacency is a great comfort to the slumbering soul. And it is this comfort that causes complacency to course through our veins, leading us to seek a trouble-free life of ease and acquiring earthly treasure. The current of complacency does not keep people from doing much . . . it just keeps them from doing much of what matters most to our Master. And what matters most to our Master demands the most from His disciples!

I sometimes joke with friends about taking a vacation (something I don’t do very often) and “drifting on the lazy river.” But drifting on the current of complacency is not a joking matter! If we grow comfortable there, we will find ourselves spiritually stagnant, spending less and less time in the presence of Jesus. We read the Bible less. We pray less. We serve less. We give less of our time, talent, and treasure. And make no mistake, the current of complacency will cause us to notice less and less of the practical needs of the people God sends into our lives.

Let us never forget what Jesus said to the church in Laodicea:

“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” (Revelation 3:16-17)

The congregation at Laodicea was characterized by complacency. Complacency causes us to drift along the sea of self-satisfaction by any means necessary. Life becomes self-centered and self-focused, leaving little or no room for our Savior. We become indifferent to others as our senses are dulled and our spiritual lives are disconnected. But that’s not all! When we succumb to the current of complacency, the less we smell the stench of our own self-absorption. The fire we once had burning deep within us has been snuffed out by Satan, who knows he cannot shipwreck out faith, but he will strive to steer us into the doldrums and render us ineffective.  

So how do we conquer the current of complacency? First, we confess our sin of complacency to Jesus. Now, I am not talking about the occasional complacency that affects all of us, but complacency that has become a way of life. Second, we draw near to Him through daily prayer and time in His Word. We must look to Jesus, learn from Jesus, and lean on Jesus more and more each day. Third, we resolve to rise above our over-committed schedules and respond to the leading of the Holy Spirit, who will direct us to those whom we have been called to serve and bless.

Keeping Jesus on the throne of your life and exchanging self-satisfaction for Savior-satisfaction will keep you from ever hearing these words, “Woe to you who are complacent!” (Amos 6:1). This is not for you! So “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24).

This is the Gospel.  This is grace for your race.  NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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The Paradox of Powerlessness

The kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power. (1 Corinthians 4:20)

It has been wisely observed that we have no power from God unless we live in the persuasion that we have none of our own. The Bible provides us with several examples of people who lived out this truth. The apostle Paul, for example, said this about his preaching ministry: “My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power” (1 Corinthians 2:4-5).

If anyone could have felt supremely confident about his own strength, ability, and intellect, it was Paul. He had advanced to the top of his field as a religious leader in Judaism, having been trained by Gamaliel, the most respected teacher of the Mosaic Law at that time. Paul’s education and his understanding of the Old Testament scriptures was second to none.

But Paul did not rely on his own ability; rather, he relied solely on the power of the Holy Spirit working in and through him. Remember, it was Paul who was inspired to pen this doxology: “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20). Paul understood and lived the truth that the Lord Almighty had declared centuries earlier: “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit” (Zechariah 4:6).

How is it with you? Are you living your life in the power of God? Or are you attempting to live in your own power? Are you relying on the wisdom of God? Or are you looking to the wisdom of the world? When you reach the point of acknowledging your powerlessness, you have arrived at the place where God will give you His Omnipotent power.

God is not in the business of blessing those who are living in their own strength; He blesses those who are totally dependent upon Him and surrender to His will in their lives. Here is the paradox of powerlessness: It is the only place where you will find all the power you need to do all the things God is calling you to do for His glory. “For when I am weak,” Paul explained, “then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10).

May this truth set us all free to acknowledge our powerlessness and live in the power of God.

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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The Parallel Between Private And Public Life

Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out. (Proverbs 10:9)

It is said of the French Bishop of Geneva, Francis de Sales, that he lived parallel lives in private and public. When another bishop planned to write a biography about Francis, that bishop was determined to find out if Francis’ private life truly matched up with his public life. The bishop went to visit Francis and actually drilled a hole in the wall so that he could spy on Francis to see if he could discover the secret of his holy life. What he learned was virtually nothing . . . yet it was almost everything!

The bishop discovered that Francis was the same in private as he was in public. His talk matched his walk in both spheres of life. He rose from bed early in the morning, careful not to make any disturbance that would awaken his servant. He prayed, answered correspondence, and took care of his ordinary tasks in the same gracious manner that he displayed when he was in public.

Francis de Sales is known for his writings on the topics of spiritual direction and spiritual formation, particularly the Introduction to the Devout Life and the Treatise on the Love of God. His walk and his writings witnessed to his sold-out life — both in private and in public — a life lived for the advancement of the Kingdom and the glory of Christ.

If this is to be the confession of our own lives, we must be committed to living parallel lives, publicly and privately. The word for this is integrity. If we are to understand integrity biblically, we cannot see life like a pie, cut up into different pieces and disconnected from the whole. We must not divide our lives into a slice for the professional setting, another slice for our personal life, a third slice for our church life, and then a slice set aside for our compulsions. This is a life that lacks integrity. We are one thing in one area of our lives and something different in another area of life.

To avoid this pitfall, we must be committed to living a whole life Coram Deo — before the face of God — and committed to doing it consistently, whether other people are watching or not. Remember, “The Lord detests those whose hearts are perverse, but he delights in those whose ways are blameless” (Proverbs 11:20). May our public and private lives run on a parallel track — a track that runs straight and true for the glory of God and the good of others.

This is the Gospel.  This is grace for your race.  NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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Red Seas On The Road Ahead

The Israelites went through the sea on dry ground. (Exodus 14:29)

One of the most spectacular events in the Old Testament history of God’s chosen people is the crossing of the Red Sea. After the deliverer Moses led the children of Israel out of bondage in Egypt, they found themselves standing at the edge of the Red Sea with the Egyptian army closing in on them. The people of God cried out in despair, believing that they had been delivered from bondage in Egypt only to be destroyed in the wilderness. But God showed up in a big way.

Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left. (Exodus 14:21-22)

What God did for His people more than 3,000 years ago, He is doing for His people today . . . and that includes you. What “Red Sea” are you facing today — professionally, personally, or relationally? God is calling you out of your past and into your promised future. He is calling you out of the known and comfortable into the unknown and uncomfortable.

Ask yourself this question: What Egypt do you need to be freed from? Damaging thought patterns? Destructive behaviors? 

There will always be Red Seas on the road ahead as you make your way into glory, but the divine power that is at work within you is infinitely and eternally greater than any power that can come against you. Let these words from Moses encourage you to keep on keeping on, trusting that God is working everything together for your good and His glory:

Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. (Exodus 14:13)

This is the Gospel.  This is grace for your race.  NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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Have You Read God’s #1 Best-Seller?

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. (Psalm 119:105)

Most people have a Bible somewhere in their home. Sadly, in far too many of those homes, the God-breathed Greatest Story Ever Told is not read; it lies gathering dust on a tabletop or a bookshelf. The Bible is the Number One, best-selling book in the history of the world, and it has made a profound impact on Western civilization from its very beginning. Here’s the question: Has the Word of God made a profound impact on you?

God gave us His Word so that we would read it. He could have left it up to the Holy Spirit to encourage, motivate, and instruct us to do His will in this world, but that’s not what He did ; He gave us His living and active Word so that we would read it, respond to it, and therefore be changed by it.

When Jesus was being tempted by the devil during His wilderness experience, He did not bargain or compromise or apologize. He looked Satan in the eye and declared, “It is written!” Jesus knew the Word of God, and He was able to use that Word to resist and ultimately defeat the attacks of the enemy. “Man shall not live by bread alone,” our Lord said, “but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).

Think about going a few days without eating. You will not only grow hungry, you will grow weaker and weaker. Now, multiply that by a week or even a month. Just as our bodies need nourishment to sustain physical life, our souls need nourishment to sustain spiritual life. We must come into God’s presence each day, marinating in and meditating on His Word. When we do that, we will be able to fight against everything that comes against us in this life, achieve victory, and give God all the glory, just as Jesus did..

God’s Word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. We live in a spiritually dark world, and we need the light of our Lord’s love that is found on the pages of sacred Scripture to guide our steps into God’s will for our lives. As we progress toward glory, the Word of God will give us both direction and correction to live a life for the glory of God and the good of others – all others – including ourselves.     

This is the Gospel.  This is grace for your race.  NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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Saved To Serve

“Let my people go, so that they may serve me.” (Exodus 8:1)

God directed Moses to speak these words to Pharaoh when God was preparing to free His people from bondage in Egypt. God was setting Israel free from slavery in order that they would worship and serve Him. What was true thousands of years ago is still true for you and me: We have been saved to serve.

Many in the church today have lost sight of this biblical truth. Instead of understanding that we have been saved for service, far too many who claim the name of Christ wrongly believe they are saved by service. This is a false gospel, rooted in man’s merit, not God’s mercy. Salvation is all of God; there is nothing we can do to get saved. But after God saves us, we are now called to serve the One who set us free from our bondage to sin, Satan, and death. We are to offer ourselves as living sacrifices to God through service.

The most practical understanding of this truth is to recognize that we are to live lives of sacrificial service to others – all others – regardless of cost or circumstance. We have been blessed to be a blessing. We have been healed to help. We have been saved to serve. This is the call for every child of God, not just those who are in vocational ministry, such as pastors and missionaries. Every Christian is in full-time Christian service, regardless of what profession he or she has chosen. The butcher, baker, and candlestick maker all are called to serve their Savior. A “non-serving Christian” is an oxymoron — a contradiction in terms — of gargantuan proportions.

As you continue growing and maturing in your faith, keep in mind that your maturity is always for ministry. Jesus said that He “did not come to be served, but to serve,” and the same must be said about those who are His disciples.

How is it with you? Does your life reflect the truth that you have been saved to serve?

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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Christlikeness By Inhabitation, Not Imitation

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. (Galatians 2:20)

Sacred Scripture tells us that we have been crucified with Christ legally, because God regards us as if we had died with our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 6:3-4). Today, however, I want to encourage you to focus on living, not dying. Because we have been crucified with Christ, we have also been raised from the dead with Him (Romans 6:5). The supernatural power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead is the same power that lives in us and is at work within us (Ephesians 1:19-20), making us more and more like Christ.

The more we allow our Lord Jesus Christ to live in us and through us, the more we become like Him. The more we surrender to God’s will and submit to God’s Word, the more we are “being transformed into His image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18). This process is known as sanctification, and it takes place over the course of the entire life of the Christian. It does not happen in a day, but daily — moment by moment — as we cooperate with the work of the Holy Spirit, who lives within us.

When the apostle Paul wrote that “Christ lives in me,” he was reminding us that we become more like Jesus through inhabitation, not imitation. Through the choices we make in the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, we begin to do, think, and say what God wants us to do, think, and say. In the strength of the Almighty, we have the power to say “Yes” to the things we must say “Yes” to and “No” to the things we must say “No” to.

Philippians 2:12-13 commands Christians to “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” This is not a warning that we can lose our salvation; once we are saved by grace through faith, we are always saved (John 10:27-30). We are not to live in uncertainty and anxiety. Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi is telling us to pursue practically, through obedience in the power of the Holy Spirit, what we already are positionally.

In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. (Romans 6:11-13)

Just as God considers us to be crucified with Christ, we are to consider ourselves dead to sin. And as God has given us His Spirit to resurrect us from spiritual death to a new life in Christ, we are to consider ourselves as newly alive to God in Christ Jesus, walking in the power of His Spirit, ready to be used by Him as “instruments of righteousness” for the good of others and His eternal glory.

This is the Gospel.  This is grace for your race.  NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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The Almighty Gets Our Attention Through Adversity

By means of their suffering, he rescues those who suffer. For he gets their attention through adversity. (Job 36:15 NLT)

I think we would all agree that adversity gets our undivided attention. To be sure, this was true of the great patriarch Job. God already had Job’s attention; we read that Job “was blameless – a man of complete integrity. He feared God and stayed away from evil” (Job 1:1). Job loved the Lord and he lived for the Lord. Yet God allowed Satan to afflict Job, and through this affliction, Job’s attention on God deepened. So too did His dependence.

On this side of the cross, we are to see just how adversity takes on new meaning. There is purpose in all of our pain. God uses every storm wind that blows our way to accomplish His purposes in our lives. One of the main purposes that God has for His children is to use adversity to conform us into the image of Christ, that we might reflect His character in all that we think, do, say, and desire. Our Lord was made perfect through suffering (Hebrews 2:10), and the apostle Paul made it clear in Romans 8:28 that all adversity works together for God’s glory and for our eternal good.

Think about the last storm you were in. Did it not gain your undivided attention and cause you to fix your focus on God? If it did not, that surely was the ultimate goal. You see, God is getting our attention through every adversity. When we are being hammered on the anvil of adversity, we no longer focus on expanding our little kingdom in this world. Rather, we look to Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith. Adversity also exposes our weaknesses, which drive us to the One who has all the strength in the universe. Paul said that he actually delighted in his infirmities, persecutions, and weaknesses, because that was when the power of Christ was most noticeably at work in his life (2 Corinthians 12:10).

Adversity is the classroom in which we learn more and more about our Lord Jesus Christ. It is there where we learn just how loved we are, because God is with us every step of the way and has promised to get us through to the other side, better and stronger than we were before adversity came knocking on our door. When we keep our focus on Christ and not our circumstances, every adversity will make us better, not bitter, because His power will rest on us.

This is the Gospel.  This is grace for your race.  NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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The Treasure In Trials

My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (Colossians 2:2-3)

Does the title of today’s message seem a little strange to you? You may well be wondering, “What is he talking about? How are we to see treasure in our trials?” We can . . . and we should. The key is to see our trials from God’s perspective, not our own. When we do that, we will see how God is using all our trials for our eternal good and His incomparable glory.

When God sends us trials — and our trials do come from Him, for all things come from Him (Romans 11:36) — He is shaking us free from our shackles to the earthly and the temporal. Make no mistake, God never says, “Oops” when opposition comes our way. God is not sitting on His throne, peering anxiously down at His children and wondering how things will work out. He intends for us to loosen our white-knuckle grip on our earth-bound treasures and reach for things above (Matthew 6:19-21).

The next thing God is doing when He sends us trials is putting His Omnipotent power on display. When trials come against us that we find ourselves powerless to overcome, we must depend totally upon God, who alone will get the glory for our deliverance. The Bible is chock-full of examples of this principle in action. One of my favorites is Gideon. God called Gideon to lead Israel into battle against the Midianite army of 135,000 warriors. When Gideon finally accepted God’s call, God bluntly told him he had too many warriors to take into battle.

That sounds odd . . . kind of like the title of today’s message! I mean, how could you ever have “too many” soldiers? But that’s looking at life through our own perspective. Gideon was badly outnumbered to begin with; he started with an army of 32,000 troops. But God pruned his force down to a company of 300, leaving Israel overwhelmingly outnumbered — about 450 to one. The Lord explained His perspective to Gideon: “You have too many men for me to deliver Midian into their hands, lest Israel boast against me that her own strength has saved her” (Judges 7:2).

What God did for Gideon then, He is doing today for you. Regardless of what difficulty has come against you, you are guaranteed victory with God on your side. After all, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). But you must be willing to depend totally upon Him.

Christian, the greatest opposition you will ever face in this life will never come from outside of you; it will always be the resistance within you. The apostle Paul candidly admitted, “When I want to do good, evil is right there with me” (Romans 7:21). Our sin nature has no desire to surrender control and rely totally upon God. But this is how we will find the treasure in any trial we face. From self-dependence to Savior-dependence, this is the treasure in trials that is available to us moment by moment.

This is the Gospel.  This is grace for your race.  NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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Before WWJD Comes LLJL

Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. (1 Corinthians 11:1)

Perhaps you are familiar with the letters WWJD, typically seen on bracelets, as well as a variety of other Christian apparel items. They stand for “What Would Jesus Do?” It’s a great concept, which originated in a book written by Charles Sheldon in 1896, titled In His Steps: What Would Jesus Do? The book ranks as one of the best-selling books of all time, having sold more than 50,000,000 copies.

But as important as the letters WWJD are, I believe there are four other letters that must come before them: LLJL. Do you know what they stand for? “Live Like Jesus Lived!” There really is no sense asking “What Would Jesus Do?” if we are not willing to Live Like Jesus Lived.

We must be willing to live out the truth declared in Scripture:

Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did. (1 John 2:6)

We all need a pattern to follow if we are going to live a life that is both pleasing and glorifying to God, and we have been given that pattern in our Lord Jesus Christ. We must look to Him alone as we find Him in the pages of the Gospels in order to understand how we are to live. In looking more closely at Jesus, who is the visible image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15), we will see what we lost because of that first terrible sin in the Garden of Eden, and what we have been promised in our salvation.

Inasmuch as the Christian life is all of grace, we are responsible to pursue LLJL — a life that is lived like Jesus lived. He lived through diligent effort and dependent discipline upon the enabling power of the Holy Spirit. Press into God’s presence each day. Spend time in the Word of God. Pray without ceasing. Look to the One who is the Author and Perfecter of your faith. LLJL must come before WWJD.

One final point: When you mess it up — and you inevitably will on this side of glory — remember that Jesus loves you unconditionally and forgives you completely.

This is the Gospel.  This is grace for your race.  NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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