Our Testimony is Eternal Life

What is it that distinguishes us from everyone else? That is a question I ask often. We who follow and treasure Jesus must be different than other people somehow, right? Most of us look pretty normal at first glance, and that’s fine. But when we spend a little more time, and pay a little more attention, there is a difference between someone who treasures Jesus and someone who doesn’t.

This morning I read from 1 John 5. Verse 11 says this: “And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.” (ESV)

My prayer as a response to this passage is, Lord, help me and my family to live in such a way that our hope for eternal life gives us such deep confidence and peace, so that our behaviour, words, attitude, and character cannot be silenced by any threat to our lives or our identity. May our lives be a bold testimony of our eternal security, which will result in everyone around us being either drawn into the gospel or offended by it. My desire is that everyone who interacts with us will be in some way affected by the testimony of eternal life that we have in Jesus Christ.

Sorrow for Sin

When Martin Luther called for the church to consider changing some of the practices regarding teaching about salvation in 1517, the first thing he wrote about it was, “our Lord and Master Jesus Christ… willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.”

Repentance, as Tim Keller writes in his book Prayer, “is the way we make progress in the Christian life.” However, even in our repentance, we can be legalistic.

Paul writes to the Corinthian church:

I am not sorry that I sent that severe letter to you… not because it hurt you, but because the pain caused you to repent and change your ways. It was the kind of sorrow God wants his people to have… for the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation.

Tim Keller wrote that through legalistic repentance, “we try to convince God (and ourselves) that we are so truly unhappy and regretful that we deserve to be forgiven.”

True repentance, as Paul indicates in 2 Corinthians, results in sorrow for our sin and leads us away from further sin. Legalistic repentance only results in a self-righteousness that produces more sin. The heart of the matter is that we need to acknowledge the hardness of our hearts, and ask God for a new heart, for new desires.

The grace of God means that we are released from the need for performance. God will never owe us forgiveness. He will never give it to us as a result of how sorry we are for what we’ve done wrong. He will give us forgiveness because Jesus took the penalty for our sin. We receive it when we see that we need it. And the sorrow we experience results in a life of gratitude and a changed heart, and ultimately, in a deep and lasting joy!

You Believe Him, but do you Trust Him?

In John 3:16, Jesus states that whoever believes in him will have eternal life. The word that gets translated as believe is the Greek word pisteuō. It is used in John about 100 times, the most out of any book in Scripture.

Belief in Jesus is the only requirement he gave us in order to be saved. Yes, he taught many things, and told us how to live. But, the only condition for salvation is to believe in him.

The definition of believe as it is used in 3:16 is, “to believe to the extent of complete trust and reliance.”

Another way to define believe is, “to embrace something as true,” and when it’s a person, it means, “you trust them to be and do what they have claimed.”

In the case of Jesus, he is claiming to be the Son of God and the source of eternal life. He claims to be the means to salvation from sin.

If we were to include this definition in the verse, here is how it would read: For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever puts their complete trust and reliance on him for salvation will not perish but have eternal life.

In English, believing does not necessarily imply trust. So, I must ask, do you merely believe Jesus, or do you trust him? If you trust him, you will need to get to know him and start behaving as though you trust him to be who he says he is.

The Foundation of Truth

The fastest way to get from a dangerous situation to a safe situation is to be aware of the truth of the danger. When children run out into a busy street, they do it because they have not yet learned of the danger. They run off in pursuit of a toy, a pet or simply because it’s fun. It’s not as though they are believing a lie, or being rebellious, it’s just that they are oblivious to the truth. It hasn’t entered into their mind the danger of the street.

When we go through each day simply entering into the various situations that cross our paths without having a foundation of truth, we might find ourselves in a dangerous situation without realizing it. Temptation will suddenly appear. Sooner than we can turn away, we find ourselves in the middle of sin or darkness and we will have no way out.

Building a foundation of truth in our lives helps us deal with the dangers of each day. And it requires the input of truth into our hearts and minds through Scripture, good teaching and listening prayer.

How much truth is entering your life each day? If you were to think about biblical truth and cultural messages, which of the two captures more of your attention? Which of the two is building a foundation of your life?

We need the truth of God each day because if we fail to receive it daily, we will fail to recognize and escape daily danger. We will be lost in the darkness, feeling around for a way out, trying to figure it out on our own.

 

Desiring the Kingdom Part 4

Have you ever thought of yourself as a liturgical person? Probably not. Liturgy basically means order, or could be understood loosely as habits. A liturgical worship service follows a particular, often prescribed, order.

We are all liturgical people. We go through our days based on particular habits, whether intentional or not, and make decisions that are influenced by our unique orientation.

Here is an illustration to help. When you drive on a familiar route, let’s say from home to work and back, how often do arrive at your destination without giving much thought to the pressure of the gas pedal, the grip of the steering wheel, the turning on of signal lights, checking mirrors, etc.?

Now, think about the first couple weeks after starting to drive for the first time. Can you remember learning how much pressure to apply on the pedals? How you needed to turn in order to avoid hitting the curb? Which way you had to push the signal light switch to make it signal left or right?

I have heard it said that over 90% of our decisions each day are subconscious. They flow from habit or routine. And, unfortunately, many of our decisions are poor decisions. We have learned bad habits. We have a liturgy that produces idolatry rather than worship of the one true God.

There are some things we can do to develop liturgies that will transform our worship, redirect our vision toward Jesus. You can probably think of some already. Morning prayer and Scripture reading is vital. Weekly attendance at a local church worship service is a must.

There are things we can do daily that many Christians do not immediately think about. Here are a few suggestions you can try out with your family. You may find that after a few weeks of regular practice, some of your subconscious habits, your daily liturgies, will begin to change:

  1. Begin each day with a song of praise, a call to worship so to speak (you can choose to sing it or not). Example:
    Come, let us bow down in worship,
    let us kneel before the Lord our Maker;
    For he is our God
    and we are the people of his pasture,
    the flock under his care. (Psalm 95:6-7, NIV)
  2. Meditate on a short (1 or 2 verses) passage from the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), or from an instructional passage in the Old Testament such as ones found in Deuteronomy 5-8.
  3. Find someone you can regular make confessions to (accountability partner). Tell them about what you have done that you feel guilty about. Make sure this is someone who you trust and who can remind you of the forgiveness of God.
  4. Learn some of the ancient Christian Creeds and recite them regularly.
  5. Practice communion with your family regularly (weekly or more).

Note: for more reading on this topic, check out Desiring the Kingdom by James K.A. Smith.

Desiring the Kingdom Part 3

“He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. He came to his own people, and even they rejected him.” John 1:10-11 (NLT)

All throughout history, humans have been trying to get to God, become like God, or prove there is no God. Because of the fall of humanity through Adam and Eve, we are born with a twisted view of our relationship with God.

When Jesus came into the world, he turned things around on us. Instead of us trying to get to God, God came to us through Jesus. God became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14). Jesus is the human form of God, demonstrating to us that God still wants people to exist and to exist in the way he created us.

Contrary to what you may have thought your entire life, holiness begins with what we currently have, not with some day in the future when we have it all together.

Our goal is not to try and escape our present reality, but for our reality to become the place in which we welcome the kingdom of God. Desiring the kingdom means receiving the kingdom into our current situation. No matter your circumstance, whether it be dark and hopeless or bright and full of hope, we need to allow the presence of Jesus to enter in.

Jesus will then begin to give life to what we are currently doing, by making changes (usually small and slow), or by revealing himself through what is already going on around you. Stop thinking you need your life in order; allow God to enter and use what you have right now.

When I graduated from Prairie College, I was given a diamond willow staff. Every Bachelor of Arts grad got one. The message behind that staff was that God used what was in the hand of Moses. It was just a stick, but God said, “what is that in your hand?”, and then used it to perform miracles.

God wants to use what you have in your hand, even if you think it is worthless. Do you want God to use what you have?

In the next and final post on desiring the kingdom, I will suggest some practical things we can do on a daily basis that will help us see how God is entering into our lives.

Desiring the Kingdom Part 2

The trouble you are likely facing is that the treasures, or even the troubles, we experience here on earth seem to be far more appealing than a relationship with God, or they distract us and make us forget about God altogether. One of the first things we need to do is acknowledge our temptation to treasure the satisfying of our fleshly desires more than a relationship with God.

The problem is mainly that the beauty of Jesus is distant and dim. I only want to offer one suggestion as a remedy for this problem. My suggestion is that you tell yourself and others of the beauty of Jesus. Increase your vision of Jesus through scripture/prayer and through community. Talk with God and with others and to yourself in prayer and in conversation about the wonders and the majesty of Jesus and about how thankful you are for the relationship he invites you into.

The reason this will work is that when you start down the path of exalting someone, and you start looking for ways that person is beautiful and wonderful, you will discover all sorts of ways you love that person and it will turn into joy.

When you are having trouble with your children, your siblings, your parents, with your friends, and with your spouse, the best way to bring reconciliation and begin to see how much you love them, is to start looking at them as lovely and loveable.

The difference with God is that everything about him is lovely. He has no flaws. He has nothing worthy of being despised. When we lack a vision for the glory of God and the beauty of Jesus, it is not that he has done something to lower his worth. When we lack a vision for the glory of God, it’s because we have bought into a lie that Jesus is not as worthy as some other thing in our life. Something else has become more important to us, and it has dimmed the glory of God.

The only thing God asks of us is to want what he has to offer. This is where counting the things of his kingdom more valuable than anything else comes in.

If we consider the pleasures of the world and being accepted into God’s kingdom to be of equal value, we reject what God has to offer. Paul is saying that all things are considered worthless compared to knowing Christ, so it is a happy trade-off to deny all things that would get in the way of God’s kingdom.

The next post will provide what I hope will be a fresh perspective on desire and how we can increase our vision of the infinite worth of Jesus.

Desiring the Kingdom Part 1

Matthew 13:44: “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”

Jesus was talking about the tremendous value of gaining the kingdom of heaven. The man in the parable is willing to give up everything he already has because the treasure is so much more valuable.

If you were to present a bag full of quarters and a $100 bill to a 4 year old, and ask him to choose one, which one would he take? Probably the bag of quarters. Why? Because he knows the value of a quarter. He sees a bag full of quarters and imagines how many candies he can buy from the candy machine. But he has not yet learned the value of a $100 bill.

Our trouble is that we know not the value and the worth of the kingdom of God. As C.S. Lewis stated in his famous sermon, The Weight of Glory, we are “like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

The call of Christ is to be that man who discovers something of tremendous value, something worth more than everything we have combined; to consider him to be that great treasure, and to prove his worth by living in the same way as one who is receiving a great inheritance that will make everything we currently own seem worthless.

Now, don’t think we will gain the kingdom when we give up everything else. Rather, we gain the kingdom when we want it more than anything else. We gain the kingdom when we see the eternal fellowship with God as a great treasure more valuable than anything else we could ever possess.

The child who considers the quarters to be more valuable makes his choice between the two. He can’t have both. We need to want the kingdom of God more than even the greatest possession here on earth. God has made it available to us. But, we can’t have the kingdom of God if it takes second place to anything else.

My next post will address the issue we have with not wanting God’s kingdom; we lack the desire and therefore get distracted by worldly pleasures or troubles.

What is your family known for?

Most families are known for something. Some are hockey families, some are hunting families, some are more artistic and musical, while others are great at building and fixing things. While it is great for families to be able to enjoy these kind of things together, there is something far greater that Christian families should be known for.

Matthew 6:21 says, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

The heart of a Christian family will be revealed by what they care most deeply about. A family can be passionate about hunting, or hockey, or horses, but God is calling families to find their greatest passion in Jesus Christ. This means that Jesus needs to be honoured in all the things we enjoy together. Decisions need to be made that intentionally increase Jesus’ value in the family.

Christian maturity includes learning how to count that which is eternal as having greater value than that which is temporary. Jesus is the greatest treasure of all, and we need to learn how to count him as greater than all other things.

From Discipline To Delight

There is an important reason why we chose the word “treasure” in our ministry name. As children grow up, and as Christians become mature, our desire is to see a transition from being disciplined by the commands of Jesus to delighting in the relationship with Jesus.

The stage of discipline is often a difficult but necessary stage in order to move on to the delight stage. During the discipline stage, a person is challenged to stay on track toward obedience. Eventually, with maturity comes a sense of delight in the relationship that has developed as a result of obedience. Although some discipline will always be required, the more mature we become in our relationship with Jesus, the more we treasure that relationship and even the discipline that comes with it.

This is our desire and our prayer for all families and individuals.