I have been reading a book, “Distortion” by Chelsen Vicari. It is a convicting book that looks at the changing outlook on life in the United States. Specifically by the church. Chelsen points out that there are those who claim to follow Christ but emphasize the social gospel at the expense of a personal relationship with Jesus. The social gospel tries to help people which is part of applying the Loving your neighbor method. Which is good, but some have shifted the emphasis from helping others to promoting their personal opinion about prolife, homosexuality, social justice, feminism, Christian persecution and the nation of Israel. It was a very insightful read and I would recommend it. It will show you how the world is trying it’s best to under mind the true gospel of the Lord. How we must involve ourselves in the battle. The future of the gospel in America may depend on our willingness to join this struggle. It is a deep read. I found it to be inspiring and motivating.
Success…What would you describe success as? Is it making it to work on time? Is it getting through the day without your kids going crazy? Is it not having to deal with that someone at work? Is it when your team wins? Our definition of success could come in many different forms. We have many things that we go through each and every day and if we make it through them, usually we consider that a success. What happens when we succeed though? We get a good feeling inside and we feel like we have accomplished something. We then work and try to make that happen again and again because it feels good. We like succeeding. No one likes the alternative. Failing isn’t even a word we like to say much because no one likes to fail. We would much rather have victory or success than fail. But to what extent do we measure whether we fail or succeed and at what cost?
If we were to ask God the same question, how would God describe success? Would His definition and ours be the same? And what about the cost? To be honest, our definitions probably wouldn't line up. Why? Because we view success more from a worldly point of view than from a Godly. We work, practice, travel, and prepare for things here and now when we should be doing all of those things for the kingdom of God. Matthew 16:24-27 says, "Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done."
What have you done? Are you living out what Jesus said in those verses? If so you are succeeding. Because success isn't truly rewarded here. For us to succeed here God is calling us to be last, to deny ourselves and to put Him first. To make yourself last probably won’t get you the bonus or promotion you wanted. So what do you do? Are you willing to sacrifice things on earth for things in heaven, or are you sacrificing things in heaven for things on earth? Jesus asks, what good is it to gain everything here, but lose everything there? That is the true definition of success. No matter what it may cost us here, we gain everything in the end by faithfully denying ourselves and following him. And if you think that cost is too high of a price to pay, just remember what price Jesus paid for you.
Have you decided to follow Jesus…if so…no turning back, no turning back.
When Uriah started talking about wanting to get baptized Lindsay and I decided to get him a gift to commemorate the occasion. It didn’t take long for me to decide that we would get him a pocket knife. I also wanted to get it engraved with a passage that could be especially significant given the decision he was going to make. To our excitement he made this decision sooner than we expected and told us on December 22, that he was ready and wanted to get baptized and make a commitment to be a disciple of Jesus. I had the amazing privilege of baptizing him on Christmas Eve.
When his knife came in the next week, Uriah and I went for a drive. I explained to him that we wanted to get him something special for his decision and decided to get him a knife. I told him that there were people who probably wouldn’t approve of this gift. He knew why, because it can be dangerous. However, he also knew that there were benefits to having a knife, one can protect themselves, get food, and help people to name a few that he mentioned.
Affirming that he was correct, knives are great tools that have unending uses, they also carry a level of danger which requires responsibility. It didn’t take long for him to explain to me numerous ways that people could get hurt by his knife if he was careless with it. Because of these dangers I explained that he had to be responsible to make sure that he wasn’t careless with his knife, whether it be leaving it lay where his sisters could get it or using it in a way that was potentially harmful. I went on to explain that it was his knife, therefore he is the one responsible for what happens with it at all times.
You may be wondering why I am recounting this conversation with you, this is why—our spiritual life is like this knife. We have been given an incredible gift (far better than any knife). This gift gives us not only the ability but the obligation to help people (Matthew 28:18-20). How much more can we protect somebody than with the gift of grace from God and eternity with the Father, Son, & Spirit?
However, like the knife people are often hurt by Christians who are careless with their lives. Maybe you leave your “spiritual life” laying at the church building when you leave. Brennan Manning comments, “The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyles, that is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.” The biggest reason people reject Christ is Christians who leave their “spiritual life” at the church building. The apostle Paul addresses this in Romans 1:18-2:24. Other Christians cause damage when they are careless with how they use their faith, think Westboro Baptist and people like them.
As a result of the way a knife illustrates the Christian life. And since the decision to accept Jesus, get baptized, and commit to a life of discipleship is the beginning of becoming a man (in the spiritual sense), we had the knife engraved with “1 Kings 2:1-4.”
My prayer is that from reading this you may never look at a knife the same way. I pray that every time you see a knife it would be a reminder to you of the power and responsibility it carries. It is my prayer that this reminder would change the way we live. May we be people who are helpful, life giving, and responsible with our faith. May we live in such a way that people are drawn closer to God, not pushed away from Him.
Blog posts from the Sterling staff, and maybe even the occasional guest blogger.