Excuses are annoying. I had a football coach tell me his opinion on excuses in high school, but I don’t think this is the time or the place to discuss that philosophy. Nevertheless, most everyone hates excuses and the irony is that we all use them. However, I find it very humorous that most of the time our excuses don’t fool anyone, yet the one we give the most excuses to is the One who knows the motivations of our heart. What are some of the most famous excuses of all time? How about: but I’m too young, or …but I can’t, or …but I’m not good enough, or …but I’m afraid.
I’m sure you have studied many characters and narratives in the bible, but there is no other that best illustrates the no-excuse life than Numbers 13 and 14. God tells Moses to choose one leader from each tribe of Israel to explore the land of Canaan, the Promised Land. So Moses sends 12 men to explore the land and bring back a report to give to the entire Israelite community. The men leave on a forty day journey to scout the land of Canaan. After the forty days are over they come back to give their report and boy did they like the land they saw. It was a land that flows with milk and honey, which means that it was a land that could sustain their animals as well as cultivate a bountiful crop. They even brought back some fruit from the land for the people to taste and it was amazing. BUT! Numbers 13:28 says it all, “But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large.” Did you notice the first word of that verse? Then Caleb interrupted, “’We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.’ But the men who had gone up with him said, ‘We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.’ And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored” (Numbers 13:30b-32). After that the people started to say things like… “If we had only died in Egypt. We should choose a leader and go back.” This is the part where a fire burns within me as I read. I get so mad at the Israelites. They are clueless. They have just witnessed the plagues that God issued on Egypt, not to mention the parting of the Red Sea. God didn’t just deliver them from their enemy, He completely crushed their enemy. God singlehandedly defeated the armed forces of the most powerful nation in the world at that time and the Israelites didn’t have to lift a finger. But they don’t get it. Here they are faithless, spineless and whining all over again. I get so mad I want to scream.
Then I realize that I am the same way. I face an obstacle and I am spineless, faithless, and I whine to God. He wants me to do something and I make excuses as to why I shouldn’t or can’t. I can’t imagine how fed up He gets dealing with the same things over and over in my life. I am sure you can relate, and the thing that scares me is the “but” found in
Go back and look at Numbers 13:1-2 “The LORD said to Moses, ‘Send some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites.’” That should have been enough for the Israelites. God said he was giving the land to them. If there is one thing you can take from this, here it is: When the LORD gives a promise, you can take it to the bank. Or that our prayer would be the same as Paul’s to the Ephesians, “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, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen —Ephesians 3:20-21
I would like for you to join me in this endeavor to live a no-excuse life. We all need accountability. I would like to challenge you to keep your…but out of the way.
It’s no secret that Spiritual Formation is a passion of mine; I desire it for myself, and I desire it for others—for you. As a reminder here is the big all-inclusive Trinitarian definition of Spiritual Formation: “God the Holy Spirit takes the initiative, through various means, in cooperation with our response, changes us to look like God the Son, in order to serve others, to the glory of God the Father.” (J.K. Jones).
What that says is that God the Holy Spirit initiates the process of Spiritual Formation in us. Furthermore, He uses various means (good things, tragedies, life experiences, etc.) to change us to look like Jesus Christ (God the Son), in order to serve others, all to glorify God the Father.
However, there was one piece in my explanation that I left out; “in cooperation with our response.” You see, God the Father wants us to reflect Jesus in our lives, He wants us to be conformed to the image of Christ. If Christ lives in you and your life really is hidden in Christ, then it suffices to say that when people look at you they should see Christ. The problem is that we must cooperate. The Holy Spirit cannot make us look like Jesus if we refuse to cooperate and participate in that formation.
Think of it this way for a moment. Imagine there is a skill that you want your child to become great at (football, band, baking, NASCAR, etc.); in your desire for them to be the best you are willing to do whatever it takes to help them be the best. You hire the most skilled people in that field to train your child. You buy them books. You take them to seminars. You dedicate your life to helping your child become the best. But…you see that your child ignores everything the professionals say, they refuse to read the books, they play on their phones in the seminars, they have caused you to spend your life in vain. If your child is to be the best, they must cooperate and participate in the opportunities provided to become the best.
It is the same with being conformed to the image of Christ. We are filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38), we have the Scriptures (2 Timothy 3:16-17), we participate with the Body of Christ (Hebrew 10:23-25). Yet, if we ignore the Spirit’s work and prompting in us, if we neglect the Scriptures, and are half-hearted in our commitment to The Church, we are not going to progress in our conformity to the image of Christ.
If I can be honest for a moment, I must admit that what I said to start is a bit misleading. I said that I desire Spiritual Formation for myself, which isn’t completely true. On my good days I want to be conformed to the image of Christ, but then there are other days, the not so good days, the days in which I am pretty apathetic, the days when I am content to conform to the image of me.
These apathetic days are what I want to address. Even on these days there is hope. I want to share something I read recently on a solo retreat. The author was discussing Romans 8:34 and that Jesus is at the right hand of God interceding for you and me. Additionally, Paul also explains that the Holy Spirit also intercedes on our behalf (Romans 8:26).
This is what James Bryan Smith encourages us with, “[Jesus] is praying that you and I would be completely new people…He will not stop until he has made us all new people.” (Hidden in Christ, 33-34).
I find this encouraging, because it means that even on my apathetic days Jesus doesn’t give up. On the days where I couldn’t care less both Jesus and the Holy Spirit are interceding on my behalf to the Father for me.
May you and I find hope in the fact that God doesn’t give up on us. May we find encouragement knowing that when we are apathetic, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are praying for us. May we cooperate with God in conforming to the image of Christ.
In my last blog post I discussed that when we sin it is a choice, and that one of the tools to help us choose not to sin is Scripture memory. I want to take this a step further and discuss another tool.
However, I feel that I must acknowledge that I understand for many this will be a difficult discussion. Many will read this and say something like, “That’s a little too catholic for me.” All I ask is that you hear me out.
In addition to Scripture memory, another discipline that can help us choose righteousness over sin is the discipline of confession. When I say confession, I am talking the discipline of sitting down with another Christian(s) you trust (of the same gender) and confessing your sins to them. I know, you are ready to walk away right now, we aren’t catholic, you don’t need a priest, you don’t need to confess your sins to anyone but God. Please hear me out.
You are correct, Scripture does promise that if we confess our sins “…He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins…” (1 John 1:9 ESV). It is assumed that John is referring to confessing our sins to God. But this isn’t the only place that Scripture discusses confession of sins.
Take a minute, grab your Bible, and read James 5:13-20 (James is toward the back of your Bible between Hebrews and 1 Peter). Go a head, read it, I’ll still be here when your done.
Did you notice verse 16. Go read it again.
To whom does James say to confess our sins?
Why does he say to do confess them to this person?
You see, there is a Biblical precedence for confessing our sins to each other.
I think confession is incredibly powerful for overcoming the tendency to give into temptations to sin. John Ortberg discusses part of why confession is helpful; in his book The Life You’ve Always Wanted, Ortberg writes:
“To confess means to own up to the fact that our behavior wasn’t just the result of bad parenting, poor genes, jealous siblings, or a chemical imbalance from too many Twinkies. Any or all of those factors may be involved. Human behavior is a complex thing. But confession means saying that somewhere in the mix was a choice, and the choice was made by us, and it does not need to be excused, explained, or even understood. The choice needs to be forgiven. The slate has to be wiped clean.”
We’ve been praying for revival. Our nation desperately needs revival. The Church desperately needs revival. I think its safe to say, our congregation longs for revival. We must recognize that a revival won’t begin outside, revival begins when we begin to live with an awareness of God’s presence in our lives. Revival begins when we start choosing righteousness over sin.
Will you commit with me to find someone to whom you can confess your sins? To whom you can acknowledge your choice to sin? From whom you can here the grace of God spoken as your are reminded that God is faithful, even when we are unfaithful?
Let’s decide together to do whatever it takes to become slaves to righteousness, instead of living as slaves to sin
Blog posts from the Sterling staff, and maybe even the occasional guest blogger.