Don’t You Want “Next Level” Faith?
Recently, I saw footage of a very popular pastor telling his congregation about “taking their relationship with Jesus to the next level.” When I first heard him talk about “some very practical ways” to do this, my ears perked up. Hey, I’m a planner. I’m a big picture, progress guy – I like to see the ball move down the field. I like to see points go up on my side of the board. How about you?
With a little evaluation, though, the Galatian heresy (see Gal 3:1-6) appears to rear its head… “You’re in charge. The Gospel just needs YOUR steps of action to work its full magic.” Uh-oh… How do you come back from that? Yes, obedience matters, but does obedience begin with us? “Faith without works is dead.” But, does obedience begin with your 5 step, 3 bullet-point, 90 day action plan? Or, does it begin with what’s already been done on your behalf?
It’s easy to point to guys like Abraham and say – “Abraham put his faith into action…”all the while forgetting that there was nothing outstanding about Abram that made God choose him in the first place. Abram “stepped out in faith”, but did his faith really “activate God’s blessing in his life”? No. God does not need our help. He requires our obedience. To those who would believe that Abraham activated God’s blessing, I must humbly ask – what if Abram didn’t step out in faith? Would God’s plan to create a covenant people have failed? Clearly, God would have had a covenant people with or without Abraham.
Yes, Abraham was obedient to God. Yes, Abraham received great blessings that changed him from “exalted father” to “father of a multitude” – but this blessing was already available. The question we must ask is “what do we miss out on when we run from God and fail to step out in obedience. For some both in the Old and New Testaments – it meant death on the spot. For others, it means loss of blessings that will go do someone else.
Regardless, we must keep in mind what we bring to the table in our salvation – “need for a Savior”. This does not change once we have a Savior. Obedience is rewarded, but God is never manipulated and is no respecter of men. There is nothing we can do to take our faith to the next level – that is God’s job and He will carry on this work until the day of Christ Jesus – see Phil 1:6. Our faith does not fail to grow because of a “step” we missed in the algorithm of “success”, but when we take matters into our own hands to “help” God. 1 Thess 4:3 tells us that God is already in the business of conforming us to the image of Christ. Best advice? Get out of His way and join in the work already in progress!
If you have been chosen by God to receive sonship and adoption – you have done nothing to warrant it, so be grateful. We get to walk in obedience because we worship a God who loves us enough to call us to obedience. Experience in prayer today that God uniquely loves you and has called you according to His purposes. Now, experience it when He gives you another breath and another… and yet another.
I’m Not Here to be an “I Told You So”
Perhaps one of the most difficult lessons in this life is learning that people are going to do what they want to do despite godly counsel. Then again, I’m a father of four, so it’s bound to happen sooner or later, right? This month, I want to focus in on the importance of discipleship before it’s required and the implications it has on the turn of season from single to married. Bottom line(s), like my pilot friends will tell you “it’s better to be on the ground (single) wishing you were in the air (married) than to be in the air wishing you were on the ground”; and discipleship matters, especially when obedience is the result.
Watch Out for the Brick!!!
My wife has such an interesting mix of spiritual gifts – a heart for pastoring, but a gift for exhorting. Not only is she street smart, but she’d got a direct line to the Father, who sometimes gives her inside information. Some might call it “word of knowledge”. Some would call it “prophetic”. I sometimes have to call it “spooky”. It’s especially spooky when she’s dead right about it.
This week, I got to catch up with a guy that asked us for wisdom and counsel in a relationship he was pursuing. I was kind yet firm. I offered very little opinion and much scripture. Cristine… When she spoke, I thought I saw a brick come out of her mouth and hit the guy in the head. It wasn’t entirely gentle. Blunt, clear, and true, but ouch. I could see the guy squirm in his seat. I could also see, by the look on his face that my wife was right about what she told him.
Months went by and here I am sitting down with him again – heartbroken. What Cristine had shared with him was utterly accurate and painfully real. He and his wife were now struggling through deal-breaker after deal-breaker in their marriage and it looked like this could have been prevented if he’d taken the advice my brick-throwing bride had given him months earlier. This isn’t an article about how we’re so great and others need to bow down to our massive Hans & Franz sized biblical biceps. It’s about how great this week’s conversation went.
See, this guy had married a wounded woman. I personally believe that when it comes to woundedness, “the tide goes out of the harbor as soon as you say ‘I do’.” Meaning that if you have junk in your harbor from past shipwrecks, it will become most visible after the altar, not before. Well, it’s low tide and their harbor is loaded with flotsam and jetsam: hurts, pains, fears, wrongs, unspoken expectations, minimized weaknesses… Since the wedding, wounds in her life had begun to consume her, him, and their marriage. Yet “Tom” was so steadfast. I absolutely, beyond a shadow of a doubt, love the attitude of Christ this guy was wearing – he knew in the middle of fights, blow-ups, and tit-for-tat’s that he could not leave this woman even if she asked him to. This guy had studied the scripture and taken the time to think out loud with other guys in his life.
The point of the story is to update you on some of the great things God is doing in the lives of men and women willing to “seek [Him] with all of [their] heart(s) (Jer. 29.13)”. It’s also to provoke you to action.
1. Will you pray for “Tom” and his marriage? You don’t need to know his real name, God will get who you’re praying for, because He’s… well… omniscient.
2. Pass this article on to a friend of yours who’s in a great unmarried relationship. Pass it on to another friend who’s in a terrible unmarried relationship. Then, purposely don’t tell each friend which one you think they are.
3. If you’re engaged or in a serious relationship, contact your local church about their ministry to the engaged – don’t walk through the engagement process on your own – we didn’t and we’re thoroughly grateful for it. Don’t consider meeting with other couples who have been married for many years – do it. We did that, and still meet with them from time to time. It has been a vital part of our marriage growth curve. “He who walks with the wise grows wise, but the companion of fools suffers harm. (Prov. 13.20)”
Never been a gr8 evengelist. Always wondered how I’d win souls – 2nd wk in a row my daughter’s brings a friend 2church that asks 2 rec’v Christ. HE = faithful.