Tag Archives: Matthew

Can I Get By with This?

8 Nov

Confession time: I customarily drive about three miles over the speed limit. I had a highway patrolman friend tell me they usually let drivers get by with driving 3-4 miles over the limit. Then our state raised the speed limit to 75. Cars traveling at least 85 mph often pass me and they usually get by with it.

Have we become a people who merely try to get by? Can I be one or two minutes late without upsetting my boss? If three minutes goes unnoticed, why not ten minutes late? If a subcontractor makes a mistake, does he correct it or leave it, knowing that “it will cover?” There are many opportunities for getting by—mop the center of a floor and skip the corners, inflate billable hours, scarcely study for a test, text instead of supervise the kids you babysit, and more.

Let Scripture guide our work ethic. “ Whatever your task, put yourselves into it, as done for the Lord and not for your masters, since you know that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward; you serve the Lord Christ” (Colossians 3:23–24 NRSV). When we think we’re getting by, we’re really cheating ourselves of the reward God has planned for us.

But there’s a flip side to getting by—we’re not giving God His due. The quality of our work reflects on Christ. “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16 NRSV). It’s crazy to think that my service could bring glory to God, but that’s what it says.

We have only One employer, One audience, One supervisor. It’s unrealistic to believe we can do all things well, much less, that we can do anything we set our minds to. However, whatever we find to do, we must do it for our Lord, Jesus Christ. We do our best because He is the best.

Not everyone will understand, appreciate, or even approve our attitudes and actions. Sometimes we’ll be blamed and criticized unfairly. That has to be secondary to pleasing God. “Live such good lives among [unbelievers] that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us” (1 Peter 2:12 NIV).

Christ followers aren’t to do just enough to get by. “And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles” (Matthew 5:40–41 NIV). I haven’t always lived up to this standard, but it remains my goal and gets easier as I age. I don’t want to get by; I want to make a difference. How about you?

“Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God; whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ. To him belong the glory and the power forever and ever” (1 Peter 4:11 NRSV).

New Mind, New Me

25 May

I’ve kept a journal for many years. I sometimes read a page and ask myself, “Did I write that? Wow. That’s good stuff. God was really speaking to me that day.” But more often than I care to admit, I found repeated confessions for the same mistakes, and the same longing to be like Christ. In earlier journals, such longing resulted in new resolve and determined effort to “live the Christian life.” Yet I predictably reverted to my previous behavior.

Two verses helped me understand why resolving to change usually ends in failure.
“For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. . .” (Matthew 15:19 NASB).
“The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45 NASB).

Simply put, we can’t experience true transformation by just trying harder. In order to change our behavior, we must first ask God to change our heart. (See post It’s Time for Some Good News, May 18, 2013). I refer to the biblical view of heart—our spirit and our will. The heart is the center of our being, the part of us that’s under our control. God first loves us, forgives us, and gives us new life. Then we must do our part. It’s not either/or. It’s both/and. God’s Spirit offers love, life, and power. We decide what to believe, think, and obey.

On the most basic level, that requires belief in Jesus Christ as our personal Savior. When we trust Christ to forgive our sins and give us new life, we receive the Holy Spirit who empowers us to live like Christ. From that moment, we become collaborators with the Spirit, working together to mold us into Christ’s true disciple. In deciding what to believe, it’s our responsibility to learn God’s perspective on any situation.

Let’s take Ephesians 4:31–32 as an example. “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (NIV).

Trying to get rid of anger by dogged determination results in short term success at best and failure at worst. Yet Scripture holds that out as the Christian way of life. What then is our strategy? First, we desire change and believe it’s possible. Next, we choose to renew our mind (Romans 12:2) and cooperate with God’s indwelling Spirit. That means finding ways to place ourselves in God’s presence and allow Him to change us. That involves prayer, asking God to reveal what’s inside us that produces anger. Must I be in control or be appreciated? Do I allow others to take advantage of me? Do I need help with an abusive situation? Am I simply exhausted and need sleep? Perhaps, I need more alone time with God or Bible study.

The Holy Spirit answers our questions through Scripture, wise Christian counsel, His still small voice within, and common sense. Then we choose to obey or disobey. Obedience leads to growth and intimacy with Christ; disobedience leads to distance and spiritual immaturity. We repeat this cycle repeatedly in many different situations. Over time, we’re transformed into the likeness of Christ. Our thoughts, behaviors, and emotions flow naturally from His Spirit. At that point, we become unaware of Christ speaking or behaving through us, because such attitudes and actions come from our identity in Him.

I love how 2 Corinthians 5:17 in the New King James Bible describes this radical change.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”

A new mind, a new me—-His gracious gift offered to every believer.

We Need Supernatural Help

19 Apr

Most of us have felt alone and hopeless at some point in our lives, but that lie can lead to disastrous life-changing consequences. Jesus never intended His followers to live without supernatural help, that’s why His last words on earth were “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20b). I find that extremely encouraging and I pray you do too.

Even though Jesus isn’t with us in bodily form, His Spirit lives within all believers just as He promised in John 14:16–17. “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper,* that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.” (*Helper can also be translated Counselor, Advocate, and Comforter.)

Please consider several biblical truths that demonstrate how God loves us and offers His help, counsel, support, and comfort.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16 ESV).

There is no sin or situation beyond God’s love. The Bible records God’s forgiveness for every type of sin: murder, adultery, theft, gossip, prostitution, lying and more. The problem is no longer sin, because Christ died for all sin.
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5: 8 NASB).

The question becomes “Will you accept God’s love and forgiveness available in Jesus Christ?”
“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12 ESV).

God doesn’t wait for us to get ourselves straightened out or cleaned up. He accepts us where we are. Jesus takes our sin and replaces it with His love and power. Even in pain and trouble, He gives us hope.
“. . . hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:5 ESV).

1 John 4:8b tells us that “God is love.” Although 1 Corinthians 13 describes how we are to love to one another, it seems reasonable to assume God perfectly demonstrates all these loving characteristics. Try personalizing these verses. In other words, God is patient and kind with me.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (1 Corinthians 13:4–7 NIV).

And finally…
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38–39).

Perhaps you feel hopeless and need to renew your mind with the truth of God’s love and forgiveness. Or perhaps you can share how you overcame feelings of hopeless. Let us hear from you.

I’m No Spiritual Giant

29 Mar

Have you ever thought God meant some scriptures for spiritual giants, and you couldn’t possibly achieve such lofty standards? The following verses might fall into that category. (Italics mine.)

Philippians 2:14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing.

Matthew 5:44 “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

Philippians 4:6–7 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Or perhaps some statements in the Bible such as 1 Corinthians 2:16 seem just too good to be true.

“For who has known the mind of the lord, that he will instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.”

First Corinthians 2:16 is one of three verses with which I wrestled and which eventually became the basis for this blog and a Bible study I’m writing. Because God’s thoughts and ways are far superior to mine, I had no problem accepting the first part of verse 16 where Paul quotes Isaiah 40:13. “Who dares to teach God anything?” However, Paul’s next statement amazed me. “But we have the mind of Christ.”

Wow! That appeared too good to be true. At least it wasn’t true in my own life. It seemed unbelievable that I had the mind of Christ—since I made wrong choices, had unwelcome thoughts, and experienced unreliable emotions. Additionally, it’s tough to ignore mistreatment by other Christians. No way had they behaved like Christ. Yet that verse refers to all Christians.

What did having the mind of Christ mean? Since it’s in the Bible, I know it must at least be a possibility for me. Could it be a promise?

WHAT DO YOU THINK? I’d love to hear your thoughts. If you’re interested in my conclusions based on Scripture and clinical knowledge as a professional counselor, I hope you’ll follow this blog. I invite you to join me in the journey of renewing our minds and becoming all God intended us to be.