July 6, 2017

Man to Man

It's time for a real man to man conversation. That doesn't mean one that brings us to punches or a shouting match. What it means is it's time to get serious about how we live our lives. It means it's time to lovingly challenge each other to live what we believe. For us who choose to follow Jesus, it means it's time to get serious about the what and whys of our faith and put aside the trappings of this very temporary life.

When we look through the book of Acts, we see how God moved powerfully in calling people to Himself, and we see how He uses new believers to draw others to Him.  They were so excited in the new life and freedom they found in Christ! They had tried living without God, without guidelines, and therefore, without hope. It just didn't bring them peace. Living this way never does.

The new believers in Jesus moved in the gifting and power of His Holy Spirit, with signs and wonders and miracles accompanying their sharing of the Gospel message. As we continue on reading, we discover that when we work through conflict with each other, God’s is glorified, the body is strengthened, and the eternal work of the Kingdom in seeing people come to faith happens again.  

This is so different than the way it works in the world! The difference in the way we live and treat each other is noticed by people to see if God is truly real and working in our lives. They are drawn to Jesus in us. This happens only if they see something different than what they see elsewhere.       

People are the reason Jesus died for our sins  --- and people are watching Christians to see if we are authentic, real, and most importantly, if our lives have trust been changed. The reality is that we are all dissatisfied with something in our lives. Ultimately, there's the discovery that our emptiness and our hopelessness comes from the bad choices we've made and the destruction it brings. Simply, our sin, our active rebellion against the laws God has put in place, only leads us to death. Death here and death and separation from God for eternity. If you're like me, sometimes it seems as if I am absolutely powerless to due the right thing. 
“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”                 (Romans 5:6-8)

Oh, that good news! Real good news! Boy, do I need to hear that. Again and again, if I'm honest with you. I tend to forget as I go about the busyness of my life.

Isn't all so easy and so practical? God makes it this simple because of His great love for the people He created. Jesus doesn't say He is the only way to God because He is being close minded or hated. He says this because He desires to keep it simple and make the way to Him easy to find. It's the enemy of our souls that tries to complicate the matter.

“I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations. Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness.  When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness.  What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death!  But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.  For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”   (Romans 6:19-23)

Stop and think right now of who you were and how you lived before you met Jesus. Deep down, at least for me, I could never really reach the place of being joyful. Life dragged me down. The weight of carrying around disappointments and brokenness seemed to be a never ending spiral I could not get free from. The story of God's great love and His mercy drew me to Him. Is it your story?  Our story - and what hope and life we have found - should be what motivates us to keep sharing Jesus. Why?

Not that we live there dwelling in the past, but remembering who we are and who we used to be accomplishes a few very important things in our lives and in how we serve God:
1- It keeps us thankful for what God has done – thankfulness manifests joy which radiates!
2- It keeps us humble, reminding us to feel blessed that God would choose to use us. 
3- It protects us against our ego and pride, thinking more highly of ourselves than we should.
4- It keeps our focus on God’s strength and not our own, God’s gifting to us and not our natural abilities

Will we go out with the message and in this manner? Pastor Michael Petillo says: “True triumph is when we humbly embrace God’s leading into places of weakness where He can show Himself strong. “ The longer I know Jesus, the more I have to depend on Him. Temptation to the old way of life, the temptation to sin never really leaves. (By the way, temptation is only temptation. It's not the same as sin. Jesus was tempted in every way, but He never sinned. Wish someone had told me that years ago!) The place most important to show His control over your life? In your own house.

5- It reminds us to function like brothers and sisters in God's Family instead of thinking like the world.

In the world, power and position are used as a tool to intimidate and manipulate people. Not in God’s kingdom- Here, in our new family, it is used to serve others. As servants of Jesus, we are not above Our Master!  Listen to Jesus’ words: “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you” (Luke 22:25-26)

It reminds us we serve a common goal- not creating conflict and competition between different parts of our churches and our lives. 
In the book of James 3:16, we find, "For where jealousy and self-seeking exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice." 

It's as if God knew that even believers in Him would be competitive. I love this quote from Pastor Andy Knuth- “Jesus before Strategies, Prayer before Projects, Faith before Formula.”

6-  It removes the “hard ring” of telling a story that no longer impacts us, keeping it personal.
7- It communicates to non-believers and new believers that our life with Jesus is a journey- and we do not have to meet standards of perfection to be loved or welcomed or used by God AND HIS FAMILY!                  

We are not slaves to having to appear perfect! We are free in Christ Jesus!
I can love and serve and believe in a God like that! Can't you?

Let's look at 1 Timothy 1:12-17. It's the story of the Apostle Paul: 

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me trustworthy, appointing me to his service. Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.  But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.  Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.”  

Remember where you came from and what Jesus did for you! And what he is doing now!
• Be thankful
• Be humble
• Focus on God’s strength not our human wisdom and abilities
• Remember we are in a new family with new rules in how we treat each other
• Share god’s love and patience towards us- loving us as we are transformed!
• Invite them into the family of God- and watch long lasting fruit and believers who multiply!

Here's a couple of questions for further reflection:

1- Are you the thinking like the world or like someone in God's family?
2- Which of the following areas are difficult for you?
Lack of thankfulness?
Focusing on my abilities?
The desire to have power, prestige, and status?

Bless you as you press into the things of God for His Glory!

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