What are you willing to do to become an effective, productive Christian? Will you go to school? Will you take training classes on how to serve the Lord? Will you, as some have done, spend hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars on a spiritual “coach” who will help you see the mistakes you make and corrections to take? School is good, training is important, and having someone to “coach” you has some value. But, did you know that God has already given you what you need to become an effective Christian? God wants you to be effective and productive – but remember that His view of effectiveness is not from a worldly, pragmatic understanding. God’s view of effectiveness is built on one thing – your knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. Today, we're going to take a look at four important dynamics for an effective Christian life. Let me encourage you to read 2 Peter, chapter one.
First - Character Counts
At a conference in Spokane, WA--several years ago--Pastor and author, Henry Blackaby, said this: "You can have a Ph.D. in skills, but your character will ruin you." Ultimately it will be the quality of your character that will open the doors of effective Christian living. Like the punctuation of your life, your character will either leave an exclamation point or a question mark on your faith.
Second - Growth is Imperative
If you're not growing... your dead. Truly, the Christian faith is not a static experience that has a limit to growth. Psalm 84 says that the faithful will go from "strength to strength." But for how long? "Until each appear before God in Zion." That is - you are meant to be in a growth mode until the day you stand on the streets of Heaven itself. Remember - it is the stagnant pool that becomes septic and unfit for use.
Third - Results Matter
This may surprise some people, but God wants His church to be productive. However, God does not measure results by worldly standards. God does not have a quota as if He is some supreme foreman demanding that the production line get into gear! God's sights are set on your faithfulness - that is what He is after. And, if you add the qualities of character to your faith, then you will become productive.
Fourth - Have the Right Information
Your effectiveness hinges on your knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. Like having a road map of Berlin won't help you navigate the highways of Los Angeles, so having the wrong knowledge of Jesus Christ will devastate your effectiveness.
When your life takes on the quality of Christ, you will discover that you are becoming effective in your faith. Jesus called us to follow Him - and in so doing, He promised to transform us to become fishers of men - that is, effective and productive.
Are you feeling run down? Is it hard to get up? Then try Pastor Michael’s miracle cure! It’s all the power you need in one handy capsule. And after just one dose you’ll feel brand new!
Okay… that’s not actually true. There is no “miracle cure” that will enliven and uplift your life. In fact, just the opposite is too often true. Men and women searching for that rush of euphoria end up becoming slaves to whatever it is that has captivated them. The cravings for drugs, alcohol, sex, money, power, etc. have a downward spiral that leads to destruction and leaves a crater where once a life used to be.
How do we do it then? How do we find that power to live when life falls apart and our world is failing? You’re not alone in the search. The Apostle Paul had the same struggle. Do you know what God told him? It’s the same thing He will tell us – you need to be empowered by grace. Read 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 and then follow along these next few moments as we explore this text.
First - you must see your present affliction. How is a person afflicted? Often through trials and temptations, with the constant reminder of the failings of the past, will come the enemy of our souls. There are some who think that Paul's "thorn" was his bad eyesight. However, that doesn't agree with the reality that his "thorn" was a messenger of Satan. What does Satan come to do? He is the accuser of the brothers, the tempter, the one who comes to "steal, kill and destroy." This "thorn," by my speculation, was the constant reminder of Paul's failings - his sins. All are afflicted in a similar way and in the midst of it must be empowered by grace.
Second - there is always a plea for deliverance. The afflictions in our lives cause us to cry out – to seek God’s rescue from pain. Jesus did in the garden, Paul does here, and we all want to find deliverance. God's answer, however, may not be deliverance from affliction, but deliverance through affliction. And, ultimately, our cry must be "not my will, but Yours be done."
Third - you come in contact with the power of grace. When you truly know the Grace of Christ and have received it in its abundance, the thorns inflicted upon you will become the points where God’s strength dominates. Instead of finding destruction and despair you will see how much God has done for you, even as the enemy himself stands to accuse you. His accusations will fail because the true Judge has already issued you a pardon through the shed blood of Jesus Christ.
Fourth - this leads to the promotion of humility. In what do you boast? In this world people often boast over the arrogant successes of men. But God has a higher place for us – and that is the place of humility. When you are empowered by the grace of God you will have no room to boast except in the Lord Jesus Christ. His ways become yours, His life is yours, and His power is your source for all that you are. There is no room for self-boasting in a heart empowered by grace.
Fifth - this brings your pronouncement of faith. It is a declaration of faith to say that you can delight in the sufferings that come as you walk with Christ Jesus. From the inward turmoil to the outward attacks, all things must be seen through the eyes of faith. You will take every experience and tie it together with your relationship to Christ, declaring with certainty that even your afflictions have been God's tools to shape you, until Christ's power, and His power alone, rests on you.
"Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them." This quote from Henry David Thoreau still seems to resonate within the hearts of people today. Yet God has promised a life of contentment for those who have faith in Christ.
Do you experience contentment? Do you believe that God wants you to experience it? The Scripture says, "Godliness with contentment is great gain" (1 Timothy 6:6). Listen to the message "Finding Contentment." First, read the Scripture - Philippians 4:11-13. Below are some notes for the message.
First, God has a Grand Strategy. His strategy is this: He wants you to be a learner - a disciple of Jesus Christ. The world is God school and His word is the lesson plan. He has called you to become a faithful follower of Jesus Christ who will, by HIs Holy Spirit, instruct you and bring you into a life of contentment in Him.
Second, God has a Great Secret. Well, okay, it's not much of a secret. Paul said he "learned the secret" of contentment. This secret is actually no secret at all. God’s method of instruction is experiential. God will initiate you into the issues of contentment through the experiences of your life. Your circumstances are the tools of instruction to bring you into a life of contentment in Christ.
Third, you will find God's Strength. The product of finding true contentment – that is, contentment in Christ Jesus – is to find God’s strength working in and through you to overcome all circumstances and do all things that He has given to you.
Know that God wants you to find contentment. It will only be found when you find it in Jesus.
All for His Glory!
As we begin this New Year, many thoughts are turned to the idea that 2012 might be the year that ends it all! Movies, Mayan calendars, and doomsday prophets have all had their say in the great debate surrounding this year.
But I see this as a year of hope. There is something grand about the turning of the time, the resetting of the calendar to a new day - a new year and new opportunities presented by God.
But, to get to this "Brand New Day" there are some things that must transpire. Let me encourage you to read Psalm 40:1-3 before you go any farther.
Okay... if you've read the Scripture, let's begin.
First: Patiently Wait. Know that God has a plan and purpose for you and it is not to leave you in the mud and mire of life. He waits for you to cry out to Him, and when you do, trust that He will hear and respond. So many who are hurting and hungry will ask: how long? When will God show up? Be patient, and wait, for the Lord has promised deliverance to all who hope in Him.
Second: Trust God's Powerful Work. He will lift you up! God’s powerful work is to give you a firm and permanent place to stand. Reach up to Him and know that He will take you from the mud to a Solid Rock—from the mire of sin to the firm place of salvation.
Third: Express Passionate Worship. On this brand new day, voice your praise to the God of your salvation. The delivered soul cannot help but worship Him. The redeemed of the Lord will lift up their voices in songs of praise and in passionate worship of Him who has secured their lives.
Fourth: Become a Personal Witness. God has delivered you! Now is not the time to become closed off to humanity and never let your light shine in this world. An artist will sign his or her masterpiece in order to verify its authenticity. You are the masterpiece. You are not a cheap imitation but the signature portrait of God’s great love, the handiwork of the Master who others will look upon and sense the powerful draw to Jesus Christ.
Remember: This is the day the Lord has made - let us rejoice and be glad in it! You have a brand new day, a new opportunity, a refreshed hope to accomplish what God has purposed for you. Let me encourage you to take this year and make it the very best for Jesus Christ.
All for His Glory