An ongoing battle that every Christian faces is the one between the person you were before you met Jesus and the one you are now that you have met Him. Old temptations beckon. Old habits resurface. Old desires rekindle. Old loyalties divide. Old beliefs hinder. Old memories haunt. When you feel this tension, remember that you have a new identity, a new life and a new you because you believe in and belong to Jesus! You have been changed, are being changed and will be changed by His transforming grace. So fight the good fight of faith against sin as you rejoice in this today: that’s not you anymore.
Here’s a simple, but significant, lens through which life looks radically different than we often see it… will this matter 100 years from now? How we think, feel, speak, act, and react would be wonderfully different if we saw things in light of eternity, and remember that this short life is not all that there is. Our lives would create an everlasting ripple if we could look a century into our future to see the impact of our today. As we live by grace, in dependence upon the presence and power of Jesus, let us give less priority to the things that really don’t matter and more priority to the things that do.
Someone once said that God doesn’t care how many Bible verses we memorize as long as we love others. But the Bible is where we find our definition for what love is and our demonstration of what love does. Knowing what God has to say about love keeps us from forming our own opinions about what is right and wrong about how we feel and treat other people. It also reminds us of His steadfast love for us despite our faults, flaws and failures. This helps us be loving towards others who, like us, are in need of grace. God cares that we know the Bible because that’s how He prepares us to care for others.
The paths will divide. The objectives will conflict. The plans will differ. The desires will compete. The advice will disagree. We will often find ourselves having to choose sides for who we will listen to, go with and live to the satisfaction of … God or people. We simply cannot be and do what will make Him happy and others happy at the same time, all the time. Rather than compromising to satisfy the crowd, let us show others the better path, the better objective, the better plan, the better desire and the better advice found in the good news of Jesus. Today, by grace, let us prioritize pleasing God over pleasing people.
The ultimate goal of our lives is for God to be honored in us and us to be happy in Him. There isn’t anything higher to aspire to than the duality of God’s honor and our happiness. When we thank Him, trust Him, and treasure Him, these two things are achieved. Thanking Him means our hearts are glad because of something He gets glory for doing. Trusting Him means we delight to do what God has decided because we believe that He is good. Treasuring Him means we find enjoyment in His companionship because He is infinitely worth knowing. To seek His honor is to seek our happiness.
Christians should count the various trials in our lives as joy. Not as defeat. Not as pleasant. Not as punishment. Not as meaningless. Not as insignificant. Not as a reason to complain. Not as a lack of God’s care. Trials can be many things, but they cannot be joy-stealers unless we let them. While it may feel like trials are breaking you today, you can be sure that God is building you up through them in ways that are going to be amazingly good in the days to come. Your faith muscle becoming stronger. Your deliverance becoming sooner. Your witness becoming louder. Your homecoming becoming sweeter.
The enemy of your soul doesn’t care about you. His only interest in you is as a victim. He wants to “steal and kill and destroy,” and a primary way he attempts to do this is by leading you astray. How? By making sin look attractive, and obedience seem restrictive. He wants you and me to believe that sin isn’t sin, that sin is worth it, that sin isn’t that serious, and that sin won’t cost too much. Jesus leads our lives to deliver us from sin and deliver to us abundant life now and eternal life later. When He calls us to follow Him in loving obedience, it is not because He’s a tyrant; it’s because He intends to set us free from one.
You are greatly influenced by the people you invite into your life. You start to act and speak and think and live and become like them. The question is: are you becoming more like Jesus by becoming more like them? It is important that we carefully choose who we allow to get close enough to us to begin to change us. While we should love and serve people who are far from God, we should not take our cues for how to live from them. Instead, we imitate those who are imitating Jesus. As much as possible, surround yourself with people who exemplify Him and encourage you to become more like Him.
How much authority does the Bible have in your life? How is it shaping the way you see the world, the way you see polarizing issues, and the way you see yourself? How fully and frequently do you rely on it as the final say in how you live? The Bible isn’t an out-of-date, out-of-order, out-of-touch book with no real relevance for us today. It is God’s Word that still speaks today telling us what is good and bad, right and wrong, true and false, beautiful and ugly, necessary and frivolous, wise and foolish. God intends for us to seek it out and live it out as the ultimate authority for the Christian life. Indeed, it is where life is found.
Since trusting in Jesus is the basis for our hope of eternal life, how can we know that we really trust Him? The short answer is: we look for evidences that the trust we have in Him is changing us. Genuine saving belief never leaves you the same. We gradually become less like the world and more like Jesus as we follow Him in faith. Trusting Him leads to ongoing and loving… Repentance, because we believe what He offers is better than sin. Obedience, because we believe His ways are always good and right. Confidence, because we believe what He has promised us will happen. We believe. We change. That’s how we know.
Do you know what your failure is for? It has a purpose, and that purpose is to help you succeed. Not just so you’ll try harder next time. Not just so you’ll be wiser next time. Not just so you’ll do better next time. But rather so you will rely more fully on Jesus next time. His strength. His guidance. His way. His plan. His timing. His help. The right response to failure is faith, for every person who turns to and trusts in Jesus will win in the end. Remember this when you find yourself coming up short: Futility and frustration are intended to move you away from self-reliance to Savior-reliance. And that move is always for the better.