Saturday, February 27, 2016

Please, Don’t Call Me Religious

Please, Don’t Call Me Religious

Unfortunately, a person’s motives and intentions can be misinterpreted. Without accurate information about what drives someone and the desired outcomes of their words and actions, something very positive can be perceived as extremely negative. And even when there is clear understanding, differing values and beliefs often result in completely different perspectives on issues and approaches. Consider the following:
  • Someone who is careful could be viewed as anxious.
  • Someone who is meticulous could be viewed as picky.
  • Someone who is disciplined could be viewed as obsessed.
  • Someone who is principled could be viewed as unyielding.
  • Someone who is enthusiastic could be viewed as impulsive.
  • Someone who is committed could be viewed as fanatical.
  • Someone who is traditional could be viewed as legalistic.
  • Someone who is passionate could be viewed as overbearing.

With those thoughts in mind, there is one word in particular I would like to discuss – ‘religious’.
  • One person might say that a ‘religious’ person demonstrates earnest commitment and adherence to the rules, traditions and tasks associated with a particular doctrine, lifestyle, goal or pledge.
  • While another person might say that someone who is ‘religious’ demonstrates blind allegiance to outdated beliefs and backward traditions.
  • And someone else might say that a ‘religious’ person uses their beliefs to distance themselves from and past judgment on anyone who dares to think or live differently than they do.

The word ‘religious’ can be used in a lot of different ways by a lot of different people to mean a lot of different things. In general though, especially with regards to someone who is living a surrendered life of devotion to Jesus Christ, ‘religious’ seems to be taking on a more and more negative tone. And we, meaning followers of Jesus Christ, may be deserving of such condemnation if we are putting:
  • Results over Reason
  • Regulations over Rapport
  • Responsibilities over Respect

A Condemnation of Self-Imposed Religion
  • Colossians 2:21 – 23 “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,” 22 which all concern things which perish with the using—according to the commandments and doctrines of men? 23 These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.
    • Imposing meaningless restrictions on your own life in response to what others expect, so you can feel good about yourself as you begin to see yourself as better than they are, without ever actually addressing the true issues of your fallen nature – that is pride dressed up as humility while living a life of hypocrisy.
      • 1 Peter 5:6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time,

A Chastisement of Empty Religion
  • James 1:26 If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless.
    • If you think you are pious, but your life is characterized by loose lips, you are deceiving yourself and living a life of pointless religion. Never forget the connection between your words and the state of your heart.
      • Psalm 19:14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.
      • Luke 6:45 A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

A Characterization of God-Honoring Religion
  • James 1:27 Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.
    • A way of life that results in caring for those who can’t care for themselves, while keeping physically and morally guarded against the contamination that results from interacting with the sinful world system under which we all currently live, demonstrates religious behavior that honors and emulates our Heavenly Father.
      • Psalm 68:5 A father of the fatherless, a defender of widows, Is God in His holy habitation.
      • Leviticus 11:45 For I am the Lord who brings you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.

My hope is, that if you examine my life, looking beyond how desperately short I fall of the example set by my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, you will see that my motives and intentions are, by the grace and gifts of God, purer and greater than what can be accomplished by attempting to adhere to the rules of, and carrying the burden of expectations placed on my life by, ‘religion’. 

Then, and only because of Jesus, and only because of what He has done for and in me (giving me eternal life and a new nature based on a personal relationship with Him, not how well I comply with the rules and traditions of men), perhaps you will see me as someone who is becoming more loving, merciful, gracious, forgiving, patient, kind, generous, etc.

In other words, my prayer is that you will call me someone who is becoming more like Jesus.

But please, don’t call me religious.


Father, guard me from attitudes and actions that lead to empty compliance with rules and prideful attention to the expectations of men. May Your Spirit sustain and enhance the loving and joyful relationship I have with Jesus. I pray that Your Word, Your Holy Spirit and Your Son will continue to transform me into the man of God You have called me to be. I humbly and expectantly pray these things in the name above all names, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Testimony of a Good and Pure Conscience

The Testimony of a Good and Pure Conscience

A well-functioning conscience points us in the right direction; it’s like a moral compass where true north aligns us with God’s will. The Bible tells us our conscience can be good, pure, defiled, seared or evil (see Hebrews, 13:18, 2 Timothy 1:3, Titus 1:15, 1 Timothy 4:2, Hebrews 10:22). Without taking the time now to elaborate on each of these, it is obvious that the state of one’s conscience directly impacts the trustworthiness of the direction it is pointing. Suffice it to say, the closer you walk with God, the more reliable your conscience. God’s Word defines the path we should walk on; Jesus Christ showed us how to walk on it; and the Holy Spirit of God empowers us to successfully make the journey.

The Apostle Paul walk very closely with God. He valued greatly the testimony of his conscience with regards to how he was living his life. He rejoiced in what the grace of God made possible concerning how he and other Christians conducted themselves in the world and in the church.
  • 2 Corinthians 1:12 For our boasting is this: the testimony of our conscience that we conducted ourselves in the world in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom but by the grace of God, and more abundantly toward you.

Much of the Bible is like a maintenance manual for your conscience. By heeding God’s Word, we can preserve and improve the performance of our conscience. Here are just a few examples of hindrances and helps for a reliable conscience (this list is far from all inclusive).

Conscience Hindrances

Reliance on the Law
  • Galatians 2:16 knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.
Embracing Worldly Wisdom
  • Colossians 2:8 Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.
Indulging the Flesh
  • Romans 7:5 For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death.
Walking with the Enemy (Satan)
  • Ephesians 2:2-4 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.

Conscience Helps

Faith in the Father
  • Ephesians 2:8-10 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
Completeness in Christ
  • 1 Corinthians 1:4-7 I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus, 5 that you were enriched in everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge, 6 even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you, 7 so that you come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ,
Fruit of the Spirit
  • Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
Being Equipped by God’s Word
  • 2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

The Testimony of a Good and Pure Conscience

The testimony of Christ in your life should be a witness to who God is and what He is doing in, through and around you. A good and pure conscience is an important part of a God honoring personal testimony. The testimony of our conscience helps to guide our life. Our personal testimony bears witness before all of who we are in Christ Jesus.

Our Testimony before God
  • Luke 1:5-6 There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah. His wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.
    • God sees our heart. He understands our desires, motives and intents. Although we won’t be sinless until we get to heaven, we can be righteous before God in Christ.

Our Internal Testimony
  • James 1:2-4 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
    • Becoming a new creation in Christ begins with an internal change: we are spiritually reborn and indwelled with God’s Holy Spirit. This internal change bears witness to the truth of God’s Word and leads to external change.

Our Testimony in the Church
  • 1 Thessalonians 2:10 You are witnesses, and God also, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe;
    • As a follower of Jesus, we are adopted by God and become a part of Christ’s body, the church. Our engagement and involvement with the church bear witness to our unity with and love for the people that make up the church.

Our Testimony in the World
  • Philippians 2:14-15 Do all things without complaining and disputing, 15 that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,
    • Through Christ’s love and power, Christians should impact the world around them. Our attitude and actions should be a testimony to a lost and dying world that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life.


Heavenly Father, our conscience is a gift from You. Please draw us into a closer walk with You so we can have a good and pure conscience that we can trust. May we boast only in You! May our testimony bear witness of You! Enable us to shine brightly in this world, to show the love of Christ and to share the truth of Your Word. I praise You and love You and pray to You in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Monday, February 8, 2016

The Affliction of the Afflicted

The Affliction of the Afflicted

Many times I have written about scripture that tells us how followers of Jesus Christ will suffer afflictions, tribulations, persecutions, etc. Our walk with Christ is not always easy, but it is always good (from an eternal perspective). With the indwelling power, presence and promptings of the Holy Spirit of God, we must persevere.
  • 2 Timothy 3:12 Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.

I have typically written about dealing with these struggles from the perspective of an individual. That is perfectly fine and legitimate; but we are part of a family! We must:
  • Suffer Together
    • The builders of bonds, not the belligerent
  • Support Each Other
    • The bearers of burdens, not the bystanders
  • Survive as Christ’s Church
    • The body of believers, not the buildings

Here are four verses that stress the importance of dealing with the affliction of the afflicted as a body of believers, not as individuals.
  • Mark 10:29-30 So Jesus answered and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, 30 who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life.
  • Acts 14:21-22 And when they had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.”
  • 2 Corinthians 4:17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,
  • Hebrews 11:24-26 By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, 26 esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward.

We are in this together!
  • From Mark 10 ‘…brothers and sisters and mothers and children…’
  • From Acts 14 ‘We must through many tribulations…’
  • From 2 Corinthians ‘For our light affliction…’
  • From Hebrews 11 ‘…to suffer affliction with the people of God…’

In Psalm 119, the words affliction and afflicted appear a total of seven times. These words express different perspectives of the same reality.
  • Affliction (vs 50, 92, 153) – depression, misery
    • A condition (state of being)
    • A person suffers with affliction as a part of a group or as an individual.
  • Afflicted (vs 67, 71, 75, 107) – to depress, defile, weaken, abase self, chasten self
    • A circumstance (situation of bearing)
    • A person has been afflicted by other(s) or by self.

Dealing With Affliction
(Bearing the Condition)
Regardless of why we suffer with affliction, God’s Word is the prescribed remedy.

Solace During
  • 49-50 Remember the word to Your servant, Upon which You have caused me to hope. 50 This is my comfort in my affliction, For Your word has given me life.
    • The hope that can only be found in the purity and perfection of God’s Word will bring comfort in the most difficult conditions.
Surviving Destruction
  • 92 Unless Your law had been my delight, I would then have perished in my affliction.
    • The power and pleasure of God’s Word sustains us.
Seeking Deliverance
  • 153 Consider my affliction and deliver me, For I do not forget Your law.
    • The presence and permanence of God’s Word sets us free.

Developing While Afflicted
(Maturing through Circumstances)
Regardless of who has afflicted us, through God’s Word there is an opportunity to grow.

Surrendered Defiance
  • 67 Before I was afflicted I went astray, But now I keep Your word.
    • Ignorance, inexperience and insurgency lead to poor decisions and disobedience; through trials and tribulations we become educated, experienced and enthusiastic promoters of obedience to God’s Word.
Secured Decrees
  • 71 It is good for me that I have been afflicted, That I may learn Your statutes.
    • Difficult circumstances should drive us to our knees and into God’s Word.
Sovereign Discipline
  • 75 I know, O Lord, that Your judgments are right, And that in faithfulness You have afflicted me.
    • Our Father is all knowing and rules over all; God’s Word tells us that our rebellions and shortcomings lead to His righteous, faithful and loving correction.
Sustaining Declarations
  • 107 I am afflicted very much; Revive me, O Lord, according to Your word.
    • God’s Word is full of promises to deliver us from death; surviving difficult circumstances increases our reliance on His assertions.

The afflicted should not be defined by their afflictions;
The rejected should not be defined by their rejections;
The addicted should not be defined by their additions;
But the redeemed are defined
by their redeemer!
Find your identity in Jesus Christ;
Not in the afflictions of this world!


Father God, You are faithful in all circumstances. Despite the troubles we bring on ourselves, the tribulations brought on by others, or the difficult lessons taught to us by You, we trust that our afflictions are for our good and only for a moment. Bring comfort, deliverance, experience and wisdom to those who trust in Your Word and Your Son. Praise be to the Father, through the Spirit, in the name of the Son. Amen.