Devotionals

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One of the things I have found extreme joy in is writing devotionals. I hope that as you read these, they can be beneficial to your walk with the Lord and increase your affection for Him.

Where Is Our Pleasure From? 
We find our pleasure in many things. For me, I tend to find pleasure in coffee, fall weather, a good book, and time spent with family and friends. Maybe you have something similar that you find pleasure in. These things are all good things that God has graciously blessed us with. We are to cherish these things but they are not take the place of God as our ultimate pleasure. Unfortunately, as another theologian notes, the throne on our hearts that was once designated for God has been taken by many different things in our lives. He, for the most part, is no longer our treasure.
But why is this the case? As many have claimed, we do not love God and see Him as we ought. We do not desire God like the psalmist does in Psalm 42: 1-2. Take a moment and read these verses. Does your soul thirst for God? Can you go a day without hearing from Him? Can you go a day without talking to Him? If so, we do not see God as we should. If so, we do not see ourselves as dependent. If so, we have failed to realize He is most precious. Remember that it is only by the Gospel of Christ that we are saved. It is in this truth, a truth that has been made known to us by God that we should be satisfied in. May we learn with the psalmist in Psalm 34 to taste and see that the Lord is good. Think hard about this. What does this mean in your own life? How do you find yourself satisfied in the Lord? Furthermore, spend time in prayer asking for Him to reveal to you the ultimate satisfaction that is found in Him and Him alone.
For additional reading: Read Psalm 34
A Right Perspective of Sin 
Right perspective leads to right action. If we understand the truth about something, we are more likely to respond correctly to whatever that something is. I believe there are several things that Christians do not have a proper or complete understanding of and therefore their response is often inappropriate. One of these things is our sin. Perhaps nothing in the Christian’s life is more misrepresented and misunderstood than sin. If we truly understood it, we would fight to resist its clutches. We would fight to keep far from it. We would put up more of a fight when we are tempted. We would work to kill the sin that is already at work within us.
Sin is a poison. It is a disease. Worse. It is a disease that spreads. Remember what it did to our first parents? It forced them out of the presence of God. This is what sin does. It breaks our fellowship with God. It twists our mind. It tricks us into thinking that it can satisfy rather than God. It takes our faculties: our eyes, our tongues, our bodies, our thoughts and it twists them to do its will. Like the thief that comes to steal, kill, and destroy in John 10, so does sin. Yes, it even affects those around us. When we should desire to serve God, sin convinces us to do what would bring us pleasure and poison us. When we are supposed to glorify the Lord, sin convinces us to glorify ourselves. We may find ourselves like Paul in Romans 7 saying that because of sin, I do what I do not want to do. Sin manipulates even our best endeavors.
So what is the solution? Look at the words of Paul in Romans 7:24.  Our solution is Christ. In the words of Romans 8, we have hope! Nothing separates us from God’s love. Yet that does not mean we should not fight. It does not mean we should not resist our sin. Rather we must see it rightly and find our victory over sin in Christ. Do you view your sin correctly? Are you fighting your sin? Are you fully dependent on Christ to continue in your battle of sin?
A Right Perspective on Sin pt. 2 
As we saw previously, sin deludes our senses. It twists and molds our faculties to be bent and enslaved towards its will rather than the Lord’s. Yet this still does not give us a complete and holistic perspective of sin. For although we have focused on what sin does to us, we have not spent time focusing on how God views our sin. If we are to have a correct perspective on sin, we must strive to see it as God does.
To God, sin is a heinous act. It is an act of treason against the Almighty. It is choosing something else to sit at the center and on the throne of our hearts other than Him. As Creator, He is deserving of all glory and Honor and praise yet sin, all too often, takes His rightful place. Sin, in fact, is so vile to the Lord and His holiness that He must rid of it. It must be vanquished. It must be expunged from creation and all whom it has affected. Sin must be payed for, by blood. This is the price that God accepted as payment for sin. Take some time at some point to read the first seven chapters of Leviticus. It’s bloody for a reason. It required all that blood to appease the Lord for the nation of Israel’s sin for a short period of time. Yet God would not be satisfied by the blood of sacrifices. Romans 3:25 tell us that “God put Christ forward as a propitiation by His blood…” This word propitiation is an act of pleasing God. Christ’s perfect life and death was so satisfying that God no longer needed a sacrifice. But do not forget why Christ has to die. Christ had to die because our sins were so wretched to Him that only His Son’s death could satisfy Him. Only God Himself could make a way to defeat sin. Only God Himself could be a great enough payment for sin.
So if this is how God sees sin, how should we view it? Does your view of sin reflect God’s? Are you reminded that when you sin, it is for this reason that Christ died?
Additional Reading: Romans 3 and Hebrews 10
Daily Dependence 
We are fragile. We would like to think of ourselves as strong individuals, but we are, in all actuality, very weak. Culture would have us believe otherwise. To culture, we are strong. We make our own decisions. We are the masters of our lives and no one can tell us otherwise. We are independent. Or at least that is the narrative that our culture has fed us. But is it really true? Are we really as independent as it seems. Granted, if I wanted to go and grab a coffee right now even though it is 11pm at night, I surely could. I am independent in that sense. I can choose to do what I want, but does that really make me completely independent? In reality, we are very dependent.We are dependent upon a lot of little things that we don’t even consider. We are dependent upon the air that we breath to give us life. We are dependent upon the food that we eat to give us energy. We are dependent upon vehicles to get us from place to place. We are dependent upon our parents, at least for some period of life, to raise and nature us. We are very dependent! We are dependent upon God. We are dependent upon God for all these things. He is Creator of all these things after all. Yet, could I simply ask: Are we recognizing this? Are we recognizing how much we need God? Yes, for breath and food and all these things He created, but there is so much more we need God for. Even Jesus recognized this. As the disciples asked Christ “teach us to pray,” Jesus notably mentions in Matthew 6:11, “Give us this day, our daily bread.” This is an allusion for sure. The disciples growing up in a Jewish heritage, would have heard of the manna that fell daily in order to provide the Israelites with food as they were traveling through the wilderness and would have made the connection with what Jesus was praying for. He was praying for daily supplication. He was saying that as disciples of Christ, we must be daily praying for our daily needs. Like the Israelites in the wilderness who needed the manna in order to eat and keep themselves from starving, so we need Christ on a daily basis to keep ourselves from spiritually starving. We need Christ to free us from the bondage of sin on a daily basis through the work and message of His Gospel. If you do not understand yet that we daily need the Gospel, then I feel as if the church has failed you. I feel as if I have failed you. We need the Gospel more than the air that we breath. We need the Gospel as more than the food that we eat or the water that we drink. We need the Gospel as more than anything we could possibly imagine. For it is only the Gospel of Christ Jesus by which we are saved. And so, once again we find ourselves back to the beginning. We are fragile. Not just physically, but spiritually. But thanks be to God for His Son and His Gospel. In this, we are daily dependent.
The God Who Pursues
Desire often leads to pursuit. Perhaps you have seen this in your own life. Has there ever been something in your life that you wanted so bad that you went after it until you got what you wanted? Maybe it was something you wanted to buy so you worked for extra money until you could buy it. Maybe it was excelling at some sport and you practiced until you could perform at the ability you wanted to be able to. Maybe is was a relationship that you pursued until you got to know them. Whatever the reason, you pursued because you desired something so much that you were willing to work to get it. But have you ever pursued something that you didn’t think was worth much? Likely the answer is no. In fact, this question seems somewhat ridiculous to ask. Why would anyone pursue something that they didn’t think was worth much of anything? Yet, this is what God did. In fact, God pursued something that He knew would not ever give anything of worth or value back to Him. He pursued us.
Here is what I’m not saying. I’m not saying that you and I are worthless. I’m not saying that we have no value. What I am saying is that in all reality, what did God really have to gain in His pursuit of us? Glory? No, He already was sufficient in HIs glory. Praise? No, He has angels that do that without ceasing (See Isa. 6). Did He do it to complete some inner longing within Himself? No, He was already complete in the Trinity. He pursued us out of love. He pursued us because…He simply could. There was nothing to gain. In fact, we had broken our fellowship with Him when we sinned. He could have left us to our sin and to our death and yet, Scripture is full of examples of God pursuing humanity. He pursued Abraham and made a covenant promise that all nations would be blessed through him (Gen. 15, 17). God pursued His people in Egypt. He even dwelt among them in the tent of meeting (Exd. 40:34-38). But we know God’s greatest action of pursuit. It was in His Son. It was in the Emmanuel, “God with us.” John 1:14 says that the “Word became flesh and dwelt among us…” He pursued us. Even when we rejected him, He pursued us. Lest we forget, He pursued us in such a manner that He placed His Spirit inside of us. We, who were unworthy to even be in His Presence, have now received His Spirit as a deposit of our inheritance  of what is to come (Eph. 1:13-14). Although unworthy, He placed value in us. Ask yourself, if God pursued me, is he not worth pursuing in my own life? Are you pursuing Him as He pursued you? If not, why not? His love for us should spur us on to pursue Him!
Handiwork, Glory and Night Skies
Maybe you remember the last time your were awestruck by the sky above you. Its vastness. The amount of stars. The seemingly subtle feeling that you were apart of something much bigger than yourself. Perhaps it wasn’t a night sky, but a sunset or a sunrise. The plethora of colors which seem to be perfectly blended across the canvas which was the horizon. The sky contains beauty which only with our eyes can we behold. We cannot imagine such a sight for we are not nearly as imaginative and innovative as the Creator of these things. These skies always bring me back to Psalm 19:1: “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.”  Take a moment to read the entire psalm if you will. When we see in verse 1 that God says that the heavens declare the glory of God, we need to remind ourselves that every time that we see a sky that amazes us, it is calling out to us and reminding us of God’s glory. It reminds us that God is Who He says He is. It proclaims His righteousness (Ps. 50:6) and proclaims His wonders (Ps. 89:5). The sky serves as a display of His majesty. We do not worship the sky, but we worship the Creator of these skies. Furthermore the sky is a proclamation of His handiwork. With God’s hands, He created it. He created the beauty and the vastness and the brilliance that is the night sky. Another verse, Romans 1:20says that “His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature have been clearly perceived since the creation of the world in all things that have been made.” When we look at the skies or anything in creation, we are seeing evidence of His power and divine nature. Then think of this, and this is the real head scratcher; He revealed it to us. He revealed it to those who rejected Him. Therefore, we have no excuse for rejection. We have no excuse this rejection of His Being. Remember, what we see in the sky is simply an inkling of the amount of glory that God truly possesses. Are your worshiping Him as He is deserving? Are you seeing God in His creation? Is worship your first reponse when you see something that leaves you in awe?
Lust
Ask a teenager, particularly a teenage boy what sin he struggles with most and most likely you will find that his answer is lust. Ask a teenager what is often the most uncomfortable sin to talk about and the refrain is the same. For many, the belief is that once they are older, out of their teenage years that they will no longer struggle with such an issue. The belief is that once they are married that their struggle with this sin suddenly disappears.  It’s almost as if they have graduated and moved on to the next set of sins, the sins you experience in adulthood. Unfortunately this is never true. Even as the process of sanctification continues, the struggle with lust also continues. Scripture makes it clear that our struggle with any sin will not cease till our death or till the return of Christ. Lust is include in this.
Maybe a definition is in order. Lust can be best defined as a strong desire or affinity toward someone or somethings. We can lust after money, or power or people. Most often it is spoken of in terms of sexual lust, that is lust after another person. Burk Parsons in describing the difference between love and lust writes that lust’s desire is to “take from another.” Our culture is full of lust. See any advertising, any standard television show, or listen to any song on the radio and much of what you hear is fueled by lust.  Yet we must sift through the culture’s mantra that says that lust is not a problem to what the Bible says. The text which most explicitly speaks to this issue is Matthew 5:27-30. Jesus says “If anyone looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” The mere looking at a woman in a lustful way is adultery. It is a vile sin against God. So what is Christ’s answer to this problem. He continues and says that if your “eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. For it is better for you to lose one of your member than your whole body be thrown into hell.” We obviously know he does not literally mean tearing out our eye, but what he does call for is extreme measures. I’ve known people to read this text and decide that they will not look at a computer without someone home. I’ve known people who will not go to public place where they know it will be a temptation to lust. I even know individuals who have set up certain programs to prevent themselves from viewing anything that might cause them to lust. We should be working to guard our eyes an our heart from these things. We should be working hard to prevent ourselves from falling into this sin. 1 Thessalonians 4:3 writes “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality…” Why does Paul say this? Because he knows that lust (part of sexual immorality) keeps us from the will of God, our sanctification. He knows its a common sin. It is an issue. Not just then, but also now. So, what are you doing in the battle of lust? Are you taking extreme measures to fight it? Are you being honest with someone about your struggle with it in your life? And ultimately, are you looking to Christ to fulfill your desires rather than anything lust can give you?
See also Eph. 5:1-3; Col. 3:5
Value of God’s Word
You’ve heard it time and time again; the same command by youth leader after youth leader, pastor after pastor. Read your bible! As a youth leader its a daunting task to get students to open their bibles during a sermon or small group let alone get them to read the bible on their own outside the church. Why is this the case? I firmly believe it is because we have not taught the true value of God’s Word. To many outside of the church it is an antiquated book that contains antiquated stories of people who are not relevant to the modern culture. It is foreign and therefore often counted as unimportant. Even for the church kid, it can often feel like they are simply checking the box when they read their bibles. They do it because it is what they are supposed to do. But what if you found love in your daily time spent in God’s Word? What if you really felt as David did in Psalm 119: 14-16, “In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in riches. I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statues; I will not forget your word.” Can you say that about the Bible? In order to do that we have to see the value of it. And although there are so many reasons we should value the Word of God (trust me, many books have been written on the subject), I want to look at one.
To see the Bible for its worth we need to be reminded of the God who has orchestrated it and woven it together with over 2000 years of history. Without the Holy Spirit “carrying on” the men who wrote it (2 Pt. 1:21), there would be no infallible Bible. There would be no cohesive story. Yet again, this is not the most astounding truth of the Bible. No. We find this truth in Hebrews 4:12-13which says, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him whom we must give an account.” So why is the Bible so valuable? It is because it is alive and active. But understand it is not alive and active because it is changing. Rather it is alive and active because of the God who is behind it. Without an alive and active God, the word is powerless. Why can the bible pierce like a sword between soul and spirit? It is because God is still active in the hearts of those who read it in order to do this. Why is it able to discern the hearts of men and why is no man hidden from its sight? It is because of the Spirit who actively discerns our hearts and leaves us bare in naked in front of God. This may seem simple, but it changed the way I looked at the Bible when I was in college: The Bible is filled with God’s Words. Yes, they were written by humans, but God orchestrated it. The Bible has value because the Author of it has infinite value. This should change the way we think about the Bible. It should make its words alive to us. It should force us to actively think through what it is saying. How do you view the Bible now? Do you see it as God’s words, alive and active? Or are they simply dead words on a page? How does looking at the Bible with such value change the way you interact with the text?
Value of God’s Word
You’ve heard it time and time again; the same command by youth leader after youth leader, pastor after pastor. Read your bible! As a youth leader its a daunting task to get students to open their bibles during a sermon or small group let alone get them to read the bible on their own outside the church. Why is this the case? I firmly believe it is because we have not taught the true value of God’s Word. To many outside of the church it is an antiquated book that contains antiquated stories of people who are not relevant to the modern culture. It is foreign and therefore often counted as unimportant. Even for the church kid, it can often feel like they are simply checking the box when they read their bibles. They do it because it is what they are supposed to do. But what if you found love in your daily time spent in God’s Word? What if you really felt as David did in Psalm 119: 14-16, “In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in riches. I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statues; I will not forget your word.” Can you say that about the Bible? In order to do that we have to see the value of it. And although there are so many reasons we should value the Word of God (trust me, many books have been written on the subject), I want to look at one.
To see the Bible for its worth we need to be reminded of the God who has orchestrated it and woven it together with over 2000 years of history. Without the Holy Spirit “carrying on” the men who wrote it (2 Pt. 1:21), there would be no infallible Bible. There would be no cohesive story. Yet again, this is not the most astounding truth of the Bible. No. We find this truth in Hebrews 4:12-13 which says, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him whom we must give an account.” So why is the Bible so valuable? It is because it is alive and active. But understand it is not alive and active because it is changing. Rather it is alive and active because of the God who is behind it. Without an alive and active God, the word is powerless. Why can the bible pierce like a sword between soul and spirit? It is because God is still active in the hearts of those who read it in order to do this. Why is it able to discern the hearts of men and why is no man hidden from its sight? It is because of the Spirit who actively discerns our hearts and leaves us bare in naked in front of God. This may seem simple, but it changed the way I looked at the Bible when I was in college: The Bible is filled with God’s Words. Yes, they were written by humans, but God orchestrated it. The Bible has value because the Author of it has infinite value. This should change the way we think about the Bible. It should make its words alive to us. It should force us to actively think through what it is saying. How do you view the Bible now? Do you see it as God’s words, alive and active? Or are they simply dead words on a page? How does looking at the Bible with such value change the way you interact with the text?
Purpose of Discipleship
Obi Wan Knobe had a mentor in Qui Gon Gin. Batman had a mentor in Ra’s Al Ghul. Ironically both of these were played by Liam Neeson, but that is besides the point. What is important is that both of these fictional characters had mentors. They had someone teaching them the ropes. They had someone to guide them in their mistakes. They had someone who would guide them and shape them and mold them into the people that they would one day be. We have something similar to this in the Church. As Christians, we are called to make disciples (Mt. 28:18-20). The process of making disciples is called discipleship. All of this you probably were aware of. But what is the purpose of discipleship? Why do we do it? How do we go about it? What is the goal of discipleship? I cannot answer all of these questions in this short prose, but I can attempt to answer one of them.
A vision without a purpose for that vision is worthless. It never gets off the ground. It never gets started. Discipleship without a purpose will never go anywhere. In searching for this purpose, we need to head back to Matthew 28:18-20. Verse 19 and part of verse 20 specifically contains part of our purpose. It says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” So according to this text, we are commanded to go and make disciples. But why? Or better, how? The how and why are intermingled in this passage. Why and how do we go and make disciples? We make disciples for the purpose of baptizing them in the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. This means that we makes disciples for the purpose of inviting them into the Kingdom of heaven. We invite them into a worldview that is unlike their own. We invite them into a Kingdom that is unlike their own. We invite them into God’s Kingdom through Christ Jesus. Secondly, we make disciples in order to teach them all that Christ has commanded His disciples. To teach them all that Christ has commanded us. We make disciples not in order for them to become like us, but in order to become like that one who gave them their commandments. That is Christ. 2 Timothy 2:2 says that we are to take the Gospel message and “entrusted it to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” So here is the imperative: WE MAKE DISCIPLES IN ORDER TO MAKE DISCIPLES WHO WILL MAKE DISCIPLES! This has to be our goal! This is my goal when I make disciples. My desire is that the disciples I make will be able to go out and to make more disciples. This is our goal. Not the pastors, not the seminary students, not the religious elite, but our goal. It is the average Christian’s goal and purpose. So ask yourself: Am I currently making disciples? Am i being discipled? What do I have to do in order to start making disciples? Remember, God has made you for this. He has called you to Himself so that you would teach others of His great love in mercy He has shown through the Gospel.
Redeeming the Time
More frequently I find that there are not enough hours in the day to do exactly what I want. Maybe you’ve found a similar thing to be true. I just don’t seem to have enough time to accomplish everything that I want to accomplish. Finding time for school, work, friends, sports, family, and church life can prove to be more challenging growing up in today’s culture. Teens are busier than they have ever been, juggling more things than they ever have in the past. Yet something else is also true. Teens are more distracted than they have ever been. With the emergence of cell phones and social media, teens are thrust into a whirlwind of distractions which prevent them from using time to the best of their ability. They are distracted. Rather than using their time for homework, family, friends in church, they can spend hours on Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Vine, and YouTube. Although these things in moderation can be positive things, overuse has left teens short of time they once had for other things.
Ephesians 5 gives us a clue as to what we do in regards to this issue using our time well. Verses 15-17 say, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” There are several things we can learn from this passage. First, the passage makes it clear that a wise person makes the most of his time while an unwise person foolishly uses their time. Why is this the case? It is because the days are evil. Yet, we will not clearly understand this until we read further. Paul then commands his readers not to be foolish, but instead to understand what the will of the Lord is. From here we must ask, what is the will of the Lord? For this answer we can look to one of Paul’s previous writings. In 1 Thessalonians 4:3, Paul writes, “This is the will of the Lord, your sanctification…” So what then does a wise person do with their time? They spend it understanding God’s will. They spend it on their own sanctification. They spend it on becoming more and more like Christ. This gives us a fuller and more robust reason for why we use the best of our time. Because the days are evil and we are often so manipulated by the culture around us, we wisely use our time to become more like Christ rather than more like the world. What does this mean for us then? It means we spend time in prayer. We spend time in God’s Word. We spend time being obedient to our parents. We spend less time on social media and on our phones and more time “working out our salvation” in Christ Jesus. How are you spending your time? Are you using the best of your time? Or are you wasting it on things that will not enhance your sanctification?
Cultural Narrative
Our culture has a story. It has a narrative. The culture in which we live in now started somewhere and will end up somewhere else. There are people who have influenced it over time and because of this influence by people, culture will continue to change and evolve. American culture which was once dominated at least by moral thought has moved away from these ideologies. It is now a “feel-good” culture which welcomes anything which may promote human autonomy. And as you may have heard it said at some point, we as Christians, are on the wrong side of history. Meaning our way of life and core doctrines/beliefs are now outdated in comparison to the culture around us. As I’ve stated formerly, we can be influenced by this narrative which may also be called worldview. Worldview is in the movies and YouTube vids we watch, music and podcasts we listen to, ads we see,  and books we read. Therefore we must always be asking ourselves, are we being seduced by the worldview of the culture around us.
A verse to keep in mind is Colossians 2:8. It says, “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to the human traditions, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.”  We are easily trapped in wrong thinking and therefore trapped in wrong practice. We must guard our hearts above all else for it is the wellspring of life (Prov. 4:23). We must be sure we are not being manipulated by the things of this world. It’s philosophies are everywhere. Its human traditions are everywhere. They are in the movies, the books, the podcast and the music. We are in constant danger of losing sight of Christ and His Gospel. As the verse says, we can be taken captive by the ideas of culture. Ideas such as: humans are simply no more than machines, all love is the same, sexual sin really isn’t that big of a deal, an many others, are daily being presented to you. Therefore we must not be “conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Rom. 12:2). How are we transformed? We are transformed by Christ. He renews our mind. Yet, He has provided His Word as a source of renewal. We must fight not be taken captive by the culture’s worldview by looking to the biblical worldview. It is submersion in the Word of God which prevents us from being seduced by the world’s thinking. It is being “rooted and built up in Christ,” being “established in the faith” (Col. 2:7). What worldview are you believing? What are you filling your mind with? Are you filling it with the worldview of the culture? Or are you filling it with the worldview of Scripture?
Who are we? Pt. 1 Image Bearers
The next several entries will spend some time answering the question: Who are we? You may have heard this in terms such as the popular buzz word in Christianity currently, identity. Nevertheless, this is what we are essentially asking these next couple of entries. What is our identity? This may overlap with the question, “Where is our identity?” In a most elementary sense, we are humans. But what does this mean?
If we are to look to understand who we are as humans, we must look at this question through the lens of Scripture rather than the worldview of the culture today. There are drastic differences in the way the Bible and the culture define humanity. To much of the culture today, humans are no more than a composition of machines and moving parts. We live and die as the “machine” that is our body breaks down. Yet Scripture paints a different picture. In Genesis 1 and 2 the Bible says we are made distinct. We read that man was made from the dust of the ground and God “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life” (Genesis 2:7). God intimately orchestrated the creation of man. He gave him value. We were made with this value. Even greater than this, Genesis 1:27 writes that God created man in his own image. Therefore, we were set apart from all creation. We were given the same image that God has. This once again affirms our value. We therefore can reflect God imperfectly in our holiness, joy, faithfulness and love. One more passage, Psalm 8:5-6 reaffirms this truth. It says that “we were made a little lower than the heavenly beings and that we were “crowned with glory and honor. You have given us dominion over the works of your hands…” We were made with such honor that he placed us over his creation. The passage goes on to say that he placed us over the animals. We have dominion over them. But what does this mean for us today? It means we are valued in God’s eyes. Remember that God offered humanity salvation. No one else. Not the angels nor the animals. It also means all people are created in God’s image. This should change the way we treat people. We should see them with the same value God sees in them. So how does this identity change the way you think about yourself? How does it change the way you view other people? How has the world misconstrued the identity humanity has been given by God?
See also Psalm 139
Who are we? Pt.2 Sons of God
We saw previously that we are humans made in God’s image. Therefore we have worth and value beyond all of God’s creation. But if we as humans have repented and believed the Gospel then we are actually more. Scripture actually calls us sons or children of God.  Now let me make this clear. All people are created in God’s image, but not all people are children of God. (See Jn. 8:44). But as Christians, we have received that privilege. This grand idea is found throughout the Bible, but perhaps most notably in Romans 8. Verses 14-16 says this: “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba, Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God…” Before we move too far into this passage, is important to ask why Paul says that those who are led by the Spirit are sons of God. Why would this be the case. We can turn to the letter to the Ephesians to find our answer. In the opening chapter of the letter Paul writes “In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will” (Eph. 1:5). Yet, what is the final result of this predestining us for adoption into Christ? “In him we had obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him…In him you also, when you hard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is our guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it..” (1:11, 13-14). Those who receive the Holy Spirit are those who have an inheritance. Those who have an inheritance are those who have been predestined. Those who have been predestined have been adopted. Those who are adopted have been adopted as sons. Therefore, those who have received the Holy Spirit and are therefore led by it are sons of God. But why is this important? Why is it important that we are sons of God? To be a son of God is to be adopted into a family that you didn’t deserve. You are now able to cry, “Abba, Father!,” which literally means “Daddy!” and know that you are loved. Not only are you loved, but you were so loved that He gave you an inheritance. Like the passage in Ephesians said we were given an inheritance, Romans 8 goes on to say that because we are God’s children, “we are heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:17). What are we to receive? We will receive more than we ever deserved. We will receive the glory that Christ received (See Rom. 8:23,29-30). As children of God we are cherished. WE ARE LOVED! How does this change the way you look at yourself? How does it change the way you see God? How does it change the way you live today?
Who are We? Pt. 3 Changed
We are all humans made in God’s image. If we are in Christ, we have been adopted into his family and are therefore sons of God. Yet, though these make up our identity, they are tags or markers that have been attributed to us. They have been ascribed to us by God in the same way a name is given to us at birth. If these were the only things that were to define us, they would be more than we deserve, but God has done something more. He as exceeded above and beyond anything we could ever ask for. In addition to making us children and image bearers, he has changed us.
If you think about change, it is not very impressive. You and I change on a regular basis. We grow older and our bodies change. We change clothes. We are influenced and changed by those around us. We even try to change ourselves in order to fit in. So change, in itself, is not all that impressive. But there is commonality in all these changes…they are merely outward. What is so miraculous about the change God provides is that it is inward. It is a heart change. Ezekiel 36 says it this way:  “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleanliness, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.  And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules” (25-27). Several things should jump out from this passage. First, God says that we will be made clean from idols. In other words, we will be clean from any sin which we have committed which dishonors God and forsakes him for a lesser love. Second, God says that he will put a new heart within us. This new heart is not like the old heart of stone which cared nothing for obedience to God. Our old heart sinned and was unaffected like a stone is unaffected by changes in weather. Instead, this heart of flesh will find sorrow and guilt when confronted with sin. It will wrestle with the difficulties of obedience. It feels sorrow for its treachery against a holy God. Finally, a new Sprit will be put within us. This Spirit is the God Himself within us. Because of this, we are now capable of walking in obedience to God. It is only the possession of a new heart and the Spirit which even give us the ability to be obedient. And so then, we are made inwardly new. Our minds and lives begin to be sanctified. We begin to become more and more like Christ. Our actions should begin to match that of Jesus. We should see a growing love for the things of Christ and the people of Christ. We should desire to live in obedience to God’s Word. A heart change gives us a new perspective and a new identity. So where are you in this process of inward change? Are you seeing evidence in your own life of a heart change? Rather than having a proclivity towards sin, are you finding love in obedience to Christ? Are you seeing an increase in your life of the fruits of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, self-control, etc.)?
Restoring Purpose in Accountability
“Can I be vulnerable with you?” This is perhaps a question you have heard before. It is often uttered today between close friends over coffee as they share honest and revealing truths about their lives. We in the Christian subculture call this accountability. Unfortunately, I feel as vulnerability and accountability have become no more than cliches in the past few years. More often than not, accountability has become ineffective. It has become a time for the sharing of our deep and dark sins which we desire no one else to know about. This would be beneficial  if a solution was then addressed, but often times we never get there. It becomes a pity-party focused on the depth of our sin and we never speak to how Christ has already overcome such sin as ours. Once again, it is because we have an incorrect definition and perception of what accountability and vulnerability are that we veer from the blessing that both of these activities can have in our Christian lives.  So then what are these two things, and how can they be used in our lives to become more like Christ?
Let’s start with accountability. Scripture gives mention to several purposes for accountability. First, it is for the confession of sins. James 5:16 says that we are to confess our sins to one another. In doing this, we may not only find great relief and comfort, we also build a sense of comradery. As Galatians 6:2 says, “we are to bear each other’s burdens” which is not only done in the confession of our sins but also in prayer (See Ja. 5:16). Second, by having someone else who knows our struggles, we have made ourselves that much stronger. We have someone who can call us out on our sin and who can catch us when we fall (Ecc. 4:10). Third, it is in the context of accountability that the Bible tells us to restore gently the one caught in sin (Gal. 6:1). Much like calling out the sin in another brother, we must be willing to walk with them through that sin so that they not fall into it again. This leads to the last purpose of accountability which is encouragement. Accountability that only calls out sin is ineffective. It must always lead to encouragement (1 Ths. 5:11) Encouragement in what you might ask? We encourage them in the Lord Jesus Christ. We encourage them to cling to him as their satisfaction rather than their sin. We encourage them that they no longer are in sin but are in Christ and are therefore free from slavery to sin. Remind them of the antidote of Christ rather than the poison of sin. Does accountability look like this in your life? Is anyone in your life holding you accountable? Are you holding anyone accountable? Remember that accountability is a blessing from God used to make us more like His Son, not simply a confession of sin for the purpose of wallowing and remaining in it.
Why be Vulnerable? 
Accountability cannot exist without vulnerability. Perhaps this is part of the reason why accountability does not work. We have adopted the view of culture. I feel as if we believe that vulnerability is weakness. We are not willing to share our sins, our struggles, our desires or even our dreams because to do that would we weakness. It would allow another to see into us. It would allow another to know some of the deepest parts of us. Now granted, there are appropriate times and appropriate people to be vulnerable with. It would not be appropriate to confess our sins to the stranger we just met on the street, but there is a place an time for it: within discipleship and accountability.
A verse we previously looked at when discussing accountability is James 5:16. It says that we are to “confess our sins to one another and pray for one another…” This, to many is a scary thing. It is a scary thing to reveal to another their struggles. I think we believe that if we reveal certain things about us that we will no longer be accepted or seen the same way. We believe the lie that confession of our sins actually gives another power over us. But this is not the case. Paul models this for us in several places. In his letter to the Corinthians he writes, “We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide open” (2 Cor. 6:11). This is a picture of Paul’s openness with the Corinthians. I imagine he was willing to share his weaknesses with them. He most likely revealed his struggles to them. He shared his joys and his discouragements. Second Thessalonians shares a similar message. “So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves because you had become very dear to us” (2 Ths. 2:8). Notice that in his discipleship of the Thessalonians he shared the Gospel which is primary, but he also shared himself. And why was this? It was because he was desirous of them. The people of Thessalonica had become very dear to him. While there are many other places where Paul was vulnerable with the people he discipled and came in contact with (see 2 Cor. 12:9-10), I want to offer a brief warning about vulnerability. Like I said above, there are right and wrong times for vulnerability as there are right and wrong people to be vulnerable with. While vulnerability is good, be careful with what is shared amongst each other. Galatians 6:1 gives us this warning: Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.” In the context of confessing sins and bearing burdens, we must proceed with caution that we do not fall into the same sin. Thus, while vulnerability and accountability are good, we must avoid falling into sin for the sake of vulnerability and openness. Therefore, this person most likely should not be someone of lesser spiritual maturity or of the opposite sex. Each of these restrictions prevents us from falling into further sin. That being said, I’d encourage you to find someone to be vulnerable with. Whether it be in accountability-type relationship or in discipleship, there is something to be gained in practicing this. If you are having difficulty doing this, why is this the case? Is it your pride? Is it a fear of getting hurt? Or is it that you afraid that it will impact the way that person sees you?
Thinking Rightly About God
I have bought many books over the years. I’ve got two bookcases filled to the brim with them as well as several bins full of books in my parents basement. I can’t say that I’ve read all of them, but I have at least tried to read most of them once. With so many books, it is rare that I read one more than once. Yet there are several which I come back to multiple times because their content has enriched my life and continues to do so. The is one particular title in my collection I find myself returning to at least once a year. Knowledge of the Holy written by A. W. Tozer was written in order to give the reader a high view of God. This book has so shaped the way I think about the character of God that I am deeply indebted to his thinking on the subject. Therefore, I cannot claim much of these subsequent writings as my own, but only build upon what he has written and the Word of God.
In the first couple of pages of his work he writes this, which is worth pondering: “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” Put plainly, our thoughts about Who God is are the most important thoughts we can have. But why is this the case? 1. The way we think about God affects the way we think about Scripture. If we see God as the author of His Word, as Scripture teaches, we must see God correctly. We must see God as faithful, honest, righteous, never erring. If we do not see him as such, what chance can we believe that His Word is correct? How can we believe God’s Word is what we should live by if God is not Who He says He is? We must think rightly about God to believe the words of the Bible. 2. The way we think about God affects the way we think about worship. If we do not have a correct view of God as supreme Creator and Ruler over the earth, how then can we praise him? How are we to cry “holy, holy, holy, “ as the cherubim and seraphim did in Isaiah 6? How are we to stand in awe of the love that He out poured upon us on the Cross? How are we to praise him for his steadfast love (Ps. 118:29)? We cannot worship with a low-view of God. We must rightly think about Him in order to truly worship Him as we ought. 3. The way we think about God affects the way we see the Gospel. Tozer accordingly points out “low views of God destroy the gospel for all who hold them.” How are we to see God as the answer to the problem of sin if we do not see him as the holy and separated from sin? How are we understand the reason for Christ’s punishment on a cross if we do not correctly understand God’s wrath and His justice? How are we to understand the reason for His love and grace if we do not understand God? To understand the Gospel we must see God as He truly is. Finally, 4. The way we think about God affects the way we live our lives. Low views of God are idolatrous for they do not show God as He actually is. Like much of creation, when we have a low view of God, we “do not honor I’m as God or give thanks to him, but become futile in our thinking and foolish in our heart…claiming to be wise and becoming fools, we exchange the glory of the immortal God for images” (Rom. 1:21-22). Our lives and hearts become full of idols. Tozer notes that “wrong ideas about God are not only the fountain from with the polluted waters of idolatry flow; they are themselves idolatrous.” These idolatrous ideas about God will pour over into our lives if we are not careful. To act rightly, we must first see God rightly. Therefore, analyze the way you think about God. Are your thoughts about Him biblical? How could incorrect thoughts about God be affecting the way you view Scripture? Worship? See the Gospel? Live your life?
God, the self-sufficient One
What does it mean to be self sufficient? In times long past, it meant that people were able to provide for themselves. It meant that people were able to gather food for themselves, water for themselves, shelter for themselves, and to live without need and want from anyone else. At least, this is how we would define self sufficiency on a human level. But, what does it mean for God to be self sufficient?
First, it may help to define this term. Self sufficiency, may best be defined as “He is What He is in Himself.” Theologians often call this the aseity of God. God is self-sufficient. Tower on this subject writes: “Almighty God, just because He is almighty, needs no support. The picture of a nervous, ingratiating God fawning over men to win their favor is not a pleasant one; yet if we look at the popular conception of God, that is precisely what we see.” And this is certainly true. When we think about God, we often see a God who needs us. We see a God who needs us to praise Him on a Sunday morning or a Wednesday night. We all too often see a God who needs us to take care of the evil in the world by fighting His battles for Him. But this is not the case! What sort of God would that be who would need creation for worship him for his self-worth and self-value. He would be just like us. For some of us need this from others to attain value. But God is different. Exodus 3 give us an idea of His self-sufficiency. When Moses asks God what he shall say when the Israelites ask for the name of the God who sent them, God responds in verse 14 “I AM WHO I AM.” While these words are evidence to his infinitude, his eternity and his immutability (unchangeableness), they are also words of His self-sufficiency. Why? Because He is Who/What He is in Himself. He does not need the Israelites to define Him.  He does not need us. He is defined Who/What He is in Himself. Acts 17:24-25 shares a similar message, which says, “The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.” How can we ever see Creator, God as anything less than Creator? How can the created really aid the Creator? What can we truly offer the God who has all things? This should change not only the way we view God, but how we live our lives. We should be dependent on the independent. We should pray to the One Who Knows and Has all things. We should recognize His completeness in Himself while we are incomplete. So then, are you seeing God as a being in need of us? Do you think He needs your praise and worship? Or do you see Him as the One who is able to provide all things? Does this give you a greater desire to rely on the One that is complete in Himself?

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