How to walk in the Spirit – Step 1

Jesus allowed himself to be led by the Spirit (Luke 4:1). The one following Christ is to do the same. In the 5th chapter of Galatians Paul gives four commands that capture this idea. Each is uniquely associated with walking. He says we are to be: led by the Spirit (Gal. 5:18), walk in the Spirit (Gal. 5:16), live by the Spirit (Gal 5:25), and keep in step with the Spirit (Gal. 5:25 NIV). The fact that the apostle would choose the word “walk” regarding our ongoing relationship with the Spirit is instructive. Walking is the biblical metaphor to describe daily habits.

John MacArthur explains,

The fact that peripateō (walk) is used here in the present tense indicates that Paul is speaking of continuous, regular action, in other words, an habitual way of life. And the fact that the verb is also in the imperative mood indicates he is not giving believers an option but a command. Among other things, walking implies progress, going from where one is to where he ought to be. As a believer submits to the Spirit’s control, he moves forward in his spiritual life. Step by step the Spirit moves him from where he is toward where God wants him to be (Galatians Commentary)

By tracing the word “walk” through Paul’s letters we discover four truths about the daily habits God wants us to develop.

Walking Truth 1: Be attentive. Developing daily habits is dangerous (Eph. 5:15-16).

 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil (Eph. 5:15-16)

Good habits are hard to maintain, and bad habits are hard to break. It is precisely because something done daily so easily becomes habitual that it is dangerous. We don’t think of walking as dangerous, but it is.

On October 20, 1970 Dave and John Kunst started walking east out of their hometown of Waseca Minnesota. Twenty pairs of shoes, and 14,450 miles later, Dave Kuntz would walk back into his town from the west side, having become the first person to circle the land mass of the earth by walking. His brother never returned, having been shot and killed by bandits in Afghanistan two years into their journey. When the Kunst brother left town that October they never considered that only one would return. Walking is dangerous. So are daily habits. Ask the forty-year old man who was introduced to pornography when he was thirteen, or the woman facing retirement who desperately wants to be victorious in her life-long battle with alcohol. The Scriptures warn us to develop daily habits carefully. Don’t let more than 24 hours go by without considering whether your choices are wise or unwise.

 Tomorrow:

Walking Truth 2: Be Patient. Developing daily habits requires small steps. (Gal. 6:8-9).

The devastation of anger

On May 18, 1980 at 8:32 AM an earthquake shook the Cascade Mountain Range on the western seaboard of the United States, and Mount St. Helens erupted. While scientists had predicted this cataclysmic event for years, no one could have anticipated its destruction. At the point of the eruption 1,300 vertical feet of the mountain’s top slid away (for perspective the Empire State Building is only 1250 feet tall). As it did, rocks, ash, volcanic gas, and steam were blasted upward. These elements accelerated to 300 mph before they began to fall to the earth. Ash and smoke continued to ascend. It would travel upward 80,000 feet (15 miles) in 15 minutes. US geologists reported that “over the course of the day, prevailing winds blew 520 million tons of ash eastward across the United States and caused complete darkness in Spokane, Washington, 250 miles from the volcano.”

As the lava poured forth it melted ice at the top of the mountain creating volcanic mud flows (lahars). These mudflows were so strong that they “filled rivers with rocks, sand, and mud, damaging 27 bridges and 200 homes and forcing 31 ships to remain in ports upstream.”  

What human eyes saw on the outside of the mountain was precipitated by powerful forces deep within the mountain. For 123 years the mountain had only appeared to be at rest, when all the while it was boiling away on the inside.

The Greeks used the word thumos to describe this type of boiling over action. In our English Bibles this word is translated as wrath, fury, anger, and passion. If you have ever lived with an angry person you know that the volcano is a good metaphor. Things may seem fine on the outside, but the smallest tremor can set them off. Once the eruption happens, the devastation follows.

Often our attempts at alleviating anger are only dealing with the external effects, when all the while this destroyer must be disarmed from the inside-out.

Jesus said as much from another mountainside 2000 years earlier.

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire (Matthew 5:21-22).

What? Most of us would never treat anger that seriously. Yet, Jesus isn’t about anger management; he is about anger abolishment—taking out the desires in the heart where they reside. This is why the teaching of Jesus is so essential if you are to be victorious over anger. He doesn’t simply talk about how you respond, but he addresses what you believe about yourself, others, and the God who controls your circumstances.

 Source material about Mt St. Helens : http://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/2000/fs036-00/. http://pubs.usgs.gov/gip/103/.

Top 10 biblical truths to combat temptation’s lies

The best way to defend against the tempter’s lie is to know God’s truth.  Jesus answered Satan’s temptations with specific scripture. Here are the top ten lies we experience when we’re tempted, and the corresponding biblical truth. The Psalmist said, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” (Psalm 119:11 NLT)

Lie 1: No one will ever know what you are about to do. Go ahead. No one is watching.

Truth: And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account (Hebrews 4:13).

Lie 2: This temptation is too difficult. Go ahead give in…

Truth: No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Lie 3: You keep failing. You’ll never have victory over this sin.

Truth: And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ (Phil. 1:6).

I can do all things through him who strengthens me (Phil. 4:13).

Lie 4: Your past is too bad. You can’t overcome it.

Truth: … one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:13-14).

Lie 5: You can’t change. That’s just the way you are.

Truth: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come (2 Cor. 5:17).

Lie 6:  God is keeping something good from you…

Truth: 10For a day in your courts is better than a thousand else-where. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness. 11For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly. 12O LORD of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you! (Psalm 84:10-12)

Lie 7: You can avoid the consequences. Your situation is unique.

Truth:  For lust is a shameful sin, a crime that should be punished. 12 It is a fire that burns all the way to hell. It would wipe out everything I own (Job 31:11-12 NLT)

Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. 8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. 9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up (Galatians 6:7-9)

Lie 8: The temptation is so strong God must want you to sin.

Truth:   Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own de-sire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death (James 1:13-15).

Lie 9: You can overcome this sin alone. Don’t tell anybody.

Truth: Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working (James 5:16).

3 For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. 4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah. 5 I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin (Psalm 32:3-5)

Lie 10: If it feels right it must be right.

Truth: … put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 4:22-24).

Remembering

This weekend we celebrate Memorial Day. For many that day will be filled with picnics, family, and friends. But for a few who lost a loved-one in the recent war Memorial Day now takes on a different meaning.

I trust as an American, somewhere during the memory-building of your weekend you pause to remember those who gave so much for freedom. Certainly to have had the privilege of giving your life for your country is a great honor.

Jesus spoke of giving up one’s life, but with another motivation.

He said “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. (John 15:13).

Jesus said, it wasn’t for a country that he gave His life, it was for friends. And He wasn’t motivated out of duty; He was motivated out of love.

Isn’t that an incredible thought? The God who created the entire universe, and holds it together (Col. 1:16), is the very one who gave His life for us. Why did He need to die? 

Because the wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23), and someone who had never sinned was needed to pay the penalty of the sin for those who had.

This Memorial day, as we remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, we would do well to remember the Lord’s great sacrifice for those of us who needed a Savior.

Then here’s a question worth considering: For whom are you sacrificing presently? When was the last time you gave up something you really wanted to do for the sake of someone else. Not because they expected it, demanded it, or required it, but just because you loved them more than you loved yourself. That’s one of the lessons we learn from Jesus. No one ever loved more. No one ever gave more. And no one could sacrifice more. He left the glories of heaven to give His life for you and for me.

The secret of Jesus’ spirit of submission

Imagine, the perfect man submitting to imperfect authorities. Jesus purposed to do this because of his strong confidence in the sovereignty of his Father. This confidence is best revealed in the most preposterous of all trials. On the eve of his crucifixion Jesus will undergo six trials—three of them Jewish, and three of them Roman. As he stood before Pontius Pilate, the appointed governor in Jerusalem, Jesus kept silent in the face of the accusations that were brought against him. Into that context Pilate asks Jesus a question.

So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.”  From then on Pilate sought to release him. . . (John 19:10-12).

This is a remarkable look into the mind of our Lord. He specifically states that Pilate’s authority is God derived. To the appointed governor who assumed his power was received from the Roman government this must have been an unnerving reminder. It should not come as a surprise that from that point on Pilate does all he can do to release Jesus.

When Pilate’s temporary resolve to do the right thing buckles under the Sanhedrin’s pressure, Jesus’ confidence in his Father’s will does not. This is a good reminder of the importance of submitting to our imperfect human authorities even when their interests are so self-serving.

In God’s plan he uses Pilate’s weakness and the religious leader’s jealousy to declare Jesus innocence while still insisting upon his crucifixion. Both of these elements were necessary in the plan of God in order that everyone might know that an innocent man had died in the place of the guilty (2 Cor. 5:21). Nine times in the gospel record Pilate will declare Jesus without guilt prior to his pronouncement of the death sentence (Matthew 27:24; Mark 15:14; Luke 23:4, 14, 15, 22; John 19:4, 6, 12).

Pilate’s weak leadership, without him even being aware of it, is actually used by God to accomplish God’s sovereign will in the life of Jesus. While the outcome of the trials is preposterous—how could one declare a man’s innocence nine times and then call for his execution? The function of the trials is not—they declare a man innocent of his own crimes in order that his punishment may be put to a guilty party’s account. This is exactly what Isaiah prophesied 700 years prior to Jesus crucifixion,

But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed (Isaiah 53:5).

As Jesus submitted to his imperfect human authorities he developed a deeper confidence in his Father’s sovereign will. Therefore, he comes to the most pivotal moment of choice in the Garden of Gethsemane and submits to his Father’s will with joy (Heb. 12:2).

Note the progression: (1) as a young boy, Jesus submitted to his parents, who, while imperfect had his best interest in view, (2) as a grown man Jesus submitted to the governing authorities, who were indifferent to his plight or condition, finally (3) Jesus submitted to those leaders who were opposed to his ministry and would be responsible for taking his life even though their intentions were self-serving and fueled by jealousy (John 11:47-50; 19:11).

Jesus grew in his ability to submit to imperfect human authorities by taking his eyes off of their imperfections, and placing them on his heavenly Father’s perfections. It was His Father’s will Jesus wanted to do whatever the cost.  You and I will only go so far in our understanding of submission unless we grasp the truth that Jesus did: there is a hand we cannot see guiding the hands of those we can.

Because Jesus spent a life time practicing this truth he was prepared to answer Pilot’s weak but abusive authority on the day of his crucifixion (John 19:10-11).

Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above… (John 19:11).

 Jesus got it. In his humility, he understood that God was able to use imperfect authorities to accomplish his will in one’s life. He not only submitted, but he did so with a humble spirit and a right attitude (Phil. 2:5, NASV).

Think about the authorities God has placed over you. How are you responding to them? When others around you complain about their leaders, what do you say? Do you join in or show a sweet spirit of submission. Is your attitude one of respect even when those in authority might be disrespectful? Finally, and perhaps most importantly, do you submit even when you disagree?

Having the right motives matters to God

Although we are encouraged to not judge another’s motives (1 Cor. 4:5), the Bible makes it clear that God does and will evaluate our motives.

Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God (1 Cor. 4:5, NASB).

Paul reminds us that the day is coming when our motives will be considered. That is because why we do what we do matters to God. Speaking to the multitude, with the Pharisees in attendance, Jesus made that clear. On three separate occasions he pointed this out in his Sermon on the Mount. Proper motives were an essential part of: giving (Matt. 6:1-2), praying (Matt. 6:5-6), and fasting (Matt. 6:16-17).

Notice Jesus’ words,

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you (Matt. 6:1-4)

Doing the right thing for the wrong reason reveals a self-centered heart. We want our attention now, and if we don’t get it our response reveals our self-centeredness. Do you feel a sense of disappointment that you aren’t recognized, thanked or appreciated? The discontentment brewing within you is a warning that you really were not serving with the purest of motives.

A friend of mine often said, “The hardest part about being a servant is being treated like one!” The servant’s work often goes unnoticed, and the lack of public acknowledgment serves as a great motive-purifier.

John the Baptist shows us the way we should respond. His ministry was flourishing until Jesus appeared. Immediately some of John’s disciples became disciples of Jesus (John 1:35-42). As Jesus’ ministry gains notoriety, John’s ministry appears to wane. When John is questioned by his remaining disciples, his response is spot on.

You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:28-30).

Simply put: the right reason is always the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31), the wrong reason is most often revealed as the glory of self. Which glory is your desire?

Having the right thoughts matters to God

It’s hard to describe what goes on in the thinking process. It often feels like we’re not in control of it: like a thought is suddenly there.  Often our senses trigger these thoughts. The smell of a lake always takes me back to my teenage fishing experiences. The taste of a cider donut sends my mind in rewind to the country fair in my childhood hometown of Grabill, Indiana. Music can do the same for me. When James Taylor comes on the radio, I’m back in college. When I hear a song from our wedding I’m a newly wed even though I’ve been married 25 years. That’s the power of our mind to tap powerful memories.

Yet the Bible gives us commands to control our thinking (Phil 4:8; 2 Cor. 10:5).  More so the Bible reminds us that we will give an account for our thoughts and our words (Matt. 12:33, 36).

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus communicates that our thoughts matter to God. On two occasions he explains that God is aware of and holding us accountable for what we’re choosing to think upon.

The first has to do with anger, and the second has to do with immoral sexual thoughts.

But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire (Matt. 5:22).

Because the Bible teaches that “out of the abundance of the heart the mouths speaks.” We can be certain, that when we’re angry, what we say was first a seed thought in our mind before it found its way onto our lips. God reminds us that we will be held accountable for our angry words that were first carefully developed as angry thoughts.

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Matt. 5:27-28).

Jesus is saying: Pursuing wrong thoughts brings disastrous consequences

Remember, how the mind and your senses our connected? In this case, as the man takes that second look, his mind is memorizing the image for recall at another point in time. He is looking on purpose. God holds him accountable for those thoughts. Jesus says, “Listen, your thoughts matter to God, and he knows them as you think them.” Such a proposition clears up my fuzzy thinking about what I’m thinking. I always want to remember: My thoughts matter to God.