Practice what you Blog

26 08 2008

Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” (James 3:1)

 

This verse from James always makes me nervous as a preacher. God holds those who are in a position of publicly proclaiming His Word to a higher standard of judgment. They are His visible representatives, or ambassadors. So it is imperative that their lives do not contradict the message they set forth, or in any way give the enemies of God an excuse to blaspheme. The verse applies especially to ministers who preach the Gospel as a calling, but it also applies to anyone who presumes to set forth instruction in the name of God and His truth… including bloggers. 

 

Hebrews 12:14 says, “Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.”

 

If holiness is required for anyone to see the Lord, how much more must we who publicly represent His name live holy lives as those who will give an account? Here are a few reasons that no one can be a spokesman for the Lord without living a holy life…

 

Because the doctrine of the Word is hard to understand and practice. The people who listen to your message don’t just take in the words; they watch what you DO and seek to imitate you. They assume that your lifestyle and manner of speech are the consistent outworking of the doctrine you present, and they follow your example. If you are representing Christ but acting out in ways that contradict His standards of godliness, you will lead people away from Him by your example. This is why Paul exhorted young Timothy, “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Tim. 4:16).

Because understanding of the Scriptures and the ability to present truth to others is not a guarantee of godliness. There are many preachers and teachers who have an amazing grasp of true doctrine, but who don’t live godly lives. The real proof of godliness is not just what you say in public, but how you live when no one else in watching. True godliness is a matter of the heart, not a slogan on the lips.

God hates godly speech that is not joined with a godly life. In Psalm 50:16 God says to the wicked, “What right have you to recite my laws or take my covenant on your lips? You hate my instruction and cast my words behind you.” This is the stricter judgment that James talked about. If you think you can please God by blogging about Him while you live your life in rejection of His commandments, think again! God will call to account every one who fails to practice what they preach.

Because your life, if it is not consistent with what you teach, will tear down everything you think you are building. Little children like to build towers out of blocks only to knock them down. But men build things that are designed to stand the test of time. If your life contradicts the message you put out, you are like a child building a tower. You may instill some godly character in your listeners, but it will soon crash to the ground when they see how you live or follow your example.

 

Let’s determine before God that we will live in His grace and seek through His Spirit to back up what we preach, or blog, with lives that have been changed by His power.

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What matters most

15 08 2008

The success of every temptation that the devil brings against men depends upon their putting the object of the temptation above God in their affections. When Satan can convince you that some coveted object is better for you than the love and favor and presence of God, he has caught you in his trap. This is at the heart of every temptation: which is your greatest delight, God or the object of your lust?

 

Renowned Puritan preacher, Thomas Brooks, counseled every Christian to answer all temptations with this short saying: “The Lord is my portion.” This is very wise advice. Think of a few examples from Scripture.

 

  • If Satan should come to you with an apple, as he once did to Eve, say to him “The Lord is my portion.”

 

  • If Satan should come to you with a grape, tempting you to drunkenness as he once did to Noah, say to him “The Lord is my portion.”

 

  • If he should come to you with fashionable clothing, as he once did to Gehazi, tell him “The Lord is my portion.”

 

  • If the devil should come to you with a ready seductress, as he once did to Joseph, tell him “The Lord is my portion.”

 

  • If he offers you a wedge of gold, as he once did to Achan, or a bag of money, as he once did to Judas, say to him “The Lord is my portion.”

 

  • If he comes to you with a crown and a kingdom, as he once did to Moses, tell him “The Lord is my portion.”

 

In every case, the heart that delights in God above every empty trinket that this world has to offer will rise above the devil’s attempt to put temporary worldly satisfaction ahead of the present and eternal joy of knowing God and finding contentment in His presence.

 

But in order for this tactic against temptation to work effectively, your insistence that “the Lord is your portion” must be a genuine confession of your heart. Do you love God more than worldly pleasure? Do you delight in Him more than in the riches and ease of accumulated wealth? Do you desire His presence more than the fickle affections of the seductress? Do you prefer the benefits of serving God to the trappings of earthly power or worldly reputation? Can you honestly say to Satan, when he throws these temptations in your path, “Begone with these empty and worthless trifles! I have something far better than these! The Lord is my portion!”?

 

If you would have this power over temptation, you must set yourself to seeking God as the highest and best reward. Look to Jesus, and commune with Him through the study of His word, and through earnest prayer, and through the fellowship of His people. Meditate upon the infinite perfections of the God of grace, and mercy, and love, and justice. Think often about the wondrous Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the precious blood that has paid the price for your sins and brought you from death to life. Pray for His Spirit to be poured out in your heart and commit yourself to serving Him by serving others. The more that you practice these spiritual disciplines, the more you will find your heart filled with delight in the Lord and His presence. Then, when the devil comes creeping with his promises of temporary satisfaction, you will be able to say to him with complete confidence and temptation-conquering conviction: “The Lord is my portion!”





What in Heaven’s Name are we Doing?

12 08 2008

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about personal ministry, or the lack thereof. James, of course, tells us that we are to be “doers of the Word, and not merely hearers” and that “faith without works is dead.” These are difficult words if one is inclined to reflect upon them and apply them ruthlessly to one’s own life. Am I a mere hearer, content to attend church services and appreciate the pastor’s teaching, only to walk out and resume my usual activities as if there were a practical disconnect between the pew I occupy weekly and the streets I walk upon daily? Do I profess faith in the life-changing Savior? Then why am I not daily engaged in seeking to direct His transforming power to the lives of the people I work with, the neighbors I rub shoulders with, and the family I live with?

 

I fear that I have become too much of an armchair disciple.  It’s easy to talk theology with other Christians, and to explore and deplore the dangers of this or that false doctrine upon “our church” and “our nation.” But when it comes right down to it, I am forced back to this question: “What in Heaven’s name am I doing?”

 

Not long ago I had a long and (hopefully) edifying conversation with my teenaged son. He had questions about the relationship of the church to the state, and how they differ in their God-appointed roles. He wondered if it was Biblical for the church to be militant (literally) by taking up arms in the defense of the true faith against those who attack us for what we believe. We discussed the fact that both the church and the civil government are institutions appointed by God – that the secular doctrine of the separation of church and state is not a Biblical doctrine because it seeks to erase God’s authority over the public square. We talked about the fact that God has ordained the civil authorities as His ministers who are charged with punishing evil and protecting the righteous (Romans 13), and that we are exhorted to submit to lawful authority and entrust the power of military defense to that institution. We talked about the fact that the church is not called to wrestle with flesh and blood, and the weapons of the church’s warfare are not carnal but spiritual. In the end, we concluded that the Bible teaches that Christians are to seek to make an impact upon their culture not with weapons and military campaigns, but with the power of the Gospel which transforms the hearts of men and women and turns God’s enemies into His beloved children.

 

As we pulled the car into our garage, my ever-sincere and no-nonsense firstborn child looked me squarely in the eyes and asked, “Dad, what are we doing to change things?” I offered a hollow-sounding response about how we are always to be seeking to witness to our friends and neighbors, and that we must trust that God will use His powerful Gospel to change people’s hearts – but even as I spoke the words, I recognized that this is precisely what I am NOT doing on any kind of a consistent basis.

 

So, I ask again, “What in Heaven’s name are we doing?” What is my plan and my daily strategy for engaging the lost around me with the only solution to their hopeless condition? Do I put as much time, energy, and resources into building God’s Kingdom as I do into building my own security and career? I am called to redeem the time. This life is perilously brief and eternity hangs in the balance of my conversations in the here and now. The next time my precious son asks me that question, I hope I will have a better answer to give – one that flows out of the way that my wholehearted love for Jesus propels me to seize every opportunity to touch the lives of the lost with the focused, determined, and purposeful zeal of a genuine DOER of the Word.

 

Grace and Peace.