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Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. 2 Corinthians 5:17

Christianese 101

What is Christianese?

Simple words like sin, salvation, fellowship, and gospel could be considered Christianese, if the person you’re talking to isn’t familiar with them. A proper definition would be ‘the terms, catchphrases and theological jargon used by some Christians, commonly from Christian theology and influenced by popular translations of the Bible.’ Christianese (which is in itself Christianese) is something that we’re often told to avoid in conversations. We come upon articles like “The Dangers of Christianese,” that encourage us to cease, but should we?

As far as moderate Christianese is concerned, I would disagree that we should stop, as long as our words are applicable to the conversations in which we’re engaged. I am a Christian and I speak the Christian language in an appropriate manner when it is appropriate.  What typically happens next is a conversation develops. If I use a word that a person does not understand, they generally say something like, What does that mean?” and you know what I do? I tell them what it means and the conversation goes deeper. It’s probably what occurs in your conversations too. Oh, and guess what I do if they use a word I don’t understand? That’s right! I ask them what they mean. As a result we’re not only having a conversation, but we’re learning stuff about each other!

Christianese and Discernment

I was being seated in a diner a few years ago and the waitress asked me how I was doing. I responded as I usually do, “I’m blessed more than I deserve.”

DSCN1750The waitress said, “Oh that’s nice, I wish I was.”

She got the gist of what I was saying.  A conversation was blossoming and I couldn’t wait for her to return to the table. As I sat down, my Christian acquaintance rebuked me. “Ya know, David,” he said in his lovely Australian accent, “she didn’t understand a word you said because you’re talking in Christianese.”

I was taken aback. His words made me feel as if I did something horrible.  When the waitress returned I said not a word except to tell her my order.

A lot of water has passed beneath the bridge since that incident and I have learned much. I realize now that my friend was wrong and I was wrong for listening to him; I had forfeited an opportunity to have a wonderful conversation with our waitress. God only knows where it would have gone — I had been given a measure of discernment and direction from the Holy Spirit, and I ignored it. Shame on me for listening to the wrong voice.

The Real Controversy

The real issue has nothing to do with non-Christians not understanding the words that Christians use, in fact it’s quite often the opposite – they do understand, or at the very least they recognize it as Christian jargon and as a result they are offended. They’re offended because they don’t like Jesus and they don’t want to discuss their sin. If they sense that they’re conversing with a Christian, they go on guard immediately. If they cannot suppress our enthusiasm (often with some undelightful language of their own), they will attempt to leave the conversation entirely.

It is here that some well-meaning Christians (at least I’d like to think they’re well-meaning) have determined to come to their aid. Their counsel: stop talking like Christians! In other words, they want us to take that little light of ours and put a basket over it, or better yet, slide it under the bed before we leave the house in the morning. Talk about quenching the Holy Spirit!  (If you don’t know what Quenching the Holy Spirit,” means, click the link).

Why?

I wonder why my brothers and sisters in Christ do this? Are they ashamed of Jesus Christ and/or their Christianity? Are they embarrassed that they lack boldness and confidence in their faith? Are they trying to protect a relationship? Have they witnessed an overly aggressive believer in operation and therefore want to solve that problem by silencing all Christians? Are they adhering to some false doctrines of their own which prejudices their reaction to the truth? Are they nominal (or minimal) believers? If you’re a Christianese-squelcher, please tell me why in the comments below.

Whatever their reason…

Don’t Buy the Lie

Friends, please don’t buy into their nonsense. I’m not talking about those who muddle a conversation with complicated phraseology or weighty theology (they need to know their audience). I’m referring to us simple folk who desire nothing more than to talk and act like the new creations that God has made. No, instead of rebuking you, I want to encourage you to continue expressing yourself as a Christian should and to be ready to answer any questions that arise, being sensitive to the reality that folks might not understand a word or a phrase you’re using. Also be sensitive to the fact that a Christian conversation is not a Gospel presentation until God says it is. It is when we attempt to force the latter upon an unwilling audience that we often bruise or become bruised.

He that saith he abideth in Him (Jesus) ought himself also so to walk, even as He walked. 1 John 2:6

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“A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.” Matthew 13:3-9

Charles Spurgeon’s take on the parable.

“The preacher of the gospel is like the sower. He does not make his seed; it is given him by his divine Master. No man could create the smallest grain that ever grew upon the earth, much less the celestial seed of eternal life. The minister goes to his Master in secret, and asks him to teach him his gospel, and thus he fills his basket with the good seed of the kingdom. He then goes forth in his Master’s name and scatters precious truth. If he knew where the best soil was to be found, perhaps he might limit himself to that which had been prepared by the plough of conviction; but not knowing men’s hearts, it is his business to preach the gospel to every creature—to throw a handful on the hardened heart, and another on the mind which is overgrown with the cares and pleasures of the world. He has to leave the seed in the care of the Lord who gave it to him, for he is not responsible for the harvest, he is only accountable for the care and industry with which he does his work. If no single ear should ever make glad the reaper, the sower will be rewarded by His Master if he had planted the right seed with careful hand.” — Charles Spurgeon

For the record, I do not disagree with Charles Spurgeon. He likens the sower (in Jesus’ parable) to a preacher; one who is specifically DSCN1751called to teach the Word of God. I suppose Spurgeon would further liken the preacher’s congregation as the field (the soil) to which he broadly casts God’s celestial seed. I suspect any pastor would acknowledge that within his very flock there are some with harden hearts and others whose minds are preoccupied with the cares and pleasures of the world. As the parable reminds us, the seed that falls in these unfortunate places are devoured by birds, withered by the sun, or choked out by thorns.  That leaves me with a few questions for Pastor Spurgeon, and also for those who ‘fully’ embrace that interpretation.

  1. Is this parable for preachers exclusively or for the church generally?
  2. Is that the end of the lesson; is that all that Jesus intended us to glean from the parable?
  3. Is there an additional (and incredibly obvious) message we’re all missing?

As you might surmise from my questions, I believe the parable was intended for the entire Christian audience (pastors included), that there is much more to be gleaned, and that we might be glossing over a critical aspect of Christ’s teaching. What is that critical aspect? In two words: soil preparation.

Can soil prepare itself? Let’s consider the sower (aka, the farmer; husbandman) and his duties. If all he had to do was broadcast seed, I suspect farming would be an easy livelihood, but there is much more to it than merely casting seed. By definition he is a person who cultivates the land.  He is a nurturer and a promoter, he fosters growth by preparing and tending the soil. He breaks the hardened earth with the till, thus exposing the rocks for removal while simultaneously plowing the weeds under for nutriment. As he turns over soil, he’s aerating, effectively breathing life-giving air into it. It brings to mind this Genesis passage:

And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. (Genesis 2:7)

I noted He did not broadcast His breath upon the earth (although He certainly could have); He took a portion and formed it for the sole purpose of breathing into it. Arguably (in this) we see the first mention of cultivation in the Bible. In that act, coupled with the lesson of Christ’s parable, I’m seeing a picture of the ‘born again’ experience; that moment when life is poured into a soul by the Word of God, giving new life. Of course this all begs the question, “As sowers of God’s seed, are we also called to be cultivators of His soil?  Cain would ask another way, “Lord, am I my brother’s keeper?”

Instead of speculating, it would be better to turn to the Bible to see if there are any good examples of sowers cultivating the ground before actually depositing the seed.  Naturally the best example of goodness is Jesus, so let’s see what He has done in this regard.

The Woman at the Well

The woman saith unto him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw. Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither. The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband: For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly. John 4:16-18

I don’t see any broadcasting in Christ’s encounter with this woman, at least not initially. What I do see is Jesus breaking up some hardened soil and addressing a mind that has been preoccupied with the cares and pleasures of the world. This cultivating act ultimately leads to Holy Spirit conviction. The Apostle Paul would later say, For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of” (2 Corinthians 7:10). Having received the word (after having been appropriately prepared), the woman leaves the well rightfully proclaiming, “Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?” (John 4:29) all because the Messenger took the time and effort to remove some stones, turn under the thorns, and aerate the soil.

The Woman Caught in Adultery

Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not. So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground. And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.  When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more. Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. John 8:6-12

Take note that nowhere in this account does Jesus condone the sin of adultery or this woman’s involvement in it. Without using so many words, Jesus effectively gives us what the Apostle Paul would give us in Romans 3:23, that is, “”For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” When it comes to preparing soil for seed (or the soul for God’s word) addressing sin; putting the spade into the earth and exposing sin for what it is and what it does, it arguably the first step. God only knows what Jesus wrote in the soil, but what we do know is that it was very convicting. Perhaps in some way it revealed the second step in the Roman’s Road to salvation, “For the wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23). Either way, Jesus is doing a lot of groundwork. At the right time Jesus plants the seed essentially saying to her, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1).  We also notice that Jesus [the multitasker] was working in the field of many souls this day.

Jesus and His Disciples

Is not everything Jesus said and did before His disciple preparatory? These same men who walked and worked side-by-side with the Messiah had little or no understanding of His earthly mission, let alone the suffering and death He was going to endure, or His glorious resurrection.  What we do see in Jesus’ interaction with His disciples is the same love and patience we might witness in a dedicated farmer.

For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them. Matthew 13:17

We’re Not Jesus

That’s an incredibly important tenet to remember, but at the same time Jesus is our example. If Jesus takes the time to prepare a soul to receive the Word, should we not do the same? The question now is what does that look like for the disciple of Christ? I believe it begins with being a good listener. As Mark Cahill would say, “Sharing the Gospel message should be a conversation, not a presentation.”

Now that may not be the case for the preacher (in Charles Spurgeon’s analysis), for a preacher’s sermon is a presentation of Bible Scripture; it’s a teaching without class participation, but I’m not a preacher. I’m just a guy saved by grace with a burden on my heart to share God’s grace with others and to do it in the most loving way possible. To me a presentation says, “Here’s some seed for everybody,” but a conversation says, “Tell me about yourself and when we’ve dug around a bit, I have a good word for you.” There is nothing presumptive about that kind of approach, while the broadcasting approach supposes much.

For my money, Ray Comfort does it well. Instead of hopping up on a soapbox and broadcasting seed, he engages folks one-on-one (often in populated environments) and determines where they are in their earth-bound life. It’s not uncommon (for one example) for Ray to discover a person who falsely believes they’re going to Heaven [because] they think they’re good. Comfort is quick to turn over a portion of soil, exposing their true sin-nature by the Ten Commandments, quite often bringing revelation to the person that they are sinners in need of saving. In contrast, if Ray did not take the time to cultivate the soil, I suspect very few would even listen to a broadly cast, Gospel message. Even then what would the result be without cultivation? Would not some seed be eaten by the birds, dried up in the sun, or choked by the thorns? Is not [at least] one lesson from the parable of the sower that this does not have to be the case, but rather with just a smidgen of preparation, the yield could be greater (not for pride’s sake, but for God’s sake)?

I believe it is and for that reason I will take the time to prepare the soil whenever it is possible, and not because I believe I can ‘save’ a person with my efforts, but because I believe it is of godly counsel and good stewardship to do so. I see it as a compassionate and loving way to deliver the Word of God, partly because it demonstrates to the hearer that you care, taking the time to listen and go deeper. It’s not the only thing, but it’s an important thing that Christ revealed in His parable of the sower and prescribed in Paul’s letter to Timothy. Reprove, rebuke, exhort with patience (and truth) are the sower’s tools.

Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away * their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. 2 Timothy 4:2-4

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And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Romans 8:28-29

We Know

Reflect upon what God has already done.

Now top that off with the reality that He has predestined our Spiritual inheritance: Christians are by faith children of God (non-Christians are not His children; they are His yet-to-be adopted creation). This isn’t some kind of Calvinist/predestination mumbo-jumbo (I consider myself neither a Calvinist nor an Arminian); the relevant facts are that our Father, having the ability to see both the end and the beginning (and everything in-between simultaneously) knows who His followers will be and pre-ordains them. Therefore, Christians in a very real sense, have been covered before they even knew who Jesus Christ was. Looking back, we can now identify with His mission and having been called according to His purpose; it all makes sense.

They Know

He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.” John 3:18-21

What about the fate of the unbeliever?

The same destiny theology applies, but in reverse: that person is condemned to a God-less void. Why? Because they have rejected Jesus and His grace all the way to the grave. It’s called the unpardonable sin; given a choice, they chose unwisely (take note: God knows them and we do not).

God’s Word gives us the reason for their errant behavior, and it’s not due to a lack of theological or intellectual understanding (the Gospel is the simplest of messages; so simple a child can understand it). No, his reasons are purely selfish: he loves sin more than anything else and rejects the only One able to spare his life. God has not condemned this man as much as he has condemned himself.

Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. Romans 8:30

What Else Do We Know?

We know the word glorified in this verse is in the past tense. Our glorification, although not established on earth, is perceived to have already occurred in the eyes of the Father. Those who are in Christ are seen as God’s children and the offenses we have committed are supposed to have never occurred. God sees us clothed in the righteousness of His Son; a sinless state. If we can realize this truth and take it to heart, suddenly our praise and service will no longer be a fleshly endeavor to gain favor with the Lord. In so doing our praise and service is based on position rather than proposition. Positionally, we’re beneath the spout where His blessing continually and consistently flow out. Occasionally we may choose to reposition ourselves (moving away from the ‘spout’), but hopefully that occurs less and less as we mature in faith.

If it’s True For You, Then It’s True For Them Too

Then He came to Bethsaida; and they brought a blind man to Him, and begged Him to touch him. So He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the town. And when He had spit on his eyes and put His hands on him, He asked him if he saw anything. And he looked up and said, “I see men like trees, walking.” Then He put His hands on his eyes again and made him look up. And he was restored and saw everyone clearly. Mark 8:22

If God sees me in my glorified state, then that means (gulp) He sees every other Christian in the exact same way. What does this passage from Mark’s Gospel have to do with that issue? Immature Christians (immature in a treefavorable sense) tend to view other Christians like trees. We’re often stumped by their behavior, we leave them alone, or we cut them down. Occasionally we even see other believers as dead wood; mere obstacles on our spiritual path.  If God sees them in their glory, why do we see them otherwise? Doesn’t Jesus want us to see them as He sees them: heirs to the greatest inheritance of all time? Is it not audacious to criticize Christ’s bride?

As long as all Christians are in the same book, we don’t have to be on the same page. I remember once criticizing a brother in Christ for the manner in which he shared the Gospel. He wasn’t violating any Biblical ordinances, but I made the mistake that so many of us make: he wasn’t doing it the way I would do it. Here’s the irony – I wasn’t doing it.  Naturally, the Holy Spirit was quick to convict me. Wouldn’t you know it, I now come across Christians who don’t like the way I do it.

Oh how true the verse…

“For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” (Matthew 7:2)

Back to the Book

That’s not to say we cannot judge, correct, or admonish our brothers and sisters in Christ. Quite frankly, if we’re aware of errant theology or impious behavior and we don’t offer correction in a Biblically prescribed manner, we’re culpable. So while it’s true we can all be on different pages, it’s vitally important we’re all in the same Book. The truth of Scripture is the narrow path with which we must always align ourselves.

And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you…speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ…if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. (Ephesians 4:32 & 4:15; Galatians 6:1)

Sheep Herders

Do you see the flock or men walking as trees? Are you critical or supportive of their words and deeds? Could it be said you’re trying to put square sheep into treeeround holes? Are you able to delegate and facilitate the efforts of the flock corporately and the sheep individually? Has that one sheep actually gone astray or is she really deep within a niche God has carved out for her? Are you offended that some sheep are being led by the Holy Spirit and not you? Is it possible that congregationally there is not enough missional opportunity and some sheep don’t have a place to flourish in their faith (for God’s glory, of course)? Is God revealing that the nook He carved out for them is possibly an opportunity for the church as whole? Can you recognize body parts and their functions? Is everyone in the same Book?

“For in fact the body is not one member but many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. And if they were all one member, where would the body be? But now indeed there are many members, yet one body.” (1 Corinthians 12:14-20)

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“When the Lord your God cuts off from before you the nations which you go to dispossess, and you displace them and dwell in their land, take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, ’How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.’ “If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, ’Let us go after other gods’–which you have not known–’and let us serve them, ’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the Lord your God is testing you to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.” Deuteronomy 12:29 -13:3

More Than Yoga

God’s admonition to His church is exceedingly clear; leave the false religions alone–don’t listen, don’t inquire, and don’t be curious. Is our Father in Heaven envious of these false gods? No, He is jealous for us. In the same way a dad is jealous for his daughter; wanting only the best for her, our Lord is jealous for His bride wanting only the best for us. God knows there is a very present danger when we commence poking around in realms we ought not to be. Quite frankly, how non-believers choose to worship their false gods is none of our business.

What does that have to do with yoga? Consider that ‘yoga‘ is a Sanskrit word that means to join with (in this case, the false god named Brahman) and the mantras that yoga instructors have followers chant are the names of Hindu gods and many are designed to call them forth. Sadly a large percentage of those who get involved with yoga also get involved with Hinduism, New Age religion and the occult.

Do not invoke the names of other gods; do not let them be heard on your lips. Exodus 23:13
Are there benefits to doing yoga? Apparently there are, but those benefits do not outweigh the risks, and at best they are temporary. Do not be deceived. Just because you have taken part in yoga (or horoscopes, astrology, etc) and haven’t been adversely affected does not mean you won’t be. Most importantly, these practices are not pleasing to God and He should never take a backseat to what we find pleasurable.

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear…1 Peter 3:15

Study His Word

Every moment that we spend investigating the ways of another religion, we could be spending in God’s word. There is of course the argument that suggests that by knowing more about these other beliefs we can become better witnesses for Jesus. It’s a ridiculous claim. That’s like saying Tiger Woods can teach Michael Phelps how to golf if he first learns how to swim.

If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds. 2 John 1:10
Another Strong Warning
Does that mean we should turn away the Jehovah Witness and the Mormon who show up at our door steps? I believe it does, if it is our intention to learn something. When we listen to lies, we risk spiritual injury. Having said that, a few years ago (in ignorance) I took the risk and listened to two very nice and very knowledgeable Jehovah Witness ladies. What I learned from that experience was that these women knew their fake bible better than I knew the truth. From that moment on I set out to correct that. The Apostle Paul warned us in the book of Ephesians that we should give no place to the devil (Ephesians 4:27), but I think God spoke most clearly through His servant David when he penned these words:

I have restrained my feet from every evil way, That I may keep Your word. I have not departed from Your judgments, For You Yourself have taught me. How sweet are Your words to my taste, Sweeter than honey to my mouth! Through Your precepts I get understanding; Therefore I hate every false way. Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path. Psalm 119:101-105

And there you have it, ‘Hate every false way.’

It’s not a matter of intolerance or narrow-mindedness; it’s a matter of defense. God’s Word is a lamp for our feet and every other way only serves to diffuse that light. It’s my testimony that before I knew Jesus I packed my head with the refuse of this world and at this moment there is precious little space left, therefore I will choose wisely the things I allow to take up residence therein. God’s counsel is wise counsel—drop the yoga and any other practice that is ungodly in its design.

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We ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure, which is manifest evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God… 2 Thessalonians 1:4-5

Stop Praying?

Well not entirely.

I simply want to draw attention to our need to stop asking God to release us from things that He may have allowed to happen. These seemingly negative events could be evidence of His righteous judgment that counts us worthy and simultaneously brings Him mountains of glory. Consider that these trials could be confirmation from God Himself that we are obediently in His will (assuming the persecutions and tribulations that occurred were because we were operating in the Holy Spirit and were not the consequences of working in our flesh). I submit to you that suffering while in the Spirit is yet another proof you are in Christ and He is in you.

Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. 2 Timothy 3:12

That’s something to rejoice about, but wait, there’s more! As we face these trials, God is with us. In fact, it is in these situations He chooses to mold and refine us. This Bible passage gives illumination:

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. James 1:2-4 

Patience? Perfection? Completion? Without Lack?

Why in Heaven’s name would anyone desire to pray against those things? I am not aaproposing a Christian go looking for trouble ———->(Heaven forbid), but when trouble has found us we need to recognize it for the God-ordained refining process that it is. While all believers delight in mountain-top experiences, obedient Christians know that the real fruit of our faith grows in these valleys of tribulation.

“In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33)

 

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But one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead… Philippians 3:13

In chapter 13 of the Book of Numbers, twelve spies were sent to spy-out the Promised Land and were ordered to bring back a report. Two men brought back a favorable report and ten men turned in a negative one. Now as quick as you can (and without looking in your Bible), name the ten men who brought back a negative report.

You Can’t

You can’t do it, can you. Nobody I know can, but rest assured they’re all recorded in the Bible. Funny how the only names we remember are Joshua and Caleb.  The fact that we know theirs and not the others is in itself a witness to what Paul is declaring here in his letter to the Philippians: focus on the positive and forget the negative.

Even Jesus reminds us in Luke 9:62:

“No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Jesus isn’t saying that those who dwell in the past or focus on the negative will not enter the kingdom of God, but is saying that we’re not fit. In other words, we are out of shape, and not in the best spiritual condition that we could be if we were looking and moving forward. This Spiritual weakness is the byproduct of dwelling upon the negative, while spiritual muscle is promoted as we move forward in Christ. Of course this verse also speaks to those who yearn for the sinful things they’ve left behind to follow Jesus. These folks are a selfish lot, double-minded and unstable in all their ways.

Where is Your Focus?

There is one good thing we can glean from the ten spies — they serve as an example of what not to do. Rather than moving in faith, they succumb to fear and the report they turned-in reflected their spiritual condition: they lost touch with their God of provision and promise. We can all relate to this condition, can’t we. The solution is found in confession and repentance: admitting to Jesus our failure(s) and turning again to Him and away from our offenses.  It’s not necessarily a matter of starting from scratch, but getting up where you have fallen and moving forward in the will of Christ Jesus.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9

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Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. Philippians 2:12-13
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It took me a while…

I always misunderstood the implication of the verse, Work out your own salvation,” thinking that it somehow meant I was in this sanctification thing alone. Sure, I was saved by the grace of God through His Son Jesus Christ, but I errantly thought I was left to do it single-handedly, having only the fear of God and the trembling of what He might do to me if I stepped out of line as incentive. Despite comprehending the fear of the Lord, being a lone ranger is not what is being conveyed in this passage.

Cross Training

We’re being told to ‘work out’ or to literally exercise these things that Jesus has taught us by His example in order that we may be strengthened in faith. We are not being told to figure it out alone and most definitely we’re not being told that salvation is something we need to work for. We’re being told to exercise in the truth that we know so that we will encourage and maintain spiritual fitness.

Exercise yourself toward godliness. For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come. 1 Timothy 4:7b-8

The Exercises

Not to be flippant, but here are three basic exercises: the ‘Humility Walk’, the ‘Servant Squat’, and the ‘Self-esteem Toss.’ Our Trainer (Jesus), having taken on the form of a man, demonstrated them each and it would serve us well to remember that it was Jesus the man who is our example. Jesus the man was able, just as we are able, by solely relying on the power of the Father.

Walk in Humility

And being found in fashion as a man, (Jesus) humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Philippians 2:8

Service to Others

But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant… Matthew 20:26-27

Toss away Selfishness

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. 2 Corinthians 5:17

And lest we forget…

Obedience

Obedience is the essence of the Christian faith. Jesus Himself was “obedient unto death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8) and it speaks directly to ‘showing up’ when you’re called to. When believers talk about taking up the cross and following Him, they’re making a strong reference to obedience, as well as dying to the flesh on a daily basis. Clearly, if we love Jesus and if we’re grateful for His love for us, we exercise that love by obeying Him in all things.

The MOST Important Rule!

Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. 2 Corinthians 12:10

You can search long and hard, but you won’t find that credo in Work Out World or any other gym for that matter. The world doesn’t get it, but the church does. When a Christian is humble, or when he stumbles or when he is emptied, he is in the best position to be strengthened by the Lord, if of course that person is submitted to Christ and His workout ethic.

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