Posts Tagged ‘godliness’

What do you think it means to “fight the good fight?” I used to think it meant a lot of proselytizing and speaking out for the faith. I needed to take a stand, face derision for my beliefs, hold the line, and be bold for Jesus. Wrong.

I Timothy 6:11-12a
But you, man [woman] of God, flee from all this [the love of money], and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith.

To fight the good fight, it’s an interior struggle; it’s learning to choose, in the moment, the right way, the honest way, a choice that may not be “best” for me. It’s about experiencing God in such a way that I am awake to the Holy Spirit and respond to people and situations as the Christ would. It’s about believing in the truth of the Presence. It’s all real and true and does make a difference inside me. I am different because of that Presence. It’s love. And that’s the most difficult of all because it’s love in the face of all things, it’s love so strong that one’s heart is visible, it’s love so authentic that is can tolerate rejection and hatred and betrayal. That’s why endurance is part of the package. That’s the fight part. Keeping on. And then, the last: gentleness. What? Gentleness? How do we do this long-suffering battle with gentleness?

It would take everything in me to test to truth of these words. And that’s the point.

I need to be gentle with myself. It’s a journey. It’s a war to become . . . to really give it all away (those old ways, not just the stuff) and follow the Christ.

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Hebrews 10:20-22 says “…by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain [that is the separation between us and the Most Holy Place of God], that is, his body [the curtain], and since we have a great priest [Christ Jesus] over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith.”

We have access to God. We are no longer separated by a “curtain” – the symbol of the previous covenant and law. By Jesus’s sacrifice, by the blood of the ultimate lamb, we have been covered and we can “get in.” The work on His side has been done. We must enter!

And it is as we enter that we can truly “know God.” If you want to become like a person, you’ve got to get to know them. If you want to become more “Godly” then you’ve got to know Him…. intimately… and that kind of knowing happens in the Holy of Holies.

We have all heard the old story of how you really don’t know a person until you’re married to him. How true. All those dates and talks and experiences were wonderful during the engagement, but the real “knowing” happens in the bedroom, the bathroom, the living room, and the kitchen (maybe I should include the garage in this list too). You have to live with a person day to day to really begin to know them, and even then, there are secret corners. That’s how we humans are.

But God, through Christ, has invited us into his deepest places. He has invited us to know Him. He has promised to reveal Himself to us. But we must enter.

P.S. As we begin to truly know Him, others can begin to know us…. and as they begin to know us… they meet Him.

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From the pastor’s blog today, we are encouraged to beware of false prophets. This is quite the challenge in today’s world. These televangelists with their jets and fancy homes… how can we really know? We are told to “know them by their fruits” … but in a modern world, the fruits can be manufactured to look righteous. It’s frightening really.

I am reminded of another scripture, Mark 9:33-39, when the disciples were concerned about a man “driving out demons” in Jesus’ name. They had commanded the man to stop since he was not one of them. But, in the end, Jesus tolerated this abuse of his name and his power for the good it was doing. Another scripture, Matthew 13:24-29, the parable of the weeds seems appropriate here, for the weeds grew with the wheat and were not pulled out while still growing. Instead, the master said to wait until the harvest and then they would be collected and burned separately.

I used to worry and struggle a great deal with differentiating who is righteous and who is not… who is “godly” and who is not. In some cases, I thought their fruits were also good, so who could tell?

In the end, I had to give the ultimate discernment back to the Lord. All I can do is prayerfully place this person and my relationship to him or her on the altar of the Lord. If I am duped by a false prophet, then I trust God will redeem the loss. If God reveals the duplicity ahead of time, then I pray for His power to simply walk away. Sometimes, I have seen my interest in a particular teaching or person or style of worship simply falls away and as I look back on these times, I know it was the Lord protecting me from false teachings and people. Thanks be to God.

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As I contemplated what I would write today, the story that came to mind was that of the “rich young man” from Matthew 19:16-22.

16Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”
17″Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.”
18″Which ones?” the man inquired. Jesus replied, ” ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, 19honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.'”
20″All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”
21Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
22When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.

Now, I’m sure many have used this story to illustrate a love of money perhaps or an unwillingness to “bear Jesus’s cross” or an unwillngness to sacrifice, but for me, it’s simply a way to show how the Lord sometimes places a mirror before us in order for us to see more clearly our hearts.

Not everyone is interested in looking inside the heart. I find the state of the heart fascinating and I am often asking the Lord to reveal my heart … to refine my heart with the “refiner’s fire.” But there are times when the true state of my heart remains hidden; my true motivations clouded. These are times, the Lord puts up the mirror and says, “Look! this is the real reason behind your actions.”

The rich young man had “done everything” outwardly to “get” eternal life. But all that doing was without the heart. I believe he expected a real “atta boy” from the Lord, but instead he was challenged further. It was here that his heart was revealed.

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After the sermon on Sunday about godliness and altar call, my overwhelming impulse was to leap to the altar. It was not that I felt all of my motivations have been false or that I was under deep conviction, or worse, condemnation (which I have, historically, battled).

No, this time, I knew, I just wanted to make a covenant with God to allow Him to do daily sweep through my heart so that impure motives would not gain root. If we come to Him often and ask for this “examination of the heart,” it is so much easier to confess, accept His forgiveness, and move on.

This step in the plan from II Peter 1:3-11, is a spot check. We’ve been moving along with all these other steps and now the Lord is saying, “Stop a moment, let’s check your heart.”

When I had my little cardiac scare two weeks ago, the hospital staff take seriously even the smallest warning signs. They have a routine to confirm whether it is indeed a matter of the heart, from EKG’s to nitro-glycerin, to blood work, and stress tests. We should be equally introspective in spiritual terms. Don’t wait.

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