Since March, I’ve had the opportunity to reflect on the past five years of following Jesus. I was saved in March 2012 by the grace of our Lord and haven’t been the same ever since. I wanted to take some time to share with you the things God has taught me along the way—so far.
To know Christ is to enjoy Him.
Pleasure is a strong motivator. We commonly see this play out in our lives with regard to our struggle with sin. In my conversations with other believers who are struggling with deep-rooted sin in their lives, I have often found a connection between their sin and the things they take pleasure in. The reason they are so trapped in the deceitfulness of their sin is that their joy is misdirected. When my pleasure and enjoyment of God Himself becomes the ultimate pursuit of my life, my enjoyment of sin cannot remain. The two are incompatible together. One cannot enjoy God and sin simultaneously—our allegiance will always be toward one or the other.
As I have wrestled with my own sinful nature over the past five years, I have discovered something very humbling as it relates to my own desires. I sin when my desire for something exceeds my desire for God. In other words, when I enjoy something more than I enjoy God, I sin every time. When I take greater pleasure in sin than I do in God, I sin every time. As I have discovered this I’ve realized what it means to truly know Christ.
If you were asked the question, “What does it mean to know Christ?” how would you answer it? Essentially at its core, you are asking the question of what it means to be saved. Our salvation is the means God uses to glorify Himself by uniting us with Himself through Christ. If we are in Christ we are unified with God completely. We know Him, not just about Him. It’s personal and it’s all about joy. The goal of the Christian life is to glorify God. I have found it true that the primary means we glorify God with our lives, is through finding our ultimate joy and satisfaction in Him. After all, it was Jesus who said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.” May we be people who seek to glorify God by enjoying Him forever
Our growth in Jesus correlates with our exposure to the Word.
How often do you spend time basking in the Word of God? I have never met someone growing in their faith that doesn’t open up their Bible on a regular basis. God has chosen to use His Word, in cooperation with the Holy Spirit as the primary means for us to grow in our understanding of who He is. It’s not an accident that God designed Scripture to have the longest chapter dedicated to celebrating the enjoyment found in prolonged exposure to the Word of God (Psalm 119). Just to give you a picture of the posture we should have to the Word, I will quote some of it for you and let the Bible speak for itself.
“I have sought you with all my heart; don’t let me wander from your commands. I have treasured your word in my heart so that I may not sin against you.” Psalm 119:10-11
“Open my eyes so that I may contemplate wondrous things from your instruction.” Psalm 119:18
“I cling to your decrees; Lord do not put me to shame. I pursue the way of your commands, for you broaden my understanding.” Psalm 119:31-32
“Teach me, Lord, the meaning of your statutes, and I will always keep them. Help me understand your instruction, and I will obey it and follow it with all my heart.” Psalm 119:33-34
The Bible is important, see it as a top priority. There is no believer in Christ who has regretted a second they have spent in God’s Word. Our boldness to proclaim the name of Jesus wherever we go is the overflow of prolonged exposure to the Bible. God uses it to renew our minds and transform us as followers of Jesus as we discover how every passage points to Him.
”Let the word of of Christ dwell richly among you, in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another through psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing songs to God with gratitude in your hearts.” Colossians 3:15
May our enjoyment of God be kindled by a deep love and passion for meeting Him in His Word.
Prayer is the secret weapon of the saints.
As I have been recently challenged to read Christian biography, there has been a common theme I’ve seen in the lives of men completely devoted to the King of Kings. Jonathan Edwards, Charles Spurgeon, Hudson Taylor, George Müller, John Calvin, Martin Luther, and John Owen were all men of prayer. It seems to me the “secret” weapon of these men is the resolve each of them had to pray, regardless of their circumstances.
In our culture, we have succumbed to the vacuum of busyness and forgotten the power of extended time devoted to God in prayer. This is a tragedy. So many of us lack the confidence to share the gospel with a family member, friend, or co-worker. Our lack of confidence is directly related to our lack of dependence on the Spirit of God—whom God has given to us completely (Luke 11:13). We have forgotten who we are.
As followers of Jesus, we are completely empowered by the Spirit of God to make disciples of all nations. It is God’s power at work in us, not our ability to articulate or present the truth, that draws the hearts of men & women to the God who redeems. We are reminded of this truth as we run to God in prayer—pleading with Him relentlessly to strengthen us in our inner being so that Christ would dwell in our hearts through faith (Eph. 3:16-17).
If we would just grasp our ability to boldly approach the throne of grace through prayer, our ministry in the name of Jesus would flourish. God desires to work through the prayers of His people to accomplish His purposes. This is good news. God enjoys hearing and answering the prayers of His people, as they are conforming to His desires for them. Seeing this truth should motivate us to see prayer in the same way as Martin Luther who said,
”I have so much to do that I should spend the first three hours in prayer.”
May we be people so compelled to see God’s Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven that we would run to Him regularly in prayer. May we be people who enjoy magnifying the name of God through prayer.
Biblical Community keeps you from becoming complacent.
Christianity has never been about coasting. I’m reminded of this as I look at the community of believers come together following the release of Peter and John in Acts 4. Peter and John get arrested for healing a man in the name of Jesus and are standing before the same Jewish assembly of elders that sentenced Jesus to be executed. They boldly proclaim the gospel to them. They tell the people who killed Jesus exactly who He was and how they rejected Him even after being raised from the dead. Facing death, these disciples proclaimed Christ boldly. After being released, they went and reported to the church all that had happened. This Body of believers responds with prayer—praising God for His goodness to them and the work He had accomplished through Jesus. The continue their prayer with this:
”And now Lord, consider their threats, and grant that your servants may speak your word with great boldness, while you stretch out your hand for healing, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” Acts 4:29-30
The community sought boldness and obedience to God together. They knew that continued faithfulness was essential for their lives and their striving for faithfulness to the purposes of God was greater together.
There is no one in this world who keeps me from becoming complacent more than my wife. Sarah has been someone in my life continually challenging me to dive into the deeper things of the faith. Second to her are my friends. They too have kept me from being comfortable with my growth in Christ. Always challenging me to strive on and persevere for the sake of the glory of God, these people stay near and dear to my heart.
”You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants anymore, because a servant doesn’t know what his master, is doing. I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me, but I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce fruit and that your fruit should remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he will give you. This is what I command you: Love one another.” John 15:14-17
May we be people who seek out deep and fierce friendships with other believers so that we may not grow weary and lose heart.
Grace is foundational to our understanding of the gospel.
An understanding of God’s grace is foundational for us as we seek to grow. It is the grace of God that fuels our pleasure for Him. His grace gives us the means to desire His Word and pursue Him in prayer. The grace of our Lord sends people into our lives to keep us focused and fixed on the goal of Christlikeness. God’s grace is huge. It informs how we see God, how we think of ourselves, and how we interact with other people. There are two fundamental levels of God’s grace that can be defined as follows…
He pours out his favor on us.
Grace is the favor or kindness we receive from God in the gospel. All people without exemption have been born under the condemnation of sin (Ps. 51:3-5; Rom. 3:9-18). But God has chosen in His grace to grant us forgiveness through the death of His Son Jesus. The death of Jesus acted as a substitute so that God’s people would not fall under the wrath of God. There’s a consequence for my sin and I’m not the one to receive it, Jesus is. God’s wrath against me for the sin I enjoy was satisfied at the cross. This causes a fundamental shift in my identity. I am no longer a child of wrath, I am now a child of God (Eph. 2:3; Gal. 4:3-7). This is not a title or standing I earn out of my own effort or desire. It is something freely given and bestowed upon me by God’s grace that transforms my desires.
He enables us to live godly lives.
God has given us a new identity in the gospel. He has transformed us from children of wrath to children of God. We are now recipients of God’s favor and are adopted by Him as His very own children. But, there’s another layer to this sweet, sweet grace.
”His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. By these he has given us very great and precious promises, so that through them you may share in the divine nature, escaping the corruption that is in the world because of evil desire.” 2 Peter 1:3-4
The power of God has given us everything we need for a godly life. How do we receive it? We receive it through knowing Him. Everything we need to be godly, God has given to us by His power. We have the tools, we only need to reach for them. This is why everything we do for the sake of God’s Kingdom is for His glory. God gets the credit for it because it was accomplished through Him, by His power at work in us. He has given us the Holy Spirit as a way for us to participate in the divine nature, and have the power to say no to sin.
God gives favor and enables us to accomplish His purposes. He saves us, grows us, changes us, challenges us, molds us, breaks us, and binds us. God does the work and gets the glory. We participate by joining His mission. We get in return His goodness given to us and a crown of glory—the eternal richness of His Kingdom for all eternity.
May we be people motivated by His grace to relentlessly pursue Him, by the power He has already given to us.