KEYS TO ABUNDANT LIVING

LifeLink Devotions

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Yesterday I promised that I would teach you the way you can experience an abundant life. Here it is:

Isaiah 40:28-31  “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

I think these verses give us a picture of how to get and maintain an abundant life in Christ. They describe a comparison between our lives and the everlasting God. The facts of our weakness are stated – we grow tired and weary to the point of stumbling and falling. The pressures of the world bring discontent and devaluation so that we turn to the world’s deceptive solutions for relief. We try hard for a while to remain holy and pure, but at some point our best efforts bring us to a point of weariness and we fall down into sinful responses and selfish relief efforts. The only way out is to break the cycle of self-dependence.

Therefore, the first step in achieving an abundant life is to realize that we are not personally capable of accomplishing it: it is not found in our strength. To find abundant life we must admit our weaknesses, because, as the Apostle Paul states in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

The next step is to put our hope in the LORD. The King James Version uses the words “They that wait upon the LORD.” The original Hebrew word used here is qavah, and literally means “to bind together.” It is used to describe the making of a rope by taking two stands and twisting them together so they become one. What an incredible picture of our spiritual lives. When we allow ourselves to be twisted together with Almighty God we become His strength. The Omnipotent (all-powerful) God joins Himself with us and makes us strong. To find abundant life is to become wrapped up in God rather than wrapped up in self and its sinful relief efforts. Turn from the twisted ways the world offers of seeking fulfillment and instead get twisted up with Jesus Christ. There you will find abundance.

Once we have done that, our Scripture verses teach us that the abundant life is guaranteed in 3 ways. First, we will be able to soar on the wings of eagles above the problems of life. It is not a guarantee of having no problems – it is a guarantee of rising above those problems and seeing them from the heavenly perspective that God is shaping, molding, and strengthening our faith. Second, we will run the race that is marked out for us by God and we will not grow weary in running. The word weary means “to gasp in exhaustion.” I have had a very difficult week so far, but each morning I awaken with a renewed strength because my life is twisted up with God and I can’t wait to run the next lap of the race. When we are doing the will of the Father in the strength of the Father we will not get exhausted while serving the Father. And third, we will walk and not faint. This word here for faint means to tire and be fatigued. Walking represents the mundane, everyday activities of life that get boring. But in the strength of the LORD we see all such duties as opportunities to serve Him and we do them without growing weary.

There is one more implication from this passage that is an essential part of the abundant life: when we are twisted up with God we will not stumble and fall back into continual sin. Nothing is mentioned about ongoing sin for the person whose hope is in the LORD.  The abundant life guarantees victory! Paul said it this way in Romans 8:37 after he has just told us all of the ways that this world will seek to defeat and destroy us – “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”

Are you tired of living the roller coaster of a self-centered and self-satisfying life? Then untwist yourself from the world and get tightly twisted up in Jesus. He came that we might have life, and that life will be abundant.

Pastor John

ABUNDANT LIVING

LifeLink Devotions

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Yesterday we started a devotional study on the fundamentals of successful Christian living, and as a basis for this study I am using notes I wrote in my Bible 35 years ago. I was a teenager at the time and these sermon and study notes were the foundation of my maturing process in Christ. 

As a teenager, anytime anyone mentioned abundance I tuned in. If a little of something was good, then a lot of it must be gooder (yes, I used that non-word on purpose). I wasn’t satisfied to just play 18 holes of golf in a day if I had time to play 36. I wasn’t satisfied to have just any old car; it had to be the nicest car around, and for sure it had to be the fastest. I looked for abundance in every area of my life. It was my immature attempt at significance.

Then I discovered that Jesus provides abundance of significance when fleshly life with its pursuits is put to death and the life of Christ is resurrected in its place. I discovered that entering into union with Jesus Christ brought 4 things that make up this abundant life:

  1. Purpose:  Jesus gave my life meaning. He gave me a reason for existing – to honor Him by accomplishing His work which gave me significance. But purpose has no value without…
  2. Possibility: With Christ all things are possible. I had a reason to try. The fear of failure was eliminated. Obstacles became opportunities. This was more than just cute verbal exercise; it was the reality of my heart, because Jesus Himself became my…
  3. Pattern: Christ lives in me! Everything He ever accomplished became the reality of my life, as if I had lived it. Everything He ever said became the guide for each decision and action, because the Word was alive in me. Everything He ever willed became the objective of my life, so that my life would glorify Him in every way. This is more than simply choosing to follow a blueprint for living; it is having the blueprint indelibly stamped on my life so that it is all I know. It is Jesus Christ living in and through me, which is possible by the Holy Spirit’s…
  4. Power: God has graciously granted to each of His children the gift of the Holy Spirit.  He provides us with dynamic power to follow the pattern of Christ. We have limitless power to accept the possibility that mountains can be moved by faith.  The purpose of Christ can be realized with visible power that glorifies the Father. 

These are the 4 elements of abundant living. Are they your current personal experience? If not, then come back tomorrow when we discover how to get this abundant life.

Pastor John

SUCCESSFUL LIVING

LifeLink Devotions

Monday, December 6, 2021

Last week I reached behind me into my bookcase and grabbed the Bible I was given by my parents for my 16thbirthday. I was showing it to someone as an example of how students can study the Bible.  It is pretty well worn out, and I have had it recovered twice, but it has so many wonderful notes from my dad’s preaching and my own study. Later that day I spent some time looking through it. I wanted to look at some of the significant things God had taught me in my early walk with Christ. I discovered some timeless principles of successful Christian living. Over the next few days I want to share some of them with you. 

Let’s first define success. Success is defined as “a favorable result” in the Thorndike Barnhart Dictionary. The Cambridge on-line dictionary says that success is the “achieving of a desired result.” So the question we must ask is this – “What is the desired favorable result I wish to achieve with my life?” In other words, how will my life be fulfilled? 

For the Christian this question is answered in Galatians 2:20 when Paul says,  “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Our lives are declared successful when Christ lives in us. The favorable result that is achieved by living life by faith in the Son of God is the realization of the fullness of the life-giver in us. All other worldly pursuits fail at this point, because only Jesus can give life. He said, “I have come that they might have life, and live it to the fullest.” (John 10:10) “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. (John 14:6) Only the One who is Life can give life. 

So if that is the desired favorable result of your life, how do we achieve that successfully? Here are seven fundamentals I learned in my youth and are a great starting point for all of us.  

1. Confess Christ daily in your life. Confess is defined as “to be in agreement with.” Every morning when you awaken, be in agreement with God that you are His child through your faith in Jesus Christ and that His blood has saved you from the penalty and the power of sin.

2. Make His Word your daily companion. Spend time meditating on the Bible and taking its principles with you into every area of your life.

3. Talk all things over with God in prayer. Open every area of your life to spiritual conversations with God through the power of the Holy Spirit.

4. Trust God to provide for all your daily needs. Stop worrying and fretting over all the material stuff. Focus on the spiritual ministry of your life to others and God will take care of the rest.

5. Surrender your life fully to God. Surrender the present and the future. Surrender the control of all outcomes to the control of God. Surrender who you are to whom God wants you to be.

6. Lay aside your gifts and offerings with thanksgiving. Specifically plan to give a generous portion of your income to the Lord as a worshipful expression of your love for Him.

7. Use the special gifts and talents God has given you to serve Him. Get involved in ministry. Do something that builds up the body of Christ and encourages others.

As I stated earlier, these are simple yet timeless truths, and they are a great reminder of the foundational principles that promote success. Do these things faithfully, and you will achieve the desired favorable result of Christ’s fullness, which is the fulfillment of life.

Pastor John

KEEP GROWING

LifeLink Devotions

Friday, December 3, 2021

As you are reading this I am either preparing for surgery, in surgery, or recovering from surgery to repair the meniscus in my right knee. I appreciate your prayers as you read.

Do you remember the Bible passage that started this whole study on the behavior of mature Christians? Yes, this is a test. Do you remember? Did you take the Word of God into your heart and meditate on it? Have devotions become just an exercise in pleasing the pastor because you can say you read them or is it a true time of spiritual growth and development? I believe for most of you it is the latter, and that you do remember the passage from Ephesians 4 that goes like this:

It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”

As we have studied, we have grown. We have become more mature by being hearers and doers of the Word of God. We have taken on the personal responsibility of growth in the Lord. Growth is a choice for each of us.

1 Peter 2:2   “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation…”

2 Peter 3:18  “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

As we bring this particular study to a close, let’s focus on the progressive nature of our maturity. We have been given an indescribable gift – the gift of the indwelling presence and power of God Almighty in the Person of the Holy Spirit through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ our Savior. We have been spiritually born again, and in that context we are justified and sanctified – declared “not guilty” and made perfect forever. But our flesh is in conflict with our spirit. It is very important that you read Romans 8:1-14 as Paul describes this conflict:

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man,in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you… Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation – but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.

My main point for today is this – we are all a work in progress: a work that is able to be accomplished by the Spirit of God in us. He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you. Other than for purely selfish motives, there is no reason to remain in your sin and let it continue to control you. Bring it under the control of the Spirit of God and put it to death, and your mortal – your physical body – will have life.

Each of us is personally responsible for whether we live according to the standards of the flesh or the victory of the Spirit. Every day is an adventure in learning that. Every day is a part of the process of maturing and growing into Christ-likeness.  Make the most of this day. May it be said of your life as Paul said to the church a Thessalonica. “Your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing.”

Pastor John

SACRIFICE

LifeLink Devotions (Click Link for audio version)

Thursday, December 2, 2021

Today we come to the last in our series on the characteristics of a mature Christian. All of them have been significant, but the last two, taken along with today’s subject, are the true tests of one’s intimacy with Jesus Christ. We discovered over the last two days that God’s love is being perfected in us through all of the pressures and fires of life so that our lives reflect the brilliance and purity of His love through the forgiveness that we offer to others, just as we experience the fullness of God’s love through His forgiveness of our sin. But for that love to even be offered there had to be a sacrifice. Every act of true love is an act of sacrifice and giving.

Ephesians 5:1-2 “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

1 John 4:10 “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” 

John 10:17-18a “The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life – only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.”

Paul says, “Christ loved us and gave himself up for us.” John says, “God loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice.” Jesus says, “I lay down my life.“

I believe with my whole heart that the degree to which a person sacrifices self for the sake of serving others, including enemies, is the single most significant measurement of spiritual maturity in the heart of God. God does not measure our value by our doctrinal position or by our ability to defend it. He does not measure our intimacy by the social and moral issues we stand for or against in society. He does not measure our effectiveness as His servants by the quantity or even quality of the work we do for Him in the church or other ministries. He measures our maturity by this one thing- sacrifice: do we consistently and willingly lay down our lives for the sake of others? 

Two of my favorite yet most challenging Bible verses are found in Romans 12:1-2, and they say, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Do you see the three characteristics of maturity we have been mentioning the last three days? There’s forgiveness. It’s right there in God’s mercy. There’s love in our spiritual act of worship. And there’s sacrifice in the offering of our bodies to live holy and pleasing lives to honor the One who forgave us.

My friends, I repeat what I said two days ago: the world will beat a path to our door and then beat down our door to come in and experience the wonder of God when we begin to fully live these three characteristics of spiritual maturity: love will generate sacrifice resulting in forgiveness. Be prepared for people to come near to you and ask you about the incredible hope that is in you. Be prepared to tell them what you have been showing them – that God so loved the world that He sacrificed His own Son Jesus so that we could be forgiven.

Pastor John

LOVE

LifeLink Devotions

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

In yesterday’s devotions we called forgiveness a multi-faceted gem. I like to think of that gem as a diamond, the world’s most precious of all gems. The formation of diamonds is a fascinating process. According to science, the carbon that makes diamonds comes from the melting of pre-existing rocks in the Earth’s upper mantle. There is an abundance of carbon atoms in the mantle. Temperature changes in the upper mantle forces the carbon atoms to go deeper where they melt and become new rock when the temperature reduces. If other conditions like pressure and chemistry are right then the carbon atoms in the melting crustal rock bond to build diamond crystals.

Diamonds are nothing more than carbon that was in the form of crusty rock that has been forced way down, melted by intense heat, put under excruciating pressure, and then pushed up toward the surface again. Once discovered, they have no visible relationship to the crusty rock they once were, yet their chemical foundation is the same. Instead of being all black and bumpy, they are crystal clear and able to be cut to a perfectly smooth finish.

Compare that to what happens in the growth process of a maturing Christian. At the moment of our salvation we were lavished upon with the love of God so that we became his children. God’s love forgave us and restored us. Love became the foundation, or the basic chemical compound of our existence. However, we looked and acted pretty crusty in those early days of our spiritual journeys. Pride interfered with God’s love in a variety of ways. But God knew how to bring out the brilliance of His love in us. He led us into situations where we would be forced to put self to death. He melted our selfish hearts so that they could be reformed in the image of His love. This process was excruciatingly painful and stressful, but it allowed the purity of love to finally be seen in us. Once visible, the Master Gemologist carefully plans and then cuts at just the right place so that the total beauty and brilliance of His love is visible to everyone.

Here’s what God’s Word says about the love of a mature Christian.

Ephesians 5:1-2a  “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us.”

1 John 3:1-2  “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”

John 13:34-35 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

God’s magnificent love provides all that is necessary for the multi-faceted gem of forgiveness to be formed. By His love we are forgiven, made His children, and empowered to reflect that love to others. Each one of us is being exposed to the purifying fire and pressure of God’s discipline so that we will be able to love others as we are loved by God. Do not get discouraged with the process. Do not ask to be relieved from the pressure too soon. Let God complete His work in you. When He does, you will be the most precious of all the gems of humanity. You will be a child of God who reflects the love of God. The world will see it and will know that you are God’s.

Pastor John

FORGIVENESS

LifeLink Devotions (Click link for audio version)

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Forgiveness is a multi-faceted gem. It is indescribably beautiful and of unappraisable value. It is the single most significant aspect of the grace of God. It sets Christianity apart from all other attempts at faith. It is to be the greatest distinction between followers of Christ and followers of all other religious philosophies. We have been forgiven! We forgive others!

Colossians 3:13 “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

Matthew 6:14-15 “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

But simply saying we forgive and sincerely living forgiveness are unfortunately two separate things for far too many people. We have all been guilty of claiming to forgive someone without following through with a loving plan to restore them to the position they had with us prior to their guilt. Let me share some of the missing facets in our practice of forgiveness:

  1. Forgiving someone involves the healing of the wound in our heart by the Holy Spirit. How can we say we forgive if our attitude toward the offender has not been healed? We are to forgive as the Lord forgave us, and when He forgave He wiped the slate clean, washed all the sin away, removed it as far as the east is from the west, buried it in the deepest sea, and put up a no fishing sign because He chooses to remember the sin no more. The Holy Spirit will bring the same type of forgiveness to us if we let Him. When we forgive someone, we must choose to remember it no more and act as if it never happened. The Holy Spirit will honor that choice and heal the wound completely. I know that in our flesh our emotions need time to heal and be restored, and trust takes time to be earned. But forgiveness is not of the flesh, it is of the Spirit. I hope I don’t offend you, but I think we use our emotions and the trust issue as a justification for holding a grudge. I think we have really missed the wonder and awe and joy of true forgiveness by not allowing the Holy Spirit to bring the miraculous power of Christ’s forgiveness to our hearts. We somehow feel good about holding the offense over the head of the offender, reminding them of their failure, because we believe it is our responsibility to make sure they change. Oh how we interfere with the work of Holy Spirit. What arrogance we display to believe that we are the instruments of changing another person’s life. I challenge you to read carefully 1 Corinthians 1:23 – 2:11 and see how Paul both forgave and told the church to forgive.
  2. Forgiveness involves restoration. How severely Jesus was criticized for His practice of forgiveness. Imagine allowing a demonically possessed prostitute to eat with Him and wash his feet with expensive oil. She had not been to any counseling. She had not been given the time to prove that her repentance was real by submitting her life to the public scrutiny of other Christians who outwardly hoped she would succeed but inwardly believed she could not.  She was inspected by people who looked for every possible point of failure, ready to announce to the world that she was a fake. Do I sound a little cynical? I am, because I have been the one scrutinized, I have done the scrutinizing, and most likely so have you. But Jesus modeled true forgiveness, because it involved immediate restoration. Yes, Jesus knew the true condition of her heart and we may not, but the Holy Spirit does, and forgiveness is His work, not ours. When we qualify restoration based on human requirements, is it not just an attempt to eliminate the possibility of future pain? Are we not simply seeking the protected road for ourselves? Is there any value to those requirements for the offender? Did Jesus ever require a restoration process, or did He simply restore the person completely at the point of repentance?

There is more to be said but I think we have enough to chew on for today. Forgiveness is an incredible gift we have received and we are empowered to give. Let’s do it according to the love of Christ, not according to the law of the flesh. I am convinced that the world will beat a path to our door and then beat our door down to become a part of a church that truly lives the forgiveness of Jesus.

Pastor John

COMPASSIONATE KINDNESS

LifeLink Devotions (Click on link for audio version)

Monday, November 29, 2021

I hope you had a fantastic Thanksgiving. Let’s pick up where we left off last Wednesday with our study of the nine characteristic behaviors of a mature Christian as described by Paul in Ephesians 4. Today we focus on kindness and compassion. Here are a couple of verses to get us started.

Ephesians 4:32 “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

Colossians 3:12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”

There are two words for kindness in the New Testament: one speaks of philanthropy, or having a giving heart toward mankind. The other, used here, speaks of moral integrity that provides whatever is needed. Philanthropy can become self-serving, but true kindness never does. In fact, the word “kind” in Ephesians 4 means “employed”, so as mature Christians we are to be of such moral integrity that we are always usefully employed in the meeting of the needs of others.

There is a necessary connection between kindness and compassion. Compassion is the English translation of the Greek words meaning “bowels of mercy.” In other words, to have compassion is to have your gut wrenched by the needs of another person – to feel it deep in the pit of your stomach because you so sympathize with their condition. As a result of that connection with a person in need, your moral integrity employs you to meet that need. That’s the teamwork of compassion and kindness in the life of a mature Christian.

I must confess that my compassion for the needy has become qualified by the abusers of my kindness. Too many times I have experienced professional needers whom I have helped, only to discover that they are doing nothing to help themselves. The serious consequence of these experiences has been that my ability to be compassionate has been deadened to a degree. I qualify my emotional response to their condition by judging their personal responsibility for that condition. “They will just have to live with those consequences” becomes the rationalization of non-involvement. Of course wisdom from God is essential in making decisions of what kind of help to give in every situation, but the acts of kindness are not my main concern here. What I’m troubled by is the loss of compassion in my heart, and maybe in yours.

When was the last time we were moved in the pit of our stomach by a news story about starving children? How driven to action are we by the obvious needs of a sin-sick society of people living around us every day? How many of us are simply glad that we are sufficiently removed from those people that they do not influence our lives? How many of us are tempted to live by the philosophy of self-preservation and personal contentment?

My friends, may the Holy Spirit of God remind us of our condition according to Colossians 3:12 – “as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved” – we who were sinners are now holy, and we who were unlovely are now loved. As children of God and mature followers of Jesus Christ our Savior, show the same tender compassion and kindness to others that has been shown to you by God. Just as God feels and responds intimately to every need of our lives because His very nature employs Him to do so, so should we feel and respond intimately to the needs of others because His nature in us employs us to do so.

Pastor John

EMOTIONAL STABILITY

LifeLink Devotions (Click link for audio version)

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

I have been in denial for a long time. I used to think I didn’t have a problem controlling my emotions. I have since discovered the honest truth that I simply bury them underneath a false pretense of emotional stability. I was taught as a child that there were good emotions and bad emotions, and to become like Christ we had to bury the bad emotions and cover ourselves only in the good ones. I can smile at someone I’m mad at with the best of you.

Emotions are never evil. They are part of the created image of God in us. They have been corrupted by sin so they may produce sinful actions, but the emotion itself is not evil. In Ephesians 4:26 the Apostle Paul says, “In your anger do not sin.” Anger is not sin, but it can produce sinful behavior.  

The reason I tell you all of this is to help us open up and evaluate our emotional responses to circumstances and people’s actions. We have minimized and sometimes overlooked the unrighteousness of our actions that spring from uncontrolled emotions. We sometimes even defend our emotional reactions as righteous indignation, comparing ourselves to Jesus when He cleared the temple of the moneychangers. But let’s be very careful – Jesus had no selfishness in Him and did nothing for personal benefit. Before we begin to defend our emotional outbursts and responses, let’s make sure we are that pure.

James challenges us with this thought – for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. (James 4:20)Mature members of the Body of Christ have an honest sense of their emotional state, and are growing to become emotionally stable.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself today as you consider the emotional aspect of being a mature Christian:

  1. Do my emotions reflect the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control?
  2. Do I tend to justify my emotional responses because of the benefit they are to me or because of the righteous life they model to others?
  3. How does an angry outburst like yelling or hitting model the righteous character of Christ who remained silent when reviled and did not strike back when struck?
  4. How does a sarcastic or hurtful comment model the righteous responses of Christ who spoke words of love and forgiveness to those who nailed Him to the cross?
  5. How does worry and frustration model the peace of God that passes all understanding?

Think about these things as you open up your emotional life to the cleansing power of the Holy Spirit. Emotional stability is a part of the righteous life God desires.

Pastor John

Have a HAPPY THANKSGIVING. LifeLink Devotions will return on Monday.

HONESTY

LifeLink Devotions (click link for audio version)

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

If we are going to have REAL church, and the church is made up people who live in eternal relationship with Jesus, then those people should have some distinguishing characteristics. As the Apostle Paul defines the people of the church in Ephesians 4:17-5:2 he lists nine specific behaviors that will be visible in the lives of God’s people.

The first characteristic of mature behavior is to BE HONEST.

Ephesians 4:25  “Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.”

The context here is how we behave in our conversations with others. I think we can also apply this principle to other forms of honesty as well. Honesty must go deeper than just telling the truth – it must go to the heart and the motives for all that is spoken or done. We must be willing to look at our intentions for what we say and do to determine if we are truly being honest. Let me illustrate.

Little Johnnie and his brother Billy are playing in the yard. Johnnie has always felt a little inferior to Billy, and looks for every opportunity to build himself up and feel better about himself, especially if it can be at the expense of Billy. Both the boys have been clearly informed of the rules and boundaries of the yard, but on this day Billy gets adventurous and wanders outside the perimeter into an ornery neighbor’s yard. Rather than go after Billy and try to coax him back, Johnnie seizes the opportunity for increased standing with mom by going in the house and telling her, “Mom, Billy’s in the neighbor’s yard, and because I didn’t want to break the rules too I didn’t go after him but I came and got you. I love you, Mom.”

Now Johnnie told the truth, but he was not being honest about who he was as a person while doing it. He purposefully got someone else in trouble because of his own need for approval, rather than demonstrating a true heart of concern for his brother’s needs.

I wonder how many of our behaviors and words are designed for personal benefit rather than for the benefit of others. Our Scripture verse says that honesty is important because “we are all members of one body.” No one purposefully uses one part of their body to hurt another part just because the first part needs to feel better. If my right hand is lonely and needs attention it does not reach out and pinch the left arm thinking that somehow the rest of the body will respond with approval. Quite the opposite – all the attention will go to the hurting part and the efficiency of the whole body is minimized. The body becomes introspective and ingrown because it is always having to deal with the pains of hurting and hurtful parts. Dishonesty causes disharmony, which causes disunity, which causes disdain, which causes disapproval. The church ceases to function effectively as a witness to the love of God in Christ Jesus. And it all started with a word or action motivated by selfish gain.

Let’s be honest with our words, our motives, and our actions, so that the body is built up to full-functioning status accomplishing the glorious purpose of God – to be a place where the hurting can come for healing not more hurting.

Pastor John