About Pastor John van Gorkom

Pastor John is a soon-to-be retired pastor who loves to tell people about Jesus.

NEVER FORGET

LifeLink Devotions

Friday, January 20, 2023

As I drove to the hospital to visit a friend who was having heart valve replacement surgery, I asked the Holy Spirit to lead me to a passage of Scripture to read to him. When I parked the car and picked up my Bible, I was led immediately to these words in Psalm 89:

“I will sing of the LORD’S great love forever; with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known through all generations. I will declare that your love stands firm forever, that you established your faithfulness in heaven itself. The heavens praise your wonders, O LORD, your faithfulness too, in the assembly of the holy ones. For who in the skies above can compare with the LORD? Who is like the LORD among the heavenly beings? In the council of the holy ones God is greatly feared; he is more awesome than all who surround him. O LORD God Almighty, who is like you? You are mighty, O LORD, and your faithfulness surrounds you. Your arm is endued with power; your hand is strong, your right hand exalted. Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; love and faithfulness go before you. Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, O LORD. They rejoice in your name all day long; they exult in your righteousness. For you are their glory and strength, and by your favor you exalt our horn.”

What a wonderful time I had with some of his family as we gathered around the Word of God and declared our confidence in His faithfulness and love. What a blessing it was to be with those who have learned to acclaim the LORD and who walk in the light of His presence. The LORD is our glory and strength, and by His grace He exalts us.

2 Peter 1:9   “But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.”

I hurt for the people who have forgotten the splendor of their salvation. I am ashamed of the number of times that I have become nearsighted. So many people have degenerated their regeneration and become blind to spiritual things when they have the right to see the glory of God. How it breaks my heart to realize that there are brothers and sisters in Christ who will live today solely for themselves surrounded by the anguish of their dreadful circumstances and not once remember that their sins have been forgiven.

Yet we must remember this – GOD HAS NOT FORGOTTEN! Peter never says that the person who stops growing loses their salvation. HALLELUJAH for that, or we would all live in the bondage of fear. But that person does miss out on the incredible blessings of fellowship with the Father through the filling of the Holy Spirit.

So much pain could be eliminated from our lives – pain caused by our constant struggle for self-exultation – if we would just remember that the LORD is our glory and strength, and that He exalts us.

So today, begin a mind and body renewal program. Here’s the starting point – fix nearsightedness by fixing your eyes on the LORD. His love endures forever. His faithfulness extends through all generations. The LORD is more awesome than all who surround Him. He is mighty, and mighty to save. In His arm is power. In His hand is strength. With His right hand he lifts us up and exalts us. Fix your eyes on the LORD and walk in the light of His presence. You will be renewed by His righteousness. You will replace despair with rejoicing. You will see the glory of God.

Pastor John

THE PRINCIPLE OF INCREASING MEASURE

LifeLink Devotions

Thursday, January 19, 2023

2 Peter 1:8-9   “For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.”

Sometimes I think about the principle of increasing measure. Snow removal is a real-time illustration of this principle. When it snows again, I am going to have trouble. I have not removed the last snowfall from the driveway. The one before that had left heavy slush that was too heavy for my snow blower.  Consistent traffic has packed it down, and it is icy, rutted, and bumpy. The snow blower will bounce and be hard to steer. My feet will slip on the ice. I may be tempted to not remove any more snow and just pack it all down for the rest of the winter. At least it wouldn’t be so slippery.

We make similar decisions in our lives and then experience the principle of increasing measure. It is equally valid in the negative and the positive world.

First, in the negative world of sin, every choice we make to ignore sin will only bring an increasing measure of sin. Sin is a weed, and unless the soil of your heart is being consistently cultivated with the Word of God, those weeds will choke out the harvest of righteousness. Sin will take over. You will become nearsighted, and unable to focus on things of the future because you are only focused on the immediate. That will eventually lead to blindness, and you will not be able to see God at work in any part of your life. That will lead to forgetfulness, when even the memory of God’s grace is covered by the desire to fulfill the sinful pleasures of the world.

The Bible gives us some good advice at this point –

  • “Do not let the sun go down on your anger” (Ephesians 4:26)
  • “Avoid even the appearance of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:22)
  • “See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” (Hebrews 12:15)
  • “Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.   A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.” (Matthew 7:17-18)

Be careful, brothers and sisters in Christ, that you do not succumb to the principle of increasing measure by allowing a single sin to go unchecked in your heart. It will multiply and choke out the seeds of faith that have been planted. You will become increasingly inward focused. Finding human solutions and fixing human pain will consume you. Gratifying self is sure to suppress grace. Bitterness will bury your beauty.

But on the positive side, the principle of increasing measure works equally well. In fact, because it is empowered by the Holy Spirit of God, it is guaranteed successful. The seed that brings this abundant harvest is faith, which must be watered with the knowledge of God. As our knowledge grows, it will be productive in changing our character and effective in conquering our conceit. We will become mirrored reflections of the character of Christ – humble servants of others who bring glory to God.

But again, let me caution you – it takes a determined and intentional effort to accomplish this. Just as it is not my neighbor’s responsibility to clean my driveway, it is not the pastor’s or the small group leader’s responsibility to make you grow up in Christ. You must do it. You must study. You must pray. You must apply the truth to your life. You must let the knowledge of God transform your mind and influence your choices. And as you do, God will abundantly increase your faith and keep you from being unproductive and ineffective.

The choice is yours. It always will be. Will you choose to have an increasing measure of self or the Savior? Will you choose to let bitterness, resentment, gossip, slander, hate, lust, adultery, covetousness, envy, or any of the other items on the long list of sin continue to stick to your driveway and then just drive over it as if it isn’t there? Or will you choose to put your hands to the spiritual snow blower powered by the Holy Spirit and remove every connection to sin so that God can fill you with an ever-increasing measure of His Son’s character? The choice is yours.

Pastor John

ONE WAY TO LOVE OTHERS

LifeLink Devotions

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

2 Peter 1:6 “…and to brotherly kindness, [add] love.”

I’m going to get right to the point today because if I don’t, I will still be here tomorrow morning writing this. The subject matter of love is vast. According to the Psalmist, “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him.” There are 505 references to love in Scripture. If I don’t limit myself, I will get carried away.

Our modern-day culture, under the control of our enemy the devil, has accomplished an extensive and effective brainwashing of our minds. If not for the influence of the Holy Spirit, we would be firmly convinced that life is about us, and that the focus of all activity must be on the betterment and enjoyment of self. Every choice we would make would be to make ourselves feel better. Every activity in which we choose to participate would be designed to bring some personal benefit. Every expense of our resources would be invested to build greater treasure for ourselves in this life. Every moral and ethical decision we make would be rationalized by the need to express personal freedom and gain personal favor.

Praise God for the power of the Holy Spirit in us to resist such deception. Give thanks to the Father who has covered us with the righteousness of Christ and has transformed us from children of darkness to children of Light. And give glory to God that the character of Jesus is growing in each of us so that we reflect His glory in ever increasing measure.

Because the character of Christ is increasing in us, we are growing in the activity of love. It is the culmination of character development. We sacrifice our personal dreams on the altar of community. We learn to put aside our own preferences for the good of others. We shift the focus of life from affirming self so we feel accepted to affirming others, so they are accepted. We learn that one of the greatest expressions of love is to encourage others.

So, I’ve written an acrostic for love. It is not intended to be the total expression of the theology of love. It is just today’s helpful application point. I hope it lasts longer than today. May it be said of each of us that we are the living expressions of the character of Christ because we have added this action to our repertoire of love. May every word that we speak today and every day Leave Others Visibly Encouraged.

Pastor John

BROTHERLY LOVE

LifeLink Devotions

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Most Americans know that Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is the city of brotherly love. At least that’s what the name means. Whether they live up to that name or not is questionable, especially if you are a fan of a visiting professional sports team. Philadelphia fans are not known for their brotherly love to anyone wearing any other kind of jersey. Christians are to be different.

2 Peter 1:6 “…and to godliness, [add] brotherly kindness.”

The word philadelphia is the Greek word Peter uses here to describe the virtue of brotherly kindness. It is to be expressed in the life of a Christian as a result of adding godliness to their character. To discover one important aspect of brotherly love, let’s look at the history of a city in the Bible that was named Philadelphia.

In the book of Revelation, Jesus is writing letters to all of the churches across Asia, with a challenge for each one of them. In chapter three He writes to the church in Philadelphia. It is the one church out of the seven that is not corrected for any wrong but receives only commendation. This church existed in a city that has an interesting history.

The city of Philadelphia was in a region of the Roman Empire named Pergamum. Pergamum was not always controlled by the Roman Empire. In 220 BC the Pergamum Kingdom was independent and ruled by King Attalus the First. In that year, his second son was born, and was named Attalus the Second.

In 160 BC, Attalus the First’s older brother, Eumanes the Second, named after his great uncle who had been the first ruler of Pergamum, ascended to the throne. He was a sickly man but extremely influential in Greek and Roman politics. Attalus II became his right-hand man and commander of his armies. He served his brother the King with great loyalty – loyalty that was extraordinary.

The Romans feared the influence and powerful army of Eumanes II, so they began to build a relationship with his brother Attalus II. They were grooming him for a takeover of the throne and used all their wealth and promises of power to try to persuade him to overthrow his brother.

Two events happened that are the historical basis for the naming of the city of Philadelphia in Pergamum. First, during a battle with an enemy army, in which the King had participated, it was reported that Eumanes II had been killed. After a short waiting period, Attalus took the widowed Queen Stratonice as his wife and became the King. A short time later King Eumanes returns from the war, proving the report of his death to be false, and Attalus steps down immediately in honor and respect to his brother.

The second event occurred several years later, during the Third Macedonian War. Eumanes joined with the Romans to overthrow the Macedonian Monarchy. During that war it became evident to the Romans that Eumanes was gaining far too much political clout in Asia, and they concluded their courtship of Attalus with an offer to overthrow his older brother and take the throne. Attalus refused, stating loyalty to the throne and love for his aging and sickly brother. He became known throughout the land as Attalus Philadelphia – the man who loves his brother. When he finally ascended to the throne after his brother’s death, they named a city after him.

Here’s the point of all this boring history. Loyalty and love should always overcome personal ambition. If we are going to model godliness by showing brotherly kindness, it starts with sacrificing our own dreams and desires for the sake of others. History reveals that the people who are most famous and most remembered are those who focused most on others not themselves. He who seeks to exalt himself will be crushed, but he who seeks to exalt others will himself be exalted. Jesus said, “Whoever wants to first in the Kingdom of God must first be the servant of all.”

Pastor John

WHAT IS GODLINESS?

LifeLink Devotions

Monday, January 16, 2023

2 Peter 1:6 “…and to perseverance, [add] godliness…”

Our first instinct when we read that we are to add godliness to perseverance is probably to think in terms of activity. That would be a mistake. The development of character in our lives is not first about deeds, but about the heart. Every action we take is only recognized by God as righteous if it originates in a heart that is righteous.

For many people, godliness means the external activity of good deeds. However, the Greek word used here and elsewhere in the New Testament means literally to have reverence and respect towards God. Godliness is not our activity towards others – it is our attitude towards God.

Jesus addressed this issue with the Pharisees. They had developed all sorts of rules to regulate human behavior so they would appear godly. Their focus was on the exterior. Jesus spoke specifically to them in Mark 7. Here’s the story:

“The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus and saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were “unclean,” that is, unwashed. (The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles. )So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with ‘unclean’ hands?” He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.’ You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.”

Did you notice the word worship? Jesus said that the Pharisees were worshiping in vain. The word worship is the root word that becomes the word translated godliness in 2 Peter. Godliness is worship. Godliness is the attitude of the heart towards God. Godliness is not first an action, but first and foremost a condition of one’s heart.

How quickly we fall into the trap of the Pharisees. We tend to move rather easily to the exterior appearance as our means of rating our godliness or the godliness of others. But the character of Jesus Christ is built first in the heart, not in the flesh. Worship of God always precedes activity for God. True worshipers worship in spirit and in truth, not in activity. Yet if the heart is right and godliness is the attitude of one’s heart, activity will follow. Lifestyles will change. Not to earn godliness, but as a product of it.

Having the proper attitude of reverence and respect for God has great value for every part of our lives. In 1 Timothy 4, Paul tells his young pastoral trainee to “Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.”  Then a little later he adds, “But godliness with contentment is great gain.” (1 Timothy 6:6)

The focus of godliness must be on the person of Jesus Christ. Many religions and religious people claim that they can be godly simply by having the external appearance of righteousness and good deeds without a transformational experience with Jesus. But that notion is refute in 1 Timothy 3:16 which reads, “Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great: He appeared in a body, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory.” It is only in relationship with Jesus Christ that true godliness can be experienced.

One more thing, godliness is not something we do for ourselves. It is not in our power to be godly. Our attempts at godliness have no power. Peter knew this from his own personal experiences. In Acts 3, Peter and the Apostle John have just told a crippled beggar to stand up and walk. Here’s what happens next – “When all the people saw him walking and praising God, they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. While the beggar held on to Peter and John, all the people were astonished and came running to them in the place called Solomon’s Colonnade. When Peter saw this, he said to them: “Men of Israel, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk?”

We do not have the power to become godly. Any godliness we think we have achieved is powerless. It is only through the indwelling power of the life of Jesus granted us through the Holy Spirit that we can produce any righteous activity. And that activity always – again I emphasize ALWAYS – originates in a heart that worships, reveres, and respects God in every area of life. That’s godliness.

Pastor John

BULL-DOGGED DETERMINATION

LifeLink Devotions

Friday, January 13, 2023

In June l955, Winston Churchill, who was then near the end of his life, was asked to give a commencement address at a British University. He was so weak he had to be helped to the podium. Then he held on to the podium for what seemed an interminable amount of time. He stood with his head down but then finally raised that great leonine head of his, and the voice that years before had called Britain back from the brink of destruction sounded publicly for the last time in history.

“Never give in! Never give in! Never! Never! Never! Never! In anything great or small, large or petty—never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense.”

With that, Churchill turned and went back to his seat. I’m told there was silence, and then, as if one person, the whole audience rose to applaud him, because he was a man whose life and words were together. Again and again throughout Churchill’s political career, he had known setbacks. Three times, when his career was apparently over, he was sent off to oblivion, and yet somehow, he had a sense that there was still something left after the worst.

2 Peter 1:6 “…and to self-control, [add] perseverance.”

Such perseverance is possible only when self-control is well established. It is only as we shift the focus from self to others that we can stand strong against a myriad of setbacks and hardships. When the need to gratify self is under control, the ability to push ahead at all cost is empowered. Think carefully about this. Quitters are self-focused. Those who give up are really giving in to the desire to draw attention to their misery. It is a dysfunctional expression of the need for recognition.

As you ponder the distinctions between self-centered living and self-controlled living you will recognize that those who have denied self are those who have the greatest perseverance. This is no accident. When the need to please self is overwhelmed by the passion to honor Christ, the perseverance of Christ is added to the character of the selfless. Just think how Jesus persevered all the way to the cross and the grave. Self tried to interfere in the Garden. Sacrifice won out! Hallelujah!

Some of you today are in a position that tempts you to give up. As you contemplate the control you are losing over the need to please self, look ahead to the joy of the finish line as Jesus did, and deny self. Take up your cross again and follow Jesus, the Author and Finisher of your faith, and run the race He has marked out for you with perseverance.

Here are some famous quotes to get you started. One or more of them are just what you need today. First off, here’s the definition of perseverance from Thayer’s Dictionary of the Greek language:

“Perseverance is: steadfastness, constancy, endurance. In the New Testament it is the characteristic of a man who is not swerved from his deliberate purpose and his loyalty to faith and piety by even the greatest trials and sufferings.”

“Aim at perfection in everything, though in most things it is unattainable; however, they who aim at it, and persevere, will come much nearer to it than those whose laziness and despondency make them give it up as unattainable.” Lord Chesterfield (1694–1773)

“Bear in mind, if you are going to amount to anything, that your success does not depend upon the brilliancy and the impetuosity with which you take hold, but upon the everlasting and sanctified bull-doggedness with which you hang on after you have taken hold.”  A. B. Meldrum

“Genius, that power that dazzles mortal eyes, is oft but perseverance in disguise.” Henry Austin

“It is a great thing to see physical pluck, and greater still to see moral pluck, but the greatest to see of all is spiritual pluck, to see a man who will stand true to the integrity of Jesus Christ no matter what he is going through.” Oswald Chambers (1874–1917)

Pastor John

SELF-CONTROL

LifeLink Devotions

Thursday, January 12, 2023

The desire to please self is as old as Adam and Eve. It started in the Garden of Eden when Eve was convinced by Satan that God was holding out on her and that she needed to do something for herself. Adam joined her in the pursuit of self-satisfaction, and ever since there is as insatiable desire in each of us from birth to take care of our own needs and desires ahead of anything or anyone else.

When Adam and Eve first sinned, the entire focus of their intellect, emotions and will was shifted from being centered on God to being centered on self. That’s why they felt shame and tried to cover their nakedness. They had instantly brought upon themselves and the whole human race an awkward awareness of inadequacy which produced insecurity and embarrassment. From that point on, mankind’s desire has been for approval and acceptance, and we are convinced that it is most easily fulfilled in the pursuit of self-gratification.

2 Peter 1:6 “…and to knowledge, [add] self-control;

It is fascinating to watch what happens in the life of a teenager when they start to take an interest in someone of the opposite gender. There are generally two possible scenarios.

  1. They lose all self-control and do anything and everything they can to gratify their hormonally charged emotions. Everything is about how the other person makes them feel. The world may call this love, but love it is not.
  2. They gain self-control and do everything they can to earn the respect of the other person by putting their needs and desires ahead of their own. They seek to spend time getting to really know the other person, and they use that knowledge to figure out ways of meeting that person’s needs. They willingly sacrifice their own desires for the sake of doing what’s best for the other person. They never take from the other person what is not rightfully theirs simply to satisfy their own equally hormonally charged emotions. They are learning what love really is.

Evidence abounds in social media that we have apathetically allowed the knowledge of the world’s ways into the minds of our youth. The world promotes self-indulgence. And yet we continue to pump the knowledge of the world and its ways into our minds and the minds of our youth.

There is an option. The knowledge of God brings self-control. The more I know about the One who loves me unconditionally and gave His life for me, the more I will have both the desire and the power to control the impulses of the flesh and live in the purity of Christ-likeness. The same is true in our relationships with each other. The more we know about the person we claim to love, the more we desire to do what pleases them and meet their true needs. The deeper our understanding of their heart, their feelings, their emotions, and their dreams, the more we will sacrifice ourselves for their sake. Now we are talking about true love.

So let’s make this real personal right now. Every one of us struggles with some area of self-control. There’s some physical expression of self in your life that you think is uncontrollable. You may even justify it as a natural response to an emotion or circumstance. You may or may not want to ever get rid of it. But if you want it gone, there is only one way. It must be brought under the power of the Holy Spirit through the increasing knowledge of God.

I will make a bold yet accurate statement – not to offend you but to get you to face the truth. The lack of self-control is the direct result of your choice to not know God more intimately. When we choose to not seek to know God more every day, we will not be able to improve our self-control. Why would we want to? We are choosing to live under the direction of self. We do not choose to control what we have granted control. Every day that we choose not to study God’s word and spend time in prayer with Him, we choose to let self be in control rather than God. Every day that we justify not having a quiet time with God because of our busy schedules and the demands of work or family, we choose to let self be in control. But every day that we seek the Lord and His strength and spend face to face time with Him getting to know Him, we are able to conquer the need to satisfy self and to serve the One we love.

My friends, the days are getting short. The night is approaching. Jesus is coming soon. It is urgent that we conquer the need to satisfy self and that we serve the Savior. We can do it if we will pursue the knowledge of God with our whole hearts.

Pastor John

KNOWLEDGE AND TRUTH

LifeLink Devotions

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

“I know.”

I wonder how many times each day we say that. But do we really know? What do we think we know? How do we know we know?

The study of philosophy is fascinating to me. Aristotle defined philosophy as “the knowledge of truth.” But before we can even begin to tackle the subject of truth, we must understand the meaning of knowledge. It’s the second building block of spiritual maturity.

2 Peter 1:5  “…and to goodness, [add] knowledge;

Knowledge is the accurate and faithful reflection of reality. Those two adjectives – accurate and faithful – are critical. Our mental image of reality can become distorted by intellectual apathy, emotions, and dysfunctional personality issues such as the human cravings for approval and acceptance. Any one of these things will close our minds to real knowledge and become the territory of Satan who will terrorize us with false beliefs. True knowledge must always be based in the knowledge of truth.

When the Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy he said, “Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, which some have professed and in so doing have wandered from the faith.” (1 Timothy 6:20-21) Paul understood that unless our knowledge is the accurate and faithful reflection of reality, it is false and should not even be called knowledge.

Jesus Christ came to earth to bring us true knowledge. John the Baptist’s father, under the power of the Holy Spirit, said that his son would be the prophet that would lead us to the knowledge of salvation by pointing us to Jesus. (Luke 1:77) Jesus declared Himself to be truth in John 14:6 when He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life…”  And Paul tells us in Colossians 2:2-3 that all truth is found in Jesus Christ. “My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ,   in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

Therefore, it is impossible to have an accurate and faithful reflection of reality unless our knowledge is based on the truth of Jesus Christ. Every other pursuit of knowledge is to be set aside so that the knowledge of Jesus may be the priority of our intellectual pursuits. Paul, one of the most highly educated and respected Jews of his day, said it this way:

“But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.   What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ   and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.   I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.   Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.   Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:7-14)

But we must be careful to remember that our knowledge of Jesus is to be added to the already growing existence of goodness. Paul warns us in First Corinthians 8:1 that “knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” We must not take pride in what we know, but must use it to generate even more love for others and do even more good for them.

Every day our knowledge of Jesus should be growing, and that will happen as you intentionally spend time with Him in prayer and the study of His written revelation of Himself to us. It’s called the Bible. Open it up today with an open mind so that your knowledge becomes an accurate and faithful reflection of reality.

Pastor John

GOODNESS

LifeLink Devotions

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

We have been studying the building process of spiritual maturity. Let’s break down every phase of the process as described by the Apostle Peter. It begins with goodness being added to our faith.

2 Peter 1:5-8 “For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness;”

The Greek word translated goodness means virtue. It means to pursue any virtuous course of thought, feeling, or action and to have moral excellence. It comes from another Greek word which is the word for a man, or the word male. At its root is the Greek verb airo, which means to raise, elevate, and lift up.

Okay, enough grammar. What does it mean to us now? Well, here’s what I glean from the word study. Goodness means that we are becoming morally excellent people who work with the strength of a man to lift heavy loads in the lives of others. Goodness involves the investment of our energy into the good of others. In fact, true goodness sacrifices the good of self for the good of others. Anything less than that could not be called virtuous. That means not only do the actions appear good, but the thoughts and feelings match the activity. From the depth of our hearts we are to add goodness to our faith as the first building block of maturity.

I am so very proud of my daughter, her husband, and his family. They are all Packer fans. I’m proud of the fan part of that fact. Let me explain what I mean.

My grandsons have all decided that in the middle of this Packer family they want to be Viking fans. They made that choice on their own. No, I did not try to persuade them. Just ask their dad. But now that they have chosen, I enjoy filling them with Viking knowledge. We watch games together. But the biggest blessing to me is that their Packer fan parents buy them Viking jerseys, sweatshirts, hats, and memorabilia. That is virtue.

In fact, years ago in the playoffs, every member of the Packer family wore purple and was cheering for the Vikings. One aunt even dressed her little girl in purple. His other grandpa and grandma rooted for the Vikings. Even mom and dad wore purple. WOW! What a statement of what goodness is.

I called my daughter after the game. I told her how proud I was of her for modeling true sportsmanship. But I told her more. I said that she was modeling for her son what goodness is. She had put the feelings and excitement of the other person ahead of her own feelings. Her husband’s family had modeled to my grandson what it means to sacrifice personal preferences for the sake of sharing in the excitement of another person’s choices. I told her that her activity was proof that goodness has been added to faith.

In Romans 12:15 we are told to rejoice with those who rejoice. If goodness has been added to faith this won’t be an act or something we pretend for the sake of appearing good. If we understand that goodness means to pursue virtue so we can elevate another person and lift them up, then we will become people who will sacrifice our own thoughts and feelings and act in such a way that supports others. You see, we must be fans of people first, not teams or dreams. My daughter and her husband’s family demonstrated that.

Every day we make choices to put our goals, ambitions, and dreams ahead of others. We give in very easily to the temptation to raise ourselves up ahead of others. But the Holy Spirit made no mistake when the very first building block He gave was goodness. He knows the heart of God. He knows the character of Christ. He is at work in us to produce the character of Christ. He has given us the power to put others ahead of ourselves and live virtuous lives of goodness. He has equipped us to care more about others than ourselves. He has filled us with the prospect of rejoicing when others rejoice, even when that rejoicing is contradictory to what we wanted to happen.

So no matter where you believe you are in the construction process of spiritual maturity, go back and dust off this building block. It’s easy to find. It’s the one right above the Cornerstone.

Pastor John

REBUILD WHAT HAS BEEN DESTROYED

LifeLink Devotions

Monday, January 9, 2023

I am a builder. My grandson Liam was a destroyer. He destroyed every single wood block tower I ever tried to build with him. I am sure that at his age of 16 months I was also a destroyer. It’s a phase we all go through. Liam’s older brother Aidan moved past the destroyer stage and became a builder. Anytime Aidan wanted to build something with blocks or train tracks, he asked if Liam could be removed from the room. He knew if he wasn’t Liam would come and destroy anything he built. Not in anger, but to him it was about as much fun as anything else he could do. It wouldn’t be long and he would also begin to find more pleasure in building than he did in destroying.

The point I want to make comes with a HUGE disclaimer that my grandson is NOT to be personally compared to the Enemy of our souls. But the spiritual analogy of building and destroying is appropriate. When we came to Christ for salvation, God made each of us builders. Satan is the destroyer. Every attempt we make to add another building block of spiritual character to our lives is met with a charge of the Enemy from across the room to knock us over. From the very conception of Christ in us at our conversion, the roaring lion is on the prowl seeking to destroy us.

2 Peter 1:5-8  “For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

When Liam sought to destroy a tower of blocks, he did it for fun. There is nothing funny about what Satan does. He is not playing a game. He is avenging his defeat at the cross. He is out to intentionally discourage, defeat, and destroy every person who has dedicated their lives to Jesus Christ.

His tactics are not always obvious. He will attack us mostly at the point of past weakness or failure. He will find the point of your tower of character that has one block slightly off center and he will work there to de-stabilize the whole thing.

Maybe he is attacking your goodness so that you’re more concerned with self than others.

Maybe he’s pushing on the block of knowledge, so that you stop growing in your understanding of who God is and His plan for your life.

Maybe he’s adding emotional stress to the current overload of life you are experiencing so he can make you lose self-control.

It’s possible that he has convinced you to give up and not persevere. Satan would love to get you to that point so that you surrender to self-serving sin and forfeit your godliness.

It’s absolutely a certainty that the Enemy wants to stop the spread of love, and he will do that by shaking the tower of your character to the point of collapse so that you take your life back into your own hands and start building on a different foundation than faith.

But there is hope. Back in 2 Peter 1:3 we were given a promise of power to be able to build without fear of destruction. The power of God to make us stand is greater than the power of Satan to destroy. We have been guilty of not removing the Enemy from the territory of our tower. We have let him into the room where we are building.

We let him in through a variety of holes in our armor. We watch the wrong kinds of movies and television shows that let Satan influence our thinking and our world view, putting fleshly lusts ahead of godliness. We listen to music that bombards our minds with false philosophies and worldly pursuits. We surrender to the influence of friends so we can feel accepted when we should be the ones influencing them to be accepted in God’s family. We build treasures on this earth which will eventually perish when we could be building treasures in heaven that will be there waiting for us when we arrive.

Satan is attempting to knock down everything God is building in your life. But remember that we serve a God who builds and rebuilds even after destruction. When the tower falls, no matter how hard and how far, the foundation of faith can never be destroyed. Get busy rebuilding.

Pastor John