Zeal is not the test of godliness, nor can zeal make one godlier.
Zealousness can even be a detriment to godliness if one’s definition of godliness is derived from the intensity of one’s zeal rather than the clear teaching of Scripture. Frequently we find people who claim to be Christian, and may very well be, zealous about what they believe to be the true priority or expression of the Christian faith.
They often have some scriptures to bolster their defense that their way is the way. But one’s level of zeal is not the determiner of whether something is a legitimate representation of the Christian faith, and this even when the cause is noble.
Godliness drawn from and defined by Scripture should define our zeal, but zeal can never define godliness.
“For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge” Romans 10:2.
I pray with John, “Oh that I might decrease that you might increase” (John 3:30). Let every compliment that I am paid because of my teaching, ministering, or helping people spiritually be immediately directed toward You, the rightful recipient. Let me not see myself as my friends or enemies see me, but only as you see me through the eyes of holiness, redemption, and grace.
Help me to see me last, lower than my peers, and may pride be immediately vanquished so that my mind may be stayed on You. May every compliment, every promotion, every success, every reward, every accolade, every accomplishment … cause me to give thanks to You the giver of all and never be a cause for boasting in me. And yet, may I ever so gently receive and direct those thoughts with regard to the giver so that my humility does not become false humility or hurt those whom You love and have been gracious through.
So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience;” (Colossians 3:12)
Since we are not God, everyone will be humbled.
There are three kinds of humility in the Scripture. First is a false humility, which is fashionably demonstrated by the Pharisees of the gospels as well as their contemporary protégés. Second is a forced humility, which is the lot of all who choose to exalt themselves and follow their own lead. Third is a chosen humility, which is the radiance of Christ as seen in His humbling Himself to die for our ghoulish sins.
These may be seen in order in the following scriptures. We should avoid at all cost the first, and unfortunately expect the second because we are fallen humans; however, if we seek chosen humility, we will honor God and diminish the frequency of even the second.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence” Matthew 23:25.
“Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted” Matthew 23:12.
“Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” Philippians 2:5–8.
In the shadows of self-confidence lurk many dangers like succumbing to temptation, seeking self-glory, and hurting those for whom Christ died. Perhaps the most serious consequence of self-confidence is that such testimonial presents a false Christ to the world and thereby denies the gospel and the grace provisions of sanctification.
“I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing” John 15:5.
“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” Philippians 4:13.
John Leland, a Baptist preacher, “emerged a leader among the Commonwealth’s Baptists. He was instrumental in allying the Baptists with Jefferson and Madison in the bitter Virginia struggle to disestablish the Anglican Church and to secure freedom for religious dissenters.” According to L.H. Butterfield, Leland “was as courageous and resourceful a champion of the rights of conscience as America has produced.” Continue reading →
If Christians were once again to be lost and destined to hell, but still remembered all we knew about Christ and salvation except how to be saved again, we would desire more than anything else in all the world that those who know Christ as Lord and Savior would present us with the clearest display of him in word and the most compelling lives to lead us to him.
While Christians are not to be worldly minded, we are to be devotedly mindful about the lost world. Concern for building our own self-esteem is a fleshly distraction from building Christ esteem in our lives to be displayed to all. Self-esteem determines to make sure others give due attention to us, whereas Christ esteem determines to make sure others give due attention to Jesus, the only one who can truly help them.
The flesh wars to ensconce our own needs, feelings, reputation and wants above others, and the Spirit wars to enthrone the true spiritual needs of the most worldly above our own, even those who mean us harm. When hurt by others, the flesh mounts an attack against them, but the Spirit desires we die to self and leave space for wrath. This so that we may present Christ in order that the worldly may be transformed, and thereby disdain worldly mindedness and embrace single minded devotion about the lost world.
“That they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me” John 17:21.
“And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age”’ (Matthew 28:18-20). (underline and embolden added)
Most often, this passage is referenced in order to emphasize missions and evangelism, and those are indeed vital components; however, the teaching task is often, albeit unwittingly, reduced to a secondary or tertiary status. Additionally, the essentialness of the breadth and depth of the teaching component is often obscured by our words and practice. Continue reading →
By Your grace that has so radically and eternally changed me and Your Holy Spirit within me, the cry of my regenerated heart through the otherwise impervious layers of sin and selfishness is that my inner man wants to love, and love like You love me—the most unfathomable thought I could ever have.
Oh God, beyond my ponderings at heaven’s glory and wonder at the power of the forever sea is my ever-present humbling marvel at how You could—can—love me when You know my selfishness, sin, and un-Christlikeness. I live in grace because my constant failings are always before me, not in pessimism nor defeatism, but in the liberty and love of Your grace.
Let me love others with total disregard for myself. Let me see their failings and know even their assailing against me or my family, and let me love them like You do. Guard my heart and mind from the plethora of modern unbiblical ways that eschew the word sin and therefore the need to repent, but allow me to truly love as You and enjoy the restoration of relationship when repentance is present.
I choose love, gentleness, forgiveness, turning them over to You, rather than bitterness, sin, resentment. Thank You my Lord for even my desire to make that choice, for without You I would not and could not; although, in my sin I could easily cloak it in what You know to be self-righteousness.
“Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20).
“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice” (Ephesians 4:31).
At Trinity, I lead a three-year men’s group called the Round Table. The first year focuses on Theology, the second on Ethics and the third year on Ideologies (Worldviews). Mike Tinney recently presented a paper on Law and Morality in The Roundtable in Ideology. Mike is an attorney by profession and has presented an excellent presentation of this subject that is well worth the read. Continue reading →
Repentance is a friend that leads to God, and such a friend should always be eagerly embraced.
A friend is someone who always seeks to help us be our best and seeks to bring us closer to God by making us more like Christ. Repentance is such a friend. Repentance brings us to God in salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, and repentance restores the child of God who wanders astray for a time.
“Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord,” (Acts 3:19).
“But when he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men.”’ So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son….for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’ And they began to celebrate” (Luke 15:17-21, 24).