Heart In Action

I grew up in an environment that placed emphasis on being right with God, but little emphasis on what that looked like interacting within our world. The extent of impact from my point of view was, “tell people about Jesus.” Should we tell people about Jesus? Yes! Unequivocally, yes. However, I believe that is not the full extent of how the gospel affects our actions. 

My understanding as a kid lacked balance, what I saw demonstrated was that your prayer life was more important than the way you treated people. How you lived was only important in that you did not sin. In fact, abstaining from sin was far more important than anything else going on in the world. I was told Jesus is the solution to all the problems of the world, but never taught to get involved or to help be the solution, only to pray.

So, when you think of living the Christian life what do you think of? Do you have images of church services, singing worship songs, prayer meetings, bible studies, Christian fellowship? Those are certainly a part of the Chrisitan life, but is that the extent of the images you have? Is your mind also drawn to images of meeting needs, helping the poor, standing up for the oppressed, fighting against injustice?

I confess, too often my mind has failed to connect the second part to my faith and I fear I am not alone. Your prayer life is important. Living a holy life, free from sin is important. However, what good are your prayers and righteousness if it doesn’t drive you to take action? Is your faith only about YOU avoiding hell with no thought of the state of the world?

In the book of James he is incredibly clear that faith without works is dead, yet the message I was drawn to is that it doesn’t matter how much good you do if you don’t have a relationship with God. Now don’t get me wrong. That statement is true, but it’s unbalanced and incomplete. Out of our relationship with God, our lives should produce many good works.

Too often the world doesn’t know we are Christians by our love and the works that love produces, but by our political stances, our boycotts– honestly I’m pretty sure the church invented cancel culture– our condemnation of sins and our fight to protect our rights and religious liberties. Again, I’m not suggesting all those things are unimportant, but is it building God’s Kingdom?

We often uphold “truth in love” and “wounds of a friend” to attack those we disagree with, but the reality is we do not love them and they are not our friends. Is it possible we have a reputation for being bigoted and hateful because… we are? Do you really show love to all people? Or rather could all people feel that love from you? I can certainly remember a time in my life when I would have said, I love gay people, but they would have felt no love from our conversation. I was too afraid of affirming sin to truly demonstrate love for a gay person.

We live in a world full of political causes and stances. As a church, we tend to pick one or two and ignore the rest. I’ve seen people shamed for supporting causes other than pro-life, as if supporting something else means you don’t support life. I believe God gave us a voice and we have a responsibility to use that voice. To actively show love to our world and stand up against injustice, whatever form it takes. To reach out to the poor, the downhearted, the outcast. To actively meet the needs in our community. To live wholeheartedly for Jesus. To demonstrate to the world the love that God has for them.

I’ll wrap this up with a couple of scriptures to think about.

Psalm 78:34-38 (NLT) When God began killing them, they finally sought him. They repented and took God seriously. 35 Then they remembered that God was their rock,  that God Most High was their redeemer. 36 But all they gave him was lip service; they lied to him with their tongues. 37 Their hearts were not loyal to him. They did not keep his covenant.

Amos 5:23-24 ( NLT) Away with your noisy hymns of praise! I will not listen to the music of your harps. 24 Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice, an endless river of righteous living.

God isn’t looking for lip service. God isn’t looking for a good church service. He is looking for people to stand up for righteousness. To truly represent Him in every corner of the earth. To have a heart for God means to have a heart in action. Let’s pursue a deeper, more intimate relationship with Jesus. Let us spend time in His presence and may we take His presence with us everywhere we go. May the world come to know Jesus because of how we live our lives. May we actively demonstrate His love to the world, heart in action.

Encountering God

If someone came up to me and tried to convince me that grass is really purple and has always been purple there is a high possibility I will look at them and laugh at the absurdity of their claim. Why? I know that grass is green, not because someone told me, but because I have witnessed grass being green my entire life. It has always been green. My knowledge is founded upon years of experience.

Now if you wanted to convince me of something scientific on the molecular level, true or not, I would probably believe you. Why? I have zero experience studying this area of science. My only knowledge is predicated upon what others have told me, which isn’t that much.

What is the foundation of your knowledge of God? Have you dug into scripture to find out what the Bible really says? Have you experienced and encountered the very real presence of God? Or is your faith based entirely upon the words of a pastor, teacher, friend or family member?

My dad often used to teach us that If you convince someone with an intellectual argument alone, then they can be unconvinced by a better intellectual argument. Many people are constantly back and forth on their beliefs based upon the most recent logical sounding argument they heard.

However, as Leonard Ravenhill said, a man with an experience is never at the mercy of a man with an argument. If you encounter the supernatural power of God in your life then no one will ever be able to convince you that God isn’t real! Why? You know Him! You’ve felt His touch and seen Him at work in your life.

How do you approach evangelism? Too often I feel like we are trying to appeal to people on a mental and logical level, and while that might sound nice, ultimately it falls flat. People need to encounter God’s love before they will receive that knowledge.

I believe this is why the expression, “people don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care” rings so true. People are more open to what you have to say, if they have experienced the genuineness of your love for them and by extension God’s love.

Reaching people for Jesus is first and foremost a supernatural effort. We cannot accomplish this task in our own strength. Evangelism starts with prayer, not with a well crafted argument. Invest your time in praying for souls, your friends, family and even people the Lord might bring in your path.

Actively seek to meet needs in the lives of people, to show them how much you care. Don’t be afraid to pray for people and give God the opportunity to demonstrate His power in their life. People don’t need an argument, they need to encounter God.

Remember it is not our job to convince people of the truth, rather our place is to be a witness to what God has done. Salvation is a supernatural event and is always caused by supernatural effort. God is the one who draws people in and bears witness to the words you share. The Holy Spirit does the convincing.

I will close with this. In John chapter 4, when Jesus encountered the woman at the well (The same woman from “Am I Thirsty?“) and told her all she had done she went into town and told everyone to come and meet this amazing man. Many people came to meet Jesus and the truth of their experience is found in verse 42

John 4:42 (NLT)  Then they said to the woman, “Now we believe, not just because of what you told us, but because we have heard him ourselves. Now we know that he is indeed the Savior of the world.”

The woman’s testimony peaked their curiosity, but their own experience with Jesus cemented their faith. The world does not just need knowledge of God, they need to encounter his presence.

Let’s do our part and be the body Christ, let’s take the presence of Jesus to the world.

Spiritual Fruit

We’ve come to the end of our second week together. Once again I’d like to close this week by evaluating our Spiritual progress. Last week I briefly made mention of the fruit of the Spirit. This week I’d like to take a closer look.

Galatians 5:22-23 NLT But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

There is good news and bad news. Would you like the bad news first? If the answer is no then skip this paragraph. These are all spiritual qualities that we are incapable of producing in our own ability. No matter how hard we find, there is no true joy or peace unless the Spirit produces it in our lives. Sure we can find worldly substitutes, worldly joy, worldly peace, but such peace only lasts so long as our present circumstance. Spiritual joy lasts no matter what situation we find ourselves in.

The good news, because we cannot produce these qualities in our own ability we don’t have to freak out about not having enough of one of them. We can simply go into our prayer closet, shut the door and get alone with our Father. As we grow closer to God many of these fruits will automatically become more apparent in our lives. The Spirit produces them.

If you’re like me and you find yourself struggling with some of them from time to time, you don’t need to panic. Perhaps you’ve been in a situation where you are really struggling to speak kindly to a specific person for whatever reason. You don’t panic and say, “I thought I was a Christian, why am I not more kind?!”

You simply go and pray, “Lord, I am struggling to treat this person with kindness, please produce this fruit in a greater amount in my life. Help me to speak to them with kindness, help me to show them kindness with my actions, so that You might receive glory.

That sounds simple, but like many simple things it isn’t easy. Many times we feel they deserve the attitude we are harboring for them, and maybe they do. However that doesn’t change the fact we need to treat them with kindness.

I challenge you to find some time today and reflect on each of these fruits and ask yourself if you  are truly displaying them in every area of your life.

Start with love. This is the most important one for me. I believe that as we grow in Christ, our love grows in correspondence. The more spiritually mature we are, the more love we have, not only for the people in our lives, but for the world. Our compassion for those in need is increasing as well.

Joy and Peace. I know they’re not the same thing, but similar thoughts come to my mind. These are difficult to have in challenging situations. I think they may be the best tool we have in evaluating our spiritual life. If we are living in the Spirit, I believe we will have sufficient joy and especially peace. When times come and we find ourselves lacking in this department, it’s time to evaluate. Ok Lord, where have I stopped living in the Spirit and started living in the natural?

Patience is also a challenge! How many times do we act impulsively instead of waiting on leading from the Lord?

Kindness, goodness, faithfulness and gentleness. These qualities are so vital to us as Christians and we should display them in every situation. Are we always kind? Are we always good? Are we always faithful? Are we always gentle? No, but everyday is an opportunity to grow greater fruit.

Self-control is last, and I am sure it is by design. The ability to truly control oneself in every way is a true test of maturity. This is our goal, to be completely spirit led, to surrender every ounce of control and let the Spirit have His way. To not act in every situation, to hold our tongue on when needed. Yet also to act boldly and speak truth as the Spirit leads. This should be the goal of every believer.

If you’re reading this today, I just want you to know that you’re gonna make it. You’re not forgotten and you haven’t made too many mistakes. Today is perfect day to determine in your heart a renewed determination to live for Jesus, to develop spiritual fruit and display to the world the love of Christ.