Do you peace with God?

peace-with-godA primary reason why many of us feel that we need to earn God’s favor is because we do not have peace with God.   The Apostle Paul declares in the book of Romans that you can have peace with God,

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,  (Romans 5:1)

The word “justified” conveys the idea of declaring one to be righteous.  We may erroneously believe that keeping the law of God enables us to be  justified in God’s sight – we think that if we just perform (or pay enough penance) then we will have peace with God.  The truth is no one can keep the law, rather the law points out our need for a Savior,

nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified.  (Galatians 2:16)

Justification reveals that we have been reconciled to God through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross with the result that the enmity and wrath of God has been turned away,

Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.  (Romans 5:9)

There is however another dimension to justification.  Justification not only saves us from the penalty of our sin but it also enables us to receive the benefits of a child of God.

Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.  (1 Corinthians 6:11)

We see this concept of justification delineated in the following verse as Christ bore the weight of our sin so that we might become the righteousness of God – God not only loves us, He likes us!  God fully accepts us based upon the righteousness of Christ.

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.  (2 Corinthians 5:21)

Are you experiencing your birthright as a child of God?  You can have victory over sin!  You don’t need to be in bondage to habits of the “old man” – the person you used to be before Christ came into your life.  God has declared you righteous, so see yourself as God sees you, and start living in accordance with you new, true identity!

 

RickAssociate Pastor – Discipleship.  The Church at LifePark

Professor of Discipleship, Columbia International University

Follow me on twitter:  rickhiggins5

God knows all about me and He still loves me!

Romans-5-8Our recent blog posts have been examining some of the reasons why we may not experience victory in our lives.  We’ve looked at the danger of depending on ourselves and the problem of regarding our spiritual growth as a matter of course.  This blog post will examine the false belief that we are able to eradicate all sin in our lives.  Although this belief is quite appealing it is also quite unscriptural,

If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.  (1 John 1:8)

A great danger of this view is that we establish a goal that is unattainable.  This is a reason why people can stay trapped in the room of good intentions.  They believe  the false belief, “If I can just get my act together and stop sinning then God will love me.”  The truth is God knows all about your sin and He loves you anyway,

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

God doesn’t get rid of the sin in our lives – He gets rid of the sinner!  That’s the message of the Apostle Paul’s message to the Romans,

knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin;  (Romans 6:6)

Paul amplifies that point In the following chapter,

Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God.  (Romans 7:4)

 Paul differentiates between who he is as a Christian and the principle of sin in his flesh,

So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.   For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.  For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.   But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.  (Romans 7:17-20)

As a Christian, Paul is holy and set apart.   He is not defined by his sin but rather he finds his identity in Christ.  The truth is we can never eradicate sin in this lifetime.  Victory in our Christian lives is not a state in which we finally arrive but it is a condition that we experience as we practice the means of grace.

Perhaps an illustration will help.  When you enter a dark room with a candle the darkness diappears at once.  The light counteracts the tendency toward darkness.  As you pass through the room with the candle the tendency toward darkness returns.  If it was possible for the room to continue in a state of illumination by passing through the room once with the candle then the room would not be dependent upon the source of light.  Holiness in our lives is a condition that we experience by abiding in Christ – it is a maintained condition not a steady state.  It is only as we walk in the light that we can experience victory in our lives,

Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.”  (John 8:12)

 Are you walking in the light?

 

RickAssociate Pastor – Discipleship.  The Church at LifePark

Professor of Discipleship, Columbia International University

Follow me on twitter:  rickhiggins5

The Danger of Drifting

drift awayMy last blog post posed the question, “If the abundant life is God’s standard for me then why does victory seem so elusive? ”   A major reason is that we live in the room of good intentions – we try to live the Christian life in our own strength rather than depending upon God’s strength in the room of grace.

Another reason that trips us up is that we view victory as a matter of course, we think it’s automatic.  Perhaps we live by the motto, “Let go and let God” – we think that certainly that must be in the Bible, maybe it’s in the book of Hesitations.  The problem with that belief is the rest of the Bible does not teach passivity in the Christian life.  The writer of the book of Hebrews makes this clear,

For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it.  (Hebrews 2:1)

The truth is we don’t drift into godliness.  A few chapters later he admonishes us to have a healthy fear that we would come short of the rest that God has for us.

Therefore, let us fear if, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you may seem to have come short of it.  (Hebrews 4:1)

In the next chapter he emphasizes that through practice we can  become trained to discern good and evil.  The word “trained” conveys the idea of vigorous excercise of either the body or the mind.

But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.  (Hebrews 5:14)

The same Greek word that is translated “trained” is used by the Apostle Paul as he encouraged his protege in the faith Timothy.  In  this next verse it is translated “discipline”,

But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women. On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; (1 Timothy 4:7)

Likewise the Apostle Peter makes a similar appeal for living an intentional life in seeking after God,

Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble;  (2 Peter 1:10)

 Are you practicing those disciplines that lead to godliness?  The downward pull of the world in conjunction with the weakness of our flesh conspire to keep us from walking in victory.  We must be intentional in walk with God.  May Paul’s encouragement to the Philippians inspire you to keep pressing on,

I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.  (Philippians 3:14)

 

RickAssociate Pastor – Discipleship.  The Church at LifePark

Professor of Discipleship, Columbia International University

Follow me on twitter:  rickhiggins5

We have met the enemy and he is us

PogoIf the abundant life is God’s standard for me then why does victory seem so elusive?  Why am I not experiencing joy and peace in my life but rather I find it so easy to yield to temptation.  Although we face opposition from the world and the devil, I find that I encounter the most trouble from myself.

The Cure by Thrall, McNicol, and Lynch describes two pathways that lead to two rooms that are the primary motivations how we live our lives.  One pathway is pleasing God and it leads to the room of good intentions.  The other pathway is trusting God and it leads to the room of grace.  Our problem with the pathway of trusting God is that it doesn’t seem that we do anything.  There is a great appeal  to live in  the Room of Good Intentions.  We enter this room by striving to be all that God wants us to be.  We think if we can just get rid of our sin problem then we’ll be right with God.  There is a banner in this room that states,

WORKING ON MY SIN TO ACHIEVE AN INTIMATE RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD

This room however, is predicated on a lie reducing godliness to a formula:  More right behavior + Less wrong behavior = Godliness.  The problem with this equation is that it disregards the righteousness God has already placed in us.  We disregard the righteousness that comes from trusting what God says is true about us.   The truth is we can never resolve our sin by working on it.   Sure we may externally sublimate behavior for a while but we miss the heart of the problem.  Although this distorted theology breaks our hearts time and again, we desperately keep trying it.

Out of frustration we may seek another way – we journey down the path of trusting God that leads to the room of grace.  Rather than self-effort this room is entered by humility and the banner in this room states,

STANDING WITH GOD, MY SIN IN FRONT OF US, WORKING ON IT TOGETHER

You may think this sounds to good to be true.  The Judaizers in the Apostle Paul’s day hated it.  They said. “These people are immature, lazy and have little religious background. They’ll abuse their freedom, they’ll live Christianity-lite. These people are weak and want to do whatever they want.”  This objection however overlooks two key truths:

1.  Christians have a new nature:  “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come”  (2 Corinthians 5:17).  You’re not who you were – it’s Christ in you, the hope of glory.

2.  Christians have the Holy Spirit:  “for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live”  (Romans 8:13).  The Holy Spirit counteracts the downward pull of sin in our lives.

As you consider these two rooms, which room do you think takes sin more seriously?  At first glance, the room of good intentions seems to be our first choice – after all we’re working on our sin to overcome it.  But the reality is we’re doing it in our own strength.  The room of grace however, realizes that we can’t handle our sin problem and it relies upon God to enable us to overcome the sin that is keeping us from the abundant life.  We discover that we please God as we trust God,

And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.  (Hebrews 11:6)

 

RickAssociate Pastor – Discipleship.  The Church at LifePark

Professor of Discipleship, Columbia International University

Follow me on twitter:  rickhiggins5

Don’t Settle!

Abundant-LifeWhy are we prone to settle for less than God’s best?  Perhaps we take our cue from the world rather than God’s word.  As Robertson McQuilkin wisely observed, “Average is not necessarily normal.”  Watchman Nee in his classic, The Normal Christian Life, pictures the normal Christian life as described by the Apostle Paul,

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.  (Galatians 2:20)

The normal Christian life is characterized by joy in the midst of difficult circumstances and peace in the midst of uncertainty.   The normal Christian life is God’s standard for us – God does not call us to be average.  Average is the worst of the best and the best of the worst.  Too many Christians are quite indistinguishable from the world.  They act out of selfishness, yield to temptation, and covet what they don’t have.   They do not seem to have a vibrant, growing relationship with God, but rather an emptiness at the core of their being. There is nothing supernatural about their lives.  How would you characterize your life?

Rather than taking your cues from the world you need to realize God’s purpose for your life.  Jesus contrasts His purpose with that of the thief,

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.  John 10:10

If Jesus promises us an abundant life then why does it seem so many people are not experiencing such a life?   Although this list is not exhaustive, here are some fundamental reasons:

1. Ignorance – people don’t know such a life is possible.  Paul challenges the church at Rome that they would know their true position in Christ,

knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; (Romans 6:6)

2.  Unbelief – we may think that such a life is possible for others, but not for me.  Our lack of faith can cause us to miss the fullness of life God has promised for His people.

So we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief.  (Hebrews 3:19)

3.  Rebellion – We seek to go our own way rather than to follow God.

There is a way which seems right to a man,  but its end is the way of death.  (Proverbs 14:12)

The word “believe” permeates the Gospel of John.  At the end of his Gospel John pens these words,

but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.  (John 20:31)

The key is to believe in Jesus and His words.  True faith enables you to overcome ignorance, unbelief, and rebellion since you are taking God at His word.  As you read this post, my greatest fear for you is not that you set your sights too high and that you fail, but my greatest fear is that you become content with subnormal, mediocre Christianity.

You were created on purpose, with purpose, for a purpose.  Don’t settle for less than what God wants to provide for you.

 

RickAssociate Pastor – Discipleship.  The Church at LifePark

Professor of Discipleship, Columbia International University

Follow me on twitter:  rickhiggins5

Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time

ScrumHave you ever dreamed of doing twice the work in half the time?  Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time by Jeff Sutherland seeks to address that question.  The origin of Scrum comes from Rugby and it emphasizes “. . . careful alignment, unity of purpose, and clarity of goal . . .” (p. 8).

Scrum made its debut in software development as an iterative and incremental  method for managing product development.  The development team works as a unit to reach a common goal and realizes that the traditional, sequential approach is unrealistic since end users are prone to change their minds about what they want. Scrum acknowledges that the problem cannot be fully understood at the onset so it focuses on the team’s ability to deliver a product quickly and respond to emerging requirements.

“Scrum is based on a simple idea:  whenever you start a project, why not regularly check-in, see if what you’re doing is heading in the right direction, and if it’s actually what people want?”  (p. 9).   The author provides several examples how Scrum was used to cut costs and complete the project on time or early.  He references articles from the academic community citing the efficacy of Scrum.  He also shows how the OODA (observe, orient, decide, and act) loop , developed and by fighter pilot John Boyd, incorporates the basic principles of Scrum (p. 185):

OODA.Boyd.svg

 

 

 

 

 

Sutherland shows how the principles of Scrum are applicable to education, government, business, and even remodeling a home.  The book contains a helpful appendix presenting an overview of Scrum methodology:

scrum-methodology

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you work on detailed projects that involve others then you may find Scrum a helpful resource to enhance your productivity.  (I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review).

 

Rick

Associate Pastor – Discipleship.  The Church at LifePark

Professor of Discipleship, Columbia International University

Follow me on twitter:  rickhiggins5

Are you willing to pay the price?

SufferingMy last blog post considered the price of obedience.  If you are going to achieve your God given destiny then it will require that you pay the price.  What if the price is greater than what you want to pay?  We often call that price suffering – it’s a gift that not many of us choose.

When you think of fulfilling your God given destiny you may be thinking of future goals and seeing God work through your life in power.  That is true but we often don’t give much consideration to the price that is paid to reach those lofty heights.

Saul, a persecutor of Christians, was on his way to Damascus when “suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him” (Acts 9:3).  Ananias, a disciple of Jesus, received the unenviable assignment from God to go and give Saul a message.  But Ananias answered, ‘Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he did to Your saints at Jerusalem;'” (Acts 9:13).  Ananias had significant reservations about going to see this persecutor of Christians.  Ananias however, obeyed and gave this message to Saul,

But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake.  (Acts 9:15-16)

Saul, who later became the Apostle Paul, was transformed into a man that God would use to write much of the New Testament and launch the early church into a world-wide movement.  His destiny included suffering as he carried out his God given assignment.  As you read the New Testament you see that Paul suffered greatly but he realized it was worth the price as he wrote to the church at Rome,

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.  (Romans 8:18)

What would the Apostle Paul say to us?  His letter to the Philippians reveals the destiny God has for you and me,

For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake,  (Philippians 1:29)

But we don’t like to suffer.  Personally, I like the power of His resurrection but my natural inclination is to avoid the fellowship of His sufferings.  The way of following Jesus however, necessitates the way of suffering,

And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.  (Luke 9:23)

Are you facing suffering in your life?  Don’t lose heart.  Scott Peck in The Road Less Traveled, wisely observed,

Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult – once we truly understand and accept it – then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.

We must accept the fact that we will face suffering in our lives.  May the words of the Apostle Peter bring encouragement to your heart,

Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.  (1 Peter 4:19)

 

RickAssociate Pastor – Discipleship.  The Church at LifePark

Professor of Discipleship, Columbia International University

Follow me on twitter:  rickhiggins5

 

The Price of Obedience

obedienceWe understand the importance of obedience in our lives, but how do you respond when it’s hard to obey?  There are times in my life when I know what I should do, but I prefer to go my own way – especially when the way of obedience is difficult.

That was the situation that Daniel and his friends faced when they were brought to Babylon.  They were strangers in a strange land and they were expected to follow the rules and mores of the the land or face significant consequences.  Daniel however, was more concerned about being obedient to God,

 But Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile himself with the king’s choice food or with the wine which he drank; so he sought permission from the commander of the officials that he might not defile himself.  (Daniel 1:8)

Daniel literally purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself, but that he would remain true to God regardless of the consequences.  Daniel was a man of integrity who followed God regardless of the cost.  Even when he was old, Daniel was obedient to his God,

 Now when Daniel knew that the document was signed, he entered his house (now in his roof chamber he had windows open toward Jerusalem); and he continued kneeling on his knees three times a day, praying and giving thanks before his God, as he had been doing previously.  (Daniel 6:10)

Daniel’s obedience resulted in him being thrown into a lion’s den, but God preserved his life.   His commitment to prayer is demonstrated in this blog post on Oak Trees and Kudzu.

You must realize however, that the cost of obedience is small compared with the cost of disobedience.  There will be times in your life when your obedience to God will result in consequences for doing what is right.  Joseph was thrown into prison for fleeing from sexual temptation.  You too may pay the price for doing what is right, but remember that God is with you and the price of obedience will be worth the cost.  Are you willing to pay the price to follow God?

 

RickAssociate Pastor – Discipleship.  The Church at LifePark

Professor of Discipleship, Columbia International University

Follow me on twitter:  rickhiggins5

Ask It

Ask itAsk It:  The question that will revolutionize how you make decisions by Andy Stanley is a revised and updated version of his earlier book, The Best Question Ever (2004).  The revised version contains much of the same content with a new section describing the wise person, the fool, and the mocker from the book Proverbs.  This new section replaces the section on money in The Best Question Ever.  The revised version also adds a helpful study guide.

You may be wondering, “What is the question that will revolutionize how you can make better decisions?”  He does not start with the question but lays the foundation for why he believes it is the best question ever. The basis for this question comes from Ephesians 5:15-17,

Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

From this Bible passage, what do you think is the best question? Andy Stanley asserts that the best question is, “What is the wise thing to do?” With practical relevance he builds a case for how that question can be beneficial in your decision making and hopefully may save you from regret.  Now that you know the best question, I’ll leave it to you to discover the best decision ever.

This is a short book but it is filled with biblical principles. All of us fall prey to self-deception and the guidelines in this book may keep you from making foolish decisions. He writes, “Our greatest moral regrets are always preceded by a series of unwise choices” (p.  98). This book will help you to make decisions with wisdom. (I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review).

 

RickAssociate Pastor – Discipleship.  The Church at LifePark

Professor of Discipleship, Columbia International University

Follow me on twitter:  rickhiggins5

Compliance or Obedience

obedience1What are your thoughts about the words compliance and obedience?  Although they are often appear synonymous there are some subtle distinctions between these two words.

Compliance usually refers to adherence to established policies and procedures.  Obedience usually includes the heart motive of an individual.  The key to understanding in spiritual matters is not merely intellect but obedience.  Consider Abraham in the Old Testament, God told him to leave his home country and although Abraham did not understand all the details he obeyed God.

By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going.  (Hebrews 11:8)

We also discover that as we are faithful in obeying the little matters in our lives that enables us to be faithful in the larger matters – we discover that obedience leads to greater opportunities.

He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.  (Luke 16:10)

True obedience must come from the heart.  The Apostle Paul encourages the church at Rome with this truth,

But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed,  (Romans 6:17)

Is your life characterized by compliance or obedience from the heart?  In Jesus’ day, the Pharisees were experts in outward compliance but Jesus castigated them because their hearts were far from God.  They simply complied with the law to look good for others.  Jesus teaches that our obedience is a demonstration of our love for God,

If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.  (John 14:15)

Notice that this a conditional sentence, Jesus does not make me obey, it is my responsibility.  If I do not obey it’s because someone else is more important than Jesus – usually I’m the culprit.  When I obey however, I fulfill my spiritual destiny.

When God’s love fills my heart my “have to” (compliance) is transformed into a “want to” (obedience).  May our desire become that of the Psalmist,

I delight to do Your will, O my God; your Law is within my heart.  (Psalm 40:8)

 

RickAssociate Pastor – Discipleship.  The Church at LifePark

Professor of Discipleship, Columbia International University

Follow me on twitter:  rickhiggins5

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