How is your walk with the LORD?

 

I hear people asking each other, “How is your walk with the LORD?” I love when this is how we inquire of each other’s well being! Our pastor Mike Baker at Eastview likens our journey to a marathon as does another Pastor you probably know (1Corinthians 9:24). The key thing here in my estimation is the ‘with’ part. We do not try walk and run to win on our own. As we go we have a Companion, a Comforter, a Helper, who strengthens us (Ephesians 3:16). Today’s reading in Mark 9 had me thinking a lot about walking with Christ.In yesterday’s reading Mr. LaFrance asked several great questions. One that stood out to me, “Do I act in a way that I would in the presence of the Lord?” This led me to think on several other questions. What would walking with the LORD be like? How would I respond (Mark 9:5)? Would I know what to do (Mark 9:6)?  Would I walk with the LORD or would do my own thing and turn away? God says he is with us (John 14:16, John 14:26) so this is all still relevant today, but what does this all mean to me today? Immediately I began to recall several things.  

Grieving the Spirit. I once heard of a phrase called “grieving the Spirit.” Basically, my understanding is that it is when our thoughts, words and deeds choose and amplify self, we can push the Helper away and we enter into a state of helplessness.

The Fruit of the Spirit. We had a guest preacher at Eastview who helped me understand the proper response to the realization that I had grieved the Spirit. When I had realized that my thoughts, word or deeds had not been in love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, meekness, or temperance, what should I do? I took away a powerful truth from his sermon, I AM the Vine:

“It is the fruit of the Spirit, It is not the fruit of anything you.”

The idea here is simple. If you realize that your thoughts were not longsuffering it is not a matter of getting better at longsuffering. “Mike you need to get better and be more longsuffering” is not the proper response. Instead, in truth, it is a matter of abiding in Christ. Getting closer to Him. He produces the longsuffering. It is the fruit of the Spirit, not of me. Praise God for helping us with this burden (Matthew 11:30)! I can not imagine if it were up to me to get better at all these things.

Running to the cross. I once heard a sermon about what the deceiver wants when we realize our sin. The preacher said the deceiver wants us to feel shame that keeps us separate from God. Like in the garden of Eden he wants us to hide and distance ourselves from God. Actually, the answer and the truth is the opposite. Run to the cross! Run to God! Do everything and anything to get closer to God! Praise God that He bore our iniquities (Isaiah 53:4-5)! Praise God that He invites us to Him. Praise God that He loves us even though we are sinners (Romans 5:8)! Praise God His love is unconditional!

Abiding in Christ. I was in a small group setting once where a friend had a whiteboard and in the middle he wrote the word “God” and drew a circle around it. Then he started asking the group “How can we get closer to God?” The group responded one after another as we started to brainstorm. One person replied, “Reading the Bible.” “Good!” he replied and wrote down, ‘Reading the Bible’ circled it and drew a line to God. Another, responded “Listening to Christian radio”, another “Praying”, each time he wrote down the response circled them and drew a line to God. One after another the group responded and eventually there was a web of thoughts, words, and deeds that helped us abide in Christ:

  • Reading the Bible
  • Listening to Christian radio
  • Listening to the Bible
  • Listening to a sermon
  • Praying with others
  • Praying for others
  • Thinking positive thoughts
  • Encouraging people
  • Being thankful
  • Going last
  • Loving people

Extra Credit

  1. Bring a blank piece of paper to the dinner table and write out God in the middle and circle it.
  2. Ask your family, “How can we get closer to God?” If it helps ask specific questions like “What can we (think/say/do) to get closer to God?” 
  3. Write down everyone’s responses, circling them and drawing a line back to God.
  4. Put it on your fridge.

Extra, Extra Credit

  1. Snap a picture of the drawing, post it on facebook and tag BibleJournal
  2. Consider also the principle of replacement. What are daily habits we have that we can replace to get closer to God? i.e. replacing watching TV with reading the Bible or replacing talk radio with listening to a sermon, etc. Pull it off the fridge and consider this with your family. Check in a few weeks back and ask each other how it is going.

Originally published on BibleJournal.net from July 27th, 2016’s reading: Judges 10–11:11; Acts 14; Jeremiah 23; Mark 9

 

The Gospel is absolutely unique and complete

 

JK’s sermon this Sunday, Victory Realized, made clear the prophecy of the Great White Throne from Revelation 20:11-15; you are in or you are out. The decision is final and perfect. In Mark 2:21-22, Jesus helps the Pharisees along to with this idea. They were struggling. Their religion, passed down from generation to generation, was quite comfortable to them (Luke 5:39). They had it figured out. They lived according to the law of Moses, or at least they thought they did. They certainly had each other thinking they were good to go (Matthew 6:5, Matthew 23:5).  Judaism did not recognize Jesus as the Christ. They were constantly trying to fit what Jesus did in to their ideas of their salvation plan: saved through works. A heart wrenching denial for me to read about (Matthew 23:37). God’s children, His chosen people, chose themselves and their adherence to the law to save themselves (John 12:43). God would you rescue them? Please God?

Jesus was constantly fulfilling their law. The fruit of the Spirit filled it all up (Galatians 5:22-23); check, check, check; and this confused them. They confused the fulfillment of the law with breaking the law (Matthew 5:17). It was as if they never really knew God (John 8:9). It became more and more obvious to those that followed Jesus that the Pharisees did not know the law after all (Matthew 23:24).

In the scripture for today, Jesus had just called Matthew Levi, a despised tax collector that the Pharisees would not associate with, to follow Him as a proclaimer of the Gospel. As if they could not stand this outrage, the followers of the Pharisees challenged Jesus with a question in an attempt to illuminate how He and His followers were out of step with the law. “How come your followers do not fast?” Jesus used one of their manufactured documents to help them understand. The Rabbi’s produced a document called the Megillat Taanit, translated as the scroll of fasting. While Yom Kippur, or day of atonement, was the only prescribed day to fast per the law, and certainly voluntary fasts to accompany life’s circumstances seemed true to the spirit of a true fast, they had manufactured other prescribed fasts. Some even subscribed to a twice a week fast on Tuesday’s and Thursday’s, etc. When they fasted they fasted to please men (Matthew 6:16), they fasted publicly and because of this, this scroll of fasting set out rules that would be sure not to let fasting interrupt with other important celebrations, like a marriage feast. Apparently a public fast meant showing up to a celebration looking disheveled. Perhaps they thought drawing attention to oneself at a celebration centered on someone or something else would be in bad taste.

And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them? as long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days. No man also seweth a piece of new cloth on an old garment: else the new piece that filled it up taketh away from the old, and the rent is made worse. And no man putteth new wine into old bottles: else the new wine doth burst the bottles, and the wine is spilled, and the bottles will be marred: but new wine must be put into new bottles. – Mark 2:19–22

John MacArthur explains it this way in his sermon The Matchless Distinctiveness of the Gospel:

So our Lord is simply saying, in effect, the Messiah’s here, this is not a time to fast. It is completely inappropriate for Jesus’ disciples to fast and moan while He, the long-awaited Messiah is present. He has come. He has arrived this day as He said in the synagogue in Nazareth, the Scripture is fulfilled in your ears, He is present. The fasting of the Pharisees, the fasting of the followers of John the Baptist, that’s what’s out of place, completely out of touch with God’s purpose and what God is doing, completely out of touch with the reality that the Messiah was there.

Jesus makes clear that He was the Christ, He brought with Him a new covenant, and it stood on its own. It could not fit into their ideas of salvation through works. It would break them. It would not work. They were incompatible. So then the decision is yours, do you believe or don’t you? Will you abandon your salvation plan for Christ’s or won’t you (Acts 13:39)? Like the pearl of great price, Jesus’s invitation requires you to sell everything to buy it. All your beliefs of how you might be saved, how you ought to live, what is right and wrong, who you are and who God is, what is the truth and what are lies. You have to give it all up, have faith and trust in God. Are you in or are you out?

 

Originally published on BibleJournal.net from July 20th, 2016’s reading: Judges 3; Acts 7; Jeremiah 16; Mark 2