Tuesday, July 31, 2012

We Become what we Worship

"When I found Israel, it was like finding grapes in the desert; when I saw your ancestors, it was like seeing the early fruit on the fig tree. But when they came to Baal Peor, they consecrated themselves to that shameful idol and became as vile as the thing they loved.” – Hosea 9:10

We become what we worship. This is a biblical principle and we see it displayed in this passage. God is bringing up Israel’s history of idolatry. I love the words used to describe their beginning, “grapes in the desert.” They started well. They were refreshing to God. Out of the entire world, they were a special people dedicated to worshipping Yahweh. But that changed. Israel abandoned their call and worshipped pagan gods of the nations around them. The poetic wording of Hosea describing this event should not be missed, “(they) became as vile as the thing they loved.”
Throughout the Bible, God presents pagan idols as gods with no power – gods without ears, gods without eyes. Those who worship such things eventually become like them. They cannot see or understand, they become blind to the one true God. Their gods are evil beings (most with a demonic force behind them) and thus, in worshipping them, they become evil.

1 john 2:15 tells us that the world has a philosophy comprised of three all-consuming passions: pleasure, greed, and pride. These are the gods of American culture. Our society is filled with people who give their lives for more comfort, for more toys, and for more prestige. That is the bottom line for many of us because we think these things will make us happy. America loves pleasure. Why is it that the pornography industry makes more money than the NFL, NBA and MLB combined? We love greed – always thinking the next purchase will somehow add worth or enjoyment to who we are. We love pride to the point of becoming obsessed with what people say about us or who we can manipulate to do our will. The common denominator in these three things is extreme narcissism. Right and wrong are subjugated to whether or not it benefits us. We, not Yahweh, become the center of our universe.
Seeking pleasure, greed and pride is antithetical to the kingdom of God. Jesus promises that at some point in time, we will be asked to step out of our comfort zone. At some time, we will be asked to give up some or all of our possessions. At some time, we will be asked to purposefully reject a position of power and embrace the role of a servant.

The beauty of this principle is that it works in a positive way as well. Yahweh is good. He is merciful and righteous. He is beautiful and majestic, benevolent and kind. When we worship Him, we become like Him. As we love Him above all else, His ways become our ways, His thoughts our thoughts. In listening to the all-wise one, we become wise. In loving the all-good, we become good.
Humanity was made in the image of God. As we embrace the Son of God, we fulfill our calling to reflect the glory and character of God in our world. So let’s check our hearts. Take time to ask God to reveal to us what we truly love. If it’s not Him, let’s repent. Because we become what we worship.

Monday, July 30, 2012


“’Israel cries out to me, 'Our God, we acknowledge you!' But Israel has rejected what is good;” – Hosea 8:2-3

Dissonance. It’s a word describing two opposing or clashing things happing concurrently. In music, a dissonant chord would be like hitting a black key right next to a white key on the piano. It makes you wince. Something is not right. The two notes don’t go together.

In this passage, Israel is living a dissonant lifestyle. Throughout the book of Hosea, God is describing the depths of evil to which His people have plunged. The funny thing is, they don’ see it! They cry out to God, “we acknowledge you”, yet at the same time they reject what is good. Do you see the problem? They say one thing but do another. That’s dissonance.

This hits way too close to home with me. Too often I disconnect knowing the right thing to do and actually doing it. I am content to read my Bible and make some mental notes about the right way to live and then go about my day and forget to put it into practice. I claim to love Jesus yet yell at my kids. I claim to have faith in God, yet refuse to step out of my comfort zone and put myself in a situation in which I have to actually trust Him. I claim that God’s kingdom is the only thing that’s valuable yet rarely open my mouth to tell anybody about it. Too often, I live in dissonance.

Jesus told a story in Luke 6 about the foolish man and the wise man. The fool built his house on sand while the wise one took the time to dig deep and anchor his house on bedrock. Can you guess which house stood firm when a raging storm and flash flood arose? The houses represent our lives. We all build our lives upon something. When explaining the story, Jesus said that both foolish people and wise people hear God’s word, the difference is that wise people actually take time to put God’s word into practice. The sad thing is that Jesus tells us many are going to hear His words, yet perish because they didn’t actually do them. They “fool”ed themselves into thinking that since they heard it, they got it.

What makes all the difference is action and time. It’s takes time to put God’s word into action. It takes more than intention, it takes a gameplan. We need more than just a list of what to do, we need to know how we are going to do it. What practical steps are we going to take today to put God’s word into practice. Then do it. Start small. A lot of small things often add up to bigger things. Yes, it’s going to take time, but according to Jesus, that effort is what separates the wise from the foolish.

So let’s not just be hearers of the word, but doers. Make sure that God’s word is sinking down deep into our hearts and bearing fruit in our lives. Let’s stop living dissonant lives where what we preach is different than what we practice. Instead of dissonance, let’s try harmony.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

God Remembers

“but they do not realize that I remember all their evil deeds. Their sins engulf them; they are always before me.” – Hosea 7:2

Do I live in such a way believing that God sees my every word, action and deed? Do I take the time to live in the reality that God know everything about me? That He is watching me? That He never forgets our actions – good or evil?

The writer of Hebrews reminds us, “there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” (Heb 4:13) We can never hide from God. We can never go off radar. God being everywhere present is a part of His nature. It’s a part of His glory. There are no secrets to God. Did it ever occur to you that it never occurs to God? Not only does He see the present, but He can equally see the past and future. This is His glory and we ought to worship Him for it.

This is both a terrifying thing and a wonderful thing. It’s terrifying for the unbeliever. Because He is a just judge, no sin will go unpunished. God says vengeance belongs to Him (Rom 12), there will come a day in which He will judge the world and its inhabitants. Solomon said, “Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man’s all. For God will bring every work into judgment, Including every secret thing, Whether good or evil.” (Eccles 12:13-14)

For those who have run for refuge to the cross of Jesus Christ, we have been forgiven and changed. God’s Spirit lives in us and is working out that salvation in every aspect of our lives. Because of our faith and repentance towards Jesus Christ, we no longer have to fear condemnation on judgment day. God will declare our sin as covered by the blood of the Messiah’s sacrifice. God has promised never to remember our sins against us again. That’s good news!

But that’s not all, God also promises to reward us for our obedience to Him. (The obedience that He Himself creates within us by the Spirit!) For us, God’s memory is a good thing. God never forgets our struggle to follow Jesus. He never forgets the little times we choose to obey when no one else sees. He never forgets one act of love or kindness. He sees and knows. He promises that nothing we suffer in this life as a Christian will compare to the reward He’s preparing for us when His kingdom comes.

So, consciously remember to walk in the light of God’s presence today. Believe and act that each choice has eternal consequences. Because it does!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Missing the Point

“For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.” – Hosea 6:6

Jesus quoted this passage twice in the gospel of Matthew because of its significance to His day. I believe each generation of Christianity faces the challenge of this verse. Too often, I find it easy to put my Christianity on auto-pilot and simply do the motions each week. This is exactly what Jesus and Hosea was warning God’s people against. Outwardly, they did the ceremonies, the rituals. Technically, they were doing what God had commanded. But there is more to Christianity than simply a to-do list. Just as Paul said there is more to love than simply acts of self-sacrifice (1 Cor 13).

In Hosea’s day, the people still did the sacrifices, they offered God the sheep from their herds. In their minds, they were worshipping God. But while they praised God, their hearts were far from Him. They were not committed individually or as a nation to put God’s ways first in their day to day life. One moment, they would offer a sacrifice up to God and the next, they would cheat the poor and oppress the less fortunate. They saw their duty to God as finished when they walked away from the altar. They thought they had God fooled.

In Jesus’ day, the Pharisees were hounding Jesus’ for spending time ministering to the spiritual needs of tax collectors and sinners (those whom they deemed too far gone for God’s grace – the untouchables). While they so quickly shut people out of God’s kingdom, they would condemn Jesus for breaking their tedious interpretations of the Mosaic law. They couldn’t see the discrepancy between hating their fellow man and overzealously defending some minute, blown-out-of-proportion command.

Both sets of groups were missing the point. It’s so easy to do. Christianity becomes a checklist rather than a heart in love with our Creator. We limit salvation to a set of rules rather than a relationship with the one who made them. We claim to love God, yet that love doesn’t make any difference in how we live, how we treat out spouse, how we spend our money, how we use our time. We use God for our own purposes (usually as some form of a glorified Santa Clause), instead of laying down our lives before Him to be used for His purposes.

Are we fooling ourselves? Are we so busy doing “religious” things without taking the time to stop and truly consider the call of Jesus even in our most menial tasks. Nothing in our life is secular, everything is sacred. Everything. Every bite, every word, every chore is something to be done by the power of the Holy Spirit and for the glory of God.

I remind you, as I am also reminding myself. Stop playing a game. Go big. Dare to step out of your comfort zone today and follow Jesus into the unknown. That’s where we experience his power. That’s where His grace meets our inability and transforms us into agents of His salvation.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Running to the Healer

"When Ephraim saw his sickness, and Judah his sores, then Ephraim turned to Assyria, and sent to the great king for help. But he is not able to cure you, not able to heal your sores.” – Hosea 5:13

How many times do we bandage spiritual wounds with physical Band-Aids? In this chapter, God is depicted as a moth, as a rot, as a tearing lion. Each image conjures the concept of God as judge. God is acting in faithfulness to His covenant in Deuteronomy. God’s people have prostituted themselves out to false gods the surrounding nations. God, in His righteousness, is disciplining them for their sin.

We must never forget that while God ought to be the ultimate object of our love, He must also the ultimate object of our fear. Jesus told us, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matt 10:28). How many times, I plunge into sin without the slightest fear of God’s discipline?

For Israel, God’s discipline involved letting foreign nations overrun their borders and cause havoc among the people. But in response to God’s judgment, what did they do? They ran to another pagan king for help. They pay off a nearby superpower to fight for them against their oppressors. It’s an exercise in missing the point. It is God who is fighting against them, yet they don’t turn to God for healing.

Let’s bring this home a bit. How often do we try to solve our own sins by turning to our own solutions. To solve our finance problems, we would rather try to supplement our income or cheat on our taxes than confront our greed. To solve our marriage problems, we would rather make an “if only” list (“if only my spouse would do this…if only my spouse would realize that…, etc”) than confront our own selfishness. How many times do we crack open a magazine (or do a web search) for help rather than the Bible.

True humility and brokenness sees our sin for the corruption of our soul that it is. It comes to God for help to fix it. Yes, God’s process is often painful. God always tells us the truth. God doesn’t let us coddle our sin, He demands we forsake it. Arriving at this point is never easy because sin makes us natural control freaks. However, when we realize that we have made a mess of our lives and the only Jesus can heal us, we have reached the point where God’s grace can make its move. Instead of running to substitutes, remember to run to the One who can actually make a difference. In the end, you will find that God’s ways are much betterr than doing things our way. Why? Because He’s just that smart.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

God Laughs

“Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed, saying, ‘Let us break their chains and throw off their shackles.’ The One enthroned in heaven laughs…” – Psalms 2:1-4

What an incredible picture. The psalmist describes the entire world, with its leaders, with its weapons, with its best intellects, with its cutting edge technology, gathering together to rebel against the rule of God. They have bought into the lie of the serpent in the garden, “You will be like God”. They long to throw off any accountability to the Almighty and His Messiah (This is one of those psalms which is also a prophecy about the future coming of Jesus Christ).

I don’t know about you, but if I were God that picture would scare me. For that matter, I get anxious when just one or two people are out to get me. Too often the fear of what people think about me paralyzes my ability to boldly follow Jesus Christ. But God responds in a completely different way.

This passage reminds me of the one of the stories of Elisha in the 2 Kings 6. Because he was a prophet, he could predict for the king of Israel the troop movements of the kingdom of Aram (who was at war with Israel). The Aramean king found out that Elisha was informing on him so he sent his army to surround Elisha’s house. While his servant was freaking out, Elisha calmly asked God to open his servant’s eyes. At that moment, Elisha’s servant saw the armies of heaven in all their glory and splendor filling the heavens. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them,” Elisha commented.

I also think of Jesus talking with his disciples in the garden. When the soldiers came to arrest Him, his disciples resisted and in response, Jesus told them to stop. “Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matt 26:53) These verses show us that God is not worried at all about the evil of our world.

In response to such open, blatant rebellion, God…laughs! He scoffs at the utter ridiculousness of his creation having any power or authority over Him. He spoke them into existence, a mere word would snuff them out again. In fact, Jesus is described in Colossians as the sustainer of our world. All God has to do is stop – take a break, cease to give - and everything would come undone.

These passages teach us that even in the darkest moments of our lives, the question is not, “God, can you?” but “God will you? We must never doubt God’s ability. That is never in question. When those times of difficultly come, the question is “God what is your will in response to this crisis?” This is another way of saying (as Jesus taught us), “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done.” Sometimes God will do something miraculous – like take the situation away; sometimes the miracle is giving you strength to endure. We ought to trust in God’s love, God’s care, and God’s faithfulness to bring about His saving purposes in our world. Unlike the wicked pagans described in Psalms two, the people of God joyfully submit their futures, desires, longings and wellbeing to the One who is all-wise and all-powerful. The One enthroned in heaven.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Knowledge of God

“My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge. ‘Because you have rejected knowledge, I also reject you as my priests; because you have ignored the law of your God, I also will ignore your children’. The more the priests increased, the more they sinned against me; they exchanged their glorious God for something disgraceful. They feed on the sins of my people and relish their wickedness. And it will be: Like people, like priests. I will punish both of them for their ways and repay them for their deeds.” – Hosea 4:6-9

What is the one thing which has the ability to destroy God’s people? There might many answers to this question. There are lots of sins which can tear God’s church apart: gossip, bitterness, anger, etc. But most of the sins we might think of are fairly normal in the course of church life. After all, each of us is on a journey of sanctification, a journey of leaving our sinful habits behind and becoming like Jesus. As long as there are new Christians being saved and coming into the church, these “common” sins will always be around. A mature church knows how to handle these sins and help others recover from them. However, some things are very hard to recover from. There is one sure way to destroy a church - take away their knowledge of God.

You can’t worship what you don’t know. You can’t follow what you don’t understand. You can’t become like what you have never heard. That’s what happened in ancient Israel. The leaders – the prophets and priests - stopped proclaiming the law of God. As people forgot who God was and what God had done for them, they naturally gravitated towards the wicked ways (of worship and ethics) of the pagans around them.

When scripture stops being the focus of God’s people, we are setting ourselves up for failure. I am so grateful to belong to a church where our pastor intentionally preaches through passages of scripture and explains them to our people. This is a treasure we should not hold lightly. The Bible is like a mirror which shows us who we are and who we need to become. Imagine in real life what we would look like after a couple of days of not looking in the mirror! Just as we would eventually become physically unkempt, we would become spiritually unkempt without the Bible.

As mentioned above, much of the responsibility for this emphasis depends on our leaders. True spiritual leaders proclaim an accurate picture of God and then exhort the people to align their lives according to His ways. But the exact opposite was happening in Israel. Notice the phrase, “Like people, like priest.” God’s leaders were following the ways of the people. How sad. The passage says, “They feed on the sins my people.” This possibly alludes to the fact that when people would bring a sin offering, the priests would sacrifice a part of it and then eat the rest. The bottom line: the more people sinned, the more they got to eat. So for them, sin became a means to more food.
In closing, I fear that the greatest tragedy of this generation might be that spiritual leaders in America be tempted to preach philosophy, psychology, and five steps to a better this or that, rather than proclaim God’s message, God’s character, God’s ways and God’s purposes. Why? Because that’s what people want. We would rather have our sin coddled than convicted. We would rather feel good than become good. It is a sad day when pastors chose against preaching the Bible and begin preaching something else because it will allow them to keep their jobs, or “grow their church”, or make them more popular, etc.

Pray that God will make us and keep us people of His word.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

"Go, love again."

“The LORD said to me, ‘Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another man and is an adulteress. Love her as the LORD loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes.’” – Hosea 3:1

I can’t imagine what Hosea felt as God uttered these words to him, “Go, show your love to your wife again.” The wife who had betrayed him. The wife who had left him for another man. The woman who scorned his affections. I don’t know if Hosea had loved his wife the way I love mine, but I can imagine the pain and anger he must have felt over that love being rejected. Don’t miss that little word, “go”. Hosea had to make an effort to bring his wayward wife back. The passage goes on to tell that he had to buy her back from the slave market (or pimp) which her promiscuous journey had imprisoned her. She is the one who had left, yet he is the one having to pay the price.

Why would God do this to his prophet? He wanted to dramatize His unfailing love for Israel. When we imagine the pain of rejection Hosea felt, we can imagine the pain God feels when we reject His joy for the temporary pleasures of this world. Some theologians try to paint God as impassible – that’s a fancy word for unfeeling. The idea is that all pain or sorrow comes from a sense of loss, which ultimately comes from an unmet need. They logically deduce that since God has no needs, then God cannot feel pain or sorrow. But that’s not what the Bible tells us about God. God grieves over our sin. He is angry we have spurned His goodness.

Despite the injury we have done, God acts toward us in love. He moves to redeem us – buy us back. Through our idolatry, we have amassed this colossal debt of sin, which Jesus Christ has taken upon Himself. “Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering…he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities.” (Isaiah 53:4-5) Though we deserve judgment, God would rather take the pain upon Himself through the cross and thereby release us.  

The passage paints the idea of God loving us while we are in the act of loving another. And that’s exactly what Paul says in Romans, that while we were sinners Christ died for us. We carry good news: God doesn’t just love those who are good, He loves the wicked as well. We all once were wicked, we have only become good through the transformation of the Spirit in our lives. So let’s reflect on God’s incredible kindness to us in Jesus Christ. Let’s be quick to imitate His love to those who have hurt us. We have been given an incredible gift: grace. Let’s pass it on today.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Who is the Source? - identifying idolatry in our lives

“Their mother has been unfaithful and has conceived them in disgrace. She said, 'I will go after my lovers, who give me my food and my water, my wool and my linen, my olive oil and my drink.'…She has not acknowledged that I was the one who gave her the grain, the new wine and oil, who lavished on her the silver and gold — which they used for Baal.” – Hosea 2:5-8

Idolatry is placing our hope in anything other than God. In this passage, God is likening Israel to an unfaithful wife who is prostituting herself out to the gods of foreign nations. The imagery is provocative and carries high shock value. While it beautifully depicts God’s plans to break down and rebuild Israel into a nation whom He blesses abundantly, I couldn’t help but notice this simple verse which defines idolatry as the evil it is.

Idolatry substitutes God for something else. It attributes what only God can do to something else. Our modern culture scoffs at the archaic idea of bowing before a hand carved image and worshipping it as a supreme being. However, the reason why ancient cultures did so was to manipulate their circumstances. The ancients believed that these “god’s” actually carried authority over their crops, lands, fertility, rains, etc. They knew that if they wanted any chance at succeeding in life, they must please the local gods.

In this light, idolatry is not so foreign to us. Too often I find myself anxiously trying to manipulate my circumstances, massage the checkbook or credit card, make a social connection here which I hope will give me an advantage later, etc. I attribute my circumstances to what my hands alone can accomplish. In many ways, we become our own idol. Others tend to look to friends or spouses or children to meet our needs, financial and/or emotional. We rest our hope for a satisfying life in the words and actions of a loved one. The result can be catastrophic when (as it always does) that person makes a mistake or doesn’t come through for us. We are crushed. They have become our idols.

The Bible tells us that it is God who gives us the ability to make wealth. It is God who gives to us life and breath and all things for our enjoyment. Job said it was God who gives and takes away. That’s why Jesus told us not to worry about temporary things like food and clothes. We are to simply present our needs to God and seek His kingdom first. God will take care of us. Does this mean that we don’t have to do anything? No. But we relinquish control of the results and remember that unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain that build it.

Take some time today to thank God for all that He has given you. Present your needs to Him and cast your cares upon Him. Believe that He cares for you. Believe that He desires to give good gifts to His children. Ask Him to point out any habits rooted in an anxious desire to control our lives. Ask Him to reveal any actions which we refuse to bring under His direction. Tell Him that all of your hope, all your desire is in Him alone. If you can’t honestly pray that, ask Him to change your heart so you can.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Wrath and Mercy

“…you are not my people, and I am not your God. ‘Yet the Israelites will be like the sand on the seashore, which cannot be measured or counted. In the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,' they will be called 'children of the living God.'” – Hosea 1:9-10

Often God is depicted either as a God of love or a God of wrath. We tend to approach God under one of these two views. The truth is that these should always be held in tension. God is both. Whenever we abandon one for the other, we our day to day Christianity suffers. When we elevate the God of wrath over love, we begin to act out of fear and lose any sense of joy because we feel we aren’t good enough to please Him. Or we tend to think that we alone can please Him and condemn anyone who doesn’t live up to our standards. On the other hand, when we elevate the God of love over wrath, we tend to stop treating sin seriously. We lose the distinction between righteous living and unrighteous living.

In this passage God is very angry with his people, even to the point of disowning them for a time. The scariest thing that God can do to someone is simply leave them alone. When the Bible explicitly tells us that God is the source of all joy, life, and peace, the worst thing that God could do is simply let our will be done. Romans 1 pictures the wrath of God as God giving people over to their own ways. It’s amazing that God does this in stages, not all at once. God is not quick to judge, He is slow to anger. He pauses to give us time to repent. In the book of Ezekiel, when God’s glory leaves the temple, God leaves in stages. Almost like he is hesitant to go, but must.

With all people, there is a point at which God stops calling out to us and allows our hearts to be hardened. That’s why the author of Hebrews tells us to obey in the day that you hear God’s voice. We don’t know when might be our last chance to hear and repent. Jesus warned his disciples to be careful how we hear God’s word, if we don’t listen with a heart to obey, then our ability to even hear God’s word again might be taken away.

However, God’s judgment is always mixed with mercy. Even while abandoning his people, he promises a return. Judgment is not the end. God is not through with his people. He will be faithful to his covenant promises. He will bring back His people from exile and restore them. The apostle Paul uses this passage to describe the inclusion of the gentiles into the people of God through the gospel of Jesus Christ. The incredible thing about God’s judgment is that often God uses it as a door to new beginnings and new possibilities. He is a God of wrath and a God of mercy. These truths must be held in tension. 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

How Do I Know if I Love God?

“this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome” – 1 John 5:3

How do I know if I love God? Is it a feeling? Is it an emotion? Is it that sense of awe I get when I see a sunrise or enter into an incredible worship experience on Sunday morning? None of these things are bad. In fact, love without feeling is not true love. Paul said as much in 1 Corinthians 13. We can... do all kinds of sacrificial things and still have no love.

However, the apostle John gives us a poignant description of what it means to love God. To love God is to obey God. There are no shorts cuts around holiness. The God of the New Testament is the same God of the Old Testament. It’s not like there used to be a bunch of rules, but now that Jesus as come we can simply coast on grace. Salvation is not simply about God forgiving us of our sin, it’s about God making us into new creations.

How does that happen? It starts when we put our faith in Jesus Christ. At that moment we are indwelt by God’s Holy Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit creates in use the desire and ability to obey Jesus. Notice I said “desire”, not just ability. The very essence of genuine salvation is that our “wanter” changes. What we crave and desire changes. That’s what John means by “his commands are not burdensome”. Let me put it this way. If someone commanded me to eat a tub of Blue Bell ice cream, their command would not be burdensome to me. Why? Because the command lines up with what I already desire. I love ice cream, for someone to make me eat ice cream wouldn’t be a burden, it would be a joy!

In the same way, when we are reborn by the Holy Spirit, Jesus still expects us to obey Him. But it’s an obedience that’s rooted in joy. True Christians long to be like Jesus and want to fall in line with his wise directives. So the question today is, do I really love God? Have I let the other desires and passion crowd out my love for Jesus so that I no longer hear the promptings of God’s Spirit? Am I taking time to feed on Christ’s word and build a relationship with Him through prayer? I’ve often found that time spent at Jesus’ feet is directly correlated with my obedience to Him – and ultimately my love.

Against Induvidualism

“We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.” – 1 John 4:6

In today’s society of American individualism, it’s easy to hold our personal opinions more highly than the majority. In fact, post-modernism goes even farther by saying that two opposite opinions can equally be true.

But, John says something very different. Ideas and doctrines are either true or false. Not only that, but behind each idea, there is a spirit: the Holy Spirit or a demonic spirit. How can we know the difference? John explains that the truth resides within the church congregation because the church body is those who are born of God and have God’s Spirit indwelling them.

John’s point is that individuals who spout off their own novel theological ideas are dangerous because truth dwells within the community of believers, not within one individual. The early church father, Tertullian claimed that the scriptures belonged to the church and only within the church could they rightly be interpreted.

That is why it’s important to study God’s word with other believers and under the guidance of a local church. Christianity is not just about you and God, it’s about God and His people. You are not the church. You are one part the church. You need other Christians and they need you.