Tagged ‘Galatians‘

Olympic Moments

It was a stunning moment in the U.S. Olympic trials on June 23, 2016. The Men’s 10 meter platform synchronized diving trial was dominated by Olympic Gold medalist David Boudia and his young, relatively inexperienced teammate Steele Johnson. Their six dives electrified the audience. They scored higher than previous Olympic Gold medal teams, setting up an expectation for a possible medal in this year’s Olympics in Rio. After completing their final dive, Steele Johnson swam to the side of the pool and wept with the realization that he had made the Olympic team. His family wept. Many were deeply moved by the moment.

Finally, the NBC commentator interviewed the diving duo. Turning to Johnson, she said, “Steele Johnson, you are going to the Olympics. We see the emotion. Describe what’s going through your mind.”

Johnson shook his head in disbelief. “I’ve been working for this dream for a long time,” he said, “and honestly I never thought the day would come. And I feel like I just blinked and now I’m on the 2016 Olympic Team. But it’s cool because, this is exciting, this is fun, but this is not where my identity is going to be for the rest of my life. Yeah, I’m Steele Johnson the Olympian, but at the same time I’m here to love and serve Christ. My identity is rooted in Christ and not in the flips we’re doing.”

This was the moment. I sat stunned on my couch staring at the screen. I couldn’t believe what I had just heard.

Now please hear me on this. I don’t think it is necessary to give a shout out to Jesus when you win. I believe you can glorify God just by doing something well. It was a bonus that Johnson said what he did. What I loved was that he had figured out where his identity lies. Have you?

Where is your identity? Think about this for a moment. Is your identity based on your job? Is it based on your accomplishments? Is it in being a mother or father? Is it in being a husband or a wife? Is it in being young and healthy? Is it based on being an athlete? Where do you find your identity?

If you are a follower of Jesus, your identity is that of a son of God. You have been adopted into the family of God. As such, you are a son or daughter of God. This is who you are. You have all the rights and privileges of being a child of the most powerful, loving father ever. Paul wrote about our identity as children of God in his letter to the church in Galatia. “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God” (Galatians 4:4-7, ESV).

That is an exciting truth! In fact, it is so exciting that Satan will try to get you to question your identity at every turn. He even tried to get Jesus to question his identity as a son of God. Can you imagine?

Jesus had just been baptized by John. “When Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased’” (Matthew 3:16-17, ESV).

God made his announcement to the world. “This is my Son!” What happened next? Jesus fasted for 40 days. Then the enemy came to him to tempt him. Notice how the enemy begins. The very first thing Satan does is to try to get Jesus to question his identity. He says, “If you are the Son of God…” (Matthew 4:3, ESV). It is remarkable. God had just said, “This is my Son,” and yet the first words out of Satan’s mouth were, “If you are the Son of God….” If our enemy would attack Jesus in this way, don’t you think it is possible that he will attack you and me in the same way? And why would he choose to attack this aspect of our lives?

Our identity as sons of God is crucial because all the rights and privileges of a son are granted to us by God. We are no longer in bondage to the enemy. We are not slaves. We are children of God. Satan has no authority over us. We have been set free! When you understand that you are a son of God, then the ups and downs in life have little significance. It truly matters not if you win or lose, you are a son of God.

It may surprise you to know that my identity is not in being an itinerant minister or a conference speaker or an author. My identity is not in my songwriting or singing. My identity is solely as a son of God. Period. The beautiful thing is that when my identity is rooted in Christ alone, no one and nothing can take it away. I am his and he is mine. Nothing can change that. The world may change. My position may change. I may grow old and feeble. But my identity stays the same.

When the Olympics begin in the coming days, we will gather with friends to watch and cheer on our home town heroes. Some will receive medals for their achievements. Others will receive hardly a mention, only to fade into obscurity in coming days. But for those who understand where their identity lies, the true reward will always be held closely. “I am a son of God.”

That, my friends, is an Olympic moment.

This article was originally published in the August 2016 Newsletter.

Two Steps for Total Transformation

I’m curious how you are doing with your New Year’s resolutions. It has been about four weeks since New Year’s Day, a time when many set new goals for the year ahead. However, if you are like me, most of us have already failed to accomplish what we hoped to do. Maybe you set a goal for growth in your spiritual life. Perhaps you set a goal regarding losing weight or getting in shape. Chances are, by this point the goal has already been abandoned. But what if there were a way that your life could change, and then the change would last? There is a way, but it may surprise you how the process actually works. At the end of this article, I’ll give you the two simple steps that will totally transform your life.

We live in a culture today where the media shouts at us, “Yes! You can change your life! In fact, I’ll show you how to transform your life in just 21 days! All for just three easy payments of $19.99!” What usually gets transformed is your wallet. The only thing that changes is that you become a victim of slick marketing. The exercise equipment you bought to get in shape ends up morphing into an expensive clothes rack, taking up space in the corner of a bedroom. Despite our best intentions and our best efforts, at the end of the day most of us find ourselves pretty much the same person we were when we started.

The problem is that we are trying to change ourselves through human effort. As I read the Scriptures, I haven’t found anyone who was transformed through human effort. Instead, lasting change is always the result of the work of the Holy Spirit.

So how do we change? Let me share an example from my own life.

Many years ago, I felt like God was saying to me, “Tim, you need to become a man of prayer.” At the time, my prayer life consisted of spending about 10 minutes a day praying through my list of people and things I was praying for. I had to admit that 10 minutes a day probably didn’t qualify me as a man of prayer. My first instinct was to discipline myself into becoming a man of prayer. Normally, my plan would look something like this: I would set a goal to pray five minutes more today than I did yesterday. Then tomorrow I would pray five minutes more than I prayed today. The day after that I would pray five minutes more than the day before, and so on. Over time I would become a man of prayer! Wohoo! Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. When I do this, invariably I end up a few months later the same as I was when I started. Does this sound familiar?

What I did instead was to yield my life to the Holy Spirit in this area. I said, “I agree with you God, I need to become a man of prayer. Holy Spirit, today I pray that you would help me to become a man of prayer.” Then I got up the next day, and I said, “Holy Spirit, today I pray that you would help me to become a man of prayer.” Then I got up the next day, and I said, “Holy Spirit, today I pray that you would help me to become a man of prayer.” You get the idea. After praying this way for about three months, one day I suddenly realized that my prayer life had completely changed. My prayer life had become a conversation with God. I wanted to spend time talking with him about anything, even things that weren’t really that important. I wanted to spend time with him because of my relationship with him. It was the beginning of what I like to call, “having coffee with God,” something that is a cornerstone of my life today.

The point is, I didn’t change by my human effort; I changed because God changed me through the work of the Holy Spirit.

So how does this look in the area of personal transformation in the physical sense? The vast majority of resolutions this time of year have to do with some sort of transformation of our physical bodies. How does the work of the Holy Spirit apply to that?

Consider what Paul wrote in his letter to the church in Galatia. He said, “Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do” (Galatians 5:16-17, ESV).

The realm of the physical world collides with the realm of the spiritual world. Paul goes on to say, “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19-21, ESV).

That’s a pretty scary list. It is scary because Paul says that the people who practice these things should not expect to inherit the kingdom of God. That’s serious. But there is hope! He continues by saying, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22, ESV).

If you are like me, the word “fruit” in this passage conjures up images of apples and oranges. But that is not what Paul is talking about. In the original language, the word that is used for fruit could be translated “result”, and I think it is a clearer translation. Paul is saying that the result of the work of the Holy Spirit in my life is a life that is characterized by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. It is the result of the Spirit, not my human effort! This is important stuff! But notice, tucked away at the end of that list is a key word in the area of our physical lives – self-control. Self-control in the physical realm is actually the result of a Spirit-controlled life. Self-control is the result of being Spirit-controlled.

When I try to change through my own effort, eventually I end up right back where I started. But, when I yield my life to the work of the Holy Spirit, then my life is changed for good.

I told you earlier I would give you two simple steps for total transformation. Well, here they are.

Step One: Yield your life to the work of the Holy Spirit.
Step Two: Repeat step one

If your resolution had something to do with your physical body, my suggestion for you is this: Start your day with a conversation with God. As you speak with him, say something like this, “Holy Spirit, today I pray that you would help me to have self-control.” Then get up tomorrow and pray the same thing. Then the day after that, do the same thing. Continue daily yielding your life to the work of the Holy Spirit. When you do, in time, God will transform your life.

This truth about being transformed by the work of the Holy Spirit applies to every area of my life. It is far more than just a weight loss gimmick, it is the way God changes us into the image of Jesus Christ. As a result of the Spirit, all of these characteristics are fleshed out in my life. I become a man who is characterized by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. My life ends up looking more like Jesus every day.

Friend, I want you to see your life completely transformed by God. Your life will change when you yield your life to the work of the Holy Spirit on a day-to-day basis. When you do, then you will see the result you have longed for – a life that is completely transformed.

Yield your life to the work of the Spirit. Repeat. There, I just saved you three easy payments of $19.99.

This article was originally published in the February 2015 Newsletter.

Pray and do not lose heart

This morning I was reading through Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth. As I was reading, my attention was drawn to a simple statement that was repeated a couple of times. It was this: “Do not lose heart.”

It was one of those moments when I felt the Holy Spirit was reaching out through the pages of his Word with a message specifically for me. Lately I’ve seen God at work in powerful ways. At the same time, I have had moments when the pressures of ministry have gotten me down. I have had times when the work of ministry as an Elder in my home church has left me discouraged. Privately, I carry a heavy heart for the state of the Church in North America. I long to see revival. I long to see churches functioning in a Biblical fashion. Sometimes I reach the point where I begin to doubt if we will ever see change, and I begin to question if it is really worth fighting for. I’ve prayed about it at length. It consumes the vast majority of my thoughts throughout the day, and sometimes I have found it difficult to go to sleep at night because my mind is occupied with thoughts in this regard.

In that context, when the Holy Spirit directed me to his Word with a simple message to not lose heart, I listened! Then I looked for other places in Scripture where that same message was repeated. What I found was very interesting.

One day Jesus was teaching the people gathered around him. As he spoke, he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.

“In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man,” he said. “And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while the judge refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’”

And the Lord said, “Take note what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily.”

The men gathered around looked at one another as Jesus paused. The parable was finished, but Jesus was not finished speaking. He had one final question to ask the audience, a single question that cut to the heart of the parable he was sharing. At last, he spoke.

“Nevertheless,” he asked, “when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Adapted from Luke 18:1-8, ESV).

This singular thought is the same question God asks of you and me today. “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth? After all is said and done, do you have faith in God? Do you have faith that he is in control? Do you trust him?”

Please note that the focus of this parable is not the widow lady. The parable is not teaching that we need to keep pestering God to get what we want! Instead, the parable shows the difference between the unrighteous judge and the righteous judge. The contrast is in how each judge responds. Jesus is using the parable to teach us about the character of God, the righteous judge. He is trustworthy, and we need to trust that when we pray, he hears us. Even when the answer to our prayers seems to be delayed, he is in fact working speedily on our behalf. He doesn’t put us off. He doesn’t require us to pester him into submission. Our responsibility is to pray with confidence that God has heard us and not to lose heart in the waiting. That is the point of this parable, that we should pray and not lose heart.

In the end, the question God asks all of us is this: Do you trust me? Do you have faith in me? Are you willing to pray, to wait, to believe – even against all odds, confident that I am in control?

Consider also these verses:

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18, ESV).

“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9, ESV).

“As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good” (2 Thessalonians 3:13, ESV).

“Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God” (2 Corinthians 4:1-2, ESV).

I’m confident the circumstances I am dealing with are part of the overall work that God is doing in my life and ministry. You are likely in circumstances far different from mine, but the tendency to lose heart is the same. I offer this encouragement to you. Whatever you are facing, pray and do not lose heart! Have faith in God! Chose to have confidence in the character of God. He is good. He is kind. He is in control. Even as we wait for the Son of God to return, we will have faith in God!

In the end, God is the one who is responsible to bring about the changes we long for. I am responsible to pray and not lose heart.

This article was originally published in the October 2014 Newsletter.