1 Corinthians 13:1-3

"If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing."

Thursday, October 12, 2017

A Christian’s Motivation for Living a Moral Lifestyle

Whether you are a professing Christian or not; I believe we can all agree that there are valid reasons for all mankind to set personal moral standards and strive to live by them.  However, the big question is: “Are there important motivating factors that are unique to Christianity?”

This article will hopefully help answer that question and also clarify for the reader:  1) the temporary benefits of morality for all mankind while living on this earth; 2) the motivating factors that both Christians and non-Christians have in common; and; 3) why it is so important that we understand these differences.

Let us begin by examining the outcome of living by moral standards that would be true for all peoples.  I don’t believe anyone can bring forth a good argument against the benefits of a life lived avoiding: lying, cheating, stealing, excessive drinking, promiscuity, self-centeredness, rage, gossip, and the like.  We all can admit that breaking certain rules can have negative effects.  Even violating the vehicle code section of the law, like breaking the speed limit or running a red light has the potential for profound negative consequences, i.e. receiving a hefty ticket or even being the cause of a head on collision which kills another person or ends one’s own life.  With that in mind, let us look at the list below.

Some Positive Outcomes of Living by Moral Standards which are true for ALL peoples:

  • ·               You are more likely to avoid negative consequences
  • ·               You will hurt less people
  • ·               You will make the world a safer place to live and raise children
  • ·               You will leave an honorable legacy to your children
  • ·               You will live with less regrets for bad choices
  • ·               You will have deeper and more meaningful relationships
  • ·               You will need to apologize less
  • ·              You may even save money by avoiding monetary penalties for violating the law of the land.


Pretty compelling reasons for a person to desire to set moral standards and to live by them, right? 

Now really examine the list.  What are the common threads running through it?  Well, there are two that we need to take special note of.  The first is that the good and positive outcomes are temporal in nature.  That is that they are of or relating to time as opposed to eternity.  In other words, they are related to life on earth.  The second thread is that they are all focused upon “You”.  Therefore, they are truths that can be used to promote and motivate both Christians and non-Christians to desire to live more morally upright lives so that they can experience the benefits for themselves, their families and their culture.

However, are they, in and of themselves, the primary factors that should help motivate a Christian to do so?  Why is this such an important question?

First, many people are confused about what true Christianity is.  Many people outside the church (and some inside the church) think that Christianity is a religion of do’s and don’ts.  They have no real concept that becoming a Christian is the result of a super natural act accomplished by God in the heart, soul and mind of a person that radically transforms everything about the person.  A true Christian, although still living in the world, is governed by a total different reality—a super natural reality, if you will.

And what does that mean.  It means that a true Christian’s reality is of or relating to an order of existence which is beyond the visible observable universe.  They are no longer strictly motivated by temporal things but they live with an eternal perspective and they have been given a higher reason for living a moral lifestyle—a reason that transcends the temporal benefits of doing so.

Therefore, a true Christian’s understanding of life is radically different from the world and the reasons they do, or do not do, certain things is radically different, as well.  This is where I feel much of the church is lacking in the attempts to promote morality to those inside the Church.

What should motivate a Christian to live by moral standards?

As followers of Christ, our motivation and desire for living and teaching other Christians to live moral lives should look very different from the world’s. The emphasis should not be what we have in common with the world, but those things that are unique to the reality of true Christianity. So, what are some of the Christian reasons or motivational truths for doing so?

Perhaps this table will help illustrate the motivating factors that we as Christians have in common with the world and those things that are unique to the Christians reality. This is, by no means, an exhaustive list—but I hope it helps us to think things through.

Motivation for a Moral Life
Non-Christians
Christian
The desire to bring honor to the family name.
X
X
Loyalty to self and family
X
X
The better good of Self, Family, and Culture.
X
X
The desire to not suffer the negative consequences associated with immoral behavior
X
X
To please self and others by making wise and good choices
X
X
Have less regrets
X
X
The reality that Christ is present at all times.  

X
Higher Loyalty to Christ than to family or self.

X
Does not want to bring dishonor to the name of Christ by the way they live

X
Belief that they are not living for themselves, but are representatives and ambassadors of Christ

X
The desire that Christ’s honor, power and reality be magnified by the way in which they live and the choices they make.

X
To personally experience the joy, happiness, and peace that comes with avoiding the things that would go against God’s moral standards for all of His creatures

X
The desire to please God.  Not out of fear of punishment or out of desire for personal temporal rewards but out love.

X
Understands the difference between temporal good and eternal value.

X


In the above, note the things that we have in common and the things that are unique to a Christian reality.  If you are a professing Christian, how many factors can you identify with as highly motivating factors for living a moral lifestyle?

The following came to mind as I was pondering this topic and I will share the results of that pondering with the reader..

First, I want to examine an often-used quote (which, by the way, is very similar to Bill Hybels book entitled, “Who You are When No One’s Looking”). The quote I am referring to is: “The true test of a man's character is what he does when no one is watching.” Here is the problem I see with this statement.

The truth is that there is not a single moment in our life where there is no one watching. Yes, I am aware that in that statement the term “no one” means no human being. However, when it is used inside the church as an attempt to promote and motivate Christians, it tends to eclipse what should be emphasized and that is that for the Christian we are never alone. A less confusing and a more motivating statement would be, “The true test of a Christian man is that whether he is being observed by people or in the privacy of his own room, he is always intimately aware of the presence of Christ.” Living in that reality should be all the motivation we need to adhere to a moral standard of living. My fear is that most professing Christians do not live in that reality and that is why they struggle so.

Secondly, as Christian’s (Followers of Christ) we represent Him. We are to be His ambassadors to a lost and dying world. We are not living for ourselves. We are living for Him. Our motivation for living by moral standards and principals should be born out of an overwhelming desire that our lives do not in any way bring dis-honor to His name. Christian, ask yourself—Do you care about that? Do you care about that more than you care about avoiding negative consequences or thinking of yourself as a man of character because you are moral even when “no-one” is watching?

Thirdly, loyalty is a powerful motivating factor which can even make people willing to die for their country. For Christians, loyalty (which is interwoven with love) for and towards our Savior and King should be one of the highest motivating factors for living a life of obedience to the moral standards outlined for us by Him.

In conclusion, if you are a professing Christian and are not motivated by the following:

· A deep, intimate, abiding relationship with Christ
· An unswerving loyalty and love for Him above everything else
· A desire to live a life that will NOT bring dis-honor to His name;
· An uncompromising preoccupation with His Glory;
· A genuine love for others, both inside and outside the church;
· and, an awareness of the reality of His presence every moment of your life;

Then, my friend, I believe that you have a much bigger issue to wrestle with than setting personal moral standards and living by them.


__________________________________________________________________________

Old Adam put in a better dress

(Thomas Watson, "A New Creature")

"I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom
 of God unless he is born again." John 3:3

Natural honesty, moral virtue, prudence, justice, liberality,
temperance--these are not the new birth. These make a
glorious show in the eye of the world—but differ as much
from the new birth, as a stick differs from a star! Morality
indeed is commendable, and it would be well if there were
more of it. Yet morality is but nature at its best; it does not
amount to saving grace. There is nothing of Christ in morality.
That fruit is sour--which does not grow on the root of Christ!

Heat water to the highest degree--and you still cannot
make wine out of it; it is water still. Just so, let morality
be raised to the highest, it is nature still; it is but old
Adam put in a better dress
.

Moral virtue may exist with the hatred of godliness.
A moral man hates holiness--as much as he does vice!
"You must be born again." John 3:7

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Thank You, David Mathis!

You know the feeling. The sour taste in your mouth. The heavy feeling in your heart. That unpleasant aura of conflict that everything in you wants to avoid.
It’s so much easier to talk about nice things, and comment on the weather and the playoffs, than to embrace the awkward moment and actually address the elephant in the room.
We’re quick to believe the lie that if we just avoid the conflict, or at least minimize it, then it will diminish over time and eventually go away. But wisdom speaks a different word. Sure, there are offenses we can forebear and personal frustrations we can get over, but interpersonal conflict doesn’t go away with inattention. It festers. It deepens. It curdles.

Conflict Is Inevitable

Relational conflict is not something that should surprise us as Christians. We need not be ashamed that it exists, and that we’re involved. We should expect it. The world is complicated and fallen, and we are complicated creatures, and fallen. Conflicts will come. They are unavoidable.
And yes, conflict is inevitable in the church as well. Christians often have conflict with each other — true, genuine, faithful Christians. The question is not whether conflicts will come, but how we will handle them.
In the healthiest churches, the leadership doesn’t announce, “There will be no conflicts here; that’s not how we do things.” Rather, the message will be that when conflicts do arise, we won’t run from them. We won’t neglect to address them head-on. We can’t afford not to.

Occasion for Grace

One reason that avoiding conflict is such a problem is precisely because it worsens with negligence. It doesn’t just go away.
But another reason is that it cuts us off from the most significant opportunities for grace. This is the way God does his deepest work in a world like ours. Not when things are peachy keen, not when all seems right with the world, not when times are easy. It’s the toughest times, the hardest conversations, the most painful relational tensions, when the light of his grace shines brightest, and transforms us most into his Son’s likeness.
The highpoints of the history of God’s people are accounts not of fleeing conflict, but moving toward it in hope, believing God will be at work in the tension, pain, and mess. Such is the story of the prophets —Moses with the stubborn people he refused to give up on; Elijah at Carmel squaring off against Baal; the embattled Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel brought into increasing conflict, seemingly at every oracle, with a hard-hearted people they were commissioned to serve.
“It’s the toughest times, and the hardest conversations, when the light of God’s grace shines its brightest.”
And so it was with the apostles. When tensions emerged in the fledgling church between Hebrews and Greeks, they dealt with disunity quickly and did not let it fester. God had a gift to give these young believers in Acts 6 — seven newly appointed leaders to serve the people’s needs — and it came not through shying away from conflict, but through straightforwardly tackling their troubles. And when conflict arose again along the same fault lines, this time over circumcision, the apostle Paul didn’t avoid or neglect it, but traveled to Jerusalem to address it in person (Acts 15:2).

For Gospel Advance

Then, when Peter’s lapse in judgment at Antioch separated him from Gentile believers, “fearing the circumcision party” (Galatians 2:12), again Paul moved toward the conflict, not away. “I opposed him to his face,” he said (Galatians 2:11), and with it, Peter and the gospel witness in Antioch were restored.
The life of Paul, we might say, became a series of one conflict after another — and each one a catalyst for the ongoing progress of grace. He wrote to the Philippians about “the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have” (Philippians 1:30) — a conflict, which he says, “really served to advance the gospel” (Philippians 1:12).
“The highpoints of the history of God’s people are stories not of fleeing conflict, but moving toward it.”
And he recounted to the Thessalonians how not cowering from conflict was essential to the gospel coming to them. “Though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict” (1 Thessalonians 2:2). His thirteen letters are a tribute to the fact that he wasn’t afraid to address emerging conflict and see what good God had in store for his people in it.

The Pattern of Christ

And of course, our most compelling emblem of not shying away from conflict, but turning to take it head-on, is the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame (Hebrews 12:2).
The trajectory of Jesus’s life was toward need, and inevitably toward conflict, not away. He set his face like flint to go to Jerusalem, to the great conflict at Calvary, to rescue us from our greatest conflict, eternal separation from God because of the rebellion of our sin against him.
And so being saved by him, we Christians, “little christs,” learn increasingly to follow in his steps, empowered by his Spirit, to move toward conflict, toward need, toward pain, toward tension, looking past the imposing awkwardness and difficulty that lies before us to the promise of joy on the other side.

The Lord’s Servant in Conflict

Which doesn’t mean we become bull-headed and pugnacious and develop a penchant for a good fight. Rather, our gospel-thickened skin frees us to lean in — with kindness, patience, and gentleness — to the caldrons of conflict that would otherwise send us running. We take on the heart and posture of “the Lord’s servant” who “must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness” (2 Timothy 2:24–25).
And as we consider that hard and scary conversation that needs to happen — to gently remove the speck from our brother’s eye, to address the elephant in the room — we acknowledge our weakness. In ourselves, we are unable to address this conflict with intentionality and kindness. But this we couple with a prayer for his strength. And we move forward in faith, knowing that if tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, and sword cannot separate us from the love of Christ (Romans 8:35), then neither can conflict. No matter how tense. No matter how intimidating.
For the Christian, conflict is not something to avoid or ignore. It is an opportunity for the triumph of grace.
Full author david mathis
David Mathis (@davidcmathis) is executive editor for desiringGod.org, pastor at Cities Church in Minneapolis/Saint Paul, and adjunct professor for Bethlehem College & Seminary. He has edited several books, including Finish the MissionActing the Miracle, and most recently Cross, and is co-author of How to Stay Christian in Seminary.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

"The Christian Message"

Is taking a stand against same-sex marriage "the Christian message".  I know plenty of people, who are not Christians who would stand right along side you on this issue.  The Christian message is the gospel.  The Christian message is that both moralists and the immoral are condemned and guilty before God.  The Christian message is that we have no hope out side of Christ regardless of where we stand on a moral or civil issue.

You want to talk about morality? You want to talk about sin? Let's not pick out five that we can easily assault because  we don't do those five. Let's talk about the fact that we have all broken the greatest commandment; committed the greatest sin that any human being can commit.  We have all failed to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. And, as R.C. Sproul one time said, "And you know you haven't kept that commandment at any time in your life for five seconds." You can't keep that commandment. It's impossible. Well let's talk about that.

If you want to go after America's immorality, then let's indict the whole nation for not loving God. That is not only the first and great commandment, that is the sum of the commandments. And the second commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself, and you can't keep that one for five seconds. So if we're going to get moral, then let's go where we need to go because that, wrote the apostle Paul, is  the sum of all the law. Why do we have to pick these selective ones?

If we're going to call America to morality, then let's indict them where they need to be indicted and let's indict our own hearts where we need to be indicted and say we've broken the first and great commandment, and we've broken the second one, and we do it all the time and therefore we are all condemned to hell in desperate need of grace and forgiveness and salvation.

That's the Christian message.

(Several excerpts by other writers were used in the composition of this post)

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Why we gather....

Frankly, there are very few things I "like" about going to church.  In this consumer, man-centered, materialistic, narcissistic, christian culture that we find ourselves in, "church" on Sunday can be extremely depressing if you are actually paying attention to the people, what is being said, and the lack of Christ-likeness among those who wear his name (and of course I include myself in that statement.)

I could list all of the biblical reasons, in spite of the above reality, that one should attend a weekly worship service.  I only need one motivating factor, and that is my loyalty to Christ.  I am not loyal to a local church.  I am not loyal to anyone at the church.  My loyalty is to Christ alone.  All else, and everyone else, will fail me, as I will fail them.  I love when people ask me on Sunday, "What are you doing today?" and I can answer, "I have a special date with the love of my life."

We gather to worship Christ!  In fact, Christians in other lands gather at risk of death.  Just maybe it's important to sincere, genuine believers to gather for worship.  They certainly would have more seemingly legitimate reasons to not gather than we do.  Don't you think?


They Gather to Worship the Christ
By Frederick J. Stevens  1883-86

They gather, they gather from Island and main,
From seacoast and valley, from mountain and plain.
From Africa's fountains, from India's strands.
They gather-to learn what Jehovah commands.
They gather, they gather, a swift-swelling tide.
Resistless, on-flowing, a flood spreading wide.
They gather, they gather, and countless the throng,
To worship the Christ with the Incense of song.

They gather, they gather from China, Japan.
From city and hamlet, from tribe and from clan.
From tropical forests, from deserts of sand.
Commingling their praises a symphony grand.
They gather, they gather, a swift-swelling tide.
Resistless, on-flowing, a flood spreading wide.
They gather, they gather, and countless the throng.
To worship the Christ with the Incense of song.

They gather, they gather, the young and the old.
The king and the peasant all seeking one fold,
The soldier and statesman, the noble and slave.
All trust in his promise to guide them and save.
They gather, they gather, a swift-swelling tide.
Resistless, on-flowing. a flood spreading wide.
They gather, they gather, and countless the throng
To worship the Christ with the Incense of song.


Saturday, July 19, 2014

This is Counseling!

These short-lived troubles!
(Charles Spurgeon, "Flowers from a Puritan's Garden" 1883)

"All the difficulties of the present life are but like one rainy day--compared to an everlasting sunshine!"

How readily, then, should we bear these short-lived troubles! They are but for a moment, just a passing shower--and then the sun will shine out forever!

Time is nothing, when compared with eternity.

To a believer, this sorrowful life is like one drop of grief, lost in a sea of glory--or one speck of rain, in a year of fair weather. These light and momentary afflictions are not worthy to be compared with the eternal bliss which awaits us!

"Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory!" 2 Corinthians 4:16-17

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Recognizing pride and arrogance in our own speech patterns!

Pastors-this is primarily, but not exclusively, for you:

When you share your position on non-essentials, how to do state your position?  Do you preface your statements with:

"I believe..."
"I am convinced..."
"My conviction in this area is..."

or do you state your opinion as if it was biblical truth.

"...There are some weeds that will grow anywhere; and one of them is Pride. Pride will grow on a rock as well as in a garden. Pride will grow in the heart of a shoe-black as well as in the heart of an alderman. Pride will grow in the heart of a servant girl and equally as well in the heart of her mistress. And pride will grow in the pulpit. It is a weed that is dreadfully rampant. It needs cutting down every week, or else we should stand up to our knees in it. This pulpit is a shocking bad soil for pride!"      Spurgeon

Listen to the speech patterns of well respected men in the current Christian community and listen carefully.  When they are interviewed and asked their opinion on a non-essential position, do they answer with the above prefaces?    Better yet--listen to yourself.  Do you express your personal convictions on non-essentials, authoritatively or with humility?





Sunday, June 1, 2014

The Red Sea of God's Wrath


"We shall see Him as He is!" 1 John 3:2

Then we shall behold Him who died for us, that we might live forevermore; whose matchless love made Him swim through the Red Sea of God's wrath, to make a path in the midst of it for us, by which we might pass safely to our heavenly Canaan. Then we shall see what a glorious one He is, who suffered all this for us! Then shall we be more able to understand, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love really is.

When we shall fully realize that the waters of wrath which He was plunged into, are the wells of salvation from whence we draw all our joy; that we have received the cup of salvation, in exchange for the cup of wrath which He drank--how will our hearts leap within us, burn with seraphic love, as Heaven resounds with our songs of salvation!

We shall eternally, without interruption, feast our eyes upon Him--and be ever viewing His glorious perfections! In Him shall we see everything desirable--and nothing but what is desirable. We shall look into the heart of God, and there see the love He bore to us from all eternity, and the love and goodness He will bear to us forevermore.

We who are heirs of God, the great heritage--shall then enter into a full possession of our inheritance; and the Lord will open His treasures of goodness unto us, that our enjoyment may be full. We shall not be stinted to any measure--but the enjoyment shall go as far as our enlarged capacities can reach. We shall be fully satisfied, and perfectly blessed in the full enjoyment of divine goodness.

Our love to the Lord, being purified from the dross of self-love, shall be most pure. We will be all love, when we come to the full enjoyment of God in Heaven, by intuitive and experimental knowledge of Him, by full participation in the divine goodness.

The enjoyment of God and the Lamb will be ever fresh and new to us, through the ages of eternity; for we shall drink of living fountains of waters, where new waters are continually springing up in abundance. Our joy shall be pure and unmixed, without any dregs of sorrow; solid and everlasting, without interruption. We shall swim forever in an ocean of joy--where we shall see nothing but joy wherever we turn our eyes. The presence and enjoyment of God and the Lamb will satisfy us with pleasures for evermore; and will afford us everlasting delight!

"You will fill me with joy in Your presence, with eternal pleasures at Your right hand!" Psalm 16:11


Thomas Boston (17 March 1676 – 20 May 1732)  Excerpt from:  Human Nature in its Fourfold State

And this is why I read the Puritans!


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