You are Forgiven

I think it is vital that we understand that as a Christian we are forgiven. So many of us get caught up in moralism and trying to be a good person. This is not the Gospel message. Becoming more Christlike through lifelong sanctification is, but moralism and the pursuit of moral perfection is the lie of every other world religion.

As Christians, we do want to become more Christlike in our daily walk, but we also recognize that we fall short time and time again. I am not perfect and often find myself feeling guilt or shame that I am not as good as I think I should be. But the Apostle John’s words in 1 John 1:8-10 shine light into the darkness we often put ourselves in.

“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” (1 John 1:8-10).

So today I want to look how these 3 verses can dramatically shape the life of a Christian and can hopefully bring the non-Christian to a place of repentance and forgiveness.

“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” ( 1 John 1:8). The first step towards forgiveness is admitting fault. You must realize that you have sin and then admit and confess it to God. Now God already knows what you have done, said or thought, so why the need to confess?

Confession is a humbling act and makes us realize our fragile nature. When we confess that we have done something wrong, (sinned), we are laying down our pride and asking for God’s help. God’s forgiveness can wipe clean any and all evil we have committed. God can forgive our daily moral failures, (the things we shouldn’t do but did and the things we should do but didn’t do).

The problem is most of us “deceive ourselves.” We feel no need to confess wrongdoing to God. We feel that each person is free to make their own moral decisions and that truth is a subjective thing. This attitude only shows that “the truth is not in us.” If you feel you have nothing you need to confess and be forgiven of by God then you sadly do not know the truth. If you are unsure of what you need forgiveness for than pray and ask God that He would show you your sins against Him.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9). Second, we see here that when we do confess our sins that God is faithful to forgive. Notice there is no description of the degree of sin. That’s because in God’s eyes all sin is equally evil. God does not say He will forgive a lie but not murder. He doesn’t say He will forgive arrogance but not selfishness. You see that every sin, whether it is something you did, said or thought, will be forgiven.

This massive truth is important to grasp. When I look back at my past I see so much selfishness, arrogance, worldliness and many other sins. I see things I did, said and thought that are wrong and sinful. I see things I didn’t do, say or think that I should have. I see moral mistake after moral mistake. And then this causes guilt and shame because I realize I am not as good as I think I should be.

But, that is what makes the Gospel and this verse in particular so amazing. God has forgiven each of those sins I have committed. I have no need to feel any guilt or shame for my mistakes and moral failings. Now I don’t want this to take away from the seriousness of our sin. The amazing truth is that I am forgiven and cleansed from such a great evil.

“If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” (1 John 1:10). But again many of us will look back on our lives and not see sin. I often hear people say they don’t regret anything in their past, that each thing that occurred was a new experience and helped their overall growth as a person. What a lie from the devil! I don’t regret hard times or when trial came my way because it did help me grow, but I do regret each and every foolish word or deed I did that dishonored God. How arrogant we must be to try and condone our sin or use it as some platform for moral improvement!

Rather, I hope we can all look back and find things in our lives that we do truly regret. That we know we shouldn’t have done, said or thought. And may we see those things as sin and confess them to God for we know that He will truly forgive us and we can be set free from any guilt or shame we may have.

So Christians, stop acting like you have no sin. Confess your sins to God. And not just the obvious ones. Confess your wrong motives, your selfish ambitions and bad thoughts as well as the more blatant sins you commit. If you don’t know which of the harder to see sins, (jealousy, idolatry, selfishness, pride, doubt, fear), you are struggling with, then ask God to reveal them to you so that you can confess them and be forgiven and cleansed. Daily confess your sins to God and be set free.

Non-Christians, you need to realize that your life is sinful. You are not as good as you pretend to be. Moral truth is not subjective. You have made mistakes and need to be forgiven. Confess your sins to God. Turn to Him who alone can cleanse you and set you free from your sins. Your good deeds will never outweigh your bad. You can never make up for your past wrongs. Rather, you must be forgiven of them and that comes only through the precious blood of Christ. Turn to God, confess and He is faithful to forgive.

May we all realize our need to be forgiven and then go to Jesus, the only place where true forgiveness can be offered. May we stop living with guilt or shame because of our past deeds or because we aren’t as good as we think we should be. May we stop lying to ourselves that we don’t have sin or moral failings. May we stop believing the lie of moral subjectivity and instead believe the truth of Jesus. My hope and prayer is that we would all turn to Jesus and be forgiven.

Unpopular Decision Making

There are some decisions in life that will be unpopular even if they are right. We often put some much emphasis on making a decision based on utilitarianism, (the greatest good for the greatest number of people), majority or which sounds like it will be the easiest. But oftentimes people in the Bible don’t do that.

Take Paul for example. In Acts 21 we read about Paul’s decision to go to Jerusalem and the reaction of those closest to him.

“While we were staying for many days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. And coming to us, he took Paul’s belt and bound his own feet and hands and said, “Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘This is how the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.’” When we heard this, we and the people there urged him not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” And since he would not be persuaded, we ceased and said, “Let the will of the Lord be done.” (Acts 21:10-14)

How could he make such a decision? Wasn’t it clear to him that he would be imprisoned and ultimately die? Didn’t all of his friends urge him to do something else? Paul made his decision based on the Holy Spirit’s leading, not on what was the obvious or popular choice. He had no idea what would become of him. He only knew that God was leading him to Jerusalem at this time and for him not to go would be sinful.

So my question to start us off this week is: Are there any unpopular decisions you need to make this week? Is there an area where God is pointing you one way but people or circumstances are pointing you another? Can you make that unpopular decision? If these questions seem tough to answer you’re not alone. Making a decision in the face of opposition, (especially from those we love most), is never fun. So I want to give a couple ideas that may help us as we endeavor to follow the Lord’s leading in our lives, even when it seems unpopular to those around us.

First and foremost you need to get your priorities straight. I feel like a broken record cause I say this so often, but you will not be able to follow the Lord’s leading in your life if you are preoccupied trying to please man rather than God. “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:10). Or Jesus says it even more strongly in Luke 14:26: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.”

Both of these verses are dealing with the same issue. Are you going to follow, love and serve Jesus first and foremost or are you going to follow, love and serve people and then give Jesus your leftovers or whatever is convenient? When Jesus becomes Lord of your life He will not be satisfied with leftovers. He wants your everything and all. Your first and foremost. Your best. So if you wish to be able to follow the Lord’s calling in your life you must not allow the idol of relationships to hinder you from making the unpopular decisions.

Any person who has left their home country to go abroad and proclaim the Gospel can identify with this. Usually there is someone, (family, friends, coworkers, etc…), who urges them not to go. They may have good reasons, (finances, distance from loved ones, difficulty or danger in new country, inconvenience, etc..), but none of these reasons could ever truly outweigh the cost of going to the nations with the Gospel.

In the 19th century a man named John G. Paton decided he would travel to an island known for cannibalism. In fact, two people from the same ministry had been eaten only 19 years ago. So when Paton decided to go it was a very unpopular decision. Here is the exchange between Paton and another man from his ministry:

A Mr. Dickson exploded, “The cannibals! You will be eaten by cannibals!” The memory of Williams and Harris on Erromanga was only 19 years old.

But to this Paton responded:
“Mr. Dickson, you are advanced in years now, and your own prospect is soon to be laid in the grave, there to be eaten by worms; I confess to you, that if I can but live and die serving and honoring the Lord Jesus, it will make no difference to me whether I am eaten by Cannibals or by worms; and in the Great Day my Resurrection body will rise as fair as yours in the likeness of our risen Redeemer.”

This is the kind of faith we need to make unpopular decisions as we follow the Lord’s will. Secondly, we must be willing to do what’s right no matter the cost. Paul could have stayed away from Jerusalem. Jesus didn’t have to go to the cross. The Bible is full of men who did the right thing even if suffering was before them. This is why Jesus commands us: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” (Luke 9:23-24).

We so often aren’t willing to follow our Lord’s leading because some fear prevents us. Jesus, Paul and John Paton all knew that death was not the worst thing that could happen to a person. They were all willing to follow God in the face of suffering and loss. If we are to make unpopular decisions that glorify God then we too must be willing to walk wherever the Holy Spirit would take us, even if that leads into some kind of suffering.

So I hope we can all take away some things that will help us make those unpopular decisions to follow God first. May we stop worrying and trying to please the majority but rather listen and carefully seek which direction God is pointing. May we move forward when the Lord signals rather than being hindered by fear. My challenge to you all is to make that unpopular decision this week.

Don’t allow unpopularity amongst your loved ones to hinder you from following God. Don’t allow potential suffering to keep you from following Jesus. “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matthew 6:33-34)

The Divine Act of Self-Reflection

Last week we looked at the negatives of self-reliance. So this week I thought we should look at a positive self act, the act of self-reflection. With our lives constantly changing I feel like the need for us to reflect back on past events is vital to help us move through whatever present state we find ourselves in.

But before we talk about what exactly that means, we need to understand what it doesn’t mean. I am not talking about dwelling on your “Glory Days.” I feel a lot of people like to think back to a time when their life seemed almost perfect. Problem is, they start to wish they could go back there or that their current life could somehow shadow that former glory.

Three problems arise with this “Glory Days” mentality. First, we tend to remember things differently than they actually happened. We idealize situations that weren’t possibly as good as we remember. Second, we long for an impossibility. People who wish to return to their happy childhood long for something that just won’t happen.

Which leads to the third and final problem. This longing often makes people stuck. The best example of this can be seen in small towns across America. The stud high school sports star, worshiped by their small town, is unable to move on to bigger and better things. The big fish in the small pond doesn’t want to be a small fish in a big pond. The result is 40 and 50 year old’s who still think, act and talk like 18-year old’s. Their joy comes through telling old stories about their greatness or trying to relive their dreams through their children.

So let’s be clear that is not what I am talking about. I don’t want you to dwell on those old “Glory Days” and get yourself stuck in the past. Rather, I want us to look at a few reasons why reflecting on our past can help us grow, mature and get through whatever present situation we find ourselves in.

First, reflecting on the past keeps us humble. Paul tells us in Ephesians 2:11-12, “Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.”

I feel like sometimes when we start to notice the growth and improvement in our lives we tend to forget God. We tend to forget just how far we have come from the person we used to be. Paul tells us to remember that not long ago we were lost little children until Christ came along and saved us. How dare we become arrogant and prideful now? A great chapter about this is Ezekiel 16. God is speaking to the Israelite’s but the same truths are for us today. He compares us to a prostitute whom He has rescued and provided for. But over time we forget what He has done for us and prostitute ourselves out yet again.

Divine reflection keeps us humble. It keeps us from forgetting that God saved us and that the person we are today is only because of what He has done for us. Secondly, divine reflection helps us get through the tough times. Maybe right now you aren’t arrogant, you’re hurting. All you think about is your pain and how much it hurts. You have forgotten God. How can there be a God with all of this pain and suffering?

We can’t let our current circumstances allow us to forget the kindness God has already showed us. Psalm 77 and Isaiah 63:7 are two places where we are told to remember what God has done in the face of current troubles. Reflect back on the times God has provided. Remember when God helped you or gave you a way out. Doing this will shine light into your current trouble and help you to see there is hope. If you are hurting, remember all the good God has done for you and may it bring you hope in your current situation.

Thirdly, divine reflection helps us remember the goodness of God in the midst of comfort. Just as we grow arrogant and forget what God has done, also we grow comfortable and forget our need for Him. Countless times in the Old Testament, (Genesis 9, Joshua 4, etc…), God instructs the Israelite’s to build an alter or to do something to mark a covenant. The reason God does this is because He knows we are so prone to grow comfortable and forget (Deuteronomy 8:11-20).

Maybe you have grown comfortable and thus grown cold towards God. Maybe you came to God in need but now feel like you have no needs. Repent and turn back to God. Don’t be like the Church in Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-21). Remember back on all the Lord has done for you. Don’t grow complacent. Reflect and come back to the passion and joy you once had.

So I hope all of us can spend some time in reflection this week. Please don’t dwell on the past lest you risk getting stuck there. May your past never be the best time of your life. Rather, if you have become puffed up and self-sufficient, remember who you once were and the sins you once committed so readily. Remember back to how the Lord saved you from your prostitution. Remember that you did not save yourself but that He came and saved you.

Maybe you are hurting now. Remember all the good He has done for you over the years. Reflect on the blessings and countless times He has provided more than enough. May this bring you hope in your current troubles. Or maybe you have grown comfortable, complacent and cold. Maybe you just don’t desire God like you used to. Reflect back on all of the good that God provided. Remember that you are where you are and have what you have because of what He did. Remember when you didn’t have anything and that He was and can still be your joy. May we all remember the past in order to grow in our love and trust of the Lord in the present.

Wandering Hearts

Honestly, I am not a big fan of hymns. I typically like something a little more upbeat. But the thing about hymns is there ability to use few words to convey massive theological truths. If you stop and actually think about the words, (rather than getting distracted by the lack of electric guitar and drums), you can learn a lot about God, His Word and even ourselves.

Today I want to focus on a truth that caught my eye, (and ears), while listening to the hymn “Come thou fount.” It was originally written by Robert Robinson in the mid 1700’s but it’s truths still ring true, if not even truer, today. This is the last four lines of this amazing hymn:

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
prone to leave the God I love;
here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
seal it for thy courts above.

What amazing insight into the human condition in those four simple sentences! Why do these words resonate so deeply, even 300 years after they were written? Because it speaks a truth many of us are too afraid to admit.

We all, like the Prodigal Son, (Luke 15:11-32), have found other things that attract us away from the God we love. And so I want to look at two truths about our desire to wander away from God and then talk about how to deal with this problem.

The first thing you need to realize is that we are ALL prone to wander. The Bible tells us “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23). And while we know this truth, we often forget it when we look around our Church and then start to compare. We see the pastor, deacons or just other very Godly people and can’t imagine that they struggle or doubt like we do.

The truth is, every pastor, deacon, mentor or the most Godly people you know still have doubts. Still have some sin in their life they just can’t let go of. This is because this is their nature. We are ALL prone to wander because we are born that way. How we wander or stray may be different for each of us. Some may fall into a struggle with drugs, alcohol, pornography or any of the more visual sins. While others of us wander by trying to keep all the rules and earn our righteousness. One type of wandering says “I don’t need Jesus because these other pleasures will satisfy” while the other says “I don’t need Jesus because I can do the work He is trying to do for me.”

So my first advise to all of us out there is to stop looking and comparing ourselves with others. Realize that those “perfect” people you see in Church are as messed up and doubtful as you even if they act like they aren’t. Rather than comparing, may we learn to be open about our struggles, doubts and failures so that through it we may build up the Church.

The second truth about our desire to wander away from our God is that this desire to wander does not make you unsaved and beyond redemption. I think sometimes we start to question our salvation when we have these feelings of doubt or when we start to desire something more than God. Now it could mean you aren’t saved. It may mean you don’t desire Him because you don’t know Him. But I think often it is our sin that continues to get in the way.

We know God loves us and that we also love Him, but we often feel a stronger desire for something else. And when that comes we question if we really love Him at all. This is where community is so vital. Once Satan has this foothold, (Ephesians 4:27), he will continue to whisper little doubts into your mind until you start to question everything about God. Rather, when we struggle with doubts and sin, we need to be able to go to other believers and share with them. We must be open about any and all doubts and sins. The doubts you are too afraid to share are the ones pulling you further from God. We must expose our doubts and sins “to the light.” (Luke 12:3).

And that leads us finally to what are we supposed to do about all of this? How can we stop trying to wander away from God? Well the answer lies in the last two lines of the hymn:

here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
seal it for thy courts above.

Honestly there really isn’t some guide to prevent our hearts from wandering into sin or doubting God. There isn’t some magic formula that will help you keep your eyes on God at all times. Rather, it is humility and dependance on God that sustains us through these times. He is the one that must hold us and carry us through. Just as a child must trust their parents to help them safely cross a busy road, we too must rely on Jesus as we traverse difficult paths in our lives.

And so you may feel “prone to wander” today. Maybe there is a sin or doubt in your mind that just won’t go away. Maybe you keep it hidden because you are afraid that only you have that struggle. Maybe you keep trying to work and work to fix it, but it always seems to be the same. Then may you, in humility and dependance on God, cry out for Him to “take and seal” your heart. May we respond to our doubts and our desire to wander from God just as Peter did in John 6:68-69: “Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”

We have an Enemy- Part 2

Last week we acknowledged the fact that we are all in need of a Savior. We cannot save ourselves and we are all the furthest things from heroes, (even though our culture wishes to tell us otherwise). And while we do have a hero Jesus Christ our Lord, we also have an enemy.

As much as we all wish it wasn’t true, there is someone who hates us and will stop at nothing to see our ultimate destruction. His name is Satan and he is a fallen angel whose goal is to get as many to hell as possible. This is the first truth we must all realize this week. Satan and hell are real. We find it so easy to talk about heaven, (even non-Christians), but few of us like to admit or consider the reality of Satan and hell.

We learn a bit about Satan in a few places in the Old Testament. We learn he is a fallen angel who introduces sin to mankind and is constantly looking for ways to trip up God’s people, (Isaiah 14:12-15, Ezekiel 28:13-19, Genesis 3:1-15, and Job 1:6-2:7). And while my purpose this week is not to show the history of Satan I think it is important that we all have an understanding of his background a bit. So check out the verses above before going on.
在圣经的旧约里面,我们可以在某些章节里面了解到一点关于撒旦的描述,我们可以知道撒旦他是一个堕天使,引诱人陷入罪的里面,并且不断地使上帝的儿女绊倒(圣经中的以赛亚书14:12-15;以西结书28:13-19;创世纪3:1-15;约翰福音1:6 – 2:7) 。我这周分享的目的并不在于告诉你们撒旦的历史,我觉得重要的是要让你们知道一点关于撒旦的背景,所以我希望你们在继续读下去之前,可以翻开圣经去查阅一下上面提及的章节。

My goal today is for each of us to see what Satan’s attacks look like, and how we can be prepared for them. But before we look at how Satan attacks us and what the Bible tells us to do in response, I think it is important to note two vital mistakes we make when it comes to Satan.

The first is that we try to ignore or hope he isn’t real. To pretend an enemy doesn’t exist doesn’t make them less powerful, but actually allows their work to be done in relative ease. We have to admit and understand that we have an enemy named Satan who is real in order to combat him. The second vital mistake we make is that we either give Satan too much respect and thus live in fear, or too little respect and are easily deceived.

We are told not to fear because our Hero, Jesus Christ, is greater than our enemy Satan and has overcome. Romans 16:20 says “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.” Also Revelation 20:10 says “and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” We know the end of the movie. God wins, Satan loses. So we need not fear because we know our Hero is greater than our enemy.

At the same time, this does not give us an excuse to like arrogantly, as though we did not have an enemy. The truth is that Satan has been around much longer than you and me. He knows the Bible, God and Jesus far better than we do. So to be as arrogant as to think that we can take Satan on by ourselves is quite a foolish endeavor indeed. In John 8:44 Jesus calls Satan “the father of lies.” While we need not fear Satan because we have a Savior in Jesus, a healthy respect for Satan is good in order to be prepared for his deception.

Now that we understand our enemy a little better we can look at the primary ways he attacks us and how we as servants to Jesus can respond. The first way that Satan attacks the children of God is through lies. Satan will tell us anything to get us distracted from God. Genesis 3:4 says “But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.” This is only a few verses after God had told them not to eat of the fruit or they would die. Satan uses deception to get Adam and Eve to eat the fruit. And this he still does to us today. He puts little lies into our thoughts, our culture or our friends and family members. Lies like, “God can’t exist in this scientific age, you are the top of the evolutionary chain.” Or “You can do what you want because you know what’s best.”

Satan’s lies are many and they continue to lead us astray. So what can we do? We can respond the same way Jesus does to Satan in Matthew 4:1-11. Each lie Satan told Jesus, Jesus responded with a Biblical truth. So in order for us to combat the lies of Satan we need to know our Bibles. Read it. Memorize it. Ask Biblical teachers about it. And then when a lie comes to you, (through your thoughts, the media, your friends or family, etc…), have those verses on your mind and ready to combat Satan.

Secondly, Satan tricks us with pleasure. 2 Corinthians 4:4 says “In their case the god of this world, (Satan), has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” Satan tells us that pleasure is the ultimate purpose to our lives. This tactic of his has been widely successful over the last 100 years as modernization has made getting pleasure much easier. People devote their entire lives to getting money in order to pursue sex, material possessions, travel, or whatever else they think may bring them pleasure.

In order to combat this desire for pleasure, we need to look at some of the great examples from our King and also from His Word. Verses from Jesus about this include Matthew 6:19-21 and 24-34, Matthew 13:44-46 and Luke 18:24-25. Paul gives us some other great ideas in Philippians 3:7-8 and 4:11-13. The book of Ecclesiastes is also quite helpful in combating this attack. Ultimately, we need to learn to desire Christ and His Kingdom more than any pleasures this world could possibly offer.

Finally, Satan also uses pain to hurt the children of God. Satan may give someone a disease like cancer in hopes that through this disease or pain they would lose their trust in God. Satan knows that many of us can believe and trust God when everything is good, but when some kind of pain or hardship comes many will turn their back on Christ. These people only trusted Christ for what He could do for them. This ideas basically turns you into your own God and Jesus into your servant whose job is to take care of you.

If you are struggling with pain and maybe even questioning God, there are some great places in the Bible for you. The first is the entire book of Job, especially the end where God speaks and shows Job that he cannot fathom the ways of God and instead needs to be silent and trust. Also, having a mindset that we are only here temporarily but the afterlife is eternal can often help those who are suffering right now.

Next week we will consider what our job is in all of this. If Jesus is our Hero and Satan our enemy, what is our role? The verses I have listed above are just a small amount. Open your Bible and find more. The Bible is full on the topic of our enemy and his attacks. Also, a few good books about this problem are “The Screwtape Letters” by C.S. Lewis and many of the autobiographies of some of our Christian ancestors.
下周我们会细想一下我们在这世上应当做什么?如果基督是我们的英雄,撒旦是我们的敌人,那我们的角色又是什么?我曾经听到的关于以上这个问题的回答只有很少的一点。打开你的圣经去找到更多关于这方面的记载,就会看到整本圣经的一个很重要的主题就是关于我们的敌人以及它对我们的攻击。同时,关于以上这个问题亦有一些很好的书籍可以给大家参考,例如C.S. Lewis写的《The Screwtape Letters》 以及其他的很多关于基督徒的自传。

Whether it is lies, pleasure or pain may we stop falling victim to the attacks of Satan and learn how to stand strong in Christ. As Paul says, may we put on the full armor of God.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. -Ephesians 6:10-18
以弗所书 6章 10-18节:

Do you actually know why you believe what you believe?

This week I wanted to challenge both Christians and non-Christians with this question. I think we often have a belief in something, but we fail to look at where did that belief come from or why we actually believe it. My goal this week is that whatever you believe you will actually take a closer look at it. For Christians, to better understand your faith and to be able to share that faith with others. For non-Christians, to understand that your non-belief is a belief, even if you don’t think it is.

For non-Christians, your lack of faith actually is an even greater faith than Christianity. I find it interesting that non-Christians demand proof for God or say they will believe once they can see Him, yet demand no such proof for their own beliefs. Just as Christians often use the Bible, (in non-Christians eyes), as a type of “get out of jail free” card, so do non-Christians with science. Show me evolution from a single cell organism and I will believe. My only challenge to non-Christians is to judge yourselves and your beliefs by the same measure you judge Christianity. If you demand proof or a sign then give us proof or a sign. Don’t just believe there is no God because your school, your teachers or your parents told you so. If you don’t believe in God then go and figure out why you believe that before you charge Christians with having no ground to stand on.

For Christians, the Bible tells us we need to be ready to give an answer for our faith, or a reason for your hope, (1 Peter 3:15). But many of us Christians, when asked why we believe, either don’t know what to say or make some comment about how the Bible tells me so. The truth is, that is not why you believe. Just because a book, (now I know the Bible is a special book, but stay with me for a moment), tells me to do something doesn’t mean I blindly do it. I have some sort of faith already if I am to believe whatever this book says.

So, why do we believe? I am not going to answer this exhaustively because that would take hours upon hours, but I do want to suggest three things that may help you the next time you are faced with this daunting question. But I want to preface this by saying that really the only reason you believe anything is because God has opened your eyes to the truth. We did not choose God, HE chose us, (John 15:16). These three suggestions of why you have faith all flow from the fact that Christ allowed you to see these things. Without Christ illuminating your heart, you can not see these things, you can not know God, and you can not be saved. It starts and ends with God.

First, we believe from creation. We look around at the vastness of this world and our universe and it tells us there must be something higher than just our little human lives. We look at the detail and intricacy of creation, (our distance from the sun, four seasons each year, the complexity of our cells and DNA), and it tells us there must be something more than random chance. Someone must have created this for it to work so perfectly. Someone must hold all of this in order so that it doesn’t become completely chaotic. Romans 1:19-20 tells us that God has shown Himself to us through HIS creation. It even uses the word “plainly” to show us that when you look around at creation it is clear there is a God.

Second, we believe from experience. The reason people become Christians is not because we have logically shown them their folly and they decide that God is the only logical choice. Usually, people become Christians because they see others changed lives. Someone is healed from a disease, (John 9), or someone transforms from a drug addict into a model citizen. Your testimony of how God showed you HIS light is often the most powerful tool in showing people the Gospel. We are drawn to transformation because we all know something is not right. We have this universal sense of right and wrong, yet many of us choose not to follow it. Why do even non-believers often stay faithful to their spouse? It’s not against the law and it certainly isn’t evolved morality, (look at America, the most “evolved” nation in the world with more divorce and affairs than anywhere else). Rather, God has actually written his law on our hearts, (Jeremiah 31:33). There is a longing for justice and goodness, not because we have evolved into morally good beings, but because God is good and we want to follow Him.

Third, we believe from unfulfilled lives. No matter how hard we try, we never seem to achieve perfection. Either it is our personality that needs tweaks, our job, our relationships or even the weather. We just never get to that place in our lives where we are completely satisfied with everything. Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, “Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.” We are always left feeling unfulfilled because only God is meant to fulfill us. We long for eternity, and our unfulfilled lives on earth show that.

Again, this is only meant to be a brief discussion on why we believe what we believe. You can search online for more in depth reasons and proofs. My purpose today is just to get all of us thinking why we have whatever belief we have. And that by better understanding our faith we may better know and worship God. May we all build our belief on our Rock and Cornerstone Jesus Christ. May we be ready to answer those who would question our faith. And may we show the world that ultimate truth can be found in God alone.

Please leave your mask at the Cross

So my Pastor from the states told me I should check out some Matt Chandler sermons at He is currently teaching a series on Habakkuk. Habakkuk? Who teaches a sermon series on Habakkuk? Well I am glad Chandler is because he had some great stuff to say that really challenged me and gave me some things to think about that I want to share with you all.

Anyways, the book of Habakkuk starts out in verses 2-4 with the prophet Habakkuk basically questioning God. Using words like ” you will not save?” verse 2 and “why do you idly look at wrong?” verse 3. The pious in us want to scold Habakkuk for his lack of faith and tell him to be quiet and that God has a plan. But there is something inside us all that connects with Habakkuk when he makes his cry before God. And Habakkuk isn’t the only one who does this. Look at Job. The whole book of Job is about him seeking the Lord in order to have his questions answered!

Or look at the greatest example of this in the whole Bible: King David. David, called a man after God’s own heart, (Acts 13:22), makes the most blatant and unabashed questions before God. Read Psalms! Psalm 8 and 9 talk about how mighty the Lord is and then turn the page to Psalm 13 and David is asking where God is! The Psalms are full of questioning and doubting.

Yet, when we walk in the door at Church today, or we get together with other Christians we repress any feelings of doubt, fear or struggle and put on a big smile. We feel like we need to wear a mask in order to hang out in Christian circles. Why do we do such a crazy thing? Where did this come from? Well I believe it comes from sin, particularly the sin of pride. We look around and think, “Wow, everyone else has their whole lives so nicely put together, they wouldn’t understand all my sins and failures so I better just wear my mask and keep any doubts buried way down deep.” Is that what David, Job or Habakkuk did?

My belief is that in order to grow closer to Christ, we need to be willing to enter into our doubts and sins and be able to work through them, not just repress them. That’s why Jesus gave us the Spirit and the Church! While the spirit convicts us of sin or failure, the Church is a place we can go to work through those issues Biblically to know and better glorify Jesus! But it is easy and comfortable to keep the mask on. We can just continue to go through life pretending we have everything together, or we can be honest as David, Job and Habakkuk were about our doubts.

But how do we do this? I can’t just show up next Sunday morning stand up and yell “I had impure thoughts this week!” That probably wouldn’t really help anyone. So what can be done? Well I thought a list of do’s and don’ts may help guide us as we seek to remove our masks and prayerfully walk with others as they do the same.

DO: Take your own mask off first and do not try to remove other people’s masks, (Matthew 7:1-5). I believe that as we are honest about our doubts, sins and failures in seeking Jesus Christ that others will join with us to know Christ more. When you stop pretending everything in your life is fine others will be more open that there lives aren’t perfect either.

DON’T: Don’t use vague Churchy words. I feel like the word “sinner” used to carry more power, but we have watered it down so much. Almost every Church will say they are full of sinners, but will never actually go deeper and describe those sins. It is easy for me to say I am a sinner, it is much harder for me to tell someone that I was an arrogant jerk to someone this week. (Note: I had a great idea, that we should all go to Church sometime with those name tags that say, “Hi, my name is…” and then write what sin we have been struggling with that week like pride, lust, or greed. Maybe a better small group activity, but just a thought). Being precise about which specific sin or doubt we have allows us and others to work through it together to know Jesus much better than the vagueness of “sinner” language.

DO: Join a small group. It is hard enough to be open and honest about our doubts and sins but doing that in a large group only multiplies the problem. A small group, (ideally five or less), is a place where we can start to take our masks off and walk with others as they do the same.

DON’T: Don’t use nice verses out of context or in the wrong situation. Romans 8:28 is a great verse, but you need to use it understanding the context in which it was written. Try reading all of Romans before you use Romans 8:28 too much. Also, if someone dear to me just died, don’t sit down and tell me Romans 8:28. Even I, the most insensitive man in the world, would consider that pretty cold. We need to remember that all verses in the Bible are profitable and useful, but we also need to be careful not to use them out of context or use them to rationalize our own man-made traditions.

DO: Pray, a lot! As we seek to know Jesus more, ask for the Spirit to guide us through our questions. And always, ask Jesus! We ask Jesus for help in many areas, but it seems like doubt or lack of faith is not one of them. We often repress questions and doubts when Jesus is more than willing to answer. Check out the prayer the man says in Mark 9:24. This is a prayer we should be making more often than we do. In Job, Habakkuk and the story in Mark 9, the most amazing thing is not what people asked, but that God answered. Ask God for help understanding HIM more.

DON’T: Don’t forget that God is God. In writing all of this I am not trying to say that we have any right to tell God how to run things. Read Job 38. Who are we to question God? We are not in control, HE is. That is why I think we have to remember that in our asking questions, our purpose and goal is to know God more. We ask not because we want to tell God how to do HIS job, but rather because we want to understand, know, and glorify HIM more.