Because I’m Saved

What do children think when you hide alcohol in the house? Dad must be hiding it because he doesn’t want anybody to know it’s there. Why? Is it wrong? Maybe we should try it. You know that’s the thought process.

In my home, my sons will know where the beer is. I’ll tell them, “The beer is in the refrigerator. You can’t have it. You’re not old enough to drink. But it’s right there. In fact, I’ll tell you what, why don’t you go get me a beer. I’m old enough to drink, so go get me one, please.” I want them to be able to go get it, and hand it to me.

I’m not going to hide the fact that there’s alcohol in the house, because I want my sons to think, “Dad is being honest with us. Dad loves us and trusts us to know that there’s alcohol in the house. He’s not hiding anything.”

Sometimes kids have issues because their parents don’t want to address the reality of drinking. Some parents try to guilt their kids or scare their kids into not drinking. But that’s a problem, because then those kids only respect their parents out of fear or guilt, not love. That’s not how I want to raise my children.

LoveGreaterThanFear

I want my children to respect me. I’m hoping they will respect me enough to know that they’re not allowed to drink. If I do catch them drinking, there will be some disciplinary action. Will I have to take the alcohol out of my house? I hope not. I would, if they’re not making wise decisions. But I’m not going to start my relationship off with my sons by hiding things.

I don’t want my sons to look at me and say, “That’s my Dad who I respect because I’m scared of him.” I don’t want them to say, “That’s my Dad who I respect because I hate feeling guilty whenever I’m around him. I would rather obey him than feel guilty.”

I want my sons to say, “That’s my Daddy. I love and respect him because he loves and respects me. He’s honest with me. I know I can talk to him any time about anything. He won’t fly off the handle and yell at me. He won’t guilt me into doing what’s right. We’re going to talk things out and I’m going to feel so calm around him that I’ll want to do what’s right, because I respect him.”

It’s the same way with Jesus. Some people say they love and obey Jesus because He’s God, but that might be putting it backwards. It’s because He loved me and died for me that I obey. Put another way, I don’t obey in order to be saved. I obey because I’m saved. That’s the relationship Jesus wants to have with us.

I don’t want my sons to look at me and say, “I respect you because you’re the father figure of our home.” I want them to say, “Dad, because you’re the nurturing father figure of our home, I respect you and I love you. I’m not just obeying you because I’m afraid of you. I’m obeying you because I’m your son. You have done so much for me and you care for me, and I love you.”

That’s the reality that I want for my family.

I’m going to wrap up this short series on drinking with a few words for the churches. See you Monday.

Talking to Young People About Drinking

I like the taste of some beers. I really do. I like enjoying a nice beer. It relaxes me and it calms me. Wine does the same thing. That’s why my wife enjoys a glass of wine. It relaxes her, and relieves some of her stress. It eases up her shoulders after a long day. It’s okay to do that.

But you shouldn’t drink to a point where you’re no longer sober-minded. And my sons are going to know that.

If my sons ask me if it’s wrong to drink, I will say, “No. It’s not wrong. If you drink to drunkenness, son, that’s when it is wrong.”

I won’t tell them it’s a sin to drink, because that’s not true. But it is against the law to drink. I’ll tell them about that. I think that angle would work pretty well for most young people. It is illegal, and you’ve got to follow the laws about drinking.

So when my sons turn 16, they might ask me, “Why can’t I have a beer?” I’ll tell them, “In this country, it’s not legal for a 16 year-old to drink beer. That’s why. The Bible says to obey the government that you’re in, and this country, they don’t want you drinking at sixteen years of age.”

be sober

Because here’s another reality: at sixteen, you’ve just started driving. You don’t know whether to make a left turn or a right turn. You’re not even confident enough to know whether to speed up or slow down at a yellow light. So what makes you think that you’re going to make the right decision when you’re sixteen and drunk? If you get drunk and then drive drunk, people can die.

That’s why it’s against the law for teenagers to drink. There are huge decisions involved here, with huge consequences!

The government says that when you turn 21, you’re an adult.  At 21, you are expected to make adult decisions. And an adult decision is a decision that can influence another person’s life. So at 21, you can go ahead and drink. But if you drive drunk, and someone dies, you can be held with adults, and you can be punished as an adult.

I know young people will argue , especially when they reach the age of 18. They’ll say, “I’m 18 years old, so I should be able to make my own decisions.” Right. Because you’re good at that. At 16, 17, 18 years old, you’re telling me that the decisions you make are made with a lot of wisdom. You’ve been through life. You know exactly what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.

I know you think you know everything. Well, you don’t. I mean, we all went through it when we were 18. I get it. I understand. But it is what it is. You have to wait until you’re 21. Anyway, when it comes to alcohol, too much of it can cause you to lose self-control, and that leads to bad consequences. Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit. People see self-control in us when we represent Jesus, and they don’t see Him in us when we lose self-control.

That’s what I’ll tell my sons. Because when you’re 21 boys, you are no longer in my control. When you’re 21, I can’t help you. You’ll be an adult then, making adult decisions. While you’re with me, I’ll give you wisdom. I’ll help you, defend you, and fight for you. But I’m not going to sit there and slap your hand if you have a beer or an alcoholic drink at 21. You can do what you want. Just know that I can’t go to battle for you anymore.

We can tell our children it’s a sin to drink. We can try to control them with fear. But why not relate to them instead, with love and respect? That’s what I want to talk about next time. See you Thursday.

Love in Action

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear!…Dear friends, do you think you’ll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything? Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it? For instance, you come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half-starved and say, “Good morning, friend! Be clothed in Christ! Be filled with the Holy Spirit!” and walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup—where does that get you? Isn’t it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense?

I can already hear one of you agreeing by saying, “Sounds good. You take care of the faith department, I’ll handle the works department.”

Not so fast. You can no more show me your works apart from your faith than I can show you my faith apart from my works. Faith and works, works and faith, fit together hand in glove. (James 1:22, 2:14-18)

Love in ActionLet me tell you what I hear James saying here. James is worried about the converts in the churches who say they accept Jesus, but don’t do anything. Maybe they are just quiet, meaning they aren’t out taking care of their neighbor. Maybe they are showing favoritism (2:1-7). They are still reflecting the values and concerns of the world, instead of doing what Jesus asked us to do: renounce the world in order to live with the mentality of God’s Kingdom. To these people James is saying, “You say you’re a Christian, but you act like the world. I say I’m a Christian, and I will act like the Kingdom of God. The world is flesh, and the Kingdom is spirit. You show me what’s more alive.”

James is also worried about people who might say, “I love Jesus. I’m saved,” and then they act in ways that contradict the life we enjoy in God’s Kingdom. They hate, or commit adultery, or lie, or cheat, or steal (2:8-13). When you do that, no one is going to see that you are saved. Do you know what’s going to come out of that? Not the fruits of the Spirit. Not love, joy, patience, kindness, goodness and self-control. There is a lot of other stuff that’s going to come out of it, obviously. James also says that sin eventually gives birth to death. So you’ll die, inwardly. You’ll be a shadow person, dead inside, and you won’t reflect Christ at all.

This part of James is controversial, and we sometimes worry about a disagreement between James and Paul. But that’s because we put too much focus on performance. Paul and James see things the same way. God’s grace, freely offered to us, saves us. We can’t save ourselves. Think about the whole New Testament’s message on grace. Think about what Paul says: “The Law is rubbish. I no longer want to perform. It doesn’t make sense.”

You can’t achieve salvation by works (Greek: erga, works, acts, deeds). James knows that. But there will be a judgment. God will look at us and see sheep and goats. If you love your neighbor as Jesus described in Matthew 25, then you’re a sheep. But that’s not performance. That’s living in the Kingdom of God, not performing in order to get in. Love is alive, and where there is life, there is action. That’s why James says, “Faith without works is dead. I’ll show you my faith with works, and you’ll see that it’s alive.”

See you Thursday.

 

 

Your Faith Is Showing

What is the goal of life, the thing most worth striving for? Most people would probably say, “Happiness.”  My answer is a little different.  I strive to know that when I sit in front of the throne of God, He will look at me and say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:21) My faith shows in the things I do. So does yours!

This doesn’t mean that I have a works mentality. I don’t believe my works will get me to heaven. Like Paul, I believe my faith will get me to heaven. (Romans 3:28)

But the works I perform are the result of the faithful life I try to live every day. You can boil my whole theology down to one concept: discipleship. I try to live a life of Jesus.

James, the Brother of Jesus. Italy, artist unknown.

We don’t have to resolve the works/faith “issue,” because when we live the life of Jesus, there is no issue. That’s what you see in James. He said, “Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” (James 2:18)

Some people say that James and Paul were having a disagreement, but they weren’t. They were talking about two different things. When Paul said that you aren’t saved by works, he meant that works alone will not get you into heaven. Paul said, “Look, you’re not going to be able to just do good things and expect to get to heaven. You need to give up your soul.” And in my belief, that’s true. Paul and James agreed on this.

But while Paul was talking about giving up your soul and becoming a believer, James was talking to the believers, the ones that had already given up their souls to God. When James said, “I will show you my faith by my works,” he was talking about the lifestyle that you live when you’re a believer.

What lifestyle was James talking about? Just as Paul said, once you confess that Jesus died for your sins, you are saved. But then what? Do you now say, “Oh, I can just sit around and do whatever I want. My salvation is all about grace, so I can go ahead and live my life just the way I like.”

Paul and James and all the other disciples had one word for that: No! And the proof is in the lives they lived as disciples of Jesus.  They lived lives of sacrifice, and they were persecuted for it. They were definitely not persecuted because they did whatever they felt like doing! They gave their lives to Jesus. They lived the lifestyle of Jesus. They showed us the life of a believer.

It was this lifestyle that got them in trouble. It was a lifestyle that got them crucified upside down. It was a lifestyle that got them thrown into prison. It was a lifestyle that got them stoned to death. The disciples were living a lifestyle that shook people up! They were going into pagan Greece and pagan Rome. They walked into the temples of a ton of different Gods. They walked into places where people were having orgies. They walked into these places and said, “No! No! This is not the lifestyle you are supposed to be living! It’s unfulfilling.”

The disciples showed us how to live. They challenged people’s worldviews. That was their lifestyle. And that’s what James is saying. You show me a believer that has a lifestyle of Jesus. That’s Christianity. But you show me a lifestyle that is without works, a lifestyle where you don’t do anything? You sit around? You accept Christ and then you just sit there and you don’t go out and live for Jesus? That’s not Christianity. You say you have faith, but who can see it? We’re called to so much more.

When you show people your faith through your works, it might change you.  More on this next time.  See you Monday.

A Full Basket

As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.” Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” Matthew 14:15-16

You show me someone living in faith, based on the living Kingdom of God, and I’ll show you someone that’s happy and joyful. I’ll show you someone working to receive money to put in wells in places that don’t have clean water, and you will see the joy on that person’s face. And I will tell you, “That is faith with works.” This isn’t about performing in order to get into the Kingdom. This is about already being in the Kingdom, and thinking with that mindset. Someone like this doesn’t say, “I want to do that too, but I don’t have enough money just now.” Instead she says, “I’ll get another job and raise the money to be able to put in wells.” This is just what we do.

The money’s not going to drop down from heaven and land on your nose. God doesn’t expect you to have it already. But He’ll get it to you. God says, “You are in my family. This is who you are. Your neighbor needs your love. How are you going to get it done?”

loaves and fishesThink about Jesus feeding the five thousand. The disciples came to Him and said, “These people are hungry!” And Jesus said, “You feed them.” But they said, “We can’t feed all these people! We only have two loaves and a fish.” Then Jesus said, “Well, don’t tell them to go in the village to find food. They’re sitting here waiting. They want to hang out. They want to commune. I’ll feed them.” The disciples said, “How are you going to do that?” And Jesus said, “I’m going to do something flat-out amazing. That’s how.”

Now He was Jesus, so He worked a little differently than we do. He did a miracle. But he showed us that we don’t have to give up. We don’t just say, “Oh, that’s not much food. I guess we’re not feeding them!” That’s what the apostles were going to do. That’s what most people do. “Well, I don’t have the means to help, so I won’t.”

But Jesus says, figure out a way to get the means. Because He will provide, if you actually take that step.

Everything Jesus did reflected on how awesome God is. He figured out a way to feed multitudes of hungry people. And when He did that, He showed us how to get it done. It’s all about servant leadership. We go to God in love and we say, “Lord, people are hungry. People are sick. They don’t have any clean water. Children are homeless. They don’t have moms or dads. Someone is going to traffic them and put them in slavery.” And the Lord says, “Help them. You give them something to eat. You give them clean water. You find them homes and liberate and protect them.” And when we say, “But Lord, I can’t. I don’t have enough,” then He says, “You’re going to figure out a way. You’re going to figure out a way to get them what they need. You’re not going to tell them to go help themselves. You serve them.”

I don’t even know if the crowd knew what Jesus did that day. But the disciples knew. He told them, “Hey, just start passing the basket. It’ll stay full. It’ll stay full.” You know? And He fed them. And when He did that, they stayed and listened.

That’s walking in the Kingdom of God.

Trusting Each Other Like God Trusts Us

I trust God that I am holy and righteous. Holy and righteous in His eyes, I am free to do whatever I want and feel good about it. And my freedom to do whatever I want and feel good about it makes me who I am.

People hear this Good News and they are incredulous. They ask, “So this means you can just do whatever you want?” No, it doesn’t mean that. That question comes from the flesh, and the things it wants to do. The flesh thinks, “I have fire insurance. I can literally do whatever I want, no consequences! I’m saved!”

I can see how the message might sound that way. But think about this from a different mindset. Don’t think from your flesh. Think from within God’s family and Kingdom, because that’s where you live now.

In the world of the flesh, doing whatever you want seems fun at the time. But there are a lot of consequences right away. There’s a lot of pain. A lot of people get hurt because we let the flesh do the thinking. But at the very moment that you recognize what Jesus did, you are saved by the Spirit of God. Now your identity is in Christ. That identity is holy and righteous. Holy and righteous simply loves its neighbor.

You see, that’s what God does, man, He goes into you and He transforms you. He makes you a new creature in Christ. He creates within you a new Spirit, and Spirit thinks with the mindset of God’s Kingdom. The Kingdom of God is grace and mercy. So that’s what we reflect.

Is there a vengeful God? I believe so. You’ll see that at the end of time. I do believe that. God’s wrath will come. But that is not who God is for us right now. I think that right now, to reflect God is to serve. The Kingdom mentality is a servant mentality, so we reflect God by serving. We love our neighbors as ourselves.

That’s how I understand my identity in Christ. This is who I am. I don’t perform acts of service in order to receive acceptance from God. Performance is trying to get acceptance, but God has already accepted me. I serve because I’m a member of His family!

Performance kills families. It eats away at marriages. You expect a certain image of perfection from your husband or your wife and you judge them when they fall short. And they say, “Wait a minute. If you trust me and you love me, I shouldn’t have to perform for you in order to be accepted by you. I should already be accepted. I should be able to mess up, and trust you to love and help me.” The same thing applies to parents and children. Your children should hear you say, “I accept you and I love you. You don’t have to perform to be my child.”

There’s no performance in God’s family. God trusts you and accepts you even when you mess up. When you mess up, God says, “Let’s talk about this. What can I do to help you? Not fix you, help you.” That’s what a trusting relationship looks like, and we can reflect this in our own families. Our families can reflect God’s family.

See you Monday.

Living in the Family of God

I’ve had a lot to say lately about trusting that you are holy and righteous in the eyes of God. You don’t have to perform for God to be accepted by Him. He already accepts you. You can trust that, and live from it.

So what is the difference between performing for God, and acting as a representative of God’s Kingdom? When is helping the hungry, the homeless, or the enslaved a performance for God, and when is helping them the act of a holy and righteous child of God?

Being loved and accepted by God is your identity. Walk in it! His Spirit guides you to reflect His Kingdom in everything you do. Suppose you see a homeless person that needs money. You look at him, and the Spirit says, “Yes.” So you give him money. The Spirit of God, who lives within me, my encourager, counselor, and adviser, says, “I advise you, Jeremy, to give that guy money.”

Sometimes the Spirit says, “I’m advising you to not give that guy money. I know the heart of that man and I’m advising you not to do it.” Alright! So I walk by! I’ve walked by homeless guys and not given them money because I didn’t feel right about it at the time.

But my heart is always in it. I don’t walk past without giving money because I don’t want to. In the same way, I don’t give the guy money simply because I feel bad for him. Or, I don’t give him money because I’m thinking, “Oh, man, I did something bad yesterday. So I’m going to give this guy money so that I’ll feel good.” No, no. I give money when the Spirit tells me to. That’s who I am, and that’s who I want to be.

Performance is based on trying to make somebody like you. Right? We all perform at our jobs. It’s definitely true for professional athletes. An athlete’s performance pays the owners’ bills. If the fans don’t like you, they don’t come to the game. They come if they like your performance, and that’s how we get paid. So we have to perform.

That’s how we end up confusing performance with action. But there is a difference, and it lies in the heart. If I build a well for a village that needs clean water so that God will love me, He will frown on that. God looks at that and He says, “Jeremy! I love you. You are in my family! You should build a well because you come from my family, not in order to be in my family. You’re already here. The well that you want to build comes from the aroma and the environment that my Kingdom naturally provides, and you already live in that. Love, grace and mercy are a part of that and you reflect it. That’s my Kingdom.”

When you come from His Kingdom, and you see pain, you’re going to help. Jesus said, “I only do as my Father does. Forgive, because my Father forgives. Heal the sick, because my Father heals the sick. Turn water into wine, because my Father is the author of miracles, signs, and wonders. I’m going to take those who laugh and I will make their joy plentiful.”

That’s what God does!

More on this next time. See you Thursday.