Thursdays With Spurgeon—Keep Moving Forward

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on iTunes or Spotify.

Keep Moving Forward  

For we walk by faith, not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:7) 

     God does not say to us, ‘This is the way,’ and then stop. He says, ‘This is the way, walk in it.’ We are always to be making advances. We are to be going from faith in its beginnings to faith in its perfections, from faith to assurance, from assurance to full assurance. And from there, we are to go to the full assurance of hope to the full assurance of understanding, always forward, waxing stronger and stronger. …  

     The Christian’s motto is ‘Upward and onward.’ Not as though he has already obtained, either is already perfect, he presses forward to the mark for the prize of his high calling in Christ Jesus. …  

     Can you perform the common activities of the household and the daily duties that fall to your lot in the spirit of faith? This is what the apostle means. He does not speak about running or jumping or fighting, but about walking—and he means to tell you that the ordinary life of a Christian is different from the life of another man—that he has learned to introduce faith into everything he does. 

From Faith Versus Sight

I have a t-shirt that says on the front, “Keep moving forward.” But the back of the t-shirt has the real-life challenge: “Crawling is acceptable. Falling is acceptable. Puking is acceptable. Crying is acceptable. Pain is acceptable. Quitting is not!” 

How true! 

I think the problem for many Christians is that they have an unrealistic expectation of growth. Somehow we’ve come to believe that our Christian growth is a constant upward trajectory to maturity, and that if there are ever any stumbles along the way, that means we’ve blown it. (By the way, Oswald Chambers has some helpful thoughts on our stair-step growth.)

But Paul tells us, “We walk”: We keep moving forward. That doesn’t mean there aren’t times of stumbling, or a plateau, or even a pause to catch our breath. Paul tells us that an important aspect of our walk is that we forget what’s behind us and we keep moving forward—keep walking—keep going. 

Every single day, let us say along with Paul, “I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us” (Philippians 3:12-14 NLT). 

My friend, keep moving forward in faith, believing that the Holy Spirit is with you—maturing you, strengthening you—on every single step on your Christian walk.

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—Walking Preachers

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on iTunes or Spotify.

Walking Preachers  

For we walk by faith, not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:7) 

     Walking is a position that…signifies activity. You would suppose from the way some Christians deport themselves, that their whole life was spent in meditation. It is a blessed thing to sit ‘with Mary at the Master’s feet.’ But we walk as well as sit. We do not merely learn, but we practice what we know. We are not simply scholars, but, having been taught as scholars, we go on to show our scholarship by working in the vineyard or wherever else the Master may be pleased to place us. …  

     You would gather indeed from what others say, that the whole life of a Christian is to be spent in prayer. Prayer, it is true, is the vitality of the secret parts of Christian life, but we are not always on our knees! We are not constantly engaged in seeking blessings from heaven. We do continue in prayer, but we are also engaged and showing forth to others the blessings that we have received and in exhibiting in our daily actions the fruits that we have gathered on the mountaintop of communion with God. We walk, and this implies activity. …  

     ‘We walk.’ This is more than some can say. They can affirm, ‘We talk. We think. We experience. We feel.’ But true Christians can say with the apostle Paul, ‘We walk.’ Oh, that we may ever be able to say it too! Here, then, is the activity of the Christian life.

From Faith Versus Sight

Edgar A. Guest captured this idea well in his poem “Sermons We See.” The first stanza says,

I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day;
I’d rather one should walk with me than merely show the way.
The eye’s a better pupil and more willing than the ear;
Fine counsel is confusing, but example’s always clear.
And the best of all preachers are the men who live their creeds.
For to see the good in action is what everybody needs.
 

Or as Francis of Assisi noted, “It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching.” 

So a fantastic question for every Christian to ask themselves is this: Do people know that I’m walking with Jesus even if I never open my mouth to tell them?

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Hope-Fueled Praise

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on Apple or Spotify.

Do not be far from me, my God; come quickly, God, to help me. (Psalm 71:12) 

This is the middle verse of this psalm and the heart of this psalm’s message. This verse speaks not only of God’s omnipresence and His omnipotence, but it also speaks of a lifelong, increasing awareness of His presence and power. 

What a blessing to know that I have a sure Rock to which I can always go (v. 3), and a Savior whom I have had as my confidence since my youth (v. 5). This hopeful assurance causes me to praise God—the more I hope, the more I praise. As a result, my praise grows from an occasional response, to a daily practice, to a moment-by-moment lifestyle. 

Listen to these words from the psalmist: 

  • I will ever praise You
  • my mouth is filled with Your praise, declaring Your splendor all day long 
  • I will always have hope; I will praise You more and more 
  • my mouth will tell of Your righteousness, of Your salvation all day long 
  • I declare Your marvelous deeds 
  • my tongue will tell of Your righteous acts all day long

My hope fuels my praise. My praise strengthens my hope. The more I realize hope, the more I praise God, and the more I praise God, the more hope-filled I become! 

My friend, there are more reasons to praise God than you can possibly count but go ahead and start counting them anyway. As the words of the old hymn remind us, “Count your blessings, name them one by one … and it will surprise you what the Lord has done.” 

May our tongues be continually telling of God’s blessings, and may our praise be continually filling us with renewed hopefulness of His future blessings! 

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Spirit-Empowered To Do Good Works

Micah the prophet’s name means who is like God, or more literally: “who but God?” The implied answer, of course, is no one! 

Micah opens his letter by telling us his name, and then he closes his prophetic words with a play on his name when he says, “Who is a God like You?” (7:18-20). Who else but God could…

  • …pardon sin?
  • …forgive transgressions? 
  • …not stay angry at sinners? 
  • …delight to show mercy? 
  • …have such boundless compassion? 
  • …tread our sins under His foot?
  • …hurl our iniquities into the sea?  

NO ONE! 

In light of this, how should we respond to this amazing God? Micah asks a series of rhetorical questions about what sort of religious practices would somehow “balance the scales” for God’s amazing gifts to us. But here’s the deal: there is no way for us to balance the scales! Instead, Micah tells us this, “God has showed you what is good. What does the Lord require of you? To act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” 

In other words, our response to God’s invaluable gifts must transition from a have to lifestyle to a get to lifestyle! Micah makes it clear that God’s Spirit empowers us to live this way (Micah 3:8). 

It is the Holy Spirit who empowers Christians to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God. 

The apostle Paul agrees with Micah, even echoing some of Micah’s own phrases—God’s great love, His rich mercy, His unearned grace, His forgiveness of sin, His kindness, and His salvation (Ephesians 2:4-10). Why did God do all of this? So that we could “do good works”—like acting justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly—“which God prepared in advance for us to do”!

I am saved by grace SO THAT I am free to do grace-filled, Spirit-empowered, good things. 

All of this prompts me to ask myself three introspective questions:

  1. Do I continually remind myself that I was saved by grace and not by works? I need to check my have to vs. get to attitude. 
  2. Am I aware that people are watching me? What are they seeing? Do they see godly justice, loving mercy, and humility? 
  3. Am I living like Jesus? Peter explained that Jesus “went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with Him” (Acts 10:38). Can that be said of me too? 

Who but God could call us, forgive us, and forget our sins? NO ONE! 

Who but God could empower us to live in such a way that others see His greatness too? NO ONE! 

Let’s never, ever become self-reliant or works-dependent (that’s have to living), but let’s stay so Spirit-reliant that we cannot help be get to people! 

If you’ve missed any of the other messages in our series about major lessons from the minor prophets, you can find the full list by clicking here

Why Couldn’t This Be Said Of You?

“Never before had there been a man/woman like ___________, who turned to the Lord with all his/her heart and soul and strength, obeying all the laws of Moses. And there has never been a man/woman like him/her since.” (2 Kings 23:25 NLT) 

What would it take to put your name in the blank? 

God wants you to put your name there, and He will help you if you will ask Him! 

A Life Worthy Of The Gospel

Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ… (Philippians 1:27).

The apostle Paul wanted the Philippians’ living to be their preaching. Much like Francis of Assisi said years later: “Preach always; if necessary, use words.”

The big question is—what does conduct “worthy of the gospel of Christ” look like? I believe Paul identifies at least 15 characteristics in just the next 20 or so verses

  1. It is not a people-pleasing lifestyle. It is a God-honoring, Spirit-lead, Christ-glorifying lifestyle.
  2. It is steadfast, which means it perseveres even through the trials and difficulties.
  3. It is a heart and mind unified with other Christians.
  4. It is bold—“without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you.” 
  5. It is strengthened in Christ and it is in constant fellowship with the Holy Spirit. 
  6. It overflows with loving comfort, affection, and mercy to those around it.
  7. It humbly serves others while confidently refreshing itself in Christ.
  8. It strives to live as Jesus did, seeking always for God to be glorified.
  9. It is obedient to the conviction and direction of the Holy Spirit.
  10. It finds pleasure in doing God’s will.
  11. It doesn’t complain.
  12. It is a blameless and harmless life.
  13. It shines a light that attracts others to God’s love.
  14. It holds fast to the Word of life for the long haul.
  15. It is a rejoicing, contented lifestyle.

Heavenly Father, may it always be said of my life that it is one that is worthy of the gospel of Christ. May I always be sensitive to the nudges of the Holy Spirit to keep my life aligned in this way. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen! 

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Evidence Of Christian Maturity

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Evidence Of Christian Maturity

     One of the first evidences that anyone is a child of God is that he hates with a perfect hatred and seeks to live a holy, Christlike life. … 

     I bless God that I have learned to have very little respect for the vision of the man with the measuring line. When I see an angel with it, I am glad enough; but when I see a man with it, I tell him that he must give me a warrant from God and show me how he is to know the elect by any other method than that laid down by our Lord Jesus Christ: “Ye shall know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:16). … 

     He who truly grows in grace does not say, “Dear me! I can feel that I am growing; bless the Lord! Let’s sing a hymn. ‘I’m a-growing! I’m a-growing!’” I have often felt that I was growing smaller; I think that is very probable, and a good thing, too. If we are very great in our own estimation, it is because we have a number of cancers, or foul gatherings, that need to be lanced, so as to let out the bad matter that causes us to boast of our bigness. 

From The Autobiography Of Charles Spurgeon 

Some Dos and Don’ts for Christian growth:

Do—hate those things that keep you from God’s presence
Do—seek to be conformed to the image of Jesus

Don’t—look at other people as your measuring line
Do—make sure your life is fruitful according to God’s standards

Don’t—brag about your growth
Do—humbly thank God for your growth
Do—be quick to repent of un-Christlike things the Holy Spirit reveals to you

Walk This Way

In his letter to the Christians in Ephesus, Paul uses the word “walk” seven times to instruct them how to follow the path Jesus laid down for us. 

In Greek, the word for “walks” (peripatēo) means something that regulates my life, or something that keeps me on the right path. It’s my lifestyle that is kept in proper boundaries by something outside of me. 

First of all, notice how Paul tells Christians how not to walk. DON’T WALK THIS WAY…

…following pop culture (2:2)—Living a certain lifestyle because “everyone” is doing it, or because some popular people are living that way. 

…without thinking about why you’re walking the way you are (4:17)

…without comparing your walk to truth (5:8)—Living a life because it feels good to me is a dangerous way to live. I must make sure there is an objective truth that is keeping me on a proper path.

…foolishly (5:15)—To be foolish is either (a) not knowing the truth, (b) not applying the truth I have been shown, or (c) choosing to disregard the truth I’ve been given. 

Instead, Paul tells Christians to WALK THIS WAY

…knowing I am God’s workmanship, created for a great purpose (2:10)—It may take me some time to discover my purpose and my talents, but I keep at it. 

…worthy of my vocation (4:1)—Once I have discovered my talents, I develop them into strengths that will benefit others. 

…lovingly (5:2)—Just as Jesus did! 

…in the light of God’s truth (5:8)—This is the exact opposite of foolishly walking. It means I seek the truth and I apply the truth to my life. 

…circumspectly (5:15)—Not wasting my moments, but making sure I am giving 100 percent every single day.

When I WALK THIS WAY people will inevitably notice that I’m motivated not by popularity with people, but by intimacy with God (5:2-7). They will see that my path is bordered by the principles in God’s Word (5:8-14; Psalm 119:105). And they will notice that my life has purpose and is productive (5:15-20). 

All Christians should ask themselves:

  • Is Jesus pleased with the path I’m on today?
  • Can others follow my footsteps toward their own relationship with Christ? 

If you can answer “yes” to those questions, then Jesus will be pleased that you WALK THIS WAY! 

[You can check out the Scriptures I referenced in this post by clicking on DON’T WALK THIS WAY and WALK THIS WAY above.]

What Is Church?

All across the world on Sunday morning, people met for church? But what exactly is church? Is it a place we go to? Is it something that only happens on Sundays? 

The Greek word for church is ekklesia. It meant an assembly of citizens. Luke used the term when he recorded a government official saying, “If there is anything further you want to bring up, it must be settled in a legal assembly” (Acts 19:39). But in the New Testament, it came to mean “a community based on a special religious idea and established in a special way” (Dr. Marvin Vincent). It can also mean either a local group of Christians or “the whole body of Christians scattered throughout the earth” (Dr. James Strong). 

Church never means a building. Nowhere does the phrase “go to church” appear in the New Testament. Instead, church carried the idea of a living, growing organism because church was wherever a follower of Jesus was. Sometimes the church met collectively in one location, and sometimes individual believers were out in the community. But wherever the Spirit of God went, church was happening. 

If church is not something we go to, it’s also not something that takes place only one day per week. Look at what Jesus did on the Sabbath day: 

But we also see Jesus doing all of these things EVERY day of the week. 

For Jesus, neither the day of the week nor the location determined the way He lived. Peter summed it up this way, “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. Then Jesus went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him” (Acts 10:38). 

In fact, before they were called Christians the church was simply called “the Way” letting us know that the church was a way of life, not a day of the week. 

Based on how Jesus lived and how the Apostle taught, I think we can see the Church Way like this: 

In other words, EVERY day and in EVERY place the followers of Jesus were being enriched in their own lives so that they could reach out to the hurting so that they could come to know Jesus personally so that their lives could be enriched so that they too could reach out to others, and on, and on, and on it goes! 

Limiting “church” to a specific location or to a specific day of the week is way too small-minded. Church as Jesus intended it was a powerful force that would set people free EVERY day and in EVERY place from the power of the devil and introduce them to God’s eternal life! 

Saturday In The Psalms—Resolutions

I will… (9x in Psalm 101).

Psalm 101 is only eight verses long, but David makes nine I will resolutions to God. Perhaps you might consider making these resolutions yourself—

(1) I will sing of mercy and justice. These are two sides of the same coin; in fact, it’s only when we know God’s justice that we can appreciate His mercy. Both God’s justice and His mercy need to be celebrated.

(2) I will sing praises. Regardless of our situation or setting, God is worthy to be praised.

(3) I will behave wisely in a perfect way AND (4) I will walk within my house with a perfect heart. A commitment to integrity, living a godly lifestyle, and leaving a godly legacy.

(5) I will set nothing wicked before my eyes AND (6) I will not know wickedness. A commitment to be childlike in regard to wickedness, and watchfulness of anything impure.

(7) I will destroy AND (8) I will not endure AND (9) I will destroy all the wicked. A resolution to cut-off all relationships that are not God-honoring.

Resolutions aren’t just for New Year’s Day. Resolutions can be made any time we sense something in our life isn’t as God-pleasing as it could be.

What resolutions are you willing to make?

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