The Easy Part
One of the most effortless things a person can do in life is to choose to become a disciple of Jesus Christ. There is nothing magical or mystical about the process of becoming a believer. It all starts with you by simply saying, "Jesus, I know that I'm a sinner, I trust that Your death on the cross was sufficient to pay for my sins, and I'm asking You to come into my heart and save me."
Becoming a Christian in name only is truly very easy. The hard part comes when you try to live the life of a believer. One thing I've learned from my own struggles is at times it is very difficult to stay on the straight and narrow path. If it's not the world working to entice you back into a sinful lifestyle, your own flesh will be doing its best to corrupt your morals.
"Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things" (Phil 4:8).
There are many times when resisting sin will seem as difficult as walking on water. I'm sure many people would be happy to just be able to keep their heads above the water line. I have found the best way to improve your Christian walk is to first admit you have problems in certain areas. Two of the greatest impediments found throughout Christianity is the lack of sincerity and the inability to confess personal faults.
"Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much" (James 5:16 KJV).
"Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself" (Gal 6:2-3).
Christian Leaders on Drugs
When it comes to fulfilling our role in society, much of our guidance comes from the people we highly regard. Our birth parents are normally the first role models we encounter. They teach us how to walk, talk, and interact in our social environment.
Christianity has its role models too. There are some very good heroes of the faith found in the Bible. When I try to think of living examples of people I'd want to emulate, I must say, I come up short-handed.
From my many years of observation I find that a large portion of the Christian leadership seems at times like they're high on drugs. They display poor judgment, they talk in the same manner as someone whose mind is impaired, and they often seem numb to the trials the average Christian encounters in his daily life. For some reason they just simply don't act like normal people.
I remember when I lived up in my home town of Storm Lake, Iowa; I attended an Assembly of God Church that had a very down to earth pastor, and he taught me a lot about the Bible. During Sunday night service, the whole congregation would engage in a continuous study of the Bible, and it was one of the most productive times I ever recall experiencing in a church setting.
This same Pastor had a Sunday program on KAYL, the local radio station, and I was always amazed at how he addressed the radio audience. Instead of using his normal way of speaking, he would utilize this almost unidentifiable, sweet syrupy tone of voice. I could never understand why he was putting on a facade of holy talk. Was he taking drugs before he went on the air, or was he pretending to be someone he was not?
One night I was listening to an AM radio station, and I heard a fired up minister begin quoting a passage from the New Testament. Because he kept interrupting himself, I could hardly follow the man. "Then Jesus - Praise God - said to his disciples, - Amen - Let us - Hallelujah - pass over - Glory to the Lamb - to the other side."
I seriously doubt this gentleman uses this mode of speaking in his everyday life. I hardly think he rolls up to the drive-through window at McDonalds and says, "I'll have - Amen - a Big Mac - Glory hallelujah - a large fry - Praise God - and a chocolate shake - Thank you Jesus."
Many of the women I see on Christian television always seem to talk with the most pitiful, little voice you could imagine. Maybe these women are overworked in their ministry, and they desperately need to catch up on their sleep. I would hate to think that some Christians are just naturally gloomy.
When it comes to poor judgment, I could never understand why so many preachers like to wear $3,000 suits, drive BMWs and live in multi-million dollars homes. I've always believed the word "minister" implies modest living. I'm not saying all ministers should be required to take a vow of poverty; however, I do think they should be required to take a vow against extravagance.
When Jim and Tammy Bakker had their scandal with PTL, Tammy Bakker became a national poster child for gaudy make-up. It surprises me greatly to see women following in Tammy's footsteps. Right now I have in mind one individual who currently reigns as the queen of charismatic television. As much make-up as she wears, you would think she buys it by the pound.
"In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; but (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works" (1 Tim 2:9-10).
I almost wish these people were on drugs. We could check them into the Betty Ford Center, and their problem could be resolved with a twelve-step program. Barring the possible use of illegal substances, the general idea at work here seems to be if you look, talk, and act spiritual; you will appear to be spiritual.
We're All Equally Mortal
Whenever a prominent leader falls prey to a major sin, the public has a natural tendency to highlight his moral failing. When people point to him and say, "He's just like us," they are 100 percent correct. Even the most seemingly righteous person has to constantly guard against some of the most basic temptations.
Everyday, countless numbers of people, that have tried to follow after the Christian way of life, give up because they don't think they're able to measure up to the standards found in the Bible. Some folks believe God has a select number of people He endows with the power to live sin-free. Because sin is still present in their life, they feel they're not a member of that special group of people.
There are a number of guidelines in the Bible that God demands we follow. The problem is that no one is able to adequately adhere to these rules. No matter how hard we try, eventually we'll slip up in an area. In the book of Romans, Paul candidly spoke about his own inability to achieve perfection:
For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do... O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? (Rom 7:19 and 24).
I'm not trying to say sin doesn't matter. The Bible plainly says there are minimal requirements we need to meet in order to qualify for God's grace. The contradiction of our inability to meet those standards is resolved by the fact we are, with God's help, striving to reach the state of perfection.
"Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 7:21).
"I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me" (Gal 2:20 KJV).
God Loves Me; God Hates Me
Quite often our relationship with God is directly affected by how the world treats us. It would be so wonderful if life was one, long continuation of a Frank Capra movie, but unfortunately none of us live in the land of "happily-ever-after". When things are going good, we think God loves us. When things turn sour, we conclude that God doesn't love us anymore.
My own mother would ride this roller coaster up and down all the time. During cheerful times, she'd be singing hymns of praise, telling me how the Lord had blessed our family, but during times of stress, she seemed to assume God and the devil had joined forces to make her life miserable.
I'm not going to just hang dear, old mom out to dry here. I too have found myself on this cycle of loving God when things are going my way, and getting discouraged with him when trouble comes. My fault has always been that I see God as the one pulling the strings in all situations.
Unless we're able to deify fictional characters like Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy, we're not going to have a supreme being that only doles out the goodies. What kind of relationship would we have with God if our love is solely based on things going our way?
"Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him" (John 14:23).
What helps me the most is to take note of the trivial nature of some of the stuff I have allowed to bug me. If I can only recall a few of the negative events that have happened to me, then I guess my original complaint to God was over nothing.
Another way to chase away the thoughts of doubt and discouragement is to focus on the blessings we have in the world to come. The apostle Paul told the Ephesians that he was praying:
"That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints" (Eph 1:17-18).
You Show Me Your Sin, and I'll Show You Mine
The inclusion within the Bible of sinful acts and the consequences for these acts is the method the Lord has chosen to instruct people in righteous living throughout the centuries. The Good Book is full of detailed accounts of saints of God falling on their faces and then getting back up.
When it comes to instruction on about sin today, personal examples are rarely ever presented by church leaders. When you hear people talk about sin, they always use general terms or cite sins they committed before they came to Jesus. You never hear someone say, "Oh boy, I fell off the wagon last night and went drinking with the guys in the shop, and I ended up getting blasted out of my mind."
Because professing Christians are held to unrealistically high standards, people are unwilling to highlight their own misdeeds. The Bible says no man is perfect, but yet, we seem to always gravitate towards this need to present an outward image of sinless perfection.
"But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags" (Isa 64:6 KJV)
The most common confession you'll hear the average pastor admit to is the deep, dark sin of not loving God enough. Oh boy, my middle name is guilty when it comes to not giving God my all. Of course, in my case you'd also have to add a little bit of all of the seven deadly sins: wrath, gluttony, sloth, pride, lust, greed and envy. The odd thing about me is that I'm generally a moral hermit. I'm always at home working on my computer, so I don't normally experience the same types of trials most people face each day.
I have been in some challenging situations. A few years back when I was over in Saudi Arabia helping keep Saddam Hussein at bay, I found myself in a horrid environment that briefly brought me to the point of contemplating doing physical harm to someone.
I was working in a dusty grimy warehouse with a woman that must have been the biggest whiner on the planet. Here I was living day after day in 110 degree heat, having to constantly watch for poisonous spiders and scorpions, while working with a woman that was known as Psycho Silvia. She absolutely drove me up the wall with her constant complaining about the conditions we were forced to endure.
Because of the intense heat, we drank gallon after gallon of bottled water. On top of the refrigerator was a big butcher knife that we used to open cardboard boxes. To this very day I remember looking at Silvia's head and that butcher knife and thinking to myself, "That knife would look really good sticking out of her noggin." Somehow I survived Silvia and somehow she unknowingly survived me.
I always cringe when someone says they've reached the point where they never feel tempted. There's a common term that describes this type of person--liar. Everyone with a pulse has to deal with temptation. It doesn't matter If you're the President, the Pope, or a pauper, we all have our daily battles with the flesh.
What Is Your Foundation?
Every year, Rapture Ready receives around 7,000 email messages. A number of these messages are from folks that relate to me the great difficulty they're having in maintaining their Christian faith. I find it extremely aggravating to watch people struggle to hold on to their faith. I think the most common factor is the majority of these people lack a solid foundation to their faith.
"I have been crucified with Christ; nevertheless, I live. Yet not I, but Christ lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God" (Gal. 2:20).
One time I was going downtown, and as I started the car, I noticed a common housefly on the windshield. I thought as soon as the car began to move, the fly would be gone. To my surprise, the fly remained motionless as I backed out of the driveway. I had driven several blocks, going about 25 mph, and still the fly was holding fast. I knew eventually it would lose its grip on the smooth surface of my windshield. It wasn't until the car accelerated up to 30 mph that the onrushing air was too much for the fly to manage.
A lot of people are like a housefly on a windshield. They try to hold on under their own power, but eventually they lose their grip and fall away. At first they may seem to be doing quite well. The fly that was on my windshield surpassed all of my expectations; it held for about six blocks before being brushed away by the breeze.
I think the main reason why people are swept away is that they're not clinging to anything sturdy. I love maintaining Rapture Ready, but there are times when the process can become taxing. Because I know Jesus can come at any moment, I keep on keeping on. The imminency of Christ's return is my foundation.
Every now and then I go through my link page to clean out all the dead links. One time I found 5 links in a row that were inactive. Some of these dead links were probably the result of the web sites being moved to a different internet provider, but most were due to the operator just getting tired of updating his site.
Because I want to be a benefit to the Kingdom of God, I continue to push ahead. Another motivation for me is the realization that we will someday be judged for the works we perform in this life. Jesus repeatedly warned that all believers will have to give an account of their lives. This statement stands in direct conflict with the popular belief that spiritual laziness has no consequence.
"For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men" (2 Cor 5:10-11).
I've always envisioned the race for heaven as being just that--a race. I strongly believe that everyone that runs vigorously for the prize will win handily, everyone walking briskly will also easily win, everyone heading in the right general direction will likely win, and I believe many people that are crawling towards the finish line will also receive a blue ribbon.
Spiritual maturity is best described as people realizing they have more wealth in heaven than they do here on earth. If a person realizes they have a mansion waiting for them in glory, they would be less likely to fret about a leaky roof in their earthly home. If your sickly 98-year-old Grandfather was planning on leaving you his 10 million dollar fortune, I seriously doubt you'd have a valid reason for being discouraged over the fact you didn't get that 25 cents an hour raise.
"In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. (John 14:2-3).
"For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us" (Rom 8:18).
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