What Does It Look Like?: Godly Men (part 5)

Wow…that may have been the longest span yet that I have gone without posting. I am deeply sorry. I FINALLY have internet set up at my new place, but these past few weeks have been a whirl-wind. Now that I am settled in, you can expect more posts to start flooding in. I want to get back on a daily schedule of writing, and I have no excuse not to. I have missed you all! So let’s pick up where we left off. If you are just joining, it might help to read part 1, 2, 3, and 4 of this series before reading this portion. A continuation of 1 Timothy 3:1-7…detailing what it looks like to be a Godly man.)

“Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. 2 Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to but one wife, temperate…

self-controlled…

Self-control.  In the past, every time I read through this verse, I subconsciously lumped together the neighboring terms, “temperate” and “self-controlled”. Afterall, from the surface definitions I knew of them, they were virtually the same term, and applied to the same principles.  However, as I’ve grown in my walk, I’ve learned more about the magnitude of the written Word.  The Bible does not repeat itself unnecessarily.  Its pages aren’t filled with synonyms in order to add density and depth.  Each word has been recorded with purpose and magnitude. My greatest growth in the Word has occurred when I have taken the time to break down verses piece-by-piece, and truly learn the complexity of the image that the words are painting. Each and every word can take on countless forms–that is the beauty in the living, breathing Word of God.

So, then, what does self-control mean with respect to how a Godly man is called to properly lead?  I think the first words that typically flood our minds when we hear that term are: restraint, discipline, and words synonymous with reigning ourselves in and holding back.  While there is some truth in those definitions, self-control is a much broader topic of character. When I think of self-control, the first word that comes to my mind is maturity. Think about it–from the moment we are born we are constantly, consciously and subconsciously, learning traits of self-control.  For example, we start in diapers, progress to pull-ups, and eventually underwear–that is learned self-control of our bodily functions. We begin life unable to hold our own heads up, eventually learn hand-eye coordination, and work to the point of exercise, training, and complete cognitive awareness of our bodies at all times–that is learned bodily control.  We begin life with emotional outbursts, progress to becoming aware of our feelings and triggers, and eventually grow to the point of being able to monitor, communicate, and alter our emotions–that is learned emotional control.  We begin making incoherent sounds, progress to learning written and spoken words and structures, and eventually progress to being capable of writing novels, speaking to groups, and communicating effectively–that is learned language control.

If you look at these four examples, there are similarities amongst all of them.  Primarily, there is a clear coddling period at the beginning of each cycle.  There is a time where we are fully reliant on the care of others.  We are unable to care for ourselves and constantly require the nurturing of another.  Secondarily, there is a phase where we are learning large sums of information and making significant strides in development.  This phase, too, is impacted by others.  We are taught by example, experience, and interaction.  The information is engrained in us by those who are further in their journey and more self-controlled.  And in the final phase of each cycle, there is refinement and progress still being made, but we are largely self-controlled, aware, and matured.  There is that word again–mature.  As we mature, in life, we gain discernment, judgement, discipline, and wisdom. So often the term “self-control” carries a negatively slanted connotation.  As if self-control specifically and independently applies to the ability to reign oneself back or inhibit oneself from doing something.  But in actuality, that term applies to a well-rounded definition of maturity, development, and awareness.  So how does this relate to being a Godly man? Here goes…

As believers, we begin our journey in raw form.  I don’t care if you have been attending church your whole life, or if you had never heard the Word of God and experienced a miraculous “coming to Jesus” moment that changed your life radically.  The moment that it “clicks”…the moment we are saved…the moment we accept Jesus Christ into our hearts…the moment we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we are in raw form.  You see, there is nothing more powerful than the Holy Spirit, and there is nothing more powerful and capable than our King, but we, as humans, are weak. It goes back to the “Position .V. Condition in Christ” study that we did.  We are filled, but we still wear a heavy, fleshy coat that weighs us down with things of this world.  And when we are saved, we are born again; with rebirth–we are raw.  In that time, we are completely and whole-heartedly, dependent on the grace of God alone.  We are incapable of understanding even a hint of the magnitude of His power, and we are raw forms in His hands.  But He is the most fantastic nurturer.  He gives, abundantly–forgives, unceasingly–and loves, unconditionally.

As we grow in our walks, we begin to understand the tiniest hints of His grace with both our heads and our hearts.  We begin to study the Bible, learn of His Word, and change the way we live our lives.  In this time, we begin to make fantastic strides and progressions in our journey as believers.  We begin to speak with clarity and knowledge and we learn how to communicate the hope that we have with others.  We experience fellowship with other believers, we experience and witness the power of prayer, and we become increasingly aware of His presence around us and in this world.  We gain a sense of humility, discernment, conviction, and thankfulness.  This is such a fantastic period in our walks, because our eyes are truly opened, our hearts are powerfully changed, and we begin to learn that light we feel inside is starting to be noticed by others.

Then, as we progress and grow and strive for sanctification, we develop true spiritual maturity.  Now, don’t be mistaken, our walks with Christ are ever-growing, ever-humbling, and ever-changing.  It is not as if we reach a point where we finally “get it” all and have no progress left to make. HA! That would be an impossibility.  However, as we strive towards sanctification as Godly men and Godly women, we begin to notice true maturity in our walks.  This is often defined by unshakable conviction, startling humility, and pure, organic hope and joy in the Holy Spirit. Through adversity, through successes, through everything–there is an unshakable comfort.  Spiritual maturity is often marked by an abundant and faithful prayer life. An absolute faith. An overwhelming desire to continue to learn and grow.  We evolve into disciples.  Disciples who strive to live by the Word of God in its most literal form. Disciples who love, unconditionally, and teach, effortlessly, through their actions, their faith, and their purity.

Is there a time frame to this progression? Is there a specific age where we hit these points? Are there clear, discerning characteristics? Absolutely not.  No, no, and no.  Many would argue, in fact, that as we learn more and age, we lose a sense of childlike faith.  Faith untouched by the ways of this world. Faith unbridled by social norms.  But there is a great difference between literal knowledge and understanding, and true peace in our hearts and the understanding that we will never understand it all, but we strive to know and love Him more. In fact, 1 Timothy 4:12 says, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity.” Spiritual maturity is not defined by age, it is defined by faith.

Self-control, in the sense of being a Godly man and a Godly leader, is defined by spiritual maturity.  Not simply by the ability to restrain oneself, but by the ability to control what you can control, and rest faith in all that you cannot.  The ability to lead others towards an unfaltering faith.  The ability to teach others and disciple in a way that is effective and hospitable.  The ability to show others the light of Christ through your actions, your words, your temperament, your decisions, and your values.  The ability to exercise humility, silence self-pride, and live simply.  The ability to exercise integrity and to step outside of you and live for God–whether you are comfortable in doing so or not.  The ability to live for Him, and be prepared to be steered the direction He leads you.  The ability to lead others with you, if need be.  Self-control truly means the exact opposite of what it says–because, in a Biblical sense, self-control is death to self and unshakable life in Him.

(to be continued…)

Advertisements

What Is Salvation? (part 2–man and man)

Wow! I have to start this blog post off with an apology. It seems like it has been forever since I have posted. Between soccer workouts and practice, school, studying for midterms, sports reporting for WAFB, preparing to move, bible studies, church, motivational speaking engagements, community service, and everything else that comes along with busy, everyday life, time has slipped by so quickly! So I am so sorry it’s been over a week…but let’s continue to dig into this awesome lesson. This part coming up is the BEST! J-E-S-U-S is about to light the place up! 🙂

Alright, so in the last post we talked about the original sin.  The very first sin that the very first man ever committed. Adam. And because of Adam’s sin, sin was born in man. Humans became sinful creatures.  Every person born after that was born into sin and confined to a sinful human nature.  Because of that one man’s sin, the one man was can all be traced back to, we are all impure and unrighteous.  No way around it.

We then went on to talk about the rules God laid out for humans after that.  The Old Testament of the Bible lays out all of these rules.  They are extensive, difficult, and overwhelming.  But God told the people who if they wanted a chance in heaven, they had to abide by these rules.  Long story short, nobody could do it. Every single person failed.  Because, as humans, we are sinful creatures, it is literally IMPOSSIBLE for anyone to live a perfect life.  We all sin. And back then, they all sinned.  As hard as they tried, they couldn’t follow all of the rules. So God fulfilled a promise that the earliest prophets had expressed in the Old Testament. He blessed us with a Messiah–a Savior. Here comes Jesus…

God recognized that it was impossible for any human being to live by the rules of the Old Testament.  But He loves us, unconditionally. We are His creation.  He grants us free will to choose, but He doesn’t want to see us all damned. He yearns to spend eternity with us.  He yearns for us to come home to Him.  So, He did the most amazing thing ever.  He sent His Son, a human being, to Earth. Jesus Christ. Why? So that we could be shown forgiveness, taught, and saved. So that we could have an outlet to heaven and stand a chance of spending eternity with Him. Stick with me here and open your mind to understand this concept. Romans 5:12-19 explains exactly why a HUMAN BEING had to be born to teach us…

It says, “For just as through the DISOBEDIENCE of one man (Adam) the many were made sinners, so also through the OBEDIENCE of one man (Jesus) the many will be made righteous.”

BOOM! What a simple and awesome explanation.  Do you understand? Adam was a HUMAN BEING that made a conscious choice to sin and to bring sin into the world.  Because of that sin, Adam opened the door to Hell. He put all of us at risk.  BUT, in order to negate Adam’s sin, God sent Jesus Christ, another HUMAN BEING to make a conscious choice to live perfectly and purely. And in doing so, He brought salvation into the world. Jesus opened the door to heaven. He showed us God’s grace.  Since a human brought sin into the world, a human had to bring salvation into the world.  That’s the only way we, as people, could be saved. Sure, God could have made it way easier.  If He wanted, He could have started the world all over.  He could have destroyed sin before it even existed. He could have cut us some slack and let us all into heaven anyways. God can literally do ANYTHING.  But He wanted to grant us freedom.  He wanted to give us the right to choose.  He wanted us to have the option and to be drawn closer to His truth by recognizing both sides of things.  He wanted us to have FAITH. Ah, so awesome.

So we see that Jesus Christ was the only way. Since sin was brought into the world by a man, God’s grace had to be shown to the world by a man. That was the only way we would be able to understand it all, and to be saved. We had to be taught by another human being. Wow. Okay, so what’s the big deal with Jesus? What did this man actually do? How did His actions grant us “salvation?”

(I promise I will post again ASAP!…This is the best part, so check back in soon!)

Position .v. Condition In Christ… (part 1)

After feeling drawn to go off on that emotional tangent in the last post, I sat down and spent a great deal of time in prayer about the direction of the blog right now. I know I told you we would start by evaluating love and relationships (and TRUST me, I am pretty neurotic and want nothing more than to stay organized in the sequence of posts), but I really don’t believe that’s what He wants right now.  So, I am going to put a pause on our study of love and relationships and rewind us a bit.  I want to take us back to the basics again. I really feel like there is much more that needs to be elaborated upon and taught, pertaining to the fundamentals of our faith, so that we can better appreciate the journey.  It would be a futile attempt to teach if I continue to write about what “Mo” wants to write about and didn’t listen to what He wants, so let’s take a step back and understand the fundamentals a little deeper.

One of the most important and mind-blowing understandings that I was recently introduced to was the difference between our “position” in Christ and our “condition” in Christ.  Understanding this principle serves so many purposes.  It has been instrumental in pushing me towards self-forgiveness.  It also allows us to understand the true definition and magnitude of God’s grace.  As well as appreciate the significance of the forgiveness offered to us by Jesus Christ’s life.  It is all relative to our assurance of salvation and what it truly means to be saved.

Below is a really basic, really helpful visual that totally altered my outlook on my salvation when I was taught what it meant.  (You’ll have to forgive the handwriting, I had to write it all backwards because the camera was flipping the image. haha.) So let’s take a look at this overview and, over the next several blog posts, we will break down exactly what it means…

Okay, so before you let your mind wander and you get confused, let’s break this down piece by piece.  This is a graph that illustrates our hearts and our walks with Christ. Every single person’s graph looks different. Every single person’s is individually tailored to them throughout their lifetime.  This one simply serves as an example. Along the bottom is our time here on earth (this graph stretches to 100 years).  Up the y-axis is a measurement of our righteousness.  In other words, it is a measurement of how “Christ-like” we are living. Synonyms for this would be our purity, or our morality, etc. This is what we strive for, as Christians.  1 and 2 Timothy are fantastic resources for “defining” what righteousness really is. If you have a Bible, jot down these verses and take a look at them–1 Timothy 6:11, 2 Timothy 2:22, 2 Timothy 3:16. (Again, Righteousness is something we will elaborate on more later.)

If you look at the graphed line, it starts at our birth. Though we are each perfectly and beautifully constructed by God, we are born into a world of sin. So we start at zero. The dark line shows our lives before we are truly saved. Before we truly accept Jesus into our hearts and recognize what He did for us.  As we are exposed to the Word, we grow and mature, so that line tends to crawl upwards.  However, just because we go to church and hear the Word, does not mean that we are saved. A tough lesson I had to learn: going to church isn’t just our “ticket in”.  This line looks different for everyone. The variations of this line are innumerable, but they all start at zero.

If you notice, this line is in a “zone” that is shaded in red. Any red on this graph represents Satan.  Yikes! I just got a little scared, too. But this is the fact of the matter. If we live our lives in the zone that is shaded red, our spirits and our souls are fair game.  God grants us free will. He grants us the right to choose. He is a just God.  But if we live our lives in this zone, then we are still subject to His wrath.  Unfortunately, Satan still has equal access to our spirits. And trust me, Satan LOVES when people’s souls are in this zone. He thrives on it. He loves when people turn from Christ and refuse to recognize the truth or are captivated by what this crappy world has to offer.  Because, sadly, this world is Satan’s playground. So think about it…what happens here? What happens if you die in the red zone? What happens if your brother, or your best friend, or your teammate or your boyfriend dies here? What happens if they live their whole lives and never recognize Christ as their Savior? I mean TRULY recognize Him?…….Do you get it? THAT’s the urgency here! That’s why it’s so crucial that, as believers, we spread the word as fast and as passionately as we can.  Because if someone has been exposed to the gospel and they die in the red zone–if someone’s life is cut short, or even if they live a long life and never humble themselves to the truth, it’s game over. Satan wins that soul.

So now you’re probably wondering what the giant dot represents. Ahh! I LOVE this part! So we live our lives in the red zone for a while.  We live our lives in this dangerous place. But the moment we TRULY recognize the magnitude of what Jesus Christ did for us…BAM! SAVED. Holy cow…SAVED! Can you even wrap your head around that? That instant, that moment that we truly let Him into our hearts, that moment that we are truly filled with the Holy Spirit…BAM! GAME OVER, SATAN. Good try, big guy, but you lose. AHH! Doesn’t that make you want to jump in the air and give a massive fist pump. GEEZE! God is SO GOOD! That moment that we let down our guards, that we fall on our knees to His power…in that moment, our spirits are locked and sealed and we are SAVED. Man oh man, this is a topic that I could sit here and type on forever, and we will look at it in more detail soon, I promise.

But, wow. So incredible.  Okay, so we hit that dot on the graph. And if you notice, the red zone disappears and several different lines break from it. Now, what does that mean? What does that represent? Who are we after we are saved?

(to be continued…)

 

 

“Back to the Basics” (part 3 of 3)

Pillar #3–the proof.  One of the three most important foundations of our faith that we must believe, beyond a shadow of a doubt. #1–Jesus Christ was a real man. #2–Jesus Christ was the Son of God who died and rose again. And #3–The Bible is the Word of God.

This is yet another topic that I feel like people are quick to say, Duh, obviously. Of course it’s the Word of God. But, again, there are a number of elements that go into this belief. A number of elements that are really helpful to be reminded of frequently.

You see, the Bible is obviously the first thing that people associate with Christianity.  Just as the Torah is associated with the practice of Judaism,  the Quran with the practice of Islam, and so on. But what IS the Bible? What all does it represent? Why should we just believe everything it says? Who wrote it? Why are there so many different translations and versions? And can’t I just search for verses when I need them for motivation or inspiration?

I’ll explain, in brevity, an overview of this fantastic book.  The Bible is composed of the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament, which is also recognized by the Jewish faith, was written by divinely inspired prophets. Don’t let that term intimidate you–essentially, the Old Testament was written by individuals who were spoken to by God long before Jesus was ever born. Individuals who recognized that there was a greater power at work and were communicated with by our King.  They were able to communicate their understandings in writing and document historical information from as far back as the creation of the universe.  Fantastically, all of their stories and translations lined up perfectly with one another’s AND came to fruition in the future and the New Testament–giving validity and evidentiary support to all of their prophecies.

The New Testament, on the other hand, picks up at the birth of Jesus, and serves as historical documentation of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ–written by Jesus’ disciples and well as other individuals involved with Jesus throughout His life. Essentially, it is a documentation of all that this fantastic man taught, all of the miracles He performed, and all that “proves” the magnificence of God.

Since the Old Testament was written by prophets inspired by God, and the New Testament was written about the Son of God, we MUST believe that the Bible, as a whole, is the living, breathing Word of God.  You may be wondering what I mean when I say the “living, breathing” Word of God. But the words in the Bible are exactly that. There are individuals who have read the Bible cover to cover, memorized the pages, and teach of its magnitude. Those individuals, who seemingly should know all there is to know about the Word, STILL read through it and find new meanings to new applications, daily. You see, there are no defined meanings for the words of the book.  It was not God’s intent to give us a history book to study. It was His intent to give us a reference that human beings could open until the end of time, and constantly learn and grow from.  It was His intent to provide us with a means of communication directly to Him. That’s not meant to sound mystical or eerie, it is simple fact. The Bible is a book of beauty that opens a door to His Kingdom.

Recognizing that it is, in fact, the Word of God, we can’t allow ourselves to be “cultural Christians”. We can’t just open the Bible when we need a motivational quote or a neat scripture. We can’t just pull out the pieces we want to believe. If we are going to believe one single word in the Bible, we HAVE to believe every single word. It is not our right to pick and choose what we think is true.  As Christians, we have to recognize that it is the Word of God, and challenge ourselves to live by it. To apply it. To work, daily, to obey it. We have to study it and to challenge ourselves and the people around us, constantly, to grow in our relationship with our King.

Being a Christian is not easy–especially in the world we live in today. It is not glamorous or comfortable or simple.  Being a Christian is not just being a good person.  It is hard, it is challenging, and it is humbling.  It requires us to be MEN and WOMEN. Real men and women of God.  It requires us to have integrity and humility and understanding.  It requires us to set aside our egos and our desires and our dominance. It requires us to humble ourselves, daily, and realize that our world and our lives are not just about US. It requires us to give up control and to be different. God wants a relationship with us. He wants us to love Him like He, unconditionally, loves us. Do you believe? Are you up for the challenge?