Saturday, November 26, 2005

Victim and Victor...

Everybody loves a winner… But a looser….that’s another story. You probably have met a few so-called ‘Christians’ who made loud claims, were self centered and side-tracked, thinking they had all the answers. Life is no different today that in the days of the early church. Paul had the same kind of problems. He wrote about it in 2 Timothy 3 and 4. He describes both the victimized church and the self absorbed phonies that troubled the church. Some are victims and others are victors.
Don't be naive. There are difficult times ahead. As the end approaches, people are going to be self-absorbed, money-hungry, self-promoting, stuck-up, profane, contemptuous of parents, crude, coarse, dog-eat-dog, unbending, slanderers, impulsively wild, savage, cynical, treacherous, ruthless, bloated windbags, addicted to lust, and allergic to God. They'll make a show of religion…( 2 Timothy 3:1-5 The Message Bible) He warns us not to be naïve. Yet the church today is becoming increasingly naïve. Why? Simply because they do not go to the source of truth, the Word of God. They do not keep their spiritual focus on Jesus Christ, what He came to do, and what our part involves today.
Instead it is becoming increasingly easy to follow the latest fads. It is easier to go to a seminar and reap a harvest of new ideas than to get on our knees and seek the Lord for what He wants. It is easier to jump on the band wagon of the hottest church trends, do what they are doing, hoping for the same end results. Yet in doing so, we pay a tremendously high cost! We become the thing we hate. We strive to achieve the success of others, instead of seeking the Lord God with all of our hearts. Our focus becomes wrong. We tell ourselves, that our hearts are right, we love God, want the best for His church, for our families, for our own spiritual growth, yet we find ourselves caught up in the momentum of seemly good activities that God has not called us to do. If the bottom line ends up being how many we have on Sunday and what the annual reports read… we have become the ‘self-absorbed, money-hungry, self-promoting’ people Paul was writing to Timothy about. It is sad to say, his description deteriorates into something the body of Christ should not be identified as… ‘bloated windbags, addicted to lust, and allergic to God.’ The amplified Bible puts it this way… “inflated with self-conceit. [They will be] lovers of sensual pleasures and vain amusements more than and rather than lovers of God.” We read these words and wonder how this can be a description of the church, yet it is, for in the very next verse, they are described as “For [although] they hold a form of piety (true religion),they deny and reject and are strangers to the power of it” (2 Tim 3:5) These were religious people he was talking about! They acted spiritual, but had no power. They were victims!
We who have traditionally called ourselves ‘Pentecostal’ have claimed to have a faith that is reflected in the ‘power’…. Power in our worship, power in our prayers, power in our preaching, power to do great things for God. But when the ‘power’ no longer comes from God, but from within ourselves— our man-made programs, our slick presentations— our center of ‘power’ has become corrupt. Power that emanates from self causes us to minister under false pretences. Those who are spiritual babies or spiritually immature trust that the leadership is being led of the Holy Spirit. By the time they realize something is wrong, the damage is done. How does genuine faith deteriorate into this spiritual counterfeit? How can we avoid becoming “‘bloated windbags, addicted to lust, and allergic to God.’ ?
1.Stay in the Word
The strong lesson Paul wants to teach young Timothy to become a victor is to stay in the Word of God… “Stick with what you learned and believed, …..There's nothing like the written Word of God for showing you the way to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another--showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God's way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us.” (3:15-17 Message) There are no short cuts to spiritual growth and power. Maturity is learned one lesson at a time from the Word of God. We may be tempted to try something we have seen others do, but God’s way is always the same… it is found in Him! If we want the breath of God blowing in our lives, we must be found devouring the Word of God. We cannot be lazy about reading it. Victors dig deep into it’s riches and find the nuggets of truth for each day. If you find you are spiritually dry, then go to the well...the Word of God. Shut out everything else and let down your bucket for a cool draught of His living water. Other things may try to entice you...good things, like Christian radio, Christian TV, books, tapes and CD’s, but the genuine comes from the Lord and His Word.
A statement I recently read in my daily devotional triggered a need for the genuine… “True godliness honors and obeys God while it’s counterfeit seeks pleasure and personal gain. One pleases the Lord; the other gratifies natural desire. Both are identified by their actions.” (David McCassland) What we do, not our intentions, is what counts. What others will see is what we do—not what we intended to do. They need to see the genuine, not counterfeit. Counterfeit comes when we begin to listen to the voices around us before we listen to God speaking to us Himself. We become victims. The best way to identify the counterfeit is to compare it with the genuine...not with another counterfeit. That means we must read, study, meditate in, devour, hunger for, and be satisfied with nothing less that the genuine Word of the Living God !
2. Stay on your knees
How can we avoid becoming victims— ‘bloated windbags, addicted to lust, and allergic to God.’? All too often, those Christians who fall, do so because they failed in this area. They used to pray. They used to seek God. They used to spend time with the One they loved. But somewhere along the way, they got too busy, they got distracted, they took for granted the things of God.
Love is a relationship that must be worked at continually. It means staying in touch, talking and listening, continually coming back to that “first love.’ The moment we stray away… wander off ...with longing glances at the world, we have begun to loose that ‘first love”. But it can be restored. Restoration comes in His presence. There we discover there is no room for sin, for lust, for complacency, for counterfeit. We must repent, with a genuine repentance that causes us to change our way of doing things. Our hidden sinful habits are not hidden to Him. There in the place of intimate prayer, He speaks the truth into our hearts. He reveals the truths of His Word. He pulls back the veil and shows us what He sees in us. He desires to make every victim a victor!Our failure to repent leaves us “bloated windbags, addicted to lust, and allergic to God.’“ You’ve seen them…. loud, boasting and arrogant, trying to hide the pain of the sin within. They are victims of sin and satan, often crippled by their addictions to all kinds of sin— pornography, lying, adultery, marijuana use, cigarettes, and even shopping. They fill the void within where Christ longs to be, with their addiction. And the end result is tragic. They end up with an ‘allergy’ to God. They can’t stand to be around anything that reminds them of their sin and need to repent. It results in anger, abuse, hatred and broken relationships. Guilt drives them to more addictive behavior.God has an answer, but we must be willing to do what He tells us to do. “So proclaim the Message with intensity; keep on your watch. Challenge, warn, and urge your people. Don't ever quit. Just keep it simple. You're going to find that there will be times when people will have no stomach for solid teaching, but will fill up on spiritual junk food--catchy opinions that tickle their fancy. They'll turn their backs on truth and chase mirages. But you--keep your eye on what you're doing; accept the hard times along with the good; keep the Message alive; do a thorough job as God's servant.” ( 2 Tim 4:2-5 Message)
While others may turn aside from the Word of God and His presence, we as His people are called to turn to Him, filling our souls with rich manna, not spiritual junk food. Others may ‘turn aside from hearing the truth and wander off into myths and man-made fictions.” but we are called to the Truth. Others may count on the counterfeit prophecies of ear ticklers, but I choose to count on the genuine truths found in the Bible, and in the place of prayer where He speaks to me about my life. Paul knew that these lessons would be hard. There would be resistance. To be a victor calls for persistence even in persecution and misunderstanding. It means we must sometimes reject the loudest voices around us and listen to the still small voice within us. Paul told young Timothy to “be calm and cool and steady, accept and suffer unflinchingly every hardship.” (2 Tim 4:5 Amp)
There will be times when others just don’t understand. They will be quick to judge. We must realize that each of us must give an accounting to God. We are each called to establish high levels of integrity, honesty, godliness, holiness and biblical truth. I cannot answer to God for you. You cannot answer to God for me. It is therefore imperative that we each determine to live our lives according to Biblical standards, listening intently to the voice of the Holy Spirit as He speaks to our hearts, lining it up with the Word and walking in complete obedience to Him.
J. Johnson

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