Monday, January 13, 2014

Wage War!

Please welcome guest author Matthew Bryant! Matthew serves as Coordinator of College Ministry at King Street Church and loves seeing young people grow in Christ. He also serves as a chaplain in the United States Air Force, is married to his wife Lindsay, and is a non-identical triplet. Enjoy his challenge, and be reinvigorated in your fight against sin!

"This is the fighting day, expect nothing now but bullets, bruises, wounds, [and] scars..." Charles Spurgeon preached in 1896. This message to engage in battle is not new. Paul told Timothy in a letter written around A.D. 62-64 - "This command I entrust to you, Timothy, my son, in accordance with the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you fight the good fight, keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith" (1 Tim. 1:18-19). The call to fight remains just as relevant today as it was for Paul and Timothy. True or False: In a fight people get hurt. True. I just want you to recognize here at the onset that "fighting the good fight" will not be easy or painless. But if you do not fight - then you will lose and are in grave danger of "shipwreck[ing]" your faith. 

No more beating around the bush - I am specifically talking about the fight for your sexual purity for the glory of God, to magnify the name of Jesus. Sexual sin may not be as enticing to you as is to others but it is a tantalizing temptation for MANY - your son or daughter, brother or sister, husband or wife, pastor or congregant. And if sexual sin is not your hang up, it does not mean that you are not in the battle! There is still battles to be fought alongside other brothers or sisters in Christ. 

I don't have to make a well polished case for the over sexualized nature of our culture. Most entertainment from music, internet, TV shows, and movies all profit from the fact that sex sells. Sex is being talked about on billboards, magazine racks, and social media news feeds. 

And let's be clear, sex is not the problem or enemy. God made sex and it is a beautiful thing. If you are reading this, you are a product of sex. So what is the issue? What is the problem? Joshua Harris, in a book titled Sex is not the Problem (Lust Is), looks to scripture to pinpoint the issue. Ephesians 5:3 says, "But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people." Notice the scripture does not read, "But among you there must not be even a hint of sex..." Such a command would be foolish and go against one of God's earliest instructions to man - "Be fruitful and multiply..." (Gen. 1:28). This instruction was of course given inside of the context of marriage between one man and one woman. 

That is why Joshua Harris clarifies the issue in the title of his book - simply put - sex is not the problem in your battle for sexual purity. Lust is the problem. He defines lust plainly in the book: "Lust is craving sexually what God has forbidden."

So the problem is identified, what now? Fight! Fight to not gratify those sexual cravings that God has forbidden. 

Romans 13:14 says, "But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires." What does that mean for us? 

There are two ways of fighting:

1. "...put on the Lord Jesus Christ,..." Any relationship requires time and effort. Without time and effort you will have a failed relationship. We cannot ignore the grave consequences of attempting to fight for sexual purity without Jesus. What you end up with is someone who is very moral (and probably proud) but not a Christian. 

2. "...and make no provision for the flesh,..." We must get rid of things that easily cause us to stumble and fall. More clarification may be needed - - This does not mean that Television, Movies, Media, Magazines, Smart Phones, etc. are all evil and the problem. Lust is the problem. Now those mediums may bring lustful excursions to your living room, bedroom, and front door but that does not make them evil. And just because they are not evil does not mean that we should welcome unfiltered access to these mediums. 

So if you are going to take the battle for your sexual purity seriously then you will make some radical choices, choices that may seem crazy to others around you. Do I have to get rid of cable? No. But it may be wise. Is it wrong for me to have a smart phone? No. But consider Jesus' extreme position in the battle against sin - "If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell" (Mt. 5:29). Let me contextualize: "better to throw out your smart phone, get rid of cable, seek out accountability...than to be stuck worshiping sexual fantasies and enter eternity without Jesus!"

Here are some tools for you to use in your battle for sexual purity for the glory of God, to magnify the name of Jesus. 

1. Put on the Lord Jesus:
  • Spend time in the Word of God everyday! No plan to read the Word might as well be a plan not to read the Scriptures - - Jesus fought off the temptation of Satan in the wilderness through quoting scripture. Memorize it!
  • Pray. Jesus said, "Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak" (Mt. 26:41)
2. Make No Provision for the Flesh:
  • Check out the awesome resources found in The Relentless Fight's article "The Armory".
  • Get in the fight with both feet! Make radical decisions to cut out things that easily cause you to fall into lust.
  • Don't fight alone! Commit to being a part of the body of Christ. The body of Christ is the church - God seeks to accomplish His will not only in your life but throughout the world by the local church. Commit to it, submit to it, and get accountable with people in it. 
Remember that your fight for sexual purity is not about earning God's favor. We fight because of what Jesus has done for us in His finished work on the Cross. Because He is risen and lives, we can have new life. Our sexual purity is for the glory of God, to magnify the name of Jesus. 

So WAGE WAR and Fight Well all for the glory of God, to magnify the name of Jesus through all the earth! Your sexual purity matters. 

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Regaining Hope

Please welcome guest author Peter Krol! Peter blogs at Knowable Word, a site dedicated to helping ordinary people learn to study the Bible. He also serves as an elder at Grace Fellowship Church of State College, PA and as a collegiate missionary with DiscipleMakers.

Hope is slippery, and this fallen world constantly threatens our grip on it.

The definition of marriage is in question. Religious liberty could be threatened. School shootings become routine. Horrific infanticide takes place in unaccountable clinics. Chemical weapons endanger world peace. Government shutdowns inflame disgruntlement.

Through it all, we try to do good. We love our neighbors, we support the community, and we preach Christ and him crucified.

But it gets wearying.

You’re Not Alone

The Christians in Thessalonica had the same problem. They started well, but affliction, tribulation, and ingrained sin threatened their composure and challenged their endurance.

In Paul’s first letter to this church, he gives thanks to God for three chief virtues among the people:

“We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess 1:2-3, ESV).

Faith, love, and hope characterized the Thessalonians as they transformed their part of the world (1 Thess 1:6-10). These three virtues likewise saturate Paul’s encouragement and instruction in the body of the letter.

But in a matter of only months—by the time Paul writes his second letter—the Thessalonians let something slip:

“We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing” (2 Thess 1:3).

So their faith is growing, and their love is increasing. But their hope stands out by its absence.

All hope is not lost, since Paul boasts about their steadfastness in next verse (2 Thess 1:4). But it’s clearly in question, since they need relief (2 Thess 1:7), have been quickly shaken and alarmed (2 Thess 2:2), and are in danger of growing weary in doing good (2 Thess 3:13). In fact, the word “hope” occurs only once in the letter, when Paul reminds them that God, in Christ, already gave them every reason to hope (2 Thess 2:16-17).

The Thessalonians are a lot like you and me. They want to serve the Lord and proclaim Christ. They care about their world. They just grow worn and weary after a while. They must be reminded of God’s eternal comfort and good hope through grace. Paul wrote his second letter to that end.

How to Regain Hope

What would Paul say to us today, were he to encourage us to regain hope?
  1. We thank God for you because you haven’t given up. Your faith and love are stronger than ever (2 Thess 1:3).
  2. We boast about how you’ve endured so many difficult things (2 Thess 1:4).
  3. Your endurance is evidence that God counts you worthy of his kingdom (2 Thess 1:5).
  4. Your enduring faith glorifies Jesus. Know that everyone will suffer for Jesus’ sake. Some suffer now, for a short time. Others will suffer then, for eternity. So when you suffer now for Jesus, you show the world he’s worth suffering for, and this gives him great glory (2 Thess 1:6-10).
  5. We’re praying for you. We’re praying for God to make you worthy of his calling. We’re praying for God to strengthen your resolve for good to triumph. We’re praying for God to make your faithful work even more effective for his glory (2 Thess 1:11-12).
  6. Don’t be alarmed by what you hear is going on in the world (2 Thess 2:1-2).
  7. What you’re going through is not yet the Day of the Lord. Don’t worry; you’ll know it when it comes (2 Thess 2:3-10).
  8. Regardless of what happens, the Lord will stick to his plan. He knows what’s happening, and he’s got it well under control (2 Thess 2:11-12).
  9. In fact, he chose you and called you to obtain Jesus’ glory (2 Thess 2:13-14).
  10. So stand firm and hold on to what you know to be true (2 Thess 2:15).
  11. God loves you because of Jesus. He already gave you eternal comfort and good hope through grace. May you now experience his comfort personally and be encouraged to press on. Your work is not in vain. Your words still matter (2 Thess 2:16).
  12. As I said, your words matter. You preached the Lord’s word, and it sped ahead. Now pray the same for us. Ask God to deliver us from evil men, just as he will guard you against the evil one (2 Thess 3:1-3).
  13. I’m confident that you’ll do the right thing (2 Thess 3:4).
  14. Remember God’s love. Remember what Jesus endured for you (2 Thess 3:5).
  15. And as I also said, your work is not in vain. Don’t coddle professing believers who are too lazy to work. Imitate my example in this matter (2 Thess 3:6-9).
  16. For the idle busybodies: Get a job! It will do you good (2 Thess 3:10-12).
  17. For the rest: Don’t grow weary in doing good (2 Thess 3:13-15).
  18. Our only real hope is if the Lord of peace gives us peace: peace with him, and peace with each other. One day this peace will be all that’s left. May he be with you (2 Thess 3:16).