Wednesday, January 28, 2009

How proactive should we be?

This post is just going to be some random thoughts.

After my dad died a few years ago, the urgency of spending the rest of my days wisely (i.e., for things that have eternal value) really hit me. I am not sure where my dad is today, and I quickly discovered that I cannot dwell on that thought for very long. What I can do, however, is tell others about Jesus, so that they can know how to have eternal life.

Regarding that, I see too many evangelists give messages that make it sound like God is a lonely God that is merely looking for friends. They tell people to simply repeat a simple little prayer. Too often this leads to false converts, because no real effort or sacrifice is required on the part of the person, and they are never told the rest of the gospel. The fact that they are a wicked sinner under God's wrath and deserving only Hell is often not mentioned to them. The necessity of repentance from their sin is never mentioned. If their life is not drastically changed by the transforming power of the Holy Spirit, and if they basically continue living the way they lived before, then I would question whether regeneration has ever taken place. It is true that 'good' works cannot save you. But it is also true that following Christ means obeying Christ. And one necessary key is learning how to die to self. Too much teaching in the Church today focuses on building up self. Instead, we need to focus on forgetting self and bringing glory to Christ Jesus.

I think it was also since my dad died that I decided I was going to stand up for truth, no matter what the consequences, especially in this day when there is so much false doctrine. However, in the past year or so, doing this has caused a lot of conflict. And most of that conflict has been with Christians. I have discovered that most Christians just want to hear things that give them that warm, fuzzy feeling. They don't want to hear negative things. I have also discovered that I tend to focus on negative things, as well as on issues of discerning doctrinal points. So I'm trying to discover how to find a balance.

Now we have a U.S. President who is the farthest left and most liberal President that this country has ever had. I really don't know how far things are going to go. But I think that it is urgent that Christians come together like never before, especially in intercessory prayer. I am tempted to just give up on this country and have the attitude that its useless to try to do anything to turn it around. I suspect that the United States is headed for a level of godlessness and rebellion against God that it has never experienced before. Besides prayer, I think Christians also need to spend more time reading and studying God's Word than ever before, and also spend time memorizing Scripture.


I pulled this image off the Internet. Originally it was in full color, but in Photoshop, I desaturated it, then painted the color back in on the flower area with the History Brush.

14 comments:

Greg said...

My parents are still alive, and they don't really know the Lord. Your words inspire me to try again to reach out to my dad on the topic of Jesus; I've seen signs that he may be ready to accept Him as his Savior. Please pray that I will know what to say to him and that his heart is ready.

Regarding Obama, at least he claims to be a Christian, although I doubt he is truly born again or truly understands what that means. He needs our prayers. The only way to turn this country around is by witnessing as much as we can, one heart at a time. You and I share this goal. :)

Brad Rutledge said...

Jeff,
Brad Rutledge Southeast Regional Director for Celebrate Recovery here. I need to speak with you as soon as possible concerning www.celebraterecoveryonline.com. This is a very urgent matter. I can be reached at brad@eccmail.org. Please leave a number where you can be reached. I look forward to hearing from you.
Thank you,
Brad Rutledge

Ted said...

Obama says his "recovery plan will include UNPRECEDENTED measures that will allow the American people to hold [his] administration ACCOUNTABLE" yet Obama refuses to be held ACCOUNTABLE to the same American people for his UNPRECEDENTED refusal to show his actual birth certificate.

satire and theology said...

Nice image.

'I am tempted to just give up on this country and have the attitude that its useless to try to do anything to turn it around. I suspect that the United States is headed for a level of godlessness and rebellion against God that it has never experienced before. Besides prayer, I think Christians also need to spend more time reading and studying God's Word than ever before, and also spend time memorizing Scripture.'

We as Christians need to pray, study and fellowship and ask God that we can each do our part obediently.

Jeff said...

Greg,

I have said a prayer for your dad, and will try to remember to pray more for his salvation. May he come to know the Lord Jesus Christ as his personal savior and the Lord of his life, and be regenerated by the blood of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit.

Because of Obama's extreme acceptance of abortion and homosexuality, in addition to a number of other things, I do not believe that he is a Christian at all.

The only way to turn this country around is by witnessing as much as we can, one heart at a time.

I totally, TOTALLY agree with you 100% on that!! In addition, as you said, we need to pray.

Jeff said...

Brad,

I am not going to leave my phone number. I already receive phone calls from telemarketers on a daily basis, sometimes 2 or 3 times a day, so that I now use my answering machine to filter my calls. You can e-mail me at kingzmessenger@embarqmail.com.

Jeff said...

Ted,

Thank you for your continued messages. I believe Obama is and will be the most liberal, left-wing President this country has ever had, and that we will see (morally speaking) worse things allowed and legalized in this country than have ever been allowed or legalized before. And that may be just the beginning. I see very, very bad things coming because of this President, and I can only hope that it won't be as bad as I suspect. We as Christians should be in prayer and Bible study and witnessing as never before.

Jeff said...

Satire and Theology,

Thanks, Russ, and I agree.

Great Googly Moogly! said...

Nice post, Jeff. I was encouraged and edified as well as motivated in my walk with my Lord. I appreciate your "random thoughts".

"Instead, we need to focus on forgetting self and bringing glory to Christ Jesus."

I think I understand what you mean here, but we can only bring glory to Christ when we truly understand who He is and who we are in Him. As "new creatures" in Christ, we've been given a "new self", so-to-speak, so that as we live into our "new self", i.e. living out the reality of who we are as Children of God, then we will "naturally" (by the work of the Spirit) bring glory to our God.

So...we must know who we are in Christ and then live into that reality. Paul (and the rest of the NT writers) takes pains in his letters to remind us of who we now are in Christ and then encourages us to live out that reality in our daily lives.

I agree that we must "forget our self" in the sense that we must, as Paul says, "put off the old man" in order to "put on the new man"; but this putting off and putting on is only available to us as we know who we are in Christ.

So in one sense we must "forget our self" (the "self" that is the old Adamic "self") but in another sense we must fully know our "self" (the "self" that is the New Creation, the "self" that is in Christ) and strive to live into that reality.

God's purpose for us as humans beings is to live into the "purpose" that He created us for--to fully bear His image and build His city. By doing this, we bring glory to Him. And only Christians (and only as they live into the reality of who they are as His children) can truly bring glory to God (though His creation also declares His glory and praise as it testifies of Him).

I'm not trying to argue with you here; I'm simply trying to clarify how it is that we must "forget the self" while not losing sight of the fact that we must never "forget the self" if we are to glorify our great God and Savior. Too often we as Christians have the idea that in order to "forget ourselves" we must debase ourselves and think too lowly of ourselves. God certainly doesn't want us to think we are nothing--He wants us to know who we are as His Children and the blessings that He has bestowed upon us as such. But He wants us to know who we are so that we live our lives in integrity and truth as His Children, as bearers of His image.

Jeff said...

GGM,

Interesting and challenging thoughts you have presented.

When I say "forget self," I mean it in the biblical sense of 'dying to self.' In that sense, I think 'self' is the ego, pride, selfishness, and self-centeredness. When a person is interviewed who has just saved someone's life (i.e., by running into a burning building, etc.), they are called a hero. They are often asked, "Didn't you think about the danger to your own life?" Their response is usually, "That didn't even come to mind. All I could think about was saving that person." That is the sense in which I mean "forget self" or "die to self." You are putting the needs of others before your own needs or wants or desires. That is also called love or compassion.

I agree that the born-again Christian must obviously learn and realize who he/she is in Christ. But part of that realization means that you are no longer who you once were, and you no longer live for yourself. Your focus is now to be on Christ, not on yourself. You have a new nature, which was created in Christ Jesus. Because of that new nature, you follow what Christ wants, not what you (i.e., the flesh) wants. At the same time, however, you also have new desires in you that weren't in you before. Your old nature is not dead, however, which is evidenced by the fact that you still will fall to sin sometimes. But the more you focus on Christ, and on serving and pleasing Him, and on DENYING self (i.e., the Old Nature), the more Christ-like you will become. Paul said that he 'beats his body.' He said that he puts 'self' under submission. This is dying to self.

Part of the reason I focus on that is because I hear so many Christians talk about how God wants them to be prosperous and healthy, and how you can gain wealth through God. This is a very selfish approach to God. God is not a get-rich-quick scheme, nor is He a giant genie in the sky that is waiting to grant your every wish.

In the U.S., we are very materialistic and spoiled. We are used to being pampered by luxuries. We have forgotten what sacrifice is. We have forgotten what commitment is. The "Lord's Prayer" says, "Give us this day our daily bread." That is meaningless to us, because, unlike most people in the past and in other countries, we don't worry about having to find food for the day. All we have to do is go to the grocery store and buy food. We have a multitude of modern-day conveniences: TV, radio, DVD, DVR, cars, planes, buses, elevators, computer, Internet, sofa, easy chair, carpeting, refrigerators, a/c, and much, much more. We are far more materialistic than we care to admit. We have become dependent on these things. So, when I say "forgetting self," these are some of the types of things that I have in mind. I think of stepping out of our comfort zone to help others. I think of sacrificing some of our modern-day conveniences to help someone who is in greater need than we are. And doing it all, not so that we can be praised for it, but in order to please our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, as well as in order to be an example and a testimony so that we can back up our verbal witness.

In U.S. churches today, there is too much emphasis on 'positive thinking' and self-help techniques. People in the Bible never did this. Instead, they merely focused on Christ.

Too often we as Christians have the idea that in order to "forget ourselves" we must debase ourselves and think too lowly of ourselves.

If we are truly 'forgetting self,' then we won't be debasing ourselves or thinking too lowly of ourselves, because we won't be thinking of ourselves at all. We will be so focused on helping others and serving Christ that we will forget about self. This is the sense in which I mean to 'die to self' or 'forget self.'

Also, people tend to think that 'low self-esteem' is the opposite of pride. In fact, it is merely another form of pride. When you are worried about what others think about you, you are concerned about self. When you are afraid of getting hurt, you are thinking about self. When you are putting yourself down, you are focusing on self. When you are depressed, you are focusing on self. If you focus on Jesus and on meeting the needs of others, you will not even think about yourself, and you won't have time to feel sorry for yourself.

Jeff said...

Jason,

In re-reading your post, I think we are basically saying the same thing, at least in general.

Jeff said...

GGM,

Nice post, Jeff. I was encouraged and edified as well as motivated in my walk with my Lord. I appreciate your "random thoughts".

I forgot to say 'thank you' for that, Jason.

Great Googly Moogly! said...

Hey Jeff,

Yes, we're in basic agreement here. I also think we're saying the same thing but from differing perspectives.

"Part of the reason I focus on that is because I hear so many Christians talk about how God wants them to be prosperous and healthy, and how you can gain wealth through God. This is a very selfish approach to God. God is not a get-rich-quick scheme, nor is He a giant genie in the sky that is waiting to grant your every wish."

I agree completely.

"Also, people tend to think that 'low self-esteem' is the opposite of pride. In fact, it is merely another form of pride."

Very well said and I couldn't agree more!

Nice comments--thank you.

GGM

Jeff said...

GGM,

I also think we're saying the same thing but from differing perspectives.

Yes, I think so.

Very well said and I couldn't agree more!

Nice comments--thank you.


Thanks, Jason. I appreciate your thought-provoking and challenging comments.