How are you and I hope all is well with you. I have a question about legalism. I have a set bible study time and prayer time every day and by His grace, I try to maintain it. Is it legalistic if I develop a routine time to study the bible.
Hello again, my friend,
As to your question here, no indeed! Legalism is the use of wrong standards in a wrong way. It is the pursuit of salvation (or blessing) by slavish adherence to false codes of moral behavior; these are usually developed by others (Pharisees, cults, anti-grace "Christian" groups, etc.), and usually employed by those who foolishly accept them to look down on or find fault with others who do not follow the same false path.
That is all quite different from using right standards in a right way. In terms of what you ask about, applying self-discipline to develop a good and godly approach to doing positive things that are helpful to oneself and others, spiritually and in other ways, is not only "OK", but I would say absolutely essential for any sort of consistent approach to spiritual growth in the spiritual realm, and any sort of success and achievement in any other realm.
For example, if a person wants to get into shape, developing a consistent approach to physical exercise is essential. Not only is there nothing wrong with it; such an approach will pay all manner of benefits. The same is true with getting good grades in school, or becoming proficient on one's job or in one's profession, etc. And the same goes for all things spiritual. Being consistent in praying for others, for example, is, in my personal estimation of these things, better than getting highly emotional one day out of a hundred and spending a lot of time in prayer that one day. The same goes for Bible study and for Bible reading and for the application of truth to one's life too. If we are going to live our lives for Jesus Christ, we do need to do commit to doing that every day, as long as it "is called 'today' " (Heb.3:13).
Routine is the great tool we less than perfect human beings have which allows us to make progress in all things important to us. True, we do not want to get self-righteous about our routine; true, we do not want to get superstitious about it either. A good routine is a tool nothing more and nothing less that allows us to mobilize our time and effort effectively to accomplish things that ordinary people like ourselves cannot accomplish in a day or a week or a month or even a year. If the objective takes time, a good routine is the ideal tool for whittling that time and that mountain of work down to size. That is true of secular things. That is also true of the learning and believing and applying of God's Word and the principles of truth it contains in order to achieve spiritual growth, progress and production.
A wise man once said: "If something is really worth doing, it is worth doing every day".
Here are some pertinent links on spiritual growth:
Spiritual Growth, Church-Searching and "Discipling"
Epignosis, Christian Epistemology, and Spiritual Growth.
Spiritual Gifts and Spiritual Growth
Forward progress necessary spiritual growth.
Believing the Bible for Spiritual Growth.
No Growth without Faith (in Peter #14)
Bible Teaching and Spiritual Growth (in Peter #13)
The Judgment and Reward of the Church (in CT 6)
Virtue Thinking: Applying the Truth for Spiritual Growth and Progress (in Peter #16)
Progression of Virtues (in Peter #17)
Spiritual Growth requires Bible Teaching
Spiritual Growth vocabulary
Spiritual Growth: the solution to "ups and downs"
Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,
I wanted to wish you a very blessed new year and that you keep striving onwards and upwards towards the prize that Jesus our Lord has called you towards. I hope this festive period has allowed you a few days off from your professional commitments - so that you have more time for spiritual endeavours that is! I hope you were able to spend some time with family too - I have no doubts they count themselves very blessed to have a family member who walks with such exemplary faith and who has committed whole-heartedly and invested so much into their ministry - all for the love of Christ and His sheep. Many visitors at Ichthys sure count themselves blessed.
I flew over to Europe to see my Family for the Christmas holidays - it hasn't been without its challenges what with having to constantly battle the pharisaical hypocrisy and pagan lifestyle predominant over here, but I am still striving to make positive steps in the right direction. The most encouraging of all has been one family member's progress. He has committed to Bible reading and study every day without fail. Admittedly, he has been much more consistent in his application than I have, which has spurred me on to do better. I would like to thank you once again for all your prayers, it is just wonderful to witness. Whenever we talk about 'all things truth', my heart jumps for joy inside - it is truly what I enjoy talking about/doing the most.
In Peter's Epistles #28 you explain angelic interest in believers who share in Christ's suffering. What is the true meaning of "taking up our cross" (Matt 10:39; 16:24; Mk 8:34; Lk 9:23; 14:27)? How is that manifested in the behaviour and application of our Christian walk?
From my limited understanding, I take it to be the daily commitment in walking faithfully with our Lord by reading, understanding, believing and applying His Word both to our lives and then subsequently to other people's lives according to the ministries Christ Jesus has assigned us to. Accompanied with this is daily prayer and substantive Bible teaching from well-prepared Bible teachers. As I have learnt from your studies and emails, I can understand how this spiritual investment into the Word is the only real way to spiritual maturity for even our Lord prepared for ministry following this process (with perfect application) despite all His infinite power and wisdom (Phil 2:6-8; Luke 2:52). I also understand that after having achieved spiritual maturity (and inherited the crown of righteousness to be bestowed upon us on that wondrous Day of days) we will be tested in order to prove the genuineness of our faith. Providing we pass that testing successfully, we shall be pruned in order to produce the fruit for God's glory. Have I interpreted this "carrying our cross daily" correctly? Please do correct me if I have missed a critical point.
I hope everything else is well with you.
Fixing our eyes on our living hope, the One who died for the sins of the world,
Very good to hear from you, my friend. I wish for you a blessed 2015 as well!
Regarding taking up the cross, this is a metaphor used by our Lord to indicate the suffering that will come to believers who want to follow Him and are willing to do so. If we go our own way, we can expect that the road will not be "uphill" or difficult; but if we are intent upon pleasing our Lord, there will be a burden to take on: opposition from the evil one and his world-system which is inherently inimical to believers who are trying to live for Christ, growing spiritually, walking with Him and helping others do likewise. In addition to "carrying our cross" in emulation of Jesus, scripture also refers to the bearing of this burden which comes only to those who are walking this narrow path our Lord set down for us as "sharing the suffering of Christ" (Rom.8:17; 2Cor.1:5; Phil.1:29-30; 3:10; Col.1:24; 1Pet.4:12-13; cf. Matt.10:38; 16:24; Mk.8:34; Lk.9:23; 14:27; Acts 5:41; 2Cor.4:10-11; Gal.6:17; 1Thes.1:6; 2Thes.1:4-5; 2Tim.3:12). I think your understanding of this as expressed here is excellent.
Lastly, thank you so much for catching these typos! It's greatly appreciated.
I also appreciate your fine witness and your friendship in Christ.
Please do feel free to write back about any of the above, and to contact me any time.
Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
Why was it so hard for the Disciples to believe that Jesus would rise again from the dead? especially after all the miracles that Jesus performed like raising people from the dead
Explaining disbelief and unbelief is difficult. Suffice it to say that although every human being has God's natural revelation pounding away at him/her every day of their lives, nonetheless the number of the saved is infinitesimally small. All the more reason for those of us who do believe to treasure and safeguard our faith and to do everything we can to build it up through the truth of the Word of God day by day. That is the only path to the spiritual growth which glorifies our dear Lord and results in our eternal rewards (see the link).
Hope your keeping well. Have to enquire about this verse:
Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?unless indeed you are disqualified.
2nd Corinthians 13:5 KJV
Is this verse asking whether they have ever started the faith OR whether they have started and fallen away?
Your Loving Brother In Christ
Good to hear from you my friend!
As to your question, the phrasing "whether you are in the faith" is the key to understanding this passage. Paul, of course, has been remonstrating throughout this epistle with the very difficult Corinthian congregation which contained many who were rebellious against his authority. This section, 2nd Corinthians 13:1-10, sums up the whole epistle in that regard. The "operative" phrase in the verse in question, "whether you are in the faith" is being addressed to everyone at Corinth, wherein there may have been some unbelievers and false teachers, but it seems abundantly clear that the majority were actually believers (even if some good number were not particularly spiritually mature or obedient to Paul's apostolic Bible-teaching authority). The RSV, in my view, comes close to what this "in the faith" really means: "Examine yourselves, to see whether you are holding to your faith". The reason Paul puts things this way is that if the Corinthians were really walking with Jesus as they should have been doing, there would be no daylight in their approach on the one hand and Paul's teachings and guidance to them on the other. The fact that there is a difference between what Paul was teaching and they were doing (at least among some of their number) is a sure indication that for those individuals the grip they have on their faith and the truths of "the faith" is not what it should be. But they should definitely know and understand that Paul is walking with Jesus and nearly perfectly so. That godly comparison commanded in this verse ("test yourselves") which the arrogant and incorrect favorable comparison by some of themselves to Paul has provoked will, if honestly done, lead them back to obedience to the truth. My translation:
Examine yourselves to see whether you still stand steady in the faith. Put your qualifications [as Christians] to the test. Or didn't you know this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is at home in you (cf. John 14:23) if He's not, then you are already disqualified.
2nd Corinthians 13:5
In hopes of running the race straight and true without getting off course or being disqualified so as to break the tape and earn the three crowns, your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior.
How do you know when the Holy Spirit is convicting you to do specific things? If He does do that.
Good to hear back from you. As to your question:
Learning to respond to the Spirit and His prompting is also the stuff of spiritual growth. The more advanced a Christian becomes, the more obvious it becomes when the Lord through the Spirit is directing his/her steps in a given direction. There is always the temptation, however, to insert emotion in place of genuine action on the part of the Spirit, and that can be true both of negative emotions (guilt, primarily) and positive emotions (just because we get "jazzed up" about something does not necessarily mean that God is telling us to do it). The first thing any Christian should do whenever there is a question about whether or not the Spirit is leading in a certain direction is to carefully consult scripture: the Spirit will never act or ask us to act contrary to the truths of the Bible. This is a principle which is self-reinforcing because the more we grow the more we know about what really is right and wrong, good and bad, spiritually profitable or not and the more we grow the better the Spirit is able to guide us since He is not as limited by our self-imposed limitations caused by ignorance of the truth. When there is still some question, prayer and prayerful meditation on the issue is advisable, and, if it is not a question of something that must be decided immediately, patience in waiting for a clear answer is always a good idea. Finally, it is not out of place to consult the wisdom of those Christ has put in the Church for that purpose (e.g., the gifts of helps and knowledge and wisdom), in case we do know Christians whose opinions we honor for that reason; however, I would be quick to add that any person of true wisdom: 1) would never tell you what to do or how to do it; rather they would add a wise perspective to your deliberations without in any way violating your freedom; 2) would remind you that it is your decision to make and that no amount of consultation with others relieves you of that responsibility or the consequences for what you decide.
Keep up the good work of spiritual growth through the truth in Jesus Christ!
Hello Dr. Luginbill,
I have recently come across your website and must say, it has helped me tremendously in my understanding of the Bible. I have recently been going through a lot of fear and need of clarifications from the Bible that I seem to have only accurately gotten from your website. I usually Google the questions I have regarding verses I don't understand in the Bible only to find a million different interpretations some being pretty scary and condemning to Christians only to come here and find out that they were entirely taken out of context so thank you for your thorough examinations of the scriptures!
I am however having problems understanding all of the sermon on the mount, specifically Matthew 7:13-14. From most of the interpretations I read about these verses is that if a christian were to willingly or ignorantly set foot on the wide road that they would not go to heaven. This is very distressing to me! Most of the interpretations say that your actions must not be in line with the wide road and if they are, then you never really were a christian in the first place a phrase I have never understood really because I thought all you had to do is have faith in Christ's blood for salvation and you would be saved. I just don't understand this; it feels like they are teaching to keep walking on the edge of a knife as your salvation depends on it which I just do not believe. I feel like everyone walks on the broad road in their life whether they refute it or not. No one is perfect and for a Christian to be on the narrow road every second of the day seems to require perfection which is not possible. I have heard that if you buy more possessions, or do not sell everything you own, or do not evangelize all the time or do everything for God every second of the day that you are a false Christian. These interpretations seem to make Christianity impossible and that only a very select few will be saved but aren't the few who find the narrow gate the Christians? I thought those on the wide road are unbelievers? Nothing will ever make me stop trusting/believing in Christ's sacrifice as I want to be saved and see Him/my loved ones in heaven someday! It seems like many teachers are making salvation harder than it really is and I just don't know what to believe. I'm not perfect and I sin everyday, sometimes willfully but mostly ignorantly. I try not to but still do and I know I will till the day I die. I don't know how these other ministers live but they must live a life more sinless than other Christians based on what they say in their interpretations. I just need a clarification on the sermon on the mount teachings as most of the interpretations seem to only be there to scare Christians about their faith. Please help me to understand this sermon better as I am afraid I am doing something wrong/missing something.
Good to make your acquaintance.
Thanks very much for your kind words. It is always a blessing to hear when this site and these materials have helped my fellow believers in their walk with our dear Lord Jesus Christ.
As to your question about Matthew 7:13-14, I think that your own analysis in terms of the exasperation you clearly feel about false teachings which seek to make salvation seem virtually impossible is right on the mark. Salvation is easy . . . for us because Jesus Christ bore all of our sins in His body on that tree (1Pet.2:24).
If only those who did not sin were saved, then no one would be saved, because we all stumble in many ways (Jas.3:2), so that no one can say "I have kept my heart pure; I am clean and without sin" (Prov.20:9). As it is, "If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us" (1Jn.1:8 NIV), since all of us still have a sin nature; blessedly, however, God has provided cleansing for believers through confession of sin to Him in prayer (1Jn.1:9), and this restores us to fellowship with the Lord; but if we claim that haven't sinned and all sin and fall short of God's glory (Rom.3:23) then "we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us" (1Jn.1:10 NIV).
Surprisingly, there are many believers, and putative Christian groups and teachers out there in the ether who do not understand that Jesus died for every sin of every human beings (see the link: Unlimited Atonement), who are not willing to accept that as believers they have been redeemed and forgiven (see the link: Redemption), who claim that somehow they are living sinlessly, and that is a lie (see the link: The Myth of Sinless Perfection).
One would think that if such individuals were content to wallow in such theological ignorance they would at least have the decency to keep it to themselves. So why are they intent on troubling others such as yourself? Part of this is to be explained by the devil's active deception: he and his do all they can to spread error and uncertainty concerning the Word and its truths; part of this is to be explained by leaders of such groups who seek to better enslave their followers and gain new ones too by professing to have the knowledge of the "only way" to salvation; and part of it has to do with the individuals themselves who are clearly messed up in their spiritual lives and tortured in their spirits; however, rather than seeking the truth, the only true antidote to lies of this sort, they instead seek relief through forcing their false views on others. The latter may seem odd, but it is a very common thing when a person is uncomfortable with the lies he/she has accepted, to seek reassurance by beating down others into submission to the same lies.
The Way is very narrow: there is only one way to be saved, that is, by God's grace (which is available free of charge to anyone willing to accept it because Christ already paid the price to make it available), through faith in Jesus Christ.
Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."
John 14:6 NIV
"I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture."
John 10:9 NIV
There are many so-called false "ways" to seek God, but the pure and simple grace approach through faith in Christ is the only way to be saved and, once saved, the only way to grow up spiritually, make progress in the Christian walk, become prepared and then serve Jesus Christ. Those who wish to play games, whether of legalism or anti-nomianism or whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, are only wasting time down here on earth.
But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called . . .
1st Timothy 6:11-12a NIV
You are very welcome at Ichthys, and I am confident that as continue to give your careful attention to sound teaching (whether here or wherever else you may find a place where the Bible is taught in a solid, substantive and orthodox way), you will not only have all these questions answered but you will also be able refute all such false teachings and incorrect approaches for your benefit and that of those who follow your lead:
Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.
1st Timothy 4:16 NIV
Do feel free to write back about this or anything else.
In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,
I despair of the devil's world so much. I'm still here so I can pick up my cross and carry on; I'm here for a reason. I just want to go be with The Trinity, God Almighty. I just want to be with Him. But I submit to His will, so I carry on. This world is so ridiculous. I'm blessed with everything but I just seek the finish line. And His timing is His timing. "I am." and He is. His will be done.
Your brother in Christ,
Well done, my friend. I think that is the proper, biblical attitude:
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?
Psalm 42:2 NIV
I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far;
Philippians 1:23 NIV
However, it is also important to remember that while we are here in this world we don't have to approach this race we are running as if it were a Marathon, as if we needed to complete the entire race today (see the link); we only have to take it one day at a time:
Give us today our daily bread.
Matthew 6:11 NIV
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Matthew 6:34 NIV
Then he said to them all: "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me."
Luke 9:23 NIV
Give us each day our daily bread.
Luke 11:3 NIV
But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called "Today," so that none of you may be hardened by sins deceitfulness.
Hebrews 3:13 NIV
And as we walk through this world, one day at a time, we are called to peace (see the link), and we are called to joy:
For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
Romans 14:17 NIV
So we do need to keep the perspective you are embracing here always in mind, but because of the glorious future ahead, and because the Lord does not put upon us anything other than the daily burden we are actually facing today, we can learn to have peace, and we can learn to be joyful, even in the eye of the storm. Strive for that my friend. That is the best way to "run with endurance the race set before us" (Heb.12:1), and thus win the prize (1Cor.9:24).
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15:13 NIV
In Jesus Christ our Lord who is our peace, who is our joy.
As always, thanks very much for your sound logic and wisdom, you're a very smart man. Honestly, I've had trouble my entire life. [details omitted]
How are things going for you, any better at all? I continue to keep you in my prayers and hope that situation has improved or will improve. Like everyone else, I'm very concerned about the state of our country and pray that things improve there, although I won't hold my breath. I am also deeply troubled that we are still losing young men in Afghanistan and by the terrorism that grows ever worse. Thanks again for your wisdom Bob.
In Jesus Christ.
You're most welcome, friend.
Thanks for your prayers. I am hanging in and hanging on, and I know that the Lord will get me through this time and grant deliverance on the far end. Being human, naturally I would want the far end to be "today" or at worst "tomorrow", but we all have to "let patience do its perfecting work" (Jas.1:4), and persevere in the sure and certain knowledge that our Lord is our Deliverer and will work everything out together for us for the good for us who love Him.
I'll be keeping you in my prayers on this issue and you other concerns as well, my friend.
In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,
This is a scary verse from the Bible: 'Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.' If living in live for Christ is like an athletic race, then I probably would be relieved just to cross the finish line, never mind any kind of prize. In High School, every time I had to run a mile, I was heaving and puffing like a broken engine, and my biggest desire was just to plop down on the grass and breathe. I don't think I could run the whole thing even if there were a million dollars on the line!
It's important to remember that we run the race only one step at a time and only one day at a time (e.g., Matt.6:11; 34: Lk.9:23; 11:3; Heb.3:13). We don't have to accomplish the Marathon in the next couple of hours (see the link). And of course this is merely an analogy: the Christian life is not physical but spiritual. If you are interested in gaining spiritual endurance, well, that requires continued spiritual growth (and if not Ichthys, I commend the search for an orthodox, Bible-teaching ministry of some sort which speaks to you and wherein you can be fed to the point of actually gaining the growth needed for this).
All who "make it" to the finish line and cross will be rewarded, not just the first to cross. The essential "prize" will be one in which we all share as believers in Jesus Christ: a resurrection body, eternal fellowship with our dear Lord, and a place in the New Jerusalem. "Making it" means finishing this life with faith maintained in tact. If beyond that we have run well enough to grow up spiritually, we will receive the crown of righteousness; if beyond that we live a Christian life and pass the tests of faith that come to the spiritually mature we will receive the crown of life; if beyond that we enter into and faithfully serve in the ministries Jesus has called us to in accordance with the gifts the Spirit has given us to accomplish the effects the Father has ordained (1Cor.12:4-6), then we will receive the crown of glory. There are many other things to say about all this; please see the link: "The Judgment and Reward of the Church".
You are still plenty young and, God willing, have more than enough time to train and run a good "spiritual race". Don't be discouraged. The Lord is with you and the Spirit is in you "both to will and to do" (Phil.2:13).
Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way; say to those with fearful hearts, "Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you."
Isaiah 35:3-4 NIV
If you do so, there is no end to the glories that await.
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
Galatians 6:9 NIV
Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,
Hello Dr. Luginbill,
I've still been having trouble spiritually lately. I do understand how we feel is not a reliable barometer of our spiritual health. I just don't feel comfortable talking to God. It feels very awkward, forced even. Most people talk about how much they love having an intimate relationship with God, but it's somewhat unpleasant for me. I don't know exactly why I feel this way. Honestly, I really haven't been praying at all. I also haven't been reading my Bible. Which isn't to say I have forgotten about God, or my Christian walk. If anything, it's the exact opposite. I feel like I'm constantly thinking about it. I've even been trying to conform myself to the image of Christ. I've still been going to Church. I avoid t.v. shows I used to enjoy that blaspheme God. I try to be mindful of the words I use, and how I talk to people as a Christian. I threw away 3/4 of my book collection because I felt they might hamper me spiritually. I remind myself not to engage with non-Christians. I try to move Christ more and more to the center of my life.
I try to be a better Christian than I was the day before. But I neglect Bible reading and prayer though. I noticed that those are the two things that draw us closer to God. I think that may be the reason I avoid them. It's not that I get too busy, or forget. I just feel really weird about getting close to God. Sometimes I'll just be sitting, and I'll think, "you should pray." I still won't though. I'll be in my room, and I'll look over at my Bible and think, "you should read that." I still won't though. It's more than mere apathy. I have an active dislike for these activities. I avoid them whenever possible. Strangely enough, I enjoy going to church though. Except for when the pastor tells us to praise God. Pretty much anything that involves addressing God directly, I have a problem with. I know I'm in a bad place spiritually. I just don't know why. Why can't I get close to God? Or rather, why do I resist getting close to God? I was reading on-line, and the author wrote that when he prays he imagines God sitting right next to him. I guess he talks to Him as if he were sitting right there. He uses normal, everyday language. I actually think that's a great idea. I haven't done it though. I know that it will make God seem even more real, and personal to me. I can't even pray when I feel like He's far off wherever gods exist, much less sitting right by me.
Oh yes, [details omitted].
I'm still at my church. I want to grow more spiritually before I leave, if that makes sense. I don't feel entirely comfortable leaving a church because I disagree doctrinally, when I can't even articulate exactly what it is I believe. About the only thing I'm sure of , is when I disagree with something. When I get a solid foundation of knowledge, I think I'll stop attending church altogether. Or I might just keep doing what I'm doing, which is attending for fellowship. Do you think God is displeased with me going to church that I know is not entirely biblically correct? Do you think He would rather me leave?
I am happy to hear that you have gotten some good news on the family front and that you are making Christian friends. I don't think there is anything abnormal or wrong at all about wanting to have a relationship. It's hard these days to have a sanctified one and to find the right person and do things the right way. There are many pressures in the modern world, and more day by day as things degenerate. Most people need an opposite number to get through this life. Unless a person is convinced in his/her heart that single status is what God wants of them and also something they are capable of handling without falling into sin then praying about the next phase of life is certainly legitimate.
As I've probably said before, what church to go to and why is something I try to stay out of recommending. Mostly, churches today do not actually put teaching the Bible front and center as they should, and also most are involved in one type of legalism or another, regardless of whether or not one might agree with their doctrine. I'm sorry to hear that reading the Bible and praying are still a chore for you. It seems to me that forcing yourself to do something you dislike (as opposed to just being too preoccupied with life to do them) is maybe not the best short-term strategy. Since you seem to be asking for some advice on this subject let me say that your idea of growing up first and then making choices (about churches, relationships, how to pursue your walk with Jesus) is a first rate one. I certainly agree. Trouble is, how to grow? You need to find a ministry and/or pastor-teacher who is providing enough spiritual food for you to do so. If Ichthys is not your "cup of tea" for this, some other place, perhaps also on the internet, should be found. You are certainly welcome here, of course. If interested in a course of action to digest the material at this site, please see FAQ #8, "Which of these studies should I read first?". I can also recommend pastor-teacher Curtis Omo's Bible Academy (see the link).
Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,
Hello Dr. Luginbill,
I'm not exactly sure how to phrase this, so I guess I'll just dive right in. I'm feeling so distant from God lately. It's like we haven't spoken in weeks. I don't pray. I don't read my Bible. It's not necessarily that I procrastinate. I do, but that's not really what's happening here. I've lost my desire to do these things. It's not that I avoid them. I just don't do them. No big meaning behind it. So I really don't know how to fix this. There's nothing to fix. I wonder if I am being oppressed. It's like my flame has been stolen. I'm increasingly apathetic to my walk. Do you think demons can stand between someone and God, dulling their hearing? I just can't think of a way to explain it. It's like I've taken everything that it means to be Christian, and whittled it down to belief in God. That's about the only thing I do. Believe in God. No fruit, no change, no prayer, no bible reading, no evangelism and no fellowship. What really worries me is that my conscience isn't too worried about it. I don't feel guilty. I just know in my head that these are things I should be doing. My heart doesn't care. What is wrong with me?
Sorry to hear of your present concerns. People often describe this situation you report as "spiritual dryness" (see the link: "Have I Lost My Salvation? (III)" Q/A #3). The devil resists all of our positive efforts to draw closer to the Lord, so that getting to the point of walking confidently forward with Jesus is never easy or effortless. It takes many good, daily decisions. So the first thing we have to do is to "own it", that is, to recognize that our spiritual growth and confidence is a result of our own decision-making. While that may be a bit depressing looking back, we Christians always should be looking forward. So the good news is that if we have broken it, it can be fixed by good actions going forward. If we want to walk with Jesus, we have to start walking with Jesus. If we want to know Him better, we have to get to know Him better. If we want to see Him in our mind's eye, we have to start looking. God has provided everything we need (2Pet.1:3); our job is to take advantage of the Spirit we have been given and get moving. If it were easy, everyone would earn the three crowns and inhabit that "best of neighborhoods" in the New Jerusalem. In fact, these will be the least heavily populated of them all (especially among those of this current Church era, Laodicea). All the joys of putting Him first are ours for the taking, along with the unimaginably wonderful eternal rewards that result. Question is, how bad do we want it? In the end, all these things will come to light so that our imagining that we can ignore these matters with impunity is not true we are losing opportunities when we don't take advantage of them:
He said to them, "Do you bring in a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed? Instead, dont you put it on its stand? For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open. If anyone has ears to hear, let them hear. Consider carefully what you hear," he continued. "With the measure you use, it will be measured to youand even more. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them."
Mark 4:21-25 NIV
A second problem is where we are going for help. Scripture is quite clear that we all need help in order to grow up spiritually and make progress in and for the Lord:
(11) Christ Himself appointed some of us apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers (12) in order to prepare all of His holy people for their own ministry work, that the entire body of Christ might thus be built up, (13) until we all reach that unifying [goal] of belief in and full-knowledge (epignosis) of the Son of God, that each of us might be a perfect person, that is, that we might attain to that standard of maturity whose "attainment" is defined by Christ; (14) that we may no longer be immature, swept off-course and carried headlong by every breeze of so-called teaching that emanates from the trickery of men in their readiness to do anything to cunningly work their deceit, (15) but rather that we may, by embracing the truth in love, grow up in all respects with Christ, who is the head of the Church, as our model. (16) In this way, the entire body of the Church, fit and joined together by Him through the sinews He powerfully supplies to each and every part, works out its own growth for the building up of itself in love.
The other "problem", then, is the "where" we get the help. If the place you are going is not conducive to true growth for whatever reasons (and there are many reason) then, as I always advise, try to find a place which is not just "fun" temporarily but which will actually contribute positively to the process of spiritual growth. It doesn't have to be Ichthys (although you are very welcome here); but nobody can do this alone.
Yours in the Lord Jesus, whose Bride and Body we all are.
Hey Dr. Luginbill,
Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions, and just listen to my problems. I really do appreciate your helpfulness. I know God is blessing you beyond measure. I constantly find myself wishing that I was as far advanced in my walk with God as you are in yours. I also wouldn't mind having all of your knowledge, and wisdom. You know so much about the Bible, it's like your an encyclopedia. That's probably why I never tire of asking you questions. If I could take one thing from you though, it would be your relationship with the Lord. I imagine you talk with Him effortlessly. I don't doubt that you are heard. You write all the time about loving the Lord. Truthfully, I just can't relate. I guess that's why I get somewhat discouraged. I don't love God with my whole heart. I don't know that I love the Lord even a little. I know what I mean, and how I feel when I say I love someone. I don't have any of those same feelings when I think of God. I don't really experience any emotion at all. About the only thing I do feel is fear, or is it dread? It feels like waiting on the other shoe to drop. I'm constantly looking over my shoulder, for the One that can make my life quite literally Hell. I hear Christians talk about how they commune with God in a loving relationship, and I'm eaten up by jealousy. I do wish that I could speak with God as Moses spoke with Him, as a friend.
I feel if ever I should encounter God, it would be a fearsome thing. I suppose that's why I'm constantly running from His presence. I approach prayer as if I am going before a judge. He is the One with all power, and authority. I can only plead my case. He holds my entire existence in His hands. He can turn out the lights on it whenever it pleases Him. I go into my closet to pray, and my lips fumble clumsily about. The words come, finally, then fall to the ground. Useless. What does one say to the One who is all? "I am unworthy-how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth." Job 40:4
Thanks for your good words, although I fear that in truth I fall far short of your estimate in many ways.
As to your question, there are three main things I would wish to say. First, drawing closer to Jesus is a process, one which, sadly, few Christians ever really get serious about making the priority it should be. That is true even in the case (or sometimes especially in the case) of those who often are the most vociferous about how wonderful their relationship with Him is (so no need to be jealous of phonies). It is good (in the proper context) to express the greatness of the Lord in worship, and quite appropriate to be joyous about it (though even here true joy in Him as opposed to an emotional outpouring manufactured by music and a "rah-rah-rah" atmosphere is not so common as may be supposed). However, telling other people how great one's relationship with the Lord is strikes me as very presumptuous (and I certainly hope that I have not been guilty of that). Jesus loves everyone. He died for everyone. And He especially loves those who belong to Him by accepting Him and His sacrifice for them. So then we too ought to love one another, especially other believers, for on that great day to come we will all be one in a wonderful way the depth of which we cannot even now clearly contemplate.
So then, no more boasting about human leaders! All things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the futureall are yours, and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God.
1st Corinthians 3:21-23 NIV
Secondly, this process of spiritual growth whereby we come nearer to the Lord is neither automatic nor instantaneous. Nor is it a case of ever "arriving" at a destination called "perfect relationship with the Lord"; rather, our relationship with Him is inextricable from our present spiritual status and our level of spiritual growth. To illustrate the point, think of this status as a being inside of a transparent cube measuring five yards on each side, but without a bottom so our feet can get traction; the cube is on an uphill course and our objective is to push it from the inside all the way from one end of the course to the other; it is a heavy object, so that pushing it is not easy under any circumstances, and there are others out on the course too who occasionally bang into us or have dumped their own cubes and sometimes try to push our cube backwards and sideways; sometimes the footing is easy, sometimes it is hard; but the cube never goes forward without effort; we get tired, we have to rest, and sometimes we are just too lazy to push forward; within our cube we may be at the front or the back or moving around inside it; we may be looking forward or backward; we may be standing up or sitting down or even lying down; we can even push sideways or backwards or allow our cube to slide backwards; so our "progress" may be measured in at least two ways: 1) where our cube is on the course, and 2) where we are in the cube and what we are doing at any given time. The further up the field we go in absolute terms, the better our relationship with the Lord stands to be in absolute term; the better our posture and position in the cube at any given time, the better our relationship with Him stands to be at that point of time. It's just an analogy with plenty of flaws (just for example, the course doesn't have a visible or uniform end or a predictable or uniform surface), but it's meant to illustrate the point that getting closer to our goal takes effort, and that it is a process: those who have made a lot of progress can get into spiritual trouble and "down in the dumps" about their relationship with the Lord, depending on their posture and position "in the cube"; whereas those who are just getting started can have a wonderful time with Him even though their cube is not much past the starting line because they are out front and pushing in the right direction.
The "moral" of the story is that you can have a wonderful time with the Lord simply by focusing and concentrating on the things you already know about Him and believe that takes effort (you pushing in the right direction); to get better at this and to have more resources to deploy in this cause, and to have it become somewhat more natural and second-nature, requires spiritual growth (you making progress on the course). A long way to say, I suppose, what I have been saying all along, namely, that the key to enjoying Jesus Christ and to growing closer to God in every way is learning and believing the truth of His Word, then applying it aggressively to your life; that takes personal Bible reading, personal Bible study, and accessing good, solid, substantive Bible teaching; and that takes remembering and believing the truth of all you learn, recalling it, meditating upon it, applying it to your life, and making it your priority and manner of thinking; and that takes standing fast with the truth when it is challenged and when you are tested; finally, that takes helping your brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ do the same through dedicated ministry according to the gifts you have been given. None of this happens over night; all of this takes effort and consistency; and only correct effort, things done the way the Bible and our Lord command them to be done, will produce the effects you are looking for. The great majority of spiritual "effort" one finds in churches today is wasted because it has nothing to do with God's truth.
Thirdly, and finally, I don't think you should beat yourself up about your attitude of reverence toward the Lord in fact, that is an absolutely necessary component of loving Him properly. While it is true that we are to love Him "with all our heart and soul and mind and strength" (Mk.12:30), it is also very true that "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (Ps.111:10; Prov.4:7; 9:10; cf. Job 28:28; Acts 9:31). Just as we can't really love a human being we look up to if we have no respect for him/her, so the love of the Lord and the fear of the Lord are actually opposite sides of the same coin. Indeed, it is impossible to love the Lord truly and completely without fearing Him, and vice versa. He is awesome, and we revel in His awesomeness; He is merciful, and we shiver in appreciation of His mercy.
But with you there is forgiveness. Therefore you are feared.
Psalm 130:4 1984NIV
We are absolutely unworthy and He loves us anyway, loved us so much that He gave up everything to win us. We belong to Him, and, like the perfect wife, the Church, His Bride, we should indeed reverence Him deeply, with a love that grows from faith to faith. For He loves us, more than we can know.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless . . . . . . This is a profound mysterybut I am talking about Christ and the church.
Ephesians 5:25-27 and Ephesians 5:32 NIV
Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,
Hey Dr. Luginbill,
I've still been having trouble spiritually lately. I know I should be past this already. I'm going to try to be as honest and clear as possible. It's just not working out. "It", being my Christianity. I'm reluctant to even call myself a Christian. From my understanding, a Christian is one who follows Christ. I know that I have not been following Christ. I want to go to heaven, no actually I want to avoid hell, but I don't want to follow. I was going to say that I'm not capable of following. I think the more honest assessment is that I just refuse to follow Christ. I believe whole-heartedly in the Bible, as well as the God of the Bible. I know what is required of Christians. I guess you could say that I counted the cost, and I'd rather not take up my cross. I don't want to give my whole life in devotion to the Lord. I don't want to submit my will to His Will. I want to pursue the things I want, lead the life I want, and go wherever I want. I don't want to be Christ like. I don't want to be meek. I don't want to store up treasures in heaven. I want my treasure here and now. I know it probably sounds like I'm engaged I gross sin, but I'm really not. That's the strange part. Of course, I'm not saying that I'm sinless. It's just that, I really haven't done anything obviously sinful. I just don't want my entire being to be consumed by Christ. I want to please the self above all else.
I'm talking about picking my cross up, and setting it back down at whim. Of course, It's not that easy though. When I choose to rebel against God, I am most miserable. More miserable even , than when I am submitting. You know how following Christ is likened to climbing a mountain, or walking a steep trail? Basically, I have sat down on the way to Zion and I will not be moved of my own volition. I want to be a Christian, but I don't want suffering. So I try to take the good, but none of the bad. It's nigh on impossible though. I can't enjoy my rebellion against God, because I can't just put down my faith. I feel that it's impossible for me to go back to the way I was. I can't unlearn all of the things I know about Christ. I walk away from Christ to serve my flesh, claiming that this will give me happiness, when my heart's desire is to commune with God. You know I used to get so jealous when I would hear people talk about their relationship with the Lord. I still do in fact. I wanted that for myself. I didn't want to hear people talk about how God spoke to them, and loved them. I wanted to speak to God, and be loved by God.
You know how much I hate Calvinism. I think it's right in my case though. My own feet cannot carry me to Christ. They run in the opposite direction. My flesh wars against God. My self wants to be its own god.
I could very well be committing the "sin unto death." Or maybe, I just hope I am. There is no way I can be saved unless the Lord decides to deal kindly with me and take me out by His own hand. It's not that I refuse to let go of my faith in God. I truly cannot. Whereas, I do choose to hold onto my sin. You may be thinking, "what sin?" The sin I'm mostly referring to, is the one of being a disciple. The sin of not spreading the gospel. The sin of not studying, praying, and reading diligently. The sin of not enduring trials. In my mind, I sin every time I know what God asks of me and yet I refuse Him. So, while I may not be cursing, fornicating or whatever it is all the kids are doing nowadays, I'm still sinning relentlessly. Sinning by ignoring the call of God on my life. I don't enjoy this sin either. I don't do any of the things a person that calls themselves a Christian should do. I am fruitless, and yet my entire mind is consumed with Christ.
Sorry to hear that you are going through such a spiritual struggle. But I am happy to hear that you "can't let go" of your faith. That is the most important thing to start with. Believers are all saved; no unbeliever is saved (Jn.3:18).
I think you have diagnosed the "problem" pretty well from what you say at the end of the email. You are merely being "honest" about where you are spiritually, and making a realistic assessment of your strengths and weaknesses, of what you feel you can and can't do.
But here is what I know. People of integrity like yourself who are genuinely Christians and who cannot abide falsehood or compromise will never be happy until they make their peace with moving forward. Sometimes it takes many years and much wasted effort to decide to get up and get moving (believe me, I know). But God knows how to deal with each and every one of His children to help them do what they need to do both to "get through" to safety on the other side, and also to maximize their reward in doing so.
Most of the people in this world today who call themselves "Christian" are really only lukewarm. This is the era of Laodicea, after all. You are not. You are vacillating between a "cold" which you cannot endure and a "hot" of which you are afraid. That is not surprising. Whenever anyone contemplates what a really "red hot" Christian life would look like, a life genuinely lived for Christ in every respect, well, let's just say we all fall short, even when we try might and main.
Here is my advice. Instead of choosing between dashing forward at record-breaking speed or sitting down in the dust and not moving at all, why not try to walk a few feet forward every day? Read a few pages in the Peter series. Give yourself a break about not having perfect mental discipline, but also try to think about the Lord, the goodness and the wonder of Him, from time to time. Doing something is better than doing nothing.
Living "one day at a time" is a very important Christian concept, one which, sadly, has become such a cliche that most people know about it but few do it. Try to set a very small goal in terms of spiritual growth every day. Don't worry about yesterday (if you feel you messed up especially); don't worry about tomorrow (if you think it'll bring something you can't or won't handle especially). Just focus on today, and try to put some little bit "in the bank". One small prayer, ten seconds of thinking about the Lord, one Bible chapter, one page in the Peter series (or similar) and being happy about doing something positive and not beating yourself up about not being perfect would be all to the good.
God deals with us where we are. If we cannot yet run a marathon, He doesn't expect that from us. But if He wants us to do that some day, He does expect us to begin training day by day.
Finally, we have no idea what we can do. The Holy Spirit is a dynamo of power such as we cannot really fathom. I think if you try to give just a little bit, you will be amazed at what you can begin to do in short order.
I do appreciate the mind-set that "if I can't be perfect, I don't even want to try". I have met many who have this natural human tendency and I confess to being prone to it a little myself as well. But to be successful in the Christian life takes a measure of practicality. It's great if there are people out there who can go from zero to sixty in the blink of an eye and then maintain that speed. Most of us mere mortals need a long time, even years in most cases, just to get up to cruising speed, and keeping it up, whatever that speed is, is a day by day challenge.
So my advice to you is to go a little easier on yourself in terms of setting standards so high that you feel you will never be able to reach them from a standing start (so as only to frustrate and discourage yourself from the outset). Start instead with some things you can do, are willing to do, and will even enjoy doing. In time, the Lord will prepare you for and lead you to everything He wants you to do.
In the love of Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,
I don't know if you remember me but I e-mailed you awhile ago about eternal salvation? I have another question, it's not about eternal salvation. My friend and I want to help each other grow spiritually mature and grow closer to God. Do you have any ideas?
Spiritual growth is the same for all believers. It is accomplished by learning and believing the truth of the Bible. The Holy Spirit's ministry is essential for this task, and believers can make some progress in spiritual growth by reading their Bibles on their own (and that is clearly something we should all do diligently; see the link); but Christians also need good, solid, orthodox Bible teaching. That can be hard to find. This particular ministry is on the internet precisely because of the dearth of good Bible teaching in the church today (and more particularly, I suppose, because of the lack of demand for it). So whether you are able to find a place where there is substantive and detailed teaching going on so as to be able to attend in person, or whether you find something good by other means (you are certainly welcome at Ichthys), what is needed is careful, daily attention to the truth being taught, believing the truth as it is taught in the power of the Spirit, and then walking in that truth.
And because of this we also give thanks to God continually, because, when you received the word of hearing from us, you received it not as the word of men, but as it really is, the Word of God the very Word which is at work inside of you as you believe it.
1st Thessalonians 2:13
Walking in the truth we have believed is what spiritual progress is all about (the next phase in the Christian life after we have grown up to spiritual maturity). Once we have grown in grace and the truth of Jesus Christ, we will be given plenty of opportunities to apply this truth to our lives, and some of this will be testing given to us to refine us and to solidify our faith and our hope, and to build our love (e.g., 1Pet.1:6-9). Finally, as we prove faithful in testing, we will be led into the personal ministry our Lord has always had for us, and given the opportunity to serve other Christians with our spiritual gifts. In this process there is great eternal reward (see the link: The Judgment and Reward of the Church.
I present the process here as a straight line, but of course there are always many things going on at once; e.g., even when we are fully functioning in our ministries as mature, tested believers, we will never get to the point of no longer requiring spiritual food. Prayer, and Bible reading, and believing, and testing and serving will all be going on at all times of our short tenure here on earth. And of course just because we may not yet have attained spiritual maturity does not mean that we should not be walking as closely to Jesus as we can or that we will not even at early stages be given opportunities to serve others.
If you are interested in utilizing Ichthys for this purpose, I would recommend beginning with the Peter series (see the link); and see also the FAQ: "Recommended Sequence: Which of these studies should I read first?".
Best wishes for your growth, progress in and service to our dear Lord Jesus whom we love with all our hearts,
I am e-mailing to say things have improved but I am confused. I feel secure in the Lord, and when I read "son of Man", or "Jesus", I often feel warm, but I feel no doubt or fear of missing Heaven. I feel secure in spite of many evil spirits. And most times, or pretty much all times, when I question or, pray to the Lord about what's happening or about doubting salvation, I feel muted. In a good way, I feel like I'm being muted and told, in a good way, "Don't worry about it". This morning I groaned because of this world of sin, and just didn't want to live here anymore! I wanted to be in heaven with the Lord! (that alone should answer I think but bear with me.) It's just, lately I have been BLASTED with temptation. I just can not move forward, BUT I do feel like I'm being told, "Just wait a little while". But other times I'm calm and feel almost nothing, but I other times when I, or when the Lord, "Stirs up the gifts within me", I go on a spree of service (which God giving me seemingly endless energy that is a gift).
As absurd as it sounds I feel... sometimes.. I have, bought the "lie"? Although I never accepted the world, ever, after I was saved. I'm just, confused.
I don't know how you feel about signs from God, but I put on the Sirius XM Praise channel and the ending of a song titled, "Trust in God", was on, and the next one was, "Greater is coming", by Jekalyn Carr (please look up those lyrics), I don't take everything as a sign, but when you get the idea to turn it on when you haven't in a few days or a day or two, and you do, and then you turn it on, and those songs come up, it makes you believe. I really don't think the evil one would do that.
Good to hear from you. I'm happy to hear that things are improving for you. I'm very glad to learn that you are beginning to embrace the security you have in Jesus Christ. We all have His Spirit within us as a "pledge" or a seal ensuring all the good things to come (2Cor.1:22; 5:5; Eph.1:14), and to the extent that you are responding to Him and sensing the Spirit's presence, that is a true "sign" of your status as a child of God and member of the true Church of Jesus Christ.
The Christian life is not a "one off" experience nor a rapid achievement of the high ground followed by a relaxing wait for kingdom come. No indeed. It is a struggle to the end. It can be enjoyable even if that joy shines through many tears at times but it is never static. Generally speaking, whenever we find ourselves getting off-balance in any way, it can be traced to either a failure to spend enough time in the scriptures and in accessing good, solid Bible teaching, or a failure to do as much as we should to apply that truth we are learning in walking closely with the Lord day by day (and of course often as not these two go together). Inspiration can be got in a variety of ways; I'm not opposed to music in principle, but in practice it has come to substitute for substance in the contemporary church-visible (and even an album's worth of perfect lyrics are not as good as the shortest Psalm, e.g.; see the link which leads to others: "music").
So, bottom line, I wouldn't feel bad about feeling good, nor would I feel bad about successfully resisting temptation. I would encourage you to keep on with the good progress you have been making. Spiritual momentum is a panacea for many things as it keeps us focused on forward progress with the result that other unimportant issues tend to fall by the wayside; unfortunately that momentum is difficult to build up and all too easy to lose. A big part of gaining (and getting close to) spiritual maturity is learning how to navigate the rocks and shoals and swells of the Christian life without bleeding off speed in our quest to get to the finish line and it is that victory upon which we must keep our sights set. I also cannot overemphasize the importance of keeping ourselves "reward motivated". If we are pressing forward for a reason, namely, the good report we want to get from our dear Lord Jesus, and the "gold, silver and precious stones" our Lord has for us as part of our eternal inheritance, we will be more inclined to keep our focus and keep on making the necessary sacrifices to achieve our holy goal and it is one which is well-pleasing to the Lord (please see the link: "The Judgment and Reward of the Church").
And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.
Hebrews 11:6 NASB
By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaohs daughter, choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward.
Hebrews 11:24-26 NASB
Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,
I just don't know what to say or do. I make progress like the first few sentences of my last e-mail, and then I mess up. I just can't get it right even though I'm not supposed to. Every week I make progress, then lose some. I feel so disappointing to Him, and then disappointed in myself.
First, there is no way to go in the Christian life but forward. So resolve yourself to keep plugging away regardless of failure and do not let failure reinforce itself by letting it dominate your emotions. Where you are spiritually is where you are. The only good that feeling bad can do is if it helps to motivate you to get cracking. If you let it turn in on itself it will only set up a negative spiral.
Second, this does not have to happen. You have free will for a reason. If it is a question of sin, you can say "no!" to it, and you can (and should) get tough about that. If it is a question of consistency in Bible study and accessing Bible teaching, you can set up a routine right for yourself and defend that good "high ground" once it is taken. If it is a question of applying the truth consistently in your walk with the Lord, it is possible to get better about this but it is war-zone out there, and no battle was ever fought without spilling blood:
Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.
In all such things, you have the Spirit, you have free will, and you have the truth of the Word of God. Take heart in the Lord and let Him give you the strength to push through this opposition and begin making straight paths for your feet. We all stumble (Jas.3:2). The difference between winners and losers in the Christian life is that the winners get back up and start moving forward again every time they get knocked down (Prov.24:16). Please see the links: "The Battlefield Within: Fighting the inner spiritual Struggle" and Spiritual Growth: the solution to "ups and downs".
God has a purpose for you and for your life. Start seeing this life for what it really is, namely, an opportunity to serve Jesus Christ the way He wants you to do so: growing, progressing, and, eventually, coming into the particular ministry He marked out for you in eternity past. In doing all this there is the greatest possible and absolutely unimaginable eternal reward (see the link).
In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,
Thank you Robert that was encouraging. I keep having to remind myself that Jesus wants me to grow and be with Him. And that verse really put things in perspective. I just listened to a sermon at my regular attended church and really made me re-focus. It's about JESUS, and for a reason. I didn't truly understand what laying Him as the foundation meant, the Rock. I have a better idea now.
My biggest problem is battling with voices in my head. I keep thinking horrible thoughts and unfortunately I'm very influenced by the smallest things. I need to take life with an eternal perspective. It's hard to stop that voice that says "No you don't" after every affirmation.
You're very welcome.
This "problem" you report is a very common one. What believers have to do is recognize that we have the right to control our own thoughts and emotions (even if it is not always an easy thing by far to exercise that control), and if someone or something is suggesting something we don't want to think or feel, it is up to us to knock that false thinking/feeling down and move on without guilt since it is not us, not what we think or feel. The more we do this, the easier it gets (because the devil doesn't waste his time on those who won't play his game, those believers who make it a point to be "alert and sober": 1Pet.5:8). Mastering what we think and feel is not the stuff of spiritual immaturity, but it is well within the ability of all Christians who have made some spiritual advance and have learned to walk "by the Spirit". Please do see these links:
The Battlefield Within: Fighting the inner spiritual Struggle.
Who controls our thoughts and emotions?
Our Reborn Reorientation
Sin, Salvation and Forgiveness: Claiming the Mental and Spiritual High-Ground
Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,
Have you any experience with believers who have serious attention span issues? I ask because I'm suffering under serious tedium lately and it's making temptation seem exceptionally heavy. Family members have limited understanding and limited tolerance on this score. I can't just go back to old thinking. [TV a problem; other details omitted]
The Word, your writings, some (very little) other sources at times as well, and it's certainly sinking in, it's just like you said, I gotta sharpen myself and live by example first and be ready to help anyone else wants to know about our Lord.
I'm just floundering. What do I do? I'm closer to The Lord than I've ever been, and I've never been so lonely. Any help as always is appreciated.
Good to hear from you, though I am of course sorry to hear that these things continue to be somewhat of a struggle. If it's any consolation and I hope it is your experiences, generally speaking, are similar to things I see and hear reported all the time.
But resist him (i.e., the devil), firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.
1st Peter 5:9 NASB
Any believer who determines to get moving spiritually and to achieve spiritual maturity through learning, believing and applying the truth of scripture is quickly going to find him/herself spiritually out of touch and out of step with almost everyone from their previous life. How would he/she not? Once we really do open our eyes up to the truth and open our hearts up to the Lord the way He desires, we are seeing and feeling things in an entirely different way: "old things have passed away; new things have come!" (2Cor.5:17). When I was first exposed to substantive Bible teaching it came at just the right time for me, at a time when I was both at my spiritual nadir but also ready to turn around and had begun to commit to doing so (God's timing is always perfect). I was so overjoyed with and enthusiastic about the books I had received from the teaching ministry which a good friend had led me to that I had the idea that everyone would have the same reaction I did once they just read some of the materials. As it turned out, almost no one from my old life was the least bit interested. And that is hardly a surprise, because the motivation for spiritual advance has to come from within.
As to your struggle against old ways of thinking and acting, it sounds to me as if you are doing quick well and quite quickly too. As with any "new piece of equipment", it takes time to learn how to operate it. Learning how to apply to your life and walk all the truths of scripture you are learning and believing takes time and effort; there will be set-backs. But if you persevere, you will continue to make progress. As Vergil said, Tantae molis erat Romanam condere gentem, which, loosely translated, means "Rome wasn't built in a day" and no believer ever achieved spiritual maturity overnight either, but only by consistent effort "one day at a time".
That said, it does appear to me from you email though it may just be my impression that you may be a little too focused on "defense" and not enough on "offense". While it is true that each one of us needs to learn, as Paul puts it, how to "possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor" (1Thes.4:4 NKJV), this is a first step and not the means to the end of growing up spiritually. If we become accustomed to thinking positive thoughts, for example, the problem of thinking negative ones, while not disappearing, will become less frequent, less intense, and more easily handled. And we are only going to get into that "habit" by continuing with our aggressive approach to learning and believing the truths of the scripture. This is the way of things when it comes to our application of the truth as well. And if a person has so much time on his/her hands that the time itself is a problem, then surely this can be turned into a sublime advantage. There is always more to learn/believe from the scriptures/Bible teaching. There is always more that can be done in the area of praying for our brothers and sisters in the world. And there is also the issue of the personal ministry Jesus Christ has for each one of us. If a Christian has gotten to the point of even basic spiritual maturity or close thereto, it is usually the case (from my observation and experience), that said Christian is beginning to have a very good idea of where his/her spiritual gifts lie. The exact ministry or venue and manner of their employment may not yet be clear (it seldom is until later), but if the gifts are becoming clear, then time and effort may be employed on honing them and preparing them for that later ministry and all effective ministry is built on diligent preparation.
This is contrary to what many people think, but it is absolutely true. The Holy Spirit "meets us half-way", so to speak, but we have respond with our will to meet Him, doing what the Lord has called us to do at every phase (Rom.8:16; 1Cor.2:13 ESV). No one who is really ministering effectively for Jesus Christ has not first been tested and tried in order to refine and anneal his/her faith, and no believer is put into the furnace of testing until gaining a level of spiritual maturity that will allow the Christian in question to successfully pass the tests: spiritual growth must come first; then comes the personal preparation of our advance along the road Christ lays down for us through the fire and the water and the darkness; then comes effective ministry (not that #1 every stops, nor that #2 ever stops once it starts). The progression is 1, 1+2, 1+2+3. Those who want to hop straight to #3 without any #1 or #2 may find a way to look and sound impressive, but they are inevitably going to be off-base in all they say and do and that explains so many "ministries" and "churches" whose efforts for Christ in our Laodicean day are very lame, even if noisy and visible.
God doesn't begrudge us some rest and relaxation. It would be wonderful if we were all like the apostle Paul and could run the engine at 99.5% at all times without risking a breakdown. Even if we have that potential, however, we are not going to get anywhere near it right away. We should make it our goal to make progress along these lines day by day, even while realizing that the actions of exceptionally mature believers are, generally speaking, within the power of exceptionally mature believers alone to perform. And to that end, we should set ourselves to a course of rapid and consistent growth. We are not to look backward (except to the cross) nor forward (except to our Lord's return and the glories which follow), but we are to live one day at a time as long as we are in this world, making the most of that time day by day to honor and serve Jesus Christ (e.g., Matt.6:34; Phil.3:13; cf. Eph.5:16; Heb.11:3; 2Pet.3:13-14).
As to family matters:
He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord.
Proverbs 18:22 NIV
Children are a heritage from the LORD, offspring a reward from him.
Psalm 127:3 NIV
When it comes to spare time, for those blessed to have it, since being a good husband/wife/parent are biblical mandates, my advice would be to rejoice in the spouse/children that God has blessed you to have, not taking them for granted, not expecting them to be perfect (if they were, they would be a poor fit with us!), but treasuring them and enjoying them and making the most of the short time here on earth we have with them. Granted, our spiritual growth, progress and production is what we are to set our hearts and minds on first and foremost, but if we have done all we can do in these respects, all we have the power to reasonably do, and if there is time and energy to spare praise God if that is so then it would seem that lavishing it on our families is neither forbidden nor unprofitable. And it may turn out to be a great blessing.
Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,
I feel somewhat compelled to share a little story of how things already see to be well on their way only a day after truly pondering this issue in my email to you.
Just today at school in our entirely secular literature class we were reading a rhetorical essay on the pressures that students face at college, namely being of the spirit of economic pressure, parental pressure, peer pressure, and self-induced pressure. Significantly, much of this essay was actually dealing with the stress of students being pressured into choosing a path that was not necessarily what was best for them, in that their decisions were being based upon their parents' judgements or what their peers (culture) thought they ought to do. While I noted the similarity in topic to my email to you wryly in class, the connection did not really hit home until I read your response to my question, and the counsel that you gave me. How astounding it is to think of how quick an answer came, and I was simply too blind to see it sitting right in front of me! The essay concluded with a plea for students to pick their own paths, and it seems so obvious now that I can't believe I missed this earlier. Of course, in the case of us Christians, it is Christ doing the choosing and we only discover his perfect choice for us, but the ring of the essay, "don't be concerned with money, or others' opinions, just choose what you truly feel compelled to do" resonates almost perfectly with my current situation.
As if this wasn't startling enough on its own, our school system is being shut down tomorrow due to the ambiguous "possibility" of inclement weather, a fact I did not learn until I was actually halfway through reading your response. Now I have a full day to ponder both your words and think more fully on my own leanings without the pressures of school to distract or pull me away. It almost seems perfect in a way, but then again that should not surprise me. It only seems the more I try to grow, the more I notice somehow working out in a way perfectly conducive towards my goals without me consciously lifting a finger (this certainly has the feeling of Romans 8:28).
Of course one has to be careful not to take this sort of "heightened perception" to the extreme ("the bug splat on my windshield signifies......"), but it sure is a wonderful blessing to be able to see God at work when the veil is lifted for a brief moment, when our vision turns a clear 20/20 for an instant before slipping back into the haze. Anyway, I just thought you might enjoy hearing how fast things seem to be coming together, but of course I still have much to do before my path will be truly obvious. I look forward to being able to fully comprehend what it is I am supposed to do in life, and do hope that this remarkable string of events is just the beginning of the (divine) help that I will receive in this matter.
In Christ our Lord and Savior,
Thanks for this. I think it is a mark of growing spiritual maturity to see God's hand in everything for God's hand is indeed in everything. We know He did the big thing for us: saving us from death and damnation through the blood of Christ. Recognizing that He is taking care of us, indeed, that He has "programmed" His complete care for us into His plan before time began, is heartening and helpful for walking closely with Jesus day by day, step by step. Where serious Christians generally have the most trouble is with the "in between" trials and testing. So it's a great perspective to remember: 1) we are saved (when we had no way to atone for the smallest of our sins) through Christ suffering the flames of judgment in our place; 2) even in small and seemingly inconsequential "little things" day by day we see God's hand in providing for us and Christ's hand in guiding us; therefore 3) we ought to remember in the trials and testing that weigh on us even as they refine our faith that the same God who made allowance for the biggest thing, salvation, and who takes care of all the little things in our every step along the way in this world, has certainly not forgotten about us in the things that cause us pain and suffering over time while we are in this world: we need to trust Him that these "in between" things which seem to us at the time so significant are being used by Him to train us and teach us and glorify Jesus Christ through us provided we respond to Him in faith and patience (rather than reacting in anger or despair).
In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
1st Thessalonians 5:8 NKJV
Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior, and in "in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus".
I have been blessed by your teachings. I have never in my years met anyone that opens the doors to true understanding as you have. Blessed be the Lord for your willing heart. I have studied your teachings, line by line; precept by precept and tested them against the Word and have found nothing but truthfulness in every line. Thank you. Love you in the Lord.
Thanks so much for this encouraging email! It's a blessing not only to know that these materials are appreciated but even more so to find that they have been helpful for your growth in and walk with our dear Lord Jesus Christ.
I truly do appreciate you taking the time.
Feel free to write any time.
In Jesus our dear Lord,
Last couple of weeks have been better though and I have no doubt that your prayers have contributed to the improvement. I don't think that whatever is going on is a severe illness (and definitely not a life threatening condition), but rather a nuisance and an inconvenience. The Lord knows what I need to serve Him and I'm confident He will not let me be impaired beyond that, and if so, then hopefully only temporarily, as it has been the case so far (worse periods were a little more difficult, but other than that I've been able to carry on with the study).
As I wrote to you however, I feel that the tests of recent months have helped me. It's been a good opportunity to refine the ability to walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). It's easy to look back and recognize God's purpose in things that happened (and, like yourself, I feel that nothing has gone as I expected), but more difficult to trust in God fully when the trial befalls and lasts more than we would like. God has provided me the circumstances to take my faith to the next level and consider it joy when hard time comes (James 1:2-4) - whether it be through emotional, physical or financial reasons. Whatever happens, I learnt to look forward to the ultimate joy - the New Jerusalem and not to any ephemeral thing in this evil world (including marriage, which has occupied my mind a lot).
I started to watch Curtis Omo's Bible Academy lessons and have found them very refreshing, since I haven't listened to teaching for a very long time. In fact, before coming to your writings having only attended Catholic masses and some Christian Union meetings at the university, I can say I have never actually listened to teaching. I really liked the distinction he highlighted that Christians these days draw, even though they shouldn't - distinction between a believer and a disciple.
I also pray for you and your deliverance daily and await good news.
In Jesus Christ,
Hello my friend.
I'm happy to hear that the preliminary news is good. I certainly admire your spirit. Physical ailments can put most people "down in the dumps" pretty quickly, and I am no exception on that score (when things are extraordinarily bad, at any rate); add to that financial and emotional strain and, well, lets just say that it makes life interesting. Your wonderful attitude and resilient faith are a real tonic to me, especially in the present circumstances. When deliverance comes, I am certain that your faithful and graciously given prayers on my behalf will have played no small role. I often wonder whether or not we will receive a full "play by play" review of all these things in eternity. Maybe, maybe not, but it certainly is a shot in the arm to know here and now that dedicated Christians are standing by each other in their hour of need. Such pressures are never looked for and never welcome. Still, bootcamp makes Marines. What is soon coming will be more difficult that what we face today. Those of us who are facing present trials and learning how to cope with them in a godly and spiritually profitable way will be so much better off when the Tribulation begins. I am sure that is a big part of what is going on even if it doesn't remove the entire sting.
I am keeping you and all your concerns in prayer. I know full well how such things can weigh heavily upon a person. You certainly have your "plate full" as we say. The fact that you continue to press forward even so in your studies and spiritual growth and walk speaks volumes about your dedication to our dear Lord Jesus.
It's a pleasure to know you, my friend.
Yours in Jesus Christ who is our all and our everything.