Tag Archives: Christian Living

Having the Mind of Christ

My intention was to begin the year with a series of sermons entitled “Back to Basics,” addressing the foundational tenants of Christianity. I still think such a series is necessary. But taking a page from our brother Jude, who also changed his mind, “Beloved, while I was giving all diligence to write unto you of our common salvation, I was constrained to write unto you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered unto the saints… (v3). I, too, feel constrained to pursue another line of investigative study.

For anything to have any value it must be relevant to the times it purports to address. I believe Christianity is timeless. It’s consistently relevant because it addresses the basic human condition, and that’s not something that’s governed by the calendar.

As we make our pilgrimage through this life, we’re confronted with a constant variety of circumstances. As Christians, we are called to meet those circumstances in a way that reflects the Lordship of Christ in our lives. We don’t have a choice in this matter. Christianity isn’t an optional extra. It’s not something we adopt depending on the situation. We either are, or we are not. Jesus put it this way: “He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters” (Matthew 12.30).

The Political Climate Now

Currently, a circumstance which seems to be occupying much of our nation’s energy and creating a great deal of anxiety, is the present political turmoil. Americans are energized, to say the least, taking to the streets demonstrating in vast numbers for a variety of causes and issues.

I too have a moral and social conscience. I’m alarmed at what’s happening in our country. So how am I supposed to frame my response to what I see as immoral and irresponsible leadership and behavior?

To wrestle with that challenge I’m embarking on a new series of sermons entitled, “Having the Mind of Christ. The title for the series is borrowed from Paul, “Have this mind in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2.5). In order to do that, we must return to the source – to the story of Jesus Himself – His life, His work, His words. Peter said He left us an example that we should “follow in His steps” (1 Peter 2.21). That will be the focus of these coming lessons, to let the life of Christ, as recorded in the Gospels, guide us through the uncertainty and turmoil that surround us.

The Political Climate Then

As we begin, I think it’s important we keep this in mind, too – Christianity was born in the midst of a corrupt secular environment (not unlike ours). Political position was bought and bartered by unscrupulous people who would stop at nothing to gain advantage. Gross immorality characterized the culture. The poor and underprivileged were exploited. Unwanted babies were literally thrown away as garbage. Christians were mocked and hounded and finally viciously persecuted. They were accused of being atheists by idolatrous pagans who bowed before a pantheon of false gods. When they observed the “Lord’s Supper,” they were slandered as cannibals for “eating His flesh and drinking His blood.” Married couples were charged with incest because they called each other “brother” and “sister.”

It was into that cultural chaos that Jesus called His first disciples to be “the light of the world.” They had no political rights; no voice in selecting who would govern them; and no forum for redress of their grievances.

We’re fortunate we don’t live in such a world – but make no mistake, we do live in a world that’s hostile to our faith and values. The warnings Jesus gave His early disciples ring just as true today as then: “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves. But beware of men, for they will hand you over to the courts and scourge you in their synagogues; and you will even be brought before governors and kings for My sake…You will be hated by all because of My name” (Matthew 10.16-23).

The principle of government is ordained by God as necessary for the function of an ordered society. Modern politics is a vicious game. Even the best candidates will say or do nearly anything to get elected. Rhetoric is cheap; promises made and positions espoused during a campaign are seldom kept once the candidate assumes office.

To become so invested in a particular candidate or political party’s promise to restore our values and morals only to be devastated when the election is lost is, in my view, naïve. Ours is a progressively secular nation. A gradual but definite culture shift has occurred over the last half century. While we hope and pray our government officials will honor and respect Biblical (Christian) morals and values, it’s a mistake to place our confidence in them to actually do it. “God Bless America” coming from the lips of most politicians these days is a hollow phrase.

The Mind of Christ: Timeless

Christianity is a personal religion, not a national religion. When Jesus said, “you are the light of the world,” He literally meant you, me, us. Whether or not our nation values the life of the unborn, the sanctity of marriage, or the natural role of gender is really beside the point – those are God’s immutable values, and that’s the only thing that matters. When Christianity turned the first century pagan world “upside down” it wasn’t because of an election, because they put the “right guy” in office. It was because Christian men and women refused to yield their faith, morals, and values to the surrounding culture regardless of the cost to themselves. They paid a high price – but they changed the world, one person at a time.

In order for us to be faithful to our calling, to have any influence in the world about us, it’s essential we “have the mind of Christ” in our daily conduct.


– Bill

 

The Business of Holy Living

All Christians, in some way or another, are about the business of holy living, whether we have acquired a suitable vocabulary for it or not. But it is difficult to know exactly what it consists of. We hardly know what to look for anymore.

For the last hundred years and more, those who have set themselves up as our authorities in how to live have been taking us on thrilling roller-coaster prospects of either social utopianism or psychological fulfillment – or both. And we are worse. The only things that have improved, if that is the word for it, are our capacities to move faster and spend more.

There are husbands who, indifferent as they are to any words about God, will be captivated by your life of holy beauty … Cultivate inner beauty, the gently, gracious kind that God delights in. The holy women of old were beautiful before God that way. (1 Peter 3.1B, 4-5).

 – Eugene Peterson, Living the Message

 

An Election Reflection

Hurrah for James!

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1.2-4).

James begins his book with a warning of sorts – if it’s your intention to live righteously and fear God, then this ole world is probably going to be a fairly hostile place. The “trials” he refers to may be those temptations that cause us to sin – but more likely, in view of the context, he is referring to the daily troubles, frustrations, and disappointments that constantly nip at our heels.

Last week saw the end of a tedious presidential campaign with two of the most unpopular candidates in history vying for the office. After eighteen months of one of the meanest and tackiest campaigns on record, despair rather than hope probably best summarizes the nation’s mood.

Friends! Christianity is the religion of hope. It is the Faith of optimism. No candidate nor political party has the power to rob us of that confidence.

Christianity was born in the midst of a corrupt and evil secular environment. Political position was bought and bartered by unscrupulous people who would stop at nothing to gain advantage. Gross immorality characterized the culture. The poor and underprivileged were exploited. Unwanted babies were literally thrown away as garbage.

Christians were mocked and hounded and finally viciously persecuted. They were accused of being atheists by idolatrous pagans who bowed before a pantheon of false gods. When they observed the “Lord’s Supper,” they were slandered as cannibals for “eating His flesh and drinking His blood.” Married couples were charged with incest because they called each other “brother” and “sister.”

It was into that cultural chaos that Jesus called His first disciples to be “the light of the world.” They had no political rights; no voice in selecting who would govern them; and no forum for redress of their grievances.

We are fortunate we don’t live in such a world – but make no mistake, we do live in a world that is hostile to our faith and values. The warnings Jesus gave His early disciples ring just as true today as then:

“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves. But beware of men, for they will hand you over to the courts and scourge you in their synagogues; and you will even be brought before governors and kings for My sake…You will be hated by all because of My name” (Matthew 10.16-23).

The principle of government is ordained by God as necessary for the function of an ordered society. Unfortunately, at some point, “government” begins to produce professional politicians. Modern politics is a vicious game. Even the best candidates will say or do nearly anything to get elected. Rhetoric is cheap – promises made and positions espoused during a campaign are seldom kept once the candidate assumes office. That’s just the nature of political compromise and consensus.

To become so invested in a particular candidate or political party’s promise to restore our values and morals only to be devastated when the election is lost is, in my view, naïve. Certainly we should do our best to select the best possible men and women to lead and govern our nation, but the fact remains that ours is a progressively secular nation.

There has been a gradual but definite culture shift over the last 50 plus years. While we hope and pray that our government officials will honor and respect biblical (Christian) morals and values, it is a mistake to place our confidence in them to actually do it.

Christianity is a personal religion, not a national religion. When Jesus said, “you are the light of the world,” He meant you, me, us. Whether or not our nation values the life of the unborn, the sanctity of marriage, or the natural role of gender is really beside the point – those are God’s immutable values and that’s the only thing that matters.

When Christianity turned the first century pagan world “upside down” it wasn’t because of an election, because they put the “right guy” in office. It was because Christian men and women refused to yield their faith, morals, and values to the surrounding culture regardless of the cost to themselves. They paid a high price – but they changed the world, one person at a time.

– Bill

 

 

Life – The Big Picture

One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, “What commandment is the foremost of all?”

Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

The scribe said to Him, “Right, Teacher; You have truly stated that He is One, and there is no one else besides Him; and to love Him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as himself, is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

When Jesus saw that he had answered intelligently, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” After that, no one would venture to ask Him any more questions.               (Mark 12. 28-34)

When Jesus recited the greatest of the commandments, He repeated the word “all” four times. Later Paul emphasized that “all things were created” through and for Christ (Colossians 1.15-18). How much of “all” is all?

Here’s how the typical American who lives to be 75 year old will spend his or her life: 8% Preschool; 12% School; 39% Work; 28% Time Off; 18% Retirement; and .9% Church.

In light of the use of time, when does a person “love the Lord God” as Jesus commanded? Is that limited to what one does for an hour or so on Sunday morning? If so, then worship takes up a mere 3,900 hours, or 0.9 percent, of one’s waking life – assuming that one goes to church every Sunday for 75 years!

Is that what Jesus or Paul had in mind? No, Christ is Lord of all life – not just Sunday mornings, but weekdays, too, including time at work. Furthermore, He is Lord not only of our time, but of our money and possessions as well. Unfortunately, many Christians in the West have developed some dangerous attitude in these areas that push God to the fringes of life. For example:

Myth: One-seventh of our time belongs to God.

Some Christians speak of Sunday as “the Lord’s Day,” a day of religion. And so it might be if Christians worshipped from sunup to sundown. But for most people Sunday worship means as hour-long service before an afternoon of televised sporting events. Thus the “day of worship” is effectively reduced to less than one-twentieth of the week.

That was never what God intended. Originally, the seventh day or Sabbath rest was viewed as the completion of the week, not a break or separation from the work week. It was a time for review, celebration, and restoration.

Yet already by Jesus’ day there were major distortions regarding the Sabbath. It had become a day of legalistic ritual. Jesus sought to restore it as a day of compassion and worship (Luke 6.1-11; John 5.1-18).

Dedicating all of our time to God does not mean apportioning so much to family, so much to a job, so much for ourselves, and a little left over for God. No, all 168 hours or the week, all 52 weeks of the year, and all of the years of a lifetime belong to God and are on loan to us to manage for Him.

Myth: Ten percent of our money belongs to God.

Some Christians believe that God expects them to give a flat 10 percent of their income to church and other ministries. The reality is that on the average, American believers give only 2.3 percent of their income to religious or charitable causes of any kind.

The underlying principle that needs to be considered is that God has given us the ability to earn money, so actually all 100 percent of our earnings belong to Him. We are called to manage our money – not just what we give away, but what we keep, too – according to His values.

Tithing was intended as a discipline to remind God’s people that all of what they have or earn belongs to Him. Originally a voluntary activity (Genesis 14.13-24; 28.20-22), it was intended for the care of others and as a representation of the worship of God (Deuteronomy 26.1-19). Tithing was never intended to replace obedience to all of God’s commands.

 – The Word in Life Study Bible

 

How We Respond to God

January 24, 2016 – Bill Bryan

Notes and Scripture References

Last week’s sermon examined the way God is the Beginning of everything. He takes the initiative in creation, revelation, and salvation. How do we respond to these gifts?

  1. Diligently – Hebrews 11:6; 2 Timothy 2:15
  2. Humbly – Ecclesiastes 5:2; 1 Peter 5:5-6; John 14:2
  3. Honestly – Jeremiah 29:13
  4. Obediently – Luke 6:46; Luke 15:1-7; Luke 15:8-10; Hebrews 11:6; 1 Peter 1:22; Romans 6:16-18

Conclusion: Luke 22:41-42

Simple Christianity

“Jesus yes – church no!” is a phrase commonly heard in contemporary religious conversations. People aren’t rejecting Jesus Himself, but they do see a contradiction between the founder of Christianity and the current condition of the church He came to establish.

The person and teaching of Jesus has not lost its appeal. Remember He Himself was an anti-status-quo figure. Much of what He said and taught was considered radical, even revolutionary. Furthermore, both He and His ideals were incorruptible – He couldn’t be bought or swayed by cultural pressure.

Calmness, humility, and compassion characterized His demeanor. He was comfortable in His own skin. He preached love for God and for one another everywhere He went. And, astonishingly, He practiced what He preached.

Look at all the different kinds of churches, their rules, rituals, and regulations. Isn’t there a better way?

Grace to you all and peace, Bill

 

Making Worship More Enjoyable

For many Christians, the worship assembly feels like a “duty,” in the worst sense of the word. Coming to the worship assembly is something they feel they must do, but not something they enjoy doing. This has left many saying, “It shouldn’t be this way; worship should be enjoyable!”

I wholeheartedly agree! But I’m afraid the way many are trying to make worship more enjoyable is resulting in making worship shallow, meaningless, and not even worship at all.

Why Worship Should Be Enjoyable

Praising God with our Christian family should be the thing we find more enjoyable than any other. It should be something we look forward to all week long. It should be our joy and delight.

This is true for the same reason that the night a football team wins a big game, the fans can’t wait to talk to one another about the big win. They call each other on the phone, they post about it on social media, and when they see each other in person, they excitedly say, “Can you believe it?! Wasn’t that incredible?!” They enjoy talking about it almost as much as they enjoyed watching the game in the first place.

Everyone who has ever enjoyed something knows this feeling. When we’re on a great vacation, we almost can’t wait for it to be over so we can get home, tell people about it, and show them the pictures. When we have a great meal, we can’t wait to share with someone how great it was.

In fact, we could say, half the enjoyment is found in expressing our enjoyment. Isn’t it frustrating and disappointing to experience something great, but yet be unable to share it with someone? C.S. Lewis wrote about this, saying, “We delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment.”

When we truly enjoy God for who He is then we will be longing, aching, dying to sing out to someone, “Isn’t God awesome?!” And when they answer back, “Yes! Yes, He is awesome!” we experience the greatest pleasure available in this life.

What We Don’t Need to Change

But when people don’t experience the pleasure we intuitively know worship should bring, they often try to manufacture it through artificial means. They adjust the lighting, update the music style, incorporate drama and skits, use video and other technology, all in an effort to manipulate people’s emotions and “help them enjoy worship.”

But is this even worship? Are those who are enjoying this experience really enjoying God or are they simply enjoying an entertaining show? If it takes a change in lighting – or a change in music style – for you to enjoy sharing with your church family how great God is, maybe you need to stop and ask yourself if what you’re doing can even be called “worship.”

Worship comes from a heart that has been stirred by the goodness of God – as revealed through the Gospel – and NOT by a heart that has been manipulated by dimmed lights and talented performers.

What We DO Need to Change

If we want to make worship more enjoyable, here is what we do need to change…our hearts! We need to fill our hearts with the “word of Christ” so it dwells within us “richly” and then we’ll be able to, “[sing] psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in [our] hearts to God” (Colossians 3:16).

When we daily allow God to reveal Himself to us through the “word of Christ,” then our enjoyment grows and grows throughout the week, finally being completed when we assemble to, “[address] one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in [our] hearts to God” (Ephesians 5:19). And this weekly assembly is just the foretaste of the great assembly that will gather around God’s throne in heaven to enjoy Him forever!

Sadly, many of us don’t think of the worship assembly in this way. We don’t look forward to it. We’re not longing, aching, and dying to come together with our church family and sing to another, “Our God is an awesome God.” Some are content to simply show up and say, “I’ve done my duty.”

But God is not honored by the praise of people who do not enjoy Him. If we don’t enjoy worship, we don’t need to change the music or the lights, we need to change our hearts. We need to start enjoying God every moment of every day, and then we will desperately long for our enjoyment to be completed by praising Him with our church family.

 – Wes McAdams, Radically Christian

 

Why Nobody Wants to Go to Church Anymore

According to a study by the Hartford Institute of Religion Research and a new book entitled, “Why Nobody Wants to Go to Church Anymore,” less than 20% of Americans attend worship services every week. They say there are four main reasons why people don’t want to “go to church.” Here they are…

  1. They don’t want to be lectured.
  2. They see the church as judgmental
  3. They see the church as hypocritical.
  4. They see the church as irrelevant.

Certainly, not everyone in this study is a Christian in the New Testament sense, but doesn’t this show you the real reason so many have stopped attending? The real reason is that over the last 2,000 years, the concept of “church” has become so diluted and twisted that people don’t even know what it is anymore. The church is supposed to be the family or body of all Christians.

For a Christian to say, “The church is judgmental, hypocritical, and irrelevant,” is for that Christian to call himself judgmental, hypocritical, and irrelevant because he is the church. When Christians don’t understand they are the church, and when they see the church as an institution which they can either choose to support or not, they lose the entire concept of Christianity. Jesus did not come to redeem individuals, but a people. One simply cannot be a Christian outside of the body of Christ (Romans 12; 1 Corinthians 12). To be a Christian is to be in the church.

When someone is in need and Christians say things like, “You should call the church and they will help you,” it reveals that these Christians probably see the church as an institution which exists separate from themselves. As a Christian, when you say, “The church should help this person,” what you should be meaning is, “I (or we) should help this person.” The church is not “they,” the church is “us.”

Second, the problem is that people see “church” as a weekly event to attend. Church is not something Christians attend when they get a chance. The church is who Christians are – every day of the week. Someone might say, “Wes, it’s just semantics. You know what I mean when I say I’m going to church.” Sure, I know what you mean and I also know that a few generations of saying, “Going to church,” has contributed the current dilemma.

If you asked me, “What is family?” and I said, “Oh, that’s something I attend when I come home from work,” you would look at me like I lost my mind. My family is not an event I attend. My family is something I’m a part of – even when I’m somewhere else. If I started saying, “I’m going to ‘family’ now,” when I went home, it might very well change the way I see and interact with my family.

When people see the church as either an institution to support or an event to attend, it’s no wonder they see it as being irrelevant. If we want to see Christians stop checking out, we must start teaching people that we are the church!

 Wes McAdams

RadicallyChristian.com

 

Sharers of the Divine Nature

Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.

In 2 Peter 1.3-4 the apostle states that God has provided all things necessary “pertaining to life and godliness,” that He has called us “by His own glory and virtue,” and that He has granted to us “His precious and exceeding great promises” in order that we might “become partakers of the divine nature.”

The word for “partaker” in the Greek New Testament is koinonoi and it means “sharers” or “partners.” It emphasizes the relationship we as Christians have with Christ. We are to share in His purity and holiness. The next several verses (5-11) tell us how.

Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.

For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.

God has done for us that which we could not do for ourselves. The part we play in our salvation is our obedience to God. So in response to God’s grace, we are to be diligent, to hasten, to endeavor, to strive to become sharers of the divine nature.

“In your faith supply virtue…”

The Greek word for “virtue” is arête. The New American Standard translates it “moral excellence”; MacKnight and Woods understand it to mean “courage, strength of character, courage of convictions.”

It is not enough to have faith. Christians must demonstrate their faith by their moral excellence. Paul used the same word in Philippians 4.8 concerning the discipline of the mind:

“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honorable, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”

Virtue, “moral excellence,” is the commitment to live in harmony with the faith we confess. Time and again throughout the history of the Lord’s church brethren have been called upon to confess and live their faith in the face of adversity and persecution. Such tests require virtue.

Having the courage of our convictions, the determination to do what is right no matter the cost, enables us to share in “the divine nature.”

 – Bill

 

God’s Blueprint for the Home

Thoughts from our weekend seminar, God’s Blueprint for the Home.

Healthy Relationships

Healthy relationships bring happiness and health to our lives. Here are basic ways to make your relationships healthy.

  1. Keep expectations realistic. No one can be everything we might want him or her to be.
  2. Talk with each other. It can’t be said enough: communication is essential in healthy relationships.
  3. Be flexible. Most of us try to keep people and situations just the way we like them to be.
  4. Take care of yourself. You probably hope those around you like you, so you may try to please them. Don’t forget to please yourself. Healthy relationships are mutual.
  5. Be dependable. If you make plans with someone, follow through.
  6. Fight fair. Most relationships have some conflict. It only means you disagree about something. It doesn’t have to mean you don’t like each other.
  7. Show your warmth. Studies tell us warmth is highly valued by most people in their relationships. Healthy relationships show emotional warmth!
  8. Keep your life balanced. Other people help make our lives satisfying, but they can’t create that satisfaction for us. Only you can fill your life. Don’t overload on activities.
  9. It’s a process. Sometimes it looks like everyone else is confident and connected. Actually, most people feel just like you feel, wondering how to fit in and have good relationships.
  10. Be yourself. It’s much easier and much more fun to be you than to pretend to be something or someone else. Healthy relationships are made of real people, not images.

Qualities for a Meaningful Marital Relationship

Wisdom from God’s Word – Genesis 2.1, 7, 18-24

  1. Realize your spouse is special. Vs.7: The LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground…” Vs.22: “…the LORD God made a woman from the rib He had taken out of man…”
  2. Recognize God knows what is best. Vs.18: “And God said, It is not good for man to be alone, I will make him a helper suitable for him.”
  3. Receive your spouse as a gift from God. Vs.22: “…and He brought her to the man.”
  4. Remember your obligations. Vs.23: “And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman, for she was taken out of man.”
  5. Resolve to live as God teaches. Vs.24: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.”