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Apostates Are Often Revealed by Trials

Apostates are people who appear to have embraced the faith, but then they reject – or fall away – from it. Their faith is shown to be insincere, and often trials provide this revelation. In the Parable of the Soils, the seed represents the Word of God, and the soil represents our hearts:

Matthew 13:5–6—”Some [of the seed] fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away.”

“Stony places” refer to shallow soil on top of a bedrock layer, where there is not much depth of earth. As a result, when this soil (or heart) receives the seed (or Word of God), it will not establish deep roots. Apostates often receive God’s Word enthusiastically—they are excited about their new faith and “immediately [spring] up”—but they do not last. Their faith does not have deep roots. It looks good at first, but trials reveal it was not genuine:

Matthew 13:20–21—“He who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles.”

Sadly, we have all seen apostates like Jesus described—joyful until they experience trials. How many times have you been at church and heard, “Hey, what happened to so-and-so?” Then someone replies, “Oh, they went through this trial, and they have not been back.” Without roots, the insincerity of apostates’ faith is exposed, and they revert to their lives before the seed fell on their hearts. First John 2:19 says:

They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.

Apostates Look Like Christians

The church at Sardis was filled with people who appeared to be Christians, but Jesus told them, “I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead” (Revelation 3:1). Sardis looked so good it developed a reputation (a name). Observers thought this was a thriving church because of how much it had going on physically (you are alive). Jesus looked at them and knew they were a church of unbelievers—spiritually dead people. Continue reading “Apostates Are Often Revealed by Trials”

Trials Test Our Faith and Prove the Genuineness of It

Trials accomplish two important works in our lives. First, trials improve, or mature, us. Second, trials test our faith. Augustine said:

“Trials come to prove us and improve us.”

I used to be a school teacher, and now I am a pastor. Both professions involve instructing others. I don’t want to sound overly simple, but good teachers provide information people don’t already know. If they already knew it, they wouldn’t need the instruction! Most letters in the New Testament are instructive. There is the occasional time an epistle will say, “I want to remind you…” but primarily they were written to provide new information. This is why James 1:3 is so unique! In the ESV and NIV it says:

You know that the testing of your faith produces [patience].

James was not teaching something new. He was telling readers what they already knew about trials. They test our faith!

There are weaknesses with the English language. One weakness relates to the word “know.” For example, I use the same English word when I say, “I know my dad” as when I say, “I know of Abraham Lincoln.” Obviously, I know my dad much differently than I know President Lincoln. We add the word “of” to differentiate between the types of knowing: knowing someone versus knowing of someone:

  • The Greek word for “knowing of” is epistamai. It means, “To put one’s attention on, fix one’s thoughts on, be acquainted with.” This is knowledge, but with no personal interaction or relationship.
  • The Greek word for “knowing” personally is ginōskō, and it means, “to learn to know, get a knowledge of, feel.” This is intimate knowledge. Ginōskō is used in Matthew 1:25 to say, “[Joseph] did not know (ginōskō) [Mary] till she had brought forth her firstborn Son.”

Continue reading “Trials Test Our Faith and Prove the Genuineness of It”

In the Hands of the Potter

Since God is sovereign, including over the trials we experience, to reject trials is to reject His will for us. The Potter and the Clay is an object lesson God used to teach this truth to His people. Jeremiah 18:1-3 records:

The word which came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying: “Arise and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will cause you to hear My words.” Then I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, making something at the wheel.

More than likely Jeremiah had passed the potter’s house many times in his lifetime, but now God told him to pay a visit.

The Potter, the Clay, and the Wheel

Isaiah 64:8b says:

We are the clay, and You our potter;
And all we are the work of Your hand.

As Jeremiah watched the potter work, he learned how we should respond to God’s work in our lives. In 2 Corinthians 4:7 Paul called us “earthen vessels.” This is fitting since God “formed [us] of the dust of the ground” (Genesis 2:7a). When experiencing trials, probably more than any other time, we recognize the fragile nature of our “clay” bodies. Job especially noticed this during his suffering: “Remember, I pray, that You have made me like clay. And will You turn me into dust again?” (Job 10:9; see also Job 4:19). Continue reading “In the Hands of the Potter”

“Let” Trials Make You Better Instead of Bitter

Even though God uses trials for our good, it’s still tempting to become bitter. When people are suffering, there is greater potential for them to question, criticize—or worst of all—turn from God.  James 1:3b–4 reads:

…the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

I would love to say, “Trials always produce patience, and patience makes you perfect and complete, lacking nothing,” but sometimes it would be more accurate to say, “Trials produce bitterness.” Perhaps you can think of people experiencing a trial and they said something like, “How could God let this happen to me? I do not deserve it! I wish I could give Him a piece of my mind!” If we’re honest, we can probably think of times trials did not produce patience or maturity in us. Instead of making us better, they made us bitter.

We Must Choose to “Let” Trials Make Us Better Instead of Bitter

The wording of James 1:3-4 is odd. If we never read the verses before we would probably expect them to say, “…the testing of your faith produces patience, which makes you perfect…” Instead, there are instructive words: “let patience have its perfect work.” The Greek word for let is echō, and it’s a verb because James is commanding us to do something. We must “let” trials “work.” Echō means, “To have, hold, own, possess, lay hold of.” Here are two places it’s used:

  • Matthew 3:13–14—“Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. And John tried to prevent Him, saying, ‘I need (echō) to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?’”
  • Acts 2:44–45—“Now all who believed were together, and had (echō) all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had (echō) need.”

Of the 712 times echō occurs in the New Testament, 613 times it is translated as “have,” because it is not simply about accepting trials in our lives. We must take ownership of them. Instead of resisting trials, we must embrace them. This is how we “let” God use them for our benefit. The alternative is to fight against trials, which hinders the “perfect work” they can accomplish.

Before doctors administer a shot, they say, “Relax. Try to remain as calm as possible. This will hurt, but it will be worse if you resist.” The doctor is telling you to accept what is about to happen because failing to do so will only make an already painful situation even worse. It is the same with trials. We cannot avoid them. They hurt, and we make them worse when we resist. Instead, we must accept them, trusting God wants to use them for our good and His glory. This is how we “count it all joy” and “let” trials make us better. Continue reading ““Let” Trials Make You Better Instead of Bitter”

How to Win Over Your Husband the Right (and Wrong) Way

If you’re a wife, Peter tells you how not to win over your husband—with words. And he tells you how to win over your husband—with godly conduct. 1 Peter 3:1-2 says:

Wives submit to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, you may win over your husband without a word by your actions, when he sees your respectful and godly conduct.

Win Over Your Husband the Right Way

Wives, Peter says you will not win over your husband by what you say, but you might win over your husband by your lifestyle. The gracious submission of a Christian woman to her unsaved husband is the strongest evangelistic tool she has. Just what does this look like in practical terms? Comparing 1 Peter 2:18 with 1 Peter 3:1­–2 can help with the answer because of the parallel language between the verses:

  • “Servants, be submissive to your masters” is similar to “Wives . . . be submissive to your own husbands.”
  • “Not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh” is similar to “even if some do not obey the word.”
  • “With all fear” is similar to “your chaste conduct accompanied by fear.”

In both verses, it is important to understand that this is not speaking of servants or wives submitting out of fear of their masters or husbands, but submitting out of fear and reverence for God.  When an unbelieving husband sees this heart for God it will be a powerful witness. His wife’s godly behavior will convict him to be a godlier husband. Her life will speak louder to him than any words.

Let the Holy Spirit Win Over Your Husband

If a wife wants her husband to read God’s Word more, pray more, or be a godlier man, rather than nagging him, she herself should read God’s Word more, pray more, and be a godlier woman. Wives should be encouraged by Jesus’s promise to send the Holy Spirit in John 16:8: Continue reading “How to Win Over Your Husband the Right (and Wrong) Way”

“Count It All Joy”…During Trials???

James 1:2 says, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials.” The words “joy” and “trials” are in the same sentence. These words don’t go together! Who experiences joy during trials? James even uses the word “all.” He does not say, “Count it some joy…” or “Find a little joy.” He says, “count it all joy.” As contrary as this sounds, it is a theme in Scripture to find joy in trials:

  • Romans 5:3 says, “We glory in tribulations.”
  • First Peter 1:6 says, “You greatly rejoice [when] you have been grieved by trials.”

“Count It All Joy” Doesn’t Mean “Feeling” Joy During Trials

You might be thinking: “The Bible doesn’t make sense, because I definitely do not feel joy when I am going through a trial!” The Bible makes complete sense, because it doesn’t say to “feel” joy during trials. Instead, it says “count it all joy,” because we cannot go by the way we feel. Trials make us feel sorrow and pain, so we must evaluate them independently of our feelings. The word for “count” is hēgeomai, and it means, “To lead, go before, rule, command, have authority over.” Here are a few places it’s used:

  • Matthew 2:6—“Bethlehem…out of you shall come a Ruler (hēgeomai) Who will shepherd My people Israel.”
  • Acts 7:10—“[Pharaoh] made [Moses] governor (hēgeomai) over Egypt.”
  • Hebrews 13:17—“Obey those who rule (hēgeomai) over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account.”

James tells us to “count it all joy,” because we must “govern” and “rule” over trials. We must control the way we view them, versus being controlled by our feelings. We must make a mental judgment about trials by considering the way God wants to use them in our lives. Then we can face them with joy.

God Brings Us into the Deep End

James 1:3 says, “knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” Sermons and books can teach the benefits of patience and how it is acquired, but only trials can build patience into a person’s life. Over the last few years, I have been taking my children to the pool to teach them to swim. I can talk about swimming with my children, tell them what it is like, or even show them videos of people swimming. If they are going to learn to swim though, at some point, they must get in the water. The same is true with patience. If we want to learn patience, at some point, we must be immersed in trials. Continue reading ““Count It All Joy”…During Trials???”

The Maturity Trials Produce in Our Lives

We have six children and our seventh is due May 2018. Our oldest child is ten, and while we have enjoyed our children at all ages, we still want to see them mature. When they make decisions that disappoint us, we feel disappointed with their maturity. Consider how tragic it would be if children remained immature throughout their lives.

God Is a Father and He Wants His Children to Mature

The author of Hebrews rebuked some of his readers who had been following Christ for some time, but had not matured. Hebrews 5:12 & 6:1 says:

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food…Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God.

Unlike these Hebrew readers, the believers in 2 Thessalonians 1:3–4 had matured significantly:

We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is fitting, because your faith grows exceedingly, and the love of every one of you all abounds toward each other, so that we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure.

The Thessalonians were a wonderful church. Paul applauded their growth, which he attributed to the trials they experienced. This is one reason we can find joy in trials—we know they are producing patience that leads to maturity. First Peter 5:10 says, “After you have suffered a little while, [God] will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” During trials we can tell ourselves, “This is strengthening me spiritually, giving me endurance, building my faith, and preparing me for the future.” Jerry Bridges said:

Every adversity that comes across our path, whether large or small, is intended to help us grow in some way.

Continue reading “The Maturity Trials Produce in Our Lives”

Ways to Avoid Hypocrisy in Parenting

We want our children to embrace the Gospel and follow the Lord at the earliest possible time. We want the best for them, but they face so many threats. Could one of those threats come from us? We need to avoid hypocrisy in our parenting to ensure our children see the Gospel in us and through our parenting.

To accompany the message, below you will find:

  1. Lessons
  2. Discussion Questions
  3. Notes

Lessons

Lesson 1: ____________ ____________________ so you don’t see your sins in your children (2 Sam 13:21, 38-39, 14:33, 18:5; 1 Kin 1:6).

Lesson 2: Don’t let ________ ________ prevent you from disciplining your children (Pro 13:24, 19:18).

Avoid hypocrisy in parenting by:

Lesson 3: ________________ ________ you want from your children (Rom 2:1, 20-24; Matt 7:1-5).

Lesson 4: Telling your children ____________ __ ____________.


Discussion Questions

  1. Day 1—Read 2 Sam 13:21, 38-39, 14:33, 18:5, 1 Kin 1:6 and discuss: What sins did David see in the lives of his sons? In what ways did David’s sons’ sins reveal his sins? What are the dangers associated with viewing our children too sentimentally?
  2. Day 2—Read Pro 1:8-9, 3:12, 13:24, 19:18, 22:6 and discuss: Why didn’t David discipline his sons? Why would past sins prevent parents from disciplining their children? What can parents tell themselves when past sins prevent them from disciplining their children? When parents have sin-filled pasts what can they their children to avoid hypocrisy?
  3. Day 3—Read Rom 2:1, 20-24, Matt 7:1-5 and discuss: Do you have expectations for your children that you don’t have for yourself? What would your children say in answer to the previous question? Do your children see behaviors from you that you don’t want to see from them? Are you presenting a high view of God in your home, not just from what you profess, but the way you live?
  4. Day 4—Read Rom 3:9-23 and discuss: Why should parents share with their children that they’re sinners too? What are the dangers for parents if they don’t share with their children that they’re sinners too? Why is it important for parents to avoid making excuses to their children? What happens if children grow up with parents who regularly shift blame? In what ways can children see Christ through humble, loving parents?

Continue reading “Ways to Avoid Hypocrisy in Parenting”

3 Reasons to Be Encouraged by God’s Discipline

When we experience God’s discipline because we sinned (versus suffering because of a trial) it hurts. Hebrews 12:11 says:

For the moment all chastening seems painful rather than pleasant.

Making it more difficult is the fact that God expects us to receive His discipline well. First Peter 2:20a says:

For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure?

God expects us to humbly accept His discipline the way parents expect their children to receive discipline without kicking and screaming. This can be very difficult! Fortunately, the author  of Hebrews provides a number of reasons believers can still  be encouraged by God’s discipline.

1. God’s Discipline Means You Are His Child

Hebrews 12:6–8 records:

“For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.”

It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.

When we sin and God disciplines us, we can be encouraged that He does so because He loves us. We want to be confident in our salvation, and experiencing discipline allows us to say, “God is my Father. I am His child.” When I see other people’s children misbehaving, I do not discipline them because they are not my children. God acts similarly toward unbelievers. Sometimes people sin and it looks like “they are getting away with it.” Either God is giving them time to repent, or they are not His children.

2. God’s Discipline Means You Are in His Hands

Prior to pastoring, I taught elementary school for almost ten years. When students disobeyed, I regularly found myself wondering what the appropriate punishment would be—detention, suspension, time out, or call parents? Circumstances make things even more complicated. What is the punishment for a student who lies once, versus a student who demonstrates a pattern of deceitfulness? What about a student who mistreated a student for no reason, versus a student who acts out when provoked? Continue reading “3 Reasons to Be Encouraged by God’s Discipline”

Three Threats to Intimacy in Marriage

God gave sex as a gift. The problem is that as sinful people in a fallen world, we have the potential to ruin anything good God gives us. Let’s take a look at three of the most common threats to healthy intimacy in marriage.

1. Intimacy in Marriage Is Threatened by Selfish Attitudes

Husbands and wives should be committed to satisfying each other, but Scripture must also be balanced in light of other Scripture. If 1 Corinthians 7 were the only passage considered, people could demand their spouses satisfy their desires regardless of the way the other person feels. But other verses command love, gentleness, compassion, and deference in the marriage relationship. While it would be unhealthy, and even sinful to deprive our spouses for selfish reasons, it can also be equally unhealthy and sinful to be demanding or insensitive toward our spouses.

Although Paul listed fasting and prayer as possible reasons for abstinence, common sense and simple consideration dictate there are other acceptable reasons—sickness, pregnancy, or grief. When people are suffering or struggling, they might find intimacy very unattractive. God wants sex to be enjoyable for both individuals. Selfish and unkind attitudes threaten the joy and pleasure God desires for couples.

2. Intimacy in Marriage Is Threatened by Mismatched Desires

Continue reading “Three Threats to Intimacy in Marriage”