What are my motives?

Chuck Swindoll recently said that we should regularly ask ourselves three questions:

  1. Is this the right thing to do?
  2. What is my motive?
  3. Will this bring glory to God?

Those three questions prompted some introspection regarding why I do the things I do. I was not necessarily enthralled with my findings as I realised that much of what I do “in the service of the LORD” is actually selfishly motivated and brings me some small measure of recognition rather than glorifying He for whom I profess to act. Let me share some of my thoughts on motives.

James 3:4 cautions against asking with wrong motives. “You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.”

So, does that mean that it is wrong to achieve recognition for my efforts to serve God? I don’t think so.

Proverbs 27:2 says, “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; A stranger, and not your own lips.”

The English idiom says something like, “Don’t blow your own horn.” And, again, motives come into play. If I am praising myself, or serving God as a way of seeking the praise of others, then my motives are questionable. If I seek the spotlight as a way to gain recognition or respect (or notoriety), then I need to rethink why I do what I do. Do my efforts bring a bit of enlightenment to others, yet fail to glorify Him? That raising of my own self-importance is a form of idolatry.

So, do I merely stop what I am doing “for the Lord”? Again, I don’t think so. However, what I MUST do is to ensure that my motives and conscience are clear. Paul mentions several times that our efforts must bring glory to God and not to self.

1 Corinthians 10:31 Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

Colossians 3:17 Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.

Colossians 3:23 Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men

 

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Faith or Works?

Salvation by faith or by works?

For all of my Christian life, I have been taught that salvation (entry into the family of God, into the Kingdom of God, and ultimately into heaven itself) is a matter of faith; faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and as Saviour and as Master. Not faith plus works, not faith plus anything; Faith and nothing else. And Scriptures that support that perspective are found in Romans 10 and in Ephesians 2.

Romans 10:9-10 (NIV) If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.

Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV) For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.

But is that the whole story? Along comes James (can you imagine what a struggle it must have been for James to be known as Jesus’ little brother?), who adds that faith without works is dead. Many have attempted to misuse this passage as justification for their perspective that says salvation by faith alone is incomplete and works must accompany the faith to validate it, to make it “saving faith”. However most theologians and commentators agree that James is actually teaching that a truly saved individual will exhibit changes that confirm his salvation, that salvation results in a desire to do the works of the Father (John 9:4).

James 2:14-19 (NIV) What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”

Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

Jesus added that those who do not feed the hungry and give drink to the thirsty and give shelter to the homeless, regardless of any previous declaration of faith, are destined for eternal punishment. That is an explicit statement that they are not welcome in or admitted into heaven. People say that those who waiver in their obedience and do not show works commensurate with a walk of faith are not really saved and do not really believe in their heart that Jesus is Lord.

Matthew 25:41-46 (NIV) “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.  For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

So, if our faith in Jesus requires that we give evidence of said faith, what really constitutes “faith-based works”? Can we affirm that what we are doing (for God) is really the will of the Father? There were those (Matthew 7) who thought they were doing the right thing as they prophesied in Jesus’ name and drove out demons in His name and performed miracles in His name. But Jesus called them evildoers and said He never knew them.

Matthew 7:21-23 (NIV) “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

“Only the one who does the will of my father…” It is important to know God’s will. Jesus said that His true relations are those who know and do the Father’s will. At its most basic, the will of God is to repent of our sin and trust in Christ. If we have not taken that first step, then we have not yet accepted God’s will. But His will for us includes giving evidence that we are indeed His (Matthew 7:16).

Knowing God’s will is sometimes difficult because it requires patience. The important thing is that, as we wait for further direction, we are busy doing the good that we know to do (James 4:17). If we are walking closely with the Lord and truly desiring His will for our lives, God will place His desires in our hearts. The key is wanting God’s will, not our own. (Psalm 37:4).

Although our good deeds and works of faith (Ephesians 2:10) can be ample evidence of a repentant heart that is committed to Jesus, we must not fall into the trap of trying to prove our righteousness (our sanctification) by what we do. Remember that Isaiah said all our righteous acts are like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).

So what happens if I drop the ball and fail to follow the urgings of the Holy Spirit as He encourages me to reach out to that homeless person or volunteer at the local soup kitchen? Am I locked out of heaven? Have I blown my last chance? I don’t think Jesus is talking about a onetime event or a missed opportunity; He is talking about a lifestyle of neglected opportunities and callous hardness to the plight of orphans and widows, of never feeding the hungry and thirsty and sheltering the homeless and tending the sick. As He said to Peter, if you love me, feed my sheep.

So, yes, I am saved by faith, but I must also do the work(s) of Him who called me.

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Perhaps it’s time…

Woe: an exclamation of grief, distress, or lamentation.

It is this definition that we see so frequently in the Book of Isaiah; the prophet was lamenting what he saw and experienced in his day.

Isaiah 1:4 Woe to the sinful nation, a people whose guilt is great, a brood of evildoers, children given to corruption! They have forsaken the Lord; they have spurned the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on him.

Isaiah 3:9 The look on their faces testifies against them; they parade their sin like Sodom; they do not hide it. Woe to them! They have brought disaster upon themselves.

Isaiah 5:11 Woe to those who rise early in the morning to run after their drinks, who stay up late at night till they are inflamed with wine.

Isaiah 5:18 Woe to those who draw sin along with cords of deceit, and wickedness as with cart ropes,

Isaiah 5:20 Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.

Isaiah 5:21 Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight.

But “woe” is not a word that you will hear very frequently in modern conversation or writing. And I don’t think that there is a modern equivalent that we could find in common usage that carries the same feeling of grief and lamentation. You may hear people lament the state of the world and pine for the “good old days”. You may hear someone state that things were different “in my day”. But I don’t think I have ever heard someone say “Woe to those…”, or “Woe to me…”

Perhaps it is time for us to bring the word “woe” back from the brink of obscurity and into the common vernacular. Perhaps it is time for we Christians to stand up and shout (as did Isaiah) that things are NOT as God would desire and we are going to pay a terrible price for our rebellion. Perhaps it is time to shake people out of their lethargy and call for greater obedience and righteousness. Perhaps it’s time.

Isaiah 6:5Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”

 

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Not with Eloquence or Human Wisdom

1 Corinthians 2:1-5

And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.  For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.

Have you ever stopped to consider how the exercise of religion changes over the generations? The following is plagiarized almost verbatim from “An Inconvenient Cross”, by Garry E. Milley (Published 2010 by Clements Publishing) and describes how modern worship services have changed materially from the days when his father was a first-generation Pentecostal preacher. Milley laments how the emphasis of modern preaching has changed from being about Jesus, preached by imperfect vessels, to being about the superstar preacher who promises what only God can give, but only if you support that speaker’s ministry with a generous financial gift.

Popular piety left unchecked often results in distortions of the faith. Eventually the distortions become so ingrained they are accepted as orthodoxy. An entire generation of Pentecostal and Charismatic believers has been sold on a distortion of the Christian faith. J.I. Packer once called the Charismatic Movement “Pentecostalism reinvented.”

Among the recent ideas that have become the new orthodoxy, I would include the following:

  • You are a hurting individual, inherently good, and deserving of all you desire.
  • Because you are a King’s kid with royal authority, everything belongs to you. You can have it all. You are the best. Do not let Satan rob you of what is rightfully yours.
  • Financial adversity and physical suffering are never God’s will. Don’t accept them.
  • The Bible is a book of secret health laws and success formulas made known by revelation knowledge to certain select teachers. Get their tapes and books to discover the secret
  • Don’t tarry and pray for purity and power; just claim the promise
  • Tradition-smashing and denomination-bashing are signs of openness to the moving of the Holy Spirit.
  • Anti-intellectualism is a virtue.
  • Accept every new thing. It may be a fresh manifestation of revival.
  • If you ask questions, you will miss God’s best.

The first-generation Pentecostals had much more in common with the broader Christian tradition throughout history. Among their beliefs I would include the following:

  • We are sinners dammed for hell who have been snatched as brands from the burning by the sheer mercy of a loving Go
  • Be humble and grateful.
  • We are called to a daily spiritual battle against the world, the flesh, and the devil. We will lose some and win some, but all our victories are Christ’s victories. To him belongs all glory.
  • As sinners saved by grace, we are constantly dependent upon Christ.
  • Be faithful in pray
  • Pursue holiness and wait upon God for divine power.
  • We are pilgrims on this earth. We are not to get attached to this world but to live simply and separate ourselves from worldliness because Christ may come at any time.
  • The Bible is God’s Word, a lamp and a light, a chart and a compass.
  • Knowledge of revelation, not revelation knowledge, will bring comfort in affliction. We are to guard our life and doctrine. Judge everything by the Word and stay true to the faith once for all delivered to the saints.

These positions are neither the same nor equally acceptable. Theology may be a matter of emphasis, but the truth lies closer to the latter position. Even though we affirm a plurality of gifts in the body of Christ, we are wary of the ideology of pluralism, which argues that all viewpoints are acceptable because God works differently in each individual. This effectively leaves no room at all for dialogue or improvement. If we accept this ideology, we can never question bad preaching, shallow worship, inadequate scholarship, misguided counseling, or anything else. Growing up is often painful but necessary if we are to heed the Scripture’s admonition. We must not stay in theological adolescence when God calls us to maturity.

 

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Bread of Life

The Scriptures record that there are several instances where bread is described as much more than just wheat baked into an edible loaf. For example, Jesus said in John 6:48, “I am the bread of life.” Clearly there is more to this “bread” than first meets the eye; so the next time you partake of the “bread and wine” of Communion, think about some of the other ways in which the Bible speaks of bread.

Here are some examples of the different ways in which the word “bread” implies so much more:

Exodus 25:30 Put the bread of the Presence on this table to be before me at all times.

Leviticus 23:20 The priest is to wave the two lambs before the Lord as a wave offering, together with the bread of the firstfruits. They are a sacred offering to the Lord for the priest.

Deuteronomy 16:3 Do not eat it with bread made with yeast, but for seven days eat unleavened bread, the bread of affliction, because you left Egypt in haste

Psalm 78:25 Human beings ate the bread of angels; he sent them all the food they could eat.

Psalm 80:5 You have fed them with the bread of tears.

Psalm 105:40 he fed them well with the bread of heaven.

Proverbs 4:17 They eat the bread of wickedness and drink the wine of violence.

Proverbs 31:27 She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.

Isaiah 30:20 Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction,

Hosea 9:4 They will not pour out wine offerings to the Lord, nor will their sacrifices please him. Such sacrifices will be to them like the bread of mourners;

John 6:33 For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

John 6:35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

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Let Your Spirit Soar

(NOTE: This is a rewrite of an earlier posting.)

While trying to absorb the preacher’s words as he extolled the power of praise in our worship, my mind wandered to a poem written in 1940 by a young spitfire pilot who died soon afterward. “High Flight” was required reading when I was in public school.

highflight

And the poem reminded me that I used to spend a lot of time around and in airplanes without engines. After earning my glider license I was quite active in one of the largest soaring clubs in Canada. My “personal bests” include a flight of some five and one-half hours duration, and on another occasion a distance flight of some three hundred plus kilometers. It is with fond memories that I recall some of the most intimate times I have spent with the Lord have been while alone in a fiberglass cocoon several thousand feet above the ground where I could figuratively “put out my hand and touch the face of God”.

100_1666-cropped

A short description of the dynamics of soaring flight would probably be helpful for the analogy I want to make. The flight of ANY airplane is sustained by the lift generated by its wing surfaces as they move forward through the surrounding air. To maintain flight, the sailplane is always descending through its local block of air. If, however, that block of air happens to be rising, then the overall rate of descent of the sailplane is decreased; and if the air is rising faster than the sailplane is descending through it, then the net result is that the sailplane gains altitude. The challenge of flying modern sailplanes is not in the flying, for the Wright brothers did that a very long time ago, but in maintaining and gaining altitude which can be used to prolong the flight in time and distance.

Finding the rising air is the secret to prolonging soaring flight. Solar power heats the surface of the earth, which in turn warms the air above it. That warm air begins to rise in a bubble or column called a thermal which can rise to several thousand feet above the surface and provide good lift for sailplanes and soaring birds.

It is the maintaining and gaining of altitude in soaring flight that I thought of as I listened to that preacher. In many ways soaring in a glider or sailplane can be likened to soaring in the spirit. Some of the “dynamics” are similar. Sailplanes are like Christians in many ways.

Just as the glider needs to leave the ground and get into its preferred medium to become the sleek and graceful soaring machine that it was designed to be, Christians need to leave their earth­bound restraints in order to enter the closer fellowship with Jesus that we were designed to enjoy. The surge of power from the air­plane which tows the glider aloft to begin its flight could be compared to the lifting power of the pastor or the worship leader and musicians as they endeavour to assist us to commune more closely with the Trinity.

Once the glider has released from the tow-plane, it can no longer rely on that power to keep it airborne. It must find rising air that will keep it aloft. As the sun warms the earth and the air to give lift, so also the Son warms our hearts and spirits to give us lift. When the sailplane stays in that rising air, it too rises; when it leaves the lift, the inevitable descent begins. While we Christians stay in the warm glow of praise of the Son, we too are lifted to ever greater heights of worship as we approach the “Holy of Holies”; if we leave His presence, our descent is as inevitable as that of the glider. But, like the glider, our descent does not have to be terminal. As the glider can re-enter the thermal lift, we have the option of re-entering the lifting power of the son and once again we can “soar on wings like eagles” into His very throne room.

Sun powered thermal lift is dependable only as long as the sun shines. When the sun sets at night, or on cloudy overcast days, there is no lift. The glider can still fly when there is no lift available, but the flight is short lived. After release from the tow-plane, the descent begins immediately and the flight comes to its conclusion before the craft has had a chance to soar. We Christians also have our cloudy days. We are lifted by the efforts of others only to find ourselves drifting back to the clay and mud. Without the sustaining power of the Son, there is no way that we can maintain our “flight”.

Some Christians are like “self-launching” sailplanes, requiring no tow-plane (or worship leader) to get airborne. They know that if they can just get themselves off the ground then the Son will sustain them, allowing them to soar to greater spiritual heights. They have decided not to wait for others to give them their initial lift, but have learned to be “self-launching”. Rather than wait to be lifted, they lift themselves.

While the glider is either a “pure” sailplane or a “self-launching” glider, and cannot be easily converted after manufacture, Christians, on the other hand, almost always start out as un-powered “gliders” who have to rely on the lift of others to get them up to where they can enter the “untrespassed sanctity of space”. But Christians can grow, and they can be modified. With time and the help of caring fellows and the help of the Holy Spirit, they can learn to be “self-launching”. They can “slip the surly bonds of earth” whenever the Son is in evidence, perhaps even lifting themselves above their local clouds into the presence of the true Son.

So, don’t just sit there looking up in wonder, let your spirit soar.

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Give Thanks

Psalm 136:1  Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever.

In this season and time of Thanksgiving, many people say that they don’t know what they have for which to give thanks, for which to be thankful. Well, God is on the Throne and everything is going to be all right. How about a short list to jog your memory:

  • Give Him thanks if you travelled safely to and from work, for He watches over you.
  • Give Him thanks because you have the ability to live and move and have your being.
  • Give Him thanks for the eyes you see with and the ears you hear with.
  • Give Him thanks for the food in your pantry and on your table.
  • Give Him thanks for the air in your lungs and the life in your body.
  • Give Him thanks that you have a local house of worship where you can hear His Word rightly divided.
  • Give Him thanks that He has never failed you and His Word has shown you the path you should follow.
  • Give Him thanks for His living water has been poured out over you.
  • Give Him thanks that His angels have guarded and guided you.
  • Give Him thanks for He has given you the ability to declare that you are more than a conqueror through Christ who gives you strength.

We used to sing a chorus in church, “Give thanks with a grateful heart”; are we grateful for His many blessings? We have so much for which to give thanks; we merely need to remind ourselves of those blessings from time to time.

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Psalm 119:105 Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.

Borrowed from Bible.org.

Psalm 119 shows us that the Word of God should have top priority in our lives. It stands as the giant among the Psalms–it is the longest psalm and the longest chapter in the Bible–176 verses. The psalm is an acrostic or alphabetic psalm, in which there are eight couplets beginning with each of the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Thus the first eight couplets begin with aleph (= A), the next eight with beth (= B), etc.  Since the Book of Psalms is the longest book in the Bible, it shows us the priority of praise and worship to God. Since Psalm 119 is the longest psalm in the Bible, it shows us the priority of God’s Word to God; in fact, this longest chapter of the Bible is ALL ABOUT God’s Word

When God speaks, He does not mumble. The Bible is not a book of “helpful hints for happy living.” It speaks with authority. The terms used as synonyms for the Bible in this psalm convey the concept of authority:

(1) Law (v. 1; the main synonym, used 25x in this psalm) has the nuance of “teaching”; it can refer to a single command, to the first five books of Moses, or to all of Scripture (John 15:25; 1 Cor. 14:21). The law reveals God’s will for how His people are to live. Since it comes from God the law is not just for academic interest, but for obedience.

(2) Testimonies (v. 2; used 10x in the psalm), from a root meaning “to bear witness.” It points to the dependability of the Bible as a witness of things of God. It also has the nuance of warning.

(3) Ways (v. 3; used 7x of God’s ways in this psalm) refers to God’s characteristic manner of acting, as contrasted with our ways (119:5, 26, 29, 59, 168).

(4) Precepts (v. 4; 21x in the psalm) comes from a word meaning to oversee or pay close attention to a matter. Thus it “points to the particular instructions of the Lord, as of one who cares about detail” (Derek Kidner, Psalms [IVP], 2:418).

(5) Statutes (v. 5; 22x in the psalm) comes from a word meaning “to engrave in stone” and thus they “speak of the binding force and permanence of Scripture” (Kidner).

(6) Commandments (v. 6, 22x in the psalm) points to “the straight authority of what is said” (Kidner). It has the idea of giving orders.

(7) Judgments or ordinances (NASB, vv. 7, 13, same Hebrew word; 23x in the psalm) has the idea of justice rooted in God’s character. These are “the decisions of the all-wise Judge about common human situations” (Kidner).

(8) Word (v. 9; 23x in the psalm) is the most general term of all, emphasizing the fact that God has spoken.

(9) Word (v. 11; 19x in the psalm) is similar to the previous term. It is derived from the verb “to say” and may sometimes have the nuance of promise (NASB margin, vv. 38, 41).

(10) Faithfulness (v. 90), righteousness (v. 40), and name (v. 132) are also sometimes cited as synonyms for the Scriptures in this psalm.

The sum effect of these terms is that the Scriptures speak with God’s authority. They are not Reader’s Digest type hints on how to live or suggestions for success. What the Bible says, God says. Obedience is not optional for us as believers.

Psalm 119:105  Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.

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Leprosy

According to that arbiter of all things intellectual (the internet), leprosy (or Hansen’s disease) is a disfiguring disease that has impacted humanity since Biblical times. It is now known to be not nearly as infectious as formerly thought, but there is still a stigma attached to its diagnosis.

Leviticus tells us that there were three main types if leprosy and it could infect human skin, clothing, or houses, with appropriate cleansing procedures in each case. In more modern times, lepers (or persons with leprosy) were often confined to colonies where their contagion could not be spread. However, it is now clear that leprosy is caused by a bacterium and can be treated with appropriate antibiotic drug regimes.

One of the most insidious symptoms of leprosy is the loss of feeling due to nerve damage. As the disease progresses unchecked, toes, fingers, and even noses and eyes lose sensation and do not even feel the pain of accidental injury. This leads to some horrendous disfigurements. However, it should be noted that even after being cured of leprosy, the victim’s nerve damage is not repaired and the loss of sensation is permanent.

So, what does this have to do with me and my friends in a world where leprosy has been essentially controlled and is no longer a factor in most of the world? It impacts every believer in Christ because much of the Church suffers from “spiritual leprosy”.

Just as a victim of Hansen’s disease slowly loses feeling in his extremities and his failing sense of touch no longer protects him from pain and damage, through the never-ending assault upon our Christian sensibilities by the anti-Christian society in which the church exists, we slowly become desensitized and habituated. Our conscience becomes seared to the point where we are no longer pained by the sin around us. The conscience firewall God gave each of us becomes breached by the virus of familiarity and we no longer feel the painful warning of destructive behaviours. Our society has whole-heartedly taken up the banner of “what-ev-er”, and holds that truth is relative and absolutes are non-existent. And the church follows along in lock-step, delayed only by a few years of numbing before espousing the same mind-sets as those outside the church. It has been said that the failure to feel guilt is the basic flaw in the psychopath.

We need to thank God for the capacity to feel both physical and spiritual pain. It provides us with the warning and the motivation to change—to be transformed into the image of our Savior Jesus Christ. In accepting His sacrifice for our sins, we take upon ourselves the responsibility—with God’s help—to diagnose and eradicate the sins that cause the spiritual pain in the first place, to bring us into vibrant spiritual health. We must be careful that the hardness of our hearts does not decline into an insensitivity of conscience that prevents us from seeking forgiveness and repentance.

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Formation to conformity: our formative journey

 

Dictionary.com gives 44 definitions for the word “form”, thirty as a noun and 14 as a verb.  “Form” is a key element of so many words in the English language.  By examining the word “form” and its derivatives, I would like to take you on a seven-step journey, from God’s formative power (whereby God creates and develops, then gives shape to His creation) to man’s ultimate conformity (when we are finally brought into complete harmony and agreement with God’s plan of salvation).

  1. God Forms – To Make a Mold or Pattern (God Creates, calls into being, etc.)

After the formless void was given structure and substance. In Genesis 2:7, we are told that God formed man from the dust of the ground, and that He formed out of the ground the beasts and the birds (Genesis 2:19). But, that was just the beginning of God’s formative efforts.  It is God who formed each of us in our mother’s womb (Isaiah 44:24), and He says that He knew us even before He formed us (Jeremiah 1:5). And the psalmist exclaims that we are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). But God’s forming power goes far beyond the physical. Psalms 33:15 says that it is He who forms the hearts of every man. And the state of our heart is important to God, “Man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.” (Isaiah 16:7)

Yes, God forms, but then…

  1. Satan Deforms – To Make Ugly, Disfigure or Mar

Satan knows Scripture! He knows the Word of God, but he deforms it (by distortion and by taking the Word out of context) in an attempt to cause God’s creation to fall into sin.  Throughout the history of mankind, Satan has tried to deform man into his own corrupt form. And his favourite tool just might be doubt. After Jesus had been alone and hungry in the desert for forty days, Satan said to Him, “If you are the Son of God…” (Matthew 4:3)  Satan’s deformation (by distortion or misinterpretation) of the Word is an attempt to sow seeds of doubt. Even in the Garden of Eden, Satan was aware of God’s instructions to Adam and Eve, but he deformed that good word by saying, “Did God really say…” (Genesis 3:1)

God forms, and Satan deforms, but the…

  1. Prophets Inform – To Supply With Information (Teach or admonish)

God has frequently used prophets to inform His people, to show them the error of their ways, to lead them back to a right relationship and the correct path.  Jeremiah (the prophet) informed King Zedekiah that God had promised that he would not die in the siege of Babylon (Jeremiah 34:10).  When King Ahab tried to create an alliance with the king of Damascus, one of the prophets informed Ahab that God was displeased with his disobedience in allowing a defeated foe to live and that his own life would be forfeit in payment. (1 Kings 20:36-42)

Yes, God forms and Satan deforms. The prophets inform, but…

  1. Religion Performs – To do, Carry out, to act

Much of what passes for religion today is about performance.  If people perform well enough to mollify an angry deity, then their prayers may be answered, or they may earn enlightenment or an opportunity for a better future life. Scripture gives us many examples of performance. By the power of the Almighty, Moses performed many miracles before Pharaoh (Exodus, chapters 7 to 11). Eventually the Egyptian king was forced to admit that his magicians and sorcerers could not perform the same miracles and had to let the Hebrews leave. Not only did legitimate priests and prophets perform their duties but, we are told that “false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect…” (Matthew 24:24)

Yes God forms and Satan deforms. The prophets inform and religion performs. But there is hope because a Holy God calls sinners…

  1. Sinners Reform – To correct what is wrong, especially by removing some evil or abuse

We are called to obedience and admonished to reform our sinful behaviours, to abandon our wrong and evil ways of life and conduct. This call to reformation, voiced by a Holy God, was frequently through the prophet Jeremiah, who said, “Reform your ways and your actions, and I will let you live in this place.” (Jeremiah 7:3).  Much of that entire chapter deals with God pointing out their errors and telling them how to correct their faults.

God forms and Satan deforms. The prophets inform and religion performs. God calls us to reform, but The …

  1. Holy Spirit Transforms – To change into something else (to metamorphose or go through an amazing change)

This transformation by the power of the Holy Spirit (the process of sanctification) is partly through our own efforts and partly through the miraculous intervention of God. Paul encouraged the Roman believers to abandon the influences of the world around them, “but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2) Paul told the Corinthians that the veil Moses wore was no longer required. “And we … are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory” (2 Corinthians 3:18)  Paul went so far as to say that transformation will go far beyond our behaviour and extend to our bodies. “And we eagerly await a Savior … will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. (Philippians 3:21)

God forms and Satan deforms. The prophets inform and religion performs. God calls us to reform, and The Holy Spirit transforms. But it is Jesus who helps us to be conformed.

  1. Jesus Conforms – To act in agreement with a standard, pattern (to make similar and to become like Jesus)

God expects a degree of conformity in us, but He desires that we be conformed to Him and to the likeness of His Son, not to a sinful and wicked world.  God chastised Jerusalem for her wickedness, “You have not even conformed to the standards of the nations around you.” (Ezekiel 5:7)  Paul said that God predestined some of us to be like Him. “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son.” (Romans 8:29)  Paul warned the Roman believers that conformation to the likeness and Spirit of God was possible only if we first ensured that we were not trying to also be like the world. “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2)  Peter had a similar warning. “As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.” (1 Peter 1:14-16)

So here is our seven-step journey of formation: from God’s formative power (whereby God creates and develops, then gives shape to His creation) to man’s ultimate conformity (when we are finally brought into complete harmony and agreement with God’s plan of salvation and we become one with our Saviour in heaven)

God forms

Satan deforms

Prophets inform

Religion performs

Sinners reform

Holy Spirit transforms

Jesus conforms us…

In the very beginning God created us in His image (our formation).

Part of that image, I believe, is the ability to attain holiness (our reformation).

Even though our holiness is attained though the shed blood of Jesus (our transformation), we must still live a lifestyle which reflects that holiness (our conformation). And this we can do if the ultimate goal of holiness (i.e. heaven) means more to us than anything else this life has to offer.

 

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