Don’t Look Inside Because I Don’t Like What I Will See

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“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.”   Matthew 23:25-26

Real change requires a look inside. An infected saint knows this all too well. I have tried in every other way, but my own journey says in order to make lasting change in your life, it starts with an honest look at your insides.

What does it mean to change? You know God desires it. You know there are things hindering you that He wants removed. But if you are like me, the struggle is real, and change is extremely difficult. When you are forced to look within, you know something needs addressing. You know there is something dreadfully wrong. It creeps up when we are put on the spot or someone dislikes us or we feel foolish. Something in us feels really broken, and we want to quit thinking about it as quickly as possible. We make ourselves busy, or we shift our thinking so we don’t have to deal with the unpleasantry of the wound within.

When we take time to look on the inside, to go deeper than what is at surface level, we find that things are complicated. It only takes a moment to realize, while there are good things happening, we have a really long way to go. Our garden is not without weeds. We wish we were better than we are, but we are not. And what is the result of this? It brings strong feelings of shame to our life. Shame makes us want to hide. Sometimes, it can be strong enough to make us want to curl up in the fetal position, hide in the closet or run with all our might to escape.

We want to feel whole. We want to feel like things are good and in order. We don’t want to feel empty or rejected. We avoid it at all costs. Yet, without an honest look at what is going on inside, how can we ever really change? How can we ever become like Christ? How can we ever experience the joy that is ours in Him?

Looking inside brings real fear. We are not sure we can face it and make it. It requires loads of courage to investigate deeper into our soul. If we want to change, we have to face our own sin and insecurities. We can’t be like the Pharisees who put out an image to everyone that was not consistent with who they really were in their souls. We have to face the pain, the shame, the guilt, the weakness. We have to face it in confidence that Christ’s grace is greater than our sin. That He will not leave us exposed and condemned.

How do we receive this great grace? We face courageously the depth of our sinfulness and we repent. Repentance moves us from deceiving ourselves that everything is okay to trusting in Christ’s work. Repentance produces a growing strength and stability in our inner core. It produces a change of character. It is the Gospel at work in us.

Let your complacency be disrupted by looking within. Change can only happen when we are first unsettled at our core. When we take the time to face our demons and get the help we need. Once we do, change is possible with the work of Christ and the accountability and support of others. God wants to do a mighty work in you – so have the courage to trust Him as He reveals the depths of your soul to you and changes you from the inside out.

 

 Top 10 Topics Christians Are Not Learning About

As infected saints, we would do well to not avoid topics because they are convicting. If we desire to be like Jesus, we should want to know and experience the deeper things of the faith. Here are the topics I believe are being neglected by most Christians today.

1. Fasting– Fasting is found throughout Scripture as a way of mourning and refocusing. Even Jesus fasted before He started His ministry. Fasting is a spiritual act of creating space by abstaining for a period of time from something good in order to draw nearer to God. I can say from my own experience with fasting that it is a megaphone to God’s voice in my life. I gain clarity of purpose and perspective from the Lord. It is a neglected discipline that would be powerful in our lives if we practiced it.

2. Repentance– Who wants to talk about turning away from the pleasures of sin? Repentance is out of style with churches that have gone easier on sin. Yet, repentance is a way of life for a Christian trying to be like Jesus. Confessing and turning away from sin must be part of the Christian life.

3. Holiness– We are called to be holy as God is holy. We don’t talk often enough about being “set apart” as a holy people. Holiness is what makes us different than the world. If we look like the world, then our message loses its relevance and power to a lost world. How we live matters.

4. Accountability– In our rebellion towards God, we resist accountability. We don’t want to be told we are wrong, especially when we like doing what we are doing. We find all kinds of ways to excuse accountability and rationalize our sin. Many Christians neglect this practice in their lives and are hindered spiritually because of it.

5. Singleness– The church often lacks a strong message about being single. Most messages and programs are centered around the married. Singleness is not addressed as it should be. The Bible celebrates singleness as an opportunity to be more devoted, without distraction, to the Lord (1 Cor 7).

6. The Holy Spirit– We often celebrate two members of the triune Godhead. We magnify the Father in worship and prayer. We highlight the Son as our hope of salvation. So often, the Holy Spirit is, at best, insinuated in our churches. There is the assumption the Spirit is real and moving. We non-charismatics just don’t speak about Him often enough. He was so vital to the church that Jesus told His disciples to be glad He was leaving because He was sending the Spirit!

7. Sex– This is often a taboo topic in church, though it is a major topic in the minds of young people and adults. Its distortion is plastered on billboards, magazines, Internet, and television. Yet, God created it as good. The church needs to speak boldly and clearly on the topic.

8. Old Testament– It is easy to focus on the New Testament as a Christian; it is the story of Jesus and His church.  On the other hand, the Old Testament offers strange stories, the constant failure of Israel, several gruesome battles, and prophets preaching naked in the streets and talking about dry bones. It feels more appropriate for a Jerry Springer show than our reading list. Yet, the Old Testament is raw because life is hard and cruel—it gets real about sin and consequence. It tells the story of man’s restoration to God and the promise of the coming Savior.  Therefore, it is vital to our understanding of the Gospel.

9. Heaven/Hell– We refer to Heaven and Hell a lot, but do we talk about them as a future reality in our lives? We need to talk about Hell because it creates urgency within us to share the Gospel with those who are without Jesus. We need to talk more about Heaven because it spurs us on to endure and finish well.

10. Parents as Spiritual Leaders– Parenthood is the toughest thing I do! It is difficult to parent well. Our kids need to see their parents are not Christian in name only. Kids should not get all of their spiritual knowledge and training just from the church. Parents need to be challenged to be spiritual leaders at home. This is an epidemic in churches today. The church is given the task of raising students spiritually. That robs children of the guidance they need from their parents spiritually. It robs parents of playing a role in the most important area of their child’s life!

I pray we give more and more attention to these topics. They are vital to our spiritual life.  ~Dax

Last Week of Jesus- Thursday

 

 

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36 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.”37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled.38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter.41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”42 He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”43 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy.44 So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.    Matthew 26:36-44

It is Thursday night. In less than 24 hours Jesus will be dead. Could you imagine the emotional turmoil of knowing tomorrow would be your last? Jesus was humans and he was struggling with knowing what was to come.  So he led his disciples to go and pray. His favorite spot was the Garden of Gethsemane. He and the disciples had just finished the Last Supper for the Passover. Jesus had watched as Judas left the table to go and betray Him. He passed the cup to Peter, knowing that Peter would deny him three times tomorrow. One last intimate meal with his twelve, knowing they would all scatter from Him in His hour of greatest suffering.  Jesus needed perspective so He went to the garden to find peace, guidance, and comfort from His Father.

How Jesus dealt with his impending suffering and death epitomizes how we should deal with our own pain and tragedy. We can learn how to deal with our own times of trials and pain from Jesus here in three specific ways.

Jesus brought Friends With Him

In His most difficult hours, anticipating His own death, Jesus drew his friends close to him. During these difficult times, we need people to walk with us. So many times we isolate form others when facing tough times. Be vulnerable with them. You are hurting. Ask them to bear it with you. People who care about you will do that. Jesus never shut them out. Even though they were often confused and probably frustrating to him, He included them until the end. He needed them.

Don’t Write Friends Off If They Fail To Meet Your Expectations and Disappoint You

Jesus asked His disciples to pray with Him. It had been a rough and tiring week. They were emotionally and physically spent. While praying, the disciples fell asleep. Jesus was disappointed to say the least. Wouldn’t you be? You are going to die and your closest friends fall asleep on you when their supposed to be praying for you! But what I want you to notice is that Jesus did not write them off. He continued to let them in and share His burden even after they disappointed Him. He needed them and He did not let their mistake destroy the bond. We need friends to be with us when we are hurting but we need to remember they have their own lives to live and their own struggles to face. They may fail to meet our expectations perfectly in our time of need. Show them grace. You need them. Let them be there for you even in their imperfections and quirks.

Jesus was Persistent In Praying

Jesus found a special place to pray. He found His prayer closest. No coined prayers offered here. Jesus prayed his guts out. His intimacy with the Father was on full display. Jesus prayed all night and did not stop until he had peace and His answer. Notice Jesus didn’t get what he asked for. He wanted to be saved from the torture, the pain… He wanted to be released from impending death. Yet, His Father said no. His Father’s will was for Jesus to die for humanity. The very ones to kill Jesus was who He would be dying for.  Jesus submitted fully and came to peace with what his father desired. We give up to quickly in our prayers. We pray a quick prayer and walk away already anticipating no clear answer. Why? We need to pray with determination. We need to cry out to God and not stop until we hear from him. God will answer if we seek Him until he does. If we need to pray all night then so be it. God will answer.

What a gut wrenching night this was for Jesus and his disciples. To know that tomorrow you die. Jesus could have stopped it. He had the power to do so. Yet, he submitted to His Father and died for us. He went through all of this suffering for me and for you. When we suffer, He is with us. He understands our pain and agony. He has experienced it. We are never alone. He walks with us all the way into eternity.

Should I Confess My Sins

I am a Christian. My sins are forgiven and removed as far as the east is from the west. I stand completely blameless before the Father because of Christ’s sacrifice.  When God sees me He sees a perfect creation. That is not because of us. It is a complete work of Christ in me and not anything I have earned by my own effort or behavior (2 Cor 5:17-21).

So if I am blameless in his sight, completely pardoned before I even commit the act, then why bother confessing sins?

Does scripture actually tell us to confess sin or is that a church tradition? Let’s look:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.      1 John 1:9

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.    James 5:16

I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.    Psalm 32:5

A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba. Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.     Psalm 51:1-5

So confession is biblical and must be a part of your life as a believer.  You see it both in the Old And New Testament. Some would argue that confession was necessary before Christ only, but it is also commanded of believers in the New Testament too.

In  order to best understand confession, it is helpful to look closely at the word in its original language. It’s construction gives us insight into its importance for the spiritual life. The word confession in the Greek is ὁμολογέω (homologeo). It is created by two separate words: homo and logeo. Home means  “same,” like in homosapien (same species). Logeo means “word,” like its usage in John 1, the logos (word) became flesh and dwelt among us. So confession means to “say the same word.” Don’t miss the significance of that: confession is saying the “same word” about sin as God does. It is to be in agreement with God about the nature of sin. How does God see sin? He hates it. So we should confess the same thing to God by acknowledging that we also hate sin and see it as a destructive force in our life. Sin dishonors God and by confessing it we acknowledge that sin is unworthy of the gospel at work in us.

To confess or not to confess is not an option for a believer. We must acknowledge our sin. We don’t need to confess to a priest or any human agency but have direct access to the Father (Hebrews 4:16).

Should we confess our sin to each other?  We are to confess sin to each other but only so we can help each other carry that burden (Galatians 6:2). I would confess sin to other Christians  I trust to help carry the burden and to hold me accountable.

Confession does several things for us. When we confess sin we are living out the gospel. Confession shows our desperate need for grace in our lives. Confession also keeps us humble as we admit daily to our struggles with sin.

Perhaps the Lord’s Prayer gives us the best insight into our calling to confess:

4 and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.  Luke 11:4

Confession is good for your soul. You don’t need it to be forgiven but how can you call yourself His if you don’t despise what He despises. We must take sin seriously and confession is how we acknowledge its destructive force in us.

I suggest every night before you go to bed confessing your sins to the Lord. Thank Him for His forgiveness and grace and provision to overcome sin.