It’s not the way you think it is

Lack of accurate self-perception is a common problem.

Have you ever met the proverbial King who has no clothes? He’s a clueless person who thinks he’s all that and more while everyone else feels awkwardly embarrassed for him. We want to say, “Put some clothes on please, you’re embarrassing yourself and others!”

A church without clothes

What about a clueless church that has no clothes?  Jesus said to just such a church, “You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked” (Revelation 3:17).

What would it take for them to reconnect with the reality that they were “wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked”?

They could experience deeply meaningful fellowship with their Savior if only they would hear his voice and open the door. He would come in and eat with them (Revelation 3:20).

What exactly did Jesus mean when he said, “I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see”? (Revelation 3:18). Look once again to Jesus as the true and only source of all things.

Making the guest list

There is a related lesson to this when one reflects on the guest list of banquets Jesus attends. It includes “the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind” (Luke 14:13). It might also include “a woman in a town who lived a sinful life” (Luke 7:37).

On one occasion when Jesus was in the home of a prominent pharisee and He said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, …. invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous” (Luke 14:12-14).

Guest list: “the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind.”

How does this parallel the members of the Church Jesus rebuked? Would they make the guest list? They thought they were on the cutting edge. They thought that their church was the place to be for the rich and wealthy. How shocked they would be to learn that they didn’t make the guest list!

So Jesus exposed their delusional state of self-confidence by telling them that in reality they are “wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.” If only they knew it. True joy and freedom await those who snap out of the delusional state of self-righteous stupidity and embrace the hard truth of being “wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.”

Imagine how shocking it must have been to hear the Lord Jesus say to self-righteous religious leaders, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you” (Matthew 21:31).

Danger in forgetting

It seems clear that they were “shortsighted or blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their old sins” (II Peter 1:9). There is a great danger in forgetting the day when you “stood at a distance and would not even look up to heaven, but beat your chest praying, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner’?” (Luke 18:13). This was the day of our salvation; the day we “went home justified before God” (Luke 18:14).

How is it that we drift from such honest repentance to a place where we say to ourselves, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing’?” (Revelation 3:17).

Delusional self-confidence leads to….

These Church members were not much different than the pharisees who opposed Jesus. Delusional self-confidence based on self-accomplishment is not far removed from self-righteousness. It’s an insidiously deadly poison that can be hard to detect when it spreads in our hearts. It turns us into dangerous and unsafe people. This kind of church will feel very unsafe to the poor in spirit. They will notice they are being watched and measured by standards they cannot meet.

We are watching you

While Jesus was in the house of the prominent Pharisee, as always, “he was being carefully watched” (Luke 14:1). Self-righteous people watch others. They don’t watch out for others, they watch them. They look for the failures of others so they can consider themselves righteous and view others with contempt.

Self-righteous people maintain their inflated egos by feasting on the sins of others. They are social cannibals. They fortify their sense of superiority and even coat it with spiritual tones when they thank God that they are not like other people (robbers, evildoers, adulterers, to name a few). It’s risky to be near these people because they are carefully watching you and ready to put you in their pot.

They are kings without clothes; clouds without rain; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted—twice dead (Jude 12). When they make converts, they become “twice as much a child of hell as they are” (Matthew 23:15). For them God has reserved “the blackest darkness” of His judgment forever (Jude 12).

Protecting ourselves

If we surveyed the church our Lord rebuked, I imagine they considered themselves very devoted to Christ. They were unaware that He stood outside their door knocking. To protect yourself from this danger, consider 10 daily habits.

Ten daily reminders

  1. Remind yourself daily of God’s undeserved gift of salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5-7).
  2. Encounter God daily based on Hebrews 4:12 and Hebrews 4:16.
  3. Distrust yourself enough to trust in the Lord with all your heart (Proverbs 3:5-7).
  4. Keep short accounts with God about sin (I John 1:9-2:2).
  5. Walk closely with those who walk with God (Psalm 1:1-3).
  6. Pursue wisdom by learning Scripture because “the Lord grants wisdom! From his mouth come knowledge and understanding” (Proverbs 2:6).
  7. Humble yourself before God and then humble yourself again (Matthew 18:1-5;1 Peter 5:5-6).
  8. Be connected with a local Church and serve God’s people (Ephesians 4:11-16; Hebrews 3:12-13; 13:7,17).
  9. Don’t live in a Christian huddle — live as salt to the earth and light to the world (Matthew 5:13-16).
  10. Love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:36-40).

Search me O God

Pray often, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life” (Psalm 139:23-24).

Steve Cornell

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Liabilities in my work

stick_figure_listen_400_clrEvery line of work has liabilities.

My work involves a lot of talking or many words. Sometimes it’s public speaking and radio production; other times it’s writing and counseling, or leading a group discussion.

So what are the liabilities beyond the risk of losing my voice?

There is the danger of violating the wisdom that says, “…be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry” (James 1:19).

Perhaps God gave us two ears and one mouth to make this point.

  • “He who gives an answer before he hears, It is folly and shame to him” (Proverbs 18:13).

Of course, there are sinful kinds of listening (listening to slander and gossip, or giving ear to deception and false accusations).

I often live between the tension of Proverbs 26:4-5 – “Don’t answer the foolish arguments of fools, or you will become as foolish as they are. Be sure to answer the foolish arguments of fools, or they will become wise in their own estimation.”

Wisdom is needed to know the difference.

Another liability is people hearing you the wrong way or misquoting you. I’ve had this happen many times. Someone will say to me, “You said….” and then he will misquote, twist or distort what I said. This is part of the reality of my work. The recording of what I say has offered clarity, but even the facts won’t change some people’s minds. I try to respond with grace and truth.

Another liability

The Proverb I was thinking about reveals another potential liability in my work.

  • “When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, But he who restrains his lips is wise” (Proverbs 10:19).
  • “Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth shut” (New Living Translation).

Good words for those who use many words!

Prayer is needed

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my rock and my Redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14).

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Plank eye disease

Are you suffering from a case of plank eye disease?

Wisdomforlife

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Are you quick to see (and talk about) ways others fail to measure while overlooking failures and sins in your own life and family?

A survey of 20 somethings indicates that 9 out of 10 think of Christians as judgmental. Although surveys like this are often inaccurate (and a result of cultural aversions to truth), the perception is widespread.

Jesus’ warning against judging must be heard often in the Church.

But what did Jesus mean when he said, “Judge not, lest you be judged.” These are among the most well-known words of Jesus.

Some use these words to keep people from making moral judgments about others. Others use them to excuse themselves from making judgments. “Who am I to judge?” they ask. “After all, Jesus did say, ‘Judge not…’” 

So what did Jesus mean? Was he advocating a mind your own business policy? Was he forbidding all judgments about the actions of…

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Watching out for one another

This kind of mutual caring is not to be a pharisaic behavior of watching others to see if they conform to our personal preferences. It is to happen under the authority of God’s Word and consistent with the leadership of the Church. It is to be rooted deeply in genuine care and love.

Wisdomforlife

Care-Ministry-Logo-FOR-WEBDo you believe that all who genuinely experience God’s salvation will continue in the faith until the end? I do. Here are a couple of ways this truth has been understood:

    • “They whom God hath accepted in His Beloved, effectually called and sanctified by his Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace; but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved” (Westminster Confession of Faith).
    • “Perseverance may be defined as that continuous operation of the Holy Spirit in the believer, by which the work of divine grace that is begun in the heart, is continued and brought to completion” (Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, p. 546).

Does Scripture support this conclusion?

Jesus said, “Those who continue in My word are my disciples in reality” (John 8:31; cf. John 10:27-29; Romans 8:38-39). The apostle John indirectly referred to this when he wrote of certain people who left the Christian…

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Longing to see the One who loves us

When I perform weddings, I always glance over at the groom’s face when his bride enters the door. It’s the look of love and joy. It’s because of their relationship, because she is known and loved by him.

Most of us know what it’s like to feel excitement and anticipation when a good friend or loved one we haven’t seen for a while is coming for a visit. We say,”I can’t wait to see her!” because of how valued, important and loved she is to us.

Longing for the One who loves us

We will cultivate deep love and joy at the thought of seeing our Savior only as we grow in our love for Him. We grow in our love for Him when we think often and deeply on the fact that we can only love Him because He first loved us (I John 4:19).

Presently, I live “by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

And the One “who loves us and has freed us from our sins by shedding his blood for us” (Revelation 1:5), also promised, “I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:3). 

We will grow in a love for our Savior and our longing to see Him, when “we know and rely on the love God has for us” (I John 4:16), a love for us in Christ that is so great and secure that nothing can separate us from it (Romans 8:38-39),

 

Love is satisfied with the sight of the One loved.

Although we only see Christ now by faith, ‘only a reflection as in a mirror,’ at His coming, we will Him “face to face” – “then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12).

  • “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy,..” (I Peter 1:8).

With the Psalmist, we say to our Lord, “When I awake, I will see you face to face and be satisfied” (Psalm 17:15).

“There is in store … the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award … to all who have longed for (agapaó – love) his appearing”(II Timothy 4:8).

Training our focus 

  • Philippians 3:20-21 – “Our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body” 
  • II Corinthians 4:16-18 – “Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”  
  • Colossians 3:1-2, 4 – “Since, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. … When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” 

Perhaps the Father will turn to the Son today and say, “Go get your bride and bring her home.”

Then the prayer of Jesus will be answered, “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world” (John 17:24).

Longing for Christ’s coming,

Steve Cornell

 

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Common grace and common good

How could those who honor the Creator and care about a common good for His creatures withdraw from the table where policies and laws are formed that profoundly effect the people?

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I recently gave a series on the theme of common grace. It was eye-opening for all of us.

My practical emphasis focused on our calling to be agents of common grace who are committed to the welfare of the city of our exile. The basis for this model is the word given to God’s people in Jeremiah 29:40-7.

“This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: ‘Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if…

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Answer the call with caution

Consider the balance between answering the call to live out our identity and the warning about shifting our motivation in doing it.

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The tension of public service for Christ is between living your identity and calling in Matthew 5:16  without ignoring the caution of Matthew 6:1.

  • Identity and calling – “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).
  • Caution – “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven” (Matthew 6:1).

A difficult path 

This path is not easy when you live in an ego-centeric culture in which “human life degenerates into the clamor of competing autobiographies?”

  • “In such a culture, the self exists to be explored, indulged and expressed, not disciplined and restrained. What has changed is that, “aggressive self-regard is no longer viewed with alarm. Instead, people praise and promote it” (“Not…

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