Paul's Ponderings

Thoughts from an imperfect disciple.

Be An Example

Show me how a person responds to life, and I will show you what they truly believe.

While it is unfair to judge a person based solely on one or two situations, it is certainly true that choices a person makes over the course of his life reveals what he truly believes.

Our lives, for good or bad, are telling the people around us whether or not we truly have faith in what we say we believe. If we claim to be Christians and yet live lives the resemble the world, then we are telling people that we don’t really have faith in Jesus.

Faith is more than what we confess with our lives, but it is also how we act with our hands and where we go with our feet. If faith is just about what we confess then the only value it has for us is a way to escape hell. Instead, faith is to be the path of transformation.

Not only is faith the path of transformation, but it is also an example to follow.

In Scripture we are urged to follow the example of Abraham (Romans 4:16) and Paul urged others to follow his example (Philippians 3:17). We also know that we have been influenced by the lives faithful people. Our faith is connected to the example they gave to us.

What this teaches us is the importance our lives have in influencing others. Just as the example of faithful people influenced our lives, our faithful example can be a powerful influence in the life of another person.

A life that faithfully follows Jesus provides an example for others to follow.

In sense we have to see ourselves as teachers.

To be a good teacher requires us to be knowledgeable about what we are teaching and the ability to demonstrate how that teaching looks in real life. Humans need examples to help us move from theory to reality.

The Pharisees where part of the religious class of Jesus’ day. They interpreted Scripture for the people and taught them how it applied to their lives.

Yet, they missed a key component in their teaching: they didn’t live what they taught. This is one of the points that Jesus confronted them about.

1 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples,2 “The teachers of religious law and the Pharisees are the official interpreters of the law of Moses. 3 So practice and obey whatever they tell you, but don’t follow their example. For they don’t practice what they teach.4 They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden.  (Matthew 23:1-4; NLT)

The underlying theology that the Pharisees taught was okay. In fact, on many key points Jesus agreed with the Pharisees. The mistake Jesus highlighted was the burden the religious leaders placed on people with laws upon laws.

These men  were able to teach what a  faithful life was supposed to look like, but they could not provide the people with an example of what faithful living looked like.

Jesus did not tell the crowd that the Pharisees had bad theology, but that they had bad faith. Jesus urged the crowd to listen to the Pharisees teaching, but discouraged them from following their example.

As Christians who desire to influence the world for Jesus Christ it is essential that we remember that there are two parts to effective teaching: communicating true ideas and letting putting those ideas to practice in your life.

When our lives do not reflect the truth of the Gospel then people will wonder whether or not the Gospel is really the truth.

The best evidence for the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ are the faithful lives of his followers.

When we live faithful lives we make the teachings of Jesus come alive.

Without our example Jesus’ teachings remain simply a theory – a nice way to live.

Having the truth doesn’t do us or anybody else any good if we don’t apply that truth to our lives.

The life of faith is the life that is lived based on the truth that we know.

As we live out the truth we believe we become examples for other people to follow.  This is how Jesus is able turn ordinary people into lights of the world. Be a light worth following.

Immigration Executive Order

Redeeming Liberty 01 from Paul Steele on Vimeo.

No Longer a Foreigner

{Ephesians 2:19-22; NLT}
So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family. Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord. Through him you Gentiles are also being made part of this dwelling where God lives by his Spirit.

There are two kingdoms. There is the kingdom of this world and there is the kingdom of God.

The reality of life, apart from Jesus, is that we are excluded from God’s kingdom. This means we are strangers and foreigners in the very kingdom that we were to call home.

Things can be different. Our citizenship can be changed!

Not only can we become citizens of God’s kingdom, but we can even be adopted into God’s family!

 

Before, while we were in our sin, we were outsiders, we didn’t belong to God’s Kingdom, but now we do. We were citizens of the world, and foreigners in the Kingdom of God, but now our citizenship has changed. The world is no longer our home, we are pilgrims in this land, because our citizenship is now in Heaven.

I want to point out two implications that come with being citizens of God’s Kingdom.

  1. We are not alone. I am not the only citizen of the Kingdom, and though it might feel like I am all alone at times, that is just a feeling and not reality. In this Kingdom reside all the faithful who lived under the Old Covenant as well as all of the faithful who follow Christ Jesus. The writer of Hebrews writes of a “great cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1). It encourages me to think about all the people who have lived faithful lives, because it reminds me that I am not the only one to experience the struggles of faith.
  2. There is a standard for living.  God expects His people to live in a certain way. One of the expectations God has for His people is that we will be servants. We need to help those people who are in need and in the process bring God’s love and hope into their lives. A second expectation is that we live moral lives. The moral standard that we live by needs to be better than the standard the rest of the world by. People need to recognize that there is a difference in the way we live and the they live.

What a word of hope we find in this passage. We are part of God’s Kingdom!

Being citizens of God’s kingdom is going provide us with some challenges. It will be a challenge simply because our purpose of life has changed.

The fact that we are citizens of God’s kingdom and members of His household needs to shape the way we live. Why? It needs to shape our lives because we no longer live for ourselves. Now we are representatives, ambassadors, of God’s Kingdom, and is essential that we to play the part.

Questions to consider:

  • What was your life like before Jesus?
  • Do you gain any hope from knowing you are part of God’s kingdom?
  • How can you be a good representative of God’s kingdom?

The Dream Is Not Enough

God created human beings to be productive. For this purpose He has blessed us with intelligence, talents, strength, and creativity. Our best life is found when we are able to use these gifts to make the world a better place by adding value to the lives of other people.

One of the obstacles that we have to overcome in an affluent culture like the United States is dreaming.

Many of us have a dream of what we want our lives to look like, but as we dream we are not taking any steps to accomplishing that dream.

This is why the advice to “chase your dreams” or “follow your heart” is bad advice. It makes us believe that what is important is the dream, rather than the work that is required to accomplish that dream.

If we are going to be good stewards of the life God has given to us we have to move past the dreams, even those dreams we are certain come from God, and focus on what we need to accomplish today to make that dream a reality.

The Scottish pastor and author George MacDonald wrote: “To the foundation of yesterday’s work well done, the work of tomorrow will be sure to fit. Work done is of more consequence for the future than the foresight of an archangel.” (The Best of George MacDonald, p. 10)

Our dreams will not be accomplished without work and they are not going to happen overnight. You and I have to put in the work that is required to make those dreams a reality. This means we need to have a goal and we need to have a plan, because a goal without a plan is just a dream.

Goals and plans help us understand the steps that are needed to turn our dreams into reality, they show us the actions we need to take every single day, and they help us eliminate unwanted distractions  that hold us back for achieving our goals.

What is the dream you have for your life?

What is your plan for accomplishing that dream?

You can have the best dream in the world, but if you are not intentional in turning that dream into a reality then the dream is of no use.

What is useful is to do the work you can accomplish today and then each day build upon that work. That is the only way you will see your dreams come true.

Intentional Prayer

One of spiritual disciplines we know that we need to foster in our lives is the discipline of prayer.

Many Christians commit to praying more each new year, only to see that commitment go by the wayside after a few days.

It is time that we admit that praying is difficult. It is difficult because we have short attention spans and it is hard to have a conversation when we feel like we are doing all the talking. Prayer often feels more like giving God a list rather than trying to build a relationship with Him.

In this sermon, that I preached January 3, 2016, I stressed the importance of being intentional in our prayer life. For our prayers to be effective, we have to make the choice to pray.

I also provide some encouragement in your quest to pray.

Big Idea: We experience God when we are intentional in praying every day.

Challenge: One day this week pray with another person.

Resource: Daily Prayer Guide

Listen: Intentional Prayer

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