Paul's Ponderings

Thoughts about following Jesus

Tag: Life (page 1 of 22)

3 Steps to Experience God’s Power

What is the central truth of Christianity?

If I asked this question to American Christians the answer I would hear would be; “Jesus died on the cross for our sins.”

While this is a tremendous reality and a vital truth of the Christian faith, it is not the foundation on which Christianity is built.

The central truth of Christianity is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Every other truth is validated by this reality.

The Apostle Paul wrote; “For if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless.” (1 Corinthians 15:13-14; NLT)

Paul declared that everything else that Christians believe is based on the reality of Jesus’ resurrection. If there is no resurrection then our faith is useless. This includes our belief that Jesus death secured forgiveness for our sins.

I believe many of us miss out on the power that is available to us because we focus on the cross rather than on the resurrection.

We have settled for a faith of forgiveness, when we have been promised a faith of transformation.

This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! (2 Corinthians 5:17; NLT)

The promise of the Gospel is not only that God will forgive our sins, but that He will make us into new people.

God intends to make us into new people right now, not some distant point in the future. We can be certain of this because of the power that is available to us.

The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you. (Romans 8:11; NLT)

What an amazing thought!

You and I can have our lives transformed because of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit raised Jesus to life and transformed his dead physical body into a new resurrected body. This is the power that is at work in our transformation.

In his book Absolute Surrender Andrew Murray wrote:

The cause of the weakness of your Christian life is that you you want to work it our partly, and to let God help you. And that cannot be. You must come to be utterly helpless, to let God work, and God will work gloriously. It is this that we need if we are indeed to be workers for God (p. 113; Humility and Absolute Surrender).

For a long time in my walk with Jesus I walked in weakness. I thought it was my job to overcome sin, to break the chains of addictions, and to work up the courage to face my fears.

The result was discouragement, condemnation, and isolation. I felt like I was a poser, trying to convince others I had it more together than I did.

There was a part of me that believed if I truly loved God then I would naturally want to read the Bible, pray, and serve. Not only would those things come naturally, but it would take little effort to overcome my sins, even the sins that had become addiction.

Since my reality did not match my belief, the only explanation I had was that I did not love God.

This line of thinking is a death sentence for a person’s faith.

Thank God my perception of reality was wrong!

Jesus didn’t die to make up for our shortcomings. Jesus died to give us a brand new way to live life.

This new way of life begins and ends by surrendering our lives to God. It is only through God’s power that we are able to live the life that He created us to live.

This is what the apostle Paul wrote about God’s power:

14 When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, 15 the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth.16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit.17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.
20 Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.21 Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:14-21; NLT)

If we are going to experience God’s power we need to take 3 steps.

  1.  We need to surrender our lives to God. Paul wrote; I fall to my knees and pray to the Father. The image of falling on our knees is an image of surrender. It is an acknowledgement that God is the Lord and we are the servants. In prayer we need to lay down our agendas and ask for God’s will to be done. Too often we operate on our schedule, only asking God to bless our day. To truly surrender our lives, each day, we need to lay down our expectations and ask God for His direction and strength. What matters is for God’s will to be done.
  2. We need to invite the Holy Spirit into our hearts. It is the Spirit working in our hearts that enables us to experience God’s power in our lives. This power roots us in love, helps us understand the amazing love of God, and allows us to experience the full and abundant life Jesus promised his followers.
  3. We need to ask God to work in our lives. God is able accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. He has the power to help us overcome the addictions that hold us in bondage, to forgive the people who have deeply and significantly hurt us, and to live in courage rather than to be controlled by fear. Many times we don’t experience this power in our lives because we don’t ask God to help us. Step out in faith and ask God to help you, to heal you, and to bind up your broken heart. He has the power to do more than you can even imagine.

God is interested in you having victory over sin, in living with courage, and experiencing true joy.

Don’t believe these things rest on your shoulders to achieve. Trust in God’s love and power to grant these things to you.

Surrender your life to Him and ask for Him for the strength to live the life He created you to live.

The Way to Abundant Life

The Way to Abundant Life from Paul Steele on Vimeo.

Be An Example

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

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.

Who have been positive examples in your life? Leave me a comment and let me know about the examples you have had in your life.

Life is Important

Life is infused with importance.

We know that life is important because of the emotions that we experience as we move through life.

Life is important so we are excited on Christmas morning as gifts are opened. Life is important so we cheer as our team wins the championship in the final seconds. Life is important so we attend the wedding of a close friend and smile when the groom kisses the bride. Life is important so we offer congratulations to the recent college graduate.

The emotions of pride, excitement, hope, compassion, and love remind us that life isn’t mundane and ordinary. Life is of great importance.

It is crucial that we understand why our lives are important.

I think a mistake we often make is to think that the importance of life is found in these wonderful moments.

If life becomes about the gifts, the game, the wedding, and the graduation then live is just a series of events and we loose the greater narrative of what life is supposed to be about.

If we make life about the moments, then sooner or later our life will lose its importance. The moments can’t last and sooner or later they will begin to disappoint us. The gifts wear out, championships fade, marriages end, and degrees loose their value.

Yet, even in this reality we discover that life is important. The negative emotions of life remind us that each experience of life is important. We were meant to experience excitement, joy, pride, success, and love. It is tragic when those things are taken from us.

If life doesn’t draw its value from the moments and experiences of life, where does life gain its importance?

27 So God created human beings in his own image.
In the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.

28 Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.”  (Genesis 1:27-28; NLT)

The importance of life comes from the reality that we are created in the image of God.

Being the image of bearers of God means more than having free will, creativity, or a soul. It means that we are to demonstrate God’s character in this world.

Life is important because we have a purpose. There is a larger meaning to our lives, and the more we are able to embrace this purpose the fuller and richer our lives become.

I wish this was the entire explanation behind the importance of life. It is not. There is an ugly side of life. A side that robs our lives of purpose and meaning.

That ugly side is sin.

Sin is nothingless than rebellion against God.

We were created to reflect God’s grace and love into the world, but sin corrupts that image. Rather than seeking to reflect God’s image we seek to promote ourselves. That is the truth we learn from Adam and Eve’s choice to eat the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The temptation the Serpent throws at Adam and Eve is that they can be like God.

In other words, instead of looking to God and reflecting His holy character, we decide life is about us. It is about our ability to shine our character, a character  that has become corrupted when disconnected from the life and love of God.

The reason life feels mundane and meaningless is because we have made life about ourselves, and we simply lack what it takes to create purpose for life.

This is why the Gospel is crucial for life:

1 Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand.2 Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.3 For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God.4 And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.  (Colossians 3:1-4; NLT)

In Christ Jesus we are given a new life.

No longer do we need to try to discover meaning in the moments of life. Now we can have life because the life of Jesus infuses our life with purpose.

For this to happen we need to stay connected with to Jesus (John 15:1-5). According the apostle Paul we are able to do that as we set our minds on Jesus and his character. (To think about the things of heaven doesn’t mean to imagine what heaven is like, but to think about the values of heaven: the values the made up the life of Jesus.)

Life has meaning. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you have done, you will experience moments of joy, pleasure, and purpose. Sin cannot erase completely the importance God infused into life.

For us to experience life at its fullest and to be good stewards of the life we have been given requires being connected to Jesus. As we follow Jesus we will discover that life will continue to increase in value, because we will be able to see life the way God originally created it.

Follow Jesus and enjoy the life God has for you to live.

Questions to Answer

questions-to-answerJuly 8, 2009

The last two days I have been haunted by two questions Jesus asked. They have been playing themselves over and over again in my mind as I have considered how I would answer them.

The first question is the question the Lord asked Peter after the resurrection.

You know the story.

Peter denied knowing Jesus three times on the eve of the crucifixion. After the resurrection Jesus takes Peter aside in order to restore Peter. The process of restoration consisted of the same question asked three times: “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” (John 21:15; ESV).

Do I love Jesus more than…?

It is easy to say that we do, but often our actions betray the truth. We love our families more than Jesus, we love recognition more than Jesus, we love our jobs more than Jesus, we love alcohol more than Jesus, or we love our hobbies more than Jesus.

I won’t speak for you, but I know that I often put Jesus in the back seat, even when it comes to ministry.

Since we relegate Jesus to the back corners of our lives means this is a very important question for us to ponder. Every day we need to tell ourselves, through prayer and commitment, that we love Jesus more than anything else.

It is essential that we take the time to hear Jesus’ question and then take the time to answer it. We need to tell Jesus we love Him, and then show that love in the way we live our lives.

The second question is the question that Jesus asked of blind Bartimaeus.

Jesus is passed through Jericho and a blind beggar heard that Jesus was walking past the spot he was begging. Blind Bartimaeus yells to get Jesus’ attention: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Mark 10:47; ESV). Over and over again Bartimaeus yelled, even though all the people around him told him to be quiet. Finally Jesus called for the blind beggar to come. When Bartimaeus got to him, Jesus asked the beggar, “What do you want me to do for you?” (Mark 10:51; ESV)

What do I want Jesus to do for me?

I think we expect so little from Jesus. We come to Jesus and ask that He will forgive our sins, that He will bless us with good health, or that He will take care of our families.

Don’t miss understand me, those things are good things, and in some ways they are essential things, but I think these requests are like Bartimaeus answering, “Jesus, I want you to provide an endless amount of money so I don’t have to beg anymore.”

Sure it would be a wonderful thing for Bartimaeus to quit begging, but it misses the point. He gets it right when he says, “I want to see.”

What do I want from Jesus? I want life.

I want to be free from fear and from sin. I want to obey God and follow Jesus with all my heart. I want to make a difference in this world for the Kingdom. I don’t want to settle for a life of my own creating, I want to live the life God created me to live.

The only way I know that can happen is to ask Jesus to give it to me.

There are certain questions that we need to take time to consider and answer, because our answers will determine the direction of our lives. That is especially true when Jesus asks the questions.

What is Jesus asking you?

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