Grace

Bob Mayo, Stonepoint Member

I’ve been reading a little booklet called The Grace and Truth Paradox. It’s quite a challenging little book for its 92 pages. It has challenged me to think, or rethink some of the ramifications things about grace and truth. In our daily lives, I doubt if very many of us seen grace and truth as interdependent. They seemingly have nothing to do with one another. But John 1:14 says that, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” In other words, Jesus came to earth as a man to show the grace of God! But He also didn’t hide the truth either. Today, I’d like to talk some about the grace side of the paradox. Lord willing, in the next blog, we can talk about truth and how it should affect us.

If I were to ask you to define grace, I would expect that more than half of you would say it is “unmerited favor.” That’s true. In fact, the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines grace as, “unmerited divine assistance given to humans for their re:generation or sanctification.” That is a good re:generation definition if I ever heard one. We are all aware of this definition. Our redemption was totally made possible because the grace of God. And how did He do this? “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6). Another verse that talks about this if 1 Corinthians 15;3, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received; that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance to the scriptures.” This is true grace! We can take absolutely no credit for our salvation. It was all because of God’s grace and He alone should get the credit.

So how should this wonderful news of the grace of God affect us? Do we thank Him for the grace he gave us? I think one of our problems is that some of these great acts of grace on God’s part, become mundane and secondary. In fact, we even tend to change things so that we don’t look so helpless and pitiful in this. As an example of this let me tell you a story from my little book I am reading. In the book, the writer told a story of a conference he attended. One of his favorite songs is Amazing Grace,  and during the worship portion one day, a singer started to sing this song, and it was beautiful, for the first nine words. As the singer started the song, they sang, ‘Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a SOUL like me.” The word WRETCH had been changed to SOUL. This seemingly harmless change really hurt the writer of my book because it took the power out of redemption! It changed our position from that of a total helpless and depraved individual to one that really isn’t so bad after all. It changed us from a wretched individual to one who has at least had a modicum of respectability. We just don’t like to think of ourselves as wretched or depraved, so instead, we in essence, try to lower God to our level.

Brothers and sisters, unless we come to the place where we can see ourselves in the truth of the Word, we diminish God’s amazing act of grace. As I said above, we don’t like to think of us a depraved or helpless. It’s too narrow minded. We tend to think that we have something worthy within ourselves that should make God like us more. Or worse yet, that our good works will outweigh the bad, so that God will save us.

God’s grace should astonish us! To think that an all-powerful, all-knowing or all loving God would reach down and save wretched souls like us is totally amazing as to be beyond comprehension If our response to all this is anything less than falling on our knees and worshiping and praising God, then we have missed the understanding of God’s grace. May that never be the case! May God draw us closer to Him!

Calendars, Coffee and our Minds

BingImages_3271Bob Mayo, Stonepoint Member

God does strange things, and at the least expected time. Our office is closed today. No, we aren’t taking the day off as such, but rather we are here as a group having a day just to relax, pray and have some fun events. So, we met this morning at 8:30 and had a time of worship, a break for coffee and fellowship and had the first of our two scheduled meetings.

Before I go into what happened at the first meeting, allow me to give you a little insight into my mind of late. I have been truly trying and asking God to “break me.” I’m sure that means different things to different people, but to me it mostly means seeking to be a nobody for God. I quoted Pastor Brandon on this a blog post recently. While I have been serious in this, I have found that my mind is in a dark place. While I truly seek to just be humble before God and people, I find that total surrender to God, to be totally difficult. The other thing I have struggled with in all of this is fear and insecurity about my future. I guess that’s a normal thing for someone at my age, but I find it to be a major stumbling block in my life. I really haven’t planned for my retirement or anything like that. I kind of gave up things 21 years ago to serve God full time. But now because of natural aging, I find things get harder and my mind goes toward thinking about these things.

So, that brings us to our first meeting this morning. I honestly felt like blowing it off. My heart just wasn’t up to have this day of rest, fun and relaxing, and I was a bit depressed. But I walked over to our chapel and decided I would at least give it a try, not even thinking that God’s hand was in that decision. Our speaker was one of our brothers from the field and we did the meeting through Facetime. As he spoke, I felt myself being drawn in more and more to what he was saying. He spoke from Matthew 16:22-23, a very familiar passage to us. “Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, ‘God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.” But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.’”

Peter had given up a lot of things to follow Christ. He left his family and familiar surrounds without hesitation, at the command of Jesus. He gave up his fishing career, made lots of blunders over time with Jesus and generally was out of his element. Now, here was Jesus telling the disciples that He was going to die. I don’t know if Peter was really trying to be a stumbling block to Jesus, but that is exactly what Jesus said. Peter was thinking of himself and not the things of Christ. Jesus could have taken a softer approach to his response to Peter, but as we know, Jesus said things like they were and did not mince words. Jesus told Peter that he was actually making Him miss His mark, or sin! Basically, Jesus was saying that Peter was trying to convince Him that it was not God’s plan for Jesus to die like he was describing. Question, do our minds cause other people to stumble?

Our speaker then started talking about calendars. I’m thinking, “what!! Where is this going?” Did you know there are different calendars in the world and not all people use the same one? I have heard of the Gregorian calendar which I think is the one we generally use. But there are, and have been other calendars that revolve around the sun, moon, stars or harvest time. But there was one calendar that was totally different. That was the Jewish calendar that revolved around God. “This month shall be the beginning of months for you; it is to be the first month of the year to you.” (Exodus 12:2) The month that God is referring to is the month that the Jews received their deliverance from Egypt. Their calendar revolved around God. Let me ask you, in our own minds, what does the calendar of our personal lives revolve around? All this begs another question: How can we make our minds to not be a stumbling block to others? Are we making others miss their mark (sin)?

Our guest speaker then told a story. It was a true story about a man who had recently retired from a high government position in the United States. He was at a venue and was in the middle of giving speech when he looked down at a Styrofoam coffee cup that he was given. He stopped his speech and started over at that point. The speaker said that last year he spoke at this same venue. He was flown into the city with a first class ticket, he was met at the airport and escorted to a limousine to take him to the best hotel. He skipped checking in, that was already taken care of. His luggage mysteriously showed up in his comfortable room. He then asked for a cup of coffee and it was brought to him in a nice porcelain cup.

The man continued speaking and told them that this year, now that he was retired, he flew in by himself in a second-class seat. He picked luggage and made took a taxi to his hotel. He checked in and carried his luggage up to his room. He caught another taxi and made his way to the event venue. He made his way in the front door and found his way to the back of the venue. He then asked an employee if he could have a cup of coffee and the employee pointed to a table down the hall. The man walked over, took a Styrofoam cup and poured himself a cup of coffee. This was the cup of coffee that made him change his speech. Here is the first point.  Don’t hold on to your identity too tightly. It’s OK to get coffee in a porcelain cup if that is what God wants for you. But it is just as OK if it comes in a Styrofoam cup. It’s OK to live well and have nice things. But it’s also OK to have nothing if that is what God wants for us. Our identity is in Christ and does not depend on how powerful we are or what man thinks of us.

The second point of our speaker’s talk was this. Don’t hold on to your security too tightly. This point really hit home with me today. You see, I have been struggling with some fear about my future. Things like, how long should or could I go on serving here? If I must leave the ministry for some reason, I have no place to go Also, what would I do? I really haven’t done much to plan for retirement, (actually I have never really planned to retire) how could I even live? As much as I would try not to let my mind wrap around this, I keep thinking about it.

I guess what I am saying is that we need to stop thinking so much about ourselves (I read that in a book by Francis Chan). We also need to ask and remind ourselves about what our mind is revolving around. We need to hold on to our lives and our future security very loosely. We are in God’s hands! I have told several people over the past year that the most important thing I learned in my year in Re:Generation was that we need to learn to trust God. I seemed to have let that slip a bit. Here is my last bit of advice for today. DON’T DO THAT!!

So, the meeting this morning was yet another one of those small miracles from God that I have occasionally experienced in my dark hours. Sadly, we often miss them. I’m not saying that because I attended this meeting that all my problems are all now fixed. But, God was so gracious to me by pushing me to go to the meeting. My desire is still the same, but maybe a little stronger. I want to be God’s nobody and to hang on to my life as loosely as possible. God bless you all!

The Faith of a Child (Eternal Optimism on the Oregon Trail)

Mark Johnston, Connections Pastor

When she was six or seven, our second oldest daughter had a game on our computer called The Oregon Trail. It was an educational game, which simulated the hardships of 19th century pioneer life. She played as a wagon leader guiding a group of settlers from Missouri to the Willamette Valley in a covered wagon in 1848.

She loved playing the game, but it always made her cry.

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See, she would always name her people in the game after all the members of our family. And, as the realities of pioneer life set in, some of ‘us’ would die from various causes. One would get the measles, or typhoid, or cholera and kick the bucket halfway through the trip.

She’d come in to our bedroom, upset because her little brother or sister had died of dysentery, snakebite or drowned in a flood, and we’d have to give her hugs and dry her tears. She was heartbroken that one of her virtual family members had passed away.

We would suggest that she give the members of her party other names, generic ones that she was not as attached to, to ease some of the trauma of their impending demise. Dealing with Ron or Sandy’s death on the trail would still sting, but not as much as losing a person with the same name as a loved one in the next room.

But after that mission was over, the two or three surviving family members would settle in the Pacific Northwest, and she was right back, starting a new game with all of our same names, trying to guide us through the hardships, thinking that this time would be different and we’d all survive.

And of course we didn’t.

It’s funny now to look at how a little kid, playing a video game kept repeating the same mistake in a world that doesn’t really exist. But how many times do we play our own version of The Oregon Trail over and over and over, doing the same things in life, but expecting different results?

‘The last few times i’ve slept with someone and then tried to build a relationship around it didn’t work, but this time i just know it’s gonna be different!’

‘I can stop at one drink if i really put my mind to it!’

‘Just looking at a little porn in my hotel room on a business trip is not that big of a deal.’

‘I’m so full, i really shouldn’t finish this whole bag of chips, but i’m going to anyway.’ 

The list goes on and on. The snake bites us, the venom starts seeping in and soon our loved ones are mourning our demise on the trail. Sometimes, here in the real world it really does kill us. Maybe not all at once, but we drown in sin, slowly over time.

So the lesson here is, don’t behave like a seven year old playing a video game and things will be okay, right?

Except, when Jesus was here on earth, He spoke of us having the faith of a child, and of that kind of faith being essential to entering the kingdom of heaven.

In Matthew 18, it says “At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”’ And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

So where’s the balance? How do we delineate between ‘childish and ‘child-like?’

What do little kids do? They try to do something—put a difficult puzzle together, for example, or some other task that’s ‘too big’ for them, and if they fail, cry out to mom or dad for help. They instinctively reach out to hold their father’s hand when they’re walking on rocks, knowing that dad is not going to let them get hurt. That’s the picture of faith Jesus is trying to paint for us here, that total reliance for the believer, because we know we can’t do this on our own.

If you’ve tried and failed, Stonepoint offers re:generation, our twelve-step Bible based recovery/discipleship ministry on Monday nights. People come to re:gen with all sorts of hurts, habits and hangups and find a place where they can share with a group of people with their own sin issues, without fear of gossip, repercussion or condemnation.

Look, we all mess up. We all have sin issues. We all fall short of the lives God wants for us. But we’re not one of those churches where you have to clean up before you walk in the doors. We get criticized for it, sometimes, but God has called us to embrace outsiders, the way Jesus did, call them to repentance and allow Him to clean them up from the inside. For some people it happens like a bolt of lightning. For others it’s a slow and painful process of refining, like gold in a fire.

So, are you gonna keep playing the game the same way you played it last week and last year and hoping for different results this time? Or will you realize it’s not really a game and finally hand the controls over to God, who loves you and created you to have a relationship with him and his people?

Your brothers and sisters are counting on you.

Just a Cool and Encouraging Passage

Bob Mayo, Stonepoint Member

For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people. (Titus 3:3-8)

I’m not sure why, but the above passage came to my mind about a week ago and I can’t seem to stop thinking about it. I wasn’t reading in Titus at the time and I can’t think of why it came to my mind. But it’s there. So, I thought maybe I would just look at the meaning of a few things in this passage for your, and my own, encouragement.

This passage basically talks about our salvation in our Lord Jesus and in a chronological order. It starts with our life before conversion; then moves to what God did to bring our salvation about and it ends with the result of our salvation. Personally, I believe this passage  is one of the clearest presentations of salvation in all of Scripture. First, the passage gives us a rather unflattering description of our lives before salvation (verse 3). It says we were foolish and not able to comprehend spiritual matters. We were disobedient to God, if no one else. We were also deceived by Satan and our own perverted minds. We were also given to all kinds of evil habits like envy and hatred. Basically, we were slaves to the devil and our own thinking and habits. That’s about as ugly of a description as things get! I’m glad the passage just doesn’t just leave us there. And now for the good news!!

Verse 4 starts out with the conjunction, “but” This is another time when a small conjunction has great meaning. Another one is found in Ephesians 2:4, “But God….” Here is Titus it talks about, But when….” At the perfect time, Jesus Christ appeared on the scene! God’s goodness and loving kindness appeared in Jesus Christ, God’s Son. We celebrate this at Christmas time year after year, but I doubt that it has the impact on us that it should. This was the start of one of the greatest rescue missions in history!

Verse 5 is beautiful!! It starts out with by saying that He saved us, not by works, but by the “washing of regeneration.” This is such a clear presentation, that it’s mind boggling. But it is also one of the most difficult things for man to understand and accept. Bottom line: we cannot, under any circumstances, save ourselves. Salvation only happens because of God’s mercy. If we could be saved by works, then salvation would come based on God’s justice. But no man or woman is just before God. No, it is because of His mercy that He chose to make a way for our salvation. But how does He do this? Verse 5 says, “by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.” This is a picture of us becoming “new creations (2 Cor. 5:17). God doesn’t take us and clean us up. He makes us brand new! One commentator puts it this way, “THE SPIRIT OF GOD BRINGS ABOUT A MARVELOUS TRANSF0RMATION—NOT PUTTING NEW CLOTHES ON THE OLD MAN, BUT PUTTING A NEW MAN IN THE CLOTHES!” Ah! I get excited just writing about this.

Verse 6 says that God POURED OUT the Holy Spirit on us richly (or abundantly). Every real believer is indwelt by the Holy Spirit from the moment he is saved. God does this “through Jesus Christ, our Savior.”

Verse 7 talks about the results of our salvation. At the time of our salvation, we were JUSTIFIED and MADE HEIRS. Our justification is already complete. God pronounced us righteous! Since we have no righteousness of our own God had to declare (if I may say it that way) us righteous. The basis for this was Jesus’ shed blood on the Cross. What a glorious salvation God made on our behalf!

Verse 8 talks about the practical results of our salvation. What is that? The outworking of our salvation is good works. God didn’t save us just so we could go on as were once were. If we profess ourselves to be followers of Jesus, then our lives should show that. Our salvation is not given because of our good works, but good works should be a result of our salvation. Ephesians 2:10 says that God prepared our good works beforehand, so that we would walk in them. I believe Stonepoint’s four connections are correct. As Christ followers, we are to connect to God, to others, in service (works) and to the world.

I feel like I’m doing the proverbial “preaching to the choir” in this post. But this passage makes me be more thankful and joyful for the salvation that God provided me. It causes me to praise Him for choosing me. That’s still a mystery to me, by the way. But in His sovereign will and grace, God chose me!! And He chose you, too!! PRAISE GOD!!! Let us worship and praise our great God!!

   

When You Think You Don’t Measure Up

Bob Mayo, Stonepoint Member

Today was Fall Cleaning day at the ministry. We closed the office at noon and after lunch, we started cleaning our areas and the public areas of the building. We usually do this twice a year. Part of the cleaning process is to clean our own desks, computer files, paper files, etc. As I was cleaning out some paper files I came across a file folder that I had titled, “Notes of Encouragement.” I couldn’t remember the last time I looked at, or put anything in that file. So, I took some time to look at it. There were around 50 notes of all kinds, some written on nice cards or just plain paper and even some were on index cards. Some were unsigned so I didn’t know who they were.

But they all had one thing in common. They all said nice things and were encouraging. Thus, the title for the file! Some thanked me for being kind to them, or taking time to talk openly and honestly with them. Others appreciated my “fatherly” demeanor and still others appreciated the example I set regarding work ethics, etc. One note, in particular, meant so much to me. At the beginning of this year, one of the men in the ministry actually wrote me a poem with a nice note and emailed it to me. I have always loved and tried to emulate this individual. We were pretty good friends and would go out to lunch occasionally just to talk. But over time, the ministry grew and duties changed and we don’t do that anymore. We are still friends, but things have become so hectic and busy for my friend that we just don’t have time any more. I thought I would share his poem below.

I Know a Man:

I know a man so faithful,

Who serves in unnoticed grace,

For whose example I am so grateful,

And who has surely put a smile on Jesus’ face.

I’ve watched from a distance as he cared,

Many years for his sickly and frail wife,

How her burdens he continually beared,

Until she passed to the next stage of Life.

And I’ve watched him study God’s Word,

With the vigor of a newborn saint,

His lunch times spent pouring over Scriptures heard,

Preparing his heart to not faint.

The world needs more men like this,

Devout, honest, godly, sincere, and true,

I hope that I too might one day make such a list,

Bob, I hope that I can be more like you.

When I read this for the first time I got a lump in my chest and throat. It came at a time when I was just sick of who I was. I have mentioned before that I struggle with pride, anger, envy and even jealousy at times. I was, and still am to some extent, struggling with these things. At the same time, I also started feeling like a stranger in a sea of friends and people I know. I fell into a bit of discouragement (more like depression) and decided I am just not who people think I am. I guess you could sum it up by saying I thought of myself as a hypocrite. I truly cried out to the Lord to change these attitudes in me. I’m still kind to people and work hard, and all the other good things that the note writers said. I just pulled back as much as possible from everything and just tried to concentrate on the Lord. I started spending my lunch hours by going to one of the small conference rooms and spending time with the Lord for the hour. I never announced that to anyone and never knew my friend noticed that I was doing it until I saw the poem. I shared some of this with a friend recently by email the other day and told them I think I might be overthink things. They agreed that I have the tendency to do that and they told me that they think the Lord is working in me to make me the type of person He wants me to be.

I don’t mean to make this all about Bob. I do have a purpose for writing all this. Here are a few things I think I am learning. First, we think way too much of ourselves at times. At least I do. We tend to lose all objectivity and we sink into the proverbial pit. The Christian life for many of us becomes a matter of “I feel….” Once that starts to happen, we tend to let our thoughts take over and the enemy has a great opportunity to come in and start his accusations against us. My last blog was about seven qualities of a growing Christian. One of those is self-discipline. I forgot that we need to take our thoughts captive and ask for the Holy Spirit to take control. We cannot afford to live our Christian life on feelings. That takes self-discipline.

Second, we need to see who we really are in Christ. We often call this knowing our identity in Christ. Ephesians 1 is one of the best chapters I know of to see who we really are in Chirst. We are chosen, redeemed, forgiven, loved by God, we are heirs of the Kingdom and sealed with the Holy Spirit. These are real blessings, but they are spiritual. I think we tend to live too much in the world and do not set our minds on things that are above (Col 3:1-2). God’s view of us is not at all what our view of ourselves is. We’d do well to believe God when it comes to our real identity.

Third, listen to your friends. My friend’s poem was so great and encouraging, but you know what? My thoughts about it, was that he had it wrong. I have spent my time here trying to follow his life when it comes to walking with God. How can I even come close to his walk! Add to that, nearly 50 notes I found in my folder today, all saying how kind, loving or an example I was. I know I tend toward the negative in my life. We really need to develop an attitude of thankfulness to the Lord and for what He has done.

With that, I will close. May we all be encouraged in what God has done in our lives and may we believe Him when it comes to our lives and identity. The truth is, God chose us knowing what we are! Ephesians 1 says He chose us because it pleased Him to do so. In other words, He wanted to do it! That alone should cause us to fall and worship Him with thanksgiving. Our God is on our side, no matter how we FEEL. Blessings to you all.

 

Re:generation and a Lesson in Pride

Bob Mayo, Stonepoint Member

It was a bit of a different night at re:generation this week. The first thing that happened (just as a sidelight) was that we had three men graduate, so we had a ceremony for that. More on that in a minute. Usually, since I am one of the helpers, I’m supposed to be there at 5:30PM, one and one half hours before re:generation starts at 7PM. As a group, we usually have a dinner then we meet for a half hour or so before the doors open at 6:30. All that to say, I forgot that when we have graduation, we skip dinner and just have our meeting. So, by the time the graduation ended, and we actually had snacks with everyone who was there, I was getting seriously hungry! But I was able to grab a few snacks and take them into class with me, so I survived my hunger.

The graduation itself was also a little different and quite good. First of all, as I was sitting waiting for the meeting to start I noticed several GFA staff coming in! That, in itself was strange, until I remembered that one of our GFA staff was graduating. He invited several of his friends from the ministry and I think they all came. The three guys did a great job with sharing something about their year in re:gen. If you don’t already know, most re:generation participants aren’t really big on being on a stage before a crowd of people. But they all did great. The graduation ended with my friend from GFA singing a song that the Lord gave him, I would say, specifically for his graduation. It was moving and well done and the audience really loved it. I was pretty happy and proud for my friend from GFA.

Monday night was also a little different for me. My role in re:generation is that of a learner and a back-up teacher. I have been at this for nine months and have had to fill in exactly twice. But this night turned out to be my third time. I did not know I would be leading for sure until our leaders meeting when the regular teacher called in to say he had to work. I did have some pre-warning so I had was at least somewhat prepared. But it’s always a bit scary for me to be the teacher here.

There are three in our class right now and we just passed the halfway point. As the guys were sharing I became aware that a lot of the discussion was around anger and pride. As I listened, I thought of a passage in the Bible that is probably familiar to all of you. Philippians 2:3-4 (ESV) says this: Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility COUNT OTHERS MORE SIGNIFICANT THAN YOURSELVES. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interest of others. As the guys were sharing, I was carried back to my own re:gen group in 2016. I really love those guys and we got to be close during our year together. When it is your turn to speak in the group we usually say something like, “my name is Bob and I struggle with… (we give two or three things). At one of our meetings one of the guys said, he was wrong with sharing his two or three things. He had discovered that he could sum up all his problems in one word: PRIDE! The rest of us looked around and almost as a group, decided that that is all any of us need to say in the future. “Hi, I’m Bob and I struggle with PRIDE! It was actually kind of funny.

What I shared with the class this week was that pride in our lives needs to be crucified. I asked them if they could imagine what their lives would be if we could actually count others more significant that ourselves. What a difference that would make with our wives and children, with our co-workers and our bosses or leaders. My wife died in December of 2012, and today I still think back to times where I was just proud and stubborn with her. While I know God, and my wife, has forgiven me. I still live with the hurt I caused.

But there is a more important reason why we need to be get rid of our pride. God actually opposes the proud! No surprise there. You can’t read the Word without seeing how damaging pride is to others and ourselves. Satan fell because of pride! God humbled Nebuchadnezzar and made him go crazy for a while until he humbled himself to the true God! Pride separates friends, hurts others and turns God against us! Here, in no set order, are a few verses that that talk about pride and humility: James 4:6; Romans 11:20; Proverbs 16:18 & 29:13; Mt. 23:12. There are many, many more.

Just a little bit of self-disclosure, I struggle in this area way more than most people realize. I can seem so laid back and humble. While that is true some of the times, there are other times where it is just a smoke-screen to hide anger, rebellion, shyness and fear. In a word, pride. Ugh! That is hard to admit. I wish I had a three-step program that would get rid of pride in all our lives. But there is no such thing. The best I can tell you is to learn and take steps to humble yourselves before God. Confess sin when it occurs, let God cleanse and forgive you, make apologies when and where necessary. Trust God to reveal your steps. I know for sure that God loves us more deeply than we can ever know and will help us do this. But we need to be willing to be crucified.

I started this with quoting Philippians 2:3-4. I’ll end it with Philippians 2:5-8. I won’t quote it here but please take a couple minutes to look at it. Paul basically tells us to have the mind of Christ Jesus. Then he talks about Jesus’ journey into humility for our sake. Just writing about this fills my heart with remorse for my failures in this, and fills me with joy, thankfulness and peace at the same time. Jesus Christ humbled himself and died on the cross, for what? For people like you and me! When I think about this, it makes me just want to fall at His feet in shame, humility and gratefulness. Our lives need to be more about Jesus and less about ourselves. I guess that about sums it up. Love you all!!

Seven Characteristics of a Growing Believer

Bob Mayo, Stonepoint Member

I was reading the Bible the other day and came to 2 Peter. I read chapter one and it has been on my mind ever since. So, for this blog post, I’d like to share a few thoughts I had on what I read.

My first thought was about Peter himself. We all know Peter. He has been the brunt of jokes and sermons ever since I can remember. We all know the stories of his failures. Sometimes it was his mouth that got him in trouble. other times it was his actions. Peter’s crowning defeat of course was his three-time denial of knowing Jesus. But later came Pentecost, and Peter and the other apostles were never the same. Peter soon became the head of a new movement and eventually martyred. What’s the takeaway from this? For me it’s this: if Jesus could pull Peter out of the muck he had gotten into, He can certainly do the same for you and me. But the question is, do we want Him to do that?

So, after Peter’s transformation and filling of the Holy Spirit he wrote the book of 2nd Peter. In verses 5-7 of chapter one, Peter talks about seven characteristic of a Christian who is growing in Christ. He says we need these seven characteristics to be added to our faith. It’s interesting that Peter didn’t say to, “add faith.” He starts with that assumption that we already have faith. After all, he is writing to believers who obtained a faith of equal standing to the apostles (verse 1). We too, have faith. Think about it. How did we become believers in Christ? It was “by grace through faith.” (Ephesians 2:8-9). We may think that we have just a little faith, but we had that faith from the very beginning when we first became a believer.

Following that, Peter says to add seven characteristics to our faith. They are mentioned in verses 5-7:

1. Virtue—virtue can mean moral excellence, goodness or spiritual courage. Basically, when a believer has virtue, he seeks through God’s grace and power, to live a morally upright and courageous life that pleases God.

2. Knowledge—this is not just knowledge for knowledge’s sake. It is knowledge of spiritual truths. We need to grow in our knowledge of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. The best way to do this will surprise no one. It is to get into the Word. Read, study, memorize, meditate and pray. This will help us grow in knowledge.

3. Self-control—another word that would fit here is discipline. Discipline can be defined as a controlling of the will by the power of the Holy Spirit. It takes discipline to walk that narrow road that the Gospels talk about. It takes discipline to get into the Word, to pray or to overcome sins such as gluttony, lust, etc.

4. Steadfastness or perseverance—This means that we need to have a patient endurance of persecution and adversity. I’ve noticed a lot lately when I read the Bible, that there is always an element of perseverance or endurance. It is one thing to start off in the Christian life well, it is another to finish well. “Perseverance is the art of bearing up and pressing on in the face of all that seems to be against us.” (William MacDonald).

5. Godliness–We should be growing more and more to be like God. We will never attain that of course. But we need to have a heart toward Godliness. 1 Timothy 6:6.

6. Brotherly affection–this is caring for the needs of others in the Body of Christ. We show the world that we are believers through loving other believers (John 13:35). Sadly, we often spend our time tearing each other down.

7. Love–brotherly affection leads us to love all of mankind. It can only come through God’s Spirit. For example, how can a parent love a murderer who killed his son or daughter. Only through the Spirit of God.

I’ll end this with verse 10. I know that most of these seven characteristics don’t sound like much fun. They are not meant to be. Growing in Christ is no easy task. But such a life pleases God. But please remember, it is not a matter of us just toughing it out and going to work on these characteristics. Though there is work on our part, we also have God’s Spirit within us to strengthen us. It all may sound difficult or even impossible, but there is also a great promise that goes along with it. Verse 10 says: Therefore, brothers (and sisters), be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, FOR IF YOU PRACTICE THESE QUALITIES YOU WILL NEVER FAIL. When Peter talks about election and call, he is talking about God’s work to bring us to Himself. But the second part is for us. Developing these seven characteristics will keep us from falling. There will be difficult times. But a believer who is seeking to grow in the Lord will not fall away. I love Psalm 37:23-24 in this regard. “The steps of a man are established by the LORD, when He delights in his way; though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the LORD upholds his hand.”

To put it simply. God has our back!! It doesn’t get any better than that. Blessings.