Why Should I Obey?

river of life

Have you bought into the lie that since we are saved by grace through faith, it makes no difference what we do?  Or are you still living with the notion that you are a pretty good person and if you are good enough God will let you into Heaven when you die?  Grace and obedience often get muddied in the fields of our hearts because we struggle to focus on God, who is outside of us, but constantly revert to focusing on ourselves.  We look in, not up.  So grace either gives us freedom to do whatever we want to do, or we want to prove ourselves and make ourselves worthy of our own salvation.

Martin Luther, the father of the Protestant Reformation, grappled with this very question, and answered it quite profoundly:

Although I am an unworthy and condemned man, my God has given me in Christ all the riches of righteousness and salvation without any merit on my part, out of pure, free mercy, so that from now on I need nothing except faith which believes that this is true. Why should I not therefore freely, joyfully, with all my heart, and with an eager will do all things which I know are pleasing and acceptable to such a Father who has overwhelmed me with his inestimable riches?

– Martin Luther, The Freedom of a Christian

Grace has given us salvation that we do not and cannot deserve.  We will never be good enough to earn or merit salvation by our actions, because we are wicked from the core.  All have sinned, and any sin is enough to separate us from God for eternity.  Remember Adam and Eve?  But yet, by grace God has provided a way for us to be saved, by the work of Jesus Christ and not of ourselves.  Our response to being given such a glorious gift is to freely and joyfully do those things that make Him happy.  Not out of a spirit of requirement but out of a desire to please our Heavenly father.

Jesus takes the conversation a step farther, however, to say that it is indeed the mark of the one who has been saved by grace to obey (Matt 7.15-20), and James states quite clearly that faith which has no works is dead:

What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him?  If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?  Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.

– James 2.14-17

Obedience does not save us.  But if we do not obey, we prove ourselves to have never been saved.  Obedience is the mark of those who have been saved.  Not out of obligation, but out of joyful response to a loving Father.  Does your faith have works?  Is there an outpouring of grace that has been poured into you?  Do you have a river of life flowing out of you from God and to others?

“He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’”

– John 7.38

Is God Always Kind?

kindness

People nowadays think that they have the ability and freedom to make God be who we want Him to be.  We think our freedom of religion means that we can choose and say with authority how God acts, who He is, what He thinks and feels.  Fortunately for us, Scripture tells us everything that we need to know about God.  Perhaps the most glorious truth about God is that He is love.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.  The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.

– 1 John 4.7-8

But we have culturally defined love in a way that does not apply to God.  We value tolerance, independence and freedom more than truth, and we have bought into the deception that we can define truth by our experience and opinion.  Thus, we have taught ourselves (and deceived ourselves) that love means tolerance, affirmation, and unconditional approval.  We know that God is love, and therefore everything that He does is loving.  But is everything that He does kind?

Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off.

– Rom 11.22

No.  Everything that God does is not kind.  He regretted that He had made mankind just a few generations into the existence of the world, and He killed everyone who was alive by a flood – except Noah and his family.  He destroyed cities and nations to establish His authority and punish sin.  And even Jesus went into the temple and out of anger threw over tables and chased people out of the temple with a whip.  If someone came into your office with a whip and overturned your desk and chased you out of the building, would you think that a kind action?  I am confident that would not strike me as kind.  We can be confident that Jesus is love and that He was driven by a zeal for God and for the temple, and thus acted towards those who were defiling the temple.

Therefore, we understand Romans more fully.  It is the kindness of God that leads us to repentance (Rom 2.4).  And it is His mercy that continually works in us maturity and becoming more like Christ (Phil 2.13).  Therefore, if we remain in God and obey His commandments, we remain in His kindness.  But His severity is the opposite of his kindness and is the consequence of disobedience and not walking with Him.

Consider Ananias and his wife Sapphira.  They were a part of the Church, they were involved, and they sold their property and gave a portion of the revenue to the Church but lied and said that they had given the entire profit to the church.  God struck them both dead on the spot.  This is not an act of kindness, this is severity.

God is love.  And when we know God, when we make him the Lord of our lives, keeps us in His kindness and mercy.  If He is not our Lord, Scripture defines Him as jealous, a consuming fire, almighty and righteous judge who will not let one sin go unpunished.

It is sort of like expectations when you enter into a romantic relationship.  When you get married and move in together with your spouse, everyone realizes that they had expectations that were not met.  Perhaps your father always took out the trash or filled up the gas tank on the car for your mom.  Your husband might not have been taught that that was his responsibility, and this will cause tension between a couple.  Perhaps your mom cooked three hot meals a day and did your laundry, but your wife cannot cook or has no interest in doing the laundry.  This will cause tensions in your relationship.  You have to get to know who your spouse is, what they value, what they enjoy, what they expect and what they want to do.  Before we come to God for salvation, we [can] have a warm fuzzy expectation of who God is and how He acts.  We can expect Him to do certain things and to not do others.  But when we make Him the Lord of our lives, we are going to realize that our expectations might have been wrong.  The difference here is that between a husband and wife we should find a compromise.  With God, we submit.

So, instead of pouting and starting segregate groups with people who just agree with us, let us turn to Scripture and let us allow God to say who He is, to express how He thinks, and submit to that.  We do not want to be shocked on judgment day that we never truly knew Him!  And let us evaluate our lives, and recognize that God is kind to His children, and severe to those who never repent from their sins.  And let that drive us to urgently share the Gospel and hope of salvation with those who do not yet have it!

Is it OK if Christians Curse?

cursing

My small group is reading through the extremely convicting and difficult book of James.  These days we are reflecting, as a group, on the fire from Hell that is our tongue and the reality that the one who can tame the tongue is perfect:  meaning that no one is capable of taming the tongue.

But at times, the application of such deep, gripping truths is difficult.  For example, let’s observe the elementary question that is prevalent today:  Should Christians curse?  Traditional upbringing and church life says, “Of course not!”  We do everything in our power to not use any profanity, any four letter words, and anything that is foul.  Children of Christian parents get their mouths washed out with soap for using four letter words, and Christians in [traditional] church judge one another harshly for their choice of words.  The other end of the spectrum says, “I am relevant, and this is not directly taking the Lord’s name in vain, so this vocabulary is fine”.  Such an argument and mindset is from the fatalist Christian who believes that “we are all sinners”, so why even try to stop?  Just enjoy it.  God will forgive me.

Both positions are wicked from the core.  To clean up vocabulary and enforce regulations alone is moralism.  To give in to weakness or use filthy language to be relate-able or because it is a loosing battle is a lack of faith and dishonoring to God – cheapening grace and putting Jesus back on the cross.

“Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.”

– Eph 4.29

Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth.  What is unwholesome?  The Greek word here most literally translates as rotten or spoiled – as in a fruit.  This helps clarify the imagery that James gives us:

With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.  Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water?  Can a fig tree, my brethren, produce olives, or a vine produce figs?  Nor can salt water produce fresh.

– James 3.9-12

And Jesus explains it without mincing words:

“The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.”

– Luke 6.45

From the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.  Whatever is filling up your heart is what comes out of your mouth.  This is why Jesus said,

“It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man.”

– Matt 15.11

If our hearts are filled up with wickedness and rottenness, that is what will flow out of it.  If we are rotten trees, we will produce rotten fruit.  And thus we prove ourselves to be defiled (and not saved).  Rotten trees do not produce good fruit.  It is bad from the core.  Christians should not produce wicked, rotten, or unedifying talk.  Period.

But Paul’s instruction is not to focus on the rotten fruit and to purge it.  Paul teaches us to only let “such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear” proceed from our mouths.  So in short, do not replace a profanity with a word that resembles it.  Do not refrain from taking the Lord’s name in vain by saying, “Oh my gosh”.  Do not use words like “damn” which hold unspeakable terrors, and do not replace “damn it” with “dang it”.  Instead, fill up your speech with words that edify the listener and glorify God.  When you enter a crisis, instead of ringing out an expletive, cry out to God for help.  Instead of cursing a bad situation, humbly turn to God and ask Him what His intention and purpose is in the situation.  Instead of wicked conversation like gossip and slander, build people up and praise God.

Morality is not Christian.  Building people up and glorifying God is Christian.  Giving up on the battle to fight sin is not Christian.  Replacing bad habits and tendencies with God-honoring ones is Christian.  God is not concerned primarily with what does not come out of our mouths and hearts, but with what does.  If we are able to clean up our speech in such a way that no questionable words come out of our mouths, but we never glorify God with our hearts or words, we are still as sick and hopeless as the one who curses like a sailor.

“Look at the ships also, though they are so great and are driven by strong winds, are still directed by a very small rudder wherever the inclination of the pilot desires.  So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire!  And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell.”

– James 3.4-6

Our mouths pour out what fills our hearts.  And thus James paints this vivid picture that our mouths set the entire direction of our bodies and our lives.  It is how we communicate and let other people know what fills us up.  So to train them to morality simply set us on the course to Hell, with gold plating.  We must be filled with Jesus and holiness, and our mouths pour out Jesus and holiness.  All of the time.  Making the most of every moment.

Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.

– Col 4.6

Are you saved?

saved

What is it that consumes your thought life, your monies, your energy?  Jesus said that He came to “seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19.10), and as He left the world He gave us the Great Commission:  one last command that should be the goal of our lives – to make disciples of all the nations (Matt 28.18-20).  So if Jesus’ intention is to save, and His greatest desire for us is to be involved in His salvation process of the lost, then we can rightly judge our position with the Lord by assessing our hearts on the topic.

“Have you no wish for others to be saved? Then you’re not saved yourself, be sure of that!”

– Charles Spurgeon

When Jesus first returned to Heaven there was an urgency amongst believers.  They believed that Jesus would return while they were still alive.  Thus they were selling all of their possessions, they were giving to the poor, they were working as a community to provide food, housing, and care for everyone so as to win as many as possible.  They were thinking of the world to come.  They were focused on eternity.  They were waiting for Jesus to return and planning for the next life, not this one.

Jesus saves out of love.  And He commanded us to love our neighbors as ourselves.  Therefore, what is the most loving thing that we can do for one another?  For our neighbors?  Pointing them to Jesus.  If we do not share the Gospel, if we do not warn our neighbors and friends of the coming judgment, we do not love them.  And if we do not love them, then our very salvation is in question.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.  The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.

– 1 John 4.7-8

Do you think this is an over-application of this passage?  Then continue reading what John had to say:

By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him.  In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.  Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

– 1 John 4.8-11

If we can look at our neighbor and not care about His eternity, then we do not love Him, and Scripture teaches us that such a heart is not born again.  If we can look at our neighbor and affirm his destiny for Hell with the thought, “He deserves it”, then we do not grasp our own sinfulness and from what we have been saved, and we are not born again.  If we are apathetic about eternity, we have not been saved.  We cannot know God and love God and not long for eternity, grieve over sin, and long for others to be saved.

It was so important to Jesus that He died for it.  How important is it to you?

We live in a placating society in which we take drugs, seek counseling, and enforce the government to affirm our every decision and desire in order to fix a heart problem.  We are guilty, we are dissatisfied, and we are worthy of Hell.  We think that if we tell one another that “you deserve to be happy”, that it is our right to pursue happiness, that we are not that bad that we will feel better about ourselves.  But if you feel a twinge of conviction about sin, about apathy, about your lifestyle, do not seek out a counselor who will point out your strengths.  Seek out the Scripture and let God do surgery.  God can change us, He can sanctify us, and He can prepare us to meet him.  He can use us to accomplish His plan of salvation in other’s lives.  So today, let us take seriously that prodding of the Holy Spirit, set our minds on things above, and let us get busy about making disciples of all the nations:  loving our neighbors.

The Final Report.

don't waste your life

What are you doing with your life?  Are you on the path to financial security?  Do you have your 401k set up, putting in the max every year so that you can retire comfortably?  Are you paying off your house and saving up your pennies so that one day, when you are too tired to want to do anything, you will be able to do whatever you want?  I am a 32 year old newly wed who lives in Denver, CO and this affords me a unique opportunity to watch a micro sect of our society closely:  the millennials trying to make sense of life.

I am from the midwest, and most of my high-school and college friends are married, ten years into their careers, with a few kids, a house and a dog.  But cities like Denver attract those who have most fully bought into the pervasive mindset of our generation that our education demands that we be rewarded with high paying jobs, and these jobs are those that have meaning and purpose.  Those whom we idolize the most are those who were able to innovate and/or create a solution to a world problem, and get rich doing so.  We have spent 16-20 years of our lives in school learning how to be critical thinkers who value our own opinions, and we want to be clever and get paid well for being clever.  Now, as we rapidly approach middle-age, our crises will be based more on the question, “Have I done anything meaningful?” rather than the sadness of having missed out on life.

We will have mid-life crises.  They will just look different from that baby-boomers’ crises.  Sure, some of us will divorce and marry a young person, some of us will buy expensive toys, but many of us will quit our jobs and start a new business, get involved in philanthropy and look for our position to change and impact the world.

“The long, dull, monotonous years of middle-aged prosperity or middle-aged adversity are excellent campaigning weather for the devil.”

– C. S. Lewis

But while our trials and struggles might be fueled by different passions, this is still an extremely dangerous time.  As we begin to grapple with our mortality and the meaning of life, we will try to fill it up with self-affirming achievements.  But as Christians, we know that when we die we will meet our maker and we will give an account for everything that we have done:

So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God.

– Rom 14.12

“[God] will render to each one according to his deeds.”

– Rom 2.6

And if our goal, as Christians, is to hear God say,

“His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’

– Matt 25.23

then we can evaluate every action that we do here on the Earth by this simple question,

Is this glorifying to God?

Scripture gives us a few broad outlines for our daily tasks.  For instance, Paul teaches us that the man who does not provide for his family is the worst kind of man out there:

“But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

– 1 Tim 5.8

This does not mean that you have to be the most wealthy family on the block, but it does mean that men should not be lazy and should be diligent to provide for and take care of their responsibilities.  This is honoring to God.  We also know what God defines as sin, and we know how Christians are supposed to act.  It is rooted in love for God and for our neighbors (Matt 22.37-39), and it is expressed in controlling our tongues (James 1, 4) and controlling our actions (Eph 4-5).

And Jesus gave us a singular commandment as He was leaving the world to return to Heaven:

And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.  Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

– Matt 28.18-20

Are you making disciples?  Wherever you are, even if you are squarely planted in the Bible belt, are you introducing people to Jesus and teaching them how to obey Him?  Jesus gave us an assignment, and He will be the judge when we reach eternity’s gate.  Will you pass?  Will you be affirmed, “Well done”?  Or will He say, “I gave you one thing to do and you never did it!”?

“If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.”

– C. S. Lewis

It is good for us to long to have meaning in our lives.  My generation has been groomed to desire purpose and satisfaction in meaningful work.  But let us be mindful to harness that energy and passion to focus on the glory of God and not our own personal legacy.  Because we will all die and we will all be forgotten.  But what we have done in obedience to God and unto His glory alone will last.  Aim not to leave a legacy for mankind to venerate you, but for God to be honored.

What report do you want to give when you meet Him, face to face?

Let the dead bury their own dead.

Grave stones in the snow in balck and white

Another of the disciples said to Him, “Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.”  But Jesus said to him, “Follow Me, and allow the dead to bury their own dead.”

– Matt 8.21-22

There once was a man who was following Jesus who asked permission to go home and bury his father before joining the disciples in following Jesus.  Now, scholars have argued and hypothesized over the meaning of this request for years:  was the father dead?  Did the man need to go just for the funeral?  Or did he want to go home and take care of his father who was elderly until he died?  Or did he want to be there to collect his inheritance?

Regardless of what the man’s intentions and meaning, Jesus’ response was crystal clear.  No.  What did He mean, however, by “let the dead bury their own dead”?  Scripture teaches a terrifying, confusing, and difficult truth:  apart from Christ, we are Spiritually dead.

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.  Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.  But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

– Eph 2.1-7

Jesus also taught that in order to be alive Spiritually, we must be born Spiritually.

Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”  Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?”  Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.  That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”

– John 3.3-6

We are alive physically because we have been born physically.  All of us have a mother, all of us were conceived, and all of us were born – one way or another.  Spiritual life is the same.  We are all Spiritually dead or non-existent until we have been born.  This is what Jesus means by, “let the dead bury their own dead”.  Those who have not been spiritually born are dead – dead in their trespasses – and Jesus instructed this would-be disciple to let those take care of their own dead.  This should not be something that hinders our relationship with and following of Jesus.  Apart from Jesus, we are Spiritually dead.  We do not have the Holy Spirit.

“But she who gives herself to wanton pleasure is dead even while she lives.”

– 1 Tim 5.6

What, then, is new birth?  What does it mean, what does it look like to be made alive?

“Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”

– Ez 36.26

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”

– 2 Cor 5.17

It starts with the core.  The heart.  God has to give us a new heart.  We cannot get a new heart for ourselves.  We can certainly learn a level of morality, but it is not based on our works; only evidenced by them.  Notice that Paul says we should be diligent to put away the old person with its practices.

But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth.  Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him—a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.

– Col 3.8-11

The old self, the dead self, is not simply the evil practices.  It is the being who revels in those practices, who is Spiritually dead, who values things of this world.  The new self is that being who is renewed by knowledge of God, who is refreshed by being with Jesus, who glories in the things of the Lord and all of this is exemplified by good deeds.  Remember the parable of the wedding feast?

“The kingdom of Heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son.  And he sent out his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding feast, and they were unwilling to come.  Again he sent out other slaves saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited, “Behold, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and my fattened livestock are all butchered and everything is ready; come to the wedding feast.”’  But they paid no attention and went their way, one to his own farm, another to his business, and the rest seized his slaves and mistreated them and killed them.  But the king was enraged, and he sent his armies and destroyed those murderers and set their city on fire.  Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy.  Go therefore to the main highways, and as many as you find there, invite to the wedding feast.’  Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered together all they found, both evil and good; and the wedding hall was filled with dinner guests.  But when the king came in to look over the dinner guests, he saw a man there who was not dressed in wedding clothes, and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without wedding clothes?’ And the man was speechless.  Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’”

– Matt 22.2-13

When we are Spiritually born, we are given a new heart and a new mind.  We are transformed into a new creature and the old things have passed away.  We must put on the new self, and all of it’s deeds.  We must put on the wedding clothes.  We cannot just iron our old shirt and tuck it in.  We cannot just polish our old shoes and comb our old hair.  We must be transformed and made new.  And we only do that by faith.

Are you Spiritually dead or are you Spiritually alive?  You can dress up a corpse as much as you want, but unless he is born of the Spirit, He will never have life.  He will never produce God-honoring deeds.  He will never be saved.  So let us check ourselves today, look for that Spiritual heartbeat.  Actions and obedience are the outpouring of the new creation who is putting away the old self, who is changing his clothes.  But let us check our motives and be confident that we are alive.

When there’s nothing to say.

gloves

Sometimes you have said all that you can say and done all that you can do, and the outcome seems murky at best.  Few times in life is the battle anything short of a thousand-year war, rarely is the race documented by splits.  Yes, splits are important, and yes battles ultimately win the war, but the reality is that more often than not, even the minor victories can be be overshadowed by the ongoing struggle.  You might kill one mile, but the task of many more ahead can damper your spirit.

“…and he said, ‘Listen, all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and King Jehoshaphat: thus says the LORD to you, “Do not fear or be dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours but God’s”.'”

– 2 Chro 20.15

We certainly play a role in the big picture.  But our role is obedience.  We hear the Word of God and we submit to it.  We fight sin.  We are active in the Church.  We share the Gospel with non believers and we train up new believers, holding them accountable and helping them to obey God.  But the battle is already won.  The end has already been written.  And God causes the growth.

“The Lord will fight for you, you need only to keep silent.”

– Ex 14.14

Sometimes we need to get out of the way for the Lord.  We can beat a dead horse but it will not run.  But God is sovereign over salvation, maturity and everything that happens on this Earth.

“So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth.”

– 1 Cor 3.7

And quite frankly, the reality is that before growth can occur, the seed must die.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”

– John 12.24

God causes growth through dead seeds.  This is a mystery, both in agriculture and in Spiritual matters.  Scripture teaches us that we are all dead, spiritually, until God gives us a new birth:  a Spiritual birth.  And the outplaying of that Spiritual birth is our surrender, when we die to ourselves and let God take over to bring about new life.  Spiritual life.  Life that honors Him and is life in the fullest.

We will never persuade someone to follow Christ.  And if we do persuade someone, then they have been won on a superficial level only.  Only God gives true life, and true growth.  So let us not be surprised that the World acts like the World; that Spiritually dead people disobey the mandates of God.  Let us say all that God has to us to say, let us fight the good fight, but let us rest well in the fact that God has every step of this planned.  Jesus promises us that the world will devolve into chaos ad tribulation before the end will come.

“You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end.  For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes.  But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.  Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name.  At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another.  Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many.  Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold.  But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.”

– Matt 24.6-13

But the one who perseveres until the end will be saved.  Push on.  It will all be worth it in the end.  Be on guard lest your love grow cold and lest you be led astray.  It will all be worth it in the end.  And the battle belongs to the Lord.