Thursday, May 11, 2017

Dressed for Battle

Ephesians 6:10-18

The Armor of God

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.  NIV  Bible Gateway.com

    When you wake up in the morning and get ready for the day, you're probably not thinking about stepping onto a battlefield. But the enemy is all around us, constantly assaulting our heart and mind with temptations, adversities, emotional attacks, and more. And some days, it feels as though we are standing on the front lines of combat with no protection whatsoever.
   Therein likes our misunderstanding. You see, we do have protection. The Lord made provision for our nakedness in battle. He hasn't sent us to war unprotected. Instead, He's given us a suit of armor that the enemy can't penetrate—the armor of God.
   In today's passage, the apostle Paul tells us step by step how to prepare for our daily warfare, and yet most Christians don't pay much attention to the instruction. We may say, "Well, that's a nice metaphor, but we shouldn't take it literally. After all, the armor isn't real." Yes, it is. It is as real as the clothes on your back.
   I challenge you to intentionally put on your spiritual armor every day for the next seven days. Put on one piece at a time—the helmet of salvation, the breastplate of righteousness, the belt of truth, the sandals of peace, the shield of faith, and the sword of the Spirit. Just try it as you meditate daily on Ephesians 6:10-18, and watch what God will do.
Stanley, Charles F. "Dressed for Battle." In Touch: Daily Readings For Devoted Living October 2016. Atlanta: In Touch Ministries. page 22.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Understanding Your Call

Mark 8:34-35

The Way of the Cross

34 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.  
NIV Bible Gateway.com

  I [Dr. Stanley] like to use the word believer when talking about God's children, as it specifically refers to those who have trusted Jesus Christ as Savior. That is a much smaller population than those who label themselves "Christian." But did you know that even fewer people could rightly be called "followers"? These are the people who passionately pursue the Lord's will in all things.
   Are you a believer or follower? Trusting in Jesus Christ is fundamental, but doing so is the first step, not the culmination, of a person's faith. Our primary purpose is to take a life-long journey following in the Lord's foot-steps, honoring Him with our actions and speech, and always increasing in biblical wisdom.
   A follower's life is summed up in the phrase complete obedience. In fact, Jesus defined true Christians as those who prove their love for Him by keeping His word (John 14:23). When it comes to obeying God, there are really only two responses—"I will " or "I won't." It's tempting to say, "I will, but..." as some of Jesus' would-be disciples did, but that's a roundabout way of saying no. Followers remain faithful to the Lord's plan whether doing so is easy or hard. Not only that, but they proclaim Him in both blessing and calamity, and go even when they don't like where He leads.
   Followers pursue the Lord because they know that the reward is a deeper, more passionate relationship with Him. They are not just waiting to spend eternity with God in heaven. They realize that eternity begins now, as they accompany Him on the righteous path He has set before them. 
Stanley, Charles F."Understanding Your Call." In Touch: Daily Readings For Devoted Living October 2016. Atlanta: In Touch Ministries. page 19. 

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

The Heart of Our Testimony

1 Corinthians 1:22-24

22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.     NIV Bible Gateway.com   

Testimonies that fail to mention the crucifixion lack power. However, in an attempt to be "seeker-friendly," some believers soften the gospel so it seems more inviting. But the hard truth is, Jesus Christ died for our sins.

   To witness effectively, we must confront unbelievers with their sin debt and explain that Jesus gave His life to pay it in full. But presenting platitudes is easier than creating a well-planned gospel presentation. For example the following statement is truthful and pleasing to the ear: "You are saved when you receive Jesus as Savior." The problem is, it falls short of making known the actual path to salation. An instructive testimony should contain three follow-up points: a description of who Jesus is, an explanation of God's only plan of salvation, and what a person must believe and do in order to receive Christ.
   Certainly, one can be saved without fully grasping the role of the cross. However, new believers begin their spiritual journey much wiser if they know the source of their salvation. Ironically, we're truly seeker-friendly when we offer a full picture of Christianity rather than a few expressions that are truthful but trite.
   Think about the words you use to spread the gospel. Our society is increasingly illiterate in terms of Scripture. Those with whom you have opportunity to share may know little about Jesus - you might be the only person in their life with any real biblical knowledge. Pray and then prepare an instructive message focused on the cross. Then go out and make disciples for Christ! 
Stanley, Charles F. "The Heart of Our Testimony." In Touch: Daily Readings For Devoted Living September 2016. Atlanta: In Touch Ministries. page 13.