Crossroads Fellowship

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Guilt, Shame, and Condemnation.

One of the things that my wife, Sara, and I have been encountering a lot here lately is people who have a deep sense of guilt, shame, and condemnation. Past events in their life seem to be weighing heavily upon their shoulders, and the weight of this shame is crushing the very life from those we encounter. Perhaps you can identify personally with what I am talking about, or perhaps you know someone Else that can. If so I urge you to continue reading this article.

As we walk though our lives with these feelings we find a small voice is accusing us that God will never love us and accept us for who we are. This voice for many people is often times confused with the voice of God, and so the people who hear it work very hard to earn the favor of the God they believe is speaking to them. However this is NOT the voice of God. Our God does not do guilt in this manner. If you have feelings of guilt that lead to shame, condemnation, and rejection then that guilt is from the very enemy of your soul, the Devil. God does use guilt and conviction, but his guilt and conviction leads to repentance instead of those other places. And our God also knows that you can never do enough to earn his favor, and that is the reason that Jesus had to die on the cross those many years ago.

The devil is the great accuser and deceiver. He brings these accusations against us and then deceives us into believing that we need to earn the favor of the God who gave us life. I want you to stop for a moment and ask yourself if you are trying to earn God's favor. Are the things you do at church, home, and work done because you want God to smile upon you and grant you his favor? Are you trying to earn the Lord's love and acceptance. Do you sometimes hear a small voice in your head tell you that you are not saved? If so then pay special attention to what I am saying next. I have walked enough people through this to know now that if you are having these feelings of needing to earn God's favor, and if you are having doubts about your salvation that there is a very real problem.

Some pastors I know have said that they were never accused in their head of not being a Christian until they were one. And now the enemy accuses them all the time. They can identify with the feelings I have described above, and they brush it off as a ploy and tactic of the enemy to convince them they are not saved. However I believe, from the many encounters with people who have felt this way, that it is a ploy of the enemy. But it is not a ploy to convince them that they were not saved, it is a ploy to convince them that they can earn their salvation. If you have identified with what I have written here I want to tell you one more thing. You will never ever be good enough to earn God's favor. It doesn't matter what you do serving him, he will never ever smile upon you because of it. So stop trying to earn his favor, admit to him that you have failed, and then cast yourself upon the rock of Jesus and put your full trust in his sacrifice. At that point you will be saved, and you will never have the doubt of your salvation ever again. You have to come to the end of your efforts and trust in his effort alone.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Single Biggest Danger!

Each one of us seeks after success in our lives and our ministry. We seek to be the best in all that we do. For those who work in a secular job field we often times strive to set ourselves apart from our peers by being the best person doing the type of work we do. For those of us who work in full time ministry we strive to set ourselves and our churches apart by having the largest congregation, or the biggest offering, or distinguishing ourselves with other "success" markers. Yet there is a danger in all of this that we usually overlook. I believe this danger is the single biggest danger we will face as born again children of God. Please give me a few moments to explain.

We are taught in our western pop-culture mindset that success is evidence of God's blessing, and failure is evidence of the lack of his blessing. Whether it be in ministry, or our employment, or any other area of our life we are taught and believe that a bigger paycheck, a larger sanctuary, a bigger attendance, or a more eloquent sermon are the marks of success and the blessing of God. However wasn't the prophet Isaiah told when the Lord called him that his entire ministry would be to an unresponsive people group, but that he was to preach to them anyway? Here is what is recorded in Isaiah 6 so that you can see for yourself. In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!" And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: "Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!" Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: "Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for." And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" Then I said, "Here am I! Send me." And he said, "Go, and say to this people: "'Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.' Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed." Then I said, "How long, O Lord?" And he said: "Until cities lie waste without inhabitant, and houses without people, and the land is a desolate waste, and the LORD removes people far away, and the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land. And though a tenth remain in it, it will be burned again, like a terebinth or an oak, whose stump remains when it is felled." The holy seed is its stump. Isaiah 6:1-13

The single biggest danger to Isaiah would have been if another people group was responsive to his message. Or to put it another way, the single biggest danger any man faces is being successful at something that God has NOT called him to! If we are successful at something God has not called us to it is not really success at all, but rather it is actually failure. God does not judge our success by how big our check is, or how big our church is, but he judges by how we obeyed him. We could be the best employee a company has ever had, and they may promote us and promote us, but if God has not called us to that promotion are we really succeeding? Perhaps the promotions are moving us further and further away from the people that God wanted us to reach with the Gospel. Or we could be the Pastor of the next mega-church and our attendance could swell, and we could have to build new buildings, and hire more staff, but all the while the homeless and hungry that God had called us to reach go cold and starving.

In God's upside down kingdom success is not related to the results we gain. It is not related to how much we made, or how big our church is, but it is related only to how well we obey. And if we obey well there will be the results that God wants. Those results could possibly look like hundreds or even thousands saved, or it could look like a burned out stump that will serve as the seed. I praise the Lord that Isaiah did not chase after another type of success. I praise the Lord that Jesus could have set back and said misison accomplished when thousands upon thousands cried out with joy and adoration at the triumphal entry, but instead decided to go the distance and be mocked and spit on, and rejected by the very people who sang his praises just a week before. I praise him that he saw that success was not the world's version, but his Father's version where he spread out his arms and died for a wretch like me. The single biggest danger any man faces is being successful at something that God has NOT called him to!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

What Is God Calling You To Do?

Is there something therapeutic in telling others the answers to the above stated question? I personally think that there is something to it. I think that when we tell others important things in our lives it suddenly makes us accountable more than we were, we get encouragement that we would not have otherwise gotten. Also it helps us to have to courage to move forward in doing what we are called to do. However a lot of time we just sit back and hold in what God is doing in our lives. So I am asking you for real. This week why not take a chance and share with everyone. What is God calling you to do? Is he calling you to full time ministry? Is he calling you to a place of new service in your church? Is he calling you to start a home bible study group? He could be calling you to do many things from small to large, but all of them are important for the sake of the Kingdom. So post a comment at the end of this blog, make sure you leave your name, and tell us what God is calling you to do!