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Three Ways Churches Can Stop Treating Singles Like a Problem to be Solved

Talking about singles and the church is usually awkward, sometimes controversial, and is frequently an open-ended discussion. In other words, there are thousands of opinions about how best to encourage singles who are actively involved in a local church, but not every opinion is equally helpful.

I wonder if part of the difficulty is because, in some churches, it is perceived that marriage is the chief end of ministry to singles. But according to the Scriptures, the aim of the church is something fundamentally different.

Read with me from Ephesians 4:11-16:

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

According to Paul, the church’s primary job is not to create family units through marriage. It is not to solve singleness as if it were some kind of problem. 

So what it the primary aim of the church? READ MORE

[Post Credit: Crosswalk]

Christian blog

Is It Right for Christians to be Ambitious?

Can Christians be ambitious in a way that is pleasing to God? Or is all ambition purely selfish?

Allow me to lay down some context for the above questions by simply saying this: The pursuit of glory is a never-ending battle between the Spirit and the flesh, and it is a part of the human experience.

For example, in one minute I’ll have a burning desire to use the gifts God has given me in a way that is honoring to him, and it is utterly clear to me that my desires are solely for the spread of his fame. But in the next minute, my thoughts will have turned 180 degrees to my own self-glory: If I use this gift, what will people think? Will I get recognized if I work hard? Will the outcome of this effort be in my favor?

In Paul’s very appropriate (and true) words,

So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. (Romans 7:21-23)

Captivity? Yes. A war being waged? Absolutely. My guess is that you know this glory-battle well. In fact, I would not believe you if you claimed you had never struggled with it! The fall of mankind into sin (Genesis 3) was a result of this very battle between the flesh and the Spirit, between “the law of God” and the “law of sin,” so it only makes sense that we would continue to struggle with it to this day.

Now that we’ve pinpointed the problem, what do we do about it? What does the Bible say about Christians being ambitious?

Let’s learn from the story of Paul and Barnabas at Lystra (Acts 14). We are told that the apostle Paul has just healed a lame man, crippled from birth, with the Spirit-empowered words, “Stand upright on your feet.” Imagine that you are a bystander in the crowd and, before your very eyes, a lame beggar immediately becomes well. Amazing! Astonishing! You would hardly believe what you were seeing, and you would immediately assume that Paul had spiritual forces working on his behalf.

This is exactly what is happening in Acts 14. Seeing this miraculous episode, the crowds begin to worship Paul and Barnabas as Greek gods, calling them Zeus and Hermes (v12).

But notice the response of the apostles:

“Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. In past generations he allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways. Yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.” Even with these words they scarcely restrained the people from offering sacrifice to them. (Acts 14:15-18)

This account teaches a life-transforming truth about how believers are to examine their pursuits: When the mercy and grace of Christ as revealed in the gospel is our primary focus, then his glory, not our own, will be our ambition.

So when the glory-battle arises within our flesh, we can use these three questions, formed from Acts 14, to redirect our focus to the grace and mercy of Christ… READ MORE

[Post Credit: Crosswalk]

Becoming a Woman of Discernment

During a quick five-minute break between afternoon tasks, I decided to read a short excerpt from a devotional book, one I had enjoyed reading for daily reflection a few years prior. As I read the day’s content, I began to feel less and less comfortable with the spiritual language used. Something about it rubbed me the wrong way. This nagging sense of unease had not been present in years before—so why now? As I thought more pointedly about the content, I realized that the book’s thoughts and encouragements had little basis in Scripture and in the gospel message. They revolved more around one person’s perception of the truth and in personal revelation and feelings.

In today’s world, half-truths and false messages are not limited to the books we read. They run rampant on the Internet, on Christian radio and, unfortunately, in the pulpit of our churches. Beyond blatantly non-Christian, non-Biblical worldviews are cunning messages proclaiming a false version of Christianity, the gospel and the Bible.

Edward T. Welch puts it this way: “We live in a time when there is a resurgence of God-talk and spiritual language, but conversations rarely get to the thing of “first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures…”’¹ This is where it gets tricky for believers, and where the rubber hits the road. How do we as Christians discern whether or not the whole truth is being taught in the messages presented to us? How do we protect ourselves against being deceived by false versions of the truth?

One thing is clear: We need to take seriously the call to become women of Biblical, gospel-centered discernment. We need to be trained to test the truth of each message we hear—or the result will be our spiritual deception and the distortion of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

This article will attempt to answer two important questions: Why is our growth in spiritual discernment important? And how can we cultivate discernment in our Christian walk?

Why is our growth in spiritual discernment important?

My heart breaks when I consider the thousands of Christians who have been, and will be, led astray by false teaching and false gospels. The reality is, however, that warnings about these very problems were given long ago, as seen in these New Testament passages:

“But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be…lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people…these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified in the faith” (2 Timothy 3:1,4,8-9).

“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

“Certain persons, by swerving from [a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith], have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions” (1 Timothy 1:5-7).

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world…therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them” (1 John 4:1).

Scripture makes it absolutely clear that the times are indeed coming, and have already come, when false teachers will appear on the scene and lead many well-intentioned people astray. Without a consistent, Spirit-led growth in Biblical and gospel-centered discernment, any Christian is susceptible to confusion, deceit, and blindness.

Our growth in Biblical, gospel-centered discernment is important because the name of Jesus Christ is at stake. Without cultivating this discernment, our hearts will be led astray to believe unsound, corrupt teaching that glorifies man and promotes worldly pleasure and gain. As Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5, “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh…We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” There is a greater war at hand, a spiritual battle for souls, and the enemy is on the front lines, ready to deceive all who are unprepared in the truth.

But isn’t this judging? You might be asking this question, and it is a valid one at that. It is true that only God is able to judge the heart because of His perfect righteousness (Psalm 9:8), and we are not to partake in such judgment (James 4:12). However, there is a major difference between judgment of souls and judgment of truth. Christians should take seriously the ability to discern between truth and error—the gospel is at stake! False representations of truth are not to be taken lightly. Consider Paul’s letter to the church in Galatia:

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

Paul encourages the church to discern when a different gospel is preached, while surrendering the ultimate judgment of false teachers to the Lord, who alone can judge the soul.

How can we cultivate Biblical, gospel-centered discernment?

Stay submitted to Christ. Loving obedience and humble surrender before the Lord are actions that put our lives in right perspective before Him. Neglecting time at His feet will only result in following a wayward, self-focused heart that often forgets the lordship of Christ. Our lives are not our own; we were bought with the blood of Christ. A person is far less likely to fall prey to deceit and false messages if they are choosing on a daily basis to submit to Christ, our Ruler and Firm Foundation. His loving grace is enough to guide us into all truth.

Stay in Scripture. Proverbs 3:6 says, “For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.” The very Word of God tell us the inerrant truth and acts as our guide. “Your Word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105). Scripture makes us wiser than our enemies and guards our paths so we stay pure and do not wander. The Word of God discerns the “thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12) and is the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17) for the eternal battle we fight. Jesus prayed for believers, that the Father would guard them from the evil one and sanctify them in the truth (John 17:17). Our part is to choose growth in the Word every single day. As with counterfeit money, Christians wisely discern counterfeit messages because we thoroughly know the original.

Stay in prayer. We are encouraged in Proverbs 3 to “call out for insight and raise [our] voice for understanding.” Prayer is part of our submission to Christ, as we realize our need for communing with the Father of all truth. My pastor once explained the importance of gaining wisdom through prayer like grocery shopping: If we shop on an empty stomach, we are more likely to make poor decisions that suit our immediate needs. But the person who fills up on a hearty meal before shopping makes wiser decisions and can discern options more clearly. When we stay in prayer and seek wisdom and discernment, we are then more likely to look at false messages with a clearer understanding of Biblical, gospel-centered truth.

Stay in the Church. The Church is Christ’s bride and His instrument for spreading His glory to the world. The Church is comprised with individual believers who, if all are submitted to Christ, in the Word and in prayer, can teach and admonish one another in all truth (Colossians 3:16). At times, if any certain teaching is rubbing me wrong, I will talk about it with another believer. The Church has a responsibility to point out false teaching within its own walls, to seek wisdom about godly leaders and to declare God’s greatness by its hunger for the truth. If you attend a church that has fallen prey to false teachers or gospels, please seek out church leadership, and begin a conversation. Another wise point of action could also be to explore an alternative body of believers where Christ is glorified as the supreme authority.

Be On Guard

“Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?” (2 Corinthians 13:5) Christian woman, may you always be on guard against the deceiver, and all the ways and means he intends to use to derail your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ lead you into all truth, deepening your wisdom and founding you in His love, until you see Him face to face.

¹    Edward T. Welch, When People Are Big and God Is Small (New Jersey: Presbyterian Reformed Publishing Company, 1997), 77.

[Post credit: Crosswalk]

Honesty Is Opportunity

Engagement is wonderful.

A spectacular season of relationship between a man and a woman, engagement affords a couple the constant reminder to be intentional in their preparation for the marriage to come. My fiancé and I have been engaged now for over a month, and we are enjoying new opportunities to converse about our future life together, from our desires and our hopes, to who will handle the car repairs and finances. One of the neatest, most encouraging aspects of engagement is the chance to deepen our love by being totally and completely up-front with one another about…well…everything.

Our ability to approach the other person honestly, with love and grace, about any given situation will determine the depth of trust, or lack thereof, in our relationship. Beyond the vital development of trust, honesty provides two imperfect people, whether friends or fiancés, with a very unique opportunity: to see the gospel at work, as they reflect God’s abundant grace to one another and to a watching world.

Read Paul’s words to the Colossians in chapter three:

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as The Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony…” (v.12-14).

Honesty in our relationships–whether familial, or friend-to-friend, or in dating or marriage–is absolutely vital to maintaining a unity that is founded in Christ and developed through trust. Honesty, when desiring the best for the other and for the relationship, is a manifestation of love, which Paul says binds all things together in perfect harmony. We find the ultimate example of love and harmony in the Trinitarian relationship between Father, Son and Holy Spirit; we revel in the reconciliation of the Christian to the Father in Jesus; and we heed the call to be united within the Body of Christ, and therefore, to one another.

Honesty in our relationships provides opportunity for a number of gospel truths to be revealed:

1. Honesty is opportunity to put on the humble submission of Christ.
It seems a rare thing to find a person who loves confrontation. Let’s face it–confrontation in any form is uncomfortable because it involves a measure of vulnerability. In essence, when we confront someone we love with the truth, we are calling them out, exposing their sin (or bad habit), and then holding our breaths for their response, which is completely out of our control. Comfortable? I think not.

But consider why we are able and instructed to confront in love: Christ, Himself, was our humble Savior, who endured the cross for our sake. He did not look ahead to Calvary and say, “That looks uncomfortable, so I think I’ll pretend it’s not happening and avoid it.” Christ humbly and obediently submitted to the Father, putting Himself directly in line with God’s will, and faced the discomfort (more like the agony) of the cross for the greater outcome: our salvation. Christ had our unity with the Father in mind when He died for us and rose again to life eternal.

For us, this means that we can pray for strength to be like Christ, setting aside our self-centered desire for comfort so that unity, love and trust can be fostered in our relationships. This means we can step out in vulnerability without fear because we ultimately trust in Christ. This means that we get to practice our identity in Christ, as we humbly submit to the Father’s calling for “humility, meekness, and patience”. What an opportunity to grow in Christ-likeness!

2. Honesty is opportunity to bear witness to the grace of God.
What happens if you are the one being confronted? What then? Our vulnerability is equally exposed when a person we love points out to us an area of sin or weakness. The way we respond reveals the condition of our hearts, and if we have truly understood the gospel in all its fullness.

When, by the Spirit’s power, we grasp that in Christ we have been given abundant grace, we are more able to respond with grace and humility. God’s grace for our sins allows us to see ourselves in right perspective: that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5). We never deserved His atoning sacrifice and victorious resurrection, but still He saved us out of love for us. God’s undeserved grace compels us to give to others what we have received in Christ, out of obedience to Him and gratitude for His compassion. We are freed to love others because of God’s liberating, compelling grace.

This means that, when we are confronted with our sins and weaknesses, we can humbly receive what is being said to us. We can be thankful that God’s grace has covered it all, providing a person to help us see our blind spots. This means that we can also respond to another’s confession with love and grace, because we realize that we, ourselves, have been given total forgiveness in Christ and are freed to love as He has loved us.

3. Honesty is opportunity for our sanctification.
Uncomfortable situations take us where we would rather not venture. But it is in those situations that the Holy Spirit empowers a deeper work within us, something we never could achieve on our own efforts—our sanctification! That is grace, ongoing and unceasing. Of course, we will never know perfection until we see Jesus face to face; our becoming more like Christ is a work in progress. We are not yet who we shall be! But when the Holy Spirit wills and works in us for God’s good pleasure, we become more like Christ and less like the world, step by step and day by day. Sinner to sinner, we choose honesty despite difficulty and discomfort, trusting that God’s grace is truly sufficient in our weakness to transform us to Christlikeness.

This means that, when opportunities for honesty arise, we can trust the deeper work that God is doing in our hearts and know that grace is being lavished on us in the lifelong process. It means that hardship is ordained by God for His larger Kingdom purposes and is never in vain. It means that we have cause to rejoice, even in the storms, because we trust in Christ’s sufficiency to sustain and change us, and His salvation to be our ever-present hope and help.

What opportunities for honesty have arisen before you today? May you be filled with strength by the Holy Spirit to walk in love, grace, humility and compassion as you trust Christ with your relationships, to His glory and your eternal joy!

[Post credit: Crosswalk]

Living in Pursuit of God’s Glory

Flame-grilled burgers and theology.

To say that those two components make up an ideal date night might sound surprising to some, and perhaps even lame to others. But for my fiancé and me, the dishing out of great food and the unfolding of even richer conversation about God often results in the perfect date night combo.

Nourish the body. Nourish the soul.

One of our more recent date night conversations revolved around the events of the believer’s salvation. I posed questions like, “If God chooses us – and we don’t choose Him – then how does faith come into play?” and, “What does it mean to say we have been saved by grace through faith?”

The enormity of such questions boggles my mind, making me realize that I will never have all the answers. By the end of our dining and discussion, I had concluded a paradoxically simple, yet complex, reality: God rules justly and lovingly over creation and does so to glorify Himself. He does whatever He pleases, and it is ultimately best for His children.

I consider God’s answer to Job’s many “why” questions, understandably posed after the faithful, godly man is afflicted on every side by Satan – and at the permission of God. God replies: “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me. Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements—surely you know!” (Job 38:2-5).

I wonder what Job’s posture must have been during God’s answer. Though we can only speculate what his body was doing, we are told his verbal response: “Then Job answered the Lord and said: “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted…Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know…therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”

When we experience, see and read of God’s glory – whether we are reading our Bibles or talking about Him on date nights – our response should look like Job’s. We understand that we never deserved salvation, so we “repent in dust and ashes.”

But we also worship and rejoice that the great God who saved us has lovingly re-purposed our lives to pursue His glory for our ultimate joy!

Yet–

We often find ourselves consumed with the external cares of this world, investing our time, thoughts, and energy on selfish gain, vain conceit and worrying about the future. We spend our time and money focusing on temporary pleasures that will not last. We grasp at anything and everything to satisfy us and make us content. We deem man’s opinion so much more important than God’s.

We somehow make our own glory bigger, and the Creator’s glory smaller.

This inwardly-focused and self-glorifying perspective runs contrary to our new nature as Christians. It is not who we truly are in Christ! Paul writes of this identity reorientation and perspective shift in Colossians 3:

“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”

“Seek the things that are above, where Christ is” is a command for our ultimate good. When Christ is at the center of our focus, then God’s glory is what we pursue—and not the fleeting pleasures of the world, our unresolved problems, our unsettling circumstances, nor the unanswered questions we may have.

Why does God call us to pursue His glory? “…you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (v.3).  When Jesus defeated death on the cross, He broke the power of sin over our lives. We became a new creation when we trusted in Christ’s justifying work, and so we have died to our old selves. Our lives are freed from bondage to sin to now please God. He calls us to glorify Himself because our joy depends on it – and He loves us enough to give us what will bring us ultimate joy and satisfaction!

So practically speaking, what does it look like to pursue God’s glory? We can talk about the Lord’s glory over dinner-and-a-date all we want, but there is an active pursuit of it that must also take place. God’s Word is truth, providing us with the wisdom to live Christ-centered lives. Here are some thoughts on how we can daily pursue God’s glory:

12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful (Colossians 3).

Glorifying the Father means reflecting His character in love, thankfulness and peace. Our everyday interactions with people, as well as our response to circumstances, will reflect what we believe about God. Staying our minds on Christ and trusting His sacrifice for us allows the peace of God to dwell within us (Isaiah 26:3). An attitude of gratefulness focuses us on the One who provides and sustains, lifting us above our daily situations to bring glory to the Father.

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 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 interests of others (Philippians 2).

Glorifying the Father means thinking of ourselves less and of others more. Jesus glorified the Father when He left His rightful place in heaven and descended to earth, to die a criminal’s death on a cross. Christ thought of us. We pursue the Lord’s glory when we trust that our worth is found in Him alone. Our approval in Christ frees us to love others without boundaries, while helping us rid of finding our worth in what we produce or attain.

38 Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her (Luke 10).

Glorifying the Father means choosing the good portion in Christ. How we invest our time and energy speaks volumes about what we find valuable. Jesus tells us that only one thing is truly necessary: Himself. Abiding in Christ – seeking to know Him better through the reading of the Word; in focused prayer; under sound preaching; within Christ-centered fellowship – is the cornerstone for a life in pursuit of glorifying God. The peace that reigns in our hearts will be related to the direction of our gaze.

Are you in pursuit of God’s glory? Whether you are feeling like Job as the storms of life rage around you; or you have just come to faith in Jesus Christ and you have a lot of questions; or you are in a season of blessing and abundance, God seeks to be glorified through your life by transforming you to Christlikeness and redirecting your gaze to His Son, Jesus Christ.

So whether over a meal with your beloved, or during a time of prayer, may God’s glory be pursued and magnified in your life!

[Post credit: Crosswalk]

Are You Really Willing to Lose Your Life?

Idols can be immensely deceptive.

Upon recognizing a stealthy idol in my own heart a few weeks back, I felt as though I had gotten punched in the stomach, and the scales fell from my eyes. “How could this happen?” I thought to myself. “How in the world could something so good become such a ruling force in my heart?”

What I seemed to be clinging to, although unknowingly so, was the ministry of writing that the Lord had given me such a passion to see used for His glory. Faced with a major life decision involving clear leading from the Lord, I knew that obeying God could mean a potential effect upon this ministry…one that I was certain, in my grandiose human wisdom (note the sarcasm), I was not meant to release.

My heart broke upon the stunning realization that my iron grip was clenching a good gift given by God’s hand, ultimately turning it into an idol in my heart.

Then a gracious challenge presented itself through the Lord’s leading: Let the idol go, and find Me all-sufficient. There is not room in your heart to glorify anything but Me as your Lord and Savior. Will you obey Me? 

Faced with weaknesses and idolatry, I heard the Lord’s tenderness in His command to let go and trust Him alone—but in whatever context, for the Christian pursuing holiness in Christ, this is never an easy feat.

As Christians, we talk about “letting go” often throughout our faith journeys. Faith in itself is all about submission and surrender to Christ: “For we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). Though Jesus Christ, the glory of the one and only Father, walked among men thousands of years ago, we Christians today have not physically seen Him. We walk by faith, learning to love Him more each day as we release our very lives into His ruling, kind hands.

I contend, however, that most of us do not really understand what letting go means. I think our willingness to fully entrust our lives to Christ comes with…terms. And if not actual terms, then resistance in one form or another, whether we recognize it or not.

Because if we are honest with ourselves, with our hearts, we know that we are not yet perfect. There is so much work to be done by the Holy Spirit to conform us totally to Christ-likeness; to transform our hearts of stone into hearts of flesh; to bring us to a fuller understanding that our lives are ultimately not about us, but about the glory of the Son of God (Romans 14:7-9) and His plan to unite all things to Himself, things on heaven and things on earth (Ephesians 1:10).

Even Christians have a problem with this, if we are honest with our sinfulness. Our flesh much prefers to crown itself king, and to rule over its own kingdom. But our new nature in Christ, the “new self” we have been given by being united to Jesus, cannot live in independent from God! This autonomous way of living would be contrary to our identity as a new creation.

However, because we are not yet perfect, because our sinful nature still rears its ugly head, there is a part of the inner-man that resists letting go, giving him or herself fully and completely to Christ, whatever the terms, whatever the cost.

Total and complete submission to Jesus Christ can be terrifying.

Or so the flesh tells us. But the Word of the Lord discloses something entirely different: total and complete submission to Jesus is our freedom and our satisfaction, both presently and eternally.

“For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it” (Mark 8:35).

It might be helpful in examining our own hearts to consider some examples of how Christians might resist trusting totally in Christ’s sufficiency. The following are seven signs that we might fear losing our lives for the sake of Christ:

We cling tightly to all that has been entrusted to us by the Lord, being unwilling to let go because, after all, didn’t these blessings come from His hand in the first place?

We neglect to recognize the idols in our lives because they have become such an integral part of how we get through each day; our dependence upon them has replaced our dependence upon Christ.

We place restrictions on how Christ chooses to spend us for the gospel: “Use me, Lord…unless You want to use me there. I’d prefer not to do that.” (To clarify, we are called to be wise and discerning with the opportunities presented to us (Ephesians 5:15-17), realizing that we have limitations and that God does not call us to participate in every available endeavor.)

We prize the “things of Christ” over Christ, Himself, cherishing the gifts over the Giver. Time spent with the Giver is sacrificed as His good gifts infiltrate our daily lives and routines. The goodness of the Giver is soon enough wrongly associated with the steadfastness of the gifts, or lack thereof, which are guaranteed to fail us.

We only trust and obey Christ’s Word and His call if the path is clearly laid and is to our immediate advantage. We are like King Saul (1 Samuel 13:13), disobeying the Lord to pursue our own crafty plans and timing.

We care more about our present comfort than God’s eternal glory. Therefore we resist change, even change that may be brought about by God’s sovereign leading, for His glory and our benefit.

We complain incessantly during suffering and trials, focusing on our circumstances and blaming our pain on the Lord’s seemingly unloving hand. We see no fellowship with Christ in hardship and, in effect, discount the suffering of Jesus on the cross. We cease to be thankful.

And above all:

We seek our satisfaction in worldly, temporary objects, hungering for what will supply our immediate needs, but what will ultimately come up short. We fail to realize that, when all else is stripped away, Christ is solely sufficient to satisfy our souls forevermore (2 Corinthians 12:9).

The good news: the grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit at work within us, is enough to sustain our faith until the end! If any of the above indications of resistance are in your heart today, cry out to Your Savior and Sustainer. He delights to answer the prayers of those who genuinely seek Him. He will be your ever-present help, renewing your mind and focusing your heart to seek His glory and His will above all other pursuits.

May we be women who do not fear losing our lives for Christ’s sake because it means that we gain Christ, the Son of God, Himself. May we be women quick to confess our misplaced affections, who run to our Hiding Place for refuge. And may Christ be all-sufficient, always enough for us, from now until we worship Him forever in glory and see Him face to face!

[Post credit: Crosswalk]