“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.”
James 1:2-3, ESV
“There is no circumstance, no trouble, no testing, that can ever touch me until, first of all, it has gone past God and past Christ, right through to me. If it has come that far, it has come with a great purpose.”
“All joy,” (verse 2) is a fantastic thought. It stresses a joy that becomes militant, something powerful and significant. “All joy,” surpasses “some joy” or even “occasional joy.” Instead it’s a joy that remains joy even when tired and weak. It will only shine brighter in the darkness.
Jewels, diamonds, and pearls are typically displayed on a black background.
This reveals their brilliance and value. In the same way darkness should only encourage us to be deliberately brighter than our surroundings. We must understand that we shine only because He makes us shine. There is a divine incandescence that awaits every believer who feels the need or desire for more of God.
God’s special nearness is available to each believer, especially those in the heat of the furnace. He is close to those who want Him, and there is nothing will stand in His way. The Lord cherishes and treasures the seeking heart. There is nothing that can detour the believer’s yearning after their Father. Your faith must be purified, and this is never optional.
Name your trial, then turn it to God in prayer.
Leave it alone and refuse to carry it no further. It’s now the Lord’s concern. Simply watch for the deliverance to come. When God sees your heart, He will lavish Himself out on you. He delights to see your faith becoming solid and real.
We never choose to suffer, rather we choose His will. We must do so whether we suffer or not.
“God, who foresaw your tribulation, has specially armed you to go through it, not without pain but without stain.”
“But it is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant.”
I must admit that I’m processing something right now.
I suppose its implications could turn everything upside down,’ at least for me anyway. Some scientists have postulated that our planet is due for a complete magnetic switchover. This is when the north becomes south and vice versa. My issues at this moment are not quite that cosmic.
There are 7,000,000,000+ people now alive on this planet.
Sometimes I wonder if many of my issues come from not seeing this. It seems that there’s an intoxication of success when we become increasingly confused over ‘who’ we are. We think it’s about our efforts and our giftedness. Pride drives us, even among mature Christian believers. This demands another look.
3 “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. 4 Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. 5 You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.”
Jesus was not driven like we seem to be.
We, on the other hand, think we need to be assertive, (or at least the Christian version of it.) and push our way forward. However, Jesus’ message and teaching were all about emptying Himself into being God and becoming a servant of servants. This is the arresting fact we fail to consider–
Jesus did all of this while wearing a towel, not a crown!
“Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands and that He had come from God and was going to God, 4 rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. 5 After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet.”
He could have just done a ‘teaching’ on servanthood and I’m reasonably certain it would have been enough. But instead, Jesus put ‘skin on His words’ and actually got down on His knees to wash dirty feet. His disciples freaked out when they saw him do this.
It was something that the disciples would never forget.
6 “Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to.
7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form,
8 he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.”
How can we not do this? Isn’t this the Father’s will for us?
These are hard questions to ask, but to be perfectly honest, isn’t our discipleship mean that we empty ourselves daily? Can we find peace and fulfillment by becoming unknown? Is this what we’re missing in becoming Christlike?
These are very hard questions.
“Humility is perfect quietness of heart, It is to expect nothing, to wonder at nothing that is done to me, to feel nothing done against me. It is to be at rest when nobody praises me, and when I am blamed or despised. It is to have a blessed home in the Lord, where I can go in and shut the door, and kneel to my Father in secret, and am at peace as in a deep sea of calmness, when all around and above is trouble.”
“Those who accepted his message were baptized.” (Acts 2:41)
“Repent and be baptized.” (Acts 2:38)
“Having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God.” (Col. 2:12)
Perhaps one of the most significant decisions we’ll make is to follow Jesus Christ into the waters of baptism. This is just obedience to the Lord’s command to be baptized. It’s one of the ways that our discipleship becomes public, but it’s intensely private as well. Ideally, it will forever alter your life. At least that is the Father’s intention.
Baptism becomes a public pronouncement or declaration to the physically seen world and to the invisibly unseen world of the Spirit.
It takes faith to be authentically prepared for baptism. You will be taking a stand. By faith, you’re making public your allegiance to Christ. It is a step of something living.
“Baptism was to put a line of demarcation between your past sins when you are buried with Him by Baptism–you are burying your past sins–eradicating them–putting a line in the sand saying that old man is dead and he is no longer alive anymore and I rise up to walk in the newness of life.”
I suggest that you prayerfully attend to the steps listed below. You will find there is a big difference between truly being baptized, and just getting wet!
The interrogative process can be used to solidify the faith before man and in front of His people. In a sense, it’s much like the vows made by a husband and wife in the vows of marriage.
I. A series of questions are asked, to which the reply is always, “I renounce them.”
Do you renounce Satan and all the spiritual forces of wickedness that rebel against God?
Do you renounce the evil powers of this world that corrupt and destroy the creatures of God?
Do you renounce all sinful desires that draw you from the love of God?
II. The second half also must be asked, to which the reply is always, “I do.”
Do you turn to Jesus Christ and accept him as your Savior?
Do you put your whole trust in his grace and love?
Do you promise to follow and obey him as your Lord?
III. The Apostle’s Creed can be recited publicly (or privately in prayer).
This is our faith boiled down to its core essence. This declaration helps set us apart from the World, the flesh, and the devil:
“I believe in God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth. And in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, and born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, who was crucified, died and was buried.
He descended into hell. and on the third day, He rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father. From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.”
This needs to be understood and accepted. I suppose we will develop these into living discipleship; you’ll that water baptism is analogous to a master key that opens the door to a special joy. Obeying the command to be baptized pleases Jesus. And that is what we long to do.
“Indeed, baptism is a vow, a sacred vow of the believer to follow Christ. Just as a wedding celebrates the fusion of two hearts, baptism celebrates the union of sinner with Savior.”
Baptism is an outward expression of inward faith.
Baptism separates the tire kickers from the car buyers.
A special word to “older” believers: There may come a time when you feel that you would want to be baptized again. I believe that this is not only allowable but commendable. You may have not had a good understanding of the baptismal process, but now it makes sense. I would encourage you to follow your heart. God will honor your rededication. Ask your pastor or elder what they think.
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“The girl asked Peter, “Aren’t you one of Jesus’ disciples?”
“No,” he said, “I am not!”
“The police and the household servants were standing around a fire they had made, for it was cold. And Peter stood there with them, warming himself.”
John 18:17-18, Living Bible
The Galileans had a distinct accent. Just as we easily identify someone from Boston just by the tone and cadence of their speech, Peter had that distinct drawl that told everyone that he came from that same province as Jesus. It was something he couldn’t conceal.
Peter was a very different man in his three years of being with Jesus. And you might say that had transformed him–you might even say that he was now a marked man, the enemy was now quite aware of him. He was no longer a captain of a small fishing boat looking for a catch. He was now the leader of Jesus’ disciples.
The entire text (18:15-18) reveals a confrontation that Peter had with a servant girl, and we hear him making a bold-faced lie. At this very moment Peter was fulfilling the “promise” that Jesus had predicted (Matthew 26:31-32).
What was going through Peter’s head at that moment?
She was a simple servant girl, perhaps one who ministered at the gate of the high priest’s home. It’s interesting that she is the first one to question Peter’s duplicity. Most likely she was just doing her job, watching and listening. She was probably quite alert.
It’s easy to point our finger at Peter. He was a coward, and when he was put on the spot he bailed. People hate cowards–we extol those who take a definite stand against evil. But he was frightened, scared of being connected with Jesus–the man on trial. There was much at stake here.
We also speak with an accent. I know it might be a stretch–but being with Jesus has fundamentally changed us. Our lives now have a specific dialect that others hear, we’re not the same people that we once were.
We open our mouths and others can hear the Kingdom of God. We can’t hide that dialect.
Sometimes I try to pretend that I haven’t been with Jesus, and I’m very ashamed of that. Like Peter, I stand with the others and choose to warm myself by their fire, and I try very hard to make myself inconspicuous. But all I have to do is open my mouth, and I betray who I really am.
It’s really funny, but even servant girls know that I belong to him. He has fundamentally touched me.
“To stand before the Holy One of eternity is to change.”