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Showing posts with label The Cost of Discipleship. Show all posts
Showing posts with label The Cost of Discipleship. Show all posts

Monday, October 16, 2023

The Cost of a Deeper Walk with God - Purity 1173

The Cost of a Deeper Walk with God - Purity 1173

Purity 1173 10/16/2023 Purity 1173 Podcast

Purity 1173 on YouTube:



Good morning,

Today’s photo of the silhouettes of trees on the horizon underneath a cotton candy sunrise sky comes to us from yours truly as I traversed over about 60 yards of damp grassy farmland to get just beyond the right-of-way power lines to capture this unobstructed view of the morning sky a week ago on October 9th.    I liked the view of God’s creation so much that morning that I wanted to capture it without the intrusion of man and was willing to go further than I intended and get my feet a little wet in the process.  

Ok, I have to admit I didn’t quite understand just how soaked my feet would get in that morning dew when I set out but once I had started on the mission to capture this view I decided to just keep pressing forward rather than give up and turn around because I had set my course and I thought that the extra yards and wet feet were worth the cost to capture this magnificent sight. 

Well, it’s Monday and as we enter into October’s third work week, my morning walk reminds me of the unexpected costs of pursuing the path of Christian Discipleship and how after I had set my course to follow the Lord as much as I could with the way I live my life, how I have repeatedly agreed that the journey and its various destinations were worth the price of admission, and its hidden fees.  

While the financial costs of seeking the Lord, alone, could be considered to be great if I just thought about the amount of money I have spent and continue to spend on Christian books, education, “mission trips”, and charitable donations, the path of Christian Discipleship will also cost you time and the incalculable value of the losses in your pre-Christ relationships.  You wouldn’t necessarily think that deciding to “do the right thing” in following the Lord would result in losing relationships but it usually does.  But considering the things lost versus the things I have gained in Christ Jesus I can easily echo the sentiments of the Apostle Paul in:

Philippians 3:7-11 (NLT2)
7  I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done.
8  Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ
9  and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith.
10  I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death,
11  so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!

Knowing the love, peace, and joy of the Lord and experiencing the new and eternal life that God gives to us through Christ makes whatever personal costs we have to pay worth it.  God’s amazing grace is a priceless gift that keeps on giving and even when my faith results in suffering or unexpected expenditures to my finances, time, or personal relationships I can confidently and boldly say, I wouldn’t have it any other way and would be willing to pay even more than I have had to know this peace with God.   

Pretty faithful huh? 

Well, yesterday my zeal was put to the test as I received a wake-up call on yet another aspect of what a “deeper walk” with Christ may actually entail and what it would mean biblically to make God first in my life.  

Yesterday, my pastor, Roscoe Lily laid out one of the most convicting messages on tithing that I have ever had the displeasure to hear.  Yup, I have a confession to make, while I have tithed in the past and mentally agree with the idea that we should put the Lord first with everything in our lives, including our money, my failure to budget properly resulted in compromising on tithing.  The various seasons of turmoil in my walk and my failure to practice frugality and good financial stewardship resulted in my giving less than I should.  

Don’t get me wrong. Pastor Lily is as humble servant leader and seeker-friendly a pastor as a skeptic or sinner could hope for but as I often say to others, I love his preaching because it doesn’t compromise one iota on telling the truth in love and encouraging his listeners to be Followers of Jesus – with a capital F – or D for Disciple.  So when he made a straightforward call to be obedient to the Biblical principle of tithing, the Holy Spirit used it to convict me and step my game up in terms of generosity immediately, in about less than 10 minutes into his message.   

I have sat under other messages on tithing in the past without complying with the call to  obediently honor God with my “first fruits” because of my financial status and hardness of heart in the past but yesterday, the Holy Spirit worked through Lily’s message and caused me to immediately surrender and commit myself to doing “what was right” regardless of the costs.  God has given me everything and I was ashamed that I had changed my course from faithfully tithing as I had done in the past.  So, I did it almost immediately, and I’m glad I did because Roscoe’s message was a full court press on being a “real Christian” for real.   Don’t get me wrong, he did give grace to those who were in no position to make the tithing commitment and even gave a money-back guarantee to the faint of heart – really he did – Starpoint invites people to tithe for 90 days and if they don’t feel the Lord has provided for them after 90 days the church agrees to return the paid tithe back.  I know who’s going to ask for their money back, but that’s the contract you can sign to give tithing a try at my church. Crazy.  

While I basically made the change to tithing almost immediately, I was impressed with a part of Roscoe’s message where he addressed the hypothetical scenario of someone coming to him and asking about how they could have a deeper walk with God.  Roscoe said that if someone asks them that the first thing he will recommend is tithing because it costs you something and it really puts your money where your mouth is.   Put up or shut up. 

Don’t get me wrong. Tithing is perhaps one of the easiest ways to be obedient.  Anybody can write a check. You don’t become spiritually richer or more mature instantly by paying your tithes. Believe me I have done it in the past! But it does show some basic obedience and could be a true sign of one’s devotion to the things of God.  

So yesterday, I made God first in my life in a basic way that I had in the past but had somewhere compromised along the way.   The word of indicates we should tithe and while I agreed with the principle, I wasn't practicing it but now I am and I will make adjustments in other areas of my life so my choice to give God my “first fruits” won’t be a means of suffering for my faith and I can be a “cheerful giver” who gladly pays the costs to support God’s work on earth,  

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For those who want more evidence for Christianity than my simple encouragements provide, I offer apologist, Frank Turek’s website, https://crossexamined.org/ .

Today’s Bible verse comes to us from “The Quick Scripture Reference for Counseling” By John G. Kruis.

( While Bible verses on various topics of Counseling can be found with a quick Google search, we encourage you to purchase this resource to support the late author’s work. (https://www.amazon.com/Quick-Scripture-Reference-Counseling-Kruis-ebook/dp/B00CIUJZT2?ref_=ast_author_dp )

This morning’s meditation verses come from the section on Bitterness, Resentment, & Hate.

Galatians 5:15 (NIV2011)
15  If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

Today’s verse fall under the second point of our counseling reference guide resource’s section on Bitterness, Resentment, & Hate.

 2.  Quit biting and devouring one another.

Today’s verse exhorts us to not bite and devour each other, showing that even the early church could be a place of contentions, bitterness, and hate.  

Not for nothing but Pastor Lily’s message on tithing yesterday undoubtedly will cause some to be offended and angry and may even cause some to never return to our church.  Critics who complain about churches being all about money have a large piece of evidence to present at the court of public opinion after yesterday’s message! 

The enemy knows how to stoke the flames of discord among the brethren and money is just one of a plethora of topics that the enemy can use to sow seeds of bitterness and resentment among the body of Christ.  Pastor Roscoe’s call to pay the costs of discipleship in terms of tithing could cause a great division among our congregation and result in people “biting and devouring one another”.  

“Heck it’s the fourth quarter of 2023, the economy is rough, and Christmas is coming – did the Pastor really ask us to give more money to the church!?!? – Ding! Ding! Come out with your dukes up!

But seriously, the Apostle Paul’s words in today’s verse admits to the reality of the dangers of infighting in the body of Christ and warns us against it.  So as much as it depends on us, let’s agree with the word of God, obey it and be peacemakers as we seek to show and share the love of Jesus.    

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As always, I invite all to go to mt4christ.org where I always share insights from prominent Christian theologians and counselors to assist my brothers and sisters in Christ with their walk.

Today we continue sharing from  The Holy Spirit By A.W. Pink.

As always, I share this information for educational purposes and encourage you all to purchase A.W. Pink’s books for your own private study and to support his work.  This resource is available online for $0.99 (https://www.amazon.com/Holy-Spirit-Arthur-Pink-Collection-ebook/dp/B008CM5292/ref=sr_1_3?crid=AHKAQOM39CTN&keywords=a.w.+pink+the+holy+spirit&qid=1684376225&sprefix=a.w.+pink+the+holy+spirit+%2Caps%2C96&sr=8-3

A.W. Pink’s The Holy Spirit

30 - The Spirit Fructifying

Fruit of the Spirit (Graces of the Spirit)

“Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit … Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them” (Matthew 7:17, 18, 20). The fruit they bear is that which distinguishes the children of God from the children of the Devil. This “fruit” is the temper or disposition wrought in the elect by the Holy Spirit, which is manifested by them, severally, “according to the measure of the gift of Christ” (Eph. 4:7). The Spirit fructifies the regenerate by conforming them to the image of Christ: first to His graces, and then to His example. The lovely virtues found in them do not issue from the depraved nature of fallen man, but are supernaturally inwrought by God.

There are three leading passages in the New Testament on this subject. John 15 names the conditions of fruitfulness: union with Christ, purging by the Father, abiding in Christ, and Christ and His Word abiding in us. Galatians 5 furnishes a description of the fruit itself. 2 Peter 1:5–8 states the order of fruit or the process of its cultivation. “In the figure of the Vine, the Holy Spirit is not mentioned, but in comparing Himself to the Vine and His disciples to the Branches, the Tree corresponds to the Body, and the Life to His Spirit. The diffusion of life is the work of the Holy Spirit, and the fruit by which the Father is glorified is the fruit of the Spirit. Apart from Christ there is neither life nor fruit, but without the Spirit of Christ there can be neither union or abiding. Our Lord does not specify the fruit. What He emphasizes is the fact that it is fruit, and that it is fruit directly from Himself” (S. Chadwick).

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance” (Gal. 5:22, 23). These are graces of the Spirit as distinguished from the gifts of the Spirit, enumerated in 1 Corinthians 12, and which will be considered in our next chapter. They are holy and heavenly dispositions with the conduct which results therefrom. The Apostle begins with the principal characteristics of the spiritual mind, and then passes on to its operation and manifestation in personal conduct, social virtues, and practical behavior. A threefold reason may be suggested why these spiritual graces are termed “fruit.” First, because all grace is derived from the Spirit as fruit issues from the life of a plant. Second, to denote the pleasantness of grace, for what is more delightful than sweet and wholesome fruit? Third, to signify the advantage redounding to those who have the Spirit; as the owners are enriched by the fruit produced from their gardens and orchards, so believers are enriched by the fruits of holiness.

In the use of the singular number, “the fruit (rather than fruits) of the Spirit,” emphasis is placed upon the unity of His operations: producing one harmonious whole—in contrast from the products of the flesh, which ever tend to discord and chaos. These virtues are not like so many separate flowers in a bouquet, as the variegated petals of one lovely flower exhibiting different shades and forms. A rainbow is one, yet in it all the primary colors are beautifully blended together. These graces which the Spirit imparts to a renewed soul are distinguishable, but they are inseparable. In some believers one grace predominates more than another—as meekness in Moses, patience in Job, love in John—yet all are present and to some extent active.

Galatians 5:22, 23 enumerates nine of the graces communicated by the Spirit. Some have suggested that the last eight are but varied expressions of the first. That “Joy is love exulting, Peace is love in repose, Longsuffering is love on trial, Gentleness is love in society, Goodness is love in action, Faith is love in endurance, Meekness is love at school, and Temperance is love in discipline” (A. T. Pierson). But while love is, admittedly, the greatest of all the graces, yet 1 Corinthians 13:13 shows that it is but one of several. Personally, we prefer the older classification which divided the nine graces into three threes: the first three—love, joy, peace—being Godwards in their exercise; the second three—longsuffering, gentleness goodness—being exercised manwards; and the last three—fidelity, meekness, temperance—being exercised self-ward.

“Love:” the Apostle begins with that which flows directly from God (Rom. 5:5), and without which there can be no fellowship with Him or pleasing of Him. “Joy” in God, in the knowledge of pardon, in communion with Christ, in the duties of piety, in the hope of Heaven. “Peace:” of conscience, rest of heart, tranquillity of mind. “Longsuffering” when provoked and injured by others, exercising a magnanimous forbearance toward the faults and failing of our fellows. “Gentleness” rendered “kindness” in 2 Corinthians 6:6, a gracious benignity, the opposite of a harsh, crabbed, and brutal temper. “Goodness” or beneficence, seeking to help and benefit others, without expecting any return or reward. “Faith” or more accurately “faithfulness:” being trustworthy, honest, keeping your promises. “Meekness” or yieldedness, the opposite of self-will and self-assertiveness. “Temperance” or self-control: being moderate in all things, ruling one’s spirit, denying self

“In newspaper English, the passage would read something like this: The Fruit of the Spirit is an affectionate, lovable disposition, a radiant spirit and a cheerful temper, a tranquil mind and a quiet manner, a forbearing patience in provoking circumstances and with trying people, a sympathetic insight and tactful helpfulness, generous judgment and a big-souled charity, loyalty and reliableness under all circumstances, humility that forgets self in the joy of others, in all things self-mastered and self-controlled, which is the final mark of perfecting. This is the kind of character that is the Fruit of the Spirit. Everything is in the word Fruit. It is not by striving, but by abiding; not by worrying, but by trusting; not of works, but of faith” (S. Chadwick). And, as our passage goes on to say, “Against such there is no law” (Gal. 5:23): that which the Law enjoins the Spirit imparts, so that there is perfect harmony between the Law and the Gospel.

But here, too, there is to be a concurrence between the Christian and the Spirit; our responsibility is to cherish and cultivate our graces, and to resist and reject everything which opposes and hinders them. Fruit is neither our invention nor our product, nevertheless it requires our “diligence” as 2 Peter 1:5 plainly indicates. A neglected garden grows weeds in plenty, and then its flowers and fruits are quickly crowded out. The gardener has to be continually alert and active. Turn to and ponder Psalm 1 and see what has to be avoided, and what has to be done, if the believer is to “bring forth his fruit in his season.” Re-read John 15 and note the conditions of fruitfulness, and then turn the same into earnest prayer. The Lord, in His grace, make both writer and reader successful horticulturists in the spiritual realm.[1]

---------------------------more tomorrow------------------------

Join our “Victory over the Darkness”, “The Bondage Breaker”, "Freedom in Christ" series of Discipleship Classes via the mt4christ247 podcast!

at https://mt4christ247.podbean.com, You can also find it on Apple podcasts

(https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-mt4christ247s-podcast/id1551615154). The mt4christ247 podcast is also available on Google Podcasts, Amazon Podcasts, Spotify, iHeartradio, and Audible.com. 

These teachings are also available on the MT4Christ247 YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/@MT4Christ247

Email me at mt4christ247@gmail.com to receive the class materials, share your progress, and to be encouraged.

My wife, TammyLyn, also offers Christian encouragement via her Ask Seek Knock blog (https://tammylynask.blogspot.com/ ),  her Facebook Group: Ask, Seek, Knock (https://www.facebook.com/groups/529047851449098 ) and her podcast Ask, Seek, and Knock on Podbean (https://feed.podbean.com/tammalyn78/feed.xml)    

“The views, opinions, and commentary of this publication are those of the author, M.T. Clark, only, and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of any of the photographers, artists, ministries, or other authors of the other works that may be included in this publication, and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of any entities the author may represent.”

Encouragement for the Path of Christian Discipleship



[1] Arthur Walkington Pink, The Holy Spirit (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, n.d.).

 

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

The Hidden Treasure – Costly Grace – Lent with Bonhoeffer Day 19– Purity 991

 

The Hidden Treasure – Costly Grace – Lent with Bonhoeffer Day 19– Purity 991 

Purity 991 03/15/2023 Purity 991 Podcast

Purity 991 on YouTube: 


I hope y'all understand I don't put these photos sideways on YouTube... 


Good morning,

Today’s photo of the sun, sand, and surf of Myrtle Beach SC comes to us from yours truly as I captured this scene from the Springmaid Pier near our resort back  on February 23rd during our recent “mid-winter recess” vacation.  

Well it’s Wednesday and yesterday’s March Nor'easter really did demonstrate that our getaway was only “mid winter” as the hump this Humpday very well may be a pile of snow if you live anywhere in my neck of the woods.  But rather than dazzle you with a winter scene I am sharing this beach scene because that is where my heart is.  I will deal with whatever meteorological circumstances that come my way but I think I am “done” with the winter of 2023, even though it has been mild, and it might not be done with us. 

Hey, they say that one path way to joy is in anticipating good things to come so I think I will take my joy in knowing that unless the Lord ushers in a prolonged ice age, spring is still coming, with the calendar declaring the first day next week on Monday the 20th.  

So in terms of the latest winter occurrence of snow I say “This too shall pass”, and speaking of “passing” another day of Lent is upon us, so let us turn back to, or spring ahead to our current series as we enter into Day 19 of the 40 Day Journey with Dietrich Bonhoeffer

As a reminder, and as we will say each day of this journey, we take this path to mark the season of Lent and to draw closer to God in anticipation for the celebration of Easter, knowing that if we take this journey of repentance seriously, we will not only see the days and seasons change, the Lord will use it to change us too. 

You can sign up to get this devotional yourself by going to the Biblegateway link on the blog ((https://www.biblegateway.com/devotionals/40-Day-Journey-Dietrich-Bonhoeffer/today)) . 

Day 19

Bonhoeffer writes:

“Costly grace is the hidden treasure in the field, for the sake of which people go and sell with joy everything they have.

It is the costly pearl for whose price the merchant sells all that he has; it is Christ’s sovereignty, for the sake of which you tear out an eye if it causes you to stumble.

It is the call of Jesus Christ which causes a disciple to leave his nets and follow him.

Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which has to be asked for, the door at which one has to knock.

It is costly, because it calls to discipleship; it is grace, because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. 

It is costly, because it costs people their lives; it is grace, because it thereby makes them live.

It is costly, because it condemns sin; it is grace, because it justifies the sinner.

Above all, grace is costly, because it was costly to God, because it cost God the life of God’s Son“you were bought with a price” and because nothing can be cheap to us which is costly to God.

Above all, it is grace because the life of God’s Son was not too costly for God to give in order to make us live…

Grace is costly, because it forces people under the yoke of following Jesus Christ; it is grace when Jesus says, “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:30).”

Biblical Wisdom

For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body. 1 Corinthians 6:20

Questions to Ponder

  • If costly grace means that God wants things from us as well as for us, what might those things be?

M.T. Clark: As Bonhoeffer writers, Costly grace costs us our lives as we are “bought for a price” and we become slaves of Christ’s as we make Him the Lord and Savior of our live.  It costs us our lives but because it is grace that leads to eternal life as a part of God’s royal family, we rejoice and give the Lord our love, loyalty, and allegiance to add to the cost of our lives. We give God everything and count it all joy.

  • What is the difference between following Jesus Christ (costly grace) and simply believing things about Jesus Christ (cheap grace)?

M.T. Clark: The difference between following Jesus and simply believing things about Him is the difference of knowing Him and knowing of Him, the difference between the heart and the head, the difference between loving and liking, and the difference between life and death, as followers of Christ will enter into His kingdom one day, where as those who knew of Him and stopped short of following Him, will pass into the outer darkness where their will be weeping and gnashing of teeth because He will declare that He never knew them.

  • What does it mean to say grace is costly “because it costs people their lives”?

M.T. Clark: Costly grace costs people their lives because followers of Christ are crucified and die with Jesus before they are resurrected and born again to new life with Him.   When we put our faith in Jesus, the old passes away and all things are new.

Psalm Fragment

Glory in his holy name;
   let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.
Seek the Lord and his strength;
   seek his presence continually. 
Psalm 105:3-4

Journal Reflections

  • Have you experienced costly grace? If so, what did it feel like? If not, what do you imagine it might feel like?

M.T. Clark: I would say that I have experienced costly grace because I have made the decision to repent and to follow Christ. Costly grace can feel like loss but we are more than willing to pay the cost for receiving it because of the abundant love that we experience when we agree to die and live with Jesus and He comes to live in and through us.

  • What would it mean for you to “leave [your] nets and follow him”?

M.T. Clark: For me to leave my “nets and follow him” would mean to walk away from my current job or my place down by the River that He led me to. I think leaving my corporate job and the comfort and security of having my relatively new house would be as close to the “total surrender” that the phrase “leaving your nets” represents.   

Intercessions

Pray for the church and for all Christians, that they may proclaim and practice costly grace.

M.T. Clark: Lord,

We pray for the church and for all Christians to proclaim and practice costly grace as your Spirit reveals to them just how you want us to “leave our nets” to follow you into the purpose you created for us.  

In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Prayer for Today

Thank you, O God, for the costly grace you have offered me freely and which has made me a disciple of Jesus.

M.T. Clark: In Jesus Name, I pray, Amen.

 

(40-Day Journey with Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Copyright © 2007 Augsburg Books, imprint of Augsburg Fortress.)

***As we are being provided with Bible verses from the 40 Day Journey with Dietrich Bonhoeffer, we will are taking a break from sharing a verse of the day from “The NLT Bible Promise Book for Men”. We plan on resuming that normal installment of the blog following Easter.*** 

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As always, I invite all to go to mt4christ.org where I always share insights from prominent Christian theologians and counselors to assist my brothers and sisters in Christ with their walk.

Today we continue sharing from A.W. Pink’s “The Sovereignty of God.”

As always, I share this information for educational purposes and encourage all to purchase A.W. Pink’s books for your own private study and to support his work.  This resource is available on many websites for less than $20.00.

THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD

By  ARTHUR W. PINK

CHAPTER NINE

GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY AND PRAYER concludes

 

In closing this chapter we would utter a word of caution to safeguard the reader against drawing a false conclusion from what has been said. We have not here sought to epitomize the whole teaching of Scripture on the subject of prayer, nor have we even attempted to discuss in general the problem of prayer; instead, we have confined ourselves, more or less, to a consideration of the relationship between God’s Sovereignty and Christian prayer. What we have written is intended chiefly as a protest against much of the modern teaching, which so stresses the human element in prayer that the Divine side is almost entirely lost sight of.

In Jer. 10:23 we are told “It is not in man that walketh to direct his steps” (cf. Prov. 16:9); and yet in many of his prayers man impiously presumes to direct the Lord as to His way, and as to what He ought to do: even implying that if only he had the direction of the affairs of the world and of the church he would soon have things very different from what they are. This cannot be denied: for anyone with any spiritual discernment at all could not fail to detect this spirit in many of our modern prayer-meetings where the flesh holds sway. How slow we all are to learn the lesson that the haughty creature needs to be brought down to his knees and humbled into the dust. And this is where the very act of prayer is intended to put us. But man (in his usual perversity) turns the footstool into a throne from whence he would fain direct the Almighty as to what He ought to do! giving the onlooker the impression that if God had half the compassion that those who pray (?) have, all would quickly be right! Such is the arrogance of the old nature even in a child of God.

Our main purpose in this chapter has been to emphasize the need for submitting, in prayer, our wills to God’s. But it must also be added that prayer is much more than a pious exercise, and far otherwise than a mechanical performance. Prayer is, indeed, a Divinely appointed means whereby we may obtain from God the things we ask, providing we ask for those things which are in accord with His will. These pages will have been penned in vain unless they lead both writer and reader to cry with a deeper earnestness than heretofore, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1).[1]

---------------------------more tomorrow------------------------

Join our “Victory over the Darkness”, “The Bondage Breaker”, "Freedom in Christ" series of Discipleship Classes via the mt4christ247 podcast!

at https://mt4christ247.podbean.com, You can also find it on Apple podcasts

(https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-mt4christ247s-podcast/id1551615154). The mt4christ247 podcast is also available on Google Podcasts, Amazon Podcasts, Spotify, iHeartradio, and Audible.com. 

These teachings are also available on the MT4Christ247 You Tube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/@MT4Christ247

Email me at mt4christ247@gmail.com to receive the class materials, share your progress, and to be encouraged.

My wife, TammyLyn, also offers Christian encouragement via her Ask Seek Knock blog (https://tammylynask.blogspot.com/ ),  her Facebook Group: Ask, Seek, Knock (https://www.facebook.com/groups/529047851449098 ) and her podcast Ask, Seek, and Knock on Podbean (https://feed.podbean.com/tammalyn78/feed.xml)

“The views, opinions, and commentary of this publication are those of the author, M.T. Clark, only, and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of any of the photographers, artists, ministries, or other authors of the other works that may be included in this publication, and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of any entities the author may represent.”

Encouragement for the Path of Christian Discipleship



[1] Arthur W. Pink, The Sovereignty of God (Swengel, PA: Bible Truth Depot, 1949), 187–188.


Thursday, December 29, 2022

Alarm Clocks, A Sovereign God, and the Power of Perspective and Practice- Purity 927


Alarm Clocks, A Sovereign God, and the Power of Perspective and Practice-   Purity 927

Purity 927 12/29/2022 Purity 927 Podcast

Purity 927 on YouTube: 

Not sure why YouTube set things upside down! 


Good morning,

Today’s photo of a headlight illuminated highway pathway that runs alongside the silhouette of trees, while moving towards a cross like shadow of a utility pole with the outline of the Castleton on the Hudson Bridge in the distance, comes to us from yours truly as I captured this scene during my commute home from work back on December 12th.  I took a bunch of shots during that drive and am not really sure of what to do with them. Some are better than others, some are blurry, but all of them capture the magic of twilight time and each document another step in the journey of one man’s simple drive home from work that testifies to the continuous beauty and mystery of our lives.  

Well, It’s Thursday and as is my old habit I am sharing this photo that features a pathway of sorts to encourage all who read or hear this message to get on our stay on the path of Christian Discipleship: to discover who you are in Christ, to experience your freedom in Christ, and to seek the Lord and to pursue the purpose that He has for your life.  

However, while I do wholeheartedly make this recommendation and believe that it’s pursuit is God’s purpose for all of our lives, I have to warn you that it comes with a cost and it is a path that is meant to be travelled continuously, meaning that it is a path that you must choose for yourself, because of the cost, but it is a path that once chosen should not be forsaken.   Verses like

Hebrews 6:4-8 (NKJV) indicate that we may not be able to come back to faith if we walk away, the text says
4  For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit,
5  and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come,
6  if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.
7  For the earth which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, receives blessing from God;
8  but if it bears thorns and briars, it is rejected and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned.

This parallels the “sowing of the seed parable” where Jesus in explaining the parable to His disciples indicates that some receive the word but “become unfruitful”:

In Matthew 13:20-22 (NKJV), Jesus says:  
20  But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy;
21  yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles.
22  Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful.

So does our “falling away” of “stumbling”, lead to destruction or just an unfruitful testimony?  Christ’s teachings even warn us about maintaining our freedom and victory over the spiritual forces of darkness.  Describing a unclean spirit that has been cast out, Christ taught:

In Matthew 12:43-45 (NKJV) that  
43  "When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none.
44  Then he says, 'I will return to my house from which I came.' And when he comes, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order.
45  Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first. So shall it also be with this wicked generation."

When I taught at and later led Celebrate Freedom, a Christian recovery ministry, I would use these verses to warn about “giving into the demons of temptation” and falling into relapse and sin, and pointed to the fact that addicts often fall lower or harder, and sometimes into an early death, when they try to recover and then relapse.   The state of a person who once decided to walk with God but then for whatever reason decides to not follow or not believe in the Lord always seems to be worse. Instead of “finding their freedom again”, when people walk away from God they often go further into their former darkness, bondage, or hopelessness and sometimes with immediate tragic results.  

Ask me how I know…   

Well, I have seen it time and time again in others as my progressive walk of discipleship has seen many traveling companions come to a certain point where they decided to abandon their faith walk for other worldly pursuits, to remain in their spiritual infancy, or to go running back to their sin, or just to walk away without ceremony. I never thought I would get “ghosted” by someone who was supposedly walking in the Spirit but it happens.

Some of these “ghosts” actually go into eternity as victims of their poor choices and others remain a mystery.  In some cases, I honestly don’t know if these people who I had seen experience a measure of freedom or victory in their lives have gone on to enjoy it or if they doubted and went back to their lives of quiet desperation of depression and addiction or were revisited by their demonic “friends in low places” and are currently afflicted with condemnation and oppression. 

This is why Christ emphasized obedience and endurance to His disciples.  The Apostle Paul doesn’t encourage the church to seek out their salvation with fear and trembling or warn us to put on the full armor of God because we are safe. Our faith will be tested and only those who endure and decide to follow the Lord in Spirit and in truth on a continual basis will have the assurance that they will be “in that number, when the saints go marching in” to God’s kingdom.  

Our faith is to be practiced as well as preached and it is a journey of constant adjustments as the Lord will continually reveal to us the errors of our ways and the things that He would have us do.    It is a journey of both correction and accomplishment. The Lord has things for us to fix and He has things for us to build.  

When we seek the Lord and His will for our lives, our personal lives change and the direction we follow takes us ever towards Him and His purpose for our lives.  

Of course we don’t do this perfectly, and that’s okay, when we put our faith in Jesus, we have already been forgiven of everything we will ever do and are accepted into God’s kingdom.  Our journey is not about perfection, it’s about being faithful to the calling and about learning from our mistakes, it’s about experiencing peace and joy while we make progress.    

This morning I awoke from a “work anxiety” dream.  Although I am on vacation until January 4th, I was back at work early this morning in my dreams. Nothing horrific mind you, but the dream of me at work was anxious because I was given a task that I wasn’t going to complete and would have to refer to someone else, but in the dream I desperately “wanted to do a good job” and I was struggling with the fact that I wasn’t going to “get ‘er done”.   Even after I woke up from the dream, I was considering other possible solutions to the problem at hand, that didn’t exist.  

After putting the brakes on my thoughts of problem solving, I wondered just how long it would be before my alarm would go off. You know how this is right?

Quite often I awaken anywhere from 30 to 15 minutes before the alarm goes off and spend that time trying get those last few minutes of sleep, with or without success.  But this morning, I got the feeling that something was wrong and rather than trying to go back to sleep I checked my phone/alarm clock to discover I never set the alarm and was 2 hours past when I normally would get up. 

So all my plans for my normal morning routine have been altered.  I had plans to work out before Bible study, prayer, and blogging and was upset for a few moments before I “practiced” my faith.  

Just like a karate expert who knows how to defend himself from enemy attacks, I went into action by combatting the reactivity and beginnings of condemnation with a one two punch of the truth.  

I am on vacation, I can do whatever I want, in the order I want, any time today.  

I can work out later.  I can take a “rest day”. 

As for my spiritual practices, they are somewhat non-negotiable but because I am not a perfect person who has made similar mistakes in the past or been distracted and not managed my time wisely at all times, I knew that it wasn’t the end of the world and I would do what I could, because I know from my previous experiences at being less than perfect that “we can only do what we can do”.    

So although I felt the urgency to start blogging, I decided that my Bible Study had to come first.  There is nothing like the word of God to cool your jets and to make you realize what is important.  When you read the word, you can rest assured that no matter what else transpires that day, at least you did something of value and usually it will help us to remind us that as compelling as this world and our problems can be there is a Sovereign God above it all who has called us to be at peace with Him and He knows how everything will turn out.  

So was my forgetting to set my alarm on my phone God’s will?  

Well, it happened, so if nothing else it was “allowed” and who knows maybe it was intended to disrupt my regular routine… maybe He wanted to get my attention, maybe He wanted to remind me that I am not perfect, that I am weak while He is strong…  or maybe this was just a lesson to myself to be diligent to set the alarm!  

Well, I’m not sure about that stuff but as I “practiced” shifting my perspective and prioritizing my tasks I experienced the peace that comes from knowing that I am already accepted by God, I am positively blessed with where I am right now in life, I have an incredible past to marvel over, and I anticipate more of God’s wonder sand love in the days ahead.  

My morning Bible study was in Jerimiah 5 and 2 Kings 22 which just so happen to teach about harsh warnings to follow the Lord and rediscovering faith. They taught that there are negative consequences for those who don’t follow the Lord and that, for some, it is not too late to rediscover the word of God and to be blessed by the Lord when we answer His call to repentance.   

It's the end of the year, and I noticed once again, (has it always been this way?), the messages of mourning the “very bad” year we have had and other messages that are welcoming 2023 with fear, suspicion, and trepidation.   

I have seen friends suffer loss this year so I get it, some of us are hurting and I suppose it is “compassionate” to share these well intentioned messages of doom and fear, but honestly because I have learned to walk in the Spirit and have learned to keep things in perspective, it positively puzzles me why the basic practices of gratitude and shifting our perspective to consider the plights of those even worse off than “lil’ of me” haven’t been widely disseminated to the masses.  

But then I remember, why the prophets of old, like Jerimiah, had to speak of impending judgement. People don’t believe in the Lord. People don’t follow the Lord. They don’t know if there is anything to believe in and they don’t know if there is anything beyond the circumstances of their immediate lives.  And they certainly don’t know about the mental, physical, and spiritual consequences for their decision to live independently form God.  

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and if we disregard what His word says and fail to believe and follow Him our lives will be a progression or tragedy and woe as we age and continue to lose the things of this world that passing away as we march ever closer to eternity.  Without an eternal perspective, we will lament over every bump in the road or negative circumstance that we suffer because we have chosen to worship our personal happiness and the things that we can manipulate to produce it.  

So forgive me for seeming harsh and suggesting that people “get over it” when I see these well intentioned but sorry laments over the “very bad year it has been”. 

From someone who has been through the crucible of a life lived in the errors of atheism, addiction, false worship, and sexual immorality and who has suffered the pain of loss of loved ones to death and from broken relationships and who has seen the national tragedies of 9/11 and the recent paradigm shifting world changing waves of a global pandemic,  I don’t see how 2022 was a particularly bad year. 

Of course, I understand the personal tragedies I have suffered didn’t fall within the last 365 days, but I would continue to object to any messages that would encourage people to focus on the pain of the year past and actuallyfear the new year, instead of a giving a message of hope that is based on the reality of God, His Creation, and His plan for humanity and that encourages us to consider others more than ourselves and to thank the Lord for all that He has done, even in the storms of life, and all that He will do in the future.  

Without God, life is a bitter shame. So if you have suffered and have had a bad year, let me encourage you to make Christ your Lord and Savior, or to recommit yourself to Him,  and make the decision to never walk alone again, to make to make the decision to keep on walking and talking with God, forever and always.   

There might be a cost for the new life in Christ but the dividends for investing yourself into His kingdom are the peace that goes beyond all understanding and joy that comes from knowing you are accepted, secure, and significant with God.

 

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Well, I’m short on time this morning because I overslept so I’m taking a vacation from sharing the “Bible Verse of the Day from the “The NLT Bible Promise Book for Men”, or  from the “Quick Scripture Reference for Counseling” By John G. Krus but I do encourage you to read the Bible every day, for yourself.

I am including a link to Ligonier Ministries: “Bible Reading Plans for 2023” ( https://www.ligonier.org/posts/bible-reading-plans?fbclid=IwAR0aVs0a31ebdwexS1-N9i-dwV5v45fVTH5zoKCHsnmCPJnDks9fY9AjWsQ) as an encouragement to read the word this year - to have a plan, if you need one, to draw close to God through His word to experience the power that He wants to unleash into your life.  

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As always, I invite all to go to mt4christ.org where I always share insights from prominent Christian theologians and counselors to assist my brothers and sisters in Christ with their walk.

Today we continue sharing from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s “Discipleship”, also known as “The Cost of Discipleship”

As always, I share this information for educational purposes and encourage all to purchase Bonhoeffer’s books for your own private study and to support his work.  This resource is available on many websites for less than $20.00.

The Church of Jesus Christ and Discipleship

 

Chapter Thirteen

The Image of Christ, concludes

The form of Christ on earth is the form of the death [Todesgestalt] of the crucified one. The image of God is the image of Jesus Christ on the cross. It is into this image that the disciple’s life must be transformed. It is a life in the image and likeness of Christ’s death (Phil. 3:10; Rom. 6:4f.). It is a crucified life (Gal. 2:19). In baptism Christ engraves the form of death on his own. Having died to the flesh and to sin, Christians are now dead to this world, and the world is dead for them (Gal. 6:14). Those who live out of their baptism live out of their death. Christ marks the life of his own with their daily dying in the struggle of the spirit against the flesh, and with their daily suffering the pains of death which the devil inflicts on Christians. It is the suffering of none other than Jesus Christ that all of his disciples on earth have to endure. Christ honors only a few of his followers with being in the most intimate community with his suffering, that is, with martyrdom. It is here that the life of the disciple is most profoundly identical with the likeness of Jesus Christ’s form of death.

¶ It is by Christians’ being publicly disgraced, having to suffer and being put to death for the sake of Christ, that Christ himself attains visible form within his community. However, from baptism all the way to martyrdom, it is the same suffering and the same death. It is the new creation of the image of God through the crucified one.

All those who remain in community with the incarnate and crucified one and in whom he gained his form will also become like the glorified and risen one. “We will bear the image of the heavenly human being” (1 Cor. 15:49). “We will be like him, for we will behold him as he is” (1 John 3:2). The image of the risen one will transform those who look at it in the same way as the image of the crucified one. Those who behold Christ are being drawn into Christ’s image, changed into the likeness of Christ’s form. Indeed, they become mirrors of the divine image. Already on this earth we will reflect the glory of Jesus Christ. The brilliant light and the life of the risen one will already shine forth from the form of death of the crucified one in which we live, in the form of sorrow and cross. The transformation into the divine image will become ever more profound, and the image of Christ in us will continue to increase in clarity. This is a progression in us from one level of understanding to another and from one degree of clarity to another, toward an ever-increasing perfection in the form of likeness to the image of the Son of God. “And all of us, who with unveiled faces let the glory of the Lord be reflected in us, are thereby transformed into his image from glory to glory” (2 Cor. 3:18).

This is the indwelling of Jesus Christ in our hearts. The life of Jesus Christ here on earth has not yet concluded. Christ continues to live it in the lives of his followers. To describe this reality we must not speak about our Christian life but about the true life of Jesus Christ in us. “It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me” (Gal. 2:20). The incarnate, crucified, and transfigured one has entered into me and lives my life. “Christ is my life” (Phil. 1:21). But together with Christ, the Father also dwells in me; and both Father and Son dwell in me through the Holy Spirit. It is indeed the holy Trinity who dwells within Christians, who permeates them and changes them into the very image of the triune God. The incarnate, the crucified, and the transfigured Christ takes on form in individuals because they are members of his body, the church. The church bears the incarnate, crucified, and risen form of Jesus Christ. The church is, first of all, Christ’s image (Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10), and through the church so too are all its members the image of Christ. Within the body of Christ we have become “like Christ.”

It now becomes understandable that the New Testament calls us again and again to be “like Christ” (καθὼς Χριστός). We are to be like Christ because we have already been shaped into the image of Christ. Only because we bear Christ’s image already can Christ be the “example” whom we follow. Only because he himself already lives his true life in us can we “walk just as he walked” (1 John 2:6), “act as he acted” (John 13:15), “love as he loved” (Eph. 5:2; John 13:34; 15:12), “forgive as he forgave” (Col. 3:13), “have the same mind that was in Jesus Christ” (Phil. 2:5), follow the example he left for us (1 Peter 2:21), and lose our lives for the sake of our brothers and sisters, just as he lost his life for our sake (1 John 3:16). Only because he was as we are can we be as he was. Only because we already are made like him can we be “like Christ.” Since we have been formed in the image of Christ, we can live following his example. On this basis, we are now actually able to do those deeds, and in the simplicity of discipleship, to live life in the likeness of Christ. Here simple obedience to the word takes place. I no longer cast even a single glance on my own life, on the new image I bear. For in the same moment that I would desire to see it, I would lose it. For it is, of course, merely the mirror reflection of the image of Jesus Christ upon which I look without ceasing. The followers look only to the one whom they follow. But now the final word about those who as disciples bear the image of the incarnate, crucified, and risen Jesus Christ, and who have been transformed into the image of God, is that they are called to be “imitators of God.” The follower [Nachfolger] of Jesus is the imitator [Nachahmer] of God. “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children” (Eph. 5:1).[1]

---------------------------more tomorrow------------------------

Join our “Victory over the Darkness”, “The Bondage Breaker”, "Freedom in Christ" series of Discipleship Classes via the mt4christ247 podcast!

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Encouragement for the Path of Christian Discipleship


[1] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Discipleship, ed. Martin Kuske et al., trans. Barbara Green and Reinhard Krauss, vol. 4, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2003), 285–288.