Are you running the race? Runners train to build up their endurance so they can complete the race. The proof of their training is evident in how they complete the race. They avoid anything that might slow them down: junk food, bad sleeping habits, etc. We also must train and cast off burdens that inhibit us in our race with Christ.
1. What things get in your way and keep you from experiencing the holiness of Christ?
2. Are you being a witness of the new life you received in Christ?
Challenge: Make a list of the things that get between you and showing others how you run the race differently. Take action to remove these things from your life.
We all like to get new clothes, but do they change who we are? Do they make us cooler, make us smarter, make us wiser? The answer is no: they just cover us up, we are the same inside. The new self that Paul is talking about, is a new life in Christ. This life transforms us from the inside out. It turns us from our old deceitful life, to a life in the image of God. A life that, “has been created in righteousness and holiness of the Truth.”
1. Are you just putting on new clothes and covering up the outside?
2. How does it make you feel that your new self is created in the image of God?
Challenge: Will all your actions this week show that you have put on your new self?
Prior to the sacrifice of Christ, we were bound to the law under God. Post-crucifixion we are delivered from the old law and free to serve Him in the way of the Spirit. Living in the way of the Spirit allows us to show our holiness to God. This holiness comes in part by our service. How are we becoming more like Christ? Our service shows our obedience to God and leads us to become more like Christ. Sinful living can surround us with the illusion of happiness, but the reality is we are often drawn further into more sin. We do not gain holiness by stockpiling our good deeds. This will lead to frustration and discouragement. The quantity of deeds is irrelevant in comparison to the quality. By serving others with faithfulness and out of true love, we begin to erase the disillusion created by sin.
1. In our relationships with each other, we hear about depositing more into our love account than we withdrawal. This same example can be applied to how we serve. Do you find yourself serving more than you receive service?
2. True service is done without merit. Make a list of five services you can perform which may change someone's outcome, but you will remain anonymous.
Challenge: With the list you just made, develop a plan of action to complete this list. Give yourself a deadline and hold yourself to it. If you are serving in conjunction with one or more people, hold each other accountable for your plan and see it through to the end. Challenge yourself to do something you have never done before. Stepping outside your comfort zone can lead to greater growth.
The judgment of God is no joke, nor should we treat it as such. Our Father has the final say on our salvation and He will not compromise with sin. He is a righteous Father who is merciful and forgiving, but He will not forgo any level of loving discipline for his children who indulge in sin. Our time on this earth is limited and very short in comparison to the gift that awaits us after death. God seeks out the good in all that we do here on earth in order to glorify Himself through our lives.
1. Take a few minutes to reflect on your actions of the past few weeks. Write down a list of the events. Can you recall where you may have compromised with sin?
2. God seems to find the good in all we do. Reflect on your list and try to look at yourself as your Father sees you. What possible good has come from your sins?
Challenge: Life is filled with moments of weakness and frustration. We often express our thoughts instead of reflecting on them. The next time you are having one of these moments give the Jesus Prayer a try. It’s simple, short, and can be recited at any given moment. From the person with too many items in the express lane to the driver who cuts you off, it works to give you clarity in moments of frustration. The idea is to make you aware of your guilt as a sinner and bring your focus back to letting God be in control. Repeat it over and over, breathing in on the first half and exhaling on the second. “Lord Jesus Christ son of the living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
God’s love and commitment to us are second to none. It has been His plan from the beginning to grant our salvation and free us from slavery, the slavery of our sins. The death of Christ was not an accident, but rather an appointment. Since the beginning, God has made us aware of the sacrifice He would make in order to keep us holy. If He is so willing to sacrifice the precious life of his one and only Son, then we should show our appreciation through our commitment to being holy to God.
1. Christ gave his life for us. What would you be willing to give up for the rest of your life for your loved ones?
2. What would you sacrifice for someone you never met? Would you be able to sacrifice now for the sake of future generations you will never meet?
Challenge: Your challenge is to simply take a walk. Not just any walk, but the walk through the Stations of the Cross. Come to a better understanding of the sacrifice that was made for your salvation. Find a space where you can focus uninterrupted and meditate on each station. Reflect on the events which took place during Christ’s last moments in the flesh. Challenge yourself to become emotionally involved with Christ’s passion for us.
As children, we are taught to be obedient to our parents. Then we become adults and somehow lose sight of this command when we leave the nest. Our Father never leaves us and we are called to be obedient to Him, for we are His children. If we are obedient to the word of God, and we are in the word of God, then we have spiritual intelligence. This spiritual intelligence is what allows us to be saved. Our ignorance of God’s word leads to indulgence, which in turn causes us to place greater importance on worldly possessions. Our salvation is a responsibility, not a privilege. God has called us to be holy through the blood of Christ, therefore, if He is holy then we too shall be holy given we do not allow ourselves to be overcome by the ignorance of worldly indulgence.
1. Are you being obedient to God? Seriously…are you?
2. Do you suffer from spiritual ignorance? What worldly indulgences get in the way of your holiness?
Challenge: It is impossible to be holy as God is holy without reading the Bible. How can you know God’s word if you aren’t willing to read it? That’s like trying to drive a car without putting gas in the tank! You can turn the key over, and over, and over, but all you are going to do is drain the battery. Get in the word and read!! The average use of social media is 136 minutes per day. That’s more than two hours! I think we can spare 20 minutes per day for our Father.
Daniel, along with three young men, entered into the culture of the Babylonians where the chief of staff changed their names and attempted to place them on a diet of food and wine from the king’s kitchen. Daniel, knowing the unhealthy result of this royal diet, plead with the chief, who respected Daniel, and requested an alternate diet of vegetables and water for ten days. Respectfully honoring his request, the attendant lessened his guard over Daniel and his friends, only to be pleased by the healthier appearance of the four. From this day forward their diet remained vegetables and water. Daniel was able to find a way to live with loyalty in a culture that was attempting to impose different standards.
1. Do you truly know, understand, and give complete dedication to your beliefs?
2. Are there choices you are making that follow the “culture” more than your own beliefs?
Challenge: Make a commitment to give up culture and fast from something for one month. Is it social media, gossip at work, eating out, shopping, video games, or television? These are all things, among many others, that get in the way of our holiness and pull us further from our beliefs. Look at yourself in a mirror. Will you be able to say, “yes, I can?” If your beliefs are in the correct place, you will know Who to call upon!
I am reminded of the saying, “what doesn't kill you makes you stronger,” and that is very true. There is also a correlation in weight lifting to become stronger as well. The muscles actually get broken down some while you are working out, and when they come back, they are stronger than they were before because of the strain put on them. We are much the same. If our lives were just great and easy all the time, many of us would be pretty weak and expectant that things will come easy. After we experience hard times, we become stronger, more prepared, and ready for when the next storm comes.
1. What has been the toughest trial you have had lately?
2. Do you feel stronger, having come through that struggle?
Challenge: Everyone responds to rough times differently. On our own we can crumble and cave under the pressure of this world’s problems. If you are currently struggling, please reach out to one of our pastors or elders, they would love to pray with you and help you experience God's healing and power.
There is power in prayer, in good times and in our trials. This is a good time to remind ourselves that we need to be thankful and prayerful in the good times as well as the bad. Our human tendency is to ignore God when everything is going well and call out to Him when trial or tragedy strikes. He is not our cosmic vending machine, not the one we call only when we need something. He does say, however, to come to Him with our burdens and lay them at His feet. There is so much power in prayer that is just waiting for us to access it.
1. Do you pray daily praising and thanking God or just the 911 prayer when all seems lost?
2. Who in your life could use some prayer today?
Challenge: This week I challenge you to think about how you pray. Are you praying like you are coming before the creator of the earth, life, and everything that we know in this world? Personally I tend to limit God or not ask for things that would be incredible, but we serve an incredible God, able to do all things! Let’s remember that when we come before Him.
This is a great passage of scripture that reminds us of the great reward we have awaiting us if we trust and follow Christ. The ultimate reward is the salvation of our souls, no matter what happens to us here on earth. We get caught up in the details and struggles of our lives, and many times forget about the ultimate purpose for our existence.
1. What are some of the struggles you are currently dealing with?
2. How do they compare with the promise of salvation?
Challenge: Believe me; I know this is much easier said than applied. I want to challenge you to keep things of this world in perspective. Most, if not all of the things we spend so much time and energy agonizing over in our lives pale in comparison to the awesome promise of the salvation that has been secured for us. When put in perspective, the things of this world will grow strangely dim. Cling to that promise and idea this week.