I love going to the gym as much as my schedule permits. The gym is my happy place. I put on some music and spend an hour trying to push my body. One thing that bothers me at the gym is when people sit at machines and do not exercise. The last time I was at the gym, I was exercising on the elliptical machine and peered out to see a handful of people sitting on the weight machines with cell phones in hand. The people sat at the machines the entire time I was on the elliptical machine. I became curious as to why the people would even come to the gym if they were not going to work out.
The people who sat at the machines could tell people that they went to the gym. Perhaps some of the group checked in at the gym on Facebook. Perhaps some of the group will tell friends or family that they were at the gym. They will even tell themselves they were at the gym. But to be at the gym and to actually work out at the gym are two different things. Anyone can go to the gym, but not everyone uses the gym equipment. People can see the check in on Facebook and believe their friend is getting buff, and in the end, their friend was scrolling their Facebook newsfeed. To the blind eye, it appears the person is getting fit; reality says something different.
This same façade is true in the life of a “Christian.” There are many people who claim to be Christians but when outsiders observe their lives, they are not seeing Jesus. There are people who attend church on a regular basis and people who do good deeds, who unfortunately do not know Jesus. These people may know of Jesus, but they never had the blessing of enjoying the presence of God in their lives because they were too busy trying to show everyone they had everything in order, too proud to lean into God, or too blinded by their own façade that they missed the grace so freely poured out. It is sad how many people still today think that they must try to earn their place in heaven.
We are each on a journey. We all need Jesus. Let us not sit at the machines pretending to be Christians. Instead, may our eyes be fixed on Jesus. May our words and our deeds point to Him. May we stop trying to cling to the title of Christian, and instead invest our time in following Jesus by responding to the great commands to love God and love others. Love is not a façade. It’s honest. It’s real. It’s vulnerable. It’s messy. It’s certainly not easy. Love God. Love others.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” – Mark 12:30-31 [NIV]
One of things that grieves me the most is seeing people who are not passionate about Jesus. I remember a time when I neglected to live for Jesus, when I was neglecting the Word, neglecting a lot of things. One day priorities changed. I had a thirst for Christ Jesus. I wanted nothing more. If I didn’t get to read my Bible, I felt starved. If I hadn’t taken the time to pray, I felt lacking.
Paul wrote about everything being worthless when in comparison to knowing Jesus. Paul noted how he discarded everything so he could gain Christ. The person who sold everything to buy a field with hidden treasure had the same desire Paul had for Jesus (Matthew 13:44). Nothing else mattered.
Today, look at your priorities. Is everything worthless compared to Jesus Christ? How do you value your relationship with Jesus? Are you putting things before God? What matters most to you?
“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” – Philippians 3:8 [NLT]
Suffering is never on our to-do list. We don’t leave our homes in the morning saying, “I really hope I suffer today.” We are not looking for opportunities to suffer. We run from suffering and when we undergo suffering, it is painful and we usually appreciate when it ends.
Paul writes of the privilege of suffering. The privilege of suffering. This is a phrase that sounds like an oxymoron, but if you are in Christ, then you realize that Christ Jesus promises suffering would come. As His representatives, it’s guaranteed. It’s going to happen. It is a privilege because He has allowed us to be His representatives. It is a privilege because in the suffering we grow deeper in Christ. We grow in our love of God and others. We grow in our revelation of God.
Today, in whatever comes your way, embrace suffering. Thank God for the opportunity. Remember, it is a privilege.
“For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for Him.” – Philippians 1:29 [NLT]
We spend a lot of time trying to label sin and rate sin. We will list certain sins as worse than others. We group some sins together. Some sin is more acceptable than other sin to some people.
The truth is that sin is far stretching. Some sin we overlook because we don’t have a label for it. We forget that sin is anything that goes against what God says. Sin is desiring something more than God. Even knowing what you should do and not doing it is a sin! Yes, if you know the right thing to do, but you don’t do it, that is a sin.
Today, recognize that you are a sinner. Through Christ alone are you made right with God. Consider if there is any sin lurking in your life. Pray for the Holy Spirit to reveal anything that you need to address. Remember, it is a sin to know what you should do that you fail to accomplish.
“Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.” – James 4:17 [NLT]
Today’s devotion is hard to write. I must admit that as a pastor, this verse is one I think upon often. One day I was hit with this overwhelming truth—that my actions—my words and my deeds – could cause someone to stumble and fall. This great responsibility caused me to reevaluate everything. I asked the Lord to please reveal to me if I am being a stumbling block, and to give me the wisdom and discernment to not get in the way of His work and His people. I was deciding “instead to live in such a way that (I would) not cause another believer to stumble and fall.” This doesn’t mean I haven’t done it, but that I pray for more of Him and less of me. I pray that I can live in such a way to embrace and encourage others on their walk, pointing them to Jesus, speaking life, equipping the saints for His kingdom.
Fall on your knees today and seek the wisdom and discernment so that you, too, will not cause another believer to stumble and fall. Seek out the best interests of others. Live with the eternal perspective. Today, decide to live in such a way that you build others up, that you show the love of Christ, that you reach down and raise up. This is grace. It is the same grace that God has shown us when He reached down in our broken world, and through Christ Jesus raised us to new life. We are now co-heirs with Christ Jesus. Live in such a way.
“So let’s stop condemning each other. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall.” – Romans 14:13 [NLT]
Boundaries are important. The Bible speaks out in warning of any alignment with non-believers. We read of not making treaties with outsiders. We read about not aligning with those who are non-believers, because if we marry a non-believer it is likely that we will be drawn away. Deuteronomy 12 warns us not to fall into the trap. This trap causes us to be led astray to worshiping other gods.
The Bible tells us to be careful. We read these words often. We must be able to balance our time between people strong in the faith and people who do not know Jesus. We must surround ourselves with these strong, faithfully obedient men and woman for support, encouragement, and accountability. But we also must be able to reach the world by building relationships with those who have not received Christ.
As you go through your day today, remember that there is a trap waiting. Be mindful of the way you spend your time. Make sure you have strong Christians in your life, people who are walking in faithful obedience and who will point you to Jesus Christ, desiring for you to grow deeper with Christ. Also, make sure you are building a relationship with some non-believers. Through your actions, may they be able to see Christ.
“Do not fall into the trap of following their customs and worshiping their gods. Do not inquire about their gods, saying, ‘How do these nations worship their gods? I want to follow their example.’” – Deuteronomy 12:30 [NLT]
“When you enter the land the LORD your God is giving you, be very careful not to imitate the detestable customs of the nations living there.” – Deuteronomy 18:9 [NLT]
As Christians, we understand that we are each part of the body of Christ. We understand that the Church is comprised of many parts that each has a special function. The Church is people. Each of us are different. Each of us are part of the body of Christ. We also know that Jesus Christ spoke of unity and prayed for unity. This is important.
Paul wrote that “we all belong to each other,” as translated in the New Living Translation. I love this translation. We all belong to each other. I think this helps us to get a better picture of unity. If we belong to each other, it should mean that we care for those who belong to us. Don’t you care for your belongings? If we belong to each other, it should mean that we treasure those who belong to us. Don’t you treasure your belongings? Don’t you treat what you own nicely because it is of value to you? If we belong to each other, that means that not only does a person belong to you, but you belong to the person. This speaks of humility, connectivity, loyalty, and so much more.
One of the biggest areas we struggle with is unity. Jesus spoke a lot about unity because He knew of the struggles we would have with harmony as a body. When you take a group of imperfect people and join them together, there will be problems. But what links us together is the Holy Spirit. If we allow the Spirit to move freely and guide our steps, we can live as if we belong to each other. We can seek out the best interests for our brothers and sisters. We can think more of our fellow believers. We can treasure those God puts in our lives and ask Him how we can bless, encourage, and strengthen them on their walk. We can live within the unity instead of trying to break out on top. Remember today, we all belong to each other.
“Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.” – Romans 12:4-5 [NLT]