Keep Going

I’m back after taking a few months off to focus on the spring semester. I’ve made it no secret that the last almost year I’ve spent in Jonesboro, transitioning to full-fledged “adulthood,” has been a very trying and very stressful time, and it has been a time filled with failures, more than I can count.

I have struggled to pay attention to God’s Word. I have seen my pride and laziness reach unseen and unusual levels, and I’ve seen idols in my life rob me of time with God and joy in God. I have gone from a mindset and lifestyle centered exclusively on God to a lifestyle where God becomes just another part of my life, another box on my to-do list.

Yet, as I reflect on the many ways I’ve failed God, I cannot count one instance where He has failed me. As I write this tonight, I see where God has forgiven me and is working to overcome these failures and sins in my life. I am excited about what God is doing in the future, and by God’s grace, I know I am growing more and more into the man God has called me to be, day by day. Slowly but surely, God is not only restoring me to the life I had before I moved, where Jesus was front and center in my life, but He is working to help me love Jesus more, trust Jesus more and live more fully for Him. While I have failed, God has not failed, God is not failing and God will never fail me.

As hard as it is to confess my own failures, we cannot speak of God’s grace if we don’t speak of our need for that grace. God’s grace is great because our sin is wicked and because we are worse than even we know. And I believe that not only is it time to move forward in my life from almost a year of a less-than-satisfying Christian walk, it’s time for some reading this to do the same. While you may not find yourself struggling in the exact same way, we all, at different times in our life, hit a snag in our following of Jesus. What we do in those moments is crucial. We will either continue in that struggle, turn our back on Jesus, or we will keep going.

So how can we keep going? What can we do to do that?

  1. Pray honestly and earnestly. If you’re going to keep going and keep following Jesus, and you see things in your life that would keep you from doing that, the first person you should tell is God. Get honest about what’s keeping you from living fully for Him, and trust God to forgive you and help you. Prayer is a vital, necessary component of a life fully centered on God.
  2. Trust your Savior. No matter how far you’ve fallen, how much sin you see in your life, how bad your struggle is, there is blood that has been shed that can cover that sin. Confess it and turn against it and turn to Jesus. Trust in His power.
  3. Seek fellowship with other believers. God has used my new church home, as well as godly brothers in Christ, to convict me, encourage me and remind me of the promises of God.
  4. Worship. Spend time singing to the Lord, meditating on His Word, attend church consistently and make your life about God by praising Him daily.
  5. Spend time in God’s Word. This is where I’ve struggled the most. Bible reading, study and memorization are vital to applying God’s Word. All four of those actions must be taken, but it starts with reading God’s Word. Don’t put it off. Don’t get bogged down trying to catch up in your plan if you use one. Just get in God’s Word.

God loves His children, and He disciplines them because He loves them (Heb. 12:6). Let God’s discipline and God’s grace lead you to repentance, and let it remind you how good life with Him really is. So if you’ve fallen, if you’ve lost that focus on God or joy in God, remember Him and come back. Don’t give up. Keep going.

Lord, may we never give up in the Christian life. May we keep going. May we remember your grace is strong enough, not only to save us when we began following you, but every single day. May we read your Word, pray more, worship more and trust you more. May we keep going, by your grace.

God bless,

Neal E.

Judgment: Romans 2:1-11

“Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. Do you suppose, O man–you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself–that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality.”–Romans 2:1-11

Our culture celebrates the idea of not judging others. Non-Christians use this line constantly to tell Christians to back off popular views on sexual immorality, abortion and a host of other sins plaguing the world.

But does God’s Word really say not to judge others? Is that what Paul is getting at in this passage?

There’s a key part to this text, and it’s the same key we find in Matthew 7, when Jesus is talking about judgment. That verse reads:

Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”–Matthew 7:1-5

We must “take the log out” first. Paul attacks the popular Pharisaical belief, which the former Pharisee would be familiar with, that being Jewish, that being circumcised and knowing the law made one right with God.

Paul calls out any Jewish reader reading the previous passage calling out a litany of sins who thinks himself better than another because they don’t commit murder or adultery or the other sins he lists.

Paul will soon make it clear that “all have sinned,” and all “fall short” of the glory of God.

So does our own sin keep us from judging others? It does if we don’t acknowledge our own sin.

So how do we judge rightly?

  1. Acknowledge sin and repent. Acknowledge where you fall short, confess sin to the Lord and ask for forgiveness and grace to follow Jesus.
  2. For rebuking Christians: Lovingly confront brothers and sisters in Christ. Let the grace of God make you loving and kind, not arrogant and haughty.
  3. But…be firm. God doesn’t play games with us regarding our sin, and though we ought to speak the truth in love, we better speak the truth.
  4. For calling out non-Christians: Share the gospel. How wicked is it if we tell people they have a problem without giving them the solution?

The gospel of Jesus Christ is the answer for self-righteousness and unrighteousness. His grace melts the hard of both the legalist and those who know how sinful they are. His grace reminds us of our need for Him, whether we are doing “well” or doing “poorly,” because at the end of the day, we are all sinners who need grace.

Share that grace today.

Lord, may we not judge others before judging ourselves. May we let the gospel inform our judging and may we not let our self-righteousness get in the way of sharing the gospel.

God bless,

Neal E.