How do you suppose others experience you? Do they feel better or worse after talking with you or working with you? How do your conversations and demeanor come across to your church family? What kind of impression do you suppose you're making on those you know who aren't followers of Christ?
One of the biggest hangups many people in this world have toward Christians relates to the fear of being judged or condemned by them. And even among believers, there are plenty who no longer attend or participate in the life of their local church because of a fear of being unkindly judged. Is this an issue you've ever wrestled with? Loved or judged? How do we make others feel? What counsel does Romans 14:1-12 give us about this subject?
Have you ever come to a breaking point in your life when you realized that it was time to make some changes, but you weren't completely certain what changes you needed to make? I remember a particular season like that in my life that took place when my children were all very little. I was involved in so many things at once, and had taken on more ministry responsibilities than I should have. On top of that, I was working three jobs, and had started neglecting things like my health, my personal finances, and good stewardship of my available time.
In life, I think many of us like to "call the shots." Many of us like to be the one making the decisions, and that preference shows up at a very early age. I'll never forget a debate I had some time ago with one of my teenage children who was bristling against a decision I made. My response was, "When the day comes and you're a middle-aged adult, I'll feel really bad for you if you let a 15-year-old run your house." I also said, "I realize you'd like to be the one calling the shots, but before that day comes, you need to learn an important lesson. You can't be an effective leader until you've first learned to follow."
The resurrection of Christ matters in more ways than we may realize.
If Jesus didn't rise from death, there would be no reason for us to gather together for worship. If Jesus didn't rise from death, there would be no point in worshipping Him or referring to ourselves as His followers. But thankfully, Christ did rise from death, proving His divinity, and giving us a foretaste of what He has in store for all who trust in Him.
The resurrection of Jesus is paramount in its significance for us, and I'd like to take the next few moments to share five of the many reasons why that's so.
Jesus can forgive you, even if you struggle to forgive yourself.
The ways in which Jesus was treated, not only in His crucifixion, but also in the actions that led up to that event, are despicable, yet amazingly, forgivable. There was nothing that happened to Jesus that surprised Him. He knew these things were going to take place, and for the sake of the good He knew would come out of His suffering and death, He willingly endured this disrespect and torment, even for the good of those who directly participated in it.
There are people you know, right now, who are downcast and discouraged. And if you could look into their hearts, there are certain commonalities I think you would see. You would find unmet expectations, disappointment with current circumstances, unfulfilled dreams, and in all likelihood, some misplaced hope. Their hearts are longing for something they feel is missing, and it's possible that they're searching for those longings to be fulfilled through people, means, goals, and opportunities that don't have the capacity to do so.
This has been a struggle for humanity ever since our earliest days. We are quick to forget what can actually satisfy the longing of our hearts, so we veer off in all kinds of directions instead of acknowledging the truth that has always been right there in front of us. And until we acknowledge this truth, we'll continue to walk through life with a hefty amount of discouragement and displeasure. In John 12:12-26, we're shown how the deepest longings of our hearts can truly be satisfied.
When you take a close look at your heart, can you truly say you're someone who has a strong relationship with Jesus, or would you primarily describe yourself as someone who has been influenced by Christians without necessarily adopting their beliefs as your own?
When a person truly comes to faith in Christ, things change. Spiritually speaking, they are raised from death to life, and that new life tends to come with some obvious and visible signs. In Romans 12:9-21, the Apostle Paul describes at least three ways we might be able to tell someone has actually come to a place of genuine faith in Jesus.
I enjoy using Facebook. I check it several times each day, and I'm convinced that it can be a useful platform for spreading information, sharing life experiences, and encouraging our friends and family. But increasingly, I'm noticing a trend that I think can be improved upon. It seems that some of the people I appreciate in real life are using the biggest communication platform they've ever been entrusted with, primarily to vent about their political beliefs.
Good government and political leadership are important, but there's more to life than presidents, candidates, treaties, policies and elections.
How are you using your time? Are you using it to rest, or are engaged in activity?
There's a time to rest, and a time to engage in activity. But in the end, it's wise for us to make an honest assessment of how we're using the days, weeks, months, and years of life the Lord has blessed us with. The years will be used up faster than we often realize, so are we making the best use of the time we have left? The Apostle Paul gives us great counsel in Romans 12:1-8 that can help us answer that question.
Isn't it ironic when we consider the fact that the more we're blessed, the more likely it may be that we'll begin acting like we actually deserved that blessing? Instead of treating our blessings like a gift, and responding with humility, we often puff ourselves up and begin thinking of ourselves as more worthy than others to receive them.
We don't deserve what God has given us. We actually deserve the opposite. So as we contemplate the gracious ways God has blessed our lives, we're encouraged to respond to His favor with humility. Look at how Paul elaborates on this in Romans 11:17-36...