To keep my prayer life organized I have been using a three ring binder with tabs, but I am so excited to have just found a prayer app I can use on my phone! It is called PrayerMate and it is a great way to keep your prayer life organized on the go. You can add whatever prayer subject pages you like and add whatever scripture and notes you like to each subject page. You can even set a timer to remind you to pray! I love it! I do not necessarily advocate all the information provided on the “ready-made content & organizations” section (and nor does PrayerMate), but I do recommend the app. I can’t wait to start using it and I hope you will check it out. Now when you are surfing the net on your phone at random times throughout the day…you can pull up your prayer list and take a few minutes to change the world through prayer! Please pray with me. Ephesians 6:18 “…praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.”
Are the good deeds of the non-Christian person, the religious person, and the Christian person pleasing to God? Is it enough to Him that you want to be a good person? I don’t know who wants to be the bearer of bad tidings, but at least these bad tidings can be overcome.
For the non-Christian, the person who does not acknowledge God as God, he disobeys the first of the Ten Commandments: Old Testament, Exodus 20:3, You shall have no other gods before Me. If you do not acknowledge God as the supreme and only God, then you have sinned. So what is God’s reaction to a person who has sinned? In the New Testament, in John 8:24, I (Jesus) said therefore to you, that you shall die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you shall die in your sins. John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that He have His only begotten son, what whoever believes in Him would not perish, but have eternal life.
But thanks to Jesus who said in John 3:17, For God did not send the son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him. So there are great tidings for everyone who has done one sinful thing! We can be saved! John 7:38 says, He who believes in Me, from his innermost being shall flower rivers of living water. John 6:51 I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he shall live forever; and the bread also which I shall give for the life of the world is My flesh. John 5:24 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears my word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.
Nevertheless, while one sin committed by a person negates their goodness before God and condemns them from eternal life with God – and while all people have sinned and need help…God offers sinners help and eternal life with Him! Woohoo!
Is the effort of a religious person pleasing to God? Jesus spent a lot of time in the New Testament conveying His displeasure of the religious leaders, whom He called white washed tombs due to having the appearance of goodness while having evil hearts that did not sincerely serve Him (Matthew 23:27).
Apparently, God is not an easy going fellow when it comes to goodness and evil. Even if people today, like the religious leaders of Jesus’ day, give religion a go of it, even devoting their life to religion, this does not mean their sacrifice is an acceptable service before the Lord. In Genesis 4:3-4, Cain offered a gift to God from his harvest, but scripture does not say that Cain offered his best as did his brother Abel. Cain’s gift was rejected by God as Cain did not worship and serve God above all else. He valued the best of his harvest, his little god, before honoring God – which is breaking the first of the Ten Commandments. This was the rich young ruler’s downfall as well. He asked Jesus what good thing he should do in order to have eternal life in Matthew 19, but while the ruler said that he already kept all the commandments, he valued his riches above God. The efforts of religious people are not acceptable to God because the appearance of goodness does not equate a sincere Christ follower. In Matthew 16:25, Jesus said For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it.
In Matthew 7: 15 Jesus said people can wear sheep’s clothing – having an appearance of being a follower of Christ, but not sincerely following Him. Isaiah 29:13 Then the Lord said, because this people draw near with their words and honor Me with their lip service, But they remove their hearts far from Me, and their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote. These people had “good” intentions, but their outward service did not match their inward hearts. Some people will even call out to God, but will not be accepted into the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 7:21-23 Not everyone who says to Me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles? And then I will declare to them, I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness. Does this seem unfair? It is not, because the hearts of the people never truly followed God, they followed God in appearance alone.
The religious person may have more difficulty going to God and following Him because they deceive themselves that they know God because they try to do a lot of good deeds in the name of God, rather than repent and follow God from their heart. The non-Christian is at least upfront about his choice to not follow God. I was a religious person for about 20 years, and then God opened my deceived eyes to see that my goodness, even my religious goodness, would not earn my way into heaven.
Of the Christian, God says in John 5:24 that the believer is no longer condemned for his sin – but is the believer’s attempts at goodness always pleasing to God? As mentioned in Part I of this post, in 1 Corinthians 13:3 God says through Paul, And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing. And in 1 Corinthians 3: 13 Each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it, because it is to be revealed with fire; and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. Old Testament, Hosea 6:6a says For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice.
What goodness is acceptable to God? John 15:4, 5b Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me. Apart from Me you can do nothing. Unless we are forgiven of our sin and made right with God, we cannot abide in Jesus. But once we are made right with Him, we can abide in Him and be filled with the fruit of goodness – the fruit of righteousness as mentioned in Philippians 1:11 having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God.
So if a believer abides in Jesus, then he can bear good fruit; he can bear the fruit of righteousness. And while the believer is abiding in Him, he will love God by obeying Him which produces good fruit. John 14:23b says, If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word. Galatians 5:25 says If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit, and verse 22 and 23 lists the fruit of the Spirit which includes goodness.
If the believer abides in God and loves God by obeying His word – then the Christian will be striving to obey Matthew 22:37, 39 because all other commandments rest on these two commandments. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Vs 40 On these two commandments depend the whole Law and Prophets. If the believer is abiding in God, loving God and living in obedience to these two commandments, then the Christian profits before God because the motive of their good actions stem from their unabashed love of God and love of others. Acts of love towards others profit the Christian, as shown in 1 Corinthians 13:3. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing. So all acts done with the primary motive of obedience to God, out of unabashed love for God, and out of love of others are profitable for the Christian because these acts of goodness are genuinely good and pleasing to God.
So while the non-Christian and the religious person’s goodness cannot be acceptable to God because he is not made right with God, the Christian’s goodness can be pleasing to God when the believer’s primary motive is to obey and love God, as well as to love others as himself.
Do most people want to be good people? I think most non-Christians would affirm this desire, as well as religious people, and people who follow Christ. Should it be a goal of humanity to be good? Does incredibly good behavior cause God to debar the gates to the Garden of Eden or cause God to smile on the people He has redeemed? I would say no; I think Satan is pleased to so easily deceive man into wanting to be good people, so that they do not focus on how they can become righteous people.
If this idea is true, people may feel this reality is abrasive and that God is unfair to reject man’s attempts at goodness; but since God designed the universe and said (New Testament) 1 Corinthians 3:19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God, then man’s opinions do not effect God’s reality, no matter how much we don’t like the sound of it.
What does the Bible, God’s Word, say about man’s goodness in general? Since the Garden of Eden when evil entered the world, we learn that no person is good. Old Testament, Psalm 14:3b There is no one who does good not even one. OT, Isaiah 64:6 For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment. In the New Testament, in Romans 7:18, Paul says, For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh.
What does God say about the goodness of religious people (not sincere God followers and Christ followers, but sincerely religious people)? NT, Romans 10:2, 3. For I bear them (Israel) witness that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge. For not knowing about God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God. In Matthew 23:27 Jesus said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.” So good acts based on religious conviction are not necessarily acceptable to God, so says Jesus.
And of the forgiven sinner to whom Christ has imparted His righteousness, are all of his good acts pleasing to God? 1 Cor 13:3 says, And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing. Apparently they are not. God, through Paul, says to the brethren (1 Cor 3:1), to Christians, 1 Corinthians 3: 13 Each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it, because it is to be revealed with fire; and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. So, not all of a Christian’s good behavior will be rewarded.
So, why wouldn’t man’s attempt to be good, the attempt by non-Christian, a religious person, and a Christian, be considered good by God? Isn’t being good – a good thing?
Well, it appears God gets a little more serious about man’s behavior. OT, 1 Samuel 16:7b For God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. NT, Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God…able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. NT, Romans 2:16b God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.
In my next blog I will sift through scripture to see what goodness is acceptable to God, whether from a non-Christian, a religious person, or a sincere follower of Jesus.
For me, answering this question doesn’t require that I put myself in a non-believers’ shoes to honestly critique the church. I have no reservation saying yes; in most cases the church is outdated. With sadness I share my response as to how some churches in recent generations have been stewards of their priceless gift, stewards of their little corner of overseeing the Kingdom. From the outdated buildings, to the half empty pews, this is not a reflection of the powerful and living Word of God, but a contradiction.
God, being the Alpha and Omega, cannot become old or outdated in any respect as He created everything that can be, whether in the year 1800 or 2050. (New Testament, John 1:3) All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In addition, (NT, Hebrews 4:12a) For the word of God is living and active. So, if the church has become stale or the pews (or rather the folding chairs) empty, it is not that God is irrelevant or out of date. According to His Word, this simply cannot be true. Therefore it can only be the keepers of His Kingdom on earth to which the burden falls.
So, let’s look at the church. Scripture tells us that just because there is a church building with people gathered, or for that matter a group of people who hold a church service in any particular place, it does not guarantee that God is present with them. Although when a person has the Holy Spirit – a new life inside of them – then God resides with that person, in that place (NT, Acts 7:48, 51). So I ask, what does a person look like with whom God dwells, and therefore what does a group of people with whom God dwells look like?
Jesus said in (NT) John 14: 23, If anyone loves Me, he will keep My Word; and My Father will love him and we will come to him, and make Our abode with him. What do those who are obedient to Him, the people in whom God is abiding, what do they look like? Jesus said He came that people might have life, and have it abundantly (NT, John 10:10b). Paul said he wanted believers to be filled up to all the fullness of God (NT, Ephesians 3:19b). Christ redeemed people (NT, Ephesians 1:7) back from what was lost in the Garden of Eden, as He intended for people to have eternal life (NT, John 3:16), fullness of joy and pleasures forever (Old Testament, Psalm16:11b).
If people of the church are obedient to Him, then the people will be living an abundant life, filled with the fullness of God, full of joy and experiencing pleasures. That sounds a lot like the people who were a part of the thriving church in Acts.
I suggest that the church today has become outdated because slowly, throughout recent generations, people have become less obedient to God’s Word; this disobedience manifesting in various ways. Due to the lack of obedience, we observe less of God’s vibrant life among professing believers and among the professing church. Sadly, due to believers not loving God, nor obeying God, the professing church has largely become outdated, because the God who gives eternal life, abundant life, fullness, joy and pleasures can never go out of style.
Whether you’re a Christian or not, you have likely heard of King David, if from nowhere else but in reference to Michelangelo’s marble Statue of David. In the Old Testament of the Bible and in 2 Samuel 11 you find the story of King David. Having spent his life following the God of Israel, he commits adultery, the woman conceives, and King David has the woman’s husband murdered to cover his behavior. King David later receives consequences for his actions but is still allowed to follow God and be used by God as a great instrument in Christian history.
In the New Testament of the Bible, John 8 speaks of Jewish religious leaders bringing a woman before Jesus who was caught in adultery to see if Jesus thought they should stone her, as instructed in the Old Testament according to Moses’ law. Jesus told the woman that He did not condemn her, but instead told the believer to go and sin no more. (While we might assume the woman is a new believer, scripture does directly say whether she has only just become a believer…nonetheless) Jesus did not say to the woman that she was unable to sin any longer, but to go and sin no more.
Later in John 18, one of Jesus’ closest followers who would later be paramount in building the Christian church after Jesus’ death, Peter denies that he was a follower of Christ, just hours before Jesus was killed. I wonder today if many pastors would still have a job if they denied Jesus in a public way at such a critical time. While Peter was one of the closest followers of Jesus, Peter sinned by lying and dishonoring God, yet God chose to use him greatly to influence the church in the months and years following.
In addition to these few excerpts from the Bible, all throughout Paul’s New Testament writings he admonishes believers to be loyal to God for the salvation they have received and to mature in their faith. Paul himself states in Philippians 3:12, 13, that the he has not become perfect, but “press(es) on in order that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ”.
It is because of scripture like these that I trod along in my faith after having sinned in egregious ways as did these imperfect people in the Bible. I have had seasons in my life when, despite my faith, I was shamefully rebellious, and even now I sometimes fear that others could learn of sins I’ve committed, words I have said. Do I deserve condemnation as did the adulterous woman brought before Jesus? Yes, I do. Have I received consequences for my sins as did David? Yes, I have. But I am grateful that scripture shows a God who does not ultimately condemn the believer who has sinned, but rather He pushes the Christian forward, telling us to sin no more.
For many who use hypocrites, such as myself, as an excuse to say that Christians in the church deserve to be ridiculed…I can agree with them that people in the church are sinners, that we still do things wrong after we become Christians. But to them I extend the scripture taught in the Bible which shows that while we Christians are forgiven and should strive to obey our higher calling of holiness, on this side of heaven you will still see us sin, and that’s one reason why we go to church, to encourage each other as we learn how to become like the only person who never sinned, Jesus Christ.
It is not uncommon for a woman in her thirties from the South to have spent some time throughout her childhood in the pews of a Christian church and to have gained some knowledge of the Bible. From my earliest memories, I recall having strong religious convictions and sharing them with stuffed animals on my bed and friends on the playground. But my spirituality was no different than that of a devout Buddhist, Muslim, or for that matter, I was no different than any other human being trying to to be a good person.
After years of religious activity, both private and public, all of that came to a halt. During my freshman year in college, I was in my dorm room speaking on the phone with an agnostic acquaintance, encouraging him to consider Christian things. In response he challenged me with questions that I could not answer. Baffled by his questions, I retired from the conversation with a final, “Well, the Bible does say that if we seek Him with all of our heart, He will show Himself to us. When we get off of the phone, let’s both ask God to show Himself to us…and if we mean it…and He’s real…He will.” I never spoke to the gentleman again, but after we got off of the phone, I did as we agreed, getting down on my knees, and sincerely asking God to show Himself to me.
A week or so later, God did just that. Like a mosquito buzzing in my mind, I could not escape questioning to what degree I had believed the Bible. I cannot explain it in as much detail as I wish I could, but God pulled back a curtain and allowed me to see His Word in a different light. It was as if I arrived at a travel destination and saw it in person after I had only read about it before. For the first time, my knowledge met with my soul and I understood by experience that I was spiritually dead due to my lack of purity and holiness. I understood that my sin was a direct rebellion against the One who had created me and created the universe in which I lived.
I asked God to forgive my sins on behalf of the blood shed on the cross by the pure and holy sacrifice of Jesus Christ’s death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead. Since I prayed that prayer, I have always sensed the presence of the Holy Spirit with me, experiencing a life inside of me that I can describe but cannot fully explain. My knowledge of the Bible was not the reason I became a true Christian, and neither was fancy knowledge that answered deep questions about the mysteries of God. God is the reason I am a Christian, because I could not turn away from One so great, once I finally saw Him spiritually face to face.