Authentic Change

Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through…1 Peter 4:12

Joining an organization carries with it certain expectations and obligations, like learning the secret handshake, wearing the proper clothing or reciting the code on demand. Some groups go further in that members must change their behavior and manner of living, publicly refusing current trends, alcoholic beverages and movies. Some of these groups are churches who attempt to overhaul their members into “better people” by remodeling their outward behavior with rules and regulations.

Unfortunately for all who head down this path, changing outward behavior and appearance does not change the heart, just what we can outwardly detect. Jesus did not give His life for us so we would all shop at the same clothing store, wear our hair a certain way or follow a set of rules for living. Jesus wants our hearts. Jesus wants people to understand that we are New Creations as we believe in Him (have faith). In reading the Bible, you will not find comments regarding how fine or stylish our Lord’s garments were. Rather, you will read how focused on following God’s will He was.

1 Samuel 16:7 But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

1 Timothy 4:8 Physical exercise has some value, but spiritual exercise is much more important, for it promises a reward in both this life and the next.

“Joining” the Church of Jesus Christ is the total opposite of learning a handshake or attempting to live by a set of rules, it is accomplished by our faith in what Jesus has done for us. Faith, not works we are cautioned in Ephesians

Eph2:8-9 God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.

Phil. 3:8-9 . . .I reckon everything as complete loss for the sake of what is so much more valuable, the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have thrown everything away; I consider it all as mere garbage, so that I may gain Christ and be completely united with him. I no longer have a righteousness of my own, the kind that is gained by obeying the Law. I now have the righteousness that is given through faith in Christ, the righteousness that comes from God and is based on faith.

Jesus does not call us to cut our hair but to cast aside the bondage of those rules or outward behaviors. More than those things, Jesus calls us to follow Him which may mean suffering, denial, humiliation, rejection and being ostracized by many. In return, He gives us forgiveness and eternal life with Him.

Luke 6:27-49 “But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also. If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also. Give to anyone who asks; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back. Do to others as you would like them to do to you. “If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners love those who love them! And if you do good only to those who do good to you, why should you get credit? Even sinners do that much! And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, why should you get credit? Even sinners will lend to other sinners for a full return.

“Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked. You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.

Do Not Judge Others

“Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven. Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.”

Then Jesus gave the following illustration: “Can one blind person lead another? Won’t they both fall into a ditch? Students are not greater than their teacher. But the student who is fully trained will become like the teacher.

“And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying, ‘Friend, let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.

The Tree and Its Fruit

“A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. A tree is identified by its fruit. Figs are never gathered from thorn bushes, and grapes are not picked from bramble bushes. A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.

Building on a Solid Foundation

“So why do you keep calling me ‘Lord, Lord!’ when you don’t do what I say? I will show you what it’s like when someone comes to me, listens to my teaching, and then follows it. It is like a person building a house who digs deep and lays the foundation on solid rock. When the floodwaters rise and break against that house, it stands firm because it is well built. But anyone who hears and doesn’t obey is like a person who builds a house without a foundation. When the floods sweep down against that house, it will collapse into a heap of ruins.”

Suffering

1 Peter 4:1-2 So then, since Christ suffered physical pain, you must arm yourselves with the same attitude he had, and be ready to suffer too. For if you are willing to suffer for Christ, you have decided to stop sinning. And you won’t spend the rest of your life chasing after evil desires, but you will be anxious to do the will of God.

1 Peter 4:12-14 Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead be very glad—because these trials will make you partners with Christ in his suffering, and afterward you will have the wonderful joy of sharing his glory when it is displayed to all the world.

1 Peter 4:19 So if you are suffering according to God’s will, keep on doing what is right, and trust yourself to the God who made you, for he will never fail you.

Following Jesus is an agreement established by the letting of blood…His, not yours.

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