Worship by definition is to acclaim and make much of one or thing that is worthy of praise, honor, glory, attention or focus. Worship sits deep within the heart and when given opportunity, explodes with expression, not just about that which is worthy, but in honor of and toward such worth. Think about this, do you worship Christ or something/someone else? Are you invested with every fiber of your being in the glory of Jesus Christ? When you gather with the Saints of Christ each week, do  you come to make much of and hear Christ?

Jesus says that out of the abundance of the heart that one speaks from the mouth. So, when preachers preach, that which come from their mouths is what they worship. It is becoming more difficult to hear Christ and His truth and see His face in preaching. When Christ is absent from the text which reveals Him, the one proclaiming such fails to herald the One of true worth and instead places his own treasure at the heart of all things. Paul says in Romans 1 that people suppress the truth by unrighteousness and worship created things. I believe that many Christians love themselves and “church work” over Christ, thus, they keep sitting and maintaining worldliness as religion instead of true worship. So often one can hear sermons centered on man’s work, man’s worth and man’s well-being which are guilty of promoting idolatry. Beloved, learn to hear truth and lies and know the difference. Sinner, come to the One who alone is worthy of all praise.

An old hymn rings true to my ears each day I ponder the glory of Jesus Christ… “And the things of Earth grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and and grace.”  So how do you know? Well, when you stand in awe of God, nothing else is in focus. Not even you! Praise not the content, pastor, service, music, feeling, friends, or anything else. Praise the ONE who is HOLY and who is Worthy of Praise. Run from anything else, it is a terrible thing to worship idols.

To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. (1 Timothy 1:17 ESV)

For His Glory by His Grace,

James

Over The last few months God has been showing me more and more just how much I need to be squeezed.   I’m not talking about the squeeze as in the affectionate hug,  I’m talking about a squeeze as in a cleansing squeeze. You know, like a sponge you are trying to rinse after washing the tires on the car.  I’m talking about a pressing, molding, kneading by the hand of God to the point that I am no longer the same man I was before.  Not that any of us really think we have arrived, but sometimes we think we have at least began to see the destination in some areas of our lives.  It is at that moment that God reaches down and rinses some of that self-reliant dirty water out our minds and souls.

God is showing me how His squeezing removes from me things that have been stored up inside for some time.  Those areas of ministry, family, study etc, that just stay where they are and I’m fine with them.  I understand them just fine and they love me.  Not that they are wrong or sinful, well not all of them, but they are content.  But what I am learning is that if I am to expand in my faith, I must be willing to feel the burden of being rinsed so that there will be “room” for growth.

Just like a sponge; we are ready to absorb when we are dry, but a damp sponge can never fully absorb a “new” liquid, until the old liquid is finally ringed out.  And don’t think of this metaphor as me saying that what we already have or know from God or His word is dirty, but it can become stale.  We can get to where our testimony of God’s hand in our lives starts out with, “last month God showed me…”  That’s a sad choice of words for a child of God.  What is God showing us right now?  Well, for me, God is showing me that sanctification comes in all shapes, sizes, ages and smells.  Most of all, He brings about sanctification through trial and burden.

God’s sanctification of His children, though not pleasant at times, is always joyful.  It’s joyful because the more He rinses us in His grace, the more like Him we become.  Then our hearts grow weary of the flesh and the world and we crave for more of His holiness in our lives.  We strive to run from sin and jump into His hand of discipline that shapes us into the saints that He has declared us to be.

The reality of growing in our walk with Christ comes through the squeezes or the rinses of trial, fire and sin.  When we sin, God disciplines us, corrects us and shows us our wickedness and reminds us of His grace given through the flesh of Jesus Christ.  When we face a trial or temptation, God provides us with the power to overcome the world through Christ.  We are people created for His glory and His workings in our lives are forever near.  The pressures of this world are not really something that we should pray against, for God to remove, but rather endure and run into the fire so that God would be shown glorious!

Through fire, the dross is burned and new growth emerges.  Through death, a seed brings forth life.  Through the tearing down of muscle comes great strength, such is the outcome of our faith when it is tested, burned and tried.  Christ is our hope, He is our resolve, His grace is sufficient, but we would never know the reality of such glorious power without the burdens of this world to test our affections, actions and attitudes.

Be strong in the Lord today, hold on as God squeezes more and more of the world out of you to form you into what He has already declared you to be: holy.  When we are fully dry and empty of our flesh, our sin and the affections of this world, then He dips us ever so deeply into the flowing blood of Christ to experience the remarkable and extravagant grace of His ineffable love.

Hebrews 12:4-11
4 In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. 6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” 7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

For His Glory by His Grace,

James Tippins

 

Photo by Arkady Golod

1 Thessalonians 1:2-10 (ESV)
2 We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers,
3 remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
4 For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you,
5 because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.
6 And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit,
7 so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.
8 For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything.
9 For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God,
10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.

Photo by Arkady Golod

When I read this text this morning as an include to an email to my bride, it hit me just how focused this passage should be in the lives of believers today.  Paul is writing to these Christians primarily to show great thanksgiving to God for His supernatural work through the Gospel in their lives.  He also uses this time to stand up against adversaries of the truth and encourages the Thessalonians to continually see God’s work among them.

We reflect the light of God in our proclamation

Let’s put this in perspective of our own lives as believers.  If we truly are saved by the transforming power of the Gospel, then our lives will declare the power of God.  Paul says in Romans 1:16, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.”  In this power, God gives us faith, light, and the power to be transformed by Him.  If we are believers, shouldn’t our lives reflect that claim?

It seems that more and more people are continually making excuses for sinful living and apathy every day.  People who claim faith in the transforming power of Christ are daily walking further away from the image of God.  This does not make sense according to scripture.  Of course, we will struggle with the sin that fights against God’s nature, but our lives will be marked as we suffer to fight for joy and rest in the grace of God.

In the referenced text we see Paul showing amazing gratitude to God for saving the Thessalonians and reminding them in verse 4 and 5 that God did the work, not them nor the apostles.  In essence, Paul is helping them to stay focused on God’s work among them resulting in salvation.  In this, the church should pay close attention: “our gospel came to you… in word…”.  See Paul’s reminder?  He is saying, we preached the words of Christ to you, not words about Christ, or examples to follow, but the truth was proclaimed.  This is the only way that people will know the true Christ – His word.

Also consider that Paul states this is not the ONLY way the gospel came, but it also came by POWER in the Holy Spirit and with CONVICTION!  Wow, let’s think about that for a second.  How often do we look for power, conviction and the power of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers and try all sorts of things, even teaching people who to ‘tap’ into God’s power and forsake the very real power which comes only through God’s word?  Pay attention:  The word of God will do His work!  He doesn’t need our creativity and charisma to make people see the light.

We reflect the light of God in our person

When God’s word did His work, the apostles did not need to set themselves up as experts, holy men, or men with supernatural power, the life change that happened supernaturally in the lives of the Thessalonians was proof enough.  See verse five, the last part: “You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.”  In context, there were those who were refuting the apostles and their teachings and even starting to say there were other ‘ways’ of knowing the truth.  This is happening today.  Men and women who claim to have an inside knowledge of God in a deeper way and they twist and use scripture to try and prove ‘their’ worth or authority.

As we live transformed, holy lives, the world we see the power of God and it will MATCH our words.  Even Jesus warned the people about the Pharisees, He said, “Listen to what they say and obey them, but do not do what they do…”  They had the right words but would stand condemned in the end without hope for their religion.

We reflect the light of God as others proclaim the truth of our changed lives

6 And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit,
7 so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.
8 For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything.

See this text?  Oh, how I wish I could just pour this more and more fully into my heart each moment and how I wish I could just push it right off the page or screen into your hearts.  However, this text tells much more than I have time or the strength to write today.  The Thessalonians did not have to give testimonies of how good life was.  They didn’t have to stand up and make a big deal about what God was doing for them.  They didn’t write journals and make revival meetings and pass out fliers or preach all over the world.  They continued to live where God had planted them but their lives were marked; different and set apart.

The POWER of the preached word became TRUE in the lives of these people, they became believers by the will of God and the power of the Gospel, who is God!  Then their lives began to change immediately and their hearts were set on eternity, not this earth or its pleasures.  They didn’t live for their careers, their platforms or their future, but for the future of hope in Christ.

The power of God was reflected in their lives and the church was growing stronger in other areas.

We reflect the light of God and the church is strengthened – everywhere

Notice that Paul made mention of the fact that other cities had noticed and were striving to see that change in their lives.  The Thessalonians were examples, verse 7, to other believers in other places.  When we live as examples, the body of Christ across the world is edified and stronger.  Paul continues and says that not only has their faith and the power of God in their lives made a difference at home and in neighboring cities, but that their faith in God has become known everywhere!

When we reflect the light of God in our lives by living holy and passionately for the gospel, evangelism happens organically.  We don’t have to worry about how many events, outreaches and networks we build so that people will share their faith, true faith yields fruit.  A fruitless faith is evidence of a faith that is not saving faith!

We reflect the light of God and the Gospel goes before us

Look at the last part of verse 8, “we need not say anything…”  What?!  In other words, the faith and testimony of power in Christ for these people had reached to other regions of the globe.  When the apostles had gotten to their destinations, they just confirmed the message that had already been sent – God is light and He is the message in Christ that gives YOU salvation.  “We see it, we know it is true, we have heard about those people and want to know more!”  How would you like that to be the coffee talk at your job, school or buzz in the community?

What testimony was that?  Well let’s read it: 9 For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God…”

They had reports from around the world about the apostles ministry to them and how they had turned to God!  Not just numbers on a page or people down the isle, but lives that bore fruit from the beginning.  They turned from idols!  That’s they gave up what was ultimate and precious in their lives and worshiped what was true!  “I don’t have idols” you might say, however, we all do.  We are a perpetual idol factory and we love our church, our family, our jobs, money, stuff and self-worth.  We have love for our knowledge and our intellect and the way we communicate.  We have idols, not just graven images that we think are gods, but ulitmate things in our lives.  Our very sinful desires and the small things that we just say, “eh, no big deal…”.  These are idols.

If our sins don’t shake us up, even our small ones, then we are on a very slippery slope.  WE might have a small love for Godly things, but if we have God in us, our hatred for sin will grow deeper and our love for God’s nature, holiness, will explode into a passion that can never be quenched!

If we do not find this hope, if we do not have this ‘reflection’ of faith, we need to stop worshiping our salvation date and repent and believe.  After all, the purpose of faith is to trust in the true, the one who is faithful – Jesus Christ.

We reflect the light of God and His eternal promise in Christ

10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.

This is what the true church has focused in their hearts.  Not growth, mission, vision etc, but Christ and His eternal kingdom.  Friends, our sole hope is that Christ will bring us to Himself and fit us for the presence of Holy God!  Jesus is the victor, He is the elect, He is the righteousness of God – let’s make sure that we are found in Him.

Staying Stupid, James H. Tippins

Every believer has a test of faith.  So what does it mean?  How do we ‘pass’ the test?  What if our faith is NOT being tested, then what?

This message is the last message of this year in regards to this series, we’ll pick up in January and continue our series in Hebrews and in Faith.