Be a Transformer – The YouTruth in Romans 12:3

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

When we think of renewing our minds, we usually frame the activity as an intellectual exercise. Reading, studying, or taking classes are usually details of a mind-renewing plan. Accumulating knowledge and critical thinking skills seem to be effective building blocks to constructing a renewed mind. While this is all true, the flaw in our thinking on this subject, is that this is all there is. And by the world’s standards, that’s true. But as people of faith, we must understand that our brain is not the only organ involved.

Anything that is added to our mind directly from an outside source, even if that source is the Bible or a powerful sermon, will not result in the mind renewal that God so desires for us. Everything must pass through our Spirit-indwelt heart first, before it is passed on to our minds for thought, decision-making, and action. It is the direct involvement of the heart that will deliver the ability to test and approve what God’s will is. The facts alone can’t do it.

In order to achieve the huge payoff—God’s good, pleasing and perfect will—heart and mind must be tightly woven together with the thread of His Spirit’s wisdom, guidance and love. Without this, conformance to the world’s pattern is the only possible outcome. With this, all of the transformative benefits found in His perfect will await you. Conform you must, but conform to eternity instead of the world. When you do, not only will you begin to transform yourself, but you will help chip away at the pattern of the world around you, replacing it with pieces of His good, pleasing and perfect will. Now that’s transformation!

Be a transformer—a world-transforming, eternity-conforming transformer—today!

Giving God a Test – The YouTruth in Matthew 4:7

“Jesus answered him, ‘It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

Bartering with God. If we all are truly honest, we will remember times when we’ve done this.

“God, if you [fill in the blank], I’ll [fill in the blank].”

It usually happens in times of trial or struggle. If God will just get us out of this mess we’re in, we’ll vow to straighten up and never get ourselves into the same mess again.

Jesus led us by His powerful example with regard to testing God. Jesus was facing a battle greater than many we will ever face. After 40 days in the wilderness with nothing to eat, Satan shows up, with his remedy to Jesus’ hunger—he tells Jesus to use His superpowers! Then Satan ups the ante two more times with more temptations all designed to get Jesus to betray God. Jesus, of course, stands firm and does not give in to Satan’s plan.

Putting God to the test, is part of Satan’s plan for us too. He tells us to withhold praise until God does what we want. He tells us that God is a god of “if you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.” He tells us to test God’s promises by demanding that they be delivered on our terms instead of God’s.

The main flaw in Satan’s plan is that we don’t have anything to offer God. God doesn’t need anything. He’s God. So, the whole testing and bartering thing doesn’t work. And think about this: God’s gift of grace is the gift of His infinite love for us. First, it is of infinite value, therefore there is nothing of finite value we could barter for it. Second, God’s grace is a gift. There is nothing we need to barter for it.

So when you face temptations, particularly those associated with tough times, don’t test God, just trust Him.

Whoever Publicly Acknowledges Me – The YouTruth in Luke 12:8

“I tell you, whoever publicly acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man will also acknowledge before the angels of God.”

Do you publicly acknowledge Jesus before others? Sometimes we are reluctant to do this, for a variety of reasons. We may not feel it is our place. We may not want to experience the backlash of criticism that may come with it. We may not know exactly how to acknowledge Him. We may even face more significant consequences or even persecution for witnessing about Jesus.

Jesus knows this.

When Jesus was teaching His disciples in this passage, they would likely face severe penalties and they could even face death if they acknowledged Him publicly.

Jesus knew this.

Why would he teach, both then and now, that we should be willing to subject ourselves to this kind of unpleasantry?

Because Jesus is up to it.

You see, Jesus is the one being attacked when skeptics reject our testimony. Jesus is the one being scorned when we acknowledge Him as our Lord.

And He is up to it.

If we know Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we know He has already died for us and saved us for all eternity. Skeptics and critics, atheists and even aggressive objectors can’t kill Him (again) and take that away from us. No matter how hard they try or how convinced they are that we are crazy for believing in Him, He died for us. It’s done. We are eternally saved. So we can boldly proclaim Him, in love, whenever the opportunity presents itself. And we can know that He is already proclaiming us before the angels of God.

I Have Chosen You Out of the World. Watch Out! The YouTruth in John 15:19

“If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.”

Ouch! What’s this about the world hating you? This seems like a horrible thing to face, but as it turns out, it is a blessing.

The world is a covetous, jealous, prideful place. When those of the world don’t have something they value, they are dissatisfied. In the world, the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. Relationships are ruined, strife is rampant. Wars are fought for the simple reason that one has what another wants and one will not give up what they have. And there you are, right in the middle of this mess. And the world hates you. Why? Two reasons:

First, you have something the world wants. You have been chosen out of the world and into the Kingdom of God. In the Kingdom, insecurity and material desires are replaced by eternal hope and love. And the world desperately needs it.

Second, you play by a different set of rules. When the world wants something, it conquers those that have it. It outruns them, steals from them, hoards the desired things and builds up defenses around them. Not one ounce of the Kingdom’s blessings can come to those who use these tactics. You have secured your Kingdom blessings by doing the exact opposite. You have submitted to Jesus’ authority and allowed Him to conquer you. Through your humility, gratitude, contentment, and generosity toward others, the Kingdom is forever yours.

There is hope for the world! As you know, you were once of the world and found your way out of it. But until all find their way out too, there will be some who scoff, persecute and yes, even hate. It’s a weird way of knowing that you have gotten it right.

Allow the world to see what you have and how you have secured it today. While many will hate you for it, others will find their way out because of it. The Kingdom’s blessings far outweigh the world’s trouble!

Do You Not Know? Have You Not Heard? The YouTruth in Isaiah 40:28

“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.”

If you are a believer in the Lord Jesus, this passage may not seem to apply to you. Of course, you know! Of course, you’ve heard! But we have to remember that Isaiah was writing this verse to the believers of his time in Israel. So God must have something to say to believers today as well.

Isaiah is writing this verse to a tired, frustrated, complaining people. They feel like God has abandoned them because they feel this way. The encouragement from Isaiah is to shift their focus from what they are currently experiencing to who God is. When we get down, dejected or weary, the same approach can be powerfully applied.

Are you tired? God is not. He is completely rested and ready to hold you up.

Are you weary? God is not. He has the power to be your strength.

Do you lack understanding for your present situation? God does not. He completely understands what is going on.

As believers, our problem is not that we don’t know that the Lord is the everlasting God. Our problem is not that we haven’t heard that He never grows tired or that His understanding is unfathomable. We know this! It’s just that we allow the clutter, noise, pain, or discouragement of a present moment to crowd out what we know. When this happens to you, ask yourself these questions more specifically:

“Do I know, in this very moment, that the Lord is the everlasting God?

“Have I heard that, in this very circumstance, He will not grow tired or weary; that He completely understands?

The answer will come back as a resounding, “Yes!”

In Christ, You Are a New Creation

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”
2 Corinthians 5:17

As we turn our calendars over and embark on another new year, our thoughts turn to starting over, making things better in the coming year, resolving to change things in our lives. Often these efforts are short-lived and have little lasting positive effect on our lives. The Bible has much to tell us about making a new start that can make this New Year truly different. Let’s look at the typical approach to bringing about  change in our lives and compare it to God’s approach.


Approach 1 : Changing the old

One approach to making changes in our lives is to focus on the negative things in our lives and attempt to change them for the better. This seems rather intuitive and there is no shortage of self-help books, tapes, and lectures that will prescribe this approach. So why does it so often fail us? Because it operates under the direct influence of our sinful human nature. We enter an improvement plan with a lot of enthusiasm and energy but over time we gradually revert back to old habits and behaviors. What really happens underneath is we are in a continual battle with the very sinful nature that drew us into the negative behaviors in the first place and we simply tire from the fight and relent. We are trying to change the old.


Approach 2: Replace the old with the new

God’s approach to improvement and positive change is completely different.

It starts with the word that is central to all of God’s activity – new. God is the eternal expert on ‘new.’ All of creation was spoken into being by God, everything made new by God Himself. And God is continually making things new all the time. Let’s look at some ways He does this:

New Mercies – God extends new mercy to us each day (Lamentations 3:22-23). Each day is new opportunity to receive His lovingkindness and to start fresh. Nothing that has happened in the past, whether on the previous day or in years past, can in any way remove the love and forgiveness He has ready and waiting for us is each day. To God, every day is New Year’s Day, filled with the opportunity and promise that we tend to assign only to January 1!

New Hearts – God does not promise to change our hearts, He promises to give us new hearts and then fill them with His Spirit! (Ezekiel 36:26) The Bible likens our human, sinful hearts to stone, hard to penetrate, hard to change, well, just simply hard like stone. So rather than offering to chisel away at it, He offers to take it away and replace it with a heart that is soft, pliable and able to contain His Spirit – His very power to help us focus on those things that He focuses on.

New Creations – Armed with new hearts that are filled with His Spirit, acutely aware of His never ending mercies, we are not who we used to be, drug down by our sinful nature, but we are new creations, reborn into new lives. (John 3:3) God sent His Son Jesus into the world for the very purpose of making us new. (John 3:16) Jesus taught that patching the old wasn’t the answer, but being made new in Him was the key (Matthew 9:17).

This new year, you can truly change things by giving the old to God and letting Him replace it with the new. That’s the truth.

If you are in Christ, you have a new, soft heart filled with His Spirit. The old hard heart of stone is gone! If you are in Christ, you can confidently receive His new mercies every day. You don’t have to wait until another New Year’s Day to come around in order to start over! If you are in Christ, you are a whole new creation. The old is gone, the new has come!

 That’s the YouTruth. In Christ, You Are A New Creation.

 

Jesus Has Prepared a Place For You

When we’re trying to get somewhere, we need to ask and answer a few questions…
  • Where we are now?
  • Where do we want to be?
  • What is the way to get from one to the other?
As Christians, we know that we live in a broken world (where we are) and long to get to our eternal home in heaven (where we want to be).
The way to get there is the remaining question. In the answer there is no road map, no turn-by-turn directions, just Jesus Himself.

 

“In My Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with Me that you also may be where I am.”

John 14:2-3 (NIV)


When a wagon train of pioneers wasn’t sure what lay ahead or what direction to go, they would send scouts ahead to test out the available routes and determine the best way to reach the next destination point. When the scouts returned, they would lead the entire group on the way they had chosen. Jesus went ahead for us by suffering and dying on the cross, paying the penalty for our sins, and then rising from the dead and ascending to heaven. Jesus promised to come back and take us to where He had gone, just as a good scout would. But Jesus was not playing the role of a good scout here. He was doing something quite different. I don’t know about you, but I’m not particularly interested in taking the path Jesus took. Thankfully, we don’t have to. Jesus’ going ahead in His suffering, death, resurrection, and ascension and His coming back was not intended to show us the way. It was intended to show us that He was the way (John 14:6). Because He travelled this path, we don’t have to! And it’s a good thing too. We are not qualified to travel that path. Any attempt on our part to travel that path on our own would be met with failure and separation from God. (read “For God So Loves You” for more about this.) When Jesus comes back, He will not take us down the path he chose, but will take us on a route that bypasses His path altogether.

Isn’t it amazing to know that when the time comes for us to go to be in His Father’s house, Jesus Himself will usher us through the front door?! Let’s look at the questions that usually come up about that moment.

When will it be?
Jesus emphatically taught that no one knows when He will return (Matthew 24:36). So the question is un-answerable. But there are key points in time that we know are critical:

1. Now!
Since we don’t know when Jesus will return, every second the clock ticks is an eligible candidate. Treat each moment as though it might be the one! Be ready!

2. When we die
When our life on earth is over, our opportunities to accept Him as Savior and Lord will have passed. If we have chosen Him, He will come back and take us to His Father’s house so we can be there with Him forever!

3. When He returns at His second coming
Some of humankind will be alive on this earth when Jesus returns to usher in the new age. At this time, if we have chosen Him, rather than taking us to His Father’s house, He will bring His Father’s house to us!

What will His Father’s house be like? There have been a few prophets over the course of history that have been allowed to see the Father’s house and return to tell us about it. Their collective descriptions make one thing clear – it is beyond description. These men dazzle us with imagery, numbers, creatures, and signs to try to put what they’ve seen into words. The terms are so ‘out of this world’ that they can be some of the most confusing passages in all of scripture. What we can derive from them is that the Father’s house is a place of amazing power, beauty, worship, light, and peace. While we struggle to grasp just what it will be like, it might be helpful to remember the most important part of it all – Jesus will be there with us and we will be there with Him forever. When you get right down to it, everything else really isn’t that important, is it? That’s the truth.

In My Father’s house are many rooms. I am going ahead to prepare one of those rooms especially for you. When the time is right, I will come back and you and I will go together to this wonderful place. You need not travel any other way, for I AM The Way for you.

That’s the YouTruth – Jesus Has Prepared a Place For You.

Martin, Jesus, Love and Hate

Quoteweaving-banner-art1-300x63Weaving together the quote of a famous one
and The Famous One


Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”

Jesus said it this way in Matthew 5: 43-45: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.”


God does not want us to hate others. Period. And yet, there is a lot of hate in the world. Martin Luther King, Jr. encountered it in his day. We encounter it in ours. But the truth still remains—even those we love to hate and hate to love should be loved by us. But how do we do it?

At the Core: Forgiveness
In order to love, you must be able to forgive. In order to love your enemy, you must be very good at forgiveness. Forgiveness is vital to loving in a broken world. There are simply no perfect people to love, therefore without forgiveness, you will simply be unable to love anybody for very long, if at all. We find a clue to the importance of forgiveness from one of Jesus’ most familiar teachings. He was responding to the question, “how do we pray?” But Jesus’ answer, the Lord’s Prayer, had much to say about the importance of forgiveness. In fact, Jesus taught that it is so important that God simply will not forgive those who don’t forgive others. Why this emphasis on forgiveness?
Because un-forgiveness is an incredible burden. Here’s how it works. When someone wrongs you and you fail to forgive, you carry bitterness, resentment, anger, hurt feelings, all heavy burdens that God does not intend for you to carry. The struggle to carry these burdens, if attempted for very long, gives rise to hate. The magic ingredient that reverses this process is forgiveness.

Can we do it?
We may say, “I can’t do this!” and we’re right. That’s the whole point. Only God can forgive in every situation. So when we say, “I can’t do this!” God says, “But I can!” When we claim Christ as our Savior and make Him Lord of our lives, we receive the free gift of forgiveness that His grace provides. This is not human forgiveness, but the eternal forgiveness of God Himself. Once we have received this gift we can share it with others. All others. It never runs out. Our ability to forgive, particularly in severe cases, reveals to the world whether we have received God’s forgiveness or not.

Martin Luther King, Jr. had many opportunities to hate those that opposed him. He had countless enemies and persecutors. Yet he remembered that he had the forgiveness of His Father in heaven, and thus had what he needed to love those that opposed him and persecuted him. His Savior had commanded Him and equipped him to do so. He commands and equips us to do so as well.

 

The YouTruth in John 10:10 – Jesus Came That You May Have Life

“I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

John 10:10b (NASB)

As we celebrate Christmas and commemorate Jesus coming to earth, it is right for us to ask and answer a very basic question – why did He come? Fortunately, Jesus Himself answered this question, and in His answer, we can find the greatest reason of all to celebrate this Christmas – He came that we may have abundant life. Let’s explore what Jesus did in relation to the abundance that is promised.

Jesus’ story doesn’t begin with His birth. In fact, Jesus’ story has no beginning or end. Jesus has, for all eternity, been together with God (John 1:1). He left this position of utmost abundance to be born into the world in human form. In so doing, he entered into quite the opposite situation. He was born in a stable because there was not a more suitable place available in Bethlehem (Luke 2:7). His earthly family was poor enough that when they went to the Temple after He was born, they gave an offering of two turtledoves which was specified for those who could not afford to offer a lamb (Luke 2:24, Leviticus 5:11). Soon after He was born, his family had to seek refuge in a land unfamiliar to them (Matthew 2:13). Once they were able to return to Israel, they located in Nazareth in Galilee, which was widely considered a place of second-class status (John 1:46). What a contrast from His heavenly abundance!

The contrast swings as strongly in the opposite direction for us. We are born into an earthly life that contains sin and its deadly effects, pain, suffering, despair, illness that will ultimately lead to death and eternal separation from God. The life that Jesus made possible by His saving work, of which His birth is just a part (See “Jesus Was Born For You” for more on this), has much different attributes:

  • Hope – an eternity spent together with God is assured! (Titus 3:7)
  • Joy – an everlasting happiness that can penetrate even the toughest of times (Isaiah 61:7)
  • Peace – hearts free from anxiety and filled with gratitude (Phillipians 4:7).
  • Love – an eternal, unconditional love of God that will never change (Psalm 136:2).

Jesus came from the highest abundance and was born into this world in the most ‘un-abundant’ of ways. Because He did, we can exchange the ‘un-abundant’, cheap imitation of life that exists in this world for an abundant life filled with Hope, Joy, Peace, and Love. That’s why He came. That’s the truth.

Jesus can that you may have life; that you may have a life filled with hope; that you may have a life filled with joy; that you may have a life filled with peace; that you may have a life filled with love; that you may have a truly abundant life!

 That’s the YouTruth. Jesus Came That You May Have Life.

The YouTruth in Luke 2:11 – Jesus Was Born For You

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.

Luke 2:11 (KJV)

The Christmas holiday season is the most observed, most significant period on most family calendars in our country. For weeks we prepare, many times in all-consuming ways, for the biggest holiday of the year. While there is nothing wrong with devoting so much time and energy remembering and celebrating Jesus’ birth, it is easy to assign undue significance to the event. Of the events that reveal Jesus’ nature as the Messiah, the Savior, His birth may be one of the least significant!  In fact, there would be nothing about His birth to celebrate, were it not for three other events that truly define Jesus Messianic nature. Let’s devote some time to understanding these events and then return to our birthday celebration and truly celebrate!

Event #1  Jesus’ Conception

The Bible tells us that Jesus was born to a woman who was a virgin. Jesus was not conceived through natural means, but by the power of the Holy Spirit, by God Himself (Luke 1:31-35). Jesus was thus conceived with a divine nature and a human nature, getting His divine nature from His heavenly Father, God, and His human nature from His human mother Mary. Only a Savior conceived in this manner would have the dual nature required to provide the way to salvation. If either the human or divine component were to be missing, salvation would be impossible. Were it not for God’s direct involvement in Jesus’ conception, His birth would have been meaningless. Let’s continue on to see why this is so.

Event #2 Jesus’ Life

The Bible tells us that Jesus led a life that was without sin (2 Corinthians 5:21). This is the most significant truth about His life on earth, yet it usually takes a back seat to His teaching, healing the sick, calming storms, walking on water and bringing dead people back to life. While all of these acts revealed that Jesus possessed divine power, they would all be meaningless, if they were accompanied in Jesus’ life by even one sin. Only Jesus, because He was conceived with both divine and human nature, could accomplish living a sinless human life. Since we have not been so conceived, sin is a part of our life. Let’s continue on, to tie this all together.

Event #3 Jesus’ death on the cross

The Bible tells us that the penalty of sin is death (Romans 6:23). There’s no way out. Because we sin, we will die. Because Jesus did not sin, death was not part of His future. But He chose to die anyway! He paid a penalty that was not due. What does He do with this ‘excess’ payment? He offers it to each of us! Because Jesus suffered a human death, he can offer His payment in place of ours! Because Jesus had a divine nature, the payment made by His death has an infinite value! He can continue to offer payments and He will always have a remaining balance to offer more payments! (If you haven’t accepted Jesus’ offer or aren’t sure how to, please see “For God So Loves You” right now!)

Now let’s return to Jesus’ birthday celebration. Because He was conceived as He was, lived as He lived, and died as He died, we truly have something to celebrate each Christmas! That’s the truth.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit for you, so He could live a sinless life for you, so He could pay a penalty of death not required of Him, so that He could offer His death payment to you. This Savior is Christ the Lord. He has done this all for you!

 

 That’s the YouTruth.  Jesus Was Born For You.