A new Christian wrote me regarding his struggle with temptation in his life. Here was my response:
Regarding the issue of temptation, keep in mind, temptation in itself is not sin. We are all tempted as Christians. Even Christ was tempted. Temptation only becomes sin when we give into it. James 1:15 tells us when temptation has conceived, or given into, it becomes sin. In Psalms 119:9 it tells us the way to keep our lives pure and clean is to live according to the Word of God, the Bible. Regular Bible reading each day washes and renews our mind. In this way, we become stronger Christians so that over a period of time we will give into temptations less. As Christians, we now have two natures. We have the old sinful nature, but we also have the new spiritual nature, sometimes called the “new man” or “new self” in scripture. As you feed this new man by reading and meditating on scripture, that new nature becomes stronger just as exercise strengthens our physical muscles. As Christians, we will continue to struggle with the desires of the old nature as long as we are alive. The good news is that we can strengthen that new nature inside of us to become stronger than the old nature. The Christian life is not a static one. You are either going forward or slipping backward. There is no standing still.
If you are struggling with a particular sin that seems to really be entrenched in your life, I suggest you talk to a pastor or Christian counselor. God gave such men to us to help us in these areas. Sometimes just reading the Bible doesn’t help us completely. We need the input of other Christians to help us see our blindside sometimes, in regard to various issues in our lives. Sometimes problems in our lives come from past experiences we have had. This is where a good counselor or pastor who is knowledgeable about such things can be of benefit to us.
Judges 16:28-30 tells us of the end of Samson in the Old Testament.
Then Samson called to the Lord and said, “O Lord God, please remember me and please strengthen me only this once, O God, that I may be avenged on the Philistines for my two eyes.” And Samson grasped the two middle pillars on which the house rested, and he leaned his weight against them, his right hand on the one and his left hand on the other. And Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines.” Then he bowed with all his strength, and the house fell upon the lords and upon all the people who were in it. So the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he had killed during his life.
During certain times in the Old Testament, God would raise up leaders to defend his people, Israel, from their enemies. These leaders were know as judges. Samson was one such judge or leader. We read his story in the book of Judges, chapters 13-16. These chapters tell us of the victories which Samson had in protecting Israel over their enemies, the Phiistines.
At last came the day when, through deception, Samson revealed the secret of his strength and was delivered over to the power of his enemies. The last verses in chapter 16 tell us how Samson was blinded and taken to the idolatrous temple of the Philistines so they could make fun of him and celebrate their victory over him as leader of the Israelites.
But God still had a plan for Samson. Samson prayed to God and God gave him his strength again. Samson had himself positioned between the two pillars supporting the temple and pressed against them until the whole temple fell destroying him and his enemies.
Then scripture tells us that in this event, Samson destroyed more of his enemies at the last of his life than in his entire lifetime.
Older Believers, your mightiest victories in the Christian life may still be ahead of you.
I remember my Dad telling me that sometimes God will prepare a person for most of his or her life to use that person in a much mightier way towards the end of their life, perhaps for a few short years.
Moses is a good example of this. God spent two thirds of Moses’ life in Egypt and the back side of the desert to prepare him for the monumental work God had for him to do in delivering the Israelites from bondage. It took that amount of time for Moses to learn to depend on God and not his own human abilities.
Dear, Christian brother, don’t think that just because you may be up in years and nearing the twilight of life that God is finished with you! He still has a task for you to perform and it may be only now that He has His greatest work to accomplish through your life. Keep plodding along, obeying Him, and seeking to advance His kindgom here on the earth.
It may be in imparting the wisdom you have gained to a younger generation.
It may be spreading the gospel to those you come in contact with or training others to witness.
It may be in counseling and encouraging other believers and helping them avoid the pitfalls you found in life.
Whatever it is, get busy and stay busy! YOU STILL HAVE WORK TO DO!
H.A. Ironside (known as Harry or H.A.I.) was a famous Bible teacher from the previous century. He preached and taught all over the United States and was pastor of the famous Moody Memorial Church in Chicago for a number of years. In his biography entitled, Ordained of the Lord, by E. Schuyler English, his biographer tells a story which must have had a transforming effect on Ironside’s ministry. Here is the excerpt:
Occasionally, in his travels up and down California, Harry sought the communion and counsel of servants of God who were reported to know Christ intimately and to be well acquainted with the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings. To this end, on one of his visits to Los Angeles he walked out far beyond the city limits to gain the acquaintance of an aged servant of the Lord who lived in a tent among the olive trees. His name was Andrew Fraser. He had been a friend of Sophia several years earlier but now, because he had contracted a contagious and terminal illness, he saw few people indeed. When Harry reached Mr. Fraser’s tent and introduced himself, and after certain amenities were observed, the young man told his host that he was trying to preach the gospel and teach the Word.
“Well,” said the aged servant of the Lord, “sit down for a while and let’s talk together about the Word of God.” He then opened his much-worn Bible and for some time, in fact, until his strength was about gone, earnestly presented truth after truth of the precious Word of God, turning from one passage to another. He did this in so simple and so sweet a manner that young Ironside entered into these truths in a way that he had never done before. Tears began running down the cheeks of the young preacher.
“Where did you get these things?” he asked. “Can you tell me where I can find a book that will open such wonderful truths to me? Did you learn these things in seminary?”
He waited for Mr. Fraser’s answer, which he never forgot, “My dear young man, I learned these things on my knees on the mud floor of a little sod cottage in the north of Ireland. There with my open Bible before me I used to kneel for hours at a time and ask the Spirit of God to reveal Christ to my soul and to open the Word to my heart. He taught me more on my knees on that mud floor than I ever could have learned in all the colleges or seminaries in the world.”
To know God better. The better we know God, the better we can follow Him.
The Bible is the only book which is totally reliable and without error- unlike philosophies written by men.
What Bible study will do for us:
- It will make you a strong Christian- 1 John 2:14 (The young men strong because Word of God was in them.)
- It assures of salvation.1 John 5:13
- It will give confidence in prayer- John 15:7, 1 John 5:14,15
- it will cleanse us from sin.-John 17:17
- It will give you joy.-John 15:11
- it will produce peace in your life. Luke 11: 28
- It will guide you in making important decisions in life- direction and wisdom for daily living- Ps. 119:105
- It will help you share your faith with others.-1 Peter 3:15
- It will guarantee your success and make you more fruitful in your life. Joshua 1:8, Ps 1:1-3
- It will transform our lives. The Bible is the tool the Holy Spirit uses to transform our lives and make us more like Christ
- It will protect us from false teaching. By knowing the truths of the Bible, we will be able recognize false teaching when we see it.
After we’ve been a Christian for a while, it is easy to get in a rut. Our work and personal lives tend to get more complicated and more distractions come our way. After a while, it seems we are spending a lot of time just putting out fires and trying to cope with life on a daily basis. Our Bible reading and prayer life starts to slide without our realizing it and we find ourselves trying to cope with life through our own wisdom and ingenuity. That’s when things can snowball and life can really end up a mess.
When you realize this is happening in your own life and life seems to have more questions than answers, that’s when you need to step back and take a good look at what you are doing. How are you trying to handle everyday life with all it’s tasks and responsibilities? This is especially important in our high tech world with all its gadgets and distractions. We find ourselves overwhelmed with things we feel need to be done with little time to do them. That is when you need to start trying to simplify your life again. Step back for a while and re-evaluate things. Do you really need to answer all those emails and phone calls? Are all those tasks you think you need to do really that important?
Someone once wrote a little booklet entitled, “The Tyranny of the Urgent”. The author’s premise was that many times we have things which seem urgent to do, yet in reality, they are unimportant. We need to sort through things and do what is really important, not just what seems urgent at the time.
One of the best ways to get rid of the unimportant and get our priorities straight is simply to set aside a little time each day to read and meditate on scripture. If you do this over a period of time, I think you will find a lot of things will fall into place where they should be. You will be able to sift through you responsibilities easier and eliminate those things which really don’t have to be done.
Get Back to Basics
You have to decide what is really important in your life. There are several steps you can take to simplify your life and do what is really necessary without wasting a lot of time doing the unimportant. Here are several steps you can take.
1. Reading the Bible and meditating on it on a regular basis has a way of automatically washing the clutter out of your mind.
2. Praying on a regular basis will help calm you mind and help you focus on what is really essential.
3. Witnessing, passing out tracts, or in some way ministering to and helping others is the main purpose to which God called you. No matter what occupation God has called you to, He wants you in this field for certain reasons which have to do with your spiritual development and ministry to others. This is your primary purpose in life…not just making money to pay the bills. Once you realize your job is just the means to this end, your work life will take on a different dimension.
Take Time to Analyze
Take some time over the next few days, to have a good look at your daily life. Try to identify the areas which are important and which are unimportant. Start practicing the above three steps and in a short time, I think you will see a major difference not only in what you accomplish, but also in your attitude toward your life in general. These three steps are the basis for building a solid Christian lifestyle and accomplishing what God has for you to do.
Years ago, one of my earlier mentors told me, “Everyone should have a Paul and a Timothy”. What he meant was that every Christian at different times in their lives should be being discipled by an older Christian and also discipling a younger Christian themselves. Discipling a younger Christian does not necessarily mean someone younger in age, but one less mature in their development as a Christian. There are many younger Christians around who would love for someone more experienced in the Christian life to come alongside them and help them grow to spiritual maturity.
It doesn’t take a college or seminary degree or special training. And as someone who has been a growing Christian for years, you have a lot of knowledge and wisdom to impart to a younger Christian. You’ve learned how to have a devotional time reading and studying the Bible. You’ve spent hours in prayer and have seen answers to those prayers. You’ve made mistakes and have learned at least somewhat how to avoid the pitfalls. You have been through discouraging times and found that God was there taking care of you all along. That type of knowledge and experience is just what a younger Christian needs to grow and mature in his or her walk with Jesus Christ. Our own church is blessed with a group of older Christians who can disciple and mentor a younger person, whether it is a new convert just starting out or someone who has been a Christian for years, but has always had problems knowing just how to go about growing in Christ. I personally know what it is like to flounder around like a fish on a beach in my Christian life until some dear older Christian came alongside me to help point the way.
Some people have the mistaken idea that you just win people to Christ and invite them to attend church. Somehow we think having them sit through years of listening to sermons and Bible studies will be all that it takes to develop a robust Christian life. It doesn’t work that way, however.
What is Disciplemaking Anyway?
Let’s start with a definition. This one is mine, although you can probably find a better one somewhere else. Disciplemaking or discipling is a process of bringing a new or immature Christian to the point where he can grow on his or her own in the Christian life towards full maturity in Jesus Christ.
What Does It Involve?
It might be better to give some examples to show the process of making disciples. Some people think discipling someone involves having a weekly Bible study with the person they are discipling. This may be part of the process, but not necessarily. For instance, a new convert may need a weekly study on such things as:
- How to read and study the Bible.
- The importance of prayer and how to do it.
- How to deal with sin in their life.
- How to share the gospel with someone else.
- And many other related things necessary to grow in the Christian life.
However, a weekly Bible study format is not always what is needed.
Discipling another person involves literally building your life into theirs. Not in the sense where you are building a duplicate version of yourself. Your purpose is to help them grow into the image of Christ. It means sharing your life with them as you teach them and help them grow. It involves being there for them when they need you. It means sharing your victories as well as your defeats, your failures, and your trials and to help them avoid the pitfalls you found in life. It means encouraging them and rejoicing with them in their successes. This involves teaching them the Biblical principles needed to successfully live the Christian life. The whole purpose is to help them learn to grow into the likeness of Jesus Christ.
That’s the way Jesus taught His own disciples. They lived with him for three and a half years. He taught them, admonished them, and they saw how he reacted to various situations they came across in life during His ministry on earth. Much of His teaching was on the spot application of principles for situations they ran across in daily life.
Different Styles and Different Formats for Different Needs
Not everyone teaches the same way. Nor does everyone learn the same way. Some people learn best in a structured format such as a Bible Study. Some learn best sitting in a restaurant over a cup of coffee receiving on the spot encouragement and Biblical instruction on how to apply a Biblical principle to whatever problem they are facing. Some forms of discipling will take the form of hands on experience such as taking a person out and showing them how to share the gospel with others.
This is the Real Purpose of the Church
The Great Commission in Matthew literally says, “Going into the world, make disciples”. That is why the church exists on earth and that is the way our church can grow.
Imagine this: What if our church became known in our community as the church which creates and nurtures disciples and helps Christians grow by one on one instruction in the Christian life? Personally I think that kind of reputation would cause a lot of growth in our church.
What to Do
If you are an older Christian, look around for someone who seems to want to grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ. Develop a relationship with them. Spend time with them. Invite them over to your house to get acquainted. Let them know you are there for them whenever and for whatever reason there is.
If you are a younger Christian who would like to be more successful in your Christian living and have a closer walk with God, find someone in your church whom you think could help. Pull them aside and ask them if they would be willing to spend some time meeting regularly with you to help you learn and grow. Don’t be shy. There people in our church who would love to be able to spend time with you and help you develop in your Christian life.