“…and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.” ~ Philippians 1:14
Following Jesus takes guts. It is dangerous. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
We live in a war zone called earth. There are two kingdoms in conflict. You are in one or the other. If you are in the kingdom of God, you will be hated and killed for His name. If you are in the kingdom of darkness, you are serving the interests of the ruler of this world. He is a liar and a murderer. He comes to steal and destroy.
You can lock your doors, but that won’t stop him. You can call on your government to protect you, but that won’t stop him. You can hide, but he will find you. How can you stop the evil one?
A final generation of Christians is coming… and this is what we learn from them about victory: “And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.” ~ Revelation 12:11
Notice how they defeated the enemy…
- The blood of Jesus covered their sin.
- They spoke the truth to the world.
- They were ready to die for His sake.
Clearly we are to be different. We don’t fight to survive, but to conquer! To win! And we don’t win by living, but by dying. When we carry a cross we know there’s only one way this is going to end.
Our weapons are nothing like Satan’s… we love our enemies, we bless those who persecute and curse us, we feed those who are determined to destroy us, and we overcome evil with good. We are not here to merely survive, but to plunder the strong man’s house, to release the captives, and to let our light shine in such a way that His name is made great by our words and actions.
We will do whatever it takes and give up whatever it costs to carry the message of the cross to every man, woman, boy, and girl on the planet.
Following Jesus is not for wimps or fair weather fans. Pray for a powerful witness, a tender heart, and an unblinking obedience. Stop making excuses and play hard. Love indiscriminately. Laugh in the face of intimidation and hostility. Long for heaven.
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” ~ Philippians 4:13
the abundant life is a constant internal supply
flowing from the One who said He came to give it
to the ones who would abandon their overloaded lives
in order to walk with Him daily
through a joyful union and a lingering submission
eyes on Him and cares fading
finding rest then fully resting
as He steps ahead of me into every moment
with me, through me, in me
He is enough
(John 10:10, Matthew 10:38-39, Matthew 11:28-30, 2 Corinthians 3:18)
“…being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.”
Does the Bible really say that? I was stunned sitting in that pew on a Sunday night… and deeply moved.
A few months earlier I had been sitting in my dorm room at the University of Texas in Austin, when someone knocked on my door. David Procter, a staff member from Hyde Park Baptist Church, had dropped by to invite me to their college ministry. He later introduced me to a deacon, Alphonce Brown, who soon started picking me up for church on Sundays. As a year-old Christian, I had nothing to offer the church, but they invested time in me. Their love for Jesus was infectious… and their influence on me would last for decades.
So that’s how I came to be sitting in that pew on a Sunday night. That was the moment when I heard our pastor, Ralph Smith, mention a verse of scripture I had not heard before. I don’t recall anything else about the sermon, except I couldn’t wait to figure out where that verse was located in the Bible. After the service, I moved down to the front, surprised that no one else was lined up to speak to Dr. Smith (usually there was).
“Pastor,” I asked, “you quoted a verse… something about God completing a work that He begins.” He smiled. I was one of those who regularly queried him after his sermons. With a notebook in hand, I wasn’t challenging anything he said, but I always had questions. He told me where to find Philippians 1:6 and then, as we briefly discussed what it means, a truth formed in my heart that has never left: what God starts, God finishes! I really needed to hear that.
As a young believer, all I could see were my ongoing struggles with sin and my failed attempts to live for Him. I wanted to get it right, but it seemed like I was always getting it wrong. I was focusing on what I wanted to do for God, instead of what God was already doing in me. I needed to understand that when I first trusted Jesus, God began a work in me that is unstoppable. What God starts, God finishes!
In me — just me — nothing good dwells (Romans 7:18). On my own, I will always stumble and fall.
Every failure reminds me that I cannot live without Him. Jesus Himself said, “Apart from Me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Today, I am thankful that He never fails to finish what He starts, and that He long ago started to work in me. Steadily, unfailingly, and relentlessly…
He is finishing what He started.
“Things are not as bad as they seem, things could get worse, but they will get better.” ~ Ralph Smith (1931-2017)
Dr. Smith was the pastor of Hyde Park Baptist Church in Austin, Texas for 36 years. Click here for a brief account of his life from the Austin-American Statesman newspaper.
“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death– even death on a cross!” – Philippians 2:5-8
The baby in the manger reflects a revolutionary way of thinking that inverts this world’s system of values. Releasing His infinite majesty and absolute rule, and limiting Himself to the insignificance and lowly place of a house servant, Jesus lived a life that was absolutely yielded to the will of His Father. Why did He do this?
“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.” – 2 Corinthians 8:9
Jesus became a servant so that your life could be transformed. With one life to spend, He spent it all… on you. His obedience changes you. And if His attitude seeps into your thinking, you’re going to become a revolutionary presence in your world too.
Obedience is an offensive concept in our culture: it seems demeaning to obey someone. Yet, for Jesus, it was essential to doing life the way God intended. The obedient life is simply a dependent life, an active exhibition of faith in God. You cannot fulfill His assignment for your life by drawing on your ingenuity and resources alone. The God-sized work He gives you is always more than you can do in your own strength. Although Jesus was fully God, He did life within the limitations and frailties of His humanity — just like you and me. Jesus had a divine mission, but He could only accomplish it through the enabling presence and power of God.
- When Jesus needed to know what to say, God guided Him (John 12:49).
- When Jesus needed to know what to do, God showed Him (John 5:19).
- When Jesus needed supernatural help, God helped Him (Luke 11:20).
Jesus is not only our Savior. He’s our model for how to live in a dependent relationship with God. “Obedience” is about trading in your meager “powers” and tapping into His power. It’s not about losing your worth and value, but finding your significance through His purpose for your life. This is the attitude of Jesus… and it started with His arrival in Bethlehem.
According to Paul, this is the mindset of Jesus that must infect your own thinking. Welcome to the Christmas Revolution!
Editor’s Note: If you would like to obtain a single PDF file containing all 25 blogs in the “Counting Down to the Christmas Revolution” series, click here to download. May God richly bless your efforts to explore the revolutionary truth underlying the Christmas celebrations around the world.
Philippians 2:3 Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.
The man was seen on national television by millions each week. Bill had acted in 25 feature films with superstars. He made more money in a month than I made in two years. He was continuously reading scripts on upcoming film roles and commercials — he was a success by every material definition. And I was sitting in his dressing room on the backlot of a major studio.
For two years Bill had been attending our worship services in Beverly Hills, California. He would come in and sit in the back, slipping out during the last song to avoid talking with church members or pastors — he was painfully shy! He had recently committed his life to Christ. I called him to see if we could place him in a service role in the church — due to his shooting schedule he apologetically asked if I could drop by his dressing room on the studio lot. “Sure!” I said.
Bill was overwhelmed that I would take time out of my busy schedule to come see him at work! He hated to bother me, but was willing to serve if we had a place for him. I was dumbstruck by his attitude, which was absolutely void of pretense or condescension. He felt unworthy to do what we wanted him to do. He valued highly his relationships with others in the church — some wealthy, some on welfare — it didn’t matter. In his mind they were light years ahead of him in their walk with God.
I left the studio with a sense of brokenness that afternoon. Bill valued my position as a child of God more than I did. He greatly honored and treasured his church family. He truly “esteemed others better than himself.”