Thursday, November 30, 2006

How to Pursue a Significant Life (Summary of the Ephesians series)

Good AM. At the gate of FEBIAS College of Bible, you would see these words: “This life will soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last.” It is my prayer for each one of us that we would live our lives in such a way that it would last for Christ.

This morning we will wrap up our verse-by-verse study on the book of Ephesians, which we started last January. Throughout our series we sought to establish how we can live a significant life.

Allow me to summarize our series with the acronym P-U-R-S-U-E.

“P” stands for PURSUE your calling. We saw that chapter 4 verse 1 is the key verse of Ephesians. “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.”
[1] From chapters 1 to 3, Paul showed the calling we received from God. Make no mistake. He called all of us. Then from chapters 4 to 6, he showed how to live the life worthy of that calling. We are to pursue our call to live a life that matters. My role is to equip you to do just that. Your role is to be equipped “for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.”[2] Where do we start? That brings us to our next point.

“U” stands for UNDERSTAND your position in Christ. Pursuing a significant life starts with knowing our position in Christ. How God sees us is far more important than how we see ourselves or how others see us. We can live significant lives because God made us significant.

In chapter 1, we saw that God “has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ” (1:3). The Father selected us from eternity, the Son saved us through His death on the cross and the Spirit sealed us when we accepted the Lord Jesus as Savior. That is why Paul prayed that we may understand the blessings we received in Christ, that “[our] eyes [would be] focused and clear, so that [we] can see exactly what it is he is calling [us] to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life he has for Christians”.
[3] Here we see that God meant for us to live a life that counts.

In chapter 2, Paul showed the way we were. We were spiritually dead in our sins. But the merciful and loving God “embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. He did all this on his own, with no help from us!”
[4] When we trusted Jesus, He assured us of heaven: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”[5] Yes, good works does not save us. It is faith in Christ that saves us. Yet the faith that saves is the faith that works. “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”[6] We are to do good works now that God saved us. I like how The Message translated this verse: “No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.”

The Word in Life Study Bible reminds us, “Is your significance tied too closely to achievements—building buildings, reaching business goals, acquiring material possessions, climbing career ladders? If your sense of worth depends on them, what happens when you reach the top of the ladder, only to discover that the ladder is leaning against the wrong wall? The problem is that our world has a system of values that is upside down from the way God determines value. God calls us to a far more stable basis for significance. He wants us to establish our identity in the fact that we are His children, created by Him to carry out good works as responsible people in His kingdom. This is our calling from God.”

But we can’t do it on our own. That’s why we must RECOGNIZE the value of the church. Now, if you are regularly attending Makati Gospel Church, we challenge you to level up and commit as a member. We can grow spiritually on our own to a certain extent. But we can never achieve our full growth potential if we are not involved in a local church. Dr. Rick Warren wrote, “The difference between attenders and members can be summed up in one word: commitment! It’s like the difference between couples who just ‘live together’ and those who get married. While becoming a Christian means to commit yourself to Christ, becoming a church member means to commit yourself to other Christians.”

At the second half of Ephesians chapter 2, Paul showed that God united both the Jews and the Gentiles into one church body. They were enemies. But Paul declared, “On the cross Christ did away with our hatred for each other. He also made peace between us and God by uniting Jews and Gentiles in one body.”
[9] That’s why Ephesians gave emphasis on the unity of the church. “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”[10] One sure way of dividing the church is through our words. We are commanded to “Make a clean break with all cutting, backbiting, profane talk. Be gentle with one another, sensitive. Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you.”[11] When we hurt each other, we hurt the body of Christ. “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.”[12] We are to preserve the unity of the church. And we must also protect the testimony of the church. “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.”[13] We read in Ephesians 5:25 that “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her”. If we love Christ, we will love the church also.

But on our own we cannot do it. That’s why we need to SEEK the power of the Spirit. Ephesians 5:18 commanded us to “be filled with the Spirit.” The filling of the Spirit means control. When we obey the word of God, we allow the Spirit to control us. To be controlled is to be empowered. But it requires cooperation on our part. So we must accept or yield to the control of the Spirit. We must also avail of it everyday. It’s not only for pastors but for everyone. It should be a common experience. In short, God sustains us so we can live life to the fullest.

As a result of the empowering of the Spirit, we are to UNCONDITIONALLY serve others. How do we know if we really submitted to the Spirit? It is when we “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
[14] How do we do that? First, “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.”[15] The Message goes like this: “Wives, understand and support your husbands in ways that show your support for Christ.” Second, “Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church—a love marked by giving, not getting.”[16] Third, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.”[17] Fourth, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.[18] When Paul talked about the church, he talked not only about our relationship to each other as brothers and sisters in the Lord. But he also talked about the relationships of the families within the church, that is, the relationship between the husband and the wife and the relationship between the children and the parents. Let us always remember that the strength of the church depends upon the strength of the family.

Then, the church must reach out to the world. We are to impact or influence the marketplace. Paul discussed the relationship between the employer and the employee. He commanded the employees to “obey your earthly masters [or employers] with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ.”
[19] Then he commanded the employers to “treat your slaves [or employees] in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him.”[20] Note that there are no conditions set for submission. We are to submit or serve even if the person does not deserve it. We are to unconditionally serve each other. For a truly significant person does not only think of himself but also of others. A significant life leads to significant relationships which lead to a significant church.

But don’t think it will be smooth-sailing when we pursue a significant life. We must EQUIP ourselves for battle. After explaining who we are in Christ and encouraging us on what to do for Christ, Ephesians teaches us to expect spiritual conflicts. That’s why we are to “be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power... [and] put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”
[21] Don’t ever think that because we are finished with the Ephesians series we can now take it easy. Brothers and sisters, we are in for a fight of our lives... a fight for our lives. This is the reason why we must “pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.”[22]

Brethren, let us pursue a significant life.

P – Pursue your calling.

U – Understand your position in Christ.

R – Recognize the value of the church.

S – Seek the power of the Spirit.

U – Unconditionally serve others.

E – Equip yourself for battle.

Keep in mind: “This life will soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last.” I pray that all of us will experience a life that lasts... a life that matters... a life that counts... a significant life.

Let us pray.

[1]All Bible verses are from the New International Version, unless otherwise noted.
[3]1:18, The Message.
[4]2:5, Ibid.
[5]2:8, 9.
[7]From the illustration database of the Biblical Studies Foundation.
[8]“Getting Your Members to Commit to the Church” (From
[9]2:16, Contemporary English Version.
[11]4:31-32, The Message.
[16]5:25, The Message.
[21]6:10, 13.

Cradle Power

If there was already CNN in 1809, it would have announced that, “The destiny of the world is being shaped on an Austrian battlefield today.” For Napoleon was sweeping through Austria . That was the biggest news at that time.

But CNN and the entire world would be overlooking some very significant births.

Let us look at some of the babies born at that time. William Gladstone was born that year. He became one of England ’s finest statesmen. That year, Alfred Tennyson was born also. He would one day greatly influence the literary world. At the same year, in America , a newborn infant cried for the first time in a rugged log cabin in Kentucky . What was the baby’s name? Abraham Lincoln. History took shape not in the battlefield of Austria but actually in the cradles of England and America .

Similarly, around 4 B.C., the big news was that “Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.” (Luke 2:1, NIV) That was the year Jesus was born. Yet, the world was too busy to notice. In fact, the world was so preoccupied with the census that “there was no room for them [Joseph and the pregnant Mary] in the inn.” (Luke 2:7)

They missed the biggest scoop of all: the birth of our Savior! History took shape in that manger which served as a cradle for Him whose name “will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6) That was the time history got divided between B.C. and A.D. History never became the same again.

I pray that we will not miss the true meaning of Christmas. Let us also share this with others. So, on December 7 (Thursday, 7PM), 8 (Friday, 7PM) and 9 (Saturday, 9PM), make sure you invite friends and relatives to watch My Hope Philippines’ evangelistic broadcast over QTV 11.

Brethren, spread the Good News that forever changed history!

[1]From the illustration database of the Biblical Studies Foundation

Saturday, November 25, 2006

The “Thorpedo” Hangs His Shorts

Australia’s Ian Thorpe, after swimming to 13 world records, winning five Olympic gold medals and 11 world titles, recently announced that he is through with competitive swimming.

The “Thorpedo” is retiring... at 24.

According to an Associated Press report, “Plagued by illness, injury and a lack of motivation, Thorpe hasn’t competed in a major international event since the Athens Olympics.” A comeback for Thorpe is uncertain though he did not rule it out: “I never rule anything out, but it’s not going to happen.”

Why? Thorpe explains in front of 100 photographers and reporters: “I was catapulted into the international limelight as a kid. I’ve reached all the dizzying heights of this sport. It’s been a tough decision to make. None of my goals included breaking any more world records. I knew how to do it, but it wasn’t as inspiring as it should have been.” (Source: Yahoo! News)

I think the apostle Paul had an experience somewhat like that. “We can list what many might think are impressive credentials... The very credentials these people are waving around as something special, I’m tearing up and throwing out with the trash—along with everything else I used to take credit for.” (Philippians 3:4, 7, The Message) But he did so not out of a lack of motivation. He finally saw what’s truly important in life. “Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant (Philippians 3:8).

Breaking and setting world records are neat. Winning gold medals is cool. But what matters most in one’s life is to know the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior. Everything else pales in comparison. People need to hear this Good News. That’s why on December 7 (Thursday, 7PM), 8 (Friday, 7PM) and 9 (Saturday, 9PM), My Hope Philippines will broadcast an evangelistic TV program over QTV 11 so that people would discover what they really need in life. Tell your friend and relatives about it.

Brethren, you don’t have to quit on life. You just have to have the right reason for living.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

How to Pray for a Significant Life

This morning, I believe millions of people, not only Filipinos and Mexicans but boxing fans all over the world, will be closely watching the final bout between Erik “El Terible” Morales and our very own Manny “PacMan” Pacquiao in the Thomas and Mack Arena, which is said to be the biggest show ever in Las Vegas. They are fighting to become the most significant or important boxer of our times.[1]

But I believe God is watching someone else. 2 Chronicles 16:9 says, “For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.”[2] Imagine God zooming in on the Philippines, courtesy of Google Maps. Then He focuses on this portion of Luzon, which is more than 28 square kilometers in total land area. This is the central business district of the country. God is now looking at Makati City. Then He zooms farther. Now, this building over here looks familiar. Yes, you are here in this worship place called Makati Gospel Church. The Bible says God is looking for “those whose hearts are fully committed to him.” Why? To strengthen them. To make them significant. According to Merriam and Webster Dictionary, a significant person is someone who has a meaningful life or someone who is influential. A significant person is someone in whom and through whom God’s power is at work.
In Ephesians 6:10, Paul commanded us to “be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.” After that Paul discussed spiritual warfare in verses 11 to 17. Now, how can we win this spiritual battle? He gave the answer in Ephesians 6:18-20... “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.” In the Greek, the words “pray” and “be alert” are participles, not verbs. According to the NET Bible notes, “Both are probably instrumental... As such, they are not additional commands to do but instead are the means through which the prior instructions are accomplished.” In short, how can we tap into this power? Through prayer. The Message goes like this: “prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare” (v. 18). According to Peter Wagner, a leading church growth expert, “The more deeply I dig beneath the surface of church growth principles, the more thoroughly convinced I become that the real battle is a spiritual battle and that our [principal] weapon is prayer.”[3] So, how can we pray for a significant life? Let’s look at the acronym P-R-A-Y.
“P” stands for PRAY always. We are to “pray... on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests” (v. 18a). Prayer is both talking and listening to God. Remember that prayer is not just getting from God but also giving to Him. The word “pray” is in the present tense. That means we should never stop praying. We are to “Pray at all times and on every occasion...”[4] It should be our way of life. We are to pray when we are in the mood to pray. For it would be a waste to miss on such an opportunity. We should also pray when we are not in the mood to pray. For it would be sinful to stay in that state of heart. I believe this is one of the keys if we want Makati Gospel Church to grow both in quantity and quality. According to the Natural Church Development, a study of 1,000 churches in 32 countries, one of the marks of a healthy church is passionate spirituality. A high-quality, growing church enjoys prayer as an inspiring experience. Experts in another study studied churches that were previously plateaued or declining but now experiencing growth. That study revealed that 71% of those churches had an increased emphasis on prayer over the past several years.[5] That’s why let’s us always pray. Charles Spurgeon, the prince of preachers, wrote, “Beloved brethren, let us pray. We cannot all argue, but we can all pray; we cannot all be leaders, but we can all be pleaders; we cannot all be mighty in rhetoric, but we can all be prevalent in prayer. Be sure that you are with God, and then you may be sure that God is with you. Make the most of prayer.”[6]

“R” stands for RELY on the Spirit. The word “prayers” refers to general prayers while “requests” to specific prayers. If you know what you need, tell God. If you don’t know what you need, pray even so. That’s why Paul commanded us to “pray in the Spirit” (v. 18a). The Good News Bible goes like this: “Pray... as the Spirit leads.” He leads us in what to pray for. Romans 8:26 tells us that “In certain ways we are weak, but the Spirit is here to help us. For example, when we don’t know what to pray for, the Spirit prays for us in ways that cannot be put into words.”[7] In short, the Spirit prays with and for us. Another translation goes like this: “Always pray by the power of the Spirit.”[8] That is, He empowers us as we pray. When we pray, we tap into the power of the Spirit. We tend to do things, even church work, without praying. Or, if ever we do pray, we pray just to get it over with in order to get on with the “real” business at hand. After planning, we pray at the end to ask God to stamp our plans with His approval. But God will not do so for we are actually relying on our own strength and wisdom. That shows that we are too proud to depend on God. But without prayer we will not really accomplish anything really significant for the Lord. God should have the first and the last words and every word in between. That is why “The one concern of the devil is to keep Christians from praying. He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work, and prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, mocks our wisdom, but trembles when we pray.”[9]

“A” stands for APPEAL for others. Verse 18 continues, “With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” Note that we are to pray for the saints, not pray to them. The Bible does not teach us to pray to dead Christians but to pray for living believers. We saw that the Holy Spirit prays for us. Jesus prays for us: “Therefore [Jesus] he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.”[10] But the Bible does not command us to pray to Peter or to Paul or even to Mary. If you accepted the Lord Jesus as your Savior, you are already a saint in God’s eyes.
Nevertheless, the Bible teaches that we are to pray for one another. To be significant is to be influential... to impact others. We do that by praying for each other. In fact, we are sinning if we neglect praying for one another. The prophet Samuel said, “As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by failing to pray for you.”[11] Why? Praying for one another is one of our responsibilities as believers. Prayer is not just for pastors but for everyone. James 5:16 tells us, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” You pray for me and I pray for you because every member is a minister. The Weymouth New Testament translates verse 18 this way: “be always on the alert to seize opportunities for doing so, with unwearied persistence and entreaty on behalf of all God’s people”. Let us grab every chance to pray for each other.

“Y” stands for YEARN for God’s glory. Paul shared a personal prayer request. “Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should” (Vv. 19-20). It is not wrong to pray for yourself or for your needs. But note that Paul did not ask for comfort. He did not pray out of a selfish reason. He prayed and asked for prayers from others to advance God’s kingdom and for His glory. A significant life is not concerned with one’s importance but with God’s importance. James 4:2-3 warns us, “You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”
We tend to think that by saying “In the name of Jesus” at the end of our prayers is like a magic formula or chant. Yes, the Lord gave this promise: “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”[12] When we say “In Jesus’ name,” we are telling God, “Let your will be done.” Someone wrote that this means we are leaving it entirely up to God to decide what the answer would be and where, when, and how we would receive it. Note that the purpose of Jesus in answering our prayers is “so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.” We are to pray out of right motives. And the best motive is to honor God. For prayer is “wanting for ourselves nothing more and nothing less than what God wants for us.”[13]

So, let us pray always, rely on the Spirit, appeal for others and yearn for God’s glory so that we would experience a significant life, a life that is meaningful and influences others.

In his The Purpose Driven Life, Dr. Rick Warren wrote, “[God] wants more than an appointment in your schedule. He wants to be included in every activity, every conversation, every problem, and even every thought. You can carry on a continuous, open-ended conversation with him throughout your day, talking with him about whatever you are doing or thinking at that moment.”Let us pray...

[1]Update: Pacquiao won by TKO in the third round.
[2]All Bible verses are from the New International Version, unless otherwise specified.
[3]Peter Wagner, “Church Planting for a Greater Harvest” as quoted in
[4]New Living Translation.
[7]Contemporary English Version.
[9]Samuel Chadwick.
[10]Hebrews 7:25.
[11]1 Samuel 12:23.
[12]John 14:13-14.
[13]Bruce Wilkinson, “The Prayer of Jabez.”

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Far More Valuable than Picasso

Las Vegas casino mogul Steve Wynn calls it “the world’s clumsiest and goofiest thing to do.”

Wynn owns “Le Reve,” a valuable 1932 work of Picasso which he bought for more than US$48 million almost a decade ago. Last month, he accidentally poked a thumb-sized hole in the canvas with his elbow while he was showing it off to his rich and famous friends. Around 36 hours before the mishap, he just agreed to sell it for a whopping $139 million in exchange for another precious painting of Picasso. “The blood just drained out of their faces,” Wynn described his guests among whom was broadcaster Barbara Walters. “They did not know what to say. I just turned around and said, ‘Oh, my God. How could I have done this?’” It would cost him $85,000 to have it repaired so that the tear will not be visible.

Now the art world is talking about “diminution of value.” A member of International Society of Appraisers said, A restored piece naturally is not worth full value. Usually when you have a unique, very expensive piece like this at this level, you value it for a percentage loss.” (Source: Yahoo! News)

God created us in His image. Sin tainted it. He paid dearly with the blood of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to restore us. But God did not merely repair the damage. Instead, “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17, NIV) Mind you, we are not a renovation. We are a new creation. Renewed, not repaired. It’s like Picasso, upon seeing his damaged Le Reve, deciding to paint another one instead of having it repaired.
And there is no diminution of value or percentage loss. God by His grace restored us to our full value.

People need to hear this good news. That’s why My Hope Philippines will air an evangelistic Christmas special at QTV 11 on December 7, 8 (at 7PM) and 9 (9PM). They will also air the program at NBN 4 and other local regional stations on December 14, 15 and 16. Make this the most memorable Christmas for your friends and relatives. Please invite them to watch it with you and encourage them to accept the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior.

Brethren, our worth to God is far more valuable than all the works of Picasso combined.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

How to maintain moral integrity in the ministry

In view of the sex scandal in America involving a prominent minister, allow me to share an article from Dr. Rick Warren, bestselling author of The Purpose Driven Life. I believe what he wrote applies not only to pastors and also to all of us.

How to maintain moral integrity in the ministry

by Rick Warren

Integrity is the foundation of leadership. You only lead people if they trust you. If you lose people's trust, you've lost it all. That's why the right to lead is earned, and it's earned by being trustworthy. I think the most damaging sin a leader can commit is to betray the trust of his people.

Because Satan is on the attack, I want to share some biblical strategies for maintaining moral integrity in the ministry. In 2 Corinthians 1:12 (NIV), Paul says, "This is our boast. Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, especially in our relations with you, in the holiness and sincerity that are from God." What I like about this verse is that Paul is really saying, "I have ministered with a clear conscience. Nobody can point a finger at me. Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves with integrity." This is a mark of a leader.

Titus 2:6 tells us that a leader must be blameless. That verse is talking about integrity, which is the very first qualification of a leader. Ephesians 5:3 (NIV) warns us, "But among you there must not even be a hint of sexual immorality or any impurity or greed, because these are improper for God's holy people. I am jealous for the integrity of God."

How can you maintain moral integrity as a minister? Here are a few suggestions:

1. Never consider yourself above temptation. Don't kid yourself. People say, "It couldn't happen to me." That's a bunch of baloney. We need to be aware how vulnerable all of us are. The first defense is an attitude of humility that says, "I'm a human being." We need to watch out. 1 Corinthians 10:12 (LB) says, "So be careful if you are thinking, 'Oh, I'd never behave like that.' Let this be a warning to you, for you too may fall into sin." None of us are invulnerable. None of us are immune. Proverbs 16:18 (NIV) says, "Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall." The morning I say, "I've conquered that problem," that's the morning I'm open for temptation.

It's like the person who believes he's never going to be robbed, so he never locks his doors, never bolts down his windows, and leaves his money lying all around. Who's going to get robbed? The guy who thinks he's never going to get robbed. Jeremiah 17:9 (NIV) says, "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?" That means every person has his or her price. My heart is deceitful. That's what God says about my heart – and your heart. Given the right circumstances and set of events, you can't tell what you'd do. Me neither. We should have a holy fear of ever thinking we're beyond temptation.

2. Keep a close watch on your spiritual temperature. Be aware of your own level of commitment on a daily basis. It's very important that we watch our manners. Proverbs 4:23 (NIV) says, "Above all else guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life." Maintaining that daily walk with the Lord is absolutely imperative. I find that in temptation of any kind, I need to continually remind myself of God's omniscience and omnipresence. God sees everything in my life, and he is always with me. The Devil says, "No one will ever know." That's true in any kind of temptation. If God is always with me and he sees everything, then that is a motivation for me to practice his presence. 1 Corinthians 9:27 (NLT) says, "I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified." That verse strikes fear into me: that I would preach to others, then I myself would be disqualified. The integrity of leadership is the bottom line.

3. If you're married, maintain your own marriage. The greatest insurance for moral integrity is a happy home life. It's important that if we're married, we make sure our marriage is growing and developing. Like the old saying, "The grass is not greener on that side of the fence and the grass is not greener on this side of the fence. The grass is greener where you water it." It's very important that we maintain our own marriages.

Song of Solomon 1:6 (NAS) says, "They made me caretaker of the vineyards, but I have not taken care of my own vineyard." That's an important point. There's a danger in ministry of spending time repairing everybody else's marriage but neglecting your own. I work at this very hard in my family. Kay and I read books together, listen to tapes together. We go to seminars together. If you're married and in the ministry, it's important that you have the same lives together – not separate lives.

4. Develop healthy outlets for emotional and sexual energy. Satan loves to play on pent-up emotions. I've talked with people who don't have healthy ways to express their emotions and release that energy. Many times, immorality is rampant among them, because they're burning out. Romans 12:21 says, "Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good." That's just the principle of replacement. You've got to have outlets for balance in your life.

5. Guard your mind. The Bible is very specific about this. The battle for sin always begins in the mind. Always. If you lose the battle in your mind – your thoughts – you've lost the battle. James 1:14-15 (NIV) says, "... but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death."

Here are number of verses that deal with guarding your mind:

"Keep your head in all situations." (2 Tim. 4:5 NIV)

"Prepare your minds for action, be self controlled." (1 Peter 1:13 NIV)

"We take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ." (2 Cor. 10:5 NIV)

"Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature." (Rom. 13:14 NIV) What he's saying there is "No fantasizing." You sow a thought, and you reap an action.

In Matthew 5:28 (NIV), Jesus said, "Anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart." Science has found that whether you think a thought or you experience the thought in action, it makes no difference to your brain. It has the same mental impact. Neurologically there's absolutely no difference.

Paul tells us to "take the helmet of salvation." (Eph. 6:17) Why? That's what protects the mind. He's saying you've got to guard what you think about – and look at. Job declares, "I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully on a girl" (Job 31:1 NIV). David writes, "I will set before my eyes no vile thing." (Ps. 101:3 NIV)

Romans 16:19 (NIV), "I want you to be wise about what is good and innocent about what is evil." That's a key verse. Have you ever heard people say, "We need to know what the other side thinks like?" Baloney! That's just not true. It's like the way the U.S. Treasury Department teaches people how to spot counterfeiters. They don't give them counterfeit money. They give them real dollars to handle and examine. Then when something phony comes along, they immediately know it's phony.

6. Remind yourself regularly of the damaging consequences of moral failure. What do you do? Minimize the pleasure of sin and maximize the consequences. Hebrews 11:25 (paraphrase) says, "There is pleasure in sin for a season." There is no doubt about it. Sin is fun. Nobody would do it if it were not fun. There wouldn't be any temptation if there wasn't some kind of pleasure in it. Even God says there is pleasure in sin, but it's just for a season. You have your kicks, then you have your kickbacks.

What are the kickbacks? James 1:15 (KJV) says, "Sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death."

I think a good idea is to make a list of consequences and read it to yourself often. From Leadership magazine, a guy named Randy Alcorn lists consequences of a moral tumble. He says, "Whenever I feel particularly vulnerable to sexual temptation, I find it helpful to review what effects my action could have: grieving the Lord who redeemed me; dragging his sacred name through the mud; one day having to look at Jesus, the righteous judge in the face, and give an account of my actions; following the footsteps of people whose immorality forfeited their ministries and caused me to shudder; losing my wife's respect and trust; hurting my daughters; destroying my example and credibility with my children; causing shame to my family; losing self-respect; forming memories and flashbacks that could plague future intimacy with my wife; wasting years of ministry training; undermining the faithful example and hard work of other Christians in our community; and on and on."

7. Take the necessary precautions to protect yourself. As damaging as this issue can be, we need to go the second mile in protecting ourselves. Ephesians says there should not even be a hint of sexual immorality. In Matthew 26:41 (NIV) Jesus says, "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing but the body is weak." It's interesting to me that he doesn't say, "Watch and pray so you will not fall into sin." He says, "Watch and pray that you don't even fall into temptation." He's saying, don't even put yourself in a situation where you can be tempted. It's not an issue of are you going to give in or not, but rather, if you don't want to get stung, stay away from the bees.

Don't put yourselves in situations where you'll ever be tempted. 1 Peter 5:8 (LB) says, "Be careful, watch out for the attacks from Satan your great enemy. He prowls around like a hungry, roaring lion looking for some victim to tear apart." We've got to take precautions.

Because of that, let me warn you that most sexual temptation in the ministry will come from people whom you genuinely care about. People whom you love and who mean a lot to you. It's not going to be from some city slicker prostitute, but from people you really care about.

The bottom line is James 1:12 (NAB): "Blessed is the man who perseveres in temptation, for when he has been proved he will receive the crown of life that he promised to those who love him."

When I get to heaven, I want one of those crowns. I want to be able to look the Lord in the eye and say, "Lord, you know that I was pure through all my years of ministry and that there was never even a hint of impurity in my life."


Saturday, November 04, 2006

Close enough is not enough

An accountant in response to an ad applied for a high position with a large auditing firm. He went through a battery of tests and panel interviews. At the end of the final interview, the chairman of the board asked, “One last question—what is three times seven?”

The accountant impulsively answered, “Twenty-two.” After the interview, he realized he gave a wrong answer. He thought he lost the job. But he was surprised when the firm offered him the post later. So, he asked why he got the job despite the fact that he gave the wrong answer. The chairman with a shrug answered, “You were the closest.”[1]

Of course, that can’t be true. Accounting is an exact science. It is not enough to be close enough. You have to be right... down to the last centavo. That’s not being narrow. That’s the truth.

However, there are people who mistakenly think that God is like the interviewer. They think it doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you’re close to the truth. But, in heaven as it is in accounting, close enough is not enough. You may be sincere yet that is not enough. There are people in hell who are sincere but sincerely wrong. You have to be right. That’s not being narrow. That’s the truth.

That’s why Jesus declared, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6, NIV) Without Jesus, you are lost for He is the way. Without Him, you are wrong for He is the truth. Without Him, you are dead for He is the life. I wonder why people can accept the truth when it comes to accounting. Yet when it comes to salvation they can’t. Today, they will accuse you of being narrow if you say that only Jesus saves. But that’s the truth. And we are commanded to “preach God’s message. Do it willingly, even if it isn’t the popular thing to do.” (2 Timothy 4:2, CEV)

Brethren, people need to hear that close enough is not enough.

[1]From the illustration database of Biblical Studies Foundation (