For His Glory

Monday, January 30, 2006

Soldiers Fit For a King

Steve Camp made a comment in yesterday's sermon that I started thinking about and dug into deeper. He used 2 Timothy 2:4: "No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him." Mr. Camp said about this verse, and this is a paraphrase, A solidier on the battle field does not worry himself about the issues of the civilian. The Christian life is a war and we eat, sleep, live, and fight on the battle field. When we wake up, we must prepare for battle because we are in enemy territory.

Imagine soldiers in a forgeign field. Although they are on the battlefield, there are many distractions placed here by the enemy. There are many pleasures to indulge in here and are very tempting. At first, the soldiers are focused and resist temptation. They fight the enemy daily. Over time however, the soldiers gave in to the temptations. Pretty soon, they forgot about fighting and emersed themselves in the pleasures all around them. Of course, the enemy took them over.

As Christians, we are on a foreign battle field. The world is our battle field. We are citizens of heaven. There are pleasures all around us that the enemy uses to distract us from our focus. Praise God that He is with us!

When Paul speaks of suffering for the cause of Christ and language of being sober, ready, focused, etc.. while we are on this earth does not sound fun or pleasureable. It is not appealing to the flesh. We must get beyond our flesh! Because of Christ, we are above our flesh.

Back to the picture of a solider, when he is in the field, his motivation to do a good job is his longing for home. He knows that if he does his job and does it well, he will get to go home. During this time however, he has to make sacrifices. He necessarily does not like what he has to do, but he does it out of obedience of his commander in chief, the love his country, and his own survival.

As Christians, we necessarily do not enjoy some of the sacrifices we have to make, but we do so out of obedience to the most high God, the love for Christ, for our survival, and the promise of going home. Unlike many soldiers today, we were drafted into our Lord's army. It is a high honor to serve in the Lord's army. It is a serious and sobering thing to be a servant of the Lord.

Our handbook has been written by the King himself. We must hold fast to His Word in order to remain in communication with Him. We must take into account what He tells us, and then act upon it in order to live worthy of being His soldier.

So when we read what Paul tells us about suffering and being sober, let us be quick to listen and act. Let us run the race with perseverance, fight the good fight, and put our hands to the plow of life without looking back. If God be for us, who can be against us!

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Learn to Want What is Best

This is a refreshing way to look at this verse. This is from Randy Alcorn. Check out his site at

For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me [not "wants to lose his life"] will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? Luke 9:24-25

What strikes me about this passage is that Jesus recognizes our tendency to want the wrong thing. Or, rather, to want the right thing (saving our lives), but believing in the wrong way to obtain what we want.

Notice He doesn't first appeal to us to want to "lose" our lives. He just tells us to go ahead and lose them, in acts of obedience.

However, once we do that, we will see the rewards, the outcomes of this obedience. These positive outcomes, which bring us joy and freedom, will move our hearts and heads to start wanting to do the right thing. In other words, acts of obedience can transform our desires, so we start wanting what we didn't want before, and (except in moments of temptation), stop wanting what we used to want.

There is great hope in knowing that what we want can really change. We can actually learn to want to do what is right because it is such a better way to live (not only for God's glory but for our good). We will realize how insane it was to live the way we used to. For instance, what man in his right mind would not want to spend daily time with God, be faithful to his wife, give generously to the needy and share his faith in Christ? Only a fool wouldn't want these things, because once you've tasted the joy in them, once you've come to realize what God wants for you is always best for you, how can you settle for less?

Now, how do you learn to want what is best for you? By doing it. Again, Jesus doesn't expect us to begin with wishing to lose our lives. But he expects us to lose them anyway, in obedience, for his sake. But once we do this, and learn this path we discover its benefits, that it actually saves our lives rather than losing or forfeiting them.

Then we learn a new desire, to desire the very thing he has commanded, so that we then truly want to lose our lives for his sake, so we can find them. This is the discovery: that our loving Father always commands us to do what is truly in our best interests, even if it seems a sacrifice at the time.

So our ultimate goal should be to retrain ourselves, by God's grace and with His empowerment, to want to do what is best. Our goal is to be the kind of men who can learn to want what we should want, and then LIVE THE WAY WE WANT TO LIVE.

But we cannot sit around and wait to want what is best. If we wait, our desires-which relate to our habits, as Willard says, what we do with our bodies—won't change. Rather, we step out in faith and obedience and lose our lives, denying ourselves. And then we discover the joy of that life, the freedom and release, the finding of ourselves that we thought we were losing. And we discover that when we said no to the temptation we were saying yes to what our regenerate self really wants.

So we could say that we should, "Do what you want, provided you want what is best."

Or, "Learn to want what is best, then do what you want."

This is in stark contrast to the alternatives:

1) Do whatever you want, even if it's wrong (the world's way).


2) You'll never really want to do what you should do, but you should just keep doing it anyway, going against your desires.

This second way is often the church's approach; and notice how poorly it has worked!

So when we follow Christ, denying ourselves and taking up the cross and losing ourselves, the sacrifice is real, and another way it isn't. It's like the man who sells everything he has to buy the treasure in the field. His sacrifice was real, yet what he gained through it was vastly greater than what he gave for it. And hence, in the long run, the sacrifice was only temporary, not permanent. In the larger sense, it was not a sacrifice at all...for who could call it "sacrifice" when what is gained is so much greater than what was lost?

God's alternative is to do what you may not at first want to do, and do it out of faith and obedience and dependence, and then what you want will be changed, as you see that what you wanted will bring death and what you chose instead is bringing you life.

Now, your wants get transformed, so you can say with Augustine, "Love God and do as you please." Because if you really love God, you will want what He wants; what pleases Him will please you; and what displeases him will make you miserable. And no one wants what makes him miserable, as long as he knows it will make him miserable. (Except when, as in addictions, our bodies have become so trained to do what makes us miserable, we think we cannot resist them.)

So our right choices bring with them positive reinforcement. Temptation will then consist of those things which we want but have not yet learned that they will kill us. They will rob us of peace and joy, and if we were in our right minds, we would not want to do them. As we learn to want what is really good for us, we will begin to see through those temptations, realizing them for the lies they are. This will not eliminate temptation, but it will certainly reduce it.

Here are some additional thoughts that relate from my book The Treasure Principle.

This story is captured by Jesus in a single verse: "The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field" (Matthew 13:44).

Consider what the man must have thought upon discovering the treasure:

What a find! Unbelievable! I've got to have that treasure! But I can't just take it—that would be stealing. Whoever owns the field owns what's in it. But how can I afford it? I'll sell my farm...and crops...all my prize oxen. Yes, if I sell everything, that should be enough.

From the moment of discovery, his life changes. The treasure captures his imagination, becomes the stuff of his dreams. It's his reference point, his new center of gravity. Our traveler takes every new step with this treasure in mind. He experiences a radical paradigm shift.

Contrast this with the rich young man who pressed Jesus about how to gain eternal life. Jesus told him, "Sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me" (Matthew 19:21). The man was obsessed with earthly treasures. Jesus called him to something higher—heavenly treasures.

Jesus knew money and possessions were the man's god. He realized the man wouldn't serve him unless he dethroned his money idol. But the man considered the price too great. Sadly, he walked away from real treasures.

This young man wasn't willing to give up everything for a greater treasure. But go back to our traveler who found the treasure in the field, who was eager to give up all he had. Why? Because he clearly saw what it would gain him.

Do you feel sorry for the traveler? After all, his discovery cost him everything! But we aren't to pity this man—we're to envy him! His sacrifice pales in comparison to his reward. Consider the costs/benefits ratio. The benefits far outweighed the costs.

The travelers made short-term sacrifices to obtain long-term rewards. "It cost him everything he owned, someone might lament." Yes—but it gained him everything that mattered.

If we miss the phrase "in his joy," we miss everything. The man wasn't exchanging lesser treasures for greater treasures out of dutiful drudgery but out of joyful exhilaration. He'd have been a fool not to do exactly what he did.

Christ's story about treasure in the field is an object lesson concerning heavenly treasure. Of course, no matter how great the value of that earthly fortune, it would be worthless in eternity. In fact, it's exactly this kind of treasure that people waste their lives pursuing. But Jesus is appealing to what we do value—temporary, earthly treasure—in order to make an analogy to what we should value—eternal, heavenly treasure.

When we see things clearly, with an eternal perspective, what we value and what we want radically changes.

Monday, January 02, 2006


In light of the New Years, with people making new commitments for the year, I read this and thought that this would be a good list new year's "resolutions."

On February 19th, 280 Christian students were assaulted on their way to graduation. The graduates of the Emmanuel Theological Seminary and Bible College in Kota, Rajasthan, India, were beaten at the Koto train station by a militant Hindu mob (RSS) that was waiting for them. They were beaten again at the police station with iron rods and bicycle chains. The students were then robbed and forced to return home. The next day another group of 22 graduates were beaten and also forced to return home. Still, 4,300 came from across India, to receive their diplomas.

Former Emmanuel graduates have gone out to "swim" in the turbulent waters of a Hindu society that is hostile to Christianity, and they have planted 11,113 churches. They were not content to stand on the shore and have jumped into hot water because they dared to get involved for the sake of the Cross.

Two years ago 1,508 graduating students of Emmanuel College came from their satellite schools to graduate together in Kota. Standing side by side they made the following pledge:

• I stand with the apostle Paul in stating that "for me to live is Christ and to die is gain."

• I take a stand to honor the Lord Jesus Christ with my hands to serve all mankind.

• I take a stand to honor the Lord Jesus Christ with my feet to spread the gospel to all the ends of the earth no matter what the cost.

• I take a stand to honor the Lord Jesus Christ with my lips by proclaiming the Good News to all who hear and by edifying the Body of Christ.

• I take a stand to honor the Lord Jesus Christ with my mind as I meditate upon His Word and His promises to me.

• I give my earthly treasures and all that I possess to follow the way of the cross.

• I commit to love my family, orphans, widows, lepers, the wealthy and the poor the way that Christ loved the church.

• I surrender my will and life to His will and life.

• I commit to the service of the Lord by being a good steward of my time.

• I surrender this body on earth to the perfect will of Jesus, and should my blood be spilled may it bring forth a mighty harvest of souls.

• I pledge allegiance to the Lamb. I will seek to honor His command. I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes.

• Lord Jesus, Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

• I love my India and my fellow citizens, and I claim India for Christ.

One spark at this 2003 service was a newly converted Christian young man who had carried his four-month faith back to his village. While sharing the joy of his salvation, he was persecuted by the whole village. Hopegivers International reports that the villagers tied pairs of old shoes around his neck, forced him to parade down the main road while they beat him, and then forced him to drink the urine of a cow. As a result of his lifting up Christ, 100 villagers became Christians.

Glenn Penner from our Canadian office comments: "These students understand that the real sacrifice for ministry comes not so much in the preparation of ministry but in the performance of it. They understand that a cross-centered gospel requires cross-carrying messengersÉChristians are not called to a lesser degree of involvement. Sacrifice for Christ is not theoretical. It is tangible. It is real. Go out, and make something happen."

In my old 1966 Random House Dictionary, I found these challenging terms describing the word "involve": "the art of entangling, something complicated, to bring into difficulties, to absorb fully, concerned in an affair in a way likely to cause danger or unpleasantness, committed or engaged." Reading the list, it is easy to see why we hear the sentence, "Don't get involved."

Jesus was totally involved—in the temple, on the street, and in the dining rooms of the world. He calls us to carry our cross and swim out into society, fully engaged, or sink into a worldly sea of sameness.

It is human nature to flee unpleasantness, entanglement, complications. It is supernatural to walk to them and through them for the gospel. Demas, who helped Paul while he was in prison, later changed his mind and abandoned Paul (2 Timothy 4:10). He chose not to be involved. When I was imprisoned in Cuba, I met Pastor Noble Alexander, who while a prisoner for more than 20 years had secretly baptized more than 300 prisoners. The founder of our mission, Rev. Richard Wurmbrand, taught his Romanian youth group to give Gospels to the invading Russian soldiers.

Do we swim out into society's waters, activating our entire body, involved in the process? Or do we stand on the shore and shout about the danger, afraid of sinking among the sinners?

Surviving or Sharing in Christ's Sufferings

As described in the book, The Prison Poems of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, this German Lutheran pastor was speaking and writing in America in 1939, while back in his homeland, courageous Germans resisting Adolf Hitler were being executed. Bonhoeffer wrote in a letter that he must cancel his lectures, which were arranged to keep him safe in America, and return home. His uncle, General VonHase, had already been hanged.

Bonhoeffer was disappointed with his church, which was content to survive until the evil times were over, calling this a "self-preservation, as though that were an end in itself." A few Protestant and Catholic leaders protested Nazi brutalities before they gained complete power. The church in Germany, he said, had lost its power to proclaim the gospel of forgiveness and reconciliation to the world. He returned to Germany, was captured and executed, but his writings and the spirit in which they were written remain with us. He disdained non-moral sympathy, or simply feeling bad about something but doing nothing about it. He called this a product of "religiosity" and hoped that it would not be a trait of his people.

In a letter from prison, he wrote the challenging statement, "It is not the religious act that makes the Christian, but the participation in the suffering of God in the world." Like Jesus, he chose to carry his cross into a brutal godless tyranny, not by becoming entangled in their sin, but by engaging German minds with the gospel.

Published on Randy Alcorn's Eternal Perspective Ministries