Redefined and Rediscovered: The Gospel. What is belief?

Hello again brothers and sisters!

When I last left you, I left you with a verse to think about. Mark 9:24:

Immediately the boy’s father cried out and said, “I do believe; help my unbelief.”

This verse is very informative for this discussion. This statement by the boy’s father seems contradictory. Why would he need help believing, if he already believed?

My initial reaction when I read this verse to learn about belief was to place my faults and failings on this man. I assumed it was his pride. He did not want to acknowledge his own difficulty believing, and instead was kind of hedging between his pride and God’s place. In other words, “I kinda believe because my pride won’t let me say otherwise, but I know I really need to believe and I need you for that.” However, context is key so lets take a look.

And one of the crowd answered Him, “Teacher, I brought You my son, possessed with a spirit which makes him mute; and whenever it seizes him, it slams him to the ground and he foams at the mouth, and grinds his teeth and stiffens out. I told Your disciples to cast it out, and they could not do it.” And He answered them and said, “O unbelieving generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring him to Me!” They brought the boy to Him. When he saw Him, immediately the spirit threw him into a convulsion, and falling to the ground, he began rolling around and foaming at the mouth. And He asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. “It has often thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!”
And Jesus said to him, ” ‘If You can?’ All things are possible to him who believes.” Immediately the boy’s father cried out and said, “I do believe; help my unbelief.” Mark 9:17-24

So instead of a prideful man. It is clear that this man was actually desperate. He did believe that Christ could do it, however, he also recognized his own weakness and inability to believe that Christ could do it. This, the very opposite of pride resulted in Christ healing his son by casting out the demon.

Have you ever thought that what kept you from acknowledging your need for God to help you believe is your own pride? That in actuality our nature of staunchly stating that we know what the Gospel means is the root of our issue in actually believing it?

Another way of saying it is that as soon as you, in your heart, decide that you know the depth of the Gospel, you have indeed lost all capability for understanding it. By its very nature, our pride cuts us off from the source of the faith that we have, the work of the Holy Spirit.

Specifically the difference is between a headfull and a heartfull. There is a difference in knowing and believing. Belief brings about action based in that which is believed. Knowledge becomes belief through the working inward of that knowledge by the co-labor of your spirit with the Holy Spirit. This is a part of sanctification, or the separation of yourself to God’s purposes rather than your own.

Knowing is not believing. It works like this: All that you believe you know, but there are things you know that you do not in your heart believe.

To return to an earlier passage we talked about, James 2:18-20:

But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?

The idea that James is reiterating is that faith without works is not true faith. Faith with works is true faith because when you actually believe something, when you have faith that something is true, you live as if it is true.

Now lets take a look at our faith to see if it is really faith…or simply an acknowledgment in our minds.

Do you worry?

If you do, you are not having faith in God. Matt 6:25-34.

“For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? “Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? “And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? “And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. “But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! “Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ “For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Do you tell others of what God has done for you?

If you don’t, how true is it that you believe He has done it for you? Not many would refuse to tell their neighbor about something that was going to kill them. Yet, when you do not share what Christ has done for you, when you do not live according to His commands, you show you do not believe and do not tell them.

There are many more questions that can allow you to gauge what your belief is like. If you are like me, I was shown to be a liar by the first, not to mention the second.

So inevitably the question is, what do I do to fix it?

Do you remember in the last post when I said that the problem with those statements of the Gospel was that they were focused on us? Yet asking what we do to fix it is the same problem. Your pride screams that it is something you can handle. The truth is it isn’t. It never has been. And your and my belief that we could handle it was what put us in our current predicament.

The problem is our heart. Its not a problem we can fix. Like the man in Mark, Christ is the only one who can help us in our unbelief.

“Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 36:26

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4:12

So, renounce your pride and ask God to help you in your unbelief, as the boy’s father did. Be made new.

In other words: Be Utterly Dependent.

The grace and peace of Christ be with you.

karch

PS. Look forward to the next post. Now that we have a solid understanding of what it means to believe, and how we have gone wrong in our thinking before, we need to find what we are believing. A quick preview, one definition of the Gospel by a wise guy is: The Gospel is a righteous God declaring sinners righteous in a righteous way.

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Redefined and Rediscovered: The Gospel.

Hello brothers and sisters.

My name is Karch Frankenfield and Fletcher asked me to write a post for him while he is on a mission trip in Africa.

Be sure to pray for him during this time that God would speak through him rather than him speak his own words. Pray that God’s will would be his will, not allowing anything to come between him and God.

Pray that for myself as well.

At any rate, the Gospel.

Redefined and Rediscovered is the closest way I can come to describing the intent I feel God has placed on my heart for y’all.

I am not defining it differently than it was originally defined, nor am I discovering some gospel that is better than or different from the Gospel as presented in Scripture.

Rather I am attempting to persuade you to come with me in examining what the Gospel actually is. Not the catchphrases that we use to describe it, nor the church jargon that we hardly know what means. But rather journey to the heart of the thing which is an outpouring of the heart of God.

What is the Gospel?

If you are like me then you immediately respond with, “The good news of course!”

All right. What is the good news?

Once again if you are like me, then you say something about “being saved” or “the gift of salvation”. If you are that one kid in sunday school, you might say “Jesus’ blood poured out for sinners”

All of these answers are right…partially. They are missing the big picture by trying to focus in what man gets out of God’s work. They are focusing on what it means for me. Me being saved, me getting the gift of salvation, Jesus’ blood poured out for me. But because these answers focus on what man gets out of the picture they lose sight of God…and they lose their veracity of the Gospel.

Now. If you are like me…then you likely don’t know what veracity is. Its a word that uniquely fits the situation at hand. Veracity means habitual observance of the truth. They lose their regular observance of the Gospel.

Its kinda scary what happens when we focus on what we get out of life…rather than what God wants us to do with life.

We become people who focus on self and what needs to be done for us to feel the way we want or get what we want. We are interested more in our good than the good of others. All this because of a decision to focus on what I get out of the gospel?

Yep. Because the way you treat the Gospel is a watershed for how you treat life. By watershed I mean that it is one point where what you actually believe about that point determines what you actually believe and act about on a large variety of other points.

James talks about this quite a bit. James 2:14-20 NASB.

What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?

What James is saying here is that true faith brings about action. Meaning that if you seriously believed the Gospel you would not be focusing on what you get out of it. You would be focusing on God. Knowledge does not equal belief.

You, just like myself, may need to repent of your disbelief. While we have not yet defined the Gospel, it is clear that if you are not sharing your faith, your actions to not match your claims.

Works do not save you. Faith does not save you. God saves you. He does so through His grace which you accept by faith.

However, works do bear witness to your faith. Sharing Christ does not mean that you are being faithful, but not sharing Christ definitely means that you are not being faithful.

So in this journey towards what the Gospel is…we have come to a bit of impasse. What is belief?

I will leave you a verse to think on and pick this discussion back up tomorrow. Mark 9:24:

Immediately the boy’s father cried out and said, “I do believe; help my unbelief.”

Be dependent. Utterly so.

Karch

What is your diet?

This will be my last post before leaving for Kenya. I meant to give another post on here yesterday, but extenuating circumstances did not allow for that to happen. I will be out of the country until June 2nd, and thus updates from me won’t start back up until the fourth. However, my friend Karch will be doing some guest posts on here. Keep your eyes open!

Have you ever stopped to consider the amount of garbage content culture throws at us? Consider the amount of time you spending surfing the net, and see ads half of which seem to have sex as a method to present their product. Turn on the TV, and commercials for even fast food chains are ripe with portraying on the interest of lust. TV shows themselves are full of content that would make most cringe if they weren’t so personally indulged with the content to begin with. Stand in line at the grocery store and the covers of magazine send a message to men of women being objects, and a message to women of the need to fit a certain mold.

Why do I bring all of these up? Most of this garbage from culture is things that we don’t even choose to see. Satan doesn’t take a break at throwing garbage into our lives. The world doesn’t sleep in terms of trying to convince a woman she needs to look a certain way to get the attention she craves, or let herself be viewed as an object by men. It does not rest in convincing men that we are naturally incompetent silly idiots who only care about attractive women. The world unrelentingly pushes views on us.

All of this takes place, and yet we somehow think that spending Sunday morning in church and maybe a few minutes throughout the week reading the Bible will offset all of this. We fool ourselves when we believe this. If the world is throwing such a mess at us then we need to be active in balancing all of this out with putting worthwhile content into our lives. There are a few things we can do to make this happen.

1.Limit your media intake. My generation is obsessed with technology. We spend so much time on our phone and laptop. We use both of these items for viewing sites online. The amount of “questionable” content we see is higher than we realize.

2. Not all content can be avoided in our world today. When you face it focus on prayer rather than the content. Perhaps one of the greatest causes for a Christian falling is a lack of prayer in the midst of temptation.

3. Stop having a checklist, and start actually eating. We need to stop viewing Scripture and time with God as something to check off the list. We should be feeding off of it. That is a substance that actually satisfies in your life. One a kid is growing he needs a healthy diet. He can’t just spend all of his time on candy and cake. As people growing spiritually we need to have a healthy diet. Instead, the average person starves himself/herself by filling up on food largely provided by the world.

So much content that should be questionable has become the norm in our lives. We are no longer phased by those who dress inappropriately, rant off a list of swear words, perform general acts of evil, and actions that imply a nature rooted in greed. We grow use to this unhealthy diet, and believe it is not as unhealthy as others claim. We become so numb to the garbage this world throws out.

How then can we live in this world, but not become numb and used to the diet it tries to thrust down our throats? We need to keep ourselves spiritually pure by remaining in the word. By remaining in a close relationship with God we can keep our sensitivity to these issues in the world, but still be able to live in it.

How do you keep pure in this world? Spend time on the things that will keep you pure. The five minutes in God’s word won’t cut it. We are being relentlessly attacked by an enemy, why then are we not properly preparing ourselves for it?

What has defined your value?

What do you let define your value? If someone asked you what made you worth something, how would you answer? We all seek to find value. Often we look for it in the wrong place. What exactly is it that even establishes value? Does the item or person itself establish it, or is it from someone interested in the item or person?

Have you ever wondered what makes a collectible worth so much? For instance, let’s take the example of a baseball signed by Babe Ruth. Pretend that a baseball signed by Babe Ruth goes for $5,000. The only way the baseball would be worth that much is if there were people willing to pay that much for it. A seller could ask for $10,000 all he wants, but if no one has ever paid that much for that item then it isn’t worth $10,000 just because the seller wants that much for it. The consumer places the value on the item, not the item itself.

This is why we as individuals look around us to help distinguish what our value is. Maybe your value is being placed in your successful job. You place your value solely on the amount of figures in your paycheck. It is what defines you, and is the biggest connection to your identity.

Perhaps your value is being placed in a relationship. So long as that man or woman finds you desirable, you have value. However, what happens if that significant other no longer finds you desirable? You have received the message that you are worthless.

Perhaps it’s not even just that one person. Maybe your value is being placed simply on receiving attention from the opposite sex. The more guys pay attention to you, find you attractive, and flirt with you, the higher the value you have. Isn’t this a cheap kind of value though? It becomes even cheaper when guys demand a higher payout in order to give you that attention. They expect sex in order for you to receive their affections. Now your value has been placed on your usefulness as a tool for someone else’s pleasure. Isn’t there something better?

We place our value in what our identity is placed in. Our identity is placed too often in our jobs, relationships, families, popularity status, friendships, and abilities. None of these can give you the same amount of value that I have found I have.

My value is placed on my identity being in Christ. It is a value that nothing else in this world can match. It is a value that cost Christ living on this earth as a man, and suffering a brutal death. All of this was done to pay for my sin. It was not a price that I was worthy of being paid for. I did nothing to earn this value. If anything, I deserve the value that I so often try and find in other things in this life.

Even as Christians we can forget where our value is truly found. We must be reminding ourselves that our identity and value can never be found in a way that fully satisfies form things here on earth. It’s time to see where your value really is, and it’s not something cheap.

What do you struggle finding your value in? How do you remind yourself that your value is from Christ? Please feel free to share in the comments.

Encouragement is like a cardboard box

You know how sometimes you buy a toy for a kid, and it seems they almost get more enjoyment out of the box it comes in? A cardboard box can be a chief tool when combined with the powerful imagination of a child. If you have ever read the Calvin and Hobbes comics you know that Calvin can transform a cardboard box into a cloning machine, time machine, and a machine that can split his personalities in two. It is a powerful arsenal for the child.

But how does the parent view the cardboard box? Often times it is simply insignificant. Perhaps it is used to move items to the new house or store items in. Perhaps it is seen as an eyesore like my father sees them when my siblings and I leave cardboard boxes of personal belongings to remain stored in his basement rather than storing it at our own home. Chances are that the adult sees that cardboard box as pretty worthless. It does not bring about emotions of joy or excitement. It does not provide us with hours of entertainment. It doesn’t really even lift our spirits up.

Encouragement operates in a similar way. People need encouragement even more than a child needs a cardboard box. Encouragement helps someone get through the day. Life already does a fine job at beating us down. What we sometimes need is for someone to raise us back up. The amazing thing is that we all have the power to do that for someone! You have the power to change someone’s day from awful to incredible. Words have an incredible amount of power in the lives of others.

Here is the crazy thing; the person who gives the encouragement isn’t really even affected by it. It does not pain me to give encouragement to someone. It does not require this immense amount of effort. All it requires is for me to be aware when someone is in need of encouragement.

Too often Christians are only known for what they are against. We are known for calling out sins in the culture, and lifestyles that we disagree with. I’m not saying we shouldn’t call out sin when we see sin, but that should not be our only purpose. Sometimes we are so busy being police to the world that we lose sight of healing the sick and hurt. Yes we need to acknowledge when there is sin, but if all we are doing is yelling at the darkness then we have missed so many crucial parts to being a Christian.

We need to build one another up. We need to speak encouragement in the lives of others. We need to let them know that they are loved and cared for. We need to let them know that they matter, and they really do matter. I confess that this doesn’t come so naturally to me. It’s easier for me to point out what needs to change, sin that needs to be dealt with, and problems that need to be fixed.

That’s the thing though. The reason why we rarely give out encouragement is because we don’t realize how important it is, and we get distracted with other things we have personally set as a higher priority. Maybe it’s time to do more than just scream into the darkness. Perhaps it is time to bring a little light and hope into the individual who is stuck in the darkness.

Perhaps you are reading this, and realize it is time for you to give encouragement to that brother or sister in Christ who has been discouraged in their faith. Maybe you know someone who is so beat down by that sin in their life, and they need someone to come beside them to provide a word of comfort and support. Maybe there is someone who doesn’t even know who Jesus is, and has been living in despair. Perhaps a simple word of care to that person could help them out of that despair.

Maybe you are someone in desperate need of encouragement, but no one around you seems to notice. I would urge you to go to friends and family you trust, and tell them how you are feeling. Sometimes people need to be reminded that there are others around them who need to be lifted up. My wife did this for me once when I was far too stubborn to do so myself. I was going through a difficult time of discouragement. She made a point to contact some of my closest friends, and tell them that I need to be uplifted with their words. Everyone needs encouragement. Don’t be ashamed to admit it.

Seriously folks our words have power. They can damage a life, and they can also build a life up. Encouragement is like a child with a cardboard box. It may seem insignificant to the person who is giving it, but it provides joy, happiness, and a sense of being loved by the one who receives it.

A slave to bad news. (Psalm 112:6-7)

Let’s say someone comes up to you saying they need to have a conversation with you later that week. They don’t give you specifics. The only thing they make clear is that the two of you need to talk. What is going on in your mind then? Chances are it’s not anything very uplifting. You are likely wondering what it is you did wrong, or what you said that may have offended the person who needs to talk with you.

You try hard to go about your week normally as you wait for that dreaded conversation, but you find yourself staying up awake at night wondering about all the bad things that are just waiting to expose themselves to you in this conversation. You find yourself worrying over the situation. The more you think over it the more you worry.

So often we live in fear. Sometimes it is fear of the unknown, fear from finances, or fear from a painful situation taking place amongst your family. Fear of something compels us to avoid it. For instance I have a huge fear of heights. I avoid roller coasters, zip lines, cliffs, and anything that brings about this petrification.

I think most people have a natural tendency to fear and dread bad news. We avoid it at all costs. We are tempted to avoid people who we know are bearing us with bad news. We do whatever we can to delay the message. It almost becomes an obsession. Maybe we have one of those days where we just dread when the phone starts to ring. We know what waits for us on the other line isn’t anything good.

Psalm 112 talks about the righteous man. Verses six and seven say, “For the righteous will never be moved; he will be remembered forever. He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord.”

We aren’t supposed to fear bad news. We aren’t meant to cower under it as though it has power over us. There is an unspoken reality about fear. Anything you fear has power over you. When we find ourselves in fear of bad news, it has power over us. We become a slave to what we fear. Scripture tells us there is only one thing that should have power over us, and that’s God. The very beginning of this Psalm says, “Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in His commands.”

The fear of the Lord is not one where we cower in a corner. It isn’t meant to conjure up an image where we stand terrified of God’s wrath. It is a fear rooted in reverence and appreciation rather than consequences and punishment. That’s the difference between a fear of God and a fear of almost anything else. I don’t fear bad news because I respect it. My fear of bad news is based off of the consequences that come from it.

All the same we are told not to fear bad news. How can we manage that? First we must realize that the only thing to fear is God, but we must also realize that our heart is placed in the Lord’s hands. I don’t need to fear bad news because God is bigger than any bad news I might face, and with that bad news God will bring things in my life to provide me with encouragement and comfort. He does this through family and friends, devotionals, worship, and prayer.

It comes with a heart that doesn’t waver. It comes with a heart that remains firm in who God is. If I’m focusing on God rather than bad news, then it’s not possible for me to be discouraged. Bad news isn’t my master. It isn’t yours either. So why should we go living our lives as though it is?

How do you keep from fearing bad news? How has God kept you heart trusting in Him? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.

Growing vs. dying

My senior year of high school I took a Spanish class at a community college. The first half of the semester went relatively smooth. I had outlasted half of my class that had rapidly dropped out. Despite my inability to understand other languages I was able to maintain a solid grade in the course to get the needed credit for graduation. Eventually I reached a point in the course where I knew I could sit back, take it easy, and just put things on cruise control. My studying wasn’t as in depth, the time put into homework started lacking, and my overall determination pretty much disappeared for the course. However, I knew it was ok because despite all of this I was still going to pass. I figured I had done well enough to get by. If I had kept up the pace I had started with I would have gotten an A and probably retained a good chunk of information. I ended the semester with a C, and I could not tell you a thing I learned now.

Often we do this in life. We reach a point in our lives, and in our walk with God where we decide we have reached a high enough standard to be able to coast for the rest of the ride. We do this with a couple things in mind.

1.We believe we will be able to remain at our current standard without putting effort into it. We don’t need to grow, and similarly we won’t move backwards.

2. We believe we have arrived at an amazing standard of perfection. We assume we likely aren’t ever going to get much better than we are now. We compare ourselves to others around us. We believe we are so high above the majority of others that we can get away without more personal growth, and still appear mature and spiritual.

We weren’t meant to just get by in life. We were never meant to stop growing. We fall into the trap of comparing ourselves with others, and assuming we are far enough along in this race that we can afford to chill for a little while. Everyone is at risk of this too whether it be parents, teachers, pastors, or leaders. We lie to ourselves in saying, “I have arrived.” We tell ourselves that this is the best we can do or at the very least the best we need to do.

Something happens though. When we decide to stop growing we don’t remain at a standstill. A standstill would be bad enough, but instead we actual go in reverse. If something is not growing it is dying. Christianity is full of people who believe they are at worst in a standstill of life.

It’s a little bit like the athlete who spends time working out. Once he reaches a certain level he doesn’t just stop working out and assume at the very least he can maintain that physique he worked so hard for. He needs to keep working out, and do even more in order to maintain that strength and improve it. If he stops, he will eventual no longer have that strength because it is never put to use.

How do we keep growing? There is a variety of ways we can do this.

1.Get under someone who can be discipling you. If you don’t have a mentor then go to someone who you trust, and feel you can learn from.

2. Disciple someone else. We grow when we help others grow. Some may say that discipleship isn’t for them. The truth is we are all called to make disciples.

3. Cultivate relationships. We learn from others just by being in community. The more we distance ourselves from others, the more we tend to wilt and die.

4. Get in the Word and write. Read Scripture and write down something that spoke to you. Keep in mind this is just a small step. The more you grow, the more you will need to delve into in various ways to keep growing.

There is a simple truth. Standstills in life don’t exist. You never stop growing. You are either growing or dying. You know which one it is. The question now is what are you going to do about it?

Got anymore tips on growing in your walk and life? Discuss them with me in the comments. I would love to hear your thoughts.