Posts Tagged ‘bible study’

Joshua 3:1-17 (Part 2 of 4)

The Israelites Cross the Jordan

As you may have noticed from my blogs over these past few years that I have a weight problem. I am 54 years old as of this writing (and getting older by the second) and I am about 30 pounds above my ideal weight for my height and body type. I live a fairly sedentary lifestyle because I work in an office. I work long hours at my job. I am in the process of pursuing my doctoral degree so that adds additional sedentary time to my lifestyle. And, I love food. Food. Glorious food! I have learned over the past few years since I recognized that I need to lose weight that any food that tastes good must be bad for you. I hate for salads to be the centerpiece of my meals. I don’t know what kale is and don’t want to eat it or drink it. I love French fries. I love burgers. I love ham. I love eggs. I love pizza. I love my favorite beer. I love Dr. Pepper. I love barbequed smothered chicken. I love gummy bears. I love Reese’s cups. I love Kit-Kat bars. I love Hershey’s Kisses. I love steak. I love shrimp. I love food that tastes good.

 

Over the past few years though I have recognized that my weight keeps drifting by markers that I thought I would never pass. Strangely enough, my excess weight is not an all over the body kind of thing. My arms and legs are in good shape. Strong and good shaped are arms and legs. It’s all concentrated in my torso. There are people that know me now (since we moved back to South Carolina 7 years ago) that only know me with a big belly. They just assume that this has always been the way that I am but they couldn’t be worse wrong. Just a decade ago I was a pretty thin dude. In my second marriage, I weighed only about 180 at a maximum. In the aftermath of that marriage ending, my weight dropped as low as 168 at one point. That was just 12-13 years ago. Just in the past 7 years I have put on 35 pounds. I guess that is what happens to you when you marry a girl that is actually good for your soul who happens to be a great cook. Living a settled life for once in my life and then having a wife who cooks the way Elena does. Add to that when you get into your mid-forties, your metabolism slows down drastically. When that happens, one should stop eating the way you did in your twenties. Back then, you could eat as much as you wanted of the favorite things you love to eat and not a thing would happen to your weight. Not so when you reach into your forties and fifties. The metabolism slows weigh down. Your lifestyle of office worker and little to no formal exercise regimens will catch up with you.

 

Now, I am fighting an uphill battle with my weight. Several problems are working against me. First, I love food. There is almost nothing better than a good meal. Second, the Christian faith is about meals when you think about it – developing relationships with people and telling them about Jesus…and it always most often happens over a meal. But the biggest reason that I have a problem losing weight is consistency of exercise. I go through phases with it. I will be consistent with an exercise routine for weeks at a time. But something will come up – a busy time at work where it requires more than my normal 50-60 hours per week, a busy time in my academic studies with deadlines, research, and papers, a busy time at church with responsibilities there, a busy time in my personal life with commitments and dinners and seeing my granddaughter. It is hard to be consistent about it. I also can find excuses for not exercising. There are some good ones. It’s cold outside. I will get back at it when spring gets here. It’s too hot outside. I will start getting up early and exercising. Man, I really want to sleep. Sleep is right up there with food for this 54 year old guy. So, early morning exercising is really not an option. I have done that before but man is it hard for me to get up at 4:15 or 4:30 in the morning. Lately, I have been exercising in the evenings right after I get home from work. It’s worked pretty good but only when we do not have commitments in our weeknight schedule. Lifting weights and stretching exercises some nights. Stair climbs on the steep steps to our front porch of our old mill house that we live in (that will kick your butt!). Walking around our neighborhood until my bad back seizes up on me (a bad back that I am sure is caused by my big ol’ front-loader that I call my belly). Even when I do exercise, all I do is maintain the weight that I am at and I do not see any progress and then add to it that exercising in the evenings can often cut me out of wanting to do things after my exercise. I have always been a sweater. No not the clothing type. I have always been a person that can soak a t-shirt with sweat doing any type of extended physical activity – even as teenager. I can sweat buckets easily. I am a sweater. So, when I work out, it’s a sweat orgy. I have to take a shower after exercising for an hour. So, there is no such thing as a quick workout. It’s workout and a shower. It’s a time commitment. Do I really want to get all nasty, sweaty tonight? Wouldn’t ya rather have some friends over to hang out?

 

I know that it is a combination of portion control at meals and being consistent in my exercise. You gotta have both. Food consumption control and regular exercise. Only with this combination will I get rid of this weight. It is not that being plump is a bad thing in and of itself, but I just felt better emotionally, physically, and had greater confidence when I weighed less. I just felt better about myself at 180-190 lbs. than I do now. But it is going to take a physical discipline both in food consumption and exercise that so far I have not been able to stay committed to for any length of time. I will be committed for a few weeks. I will be committed sometimes for a few months. But it always comes to an end. They say (those experts that “they” are) we prioritize what we are committed to. What we place our highest importance on, we will find time to indulge that which is important us. We make time for what we want to do. We make time for what we love.

 

That was the thing that came to mind this morning was the dedication to God’s Word here by Joshua. Sure, they could have rushed into battle but they prepared by hearing God’s Word. Joshua made time for God’s Word:

 

3 Early in the morning Joshua and all the Israelites set out from Shittim and went to the Jordan, where they camped before crossing over. 2 After three days the officers went throughout the camp, 3 giving orders to the people: “When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the Levitical priests carrying it, you are to move out from your positions and follow it. 4 Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before. But keep a distance of about two thousand cubits[a] between you and the ark; do not go near it.”

 

5 Joshua told the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.”

 

6 Joshua said to the priests, “Take up the ark of the covenant and pass on ahead of the people.” So they took it up and went ahead of them.

 

7 And the Lord said to Joshua, “Today I will begin to exalt you in the eyes of all Israel, so they may know that I am with you as I was with Moses. 8 Tell the priests who carry the ark of the covenant: ‘When you reach the edge of the Jordan’s waters, go and stand in the river.’”

 

9 Joshua said to the Israelites, “Come here and listen to the words of the Lord your God. 10 This is how you will know that the living God is among you and that he will certainly drive out before you the Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites and Jebusites. 11 See, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth will go into the Jordan ahead of you. 12 Now then, choose twelve men from the tribes of Israel, one from each tribe. 13 And as soon as the priests who carry the ark of the Lord—the Lord of all the earth—set foot in the Jordan, its waters flowing downstream will be cut off and stand up in a heap.”

 

14 So when the people broke camp to cross the Jordan, the priests carrying the ark of the covenant went ahead of them. 15 Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, 16 the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away, at a town called Adam in the vicinity of Zarethan, while the water flowing down to the Sea of the Arabah (that is, the Dead Sea) was completely cut off. So the people crossed over opposite Jericho. 17 The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stopped in the middle of the Jordan and stood on dry ground, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground.

 

In this passage, we see that just before crossing over into the Promised Land, Joshua gathered the people together to hear the words of the Lord. Their excitement undoubtedly was high. There was no doubt that they wanted to rush on, but Joshua made them stop and listen. We lived in a fast-paced age where we rush just to keep up. It is easy to get caught up in our daily tasks, becoming too busy for what God says is most important – listening to His words. Before making our schedules, we should make time to focus on what God wants from all your daily activities. Knowing what God has said before we rush into our day can help avoid foolish mistakes.

 

What does all this have to do with my opening illustration about my weight problem, my big belly problem? I think the illustration and the point of the blog this morning is this? We make time for what’s important to us.

 

I know that if it was really important to me to exercise I would make it a top priority to which everything, every other choice of evening activities would take a back seat to it. How committed am I really to losing weight? Am I really willing to count calories. Eat low cal foods. Avoid sugars. And and and work out my body through exercise! How committed am I about that? Or would I rather just complain and then do nothing about it. It took me 7 years to a decade to gain these extra 35 pounds. It is going to be a long-haul that will take a while to see results. It requires commitment not just desire.

 

What again does my weight loss problem have to do with Joshua 3? And how that translates into some biblical truth you can use? Well, it’s this. We can all sit around and complain about the lack of depth to our spiritual lives. We can wonder why our neighbor from church has a deeper relationship with God than we do. It comes down to commitment and discipline just like anything else. Those who have spiritual depth to them are the ones who prioritize God’s Word and make it a daily discipline to be in God’s Word. Those who are spiritually lean and fit are the ones that make Bible study a daily priority. Nothing will stop them from being in God’s Word regularly. They may miss a day or two here and there but 99% of their days have a daily Bible study in them – not just Bible reading but Bible study. Bible reading is easy but Bible study means that you meditate on God’s Word, you mull it over, you chew on it all day, you pray about it and ask God to reveal His truth to your daily life. That takes commitment.

 

I know parents who sacrifice everything to help their kids pursue their athletic dreams (or the parents athletic dreams through their kids) but their Bible is gathering dust on the bookshelf or on the coffee table. I know people who make a priority of reading the latest series of the fad book series that come around and go around, but there Bible is somewhere in the house – not sure where it really is. Can’t go to church today because it would make us late getting to the lake today. Can’t read my Bible because I need to binge watch the second half of the season of my favorite show. There are always excuses for deprioritizing what’s NOT important to us. But for us to have any spiritual depth to us, for us to have good spiritual health, for us to know Jesus more deeply, for us to know the character and power of God more intimately, for us to not being taken in by feel-good theology, we must exercise our Bibles. We must take time for God’s Word. We must work out our Bibles. We must have frayed edges or our Bible pages. We must have Bibles where the bindings are coming apart. We must make time for God’s Word.

 

Is there anything more important than deepening your relationship with God? It requires commitment. It requires dedication. It requires make it a priority above all others. Want to get spiritually fit? Make time for God’s Word, like Joshua. Make time for Bible study not just Bible reading. Make the Bible a priority above all other priorities.

 

Amen and Amen.

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Deuteronomy 27:1-10

The Altar at Mount Ebal

It is one thing to be accepted as a member of God’s people. It is another to grow up into a mature member of God’s people. The difference is one is a convert and the other is a disciple. Jesus, in the Great Commission, did not say Go and make converts. He said Go and make disciples. Certainly, you cannot make disciples if conversion does not occur first. However, Jesus wanted us to grow people in the faith once they had accepted him as Savior and Lord. That is what many modern churches are dealing with. My church and many like it that have sprung up on the Christian church landscape over the past 20 years specialize in attracting those who have never heard of a relationship with a Savior named Jesus Christ or those who have been away from church for many years.

 

Churches like ours are reaching people with the gospel message in ways that traditional, old-school churches with their denominational affiliation in their name cannot or are not willing to reach. Many people are afraid of churches with denominations in their name. They are afraid of church named after families and have memorial in their name. Many people outside God’s family today are afraid of churches with mammoth buildings made of brick and have three stories of classrooms attached to a large and ornate sanctuary. Many who are far from God are afraid of fancy suits and fashionable dresses. That’s where our church and others like it come in. Our worship center some say looks like a Harley shop with its combination of white and black with orange striping. It is not a brick and mortar building. It is a iron frame building. Our people have always felt that they could come in their blue jeans. It is a come-as-you-are church. We are the classic modern church. We are only 10 years old. We seek and attract those who are far from God. We are what is called a seeker church, an attractional church.

 

We are a toddler of a church compared to many of the traditional churches in our area. One of things that we have come to realize as part of beginning our second decade of existence is that we have had a problem with “stickiness” over the past 3 to 4 years. We grew rapidly in the first 6 to 7 years of our existence. However, during the past three to four years, we have begun losing attendees at about the same rate that we have been attracting new ones. As a result, our growth rate has slowed. What we have learned is that in order to make our church “sticky” (where people come to a church and stay), we needed to help our people grow in the faith. That’s what traditional churches have done well for years – Christian education and discipleship.

 

In order for us to have a church of maturing Christians who look more like Christ each day and less like the world each day, we must teach what we believe as Christians, why we believe, and how to apply those beliefs in a world that is increasingly hostile to Christian beliefs. We must develop Christ followers who know and understand Scripture so that they can make Christ-like choices in their lives. This time, last year we brought Pastor Tim back from the church planting field and re-established the basics for believers class that he had been in charge of before he left to plant LifeSong Church, Manchester, CT. As well, we are now working on developing Christian education over and above that basics for believers class. We are teaching classes on all aspects of being a part of the body of Christ and knowing God’s Word and experiencing God in deeper and more profound ways. We know that we have to do more than attract people to Jesus and lead them to the cross but we have to teach them how to live beyond kneeling at the cross. We cannot simply stay kneeled at the cross. We must emerge and lived changed lives. Without Christian education and biblical knowledge, a spiritual infant will remain undeveloped and still act a whole lot like the world.

 

That need to make disciples and not just converts is what I thought of this morning when I read this passage, Deuteronomy 27:1-10. You’ll see why after we read through it:

 

27 Moses and the elders of Israel commanded the people: “Keep all these commands that I give you today. 2 When you have crossed the Jordan into the land the Lord your God is giving you, set up some large stones and coat them with plaster. 3 Write on them all the words of this law when you have crossed over to enter the land the Lord your God is giving you, a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, promised you. 4 And when you have crossed the Jordan, set up these stones on Mount Ebal, as I command you today, and coat them with plaster. 5 Build there an altar to the Lord your God, an altar of stones. Do not use any iron tool on them. 6 Build the altar of the Lord your God with fieldstones and offer burnt offerings on it to the Lord your God. 7 Sacrifice fellowship offerings there, eating them and rejoicing in the presence of the Lord your God. 8 And you shall write very clearly all the words of this law on these stones you have set up.”

Curses From Mount Ebal

 

9 Then Moses and the Levitical priests said to all Israel, “Be silent, Israel, and listen! You have now become the people of the Lord your God. 10 Obey the Lord your God and follow his commands and decrees that I give you today.”

 

Here in this passage, we see that Moses, speaking under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, was telling the people that they needed to keep God’s laws in the forefront of their society. The laws of God needed to be visible and ever-present in their lives. By stating that it needed to be made of natural, uncut stones, to me, that means that God did not want His word dresses up. He did not want it added to or taken away. He just wanted His Word, His Law, made clear and unadulterated. But most of all He wanted His Word before His people each and every day so that it would be an ever-present part of their lives.

 

The only way we internalize God’s Word is through constant exposure to it. As we learn it and become more and more familiar with it, God’s Word becomes a part of our nature. We know how to handle situations according to His ways. When we know Scripture, we are able to call it up in our minds when we face situations where we do not know how to handle them. When God’s Word is an ever-present part of our lives, it changes us from the inside out. The Holy Spirit helps us recall God’s Word and apply it to our lives. We are changed by it. We are matured by it. We become disciples by it.

 

That is what we are learning at our church is that in order to mature our people and help them grow deeper in Christ, we must encounter them with God’s Word in classroom and self-directed study settings such that our people keep God’s Word before us always and make it a part of our daily lives. Our church is requiring/suggesting that all of our people regardless of spiritual maturity go through the Basics class and then start choosing higher level classes after that just so that we as mature believers don’t “get fat and sassy” (an old Southern expression meaning that we can get complacent sometimes when we think we have it made). We as a church staff want our people to take the basics class before any others so that we are all on the same page and have the same understanding. We are getting pushback from some of our more mature members. But I find that pushback shortsighted. We are never too old to learn. We are never too mature to refresh. We are never completed in our discipleship. It is amazing to me how sometimes a passage of God’s Word can be read by me a 1000 times and it not hit home. However, there is that one time that it hits you like a ton of bricks and you find new revelation in a passage you’ve known by heart for decades.

 

We must keep God’s Word ever-present before us. It teaches anew each and every day. Keep God’s Word before us so that it is there with us every day. Even the oldest Christian can learn something new from an infinitely more wise God. Even the oldest Christian can find no revelation for this particular phase of their lives in Scripture that they glossed over for decades. God’s Word is alive applies to us anew each day. We are never too old to have God’s Word before us each and every day.

 

Amen and Amen.

Deuteronomy 20:1-20 (Part 3)

Regulations Concerning War

As I have been reading this passage multiple times over the past few days, it was easy to pick out and write about facing opposition and about destroying bad influences in our lives. Those things were pretty obvious. However, those things are wrapped around a couple of verses that have been in the back of my mind the whole time the past two days. The first four verses of the passage were where I drew the inspiration for Sunday’s blog about facing opposition and then vv. 10-20 were the source for yesterday’s blog about staying true to God’s Word and not immersing ourselves in sinful situations. Then, there was vv. 5-9. Why did God inspire Moses to write those words? Why was he sending people home from the army of Israel?

 

I think the best way to understand these verses is through an illustration and through the context of what comes before and after these verses in the passage. The illustration here comes from the 2016 version of my favorite college football program, the Clemson University Tigers. In 2015, the Tigers came within maybe 2 minutes of winning the national championship. They played well enough to win that game against Alabama but there were two plays in that game that cost them the title. The game proved that Clemson and Alabama were equals when it came to talent and desire. However, it was two special teams plays that cost the Tigers the championship. The onside kick by Alabama, a brilliant move by Coach Saban of Alabama, that they recovered (because of something they saw on film about the Tigers’ kickoff return team’s habits), in effect, stole a possession away from Clemson and allowed Alabama to score against an already tired Clemson defense. The second special teams play was a kickoff return by Alabama where a few Tiger coverage guys blew their assignments and got out of position. It is the little things that are the difference in the battles between two equally matched teams.

 

One thing about this past year’s (2016’s) Tigers was that they had great resolve. There was one goal and one goal only that would suit this band of Tiger footballers. It was getting back to the championship game, and, hopefully, against Alabama. Even the upset loss at home to Pittsburgh, it seemed to further steel their resolve to do all the little things right from then on. After the loss to Pittsburgh, the Tigers were one focused football team. Coach Swinney said that this particular team was his easiest to coach. To a man, the players policed each other, encouraged each other, and were willing to do all the hard work on the little things to get back to the championship game. He did not have to create motivation for this team. All of his previous teams were ones that he motivated by saying that no one respects you – so go out and prove you belong among the elite programs in the country. This team, though, he simply said to them, “embrace the target.” Everyone knew the Tigers of 2016 were going to be national championship caliber but the issue would be whether they wanted it bad enough. Ultimately, Coach Swinney said that this team was willing to make the sacrifices, willing to put their hearts on the line, do what was necessary and by far the easiest team to coach he has ever had. There was commitment. There were no distractions for this team. They wanted it. Everybody was all-in. Anything less than a title shot in 2016 was unacceptable. A national championship was their heart’s desire and everyone was “all-in”. The question now becomes, for the Tigers, is now that the leaders of the 2015/2016 Tigers are all gone off to the NFL, will the 2017 team have that same hunger and same commitment. When you look at the 2017 roster and the recruiting class coming in, the 2017 team has the talent to make it to the college football playoffs for a third straight year, but will they be “all-in” like the 2016 team? Will they have that complete focus without letting the distractions of being the reigning national champions get in the way? Will they have that inner drive that compels them to greatness like the 2016 team did?

 

That’s what I thought of this morning when reading about sending people home from the battle preparations and it became clear in the context of the Scripture before and after vv. 5-9 and in context of what I have written about the last two blogs. Let’s read the whole passage now with particular focus on vv. 5-9 and how it fits into the whole passage:

 

20 When you go to war against your enemies and see horses and chariots and an army greater than yours, do not be afraid of them, because the Lord your God, who brought you up out of Egypt, will be with you. 2 When you are about to go into battle, the priest shall come forward and address the army. 3 He shall say: “Hear, Israel: Today you are going into battle against your enemies. Do not be fainthearted or afraid; do not panic or be terrified by them. 4 For the Lord your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory.”

 

5 The officers shall say to the army: “Has anyone built a new house and not yet begun to live in it? Let him go home, or he may die in battle and someone else may begin to live in it. 6 Has anyone planted a vineyard and not begun to enjoy it? Let him go home, or he may die in battle and someone else enjoy it. 7 Has anyone become pledged to a woman and not married her? Let him go home, or he may die in battle and someone else marry her.” 8 Then the officers shall add, “Is anyone afraid or fainthearted? Let him go home so that his fellow soldiers will not become disheartened too.” 9 When the officers have finished speaking to the army, they shall appoint commanders over it.

 

10 When you march up to attack a city, make its people an offer of peace. 11 If they accept and open their gates, all the people in it shall be subject to forced labor and shall work for you. 12 If they refuse to make peace and they engage you in battle, lay siege to that city. 13 When the Lord your God delivers it into your hand, put to the sword all the men in it. 14 As for the women, the children, the livestock and everything else in the city, you may take these as plunder for yourselves. And you may use the plunder the Lord your God gives you from your enemies. 15 This is how you are to treat all the cities that are at a distance from you and do not belong to the nations nearby.

 

16 However, in the cities of the nations the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes. 17 Completely destroy[a] them—the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—as the Lord your God has commanded you. 18 Otherwise, they will teach you to follow all the detestable things they do in worshiping their gods, and you will sin against the Lord your God.

 

19 When you lay siege to a city for a long time, fighting against it to capture it, do not destroy its trees by putting an ax to them, because you can eat their fruit. Do not cut them down. Are the trees people, that you should besiege them?[b] 20 However, you may cut down trees that you know are not fruit trees and use them to build siege works until the city at war with you falls.

 

In this passage, we see the commanders sending people home from the battle preparations. This fact seemed hard to comprehend at first. But then, I got to thinking about how little things can defeat and how complete focus can lead to victory which led me to think about the 2015 Tigers compared to the 2016 Tigers. Attention to detail and complete focus was that minute little difference between a runner 2015 team and the 2016 team. If we have something that takes our focus away from God, it will defeat us. We must have attention to detail as Christ followers. We can never cruise. When we become complacent as Christians, we take shortcuts in our walk with Christ. We quit doing the little things that bring us victory over sin. When we become focused on other things, we first cut out prayer time. Then, as we become slack, we cut out our bible study and meditation upon what we read. Next, participation in ministries becomes optional. Next, we get into little battles of ego with people and leaders at church. Next, church attendance becomes optional. Next, we are not attending church at all. Next, you can’t tell the difference between us and the culture that we live in … and we accept sinful lifestyles as OK.

 

We cannot half-ass our walk with Christ no more than football players win championships without sacrifice and hard work. We will face opposition and we will face influences that require us to be completely focused on God’s Word and on the Holy Spirit’s guidance in our lives. We must be all-in. Otherwise, we never grow as Christ followers. We never make it to being championship-level Christians. We cannot dabble in the sins of the culture and expect to be championship-level Christians. We cannot overcome opposition to being a Christ follower without that steely-edged resolve to cling to the Father even if it leaves us standing alone against the crowd. Opposition will come to us. Satan wants mediocre Christians that he does not have to worry about. Satan wants there to be Christian soldiers who are distracted and will not be much trouble. He would rather have Christians who must be sent home from battle because they have their love in other things. What Satan worries about is those all-in, do-whatever-it-takes, battle-tested, full-of-passion-for-the-Lord Christians who will not turn and run because of opposition. He is afraid of those who cling to Jesus and believe His Word, study His Word daily, pray daily, submit themselves daily to the Lord. He is afraid of these championship-caliber Christians who are all-in, no guts-no glory kind of Christians. Embrace the target, to borrow Coach Swinney’s phrase. Embrace the target of being an all-in Christ follower. If we are all championship-caliber Christians who were willing to do anything for the Lord, just imagine how different our world would be.

 

Let us no longer accept being mediocre, distracted Christians. Let us be totally focused, all-in Christians. Let us change the world for Jesus Christ! Let us be able to hear him say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant!”

 

Amen and Amen.

Romans 12:11-14 — Great college football teams don’t become great by just showing up on Saturdays. Great football teams do all the hard work during the week. The coaches put together a game plan. The players work hard in the weight room, they study film with the coaches, they practice the game plan over and over and over again. The results are based on how well the players prepare. It is the same for us as Christ followers.

We must put in the hard work. We must renew our minds. We must first prepare ourselves by changing our mindset. We must begin with the weightlifting of the Christian life. We must stay in God’s Word. How can we begin changing our thought patterns if we do not read the Bible daily. We must do more than read the words. We must read them and think about them. We must meditate on what we read. We must pray about what we have read. We must let what we have read occupy our mind. Without God’s Word, we are sitting ducks for the evil desires of heart to take center stage. Like a championship team member who daily lifts weights to give him greater strength and greater endurance, we must be in the Word daily to give us a different mindset. Great championship teams do all the hard work that makes them champions when no one is looking. Champions are made during the week. They don’t just show up on Saturday. Similarly, we Christians become mature and have greater resistance to giving into our evil desires not just by showing up at worship services on Sundays. We are less likely to give into the amazing pull of evil in our lives by doing the hard work during the week. We must study God’s Word and meditate on it and apply it to our lives. Just as a football player is less likely to get pushed around on the field if he puts in his daily time in the weight room, so a Christian must lift his “biblical weights” daily to help prevent being pushed towards evil desires.

We must avoid evil whenever we can. A recovering drug addict or alcoholic must avoid situations where he will be tempted to take drugs or a drink again. They are told to change their playgrounds and their playmates. Of course drugs and alcohol are prevalent in our world today and those who are recovering cannot avoid these temptations altogether. However, the recovering addict just doesn’t tempt themselves beforehand by going to a bar or go to the same old hangouts where drugs or alcohol are available. A recovering alcoholic cannot go to restaurant and order a beer and think it won’t lead him right back to where he was. A drug addict can’t sniff a line of cocaine and think it won’t have him destroyed again. The same is true of any particularly high weakness area that we have in life. We cannot get close to the flame without expecting to get burned as the old saying goes. We cannot allow sins to fester in our minds and we certainly cannot put ourselves in positions where we can act out those sins that we have been playing with in our minds. We cannot create the conditions in the real world that would allow us to execute our sinful desires.

We must seek out someone who will hold us accountable. In recent years, you have seen leaders of large non-denominational churches get taken down by some sin they have allowed to fester whether it be pride, arrogance, lust, adultery, you name it. In each case, there was no accountability for the top guy. Even great leaders must have someone in their life that tells them the truth about what they are doing. We must institutionalize ways to hold ourselves accountable. For non-denominational mega-church senior pastors, it is often having a board of trustees, or an advisory council that they place the purse strings of their job in. It may be a circle of other megachurch pastors that they meet with regularly. For you and me as everyday Christians, we need the same thing. We need a mentor and we need an accountability partner. We need mentors, those whose Christian walks are more mature than ours (even if it is only slightly more mature). They can show us how it is done. They can show us where their pitfalls were. We need a partner too. One who is equal to us in maturity. We need that one true friend that will have no fear in telling us that we are full of crap. This way we make ourselves accountable. These are the people that can notice subtle changes in us that are signs that we are indulging sins in our minds. These are the people that know or sin weaknesses and will slap us into reality when they tell us not to put ourselves in positions that will allow us to execute our pet sins.

Being a part of a championship football team takes dedication and hard work. It requires do a lot of hard work that people don’t see during the week. They do all this hard work when no one is looking so that they can win the prize. Those college teams that stand on the stage in January with the trophy won their championship starting back in August in the sweaty steamy days of summer. They did the two-a-days. They lifted weights. They ran til their legs felt like logs. They lifted weights til their arms and legs were aching. They won games because they prepared harder and longer. They studied film. They studied their playbooks. Champions just work harder. Any coach will tell you that you can have the most talented team in the world but if they don’t put in the hard work, they will never be champions. The same is true for us as Christians. Being Christian is hard work. We have sin nature. We must work hard every day to keep ourselves from allowing our sinful desires to take full rein our lives. Sin is always out there lurking. We must put on the armor of preparation daily and create an environment in our lives that we help us stay away from our weaknesses. It does not always work. Sometimes, we allow our minds to be deceived by our desires. That is why this is a daily battle for which we must be prepared. Like players who just show up for the football game and are not prepared, they will lose the game. We must put in the hard work daily to renew our minds. We can’t just be at church for an hour and fifteen minutes on Sunday and think that’s enough. We must put in the hard work, the work that no one sees. Daily submission to Jesus. Bible study. Avoid our sin playgrounds. Accountability partners and mentors. Man, its tough work. But, let’s keep an eye on our prize. The heavenly championship!