Soul Detox: Toxic Behaviors

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Soul Detox: Toxic Behaviors

What we think, what we say, and what we do — they all affect our relationships more than we realize and more than we want to believe.  Our behaviors affect our relationship with God and with other people.  And because that’s true, we must rid ourselves of the toxic waste that damages us and those around us.

These are my sermon notes from March 10, 2013.  I wish to thank Pastor Craig Groeschel for writing the book, Soul Detox, which largely inspired this message.

TOXIC THOUGHTS

Your thoughts determine who you become

Luke 6:45: “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings things out of the evil stored up in his heart.”

(note: you are with yourself more than any other person, therefore, you will influence yourself more than anyone else will influence you.  What consumes your thoughts?  I’m no good.  I’m a failure.  I never get a break.  God could never love me.  No one could ever love me.  I’m too bad to do anything good.  I can never be forgiven.  I wish “so-and-so” would get what they deserve.  Whatever you are thinking, will influence your attitude and your relationships.  Your toxic thoughts can block you from God’s blessings of relationship with Him and with others.)

Toxic waste:

Pessimism – chronically negative thoughts

Anxiety – fearful and worried thoughts

Bitterness – discontented and envious thoughts

Criticism – destructive judgmental thoughts

The Antidote to Toxic Thoughts:

Philippians 4:7-8: “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”

(note: God’s Word can change our way of thinking.  It actually can change what we think!  It takes practice.  It takes unlearning what we’ve taught ourselves and learning a new way of controlling our minds.  But, our minds can be “renewed” day by day.)

TOXIC LANGUAGE

(note: What we say out loud is a reflection of what is in our hearts.  If our language is course, harsh, mean and starts conflict, then that is what is really in our heart.  Toxic language doesn’t just affect us negatively (by reinforcing the negative evil inside of us) but it affects others negatively as well.)

“Words which do not give the light of Christ increase the darkness” – Mother Teresa

note: language is harmful because it spreads darkness

Proverbs 12:18: “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”

Proverbs 15:4: “The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.”

note:  words are powerful.  It takes 5 positive things to make up for just 1 negative thing said to a person.  And, that just makes you even!

The Antidote for Toxic Language:

Hold what is harmful – note: it is hard to hold are tongue and times, but wise to do so.  Think before you speak.  Count to 100 if you have to.  If it isn’t positive, it isn’t worth saying.

Release what is positive – note:  it’s not enough to just keep from saying the toxic things.  Again, words are powerful.  They can change a person’s mood, beliefs, outlook, feelings, attitude.  We must seek to be encouraging and uplifting with our words.  Be helpful not hurtful.  See blog post:  Is Your Speech Refuse or Refuge?

HIDDEN SIN

David and Uriah – note: summary of the story of King David and Uriah from 2 Samuel

The Pattern of Hidden Sin:

Hide – note: try to hide your sin by deleting or throwing away or isolating self

Lie and Deflect – note: try to deflect your sin by claiming mistaken identity, covering up for someone else, just a misunderstanding.

Blame – note: your sin is actually someone else’s fault.  “I wouldn’t be this way, or I wouldn’t have done this if ___ had not been that way or if ____ was different.”

Luke 8:17: “For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.”

(note: all sin comes out eventually because what is inside of us is us.)

The Antidote to Hidden Sin:

Repentance – note: repent means to turn toward what is highest.  It is different from remorse or regret (sorry I got caught, or sorry I am in this situation).

1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sings, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

(note: we confess to God because it frees us for relationship with him fully.  We acknowledge our wrong and turn toward what is right).

Confession to Another

James 5:16: “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.  The prayer of a righteousness man is powerful and effective.”

(note: we confess to others so that we take responsibility for our actions and so we may feel the power of relationship in reality in spite of our shortcomings.  We also confess for prayer because it is powerful.  We also confess for accountability for the future.)

Soul Detox: Coming Clean

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In Soul Detox: Coming Clean we discuss the importance of recognizing our self-deception and the impact of self-examination in ridding ourselves of the spiritual toxins that invade our souls.  These are my sermons notes from the first in our series Soul Detox, based on the book Soul Detox by Craig Groeschel.  You can listen to my sermon online at the Adventure Church website.

Here are my sermon notes, with some comments:

Spiritual Pollution

Are you (your life) polluted with these toxins:  anger, apathy, laziness, rage, hate, greed, harshness, unforgiveness, bitterness, worry, anxiousness, depression, joylessness, distrust, etc.?  – Those are toxins infecting your soul.

Everything Matters

Proverbs 25:26 “Like a muddied spring or a polluted well is a righteous man who gives way to the wicked.”

note:  a river does not become muddied and polluted because of just one “trash dump” into it.  Rather, it is a slow and steady combination of pollutions, some right into the river and some washed into it from upstream.  Our souls are muddied because of the slow and steady trash that we allow to be dumped into our souls:  what we watch, what we talk about, who we are around, what we read, who we listen to — all of those add up, and if they are toxic, they dump toxins into us that build up.

Coming Clean

Psalms 51:10 “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”

note:  spiritual problems have spiritual solutions!

1.  Recognize Your Self-Deception

Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things …”

note:  it is easy to allow ourselves to be deceived because we don’t know what we don’t know.  At least admit that you might be in error about what you believe or don’t believe.

2.  Begin the Process of Self-Examination

(note:  examine your life for toxic behaviors, emotions, consumptions and influences)

You must be willing to call poison, poison

Psalms 36:2 “For in his own eyes he flatters himself too much to detect or hate his sin.”

note:  We can excuse so much and so many things in our lives.  Be careful if you are saying any of these things:

“I don’t have a problem with this”

“It’s really no big deal”

“This is just how I cope”

“I’m not as bad as most people.”

“I can quit anytime I want”

“This is jut how I am.”

note:  if you are saying those things, you may be “excusing” a toxin

Listen to God’s Word

note:  as you read and study the Bible, the Word will “show” you what is toxic for your life.  Is it your speech, unforgiveness, sexual purity, roles in marriage, what it means to love your neighbor, theology?

Listen to God’s People

Proverbs 15:31-21 “He who listens to a life-giving rebuke will be at home among the wise.  He who ignores discipline despises himself, but whoever heeds correction gains understanding.”

note:  Christian friends, your pastor and your Bible teachers are ways in which God speaks truth to you about toxins that are influencing you.

Listen to God’s Voice

note: God speaks through His Word and through His people, but if we don’t want to, or refuse to, “hear God” through those ways, we must remember that God also speaks to us through our circumstances.  If your circumstance is “out of control”, “full of drama”, or “always stressed and unhappy”, there is a good chance that God is allowing that circumstance to exist to show you a spiritual toxin in your life that is infecting your soul.  Pay attention to it!

“Life to the Full”  (note:  Jesus wants us to have an abundant life, not just a life where we get by or a life where we struggle carrying a bunch of unnecessary, burdensome baggage.  Removing the spiritual toxins in our lives will allow us to live life to the full!)

Talking to Your Kids About Sex, Part 1

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The issue isn’t whether or not it’s going to happen.  The issues are when and where?  Sooner or later your child will learn the details about sexuality.  In this series of articles, I will present some tips for talking with your child about sex in a healthy and Biblical way.

It’s Not Too Early to Start Talking About Sexuality

From a very early age children begin to notice differences between themselves and “mommy” or “daddy” or “brother” or “sister.”  Children wonder why those differences exist.  It’s natural for them to be curious about such things.

Don’t miss the opportunities to share how God divinely made both men and women; that there are differences and that’s the way God made us on purpose.  Obviously, the younger the child is, the shorter and less detailed such conversations will be.

However, it is important to start early with discussing sexual matters – openly, honestly, and using correct terminology.  The earlier you start, the easier more detailed conversations will be as your child grows up and begins asking more questions such as where babies come from, why do people kiss, and why does God care whether I have sex before marriage?

Don’t Wait for the “Big Talk”

I can still remember the “Big Talk” that my father gave to me.  I was almost 12 years old, he was taking me to a baseball game, and we stopped at a Hardee’s for a burger before the game.  It was uncomfortable for me (not to mention how my dad must have felt) in large part because we had never really discussed sexual matters before that moment.  I am sure he felt a combination of surprise and relief to find out that I pretty much knew what I needed to know (at least that’s what we thought at the time – i.e., I knew the basics of sex).

But I would urge you to not wait to have a conversation with your child in a “Big Talk” about the birds and the bees.  (To this day I don’t know why we call that conversation a talk about the birds and the bees).  Instead, children learn information best when given out little chunks at a time, over time.  A steady stream of short conversations and teaching moments serves your child best and ensures that he or she retains information, and, more importantly, allows the correct values regarding sex to penetrate his or her heart.

One of the most effective ways that kids learn is over time, a little at a time.  In fact, the Bible encourages us to teach our children in just such a manner:  “Impress [the laws] on your children.  Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” Deuteronomy 6:7.  In other words, teach your children all of the time, over time, a little at a time.

Most of us would never wait to teach our children about our faith in one “Big Talk”.  We wouldn’t hold back knowledge about God and Jesus until he or she could “fully understand” at age 10 or 11 or even 14.

In addition, I’ve never seen a father wait until his son or daughter was 11 years old and then take them to a baseball field for the first time and teach them in 30 minutes the entire sport of baseball:  how to catch, throw, bat, the rules, scoring, etc.  It would be absurd to think that the child would retain anything, much less learn anything of value.

So, why do we think we should wait to teach about sexuality until our children are “ready to fully understand” and then unload everything they should know about differences between men and women, sex, safe sex, God’s commands regarding sex, etc.?  The answer is that we shouldn’t do that.

Homework:

Make a conscious decision to teach your children about sexuality in a healthy and Biblical manner, over time, a little at a time.

Begin to look for opportunities and teaching moments to have short, deliberate and honest conversations with your child about God’s plan and purpose for sex.

Questions:

If you have questions, please post them here on the blog in the comment section and I’ll try my best to respond to them from a Biblical perspective.

Marriage Matters: What if I’m NOT married?

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This week at ACC, we began a series related to marriage.  Our first message answered common questions that we receive from people who are single.  You can get the audio on the Adventure Christian Church website.  (notice that, by request, I put a little more commentary in my notes this week than I have in past postings).

Here are my notes:

Don’t I need to be married to be complete?

2 Peter 1:3 – God’s divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness …

What blessing is there in being single?

1  Corinthians 7:32-35

note:  freedom from pressure, free for ministry, free to give (often, depending on situation)

What should a pre-marital relationship “look like”?

1 Thessalonians 4:3-7 – It is God’s will that you should be sanctified:  that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister.  The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before.  For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.

1. You should be prepared (i.e., you should know if advance what you are looking for)

verse 3: It is God’s will that you should be sanctified:  that you should avoid sexual immorality;

2. It should be disciplined (i.e., dating is partly about learning discipline, patience, and putting the other person first;  refrain from living together)

verse 4:  that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable,

3. It should be Christ-centered (i.e., your relationship should be with a Christian; don’t fall into the trap of “evangelistic dating”)

verse 5:  not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God;

4. It should be based on friendship (you must be friends first; dating is about finding a companion whom you will be in union with forever;  you will want to be friends with that person!)

verse 6:  and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister.  The Lord will punish all who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before.

5. It should be tempered (your relationship should mature slowly and deliberately, just as a potter tempers clay before use; holiness in a relationship takes time)

verse 7:  For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.

I’m 16, can’t I choose my own boyfriend / girlfriend?

note:  Not by yourself you shouldn’t!

Ephesians 6:1-3 – Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.  Honor your father and mother – which is the first commandment with a promise – that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.

note:  parents — be involved; “let go” appropriately

Ephesians 6:4 – Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

I used to be married.  Is my situation different?

note:  Yes, it is, and at times, very much so, especially if children are involved.  There are more people involved / to consider, plus additional issues such as blending families, parenting issues, authority issues, etc.

Red lights, yellow lights, green lights.  –  note:  Usually, a person married before will have to navigate (pay attention to) a lot more yellow lights and red lights than a person who has never been married.  see, book:  Dating and the Single Parent by Ron Deal

We are thinking about getting married.  What should we do next?

Proverbs 15:22 – Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.

Is Your Speech Refuse or Refuge?

Water Pollution with Trash Disposal of Waste a...

ref-use, [REF-yoos] (n.) – rubbish; garbage; trash; something to be discarded

ref-uge, [REF-yooj] (n. or v.) – shelter; to provide aid or protection; relief; safety

What often happens …

You are hurt by someone.  A person you thought was a friend says something to someone who says it to someone who says it someone who says it (although “it” probably no longer resembles what was actually said) to you.  So, you lash back.  You tell someone something about that person, who tells someone, who tells someone, who then tells the person who hurt you.  Now you’re even!

You see a post on Facebook that is so contrary to what your opinion is.  It frustrates you that people could have such obtuse views on things that matter so much.  You just have to let people know that they are wrong, that you are right, and that what they said is ignorant.

You are lonely.  You are angry because of what someone did to you.  So, you decide to let the world know by making a post, sending a tweet, or finding just that right “e-card” that you can put on pintrest to let everyone know that you are angry and that they should also be angry.  That will show him!

You are having a bad, frustrating day.  You want to make sure that everyone knows it.  You think, “if life is rough for me, why is it fair that it’s not for others too?”  So, you post “life sucks and then you die.”

Your spouse isn’t meeting all of your needs.  You decide that it’s time for a change (meaning … it’s time for him/her to change, not you).  So, as soon as he/she gets home, you unload every pent-up, negative feeling you’ve ever had during your relationship, including bringing up that mistake he/she made last summer that you “forgave.”

You are in a group at work.  Some in the group start talking badly about the boss or a coworker.  You can’t resist — you have to put in your two cents by telling how the boss mistreated you, how the coworker made an error, or how they are generally just icky people who don’t “deserve” respect.  You don’t even realize that your stories and statements cause others in the group to join into the “bashing” as well.  But even so, the boss deserved it.

You don’t agree with a decision made at church or something that the preacher said from the stage.  Instead of directly going to the leaders with your concern, you send an email that will surely show him how terrible it was for him to say such a thing.  He should feel terrible and now he knows that he should feel terrible!

Refuse or Refuge?

There are two diametrically opposed results from our speech — whether spoken out loud or written for others to see.  Our speech can be negative; garbage that should be tossed away.  Or, our speech can be positive; providing relief and encouragement.

When we take the refuse (i.e., garbage) path with our speech, we have an effect on others.  Maybe others hear the garbage speech and it leads them to garbage speech.  Maybe others read our speech and it taints their view of someone else or, worse yet, Jesus himself.  Maybe they hear what we say and it makes them sad, or frustrated, or feel bad about themselves or others, or even angry.  At times our garbage speech may cause others to not want to be around us anymore.  Really, who wants to be around smelly garbage?

When we take the refuge (i.e., shelter) path with our speech, we also have an effect on others.  We encourage someone who is down with a reminder that they are loved and not alone, so they remember that life isn’t so bad after all.  We say thank you to someone who’s made a difference in our lives, or in the lives of others, so they know that they are appreciated.  We compliment someone who rarely hears anything good from the other people in his/her life.  We post something uplifting to offer hope for the day and for the future.  Who wouldn’t want to be around someone who provides shelter from the harshness of the world, who offers relief from the evil that tries to attack us?

What the Bible says …

Paul writes in Ephesians 4:29: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

That is quite a charge!

Do not let ANY unwholesome talk come out of my mouth?  ANY?

Speak ONLY what BUILDS?

Focus on OTHERS and not myself?

Be a BENEFIT?

Yes, that’s what this scripture says.  In short, our speech should be a REFUGE for people, not REFUSE thrust upon people.

The choice really is yours

You might think that you can’t help what you say.  You might think that you can’t help cussing, retaliating, gossiping, or “sticking up” for yourself.  You might think that you just won’t be able to live unless you get the last word, unless the person who hurt you is also hurt.

But, what you say, what you write, what you “put out there” for others to hear and to see, really is your CHOICE.  Your words can encourage and remind people of our loving God or your words can point people toward negativity, bitterness, and conflict.  You can choose the impact your words will have on other people, if you try.

Think before you speak.  Think before you post.  Choose to honor God in all things, including what you say.  Your speech can be refuse or refuge.  What will you choose?

Discipline Makes the Impossible Possible

This article continues my series on spiritual disciplines titled Why Men Need Discipline.”  Today’s article is called “Discipline Makes the Impossible Possible” and speaks to the continuing development of the Christian into a person who is “perfect”  as our “heavenly Father is perfect.”

Did You Say: “Be Perfect”?

Sometimes I am disturbed by what Scripture says.   An example is contained in Matthew 5:48 where we are commanded to “be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Really?  Be perfect?  That appears quite impossible.  I know I am not perfect.  Far from it.  Anyone who knows me knows that I am not perfect.  And neither are you.  So, why would God issue this seemingly impossible command to us?  (It is a “command” and not a “suggestion” by the way).

Well, I know that God is perfectly just, meaning that He is perfectly fair to us.  So, I can know that God would not require something of me, or from me, that would be impossible for me to attain.  Therefore, it is only logical that “being perfect” must be possible.  And, more than that, not only must it be possible for me to achieve, it also must be GOOD FOR ME! (see Matthew 7:9-11)

The good news for us is that God doesn’t leave this “possible impossible” task to us to attain on our own.  Quite the contrary.

We are Perfect because of Imputed Righteousness 

The Bible tells us that when we repent of our sin and believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord, that God considers us righteous in his sight.  This means that even though we aren’t “really” holy, God chooses on His own to declare us holy.  Essentially, for our benefit, God “pretends” that we are completely righteous because Jesus has “covered” our unrighteousness with his sacrificed blood.  That’s the only way true relationship with a completely holy God can exist – if He chooses not to count our unholiness against us.  It’s imputed righteousness that “gets us into heaven.”

That’s the first way that the “impossible becomes possible” – just because God says so!

We are becoming Perfect because of Imparted Righteousness

It is not so difficult to accept that God can look past our transgressions and determine on His own that we are righteous (i.e., perfect) in His sight.  God is merciful.  God is full of grace.  However, it is hard to accept that we are also being made perfect; that in this life that we can live a perfectly holy and righteous life.  But that’s also what the Bible teaches.

In 2 Peter 1:4, we are told that we are “partakers of the divine nature.”  What that means is that over time, through our circumstances, our choices, God’s leading, and our decisions, that we become more and more holy.  We become more righteous as we are transformed into the likeness of Christ.  Our daily lives here on earth actually change from unholiness to slightly less unholiness to slightly less unholiness and on and on.

This takes training and it takes time.  Spiritual disciplines such as prayer, Bible study, participating in worship, learning self-control, seeking wisdom and patience and goodness and kindness, and allowing love to be evident in our actions slowly (and not so slowly at times) mold us into people who reflect Christ and are permanently changed.  This is referred to as “imparted righteousness” meaning that God is “imparting” (or “giving to us”) righteousness.

This training is not easy.  It takes the discipline of making the right choices daily.  It means sacrificing what we may naturally desire in exchange for what God desires.  It means being obedient to the Word even if we don’t feel like it and even when we don’t fully understand it.  It means learning from failure.  It means conforming our attitudes, our minds, our hearts and our actions to the Word of God and His ways, more and more every day.  It’s imparted righteousness that makes us better disciples and ambassadors for God’s work here on earth.

The Bottom Line

God gives us the ability to “work out our salvation” (Philippians 2:12).  As we “train” ourselves by engaging in spiritual disciplines, regularly and in increasing measure over time, we do just that – we work out the unholiness that wants to control us, and allow God to work in the holiness that He wants to control us.

What’s Next?

Hopefully, you’ve been reviewing the various spiritual disciplines that I outlined previously and have been identifying which of those could use some improvement in your own life.  If not, I suggest that you review them now.

It is now time to make a specific plan of action.  What is your plan for Bible study?  What is your plan for quiet devotion time?  What is your plan for prayer?  Where are you going to serve the Lord this week?  Make a decision to implement these into your life right now in specific, detailed ways.

 

We Always Reflect Something

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Lucian Freud – Self-portrait in a hand mirror (1967)

This article continues my series on spiritual disciplines titled “Why Men Need Discipline.”  Today’s article is called “We Always Reflect Something” and addresses a question all Christians should ask themselves:  “Do I always reflect who Christ is?”  Spiritual disciplines help us to be able to answer that question with “YES!”

We Always Reflect Something

How long has it been since you looked at yourself in a mirror?  I mean, really looked at yourself?  I tried it today and was startled.  As I stared at myself I began to see things that I just simply overlook most of the time.  Some of the things I saw were good.  Some were not!  It was those “nots” that I wished were not there.  So, being a man of supreme and extreme logic (chuckle, chuckle), I closed my eyes and “wished” those “nots” were not there.  I opened my eyes and guess what?  They were still there.  I just couldn’t wish away part of my reflection.  It is what it is.

Whether we like it or not, whether we agree to it or not, as we live our lives, as we interact with people, as we make choices and engage in relationships, we always reflect something.  And, that “something” is what is inside of us.  We reflect what is in our hearts.  We reflect what is in our minds.  We reflect what is really important to us.

Sometimes what I reflect isn’t very pretty (and I’m not just talking about my face).  My words can be harsh.  My temperament can be inpatient.  My values can be skewed.  My goals can be selfish and prideful.  None of those things is Christ-like.

If asked, I would never “choose” to reflect such things.  But, unfortunately, at times that’s what people see from me and in me. That’s the thing about reflections — they show what IS, not what we WISH.

“A New Command I Give You”

When you became a Christian, you also became an ambassador for Christ.  The “world” should be able to look at you and see who Christ is.  I am using the word “should” on purpose because ambassadorship is one of things you are committing to when you decide to follow Christ.  One of the ways that God shows Himself to people is through His people — through His disciples.  And, Jesus tells us what the world should see:

 

“A new command I give you:  Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

 

We reflect Christ when we love.  When we love, people see Jesus.

The Bible describes “love” as being patient and kind, as not self-serving, as having a spirit of forgiveness and gentleness, and as doing what is right even when it is difficult to do so.  Love is honoring and protecting our wives.  Love is raising our children to know the Lord.  Love is caring for the widow, the orphan and the disenfranchised.  Love is feeding the hungry, visiting the prisoner, and clothing the naked.  The Bible tells us that “God IS love” (1 John 4:8).

Spiritual Discipline Helps Us Make Christ Visible

Oh, is that all?  All we have to do is just love everybody all of the time?  Obviously, the problem is that none of us naturally is all of those things all of the time.  In fact, it is in our nature to war against such things much of the time.  That’s where spiritual discipline comes in.

Spiritual disciplines help us make Christ’s loving characteristics supreme in our lives.  For example, attending corporate worship reminds us of who is God (God) and who is not (us).  Learning to react appropriately and Godly in situations by controlling our tempers and our speech reminds us that our lives are about more than our immediate desires.  Regularly meeting with other men in Christian fellowship provides opportunities for rebuke and encouragement so that we will stay motivated to do what is right.  Actively and intentionally serving others reminds us that we are to be servants first.

When we regularly and continually engage in those types of spiritual disciplines, as well as others, God uses them to mold our hearts and shape our thoughts.  Our minds and hearts actually start to become more Christ-like as we “train” to be Christians, and soon we begin to “reflect Christ” to the world.

The Bottom Line

Being a Christian is a wonderful gift from God.  It is also an awesome responsibility.  Who we are to the people of this world shows what we really believe and who we really follow.  Our actions and our words reflect what is in our hearts and minds.

What’s Next?

Jesus Christ was the most influential person who ever lived, and is the most influential person living today.  Are you preparing yourself so that you always reflect who He really is?  Or are you just leaving your reflection to chance?

Ask at least three people in your life (if you are married, make one of those of people your wife) to make a list of the qualities you REALLY reflect.  You will have to give them permission to be completely honest and promise them that you will not hold anything they say against them.  Be prepared to be a little hurt because there will be some things on those lists that you probably won’t expect (remember my looking in the mirror) and that will not be very Christ-like.

Once you receive your list, make a plan to engage regularly in at least two more of the spiritual disciplines we previously discussed in What is a Spiritual Discipline, Anyway?  Then watch how God begins to change the things on your lists that are not reflective of who Christ is.