THE HEALTHY CHRISTIAN WALK: Fifteen Practical Steps To Breathe Freshness Into Life

Okay, a big shift today. Let’s get specific about how to make changes in your life. Christianity has become so passive to us, and as a “reader” of people, I get the impression that so many believers do not have a daily agenda that can energize their spiritual growth. For instance, we hear a great sermon and we think, “This is it! This is what I need to start doing in my life.” At this point, it would be a good idea not to go to church again for at least two months. No seriously, I might have a good point here. Because after one week of contemplating the great sermon you heard on Sunday, and while still thinking about how to implement new steps in your life, if you go to church the next week you will hear another fine sermon but on a different topic. You will then get distracted from last week’s excellent sermon that truly did speak to you, and you will spend a second week falling away from the first excellent sermon that had you motivated a week earlier. Then week three brings you another sermon that is profitable, but it distracts you, again, from the agenda that had hit you so hard two weeks earlier. After a month, you have lost any momentum that hit you at that first, inspiring sermon. The overwhelming desire to rise up in Christ and change something in your life has dissipated into the atmosphere. And there you go: the crisis of passivity in our spiritual condition continues. People’s lives are not being dynamically transformed.

            Therefore, I am going to address more basic, functional issues. And I wish I could get more simple, quick responses from you. Some of you go to my email and react to this blog. Don’t do that. Leave your comment here, down at the bottom of this blog.

            Here is my first offering. I’m going to list some ideas that I will call, The HEALTHY CHRISTIAN WALK. Along with weekly worship and your small group, here are some practices for every day living with God and His people; some others could be done a few times a week; still others could be practiced monthly, quarterly, or whenever.

 

The HEALTHY CHRISTIAN WALK

WAKE EACH MORNING AND SPEAK TO GOD immediately, “Good morning, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, thank you for the night’s rest.”

 

ASK THE HOLY SPIRIT TO TAKE CONTROL OF YOU: In a prayer present your body to Him, yield your will, and turn your day over to Him.

 

READ SCRIPTURE MORE; here are some ideas:

Read the chapter in Proverbs corresponding to today’s numerical date.

Read through an Epistle in one sitting.

Read three Psalms in one sitting.

Read at least four times a week.

Read slowly. Underline. Read it again.

 

MEMORIZE A VERSE THIS WEEK

 

JOURNAL on occasion; write out your thoughts and prayers in response to what is happening in your life.

 

START A PRAYER LIST and pray more regularly for a few important people in your life

 

Tell the Lord, “I’M WILLING TO CHANGE SOMEONE’S LIFE TODAY” and then be on the lookout for who comes into your space needing love and attention. (You might explain the gospel, or merely live the gospel to help in some matter.)

 

CALL OR EMAIL someone to express your gratefulness for them.

 

MAKE PLANS to have lunch or coffee with a resourceful person, make the contact and get it on the calendar, no matter how far out.

 

READ A CHRISTIAN GROWTH BOOK; be listening to The Spirit’s leading for a book you might need.

 

GET 8 HOURS OF SLEEP AS MANY NIGHTS AS POSSIBLE

 

LIST 10 THINGS YOU ARE THANKFUL TO GOD FOR

 

ACKNOWLEDGE A LIE YOU’VE BEEN BELIEVING FOR THE LAST FEW DAYS, AND RENOUNCE IT. (hint: it will be found in your pessimism, anger, critical spirit, despair, etc) Get it out of your life!

 

IDENTIFY A TOXIC EMOTION YOU HAVE FELT THE LAST 24-HOURS, AND RENOUNCE IT.     (hint: it will be found in your pessimism, anger, critical spirit, despair, etc) Get it out of your life!

 

INTIMACY IS ONE OF GOD’S GREATEST HEALING TOOLS, so when you feel empty, disconnected, or unloved, CALL AN OLD FRIEND from the past,and have a meaningful, joyful conversation. For those of you going through a difficult season in life (divorce, grief, depression, etc) make up a list of 15 to 20 people from your near or distant past, and make at least one call a week.

 

A new school year is starting, so join the kids and start up something new in your life. Start a practice of these biblically, spiritually, relationally, and emotionally healthy habits. Which one will you start this week?

-Carter

HERE’S HOW I PRAY, now that I’ve quit working for God

In the Old Testament God has a passage where He tells us how “Christianity” will work when Christ arrives. It’s a prophecy in Ezekiel 36, where God tells us how He will re-constitute us, change our interior make-up, and re-fabricate us for living in kingdom relationship with Him.

            He says in Ezek 36:25-27 that He will surgically take out our old heart, and give us a new heart. You’ve probably read Jeremiah 17:9 that says the heart is more deceitful than all else, and is desperately sick; who can understand it? Well, THAT is the heart God has removed from us as believers. In its place Yahweh, the personal God we worship, imputed into us a new heart. My interpretation is that this Old Heart/New Heart in Ezekiel is the same as the Old Man/New Man in Paul’s writings. Our sinful nature (i.e, our old spirit inherited from Adam) is crucified with Christ (see last week’s blog), and our spirit is then born-again in righteousness and holiness of the truth (Eph 4:24).

            Next Ezekiel says that Yahweh will impart in us His Spirit, the Holy Spirit. Then it says that Yahweh-God will cause us to obey Him. Plain as day: GOD WILL CAUSE US TO WALK IN OBEDIENCE.

            Haha! I’m just kidding. It doesn’t really say that.

            Most of you were thinking, “Oh, wow, that’s weird. For a second there, Carter, I thought that you were serious, but you are just being funny, huh?”

            NO.

            I’m not kidding. (I’m kidding about the kidding.) God really did say that. Go look it up for yourself. Ezekiel 36:27 states absolutely that God will put His Holy Spirit in us to work with our new heart, and He will cause us, or move us, to obey Him. Yahweh is so committed to our success that He assigns our obedience to His job description. Not ours.

            Now that really is weird, huh? Are you curious about this? Want to know how this works?

            If God takes on the assignment to cause you to obey Him, then what would be your responsibility? Simply, all you have to focus on is showing up. Christianity is a receiving system, and your job description is to show up, receive grace, and let grace train you in obedience (Titus 2:12). You start walking and He starts working. As you read the truth in Scripture, and start walking in what you are reading, God works into you what He wants out of you. Just show up. 

            The word for “just show up” in the New Testament is the word present, and this takes us back to Romans 6:12-13. Paul tells us to present our bodies to God. Stop presenting your body as an instrument of unrighteousness. But start presenting your body to God as an instrument for righteousness. We are alive in our spirits with the righteous life of Christ. So now, we present our body to that righteous life, and that life will make our body an instrument for righteousness. Let Him reign in us and through us, using our body as His substitute body, manifesting His righteousness through us.

            Receive. Show up. Present yourself, and receive more Grace. This grace will transform you. It will cleanse you from all unrighteousness. Grace will train you (Titus 2:12) to abandon your behavior that bears fruit for death (Rom 7:5), and He will train you in righteousness.

            So, how does Christianity “work?” It works when you don’t work. Give up working for God. You walk, and Grace works. Grace will train you to live righteous, godly and sensible in today’s world (Titus 2:12). Grace will train you to obey Him.

            For Grace is a person. The Lord Jesus Christ.

            Here’s how you can do it. As you wake up on your pillow, or as you stand watching your coffee drip, or as you pull up in the parking lot at work, or as you pull out your calendar to plan your day, simply pray something like this,

Dear Lord Jesus, Thank You for being my grace today.

I present myself to Your life and the Holy Spirit in me.

So live in me today that You cause me to obey Our Father.

So live through me today that Your righteousness is on display.

Since You are my life, I yield to You. I’m showing up . . .

 

And He will change you at the level of Identity.

 

-Carter

THE #1 MOST NEVER PREACHED VERSE IN THE NEW TESTAMENT

Let’s continue our summer study of Paul’s difficult statements in Romans 6 and 7.  This week let’s look at the most important verse in the entire New Testament. Yet it is the most “un-preached” verse in the history of the church. How do I know that? Well, actually, I just made that up. However, based on my personal experience, I have only heard two preachers ever preach on it (besides me). And since age 20, when I began to pay attention, I’ve heard perhaps 2,500 sermons, and only two other pastors have explained this verse.

            Romans 6:6. Let’s look at it phrase by phrase.

            OUR OLD MAN – Modern translations have changed the word “man” (anthropos) to the more neutral translation, “self.” The “old man” has to be something, and whatever it is, it was put to death. I interpret the old man/old self as our old spirit, our unregenerate spirit. We are spirit-beings, born as members of Adam’s race, and we were ungodly. Not only have we done wrong, but we are wrong. To retro-fit us for kingdom living God decided to do away with us; therefore, our Adamic spirit . . .

            WAS CRUCIFIED WITH HIM – Somebody died on the cross with Christ. I did. You did. On the cross our old spirit came to an end with Christ, in Christ. We died when He died. We died in Him, through baptism into Him (see July 12 blog). Bondage to sin came by birth in Adam, and deliverance from sin comes by death in Christ. This death was provided . . .

            IN ORDER THAT THE BODY OF SIN – This phrase, the body of sin, has inspired some of the most mind-boggling, theological jumping-jack interpretations. Instead, I simply let other verses in Romans 6 – 8 lend their light to this phrase.

            In Romans 8:2 Paul speaks of a law of sin and death.

            In 7:23 he refers to a law of sin, and he locates it in the human body.          

            Then, in 7:24 Paul describes his own body as a “body of death.”

            Taking all of these verses together, Paul says there is a law of sin and death that is in our bodies, and therefore he refers to his body once as a body of sin (6:6), and once as a body of death (7:24). Therefore, I take it that the body of sin is our physical body that has within it the curse of the Law of Sin & Death. God crucified my spirit with Christ so that my sinful body . . .

            MIGHT BE BROUGHT TO NOTHING – This phrase in the Greek, translated differently in your NIV, NABS and NKJV Bibles, is a word that means “to render inactive or idle, or to leave unemployed.” Some of us like the phrase, “to render inoperative.” Paul is saying that the believer’s sinful body has been rendered inactive, idle or unemployed. Our bodies were once under the management of the old man. But now that my old man has been crucified, the sinful body is no longer employed for sin by “him.” The body has been rendered inactive or inoperable in regard to my former manner of sins. As a result . . .

            WE WOULD NO LONGER BE ENSLAVED TO SIN – The word “enslaved” in the Greek speaks of serving as a slave under the direction of someone else. Our body, with the Law of Sin & Death coursing throughout it, was a slave to the old man. Now that the old master is dead, the body is inactive and idle, and can now be employed by the new man for serving God in righteousness. The new man, of course, is the same crucified, Adamic spirit that has been brought back to life via the imputation of the righteous life of Christ. (Eph 4:24).

            What a powerful verse! It declares that you are no longer who you once were. You came into this world as a sinner, but God killed you on the cross in Christ. Now you are no longer a slave to sin. Your new life —in the spirit— is the life of Christ. You are a saint! The cross is how God initiated a change at the level of Identity.

            But if you never hear it preached, will you ever learn it? Paul’s first words of this verse are FOR WE KNOW . . . We know that our old man was crucified with Christ.  Do you know it? We “know” when the Holy Spirit opens the eyes of our heart (Eph 1:17-18). The preacher can preach it, but you don’t “know” it until the Holy Spirit teaches it to you. Ask Him to teach it to you.

           

-Carter