A Christian First

We Are Christians First

Warren E. Berkley

Are you a Christian? If you are, that relationship to God should govern everything you do about everything, all the time. When you first obeyed Christ in baptism, you were making the commitment to be a Christian and to be a Christian first.

You have a job, but you are a Christian first. Everything you do as an employee should be governed by your higher calling. “…obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eye-service, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God,” (Col. 3:22).

You are a neighbor, but you are a Christian first. Your treatment of your neighbor should be based on your love for the God who made your neighbor (Jas. 3:9; Matt. 22:36-40).

You are a member of a local church, hopefully, one that exists and works with full respect for the teachings of Scripture. Your ultimate loyalty is to Jesus Christ, the head of the universal church (Eph. 1:22 -23). If there is ever a conflict between the local group and the Head, your commitment is to the Head (Col. 2:19).

You may be a citizen of the United States, but you hold higher citizenship in Christ’s kingdom (Col. 1:13; Phil. 1:27, 3:30). Our higher citizenship should rule over all our involvement in our American citizenship. Everything we do as good citizens here should be a function of our higher citizenship.

In all that we do, we are Christians first. Our relationship to God through Jesus Christ ought to empower and enable all that we do from baptism until death. Our first identity is, a Christian.

Truth Connection: “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you,” Matt. 6:33.

Pressing On Magazine

Going Home

“Going Home”

The Melody & The Hope

Warren E. Berkley

arc art bass bowed string instrument
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I love good music. For me it is therapeutic and a pleasant mental recreation. I am intrigued by the technical talent of skilled musicians and interested in various interpretations of conductors, arrangers and performers. But there is another valuable product of music for me: the stirring of good memories and hopeful thoughts. 

All of these benefits are shared in Antonin Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9 in E minor, popularly known as “From The New World,” or “The New World Symphony.” I was privileged to hear this performed by The Valley Symphony Orchestra a few years ago. Everything was there. The teamwork of talented musicians, the passionate interpretation of the conductor and the uncommon attentiveness of the audience – which became a graceful avenue for the great melodies of the composer to find their mark.

In the case of this work, historical context enhances your appreciation for the piece. In 1892 Dvorak moved from Prague to New York. Not long after his arrival in “the new world,” he began to study the music of this young society. He was fascinated by this music and felt that “this must be the real foundation of any serious and original” attempt to teach music and composition in America. The music was already here. It was his task to study it, teach it and capture it in his work. The melodies he heard in New York and during a summer in Iowa became the leading influence that resulted in this amazing piece, “The New World Symphony.”

The most compelling melody in this composition is what we know as the song, “Going Home.” Music historians are not agreed. Did Dvorak hear this and incorporate it into his symphony? Or was it original with him. Some even speculate the theme may have originated in the Czech music of his childhood.

Why does that melody so grip us emotionally? What images and thoughts are created in our minds when listening to this? “Home” is a word that touches us. It is where you go for comfort; it is familial; it is a place to relax after work. In whatever language, the concept is lofty and endearing.

The lyrics (likely written after the 9th Symphony was released):

Going home. Going home. I’m a-going home.
Quiet-like some still day, I’m just going home.

It’s not far, just close by, through an open door.
Work all done, cares laid by, Going to fear no more;

Mother’s there expecting me, Father’s waiting, too.
Lot’s of folks gathered there. All the friends I knew.

Someday, will you be going home? Death will not be the end of your existence. You will move from this earth into the next realm. Heaven will be the perfect and final home. Father’s waiting . . . folks gathered there . . . fear no more . . . cares laid by. Are you going home?

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ form the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time,” 1 Pet. 1:3-5.

2 Peter 2:9

The Lord Knows How

(To Get Us Out Of This mess)

Jon W. Quinn

“…then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment…”  (2 Peter 2:9 NASU)

This is not a pleasant chapter to read, but its portrayal of the corrupt influence the world sometimes has on disciples is sadly accurate, and therefore its message is important to us.

This chapter is about the exploitation of those trying to serve the Lord. There are the false teachers who introduce false ways, and in their gross misconduct, give an excuse to the enemies of righteousness in the world to malign the truth (vs. 1-3). Examples from both history and contemporary events show how the hypocrisy and sin of religious pretenders can give truth a bad name.

Then Peter cites Biblical events of the past to show how God can rescue the righteous from such evil environments. He rescued Noah from his world (v. 5) and Lot from his (vs. 6-8). Yes, the Lord knows both how to “rescue the godly” and punish those committed to doing evil.

The world will bring us to ruin if it can. It will exalt itself against God and all that is holy. It will daily suffer dreadful pain as the “wages of its own wrongdoing”, and yet continue on its evil course. It will seek to entice the faithful away from their God with “arrogant words of vanity” by “promising them freedom.” All the while, the exploiters are actually in dreadful servitude of their own corruption, and continue to follow their master as he leads them toward the eternal “black darkness” (2:12-19).

Like Lot, we may at times feel “oppressed” and “tormented” by what we see around us. But we remember that the Lord knows how to deliver His faithful ones out of this mess. “Nevertheless, the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Everyone who names the name of the Lord is to abstain from wickedness”  (2 Timothy 2:19).

From the Expository Files Archives

Send Me!

“Here Am I, Send Me.”

copy of northum

When Bill Wallace was preaching at Park Hill with Yater Tant, a variety of classes were offered to better inform the members. Bill Wallace taught a Tuesday night course on The Gist Of The Bible, based on a handbook by Charles Shook (published by Gospel Advocate in 1956). My parents went through that class and I used to that book to help me understand the sequence of Bible history.

Bill and Yater were big on young men’s training classes, to train and encourage young men to better participate in the services and develop their talents in many areas. Daddy was in this class (with me sitting beside him), taking notes and focusing on praying, teaching, preaching, serving, singing, preparing to become elders, etc.

Daddy was always ready to do anything he was asked to do but was always committed to doing it better. Just a few weeks before he died, Cecil Douthitt was helping him prepare material for his young people’s class.

In one of these young men’s training classes, I think the last one in a course, bro. Wallace passed out cards to all the young men. I remember there were various duties listed on the card, with a box next to each one. The young men were asked to check the duties they were willing to perform (public prayer, song leading, teaching a class, etc.). Daddy checked all of them and wrote on the back of the card: “Here am I, send me,” (from Isa. 6:8).

From the book, FOR HOWEVER BRIEF A TIME, Click Here for Kindle 2nd Edition

What Kind of Bible do you have?

person holding opened book
Photo by Eduardo Braga on Pexels.com

WHAT KIND OF BIBLE?
Warren E. Berkley

What kind of Bible do you have? Though the issue of English translations is worthy of serious thought, that isn’t what I’m asking here. What kind of Bible do you have? I thought about this one time and wrote out the following “kinds.”

THERE ARE CAR BIBLES – “car Bibles” are taken out of the car on Sunday (if the owner remembers), but they remain in the car the rest of the week; you can always tell if somebody has a “car Bible,” it has a sun tan!

THERE ARE DECORATIVE BIBLES – They sit on coffee tables or on a shelf somewhere. They are usually in mint condition because they are seldom opened. A child who opens a decorative Bible may be scolded and told to leave it alone.

THERE ARE PEW BIBLES – They may be opened once or twice a week. The only other time they are touched is when the janitor puts them back in the rack. Pew Bibles often find use as back support for the lumbar region.

THERE ARE STORAGE BIBLES – they collect flowers, important papers and genealogical information. Obituaries are often put in them, I suppose for safe keeping; kind-of like a lock box? So there are car Bibles, decorative Bibles, pew Bibles and storage Bibles. What kind of Bible do you have?

TODAY THERE ARE DIGITAL BIBLES. They open quickly, on your phone, Ipad or Kindle. You may be able to navigate to the announced passage very quickly. It may include a Bible reading plan. There are advantages. The disadvantage is, there is so much competing material. If connected, Facebook is just a touch away. Candy Crush may pop up and beg your attention. Digital Bibles require very good discipline to stay on the higher task.

I hope you have a USED BIBLE. There are fingerprints all over it, some loose pages, the spine may not be stiff anymore; there are pen and pencil notations, the cover is worn and soiled by the repeated use of the owner. This kind of Bible is read and studied frequently because of the owner’s hunger and thirst for righteousness. The owner knows, the only way to live every day is to learn, believe and obey the teachings of the Word of God. David said, “Lord, I love your law,” (Psa. 119:163). I hope you have a USED BIBLE.

More Than Conquerors

1 reagan

At the Laurel Heights church of Christ (McAllen, Tx.), a few weeks ago Reagan McClenny visited us for a great week-end of preaching. This link will take you to a page on our website. On the right, you’ll be able to listen/download those sermons (if you browser is set up for that). On the left, there are worksheets in PDF format you can use as you listen. Here’s the link:

http://lhmcallen.org/jan_2019_meeting

Profanaphilia

Sharing this from my friend Russ Bowman, published in Focus Online.

A few weeks ago, as the government swore in the new 116th United States Congress, a freshman congresswoman from Michigan made rather unflattering headlines with her profanity-laced criticism of our current president. At the outset, let me note that the following is not a political tirade or defense of some agenda or party or person. Instead, I would like to note a disturbing trend, of which the above incident is merely one of the latest and more blatant examples. We are rapidly declining into an entire nation of undignified and irreverent potty-mouths. Continue reading “Profanaphilia”

Opening chapter of DO THINGS WELL

The Pursuit of Excellence

Max Dawson

It is an addiction and a curse. It is a curse that prevents churches from reaching their potential for God. The curse hinders churches from converting souls to Jesus. It is an addiction that does not want to be broken. The addiction resists reform and argues that it must maintain old habits and methods. It is an addiction and curse that dishonors God and withholds from Him the glory due His excellent name.

The addiction and curse is called “mediocrity.” It stands diametrically opposed to everything God is and to everything God calls us to do. It means settling for less than our best. It is happy with halfhearted efforts and results. It is a disgrace to the God we serve.

While some brethren may settle for “good enough,” where would we go in Scripture to find that “good enough” pleases God? Search the 66 books and you will find that God was never happy when His people settled for mediocrity in serving Him. It is time that we restored the spirit of excellence that characterized so many of God’s faithful servants in Bible days!

What is the purpose of our existence?

We might be tempted to answer that question from Ecclesiastes 12:13, that we must “Fear God and keep His commandments.” While that is our duty, it is not our purpose in life. Our ultimate purpose and the reason we keep His word is to give Him glory. The most critical thing to God is that He be glorified.

Read Psalm 79:8-9. Here, Israel appeals to God for deliverance from their enemy. The appeal, however, is not for the sake of Israel, but “for the glory of Your name…for Your name’s sake.” The nation of Israel existed for the very purpose of giving God glory. (See Isaiah 43:6-7 and Ezekiel 36:22-23.) All that God did through Israel, and for Israel, was for the purpose of achieving His own glory.

In like manner, the New Testament church exists to glorify God. Read Ephesians 3:20-21. Our reliance on God and His power is not for our benefit only. It is to give Him glory in the church. It is God who is at the center of all that we do; it is not ourselves!

Whether we view Christians as a collectivity, working together in the local church, or whether we look at our individual actions as disciples of Jesus, our purpose is to give glory to God. It is as 1 Corinthians 10:31 says, “…whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

Serving God with a spirit of mediocrity does not achieve the purpose of our existence. We exist for His glory. We fit in God’s plan in that we are allowed the privilege of glorifying His name.

Who is this God that we serve?

We know well the story of King Solomon and his building of God’s Temple. The preparation was begun by King David; Solomon continued the preparation and did the building. In 2 Chronicles 2 he assigned more than 150,000 men to the work. He sent letters to other kings asking their assistance in finding the finest craftsmen to help build the great edifice.

Reading 2 Chronicles 2:5, we hear Solomon’s powerful proclamation, “The house which I am about to build will be great, for greater is our God than all the gods.” The king was determined to do a great work because of the greatness of God. The excellent God deserved an excellent effort! Later in the chapter Solomon recognizes that even his best and finest work cannot truly do justice to the magnificence of God, yet that will not prevent him from giving his best. In 2 Chronicles 2:9 he said, “…the house which I am about to build will be great and wonderful.”

The greatness of the temple was not to Solomon’s glory, but to the glory of the excellent God he served. The Lord of heaven and earth was worthy of nothing less than Solomon’s highest and utmost effort. An extreme effort for the excellent God!

Solomon knew who God was. Do we? How can we possibly be satisfied with less than our best when it comes to preaching, Bible classes, song worship, or even how we maintain our place of worship? We absolutely, positively must pursue excellence.

What if we give God less than our best?

We don’t have to look far to get an answer to that question. The prophet Malachi teaches us a valuable lesson about excellence—or the lack of it! In the last book of the Old Testament God announced His absolute displeasure with His own people. He called upon them to repent; judgment was coming on a careless and disobedient people. Their worship had degenerated into a malaise and malady that treated God in a way in which they would never treat any other person of honor. Instead of giving God their best, they had become accustomed to giving God the equivalent of junk!

How would you feel if, on your birthday, someone who supposedly loved you gave you a piece of junk as a gift? Maybe you are a golfer. Your friend gives you a broken nine iron. “After all,” he says, “it was of no value to me. I was going to throw it out anyway.” Giving you a throw away? How does that show love or respect for you?

The people of Malachi’s time brought to God the blind, injured or diseased lamb as an offering. “After all,” they might have said, “it was of no value to me.” They should have been giving God the animal that would win the blue ribbon at the state fair — the one that was of most value. Instead, they gave what was of no value. God deserved better.

He deserves better today. If we offer our God cheap, halfhearted efforts when it comes to worship and service, He will be no more pleased with us than with those in Malachi’s time.

“Oh,” but we say, “it’s for God. And He doesn’t require that we reach some high standard.” The correct understanding is that God requires a high effort. While we may never reach perfection in all that we do, that doesn’t mean we settle for mediocre efforts. It is an inexcusable situation if we find brethren meeting in dirty church buildings with smelly restrooms. It is a disgrace to God if the community drives past our buildings and sees grass that should have been cut two weeks ago. Do we maintain our own houses and lawns the way we maintain our worship facilities?

Brethren have said, “We don’t want to try to impress the public with how our buildings and landscaping look. We want to draw folks with the gospel.” The problem is, when a building is unkempt, you will keep folks away before they ever have a chance to hear the gospel! Some kind of impression — good or bad — is made by how you maintain your facility. Show the public that worship of God matters to you by keeping the worship facility looking clean and neat!

What is true of the facility is true of worship in the facility. Carelessness and mediocre efforts don’t cut it. Shoddily prepared sermons don’t attract people to Jesus. Poor efforts at song leading don’t impress anyone with how much you are devoted to God. Poorly prepared Bible class teachers and low quality material do not draw people to Christ. If people are converted under these circumstances, it is in spite of such efforts, not because of them!

Returning to Malachi, we are impressed with God’s displeasure with His own people. In Malachi 1:6, God questions the Jews, “A son honors his father, and a servant his master. Then if I am a father, where is My honor? And if I am a master, where is My respect?” Because of their carelessness and lack of devotion, God accused them of despising His name! God tells them, “Don’t bring Me your junk.” No one would make such offerings to a government dignitary. Why make such an offering to God?

To show how repugnant such offerings were, God said, “Oh that there were one among you who would shut the gates, that you might not uselessly kindle fire on My altar! I am not pleased with you nor will I accept an offering from you” (Malachi 1:10). He said it would be better for the doors to be closed than for such worship to continue. Have we ever thought that our worship might be so careless that it would be better to close the doors to our buildings?

“Good enough” is not good enough when it comes to glorifying God. Excellence honors God. Anything less does not.

What effect does excellence have on people?

When Solomon built the temple he wanted others to see that God deserved the best. When the Queen of Sheba came to Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 9) one of the things she saw was the magnificent house of God Solomon built. She was awestruck. She saw something of God’s greatness and excellence when she saw the splendid edifice.

In our efforts to serve God, people should see something of God’s greatness and excellence. When we value excellence, as Solomon did, it says something to the public about the kind of God we worship. It says that He really means something to us and nothing is too good for Him. It tells folks that we are truly dedicated to the Lord Jesus and that He is worthy of the finest effort we can muster.

The pursuit of excellence in God’s service tells non-Christians that we value our God. Below is a simple list of 25 things that communicate a message to the public. This message may determine whether they will ever listen to the gospel. All will be addressed in more detail in this book. While we have the message of salvation (Romans 1:16), what we say by how we do things may be so loud that the public will never hear the word of salvation. To express it another way, the public may say to us, “What you are shouting by the appearance of your church building and how you do things is so loud that we can’t hear the message about Jesus.” This list will help send the right message. More could be added, but these are things we need to be aware of and do well! Here is what we want people to see and hear when they take a look at us.

  1. A neatly kept building when they pass by.
  2. A sign that can be easily read from the street.
  3. A well maintained lawn and parking lot.
  4. Someone greeting them as they enter the building.
  5. A visitor’s packet that welcomes them and gives relevant information.
  6. Someone helping them find a seat in the auditorium or Bible class.
  7. Services that begin on time (with the members present on time).
  8. In Bible class, a teacher who is well prepared and visitor conscious.
  9. In the assembly, a service that begins with scripture and a focus on worship; that welcomes guests and communicates our focus on spiritual things.
  10. A song service where the leader is well trained and well prepared.
  11. A song service where the leader and members all know the songs.
  12. A song service where all the members participate in singing.
  13. Scripture reading that is well prepared and read with precision and passion.
  14. Meaningful prayers that are clearly spoken into a microphone so all can hear.
  15. The Lord’s Supper conducted in a way that is relevant and reverent.
  16. Preaching that is well prepared and well delivered.
  17. An audience that listens carefully to preaching and turns to passages being considered.
  18. Audio aids and visual aids that help the visitor learn.
  19. An invitation that appeals to the hearts of men to follow God.
  20. Brief closing remarks that emphasize church family and urge visitors to return.
  21. A dismissal prayer that is a dismissal prayer.
  22. Christians who greet guests and give them special attention.
  23. Special events that are carefully planned and executed well.
  24. Advertising that is professionally prepared and that compliments well the great message we are trying to share.
  25. People who are doing their very best to honor and glorify the great God we serve.

I hope you see value in these things. It is a tragedy that some brethren just don’t get it. They seem to think that they can offer just about anything to God and He will be glad to get it. God was not pleased with that bunch in Malachi’s time when they had that kind of attitude; neither will He be pleased with us. You can take everything in this list and turn it around. What if people drive up to a building where the grass always needs cutting? What if they can’t read the sign because it is weathered or broken? What if they walk into a building and no one speaks to them or treats them with courtesy? What if the Bible class teacher just starts off with the next question in the workbook with no acknowledgement or welcome to the visitor? What if the worship assembly begins with ten minutes of rambling announcements and an explanation of Aunt Sally’s gallbladder surgery? Do you see any problems here with first impressions on guests? None of this gives glory to God. There is no excellence and honor toward God in any of it. There is no excuse for this. The only thing that may have happened up to this point in the visitor’s mind is that he wonders why he came to this place. And, remember, we haven’t even talked about the song service or preaching yet! The visitor may start wondering if he can slip quietly out the back and no one will notice (after all, no one seemed to notice when he came in).

You get the point. Whether we pursue excellence or not has a powerful effect on people! If we don’t care about excellence in worship to our God, why should any visitor care about our God? Would he be motivated to give his best to God if we don’t give our best? Would he be moved to give his heart to Jesus if we don’t seem to have much of a heart for Jesus ourselves? Commitment to excellence makes a big difference. Note 1 Corinthians 10:31-32 (ASV): “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. Give no occasions of stumbling, either to Jews, or to Greeks, or to the church of God.”

Could it be that when we do not do all to God’s glory that we cause the very occasions for stumbling of which the apostle speaks? When we do things poorly, could it be that we are turning away the very people we say we want to convert?

What about the effect on the church? When we fail to do things well and allow careless worship to prevail, could it be that weak Christians just give up because careless worship does not move them to greater service?

An interview.

I recently interviewed a young man who expressed great enthusiasm about the congregation where he is a member. I asked why he was so impassioned. He said, “Every place I have always been, I was told, ‘If you are trying, that’s good enough.’”

He further said, “Here, not everyone gets a chance to do everything — regardless of their ability. Instead, the church tries to put its best foot forward by training and preparing men to lead. I also see the value of critique. In other places where I have worshiped all efforts were acceptable; nobody tried to show me a better way. Now, I think about how I am doing. I want to give my best for God because it seems to matter to everyone. I also like doing things in an orderly way and with purpose.”

For this young man, the bar had been raised. All efforts were no longer acceptable. He was motivated to achieve and to excel for God’s sake. His attitude toward worship and the church were changed because he was challenged to excel!

A final thought on the excellence of God.

The prophet Isaiah speaks of our awesome God. He gives us God’s own testimony. In that testimony is an understanding of the essence of excellence. God is the One who stands above all others. He possesses qualities that make Him preeminent and superior to everyone and everything. There is no one like Him. Hear this excerpt from Isaiah 44:6-7.

“I am the first and I am the last, and there is no God besides Me. Who is like Me?”

God alone is eternal, the first and the last. There is no other God. Throughout the book of Isaiah the excellence of God is revealed. God knows all things and can do all things. And everything He does expresses His superiority over all things. He stands out above all others.

We should pursue excellence in service to Him because He is excellent. Our worship should be a proclamation of His excellence. So says 1 Peter 2:9, “…so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you…” That is our purpose and mission in life. The proclamation of God’s virtues cannot be done if worship is approached in a halfhearted, careless way. There is great blessing in pursuing excellence and great danger in accepting mediocrity.

We strive to do all things well, not for our glory, but for the glory of the One who called us to His service. Thus, when we pursue excellence, it is His excellence and glory that we seek. By our proclamation, we want all men to see that our God stands out above all others.

From This Book, DO THINGS WELL, Click Here

Outside your kind?

blur close up focus freshness
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Jumping Outside Your Kind

Warren E. Berkley

Do you like grapefruit? Have you ever had any of the famous south Texas Ruby Red Grapefruit? I used to grow some of the best in my backyard, and some harvests were superior. I shared some of those good years with a friend, Tony Mauck.

But what would you think – at harvest time – if I had reported to you with these words: “Just picked my grapefruit for this season. Funny thing happened. On one tree I had watermelon, tomatoes, olives and grapes.” Such a statement would put you on alert, not about the tree but about me. What is it? Early onset of dementia; complete loss of sanity? Whatever you may not know about South Texas citrus, you know that seed produces after its’ kind. The seed, the tree and the fruit will never jump outside the kind.

Christians are “a kind of firstfruits of His creatures,” (Jas. 1:18). If we are living in keeping with our birth (reproduction, see Jno. 3), what we think and say is the expected fruit (Gal. 5:22-26). It should strike us as unnatural and against our birth to speak with an unruly tongue.

Or as James said, “Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh,” (Jas. 3:10-12).

 

Tomorrow – THE PURSUIT OF EXCELLENCE from the book DO THINGS WELL.

 

Self-concept

How Do You See Yourself?

Warren E. Berkley

A.W. Tozer was precise and scripturally correct when he said: “Self-knowledge is so critically important to us in our pursuit of God and His righteousness that we lie under heavy obligation to do immediately whatever is necessary to remove the disguise and permit our real selves to be known.”

Central to all your character and conduct is your self-concept. This simply means how you see yourself, knowing who you are. You must avoid an unhealthy preoccupation or obsession with self. Subjective distortions can be detrimental. But there is an awareness of yourself and perception of who you are that is central to your potential. It is important to be strong and clear about who you are. Perhaps these inquiries will find a place in forming and maintaining clarity in your knowledge of who you are.

Do you see yourself as a giver or taker? Actually each of us are takers (receivers), for we are the unworthy recipients of the generosity of God evident in our very existence (Acts 17:28). Christians are recipients of the grace of God and Christ, “through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life,” (Titus 3:5b-7). Each of us, therefore, are takers (receivers, partakers). But in another sense the question ought to be weighed: Do you have greater interests in taking than giving? That goes to character. The teaching of Acts 20:35 is germane to this. “…And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’.”  The generosity of Jesus’ character & teaching ought to become our purpose, so that we are focused on giving not taking.  (See also Rom. 12:8; Isa. 32:8; 2 Cor. 8:2).

Do all the good you can,

By all the means you can,

In all the ways you can,

In all the places you can,

At all the times you can,

To all the people you can,

As long as ever you can.

John Wesley (1703–1791)

Do you see yourself as a victim or perpetrator? There is a bothersome grumbling seen in people, always blaming others, pointing to circumstances and claiming to be victims. The cry (spoken or implied) is: “Everybody else is wrong. Everybody else is incorrect. Everybody else should take responsibility. Everybody should see and acknowledge my purity and know how unfairly I’m treated!” This is childish. It will help us – when things happen and generally in life  – to prayerfully and cautiously evaluate if we were victimized or did we perpetrate the event or events. If you fall into the habit of dogmatically claiming to be the victim, this reflects an absence of humility. Assuming you never do anything wrong is a wrong approach. We are not always victims! We must not always and immediately come to our defense. Sometimes we are perpetrators! In fact, we are all perpetrators in this sense: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Rom. 3:23). There is great value in humble self-examination.

Do you see yourself as a servant or a master? The Lord’s disciples, in their early days of coming to grips with the truth, sought greatness and vanity. Jesus responded by using a child to teach these grown men the humility they hadn’t yet embraced (Matt. 18:1-5). A few days later, the same ambition showed itself. Jesus responded again: “And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many,” (Matt. 20:27,28).

Oswald Chambers has said: “If you are going to live for the service of your fellowmen, you will certainly be pierced through with many sorrows, for you will meet with more base ingratitude from your fellowmen than you would from a dog. You will meet with unkindness and two-facedness, and if your motive is love for your fellowmen, you will be exhausted in the battle of life. But if the mainspring of your service is love for God, no ingratitude, no sin, no devil, no angel, can hinder you from serving your fellowmen, no matter how they treat you. You can love your neighbor as yourself, not from pity, but from the true centering of yourself in God.”

Ultimately, all our inquires into self need to answer the question: Am I a child of God, or a child of the devil? Because of what Jesus Christ did, you can become a child of God; you can use the Word of God to know yourself, improve yourself and give of yourself to the Creator, to the Savior, to your family, your brethren and your fellowman.