Where the Glory Belongs

“They were only hearing it said, He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy. And they glorified God because of me” (Galatians 1:23-24) 

The Apostle Paul wrote Galatians in approximately 49 A.D., some sixteen years after his conversion. It was the first of his thirteen letters recorded in Scripture, written to the churches he established during his first missionary journey. In Galatians, Paul defended the sufficiency of Christ alone for salvation. The church had fallen prey to the false teaching that said in order to be saved one also had to be circumcised. This was a denial of the sufficiency of what Christ did on the cross. In the latter part of the first chapter, after expressing his astonishment at their deserting the true gospel, Paul told of his conversion and calling into ministry. He concluded by telling of the response people had at the time to his conversion, “They were only hearing it said, He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy. And they glorified God because of me” (Galatians 1:23-24).

            Humanly speaking, Paul had a lot to boast about. Think about it, all the churches he founded, the souls saved through his preaching, his commitment to discipleship and his relentless defense of the gospel. There’s no denying his contribution. Yet, Paul’s only boast was Christ. Paul knew that were it not for the grace of God, he would have remained dead in sins (Ephesians 2:1). Therefore, he didn’t seek glory because he knew it belonged elsewhere.  

            True salvation is always marked by change. Part of that change is a desire to be used by God to further His kingdom. However, we must never take our eye off the fact that it is God who affects the change in each of us. He made us alive together with Christ (Ephesians 2:5). That truth should always be on the top of our minds and deep in our hearts. What God has done in and through each of us is really never about us, but about Him. The truth is, God did it all and because He did, the glory is His alone. For all the Apostle Paul may have contributed to the Christian faith, it was always God to whom he pointed. And that’s the only place we should ever point as well.

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To the Graduate

A week from today, Kristin will officially be a high school graduate. One more summer is all that’s left before she goes off to college to begin a new chapter in her life. She has been a wonderful child and I know her time in college will be a great experience. Like most parents, I could see this day coming, but as it approaches, there are so many things running through my mind that I want her to know. Naturally, I want her to know how much Karen, Logan and I love her, how proud we are of her, and how much we will miss her being away from us. I’m sure as a parent; you share the same feelings about your graduate. As we get ready to let them go, I believe it’s normal to ask if we’ve done enough to prepare them. What more can be said that will serve to make this part of their lives as fruitful as it can be? I’m sure in all the advice I’ve given, I’ve left something out. I’m equally sure that Kristin had rather me keep some of it to myself, but there are a few more things I need to tell her. I would love to tell her that a college experience comes without any challenges. Sure, we know the typical challenges of time management, difficult classes and the usual distractions a college student faces. They’re a given. But there are other challenges as well, challenges that will test her faith in God. This is the reason for the list below. Spiritual challenges are the most important challenges that Kristin needs to be prepared for. All of our children will face these same challenges. It’s not that their faith hasn’t been tested before, it’s just that now, as a Christian parent you’re not there to guide them as you have been before. As parents, we are now at a point where we have to trust like never before and pray that they remain committed to the things they’ve been taught. With that said, here’s my list of things I’ve been thinking about and want Kristin to know. Maybe you want to share it with your graduate as well. 

  1. Be firm in what you believe about God because what you believe is likely to be challenged more than it has ever been before.
  2. With newfound freedom sometimes it’s easy to forget who you are. Remember not only who you are, but also who God created you to be.
  3. Influence can be a good thing, but it can also be harmful. God’s Word says there are things to run to and things to run from. Choose wisely.
  4. You were made to worship, both personally and corporately. Make finding a good Bible believing church a priority.
  5. Never will your temptation to stray from God’s will be greater than over these next years.
  6. It will take more than your best effort and self determination to fight against temptation. It will take the power of the Holy Spirit in you. Call on His power.
  7. Of all the books you read and study in college, the book that needs your greatest attention each day is the one written by God.
  8. Though I will not always be there to watch over you, your Heavenly Father will be (Psalm 121:4).
  9. Prayer will be a powerful weapon for you to carry. Use it daily.  
  10. Respect all people and be kind to them, but never let anyone tell you that a relationship with God comes any other way than through Jesus Christ alone (John 14:6).
  11. As much as I love you, it pales in comparison to how much your Heavenly Father loves you.
  12. Remember that God is faithful. Trust Him, seek Him and love Him. After all, He loved you first.

The Ground of Our Experience

“A Spirit-filled church always studies the apostolic teaching. It is a learning church that grounds its experiences in and tests those experiences by the Word of God.” − James Montgomery Boice

At the end of the second chapter of Acts, after describing the coming of the Holy Spirit and Peter’s sermon at Pentecost, Luke began to write about things that characterized the early church (Acts 2:42-47). The first characteristic he mentioned was their devotion to the apostles teaching. The apostles were specifically chosen by Jesus to teach the Word of God. Therefore, they were empowered by the Holy Spirit to carry it out. Though they may not have completely understood it at the time, the night before he was crucified Jesus explained this to His disciples. He promised that the Father would send them another Helper, the Holy Spirit who would teach them and bring to remembrance all the things He had said (John 14:26). The promise proved true as evidenced by Peter’s sermon, where he boldly preached Jesus, the Holy Spirit moved with great power, and three thousand people were saved.                                                                                                                                                                                                                              In his commentary on these latter verses of Acts 2, James Boice makes the point that after such a miraculous work, the easiest thing for the church to have done would’ve been to look back at the experience of Pentecost and try to replicate it. There’s no doubt that what happened was an awesome experience. But what is found in Luke’s description is that as the church moved forward they devoted themselves first to apostolic teaching, the study of God’s Word. The Spirit of God works mightily through the Word of God.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            As believers, we do and should experience God, but we must be careful not to measure that experience based solely on how it makes us feel or appeals to our emotions. There’s great temptation and tendency to do just that. Boice’ larger point in the quote above is that our experiences alone are not the measure of what constitutes being Spirit-filled. Nor are they the measure of what constitutes true worship. Only when our experience lines up and flows from the Word of God can it be of the Spirit and thus considered true worship. Our experiences must always be kept in check by God’s Word.         

Boice goes on in his commentary, pointing out the great blessings that have come to the church from deep study of the Bible. In answering why such is the case, he says, “It is because the closer men and women come to God the closer they want to get to where He speaks to their hearts, and that is in the Bible”. The Spirit of God lives in the heart of every believer, but we are filled with the Holy Spirit only as our hearts are yielded to His work in us. If this is to happen, we must first expose ourselves to God’s Word, and then, as was the case with the early church, the rest will follow.