Living in this world and looking at the chaotic situations around us, we know that there is a larger spiritual battle at work underneath what is visible on the surface of things. The devil is very wily, and while some of us think that as Christians for many years, the devil has no ability to lay his clutches on us, he is also very patient.
And while he knows that the obvious shadowy things of the world will never have the power to tempt us, he also knows how to lay his bait through good things and how to corrupt them. Church service, for example, can be used by him to corrupt many and many have fallen to traps laid by him within sacred or ministerial grounds.
It is therefore very crucial that as men of God, we know how to stay close to Him and develop a deeper personal relationship with Him. In the CHOSEN2016 conference, Patrick Morley also shared a message on this crucial area, not just about purpose, responsibility, and extension, but also about our intimate relationship with Christ.
He shared that many men in today’s world are tired because they have not found a significance that matters. Whereas there is a place where we came from and an open door of relationship with our Creator and Father, many men are trapped looking for their purposes from things that have distracted them in their earthly material lives.
We see this most clearly in the rat race. Mass production, mass communication, mass marketing, installment credit; these things have burgeoned in the modern life, resulting in a shift from production to consumption. And the cycle is vicious. We have created a culture which requires more energy than men have to give.
Even as Christian men, we are not exempt from this. We read the Bible through our own lenses, sometimes adapting it to our preferences instead of reading the Scriptures as the unadulterated word of God. We take the parts of Scripture we like and we toss the ones we don’t. We take pride in our accomplishments as if they’re our own. We use performance as the standard of whether God views us favourably instead of looking at His grace and mercy. In short, we worship a god that we have shaped instead of a God that had created us. This form of Cultural Christianity is one way in which the devil can distract us.
But the Bible also says in Matthew 7:24-27 that there are different ways to build. Some of us build houses of hay, others of wood, and some on strong foundations. The ones with the strong foundations, these withstand the storms, no matter how great the storms may be. And as creations and children of God, that foundation cannot be anything else other than Jesus Christ.
Patrick shared that while it is not spiritual disciplines that will save us, they were given to us by God to help us grow deeper in our relationship with Him. And they are very crucial. How do we stay on track with God? First we have to recognize that nothing we do will ever make us good enough for God to love us. He loves us simply because He has created us. Secondly, we have to recognize that spiritual disciplines don’t earn us merit with God, but rather are ways for us to express our gratitude and love to Him.
Four areas of spiritual disciplines were shared:
- Active church involvement
- Quiet Time
- Discipleship Group
Active church involvement is important as a first step for believers for it is within the church that a follower of Christ finds their community. ‘You will never reach your full potential in isolation,’ Patrick shared. ‘There is no such thing as a lone ranger Christian.’ We were created by God for relationships and we have a responsibility in building up right relationships with the people around us, particularly those who are also walking in their own journeys with God.
Patrick also communicated that in all his years of ministry, he has never seen a person change their lives completely without a deep study of God’s word and prayer in quiet time. ‘It is just not going to happen. I don’t understand how it happens but in the midst of all these pressure and stresses in life, I know that I can just open the Bible to any page or any story, and it will change my life, every single time. And prayer is the currency of our personal relationship with Jesus.
‘For whatever reason, the way God has structured us, when we try to live our Christian lives with our own strength, we quickly come to the end of that strength. Jesus said His grace and power is sufficient and made perfect in us and the word of God is how that strength comes into us.’
When it comes to the purpose of being in a discipleship group, Patrick conveyed that the highest honour a man can aspire to is to be a disciple of Jesus. Men were not created to exist alone. We were created by God for a purpose, to leave behind good legacies and to build up the Kingdom of God. And the best legacies a man can leave are disciples who are deeply rooted in God and growing in their own relationship with Him. But first, we need to be in a discipleship group ourselves.
In everything we do, we also need to be accountable to God and to good people. We need to be regularly answerable for each of the key areas of our lives to be qualified people. God has given every man, none exempted, personal ministries. What is our personal ministry? What are the gifts and talents God has given you, both spiritual and natural? Where has He placed you; at work, at play, etc?
Patrick imparted that we have to develop a relationship with God that go beyond just expecting things for ourselves. We must hunger to know God as our Father, as a Person and not just as a Giver. There is a God we want and there is a God who Is, and they are not the same God. The big idea herein is that the turning point of our lives comes when we stop seeking the God we want, and start seeking the God who Is.
Patrick left two questions for us all to ponder on. How much are we willing to be changed after receiving this new life perspective? What concrete steps will we take based on what we have heard? When we abide in a healthy relationship with God, our lives will change. No longer will we trapped in a vicious cycle and we can start to grow in a new and fruitful journey.
NOTE: All pictures kindly provided by the church of DUMC.
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