It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.Galatians 5:1
There’s been a lot of talk (and screaming) about slavery the last few years. Some people stating that relatives of people who were enslaved in the United States prior to 1862 – over 150 years ago – should receive financial contribution from people who have never owned a slave. The details of this idea get quite complicated. Which new government department will receive millions or billions of dollars in funding to manage this program? How would it be proven someone was a relative of a slave? Would people whose relatives didn’t live in the United States prior to 1862 be required to contribute? I saw one estimate, based on a city government’s financial proposal, that in the end the recipients would actually receive a paltry sum.
Is slavery bad? Absolutely. Does it go on still today in many forms? Yes. As a Christian we should all know the dirty secret of slavery. Our individual submission to sin causes the most destructive and widespread slavery of all – placing our souls in shackles. In some cases, that sin leads to what we think of as “traditional” slavery – the illicit sex trade, illegal employment practices, and more.
There’s really only one answer to eradicating slavery – Jesus. So today I praise God that He and He alone offers us freedom. The true freedom we all need. Freedom from the slavery of sin.
For me, I still have to work daily with God on not willingly putting back on the shackles of fear and worry and doubt. Of pride and selfishness. Of allowing my flesh to rule my life. Giving in to those sins causes me to treat others in very non Jesus-like ways. When I focus on myself, I take my eyes off serving others and helping them out of slavery. When my feelings are hurt, I want to hurt others. When I’m really worried or afraid I might pour myself another drink.
Each day I turn to God and commune with Him He gives me strength to shake off those shackles. Each day when tempted to fall back into my sin I can proclaim with Him that I am free at last no matter my physical circumstance. For some, an extra $100 or so either given out of their pocket or given to their pocket might feel like enough. But for me, no amount of money can ever replace God’s gift of freedom.
After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Luke 2:46
“The teacher encourages the student morphs – moth to beauteous butterfly soars”
Mala Naidoo, author
When God directed me to start the Emboldened blog He also led me to a few simple quotes to put on the homepage. I didn’t know at the time one day I’d be using those quotes for this week’s study on Jesus and His teaching nature! Of the few quotes He led me to, I included this one by Joyce Meyer:
“If you leave church and are not convicted, asking questions, or emboldened then either you are at the wrong church or you weren’t paying attention.”
How many times have you left church and within an hour couldn’t remember what the sermon was about? You couldn’t even pull up the general topic in your memory?
I recently heard someone say that we don’t go to church to sit and put in our “dues” to God. It’s where we should 1) be rejuvenated for the mission and 2) get more training for the mission. And the second we leave the doors of our “God classroom” we should be at the ready to embark on the commission which Jesus gave us in Matthew 28:19. When church becomes a place where we leave just feeling like that was a “nice” experience, at best, or an obligation, at worst, we owe it to our personal faith progression to re-evaluate the situation.
When I started going to church my family ended up at a large Presbyterian church nearby. The pastor was just what I needed at the time. He was more counselor than teacher. And when I left each Sunday I felt he had really spoken to the problems I was having and reminded me that God loved me. The sermons were light on scripture, maybe one or two mentioned, and heavy on personal stories. But I soon found that sole message to be not quite enough. I wanted to know more. And the “teaching” sermons were what I gobbled up. As my husband can attest, I’m very curious. He constantly reminds me that I like to ask questions that seem to have no answers.
As a developing Christian, we should all be asking questions about God. If this “almighty being” is to be the center of our universe, the touchstone for how we live our lives, and the message we herald, shouldn’t we know everything we can know so we are prepared when sin enters our sphere? So we can be prepared when a seeking, fellow man starts asking us questions?
From learner to teacher. That’s exactly the path Jesus took. Here’s the rest of the scene when Jesus’ parents found him, as a boy, in the temple courts.
"Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers." Luke 2:47
And so, I constantly seek to learn more about this awesome God. At the beginning of this year my husband and I were directed to a new church. My son-in-law and his friend host a Christian men’s podcast called “Supplement the Faith.” They heard on a local St. Louis radio station a show called “Core Christianity.” The main host is Pastor Adriel Sanchez, who unbeknownst to me at the time, is a pastor in my town. They raved about his sound, Christian doctrine and told us we had to go check him out.
And so we went. The music was not my favorite – very simple and traditional hymns. The style of service was more formal than I was used to. But when Pastor Adriel gave his sermon I realized I was listening to a teaching pastor. That day, my church “program” was scribbled all over with notes!
In a brief period of time, I’ve learned a lot from and about Pastor Adriel. He and his beautiful wife have four little children with another on the way. This young pastor, who has led his fairly recently planted church for only about seven years, can be heard on the radio and podcast throughout the world via Core Christianity – which is a question and answer format. His youthfulness stands in contrast to his calm, confident poise. I recently asked Pastor Adriel if he’d be willing, in his busy schedule, to talk about his pastoral style.
And if you are on your faith journey toward learning more about His Word, I encourage you to tune in to either Pastor Adriel’s sermons at North Park Presbyterian (PCA) or the Core Christianity podcast. The questions asked on the podcast might just be something you get asked one day!
Kris: You seem to be drawn toward being more of a “teaching” type pastor than say a “counselor” type. How do you think you developed that style?
Pastor Adriel: I have a firm conviction that from the pulpit my job is to communicate God’s word clearly, and seek to apply it to the folks that God has entrusted to my care. Teaching or explaining the Bible is really important to me because I know that God’s word is the source of life. I do seek to provide biblical wisdom or counsel at times – but often that happens in the context of one on one conversations within the church.
K: Who are your favorite Christian authors/pastors?
PA: I love reading the Christian classics. St. Augustine’s Confessions, Martin Luther’s Commentary on Galatians, Calvin’s Institutes, C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity. I nerd out on church history, so I really enjoy reading the early church fathers. As far as living authors are concerned, I like books by theologians like Michael Horton, and pastors like Tim Keller.
K: What got you involved in doing Core Christianity and the podcast?
PA: One of my seminary professors invited me to be on a podcast he had hosted for decades called the White Horse Inn. Over time, we started thinking about a new project that would reach a broader audience helping them to understand the core doctrines of Christianity. A lot of research has come out recently highlighting how little Christians know about their faith – so this was a huge need. Our goal has been to answer basic listener questions about the Bible and the Christian life, and in the process to point folks to Jesus and his gospel. As we grow in our understanding of God’s word, we’re enabled to love and serve God better.
K: What do you like most about doing the podcast?
PA: I love the live element. I think it makes the show exciting, because we can’t really anticipate what kind of call we’re going to get. As a pastor, I also love it when I’m able to answer a question for someone and I can tell audibly that they’re encouraged by God’s word.
K: What are the most frequent topics you get asked?
PA: Questions related to marriage, assurance of salvation, finding a good church, and how to properly apply God’s law are common from our audience. Depending on what’s going on in our broader society, we also will get questions on current events.
K: What question have you gotten that “stumped” you? And what was the funniest question?
PA: Never been stumped! Just kidding. Actually, sometimes we get very obscure Bible questions, or questions for which there is no clear biblical answer. I find those questions to be the most difficult to handle. As far as the funniest question we’ve received… not long ago someone asked if there were fish on the ark too. That one made me chuckle.
K: Which book of the Bible do you enjoy teaching the most and why?
PA: I find that whichever book I am preaching through tends to become my favorite book for that season. Believe it or not, I had a ton of fun preaching through Leviticus a couple of years back. I also really enjoy preaching through the Gospels. I preached through Mark early in my ministry, and like to revisit the Gospels from time to time in-between other books.
K: Which book seems to be the most misunderstood?
PA: As I field questions about the Bible, I think one book that’s frequently misunderstood is Galatians. Many believers don’t have a proper understanding of the distinction between the law, and the gospel, and they struggle to understand how God’s law (and various OT commandments) are to be applied today. Galatians is helpful because it speaks to this kind of problem.
K: Do you see value in studying the entire Bible — not just the New Testament — and why?
PA: Absolutely. Jesus said in John 5 that Moses wrote of him, and in Luke 24 that the entire Bible was about him. The entire Bible gives us a glorious picture of redemptive history, and each story in that history is meant to instruct us in one way or another (1 Cor. 10:11). If you don’t study the Old Testament, you’ll miss out on so many of the riches in the New Testament, and you’ll miss out on Jesus as he’s revealed in the types and shadows of the Old Covenant.
K: What are your overall personal goals as a pastor for say the next 5 years? 10 years?
PA: Honestly, I just want to be a good husband, a good dad, and a faithful pastor. My goal is to grow in that for the next 5-10 years.
Thank you to Pastor Adriel for his time! Whether it be through a teaching pastor, Bible study groups/individual, Christian authors, a radio show or Christian podcast, these days we have so many resources at our fingertips to get to know God. As Christians, we must make it a priority to place this knowledge of His ways firmly at the forefront of our lives.
I wanted to leave you today with this quote about being a learning and then teaching Christian:
He who asks will have; what more did he ask for? But he who seeks will go further; he will find, will enjoy, will grasp, and will know that he has obtained. He who knocks will go further still, for he will understand, and to him will the precious thing be opened. He will not merely have the blessing and enjoy it, but he will comprehend it.
Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.Romans 14:10
A prayer to not be judgemental of others
Holy God, we live in a world that judges us on a photo that gets scrolled by in an instant, our decision at the ballot box, the type of car we drive, or even the color of our skin. I am guilty of making snap judgements about the people I encounter throughout my day. But in your world, LORD, we are all equally loved. I have discovered the uniqueness of your message through Jesus – that you are the father, king, counselor, protector of ALL people. You are at work in all of our lives, believer and non-believer. Through the life lessons of Jesus and the prompting of the Holy Spirit I will be the type of person who loves first, rather than judges first. I want to be loved and accepted for who I am uniquely made to be and I will see others in that same light. I pray this in your Son’s name, Amen
Recently, my BSGs were talking about why the world’s major religions continue to reject Jesus. We had a great discussion about the belief systems of Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and Jews. It was great to see how knowledgeable the group was from either taking classes or reading up on the topic. What stood out to me is how much more restrictive these other religions truly are and how much work they require of their followers to attain their end goal. And when we start requiring people to work for their salvation it seems to inevitably lead to hierarchies or even caste-type systems.
You, then, why do you judge
your brother or sister? Or
why do you treat them with
contempt? For we will all
stand before God’s judgment
Jesus swept this type of contempt away. In one painful death, we are all promised salvation through belief in Him. That’s it. No crazy ritual. No particular way we dress. No matter our family background. No matter our wealth or lack thereof. No matter our origin of birth. No need to pray at certain times a day looking in a certain direction. No flowers and incense placed for offering. Just, “I believe Jesus is God and my savior.”
What that one act does is it sets us all on even ground. Because one day, the truth is, we will all die. Our wealth, status, family tree, how many followers we have on Instagram will not matter one bit. Therefore, to God, it doesn’t matter right now. He cares about one thing and one thing only – the salvation of our soul.
So why do we feel the need to judge differently?
“Stop judging by mere appearances,
but instead judge correctly.”John 7:24
Jesus made this statement in defense of healing people on the Sabbath. The crowd called him “demon-possessed.” He stated that if a boy can be circumcised under the Law on the Sabbath why did they judge Him so harshly for healing a man’s whole body on the Sabbath? Jesus wasn’t doing the things the way the crowd demanded they be done so therefore He was a borderline lunatic or heretic.
When I embarked on what I called my “Sparkly New Life” a few years ago I realized my greatest issue at the time was my relentless judging of people based on “The Rules According to Kris.” It’s easy to get angry and frustrated when people don’t obey all your rules of life. The statement, “I hate people who….” Or “I hate it when…” easily rolled off my tongue.
I have noticed this, that when a man is full of the Holy Ghost, he is the very last man to be complaining of other people.
The topic of judgement has really got us Christians into hot water over the years. It seems our history of judging harshly while not loving others really turned people away. And now, we have flipped to not using judgement at all. All behavior seems to be accepted at a number of our large denominations. As a regular ole Christian, the topic of judgement has been difficult to define. I know I’m to love others but what does loving someone who is actively sinning against the Word look like?
James has two helpful hints on how to treat people:
My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. 2:1
My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins. 5:19-20
In other words, treat the rich man and the poor man with the same respect. And when we see a fellow Christian on the wrong tract we are to, with the help of God, try and guide them back to the Word.
Notice there is a distinction between judging the behavior of our fellow Christians and those who don’t know the Word. It’s unkind and unhelpful to expect behaviors from people who either don’t know what they’re doing is wrong or just don’t believe in God and His consequences. But no matter the situation we are to act like Jesus – with lovingkindness. And for us non-perfect people, with the recognition that the log in our eye is our first priority.
I am so thankful for the grace that God affords me and the love He piles on me. The days I leave the house looking like I should never have left my bed. The days I can’t find my smile. For the days when my beat-up VW bug was my only transportation. For the days when I couldn’t afford the coolest jeans. For the days when my child was screaming bloody murder in the store and I couldn’t quiet her. All of it – my good side and my not so great side that I present to the world – God loves me no matter what. I want to be like that for others. A person who sees what God sees in others.
If you want this too, add the prayer to your daily prayer list and watch and see how God works in your life!
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.Isaiah 43:1-3
Around the holidays we inevitably start seeing helpful news stories on how to deal with our families at social gatherings. How to handle the uncle who drinks too much. What topics not to bring up around your opposite political leaning parents. And yet we still attend these family events. Why? Because they are our family and we still love them. It’s amazing what we will put up with when it comes to family.
That idea of “blood being thicker than water” keeps us closely tethered to our loved ones. It reminds me of those pre-school ropes with little fabric rings the children hold on to so they don’t wander off and get lost. The teacher admonishes the children to grab hold of their ring tightly so the little family stays together. And if Jimmy gets distracted and starts to head in a different direction, the group pulls him back in.
Now imagine God as our head of household. He provided the roof over your head, the food for the feast and the gifts about to be received. He created that uncle, your parents, and even that really weird cousin. And He calls you His child. He calls us to grab hold of our place on His family rope so we don’t get lost.
There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.Galatians 3:28-29
We drink too much. We gossip. We steal. We withhold forgiveness and mercy. We look to the world for guidance. We work so hard to let go of God’s tether and yet He sticks with us. He still shows up. He never leaves us. We are his. He is Immanuel — God is with us.
I was reading a prayer by Charles Spurgeon called “The Presence of the Word.” He describes God’s Holy Word as always being with us. The divine teachings through the Bible are at our fingertips, on our mind and at the ready whenever we need Him.
“Oh, let it (Your Word) be in us a living seed that will produce in us a life acceptable before God…..Lord, we ask that your Word may chasten us whenever we go astray. May it enlighten us whenever for a moment we get into darkness.”
If we make the mistake that the Bible was written long ago and has little or no connection to our life, we have attempted to untethered ourselves from God. He is always with us through His living Word. The Bible is meant for us right now — to be His constant voice and sense of being part of His family.
My son, keep your father’s command
and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.
Bind them always on your heart;
fasten them around your neck.
When you walk, they will guide you;
when you sleep, they will watch over you;
when you awake, they will speak to you.
For this command is a lamp,
this teaching is a light,
and correction and instruction
are the way to life.
When we keep the Word of God tethered to our heart and mind, He is sure to be always with us. You might say, “I’m not good about memorizing scripture.” But here’s a little secret: So much of our lives are already seeped in God’s Words and commandments. We can all probably list a few of the 10 commandments right here and now. And if we were to stick with those the rest of our lives and truly follow them, we’d be closely tethered through eternity.
But His Word has so much more wisdom and comfort available to us. The first verse I truly memorized was:
Be still and know that I am God.
And it’s funny. As soon as I decided to try and remember that verse it started popping up everywhere! God was with me, guiding me, encouraging me to remember. Like a parent cheering on a baby taking her first steps.
He promises to never leave us. We were called to Him by name. We are His. And when we feel the pull of that blood to bring us back home, we need to show up — be the other half of the covenant. Our family is not complete without you.
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations,baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.Matthew 28:19-20