7 Things I’ve Learned by Taking the Next Step

Jesus is always calling us to take the next step of faith as we follow him. Here are 7 truths I’ve learned along the way as I’ve taken the next step:

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1. Every Step of Faith Requires Death to Self. Taking the next step is about surrender. Daily surrender. I have to be willing to put God’s will above mine for every step of faith I take. That’s a big leap of faith when he’s asking me to trust his plans for my education, his plans for my career, or his plans for my family.

2. The Sacrifices are Real. The sacrifices hurt. I miss out on stuff. Others seem to get ahead of me in life. There are a lot of things I’d like to selfishly do for myself, things the rest of the world gets to enjoy. My time, my energy, my resources are no longer my own. The sacrifices made to follow Jesus are very real.

3. God doesn’t Want Something From Me, He Wants Something For Me. This was a watershed truth for me to truly understand as I began to take the next step. When God wanted something from me, it wasn’t because he wanted to deprive me out of joy or happiness. He wanted to clear away distractions that were keeping me from a deeper joy and happiness found in him. He wanted to take the saltine crackers and rice cakes away (what I thought was happiness) because he wanted to replace them with a filet mignon (happiness that comes from him).

4. The Goal of Next Step Is Always To Deepen My Trust In Jesus. The goal of the next step, really the entire goal of my faith, is to deepen my trust in Jesus. God uses circumstances, sacrifices and opportunities to help us depend more on him. That’s why it’s called a step of faith.

5. I Never Arrive. Beyond Each Step of Faith a Bigger One Awaits. God is in the faith stretching business, and I’ve never come to a place where God tells me my faith is big enough. It can always go deeper. There are moments I’ve chosen to trust him that in the moment seemed like huge leaps, but looking back they seemed like small steps compared to what God called me to next. I figure I’ll finally arrive in heaven. Until then, there’s always another step of faith out there.

6. God is Always There. God’s asked me to do a lot, but here’s what I’ve discovered: he’s always been there. Always. He’s never failed me. He’s never let me down. God is the very definition of faithful. Through every next step, God has been there every step of the way.

7. The Grass is Greener on the Other Side. It really is. A life spent trusting Jesus, a life following Jesus step by step, is an incredibly fulfilling and purpose-filled life. The faith, hope and love that await those who take the next step makes all the sacrifices pale in comparison. But don’t take my word for it. Discover for yourself. What’s the next step of faith Jesus is calling you to take?

The BIGGEST Reason There Are So Many Hypocrites in the Church

Too many people have been scarred by hypocrisy in the church. Why are there so many hypocrites in the church? There are a myriad of reasons, but here’s the biggest reason from my perspective: The reason there are so many hypocrites in the church is because there are so many unsaved people in the church. Look at what Jesus says:

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ Matthew 7:21-23

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These were the leaders in the synagogues, the religious rulers, the ones in charge of the religious system of Israel, the ones who claimed to be the most religious. They even did great things in the name of God, like prophesy and perform miracles. And yet Jesus will say, “I never knew you,” and send them to Hell.

Let’s just stop and understand the gravity of what Jesus is saying here. He’s not referring to the lost pagan world out there. He’s referring to people who claim that Jesus is their Lord. People that go around and tell everyone they’re a Christian. People who fill up our churches every week.

He doesn’t say that they’re simply misguided or immature believers. He says they’re not believers at all. If you’ve grown up in the church, if like me you consider yourself a church person, these verses should absolutely rock you to your core. They should rattle you in your soul. The reason there are so many hypocrites in the church is because there are so many unsaved people in the church.

What Jesus taught, what the New Testament authors taught, what happens still in churches today is that there are a bunch of people walking around today claiming that they’re Christians but acting like non-Christians. In reality, the reason so many church people can act like unsaved people is because they are unsaved people. What makes it so destructive and what drives so many people away is that they’re convinced that they’re saved and they tell everyone around them that they’re saved when they’re really not.

John, one of Jesus’ disciples, was there the day Jesus taught this and probably felt as uncomfortable as everyone else. And yet it was the truth. Years later when John would write to the early Christians, he would flesh out this idea. Here’s what he writes in 1 John:

6 If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. 1 John 1:6

John says we can claim one thing but still live out something else. He’s describing hypocrites who claim to walk in the light but are still walking in darkness.

8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 1 John 1:8

If we claim that we’ve arrived, that we’re without sin, that we’re somehow superior to others, we deceive ourselves. It’s very possible for church people to deceive themselves into thinking their saved when they’re really not.

9 Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. 1 John 2:9

This verse gets real specific. If you claim to be in the light, if you claim you’re saved, but hate those around you, you’re not in the light. What does that imply for all the mean, spiteful, hateful people in the church today? Nothing good, I’ll tell you that.

6 Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did. 1 John 2:6

That’s John’s main argument. If you claim you’re a Christian, act like Jesus. If you act more like the Pharisees Jesus condemned than Jesus himself, you can tell yourself you’re saved all you want. But on the day of judgment Jesus very well may say, “Away from me, you evildoer, for I never knew you.” The reason there are so many hypocrites in the church is because there are so many unsaved people in the church (who think they’re saved).

QUESTION: What do you think? Is there a bigger reason out there to explain hypocrisy today?

What to Run to When You’re Suffering

If you’re in pain, whether physical, mental, emotional, relational, financial or spiritual, that pain can blot out everything else and become all-consuming. What can you cling to when you’re walking through the dark valley of pain and suffering? The most powerful thing you can cling to is the cross. When you’re suffering, run to the cross.

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Why is the cross so powerful? Because it’s a picture of God’s love for us that is much more powerful than human words. Think about it: one of the biggest arguments against God is that if he was so loving, then why would he allow suffering in the world?

What does the most famous verse in the Bible say? “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

We believe that God is not some cold and calloused Being far removed from all the pain and suffering in the world. He loved us enough to suffer with us, to suffer for us. If God loves us enough to suffer for us, there must be a good reason for it to go on, even if we can’t fully understand it.

When you’re suffering, cling to the cross where God suffered for you. That’s one of the things that makes Christianity unique among all the religions of the world. We believe that our God suffered for us. So when you hurt, know that Jesus hurt. When you feel abandoned, Jesus felt abandoned too. When you’re treated unjustly and unfairly, Jesus walked through that as well.

God loves us, he cares enough to embrace suffering on our behalf. Even if you’ve lost a child. God’s lost a child too. That’s why Jesus is called Immanuel, which literally means “God with us.” When you’re suffering, run to the cross.

You and God are Fine, So Quit Worrying About It

Maybe I’m the only one that secretly worries that God is mad at me. I promise Him something and then don’t follow through. I know the right thing to do, the thing God would want me to do, and I don’t do it. I care more about myself then others. I fail to live up not only to God’s expectations, but even my own. Sometimes I’m a disappointment in my own eyes. Surely I must be a disappointment to God.

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But that’s the trap. We assume God sees us the way we see ourselves. We assume God judges us the way we judge ourselves. And when we assume that, we rob the cross of its power. The Son of God didn’t come down and die for our sins so that we could still stumble and struggle to gain acceptance with God. Jesus died so that our sins would be forgiven, once for all. Here’s a beautiful piece of Scripture, “We have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” (Hebrews 10:10)

The Bible is explicit on this: when Jesus died for your sins, he imputed his righteousness to you. Your acceptance before God never has been and never will be based on what you do, but on what Christ has done. As Christians we know this from the theoretical sense, but we forget it on the practical level. We assume that every time we fail, God is up in heaven shaking his head, disappointed with yet another mistake we’ve made.

The Bible is crystal clear for those who believe in Jesus: You and God are fine. “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1) If you’re living under a constant cloud of self-condemnation, Satan is keeping you in chains that Christ already set you free from. You and God are fine, so quit worrying about it! Go and live in freedom, knowing that your Heavenly Father loves you and has forgiven you.