Dying To Self

“My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20 NLT

What does it mean to be “crucified with Christ?” How does that affect the way we as Christians live out our daily lives? Let’s dig into these questions today.

Take a look at the passage above again. The truth of this verse is simple: you can’t start living the Christian life until you die. That may sound weird, but it is the central fact of the life of a follower of Christ. You cannot truly live until you die. But what are you called to die to? As a believer, you are called to die to yourself and your flesh.

Every day you must make a decision to die to self. That means dying to sin, to selfishness, to safety, and to anything that comes between you and the Lord Jesus Christ. That is exactly what Jesus meant when He said, “If any man is going to follow Me, he must take up his cross daily.” 

I’m not saying dying to self is easy. It’s actually very difficult. But I want to challenge and encourage you this week to do just that. When the opportunity arises, whether in the form of fleeing temptation to sin, making your wife’s needs a priority over yours, or sacrificing sleep to get up early and read your Bible, choose to die to self. 
–James Merritt

Blessing In Disguise

shutterstock_140931481“So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.”

1 Corinthians 12:7-9 NLT

Are you in a season of suffering? Is your life consumed with physical, mental, or spiritual pain? At some point in our life, we all experience great pain and suffering; none of us escape it. So if you are in a season of pain and suffering, I want to speak a word of encouragement over you today.

In 2 Corinthians chapter 12, the Apostle Paul talks about a situation that was so difficult and so painful that even with his great faith he found himself asking the same question many of us do in our pain: “Where is God when I hurt so badly?” Or perhaps we ask, “Why would a loving God allow such pain in my life?”

The answer to those questions is this: our Heavenly Father has a much greater plan in mind for our lives than we have! And during seasons of great pain and suffering, God is doing a great ministry in our lives. He may allow suffering to keep you humble, like He did with Paul. He may allow the pain to draw you into a more intimate friendship with Christ. The most important thing we need to realize about suffering is that God has designed it to remind us of our need for a Savior and that earth is not our final home.

Believe it or not, our pain and suffering can actually be a blessing to us. Just think about it. We learn a lot more from God down in the valley than we do on the mountain top. There is something about sorrow and suffering that sharpens our ears and tunes our heart to hear God speak more clearly. So take heart friend; our Lord is not a stranger to suffering. He is with you in your season of difficulty and will guide you through it every step of the way.

–James Merritt

God Our Father

Albert Einstein is considered the most brilliant person of the 20th century and one of the most brilliant people who ever lived. His Theory of Relativity has formed the basis of how scientists viewed time and space for over a century. Yet for all his brilliance he said this,

“I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this, but have expressed it clearly. I believe in … a God who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with the fates and actions of human beings.”

I am convinced that the single most important part of your life is how you view God. As humans, how we view God cannot be separated from how we act and relate to God. So how do you view God? Do you see Him as an angry old man who doesn’t care about your well-being? Do you see Him as a bellhop and His only duty is to give you want you want when you want it? Maybe you view Him as Albert Einstein did, that He exist but is not personal and not involved in your life.

Whatever you may believe about God, the truth is, the God who created the universe desires to have a personal, eternal relationship with you. In Matthew chapter 6, Jesus gave us an example of how we as believers are to view God; “This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name.'” God is not just the God who parts seas; He is a Father to you and relates to you as a Father to a child.

During your Bible study and prayer time this week, remember that God is your Heavenly Dad. When you read His Word, ask Him to explain it to you, as an earthly father would explain instruction to his child. When you pray this week, whether it be in sorrow, joy, or confusion, remember that God is your Heavenly Daddy and always has grace and compassion in store for you. Embrace your Heavenly Father this week!

–James Merritt

Stay The Course

shutterstock_133462172“They were just trying to intimidate us, imaging that they could discourage us and stop the work. So I continued the work with even greater determination.” Nehemiah 6:9 NLT 

Have you ever felt distracted, intimidated or discouraged? Maybe you have felt intimidated by your boss at work lately; or perhaps you have been discouraged as a stay-at-home mom with thoughts like, “Am I really making a difference by cleaning the house and feeding the kids?” Everyone feels discouraged or intimidated at times; it’s part of being human. But today I want us to look at Nehemiah’s example of how to stay the course when we face intimidation and discouragement in life.

Nehemiah was a cupbearer in the king’s palace who had destroyed Jerusalem and taken Israel into captivity. Nehemiah was also a man of God and at the appointed time, God burdened his heart for the people of Jerusalem, specifically with the task to rebuild the broken walls of the city.  The Book of Nehemiah is the journal that he kept detailing how God, in His faithfulness, enabled him to finish the task he set out to do.

Now I know you are sitting there thinking, “What does a wall-builder have to do with me?” Well I bet some of you are facing the task of rebuilding “walls” without realizing it. Some of you might be trying to rebuild the walls of your marriage. Others might be trying to rebuild the walls of your finances. I’ll let you in on a secret; the same God that enabled Nehemiah to finish rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem will enable you to rebuild the walls of your life. The key is to stay focused!

If there is one thing that Nehemiah faced relentlessly, it was opposition. But he didn’t allow it to distract him. Read the Scripture above again. It says that Nehemiah continued with even greater determination. In order to achieve what you set out to accomplish, you have to learn to dismiss distractions. Tune out the lies of evil people who will discourage you to give up and tune into God’s Word that encourages you to keep going! Every work that God calls you to is great work in His eyes. Stay the course my friend and don’t give up.

—James Merritt

Grow Up

shutterstock_109473368“So let us stop going over the basic teachings about Christ again and again. Let us go on instead and become mature in our understanding.” Hebrews 6:1a NLT

Warren Wiersbe once said, “After over forty years of ministry, I am convinced that spiritual immaturity is the number one problem in our churches.” Sadly, I have to agree with him. In today’s society, more and more Christians are abandoning their spiritual growth to churches and pastors, believing that hearing God’s Word on Sundays is enough to get them through the week.

In the passage above, the writer of Hebrews charges believers to “stop going over the basics” of their faith. This does not mean to forget the foundational teachings of Christ, but rather, to build upon them. To become mature means we begin to seek to know God deeply; we strive to know His nature and earnestly desire to know His Word so we can model our lives after it.

So what is the first step to mature faith? You must desire mature faith. Like any new toy or electronic, you must first have a desire to use it before you will actually put in the time to learn how to use it. Did you catch that?  If you are going to attain spiritual maturity, you must want it. So there’s the question: do you want mature faith? Because God wants mature faith for you!
If you are a Christian, growth should be your goal. Maturity is mandatory for every child of God. Because when a Christian stops growing, he starts backsliding; you never stay the same. Start a journey to grow in Christ this week. Spend at least 15 minutes in the Bible every day. If you really desire maturity, the Lord will encourage you to achieve it.

–James Merritt