Monthly Archives: March 2012

“Train up a Child”

The wise man Solomon wrote, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Pro. 22:6). Parents have heard this verse and bestowed it upon their children for generations. However, the more I have studied and contemplated this passage of Scripture, the more I believe that we do not really understand the wisdom Solomon was presenting. Let us examine each section of this verse and understand the implications of it.

Train up a child

Most parents consider the word “train” to mean teach or prepare, but that is not the meaning of the word used here. The Hebrew word is chanak and it means, “to initiate, dedicate, discipline, or train up” (Strong). Of the five times it is used in the Old Testament, every other occurrence is translated “dedicate” or “dedication.” The emphasis of “train” is far more than simple teaching, it is a dedicated regimen that directs, regulates, and impresses upon the child, in every manner of life, the path to be taken.

The word for “child” in this verse is the Hebrew word na’ar and it defines a child as a boy or girl from infancy through adolescence. This training is not intended to start at age 5, 10, or 13, but instead from the moment the child leaves the womb. It is the same form of reference to a child that Paul makes concerning Timothy in Second Timothy 3:15. Therefore, this dedication is to begin at birth and continue to adulthood.

In the way he should go:

The term, “the way” is defined as a road or the path of a journey. It is not a simple direction toward which to be pointed, but a specific path to be chosen. This goes against the grain of many parents’ philosophy whereby they point their children in the general direction and then allow them to “choose their own path.” The manner of direction Solomon dictates is a singular devotion to a particular path of life, thereby removing all others.

Additionally, the phrase “he should go” is an interesting one. Of the more than 500 times the Hebrew word peh is used in the Old Testament, this is the only time it is translated with this phrase. The word carries with it the basic meaning of “the mouth” or “the instruction of the mouth.” In other words, Solomon is not stating that parents are to point their children in the direction they want them to go and let them be on their way; rather, they are to take them down the path instruction dictates they must go.

And when he is old, he will not depart from it.

Parents have often argued from examples of children who were raised in “Christian” homes and did not follow the path of their parents that this is not a one-size-fits-all statement, and that it would be more proper to state “and when he is old, he SHOULD not depart from it.” The only problem with that is, the statement is emphatic in the Hebrew, without exception or exemption. Also remember the statement is given by the inspiration of God; therefore, man should not be trying to change the validity or intention of the statement as given. Solomon’s statement is absolute; thus, if a child does not turn out as he should, the problem lies not with the truthfulness of the statement of Solomon, but with the application of the parents in enacting the instructions. God is emphatic that if we enact this principle, our children will follow the path dictated.

Applying the Proverb

What is Solomon, by inspiration, telling us? Let us put all the facts together. Parents need to dedicate their children to the path instructed from the time they are infants. This dedication means to focus on this singular path above all else, and if any part of life leaves that path, that part of life is left behind. Dedication requires full devotion to the path selected.

Is this what we do with our children? Unfortunately, for most parents, it is not. They take their children, point them in a direction and hope they do not get distracted, meanwhile they bombard them with every distraction and side-track imaginable that could veer them off the pointed direction. Parents state they want their children to be Christians, but then constantly place before them athletics, school activities, entertainment, worldly fashion, peer-pressure, and all other forms of distraction that pull them away from the stated goal; then the parents wonder what went wrong when the child follows those things instead of following God.

As parents, our responsibility is not to “point them in the right direction,” but from their earliest moments on this earth to place them on the proper path, by means of example, instruction, and guidance, and to ensure that there is never any deviation from that path as they are growing up. This does not mean no accessory activities can be a part of life; but from the beginning it must be understood that when those activities leave the path of service to God, those activities are left behind.

The instruction must be absolute, unwavering, and unapologetic. The parent’s responsibility is not, as most in today’s society believe, to allow the child to try everything and see what they like; instead it is to give them constant doses of the right thing so that everything else is in perspective. It also means the parents must live a life of example before their children. Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, can be allowed to stand between the parent and God. God must come first in all things. For the parent cannot direct the child down a path the parent is not walking. When the parent veers off the path, he gives the child cause to do so as well. For this dedication to be complete, it must be absolute both in the parents and the children.

This method of child-rearing is not popular, nor is it fashionable, but it is godly, authorized, and acceptable. God has told us that if we fully and completely dedicate our children to the path of service to him, without deviation or dilution, the outcome will be faithful servants of God. Are we willing to take God at his word?

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What Kind of Gifts do you Give?

Everyone I know enjoys receiving gifts. They enjoy obtaining something that is a token of the care, love, and thoughtfulness of another individual. The term “gift” is defined by Webster as, “A present; the act of giving or conferring; the right or power of giving or conferring; an offering or oblation.” When one considers the offerings they give to others, there are many thoughts that can enter into the selected gift: For what occasion is it? What relationship do I have with the individual? What am I trying to accomplish with this gift? And on the list could go.

Unfortunately, many people do not spend nearly the amount of time considering the gifts placed before God as they do the gifts for their friends and loved ones. There are a number of gifts to God described in the Scriptures. In Matthew 5:23-24, Jesus speaks of the gifts of sacrifice being brought to the altar for offering before God. Luke describes the act of monetary giving as a gift to God in Luke 21:1-4. Therefore, the sacrifices and monetary offerings before God under the Old Law were considered gifts. Rolling that principle over into the New Covenant, Hebrews 13:15-16 records: “By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name. But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” Our worship and service to God is a sacrifice, a gift, offered before him. As such, the question needs to be asked: What kind of gifts do we give to God?

Consider your own desires pertaining to gifts. When you receive a gift you want one that is based upon your likes and interests, not someone else’s; but is not that often the way mankind approaches their gifts of worship and service to God? Man has instituted so many forms of “worship” that there is seemingly nothing that he considers inappropriate before God. This is not because God has stated that he will accept whatever we dish him, but because we have decided that God likes whatever we do. Therefore, we offer gifts that bring us pleasure and make us feel good, even though those gifts are directly against the wishes of God and do nothing but show disrespect and irreverence toward his commands.

God commanded the songs of the heart (Eph. 5:19), the fruit of our lips (Heb. 13:15), and the reciprocal praise and teaching for all participating in the singing (Col. 3:16). Instead we have turned our gifts of singing into concerts for our own enjoyment. We have replaced songs of praise and honor to God for songs of personal excitement and self-congratulations; we have replaced the fruit of the lips with the noise of instruments; and changed reciprocal praise to conditional involvement through choirs, choruses, and solos. Such gifts are not selfless, but selfish; they are not intended for God’s glory, but our own. Such gifts were they given to our friends or family would leave them with a very low opinion of our regard for them, but God is supposed to give a smile, ignore it, and just be thankful that we are happy. Individuals who take this approach to their worship and service before God: whether it be in the actions of worship, the doctrines taught from the pulpit, or the inclusion of unauthorized leadership before the people, will find a very different response by God than what they have anticipated (See Lev. 10:1-2).

Then there are those whose gifts are always their own leftovers. They never buy anything new for someone, they simply recycle the things they don’t want and hope it will be sufficient. These gifts never show true love and interest in another, only the motivation to fulfill the desire of the giver to clean out some of the excess they currently hold; as well as the desire to not spend any more than absolutely necessary on another.

Such an approach is often used with man’s gifts to God. He does not present God with the fresh first-fruits of his labor, but instead presents the leftovers for which he no longer has use or interest. These gifts are often registered in two areas of man’s life: money and time. When our giving to God is of the leftovers, it will never be a gift worth giving. God has always expected the first-fruits of our labors, the recognition of him before us (Exo.23:19; Neh. 10:34-35; Pro. 3:9). Do our gifts bear out that mindset, or do they state that we are willing to give to God only whatever is left after all of the important tasks is accomplished? How many people will rearrange their schedules to help out a friend, or place themselves in debt to buy a gift for someone they love, but will never show anywhere near the same love and regard for God? Such an attitude toward one’s gifts for God is negligent and disingenuous. If one truly loves God he will not give him the leftovers, but the first-fruits.

The gifts we give to God are important; they say far more than our words how we feel about God and how important he is to us in our lives. If man is to offer gifts God will accept, love, and cherish, they must be gifts based upon God’s desires and commands, not selfish whims; and they must be gifts that show man’s regard for him as the greatest influence in life; not bestowing gifts to God like one would a pig: delivering the slop of leftovers that are not useful for anything else.

As you consider your life and actions: what kind of gifts do you give?

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Our Destiny

It is common, in American society today, for people to talk about various things being “destiny.” They might be referencing a particular event or person with which they feel they were meant to interact. However, most reference destiny from a purely secular perspective without any thought for Biblical perspective or enlightenment of what true destiny is.

Webster defines “destiny” as, “Something that is to happen or has happened to a particular person or thing: lot or fortune” or “The predetermined, usually inevitable or irresistible course of events.” With both of these definitions the emphasis is upon events that are predetermined to occur in such a way that they cannot be avoided. The Bible speaks of two different areas of destiny for every person on the face of this earth, but they are often not the destinies most wish to consider.

It is the destiny of every person to die

From the time he is conceived, man moves steadily toward that destiny of death. In spite of all the medical advances of science, there is no way to avoid death. It comes to everyone, whether old or young. Solomon deals with the topic of death on a number of occasions in the book of Ecclesiastes. A couple of examples include, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die;” (3:1-2), and, “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it” (12:7). The point of Solomon’s inspired musings on this topic is seen in his introduction of the book when he states, “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun” (1:9). Death is a part of life. It is that toward which all men move every moment of life.

Understanding this destiny of man, it is difficult to comprehend why so many put off their preparations for this inevitable event. Not from the standpoint of physical preparations, but spiritual. Every day, the majority of the world goes through life with no treasures laid up in heaven (Mat. 6:19-21), and no hope for the future (Eph. 2:12). The importance of preparing for death could not be overstated.

It is the destiny of every person to stand before God in judgment

Though the number of people who seek in any way to prepare spiritually for death may be small, the number of people who are prepared to stand before God in judgment is even smaller. There are many who will stand before God on the day of judgment rejected by him for not fulfilling his commandments (Mat. 7:21-23).

Paul affirmed that all would appear before God to give an account of their deeds when he wrote, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:10). Solomon resolved, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil” (Ecc. 12:13-14). We are all destined to stand before God in judgment of our actions, but many have not even begun to consider the ramifications of that truth.

There truly are destinies in place for every person. They cannot be altered or avoided and mankind must be prepared for them. They are not found in the ways many profess, nevertheless the question remains: are you prepared to meet your destiny?

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5 Ways to Depress Your Preacher

Any preacher who has been working at the profession for long has had to endure the frustrations and depressions of the job. It is not that the preacher does not love the Lord, the job that he does, or the responsibilities he has; it is simply that the job is a high stress, high pressure profession that most, who have never had to bear the responsibilities entailed, cannot fully understand. That being said, sometimes the frustrations and depressions are caused because of the actions of those upon whom the preacher relies: the members of the congregation with which he works. Consider 5 ways to depress your preacher.

Come to Bible class without preparation

Preachers and Bible class teachers in general work diligently to prepare lessons that will benefit, strengthen, encourage, and uplift the hearer. Therefore, it is very difficult when those listening do not seem to care about the study of God’s Word enough to prepare and be attentive to what is presented. It is especially frustrating when the class is doing an expository study of a book of Scripture and nobody in the class but the teacher has taken the time to read the section of Scripture they know will be studied.

Our children have homework and assignments throughout their years in school that require preparation and work. If they do not accomplish the necessary work they are unprepared for their classes and their grades reflect their shortcomings. Unfortunately, many adults believe that once they have completed their schooling, there should be nothing that requires their preparation and attention to the level of “homework” any longer. But Christians are to be those who love God’s Word, study it, and prepare themselves to discuss it (2 Tim. 2:15; Acts 17:11). Nothing is harder on a teacher than the belief that the hearer is not as interested and passionate about the Greatest of all Books as he is. When the adults in the congregation approach their Bible classes with anticipation, preparation, and consideration it makes the entire process more beneficial; additionally, it strengthens not just the hearer, but the teacher as well.

Request things of the preacher you will not do yourself

Preachers come to work with congregations of the Lord’s people, not for them. When a preacher is hired, it does not thereby alleviate the responsibilities the rest of the congregation have to love and serve one another, and proclaim the Gospel to the lost.

It is often depressing for preachers to have members, and even elders at times, come to the preacher desiring him to work in a particular area where they are not willing to assist. It may be a question of doing more visiting, working at the local nursing homes, starting programs for the congregation, or any number of other things. The preacher is often willing to help in these areas and has no problem with reaching out by many different mediums, but the preacher needs help. Preachers need those who are not just willing to tell them what needs to be done, but are willing to volunteer to help them do it. One of the fastest ways to burn out a preacher is for the congregation to expect the preacher to do everything while they set back in their pews and wonder why he is not doing more. It requires the work of the whole body to function effectively (Eph. 4:16).

Continuously remark about how much better another preacher is

All preachers are not created equal, and it is understood that there are some bad preachers out there, but there are also many good preachers and all of them have strengths and weaknesses. Some preachers are excellent teachers, but not fiery presenters from the pulpit. Some are great writers, while others work wonderfully on radio and television. Some are excellent speakers in Gospel meetings and on lectureships, while others thrive in the week to week service of the congregation. This does not make any of these various preachers better than the rest, it simply shows that each has a different skill set that can be used to the glory of God.

If you were to ask most preachers, they know their limitations and weaknesses, and will readily tell you what they are. This does not mean they are unwilling to work in areas where they are not as proficient, but that they recognize they may not be able to do the job as well as another preacher.

That being said, it is sometimes easy for members to focus on their preacher’s weaknesses instead of his strengths. Many have been the times I have heard members speak to a visiting preacher about how they wished he was always there to speak, when all the while the full-time preacher is standing there hearing every word. Whether the member realizes it or not, he is telling the preacher his talents, time, and desire are not on an equal plane in that member’s perception with the other preacher. Such is very hurtful when the preacher spends hours each week working to the best of his ability to teach, preach, and assist as many as he can – only to find his efforts are rejected and unappreciated because others can perform one aspect of the job more pleasantly than he.

Become angry at the preacher for preaching the truth

There is no preacher I know who relishes preaching those hard sermons; the ones that he knows the congregation needs and with which they struggle. The ones that require people to reconsider what they have believed and thought all of their lives to be true, only to learn it is not.  Yet, the preacher is under obligation to proclaim the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27), and therefore cannot ignore topics and passages of Scripture just because they could cause problems or be misunderstood.

Consequently, the task is made many times more difficult when the preacher does not have confidence that the people will accept God’s Word as it has been presented, but will instead become angry, discontented, or outright belligerent toward the servant of God. Such an attitude shows the desire for someone to itch the ears of the hearer (2 Tim. 4:3) not hear the word of God.

The greatest encouragement a preacher can receive is the thanks and appreciation of God’s people when he stands for what is right on topics that are not popular. If you love God’s Word and the man that presents it, be sure to show appreciation for him and his work, take the things presented and apply them to your life as God commands.

Leave him as an outsider in the congregation

Most members do not understand how difficult it is for a preacher to work in a congregation. More times than not the people in the congregation have known each other for far longer than the preacher, have relatives in the congregation while the preacher does not and already have lives established while the preacher has to begin again. Therefore, the preacher and his family have a great need to be accepted as a part of the congregational family for the work to truly prosper.

Unfortunately, this does not always happen. Many times members are wary and standoffish toward the preacher. The preacher is supposed to visit, but is never invited over for a meal. He is supposed to get to know everyone in the congregation, but is never invited to participate in anything members of the congregation do for recreation and fun. He is supposed to be able to reach into the hearts of every individual to better their lives, but they will not open up their hearts to him and allow him to build friendships and relationships with those among whom he should be closest. This becomes one of the greatest hurdles for preachers to overcome and has caused more sleepless nights for preachers than many other things; for the preacher can only minister to people to the degree he knows their needs. If you want to increase the effectiveness of the preacher in the congregation, open the doors of family and friendship and help him strengthen the congregation from the inside out, instead of having to do it from the outside in.

I am convinced that most members do not intentionally hurt and make more difficult the work of the preacher; but that they simply do not know the impact their actions, and inactions, have on the life, mindset, and focus of the preacher on a daily basis. Any preacher who is worth his salt is always trying to find ways to help and strengthen those around him; to find ways to proclaim the Gospel to any and all who will listen; and to work that he, his family, and those around him will all spend eternity in Heaven. But no preacher can do it alone. He needs help, encouragement, love, and compassion as much as any other man. He is not perfect, but he is constantly striving to serve God and to cause others to do the same. May God bless the preacher, as well as the elders and members who aid, strengthen, and enhance the work he does.

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Weekly Recap

In case you missed the articles posted this week, here is a recap of our studies:

The Pride of Life – A study of the third of John’s categories of worldliness in 1 John 2:15-17. What is the pride of life and how is it exemplified?

Hezekiah’s Folly – An examination of King Hezekiah’s mistake in showing the Babylonians all the riches of Judah and the lessons his actions can teach us.

The Christian’s Evolution – A study of the true meaning of the word “evolution” and how every Christian must evolve if he or she is to be faithful to God.

Did You Sign a Contract? – A discussion emphasizing our understanding of the level of commitment involved when we agree to be obedient to God by acceptance of his offer of salvation.

If you haven’t already checked out these articles this week I hope you will read them, study them, consider them, and pass them on. God bless you as you seek to serve him.

 

Adam

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Did You Sign a Contract?

When one is dealing with a financial issue, or an ownership issue of some kind, one of the first questions asked by those who would advise you of what to do in a situation is, “Did you sign a contract?” If an individual has signed a contract they have bound themselves to the terms of that contract and the breaking of that contract can have disastrous consequences.

The same holds true religiously as well. From the beginning of time, God has made covenants, or contracts, with men. In Exodus 19:3-6 Moses records: “And Moses went up to God, and the Lord called unto him out of the mountain, saying, Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel; Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself. Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: and ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.” God offers the children of Israel a contract by stating that if they will agree to obey His voice and keep His covenant, they will be a peculiar treasure and a holy nation. They respond by stating, “All that the Lord hath spoken we will do” (Exo. 19:8). They have now bound themselves to a contract with God and from this point forward every time God punishes Israel it is because they have breached the contract to which they agreed at Sinai.

Under the New Testament we need to understand that we are also under contract. The contract of the Old Law has been fulfilled and is no longer in effect (Col. 2:14). However, in its place is a contract that is for all men. This contract will stand until the Lord returns. The contract was brought into effect by the death of the Savior (Heb. 9:15-17), and is binding upon all men (2 Cor. 5:10).

Unfortunately, it seems that many times we as members of the church do not understand that we are under contract. When man obeys the Gospel of Christ and enters into that watery grave of baptism he has signed the proverbial dotted line. He has acknowledged that Jesus is to be the Lord of his life and that as such he forfeits his own desires, wishes, and direction of life for the way God would have him go (Gal. 2:20; Rom. 6:3-23).

The aforementioned being true it must also be understood that breaking this contract will have dire consequences. The terms of the contract include: being faithful until death (Rev. 2:10); continuing to grow spiritually (2 Pet. 1: 5-9; Heb. 6:1-2); teaching the Gospel of Christ to others (Mat. 28:18-20; 2 Tim. 4:1-2); and helping others to live and work for Christ (Phil. 2:2-4; Heb. 10:24). If we do not fulfill the terms of the contract then the final clause will come into play. John closed the final book of the Scriptures by stating, “For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book” (Rev. 22:18-19).

We must make sure that we teach people that, when they obey the Gospel, they have signed a contract by which they have agreed to live. All men will be judged by this contract, but only those that have signed it with their obedience and fulfilled it with their faithful lives will receive the promised inheritance of the contract: eternal life in Heaven with God. Have you signed the contract?

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The Christian’s Evolution

For many Christians the use of the term “evolution” automatically sends the mind in the direction of the scientific theory of evolution as a means of origin, and thereby leaves them cautious as to the direction of the discussion. However, there are very viable and accurate applications for this term that have nothing to do with the scientist’s brainchild. The term “evolution” is defined as, “any process of formation or growth; development; a process of gradual, peaceful, progressive change or development.” Therefore, in truth, evolution simply means change over time or the continued development of someone or something.

In a very real sense, the Christian is an evolving individual. Christianity is a process of development and growth that requires time, energy, and focus to accomplish. Consider three ways in which a faithful Christian evolves.

From Worldliness to Righteousness

I do not know of a single individual who knew every aspect of what they were to do and how they were to live their lives the moment they became a Christian. Developing a lifestyle that is focused on the commands of God and not on the desires of men takes time and effort; Paul wrote, “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Rom. 12:2). That transformation is the evolving of the Christian from a life of worldly pursuits to one of righteous service.

This process is one that requires patience on the part of stronger, more developed Christians. It does not happen overnight, but it requires teaching and a changing of the mind as to what is most important. The caring Christian will desire to help the transforming Christian through teaching and encouragement to continue to develop as they should; this process is accurately described as one of evolution.

From Hopeless to Hopeful

When an individual is outside of Christ, there is no hope for things beyond this life. It is this understanding of hopelessness that leads people to turn to anything and everything to try to find happiness and fulfillment in life. Paul reminded the Gentiles, “That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world” (Eph. 2:12). They did not have God in their lives and thus were hopeless in their view of eternity.

Nevertheless, when an individual becomes a Christian he begins to understand what it means to be hopeful in something beyond this life. Hebrews 6 shows the level of hope that God has sought to make available to mankind; that man can trust his promises, believe his word, and have hope in eternity. The fullness of that hope takes time to develop. The surety in the mind of man that God will actually do what he says, and that it can and will include us, takes time to process and evince fully. Once it is there, the evolution of hope in the mind of a Christian can help to ensure his continued faithfulness for the rest of his life.

From Self-centered to God-centered

The lives of men apart from God are, generally speaking, highly self-focused. Most people are concerned with personal wealth, health, and security with only minimal concern for the needs and desires of others. However, the faithful Christian evidences an evolution that goes completely against the mindset of the carnal man. He voluntarily makes himself a servant, not to his own wishes and desires, but to the commands and wishes of the God he serves. This process is not immediate, but takes place through growth and development. The blueprint for this evolution is seen in the Christian Graces of 2 Peter 1:5-9. It begins with a properly placed faith and concludes with a sacrificial love. By the time one develops the conclusion of the Christian Graces there has been a complete transformation of life.

There is a song that is sometimes sung entitled, None of Self and All of Thee. In its four verses it details this exact development in the heart of the servant of God. The first verse describes someone who is in it for himself; he does not care about anyone else, but is only concerned with his own welfare. The second and third verses show a growth and progression in the individual, a willingness to listen to the Lord’s commands and to begin incorporating them into life and practice. The final verse shows the completion of the transformation when the individual is able to say, “I do not care about myself anymore, I simply want to do what is right.” The evolution of a Christian in this regard is truly a beautiful sight to behold and serves as a great encouragement to others, both Christian and non-Christian.

The evolution of the Christian is absolutely necessary if that servant is to be faithful to God. The Christian who does not develop and make the changes necessary remains weak and infantile in their service. Those who do not continue to grow stronger and more devoted as Christians eventually fall away; they give up and die spiritually because they never fulfilled the transformation process in their lives. Therefore, as a Christian, a servant of God, are you evolving as you should?

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