Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A License of Approval

     When I was fifteen years old, I couldn’t wait to start the course Driver’s Education.  This course was probably the most enjoyed class among my peers; it was a sign of getting OUR independence.  Although my parents knew my whereabouts, it was awesome to be able to go to my best friend’s house, school events, or to the mall without my parents.  At some point, teenagers refuse to be seen with their parents, we want to “look” mature.
At the time, I didn’t think driving a car would be all that difficult until I heard my mother’s heart wrenching screams.  If I wasn’t nervous enough about driving, my mother didn’t make it any easier.  Since we lived out in the middle of nowhere, my family was able to teach me the basics of driving.  My mother obviously didn’t have the stomach for it, so I was very gracious for the patience of my older brother, Todd.  With each experience, I gained confidence with being a responsible driver: to wear my seatbelt, look both ways, and learning how to maneuver a car.  With my school’s program, I was able to learn the important laws, the proper driving methods, and safety precautions.  In the state of Maryland at the time, we could get a learners permit at the age of fifteen.  In order to receive this license, we had to pass a state’s test.  I bet it’s the only test teenagers actually study for.  Upon passing the test, we would receive a learner’s permit.  With this permit we could drive but a responsible adult always had to be present.  After a year with the learner’s permit, we could take the physical driver’s test to obtain our driver's license.  Well, I passed the written test with flying colors, I got a 100 percent.  On the driver’s test, I didn't do so well.  I will not admit how many times but I did eventually pass it.  It’s a precious feeling of independence to receive your driver’s license but it’s also a major responsibility to abide by the law.  Once we accept the driver’s license, we are accepting OUR responsibility to uphold them.
     Although it’s a precious moment for me, I receive my ministerial license in the mail today.  On paper it’s finally official but it’s also a major responsibility to obtain.  Since the very day of my calling, I have accepted it with reverence but with a holy fear.  My Heavenly Father is entrusting me with the care of His Word, to lead the flock, and to live a life of holiness.  It’s a precious calling but a tremendous responsibility.  Yet, what is astonishing to me, so Christian’s don’t see their lives or what they teach as anyone’s responsibility.  One of the greatest preachers said, "watch your life and doctrine closely."
            Sadly, in our nation we have come to tolerate anyone’s behaviors, views, or lifestyles to not offend others.  We want everyone to be “accepted” or respected for their lives but it’s costing their souls.  Is it really worth it?  Eternal choices will lead to eternal consequences; there is still a Heaven and Hell.Also, the daily choices we make will reap lasting consequences for all to see.   We need to be careful how we conduct our lives, our speech, and our doctrine.  Do we take responsibility for our actions?  Anymore, I don’t know if we do, we would rather blame others or make excuses for our actions.  We don't want "to train" ourselves to be godly. 
     According to the Word, the older saints were to train the young ones on how to conduct their lives. (Titus 2:1-6)  Regardless of whom you study in the Word: Elijah train Elisha, Moses trained Joshua, Jesus trained the disciples, and Paul trained Timothy.  We are to train ourselves for godliness, to be accountable, and except rebuke or correction. 
     Titus 2:7 says, "IN EVERYTHING set them as an example by doing what is good.  In your teaching show integrty, seriousness, and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they nothing bad to say about us." 
     Our pride is misleading us to a life of holiness because we refuse to be corrected.  According to Proverbs 9:8-9, “Do not rebuke a mocker or he will hate you; rebuke a wise man and he will love you.  Instruct a wise man and he will wiser still; teach a righteous man and he add to his learning.”
     Understandably, some people have abused the teaching of godly correction to misguide or blind the body into incorrect theology.  Jesus rebuked the Pharisee’s and the Scribes for their incorrect theology, the misuse of Scripture, and for blinding the lives of others.  If Christ took this very seriously, so should we.  Also, Paul and the disciples had to deal with false prophets, teachers, and incorrect doctrine.  If the early church dwelt with it, so should we.
     We all should still be learning and growing in the grace of Christ, we never stop maturing.  It’s important who we allow to speak into our lives; we must watch someone’s life.  There are two godly women who I respect greatly - Christ is reflected in their walk, through the wisdom they shine and how they conduct themselves.  These two precious women are still my heroes who I will seek counsel on occasion or assistance with a verse of scripture I can’t find.  My mother and Aunt Elaine nurtured my faith but taught me to fear the Lord and His Word.  As I grew in the Lord, I made mistakes or needed guidance for the proper teachings of the Word.  If I was rebuked by either woman or someone who I respected, I knew they truly loved me.  Never was it done without love or spoken with condemnation into my life.  A rebuke only shows our mistakes, so we don’t do it again or take the correct steps to prevent it.  Also, if I was rebuked, I took it to the throne to ask God to show the truth.  If it was truth, I accepted from the Lord.  If it wasn’t, I didn’t heed to it. 
     What allowed me to grow in Christ was a complete hunger for the Word, a consistent prayer life, and fellowship of other believers.  We are called to make “disciples” of Christ, we are to invest in others, pray with others, and teach them.  If we need to correct, we must do it with love.  We must be ministers of reconciliation unless the person is unwilling to heed to Word.  If the person is unwilling, we must walk away.  Paul advised the church who to avoid for their misleading of scripture or unwillingness to accept rebuke. 
     Do we understand the responsibility we have as Christians?  Are we willing to speak against sin? Are we willing to open a hand to those who stumble? If our child would reach for something dangerous, wouldn't we stop them?  When we start a new job, don't we get trained? 
James 5:19 says, “My brothers if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover a multitude of sins.
     As Christian’s we have accepted the mandate of Christ to make disciples. (Mark 16:15-18)  A disciple was someone who followed the teachings of Christ.  On one certain occasion, the disciples were even recognized for being with the Jesus, the Teacher who taught them.  As these loving disciples spoke (although they were fisherman) were recognized for the spiritual knowledge, even when they were uneducated.  (Acts 4:13)
     Our responsibility isn’t just leading others to a simple prayer of salvation; it’s a lifestyle choice to follow Christ.  It’s not a responsibility to take lightly, it’s God’s Word.  Our Heavenly Father was allowed us to be co-workers with Him.  Only those who teach/follow the whole truth of the Word of God will be great in Heaven.  (Matthew 5:19)
       Regardless of who is teaching or preaching, test everything to see if it’s of the Spirit.  (1 John 4:1) We must be students of the Word of God, allow the Spirit to convict or correct us, and willing to learn.  Within the body of Christ, we are going to see different maturity levels.  As Paul trained Timothy who was a new believer, so should we.