In our recent Mars Hill staff devotionals, we’ve been diving into the topic of “experiencing God’s love.” Recently, I was reading in the Gospel Coalition website and I came across this quote from pastor Colin Smith.
“Many Christians live at a great distance from a felt experience of the love of God. So much Christianity in the West is shallow and satisfied. It affirms a creed, but it so often lacks spiritual life. Across the country, there are millions of people who have a faith, who’ve been brought up in the church to believe Jesus died and rose, but they have no living experience of God’s love.”
As I’ve talked with people about our current devotional series, I am increasingly convinced that Colin Smith’s observation is accurate. But why do so many Christians go through life with little or no real experience of God’s love? Before we delve into that question, let’s be clear about what we are asking, and to whom we are addressing the question.
First, we are not questioning the reality of God’s love. We are asking why we don’t experience that reality more fully and frequently. Continue reading →
3 Circles Evangelism – A Devotional from Mars Hill staffer, Ryan Renfrow, on how he connects with people right where they are and helps them see the one true source that can address their hurts and their brokenness.
Evangelism isn’t a spiritual gift for a few, but a commandment that Jesus has given to all believers everywhere. The expectation of the global great commission is, as you are going around the world in whatever shape your life takes, you are telling all the people about all that Jesus has commanded and taught you.
As you are going around the world you’ll notice we live in a place of brokenness. Hurt and heartache are a reality for all people, from all places. Broken lives, broken relationships, and broken systems are cross-cultural problems. Brokenness is universal and we all have the feeling deep in our heart that things in this world aren’t as they ought to be. Everyone would agree there should be a place with no cancer, where children’s hospitals don’t exists and natural disasters don’t happen.
When we see the brokenness around us, we search for a way to make sense of it. In ourselves, we can’t do anything about the brokenness because an honest look shows we too are broken – we aren’t what we ought to be. This brokenness isn’t just outside and around us – we feel it in us! This brokenness isn’t just a feeling it’s a reality we see and know. And still, something tells us things shouldn’t be this way.
Often when those around us are experiencing this brokenness, our first response is “Here’s what you should do”. But this isn’t helpful and doesn’t give the answer. The answer to brokenness doesn’t lie in what a person can do, it’s found only in what Jesus has already done.
This video demonstrates a simple visual way to show a person how we became broken and how Christ can restore us to fellowship with God…
The Lord sees the spiritual condition of mankind in two ways…we are either “in Adam” or “in Christ.” In today’s devotional, we examined the following scriptures which reveal to us the characteristics of one who is “in Adam,” that is one who has not yet accepted the substitutionary death of Christ on their behalf vs. the realities of one who is “in Christ.” If you are in Christ, you have recognized your need to be freed from the sin which indwells your flesh. You acknowledge that Jesus Christ is God, made flesh, and is the only one, ever, capable of paying your debt and providing the way for you to be restored to a relationship with our creator.
As you read these verses, let them remind you who you were…but more importantly, meditate on the verses that declare who you are…now…in Christ! Let them change you and free you to let Christ live His life through you.
In Adam You Were:
Alienated from God. – Col 1:21 > . . . you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds,
Condemned to death. – Rom 6:23 > For the wages of sin is death . . .
Separated from God without hope. – Eph 2:12 > remember that you were at that time separate from Chris . . . hope and without God in the world.
A slave of sin. – Rom 6:17 > . . . you were slaves of sin . . .
Spiritually dead. – Eph 2:1> And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, Rom 5:12 > Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men
An enemy of God. – Rom 5:10 > For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.
Spiritually deaf and blind. – Eze 12:2 > Son of man, you live in the midst of the rebellious house, who have eyes to see but do not see, ears to hear but do not hear; 2Co 4:4 > in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
By nature a child of wrath. – Eph 2:3 > Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath . . .
Darkened in your understanding, excluded from the Life of God and hardened in heart. – Eph 4:17 > So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, Eph 4:18 > being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart;
Patterned after your spiritual father, Satan. – Joh 8:44 > “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
In Christ You Are Now:
Washed, sanctified, justified. – 1Co 6:11 > . . . you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God. Rom 3:24 > being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus;
Indemnified (Though God rejects your sinful performance, He does not reject you!). – Rom 8:1 > Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Alive (formerly dead). – 1Co 15:22 > For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. Eph 2:4 > But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, Eph 2:5 > even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),
A new creation. – 2Co 5:17 > Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come
Seated in heaven (present tense). – Eph 2:6 > and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
Complete. – Col 2:10 > and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority;
God has blessed Mars Hill with an incredible team of men and women who love Jesus – the risen, reigning, and returning King. Together, we passionately pursue Him as we work to see the Great Commission fulfilled. Together, we study the Scriptures. We embrace and celebrate the mystery of faith and the magnificence of our AWESOME God. And we long for our Savior’s return, when we will know fully as we are fully known.
The Holy Spirit has breathed unique wisdom, discernment and gifts for service into each member of our staff. That said, we are delighted to commence a new series of devotionals, in which each member of our staff will be sharing insights from their inimitable journey with our Father.
We hope that God’s redemptive work in our lives will resonate with what He’s doing in yours.
Today’s Devotional is from team member, Joe Birkmire. Joe is serving Mars Hill as Director of Production Operations.
Life is interesting. What a way to start a devotional right? You see, if someone approached me about Jesus Christ before I was born again I would have silently made fun of them or just brushed them off. I did not want them to indoctrinate me with their way of thinking. My first response was to play devil’s advocate and prove why they were wrong and why I was right. Most of my knowledge on the subject was coming from the History Channel and other television sources, so I am sure my points were so misleading. The truth is, I made a decision to go after things in this world and spiritual matters did not really make sense even though I knew the truth and I was simply ignoring it. I still had morals and I think I was a good person…but I just could not get myself to really believe in Jesus and what He did for me on the cross. Before I share my story please join me in reading John 3:1-8:
1 Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews; 2 this man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
4 Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
The phrase “born again” literally means “born from above.” This comes from two Greek words. Yevváw (gennaō), which means be born, regenerate, or be delivered from and ävw0ev (Anōthen) means from above, from the first, from the beginning. I think the born again question is often a struggle for a lot of people. Take 2 Corinthians 5:17, for example, “Therefore, If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation: the old has gone, the new has come.” There it is again…the phrase born again but written differently.
When I was growing up I always went to church with my family. But, after High School and especially college, I was rarely seen in church. I did not want to go, but, to be honest, deep down I knew something was out of place or probably more accurate to say, I was running from the truth. I knew who Jesus was, but I wanted the world more.
You see, I trusted Him a long time ago, so I thought, at a Christian Young Life Camp called “Wilderness” in the Rocky Mountains. That was where I accepted Jesus for the first time at the age of 16, but it didn’t really change me at that time. Regardless of this experience being real (complete) or not I will never forget that trip. I was more caught up in the emotion rather than really believing in Jesus Christ, and all that He did for me on the cross. When I got back from the trip I did not live it out like I should have.
Then about 10 years ago at age 27, I was invited to go with a friend to another church. The only reason why I went was because there was nothing else better to do. For me to go to an unfamiliar church was out of my comfort zone, especially since I had not been in a while. But after the church service that Sunday morning, the most awkward event happened to me; a young woman yelled out to me…“Are you born again?”
My first reaction was…she’s crazy. More importantly, why was I being captivated by this thought of being born again days later? This statement was so far over my head. Looking back I was just like Nicodemus questioning Jesus with, “how can one be born again?” I also could not stop thinking about my experience in the mountains. This born again question really made me think about “me.” Who am I? Why can’t I just believe? Continue reading →
Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit…
– Matthew 28:19
And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.”
– Mark 16:15
…repentance for forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
– Luke 24:47
And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a witness to all the nations, and then the end shall come.
– Matthew 24:14
And the gospel must first be preached to all the nations.
– Mark 13:10
The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.
– 2 Peter 3:9
OBSERVE & CONSIDER
In the previous lesson we considered the final goal of God’s grand story as it has been revealed to man: “That God might be worshipped with white–hot affection by a redeemed company of countless persons from every tribe and tongue and people and nation”1 (Revelation 5:9, Revelation 7:9). From 1 Corinthians 2:9, we saw that what God has prepared for those who love Him is too wonderful for us to even comprehend. We also saw that those who love God will dwell in a new heaven and a new earth where they will reign with Him and glorify Him forever! (Revelation 22:5, Psalm 86:12).
But when will these things take place? If you recall from Lesson 60, we read that just before Jesus ascended to heaven, He gave his followers some final instructions. These instructions are commonly known as the Great Commission and may be found in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. (They are listed at the beginning of this lesson.) Notice from Matthew 24:14 that “the end” (the final goal of God’s grand story) will not come until the gospel is “preached in the whole world for a witness to all the nations.”
Recall from Lesson 25 that a nation, in the Biblical sense of the word, is not simply a geographic country, but rather a people group that is distinct from other people groups by virtue of language, culture, tribal affiliation, etc. Immediately after God’s judgment at Babel, 70 nations were born. In our world today there are thousands of nations. Many of them have yet to be reached with the Gospel. And until they are reached, the end (or the beginning depending on how you see it) will not come. Continue reading →