Matthew 10:7-8

"And as you go, preach, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.' Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give."

Sunday, January 18, 2015



Before I go into the meaning behind those words, I need to tell you of something which I heard from the Lord this week.  Early in the week I was out on and errand for work.  The sun was shining (which can be pretty rare this time of year in this area) and I think that is what made me think of baseball and spring training.  Baseball, especially when it comes to the Pittsburgh Pirates, is one of my not so secret loves.  I was thinking about how every year around July people in the sports media will start to talk about which teams are the contenders for the playoffs and which are simply pretenders.  Pretenders being teams that for awhile look pretty good, are hanging around first place and have caused their city some excitement, but most likely will begin to fade at some point before the end of the season.  They could be a pretender for many reasons, but usually a team in that category just doesn't have the talent or team depth for the distance of an entire season's grind.


In those moments of thinking about baseball, the Lord found that a good time to get my attention.  He spoke to my heart and showed me that He has contenders and pretenders, too.  Whether it's sports or spiritual, (especially when it comes to the things of God) it's never good to be known as or labeled as a pretender. On the other hand to be known as a contender is a pretty sweet thing.  A contender would fall along the lines of 1 Corinthians 9:24.  Here is that verse according to the New Living Translation.  "Don't you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize?  So run to win!"  This is a person who takes following Jesus seriously, is concerned about the lost, encourages others to grow in Christ and is always looking for ways to advance the kingdom of God.

The pretender?  Honestly, I don't even want to take the time.  The pretender puts on the mask and looks the part of a Christian, but the mask comes off way too easily and often.  A pretender is usually also very immature, especially in their walk with Christ.  The writer of Hebrews kind of puts in this way.  "You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word.  You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food."  God is a patient God, but I believe that He spoke to me this week that He is growing very weary of the pretenders.  In fact, this is a very dangerous time to be a pretender.

Fast forward to church this morning. I am not going to candy coat what I believe the Lord wants me to say.  As always, you can pray about what I write and discern for yourself if you believe this is from the Lord or not.  During worship I began to think about an individual who I have encouraged as much as I can. Yet spiritual growth seems to be very minimal to non-existent.  For some reason I began to think of others who have crossed my path looking for council or encouragement, but just won't do anything to help themselves spiritually.   This morning as I thought about these situations I clearly heard the Holy Spirit say to me, "Let em go, just let em go."  To what extreme do those words go?  I'm not sure.  I have a theory, but I'll let you develop your own thoughts.  I would not want to hear that God said that towards me, though.  I am very sure of that.

Now before I sound too self righteousness, let me just say that God has reminded me about times when I was a pretender.  I am still not perfect, but over the last several years I have tried, with passion, to grow into the man that God wants me to be.  I still am not there, but as that 1 Corinthians verse encourages us, I am running to win.

There is another thing that I believe I am supposed to say today.  Otherwise I will be in disobedience and I can't let that happen, even if it means that I lose a few readers or make someone mad.  And that is this:

  There are too many Christians going to too many places and doing too many things for fun and entertainment that they have no business doing.  There are people who talk one way around Christians and another way at work.  I'm sure Jesus would go into certain establishments and be around certain crowds, but only for the sake of witnessing and attempting to bring people out of darkness and into the light of the Father.  Jesus would not continually go into those certain places to just hang out, have fun and be one of the boys.  

Two scriptures from 1 John.  Again this is the New Living Translation.  "Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did." (1 John 2:6)

Maybe before we go certain places, or say certain things we need to ask the question.................will I be living and doing just as Jesus did?

"Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you.  For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions.  These are not from the Father, but are from this world.  And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave.  But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever."  (1 John 2:15-17)

Are you a contender or a pretender?  As my friend and co-worker Paul reminded me this week, you only need to read the book of Judges and the history of Israel to see how God blessed the "contenders" and what happened to the "pretenders."  You might say that with Christ we live under grace.  You are right, but I will also say that God is still a God of holiness.  It's time to find the scriptural balance of the two.

"....and this world is fading away."  This is a great time to be found a contender.  At the same time this is a very dangerous time to be a pretender.  A separation between the two has already began.  So..................which one are you?

Moving up to higher ground,
Mark S.