Julian Freeman

Freed to live through the death of another.

Tag: Fellowship (page 1 of 2)

Satan Loves Our Self-Loathing

Sometimes we do the things we hate. And sometimes we get confused and begin to hate ourselves for the things we’ve done.

There is a world of difference between ‘walking in the light’ while confessing our sins (1 John 1.7-10) and letting our sins define our identity. While it is appropriate to mourn our sin (Matthew 5.4), it is not appropriate to hate ourselves.

In the heat of the moment of regret and shame, we can almost think that self-loathing is good and right and biblical (after all, we have offended a Holy God and become unclean!). But in truth, God never calls us to hate ourselves.

The truth is that God loves us (John 3.16, 1 John 4.10). And the only one who loves our self-loathing is Satan.

Why?

1. Because when I loathe myself I loathe someone created in the image of God

Proverbs 17.5 says ‘whoever mocks the poor insults his Maker.’ James writes that the tongue ‘is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so’ (James 3.8-10).

What I say about people, I say about God. This is true whether I am demeaning other humans or myself. Even inward, self-loathing insults my Maker, in whose image I was created.

2. Because it diminishes my joy

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Don’t Be Okay with Not Reading Your Bible

I’m a part of a bi-weekly Bible study that I love. Rather than working through a specific text together, we each come ready to talk about what we’ve been reading on our own.

It’s nice because each time we meet is very different. Also, it adds accountability. And no matter how many good reasons to read the Bible I have in theory, it’s easy to let it slip in practice. But if I show up and haven’t been reading my Bible, I’ll have to answer to the group as to why I’m not able to share with them.

But more than anything, the blessing is in the fellowship as we reflect on what God is saying to us through his word in an ongoing, relational context that is deliberately set-up to foster fellowship.

This past Monday night one of the people in our group shared something with me that really challenged me. We were talking about why we sometimes get away from regular Bible-reading and he strongly admonished us, ‘Don’t be okay with not reading your Bible!’

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Is Your Jesus This Awesome?

This week someone sent me the following two excerpts from Spurgeon. My heart was blessed!

The combined effect was to freshly wow me with the wonderful thought of the bigness,  awesomeness, and merciful kindness of Jesus. I pray to God that as I grow as a Christian I would grow even more in more wonder, awe, and love for Christ.

I want to be captivated by his majesty and his intimacy, his fellowship and his forgiveness, his goodness and his glory.

What about you? Is your Jesus this awesome?

See how red your guilt is. Mark the scarlet stain. If you were to wash your soul in the Atlantic Ocean, you might incarnadine every wave that washes all its shores, and yet the crimson spots of your transgression would still remain. But plunge into the “fountain filled with blood, drawn from Immanuel’s veins,” and in an instant you are whiter than snow. Every speck, spot, and stain of sin is gone, and gone forever.

I bear my testimony that there is no joy to be found in all this world like that of sweet communion with Christ. I would barter all else there is of heaven for that. Indeed, that is heaven. As for the harps of gold and the streets like clear glass and the songs of seraphs and the shouts of the redeemed, one could very well give all these up, counting them as a drop in a bucket, if we might forever live in fellowship and communion with Jesus.

That Is Sin

Have you ever experienced an uneasy conscience? It’s not guilty, because you’re not sure you sinned, but it’s also not clear, because you’re not sure that you haven’t sinned. It’s just uneasy.

Have you ever tried to identify sin in your life so as to confess it to God or to others? Have you ever wondered if a specific action is something that needs to be repented of or whether it is acceptable?

Have you ever tried to lovingly challenge someone on something that seems awry in their life, but haven’t been able to put your finger on what the problem really is?

I’m convinced that a lot of time when we lack clarity in our conversations and prayers regarding sin, it is because we are not labouring to think in biblical categories. Several years ago, someone challenged me to try to keep my conversations about sin tied to biblical words. That way we can speak of sin as sin… and if something is not sin, then we must deal with it in the realm of preference or simply freedom.

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Need Help Pursuing Fellowship?

If you are like most Christians, you realize your need for true fellowship (not just surface chit-chat). You want to get to know other believers and you want friends who know you and your struggles. You want to be able to get to know other believers well so that you can serve them and speak truth to them in love.

But, if you are like me–and most Christians I know–you may have trouble figuring out how to get to those good, deep, spiritual conversations. I’d like to offer a couple of resources that we’ve found helpful here at GFC. Neither is new to us–which is probably why they’re good–but we love them both.

The first is a document listing some accountability and authenticity questions for men. This was originally created for our men’s meetings some time ago, but several of our men have taken them and used them with great success in one-on-one friendship and mentoring relationships.

The second is a document that we created to help some of our leadership team grow in our understanding of how to open up spiritual conversations with people and ‘drive to the heart’ with our questions. It’s based on David Powlison’s list of X-Ray Questions.

What’s great about lists of questions like this is that they don’t have to be all that you use. They are not a script or a formula. But they are helpful resources for learning the art of skillfully asking questions and helping people uncover issues in their hearts. As we identify with them where their hearts are tuned away from God and help point them to God we’re fulfilling both great commandments: we’re loving God and loving others.

I hope you find these helpful!

Samuel and Confronting Sin

In the Lord’s providence, we finished up our morning series in James and our evening series in Galatians on this past Sunday. It was quite interesting to me that both sermons finished with exhortations to Christians to be confronting sin in the lives of their brothers and sisters.

As I sat and listened to my friend Paul preach on Sunday evening on a topic very similar to how my message had ended on Sunday morning, I thought to myself, ‘What is the Lord teaching us? What is he preparing us for as a church?’

This morning I was reading from 1 Samuel 12, and came across a very relevant passage. Here Samuel, the outgoing judge, has just appointed Saul as the king of Israel. Samuel then addresses the people and confronts their sin. While this is not the main intention of the passage, I think there are some great truths to be gleaned here when it comes to addressing sin in the lives of others.

  1. Samuel spelled out their sin for them.
    Samuel didn’t allude vaguely to some things that they had done which might be considered wrong, but he had specific sin in mind when he addressed the people, and he was direct in letting them know what it was they had done wrong. He called sin sin. Where they had rejected God and preferred other things, he showed them. They were not left guessing as to what he was really getting at, or whether or not it was actually sin.
  2. Samuel let them feel the weight of their sin.
    Granted, Samuel had a pretty cool trick up his sleeve when he was able to make a thunderstorm appear (I don’t know how many of us will be able to use that one), but one thing he was sure to do was show them how serious their sin was. He didn’t let them get away with a merely intellectual acknowledgement of their sin. He made sure they felt it. When Samuel had showed them their sin and how it had angered God, ‘all the people greatly feared the Lord …. all the people said to Samuel, “Pray for your servants to the Lord your God, that we may not die…”.’ His conviction about their sin had resulted in their own conviction, confession, and repentance.
  3. Samuel offered the grace of God.
    When they had experienced genuine conviction for their sin, Samuel said, ‘Do not be afraid; you have done all this evil. Yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart.’ In other words, ‘Yeah, you’ve blown it pretty bad. But trust in the Lord and he will forgive you. Remember, he wants your whole heart.’
  4. Samuel assures them with the best reason to hope.
    Why should they trust him? Why should we trust God that we’ll be forgiven when we’re confronted with the reality of our sin? We should hope because of who God is: he will never change. Samuel offers this to his people: ‘For the Lord will not forsake his people, for his great name’s sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you a people for himself.’ In other words, God won’t forsake you, because he’s put his own name on you. You’re his people, called by his name and it has been his good will to make you that way. To forsake you now would be to forsake the pursuit of his own glory and his own joy–something which could never, ever happen. God will be faithful to you, because he cannot and will not abandon his pursuit of his own glory and the display of his righteousness. What a comforting thought! Unless God changes, I can never be forsaken. We who are Christians–who live this side of the cross chronologically–can look back and see that faithfulness of God to his people and the committedness of God to his own people infinitely more than even Samuel could. What comfort in the face of conviction!

This all calls for balance and wisdom. I pray that God will give me grace to be able to pursue my brothers and sisters, to confront them on specific sins, to let them feel the weight of those sins which cost Christ his life, but then to offer the grace of God and the comfort of his promised faithfulness.

Joy in Saints

The other night as we were standing in church, singing at the beginning of our prayer meeting, I was overwhelmed by God’s grace. The songs that Joshua and our ‘Band of Brothers’ choose to lead us in worship are always theologically-rich and packed with scriptural truth, so the fact that I would be overwhelmed by grace is nothing new.

This time, however, it wasn’t because of the words that we were singing but because of the people who were singing them. All around me I could hear the voices of the saints of Grace Fellowship Church–and they were praising God for his glorious, condescending love that he shows in the gospel.

Our preaching pastor has been away on sabbatical for the past 10 weeks or so, and so much of the pastoral ministry has fallen to me. It has been my absolute delight to see how the saints at GFC have opened up their ears and their lives to me over this summer. Each of them has been a blessing to me as I’ve watched them struggle, grow, deepen in their love for Christ, wrestle with hard texts, live through difficult family situations, try to discern God’s will for their lives, endure pain, and much more.

As we sang, I heard their voices and was reminded of the myriads of things going on in each of their lives, and all the potential reasons that each of them would have to doubt God and his goodness. But by his grace, each of them stood and sang as a testimony of their ongoing faith and trust in Christ to sustain them through all seasons of this life.

His grace is truly amazing, and their singing through the seasons of their lives showed me that on Wednesday night. Even thinking about it now brings to mind a verse from one of my favourite psalms (although I’m still trying to find a psalm that’s not one of my favourites…):

Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.”
As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight.

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