Today’s Scripture: Philippians 1:20 (KJV)
According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death.
Happy New Year, Christlike Ministries NWA Family.
Greetings and welcome to the first message that will go along with the first teaching series of 2014. I am truly excited about this one, and believe that this is the perfect way to start the new year…by taking a 30 day snippet from one of Christianity’s heavyweights; Oswald Chambers legendary devotional “My Utmost for His Highest”.
So, let’s all believe God now for a fantastic series, and that each message would teach us, enlighten us, transform us, and help us to conform more and more into the image of Jesus…Amen!?!
Today’s Message: “Let Us Keep To The Point”
I am stoked. As soon as I saw that YouVersion was going to have this as a 30 day series I knew this was the perfect way to start 2014. I have always wanted to do something like this with Oswald Chambers “My Utmost for His Highest”, and now I have the chance. So, let’s get started shall we!?!
My Utmost for His Highest. “. . . my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed . . . .” We will all feel very much ashamed if we do not yield to Jesus the areas of our lives He has asked us to yield to Him. It’s as if Paul were saying, “My determined purpose is to be my utmost for His highest—my best for His glory.” To reach that level of determination is a matter of the will, not of debate or of reasoning. It is absolute and irrevocable surrender of the will at that point. An undue amount of thought and consideration for ourselves is what keeps us from making that decision, although we cover it up with the pretense that it is others we are considering. When we think seriously about what it will cost others if we obey the call of Jesus, we tell God He doesn’t know what our obedience will mean. Keep to the point—He does know. Shut out every other thought and keep yourself before God in this one thing only—my utmost for His highest. I am determined to be absolutely and entirely for Him and Him alone.
Earlier today, I posted as a Scripture of the Day Mark 8:34-38 (NLT), and the first line we read is about not being ashamed. The first thing we ought never be ashamed of is Jesus, the second thing is that we should never be ashamed to approach Jesus, and the third thing is we ought to not be ashamed of our lives before Jesus.
Look, for those of you who don’t know my story I’ll give you the short version. I am a three-time convicted felon, I have been married and divorced once, I have a seventeen year old daughter, I went through the pain of an abortion, I’ve been homeless, addicted to pornography, and at one time thought I was an alcoholic. When I tell you that I looked at my life when I knew for sure God was calling me to serve Him, and asked if He was sure He wanted to use a man like me…that question wasn’t asked out of fear or doubt…it was asked out of a heart that was ashamed of who I was, what I’d done, and based on that alone…I was sure that there God was going to come back to say that I was right…He made a mistake…and chose someone else to serve Him.
But God didn’t do that. Instead, what He did was walk me through another 11 years of life between the call and the embracing of that call into ministry. Do you know why it took me that long to finally embrace the call of God on my life? It’s because it took God that long to get me to stop being ashamed of who I was and what I had done, and looked at all of that as Him doing exactly what He said He would do through Paul’s writing of Romans 8:28 (Amplified Version).
It took God eleven years to get me to see that He wanted to take all of that I thought had clearly unqualified me for His service, and turn it into a testimony. It took Him all that time to get me to understand that how I saw myself, and what He saw when He looked at me was two different things. He saw me as He was making me…I saw me as what I had done. He saw what He could do in, with, and through me. I saw someone who was unworthy, unlovable, and insignificant. In other words, God saw what I’d be today…and I saw what I was yesterday…and it took Him all that time to get me to see myself from HIS perspective instead of my own.
So, I understand guilt, shame, remorse, and feeling like there’s absolutely no way God could use a bum like me to do any good for His Kingdom. I was wrong. God’s taken my life, turned it around, and begun using me to impact the nations for Him.
my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed . . . .” We will all feel very much ashamed if we do not yield to Jesus the areas of our lives He has asked us to yield to Him.
I feel like God wants me to break some of this down. I would be dishonest with you if I said there aren’t any areas in my life that I have to make sure are yielded to God or I tend to go back to my old way of thinking…and that way is that I’m of no use to God. When I get into that mindset I start to look at where I am, and where I came from…and again I find myself feeling ashamed of what God has shown me I need not be ashamed of any longer. I even find myself trying to undo some of the good things that God has done in my life.
I’m not too super spiritual to admit that I don’t have it all together and I don’t have all the answers. I’m not the perfect saint that never misses God, never makes mistakes, and always does exactly what God expects of me to do. I wish I could tell you that, but I would be lying. I usually get around to this disclaimer at some point in a series…and here it is on day one of this one. That disclaimer would be this one:
If you’re looking for someone who is perfect than you’re following the wrong ministry.
I make mistakes all the time. I miss God a lot more often than I’d like to. So, if you’re looking for perfection…then I’d like to suggest you follow someone else…because I am not that perfection…Jesus is. I’m sorry if that offends you, but I’d rather be honest enough to let you know that I’m not the perfect pastor. I know the One that is the Perfect Pastor…but I am not Him.
Okay, now that we got that out of the way…let’s get on with this message.
It’s as if Paul were saying, “My determined purpose is to be my utmost for His highest—my best for His glory.” To reach that level of determination is a matter of the will, not of debate or of reasoning. It is absolute and irrevocable surrender of the will at that point.
I am, however, determined to do my best for His glory. I think often times I used to get caught up in trying to debate and reason my qualifications with God…and one day I read this thing that said “God doesn’t call the qualified…He qualifies the called.”…and that’s when the light bulb finally came on for me…it wasn’t about my qualifications that God was interested in, but showing His grace and power through my life…HE had already qualified me to serve Him.
You see, I think that’s where a lot of us miss God. Listen, the truth is we’re not qualified to go to heaven or serve God or any of that. In and of ourselves, we are not. That’s why God says that we’re saved by grace through faith, and then He goes on to say the reason we’re saved that ways is so we can’t boast or brag about how great we are…because while we may have a rank system for sin…God sees all sin and all sinners the same way…people who need Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
The awesome part is that none of us are qualified for the grace and mercy of God, but He qualified us for it. We’re all qualified to be the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus…not because we earned it…but because He became our disqualification so that we could be qualified based upon His work and not ours.
The fact is…if you’re trying to do the Christian walk without the Cross…then you’re not doing it. What Jesus did on the Cross pre-qualified us all for eternal life…the only requirement for receiving that is to call upon His name for it. The pre-qualification is in the Cross, the qualification is in the name of Jesus, and therefore we’re the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus…and everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord is qualified to spend eternity in Heaven…and that’s the only way.
Y’all ever gotten a letter in the mail or an email about being pre-qualified for a credit card? There’s always a catch, though isn’t there? What’s the catch in fine print? That getting the card is conditional upon having an approved credit score.
Friends, the Christian life doesn’t work like that. It’s time we stop thinking that we need an approved credit line to approach God, and that’s the point about not being ashamed before Him. I was thinking that I needed to do the work myself before I was able to have God approve of me to serve Him or even to enter into eternal life. The truth is, I could never do enough good to earn the kind of credit I needed to settle that debt. I needed someone to completely forgive the debt I owed…and that’s what Jesus did on the Cross. He paid my debt so that I could freely love and serve God without worry that one day the price paid wouldn’t be enough. The price that Christ paid on the Cross is good enough…and for those of you who think it isn’t…you’re not going to be happy when you stand before God to give account for your life. The only acceptable answer as to why any of us should be allowed to enter into Heavens gates has zero to do with us, and everything to do with Jesus. In fact, if your answer is anything other than Jesus…it will be the wrong answer.
The thief on the Cross is one of my favorite stories in all of the Bible because it’s short and to the point. The thief said “Lord, remember me this day”. Jesus said, “Assuredly, I say to you this day you will be with Me in Paradise.” That’s it. That was the length of the conversation…and then death came.
If that story went the way most people believe their walk with God is like…then Jesus would’ve had to say something totally different. He would’ve had to say something like; “You cannot be with me this day because you haven’t apologized to everyone you’ve done wrong, you’re not water baptized, and you haven’t done anything to make restitution for what you did. What I’m about to do here on my Cross isn’t enough to take care of what you’re dying for on yours.”
Oh, friends, but Jesus didn’t say that. He said “This day you WILL be with Me in Paradise.”
That means all of us are pre-qualified to enter into His Kingdom because of what He did on the Cross. He has already established a new line of credit by His blood. So, when we become whosoever’s that call upon the name of the Lord…we’re not trying to be qualified…we are qualified…and we are saved that moment. We are qualified for Heaven because of Jesus…not because of the confession. We’re qualified for Heaven because of Who we are in…not because of who we are.
This is why I was so excited about getting into this series. There’s such an anointing on it, and there’s such an ability to really clarify some things that we as Christians have messed up.
God doesn’t call the qualified…He qualifies the called. You’re already qualified to serve Him…SAINT of God. Stop trying to qualify yourselves…you can’t. The amount you owe for your sin is too high…you must accept the pre-approved work of the Cross…or you’ll die in your debt…how’s that for clearly stated?
An undue amount of thought and consideration for ourselves is what keeps us from making that decision, although we cover it up with the pretense that it is others we are considering. When we think seriously about what it will cost others if we obey the call of Jesus, we tell God He doesn’t know what our obedience will mean.
My obedience to God has cost me many friends and followers. I have determined in my heart that I would rather offend people by being obedient and saying what God wants me to say through these messages…then to offend God by not being obedient to Him.
If you get offended and stop following my ministry…that’s okay with me because I’m being obedient. I don’t write unless I know it’s anointed by God…and I know that there’s a lot of times that I’m going to write things that aren’t popular…and most of the time the people who are going to be offended the most are the same people who Jesus offended when He spoke…the religious people who think they have it all under control and they’re doing it the right way…and you can’t tell them anything because they have made themselves into little gods who can do no wrong.
If what Oswald Chambers says is correct that my obedience affects others…then my disobedience does also. So, I would rather not be held accountable for not writing what the Lord puts on my heart…so I would much rather write what He leads me to write…and leave the results up to Him. If offense comes then it comes at the result of me writing what He wants me to write…and even if that winds up costing me readers…the main thing is I’m being obedient to the leading of the Holy Ghost…and that’s all I’m really trying to do here.
Keep to the point—He does know. Shut out every other thought and keep yourself before God in this one thing only—my utmost for His highest. I am determined to be absolutely and entirely for Him and Him alone.
Herein lies my only hope, and that hope is that God is pleased with what I’m doing. In reality, all of you fans and followers are wonderful…and I’m grateful for every one of you…but my biggest concern is making sure that God approves of what I’m doing. I believe the best evidence of that is that He’s grown this ministry from barely 20 followers to over 1,000…in nearly 140 different countries…that tells me that God is pleased with what I’m doing. I am determined to stand for God…and God alone…and I am determined to make sure that He is my Number One Fan.
My Unstoppable Determination for His Holiness. “Whether it means life or death—it makes no difference!” (see 1:21). Paul was determined that nothing would stop him from doing exactly what God wanted. But before we choose to follow God’s will, a crisis must develop in our lives. This happens because we tend to be unresponsive to God’s gentler nudges. He brings us to the place where He asks us to be our utmost for Him and we begin to debate. He then providentially produces a crisis where we have to decide—for or against. That moment becomes a great crossroads in our lives. If a crisis has come to you on any front, surrender your will to Jesus absolutely and irrevocably.
I wish that I could say that I’m like Paul…that absolutely nothing stops me from doing what God wants me to do, but I can’t. Let’s face it…it’s a horrible excuse, but some kind of distraction always comes up. Some times, it’s not even a distraction…it’s my own laziness that wants to believe that wasn’t God asking me to do something…it was my own mind. I wish that I could be like one of those religious people who never miss God, that always have a Scripture for every conversation, and I wish that I was able to say that I do everything God wants me to do…exactly when He wants me to do it…and exactly how He wants me to do it.
However, since I’ve already been open and honest then I may as well continue that trend now, and tell you that I don’t always do exactly what God wants…when He wants…how He wants. I’m not 100% obedient, I’m don’t always remember to watch my language, I still will occasionally drink one beer too many, I don’t always have love as my motive, I’m not always an Ephesians 5 husband, and the list could go on…but what I do have is a determination in my heart that I will always to the best I can to be all that God wants me to be. I think that I’ve worn out God’s grace, but Paul wrote that where sin abounds…grace abounds much more. In fact, I’d be willing to submit to you that I think we need more grace after we’re saved then before…because there’s always something God is showing me that I need to repent of or stop doing. The religious world would have you to believe that if you sin enough God will eventually throw His hands up in disgust and be finished with you. I don’t believe that we should continue to live in sin, but when the Bible says that when we become new creations in Christ that God stops counting our sins against us…I choose to believe the Word of God over mans opinions or interpretations…the Bible trumps any opinion or interpretation…and the Holy Ghost has made it clear to me what my foundation is to be…therefore I’m not going to take time to give it here…if you’d like to know what my beliefs are…your welcome to check out our foundational beliefs section of this page.
I want to be known as David (a man after the heart of God), but I frequently wind up like Peter in that I’m constantly being rebuked and corrected and having to learn things the hard way. However, what you notice in Peter is the same fire and desire I have…I want to be what God says He can make me into…how about you?
But before we choose to follow God’s will, a crisis must develop in our lives. This happens because we tend to be unresponsive to God’s gentler nudges. He brings us to the place where He asks us to be our utmost for Him and we begin to debate.
I’ve frequently had to have God use a crisis to get my attention because the cares of the world had drown out the voice of the Holy Spirit. So, there’s been times when God’s had to remove the distractions or remove me from the distractions so that He could get my heart and ears re-tuned to voice of the Holy Ghost.
Again, I wish I didn’t have to admit to all of that…but the truth is God has had to get my attention often…but I can testify to the fact that often times it had to be a crisis.
I can say that probably for the last, I’d say three years or so I haven’t needed God to use a crisis to get my attention. There are times where He kind of has to give me the old Gibb’s head thump (and of you who are NCIS fans know what I’m talking about), but I suppose maybe that comes with age and maturity…it doesn’t always take a burning bush to get me to realize God’s voice has become less audible. I’ve learned to sense the gentle nudges, and not allow them to become life altering crisis that demand I give my full attention to the Lord.
He then providentially produces a crisis where we have to decide—for or against. That moment becomes a great crossroads in our lives. If a crisis has come to you on any front, surrender your will to Jesus absolutely and irrevocably.
Oh yes, the crossroads. I had one of those nearly four years ago, and it came in the midst of a crisis. I mentioned that I have been married before, and this crossroad that I was faced with came in the midst of the divorce. It came in the form of a one way bus ticket to Arkansas, and I kind of understood that’s what this opportunity was.
I came to Arkansas in February of 2010. By February of 2011 I’d met my current wife. In February of 2012 I officially launched Christlike Ministries NWA. In February of 2013, I’d reached 100 nations, and written a couple hundred messages. This February the ministry is 1,000 strong in nearly 140 nations. Every year, God has helped me to grow and mature, and to be honest…I didn’t really see that until right now. It started by trusting God at that crossroad moment. The only people I knew in Arkansas were my parents, and now I can’t imagine leaving it.
So, I guess my point in all of this I’ve written today is that I’m not perfect. I am just as flawed as anyone else. The only difference is I am a whosoever that’s called upon the name of the Lord, and that I answered when He called my name to serve Him.
I’m getting closer to that place where I’m absolutely and irrevocably surrendered to His will. I’m not there yet, but I’m getting there. I hope that by the end of this series…and taking the year to do Sara Young’s “Jesus Calling” Devotional as the In His Image Devotional on my Christlike Ministries NWA Facebook Fan Page…I want to take this year to be more and more conformed to His Image…
And I hope that you will join me in this journey so that at the end of 2014 we can all say that we gave our utmost for His Highest.
Lord, the range of Your power, the touch of Your grace, the breathing of Your Spirit—how I long for these to bring me face to face with You. Forgive my tardiness; it takes me so long to awaken to some things. Lord, help us to cast all the foolish, childish things aside so that we can begin to get closer to You, and closer to becoming the ambassadors for Christ that we all desire to be so that we can be used to bring You fame and glory. Let none of this, Lord God, be about us…but let it always be about You…and may You receive the praise, glory, and honor that Your due…In Jesus’ name we pray…Amen & Amen.
Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m really looking forward to the next 29 days. As we walk through this series, and we couple that with what we’re learning from Sara Young’s “Jesus Calling” Devotional on the Christlike Ministries NWA Facebook Fan Page I am hoping that this year will be one that will impact us all…and help us all to get closer to that goal of being more and more conformed to the image of His Son.
I hope y’all will continue to join me in this series…and on my Christlike Ministries NWA Facebook Fan Page so that we can walk this journey together. If these messages are a blessing to you…please feel free to share them. There’s never a cost to join or subscribe…there will never be pressure to give or sow into this ministry…that’s not what this is all about.
So, please won’t you help me get the word out about this ministry, and share us with your friends? My goal is to get the Christlike Ministries NWA Facebook Fan Page over 500 fans by year’s end…at present we’re almost to 200…I need your help, friends. I can’t do this without you, and this year God’s given me the permission to ask you…my readers to help grow this ministry. God’s still going to draw people…but I can’t do this without you…and so I am humbly asking for your help in growing this ministry so that we can reach more people with the truth of God’s Word.
Please join me again tomorrow as we get into the second message in this series.
God bless you and thank you for being a part of the Christlike Ministries NWA family. I truly love and am thankful for all of you.
Bryan J. Kizer
Pastor/Founder Christlike Ministries NWA