BE STRONG! Part V: What does being strong in grace look like in me?

People say it all the time. People pray for it and ask for prayer for it all the time. “Be strong, be strong, help me be strong, keep me strong…”

We have already seen the source of strength (the grace that is in Christ Jesus, 2 Timothy 2:1), and how that grace has eradicated our sin and given us blessings beyond compare. But sometimes thinking about being strong can be a rather abstract concept. What does a strong Christian look like? Is she emotionally steady? Does he have massive biceps? Is a strong Christian one who has a brilliant mind?

To get a grasp on what a strong Christian looks like, Paul gives Timothy four illustrations. He tells Timothy a strong Christian lives like dedicated experts in four different vocations: a teacher, a soldier, an athlete, and a farmer (2 Timothy 2:2-6). 

The Teacher: A strong Christian is active in ministry. We live in a day where many are content to be saturated with good teaching… always involved in taking it in but never involved in giving it away! Instead of passing the baton, we have Christian fatheads who would be great on Jeopardy if New Testament was one of the categories. But just taking it all in, as some kind of armchair Bible scholar, is not a picture of strength. The first thing Paul points out is a strong Christian is involved in making disciples through teaching those who will be able to teach. Notice verse 2 speaks of four generations: Paul to Timothy to faithful men to others. For Christians who are not in a church, or Christians in a church who just show up: get involved in ministry. Lead a small group, get involved in VBS, join up with those doing outreach… whatever you feel God has equipped you to do, get doing it!

The Soldier: A strong Christian is focused on pleasing Christ. This should be a no-brainer, but we need reminded as Timothy did. It is so easy to get “entangled in civilian pursuits”. These things aren’t necessarily sinful things, though some can be. These are the things that consume our time, money, energy, thoughts, attention, etc. It can be a hobby or a habit or a hang-up. Whatever is hindering you from serving Jesus Christ with your whole heart is an entanglement. Entanglements sound like this: “I can’t get involved in church because of __“ or “I wish I could be a part of that ministry, but I am just too busy ___.“ You will always have the time to do what you really want to do, just as you will always have the money for what you really want! We avoid any entanglement, because the thing that drives the follower of Christ is pleasing Him! He enlisted us, and at the end of the day, all we want to hear is “well done, good and faithful servant.” We do what we do to honor our Commanding Officer. Keep that motive clear in your own heart!

The Athlete: A strong Christian lives by the Word of God. Nobody likes a cheater. Whether it is Mark McGuire or Sammy Sosa or Bill Belichick or Ben Johnson, people who have cheated in professional sports have permanently stained their reputation. But as Christians, we play by the rules. No shortcuts, no “my way is better than God’s”, we play according to the rules. What rules? This is not talking about rules like “don’t play cards, don’t dance, women don’t wear anything other than a skirt”. This simply means we follow God’s Word because we love Him (John 14:15). Every athlete is in his/her respective sport to go after the prize: the trophy, the cup, the belt, the medal… and we are pursuing the ultimate prize (2 Timothy 4:8). And we are doing it by the Book, so to speak :) . 

The Farmer: A strong Christian feeds himself first. If a farmer brings in the harvest, and sells 100% of it, he has a problem. He may have made some money, but now he has nothing to eat. has nothing to eat. We are saturated with good teaching in our day, but some of us pour ourselves out to do the saturating. Ironically, sometimes the biggest hindrance to our personal growth is doing ministry. We give out and teach and pour into and rinse and repeat, but end up feeling empty ourselves sometimes. What’s the solution? The hardworking farmer should be the first to partake. If I am not feeding myself, I have nothing to give. Our ministry should just be the overflow of what the Holy Spirit is doing in our own lives. 

“Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything”, he says in verse 7. Before you navigate away from this page, or hit the red X square in the upper right corner, just STOP for a minute and THINK it over. We would all agree with what the Word of God says. But stop and ask yourself, “How am I doing in these areas?” in verse 7. Before you navigate away from this page, or hit the red X square in the upper right corner, just STOP for a minute and THINK it over. We would all with what the Word of God says. But stop and ask yourself, “How am I in these areas?”

  • Am I actively involved in ministry?
  • Am I seeking to please Christ by avoiding any entanglements that get in the way of serving him with my whole being?
  • Am I living in obedience to the Word of God?
  • Am I seeking the Lord and growing personally, in order to have something to give to others?

p.s. - thinking it over...

BE STRONG! Part IV: What has God’s grace done to me?

What is grace?

Grace is God giving to me what He requires from me.

Holiness, righteousness, perfection - God requires these from us. We don’t have any of these! So in His love, He gives them to us in Jesus Christ!

The Gospel is truly about God’s grace. Jesus died for our sins. That was what we discussed in the last blog. Jesus’ death for our sins is only half of the Gospel. The other half has to do with Jesus’ resurrection!

Volumes can be said on the subject, but here are a few morsels for you to meditate on…


  1. Dead to alive (Ephesians 2:5) - Jesus doesn’t turn bad people into good people, He turns dead people into alive people. The Bible makes it clear that by nature we may look alive, but spiritually we are separated from God, dead in our sins. Jesus died and rose again so we may die and raise again in Him! (Romans 6:10-11)
  2. Adopted (John 1:12) - Imagine you have a teen aged son who goes to a party, gets into a fight, and is murdered by another teenage boy. If you track that boy down and murder him, that is called vengeance. If the boy is arrested, and you help get him prosecuted and incarcerated through the legal system, that is called justice. If you manage to get to the trial and ask the judge to let the boy go free, that is mercy. But if you ask the boy to be let free, and you take him into your home, adopting and raising him as your own son, that is called grace. This is what God has done to us through Christ - adoption!
  3. Freed (John 8:36) - Here is an assignment for you: every time you come across the phrase “I am the LORD your God who brought you out of Egypt…” in the Old Testament, put some kind of special mark beside it in your Bible. I have been doing that and have been stunned at how often that comes up! So why does the Lord constantly remind Israel of this fact? It isn’t that they forgot their national history - the issue is they had a tendency to forget God and what He did! He is saying, “You were slaves in Egypt, and by my power, I delivered you.” In other words, they were hopeless in bondage until God stepped in and brought freedom. The same can be said to Christians today. We were in bondage to sin, and by God’s power in Christ, we were delivered!
  4. Heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17) - To say we are fellow heirs with Christ may not strike you, until you realize what you inherit with Christ. And what is that? The answer is: everything. Everything! You will inherit with Christ everything that belongs to Christ, which is, again, everything. Colossians 1:16 says everything was created through Him and for Him!
  5. Heaven bound (John 14:1-3) - If this life is all there is, we are in sad shape because we can exit this life at any moment. Often, when people greet me, I hear the often repeated, “How are you doing?” My answer is always, “Not as good as I am going to be.” This response many times is met with a surprised reaction, “What do you mean by that?” Then I explain for the Christian, the promise is, no matter how rough things seem right now, God promises that someday everything is going to be perfect - when we realize the consummation of our salvation in heaven.

So grace did more than just eliminate my sin and the penalty of that sin - it comes with it promises beyond compare!

Let’s live as forgiven, but let’s also live as alive, adopted, freed, co-heirs of Christ heading for heaven!

p.s. - not doing as good as he’s going to be

BE STRONG! Part III: What has God done to my sin?

Have you given your life to Christ, but sometimes feel overburdened by the weight of sin? As in, "I know I am a born again believer, but someday I have a lot to answer for when I stand before God."

Why is it that many Christians still seem to feel condemned? Satan is called the accuser of the brethren (Revelation 12:10). Who is Satan accusing? God’s people! And sadly, too many of God’s people listen to the accusations of who Satan says we are, and do not listen to the declaration of who God says we are.

That’s why Christians say things like, “I am just a sinner.” Wrong! You are a pronounced-holy-by-the-blood-of-Christ child of the living God! But when we dwell on the bondage of our sin, we aren’t dwelling on the freedom of our imputed righteousness. This holds us back from serving God with confidence!

The first way the grace of God strengthens you is by releasing you from your sin. This isn’t the end of the story, it is really only the first half. But before we look at the rest of it, let’s make sure we have this part down: Your forgiveness from sin in Christ is thorough.


  1. My sin is cleansed (Isaiah 1:18) - Do you know a shirt can get “permanent stink”? Gross, Pastor Jeff, right? Well, I just recently had to throw a shirt away that I used to love to work out in, but even after several washings, Tide couldn’t even do the job. After some mourning, the shirt and I parted. My wife rejoiced. We are “dirty” in sin before we receive Christ, but the washing He gives doesn’t just fade a stain, it removes it. Whiter than snow. Not even “as white as snow” - but whiter! Cleaner than new. That’s what God says about your sin being cleansed.
  2. My sin is removed (Psalm 103:12) - Here is another way God describes our sin. Removed. Far removed. Infinitely far removed. As far as East is from West. How far is that? Infinite. Grab a globe. You do have a globe laying around, I hope. Notice God doesn’t say “as far as North is from the South”, because if you go South far enough, eventually you are heading North. Trace it with your finger. But if you go East, you will never head West. Catch that? Your sin is gone. That’s what God says about your sin being removed.
  3. My sin is lost (Micah 7:19) - Imagine I am on a cruise ship in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. I am leaning on the rail, overlooking the water, and I am foolishly tossing my wedding ring up and down, catching it until… whoops, I dropped it! And it fell into the ocean! What are my chances of ever seeing that ring again? Zero. Even if I got back to shore and hired the best divers in the world, they are never going to find that ring. And if some sneaky fish grabs it, takes it to the ocean floor and it… it is loster than lost. That’s where God has put my sin - lost forever. No chance of it coming back. Cleansed and removed and lost. That’s what God says about your sin being lost.
  4. My sin is forgotten (Jeremiah 31:34, Hebrews 8:12) - Since He says it again in Hebrews 10:17, God must really want to make a point here. A friend of mine once told me he believes when he dies, God will show him a movie of his life and point out all the times he, my friend, blew it. This doesn’t line up with what God already pronounced. He is willing to forget. Forget. As in, “God, don’t you remember the time I really let you down? The time I really dishonored you?” And God’s reply, “No, I don’t remember that at all.” That’s what God says about your sin being forgotten.
  5. My sin is pardoned (Romans 8:1) - This is courtroom language. We are guilty of sin. When we receive Christ, we are pronounced not guilty. Is someone going to run into the courtroom and try to overturn the Judge’s decision? Not this Judge. He has all knowledge, all power, and all grace. And He says, “Not condemned” and slams the gavel down. Case over. That’s what God says about your sin being pardoned.

Christians, go forward with God in confidence. Your sin is cleansed, removed, lost, forgotten, and pardoned. If it isn’t an issue with God, why is it an issue with you? God’s grace makes us strong. Be strong.

p.s. - amazed at the depths of grace!

BE STRONG! Part II: Am I saved?

Many times, people ask me for prayer, but don't seem sure exactly what to pray for. So they end up saying, "Just pray for strength." That is not a last ditch effort - that is a great prayer, and one that God wants to answer, can answer, and will answer. 

Picking up from the last blog, where we saw that strength only comes from God’s grace. We can’t will it, think it, or feel it enough so we have strength - it only comes as we are branches attached to the vine of Jesus Christ.

But a lot of Christians are not strong because they don’t understand grace. When it comes to salvation, too many don’t realize what really happened through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Here are 4 common responses people give when asked if they are saved, or if asked if they are going to heaven. See if any of these fit you.

“We’ll see.” - As in, “I guess I’ll find out when I die.” Bad idea. The Bible says you can know now! Yes, now! God doesn’t want us living in the uncertainty of where we stand with Him. If we have received Christ as Savior and Lord, it’s a done deal. If you aren’t sure, you need to seek the Lord on this now! You don’t have anything more important to do.

“Hope so.” - First cousin to “We’ll see” is this guy. The problem is we use the word “hope” in a different way than the Bible does. The Bible uses hope in the sense of “we are sure this promise is going to be kept and we are looking forward to it.” But we often use hope like this: “I hope it doesn’t rain. I hope the dog isn’t sick. I hope I get that Aluma Wallet for Father’s Day.” This is just stating how we are wishing for our preferences, but we’ll see what happens. Catch the difference? Our hope is in Jesus, and we have the hope of heaven, but for God’s children, that does mean, “I am wishing to get to heaven. That is my preference. We’ll see.”

“I tried.” - This one is, “Well, I think I did what I needed to”, but with a hint of, “but I am not sure if it is enough.” I didn’t kill too may people, I tried to obey the speed limit, I was nice to my neighbor. I did my best. Salvation is never achieved by human effort. It is only attained through faith in the Person and Work of Jesus Christ.

“It depends.” - As in, “Whether or not I go to heaven depends on how good I am on the day that I die.” Some people believe that you can receive salvation, and then by sinning, lose your salvation until you confess and repent and get saved again. This is completely false on a thousand fronts, but here are just three reasons:

  1. We are children of God. Even as fallen people, when our children disobey, we don’t kick them out of the family until they repent! Nothing will ever make my sons stop being my sons. God adopts you in Christ, He does not un-adopt (John 1:12).
  2. We have been made alive in Christ. The Bible says spiritually we have crossed from death to life (Ephesians 2:5), but nowhere does the Bible say we can die again spiritually.
  3. All of our sins are forgiven. “But Jeff, I know I am saved now, but what if I commit some sin in the future?” When Christ was on the cross, of your sins were yet future, right?  

How forgiven are we, anyways? The next blog will cover that topic.

p.s. - embracing the Biblical “hope” of Jesus