If you are a father, you have likely tried multiple ways to motivate your kids: threats of punishment, promises of rewards, wielding your authority, and reminding them of all you have done for them. In many ways, pastoring a group of people is a lot like parenting. When the apostles wrote letters to the churches, they cared deeply for the people receiving them and viewed themselves as their fathers in the faith.

How did the apostles strive to motivate people to live in response to God’s greatness and grace? How did they encourage them to live the reality of their new identity? The apostles often rooted the imperatives (the commands) God gave in the indicative (what Christ has done). To understand their letters, it is helpful to understand the difference between imperatives and the indicative.

Imperative = Commands or “Do”

Indicative = What Christ accomplished or “Done”

You will find that the apostles’ letters are filled with imperatives, but these imperatives are grounded in what Christ has done (indicative). That’s because if our hearts are not refreshed and renewed with what Christ has done for us, our hearts are unable to obey Him. We need to be in awe of His grace to be motivated to live out the commands (the imperatives).

Let’s look at some passages written to the churches. Note if they are imperative or indicative.

EPHESIANS 5:25: Husbands, love your wives (imperative), just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her. (indicative)
ROMANS 6:1-2

Do you see the common theme? The imperatives are there—Do this, but they are always rooted in the indicative—because Christ has done that. As your heart is constantly refreshed with what Christ has done, you want to obey Him. You want to follow Him. His commands don’t feel like a burden because this world is less and less attractive to you as you view Him as greater and greater.

Let’s close with this example: We are to think of others first (imperative) because Christ put our salvation ahead of His comfort (indicative). Ponder this as you read PHILIPPIANS 2:3-11.

What’s the difference in an imperative and an indicative?

What are some examples of indicatives that motivate you? Why do they motivate you?

What happens if we get the imperative before the indicative?


Finding God Part Ten

Have you received God’s gift of forgiveness through faith in Jesus? Here is what God has done for you:

* You have been declared “”not guilty” by God. On the cross, Jesus paid the penalty for the all the things you have ever done wrong, setting you free to be forgiven by God.

* You have been saved from hell, both from an eternity without God as well as from the darkness we feel now from fear, despair, guilt, addiction, bitterness, etc.

* You have been born again. God has changed your life forever because God now lives in you. You are a brand new creation.

Changed for the Better

A few years ago, Neil Thrasher, Gary’s friend and fellow songwriter came out to the LeVox ranch to write and catch up. Neil’s daughter had asked to be baptized on their recent beach vacation. Through the sunset-lit waves and wind, Neil told Gary he heard nothing but these words in his head as his daughter came up from the water.

I came up out of the water
Raised my hands up to the Father
Gave it all to him that day
Felt a new wind kiss my face

In a Billboard interview, Gary described what happened next as, “One of those moments that we felt like we just held the pen, God did all the work.” They began writing Changed together about Neil’s daughter. As they wrote, it became Neil’s story, Gary’s story, Jay’s story, Joe’s story, Tara’s story, your story. It’s all of our stories because it’s a soundtrack for the ultimate story we all share. The Gospel. They went on.

I got off track, I made mistakes
Back slid my way into that place where souls get lost
Lines get crossed
and the pain won’t go away
I hit my knees, now here I stand
There I was, now here I am
Here I am
I’ve changed for the better

Life is a highway. Your heavenly Father has a wish for you. He wants to bless your broken road. He stands ready to change you for the better. Just stop wherever you are, and raise your hands up to the Father.

Pray: God, You’re my Father. I’ve made mistakes, but I trust You. I believe Your Son, Jesus, died and was raised so I could forever be changed for the better. Here is my life. Please bless this broken road. Amen.

Bless the Broken Road

Before GPS and smartphones, it used to be a lot easier to start a road trip only to find out you’d been driving for a while—a long while—in the wrong direction. If life is a highway, then all of us have taken a wrong turn and lost our way at some point. Most of us have experienced life without GPS. Just sort of taking one turn after the next without much direction from God or anyone.

Stop for a moment. Look at your surroundings. Ask yourself, “Is this where I wanted to go?” Am I loving this person the way I said I would? Am I raising this family the way I dreamed? Is this the wish God has for me? Am I on the right path? As you prayerfully look at your life, read these lyrics from Bless the Broken Road by Rascal Flatts.

Every long lost dream led me to where you are
And others who broke my heart they were like northern stars
Pointing me on my way into your loving arms
This much I know is true
That God blessed the broken road
That led me straight to you

You know what makes country music work? It’s about real life. We all lose our way. We hit potholes and take pit stops. Yet, God’s plan prevails, and He works all things for the good of those who love Him. Nothing is too broken for Him. Somehow He can take a rusty junker and rebuild a bullet-proof marriage if we’ll let Him. He can take our pain and turn it into purpose. When we lean on Him, He makes our broken roads straight. In our weakness, He is strong. What’s your broken road? God can bless it.

Pray: God, I want to trust You with all my brokenness. I trust You with my relationships. Show me how to go the right way. Amen.

A Closing Consideration

If you have never received Jesus into your life, or if you did at one time, but are no longer living for Him, you can make a new commitment to Him TODAY by saying a simple prayer out of the sincerity of your heart. That prayer may be something like this,

“Jesus, I know that I am a sinner, and only you can set me free from sin’s penalty. I ask you to come into my life and cleanse me of all my sin. Help me to live for you in every area of my life, every day of my life. Thank you for coming into my life and setting me free!”

If you prayed that prayer with sincerity, believing Jesus will do what He said He will do, you have just received salvation, and have altered your eternal destiny to be with Him forever!

Five Point Strategy for Living in Victory

This section provides a 5 point Bible-based strategy for effectively dealing with sin and temptation. Putting this plan into action is one more way of giving God first place in your life!

1. UNDERSTAND THAT GOD SEES YOU AS PERFECT, HOLY AND BLAMELESS, through the work of Jesus Christ. (Read II Corinthians 5:21.) Many times guilt and shame are the most destructive of sin’s consequences. Understanding that there is no condemnation for those in Christ, regardless of the sin, is fundamental to victory (Romans 8:1).

2. CONFESS YOUR SINS. (Read I John 1:9.) Confessing our sin means acknowledging those sins first in our own hearts and minds, and then confessing them to God. Confessing our sin does not necessarily mean making them public to others. Confession is between you and God.

3. BE ACCOUNTABLE. (Read James 5:16.) Finding a close trusted Christian friend, pastor or family member in whom you can confide is an effective way to introduce accountability and prayer support into the battle.

4. AVOID THE SOURCES OF TEMPATION. (Read James 1:13-15.) This is the most challenging point to implement, and requires some creative thought and planning. The truth is if you can avoid the temptation, you’ll avoid the sin.

5. READ GOD’S WORD. (Read Psalm 119:11.) God’s word tells us plainly that as we “hide it in our heart,” it gives a special strength to say no to temptation and sin.

God has Given You First Place in His Heart

What would you think if someone told you that God sees you as if you have never sinned? The fact is, because of the redemptive work of Jesus on the cross, that is exactly how God sees you. As Christians, we are forgiven, cleansed and free!

That means you are a saint: one who has attained a special standing of righteousness in Christ. You are perfect, holy and blameless in God’s eyes. He calls you His child, an heir to His abundance, and His friend.

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” I Peter 2:9

Truly understanding how God sees us begins with how we see Him. God is not watching from a distance just waiting for us to make a mistake in order to punish us. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Consider what this verse says:

“Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become the children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” John 1:12-13

God sees each of us as His own precious child. He is a loving Father showering favor and care to us out of His endless compassion. Some scriptures in the Song of Solomon illustrate the incredible intensity of God’s love for us by comparing it to the intimate love of a husband and wife. Hebrews 11:6 tells us that God is a rewarder of those who seek him.

God sees each of His children in a profoundly different way than most of us see ourselves. Understanding how God sees each one of us is founded upon the work that Christ began in our lives the moment we received salvation.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come.” II Corinthians 5:17

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” II Corinthians 5:21

This new creation is God’s divine work; a complete transformation of our spiritual condition and inner person. He has completely forgiven and cleansed us from our sin – past, present and future. We are in right relationship with Him.

“…as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions (sins) from us.” Psalm 103: 12

We are God’s people presented to Him without any blemish of sin; truly as His righteousness through the work that Jesus did on the cross. God has indeed given us first place in His heart!