Do you remember when you were young and you got those big books with numbers and dots on the pages? You could not tell what the picture was until you connected all the dots. Our lives are like that – sometimes we are unable to see the whole picture of God’s plan for us.
A few weeks ago, I attended a funeral in Mississippi for a dear friend of mine. Mr. James Crawford was a godly man and, over the years, his whole family has been like family to me.
As I sat in the funeral service, the Lord began to do a beautiful thing for me. He began to connect the dots in my life. I had shared so much of my growing-up years with this dear family and attending church with them in Memphis. I looked around the room, gazing and reflecting on so many people who were involved in my life, affecting me for Christ.
I have been to a lot of funeral services, but this service was a celebration of a godly life and the effects of a godly life on others.
Mr. Crawford’s granddaughter got up to speak and she remembered three main prayers her grandfather always prayed:
- Revival in this nation.
- That the next generation would know and serve Christ.
- That all his grandchildren would be with him in heaven.
That service celebrated a man dedicated to Christ and the celebration really was a celebration of who Christ is.
His prayer that the next generation would know and serve Christ struck a cord with me that day. At the gravesite, I spoke with his son, Jimmy Jr. I shared with Jimmy that I am a part of the answered prayer of his dad. I was the next generation at that time. Jimmy became burdened for my soul and the direction I was going in my early years. Mr. Crawford’s son was used to change my life forever – I was converted, got married, and had two sons who are serving the Lord. Connecting the dots! My sons have been all over the world spreading the gospel, Jimmy and I affecting the next generation.
But one last big dot connect – our family has a ministry called Vision4Living. Our passion is to affect the next generation for Christ. We base our ministry on Psalm 78:4, “We will not hide them from their children, showing to the next generation to come the praises of the Lord and His strength, and His wonderful works that He has done.”
Thank you, Lord, for a godly man named James Crawford who did not hide the truths from his children and who bore a son for your glory, who helped connect the dots in my life.
I am grateful to be a part of Mr. Crawford’s prayer to effect the next generation. The dots have been connected and I have seen the bigger picture.
You cannot replace the process of studying when it comes to learning something. Hands-on is a must, but digging into a subject to analyze and understand is paramount. The Christian life is very much this way. Of course the Lord takes us through circumstances that mold and shape us to reflect the image of God. But you cannot rely totally on the circumstances. It is not just about what you feel and experience, you must know the truth – the truth will set you free. Your heart and mind must engage the truth. When an individual walks the path of life, the truth that he or she has studied comes alive with meaning and application. It is the difference between wisdom and understanding: wisdom that knows what you should do and understanding that applies it to a given situation through the leading of God’s Spirit [Phil. 1:9-10].
My church [Westwood] just recently began a ‘Teaching Fellowship’ for young men in our congregation who want to grow in their ability to study and preach God’s Word. During the first weekend of October, each one of us will be preaching from an assigned portion of the book of Colossians. We have been given three weeks to study and write our manuscript [we are at the half way point].
Studying my assigned passage [Col. 3:12-17] has opened my eyes afresh to the urgent need to put off the old man and put on the new. It has also reaffirmed and solidified where the ability to put off and put on comes from. In the next few weeks, I would like to share with you what God is teaching me through this study. I hope you will join me.
The ability to put on
When you first take a glance at this section of Scripture, it can appear that we are the ones who sanctify ourselves. After all, the Scriptures are commanding us to ‘put off and to put on’. However, when you dig into the broader context, it reveals something very different. Verse 12 tells us to ‘Put on then, as God’s chosen ones…’ If we back up to verse 1 of chapter 3, we read, ‘If you have been raised with Christ seek the things that are above.’ So, there are two things we see that will help us understand the application that must follow. One, we did not save ourselves – we were chosen by God. Two, only because we are now raised up in Christ can we seek to ‘put on the new man or put off’ the old man. In Christ, we have been given new life – once we were dead but now raised to new life. We have the responsibility, but not the ability, to put on the new man – that, my friend, comes from Christ alone. And if you are in Christ, you now have the ability through His grace alone to walk in obedience. Victory is yours. If we could not save ourselves, it is a surety that we do not have the ability in and of ourselves to be sanctified.
Never lose site of this foundation. Upon it hangs the destiny of your soul.
Now that we have our foundation, I look forward to looking at the subsequent application of ‘putting off and putting on’ next week. Join me as we discover what that means and what it looks like.