Raise the Bar

raise-the-bar

Ephesians 4:13-16 (NLT) This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.

To raise the bar means to make something better. Raising standards and expectations especially by creating something better than previously known or experienced. It connotes a challenge to improve beyond what was thought possible before and make a mark for others to follow. More than a personal endeavor, it is a pursuit of excellence which is the unprecedented example for the benefit of all. It is believed that those who reach such a level will be successful and satisfied with life. The problem is that in this world the “bar” goes up and down each day randomly in accordance with the fickleness of mankind and their perception of perfection. Emotions and feelings along with the peaks and valleys of life cause us to question if setting a high standard and raising the bar of our life is worth the struggle, pressure and pain of endurance. Is the commitment to change worth the tragedy of transition because we must leave some things behind to have all that is promised?

I have seen the impact of the “millennial” generation in my own home. Having three twenty-something kids and two teenagers – there is a dynamic shift occurring that must be battled every day. The sense of entitlement in our next generation is startling. Thankfulness is giving way to “I can have what I want when I want it because I am me” which comes (in my opinion) from never giving them anything to strive for. Comfort has given way to compromise. Settlement to substitutions. There is no drive for betterment just simple pass the test and get by. My concern for this generation is that they are also the end times Christians who prepare the way of Christ’s Return. They are subject to the greatest deceptions that believers have ever experienced because the enemy is desperate to steal their souls. We must become intent that I can have all that Christ said I could have, be all that He said that I could be, do everything that He empowers me to do, and live with Him forever not because of who I am but based solely on Who He is and What He has done for me.

To raise the bar of our life means setting a new standard of living. One based on perfection not perception and making the commitment to stay focused on the unseen and not the world crashing down and hell breaking loose around me. There are days I feel like an unarmed civilian in my pajamas with absolutely no defense at all walking through a war zone with grenades blowing up, bullets flying overhead, fights breaking out all around me, tanks rolling by and the Spirit of the Lord says, “Just keep walking, it’s all going to be okay.” Whether you know it or not, there is a battle all around you as the Lord protects you from the enemy’s fiery darts, wicked assignments, and plots to destroy you. God is fighting for us! His angels surround us as a constant guard. The pressure you feel is real. The perception is valid though you cannot fully perceive it. Winston Churchill said, “If you are going through hell, keep going.” I couldn’t agree with him more. If you find all hell is breaking loose around you, it could be because you are finally getting it right and walking in the right direction. You must go through it to make it to it!

Romans 3:22-24 (NLT) We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.

My sister is an esthetician. She is a skincare professional who offers a wide variety of treatments and beauty services. Several years ago, she received a call from the personal assistant of a very famous Christian speaker. You would instantly know her but I am not going to name her. The woman called to book an appointment. After securing a date and time, she informed my sister that her employer was coming in on her personal time and not to be bothered. She was not “ministering” so please refrain from asking her any questions, autographing or anything pertaining to the ministry. (Insert shocked face emoji here followed by a GIF with someone smacking their head with the palm of their hand.) I didn’t know what to say then and still don’t know what to say now. When did ministry become a profession and not a passionate pursuit of lost souls, to whom much is given much is required. I understand that people need down time. I also get that such a personality probably doesn’t get it very much. I do. I am not judging this person or any other mega ministry pastor. People are not a profession. They are God’s Passion. As a disciple of Jesus Christ, when you encounter a lost, dying, hurt, or wandering soul, there is no such thing as a better time than the one you are living in to reach out to them, share God’s Love, tell them your story and interact with them. What if my sister was lost? What is she were sick, hurting or dying? What it that appointment was divine not decided? Hmmm…

I apologize in advance if you are offended or upset by my ideology that ministry is not a job it’s a mission that all of those who love Jesus have been called to. It is 24/7. It is all about what I say, do, and how I live every moment of every day. There is no downtime. For everyone has sinned and fallen short of God’s Glorious Standard of Living. Even those who seem to have their spiritual junk altogether still have sin to be dealt with in their life every day. Everyone. You do. I do. We all do. Though some make it appear that they have achieved higher levels in God – need I remind you the only level of achievement in Jesus Christ is grace. Grace is the only way to achieve righteousness again. It doesn’t matter if you have only committed one sin in your whole life – you are sinner who needs just as much grace as the person who sins every single second.

Romans 9:30-32 (NLT) What does all this mean? Even though the Gentiles were not trying to follow God’s standards, they were made right with God. And it was by faith that this took place. But the people of Israel, who tried so hard to get right with God by keeping the law, never succeeded. Why not? Because they were trying to get right with God by keeping the law instead of by trusting in him. They stumbled over the great rock in their path.

Are you trying to follow God’s Standards in your own power today? Let me just be real with you. I see it in every church that I have ever attended and have been in positions that made me feel the same way. The more I know Christ and attempt to follow Him, the better my life gets. Our family is committed to tithing, our financial life has prospered over the last decade or more. Every part of my life sown by faith into God’s Promises are yielding just the same harvest. However, in all of the blessings, sometimes it is possible to forget WHO is the one prospering our life because we are living it. We are doing what God’s Word says, but we do not increase our life – He does. Before you say, I know that peek into your heart and look for any insecurity lurking there. It is the one hidden behind pride that says, “I will make my own way. I have to do it myself.”

His Grace is enough to pick you up out of your mess, dust you off, wash you in His Word, wrap you in righteousness and open the door to God’s Presence again. Just His Grace. The Grace of Jesus Christ was absolutely enough to raise the bar of our life and make God’s Glorious Standard available to us again. We can do nothing to earn it. Nothing at all. Therefore any exaltation above another person or idea that I am somehow better because I have achieved a higher standard of living is to say that it was not the Lord but me who made the difference and His Grace is not enough for me.

I Peter 2:21-25 (NLT) For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps. He never sinned, nor ever deceived anyone. He did not retaliate when he was insulted, nor threaten revenge when he suffered. He left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly. He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed. Once you were like sheep who wandered away. But now you have turned to your Shepherd, the Guardian of your souls.

From His Birth to His Death and Resurrection, Jesus was always about His Father’s Business. The King of Kings and Lord of Lords did not think twice about laying down His Life to come and give us access to the Kingdom once again. But have we created our own kingdoms called church and small group creating services and experiences that are manmade and not spirit led. Are sinners uncomfortable in our churches not because the Holy Spirit is convicting them but because God’s People are condemning them? Do we believe in taking days off? Jesus is our example. Christ alone allows us to have a higher standard of living called God’s Glorious Standard. Are we using it to build His Kingdom or our own?

The Word of Christ is complete. When Jesus said, it is finished releasing His Spirit to us – the job was done – our debt paid in full. Now what? We live for Him. We love Him. We follow Him. We become about our Father’s Business, too. I can do nothing apart from Him. The goodness in my life is all a gift from God and nothing I have earned or created for myself. I must humble myself to the Lord. I must decrease and He must increase in my life so that I can raise the bar so that others will seek Him, know Him and love Him, too.

Hebrews 6:12 (NLT) Then you will not become spiritually dull and indifferent. Instead, you will follow the example of those who are going to inherit God’s promises because of their faith and endurance.

I must not become spiritually dull or indifferent taking for granted the Unfailing Love that I have been given and Grace that I have received for a substandard way of life. I must follow the example of Christ and the men and women who laid down their life to inherit the promises of God. Lord, keep me humbly at Your Feet so that I may know you more. So let’s go back to the beginning…

Ephesians 4:13-16 (NLT) This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.

We must get this engrained in us. To achieve the Glorious Standard of Living and raise the bar to the level God intended, I must be complete in Christ. The continuation of “church” is to perpetuate growth in the Body of Christ which means my completion in Christ is dependent on my willingness to yield my life, gifts and abilities to the entire organization called His Body. It requires knowledge, understanding and wisdom that moves past human ideology and is based on faith in Christ. As Christ begins to take over my mind, body, soul and heart, it is the Truth that begins to impact and influence our lives rather than the conditions and circumstances of this life. My life is nothing without Christ. The parts and pieces of my life withheld from the Lord lack His Power and do not benefit the Body of Christ. I am a Kingdom Builder or at least I should be. I do this by using the gifts, talents and abilities God has given me to share the Gospel with others. My complete satisfaction in life is achieved when I place all my faith and trust in Jesus Christ. Withholding nothing, even my pride, say it all belongs to you, Jesus! He is the more excellent way! Christ is my example! Raise the bar today! Find that one place, the hidden place, the harbored fugitive in your heart and give it to the Lord to be revived, restored and released as you achieve excellence.

John 3:30 (NLT) He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.

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