Their Sin is History

Friday, February 26, 2016, 3:35 p.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “He Lifted Our Burdens.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Luke 15:11-32 (ESV).

In Context (summary)

In verse one we read that “sinners” were coming near to Jesus and were listening to him. The scribes and the Pharisees grumbled about this, accusing Jesus of receiving sinners and eating with them. So, what is a sinner? A sinner is a person who falls short of God’s divine approval. We are all born into sin, so that makes everyone a sinner. Some of us, though, have been saved from slavery to sin by God’s grace. Yet, we still have the ability to sin, and we are still tempted to sin. It is just that Jesus provided a way out for us to where we no longer are enslaved to sin, but we are now free to walk daily in Christ’s righteousness and holiness by faith in Jesus Christ, and in the power of his Holy Spirit living within us.

So, what is sin? It is sinful to do what we know is wrong, but it is also sinful to not do the good we know we ought to do. Sin is disobedience and rebellion against God. It is to do what is in direct opposition to God’s moral laws and his divine nature and will for our lives. It is to turn our backs on God and to go in a different direction from what he is leading and directing us. It is sinful to ignore God’s words to us and to go our own way. So, why were these people called “sinners” but the Pharisees and scribes were not, except by Jesus? The Pharisees and scribes saw themselves as better. They thought that because they followed a set of religious rules and traditions of the elders that it made them superior to those who were openly living sinful lifestyles. But, they weren’t better. They were just bitter.

Jesus shared this parable to show the Pharisees and scribes the riches of God’s grace to sinners, but to also give the religious, self-righteous and hypocritical leaders a good picture of themselves. The younger son in this story represents the publicans and sinners whom Jesus was ministering God’s grace to, and about which the religious leaders found offense that Jesus would open himself up to them. The older brother in this parable thus represents the scribes and the Pharisees and their attitude toward God and toward these repentant sinners, and shows the sickness and wickedness that is in their own hearts.

Squandered Inheritance (vv. 11-16)

And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.”

In Romans, chapter one, we read that what may be known about God was revealed to all mankind, so that we are without excuse. God’s eternal power and divine nature are clearly seen in all his created works. So, it isn’t that people don’t know who God is or that they are not cognizant of the fact that God exists, it is that they don’t honor him for who is he, nor do they give thanks to him. Instead of becoming worshipers of God, they bow to idols. So, God gives them over to do what their sinful hearts desire to do.

And, that is the picture we have here of the son who took all that he had been given by the father, and he squandered it in reckless living. Although God had given him the breath of life, and the opportunity to live his life for God, and not for himself, he chose to rebel against God and to go his own way. He worshiped created things, rather than the creator. He became filled with wickedness, and he was senseless, faithless and disobedient to what he knew was right. Sin had power over his life, and he was its slave, and it his master.

His life was now spent in living in wild, senseless indulgence in the flesh, so that eventually there was nothing left but painful memories of what could have been, had he not made those wrong choices. Still he did not turn to God. He tried to resolve his problem with his own intellect and reasoning, but that backfired on him. And, now he had nowhere to turn.

He Came to Himself (vv. 17-24)

“But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.”

Sometimes people have to bottom out before they will ever look up. Sometimes God has to allow difficult times in people’s lives just so they will realize what a mess they have made of them, and so they will repent and will turn to God (or return to God). I believe God will bring such trying times to America to get the people of this nation to come to him or to return to him. His word teaches that such times are coming. Yet, I believe God’s purpose is to revive his church and to bring many people to salvation from sin before he returns to judge and to take his bride to be with him forever. So, these difficult times which lie ahead of us are for our good. They are God’s mercy to us in getting the people of this nation to repent of their sins of idolatry, complacency, apathy and spiritual adultery against God.

Those who have lived wickedly, and/or who have never before given Jesus Christ Lordship over their lives, but who have followed in the ways of their own sinful flesh, when they come to their senses, and they humble themselves before God, and grieve over their sins, and believe in Jesus Christ, God will have mercy on them, and he will forgive their sins. He will give them new lives in Christ Jesus free from slavery to sin and the control of Satan over their lives. Amen! By God’s grace, through faith in Jesus Christ, we can be forgiven of our sins, crucified with Christ in death to sin and resurrected with Christ in newness of life, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24). This is true grace, i.e. the kind that does leave us still under the control of sin, but that frees us out of sin.

The Bitterness of Jealousy (vv. 25-32)

“Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”

Those who live self-righteous, hypocritical lives, who appear to have done all the right things, and obeyed all the rules, and who keep all the traditions passed down to them from their religious ancestors, and all the rituals of their particular “Christian” denomination, oftentimes, like the Pharisees, see themselves as superior and everyone else as “sinners.” They may have no problem watching sexually suggestive or provocative junk on television, or wasting their time away on what is meaningless, and which has no eternal value at all, and they may not give God even 5 minutes of their time each day, if at all, but they will condemn those who don’t attend what they call a “worship service” every Sunday morning in a building called “church,” and merely because that is the way they were raised.

They don’t have the Spirit living within them, most likely, because they are just following a religion, but they don’t have a relationship with God/Jesus. There has been no death to sin and being resurrected to new life in Christ, because their faith is in form only. Jesus is not Lord of their lives. They are their own lord (master), and they do as they choose. Following a religion makes them feel good, and perhaps gets them a good reputation with others who will see them as “godly” or as “good” because they go through all the right motions. But, God knows their hearts. And, he sees what they do when no one else is looking.

They may not get all that excited about sinners coming to repentance, perhaps out of jealousy, because they will think the repentant sinner is getting more attention than them, even though they are the ones who obeyed all the rules, or so they thought. They also may not get all that excited about sinners coming to repentance because that will only make them feel uncomfortable about their own hidden sins. There is a saying that says, “Misery loves company.” It means that if you are unhappy, you want other people to be unhappy, too. It is the same with sin. Those who know they are sinning and that they need to change are not comfortable being around those who are walking in obedience to their Lord and who are enjoying good fellowship with their Lord. It makes them feel guilty. They may even try to lead a righteous person into sin just so they don’t feel as bad about their own sin.

Yet, we should rejoice whenever anyone comes to genuine faith in Jesus Christ, and is translated from death to life of the Spirit of God, and thus leaves his/her life of sin behind in order to follow Jesus Christ in surrender to his will for their lives. This should be great cause for great rejoicing! It is not cause for rejoicing, nonetheless, when so many are being fed lies instead of the truth and so they make false confessions of Christ as Savior from sin because they think it will get them an escape from hell and the promise of heaven when they die, but they believe God requires nothing of them in the way of repentance or obedience. He does! His word says so. He said so. We are saved from sin, not to sin.

If we are not delivered from slavery to sin so that we can live to righteousness, but we continue to live sinful lifestyles, thinking that God’s grace covers it all, then we need to read the scriptures, because that isn’t what they teach. God’s grace, which brings salvation, teaches us to say “NO” to ungodliness and worldly passions and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we wait for Christ’s return. Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. We must repent of sin and follow (obey) Jesus to be saved.

He Lifted Our Burdens / An Original Work / February 15, 2014

Based off Isaiah 9:2-7

People walk in darkness.
They abide in their sin.
It has power o’er them.
True belief escapes them.

Jesus Christ came to save them.
He gave His life up for them;
Crucified; died for our sin,
So we might be forgiven,
And have life up in heaven.

Many come to know Him.
God’s love now o’erflows them.
They rejoice in vict’ry.
Their sin is but hist’ry.

We were once bound in slav’ry.
Jesus lifted our burdens;
Set us now free from Satan,
So we now walk in freedom.
Sin has no more dominion.

Praise be to our Savior!
He showed us His favor.
He took all our burdens;
Cast them all upon Him.

He is our mediator;
The Light which shines in darkness.
Counselor in our troubles;
He gives peace now in our hearts;
Joy which is everlasting.

Are We Counting the Cost?

Thursday, February 25, 2016, 9:36 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Courageous!” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Luke 14:25-35 (ESV).

A Hyperbole (vv. 25-27)

Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.

A hyperbole, “derived from a Greek word meaning ‘over-casting,’ is a figure of speech which involves an exaggeration of ideas for the sake of emphasis” (1). Jesus was making use of this figure of speech here in order to stress something of great importance. We are not to take this literally that we are to hate our family members, for Jesus taught us to love people, and he preached strongly against hate, that it was the same as murder. What Jesus was stressing here is that, in order to be his followers, our love for him should be so great that it massively overshadows our love for human beings, including our love of self and that of our own family members. In other words, family and self should never be above Jesus in level of importance or priority in our lives. Our loyalty and devotion to family (and self) should appear as hate (figuratively speaking) compared to our love for our Lord and our loyalty and devotion to him.

So, why do you suppose Jesus used such a drastic illustration to show what our love for him should look like? I believe he wanted us to know that when we believe in him as Lord and as Savior of our lives that he is to be king of our lives, and when he says “Go,” we are to go, and when he says “speak,” we are to speak, even if it means leaving family members to go where he sends us, and even if it means our family members will hate us because of our testimonies for Jesus Christ. We can’t live to please our family members and live to please God at the same time, if pleasing humans means displeasing God. We can’t live for self and live to please God at the same time, either. Some people know that when they believe in Jesus Christ that they will immediately be disowned by their family members. Others know that taking a stand for Christ, and speaking boldly the message of the gospel of our salvation will get them rejected and even hated by family members. Following Jesus means we choose him above all, and there is never a question of who comes first in our lives.

Follow Him / An Original Work / February 21, 2013

Based off Luke 9:22-25

Jesus, Son of God,
Died for us on a cross.

Anyone who would come to Him
Must deny himself and follow.
He must take up his cross daily;
Die to sin and self each day.

Father, God above,
Loved us so: gave His Son.

If you want to save your old life;
Keep on sinning, follow your ways,
You will lose your life forever;
Hope of heaven gone away.

Spirit of our God
Gives us life in God’s Son.

Nonetheless, if you die to self;
Forsake your sin; follow Jesus,
You will live with God in heaven,
And forever praise His name!
(2)

Not Able to Finish (vv. 28-33)

For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.

The Lord Jesus used these stories of the unfinished tower and of the king going out to war with another king to teach us that following him is not something we should take lightly, or a decision we should make without forethought as to what it will cost us. Yes, salvation is free. It is a gift from God. We don’t have to do anything to earn or to deserve our salvation. We couldn’t even if we tried. Jesus paid the price so we could be free from sin, but in his death on the cross for our sins he redeemed us, meaning he bought us back for God so that we are no longer our own, but we are his and he is our owner/master, and we are his bond-slaves (servants). Coming to faith in Christ is not merely an escape from hell and the promise of heaven when we die. We are crucified with Christ by God’s grace, through faith, in death to sin, and we are resurrected with Christ in newness of life, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24).

In other words, faith in Jesus Christ is not just words we repeat after someone. It is not an emotional one-time decision we make at an altar. It is not an intellectual assent to what Jesus did in dying on the cross for our sins. It is a life-time decision to follow Jesus Christ with our lives in surrender to him, in submission to the cross, and in obedience to his commands. When John 3:16 says that whoever believes in him has eternal life, the words are actually “whoever believing in him.” We are not saved on the basis of something we did in the past, in other words. Faith is present and it is continuous, and it endures to the end or it is not true faith. This is what God’s word teaches. The righteous requirement of the law is fulfilled in us who walk not according to the flesh, but who walk according to the Spirit. If we walk according to the flesh, we will die, but if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, we will live. If we say we have fellowship with God, but we continue walking in darkness, we are liars, and the truth is not in us (See: 1 Jn. 1:6; Ro. 8:1-14).

So, if someone tells you that if you repeat a certain prayer after them that you are to be congratulated because you now have heaven guaranteed to you, don’t believe them. That is not the gospel Jesus taught. He taught death to sin and living to righteousness. He said if we are to come after him we must deny self, die daily to sin and self and follow him in obedience. He told his followers that they must eat his flesh and drink his blood if they want to have eternal life. To eat something means to partake or to participate in something. Jesus’ flesh and blood were given for us on the cross for our sins. When we believe in him as Lord and as Savior of our lives it means we participate with him in death to sin and in living to righteousness. It means that we love him so much that we give our whole lives to him, which includes our time, talents, possessions, family members, etc. We do not hold on to this world for it is not our home, but we willingly go wherever he leads us.

Tasteless Salt (vv. 34-35)

“Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

Salt is used both as a preservative and as seasoning for the food that we eat, to give the food flavor and/or to enhance it, or to bring out the flavor that is already there. It is also used metaphorically to signify purification. In a figurative sense, it can be translated to mean wisdom or prudence (forethought, carefulness, discretion, and good sense). If we preserve something, we maintain, uphold, keep (obey), continue in, protect (safeguard) and defend it. In scripture, the Word of God is often symbolized by food or most specifically bread. Along that line of thinking, we are taught in scripture to preserve, maintain, uphold, continue in, sustain, and to safeguard our walks with the Lord, our testimonies for him, and his word, as well as we are to keep (obey) and defend the Word of Truth. In this way, we are being the salt of the earth in attitude, thought, word and deed.

So, there is a warning here against us, as the salt, losing its saltiness to the point where we become tasteless (a very appropriate word) and no longer of use to God and to his heavenly kingdom. How does this happen? It happens by us undoing what God has done in our lives in saving us out of slavery to sin, i.e. by us no longer submitting to the Savior, but us deciding to be ruler of our own lives again and by us going our own way instead of God’s way. It usually happens slowly, over time. We begin to get busy with other things and then we neglect the Word and prayer, and we then stop listening to the Spirit’s gentle voice speaking to our hearts. Instead we begin to fill our lives and minds with the things of this sinful world again, and we begin to take into our minds and lifestyles the things the Lord had freed us out of. Soon we begin thinking, talking and acting just like the world once again, we forget we were cleansed from sin, and we stop sharing our faith so that no one will dislike us or reject us.

The point of all of this is to show us that faith in Jesus Christ is not something to be taken lightly or to go into without first counting the cost to see if this is really what we want to commit our lives to. So many people are given a “quick fix” gospel presentation absent of true repentance and such teaching as this with regard to walks of obedience and surrender to Christ and to his will for our lives, following him wherever he leads us, and doing what he says, leaving all that this world has to offer us behind. They are telling people to pray certain words, and then they congratulate them on being saved and on having now the promise of eternal life with God, but they don’t tell them what Jesus requires of his followers, and so when persecution comes, they quickly fall away, because they had no root, but only a shallow profession of faith in Jesus Christ (See Parable of Sower).

So, we need to tell people the truth, because there are many who think they are saved, but who are not, and many who are not ready for the time when their faith will be severely tested. It takes courage to walk with Christ, which can only come through the Spirit within us giving us all we need to walk daily in Christ’s righteousness and holiness, to persevere in times of trial, and to stay strong in the face of great opposition.

Courageous! / An Original Work / December 24, 2013
Based off Various Scriptures

The Word of God throughout taught.
Some people heard, but did doubt.
Still others had faith in Christ.
By grace He purified them.

They turned from sin
And they obeyed Christ.
He opened up their blinded eyesight;
Turned them from darkness
To the true Light;
Forgave their sin by His might.

He strengthened them in their faith.
He said, “Remain my faithful.”
He called them to obedience.
By faith, they were so grateful.

By faith, they were to follow Jesus;
To daily sit and listen to Him;
To have such faith
That mountains could move;
To love those whom He gave them.

Be on your guard; courageous.
Stand firm in faith. Be thankful.
Take up the shield of your faith;
Protect against all evil.

Do not move from
The hope that you have.
Your faith in Jesus let it endure.
Hold to the truth;
Your conscience be clear.
Endure with perseverance.

References:

(1) http://literarydevices.net/hyperbole/

(2) https://vimeo.com/117316842

Dressed for Action

Wednesday, February 24, 2016, 1:13 p.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Fully Ready!” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Luke 12:35-48 (ESV).

Awake When He Comes (vv. 35-40)

“Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them. If he comes in the second watch, or in the third, and finds them awake, blessed are those servants! But know this, that if the master of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have left his house to be broken into. You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”

We must be spiritually awake (alert) at all times, and ready to go when God says “Go!” and prepared to do whatever he tells us to do, when he tells us. So, how do we do this? How do we stay “dressed for action”? For one, we have to be in genuine relationship with him. We must first of all, in response to God’s calling on our lives, to be one of his disciples, and in the power and working of the Spirit of God in saving us from our sins, turn from our sins (from darkness; from Satan) to God/Jesus (to the Light), so that we might receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified (made holy) through faith in Jesus Christ (See: Ac. 26:16-18). By God’s grace, through faith in Jesus Christ, we are thus crucified with Christ in death to sin, and we are resurrected with Christ in newness of life, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (See: Ro. 6; Eph. 4:17-24).

Then, we need to walk (conduct our lives) according to (in agreement with) the Spirit of God now living within us. Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. He died that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave himself up for us. His blood sacrifice on the cross, in dying for our sins, made possible that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk not according to our sinful flesh, but according to the Spirit, for if we walk according to the flesh we will die, but if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, we will live. Jesus said that if anyone would come after him, he must deny self, take up his cross daily (die daily to sin and self) and follow (obey) him. He said that if we hold on to our old lives of living for sin and self we will die, but if we die with Christ in death to sin, we will gain eternal life (See: Ro. 8:1-14; Lu. 9:23-25).

In other words, we must consider our lives no longer our own, to be lived how we want, for we were bought with a price, the blood of Jesus Christ shed on the cross to take away the sins of the world. And, we must live like Jesus truly owns us and that he is truly our Lord and Master, and that we are his servants. This means that each and every day of our lives we spend time each day in his Word, listening to him speak, and then doing what he says. When he speaks, we don’t resist his voice. We don’t ignore his voice and the promptings of the Spirit within us, but we walk in his ways and in his truth, letting him guide and direct our lives in the way in which he wants us to go. We are sensitized to the Spirit’s voice saying, “Go here. Do this. Speak to this person. Help this needy person,” etc. Of course, if we are married, some things must be agreed upon by both partners, as they must both sense the same leading of the Spirit. If we are convinced God is leading a certain direction, we may have to wait on his timing when our spouse is also convinced of the same calling.

Also, we must obey our Lord in forsaking our former lives of living for sin and self, which includes examining every aspect of our lives against the Word of Truth, asking the Lord what we must put off that is hindering our walks of faith. We can’t be ready for service and dressed for action if we neglect the Spirit and his leading in our lives, and instead we do what pleases us. We won’t be ready if we spend our free time consumed with the things of this world such as TV, movies, video games, worldly music, sports, entertainment, and with being entertained by others’ sinful acts, which include lying, stealing, mocking others, gossip, gluttony, adultery, sexual acts outside of marriage between a man and a woman, and the like. If God is not our Lord (owner/master), and we are not living like we truly are his obedient servants, then we won’t be ready, dressed for action. We will be more like those still in their pajamas, fast asleep in bed, who don’t even hear the alarm when it goes off, or who keep hitting the snooze button every time they do hear the alarm.

For Us or For All? (vv. 41-48)

Peter said, “Lord, are you telling this parable for us or for all?” And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom his master will set over his household, to give them their portion of food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and get drunk, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and put him with the unfaithful. And that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.

There are many people who call themselves Christians, or who claim to know Jesus Christ, who truly do not know him at all. Some of them bought into a lie which told them that if they said certain words that they would now be saved from their sins, and have the hope of heaven when they die, and that nothing can ever take that away from them, no matter how they lived their lives from that moment on. Or, they may have been told that being a Christian means just being a good deed doer, and that they must make sure that their good deeds outweigh their bad deeds, and that they can’t be assured of heaven when they die, but can only hope that if they are good enough, heaven will be their final destination. Both of these teachings are distortions of truth and are based in falsehood.

Jesus said that if we don’t lose our lives in him, and we hold on to our old lives of sin, we will lose our lives for eternity. Paul spoke similar words when he said that if we walk after the flesh, we will die, but if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, we will live. Jesus said that if we don’t keep his word, we don’t know him. John said that if we say we have fellowship with God, but we continue to walk in darkness (in sin), we are liars, and the truth is not in us. Many scriptures in the New Testament indicate that believing in Jesus Christ is not a one-time event in our lives, but believing in Jesus is present and continuous, and that we must continue in that faith until the end if we want to be assured of eternal life with God. Some people call this works-based salvation, but it is not. It is what Jesus and his apostles taught regarding our eternal salvation. A saved life is a crucified life with Christ, in death to sin, and in living with Christ to righteousness, not in our own power, but in the power and working of God’s Holy Spirit now living within us.

As well, for those of us to whom much has been given, much will be required. For instance, I have known the Lord Jesus as my Savior and Lord since I was a child, about age seven. I am now 66 years of age. I grew up in a church (same denomination as A.W. Tozer) that taught holiness and walking in the Spirit, so from infanthood I learned the scriptures, and I was taught the deeper things of God in relation to living holy lives, pleasing to him. They taught me how to listen for the voice of the Spirit within me, and how to respond in obedience to the call of God on my life and ministry. As a teenager, I said “Yes” to go wherever the Lord would send me, and to do what he called me to do. I was blessed beyond measure with men and women of God who taught me to walk the talk, and not to just talk the walk. And, they set the example before me by how they lived, too. This set a wonderful foundation for my Christian life and walk of faith in Christ Jesus, my Lord.

When I was only 16 years of age, I began teaching the Bible, first to children, then to teens, then to women, and then to college-age adults, but then only secondary to my husband who was the primary teacher. With the college students I was primarily a ministry coordinator, working in a supportive role with my husband. And, then the Lord called me to this ministry of writing out my devotions from each day and to post them on the internet. I have been doing that nearly 10 years now. So, God has taught me so much from his word, and he has used me to share what he has taught me with others, so I have been given much, I know. So, I know much from me is required. And, I accept that responsibility, because I know it is not me doing it, but it is the Spirit within me leading, guiding, inspiring and empowering me in service to my Lord. And, that is where I want to be when he returns.

I know, as well, that following Jesus Christ with my life, in going where he sends me, and in doing what he has called me to do, involves being hated, rejection, persecution, and possible death for the sake of his name, and for the sake of his gospel message of salvation from sin. Yet, I am ready to die, if need be, for Christ and for his gospel. I know the seriousness of God’s calling on my life, and I know I must be ready at all times to go, and to say, and to do whatever it is he wants me to do and say, and I must be prepared that I will have to suffer for my obedience to Christ and because I accepted his calling on my life.

So, where are you? Do you know Jesus? Are you walking in the Spirit and no longer according to your sinful flesh? Have you died with Christ to sin and self? Have you forsaken your idols and have you put off all that hinders your walk of faith and obedience to Christ? Are you willing to do whatever God says to do, and to go where he sends you? Would you forsake all that is of this world to follow him in obedience? If we are going to be dressed for action, this is where each and every one of us needs to be daily.

Fully Ready! / An Original Work / June 19, 2013

Based off Acts 20-22, 26; Mt. 28:18-20; Ac. 1:8

Why are you weeping and breaking my heart?
I’m fully ready to suffer for Christ.
If I must die for the sake of His name,
I am convinced it will not be in vain.
Glory to God and to His Son Jesus,
Who has redeemed us; bought with His blood.

May I speak to you? Jesus came to me;
Asked of me, “Why do you persecute me?”
He said, “Now get up and stand on your feet.
Go, and you’ll be told all I have for you.
I have appointed you as a servant,
And as a witness; you have been sent.”

“Go into the world and preach the gospel.
Open the blind eyes. They will receive sight.
Turn them from darkness to the light of Christ;
From power of the evil one to God,
So they may receive forgiveness of sins,
And a place among those who’re in heav’n.”

Do We Desire to Follow Him?

Wednesday, February 24, 2016, 12:45 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Broken and Contrite.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Luke 12:1-12 (ESV).

Beware Hypocrisy (vv. 1-3)

In the meantime, when so many thousands of the people had gathered together that they were trampling one another, he began to say to his disciples first, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.”

Jesus had just finished chiding the Pharisees for their hypocrisy. He told them that they worked hard at appearing clean on the outside, but inside they were full of greed and wickedness. They were good at following a set of rules and human traditions, but they neglected justice and the love of God. They loved being important and they sought after the praise of men. He charged them with consenting to the deeds of their fathers who killed the prophets, so they, too, were charged with the blood of the prophets. As well, they robbed the people of the knowledge of the kingdom, and they did not enter themselves.

This sounds a whole lot like many of our church leaders today, and I am not speaking merely of those in what we would consider fundamental evangelical and legalistic congregations, either. In fact, most of them are in the more modern church fellowships of today. They focus much on appearance, on the big show, and on attracting the world to their meetings. They want the church to appear to the world as a place that is fun, entertaining, connected with the world, culturally relevant, non-judgmental, and accepting and tolerant of all people, no matter their walks of life. They want their customer base to feel at home, comfortable, and not threatened in any way by what is being taught, too.

So, they look good to the world, but inside they are full of wickedness, for sin abounds and goes unchecked, is placated, and is smoothed over so people don’t feel bad about sinning. They dilute the gospel of Jesus Christ to make it more palatable and acceptable to the world, and thus they are robbing people of the kingdom of heaven, and they themselves do not enter because they say “Lord, Lord,” but they do not do what he says. They are followers of humans in place of being followers of God, for their goal is to please man, not God. If they were trying to please God, they would do things God’s way, and they would preach the whole counsel of God instead of just the parts that sound good to them. Then many people would be saved from slavery to sin and have eternal life with God.

These modern church leaders, in order to make the world feel at home in the church, have pushed out the Holy Spirit and are being taught to discard those who still hold to the tenets of the faith, and who preach the whole counsel of God. They are being warned against those with strong convictions, and are being instructed in how to filter out those that “don’t fit” with their (human) goals and objectives in how to build their earthly kingdoms. As well, they have partnered with an evil government which they worship via the pledge (vow) of allegiance (fidelity) to the flag (government), and via the singing of patriotic songs, and via their support for the troops, whom they hail as our heroes who are protecting our freedoms. They do this, as well, by giving their faith and support to what our government is doing in other nations throughout the world, blindly believing what they tell us and what the news media tells us, not knowing or caring what we are really doing in these other countries. Thus, the church is party to the persecution and killing of Christians worldwide.

Jesus said to beware the leaven (yeast) of these Pharisees. What does that mean? When we make bread, we insert yeast into the flour mixture. It works its way through the dough and causes the dough to expand and to increase in size. Unchecked sin within the church works the same way. It works its way through the body of Christ and expands and grows and soon the whole congregation is affected by the sin in one way or another, but in particular in their witness for Christ. If the sin goes unchecked, which I believe it does in most congregations today, it gives off the impression to the rest of the body that we don’t have to take sin all that seriously or that God’s grace covers it all, so it doesn’t really matter. But, it does matter to God. Big Time! So, we need to beware the teaching of these modern-day Pharisees so that we don’t end up following them and adopting their ways instead of God’s ways. We need to test whatever we hear or read against the Word of God to make sure it is consistent with the teachings in God’s word, so we are not caught up in deception.

Fear the Lord! (vv. 4-7)

“I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.”

The fear of the Lord has nearly disappeared from the church here in America. So much of the church is more concerned with pleasing humans, than with pleasing God. They are more anxious over gaining the acceptance and approval of humans, than they are bothered with whether or not God approves of their lives. To teach the fear of the Lord in today’s congregations would mean to teach holiness, righteous and godly living, and repentance and obedience to Christ and to his Word, but that would offend the people the church is trying to reach. It would make them feel uncomfortable to be told they are sinners who need to turn from their sin and to turn to follow Christ in obedience. That would be unpopular in today’s culture to confront people with sin, to warn of judgment and to call them to repentance and obedient faith in Jesus Christ, their Lord (master/owner).

So, they end up fearing humans and their opinion more than walking in the fear (submission to; and honor and respect) of the Lord. Yet, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. To fear the Lord is not to be afraid of him, but to give him the honor due him, yet it is to have a healthy fear of divine judgment, realizing that those who do not turn from their sin, and who continue to walk in darkness will not have the hope of eternal life with God in heaven, but they will have only a fearful expectation of eternal punishment in hell.

To fear God means to desire him, to want to walk in his ways, to seek purity of heart, and to want to obey him, not partially, but fully. It means we want him to point out where we are allowing the world to creep back into our lives, or where we are failing to listen to his words and to follow his teachings. We desire that he would cleanse our hearts of all that hinders our walks of faith, and we do not want to ever stray from his truth and to go our own way. We ask him to mold us, to make us, and to fill us with himself, so that his love might flow through us into the lives of others, whose lives he wishes to touch with his grace and mercy. To fear the Lord means to come to him with humble hearts, to seek his face, and to submit to his Lordship over our lives, willing to obey him in all ways which he asks of us to do. It means forsaking our former lives of living for sin and self, coming out from the world of sin and to be separate, and to walk in Christ’s righteousness and holiness. And, it means to love God with our whole being, desirous to seek out his will for our lives, and to walk in his truth, as well as to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with the lost world.

Not Ashamed of Jesus! (vv. 8-12)

“And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God, but the one who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God. And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”

If we are more concerned with what humans think of us than we do take care to do what God requires of us, and to do what is pleasing to him, we may fall into a trap of being afraid to share our faith out of fear that humans might reject us or mistreat us. We might choose to be liked by humankind more than we care about whether God approves of us and of what we do. It is a modern teaching within the church to not confront people with the Holy One of Israel (of spiritual Israel). Instead, they say what itching ears want to hear. They teach their congregants to “stay in your own lane,” and to not confront anyone with sin or with the need to repent of sin and to obey Christ, because they don’t want to offend anyone. They teach that doing “good deeds” to people is all they need to do, and they convince them that that fulfills God’s requirement to share the gospel. But, even the unsaved world can do “good deeds,” but that doesn’t tell anyone about Jesus, or of what he did for us in dying for our sins, or of our need to turn from sin and to follow him in obedience, or of his great mercy in forgiving our sins, freeing us from slavery to sin, and freeing us to now walk daily in his righteousness and holiness. We can “good deed” people all the way hell, you know.

So, what does it mean to deny Christ before men? Is it merely that we out loud proclaim, as Peter did, that we don’t know him? I believe there is more to it than that. I believe to deny Christ is to deny his Words, and to reject them in our lives, and to not submit to God and to his teachings, but to continue to go our own way, doing our own thing, regardless of whether or not God approves of our lifestyles. It is also to shy away from witnessing for him out of fear of rejection, or out of a desire to be liked by humans more. When his Holy Spirit prompts us to obey him in some way, we refuse, because we don’t want to do what he asks. This is also denying him. We can deny him by our very lifestyles and by continuing to direct our own paths, instead of walking in his ways. To me, to deny Christ is to reject his Lordship in our lives and to think that his grace gives us free license to continue in sin. We mock, therefore, Christ’s sacrifice for our sins, which was so that we might be delivered out of slavery to sin, and so we might be free to now walk in his righteousness. We need to take seriously these words here. If we deny him, he will deny us. His grace is not cheap grace.

Regarding what it means to blaspheme against the Holy Spirit, many people have made assumptions, but it doesn’t really say what it means. The only sin I know of that can’t be forgiven, though, is to reject Christ. This is not to say if we reject him now we can’t accept him later, but if we should die while still living in an unregenerate state, because we rejected him, that cannot be forgiven. If we accept Christ as Lord and Savior of our lives, all other sins can be forgiven us. Just know that accepting Christ as Savior and Lord is more than just words or an emotional experience. Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave his life up for us; that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk not according to the flesh, but who walk according to the Spirit. So, if after you say you accepted Christ you continued to live a sinful lifestyle without regard for God and without concern to walk in obedience to his teachings, the Bible says you don’t really know him. So, repent today, and choose to follow him with your life from this point forward!

Broken and Contrite / An Original Work / May 13, 2012

I come before You, Lord, my Savior,
With humble heart and crushed in spirit.
I bow before You, I implore You,
Heal my broken heart, I pray.
Love You, Jesus, Lord, my master,
You are the King of my heart.
Lord, purify my heart within me;
Sanctify me, whole within.

Oh, Lord, I long to obey fully
The words You’ve spoken through Your Spirit.
I pray You give me grace and mercy,
Strength and wisdom to obey.
Father God, my heart’s desire,
Won’t You set my heart on fire?
Lord, cleanse my heart of all that hinders
My walk with You, now I pray.

Oh, Jesus, Savior, full of mercy,
My heart cries out for understanding.
I want to follow You in all ways,
Never straying from Your truth.
Holy Spirit, come in power,
Fill me with Your love today.
Lord, mold and make me;
Your hands formed me;
Live Your life through me, I pray.

Don’t Sweat the Details

Monday, February 22, 2016, 5:00 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put the song in mind, “Believe Him.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Luke 10:38-42 (ESV).

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

The Lord Jesus has been speaking to me personally about some things this month, preparing my heart, I believe, for what lies ahead.

First of all, the Lord had given me multiple songs to write between April of 2011 and June of 2014, and then there were no more songs, so I thought I was finished with songwriting. Then, after a year and a half of no new songs, he started to give me songs to write again. There seemed to be a central theme throughout these new songs. They seemed to nearly all contain words of encouragement and hope for those going through troubled times. In nearly every one of them is an encouragement to not be afraid, but to trust God, to believe in his promises, and to know that he will never leave us or forsake us.

We are to know that he will give us all we need to endure, to persevere, and to remain steadfast in our faith. He will empower us from on high and give us the strength we need to keep on sharing Christ with others, too, and to believe him for changed lives. As well, we are to believe in his sovereignty over all things, and to trust him with the details. In addition to all this, we are to be steadfast in hope, patient in affliction, and constant in prayer. We are also to walk in the Spirit, in his holiness and righteousness, and never give up hope!

The Bible lessons from each day, as well, in many cases, seemed to follow a similar theme. A lot of them had to do with launching out into the deep, and going to the other side, to places where we have not been before. There will be troubles and hardships, but spiritual blessings, as well. And, when these troubles come, we are not to be afraid, but we are to rest in our Lord. Martha was troubled about many things. She sweated the details, but God taught her she must do as Mary did. She must rest at his feet, trust in him, and learn from him. Our God is completely faithful, and in faithfulness he will lead us. We just need to sit at his feet each day and let him teach us his ways, so that we will walk in them.

Preparing My Heart

Early in the month I had read a passage of scripture from Luke 12, because the Lord had given me a song titled, “Fear Not, Little Flock.” That particular phrase came from that passage of scripture. Right after the verse, in which he tells his sheep not to be afraid, for God had given them the kingdom of heaven, we read that he told them to sell their possessions and to give to the needy, and to not store up treasures here on this earth, but to lay up treasures in heaven. I felt God was speaking to me personally, and that he had a message for me here, so I began to inquire of the Lord as to what he had for me, and what he wanted to teach me through this passage of scripture. As well, I shared my thoughts with my husband for him to also consider what this might mean for us and for our future.

In the days that followed the discussion my husband and I had together, on the subject of how God might want to apply to our lives Luke 12:32-34, the Lord began to speak to me about birth pains (Mark 13). False shepherds of the people will come and will lead many astray. We will be brought before religious and world leaders, and will be persecuted because of our testimony for Jesus Christ. They will plot our demise, and the destruction of the gospel of our salvation. Even our family members and neighbors will turn against us and will betray us. Many will fall away and will deny that they even know Jesus Christ. These things are already taking place. But, we are not to be afraid of what will happen to us, or of the kinds of things we must most certainly suffer for the sake of Jesus Christ, but we must go where he sends us, and say what he wants us to say, for he will be with us and will help us. He will give us boldness to speak out and to not fear what humans may do to us.

Then, the Lord spoke to my heart from Jesus’ words to Peter when he told him to “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” I felt as though the Lord was calling me to go beyond where I am now, with him, and in ministry, but I don’t know where yet. I just knew I was to listen for his voice and to respond in obedience to whatever he called me to do, and to go wherever he would send me. And, I knew it had to do with catching fish, not literally, but figuratively, i.e. in relation to sharing the gospel with people beyond where I have been sharing it. And, the encouragement was to not ever be ashamed of him or of his words. He reminded me of his all sufficiency for me, and that he is enough for all that I will ever need. As well, he reminded me of his Lordship over my life, and what that means, which means he is my master/owner, and I am his servant/slave. My life is no longer my own. I was bought back for God by the blood of Christ shed on the cross for my sins.

Next Jesus took me down memory lane when he reminded me of my life and where I have been and where he has taken me, and how I learned of his absolute sovereignty over every aspect of my life. He brought to recall how everything I have gone through in my life has all been in preparation for his calling on my life, to prepare me for what he had planned for my life even before the creation of the world (Eph. 1:4; 1 Pet. 1:20). And, he told me again that those who have been forgiven much are able to love much, because they truly understand the riches of God’s grace in saving them from their sins and in freeing them to walk daily in Christ’s righteousness and holiness. And, they are able to be much more compassionate and patient with others who are battling sin’s deceitfulness, while not condoning or accepting the sin, but working to restore others to a right relationship with God, sometimes having to exercise tough love in order to rescue people from the flames.

Now my Lord was speaking to me about being ready to suffer for the sake of his name and for the sake of his gospel. I have suffered plenty already, but I believe he was letting me know it is soon going to get much worse, so I must be ready to die for the sake of his name, and for the sake of his gospel message of freedom from slavery to sin.

We can already see the rumblings of this persecution in the news and in certain world leaders’ public speeches. They are building a case for making the preaching of the gospel of our salvation a hate crime, because it is not all inclusive, embracing all walks of life and all religions, but it teaches that Jesus Christ is the only way to the Father and to heaven, and that believing in Jesus as our Savior means death to sin and living to righteousness.

The gospel confronts people with sin, warns of judgment, calls people to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, and promises hope and healing for those who turn from their sin to follow Jesus Christ with their lives; for those who trust in Christ’s blood sacrifice for our sins so that we can be delivered out of slavery to sin by the power of the Spirit, so that we might become servants of Christ’s righteousness. Jesus’ followers are now being tagged as intolerant, bigoted and hateful, and world powers believe we must be stopped.

Am I Willing?

After the Lord showed me all of this, he spoke to me, asking me if I am willing to leave the comforts of my home to go with God to the regions beyond – to the unknown – whatever that may mean for me. He asked me if I would truly give it all up to follow him, i.e. house, land, possessions, and even children and grandchildren, i.e. to leave them all behind. He asked me, “If I say to walk away from it all, will you?” He asked me if I would follow him wherever he led me. The passage of scripture I was reading was Luke 9:57-62 about the cost of following Jesus. I prayed through all these questions, and thought about the implications of them all, and I yielded my life over to the Lord once again, and chose to trust him that he knows what is best for me. Now, I am married, so whatever the Lord calls me to do must be something my husband and I agree on together or it will not happen.

At this point, my husband and I are talking about our future and about what the Lord has for us in the days to come. I am 66 and he will be 65 soon. The Lord brought to mind that song, “I’ll Go Where You Want Me to Go.” Some of the lyrics are, “It may not be on the mountain’s height, or over the stormy sea; it may not be at the battle’s front my Lord will have need of me; but if by a still, small voice He calls to paths I do not know, I’ll answer, dear Lord, with my hand in Yours, I’ll go where You want me to go” (by Mary Brown). Then, I read in Luke 10, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.” I just kept hearing the word “go,” including in the next passage where it said, “Go, and do likewise,” as the Good Samaritan had done.

So, next were questions like “What?” “Where?” and “How?” And, this is where we are right now, and so the Lord is encouraging me through today’s passage that I need to not sweat the details, as Martha was doing. I need to not get distracted or bogged down with all the preparations, or details, but I need to sit at his feet, rest in him, like Mary did, and trust him to lead in this and to show us where he wants us, and what he has for us to do, and when. Sometimes when the Lord says, “Go,” it is immediate, but sometimes he is just preparing our hearts to be ready for when he does move, so that we will go with him wherever he sends us. Instead of getting worried or troubled over the details of where he might be leading us, or where it is that ultimately we will end up, or what that will mean for us, we must believe him and rest in him to show us the way, and then for us to follow his lead.

Believe Him / An Original Work / July 15, 2013

My heart cries: Lord, won’t You hear me
Seeking You for the answers
To my heartache and questions
I have concerning my life?
Speak, Lord, to me right now.

“Oh, dear one, why don’t you trust Me
With your life’s circumstances?
Give your all on the altar
In submission of your will
To My purpose for you.

“Surrender your life completely
To your Lord and your Savior.
He has all things planned for you
For His glory and honor.
He’ll work all things for good.

“Believe Him. He will fulfill all
Of His promises to you
For your life and your future.
Trust Him. Rest in His love.
He’ll give you peace from above.”

With My Whole Heart

Sunday, February 21, 2016, 1:21 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song, “A Believer’s Prayer.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Luke 9:57-62 (NASB).

Wherever You Go (vv. 57-58)

As they were going along the road, someone said to Him, “I will follow You wherever You go.” And Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”

Jesus knows our hearts. He knows when we are making a profession of something which we will not follow through on. We might be able to fool ourselves, or fool others, but we can’t fool God. So, he cuts right to the chase, and he tells us exactly the cost of following him with our lives. This world is not our home. We are just passing through. We are not to lay up treasures here on this earth which will just rot, but we are to be storing up treasures in heaven. Following Jesus may mean leaving the comforts of home to go out into the unknown. Will we really and truly give it all up to follow him? If he said to just walk away from it all, would we? Would we follow him wherever he led us, even if it meant being hated, rejected, mocked, falsely accused, thought crazy, and spoken evil against, even by members of our own families, and by our professed brothers and sisters in Christ?

Are we now following him wherever he goes? Or, are we going our own way without regard to whether or not he is with us? If we were to examine our lives, and what we do each day, including in our free time, especially when no one else is looking, could we honestly say that we are following Jesus wherever he goes? Do we even consider where he might want us to go, or do we make all our own decisions? I am asking myself these questions. Do you think he would lead you some places where you now go regularly? Would he lead you to watch the TV shows and movies you regularly view? Would he lead you to all the internet sites you frequent? Would he lead you to have the conversations you have with other people, especially private conversations? Would he lead you to the refrigerator and food pantry as often as you frequent them? Would he lead you to have the discussions and arguments you have with people on Christian forum sites or on social media sites, on particular topics?

Remember the story about the father who told his son to go work in the vineyard, but the son said he would not? Later he repented and he went. He told another son to go, and he said he would go, but he didn’t. So, the question was asked, “Which one obeyed his father?” The reply was that it was the first son. God is not interested in our professions of faith in him, or our false confessions of loyalty and devotion to him. He is not pleased when we keep telling him that we will follow him anywhere, and then we don’t, and, in fact, we end up going the opposite direction. He chided the Israelites for lip service only. He said, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” He said they worship him in vain, for their teachings are man-made. Jesus said that if we love him, we will obey his teachings. If we want to be followers of Christ, we need to find out what that means, and then we need to count the cost and see if truly we will follow him wherever he goes.

First Let Me (vv. 59-60)

And He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.” But He said to him, “Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God.”

I love the stories in the Bible of Jesus calling the twelve disciples to follow him, for I believe most of them, when Jesus called them, immediately left everything to follow him. This man hesitated. He had things he felt he needed to do at home first. We don’t know for certain that his father had even died yet, or if he was even close to death, but he wanted to wait until after his father’s death and burial to follow Jesus. So, Jesus told him to let the dead bury the dead, but he was to go proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God.

Jesus said that if anyone would come after him, he must deny self, and take up his cross daily (die daily to sin and self) and follow (obey) him. He said if we hold on to our lives (of living in sin and for self) we will lose them for eternity, but if we lose our lives (die with Christ to sin and self) we will gain eternal life (See: Lu. 9:23-25). He also said his sheep know his voice, they listen to him, and they follow (obey) him (See: Jn. 10). The Bible teaches that Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave his life up for us (See: 1 Pet. 2:24; 2 Co. 5:15). Paul said that when we come to faith in Christ, we die with Christ to sin in order that we might be resurrected with Christ to newness of life. He said that Jesus died that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit, for if we walk according to the flesh, we will die, but if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, we will live (See: Ro. 8:1-14).

Being a follower of Christ is more than just escaping hell and going to heaven when we die. It is more than just going to a church service once or twice a week and participating in church fellowships and ministries. When Jesus died on the cross for our sins, he bought us back for God, i.e. he redeemed us, so we are no longer our own, for we were bought with the price of Jesus’ blood shed on the cross for our sins. Although once we were enslaved to all kinds of worldly passions and desires, Jesus set us free from slavery to sin, and he freed us to now become servants of righteousness. When we accept his invitation to his great salvation, we make him Lord (boss) and Savior (from sin) of our lives. Now he has ownership over our lives, and we are his servants, to do what he says to do, when he says to do it, the way he says to do it. The Lordship of Christ over our lives is not something we can delay until a later date and time of our choosing. So, we need to decide to make him Lord today, and to do what he has called each and every one of us to do.

Fit for the Kingdom (vv. 61-62)

Another also said, “I will follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home.” But Jesus said to him, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”

God said we are to be holy. To be holy is to be set apart from (different, unlike) the world, because we are becoming like Jesus. Jesus said that he chose us out of the world, which is why the world hates us. If we are of the world, the world will love us as its own. Does the world hate you or love you? Paul said that, in view of God’s mercy toward us, we should give our lives to God as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God, which is our reasonable service of worship of him. As well, we are not to be conformed to the ways of this world, but we are to be transformed in the renewing of our minds (See: Ro. 12:1-2). James said we are to keep ourselves unstained by the world. He said that friendship with the world is hostility towards God. John said we should not love the world or anything in the world, for if we love (agape) the world, the love of the Father is not in us. Paul said we are to come out from among unbelievers and be separate, and we are not to touch any unclean thing.

We can’t hold on to our past lives and be servants of Christ at the same time. We can’t be daily entertaining ourselves with the sinful acts of others on TV, in movies or on the internet, or in music videos, and still live holy lives, pleasing to God. We can’t delay following Christ with our lives until we have “sowed our wild oats,” so to speak, or until we get gray hairs on our heads. Holy living is not just for old fuddy-duddies (See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fuddy-duddy). God requires all of us who claim to be his followers to be holy as he is holy. It is a command. It is not optional. Too many people who profess the name of Christ live not much differently from those who make no profession of faith in Jesus Christ at all. This should not be. Why is it that those who follow Christ’s commands, and have separated themselves from partaking in the delicacies of this sinful world are now considered “extremists,” or “crazy,” or “weirdos”? And, by those within the church? And, so much of the church now mocks, rejects and ostracizes those who are unstained by the world, and they even try to get those who have separated themselves from the world of sin to reenter into immersing themselves in the culture of their day.

If we are going to continue to have one foot in heaven and one foot in the world, God can’t use us. If we are going to continue living like the world, and not like holy vessels fit for the Lord’s service, then we are not useful for God’s kingdom work. If our eyes and hearts are mostly focused on what is behind us, or what should be behind us, then we can’t see straight to go forward with God into his service, because we don’t have our eyes fixed on Jesus and on obeying his word. We have to get out of this mindset that our salvation is nothing more than an escape from hell and a free ride into heaven. Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. If we claim to have fellowship with God, but we continue to walk in darkness (sin), then we are liars, and the truth is not in us. If we walk according to the flesh, even after we profess the name of Jesus, we will die, but if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, and we are walking according to the Spirit, we will live. A saved life is a life surrendered to Christ and committed to following him in obedience. It is not to be half-hearted, either. We are to love God with our whole hearts.

A Believer’s Prayer / An Original Work / July 31, 2012

With my whole heart,
Lord, I pray to be Yours,
And Yours always.
Lead me in Your truth today.
May I love You, and obey.
Lead me in Your righteousness.
When I sin, may I confess;
Bow before You when I pray;
Live for You and You always.

Love You, Jesus,
You’re my friend.
Life with You will never end.
You are with me through each day,
Giving love and peace always.
You will ne’er abandon me.
From my sin You set me free.
You died on that cruel tree,
So I’d live eternally.

Soon You’re coming back for me;
From this world to set me free;
Live with You eternally.
Oh, what joy that brings to me.
I will walk with You in white;
A pure bride,
I’ve been made right
By the blood of Jesus Christ;
Pardoned by His sacrifice.

Ready to Suffer

Saturday, February 20, 2016, 7:27 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Fully Ready.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Luke 9:18-26 (NASB).

We Must Suffer (vv. 18-22)

And it happened that while He was praying alone, the disciples were with Him, and He questioned them, saying, “Who do the people say that I am?” They answered and said, “John the Baptist, and others say Elijah; but others, that one of the prophets of old has risen again.” And He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” And Peter answered and said, “The Christ of God.” But He warned them and instructed them not to tell this to anyone, saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed and be raised up on the third day.”

Jesus said that, as his followers, we will suffer like he suffered. We will be hated, rejected, persecuted, mistreated, falsely accused, spoken evil against, mocked, scorned, beaten and put to death for our testimonies for Jesus Christ and for his gospel of salvation. And, this type of mistreatment may even happen at the hands of those who profess to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of their lives, and who may even be leaders within the church.

The church in America has largely gone the way of the world. There is not much distinction between the world and the church anymore. The gospel of Christ has been diluted to make it more palatable, pleasing and acceptable to the world. A large majority of those who profess to know Christ surround themselves with teachers who say what their itching ears want to hear, i.e. they speak words which make them feel good, and which do not confront them with their sin or with their need to live holy lives, pleasing to God. These false shepherds of the people, these wolves in sheep’s clothing, tell them that God does not require repentance or obedience, and that all they have to do in order to escape hell and to go to heaven when they die is to repeat certain words, which does not include repentance. There is no transformation of heart, no birth of the Spirit, just words to make them feel better about their sin, and to assure them that nothing bad will ever happen to them.

The church is the body of Christ, the family of God, the temple of the Holy Spirit. It is not an institution or a business of human making, nor is it a corporation of the federal government. Yet, the gatherings of the church have been turned into just that. The church, thus, is marketed just like any other human-based business. The church leaders spend time figuring out new ways to attract the world (their customer base) to their meetings, utilizing worldly means and methods, trickery, deception (sometimes), and gimmicks in order to draw in large crowds of people. The leaders are being trained in how to go after a certain segment of the population, but in also how to filter out and discard those who they think will be detrimental to their kingdom building, which includes those who are serious about the Lord and those who still hold to the gospel as taught by Jesus and his NT apostles.

Yet, all this has taken a giant leap forward in the “Christian” world. Now we have Barack Obama and Pope Francis giving out regular messages which speak against those whom they call “religious extremists,” which includes those who hold to the tenets of the Christian faith and who preach repentance and obedience as necessary components of believing faith. Yet, their real enemy is Jesus Christ and his gospel, for what they are proposing is in direct contradiction to God’s word and to the teachings of Christ, although they would have you believe otherwise, yet they are preaching a Jesus other than the one taught by the apostles. Their goal is to break down all divisions among various world religions and to bring us all together as one body, serving the same god, but not the God of the Bible.

There are many veiled threats in Obama’s and the Pope’s speeches against those who still hold to God’s moral laws, who believe in right from wrong, and who believe that only through faith in Jesus Christ can one have a relationship with God and the promise of heaven when they die. If we stand on the Word of Truth, we teach that Jesus is the only way to God the Father, and we preach repentance for salvation, then we are now tagged as intolerant, bigoted, and hateful, and so they are making war against us. They want us to be accepting (embracing) of all people no matter their lifestyle choice or their choice of religion. We should love all people as Jesus loved sinners and gave his life up for us, but we should not accept sinful lifestyles, nor should we accept that there are other ways to God other than through genuine repentant faith in Jesus Christ, who is God the Son.

Take Up Cross Daily (vv. 23-26)

And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”

Jesus taught that if we want to believe in him, i.e. if we want to be one of his disciples, we must deny self, die daily to sin and self and follow him in obedience. He said that if we hold on to our lives (of sin and living for self), we will lose them (for eternity), but if we lose our lives for His sake, i.e. if we are crucified with Christ in death to sin, then our lives will be saved for eternity. Dying to sin and self also means that Jesus becomes Lord (master) of our lives. We don’t consider our lives as something to hold on to for this world, for we are looking for a better world to come, which is our eternity with God in his heavenly kingdom. And, it means being willing and ready to suffer for the sake of Christ and his gospel. If we are ashamed of Christ and His Words, He will be ashamed of us when he returns.

Paul taught the same message in Romans 6 and 8. He said that when we believed in Jesus Christ, we died to sin. Our old self was crucified with Christ so that “the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin – because anyone who has died has been freed from sin” (Ro. 6:6-7). We are to count ourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. He also said that Jesus died that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk not according to the sinful nature (our flesh), but who live our lives according to (in agreement with) the Spirit. If we live according to the sinful nature, we will die, but if by the Spirit we put to death the deeds of our flesh, we will live. Those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God (See: Ro. 8:1-14).

Peter said that Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. Paul said that he died that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave himself up for us. God’s grace, which brings salvation, teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives while we wait for Christ’s return. We are not saved just so we can escape hell and just so we can go to heaven when we die. God’s grace to us is not a free license to continue in sin without guilt and without remorse. When Jesus died on the cross, he bought us back for God, i.e. he redeemed us. Our lives are no longer our own to be lived however we want to live them. We used to be slaves to sin. Now he has freed us to become servants of his righteousness.

So, we need to not only be ready to suffer and die for Jesus Christ and his gospel, but we need to be ready to live for him and for his gospel, fully surrendered to him and to his will for our lives, submitted to the cross, doing what he says, and going where he sends us.

Fully Ready! / An Original Work / June 19, 2013

Based off Acts 20-22, 26; Mt. 28:18-20; Ac. 1:8

Why are you weeping and breaking my heart?
I’m fully ready to suffer for Christ.
If I must die for the sake of His name,
I am convinced it will not be in vain.
Glory to God and to His Son Jesus,
Who has redeemed us; bought with His blood.

May I speak to you? Jesus came to me;
Asked of me, “Why do you persecute me?”
He said, “Now get up and stand on your feet.
Go, and you’ll be told all I have for you.
I have appointed you as a servant,
And as a witness; you have been sent.”

“Go into the world and preach the gospel.
Open the blind eyes. They will receive sight.
Turn them from darkness to the light of Christ;
From power of the evil one to God,
So they may receive forgiveness of sins,
And a place among those who’re in heav’n.”