Spiritually Appraised

Thursday, September 28, 2017, 2:17 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Lord, I Need You.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read 1 Corinthians 2 (NASB).

The Power of God (vv. 1-5)

And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.

If it’s our own words, from our own flesh, what good are those words in leading people to faith in Jesus Christ, or in urging our fellow believers to walk in holiness and not according to the flesh? If we have been to Bible college, or if we have studied Greek or Hebrew, or if we are experts in doctrine and theology, and then we speak from head knowledge instead of heart knowledge (experience), we may impress people with our knowledge, but our words will lack the power of God behind them to change human hearts. Or, if we have the power of persuasion, from our own flesh, and if we are smooth tongued, witty, and charming, we may lead people to like us and to follow us, but we won’t lead them to the cross of Christ.

There is nothing wrong with knowledge, mind you. The Apostle Paul was an educated man who was well schooled in the scriptures. And, we are to study the scriptures to show ourselves approved unto God as workers who do not need to be ashamed, but who correctly handle the word of truth. We are to meditate on the Word, and to know the truth, and to share the truth of God’s Word with others, so that they may also know Christ Jesus, our Lord, and walk in his ways. And, we are to live the truth, and not be those who merely hear the Word but then walk away and forget what they look like. Yet, we are to share the Word of Truth in the power of God, allowing the Holy Spirit to direct our words, so that the message comes from God and not from our human flesh, so that God gets all the glory and praise, and not us.

The Wisdom of God (vv. 6-13)

Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away; but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory; the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; but just as it is written,

“Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard,
And which have not entered the heart of man,
All that God has prepared for those who love Him.”

For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.

When we are attempting to share our faith with others, it is imperative that we seek the counsel of God, and that we allow the Holy Spirit to direct our words. This is not to say that our words will be perfect or eloquent, but that if the Holy Spirit is behind them, they have power to change lives. For example, I once heard a testimony from a man about how he came to faith in Jesus Christ. He was in college, and there was a young woman who regularly shared her faith out in the open, on campus, and one day he listened to her, and when she asked him if he wanted to believe in Jesus Christ, he said “Yes.” He said, from a human standpoint, that was one of the worst presentations of the gospel he had ever heard, but the Holy Spirit was in the words the woman spoke, and he responded in faith.

You know, there were probably people there who mocked this woman, or who thought she was foolish, and who probably made fun of her lack of ability to express herself with eloquence in speech, but it didn’t matter, because she was being obedient to Christ, and her ability to communicate with distinction was not essential. What was essential was her submission to the Spirit of God, her willingness to speak the words God gave her to speak, and her faithfulness in service, even if she was derided, in return. For, God chose the weak things, and the lowly and despised things, so that no one might boast in God’s presence (1 Co. 1:26-31). We need to be those who speak words taught us by the Spirit of God rather than those who speak words taught by human wisdom when we are sharing our faith with others.

The Mind of Christ (vv. 14-16)

But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he will instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.

In our human flesh, we cannot comprehend the things of God. This is not to say that all believers in Jesus have perfect understanding of all that is spiritual and is of God. We don’t yet (See: 1 Co. 13:9-12). It is also not to say that unbelievers cannot understand spiritual things, for how else would anyone be saved? But, it is the Spirit of God who quickens their hearts and minds to understand what God is saying to them, the same as it is for us who are believers in Jesus Christ. We, in our sin natures, do not accept the things of God, and we cannot understand them, for they are spiritually discerned. That is why God has given us the Holy Spirit to reveal his words (his truths) to us, but we have to be receptive to hear what the Spirit is saying and to respond in faith and obedience, or it will all fall on deaf ears.

But, if we are willing, and we are receptive, and we will listen and obey, and we will trust Jesus Christ with our lives, his Holy Spirit will come to dwell within us, and he will speak God’s words to our hearts so that we understand what is spiritual, and so we can apply these things to our lives. Then, it is not for lack of knowledge if we do not follow our Lord in obedience, because we have God living within us, and his Spirit revealing God’s truths to our minds and hearts. Thus, we have the mind of Christ within us and we can know God’s will, so that we can DO God’s will. But, we do so, not in our own power and strength, for we still live in flesh bodies, but we do so in the power and strength of our Lord who gives us all we need to live godly and holy lives, pleasing to him, and for his glory and purposes.

Lord, I Need You
Songwriters: Christy Nockels / Daniel Carson /
Jesse Reeves / Kristian Stanfill / Matt Maher

Lord, I come, I confess
Bowing here I find my rest
Without You I fall apart
You’re the One that guides my heart

Lord, I need You, oh, I need You…
My one defense, my righteousness…

 

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Through the Fire

Monday, July 17, 2017, 10:02 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “I Am Willing, Lord.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read various scriptures (in the NASB) on the subject of refining with fire.

Comfort in Affliction (2 Co. 1:3-9)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer; and our hope for you is firmly grounded, knowing that as you are sharers of our sufferings, so also you are sharers of our comfort.

For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead.

So, why does God allow suffering in our lives? There are many reasons, some of which we will cover here. One of the reasons is so that we can comfort others in their suffering with the comfort we received from God when we were in the midst of our trials. Yet, this word “comfort” entails so much more than just giving someone a pat on the back, or a hug, or a reassuring word, or a word of cheer. It can also mean a “holy urging,” and it is “used of the Lord directly motivating and inspiring believers to carry out His plan, delivering His particular message to someone else” (1). So, the Lord may have us give counsel, encouragement, warning, or assurance to someone going through trials, and in the same manner as which the Lord did for us when we were suffering. And, this is all part of his plan.

Another reason he allows us to be afflicted is so we learn not to trust in ourselves or in our own resources, but to trust in God in and for all things. When things are going well for us, we may become lazy about our relationships with the Lord and our spiritual walks of faith, and so we need affliction, at times, in order to get us to refocus our attention on what has eternal value and so we turn to the Lord for help, comfort, guidance and direction. We can become too self-sufficient, if we are not careful, and forget why we are here, and why God saved us and called us to his service.

For Our Good (Heb. 12:7-11)

It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons… but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.

When we go through life’s difficulties, which we will, it is not because God has no power over our situations, and it is not because God is not paying attention, or that he doesn’t care. He does care about us immensely! And, that is why he sometimes allows us to suffer pain and sorrow, for we were called to suffer for righteousness’ sake, and trials and tribulations are brought into our lives (or are allowed by God in our lives) in order to grow us in our faith, to make us holy, and to conform us to Christ’s likeness.

In other words, although suffering trials and difficulties is painful, it is for our good that we go through these troublesome times. We need them so that we share in Christ’s holiness. To be holy is to be separate (unlike, different) from the world (of sin), because we are being made to be like Jesus. When things are going well, it may be too easy to blend in with the world so that people will like us and not reject us, but trials have a way of causing us to make a stand one way or the other. They help make us strong in our faith, too, because we must rely on the strength of the Lord. When we are trained by this divine discipline, it yields in our lives the peaceful fruit of righteousness, and being righteous has to do with “what is deemed right by the Lord (after His examination), i.e. what is approved in His eyes” (2).

The Fiery Trial (1 Pet. 4:12-17; cf. Matt. 5:10-12)

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name. For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?

Another reason we go through trials and tribulations is to test our faith, not because God needs this, but we need it. We need it because it reveals where we need to mature, where we still need to grow, and where we need to confess sin, or forgive others, or make things right. This that pruning process that it talks about in John 15. We go through this to cut away the dross so that we can be filled to overflowing with the fruit of Christ’s righteousness, and so we can bear much spiritual fruit for his kingdom.

It is also that we might share in the sufferings of Christ and become more like him in heart, mind, passion, attitude, values, morals and behavior. And, it is so we shine the light of Jesus through our lives even when we are put to the fire, and as a testimony of God’s amazing grace in our lives. Suffering connects us with Jesus, it draws us closer to him, and our fellowship with him becomes much more intimate as we learn to respond with grace, love, patience, endurance and forgiveness towards those who are our persecutors.

Various Trials (Jas. 1:2-4; 1 Pet. 1:6-7; cf. Ro. 5:3-5)

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

We learn a lot about ourselves when we are put to the test; to the fire. We learn where we are still weak, and where we need to be strengthened in our faith and in our trust in the Lord. We see where we lack perseverance, or where we are still vulnerable to giving in to the flesh. Trials have a way of surfacing any stuffed emotions, bitterness, unforgiveness, lack of faith, stubborn wills, or sinful addictions. And, they push us into having to make serious changes in our lives, although not everyone is moved by them, for some people stubbornly continue in their own way despite suffering.

If we respond correctly to our trials, and we turn to the Lord for help, our sufferings will work God’s will in our lives in producing within us godly character, endurance, commitment, passion for service, and spiritual maturity. And, this will result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ, when he returns for us, his bride.

I AM WILLING, LORD / Joni Eareckson Tada

Sometimes when I am down,
And I don’t feel like You’re around, Oh Lord
Feeling so sorry for me,
Not knowing that all the while You’re working to see,
If when I’m put through the fire,
I’ll come out shining like gold,
Oh, Lord, please don’t ever stop working with me,
’til You see I can be all You want me to be.
I am willing Lord, I am willing Lord,
To be just exactly what You want me to be…

(1) http://biblehub.com/greek/3874.htm

(2) http://biblehub.com/greek/1343.htm

Our Spiritual Journey

Thursday, June 15, 2017, 5:16 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Amazing Grace.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Luke 15:11-32 (NASB).

Two Sons (vv. 11-16)

And He said, “A man had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the estate that falls to me.’ So he divided his wealth between them. And not many days later, the younger son gathered everything together and went on a journey into a distant country, and there he squandered his estate with loose living. Now when he had spent everything, a severe famine occurred in that country, and he began to be impoverished. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would have gladly filled his stomach with the pods that the swine were eating, and no one was giving anything to him.

Life is a journey, is it not? Every day, hopefully, we wake up, we get out of bed, if we have a bed to sleep on, that is, and we start a new day. Either we do so with purpose and direction, or else we wander aimlessly, going here and there trying to find satisfaction for life, but always coming up empty. Either we are on a straight (righteous, holy) path, because we are trusting God/Jesus Christ with our lives, or else we are on a winding path or life course with no particular destination in mind other than self-pleasure. Yet, it is possible to be somewhere in the middle between these two paths, I believe, for someone could be on the straight path, but they have gotten off course, at least in some respects, and so they need to get back on course.

I believe there are four types of people in this world (four types of soil). The first type is the one who has not ever made a profession of faith in Jesus Christ. The second is the one who makes a profession of faith, but it is surface level only (no root), probably because he was taught a false grace gospel which told him that God does not require repentance or obedience, so when things get rough, he yields to pressure, and he abandons the faith altogether. Neither of these have truly believed in Jesus as Savior. And, then there is the one who has believed in Jesus, who was crucified with Christ in death to sin, and risen with Christ to newness of life, but over time the temptations of this world entrapped him again, and so he got off course. And, he needs to return to God and forsake his idols. And, the fourth type is the individual who is walking by faith, is following his Lord in obedience, and who is bearing fruit for God’s kingdom, in keeping with repentance.

God is our creator, which means he gave life to all people, so God is the true father here. So, the two sons could represent the saved and the unsaved. As well, for believers in Jesus Christ, God is our Father and we are his children, so the two sons could also represent the faithful believer in Jesus, though certainly not perfect, and the believer who has gotten off course and has been entrapped by the sinful pleasures of the world once more. The bottom line, though, is that they represent one in fellowship with the Father, who is serving God with his life, who is walking in obedience to the Lord’s commands, and one who has abandoned God, is going his own way, and is living in sensual pleasure and self-indulgence. Yet, even the one in fellowship with the Father has some maturing to do in some areas.

He Came to His Senses (vv. 17-24)

But when he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men.”’ So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’ And they began to celebrate.

Oftentimes, sadly enough, it takes some type of a tragedy or difficult situation in life to get people to come to their senses, and to escape the trap of the devil. When sin gets a grip on people, they can do senseless things, even dangerous things, and stuff which might even get them in trouble with the law, or which might ruin their marriages, etc. And, yet, they go headlong right into what they know is wrong, and what they know is destroying their lives and relationships, even their relationship with God, because their desire is greater for the sin than it is for anything else. They don’t want to let go of the sin, because the sin gives them a false sense of security, or because they are angry with God, and so they feel justified in continuing in the sin, or because they have a sense of entitlement, and so they believe God’s grace gives allowance for their sin, and that God requires nothing of them at all.

When things are going well for us, and we are healthy, and all our physical needs are being met, there may be a temptation to rely on ourselves more than we rely on God. We may become complacent regarding fellowship with our Lord and walking in his Spirit, and the trappings of the world may begin to consume us, our time, thoughts, energies, passion and desires. We may give God a back seat in our lives, and even our devotional lives may begin to ebb away. We don’t necessarily have to even get to the point of gross sin and rebellion to be a prodigal son, but we may just neglect our relationship with Jesus Christ, and what we want and desire may, thus, take first place.

So, God may bring into our lives, or may allow in our lives, some difficult trial, tragedy, sorrow, pain or sickness in order to get our attention, and for the purpose to bring us to our senses. This is not to say that those who are living righteously will not also face such troubled times. They will, and it will be for the purpose to mature them, and so they share in God’s holiness, and so they bear the fruit of God’s righteousness. But, he also disciplines his wandering saints in order to bring them back to himself in humility, repentance and obedience. Sometimes we can be so stupid, so strong-headed, and so bent on our own ways, even though we know better, and so it will take being hit over the head by a two-by-four (not literally) to bring us to our senses. And, even this is God’s grace to us, in order to free us, because he has compassion for us. And, when we do return, he revives and restores us to fellowship with him, and he welcomes us back home.

The Curse of Jealousy (vv. 25-32)

“Now his older son was in the field, and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. And he summoned one of the servants and began inquiring what these things could be. 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 became angry and was not willing to go in; and his father came out and began pleading with him. But he answered and said to his father, ‘Look! For so many years I have been serving you and I have never neglected a command of yours; and yet you have never given me a young goat, so that I might celebrate with my friends; but when this son of yours came, who has devoured your wealth with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him.’ And he said to him, ‘Son, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.’”

Like I said, even those who are walking righteously are not yet perfect (without fault). We are maturing in our walks of faith day-by-day. Daily we are putting to death sinful deeds, by the Spirit, and we are responding to the Spirit’s still small voice in convicting us when we falter, or we should be. And, sometimes our Lord will put a finger on an area of our lives where we need to yield control to our Lord and not do it ourselves. And, we need to respond to his voice by submitting to his will, and by walking in his way.

The one who stayed in communion with the Father ended up being jealous of the one who repented of his evil ways, and who returned, because the Father received him with open arms and he celebrated the son’s return. He felt that the father treated the wandering son, who then later repented, greater than he treated him who had remained with the father. And, that can happen to us, too, if we allow self-righteousness to settle in, and if we forget that our righteousness is as filthy rags in God’s sight, and it is only his righteousness granted to us, to be lived out through us in his power, that amounts to anything. We were once lost, too, and God found us and saved us by his grace, so we have nothing to boast about or to feel self-righteous about, because it is only by God’s grace that we are not still in the gutter.

Yet, I find another jealousy existing among those who profess faith in Jesus Christ, which is equally as bad. Sometimes, when a wandering saint does return to the Lord, and is restored to fellowship with God, and is now walking in the Spirit, and is not gratifying the sinful flesh any longer, those who are still giving way to the flesh, who have not yet repented of their sins, will be jealous and resentful of the relationship the faithful believer has with the Lord. And, that may drive the unrepentant even further into sin and rebellion because of their anger with God and with the repentant. Yet, all of us need to have the perspective that it is only by God’s grace that any of us can be restored to God and have communion with him, and that all of us have the opportunity to walk in faithfulness, if we so choose to do so.

Amazing Grace / John Newton

Amazing Grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found
Was blind, but now I see.

‘Twas Grace that taught my heart to fear,
And Grace my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils, and snares
I have already come.
‘Tis Grace hath brought me safe thus far
And Grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me.
His Word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be
As long as life endures.

And when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease;
I shall possess within the veil
A life of joy and peace.

When we’ve been there ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’d first begun.

Put to The Test

Monday, May 15, 2017, 7:33 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Total Praise.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read James 1 (Select vv. ESV).

Joy (vv. 2-4)

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Depending upon the type of trial, and the severity of it, we may find it harder, at times, to count it all joy when we face life’s trials and tribulations. And, yet, joy is the antidote to the mental and emotional distress involved in suffering. It never fails to lift my spirits when I sing songs of praise to my Lord whenever I am going through a time of great difficulty, or even in the midst of the small tests of faith and of perseverance. Our praise to God gets our focus off our trials and on to the Lord; off the emotions of discouragement and on to hope, faith and love. Praising our Lord in difficult times also lets the enemy of our souls know he is not going to defeat us, but that greater is HE who is within us than he who is in the world. Allowing the joy of the Lord to fill our hearts, instead of being brought low by our circumstances, will always result in spiritual blessings from above.

In America, especially, it appears the vast majority are resistant to pain and suffering, and so Americans tend to medicate and escape suffering rather than face it head on and conquer fears, resist Satan, flee sinful passions, learn steadfastness, and grow in maturity through our difficult times. It seems there is a pill for just about everything these days, and they all have side effects, so many people take multiple pills just to counter the side effects of the other pills. And, yet medicating, in its various forms (not just with pills), rarely teaches us reliance upon the Holy Spirit, trust in God, perseverance in faith, or steadfastness in spirit. We sometimes get this idea that suffering is always a bad thing, but God uses suffering in our lives for our good and for his purposes, to train us to be godly, that we might share in his holiness, and that we might produce the fruit of his righteousness.

Wisdom (vv. 5-8)

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

So, when we are faced with life’s difficulties, we should pray for wisdom from above rather than respond in our flesh. If we pray for wisdom, and we are given wisdom, then we should trust what God shows us and not doubt his counsel. But, we should make certain that the counsel we hear in our heads is indeed biblical, and of God, and not of our own thinking. And, if we pray for wisdom, and we are given counsel from our Lord, then we should follow what we have been shown and not take matters into our own hands.

If we make it our practice to pray for counsel from above, but it is also our practice to not heed the counsel given, but to still go our own way, what good is it then to pray? It is to no avail, because we didn’t do what we were instructed to do. If we do this consistently, we lack godly wisdom, we are driven by our flesh, and we are like on a see-saw going back and forth (or up and down) between opinion, and thus we are not steadfast in spirit, but are more like the waves of the sea tossed here and there by the wind. We are double-minded and unstable in all we do because we have no solid footing, because we just go where the wind blows us. And, thus, we should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.

Steadfastness (vv. 12-15)

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

So, what does it look like when we remain steadfast under trial? It means we are unwavering, resolute, persistent and firm in our faith and in our commitments to Christ, that we stand on the Word of Truth, and that we are not easily swayed by opinions of humans, so that we go back and forth in belief and in practice depending upon who we are with at the time. If we change like shifting shadows, depending on the people we are with, or depending on our circumstances, our faith is not much good, is it? If we back down on what we say we believe just because we are going through difficult times, our faith will not stand up under the test, will it? We need to be the same (consistent, without wavering) no matter the company, or no matter the circumstances. This is what it means to be steadfast.

What does it mean to be tempted? It means that something is attracting, arousing or seducing us to sin against God in our minds, in our hearts and/or in our actions. And, what is sin? It is failure, missing the mark, sinful deed, not of God, not of faith (source: biblehub.com). It is wickedness, evil, immorality, and wrongdoing, etc. So, at what point does temptation turn to sin? It becomes sin when we act upon the temptation and we do, even in our minds, what we are being tempted to do. For instance, Jesus said that if a man looks at a woman lustfully he has committed adultery with her in his heart. This goes for women lusting after men, and same sex attractions, as well. If we are tempted to lie, and then we lie, we have sinned. If we are tempted to gossip, and then we gossip, even if we stop half-way and confess the wrongdoing, it is still sin, i.e. the part we did before we stopped.

It is good if we stop, but then we have to acknowledge the sin and turn from it to follow our Lord in obedience. If we make a practice of sinning against God, though, the Bible says we don’t really know God, and we don’t have the hope of eternal life with God (See: Lu. 9:23-25; Ro. 8:1-14; 1 Jn. 1:6).

Total Praise / Richard Smallwood

You are the source of my strength
You are the strength of my life
I lift my hands in total praise to You.

Do We Love Him?

Wednesday, May 3, 2017, 7:41 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “My Jesus, I Love Thee.” Lately, the Lord has not been having me read book by book, and chapter by chapter, as usual, so I asked him where he wanted me to read this morning. Then, I sensed he would have me look at what it means to truly love him. Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read various scriptures (in the ESV) on the subject of love for God (for Jesus).

More Than These (Jn. 21:15)

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.”

Jesus didn’t say what the “these” were, but Peter had gone fishing, and some of the other disciples had gone with him, so Jesus could have been referring to literal fish, or to fishing, or to his friends (the other disciples). The point of what he said, though, is that Jesus was to be loved more. So, the question for us is, “Do we love him more than anything else?” Do we love him more than our possessions, food, friends, hobbies, our time, retirement, social media, TV, sports, etc.? Love for Jesus means to love him above all else, not just to say that we do, but to truly put him first and foremost in our daily lives. Is he truly Lord (owner-master) of our lives?

Peter affirmed that he loved Jesus, so Jesus told him to “Feed my lambs.” Now, he was not speaking of literal sheep, but of Jesus’ followers. And, he was not asking him to give them literal food, though that certainly could have been part of it, but to feed them spiritually with God’s Words, i.e. with what Jesus had taught him. And, our Lord is saying the same thing to us today. If we love him truly, we are to care for, minister to, and share the Word of God with other believers in Jesus Christ for their encouragement, strengthening, and maturity in Christ (See: Rom. 12; 1 Co. 12-13; Eph. 4).

No Love for World (1 Jn. 2:15)

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”

If we truly love Jesus, we will not love the world. Now, this word for “love” in the Greek is “agape,” which means: “wish well to, take pleasure in, long for; denotes the love of reason, to prefer, esteem” (biblehub.com). And, to esteem means: reverence, honor, approve, respect, value and admire, etc.

As well, the phrase “the world” is not speaking of human beings, who we are to love, but rather of the things (stuff, possessions), attitudes, values, principles, culture, behaviors and philosophies of the world of sin. These we are NOT to love – prefer, esteem, wish well to, take pleasure in and long for, like we are supposed to do for our Lord. We are to prefer him above all else, “choosing his choices and obeying them through his power; actively doing what the Lord prefers, by his power and direction” (biblehub.com).

Practice Righteousness (1 Jn. 3:10)

“By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.”

If we truly love our Lord, we will practice righteousness, i.e. what is approved in the eyes of the Lord. Some people will say that we are made righteous, i.e. that Christ’s righteousness is credited to our accounts when we put our faith and trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. This is true! But, these same people often think that is all that is required, but God’s Word teaches us we must put righteousness – morality, decency, uprightness, honesty – into practice in our daily lives, or we are not of God. We not only have to be made righteous in God’s eyes through faith in Jesus Christ, but he also requires that we live righteously. Peter said that Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness (1 Pet. 2:24).

We are also not of God if we do not love our fellow humans. And, this is also agape love, which prefers what God prefers, and which esteems, takes pleasure in and longs for God/Jesus Christ. It means to love others as God loves us, and according to his divine will and purpose. Since this love prefers what God prefers, it is not going to include anything that is against God and against his Word. In other words, we don’t love people by telling them lies to make them feel good, or so that they will like us. We speak the truth in love. We don’t take advantage of them or do harm to them. We don’t lead them into sin, either, by trying to persuade them to do something that is wrong. Loving others in this way will always be centered in God and in his will.

In Deed and Truth (1 Jn. 3:18)

“Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”

Words can be cheap if they are not followed up with action. If we say that we love Jesus, but we do not honor, value, respect, esteem and reverence him in what we do, and if we do not prefer what he prefers, and live our lives accordingly, then we don’t really love him. It is just words.

Obey His Commands (1 Jn. 5:2-3; 2 Jn. 1:6; cf. Jn. 14:15, 21, 23-24)

“By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.”

“And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it.”

Jesus said that if we love him, we will obey (guard, preserve) his commands (Jn. 14:15). John reiterated Jesus’ words when he said here that to love God is to keep (obey, observe) his commands. So, what are his commands? They are everything Jesus taught his disciples, which are recorded in scripture, which were NOT specific to one particular situation, or to one specific period of time, or to one particular person or persons. But, they are commands that were intended for his disciples at all times, and in all situations, as general rules of practice. They are also the teachings of the NT apostles with regard to the church, as a whole, present and future, which, again, are to be regarded as general rules of practice for all, and for our daily living.

Yet, this is not absolutely black and white. What I mean by this is that there is not a hammer hanging over our heads which says we must obey 100% or we are not saved. Even though we have been delivered from slavery to sin and from the power Satan had over our lives, at one time, it does not mean we will never sin again (See: 1 Jn. 2:1-2). If we could have obeyed with 100%, Jesus would not have had to die for our sins. But, what the law was powerless to do, in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son to die on a cross for our sin, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit (See: Ro. 8:1-14).

So, God’s grace does not demand sinless perfection, yet it does demand that we walk (in lifestyle) no longer according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. This means that we don’t make excuses for willful sin against God, or excuse away sin on the basis of God’s grace to us. His grace is not a free license to continue in sin. His 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 (Tit. 2:11-14).

My Jesus, I Love Thee
William R. Featherstone / Adoniram J. Gordon

My Jesus, I love thee, I know thou art mine;
For thee all the follies of sin I resign.
My gracious Redeemer, my Savior art thou;
If ever I loved thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

I love thee because thou hast first loved me,
And purchased my pardon on Calvary’s tree;
I love thee for wearing the thorns on thy brow;
If ever I loved thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

I’ll love Thee in life, I will love Thee in death,
And praise Thee as long as Thou lendest me breath;
And say, when the death-dew lies cold on my brow,
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ‘tis now.

In mansions of glory and endless delight;
I’ll ever adore thee in heaven so bright;
I’ll sing with the glittering crown on my brow;
If ever I loved thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

For the Mature

Tuesday, February 14, 2017, 6:53 p.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Seek the Lord.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Hebrews 5:11-6:12 (NASB).

Marks of Immaturity (5:11-14)

Concerning him we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.

Concerning Jesus Christ, we have much to say. Although he is God, the second person of our triune God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – he left his home in heaven, came to earth, took on human flesh, suffered like we suffer, and was tempted in like manner as we are also tempted, yet without sin. He healed the sick and afflicted, raised the dead, comforted the sorrowful, encouraged the timid, delivered people from demons, and performed many miracles when he walked the face of this earth. He spoke many encouraging and comforting words, as well as he told the people the truth about their sin, about their eternal destiny, and concerning the cost of following him as their Lord and Savior (See: Lu. 9:23-25). And, he gave messages of hope and healing to all who would put their trust in Him.

Jesus came to the earth with one main mission in mind – to die on a cross for our sins. When he died our sins died with him and were buried with him, and when he was resurrected from the dead, he rose victorious over hell, sin, Satan and death on our behalf. He died to take the punishment of our sins for us so that we could be delivered from condemnation. He also died to give us eternal life with him, for those believing in him, beginning at the moment we believe, throughout our lives on this earth, and into our future home of heaven when we leave this earth. Yet, that is not all. He also died that we might die with him to sin and live with him to his righteousness. He died to deliver us out of slavery to sin so that we could become bond-servants of him and of his righteousness. He died to turn us from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, so that we could receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those sanctified by faith in him.

Yet, many who have believed in Jesus Christ have not moved past the elementary truths concerning our salvation and on to maturity in Christ, and one of the reasons appears to be that they have become dull of hearing, i.e. they don’t want to know anything beyond just their initial salvation from sin. They are content remaining spiritual infants. And, so they are not really growing in their relationship with Christ, and in his Word, so that they can have their senses trained to discern good from evil. I am sure they do know that lying, cheating, stealing, etc. is wrong, but their consciences can be seared or they can become desensitized to evil if they do not mature in their walks of faith, and if they are greatly exposed to the things, philosophies, values and practices of this sinful world, primarily via TV and the internet.

Fallen Away (6:1-8)

Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of instruction about washings and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment. And this we will do, if God permits. For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame. For ground that drinks the rain which often falls on it and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is also tilled, receives a blessing from God; but if it yields thorns and thistles, it is worthless and close to being cursed, and it ends up being burned.

So, what’s the big deal if someone decides to remain a spiritual infant and not move on to maturity? They still get to go to heaven when they die, right? Or not. There are so many scriptures that teach us that choosing to receive Christ as Savior of our lives is not a done deal, i.e. it is not a guarantee of heaven and eternal life with God. Why isn’t it? Because Jesus didn’t die just so we could escape hell and go to heaven when we die. He died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. His purpose in saving us from our sins was not merely to take the punishment for our sin, but to deliver us out of slavery to sin and that we might be resurrected to new lives in Christ Jesus, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” He didn’t call us just so we could go to heaven when we die. He called us to be a holy people for him while we still live on the earth.

So, his goal is for us to mature in him. His goal is to conform us into the image of Christ. So, what is the danger if we don’t mature? I believe it is that we could fall away from grace, and that we could turn away from our God, and reject what he did for us on the cross, and for our belief to turn to unbelief. What this passage describes here is not someone who just professes to know Christ. This is someone who was a partaker of the Holy Spirit. We can’t partake of the Holy Spirit if we did not genuinely believe in him. This is saying, and many other passages like it are saying that it is possible for us, if we do not continue in the faith we had at the beginning, to fall away never to return to our Lord, and we need to take this seriously.

Faith and Patience (6:9-12)

But, beloved, we are convinced of better things concerning you, and things that accompany salvation, though we are speaking in this way. For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints. And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

Our decision to believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of our lives is not a one-time experience, then we live life how we want it, and then we go to heaven when we die. There are things which must accompany our salvation, such as repentance, obedience and submission to Christ and to his cross. But, these are not things we do in our own flesh. Even the faith to believe in Jesus Christ is a gift from God, i.e. a divine persuasion of his will. He even grants us repentance, and gives us the ability to obey him. We just have to yield control of our lives over to him, and cooperate with the Spirit’s work of grace in our lives. And, our Lord will give us all we need to live godly, holy lives pleasing to him.

There are many, many scriptures which teach what this passage teaches regarding our salvation. This is yet another scripture which encourages us or which instructs us to show the same diligence we had at the beginning until the end. This also warns us that if we don’t, we are in danger of becoming sluggish in our relationships with our Lord. And, yet there is encouragement (exhortation) that we become imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. And, if we do follow our Lord in obedience, in surrender to his will for our lives, and we become his ministers (his servants) in showing his love and grace to others, and in sharing the gospel of our salvation so that others can come to know him, too, our work will be rewarded. We may not always see how God is using us now, but we can be assured that if we are following him, he has a plan and a purpose for what he has called us to do, and his Word will accomplish what he desires.

Seek the Lord / An Original Work / July 20, 2012

Based off Isaiah 55

“Come to Me all you who thirst; come to waters.
Listen to Me, and eat what’s good today,
And your soul will delight in richest of fare.
Give ear to Me, and you will live.
I have made an eternal covenant with you.
Wash in the blood of the Lamb.”

Seek the Lord while He may be found; call on Him.
Let the wicked forsake his way, in truth.
Let him turn to the Lord, and he will receive mercy.
Freely, God pardons him.
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,”
declares the Lord, our God.

“My word that goes out of My mouth is truthful.
It will not return to Me unfulfilled.
My word will accomplish all that I desire,
And achieve the goal I intend.
You will go in joy, and be led forth in peace.
The mountains will burst into song… before you,
And all of the trees clap their hands.”

Unrepentant Sin

Saturday, January 14, 2017, 11:00 p.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “My Very Best Friend.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read 2 Corinthians 13 (NASB).

The Power of God (vv. 1-4)

This is the third time I am coming to you. Every fact is to be confirmed by the testimony of two or three witnesses. I have previously said when present the second time, and though now absent I say in advance to those who have sinned in the past and to all the rest as well, that if I come again I will not spare anyone, since you are seeking for proof of the Christ who speaks in me, and who is not weak toward you, but mighty in you. For indeed He was crucified because of weakness, yet He lives because of the power of God. For we also are weak in Him, yet we will live with Him because of the power of God directed toward you.

In a previous chapter we read that Paul was jealous for the Corinthian believers with a godly jealousy, because he had promised them to one husband, Jesus Christ, yet he feared that they might be led astray from their sincere and pure devotion to Jesus Christ. What was the basis of his concern, then? It appears that, at least some of the Corinthian believers were being tolerant of false christs, false spirits, and false gospels. They put up with these far too easily, he said. Thus, it may be that they knew what was being presented was false, and they just did nothing about it. Or, it could be that they just didn’t bother testing what they heard against the Word of Truth, and/or in prayer, and in the power and knowledge of the Spirit within them, in order to know whether or not what they were allowing and/or receiving was truth or deception cleverly disguised as truth.

All this time you have been thinking that we are defending ourselves to you. Actually, it is in the sight of God that we have been speaking in Christ; and all for your upbuilding, beloved. For I am afraid that perhaps when I come I may find you to be not what I wish and may be found by you to be not what you wish; that perhaps there will be strife, jealousy, angry tempers, disputes, slanders, gossip, arrogance, disturbances; I am afraid that when I come again my God may humiliate me before you, and I may mourn over many of those who have sinned in the past and not repented of the impurity, immorality and sensuality which they have practiced (2 Co. 12: 19-21).

Paul was concerned that there was unrepentant sin being allowed to continue within the church, and that there was false teaching being tolerated, too, and perhaps that the two of them went hand-in-hand. And, he was also concerned that some of them did not respect his God-given (appointed) authority to do anything about it, which is one of the reasons it was allowed to continue and nothing was being done to stop it. So, his intention was that, upon this next visit, he would come in the power of God and he would exercise divine discipline in correcting the wrong, yet not because he wanted to punish them. He did not. But, because he loved them with a godly love, and he wanted to see them walking in truth and in freedom from the control of sin over their lives.

And, so it is today, at least here in America. Sin is barely even mentioned in the vast majority of church congregations today, at least not in the modern church gatherings where they are marketing the “church” to the world, and thus they are more focused on entertaining the world rather than on bringing the world to genuine faith in Jesus Christ. All kinds of false teaching are permeating today’s modern church, as well as a Jesus is being presented which is not consistent with the Jesus of the Bible, i.e. the Son of God. Feel-good messages which tickle itching ears are replacing Spirit-led messages which convict hearts of sin, and which call for repentance. And, Bible studies are often not more than studies of books written by modern authors, some of which are not only inconsistent with scripture, but are even that which teach what is clearly false, and which promote middle eastern religion.

Test Yourselves (vv. 5-10)

Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test? But I trust that you will realize that we ourselves do not fail the test. Now we pray to God that you do no wrong; not that we ourselves may appear approved, but that you may do what is right, even though we may appear unapproved. For we can do nothing against the truth, but only for the truth. For we rejoice when we ourselves are weak but you are strong; this we also pray for, that you be made complete. For this reason I am writing these things while absent, so that when present I need not use severity, in accordance with the authority which the Lord gave me for building up and not for tearing down.

A false grace gospel is being taught widely, as well, which teaches that a prayer repeated after someone else inviting Jesus to be your Savior is sufficient for salvation, and a guarantee of heaven when you die. As well, they say that God is pleased with you no matter what you do, and that he requires nothing of you – no submission to the cross, no repentance and no obedience to Christ and to his commands. This false grace gospel, thus, is free license to continue in willful sin against God absent of remorse and without guilt. It gives the impression that once you pray the prayer, and you have heaven guaranteed, that God is no longer concerned about your sin, for his grace covers it all. Thus, the freedom they teach is no freedom at all, for it leaves its adherents still dead in their sins without hope.

So, what is the truth? Well, it is that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who knew no sin, became sin for us when he died on a cross. Thus, when he died our sins died with him, and were buried with him. And, when he was resurrected from the dead, he rose victorious over sin, Satan, hell and death. Yet, not all are saved from sin. We must put our trust in Jesus Christ to be Lord and Savior of our lives in order for us to have the hope of salvation from sin. So, what does this look like? Well, it means that the Spirit of God opens our blinded eyes and we are turned from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God that we might receive forgiveness of sins, and a place among those who are sanctified (made holy) by faith in Jesus Christ.

The truth is that Jesus died, not just so we could escape hell and go to heaven when we die, but he 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 his life up for us. And, he died that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us who walk not after the flesh, but who conduct our lives according to the Spirit. For, if we walk after the flesh, we will die (in our sin), but if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, we will live (with Christ for eternity). The truth is, too, that God’s grace is not free license to continue in sin, for his grace teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we wait for his return (See: 1 Pet. 2:24; 2 Co. 5:15; Ro. 8:1-14; Tit. 2:11-14; cf. Ro. 6:1-23; Eph. 4:17-24; Lu. 9:23-25).

So, for us to examine ourselves to see if truly we are in the faith, we need to do so against all the scriptures which speak of our salvation and eternal security in Christ, and not just hand-select the scriptures which say what our itching ears want to hear. For instance, we have to read Romans 10:9-10 in the context of the whole of Romans (esp. chaps. 6 & 8), and in the context of the whole of the New Testament, and we have to not build an entire doctrine of salvation around just those two verses, which is what many are doing. Jesus said that if we want to come after him we must deny self and take up our cross daily and follow him, for if we hold on to our lives (of living for sin and self), we will lose them for eternity, but if we lose our lives (die with Christ to sin), we will gain eternal life. If we say we have fellowship with God, but we walk in darkness, we are liars (Lu. 9:23-25; 1 Jn. 1:6).

Live in Peace (vv. 11-14)

Finally, brethren, rejoice, be made complete, be comforted, be like-minded, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.

So, instead of living in unrepentant sin, while claiming heaven as our eternal home, and instead of following a false grace gospel, or a man-made Jesus, or the teachings of mere humans, we need to be like-minded with Christ concerning the truths he taught, and that his NT apostles taught, and we need to repent of our sins and walk in obedience to that truth. Then we can mature in Christ, be comforted by his love, be like-minded with other Spirit-filled believers, and live in peace with God and with others, as much as it depends on us. Then we will truly know the Jesus of the Bible, and we will be able to experience close fellowship with him as daily we talk with him, read his Word, and then as we walk in obedience to him and to his Word. In fact, we will come to know him to be our very best friend.

My Very Best Friend
Ron Hamilton – Patch the Pirate

Jesus is closer than a brother.
Every moment he is near.
I know he never will forsake me.
He has conquered all my fear.
Jesus is closer than a brother.
On his love I can depend.
King of kings, Lord of lords,
Conquering Son, oh, all of these,
He’s my very best friend.