Copyright Š 2006 by David Wagner, All Rights Reserved
Some Scripture (as noted) taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright Š 973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
You hold in your hands something that had never entered my mind to create a devotional. Audrey Thompson asked me one Sunday to write a devotional using the works of her husband, Dr. Robert B. Thompson, as a base. Initially, I was floored. Who am I to write something so important as a devotional? But a funny thing happened when I eventually started writing words began to flood out, and this book is part of the result.
I first came into contact with Dr. Thompson in 1988, when my father started to receive Dr. Thompsons sermon tapes and passed them on to me. For a few years, I received the tapes and tried to understand them. The teachings were very straightforward and solidly biblical, but challenging in that they didnt square with what I was hearing from other teachers. It went much deeper. I began attending Mt. Zion Fellowship (then Christian Life Fellowship) in 1991 and have been learning from the saints there ever since.
At the top of each page you will find a one-liner, taken from the book Gold Tried in the Fire, Vol. 1, by Dr. Robert B. Thompson [available through Trumpet Ministries, and also in the library section of the Words of Righteousness website, www.wor.org]. The text that follows each one-liner is my elaboration on the statement. The Bible, when quoted, is the New King James Version.
So you will see a statement like this:
The key to the Christian life is to be convinced.
Followed by some commentary:
Are you convinced? That Jesus is to be trusted and loved and obeyed and followed at all times, without exception? What will it take to convince you and me of this? Our first impulse is to automatically say that we are convinced already but do our lives bear this out? Instead, we seem to be convinced that what matters is our belief structure, not what we do every day. Jesus says in Johns gospel that what we do is a direct reflection of who our father is.
Do you know what Gods will is for you today? Is it necessary to know it? Is it a passion for you to find out what God wants for/from you every day you live? Or do you find yourself cruising from one day to the next, content with the label of Christian, doing whatever is before you in such a way as to squeeze a bit of enjoyment out of each moment, as the years slip by? What are you convinced of, regarding immediate contact with your King?
The purpose of this devotional is to try to spur us all forward in our pursuit of the King. To wake us up to the amazing, limitless possibilities that exist in an unbroken, immediate relationship with our Mighty Lord and King. A life of stunning wonderment and adventure, as we work with Jesus to free us from the sin that binds us, and then to bring life to the world around us. The explosive reality of Gods Kingdom has been laying like a sleeping giant for centuries it is time now, in Gods plan, to awaken that sleeping giant.
It is my hope and prayer that these pages will serve as one of many trumpet calls throughout the lands, letting the Body of Christ know more clearly what is at stake.
1. It may be the work of a moment to get a person out of the world, but it is the work of a lifetime to get the world out of the person.
Picture yourself standing by a large iron kettle filled with murky, brown water. Picture Jesus standing with you by this kettle, looking into it. Picture Him saying, "I want people to drink of this water, and be refreshed." Picture yourself wincing at the very thought of it.
Now picture Him grabbing a large mallet. He swings this mallet with both hands, striking the side of that kettle with a loud, resounding BONG. Now as He sets the mallet down, you both watch as something black and disgusting slowly floats to the surface of the brown water, bobbing there slightly.
Jesus says, "What are you going to do about that?" As you gather your senses, you grab a nearby ladle, and scoop the disgusting scum off the top of the water, discarding it in the fire.
My life is like that kettle of water. My life is murky with sin. Sin has tainted my life, making it of no lasting benefit to anyone. Yet Jesus wants to make my life crystal clear and available for those around me to benefit from. Every now and then, Jesus hits my life with that mallet of His BONG! And up to the surface of my life floats something disgusting. Some sinful behavior or attitude that I had no idea was there. It bobs there, awaiting action or inaction.
If, with Jesus, I deal with the "scum" floating there, it is removed, and my "water" is a little less polluted, a little more clear. It is one step closer to being drinkable. If I let the opportunity pass, not wanting to deal with it for whatever reason, the disgusting black scum will disappear from view, slowly sinking back down to the bottom from whence it came, and I will have made no progress whatsoever.
2. If the Christian salvation does not change our behavior, it is worthless to God and to man.
Picture Heaven for a moment; what do you see? Perhaps incredible beauty, fascinating architecture, waterfalls, gardens, places of gathering, etc. Now picture that same Heaven peopled with sinners who have been forgiven, and that is all. Sinners saved by grace. Sinners who still wrestle with sin or even those who have yet to begin to wrestle, being taught (from pulpits) that they were only supposed to accept the finished work of Christ by faith, and that any attempt to live righteously is just filthy works.
You may not realize it, but when you think of Heaven, you think of transformed people. I dont think you would enjoy yourself in a paradisiacal environment with people that dont behave any differently than they do now.
Romans 8:29: For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.
There are several good passages in the Bible that sum up what God is after in this world of pain. What is it all about? Well, contrary to popular opinion, His focus is not on bringing unchanged, forgiven sinners into heaven, there to bask forever in undeserved blessing. As you can see from the above-quoted verse in Romans, we are predestined for change to be transformed into the image of Jesus Himself.
Image does not mean solely the outward appearance.
One understanding of the image of God is that it refers to qualities or attributes present in the person Others believe the image is something present when the person is in a relationship to God, and in fact, is that relationship. The image is present like a reflection in a mirror, rather than like a photo still others believe the image is something a person does. (Nelsons New Illustrated Bible Dictionary, CD ROM version)
We are destined to be recreated in every aspect, inside and out, resulting in an image consistent with that of Jesus Himself. Once this is clearly understood as the goal of Christianity, rather than simply moving from earth to heaven, the Bible and the gospel both begin to make much more sense.
What remains now is to identify how one goes about changing
3. The salvation that cost God everything to fully achieve costs man everything to fully receive.
An important step in pursuing the goal of change is to hold everything in an open hand before God. He must be able to access everything and everyone that you are and have. There can be no person, no material object, and no aspect of your personality that God does not have your express permission to remove, or alter in any way He sees fit. You must give Him permission to work in your life He will not transform you against your will.
What do we have that He has not given to us? I know that sounds cliché, but ponder it for a moment. Is there any person in any way associated with your life that would so devastate you to lose, that it would derail your relationship with Jesus? A spouse, a child, a parent, a bosom friend? Whom do you love with your whole heart? Picture that person. If God, in His wisdom, saw that your transformation (the gospel goal, mind you) would be aided greatly by the (temporary) removal of that person from your life, how would you respond? A beloved child, being lowered into the ground in a casket before you what goes through your head? Is life over? All hope gone? Is God now despised in your eyes? Do you still trust and love Him, even though your world is upside-down?
When my brother Bryan died, my life was a whirlwind. Yes, I hurt, in a way that was unfamiliar to me, having never lost a close loved-one before. A friend said it best at Bryans memorial service: it feels like your heart is being ripped out of your chest from the back. Yet underneath it all was something strong, something firm, something priceless. God loved Bryan more than I ever could. God had need of Bryan "on the other side." Did I believe it?
I loved Bryan, and because of that I held him in an open hand before Jesus, who loved him more. I grieved, but not as those that have no hope:
1Thess 4:13, 14: But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.
That having been settled beforehand, proper focus could be sought. If a person in my life is taken, I will see him/her again. If a material item is lost/stolen, it can be replaced or done without. If a part of my personality needs to be altered/removed, it must fall to the sword, no matter how painful or how long it takes. A thing or person or part of me that I do not allow Him access to is a place where all progress will stop.
4. When you continue living in sin you are destroying your own resurrection.
Sin is a multifaceted thing. Once I realized that "sin, the noun" was different than "sin, the verb", the Christian salvation made much more sense to me, especially in light of the entire Bible.
"Sin, the verb" can be viewed as the sinful acts that we commit, as defined by the Scriptures, and by the Spirit. In the Scriptures, we are given dozens of examples of what to do and what not to do. Everything from "love your enemy" to "let no filthy communication proceed forth from your mouth." God is intensely interested in our behavior. We are His children; when we exhibit behavior that is not kingly, that is not worthy of His name, we give occasion for the enemies of God to blaspheme.
"Sin, the noun" is the sin that dwells in us. If we are given to outbursts of anger, for example, then there is an aspect of our person/personality that is the source of that behavior. In other words, that anger is resident in our personality, and will cause us to act out in anger under certain circumstances. It dwells in us, as an object, and even if we are not doing anything (as far as an action), that sin is there, tangible, visible to God. It is the sin (noun) that causes us to sin (verb).
Romans 7:15-17 NIV: I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.
Under the old covenant, provision was made to forgive "sin, the verb." A sacrifice was made, and the sin forgiven. But the source of that sin was not dealt with. (Hebrews 10:4: For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.) The act of anger forgiven, the anger itself remained. Obtaining forgiveness was basically a full-time occupation, since the source of the behavior could not be dealt with.
Under the new covenant, the offering of Jesus Christ has been made, once for all, a persistent sacrifice, forever ready to cleanse the sinner of his/her sinful act, thus eliminating the need for animal sacrifices. With that taken care of, the job of eliminating "sin, the noun" can begin. That is the primary difference between the covenants: both covenants had forgiveness of "sin, the verb", but only the new covenant also addresses "sin, the noun".
The goal is to change the sinner into Christs image, at a personality level. This cannot be accomplished through forgiveness alone. There must be a process of removal for a lasting change to take place.
5. Christ came to change what we reap by changing what we sow.
I belong to an online philosophy forum, which has a "philosophy of religion" section, frequented by many atheists and Christians. Most Christians that I have interacted with there have never given the Kingdom law of "reaping and sowing" any thought whatsoever. They know that somewhere the Bible talks about it, but not exactly where. All they seem to know for sure is that it sounds nice, but doesnt really mean anything.
Galatians 6:7: Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap.
Pointing this verse out to them will get a universal "hear, hear!" as a response (as any quoted verse will). Press them a bit, and you will rapidly see that they dont know what to do with it; it does not mesh with their theology. The sum of their position is as follows: You will reap what you sow...unless you are a Christian. To them, its just a nicer way of saying sinners will go to hell. Christians, on the other hand, can live however they want, and will go to heaven when they die, since we are "saved by grace." When pressed to provide more thorough scriptural support for their position, they will simply quote the "filthy rags" verse from Isaiah, and end the conversation. Any whiff of "works" causes them to curl up into the conversational equivalent of the fetal position.
The idea that all men, Christian and non-Christian alike, will reap what we sow is an offense to many Christians. The concept is simple, and as righteous and just as could be. What is more just than being rewarded according to your behavior, good or evil? It is simple cause and effect. No one gets away with anything, and no one is overlooked. The idea that you could sow weeds and reap roses is ridiculous, yet that is basically what these Christians at the forum advocate. "Try to live right, but ultimately we (Christians) all get the same reward (i.e. access to heaven)."
Sin is understood to be impossible to deal with, so Christ covers us with His blood until our life is over, and then we can join Him in Happyland. As long as were in this world , we have to sin...it isnt optional. Sin is magically removed when we are "glorified" (though they dont have a clue what that will entail).
The scriptures present a vastly different interpretation. The law of "reaping and sowing" is unchanged if we sow weeds, we will reap weeds, period. The focus is on changing us so that we sow roses, and reap roses (so to speak):
Galatians 6:8: For he that sows to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that sows to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.
6. Our sinning will never be permitted in the Kingdom of God. Either it leaves or we leave.
It is true that God loves us with a love so deep and rich that we cannot grasp it. But He doesnt love us so much that He is willing to allow us to taint His Kingdom with the sin that He hates and that we allow to remain in us, unchallenged. Gods love for us does not override our level of dedication when it comes to dealing with sin. In other words, if we dont take His Word and work seriously, we will end up out on our ear, Gods love notwithstanding.
Now, that may seem overly harsh, but think about it what He is asking of us is not hopelessly impossible, as our selfish human nature would have us believe. The concepts are really pretty basic
2 Corinth 11:3: But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.
"Simple" as in basic, not easy. Certainly not easy. The part that is not easy is the part where we become convinced that overcoming sin is necessary. That seems to be ridiculously difficult, especially for something that comes across as such a no-brainer. After we become convinced, its downhill from there. Once we see that sin is Gods enemy, once we see that the Adversary is not one to be willfully entertained in any manner, once we know what Jesus is after and learn to lean on Him for everything once these all become a reality, then the guess-work is removed, and we can get down to the business of death and resurrection.
The problem is once we read something like that, and finish nodding in agreement that we are committed to Him and His work, we walk away and immediately go back to business as usual. We are not convinced. We stumble and fall and cry "woe is me." We ask God for help, vow to try again, get up, press on, stumble forward this is all good; but until we clearly understand both what He is after and the seriousness of it, we wont develop the necessary resolve, we wont become convinced.
Matthew 13:40-43: Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age. The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.
If we only realized what is at stake! There are things in us that offend God things destined for the fire! We need to be serious about having them removed, or we will be removed. Of whom much is given, much will be required. (Luke 12:48)
7. Our goal is not Heaven but Christ that we may know Him.
While the work of transformation is obviously important and integral to Gods plan, there is something deeper that God is after. The daily process of working sin out of your personality builds a friendship with Jesus, a relationship. This is His ultimate goal to become one with you. This relationship cannot happen instantly, or even quickly.
Think of your best friend for a moment; chances are, youve put years and years into your best-friendship, and are at the point where you can share just about anything with each other. You can be physically apart for long stretches of time, but once youre together again, its like you were never apart. You have such a strong connection.
The strength of the relationship that Jesus is after eclipses anything we can currently comprehend. It is built as we learn to go into each situation of life, each conversation, each scenario, tense or relaxed, with Jesus. I like to picture it as a parrot on a pirates shoulder. What will you be doing when you finish reading this? Will you go interact with a person or people? Will you go to sleep for the night? Off to work? To church? Whatever you will be doing in the next few minutes, go into it with Jesus. Take Him with you. Be aware of His presence as you take in the words or actions or settings that will present themselves to you next.
Every time that there is a "now," you should confront it with Jesus. We tend to wing it, and run to Jesus when things get tough. This is the pattern of humanity from the earliest parts of the Bible, through the history of Israel, and Im sure you recognize it in your life as well. God blesses us, we rejoice in it, things are good, we get distracted, we drift into sin and compromise, we become blind, God sends trouble, we run back to Him for help, He delivers us and blesses us. It is one big cycle of heartache for God, repeated ad nauseam.
What will break this pattern? Taking Jesus with you into every situation and conversation, that is what. Difficult? Sure, because we tend to be completely self-absorbed. But by taking Jesus with us into every moment, it makes impossible things possible. Praying without ceasing becomes a natural byproduct of a moment-by-moment relationship. Also, if we get used to taking every little thing to Jesus as they present themselves (not after the fact) then when a big crisis arises, we are instantly able to get wisdom from Jesus, and make wise decisions.
This intense relationship will be a benefit not just during this life, but on into eternity, as we serve the King in His Kingdom. This is "walking in the light." This is "abiding in Christ." This is "dwelling in the secret place of the Most High."
8. The promises of protection are to those who are abiding in Christ.
Sometimes we take statements and promises in the Scriptures and imagine that because we read them, they are true in our life. Doing this can bring comfort in some situations, but most often it simply leads to spiritual laziness. When Paul, toward the end of his life, said he was crucified with Christ, nevertheless he lived, yet it was not him, but Jesus that was living in him the tendency seems to be to read that verse (Galatians 2:20) and say, "Yup, me too! Say, whats on TV?"
Just because the Bible says something does not mean it is true of you automatically. The promises to the overcomers listed in chapters two and three of Revelation are good examples of this. Walking with Him in white, sitting on thrones, pillars in His Temple, hidden manna, etc. -- we read them and automatically associate ourselves with them. As though "overcoming" is a synonym for "becoming a Christian."
The promises of protection fall into this same category. Take Psalm 91 for example: protection from the arrow that flies by day and the terror at night; from pestilence and destruction; plagues and various evils; lions, snakes and dragons; all the way down to simply keeping you from stubbing your toe on a rock. We love that chapter, especially in perilous times, and rightly so. But the entire chapter has an oft-overlooked qualifier in the very first verse:
Psalm 91: 1: He that dwells in the secret place of the most High
If this is not true of you, the promises wont necessarily apply to you. As with the "overcomer" example, we somehow automatically equate "dwelling in the secret place" with "being a Christian," or "attending a church." We need to realize that the proper synonym for "dwelling in the secret place of the most High" is "abiding in Christ." More importantly, we need to know what it means to abide in Christ, and then how to go about abiding in Him if we are not. Let this quest for proper understanding become our goal...it is risky business assuming something is true when so much is at stake.
9. Our resurrection will make it possible for us to once again enjoy the earth.
So much focus has been placed on the "ascension" that the resurrection has been lost in the mists. The "rapture" has become the focus, which is the wrong means to the wrong goal. Unfortunately, it fits hand in glove with the current shallow interpretation of the goals of the gospel: when the goal becomes a simple relocation of a believer from earth to heaven, then a "special" act of relocation for a "special" group of believers makes sense.
Of course, the fact that it misses the mark entirely doesnt seem to be of any consequence. Not only does it miss the mark, but it reduces the wonderful thing that God is doing to an empty, shallow, self-centered mess. The grandeur of Gods plan becomes completely obfuscated. Behold:
Vision #1: During this life only, anyone professing belief (mental assent) in Jesus is covered with His blood, and allowed entrance to "heaven," there to live forever (doing who knows what) for eternity, while the remainder of mankind, including those that have never heard the gospel (this is most of the people that have ever lived), will be cast headlong into eternal torment. Moreover, there will come a "special" time toward the end of the age when Jesus will come secretly to whisk away a group of gentile believers so that they can avoid suffering during the Great Tribulation, the poor things.
Vision #2: God is building an eternal, flesh and bone kingdom on earth. Living and serving on the New Earth will of necessity require the resurrection of our flesh and bone bodies. It will have as kings and priests certain Christians that have developed an abiding relationship with the King, whereby they hang on His every word. These "overcomers" are the structure and defense of the Kingdom, preventing sin and rebellion from ever rearing its head again (this is what was missing in Eden). They will govern the saved nations comprised of most people that have ever lived, that have never heard of and rejected Christ as they enjoy Gods Kingdom, resting beneath their vines and fig trees (so to speak).
You can decide which vision of the Gospel is more supportable by scripture.
Acts 1:6: Therefore, when they had come together, they asked him, saying, Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?
10. Right now we are determining the kind of resurrection we will have.
What we face in the day of resurrection is being determined every day that we live on this earth. How we live, the decisions we make, our actions and words these are creating a reward (if you will) that we will receive on that day.
2 Corinthians 5:10: For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.
Notice: all, every one, good or bad.
It is preached by some that for Christians the Judgment seat will be like an awards banquet, with every Christian receiving only praise and rewards, not receiving a bad word or punishment of any kind. The Scripture does not bear this out, in either testament.
Psalm 62:12: Also unto You, O Lord, belongs mercy: for You render to every man according to his work.
It is important to understand this relationship between the way we live and what we will face on that day. It allows us to "time bind;" that is, to go forward in time (in our mind) and imagine what that day will be like. Then we can come back to today and live accordingly. Confess sin, repent, turn from ways that are spoken against in the Scripture, realizing that if we do not seriously attempt to conquer these sinful behaviors (in Christ), we will reap destruction in that day, whether we call ourselves a Christian or not.
I speak primarily to those among us who say they rest on the finished work of Jesus, thinking it doesnt really matter if we overcome lust or violence or selfishness it will all somehow come out in the wash. We should try to live right, they say, but ultimately were saved anyway. To those I give a stern warning God is not mocked. You will reap exactly what you sow, period.
2 Corinthians 5:11: Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences.
11. Eternal life is not acquired in Heaven but in Christ.
The popular definition of "eternal life" is "living forever." Thus, when we talk of being given eternal life, we automatically understand that to mean we will get into Heaven, and live forever there in ease and blessing. But what if our definition is skewed? What if "eternal life" has nothing to do with endless existence? What if eternal life was a type of life, like biological life?
John 17:3: And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.
Eternal life is synonymous with knowing God through Jesus.
We hear the Scriptures say that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life, and we nod and approve. We dont like to admit it (since we like to give the impression that we know more than we do) but its kind of a mystery. Jesus is the life: not gives life is life. Thats hard to get your brain around. We have a measure of this endless, incorruptible life because He dwells in us. But how much eternal life we have depends on how deeply we want to allow Jesus to dwell in us. He wont force Himself upon us.
1 Timothy 6:12: Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.
You have an active part to play you must lay hold on eternal life. The way you make decisions each day will reveal how much access to your life you want the King to have. You can keep Him out of certain areas of your life if you choose but its at your own peril. He will be Lord of all, or He will not be Lord at all. He is a jealous King. If you choose to keep something to yourself (family member(s), hobbies, habits, etc.) it will prevent you from growing in Him all growth will stop.
The King is looking for those that will serve Him and love Him. By definition, a servant does what his Master asks, at all times. The process of salvation leads us from self-centered, self-motivated people to people that love and serve the King at all times. At any point, this can be derailed by our failure to yield something that the King puts His finger on.
Colossians 3:4: When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.
Christ must be your life for this verse to be true of you.
12. Safety is not in Heaven but in the Lord Jesus Christ, according to the Bible.
We have some funny ideas about Heaven. In Heaven, we wont be able to sin anymore. In Heaven, all is peaceful and wonderful. In Heaven, we will automatically have all the answers to all of the questions that have bothered us in this life. We cant make up our minds if Heaven will be like a garden, or a city, or a bunch of clouds to float around on, harps included. Above all, Heaven is a safe place to be.
First off, sin began in Heaven, around Gods throne, in the form of Lucifer wanting to be like God. Wherever there is a free-willed creature, sin is possible.
There comes a time of war in Heaven (Rev 12:7), when Michael and his angels are fighting against the devil and his angels in Heaven. So much for peaceful and wonderful, unless your idea of wonderful is a red dragon crouched before the woman to devour her Son as soon as He is born.
As far as automatically knowing all answers, the Bible presents a different idea:
Isaiah 2:3: And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
We will learn the same way we do now; there will be those that will teach us. Some of us will be those teachers! You dont need to wait until that time to learn of Him glean what you can now.
Safety? If you are in Jesus, you are safe, whether you be anywhere on this earth, anywhere in Heaven, anywhere in His creation. Psalm 91 applies to those that are in Jesus, in the "secret place of the most High." If you are doing Gods will, nothing can touch you. Remember the children of Israel and the story of Balaam. Balaam couldnt curse Israel because they were obeying God; they were safe. But when he counseled Balak to send the dancing girls out to tempt the Israelite men, he lured them out from under Gods protection by causing them to sin.
If we shift our focus from Heaven to Jesus, we will be on ground far more solid, both scripturally and logically. God could create 10,000 heavens if He wanted - there is nothing inherently beneficial in a nice environment. What we are looking to Heaven to find is actually found in Jesus Himself.
13. Salvation is not a ticket to Heaven but a state in which the believer lives.
As with many things, the way we define terms makes a huge difference in our understanding of certain topics. To define salvation as getting a pass out of hell and into heaven is to confuse the entirety of the Gospel, and to reduce the truly amazing thing that God is doing to a shallow, impotent, man-centered mythology. It is a simpletons definition, designed to appeal to the selfish.
What we are saved from are the enemies of God primarily those that dwell within our personality! The sin in us keeps us from God; therefore, it is an enemy. The plan of salvation is designed to remove that sin, thus reuniting us with our Creator.
2 Corinthians 5:18-19: Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
All that is/was/will be involved in Jesus overcoming His enemies is for the purpose of reconciling us to God; it staggers the imagination. The Gospel has been reduced (for simplicitys sake, possibly) to Jesus dying to provide us a free pass into heaven, when we deserved hell. True, it will fit into a tract that way, but it misses not only the heart of the Gospel, but our part in it!
What Jesus made possible was an opportunity. An opportunity to work with Him to defeat the enemies that dwell in us, and in the process build a strong relationship with Him, and be reunited with our Father. This happens as every day we wrestle with the issues that Jesus brings to light in our life, through His Spirit. Today, perhaps, He dealt with anger, or lust, or your ambitions, or any of a number of things that He sees are keeping you from God. We each have a unique list of things in us that need to be overcome.
It requires dedication, consistency, work - infinitely more so than a life of "resting in the finished work of Christ" and waiting to go to Heaven. Do not ignore these wrestlings they are the very essence of salvation, the cross that we carry. The cross is the only route back to God.
14. Salvation does not operate independently of our continual response.
There are only two ways that you can approach any situation of life: in the flesh, or in the Spirit. There is not a third option.
To approach a situation in the flesh means to evaluate it and take action (if necessary) based upon our own understanding, intelligence, and experience. Since this usually happens subconsciously, we automatically act in a way that we feel best serves our self-interests, and our survival.
To approach a situation in the Spirit means to acknowledge Jesus, seek His direction and input, and take action (if necessary) based upon His will. We do not rely upon what we see with our eyes, or what has happened before, but we seek God, as a servant does with his Master, to find input and impetus for action.
This covers anything from whether to get up in the morning, how much toothpaste to use, and what clothing to wear all the way to what career to choose, what person to marry, or even whether to grab someone out of a burning auto wreck or not. Any and every type of decision or situation, from the mundane to the life-altering.
Sounds ridiculous? Impractical? Exhausting? Impossible? You have to decide. The costs are total, and rewards and benefits to all of creation are total. Are there decisions that you dont want to bother God with? You figure He has better things to do than to advise you on how much marmalade to put on your toast, or what shoes to wear? Any decision you make outside of Christ is loss for you. He wants to be involved in your life to the smallest detail it is in that type of interaction that salvation thrives.
Salvation, by definition, is the transforming of a person from the image and works of the adversary into the image and works of King Jesus. We start life in a state of rebellion; that is, with a deep desire to make up our own mind and make our own decisions, big and small. By continuing to live our own life without His input, we perpetuate the rebellion, and remain part of the problem rather than part of the solution.
If your definition of salvation is merely escaping hell and gaining access to Heaven, you will never see the reason to live life in the Spirit. However, should you succeed in developing a moment-by-moment relationship with the King, you will bring the Kingdom that much closer to its coming, and you will be a benefit to all of creation. One of the main purposes of this life is to locate and train the governing body of Gods Kingdom, without which the Kingdom cannot come. We can be part of this governing Body if we can ever look past man-made traditions and take Jesus at His word.
15. The plan of redemption delivers us from sin and also from self-centeredness.
The true Gospel is an offense. If the Gospel were preached in all of its unfettered glory and fire, there would be far fewer people calling themselves Christians, in my opinion. The Gospel is popular because it has been watered down and had its teeth removed. It has been reduced to a simple acknowledgment of beliefs about Jesus, with its resulting access to Heaven. The bulk of the gospel has been removed or ignored for simplicitys sake.
The true Gospel is geared toward the destruction of all that you call you.
Luke 9:23: And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.
Deny yourself. Are there any two words that make us wince in our deepest parts the way those two do? In our deepest parts reside our survival instincts; that which kicks in when our life is being threatened with imminent danger of some sort. The Gospel is an imminent danger to our person, so our survival instinct kicks in when we read verses like this, and we gloss over it. We dont contemplate it. We quickly skip to a verse like John 3:16, and let it soothe us into slumber again.
"Tell me more about how God loves me and wants to save me."
The Gospel gets at the heart of the problem of rebellion and sin , and that means it sets its sights on what we are. We must die, but not physically. What we are, as a person, must die, and then be raised again, renewed in Jesus. And take up his cross daily: The cross has no other purpose but to be an instrument of destruction. We die when we say "Lord, I really want to do X, but You are telling me to do Y. So, I decide to put my desire aside, and do Y, because I trust you."
If you dont think this is a death, you havent tried it. The stronger the desire, the harder it is to want to seek Christ for His input. The temptation is to simply believe that God wants to do X, and then do it, hoping He will bless it. Who knows? You may luck out, and find out that God wanted X the whole time! A win-win situation! Either way, you got to do what you wanted! In reality, this is the behavior of an unprofitable servant, destined for banishment.
The plan of redemption frees us from our own struggles to be God, and puts the King in His rightful place, as Master and Lord of our life.
John 12:25: He that loves his life shall lose it; and he that hates his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.
16. God never is to be made a means of achieving mans ambitions.
Picture a servant going up to his/her master and saying, "Lord, I am going to do thus and such for you today. I think it will show you that I love you and think only of you. I need you to provide materials and support for this, so I can honor you."
Sounds good, on a certain level, right? If you tilt your head and squint your eyes just right, you can almost see it to be the right way to serve.
Now picture that master saying, "You most certainly will not. You will wait here, servant, until I decide what I want you to do today. And you will keep quiet until then."
Think about the relationship between a servant and a master. The servant is doing one of two things at all times: he is either waiting at his masters feet for instructions on what to do, or he is out and about doing what his master has instructed, with the means and support supplied by the master. The focus is the masters will. It is something very specific, and he instructs his servants accordingly. This does not leave much room for improvisation, embellishment or interpretation.
As Christians, we call ourselves servants. How often have you heard someone described as "a real servant of God?" We call Jesus Lord, and rightly so. But do we really serve Him? Have we ever really served Him? The tendency is to ask, "What Would Jesus Do?" We try to figure out what He would want, instead of simply asking Him what He wants. When we decide what He would want, and run out to do it, thinking we are serving Him, we are actually doing the opposite rebelling.
Matthew 7:21-23: "Not everyone who says to Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name? And then I will declare to them, I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness! "
Re-read that passage carefully, and let its implications sink in. Here are people that thought they were serving the King, but Jesus called their service "lawlessness" or rebellion. They pointed to many great works that they had done in His name, no doubt spurred by asking themselves What Would Jesus Do? But a relationship never results from trying to figure out what someone would want. Picture Jesus standing there, among a group of these Christians they are trying to figure out what He would want in a given situation all the while Jesus is standing there, saying, "Hello! Im right here! Why not ask me? I will tell you!"
17. The blood of Christ does not keep on covering the known sin we keep on practicing.
Both old and new covenants made provision for forgiveness of sin. Unintentional sin, that is willful sin had no provision under the old covenant:
Numbers 15:28-30: So the priest shall make atonement for the person who sins unintentionally to make atonement for him; and it shall be forgiven him But the person who does anything presumptuously...brings reproach on the LORD, and he shall be cut off from among his people.
Notice, the person that sinned intentionally, knowing it was a sin, was cut off from Israel, his guilt remaining upon him. But were under the new covenant, right? The superior covenant of grace, right? We are treated differently, right?
Hebrews 10:26-27: For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.
This presents a few challenges to our belief structure. If you commit an act that you know ahead of time is sin, you set yourself up to be destroyed, making yourself an adversary of God. John is even more severe: 1 John 3:8: He who sins is of the devil
The key is in the verb tense. Think of it as "he that is sinning" rather than "he that has sinned." If there is a sin that you knowingly keep doing, you can be assured that you are standing condemned, whether you call yourself a Christian or not. You are mocking God and His Law by continuing to do such a thing. You are making excuse for an enemy of God to continue to express itself in your life. God cannot dwell in that. You are cut off from God right now, and you dont even know it. Sin can have no place in your life if you wish to grow at all in God. Understanding this is a key in making a success of the Christian walk. Read the scriptures to find out what God speaks against. It is full of admonitions to avoid certain types of behavior. This is how you "receive the knowledge of the truth." Once you see that something you are doing is sinful, you need to hit it head on, or you will cease to grow.
But it goes beyond the words of the New Testament. Under the old covenant, all of Gods Laws were written down, and followed to the letter. Under the new covenant, our Law is the Holy Spirit. This requires a dependence upon a relationship with Jesus, rather than a relationship with words on a page.You must be in contact with Him at all times as He puts His enemies to death within you. (Rom 8:13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.)
18. Every aspect of our salvation from beginning to end is an opportunity. At no point is the Christian salvation an unconditional amnesty operating independently of our responses.
Welcome to Grace High School! The tuition has been paid for you by the Principal it didnt cost you a cent to enroll! You dont have to study or do any homework, if you dont wish to. I mean, you should try to do some (out of respect for the One that paid your tuition), but, really, its not necessary. In fact, if you try too hard to study and do your work, you will insult the One that paid your way what do you think you can do, earn your diploma? You cant earn it, its a free gift! We will all graduate whether we do any work or not. Your diploma already has your name on it! Four years from now, its yours! So relax, have fun. Try to follow the school rules, again out of respect, but ultimately, there is no punishment for breaking the rules. Sure, the Rule Book talks about harsh punishments and expulsion for those that transgress, but ignore it. School is supposed to be fun! A happy place! Learning is secondary! We all achieve the same reward! We all will be valedictorians! Because the Principal not only paid our tuition, but did all the work for us, and now we receive His accomplishments by simply accepting them! You cant add to it! Its perfect as is! Its Grace! Welcome to Grace High School!
This sums up the attitude of many Christians today the ones that believe "once saved, always saved!" That once you accept Christ, you cannot be lost, because of the finished work of Christ. Any attempt you make to live holy, or work out your salvation with fear and trembling, is considered adding to Jesus perfect work, and therefore, insulting.
Look at this definition of grace, taken from Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible; David Noel Freedman, Editor:
Grace: Gods disposition to help and to provide for the well-being of Gods people. It may be a single act of beneficence with a response of simple gratitude. Frequently, however, it does initiate an ongoing relationship An initial stance of uncoerced favor leads to the formation of a relationship in which the Benefactor will continue to provide assistance and the beneficiaries will continue to remain singularly loyal to the Patron and offer service to the Patron this involves the offering up of the believers whole selves to Gods service, to do what is righteous in Gods sight...
Grace, by definition, requires a total commitment as a response. If you consider yourself a recipient of Gods grace, then your servanthood to Him is understood. If you renege upon your servanthood, the grace will be withdrawn, and you stand as condemned as you were before you accepted the grace in the first place.
19. True Christians are not only forgiven, they are being made perfect.
As humans, our tendency is to lean toward the easy route the path of least resistance. Becoming a Christian does not necessarily change this. If human nature is allowed to exist and thrive "as is" in a Christians life, he/she will continue to default to the easiest understanding and interpretation. The Gospel will continue to devolve and simplify until it becomes (as it already has in many places) a simple case of covering a sinner with Jesus blood and taking him/her to Heaven, unchanged in personality and nature, there to be blessed eternally simply for believing it to be so.
The culmination of this trend is presented in the commonly seen bumper sticker: "Christians arent perfect, just forgiven."
When we settle only for the (admittedly wonderful and necessary) first step of salvation (that of forgiveness of past sin), we succeed in eliminating the vast bulk of the amazing Gospel. Its as though you have taken the first step in a foot race, and then sat down to rest in the victory that you were told belongs to you whether you race or not. Weve been snookered out of the wonder and liberty of the Gospel of Jesus Christ the King!
Forgiveness of past sin is step one in a process that will culminate with the resurrection of the dead, and the defeat of all of Gods enemies that reside in our personality. This life-long process of cleansing and perfection will create an unconquerable relationship between you and Jesus; a relationship that is impossible to create in one quick step. The eternal relationship (which I also call "best-friendship") requires a lifetime of intense, deep interaction with Jesus, and is the Kings goal to begin with. The fact that we end up free of all sin is a wonderful reward and side benefit. The ultimate goal for Jesus is to be one with you as He is with the Father.
Matthew 5:48: Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.
It is possible (and expected) to be perfect for the day, each day. This happens when we are dealing with that which God has given us to deal with (and nothing more). When we address what God puts His finger on each day, the rest is under the blood of Christ, and we are "perfect" in His eyes. This is the purpose of the blood: to cover everything that God is not currently working on, so that you can be perfect in His presence as you address that which He is working on.
20. Our own good works cannot produce salvation, but true salvation always produces good works.
A proper emphasis on the role of "works" in a Christians life is surprisingly elusive. We have been hammered for so long that "we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone" that talking about works, in any relation to salvation, is tantamount to heresy. This may sound like an exaggeration, but I have experienced it firsthand, many times.
The basic problem, as is so often the case, is one of definitions. Christians (especially Gentile Christians) define works as: any good deed you do, or any attempt you make to live righteously. They will quote the verses of Paul from Romans where he talks of "works vs. faith" to support themselves.
When Paul references works, he is talking about the "works of the Law of Moses," not righteous behavior. Grace is never presented in the scriptures as a substitute for living righteously. Paul always strove for righteousness, which is why the Gospel was such good news for him now, at last, a way in which true righteousness could be attained! Not through intense behavior modification under threat of punishment (as under the Law), but in true transformation of personality so that one lives righteously by nature. This is what excited Paul so much about what Jesus made available to us to Israel and to Gentiles.
Galatians 3:24-25: Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.
The law was a necessary step in the process of reconciling God and the world that He "so loved." He is after a Kingdom that will never end, peopled with those that not only love Him, but clearly see the reason why serving Him is infinitely preferable to rebellion. God chose to show us this by allowing us to begin our lives separated from Him, and then initiating a slow, painful process of reconciliation. The end product is a person that is in the image of His Son Jesus, and behaves accordingly; a life characterized by good works.
21. It does no good to restore a man to Paradise until Satan is removed from the man.
"We have met the enemy, and the enemy is us." Walt Kelly
We tend to picture Satan as being out there somewhere, as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. We dont like to think that he might be among us, much less in us.
1 John 3:6: Whoever abides in Him [in God] does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him.
If we accept as permanent the presence of sin in our life, we are accepting the work of Gods enemy in our life. Jesus was very blunt with certain men that believed in Him, as told in Johns gospel. He spoke of the link between a persons actions and the inspiration for the actions:
John 8:44: You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.
We have been conditioned as Christians to believe that God does not see our behavior, and therefore puts no importance upon it. As a result, we pay little attention to what we do. We tell ourselves that we should try to "live right" but ultimately it doesnt matter we believe in Jesus, so we will be okay when we die. If we act sinfully, we shrug it off, writing it off to "being formed in sin and shaped in iniquity" and then we find something to occupy ourselves with while we wait for the Rapture.
We need to understand that the adversary has a foothold in our life, because of the original fall in Eden. This is a real enemy, with real consequences. We do not take the sin in us anywhere near as seriously as we need to, especially if we hope to overcome it. We simply assume, deep down, that it will all come out in the wash. We dont realize that we will be rewarded in exact accordance to our behavior, Christian or not. What we do reveals whom we are being motivated by, who our father is.
1 John 3:7-8: Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.
22. When all else fails, try Jesus.
Sometimes, the only thing we can do about a certain situation (that is, pray) turns out to be the best thing we could possibly do. We often exhaust all other possibilities, and are driven to prayer for a resolution. But most often, we can manage without Gods help or so we think. We (humans) dont like to ask for help; it is a sign of weakness to many. We like the sense of accomplishment we feel when we wrestle a situation through to its conclusion. What we dont realize is that when we slug our way through something without seeking Him and His input, we accomplish nothing of eternal value.
Include Jesus in every decision, big and small. This is much more difficult than it sounds. What needless pain and struggle we endure because we dont go to Jesus first! Personally, my reasons for not going to Jesus first have to do with a subconscious desire to not be a bother to Him. For some reason, I feel that He has much better things to do than to help me with the little decisions of the day. I save the big, important things for Him, and tend to handle the little things on my own. It is a hard habit to break.
But decision-making is like muscle-building; the more you work a muscle, the stronger it gets. If you make a habit of doing most things yourself, you are strengthening the rebellion in you, which is the very thing God wants to put to death. A servant who does his own thing (without seeking the input of his Master) will walk in confusion, and will be deemed unprofitable. Do you ever find yourself wondering if you are doing Gods will for your life (much less for today)? Do you wonder if you have ever really done His will? This is a sign that you are relying upon your own strength, your own resources, your own talents, your own understanding: In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths Proverbs 3:6.
Proverbs 3:6 is a verse that most Christians are very familiar with. Stop and really think about what it is saying, and how it can be applied in your life, specifically. In all of your ways acknowledge Him; this doesnt mean a quick, general prayer each morning to bless the day. It means purposefully including Jesus in each situation that you face during the day, from breakfast, to the morning commute, to work, to lunch break, to going out to the movies, to whatever you do until you go to sleep at night. Take Jesus with you into every conversation and situation. This doesnt mean to preach to everyone; just be aware of His presence, ask Him to help you to listen, to say the right words, or to say nothing at all if He desires, regardless of the conversation topic! Sports, music, movies, work, hobbies, church, theology, politics the topic has no bearing, whatever it is. Be aware of Jesus with you.
As we include Jesus in every decision, He can guide us, since it is in that milieu that we learn to hear His voice.
23. If you go through life and miss the plan of Christ for you, you have missed everything of lasting value.
Would you be surprised to find out that God actually does have a very specific life-plan for you to discover and implement? It has become a cliché: God has a wonderful plan for your life. It doesnt even register anymore.
In our society, so much is made of making a way for yourself in life; put your nose to the grindstone, pull yourself up by your bootstraps, get out there and be somebody! From the time we are children, we are asked what we want to be when we grow up. Some of us are grown up and we still dont know! Many of us are sick of our careers; we wish we were doing something else anything else! But what?
We think we know what would make us happy, but we really dont. Have you ever really, really wanted something, worked hard to obtain/achieve it, and then found out it wasnt anything like youd hoped? Its discouraging, and the natural response is to find something new to fix on and push toward. "If I only had __________ , then I would be happy."
God knows what will make you happy. Its become a cliché also! God made you for something something that will make your heart absolutely sing with joy. He has a role for you in His Kingdom which was prepared for you (specifically) from before the foundation of the world. It literally is what youve been created to do. True, lasting joy. Do you believe it? Honestly?
If so, ask Him. Pursue it. He will gladly guide you into it.
Luke 12:32: Fear not, little flock; for it is your Fathers good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
Psalm 16:11: You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
24. The Christian salvation does not always change where we are, but of necessity always changes what we are.
Where we are/go does nothing to address Gods main problem: sin and rebellion. What you and I wrestle with every day will remain a wrestling partner regardless of our location. And, contrary to popular opinion, going to heaven will do little to change what we are. I say "little" because there are a couple areas of our personality that could possibly benefit from being in heaven
Not much is known about heaven at this point, but I think these assumptions are safe ones: certain struggles attached to our physical body could be affected, including alcoholism, drug addictions and gluttony. If you have a drug problem, I doubt youll have access to your drug of choice there.
But addictions of various kinds are never the problem in and of themselves. They are symptoms of deeper issues. These deeper issues have their roots in sins so intertwined into our personality that God alone must provide the solution. This solution does not consist of magically transforming us into a whole person by walking past St. Peter at the gates of heaven.
No, walking on golden streets will not remove the deeply rooted sin from your personality. If walking on gold could heal you, you might as well gold-plate the bottom of your shoes now, and get a head start. If dying and going to heaven made you whole and set you free, then that would make Death (the last enemy) your redeemer, not Jesus.
Healing and freedom from sin and rebellion starts now, during this life. Today is the day of salvation. That doesnt mean today is the day to get your ticket to heaven. It means today God will work with you on a part of your personality that needs to be transformed into the image of Jesus. You wont find unbridled, deep-rooted anger in Jesus anywhere. Jesus summons His anger in times that are necessary, and is always in complete control of it. This is a facet of His image, and we are being made into that image.
God is looking for those who will cooperate with Him in this work of daily transformation. Those that succeed (called overcomers) will become the necessary governmental structure that God needs for His Kingdom to exist and thrive eternally.
Philippians 2:12: Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.
25. When the bush burns by its own fire, it quickly is consumed.
As people, our motivations are as varied as our personalities. Many chomp at the bit for a ministry, for a purpose, for a function, for something to do. We have an inherent need to feel useful. While the desire to find ones place in the Body is good, it is a realm full of potential pitfalls.
For the go-getter, the tendency is to leap at anything offered, and run with it. To him, the need constitutes the call see a need, do something about it. Americans are action-oriented; we get things done. "Let others stand around and postulate. If something needs to get done, work now and talk later!" While this will get things done in the world, in the church its a sure-fire way to burn out.
While there is no shortage of things to do in the church, and no shortage of potential ministry opportunities, there needs to be structure, there needs to be Someone in charge. That Someone is Jesus. He needs to call the shots. He is a Master running a large estate (so to speak) and we are supposed to be His servants. Servants do not "see a need and do something about it." That is a good way to get a few obvious things addressed and other less obvious things ignored.
Someone needs to have an idea of the big picture, have the ability to delegate, and have the resources and authority available to get things done. But the key is having servants that seek the Masters direction, and are ready and willing to obey whatever orders they receive. Without unity and clear direction among the servants, chaos and backstabbing will undermine the estate, and productivity will be sorely affected.
If Jesus is our Lord and we are His servants, let us learn to play the role. Make waiting on the King a priority. He knows what needs to be done, and how. He will tell you exactly how to help. Pray to Him constantly. When He has enough legitimate servants serving Him, this age will end, and His Kingdom can begin. The true scope of what that will mean to creation is staggering, but it cannot happen until His servants get their acts together, and begin truly serving Him.
Luke 6:46: But why do you call Me Lord, Lord, and not do the things which I say?
26. Christ helps you when you ask Him to.
Some words get used so often that they begin to lose their meaning, their punch, their weight. One of those words is priceless. It used to mean something so valuable that it defied definition. Advertisers have reduced the word to the point that they now use it to describe the experience of chewing a certain type of chewing gum. What a shame, for priceless is exactly the word I would use to describe the fact that Jesus will hear us when we call upon Him.
Think of it! The God that created you and me and everything around us the earth, the stars, the universe, from the largest imaginable things to the smallest imaginable things surely He has many other things to be concerned with than listening to me ask for help in something or for someone. I mean, its just me
Hebrews 7:25 says He ever lives to make intercession for us. If we truly appreciated the magnitude of that concept, there would never be a moment that we werent before Him, interacting with Him not for what He can do for us or give to us, but simply to get to know such a Person that would commit Himself to us in such an amazing fashion. Who is this Jesus? What is it that motivates Him to love us to that extent: to give His life for us, not only on the cross, but even now, continually before the Father, standing in the gap for us? He purchased us. Why? Do you ever wonder about such things?
The tendency is to run to Jesus for help only in time of need. Again, the fact that this help is available in time of need is absolutely priceless. We take it for granted because it has been available our whole Christian life so far. If it were not available, we would be among all men most miserable. The pricelessness of such access notwithstanding, to run to Him only in time of need is to shortchange ourselves a treasure even more wonderful: to be able to run to Him when we are not in need; to walk in His light in good times and tough.
Philippians 4:6: Be anxious for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
Paul shouldnt have to command us to do this. It should be such a no-brainer that we interact with Jesus by nature, like breathing. The fact that we dont is a testament to the fact that sin has such a deep hold on us. Once the sin has been dealt with, we will, by nature, commune with Him constantly. That is truly a day to look forward to, but until that day, start small. When you call on Him and He helps you, take note. Write it down somewhere. Ponder how wonderful it is that He is available to you. Ask yourself, "Why not go to Him now, even though I might not be in need?"
27. Do not make decisions until your passions and enthusiasms cool off. God speaks in the still, small voice.
There is a saying: Enthusiasm is a form of madness. When we are worked up and excited about something, it colors our ability to make clear, proper decisions. It is very easy to convince myself that God wants me to have something, when I really, really want it! Im excited at the prospect of obtaining this thing (or outcome to a certain situation, etc.) and so I tend to "help it along" by running right out and doing something about it. Prayer is minimal, or non-existent. I mean, why pray at length for something that is so obviously of God? The desire is there, the means to obtain it is there, what am I waiting for?
Of course, this is a one-way ticket to Gods chastening. The classic Biblical example of this is Abraham. He was given a tremendous promise by God, but rather than waiting on God, he thought hed "help it along", and the result was Ishmael a thorn in Israels side to this day.
Passions and enthusiasm are not bad, except when they influence snap decisions. Learning to wait on God until the fires die down is a true mark of maturity in Christ. You will never hear the still, small voice when a grand parade is marching through your soul. You will be swept up in the moment, and could make a horrible decision that will cost you dearly. Remember Moses; God told him to speak to the rock (Numbers 20), but Moses was all riled up at the rebellion and complaining of the Israelites. So he struck the rock twice with the rod, in direct disobedience to Gods command. It cost Moses entrance into the promised land.
One could be passionate about a cause as well. Do you have strong political opinions? Some anti-abortion activists are so consumed with their cause they become convinced God wants them to slay doctors that perform abortions. The fires of passion burn, and impede sound judgment. Remember the Pharisees; their zeal caused them to crucify their Messiah.
Again, being zealous about certain things is not bad (Gal. 4:18 it is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing ), but seeing as how the whole thrust of the Gospel is geared toward learning to listen to and obey God at all times, it behooves us to calm down and wait on the Lord. What is the hurry? God has all of eternity. Slow down, wait on God until you know youve heard from Him.
There is another saying: You cant cook potatoes over a bonfire. You need to wait for the fire to die down, and cook them on the hot embers.
28. Your pain will turn into gain when you take up your cross and follow Jesus.
Picture two plots of land next to each other, each about three yards square. Picture a farmer clearing the weeds off of both plots, tilling the ground, and adding fertilizer. Now picture him planting an apple seed in one of the plots, and not planting anything in the other.
As the months pass, he tends both plots of ground exactly the same. He waters, he weeds, he fertilizes, he deals with any rodent or insect problems. The seed that was planted has sprouted, and begins to grow tall. The years pass, the apple tree grows strong, and eventually, it begins to bear fruit. The farmer continues to treat both plots of ground the same. One plot has a mature, fruit-bearing tree. The other has nothing. All the years of blessing, of sun, of rain, of hands-on care by the farmer; both plots received equal amounts.
Matthew 5:45: for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
Each of us is a plot of dirt (Gen 3:19: For dust you are, and to dust you shall return.). We all receive sun and rain, blessings and difficulties, enrichments and droughts. Jesus is the Seed. If Jesus is in our life, the hard times and the good times will both ultimately produce something of eternal value: something to bless others a fruit-bearing tree! We have something to show for this life of pain. Those that do not have Jesus will have nothing of eternal value to show for this life of ups and downs.
Lest you think I am minimizing "us" by calling us dirt, let me point out a small fact about the seed: it needs soil in order to germinate. Dirt is a necessary part of this equation. The seed will not grow into a fruit-bearing tree by sitting in a sack somewhere. Also, remember that fruit contains within itself more seeds, making more trees a possibility.
Jesus is that seed, and we can play an integral part in the replication of that Seed, by allowing it to be planted in us, and then enduring the heat and the rain, the fertilizing and the weeding, the hand of the Farmer.
29. Are you Gods servant or are you trying to make God your servant?
There are several things that militate against servanthood. Among them: 1) The fact that we cannot yet see God or talk with Him directly, as a man can with another man. 2) The tendency we have toward "the easy route." 3) The fact that we have been made in His image! This is all before we even factor in indwelling sin.
1) Some feel it would be easier to serve God if we could see Him first. The Israelites saw not only Gods mighty works firsthand, but they even saw/heard Him thundering from the top of Mt. Sinai. This didnt prevent them from rebelling against God. Seeing a glorified Jesus with your own eyes wont be enough to cement obedience in your soul. You need to set your devotion to Him in stone before that day comes.
2) By nature, I prefer to play rather than work. Its not that I wont work, its just that if left to my natural inclinations, Im apt to waste the day away leisurely, finding something to entertain myself with. This is difficult for me to counter, especially when Im feeling depressed. This tendency I have to look for the easy route will often spill over into my Christianity. I get gung-ho only for things I really want to do, so I ask God to bless me in them.
Picture a parent and child, walking hand-in-hand, and the child pulling the parent along, saying, "Dad! Cmon! I wanna play in the road! Lets go!" Thats what I must come across like to God. Me trying to take His hand, pulling Him in the direction I want to go, asking Him to bless me. Obviously, that is just the opposite of servanthood, but it looks good to the undiscerning eye. How could you fault someone that is praying for Gods hand and blessing to be upon his endeavors? You might even join your prayers with mine!
3) We have been made in Gods image in many important ways, including our ability to love, to judge, to create, and to rule. All of these are positive traits, when under control, and with the Holy Spirit guiding and empowering us, in light of the will of the Father. Used without reference to God, these impulses and abilities can conversely be used for great harm.
Add to these the fact that sin dwells within our personality (driving us to do things we would rather not) and you get a recipe of pain. You also get the precise conditions necessary for a true servant to be formed. This combination of obstacles helps God to weed out those who are not serious about serving Him. This will include not only the vast majority of mankind, but of the church as well. Those who can overcome in such a difficult (contrived) situation will be servants for eternity. God can entrust them with power like Jesus, and with sonship. These are the priests and kings that God will use as pillars in His Kingdom eternally.
30. Whatever Christ says to you, do it! Mary.
I know some Christians that occasionally like to bang on Catholicism, mostly for the way that Mary is elevated. My response to anyone that starts in on Catholic bashing is a verse from Johns Gospel, from the story of the marriage supper, where Jesus turned water into wine. Here is Mary, Jesus mother, encapsulating the Kingdom in one short statement.
John 2:5: His mother said to the servants, "Whatever He says to you, do it."
Notice: she told the servants. If you are a servant of Jesus, her message is for you. It is sound advice for any situation, and can be applied every day of your life. "Whatever He says to you, do it." How on earth could anyone fault her for saying that?
What remains is how to hear from Him. This following familiar passage helps me to understand how, without really making it any easier to do:
Romans 12:1-2: I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
Picture an Old Testament sacrifice. A butchered bull being heaved up onto the altar of burnt offering under the burning sun of the desert. The animal is slain, its blood (life) being spilled in order to make an atonement of some sort, after which time it is consumed in the fire. Now picture that sacrifice being left alive, but placed on a consuming altar, there to live, continually providing service; a sacrifice in a perpetual state of being offered up to God.
Paul is telling us in Romans that we need to live in just that way our body in a perpetual state of being surrendered to God instead of to our own passions and drives. When I live unto myself, being motivated by my own passions, I make myself my god. I prove my own will, and nothing more. I am conformed to the way of this world, since this manner of living is what the world promotes.
When I voluntarily set aside my desires, and seek to hear from God, it is a death, a sacrifice. If you dont think it so, just try it: willfully choose to find out what God wants you to do instead of doing whatever pleases you at the moment. If you are interested in doing "whatever He says to you" then this is the route a death route. Ironically, this "death route" is the only route to eternal life (i.e. knowing Jesus).
31. Faith and fear cannot dwell in our heart at the same time. They are mutually exclusive.
This one is tough. Fear vs. faith. Fear is basically a manifestation of a lack of firm belief in God and His ability. It affects Christians and non-Christians alike. It can run the gamut from hearing things that go bump in the night, to worrying about how things are going to be at some point in the future, to literally being in a life-threatening situation. Your response to all of these (and more) will reveal much about your faith in God. The disciples lived and walked with Jesus. They were convinced that He was the Messiah, as He said. Yet on the Sea of Galilee, the storm came, the waves arose and swamped the boat, and they felt they were about to perish, even with Jesus in the boat with them. They went to Jesus, who was asleep in the boat at the time, and woke him, saying, "Lord, save us! We are perishing!"
Matthew 8:26: But He said to them, "Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?"
When it came down to it, Jesus knew the Father, and they did not. Jesus knew how faithful God was. He knew all of the times in the past that God kept His word, and protected Him. It was so strong in Him that He could overlook the roiling waves and menacing storm, and be so at peace that He could sleep.
The key to overcoming fear is to remember what God has done for you in the past. I dont mean only the specific things that He has done in your life (which you should be writing down in a journal), but I also mean the things that are written in His word, Old Testament and New. I mean things recorded in the biographies of great Christians throughout the centuries, from Foxes Book of Martyrs to present day. Remember that God is faithful, but also remember that God can do anything. He is not limited in His ability to save and to protect.
Isaiah 59:1: Behold, the LORDs hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor His ear heavy, that it cannot hear.
All this is fine and well when everything is peaceful and calm, but when fear stabs at your heart unexpectedly, it is another story. At that time, you can only rely upon what you have built up to that point. That is not the time to try to build up your faith to squash the fear. The time to build up your faith is when fear and dread are far from you, and things are calm. Ironically, when things are calm, we are much more apt to go about our business, thinking all is well with our faith. In your times of ease, remember the Lords faithfulness. You will need it in the days to come.
32. Salvation is deliverance from the compulsions of sin.
Picture a person that is blindfolded, in a darkened room, standing with his face an inch from a wall. Picture that person telling you how wonderful it is that he is running freely in a grassy meadow, enjoying the freedom that God has given him!
Sin is insidious. We are born with it dwelling in our personality, and it compels us to behave the way we do, often to the harm of others and ourselves. It separates us from our Creator, corrupts the way we view life in general, and our own life specifically. It is an enemy, and a result of Adams rebellion against God. It is a disease, if you will, that is passed down from generation to generation, hamstringing us from birth, perpetuating rebellion and disobedience and selfishness. It must be destroyed.
Further, it must be destroyed in such a way that it will never rear its ugly head again. Simply removing sin from a personality in one quick, fell swoop would be a temporary solution. It would leave a vacuum that would quickly be refilled with the same thing that just left, similar to digging a hole at the beach too close to the water. No matter how often you bail the hole out, water will continue to seep in.
Many Christians I talk to (mostly online) remind me of the blindfolded, deluded man in the opening paragraph. They are bound and blind, and convinced that they are free. Any talk of sin is quickly dismissed by informing me that sin was taken care of on the cross; meaning we are forgiven, and at some point in the distant future, God will simply remove the compulsion to disobey from us with a magic wand or something. The long-reaching effects of sin, and the impact it would have on Gods Kingdom if not addressed properly, is a topic that is either avoided altogether, or dismissed as Gods business, not ours.
Romans 6:6: Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.
As long as sin is ignored, it will be a problem, and Gods Kingdom will be prevented from coming in its fullness. The permanent solution to the removal of sin begins now, today. When God shows you sin in your personality, you are to confess it, denounce it as sin, and assign it to destruction with your own mouth. You need to judge it, and ask God to help you never to do that particular sin again. Sometimes God will remove it from you then and there, and replace it with a measure of Christ, but most often you will need to hit that sin again and again, whittling it down through persistent confession and judgment. In this way, God slowly works sin out of your personality, replacing it with Jesus, and establishing a relationship/friendship with you. That relationship is the final answer to the removal of sin. Instant removal of sin, at some point in the future, will never produce a relationship of any depth, much less of a depth that will sufficiently serve as an eternal defense against rebellion.
33. Without Jesus we are tossed about. We have no anchor!
I experienced many interesting things when my brother Bryan died. One of those things was a recurring vision I had that first week, between the day I found him dead in his room and the memorial service a week later.
The vision was this: I was inside a cathedral. The cathedral was ornately decorated with statues, painted walls and ceilings, stained glass windows, etc. Everything was a drab, grayish tint, very low contrast. The windows were all blown out, the electricity was off, and a swirling wind blew everything around inside the cathedral, including leaves and twigs from outside. The only sound was the sound of the swirling windstorm.
Positioned in the center of the cathedral was a pillar, from floor to ceiling. It was extremely large - much larger than was needed to serve the purpose of holding up the roof. Instinctively, I knew that if the pillar was not there, the roof and walls would collapse under the assault of the storm, and yet I also knew that it didnt have to be such a huge pillar to prevent the disaster. It was overkill. Nevertheless, I was thankful for its presence.
In this vision, I kept going up to the pillar and kicking it. I wasnt trying to knock it over; I had to prove to myself that this pillar before me was real, and not a figment of my imagination. I had to assure myself that it was really there, and it was.
Psalm 18:2: The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.
My life was a swirling mess. Before, it was rather cavernous, ornate, religious, beautiful even. Then the winds came: all light was gone, windows shattered, pain and sorrow invaded, swirling, disrupting, assaulting, trying to destroy, to bring down the roof of my life.
But in the middle of my life appeared a Pillar, and it was holding me up. It was much more than was needed to provide the strength and support I needed. Even in my pain, I knew there was no possibility of destruction, and it gave me a hope that was priceless. I knew the winds would pass and the time of cleanup and rebuilding would come, and that the latter end would be greater than the former. In the meanwhile, I kicked at the pillar. Yes, it was real.
It is real. It is still there. The presence of that pillar at that time did more for my faith and trust than anything up to that point, or since. King Jesus is faithful, and I wouldnt trade that knowledge for anything.
34. The blood and the Spirit are the authority and the power for a work yet to be accomplished in us. That work is to bring us into the rest of God.
The rest of God. This is one of many inscrutable phrases and terms within the Christian vernacular. You cant seem to get your brain around it. What does it mean? The remainder of God? The inactivity of God? Does God get tired? If not, why does He need to rest? By saying we (Christians) need to labor to enter His rest, does that mean He doesnt want us doing anything but laying around? For heavens sake, explain yourself!
The rest of God is simply this: after a flurry of activity that included the creation of everything around us (including us), God stopped. Not because He was tired, but because He was done doing what He wanted. He created everything up to, and including, the New Jerusalem. He has His finished product already prepared to be rolled out at the proper time.
In His Kingdom, He has a place designed specifically for you. It is something that you literally were created for. When you see it, your heart will sing. You will want nothing more in all of creation than to do that which God has planned for you to do in His Kingdom. It might be something along the lines of what you like to do now or it might be something youve never thought of. Teacher, priest, explorer, artist, musician, architect; all possibly employing tools and materials never before imagined. Whatever it is, it is what you have been created for.
This life should be training you for this role. That is where the misunderstanding of the rest of God comes back into the conversation. The point of this life is not to simply survive and make it to Heaven, there to do who-knows-what. In this life, you are to learn to hear from and follow God as He frees you from your bonds, and leads you into that which He has made you for. This is entering into Gods rest.
He has finished creating your role in His Kingdom, and He is resting from that. You enter into that rest by discovering and pursuing that which He has already created for you. You do not need to struggle to recreate heaven and earth. You do not need to wonder if you have a purpose, or strive to try many different things, in some vain search for self-discovery. You simply must learn to look to God, and let Him guide you into joy. It will not only give you purpose and joy, but your finding it will benefit all of creation.
35. We show Christ our love for Him by keeping His commandments.
Distill the entire Gospel down to its core element and you will find that Jesus desires a relationship with you; a relationship whereby you and He dance the dance of Gods Will together.
John 5:19 & 30: the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner...I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me.
Jesus life was unique in this regard. The rest of us trudge along, doing the best we can, doing what we feel God wants us to do, to the best of our knowledge. Not so Jesus. He did nothing that He didnt see the Father doing, and He said nothing that He didnt hear the Father saying. That is why He could say, "He that has seen me has seen the Father" and mean it. Truly, when you beheld Jesus, you saw the works of God and heard Gods words.
As Christians, we are supposed to develop the same relationship with Jesus (and thus, with God). We are to say only what we hear Jesus saying, and do what we see Jesus doing. We are to serve Him in the same capacity in which He served God. Their relationship is our pattern. Behold:
John 17:20-23: I do not pray for these [disciples] alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.
In this, the deepest part of the Bible, we see Jesus earnest desire for us to have the same type of relationship with Him that He has with the Father. "That they may be one just as we are one."
A true servant shows his love for his master by obeying what the master has said. Thus, when you see that servant, you are seeing the master, since the deeds and words of the master are on display. The servant has set aside his right to be himself in order to pursue the desires of another. When one chooses to do this voluntarily, it is the greatest form of love: laying down your life for another. This is what Paul is expressing in Galatians 2:20 when he says that he is crucified with Christ, nevertheless he lives, yet it is not him that is living, but Jesus that is living through him. When you saw Paul, in a real sense you were seeing Jesus, because Paul voluntarily put his life upon the cross, and lived instead to serve the One that died for him. This is true Christianity.
36. The only certain proof of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is the fruit of the Spirit.
Paul juxtaposes the flesh and the Spirit in Galatians chapter 5. He says your behavior reveals which of the two you live your life in/by.
Galatians 5:19-21: Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are
He lists seventeen specific fleshly behaviors in this passage, ranging from sexual sins to outbursts of anger and drunkenness, stating that "those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God." That statement alone is enough to shake the theology of the average Christian, who has been taught that our behavior does not matter to God once we "accept Christ."
Galatians 5:22-23: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
These nine are the antithesis of the previously listed fleshly behaviors. These are offered as evidence of living in the Spirit. Funny that what we do proves our standing in God rather than what we believe.
James 2:24: You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.
There has been such a disconnect in our theology regarding the proper balance of faith and works again, incorrect definitions wreak havoc upon our understanding. Faith is defined by most as belief, as in, mental ascent to certain ideas or facts about Jesus. Thus, we are told a proper mental orientation will produce salvation, which is defined as obtaining entrance into Heaven when we die. Works is described as any "good deed" we do, and is frowned upon, supposing that anyone that speaks of "good works" must be trying to earn his salvation.
In fact, faith is defined in the first verse of Hebrews eleven: the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. To understand what this means, you need to read the entire eleventh chapter, referred to by most as the Faith Chapter. Funny that it is a record of works. The entire chapter lists what the Heroes of Faith did not what they believed. They show how faith can only be expressed by what you do it is a dynamic response to what you understand to be true of your God. If you are living in the Spirit (meaning acting upon the impulses He puts upon your heart as you remain in constant communication with God), it will be evident in your behavior. Love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
37. There are not two major works of grace but three: the atonement, the indwelling of the Spirit, and the establishing of the Throne of God in us.
As a church, we have come two-thirds of the way in the work of redemption.
The atoning sacrifice of Jesus has been well-preached and understood for centuries now. We all are born in sin and shaped in iniquity. We stand guilty before a righteous God, and therefore need a Savior. Jesus died on our behalf, paying the penalty for our sin, suffering our punishment (separation from God). By "we" I mean mankind as a whole. Jesus bought us we belong to Him now, whether we acknowledge it or not. He can do with us as He will. He has chosen to deal with us by presenting us with an opportunity to be reconciled to our God by believing in His name.
The baptism of the Holy Spirit has been preached and understood for the past century or so. We receive His Holy Spirit for many reasons. We speak in tongues in order to communicate with God when we cant put into words the cry of our heart. We receive wisdom from God to handle life situations. We receive various gifts and ministries and knowledge to help build up fellow believers so that we wont have to remain spiritual infants. We learn of God through His Spirit, as He speaks to our heart.
Ephesians 4:11-12: And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
This is as far as many Christians have come often called "the Spirit-filled life." Ask these Christian what comes next, and most (if not all) will say, "Next stop, Heaven!"
But there is more A third and final move, as distinct and important as the Atonement and the Spirit, lays before us. This movement will make it possible for God to accomplish His goal that of truly reconciling His creation to Himself, and establishing an everlasting Kingdom full of people that truly love Him and serve Him, freed from sin in reality, not just in theory.
At this time, we are anointed, forgiven flesh. We still wrestle with sin, struggle with temptations, and put up with self-absorption. We have a dickens of a time trying to come to terms with whether we want to even serve Him or not! Within my personality dwells Gods enemies my Land of Promise is inhabited by the enemies of Israel! These enemies need to be eliminated so that we (God and I) can dwell in me in safety and peace. God will not dwell in me until these enemies are overthrown and driven out.
Ask a "two-thirds" Christian how these enemies will be overthrown, and they might say it happens at some point in the future, after this world is over. God will simply glorify us and we will miraculously lose all desire to sin and disobey. We will suddenly love Him and serve Him, even though we havent really done so (or even wanted to) at any point in this life. But until that time, we will continue as we always have, spending each day doing what is right in our own eyes.
What they dont realize is that the atonement and baptism of the Spirit have both been provided to give us the authority and power to do the final work overthrowing Gods enemies in our personality, and preparing the way for the King to enter our land, to dwell there eternally. This is not a future, one-time event, but rather it is the entire impetus behind living a Spirit-filled life now today! It has nothing to do with "going to Heaven" but rather it has everything to do with establishing Gods Kingdom Rule within our own heart.
38. Redemption does not bring us from Hell to Heaven but from Satan to Christ; from death to life. It is the change in our personality that brings us from Hell to Heaven. The wicked always are in Hell and the righteous always are in Heaven.
Heaven and hell are real places, make no mistake, but its an extreme oversimplification to define salvation in terms of heaven and hell. The simpletons gospel presented from many American pulpits has succeeded in reducing the amazing work that Jesus is doing to a simple legal loophole that allows people to flee from deserved destruction into undeserved eternal blessing by believing the right ideas. Instead of letting the Bible define our theology, we have crafted a humanistic gospel and searched for scripture to support it. As a result, we often read the Bible without even realizing what it is saying. But God is taking the seals off .
God is just He is not tricking anyone. What could be more just than the idea of sowing and reaping? If you sow sin, you reap destruction; if you sow the Spirit, you reap life. The lake of fire has dominion over sin it is the rubbish bin that is designed for one purpose to receive rubbish. If you make excuses for the rubbish in you (once it is shown to you), this is where you will go whether you call yourself a Christian or not. What is your attitude toward the rubbish (sin) within you?
"I cant help it, I have to sin. It runs in my family. As long as were in the world, we have to sin. The devil made me do it. It will all come out in the wash because Jesus loves me. Ive gotta be me! Everyones doing it. Jesus will forgive me. Nobody is perfect. God doesnt expect us to be perfect. God wants us to be happy! Dont judge me, you hypocrite!"
Any of those excuses sound familiar? If you compromise with sin in your life, you stand ready to topple into the rubbish bin. You are making excuses for Gods enemies to live in you, and are thus spitting in His face! God will not force Himself upon you He wants to dwell in you, but the sin must be dealt with first. This is what Jesus made possible by dying on the cross He made a way to be free from sin; to be redeemed! We are bound by sin because of Adam and were destined for the rubbish bin. But Jesus made a way to be freed from our binds and loosed into Gods Kingdom. That process begins now.
You must commit to work with Jesus every day to root this sin out, rather than just floating through life, basically doing what you want, hoping to go to "heaven" when you die. Dying does not remove sin from you if it did, then Death would be your redeemer, not Jesus. We are nowhere near serious enough about salvation, and it is apt to cost us big time in the end. Jesus did not have many nice things to say about lazy servants.
39. Eternal life is more than endless existence. It is life lived in the Presence of God through Christ.
Eternal life is commonly defined as: living forever, to begin some point in the distant future, after we die and are glorified. The idea that eternal life is a type of life, and that it begins now, is absurd to most Christians with whom I interact. For them, the common definition is just dandy, and warrants no further discussion.
Eternal Life, properly defined, is life lived in the Presence of God through Christ. It is something you can and should be experiencing every moment that you live and breathe, starting now. It is the soil that your relationship with Jesus is planted in.
1 Timothy 6:11-12: But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
This is Paul writing to Timothy, admonishing him to "lay hold on eternal life." The direct implication is that he can choose not to, but lets leave that for a moment look how he begins his admonition. He talks about vain preachers that cause problems by not preaching godliness, and then rails against those that pursue wealth, including the famous words about the love of money being the root of evil. He then picks up with the verse above about "fleeing these things" and pursuing righteousness, etc.
He is describing the way Timothy should live in this world. How he should carry himself, how he should behave. He rightly calls it a fight. If you dont think it can be a struggle to pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience and gentleness, then you havent tried it. It is so easy to coast through each day on auto-pilot, especially in America, with so much available to distract us. To consciously decide to focus on Jesus, in both mundane and potentially interesting circumstances, requires a person to have a good idea of what is at stake.
Whatever you have planned to do after you finish reading this, make a conscious decision to include Jesus in it. Ask Him, "Lord, what about this? What should I do here? What should I say here?" By training yourself to listen for Him like this, you put yourself in a position to hear Him. When you hear Him, you can respond to what He says, and the confidence that comes from knowing you heard Him and did what He said will be unlike anything you have ever felt. This is Eternal Life: life lived in the Presence of God through Christ.
40. The purpose of Christs return is not to bring His Church to Heaven but to bring justice and peace to the nations of the earth.
This world is not a failed experiment on Gods part. To hear the current widely-embraced simpletons gospel presented, you would think that God has made a series of mistakes, and now has nothing left but to cut His losses, withdraw His believers from the earth, and destroy everything else.
He created a wonderful new creation, but couldnt stop sin from entering. He had to destroy that earth and its people because He was down to only one believer (Noah) and had to move before Noah drifted away too. He gave 10 simple commandments to Israel, while at the same time they were dancing in front of a golden calf down in the valley. He realized we couldnt keep the law at all, so He decided to give us "grace." Now we dont have to serve Him at all, but rather just believe and our reward is eternal bliss in paradise.
What an impotent picture of God they paint! I realize that the best way to expose a counterfeit is to simply present the true, but I need to hit this head-on for a moment. What an insult to our mighty God "dispensational" teaching is as though God has to keep adjusting and refining His plan of redemption, continuing to compromise His expectations so that we can somehow please Him in our laziness and still be saved. This has resulted in the gospel goal being changed to a simple plan of escape from tribulation.
The earth is under a curse because of sin. Look at todays headlines: they drip with tales of injustice, heartache, loss, pain and fear. How would this be addressed by God taking His church out of the earth? God loves the world remember John 3:16? His answer to the curse is to develop His church into a mature body of people that can fan out into this world of pain, and bring the gospel of freedom from sin to our fellow man. God in Jesus in the hearts of the saints, ministering life to bound mankind, bringing freedom from sin, and thus, a removal of the curse.
What will mean more to, for example, a Brazilian orphan child living in the streets of Sao Paulo, trying to evade abuse or death at the hands of corrupt police and others? What will combat such injustice and cruelty? God taking His church away? or God sending a Servant to Sao Paulo to crush the oppressor and bring liberty, love and blessing to that child?
Isaiah 42:1: Behold! My Servant whom I uphold, My Elect One in whom My soul delights! I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles.
41. The saints meet the Lord in the air in order to change the thrones that govern the earth from wickedness to righteousness.
The common picture we have of Jesus is that of a shepherd: a flowing robe, a crooked staff in His hand, children at His side or on His lap the gentle, loving Jesus, providing for, and protecting, His sheep.
Psalm 23:1-3: The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul
This, of course, is from the well-known 23rd Psalm, which has brought comfort to myriads throughout the ages. This is a true enough picture of our King, but He has additional facets to consider look at this passage from the very next Psalm:
Psalm 24:8-10: Who is this King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O you gates! Lift up, you everlasting doors! And the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, He is the King of glory.
The Lord is also a Man of war, strong and mighty in battle. Can you picture Jesus needing to fight in a battle or a war? Sure, the Old Testament is full of war as Israel conquered and was conquered but that was man fighting man whom will Jesus need to go toe to toe with, sword to sword? Can you see Him, in full armor, sword drawn, mounted upon a white horse, ready to ride forth into battle? Whom will He fight?
Rev 19:11: And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war.
Jesus will lead His Army in one final battle at the end of this age. The Kingdom will be taken by force. Picture thrones in the air that governing spirits sit upon to rule over this world. These thrones are currently occupied by fallen angels and powers at enmity against God. God has allowed this so that the earth can be turned into a proper place to train us. But make no mistake, they are usurpers, and will soon be under the feet of the Lord and His saints.
Ephesians 6:12: For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.
These "hosts" will not give up their thrones without a fight we are caught up to meet the Lord in the air because that is where this final battle will begin with the taking of those thrones and the destruction of those that currently occupy them. From there, the battle continues on down to the earth, not to heaven. Heaven will have been cleared of the enemy by this time (Revelation 12:7, 8). There would be no point to gathering the saints for an escape to Heaven when there is a battle to fight, and a Kingdom to take.
Revelations 11:15: "The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!"
42. The rewards to the overcomer are not gifts to be given to us as we stand in line but authority and competence to perform the tasks of the Kingdom.
The following is a list of things promised to overcomers, taken from Revelations two and three, save for the final two, which are from Rev 21:7
To eat from the tree of life, to not be hurt by the second death, to receive hidden manna, a white stone with your new name upon it, power over the nations, the morning star, to be clothed in white garments, will not blot your name out but rather confess it before God, be made a pillar in Gods Temple, have the names of God, Jesus and the new Jerusalem written upon you, to sit with Jesus in His throne, to inherit all things, and to be a son of God.
These are often preached as rewards that will be given to everyone that names the name of Jesus. All Christians (it is said) will receive these things at the judgment seat. This gross oversimplification is indicative of the American simpletons gospel, the "ticket to Heaven" gospel. The idea is that once you become a Christian, you set your eyes on Heaven and forget about this world, as far as how you live while here. By believing, you have overcome disbelief, and therefore are an overcomer. That is all the overcoming they feel we need. But there is another way to look at it
You are either overcoming sin right now, or you are not. You are either an overcomer right now, or you are not. The process of overcoming is a daily, dynamic thing you participate in it every day as you work with Christ to put to death the enemies of God that have a hold on your personality. Those that will receive the rewards in the first paragraph are receiving them now. There will not simply come a day when you are dubbed an overcomer, based solely on the fact that you survived this life and still call yourself a Christian.
We eat of the Tree of Life now. We receive the hidden manna now. We become a pillar in Gods Temple now. At the judgment seat, what we are is revealed (2 Corin. 5:10). We will either be competent to rule at that time, or we will not. We will have learned the hard way, through a life of joy and pain, to lean on Jesus for every decision and judgment which is what every king will need to be able to do in His Kingdom.
Think about a king for a moment. Would it make sense for a king to rule in Gods Kingdom who has no training whatsoever? If that king had no idea whatsoever the requirements of being a king under Jesus, and simply walked in and received a robe and a crown, and was led to a throne, would you trust that person to make good, righteous decisions? Would you want that person to rule over you, fumbling along as he/she learned the ropes of ruling? You mean a Christian that never had any desire to learn to hear from (or seek) Jesus is suddenly supposed to just magically develop such a desire? It is absurd to think that a person who "believes" in Christ and spends his/her entire Christian life waiting for the rapture and daydreaming about going to heaven to live in a mansion is suddenly going to become a fiery, loyal, competent leader, able to judge and intercede as Jesus to the saved nations of mankind.
No, the overcomers are being determined today. You can be among them if you want. If you want to receive the promises that the simpletons gospel falsely ascribes to all believers, then start acting like an overcomer. Work every day to develop an interactive relationship with the King. Put yourself in a position to always hear from Him, and He will train you to be a competent ruler. Until He has enough competent rulers trained, His Kingdom will be delayed.
43. There is no such thing as a Gentile Church, only the one Body of Christ, the one olive tree, comprising Jews and Gentiles.
There are not two bodies of Christ. Jesus had one body while He walked the earth He was the Servant of God walking around among us! When He died upon the cross, His body was broken, multiplied and distributed, like the loaves and fishes. His body and blood continue to be blessed, multiplied and distributed today to whosoever will; we call it communion.
Again, He has but one body, and it has been distributed through the ages to the church that is why we are called the Body of Christ. Jesus is now the Head only we are His Body.
1 Corinthians 12:12 & 27: For as the body is one, and has many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually.
Colossians 1:4: And He is the head of the body (the church)
Christ gave to you a portion of His flesh, symbolized by the communion service this means He now needs you to be complete again! He could think of no greater expression of His love for you than to give you of His flesh now you are a part of His Body, along with all others to whom He has given of Himself. Together, we complete Him. Together, we are the Head and Body of Christ, the Servant of God.
I stress this because I want it to be obvious on the face of it that there cannot be two bodies divided between Jew and Gentile. We are one stick in Gods hand. Our fleshly distinctions cease to apply once we join ourselves to Christ in such an intimate manner.
Galatians 3:26-29: For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christs, then you are Abrahams seed, and heirs according to the promise.
44. Every believer can be an overcomer through Jesus Christ. To not be an overcomer is to be a loser. No rewards are designated for the losers.
The Apostle Paul personified overcoming. Look at the way he lived not so much what he did, but his attitude.
Philippians 1:20-21: as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
Assigning your entire personality to death on the cross is the only way to life, oddly enough. This is symbolized in water baptism, as the entire old man goes down under water, symbolizing death. All of you, your good traits as well as the sinful ones, go under to death. That which God finds redeemable will be raised and renewed in Christ. This is the only way to be rid of the sin that dwells within you. You can not repair or fix up your Adamic nature. The entire thing must die, the sin staying dead, the remainder being raised and combined with Jesus to make a new creature. (Romans 6:6)
This is symbolized in a one-time event (baptism) but it works out over a lifetime. Every day, life and death struggle for mastery over you; every day there is something God has His finger on in your personality. If you ride through the day on cruise control, doing whatever is right in your own eyes, death has won the day, and God will try again tomorrow.
Galatians 2:20: I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.
When you looked at Paul, you were seeing Jesus because Paul assigned his life, with its ambitions and desires, to the cross. He hung his life up there with Jesus, and elected instead to find out what the King would have him do. He denied himself, took up his cross and followed the King. Again, this is the route to life and freedom, and it is the way every overcomer lives/will live. These are the ones that receive the rewards referred to in the first two chapters of Revelation, as well as other rewards commonly misattributed to every believer. (2 Timothy 4:7, 8)
If you elect instead to be content with believing in Jesus, coasting through life doing your own thing, looking forward to Heaven, you will have lost out on your opportunity to participate in the gospel, and the liberty from sin that it offers. You either overcome or you are overcome.
45. Do not waste your time fretting when the wicked prosper. Soon they will be no more.
Imagine a flight simulator for a moment. An airplane cockpit sits alone on a series of hydraulics, and the prospective pilot sits inside. From inside, the cockpit is identical to the cockpit in the plane the pilot will fly "in real life" should he pass his training. The windows have been replaced with computer screens that simulate what the pilot would be seeing out the windows if this were a real plane. The controls respond the same way the real plane would the hydraulics see to that, tilting the cockpit to and fro in response to the pilots movements.
Outside the flight simulator, where the pilot cannot see, is a man whose job it is to send problems at the trainee to see how he handles them, one after another. These are problems that the potential pilot will more than likely never have to face in real life, but he must be tested nonetheless. Notes are taken, results are analyzed, and it is established that the pilot is either qualified to handle the real thing, or he isnt.
Life is like a flight simulator in a lot of ways. For you and I, the overarching purpose of this life is training. God has a place for us in His Kingdom and He wants to know if we are qualified to perform it or not. Life seems real enough, and responds the way it will in "real life" when it arrives. There is a Man (Jesus) outside, where we cant see, and He is throwing problem after problem at us to see how we handle them. Notes are being taken, results will be analyzed, and it will be established whether we are qualified to handle the real thing or not.
Psalm 37:1-2: Do not fret because of evildoers, nor be envious of the workers of iniquity. For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb.
God allows people to do things that distress us. There are many reasons that He does this, but for the purpose of this topic, let us say that He allows it to test our response. When you see some grievous thing in the newspaper, what is your response? Remember, He is taking notes, with an eye toward seeing if you are qualified for the position He has for you in His Kingdom. If someone distresses you personally (a friend, a family member, someone at church, a random stranger), how do you handle that person? Do you fret, complain, blame, become bitter or angry? Do you go to Jesus to see what He is saying?
He just might tell you not to let it drag you down out of your place at His side. That is one benefit that we have over the trainee in the flight simulator we are allowed to have a headset on, and ask questions and seek advice from the Man we cant see
46. The secret of the fulfilled life is to live moment by moment in Jesus.
There are many verses in the New Testament that make the average reader wince, and quickly move on. They seem impossible on the very face of them, or unnecessarily hard or harsh. Among them are the following:
1Thes:5:17: Pray without ceasing.
2 Corinthians 10:5: Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;
Matthew 12:36: But I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.
Luke 9:23: And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.
There are several ways to respond when reading verses like these the most popular seems to be to quickly explain it away in your mind and move on in your reading. The one I hear most often is: "God put these verses in the Bible to show us how impossible it is to serve Him, therefore proving our need for a Savior. Jesus did it all!"
There is another possible answer: that the Bible means exactly what it says, and God expects us to obey and serve Him. The answer to these verses (and more) is found in a relationship with Jesus. If you and I were to live every waking moment of every day in contact with Jesus, we wouldnt even need to worry about these and other "tough" passages they would be fulfilled as a simple result of our relationship. If every time there was a "right now" in your life, you lived it in contact with Jesus, without even realizing it, you would be praying without ceasing. You would be taking every thought into captivity. You would be monitoring every word you say. You would be denying yourself, taking up your cross and following Him!
It is so easy to default to autopilot just to make it through the day. We do what seems right in our eyes at the moment, and try to somehow squeeze some sort of pleasure out of each moment, trying to survive the day intact. A quick prayer in the morning, perhaps, and a quick now I lay me down to sleep at night, and thats that we dive for sleep and hope tomorrow will be better. As a result, verses that have to do with discipleship are a distress, since they point out to us how short we fall of the standard He sets for someone that calls himself/herself a Christian.
Try instead to begin your day in contact with Jesus, and then simply carry that contact with you throughout the day. Be aware of Jesus in every conversation you have, every situation you find yourself in, no matter how mundane or routine. Ask Him how He feels about what is happening or being said. He will begin to guide you in conversations and actions. This is what He is after a moment-by-moment relationship.
47. Do you have a Friend in high places?
Mark 9:23: "If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes."
How do you respond when you read some of the more amazing events in the scriptures? What is your initial gut response? The Red Sea parts in front of the fleeing Israelites. The sun stands still in the sky. The walls of Jericho crumble to the ground before blowing trumpets. Jonah survives three days inside a fishs stomach. Jesus walks on water. Be honest what is your response? Are they quaint stories of (probably embellished) miracles performed by a God that apparently doesnt do such things any more? Of course, youd never admit such a thing to other Christians, since that would sound bad, but deep down where its just you what do you think?
Do you ever picture yourself as a character in these accounts, watching these famous miracles with your own eyes? A wilderness wanderer, beholding the cloud by day, fire by night, and the thunder and fire from Sinai? A soldier in the "captains 50" sent to retrieve Elijah for King Ahab, right before Gods fire consumed you? A man among 5,000 seated on a hillside, watching Jesus disciples pass out bread and fish from apparently bottomless baskets? Do you ever wonder what would happen if God did such things in your "world" today?
Take it deeper picture yourself as Elijah himself you are on Mt. Carmel, watching the prophets of Baal make fools out of themselves, trying to get their non-god to accept their offering. Now you call on God, who answers with fire from heaven, consuming His sacrifice (and the altar and dust, etc). Now you grab your sword and start killing those prophets of Baal "Oh, I could never do that! Kill someone? Are you nuts!?"
Joshua, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Samuel, Daniel, David the list is incredible. Those who lived a life of seeking God, and doing what He said, of taking God at His word, and believing that He can do what He says He will do, no matter how amazing or unbelievable. These were ordinary dudes like you and me the only difference is that they were completely dedicated to seeking and serving God. They put themselves in a place where they could hear from God, receive direction, and act upon it. They did not stagger at anything that God proposed to do, either through them or by Himself.
There exists the potential for this life to be the grandest of adventures imaginable for you. Is Jesus your Lord? If so, then fasten your seatbelt, increase your faith, and put yourself in a place to hear from Him, for with God all things are possible.
48. Do you have a Friend in high places? (part 2)
Take it deeper still picture yourself as Jesus, walking among crowds of people, healing every illness and casting out every demon, raising the occasional dead person, teaching the people about Gods Kingdom. "Yeah, but that is Jesus, He would never let me do such things "
John 14:12-14: Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.
According to the above verse, picturing yourself as Jesus, doing the works that He did, is not absurd, or blasphemous, or impractical at all. The amazing works on display throughout the Scripture are as available today as they have ever been, and greater works than these! Would moving in this type of glory be appealing to you in the least? Are you comfortable with the status quo in your life? Would being guided by the Spirit into performing miracles and raising the dead be too much of a change in your life at the moment? Maybe someday off in the far future, when you somehow become a "super-saint" but certainly not today. Normal Christians just dont do things like that
For the Christian that pursues a moment-by-moment service-based relationship with Jesus, nothing is out of the question. His/Her God can do all things, and has the most amazing imagination in existence. If God told him/her to shake the city with a series of mind-blowing miracles, bring everything to a stop, and thunder a message about Gods Kingdom, he/she wouldnt bat an eye. It would be done with full confidence that God can do whatever He says He will do. But if God told this Christian to simply go about his/her business as usual, going to work, doing a dollars work for a dollars pay, he/she also would not bat an eye. It is the Masters prerogative to direct His servant the servant needs only to love the Master and make himself/herself available. And also not stagger at anything the Master requests.
Would you want this Christian to be you? It is available, for whosoever will. The key is learning to hear and respond to His voice, not judging by what you see or what you feel is possible or impossible. Simply trust Jesus, and do as He directs. Then stand back and watch Him glorify our Father through you.
49. There is no time for that which merely is good, only for the best. Press on! Press on! Press on!
Perhaps the most practical thing Ive ever learned in regards to my Christian walk has been the concept that "all we have is now." Satan and God are both intensely interested in right now. We, on the other hand, are constantly bouncing back and forth between yesterday and tomorrow.
We dwell on the past: who hurt us, who flattered us, places we have been, things we have seen, people we used to know, the way things were back in a time we have convinced ourselves was a wonderful time so much better than today! The good old days! Or even the bad old days, back when we were a child, and were abused or tormented by those older than us, a parent, a sibling, a neighborhood bully. We rehearse the times people have hurt us, and use them to form a grand excuse for why we behave the way we do its someone elses fault that I sin as much as I do.
We dwell on the future: what will bring us happiness, where we will be in five years, how much money we want to be making, what will happen when we graduate college, whom we will marry, or the many different shades of awful the future might turn out to be! Will we be attacked again, as on 9-11? Will the stock market take a nose-dive? Will I lose my house, or a child, or will my spouse leave me for another?
We dwell on what could have been: if only I had gone to college, finished college, taken a different job, married a different person, had kids, not had kids, made better choices when I was younger! We worry about what could be, dwell on what could have been, and grumble or boast about what was. All the while, we are missing the immense potential of what is.
Matthew 6:33-34: But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
If the Adversary can keep you distracted from seeking God every time there is a right now, he will succeed in stealing your crown. He doesnt have to develop a grand, long-range scheme to derail your growth as a Christian. As long as he has you right now, he is overcoming you; you pose no threat to him. So he keeps spurring your mind either forward or back in time, like a pendulum, as the moments tick by, hours, days, weeks, years pile up, one upon another, and then you look up and you are much closer to death than your birth.
What compounds the problem is that we are convinced that only Super-Christians serve God. Everyone knows that it is impossible for anyone to live a life of constantly seeking God, of constantly being before Him, walking in His presence. What we miss is the fact that a lifetime of walking with Jesus is simply comprised of a series of right nows. Every time there is a right now, live before Him. Look to Him. Set your mind and your ear toward God. Listen for His still small voice.
This life is over so quickly there is only now. You have no control over your past (you cannot change it, only learn from it), and no control over your future (all your grand plans could come to naught for a myriad different reasons), all you have control over is right now. Become as focused on right now as God and Satan are, and you will touch eternity.
50. All that have gone before are as base camps. The summit is in site. Do you care enough to struggle to the top?
The church had everything in its infancy. Jesus had risen from the grave, and breathed the Holy Spirit into them. The church had the Apostles, amazing gifts and ministries, miracles, unadulterated doctrine, people with hearts fixed on God, looking for His soon-coming Kingdom everything. After a while, it all fled. Adversaries infiltrated the church, grossly altering the doctrines and teachings, gifts and miracles ceased, even speaking in tongues, water baptism, the coming of Christ, the concept of Gods Kingdom, all of it was stripped away the church couldnt hold it.
This is the pattern of mankind from the Garden of Eden anything of value that is given freely will be taken for granted, carelessly lost, remain gone for a long time, and then slowly, painfully be restored, one small piece at a time. It is the story of man, the story of Samson, the story of the church many of us may see this pattern within our own life.
Each restored step in Gods church has come at a price. From the time of Martin Luther, the church has been scratching and clawing its way back to where it was in the beginning. We arent there yet. Persecution always accompanies a restored piece of Gods plan persecution from within the church, that is! Whether it is "the just shall live by faith" or water baptism by immersion, or the second coming of Christ, or speaking in tongues, or the baptism of the Holy Spirit whatever it is that God is currently restoring is attacked by the previous move as being "of the devil".
The current focus is on overcoming sin, as typified in the Bible by the Feast of Trumpets (and other types). The Feast of Trumpets is at hand! [For more information on the Feasts, please refer to The Feasts of the Lord, by Robert B. Thompson]
Acts 17: 30-31: Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained.
God has "overlooked" our ignorant behavior long enough; now is the time to conquer the sin that has bound us for so long. We cannot compromise with sin anymore and expect to remain at the cutting edge of where God is going today. The goal of Christianity is twofold: to be created in the moral image of Jesus, and to be one with God. Basically, this means we approach life like Jesus does in immediate, never-ending contact with God. The sin that dwells in our personality is the final obstacle to this relationship; this is what God has His finger on today. Are you willing to value the goal enough to give it everything you have?
51. There will be a company who will overcome the accuser. Satan will be cast to the earth. Whether you are one of the conquerors is your choice.
Daniel chapter seven presents a mind-blowing picture of the way things will transpire at the end of this age. Daniel 7:21: I was watching; and the same horn was making war against the saints, and prevailing against them
By the time weve hit verse 21, we are hearing the interpretation of a dream Daniel had concerning four beasts. The beasts represent four kingdoms which will arise on the earth, and verse 21 is in reference to the fourth, and final kingdom, which will see the rising of Antichrist, represented by a horn on the beast. His beast will make war with the saints, and prevail against them for a time Daniel 7:22 until the Ancient of Days came, and a judgment was made in favor of the saints of the Most High, and the time came for the saints to possess the kingdom.
After they are prevailed against for a certain time, God Himself will bring things to a halt. The picture presented is that of a courtroom, with God as the Judge: "..a judgment was made " Notice, judgment was made in favor of the saints, and now the saints were to possess the kingdom. The saints. They were losing, being beaten, being prevailed against. The chapter then summarizes the events, to clear up any lingering doubt as to what this will mean: [See Daniel 7:23-25].
So much for secretly rapturing the church out of tribulation to the safety of Heaven. No, the saints of God will go through the Great Tribulation, including a period of three and one-half years where the Antichrist will be allowed to subdue them and persecute them God will allow this final testing of the Saints, to see if they will be faithful unto death. When God has seen what He wants, He will bring Antichrists antics to an end, and this age along with it.
Keep the big picture in mind: God is setting up a Kingdom. It will be an eternal Kingdom, where rebellion will never rear its head again. The defenses against rebellion will be these saints that have been tested to the limits in the realm of obedience. God needs to know if He can trust the saints, which is why the testing needs to be so thorough. It involves being patient and faithful under the thumb of Antichrist. God started with the testing and establishing of the King; now He is testing and establishing His brothers. Once that happens, His Kingdom can begin, and the nations of the earth will live in this wonderful Kingdom, governed by the Lamb and His Bride (the Church).
You can have an integral part in this, the grandest epic of all time. Hold everything in an open hand before the King. Allow Him to access your life, to free you from the sin that binds you, to lead you to our Father. He wants to share this with someone, and that someone can be you.
Revelation 21:7: He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son.
52. Set aside your own life and meet the Kings needs. He will not forget you when he comes into His glory.
Doing Gods Will doesnt have to be such a hit-or-miss thing just because it has been doesnt mean it has to stay that way. Do you enjoy feeling like youre stumbling around in the dark when it comes do serving God? Are you doing Gods will right now? Did you find out from Him what He wanted of you today? Did it include reading this devotional right now? Do you assume since its a "spiritual" thing that it must by definition be ok? Perhaps He wants you to do something else right now
A key to Christianity is learning to hear from Him. Do you want to learn to hear from God the Father directly? Try this on for size and see how it fits: next time you are out in public, say at a market or restaurant or park of some kind, look at the people as they pass you. Look at a person in the eyes as they pass and say, "Lord, is there anything that you would want me to say to him/her if I were to speak to him/her? Is there a message that you would have for that person?"
You dont have to actually say anything to anyone at this point just listen. Listen for God. With my own experience with this, He speaks to me almost every time. "If you were to talk to that person, I would have you say " and out it spills: encouragement, rebuke, peace, war all types of messages. What you will be doing is training yourself to hear Him. When the time comes for you to actually act upon the impulse and speak to a person, it will be the most natural thing in the world, and it will speak LIFE directly to that heart.
From there, it will branch into actions. Once your faith is increased to a certain level, He might have you pray for someone and heal them. Would that shock you? A man in a wheelchair at a park some place: God puts a message on your heart (because you are listening for Him) and you give it, and lay hands upon the man, restoring his legs. The man is healed and leaps for joy just like something out of the book of Acts.
Would that shock you? Probably yes though I dont know why it should. God can do all things. If you are hearing/serving Him, then it shouldnt matter what He told you to do He is able to do anything He wishes. Why should a servant ever be amazed that his Master did what He said He would do? The question is: Do you really want to serve Him, or are you content with a life of business as usual, biding your time until paradise calls?
What is a Christian supposed to be? How does one live? Are Elijah, Samuel, Paul, Peter et. al. exceptions? Super-saints? Or are they examples of how a normal Christian is supposed to live? Does God still want people who will allow Him to express His glory and strength in the earth, in the form of earth-shaking miracles and the very words of God? Something tells me weve been snookered out of something marvelous when we settle for living life on cruise control, simply trying to survive the day and wait for heaven.
53. We show Christ our love for Him by feeding His sheep.
Theres truth in the saying about joy spelling out its own route. JOY Jesus, Others, Yourself. Keep this in mind when contemplating who benefits from your devotion to Jesus, and your desire to seek and serve Him. True joy results from putting Him first, and then others before yourself. When the gospel becomes a means to getting yourself blessed, know that you are in deception. If you remember that "God so loved the world," then you will keep the proper perspective.
Yes, the gospel is geared toward the removal of indwelling sin from the individual (read: you), but you must remember toward what end. Jesus wants to reach out to people through you that is why He is spending so much time sifting your personality. He is taking the time to sharpen the axe before chopping the wood. He loves you with an incomprehensible love but He has that same love for others as well. That is not a slight on you, just a reminder: the struggles you fight your way through will benefit all of creation.
The reason I stress this is to combat the tendency to compromise when things get "too tough," thinking that it will only affect you if you fudge here and there, and besides Jesus will forgive you anyway right?
No, you cant expect everyone to understand what you are going through on your road to freedom from sin, so in a real sense, you are alone on this road. The promises are to "he that overcomes," not "they that overcome." It is very individual, and you cannot ride to freedom on anothers coattails. And yet, remember that your overcoming is not simply for the benefit of your relationship with Jesus. When you are perfected, you will become a tool through which Jesus can teach and reach the saved nations of His Kingdom.
Isaiah 2:3-4: Many people shall come and say, "Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths." For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
This is a glimpse into the Kingdom of God. Notice that many people will go to Jerusalem to learn of God and His ways who do you think will be teaching them? Will Jesus sit on a mountaintop and instruct them as He did the disciples? In a sense, He will He will be dwelling within you in His fullness, and will be telling you what to teach them as they come to you! You and He and the rest of the overcomers will be The One Servant of God. Jesus is the Head; we are His body.
Jesus didnt need to include us, but He wanted someone to share the Kingdom with. That can be you. This is what is available, and it will benefit the saved nations of the earth, as through you Jesus reconciles those nations to the God that created them. Your joy will be overflowing.
54. Each day we are choosing life or death. Each day we should ask God to guide our choices.
The moon is a dead rock, floating lifeless through space. It glows at night because it reflects sunlight. We see a big, glowing full moon at night it immediately draws our attention, because it is surrounded by such darkness. Much like a match that is struck in a dark room. Often, the moon is up during the daylight hours, but we usually dont notice, because we can see just fine. Light is everywhere!
Most of the time, the moon is not full it has the earths shadow covering at least some portion of it. You could say that the moon reflects light at a rate that is inversely proportional to the amount of the earth that is in the way. In other words, the more the world is in the way, the less sunlight the moon reflects.
As Christians, there are some similarities between the moon and us. Because we are human, and fallen, we are, in and of ourselves, dead dust, lifeless, floating through this life. We can, however, get into a position where we can reflect Sonlight. When we are full of His light, we can shine brightly, giving light and a level of comfort, dependability and direction in dark places and times. We are at our best in dark times, actually. During the "daylight" hours, we dont draw much attention.
Most of the time, (unfortunately) we are not fully reflecting the Sonlight. The world gets in the way, to some extent, most of the time. It casts its shadow across our life, obstructing the reflected light. You could say that as Christians we reflect light at a rate that is inversely proportional to the amount of the world that is in the way. In other words, the more worldly we are, the less Light we reflect.
To shine brightly for the King in this life, you might want to focus your attention on your choices. Everything you do stems from a choice of some kind, either conscious or subconscious. Begin to evaluate your behavior with the Lord, and discern what is motivating your choices. This can actually be quite entertaining, if you can successfully detach yourself from yourself for a moment, step back in prayer and discuss with Jesus what you see when you look at yourself. He will show you amazing things.
This process of evaluation will accomplish two things: it will strengthen the personal relationship you have with your King, and it will give Him the access to your life that He needs to recreate you in His image. These are the goals of the gospel to begin with. You will grow, your behavior will change, and the world around you will see it, and believe. .
Matthew 5:16: In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.
55. When you come to the end of yourself, there is Jesus.
I had a vision once that gave me comfort - I feel impressed to relay it now. Perhaps it will comfort you as well.
In the vision, I was led into a cave. I had no light with me, so I reached a point where the light from outside grew dim and, after rounding a final bend, I was in complete blackness. Of course, I came to a complete stop. And yet, I was told to proceed.
"But I am afraid."
In the distance appeared a pinpoint of light.
"Head toward that light," I was told.
I moved forward, eyes fixed on the pinpoint of light, still surrounded by blackness, my hands out in front of me. As I moved forward, the floor felt like it began tilting and shaking. I fell repeatedly, sometimes pitching forward and rolling. I would make it to my feet, pause, locate the pinpoint of light, and begin to move forward again.
Over and over, I tumbled, rolled, fell to one side then the other, crawled, sought the light, and moved on. I scrambled up some inclines, tumbled down others, felt my way along walls...always looking at that tiny spot of light. Eventually, I reached out and touched the light. When I did, the room lit up brightly.
After my eyes adjusted to the light, I looked back at the space I had traveled in the dark, and it was truly treacherous. Full of sheer drops, narrow ledges, and sharp obstacles. Looking back, it seemed impassable, even in bright light. I was truly stunned that I was alive.
"Why did you shut the lights off for this journey?"
"If I hadnt, you would never have begun."
He was right. I would have run away screaming. In the darkness, He tilted and shook the floor so that each time I fell, I did so safely, and made steady progress, skirting the dangers, treading thin paths, avoiding every mortal danger. I needed to cross...turning around wasnt an option. And again, if I had seen what I was about to cross, I would never have taken a single step. So He took away my eyes, and gave me only the slightest point of light to focus on. My job was to trust, to keep getting up, and to keep moving.
I believe this vision was in response to a particularly tough time of life from which I was just emerging. It let me know that although I felt alone, blind, hurt, disconnected, with only the barest glimpse of His light and presence, I was in His hand the entire time. My love and trust for Him grew exponentially. Perhaps when you go through something similar, this will be a help to you.
56. The victorious saints are the foundations of the wall around the new Jerusalem.
Will we ever truly recognize what an absolutely overwhelming honor and privilege it is to be a Christian, to pursue Jesus? We should be so excited as to be hardly able to contain ourselves. The wonder and amazement of what is available in Christ should make us wish to follow hard after the King every moment that we are awake and yet we dont. We plug along every day, doing what seems right at the moment, vaguely aware of Christ, if at all, even as Christians we are letting enormous possibilities slip by, blissfully ignorant.
The main problem is that we simply dont have the knowledge. We dont understand the situation we have been born into, and therefore have become content to simply sit back and let the opportunity to participate in this grandest of epic adventures pass us by while we occupy ourselves with various hobbies and interests, waiting to die and go into paradise. The fact that there exists the possibility to become fully-realized sons and daughters of God (living this life in immediate, unbroken contact with the Father through Jesus), lays dormant and untapped. It is a testament to the effectiveness of the adversary to so confuse the gospel and its goals as to lull the church into complete slumber.
Romans 13:11: ...knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.
We have been taught half-truths, traditions and watered-down doctrine by well-intentioned teachers and pastors, who have done their best with what they have been given. But God is moving us forward at this time. The big picture is coming more clearly into focus in our day. The goals are shifting from gaining access into Heaven to becoming reconciled to God through Jesus and living for Him as together we minister to the people in the world that God so loved.
There is a huge difference. On the one hand, you have the tradition of "accepting Christ" and slogging our way through life in kind of a vague hope that everything will work out in the end. And on the other hand is living in an unbroken relationship with Jesus, whereby you go with Him into every situation you face throughout each day, listening for His direction, speaking what/when He tells you, bringing life this is how brothers of Christ are to live, both now and throughout eternity.
Romans 8:28: For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.
If this seems too rich for your blood, let it stew for a while. Search the scriptures. Look for the passages in the Bible that discuss the goals of Christianity, and the plans God has for the future of both the world and the church. You might be surprised at what you find.
57. The rod of iron is being created in us now as we overcome sin.
Overcoming sin is something that happens every day as we face the day. It isnt a one-time event, but rather a process. Let me give you an example to help illustrate the process. Lets say I have a problem with a short temper, and am given to outbursts of anger.
Galatians 5:19-21: Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Uh oh I see my "problem" in that list. Now I see that it is in need of removal; otherwise, I will not inherit the Kingdom of God. My first step is prayer. "Lord, forgive me and remove this from me." Next comes a few failures. I explode in anger, vent as usual, rant and rave and cause an uproar. When I settle down, God reminds me of the "problem" and my prayer for removal. I repent and ask again for strength not to give in to anger next time.
There will then come a time when I am made aware of the anger right in the middle of the outburst itself. I will fall to my knees and pray for strength to stop. Strength will flood into me, and the episode will be cut short. I repent again and ask for strength to stop.
Each time I wrestle with this issue, a piece of that anger dies, and it is replaced with a measure of Christ. Eventually, there will be the strength to head off the outburst as soon as it begins. Next is stopping it before it begins. Ultimately, I will be to the point where I see it coming and stop it even before it starts boiling inside of me.
This wrestling match can take a lifetime. Sure, Jesus could change me immediately (and will occasionally do just that), but the most important part of this process is that in the end I will have developed a relationship with Jesus that would never have been formed if Jesus had simply removed the anger from me in one fell swoop. Rather, the anger is slowly chiseled out, and replaced with the image of Jesus, the King.
Picture a brick wall. Chisel a brick out and replace it with a superior brick. Move to another spot, remove another brick and replace it with a superior brick. Repeat this process with all of the bricks and eventually you will have a brand new wall and yet its the same wall. This is what God does with our personality it remains intact, and yet is being replaced one brick at a time with superior materials. In the end, you are the same person, and yet you are an entirely new creature. AND the relationship that is being built is eternal, and will mean that Jesus can share His Kingdom with you, for, in a real sense, He will be sharing it with Himself.
58. When you continue living in sin you are destroying your own resurrection.
Both the Old and New testaments speak of the Kingdom law of reaping and sowing. The idea is simple everyone, including you and me, will be rewarded according to the way we behave. What we do. Our actions. Our behavior. God is intensely interested in how we live day to day, our decisions. Im being redundant here for a reason. In most Christian circles, just mentioning the idea of "works" is anathema. Some theologians go to great lengths to stress that "salvation is by faith alone through grace alone" and ignore the bulk of the New Testament in the process.
Revelation 2:2: "I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil "
Make no mistake; Jesus knows what we are doing, and it concerns Him. It reflects badly upon the King when we live in a way that is not worthy of Him, and then shrug it off as inconsequential because we have been "saved by grace." Grace is not an alternative to living righteously it is the strength and ability to live righteously! Grace allows us to be freed from the sin that binds us and keeps us separated from God. It doesnt make excuses for us so we can live like the devil and be rewarded like Christ.
I am not talking about "earning salvation." Im talking about what we do, day to day. We will be rewarded according to our behavior. This is spelled out clearly in many places in the Bible, Old and New Testaments.
2 Corinthians 5:9-11: Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men "
What you face at the judgment seat will directly reflect the way you live your life right now, today. Your behavior is shaping your resurrection. This is why it is so important to wrestle with the sin in your life every day as God leads so that you can sow to the Spirit and reap eternal life. The alternative is to continue to live in the flesh, and reaping corruption, whether you call yourself a Christian or not.
Daniel 12:1-3: And at that time your people shall be delivered, every one who is found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever.
59. God sent Christ to enable man to expel Satan from the creation.
Society trains us to judge people by appearance. A premium is placed upon beauty and style, and those that are "lucky" enough to possess such commodities are elevated above the rest of us, as if they are inherently more valuable to society than their more homely peers.
For the rest of us, unless we are rich enough to afford plastic surgery, we simply have to deal with the appearance God gave us, and gussy ourselves up to a level that we feel comfortable with. However, there remains a splinter group that gives up altogether, figuring "why bother?" Among the "why bother" group lives those whom I like to call the "geeks and trekkies."
Members of this group are most comfortable in front of a computer, or some place behind the scenes, away from people. Their fashion sense is either non-existent or hopelessly behind the times. They have given up on trying to make themselves visually acceptable to society, and have decided instead to dive into fantasy worlds, such as science fiction and "fantasy" stories, involving fantastic creatures, different races of beings and magic/advanced technology.
Everyone has an inherent need to belong, to be accepted. When the world out there does not accept us, we long for some place that will. That is why "other worlds" are so appealing to the geeks and trekkies. In space, it doesnt matter what you look like: anyone can be a hero.
This crowd is big on comic book Superheroes. Created by geeks for geeks, Superheroes are generally tormented souls, outcasts, misfits, gifted with incredible abilities, but feared/revered and generally misunderstood. They usually have suffered some sort of incredible trauma that compels them to act out. All of this makes them appealing to geeks and trekkies, since in many cases, they can relate at some level, being, in the least, outcasts due to appearance alone. Too fat, too skinny, too short, too tall, too odd-looking, possessing some unappealing outward flaw or behavior. Not pretty enough, strong enough, normal enough.
Someone should introduce them to Jesus.
By definition, Jesus is the greatest Superhero that has ever existed and He is not fictional. Think of all that Jesus did while walking the earth: transforming water into wine, raising the dead, walking on water, multiplying food, casting out devils, healing the sick, blind and broken, knowing the thoughts of peoples minds, giving hope to those that heard Him - not to mention all that He did through people in the Old Testament and the Book of Acts. He was an outcast, tormented, traumatized, misunderstood. He rose from the grave, He created all things, He has all power in Heaven and Earth, and has a Father Who possesses a limitless imagination. In short, He is a towering, unstoppable, irresistible, unfathomably amazing force.
Let me take this a step further:
John:14:12: Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.
How appealing is the thought of living in Jesus to such an extent that He could move through you to perform greater works than those listed in the scriptures? Is it really possible to live in this life, in the real world (not fantasy) and perform the works of God, on par with (and greater than) those in the scriptures? Does Jesus really mean "greater works"? Again, recall all that He did now try to imagine deeds that are greater. Now imagine yourself doing them. Is this too rich for your blood?
Do I dare suggest that any of us could truly become a hero? The availability of such a deep relationship with Jesus is a reality, if the scriptures are to be believed. The possibilities of such a relationship are as mind-boggling as the costs. It requires a life patterned after Jesus, who never said anything He didnt hear the Father saying, or did anything He didnt see the Father doing. That level of surrender is tremendously unappealing to people who wish to cling to comfortable, risk- and cost-free lives.
But if you have a sense of adventure, a burning love for King Jesus, and an ability to truly believe that with God all things are possible, then sit back, buckle up, and prepare to experience life as it was meant to be. Geeks and trekkies rejoice! What you are searching for is available in King Jesus, and in spades at that.
60. The Kingdom of God is God in Christ in the saints governing the world.
Gods answer to the rebellion of Lucifer was to withdraw above the heavens and think. He wanted to respond in such a way that it would guarantee a rebellion of that sort would never occur again. When He began to act again, every eye was upon Him what would He do? How would He respond?
His response was to create a Kingdom. A better realm inhabited by creatures that would not only love Him, but know in the very foundations of their soul that rebelling against God is the height of folly. The angels were free-willed creatures, and many had rebelled. They stood before the very face of God and interacted with Him directly, yet still many had rebelled. If these angels, under such conditions, could do such a thing selah.
Through Jesus, God created a new realm and made many new creatures, including man. Then, rather than destroy Satan, He allowed Satan to enter this new, better creation and poison it with his rebellion. This seemingly ridiculous move made possible the cursed environment that we now live in the only environment where God could obtain the solution to the rebellion!
Consider man, cursed from conception with sin, born separated from his God. He cannot see God, he is driven with sinful impulses, he is selfish, and he prefers darkness to light. He has three strikes against him from the outset, and is therefore doomed! Now behold one such man, Abram, called out, separated from the rest of mankind, and tested to see if he will obey under the toughest of circumstances (re: Isaac). Now expand this man into a nation, and give that nation a law, instructing them on the rudimentary requirements that God has for a people to interact with Him in holiness and righteousness.
Now send Jesus down to become a man, and provide a sacrifice for the sins of all men, thus providing a way to be truly reconciled to God. Now call many others out, and give them deeper instruction and gifts and ministries by His Holy Spirit. Now test those many others (called the church) and see if any will truly want to seek and serve God with their whole heart, even though they cant see Him. Now gather those (few) true servants together, once a certain number of them has been revealed, and form them into a royal priesthood that can serve as instructors and protectors in Gods eternal Kingdom.
The main purpose of this life is to send Jesus down here for testing, perfection and glorification, and to locate and train those that will rule with Him. These kings will have proven to God that they could love Him and serve Him in the worst of possible situations this life. The angels that rebelled stood in Gods presence and saw His face. They had it perfect, and they fell. We cannot see Him, and we are driven toward rebellion. If we can overcome these obstacles and serve Him, we will have had iron worked into our soul that the angels cant even imagine, and we will be the framework of Gods Eternal Kingdom, serving and protecting in a capacity that the angels forfeited.