The Struggle Is Real…

Ephesians 6:12-13 (NIV)

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

We have studied this passage before, but I would like to revisit it again because conflicts within human relationships are inevitable. And I want us to consider this scripture within the context of close relationships. Our innate human nature is to be focused on our own physical needs and emotional desires. And while it is not inherently wrong in to seek our own well-being; to exert a self-centered will on other people in the process can be a source of contention and disagreement. And the ensuing conflict will have to be navigated or negotiated in order to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. (Cf. Ephesians 4:3)

What Paul shares with us here is some insight into the source of our interpersonal conflicts … that they may not always be in the natural or physical realm (against flesh and blood); rather, Paul asserts that when we have struggles against with one another, the issue is most likely a spiritual one … a spiritual battle, if you will. And so, the fight is not necessarily with the person in front of you; rather, it is against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil that can exert themselves in our minds and through our bodies (actions). I believe this knowledge should cause us to pause and think before we react to what another person is saying or doing. For example:

Matthew 16:21-23 (NIV)

From that time on Jesus began to explain to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that He must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke Him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

While Peter may have been well-intentioned in his feelings and how he addressed Jesus in that moment of emotion; Jesus clearly indicated that he was wrong. And Jesus told Peter that his concerns were misguided by spiritual forces of evil … by Satan himself. Thus, a conflict ensued and Jesus used the occasion to teach the disciples a profound lesson in spiritual warfare:

Matthew 16:24-26 (NIV)

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?

Likewise, Paul goes on to speak about the “armor of God” and its protection against the spiritual forces of evil. (Cf. Ephesians 6:14-16) He taught that our only offensive weapon against evil is the sword of the Spirit – which is the Word of God. (Cf. Ephesians 6:17) And Paul affirmed that prayer in the Spirit … on all occasion with all kinds of prayer and requests … was essential to inflict offensive maneuvers against the spiritual forces of evil. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. (Cf. Ephesians 6:18) Yes, when someone gets adversarial with you … pray for them! Seek counsel from the Word of God! And remember that disciples of Christ Jesus must deny themselves … take up their crosses … and follow Him. In a sense, this means you give up your right to be “right” because Jesus taught us to give and expect nothing in return; when offended to turn the other cheek; and to love and pray for our enemies.

Matthew 5:38-45 (NIV)

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.

Note Verse 45 – “that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” A child of God … born of the Spirit through the Word … will follow Jesus and put His teaching into practice. And this is what Peter instructed in his epistle as well – encouraging believers to understand that we, too, will suffer like Jesus as we follow in His footsteps:

1 Peter 3:8-18 (NIV)

Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. For, “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech. They must turn from evil and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and His ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” (Cf. Psalm 34:12-16) Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.

I believe it is clear that offenses will come. There will be differences and disagreements between people … even people of faith. But if it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (Cf. Romans 12:18) For Jesus taught us to pick up a cross of suffering for ourselves and to follow Him … “that we may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conform to His death,” as Paul wrote in Philippians 3:10. For even if you should suffer for what is right … you are blessed. So, stand your ground, and pray! Pray in the Spirit! Yes, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people! Love, bless, and pray for those who oppose you! For the battle is a spiritual one … and in the end, the battle belongs to the Lord.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. ~ 2 Corinthians 10:3-5

Persevere In Faith…

James 1:2-3 (NIV)

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.

Our Verse of the Day is probably familiar to most of us since we have referenced it in a few studies. Still, it is always a timely reminder that the circumstances and hardships we encounter in life have purpose; and I think we need to have spiritual perspective in those moments. We will all face trials of many kinds in this life.  Some trials will be inflicted by others who sin against us.  Some will be self-inflicted through falling into temptation or making unwise decisions. And some trouble will simply be the result of natural or spiritual forces beyond our control.  We can do nothing to change our genetic codes. Nature itself often inflicts hardship and brings suffering to people. And demonic influences are quite active to suppress the truth of God and to oppress those who come to Him through faith in Jesus.

But regardless of the source of the tribulations we encounter, I think there is one lesson God wants us to learn: TRUST HIM!  All these situations will test or challenge our faith, but the goal our Heavenly Father has in mind is for us to persevere in faith.  Through patient endurance and through the obedience that comes from faith, we demonstrate whether our faith in God is authentic or genuine. As we have already studied, Peter articulates this truth quite well:

1 Peter 1:3-9 (NLT)

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by His great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation (a living hope),and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. And through your faith, God is protecting you by His power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see. So be truly glad. RejoiceThere is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So, when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.You love Jesus even though you have never seen Him. Though you do not see Him now, you trust Him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy. The reward for trusting Him will be the salvation of your souls.

I believe this powerful exhortation is the same truth that James focused on here in his epistle: perseverance in faith! Remember, Jesus told His disciples (and us), “In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart (have courage)! I have overcome the world!” (Cf. John 16:33) Likewise, the Apostle John confirms: “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” (Cf. 1 John 4:4) And, again, “For everyone born of God overcomes the world.  This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” (Cf. 1 John 5:4-5) So, it is the strength of our faith that produces in us the capacity to walk through and overcome the trials we will endure in this life.

James 1:4-8 (NIV)

Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

I hope these scriptures will encourage you as you face the trials and temptations that life brings.  Always remember God is faithful; and He wants to develop a strong and genuine faith in you and me. And I believe that He allows troubles in our lives to accomplish this very purpose! He is not against us. He is for us! As Paul attested: “Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean He no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.” (Citing Psalm 44:22) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the heavens or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Cf. Romans 8:35-39 NLT)

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. ~ Romans 5:1-5

When You Are Tempted…

1 Corinthians 10:13 (NIV)

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

Our Verse of the Day encourages us to continue the pursuit of holiness for our lives. Let’s break it down and examine it in more detail:

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind.

No matter what you are going through … no matter what you face in the battle against sin in your life … there is someone else who has waged the same fight. The sinful human nature is common to the human life we experience here on earth. And if you have been “overtaken” by the sin that so easily ensnares you (Cf. Hebrews 12:1), know that you are not alone. What you have allowed to become a stronghold in your life is common to all mankind. And I believe the greatest temptation that has overtaken any human is the sin of “unbelief.” I think when most sin occurs is when we are most vulnerable to its deception and we have fallen into faithlessness toward God. Yes, when we ignore His invitation to intimacy, we lose the awareness that God sees all! David asked: “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?” (Cf. Psalm 139:7) Indeed, there is no place we can go outside of His presence. When we wander from God, we do not leave His presence; rather, we abandon His divine power and His hand upon our lives. Unbelief weakens us! It renders us powerless to overcome sin rather than being mighty to the pulling down of strongholds. Yet, there is an answer to this plight of temptation!

2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (NIV)

3 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

The reason temptation can overtake us is because we try to fight the battle in our flesh and not in the Spirit realm. Our weapons to resist and flee are not natural but spiritual! And those weapons are fasting, prayer, and the sword of the Spirit – which is the Word of God! (Cf. Ephesians 6:17) Paul instructs us to put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil (temptation) comes, we may be able to stand our ground, and after we have done everything, to stand. (Cf. Ephesians 6:13). Even Jesus was not exempt from being tempted by Satan when He was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness! With every high and lofty arrow of temptation aimed straight for His heart, Jesus responded to Satan with Scripture: “It is written….” (Cf. Matthew 4:1-10) So, do we know the Word of God well enough to fight or resist temptation? Are we spiritually armored up to do battle and to take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ? Spiritual warfare is real, my friends! And on the battlefields of our minds and hearts, the war will be won or lost….

God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.

I think far too often we lose battles and wave our white flags of surrender because we have not prepared ourselves for the war. When we “cave to crave” we have not yet reached what we can bear. Remember, God will not let us be tempted (tested) beyond what we can bear! So, what happens? Why do we sometimes fail? I believe James gives us some insight:

James 1:12-15 (NIV)

12 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love Him. 13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

So, we see that temptation comes from within our hearts. We just examined the condition of man – when the Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. (Cf. Genesis 6:5) David asked, “Who can say, “I have kept my heart pure; I am clean and without sin”? (Cf. Psalm 20:9) Paul observed that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Cf. Romans 3:23) And John asserted: “If we claim we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar and His Word is not in us.” (Cf. 1 John 1:10) We need clean hearts and right spirits in order to find the path to victory!

What an encouragement to know that even when we are tempted … even when we are weak or faithless … God is still faithful to us. Indeed, His kindness is always intended to lead us to repentance. (Cf. Romans 2:4) David found that place of repentance; and we would do well to carefully observe His confession. I encourage you to read Psalm 51 … but this excerpt is what came to my heart: “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” (Cf. Psalm 51:10-12) And John affirmed, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (Cf. 1 John 1:9)

But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

The truth of the matter is you and I will be tempted. The text does not read, “But IF you are tempted….” No human being is or has ever been without temptation. It has become part of our human experience since the transgression of Adam and Eve. And even though God showed Himself mighty to deliver His people, they still wandered and rebelled against Him. God demonstrated His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Cf. Romans 5:8) And yet Jesus asked, “When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” (Cf. Luke 18:8) Faith is essential in this battle against temptation, because faith determines whether or not we will engage our human will to resist each temptation that comes. I am reminded what Moses wrote:

Deuteronomy 8:2-5 (NIV)

2 Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep His commands. 3 He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. 4 Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years. 5 Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you. 6 Observe the commands of the Lord your God, walking in obedience to Him and revering Him.

God took His people into the wilderness and then He led them through it. God caused His people to hunger … and then He fed them. So, I think it is important for us to realize the testing and trials that the Lord allows are not temptations; rather, they are used to expose the truth of what lies within our hearts. As Peter explained: “These (trials) have come so that the genuineness of your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (Cf. 1 Peter 1:7) And James encouraged: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (Cf. James 1:2-4)

My friends, we will all be sifted! We will all be subjected to temptation … in order to test the sincerity of our faith! But let me encourage you, that even now, Jesus sits at the right hand of God and He is interceding for us. (Cf. Hebrews 7:24-25) God may send you into the wilderness, but He will lead you through it. God may allow you to hunger and thirst, but He will fill you and sustain your life. God may allow Satan to sift you with temptation to test the genuineness of your faith, but Jesus will intercede for you so that your faith may not fail. Praise Him!

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

“I have hidden Your Word in my heart that I might not sin against You.” ~ Psalm 119:11

A New Year … A New Thing…

Isaiah 43:16, 18-19

This is what the Lord says— He who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.

Happy New Year! Our Verse of the Day is a great one to start not only the New Year … but the new vision of ministry for our community. Look at what the Lord declares through His prophet, Isaiah, to us:

Speaking to the descendants of Israel (and to us as well), the Almighty God who worked miraculous signs and wonders among the people to free them from slavery in Egypt, declares: “Forget about those former things … and do not dwell upon the past.” What? God … the Great Deliverer … who saved His chosen people is telling their descendants to give those incredible deeds no further thought? But, why? The “stories” of God’s power … His presence … His protection … His provision … should be remembered, right? They should be “seared” into our collective memory. They should be revisited and recounted as a memorial. God spoke through Moses and said to the people: “Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.” (Cf. Deuteronomy 4:9) And He spoke through King David to admonish the people: “My people, hear my teaching; listen to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth with a parable; I will utter hidden things, things from of old — things we have heard and known, things our ancestors have told us. We will not hide them from their descendants; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, His power, and the wonders He has done.” (Cf. Psalm 78:1-4)

Yet, centuries later, God spoke through Isaiah and said, “Forget the former things and do not dwell upon the past.” I said to myself, “There has to be something I’m missing here. So, I decided to look at the passage in its surrounding context….”

Isaiah 43:1-21 (NIV)

1 But now, this is what the Lord says— He who created you, Jacob, He who formed you, Israel:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. 2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. 3 For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I give Egypt for your ransom, Cush and Sheba in your stead. 4 Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give people in exchange for you, nations in exchange for your life. 5 Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west. 6 I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’ Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth— 7 everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” 8 Lead out those who have eyes but are blind, who have ears but are deaf. 9 All the nations gather together and the peoples assemble. Which of their gods foretold this and proclaimed to us the former things? Let them bring in their witnesses to prove they were right, so that others may hear and say, “It is true.” 10 “You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I Am He. Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me. 11 I, even I, am the Lord, and apart from me there is no savior. 12 I have revealed and saved and proclaimed— I, and not some foreign god among you. You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “that I am God. 13 Yes, and from ancient days I am He. No one can deliver out of my hand. When I act, who can reverse it?” 14 This is what the Lord says— your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “For your sake I will send to Babylon and bring down as fugitives all the Babylonians, in the ships in which they took pride. 15 I am the Lord, your Holy One, Israel’s Creator, your King.” 16 This is what the Lord says—He who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, 17 who drew out the chariots and horses, the army and reinforcements together, and they lay there, never to rise again, extinguished, snuffed out like a wick: 18 “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. 19 See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. 20 The wild animals honor me, the jackals and the owls, because I provide water in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people, my chosen, 21 the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise.

Oh, I see the broader lesson now … because the context is the Babylonian Captivity that God brought upon His people because of their rebellion, sin, and disobedience! They had broken His covenant with them; and so, they were taken from the land of their inheritance … from the city of Jerusalem … from the temple of God’s presence. The people knew God! They knew His power! They knew His holiness! They knew His statutes and ordinances! They knew His great love and outstretched arm bidding them to return to Him! Yet, despite the faithfulness of God, they refused to worship Him and keep covenant with Him. God allowed them to go into captivity for their sin and judgment for their unbelief. Still, God, in His unfailing love, announces that His former covenant … manifested through the Law and commandments and sacrificial practices … would soon fade away. Behold, He is doing a new thing! He is forming a new covenant … manifested through His Spirit! And this announcement was affirmed through the Prophet Jeremiah as well:

Jeremiah 31:23-34 (NIV)

23 This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “When I bring them back from captivity, the people in the land of Judah and in its towns will once again use these words: ‘The Lord bless you, you prosperous city, you sacred mountain.’ 24 People will live together in Judah and all its towns—farmers and those who move about with their flocks. 25 I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.” 26 At this I awoke and looked around. My sleep had been pleasant to me. 27 “The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will plant the kingdoms of Israel and Judah with the offspring of people and of animals. 28 Just as I watched over them to uproot and tear down, and to overthrow, destroy and bring disaster, so I will watch over them to build and to plant,” declares the Lord. 29 “In those days people will no longer say, ‘The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.’ 30 Instead, everyone will die for their own sin; whoever eats sour grapes—their own teeth will be set on edge. 31 “The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. 32 It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord. 33 This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34 No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”

What are the former things to forget? What is past that we should not dwell upon? I think, perhaps, it is the captivity that sin brought into our lives. And I think the captivity experience served a greater spiritual purpose to bring us closer to God. It warned of judgment and consequences. It revealed our need for deliverance and freedom from the darkness and oppression of sin. Jeremiah 31:3 recalls, “The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” And Paul affirms this same truth in Romans 2:2-4: “Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So, when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on others and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of His kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?”

Yes, the lovingkindness of God brings us to the realization that He does not want our sin, rebellion, or disobedience to rule over us or to imprison us so that we are separated from His presence. We were powerless to escape our captivity! Why? Because we remembered the former things … our worthless deeds … our trespasses … our rebellion and ungodliness. In self-condemnation, under the Law, we were powerless to be judged righteous before a Holy God! We were imprisoned by the thoughts of wrath held in reserve for those oppose God. But God said, “I will reveal a better plan … and unfold My plan of redemption!” It is His love … His mercies … His kindness … His New Covenant … that will prevail:

Romans 5:6-11 (NIV)

6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him! 10 For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life! 11 Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Romans 8:1-10 (NIV)

1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh (sinful nature), God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so, He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. 7 The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 8 Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God. 9 You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. 10 But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness.

Please forgive my long-windedness! If you have read this far, “God Bless You!” I felt like I needed to establish a foundation for the application … an application for such a time as this … for the year of Healing and Deliverance! To me, this passage is really about those who have left God … who have wandered … who have left home … who have squandered their inheritance. God is NOT telling the wayward or the lost to forget about His power … His presence … His protection … His provision over their life … or the lovingkindness that He has shown them; on the contrary, He is saying forget the former things that sent you into captivity. Understand that the Old Covenant was powerless because it was weakened by your flesh. “See, I am doing a new thing,” declares the Lord. I am making a way for you through the wilderness you have traveled! I am bringing you water in a dry and thirsty land! Come to Me all you who are burdened with your past … your guilt and shame. Forget it! I will give you rest for your soul. “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.” (Cf. Hosea 6:6) Jesus said, “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (Cf. John 8:36) And Paul affirmed: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus!”

O Lord, how I pray that your servants will diligently go out into the streets, alleys, roads, and country lanes to share Your word of hope and encouragement … your forgiveness and reconciliation … your power of healing and deliverance … the freedom of your everlasting covenant of love. Only through you, Jesus, can we receive the Holy Spirit that does not make us slaves to fear again … the Spirit that brings about our adoption to sonship so that we can in truth become children of God who cry out, “Abba!” “Father!” Oh, I pray Lord Jesus, that your people would be vessels of your kindness … leading others to repentance … so that whosoever is captive will come to You and find rest for their souls. Lord, may they hear Your voice saying: “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland! Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Do Not Love The World

1 John 2:15-16 (NIV)

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.

Our Verse of the Day was cited in the commentary when we looked at the topic of the “idolatry of self” a few days ago. To me, this additional reminder is not coincidence; rather, I believe it confirms that the Holy Spirit wants us to address this spiritual concern in our lives. We need to take some time for introspection and let the light of the Spirit illuminate whatever lies in our hearts that is taking precedence over our relationship with God. Ask yourself, what do I prioritize above intimacy with God? As I have shared before, we cannot view God as simply a “part” of our lives … the “religious aspect” of our lives. No, God is either everything, or in essence, He is nothing….

I think our verse points out what is the primary deterrent to intimacy with God: we set our affections on the world or the things of the world. As John asserted, “If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.” This can be a difficult truth to recognize within ourselves, so it is necessary for us to guard our minds and hearts in order to discern when we are about to cross the line…. Although we live in this fallen and sinful world, we have been “called” out of the world – meaning we do not live in accordance with the world … its patterns of thought or its earthly wisdom. As John points out for us, everything in the world as it pertains to sinful human nature does not come from God. It comes from the world and from within our physical bodies.

One of the key precepts taught by Jesus related to this spiritual concern is that He calls believers out of the world.  Jesus told His disciples, “I have chosen you out of the world.” And so, once we are IN Him, we no longer belong to the world, its deception or darkness, its allures or enticements.  In fact, Jesus asserts that our calling out, our separation from the things of the world, will be the reason the “world will hate us.”

John 15:18-19 (NIV)

18 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.”

John 17:13-17 (NIV)

13 “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. 14 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them to live in accordance with the truth; your Word is Truth.”

The Apostles understood this separation from the world … our sanctification unto God … and its imperative to a life of faith. Consider these inspired instructions:

Romans 12:1-2 (NIV)

1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.

1 Corinthians 2:11-12 (NIV)

11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us.

2 Corinthians 4:4 (NIV)

The god of this world (Satan) has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

Ephesians 6:12 (NIV)

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

James 3:13-18 (NIV)

13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

When John tells us not to love the world or anything in it, we need to consider the consequence he shares as well: “If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is NOT in them.” The implication here is that we will love our lives IN this world more than we love the One who created it for our habitation. Peter wrote: “If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and are overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning.” (Cf. 2 Peter 2:20) The Apostle James goes even further in his exhortation:

James 4:4-5 (NLT) – Italics are mine.

You adulterous people! You who are unfaithful to the covenant of God. Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again: If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God. Do you think the Scriptures have no meaning? They say that God is passionate that the spirit He has placed within us should be faithful to Him. His Holy Spirit within us opposes our envy of the world….

It is clear that we cannot prioritize the gratification of ourselves above the gratitude that is due our Creator! And I believe this shift of spiritual orientation and understanding begins at the moment of rebirth. When we are born of the Spirit, the things of this world become meaningless. Paul asserted, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (Cf. 2 Corinthians 5:17) The “new” means we are no longer held captive to the things of this world. We are no longer prisoners to the darkness of sin. Light has come! We have been set free of those things in order for His love to dwell within us! In a sense, our separation from the world is the evidence of our new creation in Christ Jesus.

A person is not going to overcome world unless he or she is born of God; and a person cannot be born of the Spirit except through putting their faith in Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice. It is our faith in Him that empowers us to be victorious and to overcome the world. (Cf. 1 John 5:2-4) Yes, it is through the obedience that comes from faith that we will be set free from the things of this world! Jesus said, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.’” (Cf. Luke 9:23) If we will deny ourselves … if we deny our flesh and its sinful nature … we will not love or pursue the things of this world; rather, we will become devoted followers of our Lord Jesus and experience the love of the Father in all of its fullness…. I pray each of us will take up the cross of obedience each day as our act of worship … as a demonstration of our love for the Father. Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. ~ Romans 1:25

So, don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your Heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and He will give you everything you need. ~ Matthew 6:31-33

You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. ~ James 4:2b-3

Competent and Confident

2 Corinthians 3:6 (NIV)

He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

As I read our Verse of the Day, my first thought was to ask myself a question: “Do I feel competent as a minister of the New Covenant?” And then I asked another question: “Do I feel confident as a minister of the New Covenant?” As believers, I think each question should be explored because we are parties to the New Covenant that was mediated through the blood of Jesus. (Cf. Luke 22:20) We are recipients of its promises. We are bound to its terms and conditions. And in it we are given authority to invite others to join the agreement (confession) through faith in Jesus Christ. Indeed, there is an expectation for us to live out and to share the Gospel of Christ so that others might become parties to the New Covenant as well….

The context for our verse is part of a larger defense that Paul makes to the Corinthian Church regarding his authority in preaching the Gospel … his apostleship as a minister of the New Covenant established through Jesus Christ. Paul has been dealing with “church discipline” matters, and it has ignited questions within the church regarding his leadership, teaching, and approach. Further, it has become a personal struggle for Paul to endure the pain of rejection after working so diligently to bring the brothers and sisters at Corinth to maturity in Christ. Therefore, I encourage you to read 2 Corinthians 1-4 to have a better understanding of what is happening as well as Paul’s response.

I think we need this context to understand the assertions Paul made to the Corinthians as he administered the truth to them. His confidence in doing so was not within himself or his own abilities. His confidence came from the trustworthiness of Christ Himself! Paul did not doubt the absolute certainty nor sufficiency of what Christ fulfilled through His death on the cross … the eternal atonement for our sin! In Him we received mercy and grace. Through Him we are raised to new life … we are born again! Faith in Jesus gives us the confidence we need to become ambassadors for Him and ministers of the New Covenant.

Likewise, we need to note that our competence or ability to minister to others comes through Jesus Christ. He alone is our sufficiency, qualification, and adequacy. There should be no question about “feeling” competent; rather, faith understands that the source of our abilities … our courage … our strength comes from Him who was victorious over death. Paul declared, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes….” (Cf. Romans 1:16) And the power to proclaim the Gospel comes from the same source! As Paul affirmed, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Cf. Philippians 4:13) And, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (Cf. 2 Timothy 1:7)

With these thoughts in mind, let’s go back to discourse of Paul on evangelism:

2 Corinthians 2:14-17 (NIV)

14 But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of Him everywhere. 15 For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task? 17 Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, as those sent from God.

2 Corinthians 3:1-6 (NIV)

1Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some people, letters of recommendation to you or from you? 2 You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. 3 You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.4 Such confidence (trust, reliance, certainty, assurance) we have through Christ before God. 5 Not that we are competent (sufficient, qualified, adequate) in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence (sufficiency, qualification, adequacy) comes from God. 6 He has made us competent (sufficient, qualified, adequate) as ministers of a New Covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

I want us to focus on the Verse 6 a moment and ask some tough questions. Do you believe that you are a “competent” minister of the New Covenant? Do you believe the message of the New Covenant established by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ should be shared with others? If you do not feel confident in your own understanding of the New Covenant, what would help you achieve more knowledge? If you do not feel confident in sharing the message of Jesus Christ, what would help you overcome your concerns?

As we have seen, Paul declared that his competence in preaching the Gospel “comes from God.” And He is our source as well! Paul states, “God has MADE us competent as ministers.” Any idea how God did so? If we look at the life of Paul, we see his zeal for the Law and study of the Scriptures as the foundation for His competence; however, Paul was not an “ambassador” of the New Covenant until his encounter with Jesus Christ. His experience with the risen Lord changed everything!

Acts 26:15-23 (NIV)

15 Then I asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” the Lord replied. 16 “Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen and will see of me. 17 I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them 18 to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.” 19 “So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven. 20 First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and then to the Gentiles, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and demonstrate their repentance by their deeds. 21 That is why some Jews seized me in the temple courts and tried to kill me. 22 But God has helped me to this very day; thus, I stand here and testify to small and great alike. I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen— 23 that the Messiah would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would bring the message of light to His own people and to the Gentiles.”

And so, I encourage each of us to consider our own competence. As believers, each of us has had an encounter with Jesus Christ. It may not have been a blinding light from heaven … but it was the light of His presence and His Spirit that captured us nonetheless. And the glorious revelation of God’s love, mercy, and grace washed over us as the spiritual new birth produced in us our new life in Christ. And we have never been the same since Christ entered our hearts and sent His Spirit to indwell us. “This is how we know that we live in Him and He in us: He has given us of His Spirit.” (Cf. 1 John 4:13)

So, what might be inhibiting our competence to be ministers of the New Covenant like those who came before us? If through the past couple of millennia there had been no one “competent” to preserve the Word and to proclaim the Gospel, would we have even come to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ? Even in the first century, there was a sense of urgency to protect the light and truth of God revealed to us through His Son. Consider what Jude wrote: “Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people.” Perhaps there is hesitancy on our part because we still have questions about our own faith or what it is based upon. Maybe there is a lack of confidence in our knowledge that stems from a lack of spending time reading and meditating on God’s Word. Ultimately our faith is based on our confidence in the Word of God.

A Final Thought:

John 15:5-8 (NIV)

5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

Apart from Jesus … apart from the power of His indwelling Spirit … we can do nothing. That means we cannot be “competent” as ministers of the New Covenant if we do not have an intimate relationship with Him. We have to be empowered and equipped; and that comes from His Holy Spirit. I have observed in my own walk with Christ, that the more time I spend studying and meditating on the Word of God, the more time that I spend in prayer; the more confident I become with WHO I know. And, like Paul, I am coming to the place in my life … in my walk … where I consider everything else worthless compared to the “surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus!” (Cf. Philippians 3:8) So, I cannot communicate or demonstrate with “competence” WHO Jesus is or WHAT Jesus accomplished without truly knowing Him and abiding in Him! Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

A Willing Spirit…

Psalm 51:12 (NIV)

Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Our Verse of the Day comes from Psalm 51, and it is an intense confession and lamentation of David – prompted after Nathan the Prophet confronted him regarding his adultery with Bathsheba and his subsequent act to have her husband killed in battle. I encourage you to reference the story in 2 Samuel 11-12. In the final verse of that chapter we read, “But the thing David had done displeased the Lord.”

Though he was a man who pursued the heart of God and experienced intimate spiritual relationship with Him, David fell into great temptation. He committed adultery; and then afterwards, a murder as the consequences of his sin spiraled out of control.  In that time … in that moment … it is clear that David did not guard his heart nor fear God. Indeed, the consequences of his actions had far-reaching effects on his relationship with God and those around him. And so, Psalm 51 captures the outpouring of his confession and repentance before God.  David expresses that God desires faithfulness from us … righteousness and holiness … even from the moment of our conception. David asks God for cleansing, healing, renewal, and reinstatement of the fidelity he had violated. And from his prayer, we learn it is a broken spirit … a broken and contrite heart … that our loving and compassionate Father will use to restore us to Himself.

In his confession, David acknowledges not only his transgressions, but he observes in Verse 4 the following concerning his sin: “Against You, You only, have I sinned and done what is evil in Your sight; so You are right in your verdict and justified when You judge. David asserts that his sinful actions against other people were indeed sins against God Himself! Further, He agrees that God’s judgment of his sins is righteous and just. David continues in his prayer to seek forgiveness and cleansing of his sins: “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” And it is here that we find the context of our verse today….

To fear God is the beginning of wisdom; and reverence establishes the foundation for our obedience and faithfulness to Him. Like David, we can too easily become focused on ourselves, our own inner desires, and the allure of worldly things. Indeed, there is so much “pleasure” available that it can be challenging to our faithfulness. And the battle between light and darkness … between truth and lies … only seems to be intensifying in this world. Since we are caught in the torrent of spiritual warfare, it is understandable that we might become distracted and operate in the flesh. The deception and confusion can give rise to all kinds of temptations … enticing us to make bad decisions under the circumstances. If ever there was a time to guard our hearts and put on our spiritual armor (Cf. Ephesians 6:10-18), it is now in these latter days.

I see our Verse of the Day as a reminder of the constant struggle we face on the journey of faith. Any sin or transgression in our lives not only displeases the Lord, but there are profound consequences. We quench the Spirit who is working within us (Cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:19) … and we grieve the Spirit who has sealed us unto the day of redemption. (Cf. Ephesians 4:30) We are robbed of the “joy” of our salvation, and we begin to isolate ourselves from God in guilt and shame. Indeed, we dishonor the sacrifice of Christ on the cross to atone for our sins, and we separate ourselves from the presence of God through His Holy Spirit. Our capacity to love one another and minister to others is diminished because we have compromised ourselves….

As we meditate upon these thoughts, I hope that we will spend some time for introspection. As David did, let us kneel before the Father and pray: “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Cf. Psalm 139:23-24) And as John affirmed, “This is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is Light; in Him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all (every) sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar and His word is not in us. (Cf. 1 John 1:5-10)

Though our transgressions may not rise to the level that David committed, it is certain that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Cf. Romans 3:23) So, it is my hope that as we examine ourselves before God, we will join David with repentant hearts as the Lord reveals our transgressions. For God is willing to purify us and to restore our joy. He is faithful to do so. Because of His mercy and grace, He will give us a willing spirit to live worthy of Him. As Paul wrote: “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” (Cf. Galatians 5:24-25)

My friends, I believe the Father is calling our hearts to confession and repentance today so that He might restore the joy of our salvation! Let us humble ourselves in reverence. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Cf. Hebrews 4:16) And I am reminded of what Paul asserted: “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” (Cf. 1 Corinthians 10:13) So, let us be diligent to guard our hearts and minds so that we do not fall prey to our enemy the devil – who prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (Cf. 1 Peter 5:8)

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Keep The Faith!

Hebrews 10:35-36 (NIV)

So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised.

Our Verse of the Day is a call to persevere in faith. Though we see a world in tribulation on many fronts, we know there a great victory ahead of us! The inspired writer of the Letter to the Hebrews provides an encouraging word for us, the remnant Church, to keep moving forward as the Day of the Lord approaches. The righteous shall live by faith, for the Lord does not take pleasure in those who draw back in fear or hold to their confidence and trust in Him. We are to forge ahead and to be steadfast in faith. For there is great reward for patient endurance – the promise of salvation and eternal life!

Hebrews 10:23-39 (NIV)

23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. 26 If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27 but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. 28 Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know Him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge His people.” 31 It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. 32 Remember those earlier days after you had received the light (of the Gospel), when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering. 33 Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. 34 You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. 35 So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. 36 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised. 37 For, “In just a little while, He who is coming will come and will not delay.” 38 And, “But the righteous will live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who draws back.” (Quoting from Habakkuk 2:3-4) 39 But we do not belong to those who draw back to destruction, but to those who have faith and are saved.

Philippians 3:12-21 (NIV)

12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. 15 All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. 16 Only let us live up to what we have already attained. 17 Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. 18 For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables Him to bring everything under His control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body.

Jude 1:3-6; 17-21 (NIV)

3 Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people. 4 For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord. 5 Though you already know all this, I want to remind you that the Lord at one time delivered His people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe. 6 And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their proper dwelling—these He has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day.

17 But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. 18 They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” 19 These are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit. 20 But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in God’s love as you persevere and wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.

It is my prayer that these scriptural views regarding perseverance of faith will resonate in our hearts. Spiritual warfare is being waged all around this world … across our nation … and within our own communities.  Through faith, we need to press forward and be engaged in the battle! As Paul affirmed: “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. Therefore, take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. (Cf. Ephesians 6:12-13) And this is what the Lord says: “The Word of God (the sword of the Spirit) shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Cf. Joshua 1:8-9)

Indeed, both Moses, and later, Joshua had to confront the unbelief and unfaithfulness of the ancient Israelites along their journey with God. During the growing pains of the early Church in the First Century, the Apostles had to confront the onslaught of false teachers and prophets who twisted doctrine and denied the truths Jesus had implanted in His chosen disciples. These were the eyewitnesses of His life, death, and resurrection … and filled with the Holy Spirit who fell on the Day of Pentecost. So, it is imperative that we, in our generation, hold fast to the faith once for all entrusted to God’s holy people and not wander from it nor abandon it for a false Gospel.

So, I join with the Apostles and urge each of us to be diligent in these matters and to wholly devote ourselves to the building of our faith through the spiritual disciples we have been taught. We, too, need to persevere so that when we have done the will of God, we will receive what He has promised….

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Links to Bible Gateway for Additional Study on Keeping the Faith:

1 Timothy 4:1-15 (NIV)

1 Timothy 6:11-16 (NIV)

2 Timothy 1:6-13 (NIV)

2 Timothy 4:1-8 (NIV)

Don’t Throw in the Towel…

Hebrews 10:35-36 (NIV)

So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised.

Living a Christian life … living a life worthy of the Lord Jesus and His calling upon you can be quite challenging at times. As believers we need to be diligent because the Adversary prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (Cf. 1 Peter 5:8) He is a liar … a deceiver … a thief that comes only to steal and kill and destroy. (Cf. John 10:10) And sometimes we fall prey to our enemy and his schemes. Sometimes we succumb to his oppression … embrace his temptation … or become ensnared by his deception. In doing so, we fail … we sin. We fall into a place of guilt and shame … self-condemnation … unforgiveness … and missing the goodness God desires for our lives.

Our Verse of the Day, is a reminder this morning for us to hold on and not throw in the towel. Do not throw away your confidence! Do not forsake your faith! It is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen. (Cf. Hebrews 11:1) We are equipped to persevere through the trials of faith and to accomplish the will of God for our lives … for it is God who works in us to will and to act in order to fulfill His good purpose. (Cf. Philippians 2:13) Indeed, it is God’s will that we should be sanctified; that we should avoid sexual immorality and learn to control our own bodies in a way that is holy and honorable. (Cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:3-4). It is God’s will that we should rejoice always, pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances. (Cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) And it is God’s will that by doing good we silence the ignorance of foolish people. (Cf. 1 Peter 2:15) Yes, we can do all these things through Christ who strengthens us. (Cf. Philippians 4:13)

And so, I want to encourage you as well with a few reminders from the Scriptures to help you persevere in faith when you are tested and challenged:

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NIV)

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.

1 Corinthians 10:12-14 (NIV)

12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! 13 No temptation (test) has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted (tested) beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted (tested), He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. 14 Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry. 

1 John 2:15-17 (NIV)

15 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. 16 For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.

1 John 1:5-9 (NIV)

This is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

1 John 2:1-2 (NIV)

1 My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous OneHe is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

Hebrews 4:14-16 (NIV)

14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet He did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Yes, out of the fullness of Jesus we have all received grace in place of grace already given. (Cf. John 1:16) So, I encourage us this morning to seek His grace … to confess any sin in our lives … to acknowledge that the world and its desires are temporal and not from God … and to renounce all idols of self-aggrandizement that hinder us from fulfilling the will of God. Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (Cf. Luke 16:13) And Jesus taught: “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” (Cf. Matthew 16:24) So let us surrender to God and His will.  Let us believe His Word … receive His Word. We do not have to lose our faith or confidence in the face of spiritual challenges; rather, let us yield to the Spirit of God. For He helps us in our weakness and intercedes for us in accordance with the will of God. (Cf. Romans 8:26-27)

Father God, I ask you this morning to fill us with the knowledge of your will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that each of us may live a life worthy of our Lord Jesus and please Him in every way. I pray that we would bear fruit in every good work; grow in the knowledge of you; and be strengthened with all power according to your glorious might so that we may have great endurance and patience! Yes, Father, we joyfully give you thanks because you have qualified us to share in the inheritance of your holy people in the kingdom of light. We praise and worship you because you have rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of your beloved Son; in whom we have received redemption and the forgiveness of our sins. For HE is our confidence … the One whom we trust. It is in the name of Jesus that we give you thanks … and through whom I pray. Amen. (Adapted from Colossians 1:9-14)


These things I have spoken to you so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” ~ Jesus

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Do Not Love The World…

1 John 2:15-16 (NIV)

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.

This is a familiar verse for most of us, and I want us to look at the “pattern” that John articulated in his instruction: “Do not love the world or anything in the world.” He proceeds to assert, “If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.” This claim should concern us because it draws a theological line in the sand that we should not cross as believers.  So where is John going with his admonishment? Well, there are three issues that John addresses for us to consider: The Lust of the Flesh … The Lust of the Eyes … and The Pride of Life.  And I believe the reason this is important is because it parallels the mechanisms Satan uses to tempt us from obeying and worshiping God.  Look at the two passages below and see if you can identify his methods:

Genesis 3:1-6 (NIV)

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’” “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.

Luke 4:1-4 (NIV)

1 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days He was tempted (tested) by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them He was hungry. The devil said to Him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” (appeal to flesh) Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’”The devil led Him up to a high place and showed Him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. (appeal to eyes)  And he said to Him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.’” The devil led Him to Jerusalem and had Him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. (appeal to pride)10 For it is written: “‘He will command His angels concerning you to guard you carefully; 11 they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’” 12 Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

So we can see that “the lust of the flesh,” and “the lust of the eyes,” and “the pride of life,” all serve as open invitations into the world of temptation. And as John points out, these doors of temptation do not come from the Father but from the world.  As the Apostle James affirmed: “When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” (Cf. James 1:13-15) So, if we do not resist these opportunities for temptation, they will lead to the ultimate consequence inherent with sin.  “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Cf. Romans 6:23) As King Solomon advised, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (Cf. Proverbs 4:23)

Not only is there hope for the penalty of sin given through Christ Jesus, but through the indwelling Holy Spirit, we have a weapon to defeat the power of sin over our lives: the Word of God. Paul gives us some insight into this issue:

1 Corinthians 10:6-13 (NIV)

Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: “The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.” (Cf. Exodus 32:6We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. We should not test the Lord, as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. 10 And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel. 11 These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. 12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! 13 No temptation (testing) has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted (tested) beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted (tested), He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

So what is the way out? Well, look at how Jesus resisted these forms of temptation when He was tested by Satan in the wilderness.  In each attempt, Jesus quoted Scripture (the Word of God) in response to an appeal directed at the flesh, the eyes, or the pride of life. By contrast, Eve, when tempted through the same avenues of enticement, responded in her own human reasoning and not with the will of God in mind. And Adam followed her example instead of with obedience to the Word of God he had been instructed to keep. So it seems to me, the “way out” of temptation is found in the Word of God – if we would but study it and endeavor to put it into practice. As the Psalmist determined, “I have hidden your Word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” (Psalm 119:11) Yes, “In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.” (Cf. Ephesians 6:16-17) Indeed, these are the tools we need to do battle with temptation!

Some Final Thoughts:

Romans 8:1-13 (NIV)

1Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set us free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so He condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. 10 But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. 11 And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who lives in you. 12 Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. 13 For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.

Galatians 5:16-25 (NIV)

16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

John 17:14-19 (NIV)

14 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by the truth; your Word is Truth18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.

Well, those are my musings on our Verse of the Day! I pray there is something here that will encourage you to see the power of the Word activated through the Spirit to make us victorious when the temptations of the world come.  And let us give thanks to Father God who has provided us with what we need to endure – His Son, His Spirit, and His Word! Amen.

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. ~ James 4:7

Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word. ~ Psalm 119:37

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!