Christianity 201

February 14, 2021

As We Search Our Hearts

Two days ago we looked at our susceptibility to sin. There are a few verses I realized could have also been included, one of which follows in the excerpt from something by Elsie Montgomery we ran in September:

…Every day I need to ask Jesus what the psalmist asked: “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalm 139:23–24) This is one prayer that God is so faithful to answer quickly that I’ve often said if you pray it, you better duck!

I decided to continue tracing back the history of the particular scripture appearing here.

Just over a year ago, we shared a devotional from Gary Henry:

…We are hurt far more by the malignancies in our character than by the illnesses in our body. And it is the removal of these sins in the heart that God is concerned with. The Great Physician desires to restore our spiritual health and wholeness.

If we want to improve, we must be honest and open to the truth about our character right now. Not even the Great Physician can help us if we’re not willing to be examined. Trying to hide our symptoms and pretending that nothing very serious is wrong will only result in our getting worse. An accurate diagnosis will be humbling, to be sure, but we should still want to know the whole truth. David’s prayer is that of an honest man: Search me, O God, and know my heart . . . see if there is any wicked way in me (Psalm 139:23,24). We must desire to see ourselves as God sees us…

In December, 2017, Colin Sedgwick included this same verse, but looked at the life of Asa in both 1 Kings and 2 Chronicles and used the analogy of someone having what we call a Jekyll and Hyde character. More than anything else, God hates hypocrisy. Think of the word duplicity and the image is clear of a person who presents a double character. Colin also introduced the idea of a Asa as having an Achilles heel, a weak spot or vulnerability to certain types of sin. He wrote,

…I have to admit, that’s where his story strikes uncomfortably at my heart… Yours too, perhaps. As you search your heart and examine your life, do you see there a big, ugly “But”? Yes, you’re a genuine, sincere Christian. Yes, you want to please and serve God. Yes, you are happy to worship, pray and evangelise. But

If we fail to deal with that “but”, I’m not suggesting that we will lose our salvation. But there are, I think, two things we will lose.

First, our peace of mind. Like Paul in Romans 7:14-25 we will feel ourselves to be “wretched” because we are torn in two.

And second, we will lose our effectiveness for God. Putting it another way, our cutting edge will be blunted.

In August, 2017, I wrote a devotional based on a sermon I had recently heard, that was based on this passage:

“O Lord, you are a great and awesome God! You always fulfill your covenant and keep your promises of unfailing love to those who love you and obey your commands. But we have sinned and done wrong. We have rebelled against you and scorned your commands and regulations. We have refused to listen to your servants the prophets, who spoke on your authority to our kings and princes and ancestors and to all the people of the land. Daniel 9:4-6

I added,

…each time I ignore the commands of God, or rationalize some behavior, or allow myself some license in some area of thought or action, I am scorning God’s commands.

When our pastor spoke on this on Sunday he said you can’t always choose the place you live in, but you can decide where you are going to live toward. He contrasted living toward Jerusalem with living toward Babylon

In November, 2015, Rev. Gregory Crofford raised the dramatic account of Ananias and Sapphira whose duplicity cost them both their lives. He introduced this verse to the discussion:

For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” 1 Peter 4:17, NIV, italics added

Way back in July, 2012, a writer we used several times but knew only as “Cloudwatcher” also touched on the Psalm 51 verse, but introduced this from James 3:11 as well:

Both fresh water and salt water don’t come from the same spring, do they?

I read that verse today and marvel at the duplicity that seems to spring forth from the accounts of fallen Christian leaders; how their words and their actions did not line up. There was, as one person voiced earlier this weekend, apparently a lack of “a congruent life.”

Going back to December, 2011; we come full circle with Elsie Montgomery who noted Spurgeon brought up this scripture in the context of taking a personal spiritual inventory:

Know well the condition of your flocks, and give attention to your herds. -Proverbs 27:23

[Spurgeon] points out that a wise merchant occasionally takes stock. He opens his accounts, examines what is on hand, and determines whether his trade is prosperous or declining. This practice is easily transferred to those who belong to Jesus Christ. Those who are wise will often take stock to make sure that our hearts are right with God. We ask Him to reveal sin and life-patterns that need attention.

That’s all for today; I hope this leaves all of us with much to consider.


For those of you who read the tags which appear after the title, this devotional is tagged with an assortment of search terms from all the devotionals used!

Looking for more content? This weekend I listened to the second part in a recent sermon series, Unleashed by Kyle Idleman based on the Book of Acts. If you’ve got time, sit back and listen to Complacent to Committed.

 

 

 

 

December 23, 2020

Jesus Came That We Might Have – and Focus on – Life

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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I came to bring them life, and far more life than before – John 10:10b Phillips

I came to give life—life in all its fullnessibid, NCV

I came so that they could have life—indeed, so that they could live life to the fullest. – CEB

We’ll return to the Christmas theme tomorrow.

A year ago we introduced you to author, and speaker Ethan Renoe who is now serving in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala. (I copied and pasted that!) I read several of his devotionals and he is a very gifted and very transparent writer. The first appears below (click the title) and the second is linked at the bottom.

Don’t Forget About Life

The well is deep, where can I get living water? 
-John 4, Silent Planet translation*

If you’ve read anything I’ve ever written in the past five years, you know that I’m painfully aware of my own mortality and the imminent death which is coming for each of us. I’ve ruminated on its finality and the ubiquity of it.

Even this morning, I was catching up on the newest releases in heavy metal and found this song* released by The Ghost Inside which is a reflection on the death of one of their friends to a bus crash. As you’ll see, the song even causes metal legend Jake Luhrs to weep. There was an accident while the band was on tour and ten people on the bus were injured and one was killed.

The response, according to the band, is not to focus on death and to mourn for the rest of their lives, but to focus on what’s left; too live out the rest of their lives with the life that’s inside them rather than focusing on the death that awaits them:

I don’t have it in me to sing of defeat
Triumph over tragedy
The beat goes on

Where in the gospels do we see Jesus concentrate on death? He encounters it a number of times, but what does He do whenever He does? He weeps (John 11), He retreats to a quiet place to be alone (Matt. 14), or He belittles it by saying they’re just asleep (John 11, Luke 8).

Jesus seems much more focused on life than death.
Maybe we should be too.

In yet another song (fronted by Jake Luhrs this time), he yells,

While mourning the loss, I am forced to celebrate
Celebrate new life,
celebrate new life

Do we often focus our thoughts, and especially our spirituality, on death rather than life? Do we tend toward thinking about what awaits us after the grave and therefore relegate most of our religious action to then?

This manifests itself in many ways, some of which are incredibly important. For one, if your Christianity is purely relegated to What happens after we die, then you will most likely be incredibly ineffective in this life.

Jesus gives plenty of parables and teachings on how we need to use our time. He talks about the parable of the talents (or minas), in which we are responsible to use well what we have been given. In the afterlife? NO! In this life! He teaches that the one who c be trusted with little can be trusted with much. He talks about clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, looking after widows, orphans and prisoners. These are not after-death things. These are things that we can only do while alive. 

Too often, our faith floats above us in some vague spiritual cloud at which we will someday arrive, and there is little if any trickle down into our day-to-day lives.

Jesus confronted this way of living simply by what He did. In theology, it’s called the incarnational work of Christ. He didn’t just sit up in heaven and plop down a scroll of instructions on how to join Him up there. Jesus seems far less interested in merely telling us what to do, and more focused on joining us, being with us. His name, Emmanuel, means God with us. 

In other words, Jesus wants us to—like Him—use our bodies (while they’re alive) to do religious things. What does that mean? Well James clearly tells us that the religion he chose was to look after widows and orphans. Isaiah adds breaking the chains of injustice, setting the oppressed free, sharing our bread, and inviting the homeless into our homes. None of these things can be done after you die. 

You can always tell which Christians are only focused on a religion that begins after death—they’re the ones arguing about unprovable theories and theologies on Facebook. The ones who really know Jesus tend to be the ones hanging with the homeless, giving up their money and possessions, and fighting for justice (without posting about it…).

The Bible tends to put far more emphasis on what we do before we die than on what happens afterward. In fact, the entire idea of an afterlife doesn’t appear until the prophetic books which are over halfway through the book. In other words, God has an incredible focus on life—on what we do with ours, on how we live, etc. 

Have you been like me: too focused on death to be effective with your life?

Who can praise God from the grave?

The very beginning of the Bible paints this beautiful picture of God calling the world to life. In Genesis 1:2, the Spirit of God is hovering over the chaotic waters. The word for ‘hovering’ evokes an image of a mother bird flapping her wings over her young in the nest, calling to them, “Rise! Come to life! Take flight!”

This is the second thing we ever see God do in the Bible (the first is creating). God calls us to rise up and live. He hovers over the chaotic waters which our lives often feel like, calling out to them, telling us not to wait, but to ascend.

It’s important to have a memento mori attitude in most things we do, but to fixate on our coming death and the life we experience afterward can distract us from the very real life before us now. Death is real, and sadly, we are reminded of that constantly. Mourning and grief are necessary processes.

However, to dwell on them and think of nothing else is not only un-Christlike, but it can distract us from using our lives in the most effective ways possible. Is this not what a demonic enemy would want—for us to waste our lives or whittle them away in fear and philosophy rather than being effective and enjoying our life?

Jesus did not come and die simply so we could pontificate about death and the existence which follows. He came so we could have life and life to the fullest, and this tends to begin the very moment people meet Him in the Bible.

Live well now; there is no later.


Read more from Ethan: To the Christians in the Wilderness: You’re Not in Egyptian Bondage but You’re Certainly Not Home.

*There are three song links in this devotional. I didn’t want to include the first one without a warning that Silent Planet is very much a heavy metal band. If you watch on YouTube there are lyrics with footnotes explaining the imagery. The three links in Ethan’s devotional are very apparent when you click through, but here’s the first one, now that you’ve been warned.

December 14, 2020

Things to Think About

Wrapping up his letter to the Philippians, Paul ends with a verse that will be familiar to most of you:

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. (4:8 NLT)

Years ago, when attending a large youth event, a speaker talked about making his mind a gatekeeper. He envisioned animals passing through an “L”-shaped gate that would swing allowing some things to go one direction and others to go the other. He compared this to allowing certain thoughts to come into our minds as opposed to quickly and simply tossing others out.

I thought at the time he was referring to a particular scripture reference, but when I tried to find it I couldn’t, although the Bible has a lot to say about gatekeepers.

Frequently, the subject of our “thought life” has appeared at C201’s sister blog, Thinking Out Loud. In April of this year, with some extra time on my hands, I summarized the best elements of these into a single article.  See below for two excerpts.

For our verse today, I compared translations. Some of the Bibles listed the “things” to think about in a different order, and I took the liberty of arranging them so they would line up:

The Amplified Bible, as you might expect, takes this one step further and suggests where those “things” to think about might be defined:

Finally, believers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable and worthy of respect, whatever is right and confirmed by God’s word, whatever is pure and wholesome, whatever is lovely and brings peace, whatever is admirable and of good repute; if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think continually on these things [center your mind on them, and implant them in your heart].

I wanted to include some very practical ways we can start thinking about responding to this issue. Here’s how the Thinking Out Loud article began:

Media to fill your home:

  • Bible teaching
  • Christian books
  • Christian movies
  • Christian music
  • Hearing God’s voice

This list may remind you of this verse:

Phillips – Col. 3: 16-17 Let Christ’s teaching live in your hearts, making you rich in the true wisdom. Teach and help one another along the right road with your psalms and hymns and Christian songs, singing God’s praises with joyful hearts.

Dealing with online addiction – the issues involved:

  • Self Control
  • Mind, Thoughts and Heart
  • Shifting Values
  • The Stewardship of Our Time
  • Misdirected Worship

It also included links to the individual articles, but here’s one in more detail:

Recipe for a healthy media diet:

  • True, Not False:”Whatever things are true”
  • Noble, Not Base: “Whatever things are noble”
  • Right, Not Wrong: “Whatever things are just”
  • Purity, Not Filth: “Whatever things are pure”
  • Beautiful, Not Ugly: “Whatever things are lovely”
  • Praise, Not Complaint: “Whatever things are of good report

…Imagine me having written all this only to discover I’ve done this before with the exact same title and a very similar Bible translation chart. Well, it’s true. I did this in June, 2014. At that time I made a few personal observations:

  1. Holiness does not get easier as you get older. Don’t believe the myth that as you age, you will automatically take on the character of the elder saints at your local church. To be very blunt, it can go either way. Age can ‘mellow’ your spiritual character, or it can ‘harden’ that character.
  2. Thinking on “these things” is a matter of effort. Even working in a ministry environment, I find that my thoughts can go off the rails several times a day or even several times an hour. It takes constant focus.
  3. Past thought life failures should not be a barometer of what to expect in the future. Each moment is a created period of accountability. You have to keep hitting the ‘reset’ button.
  4. Our lives simply run better when our thoughts are focused on the good and beautiful. We were not designed to have our mind crowded by things that are impure or dishonorable.

 

April 29, 2020

Finding Jesus in the Hurry and the Hustle

Once again today we’re back at Don’t Ask The Fish written by Lancaster Bible College and Capital Seminary president Dr. Tommy Kiedis who also writes at Leader’s Life and Work. As always, you’re encouraged to click the headers like the one which follows, and read these at their original host sites.

Hope When the Path is Uphill

“You shall seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.”

— Jeremiah 29:13

I’m beginning to wonder if Jeremiah 29:13 went down with Amelia Earhart. I don’t see it much. I don’t hear it taught, preached, or memorized. On the other hand, Jeremiah 29:11 is as popular as Santa Claus:

““For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

— Jeremiah 29:11

Why does Jeremiah 29:11 find its way onto T-shirts, bedroom walls, and coffee mugs? Probably because it speaks to the gracious nature of God. But could it be — just possibly — because it subtly reinforces our desire for life on easy street?

  • Prosperity? Yeah, I’m down with that.

  • No harm coming my way? Love that idea.

  • Hopeful future (my future)? Sure, bring it on!

Jeremiah 29:7 is also trending nicely.

“But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.

— Jeremiah 29:7 ESV

There is an army of church planters and pastors who have taken up the rally cry of Jeremiah 29:7. That’s a good thing. One Westboro Baptist Church is enough. God, give us more emissaries of peace.

But Jeremiah 29:13 is a different story. It is the awkward friend, the out-of-date tie, the book collecting dust on the shelf:

“You shall seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.”

Seeking and searching implies effort. Finding Jesus in the hurry and hustle is hard. Contending for the faith in the face of a tough week, a marital spat, or a world pandemic . . . . Come on! Who wants to put up with that?

We may not want to, but we must.

Read the Scriptures. Study history. The way of Jesus is often uphill, over difficult terrain, and carried out under a cloudy sky. I suspect that is how Jeremiah felt. The man who delivered the promise of “prosperity, hope, and future” walked the road of potholes, hassles, and failure:

  • Jeremiah’s parishioners beat him and imprisoned him (Jeremiah 37:15).

  • The political officials called for his hide (Jeremiah 38:4).

  • Enemies cast him into a muddy cistern (Jeremiah 38:6).

  • He walked to Babylon bound in chains with the other exiles (Jeremiah 40:1)

  • His ministry was a fountain of tears (Jeremiah 9:1)

So what gives? How come the one who preached “Don’t worry be happy” sang, “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen”? For starters, God’s Jeremiah 29:11 promise was, above all else, his prophetic word to his disobedient people wallowing in the land of Babylon.

God would not leave them there. Jeremiah 29:11 was God’s billboard: Better days ahead!

But “better days” does not mean “every day” nor necessarily “this day.” In fact, Jeremiah’s audience would wait 70 years for that promise to become reality.

That kind of delay is okay for people of faith. Walking with God is never about the circumstances. It is always about keeping fixed on the one who sees us through the circumstances, and who rains the sweet fragrance of peace over parched souls.

So we seek him . . . by praying, reading his word, remembering his promises, running to his family, and resting in his presence. He is there no matter our peace or lack of it.

The Apostle John was Jeremiah’s first-century colleague in the faith. John reminds us: Jesus is the vine. We are the branches. It is in remaining in Him (seeking him) that we “find him,” produce fruit, and accomplish more than we ever dreamed.

So what are we to do with Jeremiah 29:11? Well, for starters don’t throw away your coffee mug or paint over the verse. Just add verse 13 to it.

“You shall seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.”

May 12, 2019

A Worship Sunday Trio

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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First, from the blog Alicia J’s Space, this repost of Psalm 112 in the CEV. (Click the link for the audio of the KJV.)

Psalm 112 Contemporary English Version (CEV)🕊

God Blesses His Worshipers🕊

112:1 Shout praises to the Lord!
    The Lord blesses everyone
    who worships him and gladly
    obeys his teachings.
Their descendants will have
    great power in the land,
    because the Lord blesses
    all who do right.
They will get rich and prosper
    and will always be remembered
    for their fairness.
They will be so kind
    and merciful and good,
that they will be a light
in the dark
    for others
    who do the right thing.

Life will go well for those
who freely lend
    and are honest in business.
They won’t ever be troubled,
    and the kind things they do
    will never be forgotten.
Bad news won’t bother them;
    they have decided
    to trust the Lord.
They are dependable
    and not afraid,
    and they will live to see
    their enemies defeated.
They will always be remembered
    and greatly praised,
    because they were kind
    and freely gave to the poor.
10 When evil people see this,
    they angrily bite their tongues
    and disappear.
They will never get
    what they really want.🕊


From the newsletter of popular Christian author Frank Viola, a reminder that we need to cleanse ourselves before we come to God in worship:

When Jesus seems distant

When Jesus seems distant, the antidote is not to run away from Him. Ignore Him. Or throw your hands up and decide to become a practical atheist.

It’s to act as if He’s near. That’s called faith. You can’t see Him, but you believe that He is with you (as He promised) and act accordingly.

“But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” Hebrews 11:6

Now if you’re tolerating a particular sin in your life, drawing near to God means dealing with that sin and eliminating it from your life by the power of the Holy Spirit. (I’ve explained how elsewhere.)

This is how James puts it:

“Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” James 4:8-10


In light of what Frank wrote, we end today’s trio of articles with this piece from John Curtis at the Exchange Ministry Blog.

Crucifying the Flesh

Galatians 5:24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

Observation:

In his defense of salvation by faith and not works, it was important to cite that salvation by faith is not a prescription for an unbridled lifestyle with a goal of fulfilling every base passion and desire.  Paul made a list of behaviors that are inconsistent with Kingdom living – sinful practices that his critics would identify easily from the Law of Moses.  And yet they were practices that they also indulged in, which Paul knew from his earlier life.

Contrasting those were the nine-fold fruits of the Holy Spirit.  They didn’t just contrast behavior – they contrasted behavior with attitude.  And then came the punch line above.  It is a crucifixion of passions and desires that the believer does.  THAT is the action that overcomes all the foul outworking of the flesh.  So sin is cut off at inception.  It is not allowed to fester into action since its core – the flesh, that which gratifies but does not satisfy – is to be nailed to the cross to die a slow death.

And a slow death it is, for long have people learned to lean into passions and desires, to coddle and entertain like toys.  These diversions are to be crucified by the believer, put on open display where they were formerly covered as they achieved their clandestine destruction.  This is the stuff of testimony, the glory of overcoming.  For God has so saved his children that they arm themselves with battle gear that they wield as guided tactically and strategically.  But the core work is that of replaced passion.

Application:

How does my group of flesh toys look on the cross?  Is it growing in number?  Am I leaving it there?  And it’s not just deeds I put up there, but the passions and desires that produced them.  Are those seen on the cross as well?  Have I crucified selfishness, malice, pride and anger?  Again, not just angry deeds, but anger.  I must concede it is an ongoing task.  Let me not be discouraged by the tense of the verb – “those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified…” – for certainly there are passions and desires that are well-crucified and no longer reign in my heart.  And let me not lose heart in the battle against learned responses – for no one comes to Christ without a former straying from the truth.

Also, no one who would serve Christ in this world is immune from temptation.  Only let me identify such a lure by its core desire – what is it that would draw me down?  What is lacking?  What is being falsely promised?  Why is this passion so alluring to me?  Those questions deal less with the action of sin than they do with its intent.  For it is that intent that brings out the crucifying hammer in me.  Finding it, rooting it out, making its lies an open display.  THAT is the work of crucifying the flesh, for when I allow the Spirit I do that, it is a solid work of redemption.  May it be my regular and progressive spiritual exercise.

Prayer:

Father, it is your work of grace that brings me to awe and wonder.  Continue your work in me for I open myself to you.  In Jesus’ name, amen.

April 30, 2019

If You’re Pure, You’re Blameless

NIV.Ps.66.18 If I had cherished sin in my heart,
    the Lord would not have listened

Today we’re again highlighting a new writer, Pastor MaryAnn Nguyen-Kwok.  The articles I read before posting this were very insightful and very transparent. As always, click the title below to read this at her blog, Searching for Treasures.

Pursuing Purity

I’ve just been thinking today that there are never any regrets for pursuing purity.

This morning, I came across, “Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord…The one who has clean hands and a pure heart” (Psalm 24:3-4).

How do we get to hear God?

By pursuing purity in our lives.

Reading this verse reminded me of the time years ago when God really convicted me with it. At that time, I saw an image of a child walking on a path with Papa God, holding his hand. It was a leisurely walk down Sawyer Camp Trail next to Crystal Springs Reservoir. And I thought about how that was such a picture of peace. How incredible it would be to walk with God like that! And I recognized that I need to have the innocence of a child to walk with God in that way. How could I hold the hand of the Holy One with unclean hands? If I cherished sin in my heart, then the Lord would not hear me (Ps. 66:18), and I would not hear the Lord. Choosing purity would mean confidence of getting to hear God and confidence that God will hear me. It means having the confidence of a close and intimate relationship with God.

I have been really feeling convicted by this desire this week to seek purity and blamelessness before God, so that nothing would hinder me from hearing his voice and going his way.

Purity, to me, means blamelessness. Blamelessness looks like proactively seeking to follow God’s ways, proactively refraining from doing things that displeases God, proactively seeking to live and act in ways that honor God (e.g. if you know it’s wrong to steal, don’t steal; if you know you should forgive, then seek to forgive; if you’re prone to lusting, make a plan for how you’ll refrain from a “second look”, etc.).

We sometimes tell ourselves that it doesn’t matter if we don’t pursue blamelessness in our lives. God doesn’t see. God doesn’t know. God will forgive me anyway. But it does matter. It impacts our bond with God. He will forgive us, that is certain, but there’s a break in our communion with him all all the while that we are seeking our own way. When we seek HIS way, we have close and intimate relationship with him.

There is also something about seeking blamelessness that results in freedom. If I am doing what is right, I am free. If I’m not speeding down the road, I don’t have to keep looking in the rear-view mirror with anxiety that a cop will get me. My heart doesn’t have to race with nervousness about getting caught. I will get to live in freedom because I’m seeking to do what is right. This is where I want to be.

Though I know I can’t be perfect in my striving to be pure, I don’t want to give up on it before I’ve begun. I know it’s a worthy pursuit, because what I will get out of it is a deep and intimate relationship with God. I’ll get God out of it. And how could I ever regret that?


Secret Sauce Reveal: We discover new writers through a variety of means, but today’s author was discovered on WordPress Reader, using the tag “devotional.” Feel free to explore, but be discerning.

March 26, 2019

The Folly of Complacency

by Russell Young

The Lord and the gospel writers have addressed the need for believers to be participants in the accomplishment (completion) of their own salvation (Phil 2:12), active in kingdom building (Eph 2:10; 1 Cor 3:14), and true to Christ through the representation of his likeness within them. (Mt 9:16; 1 Pet 2:12) They have also revealed consequences for those who are complacent or “lukewarm” in their walk.

The Lord chastised the church in Ephesus because they had forsaken their first love (Rev 2:4) and cautioned the Laodiceans for being “lukewarm.” (Rev 3:16) In the parable of the sheep and the goats the Lord presented that the goats would suffer eternal punishment for failing to provide for the needy (Mt 25:45−46) and in the parable of the ten minas he revealed that while the faithful servant would be put in charge of ten cities, the servant who had done nothing with his single mina would have it taken away. (Lk 19:26) He also admonished his servants to be dressed, ready for service and to keep their lamps burning and stated, “That servant who knows his master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows.” Lk 12:47−48) Paul spoke of the fire that will test the quality each person’s work and that although a person’s contribution to the kingdom may be burned up, he or she would be saved but only as one “escaping through the flames.” (1 Cor 3:15)

Confessors may not only be complacent regarding service but may be indifferent concerning righteous practices. Believers have been called to “put to death the misdeeds of the body” in order to have life. (Rom 8:13) Paul has presented that confessors should not be deceived because those who are immoral or impure will have no inheritance in the kingdom of God (Eph 5:5), that those who sow to please the sinful nature instead of the Holy Spirit will reap destruction (Gal 6: 8), and that believers have become “slaves to righteousness”. (Rom 6:18)

The hope of every believer rests in a loving and committed relationship with Christ. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” (Mk 12:30) Relationships need nurturing and attention. Believers must “know” God—know his heart, mind, and will—if they are to avoid destruction. “He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power.” (2 Thess 1:8−9) They are confessors who did not commit to “knowing”—assuming his heart and mind–and obeying Christ as their lord. They had allowed themselves to be complacent in their walk and relationship while the Lord’s intent was for them to be far from that state. Eternal salvation comes through obedience (Heb 5:9) and love for God requires obeying his commands. (Jn 14:21)

Unfortunately, the gospel that is often presented does not speak of obedience or faithfulness. It doesn’t mention judgment or accountability. It doesn’t require commitment to love and faithfulness. The consequence of the modern gospel is the birthing of weak and anemic babies who are being permitted to remain babies without having to undergo the often-painful measures needed to attain maturity. (Heb 5:14)

Christ did not come with the limited purpose of offering himself as a sacrifice for sin. He also came to transform hearts and lives so that those “in him” would be enabled to do the “good works that he had prepared in advance for [them] to do.” (Eph 2:10) His life is to be evident in all who claim his name. They are to be his hands, feet, mouth, and heart to the people around them. They have been called to be righteous in their actions (Rom 6:18) and productive in their lives—to be found honoring his call for obedience. As Son of man, the Lord was active and driven to honor his Father, and as Christ, the Holy Spirit, he determinedly pursues personal righteousness in his own. He was not complacent as he walked this earth and will not accept complacency from his brothers and sisters.

Pastors and teachers often strain to convince their congregants to become more active in ministry while at the same time offering assurance that their hope has been secured with a place waiting for them in God’s heavenly kingdom. Confession of faith may save the confessor from his or her pasts sins (Heb 9:15; 2 Pet 1:9) but it will not gain them eternal salvation which comes from a committed and obedient walk with the Lord (Heb 5:9) and through a humble and loving relationship. There will be no room in God’s kingdom for those who entertain a life of complacency. At the final judgment all will be accountable for things done while in the body, whether good or bad (2 Cor 5:10), and their fate will depend on that which is written in the books (Rev 20:12−13), the testimony of their lives.



Russell Young’s column appears here on alternate Tuesdays. His book, Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay, You’re Okay” Really? is available in print and eBook in the U.S. through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; in Canada through Chapters/Indigo.

To read all of Russell’s contributions here at C201, click this link. There is also an extended article at this link.

March 27, 2017

New Creation? Or “Pretty much who I have always been?”

NLT 2 Cor. 5:17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

Today we’re introducing a new writer, Tara who blogs at PursuePeaceBlog. Click to look around, I love her writing style and how she wrestles with the text. Click the title below to read today’s thoughts with photo images.

A New Creation

I’m dead.

Yep, dead as a door nail.

Nail down the coffin, people.

I am entirely unresponsive to the world around me.

Dead.

Don’t plan my funeral yet though, that would just be weird.

Allow me to explain…

In 2 Corinthians 5:17, the Bible says that in Christ, we are a new creation. In fact, Paul explains it further by saying that old things have passed away and all things have become new. Notice that Paul does not say some things have become new, or you have become new, or the world has become new. No. Paul says all things have become new for those who live in Christ Jesus.

I have always had a rather ambivalent relationship with Paul’s words. There is nothing more encouraging or edifying to know that Christ frees us in such a way that we become a brand new creation.

Just as many times as this verse has encouraged me, it has confounded and alarmed me. I am not certain when I became a Christian; I pretty much just always loved Jesus. I could tell you when my faith became my own, instead of my parents’, but I did not have a defining moment where the Lord saved me. I often wonder if Paul’s words would have a more potent impact upon me if I hadn’t always been a Christian—if I had a “me before Jesus” with which to compare myself.

I know I have grown more in love with Christ as I have entered adulthood, and I know my faith has matured in immeasurable ways; however, I don’t know that I see myself as a new creation. I am still pretty much who I have always been. I continue to struggle with the same sins I was struggling with as a young girl; they may look different now, but they are the same. I can be unimaginably prideful, and impeccably self-absorbed; I tend to envy one’s success long before I rejoice in it; I seek my own glory before I seek my Father’s, and I am impatient beyond logic.

How is this kind of mess a new creation?

Romans 6:4 says, “Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

Read that verse again. I mean, really read it.

Paul says we were buried with Him…Whoa. I don’t recall being held up in a tomb for three days with the Son of God. I guarantee I would not have been as chill about it as Jesus was.

Colossians 2:11 also describes Christians as being buried with Jesus through baptism, but it goes further to say not only was Christ raised from the dead, but so were we.

Colossians 3 reminds us again that we have died and our life is hidden with Christ in God.

This begs the question that if we are dead, how then should we live on this earth?

It’s hard to be dead and alive at the same time, even for the most gifted of people.

Colossians 3 says more, “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.

Christ is life. Christ is life. Christ is life.

There are countless verses that address being dead to the world and alive in Christ. Galatians 3:26-27 says, “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.

Colossians touches on this same concept in chapter 2 by saying a Christian puts off the body of the things of the flesh…

If my faith in Christ allows me to drape Him over my shoulders like a blanket and traipse around like a beacon for Jesus, then I must simultaneously clothe myself in newness of life—my new man—killing my old self.  

In fact, Ephesians 4 says this of a Christian: putting off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.

Despite all this evidence, the problem many Christians have with this idea is that our old self seems to still live, lurking in the shadows of our hearts, revealing himself or herself countless times throughout the course of one day—this old self is our sin, and it has the power to eat us alive if we don’t let Christ fight it.

Our old self fears sin, fears the world, fears failure—fears everything. Putting on Christ each day and making Him our life does not mean sin no longer exists within us: it means that sin no longer controls us; it becomes so powerless, in fact, that it is dead. Christ has given us a weapon with which to fight this sin, and the ultimate gift when we lose that fight – forgiveness.

For many of us, choosing to truly believe this is half the battle.

Jesus was buried with our sin, our muck, our nastiness, our filth. It is no longer ours, but His. Being a new creation does not mean that I no longer sin. When the world looks at me, it sees little change between who I am and who I once was. However, it is what God sees when He looks at me that truly makes the difference.

He sees His pristine and perfect child, dead to the world, yet alive and well in Christ. He sees a woman who has her mind set on things above.

My master is no longer sin; my master is God.

This is freedom.

November 26, 2016

2-For-1 Devotional Special: It’s War/Hearing the Truth

Regular readers here are accustomed to this paragraph containing something like, “Today we return to the blog of _________…” It’s easy to work with writers we’ve worked with before, but I try to spend about 30 minutes each week seeing who else is writing good material that we can steal would be a good fit here. That often takes me to the #devotional tag on Twitter where sadly, most of the activity consists of people trying to sell their devotional book. (I have other avenues for blind searches which usually turn out to be more effective: Using the devotional or Jesus or Bible tags on WordPress, for example.)

So today’s new writer is Todd Sepulveda who lives in Houston and writes at Glorify God • Magnify Him. His writings are shorter — hence the reason you’re getting two today — but thankfully more substantive than many other things you encounter online. (Besides, I really enjoyed reading his personal story.) So click each of the individual titles to read these at source and then look around the rest of his site.

todd-sepulvedaIt’s War!

Scripture

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh,
2 Corinthians 10:3 NASB

Observation
There is a war going on, but most don’t realize it! I know that sounds like a line from a sci-fi movie, but it is true.

We live in two realms, the flesh, the things we see, touch, smell, etc…,and the spiritual, the things we don’t see.

The evil forces of the devil will do anything to keep you away from spiritual things and the things of God. You’ll find yourself wrapped up in debate, arguments, hate, worry, instead of walking in the Spirit and the things of God.

Application
Can you identify with the above paragraph? Do you find yourself focusing on the things of this world, when they will pass away, vs the things of God, which are eternal?

If so, you need to wage war! This is a purposeful, focused, disciplined way to live. Press into the things of God. Don’t let anything pull you away. Know that when things come against you, they very may be the work of Satan trying to derail your relationship with God!

Fight back! God is more powerful! You are His child! What Father wouldn’t come to the rescue and help of their own child?

Remember, this war is for eternal lives!

Prayer
Lord, help us to realize that we are in a spiritual war. You have given us everything we need to fight and stand firm. Give us strength and insight so that we don’t allow the ploys of the evil one to distract us from living for You.

Hearing the Truth is Tough

Scripture

5 Then Joab came into the house to the king and said, “Today you have covered with shame the faces of all your servants, who today have saved your life and the lives of your sons and daughters, the lives of your wives, and the lives of your concubines, 6 by loving those who hate you, and by hating those who love you. For you have shown today that princes and servants are nothing to you; for I know this day that if Absalom were alive and all of us were dead today, then you would be pleased.
2 Samuel 19:5-6 NASB

Observation
David had to flee Jerusalem because His Son wanted to kill him and take the throne for himself. After David’s men defeated and killed Absalom, the only thing that David could do was weep. A day of great victory turned into a day of great mourning.

It would have been bad for David if Joab wouldn’t have given him some much needed advice.

David was heartbroken, understandably. But he should have also been grateful for everyone who put their life on the line to protect him and the rest of his family.

Application
Sometimes we don’t realize that we are off course. It is good to have people in your life that will tell you what you need to hear, even if you don’t like it at the time.

Be grateful for those people. Choose to listen with an open mind and be led by the Holy Spirit to see if what they are saying is from God. If it is, make the change, change your course.

The other side of this is that there might be someone in your life that needs to hear something that might upset them. Pray and ask God if it is something you should say. Then pray that the Lord gives you the right words to say.

Prayer
Lord, thank you for bringing people in our lives that are willing to tell us the truth. Help us to prayerfully consider what they say and help us to not be so into ourselves that we can’t identify You speaking. Also, help us to be that person for others. Give us insight and the words to say, that we would be a blessing and help someone get back on track with You.


Todd attended Houston Baptist University with a dual-major in religion/Christianity and Communications/Mass Media with an emphasis in TV production and journalism. He and his wife Belinda ran a group home for kids in Children’s Protective Custody for 11 1/2 years. They were the youngest group home parents the agency ever had, and he had to get an insurance waiver to drive the van. At the same time they planted a church which ran for 14 years.

 

November 13, 2016

Relish Meat in Your Spiritual Life

by Russell Young

Teachings about spiritual maturity are of more importance than might be appreciated at first glance.  The Word speaks of the necessity of being “born again,” but a new birth is the production of a baby, or in a spiritual sense, of a spiritual infant.  An infant is incapable of doing anything; he or she is there in body, soul, and spirit but needs constant attention and cannot function as a contributor to the kingdom.  This is not the permanent state to which the believer has been called.

The believer has been delivered from the law and from his or her sinful state so that they might be useful to the kingdom of God. (Ep 2:10; 1 Cor 11─15) The writer of Hebrews has recorded: “Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teachings about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.” (Heb 5:13─14 NIV) Spiritual maturity comes from training about righteousness and it is something that every believer needs to pursue if he or she is to grow to spiritual adulthood. The teachings that are often presented as being of greatest importance have been referenced in Hebrews as being elementary or “milk.”  “Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.” (Heb 6:1─3 NIV)

As important as the foundational teachings are, they do not provide the understandings that develop spiritual maturity.  In fact, the writer has revealed that if a person falls away through lack of righteous practices after having “tasted” the presence and the power of the Spirit—enjoying milk–, it is impossible to bring him or her back to repentance.  They are not to become “lazy” or indifferent concerning issues of righteousness. Paul stated that, “Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness.” (Rom 6:19 NIV) “Without holiness no one will see the Lord.” (Heb 12:14 NIV)

Spiritual maturity is a matter of applying the knowledge that the believer has that compels him or her to live righteously before the Lord.  During the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (Mt 5:6 NIV) To hunger after and to thirst for demands an earnest seeking for righteousness so that their thirst and hunger might be quenched. The Lord is eager to assist in this matter. Righteousness is not given at the time of confession of faith; Paul said that it is being “awaited” through the Spirit (Gal 5:5), but those seeking it must deliberately train themselves to distinguish good from bad. Spiritual maturity comes through training and practice, from seeking and following, from crucifying one’s interests and through suffering in order to defeat temptations. Its development often requires the Lord’s discipline and the acceptance of punishment. Paul taught that we must “offer [ourselves] to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness.” (Rom 6:13 NIV) If a person is to live he or she must “put to death the misdeeds of the body.” (Rom 8:13 NIV) Spiritual maturity demands the development of a special kind of living where a person’s natural spirit with its interests is put to death and the life of Christ is lived. It is obedience that brings righteousness and life. (Rom 6:16)

Spiritual maturity comes from dedication to obeying the Spirit; it is not freely given.  Those who rest in the nourishment of milk as their spiritual food will remain unskilled in in achieving spiritual maturity and even risk dwelling apart from the Lord. (Mt 13:41; 1 Jn 3:10; 2 Pet 2:21) And, those who teach that milk is sufficient food for life will produce spiritual babies and are even deceptive in their teachings. (1 Jn 3:6; Gal 6:7─8)

Spiritual maturity is to be sought; it is to be pursed with all a person’s heart, soul, mind, and body so that the believer can gain victory over the flesh, the evil one, and the world.  It is those who “overcome” who will dwell with the Lord in the New Jerusalem. (Rev 21:7)


eternal-salvation-russell-youngRussell Young’s book is available now in print and eBook.  The title is Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay! You’re Okay!” Really? It is available through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; and in Canada through Chapters/Indigo.  9781512757514 $17.99 US


 

July 24, 2016

Sanctification by the Blood and Sanctification by the Spirit

•••by Russell Young

A person’s understanding of sanctification and its application is significant when it comes to his or her knowing the truths of the Word of God and in understanding the doctrine of salvation.  Sanctification is revealed as coming by the Spirit, by the blood of the covenant, by the truth, and by the Word.

sanctificationThe Greek word hagiazo which has been translated as sanctification means “to sanctify, to consecrate, or devote a person or thing to a particular, especially to a sacred, use in service to God.”  The Greek hagiasmos, also translated as sanctification, is “intended to express a state or attitude of voluntary consecration to God, a continued act of consecration; or a state of choice as distinct from a mere act of choice, an abiding act or state of choice, a standing and controlling preference of mind, a continuous committal of the will to the highest well-being of God and of the universe.” (Charles Finney, Lecture LVIII) Accordingly, a person is sanctified or consecrated to God by the blood of Christ when he makes a confession of faith and proclaims the Lordship of Christ.  However, continued consecration must be realized through a person’s abiding attitude to God as revealed through his or her practices.

The believer cannot be sanctified or consecrated to God and seek his or her own interests.  Sanctification following confession of faith necessitates death to self, a voluntary state of devotion to the Lord’s purposes.  “Sanctification is nothing more nor less than entire obedience, for the time being, to the moral law.” (Finney) It is the attitude or abiding in a sanctified state of consecration to God that requires the Spirit and his ministry.  Although a person might be set aside in part for building the kingdom, he may yet not be cleansed (transformed) in heart and mind for that purpose or to dwell in the kingdom.

Paul taught that he had been chosen “to be a minister of Christ Jesus so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God sanctified by the Holy Spirit.” (Rom 15:16, NIV) He was not addressing sanctification by the blood of Christ, although that is essential. Accordingly, his teaching addressed the need for a person to have the attitude or the will to walk righteously so that he or she would become an offering acceptable to God “sanctified by the Holy Spirit.”  To Titus and to the Thessalonians Paul revealed that salvation came through the sanctifying work of the Spirit.  “From the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.” (2 Thess 2:13, NIV) To Titus he wrote: “He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.” (Titus 3:5) The Holy Spirit provides renewal (transformation) through the indwelling presence (Col 1:27) of the Spirit of Christ as he washes away the darkness that pervades the believer’s heart and mind.

Vessels that are unclean, including people, cannot be used for noble kingdom purposes.  It is necessary for the believer to live righteously and to be transformed through the sanctifying work of the Spirit if he or she is to be used for noble purposes by God.  Paul wrote to Timothy: “In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble.  If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.” (2 Tim 2:20-21, NIV)

Neither is sanctification a singular event as by the blood of Christ as some accept.  Its state must be maintained or kept. (1 Thess 5:23) The writer of Hebrews recorded that those who deliberately keep on sinning are treating “as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them.” (Heb 10:29, NIV) The “blood of the covenant” is the shed blood of Christ that brought the Old Covenant to a close and allowed the believer right to the New Covenant.  It purified him or her and set them aside for use in God’s service. (Eph 2:10) The blood of the covenant sanctified the believer concerning the sins committed under the first covenant. (Heb 9:15; 2 Pet 1:9) The sinner had been dead in his trespasses and sins and has been given new life for service to God. This is sanctification through the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, through his willingness to take on himself all of the sins of the world.  The believer’s sins were washed away and he was left pure. Sanctification by the Spirit is to follow.

The Lord spoke to His disciples concerning the need for continued cleaning.  Before His crucifixion, He washed His disciples’ feet.  Peter had objected to act of what he perceived as being humiliating to his Lord and told Him, “You shall never wash my feet.”  The Lord responded, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”  Peter then wanted to be washed all over.  The Lord again addressed him: “A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean.” (Jn 13:10, NIV) Although many take this as representing a person’s need to be humble in service, the issue is really one of spiritual cleansing or of sanctification.  The disciples had been sanctified or as He has stated, have had a “bath.”  However, throughout the day their feet had become dirty.  In a spiritual sense, throughout the day they had been dirtied by sin.  He needed to cleanse them of this if they were to have any part of Him.  The “bath” is “the sanctification of the blood” while the washing of the feet (one’s daily sins- sanctification by the Spirit) still needed to be done.

When the writer of Hebrews related, “How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?”, he is stating those who deliberately continue to sin are showing disregard for Christ and His sanctifying ministry for the believer, both on the cross and following.  The Spirit of grace is insulted when a person has failed to honor the Lord’s ministry in his or her life.

Sanctification by the Word and by the truth refer to the same issue. (Jn 17:17) God has revealed his gospel and the truths that he expects to be honored concerning his law and through his covenants.

The Spirit, if followed (“obeyed”-Heb 5:9) will accomplish the righteous requirements of God’s moral law (Rom 8:4) and leave the one who is believing sanctified, holy in his sight, and suitable for his Kingdom.

 

March 20, 2016

A Monumental Error

•••by Russell Young

There is a monumental error being taught and accepted that equates one’s redemption with his eternal salvation. Unless the fullness of the gospel is presented, many may end up to be eternally disappointed. Paul wrote: He redeemed us in order that the blessings given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit. (Galatians 3:14, NIV) The purpose of the redemption provided by Christ is so that we might receive the Spirit. It is the Spirit who brings eternal salvation! (2 Thessalonians 2:13, Titus 3:5-6) The blood offering of Christ does NOT. The sacrifice of Christ has prepared the believer for the gifting of the Holy Spirit, “Christ in you,” (Colossians 1:27) so that he might enjoy Christ’s indwelling presence and on-going ministry.

One’s redemption is the first step in achieving an eternal hope. The blood of Christ cleanses the believer of his “past sins” and allows him the jurisdiction and power of the New Covenant (Hebrews 9:15), a covenant of the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:6). Paul wrote that the justification provided by the blood of Christ was not sufficient to avoid the wrath of God. Since we have now been justified by his blood how much more, shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if when 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! (Romans 5:9-10, NIV) The Spirit gives life.” (John 6:63) Christ is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:17, 18) More is required than the believer’s redemption or reconciliation; the life of Christ must be lived in the believer following that point if he is to have life.

There is much rejoicing for the gift of eternal life that presenters think the redeemed possess. Following one’s redemption the one who professed the lordship of Christ (Romans 10:9-10) may yet abandon his pledge. John chapter 15 makes clear the possible impermanence of one’s position in Christ. If the believer does not produce fruit, he may be cut out of Christ (v.1), and Christ said that if he [the believer] remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit (v.5) and if one remains in Him, his prayer requests will be answered. (v.7) These “if” statements put a condition on one’s place in Christ.

In another place the Lord Himself proclaimed, I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever.” (John 8:34-35.) Paul has written that a son is one who is led by the Spirit (Romans 8:14) and that we have an obligation to put to death the misdeeds of the body because if we live according to the sinful nature we will die. (Romans 8:12-13)

Although redeemed, Paul was not confident of his own resurrection. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings [Hebrews 2:18] becoming like him in his death, and so somehow to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all of this. (Philippians 3:10-12) If Paul lacked confidence, how is it that believers today can rest their confidence in a pledge once made and in their redemption. One’s redemption is a form of salvation (deliverance) but it is NOT eternal salvation.

One’s redemption at the time of his confession frees him from the law and brings him near to God so that he might be given the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit that brings about one’s “eternal salvation.” This truth needs to be appreciated and believers need to be taught and need to learn how to be led by the Spirit. They need to love the Lord with ALL of their mind, soul and heart. Nothing less is satisfactory. Because you are lukewarm-neither hot nor cold-I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” (Revelation 3:16, NIV)

The monumental error that many have accepted is that their redemption means their eternal salvation, whereas it is only the first step to gaining that eternal hope. The life of Christ must be lived in them yet. He is the way, the truth, and the life. (John 14:6)

Paul has made it clear, Do not be deceived; God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please the sinful nature from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit from the Spirit will reap eternal life. (Galatians 6:7-8, NIV) One’s doing following his redemption is important and it is his obedience (Hebrews 5:9) to the Spirit that will allow him eternal life.

August 30, 2015

Keeping Your Thought Life Pure

This weekend at Thinking Out Loud we’ve been running two articles which deal with your thought life. (They are each double articles, so really we’ve run four over Saturday and Sunday.) You can connect with those articles here and here. In going through my files I discovered I also covered something similar at C201 — perhaps it’s a different type of purity of thoughts — and while we rarely repeat a devotional here…

Purity of Thought = Purity of Heart

Love Believes The Best

James 3:17 (NIV) But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.

James 3:17(Message)Real wisdom, God’s wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced.

I Cor. 13:7(Amplified) Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures everything [without weakening].

I Cor.13:7 (CEB)Love is always supportive,
loyal, hopeful, and trusting.

I Cor 13:7(TLB) If you love someone, you will be loyal to him no matter what the cost. You will always believe in him, always expect the best of him, and always stand your ground in defending him.

Matt. 5:8(KJV) Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

We live in a time where when we think of purity we think in terms of moral purity. Surrounded as we are by images and ideas that are sexually licentious, we tend to characterize purity as the absence of those influences.

Surely no one would argue the importance of this, and I have written many times here and at Thinking Out Loud on the importance of controlling our thought life and endeavoring to cultivate a healthy mind.

But purity in scripture can mean so much more than abstinence from thoughts about sex or not engaging in immoral behavior. It can also mean a wholesome outlook, and a wholesome attitude.

When we look at the character of Christ, Philippians 2:5-7 does not say

5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,who did not think lustful thoughts or look covetously at women.

Yes, the scriptures are careful to tell us he did not sin:

Heb.4:15(NASB)For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.

Rather, the Philippians passage talks about his servant heart. His life is characterized by the things he did do, he humbled himself, he took a servant role, he submitted himself to death.

From our opening scriptures, we see that purity of thought, or purity of heart will involve things like:

  • working for peace
  • consideration of others
  • a submissive (teachable) spirit
  • acts of mercy
  • impartiality
  • sincerity
  • getting along with others
  • gentleness
  • consistent character
  • possessing an enduring hope
  • supportive and loyal
  • trusting
  • always expecting the best

It is the last characteristic (and the verse in James) that launched this study today in my own heart. The pure in heart have a positive, non-critical spirit. Love may critique, but it doesn’t criticize. Murphy’s Law may suggest that things are going to go wrong. The Peter Principle may suggest you’re going to get reassigned to a job you can’t do well. But the Christ-follower is buoyed not by a blind optimism, but by an attitude that believes the best and expects the best.

Their outworking of spiritual wisdom begins in holiness and righteousness; that’s what makes their advice, their counsel, their entire comportment pure.

Image: WalkGood (click image to source)


The second link in the introductory paragraph is to an article which ends with this story…

We are all fighting a battle within ourselves… The illustration goes like this: There is a old Indian chief telling a story about how each of us have two rival dogs, a good dog and a bad dog. Both are always fighting each other. Sometimes it seems like the good dog is winning other times it appears like the bad dog is winning.

One of the tribal members asks, “So, how do you know which one will win?”

To which the chief replies, “It depends which dog you feed.”

July 22, 2015

Ushered into The New

Today’s thoughts mark a second time appearance from Harvest House author Bob Christopher at the blog Basic Gospel. Click the title below to read at source.

Where Freedom Rings

Spiritual birth ushers us into the new. Paul made this point clearly:

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Ready or not, the new is here.

• A new life – Romans 6:4.
• A new identity – John 1:12.
• A new self – Ephesians 4:24.
• A new heart – Ezekiel 36:26.
• A new covenant – Hebrews 9:15.
• A new command – John 13:34.
• A new way – Romans 7:6.

You might not know what this new life in Christ will look or feel like. And at first, it may feel a little awkward or strange. Like the Israelites, you may look back to your old life, especially when you feel down or blue, or when you are going through a tough circumstance. At those times, Satan will do his best to make you think your old life was pretty good. “Remember all the fun you had when you…?”

But as Peter wrote, “you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do, living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry” (1 Peter 4:3). It is time to let go of the old, to stop looking back, and to embrace the new.

There is nothing to fear. Jesus Christ is with you. He will never leave you. This means freedom for you, for “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Corinthians 3:17). The “new” that Christ has for you is better than anything you could ever dream or imagine. And besides, you can’t go back. Once you are in the light, you can’t go back to darkness. Once you have been set free, you will never be a slave to sin and death again. Once you cross over from death to life, the only way is forward in the newness of life.

This is where freedom rings.

Excerpted from Simple Gospel, Simply Grace; Harvest House Publishers

March 29, 2015

Don’t Get Pushed Around

galatians5_1

Devotional ideas come by a variety of means. Today I found a scrap of paper in something my father owned, on which was written the name Richard L. Strauss (a Christian writer, not the music composer). I looked into his writings and much of what is available online would be too lengthy to use here, but this one met the size parameters, and I felt I was meant to use it today. The scripture verses are in King James, but you can update them at BibleGateway.com or similar sites. The late Dr. Richard L. Strauss was pastor of Emmanuel Faith Community in Escondido, California.

Why Get Pushed Around?

NOBODY LIKES to get pushed around. We don’t like to get stepped on, taken advantage of, treated unfairly, or denied our rights. True, Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek. But we still find it demeaning and degrading to get pushed around.

When it comes to spiritual issues, however, all of a sudden most of us get very weak-kneed. All of a sudden, we’re ready to back down, to give in, to roll over and play dead. And yet, this is where the Bible tells us to hold fast.

No wonder, therefore, the New Testament has so much to say about standing firm. I would like to explore some of the Scriptures in which the Greek word steko, meaning “to stand firm”, is used. Let’s find out the specific issues on which we are to stand firm, the specific areas where we must refuse to let Satan push us around.

1. In the faith.

Spiritual warfare is stamped all over the four commands the Bible gives in I Corinthians 16:13. It reads: “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.”

First, “Watch.” Like armies in battle, we Christians should always be watchful of enemy movements; we must be constantly on the lookout for potential attack by Satan. Secondly, “stand fast in the faith.” When we see an attack coming, we may be most tempted to retreat, or even desert. But when our faith is threatened, God wants us to stand firm, to hang tough.

The last two commands involve combat itself. “Quit you like men” is a quaint King James rendering that means “Act like men”. In other words, be brave, be courageous, whatever dangers you face. And finally, “Be strong.” Use all the power that God has made available to you through His Spirit.

AWOLs. The ranks of professing Christians has had many deserters. Most Christian young people know, for example, that the Bible’s explanation of life, the universe, man and history is the only truth. Yet, when they are confronted with the anti-Christian bias in the secular school, they wilt.

Christian adults are no stronger. All too often, believers subordinate their Christian commitments to worldly demands; people who profess to be Christians typically allow their work or even hobbies to keep them from studying the Bible or serving their Savior.

In Daniel, we have an outstanding Biblical model of one who is truly standing firm in the faith. Daniel’s commitment to his God was tested from the moment he arrived captive in Babylon as a young man. But when he was forbidden to pray on pain of death, he prayed anyway, trusting God to care for him as He chose.

Let’s dare to be the Daniels in our world. Let us stand firm in the faith whatever the cost.

2. In our freedom.

Freedom from the law is the theme of Galatians. God does not accept us because we’ve kept His laws. We are saved only because He has forgiven us and has granted us the gift of life in His Son.

But there are always people who would like to get you back under the law. That’s why Paul says in Galatians 5:1: “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.”

The trouble with the legalists is that they don’t understand God’s grace. They think it’s dangerous to let people out from under the law. Actually, legalism is the more dangerous teaching. For one thing, the legalists tend to compare their “obedience” with others; and pride, of course, goes before a fall.

For another, they tend to rely upon their own strength to keep the rules. And the inevitable result of self-reliance is a spiritual nose dive. Worn out from trying in vain to keep the law in the energy of the flesh, some of them just give up in despair. Others, thinking that God owes them something for their efforts, get disillusioned when they don’t get what they expect.

Paul vs. Peter. Standing firm against the legalists is not easy, to be sure. Strong, seemingly-spiritual personalities will sometimes put heavy pressure on you. Paul had that experience. It was none other than the great Apostle Peter, who got himself trapped in the legalistic rule that Jewish believers should not eat at the same table with Gentile believers, and Peter was influencing others to think the same way.

But Paul stood up to Peter. He wrote in Galatians 2:14: “But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?”

The pitfalls of legalism are endless. Satan would love to get you bogged down in one of them. So, watch out for him. Don’t get tangled up in that web of bondage. Like Paul, we must stand firm in our Christian liberty, as well as in the Christian faith.

3. In one accord.

Paul says in Philippians 1:27, “Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ; that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.”

Instead of maintaining unity and harmony, we Christians have been fighting one another all over the place. Churches are splitting over trivial issues, para-church organizations are feuding against one another, Christian husbands and wives can’t get along, parents and children are at war.

This was a problem at Philippi. After the above exhortation, Paul went right on to settle a church fight between two wrangling women. They were probably fighting over their own views, their own rights, their own ways of doing things. But Paul says, “No, no, no. The most important issue in the church is unity, harmony and love; not your views, your rights, and your ways. Our love for each other is that which distinguishes us from the world. Stand firm in that.”

This often requires our giving in to others, letting them take advantage of us, forgiving them when they wrong us. Isn’t that interesting? Letting others push us around may be the very thing we need to stand firm against Satan, who seeks to sow discord among us. Don’t let Satan push us around in this matter anymore. Stand firm in the faith, in your freedom, and in one accord.

4. In the Apostles’ doctrine.

We read in II Thessalonians 2:15: “Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.”

What have they been taught? Our King James translation says “traditions”, but the idea in the Greek word paradosis is the authoritative teaching that has been handed down. It emphasizes the authority outside the immediate teacherin this case, the authority of God. He gave this truth to the apostles, and they passed it on, sometimes by spoken word and sometimes by letter. But we have it today recorded and preserved in our Bibles.

To stand fast and hold firm onto the Word of God, we need to get familiar with it. Learn what it means and how it applies to life. Some people will try to move you away from it. They will tell you that it’s old fashioned; they’ll laugh at you for still following it in this day and age.

It would be so easy to get caught in the tide of social or cultural changes. But we must hang on to the time-tested truths of God’s Word. Stand firm. Don’t back down. Don’t let anybody push you around when it comes to the doctrine of Scripture. It doesn’t matter who else believes it or who doesn’t. When you live by the old adage, “If God says it, I believe it, and that settles it”, you will have clear direction and purpose.

Yes, we must stand firm in the faith, in the freedom we have in Christ, in unity and harmony with other believers, and in the doctrine of the Holy Scripture. We can do it because we have Christ who strengthens us. Having now seen what the Word of God commands, may all of us have a little more spiritual grit and gumption in standing up for Christ whenever Satan tries to push us around.


The book title by Richard L. Strauss that was written on the piece of paper is The Joy of Knowing God. It has been posted online and can be read in its entirety without any additional software or apps by clicking this link.  Another book by the same author is also available in full, How To Really Know The Will of God at this link.

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