Daniel: A Man of Integrity

Virtue is defined as the quality of doing what is right and avoiding what is wrong. Integrity is defined as an undivided or unbroken completeness or totality with nothing wanting. Integrity is conduct that conforms to an accepted standard of right and wrong, absolute devotion to telling the truth and faithfulness to high moral standards. Virtue and integrity perfectly “define” the man, Daniel! Wikipedia has these entries on virtue and integrity.

Virtue (Latin: virtus, Ancient Greek: ἀρετή [Ed comment: See word study of this great Greek word – arete]) is moral excellence. A virtue is a trait or quality deemed to be morally good and thus is valued as a foundation of principle and good moral being. Personal virtues are characteristics valued as promoting collective and individual greatness. The opposite of virtue is vice. (Ref)

Integrity is the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness. It is generally a personal choice to hold oneself to consistent moral and ethical standards. (Ref)

Daniel was a man of virtue, not vice. Daniel was a man of principle not passion. And what made Daniel such a virtuous man, such a man of character and peerless integrity (read how “peerless” in Ezekiel 14:1420note!)

Daniel “set his sails” early in life to chart a course that would enable him to become one of the men of highest character and integrity in the history of the world. When faced with the choice to compromise his moral and ethical standards, undoubtedly instilled in him by godly parents in Jerusalem, Daniel as a captive in pagan Babylon made the most critical choice of his life.

Then the commander of the officials assigned new names to them; and to Daniel he assigned the name Belteshazzar, to Hananiah Shadrach, to Mishael Meshach, and to Azariah Abed-nego. 8  But Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile himself with the king’s choice food or with the wine which he drank; so he sought permission from the commander of the officials that he might not defile himself. 9  Now God granted Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the commander of the officials… (Daniel 1:7-9note)

Later in life Daniel was elevated by the pagan regime to the position of one of three commissioners over all the satraps (Da 6:4note). Given the fact that a man or woman of integrity may become a target for those who lack integrity we are not surprised at the fallout of Daniel’s fame! This promotion evoked great jealously in the other godless, pagan leaders who sought to take Daniel’s life by deceptively coercing King Darius to “establish a statute and enforce an injunction that anyone who makes a petition to any god or man besides you, O king, for thirty days, shall be cast into the lions’ den.” (Daniel 6:7note) Men of integrity are committed men. Daniel was committed to honoring His God regardless of the cost! And so…

Now when Daniel knew that the document was signed, he entered his house (now in his roof chamber he had windows open toward Jerusalem); and he continued kneeling on his knees three times a day, praying and giving thanks before his God, as he had been doing previously. (Daniel 6:10note)

Daniel held fast to his beliefs in face of certain death. In short, Daniel began his life by not compromising his beliefs (Da 1:8) and maintained this uncompromising mindset all the days of his life. That is integrity on display for the lost world to see! Oh that God would raise up a generation of such godly men and women in America which is rapidly becoming a pagan nation like ancient Babylon!

Warren Wiersbe emphasizes that “We must be careful to protect our own personal integrity. When integrity goes, then character starts to decay; when character goes, we’ve lost everything important. No matter what you may possess—money, popularity, talent, friends—if you don’t have character, you don’t have anything. But character depends on integrity. People with integrity are people who are honest with themselves, with others, and with God. They don’t wear masks and they don’t waste energy pretending to be what they aren’t. They’re not afraid of what others may find out about them because they have nothing to hide. The alternative to integrity is hypocrisy, and that eventually leads to duplicity —becoming two persons inside, neither of whom knows the other. Without inner wholeness, we can’t function successfully in life or enjoy all that God wants us to enjoy. We must cultivate integrity. That means knowing God, God’s forgiveness, God’s truth, God’s church, and God’s love. John’s First Epistle is a guidebook for the kind of personal integrity that comes from a faithful walk with Jesus Christ, what John calls “walking in the light.” No shadows—nothing to hide.” (Pause for Power)

Clearly Daniel was a model of integrity, a quality this lost world has lost but still admires. Wiersbe observes that “People want someone to look up to. A pastor should be a person others can imitate, but it is a weighty responsibility to set the right example. As king of Israel, David “shepherded them with integrity of heart” (Ps. 78:72). Character is the foundation of pastoral ministry. Having character means being the same on the inside as we profess to be on the outside. The word integrity is related to the mathematical term integer. An integer is a whole number. Integrity means our character is whole, not split into fractions. All too often Americans have seen pastoral and political leaders embarrassed by their private failures. We shepherds cannot hold the sheep to a higher standard than we live by ourselves. We need persons in our lives who ask the hard questions and hold us accountable for our private thoughts and deeds. Blessed is the pastor who cannot go incognito. For the sake of the sheep, shepherds must be holy.” (The Dynamics of Pastoral Care)

Daniel was a man like David, a man of integrity. “So he shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart” (Psalm 78:72). Wiersbe observes that “Integrity means having one heart (see Give Me An Undivided Heart), whereas a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways (James 1:8note). David’s sole purpose was to serve the Lord. David was a man of ability. He “guided them by the skillfulness of his hands” (Psalm 78:72). Integrity ties your heart and your hands together. Your heart serves the Lord, and your hands are busy for Him. We need people like that today. No amount of dedication can compensate for a lack of skill, but no amount of skill can compensate for a lack of dedication. We need both. David exhibited the traits of a true ruler–humility, integrity and ability. They also are required of you for faithful service. Where has God placed you for service? Are you a faithful leader or follower? He rewards His faithful servants. Dedicate yourself to the Lord today and serve Him faithfully…. Integrity is the key word. David was a man of integrity. Saul was a man of duplicity. He was double-minded, looking in two directions at once. But David kept his eyes on the Lord.” As I like to say David (and Daniel) were men of “VERTICAL VISION (see note)” “living each day with a heart toward heaven” in contrast to living with your eyes on the world (“HORIZONTAL VISION.”)

John MacArthur has an excellent summary of the characteristics of a man of integrity, a man God uses in His kingdom work… let us seek to emulate and imitate (in the power of the Spirit) Daniel, God’s man in Babylon and Medo-Persia…

Let me ask you a simple question? Who gets the glory in the chapter? Daniel? Not Daniel… not Daniel for a minute. Daniel was just there, that’s all. God got the glory. I believe that if you see one thread through the book of Daniel, it is not the exaltation of Daniel; it is the majesty of God who stands against the nations of the world and upholds His sovereignty.

Finally, the prosperity. “So this Daniel prospered in the reign of Darius, even in the reign of Cyrus the Persian.” He prospered.

Now I want you to listen to me. As I close, I want to sum up very rapidly, in just a couple of minutes, listen. As we look at this chapter, what do we see about Daniel? Do you remember when we studied chapter 1 and 2? We took all of the characteristics of the virtue of Daniel as a young man and we cataloged them and we studied them… and we saw what makes a virtuous, godly man. Well, here we are, twenty… well, no, sixty, seventy years later, what do we see in him again? What are the elements of character that we could translate to ourselves? What makes a man able to affect a nation? What makes a man or a woman have an impact that is as far reaching as an Empire? What is it in Daniel?

Let me suggest some things. I’m going to run them down, just listen to them, think them through.

First of all, this man transcended history. He was great and he was useful to God because he transcended history. He got his feet out of the muck of human issues. He sought the kingdom of God.

Secondly, he lived a consistent life from start to finish. He was virtuous when he was young and so he was virtuous when he was old. And I, really believe that there’s no way to measure with a human measure, the power of a virtuous life of that many years. The tragedy is that most of us find our virtue coming and going through those years… not Daniel.

What are the lessons
we learn about a man of God?

(1) He transcends history.

(2) He lives a consistent life from youth to old age and this makes for great usefulness in his old age.

(3) He utterly fulfills his calling. In other words, he lives in the absolute center of God’s will. His only desire is that God’s will be fulfilled.

(4) He has a right attitude. They kept saying about him he has an excellent spirit… he has an excellent spirit.

(5) He will be envied and he will be hated by the world around him, but he will never be embittered by it.

(6) He is condemned but if he is condemned, he is condemned for his righteousness for there’s no other flaw, he is as an elder of the church should be… what?… blameless.

(7) He is known for his virtue and integrity even by his enemies.

(8) He is a faithful citizen. He is subject to human laws until they would cause him to violate the laws of God.

(9) He is willing to face any consequence within the framework of God’s will and leave the outcome to God.

(10) He will serve faithfully no matter what it costs him personally.

(11) He never defends himself. He leaves that to God.

(12) He strengthens the faith of others giving them hope in God. Didn’t you see this in the king? I mean, the king was even believing because of the great faith of Daniel.

(13) He is delivered from all harm and he is preserved for every purpose within the will of God.

(14) He is a vehicle for God’s glory. I wish we could just preach on that. We… we as Christians are to be, above all things, a vehicle for God’s glory.

(15) He will be avenged by God. His enemies will be dealt with by God, he doesn’t have to deal with them himself.

(16) He is exalted by those around him as well as by the One above him.

Principles manifest in this chapter that show the virtuous life of a man of God. (Daniel in the Lions’ Den)

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Success comes in various forms. Some view it as the accumulation of great wealth gained through suffering and sacrifice. But for the believer, success comes only through doing God’s will. A young man named John W. Yates was so poor that he had to put cardboard in his shoes to cover the holes. Yet when he opened a bank account at the age of fifteen, he deposited his meager earnings under the name “John W. Yates and Company,” acknowledging God as his partner and manager. He carried that practice into his business. In time, he became a multimillionaire. Another young man, Oswald Chambers of Scotland, showed so much artistic promise that he was invited to study under Europe’s greatest masters at age eighteen. But he declined the offer and enrolled in a little-known Bible school, where he eventually became a teacher. Later, he went to Egypt and ministered to the spiritual needs of British soldiers. Chambers died there when he was only in his forties, but he left to the world a rich legacy of devotional literature. Both men made doing God’s will their prime objective; both achieved success. Daniel began his career as a young captive in Babylon. Repeatedly he put his life on the line to remain faithful to the Lord. He refused to compromise, and God elevated him to a position of prominence. When we take that kind of attitude and accept whatever God has for us, we can be sure of success, no matter what form it takes. —H. V. Lugt (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries)

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SUFFER FOR TRUTH – In Daniel 6 we see Daniel willing to suffer for truth than to live a lie. In Job 31:4 the suffering saint Job asks “Does He not see my ways, and count all my steps?” (Of course this is rhetorical! Yes He does! cp Pr 15:3note). — As professional golfer Ray Floyd got ready to tap in a routine nine-inch putt, he saw the ball move ever so slightly. According to the rule book, if the ball moves at all the golfer must take a penalty stroke. Floyd was among the leaders in a tournament offering a top prize of 108,000 dollars. To acknowledge that the ball had moved could mean losing his chance for big money. Writer David Holahan described what some golfers might have done: “The athlete ducks his head and flails wildly with his hands, as if being attacked by a killer bee; next, he steps back from the ball, rubbing his eye for a phantom speck of dust, all the while scanning the playing partners and the gallery for any sign that the ball’s movement has been detected by others. If the coast is clear, he taps the ball in for his par.” Ray Floyd, however, didn’t do that. He assessed himself a penalty stroke and wound up with a bogey on the hole. The patriarch Job also showed remarkable honesty in matters not seen by human observers. He maintained his integrity by fearing God and shunning evil (cp Job 1:1). Job knew that the eyes of the Lord were on him at all times, and that was what really mattered to him. The true test of our integrity comes when no one is watching us. If we remember that God sees what others don’t and that it’s His approval that matters, our integrity will improve. —M.R.De Haan II What is the take home message? It is better to suffer for the truth than to be rewarded for a lie.

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Like the prophet Daniel, we need to live with such personal integrity and honesty that even our worst accusers can’t make their charges stick.

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The words spoken by David in Psalm 26:11 could easily have been spoken by Daniel – As for me, I will walk in my integrity. (Ps 26:11) In June of 1994, 62,000 men gathered at the Hoosier Dome in Indianapolis for an event called Promise Keepers. One goal of the conference was to challenge men to demonstrate integrity by adhering to the principles for godly living set forth in the Bible. According to one report, the men started meeting that goal right away. During a break, the hallways were jammed with men. One hungry guy who was stuck by a food stand bought a hot dog, but the mustard was clear across the concourse. Undaunted, he handed the dog to the next man and requested, “Mustard.” Off it went. The woman who sold the snacks laughed and said, “Honey, you aren’t going to see that hot dog again.” “Yes, he will,” someone replied. “These guys are Christians.” Sure enough, the hot dog made it back—with mustard. David vowed to walk in integrity (Ps. 26:11). But he could do so only because he trusted the Lord to help him (Ps 26:1,2). We should do the same. Let’s surprise people with our integrity—even with something as trivial as a hot dog. J. D. Branon  Integrity is Christlike character in work-clothes.

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A GOOD NAME – Daniel had a Good Name (Daniel 1:2021noteDaniel 5:11noteDaniel 6:3note) – “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches.” (Proverbs 22:1)  Followers of Jesus Christ (of which Daniel was an OT representative!) are called to be people of integrity. They are to be upright and honest, choosing a good name above riches (Prov. 22:1) in a world that is seeking quite the opposite. In a poll of executives, for example, Gallup discovered that 80 percent admit to driving while drunk, 35 percent overstate tax deductions, 75 percent take work supplies for personal use, and 78 percent use the company phone for personal long distance calls. A study by the Office of Technology Assessment determined that one-third of the US government’s telephone bill is spent on personal calls. Time theft and unauthorized absenteeism are also common offenses in the workplace. General Motors reports losing 9 percent of employee hours due to absenteeism. White-collar crime in the US is estimated at $40 billion per year.  The Lord desires that His people act in a different way. We are always to do what is right and to speak the truth (Ps. 15:2). Integrity pleases Him, and it also benefits us. It gives us blessings far better than riches: freedom from guilt, a positive witness for Christ, and an intimate relationship with God. A good name is truly a priceless possession! –D C Egner

Help me, dear Lord, to be honest and true
In all that I say and all that I do;
Give me the courage to do what is right
To bring to the world a glimpse of Your light.
–Fasick

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The first governor-general of Australia, Lord Hopetoun, inherited a brass-bound leather ledger that became one of his most cherished possessions. John Hope, one of his forebears, had owned it three centuries earlier and had used the ledger in his business in Edinburgh. When Lord Hopetoun received it, he noticed the prayer inscribed on the front page: “O Lord, keep me and this book honest.” John Hope knew that he needed God’s help to maintain his integrity. Honesty is essential for the Christian. Shading the truth, withholding the facts, juggling figures, or misrepresenting something are dishonest activities that displease God. For this reason, and to demonstrate the new nature that comes through salvation, Christians should strive to live uprightly before God and man. The use of our time on the job, for example, must be above reproach. We should give an honest day’s work to our employer. To do less will destroy our verbal witness and brand us as dishonest. Speaking of a mutual Christian friend, an acquaintance of mine said, “He’s true blue, all wool, and a yard wide,” indicating that our friend was genuine, truthful, and trustworthy. We too must strive to be honest in motive as well as in action and acknowledge our need of the Lord’s help to do so by praying, “Lord, keep me honest.” —P.R.Van Gorder. Honesty is the first chapter of the book of wisdom.

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Integrity – After the Civil War, a large insurance company offered Robert E. Lee the title of president and an annual salary of fifty thousand dollars. Lee protested that he was not worth that much. A representative explained that the company only wanted Lee’s name, not his services. Lee firmly replied, “That is not for sale.” Daniel was not willing to worship God privately and sell his name to a heathen cause even if the fee was his own life. Disregarding his possible demise at the lions’ club, he demonstrated that he was the real lion—courageous in his integrity against all odds. People of integrity are sincere and honest; they avoid deception, artificiality, or shallowness of any kind. They are truthful and forth-right at all costs. They know themselves and therefore are whole and complete. Jesus was a man of integrity. He refused to endorse the corruption of the Pharisees, though they might have made Him a leading rabbi. He rejected the king making desires of the populace, though they would have dressed Him in royal robes. He resisted the temptations of Satan, though he promised Him the world. If we sing the praises of God’s name, we will not be tempted to sell our own.

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How Is Your Character? (Psalm 41:1-13) When was the last time you heard a preacher or Sunday school teacher talk about integrity? I hope it’s been recently, because integrity is an important part of the Christian life. To have integrity means to have character. Integrity is the opposite of duplicity. A person who practices duplicity is a hypocrite, a pretender. Integrity means to have one heart and one mind and to serve one master. It means not being divided, not always changing. David wrote, “As for me, You uphold me in my integrity, and set me before Your face forever” (Psalm 41:12). God knows us by our character, whereas people judge us by our conduct. When we become more worried about conduct than about character, our conduct starts to go down the wrong road. Conduct and reputation are closely related, but neither one guarantees good character. For example, the Pharisees had a great reputation, but their character was evil. God sees us. He knows all about us, and He says, “Put Me first in your life.” Not only does God see us, we also see Him. “Set me before Your face forever” (Psalm 41:12). That is what gives us integrity: knowing that we’re walking, living, thinking and speaking before the face of God. When we fear Him, we don’t have to fear anything else. And when we walk in integrity and honesty, when we flee duplicity and hypocrisy, we can face anything. David was able to face all his foes because he had integrity. He prayed, “Unite my heart to fear Your name” (Ps. 86:11). Integrity unites, so it helps us put our lives together. Today, let’s walk in integrity before the face of God. Don’t be so concerned with your reputation and conduct that you fail to look after your character, because you cannot hide that from God. How is your character? Are you unified–do you have one heart and one mind to serve one Master? (Warren Wiersbe – Prayer, Praises and Promises)

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On the Level – ” Vindicate me, O LORD, for I have walked in my integrity, And I have trusted in the LORD dwithout wavering.” (Ps 26:1) Integrity means that your life is whole, that your heart is not divided. Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters” (Matt. 6:24). That’s integrity. Duplicity means trying to serve two masters. Our Lord also said that nobody can look in two directions at the same time. If your eye is single, then your body is full of light. But if your eye is double, watch out. The darkness is coming in (Matt. 6:22,23). If you look at the darkness and the light simultaneously, the darkness crowds out the light.  In Psalm 25:21 David prayed: “Let integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait for You”; and in verse one of today’s passage, “Vindicate me, O Lord, for I have walked in my integrity.” When we do business with or are ministering to someone, we want that person to have integrity.  When we have integrity, David tells us, we don’t have to be afraid of sliding. “I have walked in my integrity. I have also trusted in the Lord; I shall not slip” (Psalm 26:1). He also says, “My foot stands in an even place” (Psalm 26:12). The word even means “a level place.” David says, “I’m on the level because I have integrity. I have nothing in my heart against the Lord. I am not disobeying Him.”  We also need not be afraid of testing. David writes, “Examine me, O Lord, and prove me; try my mind and my heart” (Psalm 26:2). He says, in other words, “Lord, I can go through the furnace. I can go through the X ray. Go ahead and test me. I’m not afraid.” When your life is whole before God and others, when you’re practicing integrity, when you have a good conscience, you don’t have to be afraid of the battle or the furnace or the X ray or the testing. God will see you through.  When you walk with integrity, you walk on solid ground. Never try to serve two masters. Always keep your heart undivided before the Lord. (Warren Wiersbe – Prayer, Praises and Promises)

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Riches of the Soul – Give me neither poverty nor riches—feed me with the food allotted to me. —Proverbs 30:8 — With the hope of winning a record jackpot of $640 million, Americans spent an estimated $1.5 billion on tickets in a multistate lottery in early 2012. The odds of winning were a staggering 1 in 176 million, but people stood in lines at grocery stores, gas stations, and cafes to buy a chance to become rich. Something inside us makes us think more money will solve our problems and improve our lives. A man identified in the Bible as Agur had a different perspective on riches when he asked God to grant him two requests before he died. First, he said, “Remove falsehood and lies far from me” (Prov. 30:8). Integrity is a key to living without anxiety. When we have nothing to hide, we have nothing to fear. Deceit enslaves; honesty liberates. Second, he said, “Give me neither poverty nor riches—feed me with the food allotted to me” (v.8). Contentment springs from trusting God as our supplier and gratefully accepting what He provides. Agur said of the Creator that He “established all the ends of the earth. . . . He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him” (Pr 30:4-5). Integrity and contentment are riches of the soul that are available to all. Our Lord is pleased to give these treasures to everyone who asks.

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Integrity leaves a legacy for one’s children to follow in our steps. “A righteous man who walks in his integrity– How blessed are his sons after him.” (Pr 20:7– see Spurgeon’s Devotional). Charles Bridges comments…

The faithful man is here fully drawn—rich in the blessing of his God. Take the history of the father of the faithful—Abraham was the just man—accepted with God, and “walking before him” in his integrity. And did not the covenant of his God engage an everlasting blessing for his children after him? (Gen. 17:127) And thus does every child of Abraham, walking in the same integrity, secure “an inheritance for his children’s children.” (Pr 13:22. Cp. Ex. 20:56Ps. 25:121337:26112:2) It is ‘not however for the merits of the parents, that they deserve it; but such is the mercy of God to the root and the branches, that, because the fathers are loved, their children also are embraced.’4 But we must show our integrity, as did our father Abraham, in the practical habit of faith; not only “taking hold of the covenant” on our children’s behalf, but bringing them under the yoke of the covenant. (Pr  22:6, with Ge 18:19) Christian parents!—let integrity as before God, be the standard of our family responsibility. Walk not according to the maxims of the world yourselves, nor allow them in your children. Make God’s word—his whole word—our universal rule; his ways—however despised—our daily portion. “Seek first,” for our children as for ourselves, “the kingdom of God and his righteousness.” (Mt 6:33) Thus walking in our integrity—look for the honored blessing of being the parents of a godly race. Our children are blessed after us.

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Oswald Chambers of Scotland showed so much artistic promise that he was invited to study under Europe’s greatest masters at age eighteen. But he declined the offer and enrolled in a little-known Bible school, where he eventually became a teacher. Later, he went to Egypt and ministered to the spiritual needs of British soldiers. Chambers died there when he was only in his forties, but he left to the world a rich legacy of devotional literature. Daniel began his career as a young captive in Babylon. Repeatedly he put his life on the line to remain faithful to the Lord. He refused to compromise, and God elevated him to a position of prominence. Both men made doing God’s will their prime objective; both achieved success. —H V Lugt (Ibd)

Outside God’s will is no true success
In God’s will, no failure.

MARKS OF A MAN
OF INTEGRITY

Let’s summarize what “integrity” looks like in Daniel 6 (some of these characteristics overlap).

(1) Da 6:2note – Integrity perseveres – It’s not “on” one day and “off” the next. Age 80+ and still running the race with endurance (Heb 12:1note). Even as Daniel 3x/day set his face toward Jerusalem, the City of God (while living in Babylon, “the City of Man”), so too we are to run the race with endurance fixing our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfector of our faith (Heb 12:2note). And we look back and are encouraged by the faith of the “great cloud of witnesses” in Hebrews 11, especially the example of Daniel who “by faith… shut the mouth of lions” (Hebrews 11:33note). “The equipment and enablement God gives to His devoted servants always wear well for a complete lifetime.” (Lehman Strauss)

(2) Da 6:3note – Extraordinary spirit ~ excellent attitude, an attitude that pervades everything we do. Integrity pursues excellence in all it does, whether someone is watching or not, whether anyone on this earth every knows or not. Men of integrity are God-pleasers not man-pleasers. Proverbs 15:3 says God’s eyes are everywhere watching the evil and the good so God always knows and He will reward us for our labors performed with integrity at the Judgment Seat of Christ (2Co 5:10note).

(3) Da 6:4note Faithful = Trustworthy, Reliable. Integrity can always be counted on to follow through. Our words don’t “outrun” our actions. Integrity practices what it preaches!

(4) Da 6:4 No negligence – Integrity seeks to avoid “sins of omission”

(5) Da 6:4 No corruption – Integrity seeks to avoid “sins of commission”. Integrity by grace through faith assiduously guards the eyes (see Ps 101:3) and the heart (see Pr 4:23note) so that the well spring of our life (our heart) might not be contaminated and we might not experience moral decay and corruption which can be very subtle and very deceptive. We don’t even know we are “decaying” morally. On the other hand James says we are practicing “pure and undefiled religion” when we keep ourselves “unstained by the world” (James 1:27note)

(6) Da 6:5note No “accusability” – The NT version of this aspect of integrity is “above reproach” (Titus 1:6note The man of integrity lives a “blameless” life, like Job who was “blameless (Hebrew word “tam” = basic meaning = being complete ~ integrity), upright (righteous), fearing God and turning away from evil” (Job 1:1)

(7) Da 6:10note Consistent, prevailing, prioritized prayer life – “As he had been doing previously.” The man of integrity makes persistent prayer a priority not matter how busy he is with the everyday affairs of the world!

(8) Da 6:10 No compromise because of firm conviction – The man of integrity obeys God before he obeys men. Daniel prayed even though he knew the law against prayer had been signed by King Darius. We see this principle in Acts 5:2829

(9) Da 6:1620note Integrity exhibits a consistent Christian life – The witness of Daniel to the pagan king was that Daniel was a “servant of the Living God” – the God Who you (Daniel) “constantly served”

(10) Da 6:212223note The man of integrity is fearless and bold – Notice that when Daniel speaks in Da 6:2223 he is still in the Lion’s Den — and yet he is speaking calmly to Darius without any suggestion of fear of the lions.

(11) Da 6:22note The man of Integrity has a clear conscience before God first and then before man. “I was found innocent before Him (GOD); and also toward you, O king (MAN), I have committed no crime.” In his last letter shortly prior to his execution Paul wrote “I thank God, whom I serve with a clear conscience the way my forefathers (One wonders if he is not alluding to Daniel?) did” (2Ti 1:3note, cp Ac 23:1 24:16) A clear conscience is a primary benefit of integrity, and it enables one to stand firm when the storms of life come upon us. If your heart does not condemn you, but affirms you, you can be a tower of strength for “The man of integrity walks securely.” (Pr 10:9) Hebrew for “securely” (see word study – betach) means safety, security, place of refuge; feeling of trust, assurance, without concern, confidence.

(12) Da 6:23note The man of integrity is a man of faith – He trusts in God. He walks by faith not sight – He glances at the Lions but he fixes his gaze on His Lord.

(13) Da 6:24note The man of integrity does not seek to avenge a wrong done – He trusts that God is His covenant Defender. Paul alludes to this in Ro 12:19note

(14) Da 6:25-27note The man of integrity lives in such a way that God is Glorified. (cp Mt 5:141516notePhp 2:1415note)

(15) Da 6:28note The man of integrity will experience “success” (see Daniel 1:21note)- In this present life (sometimes he receives material success but always and more importantly he receives spiritual success) and in the life to come (Da 12:13note, cp 1 Timothy 4:8note). Integrity is inseparable from fruitful Christian ministry.

Courtesy of https://www.preceptaustin.org/index.php/daniel-man_of_integrity#Integrity

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Not Without You: The Commitment to Unity

“Now in giving these instructions I do not praise you, since you come together not for the better but for the worse. For first of all, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it. For there must also be factions among you, that those who are approved may be recognized among you. Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper. For in eating, each one takes his own supper ahead of others; and on is hungry and another is drunk” (1 Corinthians 11:17–21).

Here we see the apostle Paul talking about the grave necessity of unity within the Body of Christ. This group of Corinthian believers was gathering for a time of worship and thanksgiving in the presence of God, yet something was occurring in their midst that was displeasing to the Lord.

Paul continued, “For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you; that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me’” (1 Corinthians 11:23–24).

Paul begins contrasting the heart of Christ with the selfishness of the Corinthian fellowship. He was saying, “This is not what the worship of God is supposed to look like. When you come together, I want you to remember how the Lord Jesus took the cup and said, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me’” (1 Corinthians 11: 25).

In contrast to the Corinthian church, Christ was willing to be broken and poured out for the sake of other people. The fellowship that Christ is looking for in His Church is found when we begin to ask, “Is there anybody I can allow myself to be broken for?”

“As often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26).

There is power in that proclamation. There is power when we as the Church of Jesus Christ turn away from focusing on our own problems and needs and instead look to the needs of one another. The fellowship that Christ is looking for in His Church is found when we begin to ask, “Is there anybody I can allow myself to be broken for?” Now, I am not talking about everybody running around with $50 in his hand, looking for somebody to give it to. I am!talking about having a word for somebody who is discouraged; inviting somebody who looks lonely for a cup of coffee—being willing to have the plans of your day broken in order that you might be poured out for the sake of somebody else. Paul says, “If you do this, you become a proclamation of the Son of God who came to this earth and poured out His life for the sake of others.”

“Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 11:27).

Many quote this verse with regard to people who have sin in their life yet they partake of the communion table. While it can have some application in that way, that is not the context in which Paul was speaking. He was talking about being given to one another in the Body of Christ just as Christ was for us. There is no such thing as “just me and God.” No, we are grafted into a body.

He went on to say, “Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged” (1 Corinthians 11:28–31).

An “unworthy manner” means coming to the communion table and partaking of the promise of the One who was given for us in totality, yet not realizing that we are called into that kind of fellowship with one another. This is the seriousness of being committed to one another in the Body of Christ. Failure to understand what it means to be part of the Lord’s body is the reason many are spiritually weak. There is no such thing as “just me and God.” No, we are grafted into a body. Casual interaction with one another is a good thing to a point, but the call of the Lord is into something deeper. You are exactly where God wants you to be! He set you where you are to glorify Him in the unique way that only you can.

Biblical unity requires that we learn to not merely tolerate each other but to actually esteem one another. Paul went on to say, “For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:12–13). In other words, there is one Church composed of people from different cultures, backgrounds, and socioeconomic states—people who are known and those who are not.

“For in fact the body is not one member, but many….If the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,’ is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased” (1 Corinthians 12:14–18).

You are exactly where God wants you to be! He set you where you are, to be what you are, to do what you do, to glorify Him in the unique way that only you can.

“The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you’; nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker, are necessary. And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty” (1 Corinthians 12:21–23).

Everybody is of value in the kingdom of God. There are no big people and little people. Everyone has an incredible, inestimable worth in the sight of Almighty God.

In the next chapter, Paul sums it up with what I consider to be the glue that holds it all together:

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging symbol. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13:1–8).

This is the kind of love that the Lord calls us to have for one another! I was doing a radio interview recently, and the interviewer said to me, “Pastor, I have read your book. The stories about what God has done around the world are amazing. You have done outreaches, you have spoken to governments, you have seen civil war come to an end.

But now tell me and our listening audience: What is the greatest miracle of all that you have seen in your life over the years?” Without hesitation, I replied, “The greatest miracle of all is that I love people.”

With deep emotion in her voice, she said, “I never, ever would have thought that would be your answer. With all these things that have happened over the years— all these wondrous things you could have spoken about.”

When people witness the unity of the Church, suddenly there is a stirring in their hearts that says, “I want that Christ in my life!” “If you knew me before I got saved —if you knew the journey and how difficult it has been—you would understand what I am talking about!” I said. I really do love people now. I don’t fake it. It is something God put in my heart as I was willing to take the journey.

Clearly, this commitment to walking in unity and love is a huge undertaking. However, there are incredible blessings that God promises will be the result. King David wrote, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like precious oil upon the head, running down on the beard, the beard of Aaron, running down to the edge of his garments” (Psalm 133:1–2).

Where there is biblical unity, something begins flowing through members of the Body of Christ that cannot be produced by anything in this world. “It is like the dew of Hermon, descending upon the mountains of Zion” (Psalm 133:3). A thirst is satisfied, not only in God’s people, but in all those around as well.

“For there the Lord commanded the blessing—life forevermore” (verse 3).

And God commands a blessing of life! Remember in chapter two of Acts when the disciples were gathered in the Upper Room in one accord? They were unified with God and with one another—not in strength, but in weakness. They all knew they needed God as well as each other. Suddenly the door opened, and the hundred and twenty went out into the marketplace, overturning the whole known world of their day. You see, when people witness the unity of the Church, suddenly there is a stirring in their hearts that says, “Whoever their God is, is God! I want that Christ in my life!”

As a man of God, not just as a pastor, I have made a determination in my heart: I am going to heaven, but not without you. Not without the young; not without the old; not without the educated; not without the uneducated; not without those with whom I feel comfortable and those with whom I am ill at ease. Unity means the whole Body of Christ going beyond convenience—where we are not content just to get to heaven ourselves; we are unwilling to go without those around us.

Think about it! Jesus said, “I am not going to enjoy eternity without you.” And so the love in the heart of God compelled Him to walk among us, endure our frailties and went to a cross. Paul said, “This is the Christ I presented to you.” This is the manner in which we must learn to interact with one another.

We have a huge fight ahead of us. We need the whole Body of Christ. Keep in mind that in this last hour of time, we must realize that not everybody in the Church does everything the same. Unity is more important than being in agreement on every little single point of doctrine. We may have opposing viewpoints on some things, but if we can come back to that common ground where salvation is—by God’s grace, through faith in the shed blood of Jesus Christ—then I can take the hand of any man or any woman anywhere in the Body of Christ and say, “You are my brother. You are my sister. Let’s go together. I am not going to take this journey without you.”

We have a huge fight ahead of us for our country, our culture, our families, our children. We need the whole Body of Christ. And so by the Spirit of God, may we not fall into the trap of division thinking somehow it is holy. May we go together as one body, walking in the love of Christ and the incredible blessings of unity that God has promised!

Carter Conlon

©2020 Times Square Church

Courtesy of http://tsc.nyc/sermons/49654_sermon-newsletter-202001-not-without-you-the-commitment-to-unity.pdf

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Then He Smiled at Me

So often this time of year, we hear great Christmas carols over and over again, but the words escape us. I recently went to a Christmas concert at College Park Church in Indianapolis and heard the “Little Drummer Boy” performed and a line in the lyrics strongly made an impact on my heart. I never remembered these words with such vividness and emotion. Listen to the lyrics:

I am a poor boy too, pa rum pum pum pum
I have no gift to bring, pa rum pum pum pum
That’s fit to give a King, pa rum pum pum pum
rum pum pum pum rum pum pum pum
Shall I play for you?, pa rum pum pum pum
on my drum?

Mary nodded pa rum pum pum pum
The ox and lamb kept time pa rum pum pum pum
I played my drum for Him pa rum pum pum pum
I played my best for Him pa rum pum pum pum
rum pum pum pum rum pum pum pum
Then He smiled at me pa rum pum pum pum
Me and my drum

I thought is that what I just heard? “Then He smiled at me!” What a powerful statement at the heart of the gospel. It is difficult to get a genuine smile from anybody any more. But when you do…it warms your soul. It connects with you in such a way that it is hard to forget.

Imagine if the smile came from the King of Kings, the Lord Jesus. I know of no other religion in the world where the god of that religion smiles, ever. There is never that deep of a personal relationship, that deep of love, that deep of compassion, and that amount of empathy that would draw a smile. The gods of religion are emotionless, distant and uncaring. The gods of religion do not love, and therefore do not smile. A genuine smile comes from a heart of love. A smile can do more to heal the soul than a thousand words. A smile uplifts and encourages the heart and creates a bond of understanding. A smile is an invitation to develop a deep bond of affection.

We all crave a smile that really means something especially during the holidays. We do not want a fake smile or a contrived smile. An empty smile actually can do more harm than good. We have all been deceived by a smile that disguises a selfish soul. Desiring a smile is really indicative of a deeper issue that we are seeking someone who cares. The gods of money, fame and self-exaltation may smile with greed or pride, but they lead you into a path that damages the soul, that creates a callous and indifferent attitude towards others and causes one to scowl rather than genuinely smile. They breed fear and anxiety and turn you into an Ebenezer Scrooge that loses the ability to be compassionate and empathize with others.

Our cultural today is increasingly embracing an ideal that God does not smile, God does not love and God does not care. The smile of Christianity has faded into a religion that cares more about numbers in their campaigns of church building then people who crave a genuine smile, a genuine love and a genuine caring about their lives. We need to have a restoration in Christianity of the authentic smile from the heart of God showing that He so loved the world with all its faults and shortcomings that He gave His only begotten son that whosoever believes in him regardless of race, age, social status or past mistakes will not perish, but have eternal life. The smile of God is deep and lasting and is an unending reminder that He truly cares about you. I Peter 5:7 says in no uncertain terms “casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” God Almighty cares for you when all others forsake you. God, the Creator of the heavens and earth, cares for you even when the world turns their back on you.

Isaiah 46:3b,4,5:

I’ve carried you since your birth. I’ve taken care  of you from the time you were born.

Even when you’re old, I’ll take care of you. Even when your hair turns gray, I’ll support you. I made you and will continue to care for you. I’ll support you and save you.

To whom will you compare me and make me equal? To whom will you compare me so that we  can be alike?

No one takes care of you like God takes care of you. No other religion on earth has a god who cares for you. No other man-made philosophies or ways of thinking will take care of you. Why would you want to be involved in such religions or philosophies? They will all leave you empty when you need them the most. We all need God’s care. We all need God’s smile. In these other religions and philosophies you become quickly forgotten. You fade away as unimportant and not worthy of a smile. You simply do not matter. The Bible contradicts this notion with blazing light and certainty. God promises in Isaiah 49:15 “I will not forget you.” Nothing in this life can cause God to forget you. You have value to God. You have worth to God. You are not some object to advance a religious ideal. You are someone who God loves intensely and cares for in the deepest sense. Nothing in the religious archives of this world compares to God’s everlasting love and mercy that chases after you every moment.

Zechariah 3:17 says that “he will rejoice over you with gladness: he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” The Hebrew word for “rejoice” means to dance, skip, leap, and spin around in joy. Can you imagine the smile of God as he dances around in joy and gladness over you? Can you fathom that God exults over you with loud singing! Singing is the manifestation of an incredible joy and love God has for you. He wants a relationship with you and for you to experience the wonders of His love.

Psalm 139:17,18a:

How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.
They cannot be numbered!

I can’t even count them; they outnumber the  grains of sand!

God is never too busy for you. He thinks about you all the time and His thoughts about you are so many that they outnumber the grains of sand. For God to think that much about you, you must have immense value to Him. You must be more precious to Him than any earthly treasure.

Psalm 139:5,6:

You have surrounded me on every side, behind me and  before me, and You have placed Your hand gently on my shoulder.

It is the most amazing feeling to know how deeply You know me, inside and out; the realization of it is so great  that I cannot comprehend it.

God deeply knows and cares for you more than any close relative or best friend. This care does not diminish or fade. He understands you more than you understand yourself.

God knew we needed a Savior, a deliverer and a mediator to redeem us and bring us back to Him. We need to be reconciled back to God to fully develop and enjoy our relationship with Him. This can only be accomplished thru the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Jesus Christ. The smile of God that shows His limitless love and caring for us is fully revealed in Jesus Christ.

Romans 5:11:

Not only that, but we also rejoice in God [rejoicing in His love and perfection] through        our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received and enjoy our reconciliation    [with God].

I Timothy 2:5:

For there is [only] one God, and [only] one Mediator between God and mankind, the Man  Christ Jesus.

Romans 5:1,2:

Therefore, since we have been justified [that is, acquitted of sin, declared blameless before God] by faith, [let us grasp the fact that] we have peace with God [and the joy of reconciliation with Him] through our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed).

Through Him we also have access by faith into this [remarkable state of] grace in which we [firmly and safely and securely] stand. Let us rejoice in our hope and the confident assurance of [experiencing and enjoying] the glory of [our great] God [the manifestation of His excellence and power].

Like the little drummer boy we are unworthy of the king. We have nothing to bring into his presence that justifies us. We have no work or golden trophy that will be allow us to be reconciled to God. The King paid the price for us with his own blood. He gave His life for us so we can have continual joy and unlimited peace in Him. It is an amazing truth for all ages that we, a little drummer boy in worth and value, are restored to God through the ransom of Jesus Christ. What love He has for us! O the wonders of His grace towards us even in our most desperate hour. The entire creation waited eagerly for the smile of God to be revealed in Jesus Christ. This was the cry of the psalmist three times in Psalm 80:

Psalm 80:3,7,19 (NET):

O God, restore us. Smile on us. Then we will be delivered.

O God of Heaven’s Armies, restore us. Smile on us. Then we will be delivered.

O Lord God of Heaven’s Armies, restore us.
Smile on us. Then we will be delivered.

The smile of God is proof of His deliverance and restoration. This promise is fulfilled in the Lord Jesus Christ. On that miraculous star lit night 2000 years ago, the angel announced the smile of God had been born in the little town of Bethlehem.

Luke 2:11:

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

No other person is qualified or has proved He is a Savior. No religion has a Savior that actually delivers. No philosophy can make you whole or give you eternal life. They all come up woefully short in the Savior department. Isaiah 9:7 (MSG) says there is no limit to the wholeness that Jesus Christ brings.  The Greek word for “Savior” means “deliverer and rescuer’ from danger and destruction and bringing salvation or wholeness in the process. The greatest thing we all need deliverance from is that virus that each of us have in our blood called sin. Sin is not some archaic religious term, but a dreadful reality that spreads like a dark blanket over every person on earth. The power and consequences of sin has wreaked havoc on the human race and has kept it oppressed in bondage of body and soul. From the power of sin comes every calamity, every violent act, every type of evil, and every disease of mind and body. Sin is the great destroyer of relationships including our relationship with God, and it turned Adam and Eve’s perfect relationship with their Heavenly Father into a broken connection of fear and dread. The final wages of our sin is physical and spiritual death. How desperately we need a Savior from sin! Jesus Christ is the only Savior from sin. He crushed the power of sin with his death and resurrection and paid for the deliverance from sin with his life.

Matthew 1:21:

She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

Romans 5:12,15:

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through  one man, and death through sin, so death spread  to all people [no one being able to stop it or escape its power], because they all sinned.

But the free gift [of God] is not like the trespass [because the gift of grace overwhelms the fall of man]. For if many died by one man’s trespass [Adam’s sin], much more [abundantly] did God’s  grace and the gift [that comes] by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, overflow to [benefit] the many.

Hebrews 10:12:

But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God,

Isaiah 63:1:

Who is this who comes from Edom, from the city of Bozrah, with his clothing stained red?
Who is this in royal robes,  marching in his  great strength? “It is I, the Lord, announcing    your salvation! It is I, the Lord, who has the power to save!”

Only Jesus Christ can redeem us from our sins and restore the smile of God on our lives. He is God’s free gift of grace that brings us back into the loving arms of our Heavenly Father. Only in Jesus Christ can we made whole from sin and its consequences. In the hills of Judea, God sent His angels to announce the good news of His plan for all ages, Jesus Christ is born with the mission to conquer sin and bring us back to the heart of the Father. We have been chosen to display the smile of God to the world and show forth His glorious love and favor revealed in Christ. What a night of praise as the Savior has come! No longer do we need to be trodden down by sin. No longer do we need let sin wreak chaos in our lives and separate us from intimacy with God. Jesus Christ came to dismantle the power of sin and usher us into a new life in Him. We no longer belong to the god of this age, but rightfully belong to Him as His beloved children.

Listen to the words of Ephesians and I John:

Ephesians 1:4-8:

Long ago, even before he made the world, God chose us to be his very own through what Christ would do for us; he decided then to make us holy in his eyes, without a single fault—we who stand before him  covered with his love.

His unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into his own family by sending Jesus Christ to die for  us. And he did this because he wanted to!

Now all praise to God for his wonderful kindness to us and his favor that he has poured out upon us because we belong to his dearly loved Son.

So overflowing is his kindness toward us that he took away all our sins through the blood of his Son, by whom we are saved;

And he has showered down upon us the richness of his grace—for how well he understands us and knows what is best for us at all times.

I John 3,1,2a:

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.

Dear friends, now we are children of God,

What greater honor can there be than to be born again as a son or daughter of God, redeemed by the blood of Christ, and citizens in His heavenly kingdom? Do you see why God smiles in Jesus Christ? He brought back everything that Adam had lost in the Garden and much more. All of the amazing love, kindness and grace of God was poured out on us through Jesus Christ. He brought back intimacy with the Father. He opened the door that we can have unlimited access to God and enjoy His presence every moment. He took away every hindrance to our relationship with God and called us to walk with Him in the deep warmth of His love. Do you see why Jesus Christ is smiling also? The smile of God will never fade on your life. The smile of Jesus Christ toward you will never diminish. Nothing in this world can change that.

Listen to these beautiful words from The Sacred Journey: God’s Relentless Pursuit of Our Affection by Bryan and Candice Simmons:

Your Creator knows that true transformation comes  by a relationship-a powerful relationship with Christ where love’s torrent covers your sin and makes you                             lovely in His sight. Jesus never comes to scare us into submission, but He woos us into intimate friendship with Him. God delivered His transforming truth and the grace for change in a relational package-the person of His Son. Grace has a face,                                and His face is smiling toward us each and every day.

God does not wait until you are perfect before He enjoys you. In fact, He loves the weak, the immature,  and those who feel incomplete. Think of Jesus placing a crown on your head and then watching you grow until you fit into it. He calls you a hero before you              ever act nobly. Today, Jesus smiles at the thought of you. Jesus is the lover of your soul…Drink in this love, drink deeply of the passions of His heart: God loves you in the same way God loves His Son. The measure of the Father’s affection and love for Jesus is the                  measure of Jesus’s love for us. “I love each of you  with the same love that that the Father loves me. Let my love nourish your hearts.” (John 15:9).

Do you have a longing to be close to Jesus today? He will draw so close to you that it breaks every chain that holds you back, every weight that holds you down.                        Even if He has drawn you a thousand times in the past, ask Him to draw you again. Cultivate a relationship with Him. See yourself as His partner, His companion, the              one He wants to be with. He will be more to you than you can ever think or imagine.

As the little drummer boy, we come to Jesus with nothing that justifies us or makes us worthy. He smiles at us out of pure love for our faith to come to Him because He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Let His smile transform you and bring you into a glorious relationship with Him.

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The Bible is Still The Voice of God in Words: Are We Listening?

God’s great plea to men and women throughout history is this: “Listen to me! Hear me! I will give you life if you only will hear my voice and obey my words!” Listen to the plea of God calling for you to turn your ear toward Him:

Listen, O my people, to my instruction; Incline your ears to the words of my mouth. (Psalm 78:1, NASB)

Pay attention, come close now, listen carefully to my life-giving, life-nourishing words. (Isaiah 55:3, MSG)

The Hebrew word rendered here as “incline” is natar, means to stretch out or extend toward someone or something; to bend or to turn. This word implies an energy and intensity where you are stretching out with everything you have. It’s like a runner straining and stretching to cross the finish line ahead of his competitors. God wants us to have this same intensity and zeal when it comes to stretching our ear out to hear what He has to say. God wants us to run to Him, extending our ears toward Him to receive His instruction, guidance, and loving words. So often we don’t experience God’s love in our daily lives because we have stretched our ear to hear another voice, and so we do not hear what the Lord is saying. Still, God is wonderfully merciful and full of grace so that even when we’ve turned our backs on Him, He is still gently calling us back into His presence, to His heavenly embrace.

If you stray from the path, whether to the right or left, you will hear a voice from behind you sounding in your ears saying, “This is the way, follow it.” (Isaiah 30:21, REV)

Should your heart stray into enemy territory and you begin to wander off of God’s righteous path for your life, God is always speaking and imploring you to come back, even when you’ve turned your back on Him. God is still calling from behind, chasing after you with relentless determination, pleading for you to turn back. He is always knocking at the door of your heart, never giving up, tenderly whispering in your ear of His great love and affection for you, urging you to get back on the path where your God-given destiny lies.

God is always speaking. His voice is always near, no matter where we may wander:

For this commandment I give you today is not too mysterious for you, nor is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend into heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear and do it?’ But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it. (Deuteronomy 30:10–14, NKJV)

Even if we venture to the most remote place on earth, God’s voice can still be heard. And when we return to His way, He will break our captivity and set us free from all bondage, burdens, and oppression. His voice is always very near, closer than our breath, speaking to us day and night with gentle whispers, tender calls, firm warnings, loving encouragement, and wise admonishment. His voice commands our attention, our respect, and our obedience.

A.W. Tozer writes in The Pursuit of God:

God is speaking. Not God spoke, but God is speaking. He is by His nature continuously articulate. He fills the world with His speaking Voice … God spoke a Book (Bible) and lives in His spoken words, constantly speaking His words and causing the power of them to persist across the years. Our eternal welfare depends upon our hearing, and we have trained our ears not to hear … This is definitely not the hour when men take kindly to an exhortation to listen, for listening is not today a part of popular religion … [But] God says, “Be still and know that I am God,” and still He says it, as if He means to tell us that our strength and safety lie not in noise but in silence. The facts are that God is not silent, has never been silent. It is the nature of God to speak … The Bible is the inevitable outcome of God’s continuous speech. It is not only a book which was once spoken, but a book which is now speaking.[i]

The voice of the Lord is just as powerful today as it was any time in history. God did not suddenly go silent and quit speaking after the apostles were martyred. Our God is not a silent God. He is the most renowned public speaker in all the heavens and earth! God is called “the Word” in John 1:1. God, by His very nature, is the Great Communicator. He is the very essence of the Word, where He speaks about the glory of His love, mercy, goodness, and faithfulness. The Bible is the voice of God in written words and it speaks the message of the living God to every generation. The Bible is the God-breathed living, powerful Word of God and it is the primary way that God speaks to our hearts daily.

God also speaks to us directly by revelation and through the words of His messengers, prophets, ministers, and brothers and sisters in Christ. He is never limited as to how He speaks, where He speaks, and through whom He speaks. But we must realize and understand the enormous amount of speaking that God does through His written Word. Every word spoken in the Bible has been specially chosen by God and measured by His mighty hand. Every word pulsates with spiritual life and is a thousand times more pure than any substance on earth. His words are the pinnacle of love and the utmost expression of truth. The Word of God is the perfect representation of His voice.

The surest way to hear the voice of God is to sit down in a quiet place with your Bible and let it speak to your heart. Read and meditate upon the words He has spoken in the pages of Scripture. Hear what He is saying. Ask God to give you understanding and insight into His heart, His will, and His purposes, which fill His written Word. Ask Him to give you ears to hear what He is saying—and the courage and heart to obey it. Ask Him to speak to your circumstances, problems, challenges, growth, purpose, and destiny.

Now listen! You can hear His voice! God is speaking to you personally! His Word is like a love letter revealing His passion for you. When you begin to listen for His voice, as you immerse yourself in page after page of His holy Word, He will begin to work a true spiritual transformation of your heart and life. As you draw near to Him, He will draw near to you (James 4:8). Indeed He will draw you to Him so close that you can feel the warmth and beauty of His presence as you’re soothed by the tenderness in His voice. But you must make time in your busy life for such intimate communion. Once you do, your life will never be the same.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in Life Together, writes:

The Word of Scripture should never stop sounding in your ears and working in you all day long, just like the words of someone you love … Then ponder this word long in your heart until it has gone right into you and taken possession of you.[ii]

The wonderful words of Scripture are the words of a wise Father, instructing, encouraging, disciplining, and admonishing us that we may grow in wisdom and love. They are the words of the Lord of hosts, training, teaching, and preparing us for battle, showing us the tactics and strategies of our enemy and how to overcome him. They are a royal message from the King, declaring our royal position of honor and authority and reminding us of the power He has given us in the name of His Son.

Nothing on earth has more power to change, heal, revive, and restore us than the words of our loving God. The Bible is not just a book of mere stories written by men. The Bible is the heart, the life, the wisdom, the knowledge, the very essence of God expressed in words. No aphorism ever uttered is more trustworthy than the words found in the Bible. In the written Word of God, there is not one lie, falsehood, or deception. Every word spoken in the living pages of Scripture comes directly from the heart of God and is worthy to be heard and believed. The words of God are completely faithful and can never be broken by the power of any circumstance, the reasoning of any intellect, or the changing winds of time. The words of God are the spiritual nourishment and sustenance the heart needs to be vibrant, pure, and free.

The words of Scripture must be sounding in your ears and living in you daily if you are to maintain a healthy heart, so incline your ears towards His Word and listen.

[i] A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God (New York: Start Publishing LLC, 2012, originally published in 1948), 75, Kindle.

[ii] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Faith in Community (Munich: Chr. Kaiser Verlag, Fifth Edition, 1949).

Excerpt from The Heart: The Key to Everything in the Christian Life

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Thanksgiving: Not Just a Holiday, But a Way of Life

As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday in America, many will turn for a few hours or minutes of thankfulness before they devour the turkey and watch football games. Thankfulness is not an important virtue anymore for most people as we become consumed with self, indifference or other problems we may be facing on the horizon. Does it matter to be thankful anymore? Is Thanksgiving a forgotten holiday or much more in life? So many have allowed this hateful culture or social media to choke any thanksgiving out of their lives and replace it with anger, hatred and discontent.

As a Christian there may not be a more important attitude than thankfulness. Grace, love, faith, kindness and forgiveness all flow out of a thankful heart. Thankfulness is a key ingredient for the Christian walk as we live in a society that thankfulness is becoming a lost virtue. Thankfulness allows us to grow spiritually and increase our intimacy with God. The world is built around constant grumbling and complaining that builds a heart of discontent. It leads to anger, hate and lashing out at others instead of a heart of peace. For the peace of God to rule in our hearts, we must be thankful. Peace and thankfulness are inseparable companions.

Colossians 3:15: And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.

It is a command of God to “Be Thankful!” It is the present imperative which also means it must be a daily habit and walk. It starts with being thankful that we are breathing, that we are alive and that we know Him.

Thankfulness is not simply an occasional utterance, but must be cultivated as a daily attitude in all circumstances.

Ephesians 5:20:  Always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to Godeven the Father.

The grumbling spirit is not compatible with the Holy Spirit. Grumbling was one of the besetting sins of the people of Israel; they were always ‘murmuring’ against the Lord and against Moses. But the Spirit-filled believer is full not of complaining, but of thanksgiving. You cannot give thanks and complain at the same time.

The opposite of giving thanks in all things is grumbling or murmuring, an attitude and response Paul addressed in his letter to the Philippians…

Do all things without grumbling or disputing; 15 (Paul explains why this response is so important) that you may prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, 16 holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may have cause to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain. (Philippians 2:141516)

Comment: Notice that “non-grumbling” is not optional and is not just a suggestion. Paul is commanding “non-grumbling” to be the believer’s continual response [present imperative]!

So then the ‘everything’ for which we are to give thanks to God must be qualified by its context, namely in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father. Our thanksgiving is to be for everything which is consistent with the loving Fatherhood of God and the self-revelation he has given us in Jesus Christ.

Always (3842) (pántote from pás = all + tóte = then) means at all times. On every occasion. Without interruption. All circumstances. All places.

Giving thanks:  (eucharisteo from eucháristos = thankful, grateful, well-pleasing – Indicates the obligation of being thankful to someone for a favor done, in turn from eú = well + charízomai = to grant, give.; English – Eucharist) means to show that one is under obligation by being thankful. To show oneself as grateful (most often to God in the NT).

Eucharisteo is a word that at its very core (eu = good + charis = grace) means to acknowledge how good grace is!

Eucharisteo describes a person who is depending on God’s grace moment by moment. The present tense pictures this as one’s lifestyle,

1 Thessalonians 2:13 (note) And for this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received from us the word of God’s message, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.

It is notable that one the chief traits of unregenerate men is the failure to give thanks to God and their attitude of ingratitude is not without “natural” sequelae” Paul explaining…For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. (Ro 1:21)

This call to thankfulness for everything is found frequently in the New Testament —Philippians 4:6 Be anxious (present imperative = make this your habitual practice) for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known (present imperative = make this your habitual practice) to God.

1Thessalonians 5:18 (note) in everything give thanks (present imperative = make this your habitual practice); for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Don’t miss the fact that give thanks is in the present imperative which calls for this to be our habitual attitude and action! The active voice means that his is a personal choice (enabled by grace and the Spirit) we each must make continually.

In all circumstances, not just once a year, but all the time. This “is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” If you come to me and ask what is the will of God for you, I can tell you three specific things that are the will of God for you: Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and give thanks in everything. That is the will of God for you. (McGee, J V: Thru the Bible Commentary: Thomas Nelson )

An attitude of gratitude is a wonderful weapon against unbelief, disobedience, a hard heart, and a bitter spirit. “Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1Thes 5:16-18). Instead of complaining about what we don’t have, let’s be thankful for what we do have, because God always gives His best to those who leave the choice with Him. (Bible Exposition Commentary Old Testament)

We can’t control the circumstances of life, but we can control how we respond to them. That’s what faith is all about, daring to believe that God is working everything for our good even when we don’t feel like it or see it happening. “In everything give thanks” (1Thes. 5:18) isn’t always easy to obey, but obeying this command is the best antidote against a bitter and critical spirit. The Scottish preacher George H. Morrison said, “Nine-tenths of our unhappiness is selfishness, and is an insult cast in the face of God.” (Bible Exposition Commentary – Old Testament)

(Commenting on Psalm 146:12 Wiersbe writes) God gives us life and breath (Acts 17:25), so it is only right that we use that life and breath to praise Him (Ps 150:6). To receive the gifts and ignore the Giver is the essence of idolatry. The writer promised God he would praise Him all of his life, and certainly this is wise preparation for praising Him for eternity (Ps 104:33). To live a life of praise is to overcome criticism and complaining, to stop competing against others and comparing ourselves with them. It means to be grateful in and for everything (1Th. 5:18Eph. 5:20) and really believe that God is working all things together for our good (Ro 8:28). A life of praise is free from constant anxiety and discouragement as we focus on the Lord, who is mentioned eleven times in this psalm. (Bible Exposition Commentary – Old Testament)

That’s the habitual attitude of gratitude Paul is calling for in all of God’s children, beloved. Gratitude is an attitude that like all spiritual disciplines, needs to be consciously developed and deliberately cultivated in the dependence on the Holy Spirit and the grace in which we stand. There are some practical steps that can cultivate the gracious attribute of gratitude. For example, you can make thanksgiving a priority in your prayer life (Col 4:2note) rather than focusing only on petitions and requests. There may even be blessed times when your prayer time consists of nothing but gratefulness to the Almighty. You can always thank Him for the various wonderful aspects of your salvation (sonship, constant care, remission of sins, forgiveness, inheritance, the gift of His spirit, freedom from sin’s power and Satan’s authority, etc) Have you had any prayer times like that recently? And you can thank Him for the “smaller” blessings of life, those things we all to often take for granted. You can ask Him to make you very sensitive to grumbling and mumbling complaints which are the polar opposite of a thankful spirit. You can utilize spiritual songs (Ep 5:20note) to cultivate an attitude of thankfulness, allowing the words of a wonderful hymn to lift your eyes and heart in a way that nothing else can. Thank people who bless you in even the smallest ways. It will complete your enjoyment of the blessing, and it will increase your capacity to thank God. Reflect on and serve those less fortunate than you. This will remind you of how gracious God has been to you, how far He has brought you, and how much He has blessed you—which will in turn motivate you to be grateful to God.

Everyday Blessings – Missionary Benjamin Weir was held hostage in Lebanon and imprisoned under miserable conditions for 16 months. In his first interview after his release, he was asked how he spent his time and how he dealt with boredom and despair. His answer stunned the reporters. He simply said “Counting my blessings,” they responded, “Blessings?” “Yes,” he explained. “Some days I got to take a shower. Sometimes there were some vegetables in my food. And I could always be thankful for the love of my family.”

We can understand why the reporters were astonished. It’s hard for most of us to be consistently thankful for the commonplace blessings that make life pleasant and comfortable–the unfailing supply of our daily needs, the provision of food and shelter, the companionship of friends and families. There are times when we may even forget the wonderful mercies of God’s redeeming grace.

Paul and Silas, though they were beaten, thrown into prison, and placed in stocks, were still “singing hymns to God” (Acts 16:25). May we learn from them, and from Benjamin Weir, to count our blessings no matter what our circumstances. We have many reasons to rejoice. — Vernon C. Grounds (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. )

Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly,
And you will be singing as the days go by. –Oatman

As John Piper asks “How can we not be thankful when we owe everything to God?”

Indeed, he who thanks God for His mercies shall never want a mercy for which to thank, for “Every stream should lead us to the fountain.” (M. Henry)

Ray Pritchard writes that “The foundation of gratitude is the expectation of nothing. If one expects nothing then anything is bonus. If one expects more than he receives, then he is disappointed. We are so prone to complain because roses have thorns than to give thanks because thorns have roses! “In everything give thanks.” How do we do this in a practical sense? First, thank him for your blessings. Second, thank him for how he has helped you in your trials. Third, thank him for his presence every day. Fourth, thank him for his promises for the future. As a Christian, our whole life is to be one great, “Thank you, Lord.” This is the will of God in Christ Jesus for us.””

Psalm 86:12: I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart,
and I will glorify your name forever.

Thankfulness is a heart thing. It is to proceed from the depths of the heart and is not to be a fleeting attitude. What is the heart from Scripture? The heart is not the physical organ that pumps blood to the body, but rather, it’s the innermost part of a person’s being—the seat and center of a human life. Your heart is the essence of who you are. It is the control center for your will, emotions, intellect, desires, understanding, reasoning, reflection, and judgment. How you develop and grow mentally, emotionally, and spiritually is determined by the condition and makeup of your heart. The heart is the center of everything that is manifested and comes forth in your life. One of the great principles of the heart is that whatever is in your heart is going to show up in your life, forming your character, your personality, your attitudes, your actions, and your words. The heart is the blueprint of what people see manifested in your life.

What flows out of our heart determines the quality of our life and character. It determines the manner and attitude with which you handle life’s major obstacles. It determines the richness of your relationships and the depths of your love. What flows out of the heart even determines the direction and course of your life. This is why we must cultivate a heart of thanksgiving. Our whole heart should be overflowing with thanksgiving not complaining or bitterness. Thankfulness allows grace, love, kindness, forgiveness and faith to freely flow and grow in our hearts.

Colossians 3:16: Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

The more richly the word of Christ dwells in us, the more abundant thanksgiving will be that flows out of hearts.

Colossians 3:17: And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

We give thanks to God for everything we do in word or deed.

“God gave you a gift of 84,600 seconds today. Have you used one of them to say thank you?”
― William Arthur Ward

H. Spurgeon rightly quipped that “The heart must be alive with gracious gratitude, or the leaf cannot long be green with living holiness.”

Thanksgiving leads to Thanksliving.

Psalm 34:1: I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.

At all times we bless, praise and thank the Lord. Your mouth should be a fountain of praise and thanksgiving always, no exception. If we expect our words to edify, exhort and help others, it starts with words of thanksgiving.

Hebrews 13:15 (Phillips): Our constant sacrifice to God should be the praise of lips that give thanks to his name.

Our sacrifice to God is our lips constantly praising Him and giving thanks to His name.

We need to realize that genuine thankfulness is inextricably bound up with trust. We will never truly thank God until we first truly trust Him. We will not be grateful to God for all that we have until we first recognize that we’re dependent on Him for all that we have.

By nature, we’re not trusting creatures. We’re creatures of necessity. We trust God when we’re forced to trust Him because our problems go beyond our abilities. The rest of the time, we get along just fine by ourselves. If we can solve the problem by ourselves, we don’t resort to prayer and trusting God, because we don’t need to trust Him. But it’s only when we come to the end of ourselves and cast ourselves in total dependence on the Lord that we begin to experience genuine praise and thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is also an excellent antidote for anxiety or worry as we deduce from Paul’s famous command in Philippians 4:6…

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. When we cultivate a mindset of thanksgiving, we will not be anxious or full of fear. We cannot be anxious when we are thankful.

Robert Morgan illustrates this spiritual dynamic…

When her children were rebelling against the Lord, Ruth Bell Graham found herself occasionally torn apart by worry. One night while abroad, she awoke suddenly in the middle of the night worrying about her son. A current of worry surged through her like an electric shock. She lay in bed and tried to pray, but she suffered from galloping anxiety, one fear piling upon another. She looked at the clock and it was around three o’clock. She was exhausted, yet she knew she would be unable to go back to sleep. Suddenly the Lord seemed to say to her, “Quit studying the problems and start studying the promises.”

She turned on the light, got out her Bible, and the first verses that came to her were these, Philippians 4:6,7. As she read those words, she suddenly realized that the missing ingredient in her prayers had been thanksgiving. “…in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

She put down her Bible and spent time worshipping God for Who and what He is. She later wrote, “I began to thank God for giving me this one I loved so dearly in the first place. I even thanked him for the difficult spots which had taught me so much. And you know what happened? It was as if someone turned on the light in my mind and heart, and the little fears and worries that had been nibbling away in the darkness like mice and cockroaches hurriedly scuttled for cover. That was when I learned that worship and worry cannot live in the same heart. They are mutually exclusive.” (In Everything Give Thanks)

Gary Delashmutt writes that…

The New Testament teaches that gratitude is related to spiritual health in two different ways. We’ll use a medical model to explore this . . .

(1) Gratitude is a “thermometer” that indicates the state of your spiritual health. A thermometer is a tool that tells you whether you have one of the symptoms of physical illness (fever). It is not a medicine. You don’t put the thermometer in the freezer and then stick it into your mouth to break your fever. You put it in your mouth and it tells you if you have a fever. In the same way, the presence or absence of gratitude in your dealings with God is one of the most reliable indicators of your spiritual health. This is because it (along with serving love) is the normal and natural result of personally understanding and receiving God’s grace. Grace means charity—a gift to the undeserving.

(2) Gratitude is a “medicine” that promotes your spiritual health. Gratitude is not a feeling that dictates your choices; it is a choice that affects your feelings. This is what Paul is emphasizing in this passage. Most of the New Testament passages on gratitude are imperatives, addressed to our volition rather than to our emotions. He is not prescribing for us how we must feel; he is calling on us to choose to rejoice and thank God on the basis of what is true–regardless of how happy or thankful we may feel.

This is a key insight into biblical spirituality. It involves our feelings and experiences, but it is not rooted in them, because they are fallen and broken and unreliable. It is rooted in God’s truth and our choice to express faith in the truth, often in spite of what we feel. This is why the notion that it is unspiritual to thank God unless you feel grateful is false. Choosing by faith to thank God in spite of intense feelings of depression, disappointment, anxiety, etc. is deeply spiritual. This is why if you wait until you feel grateful to thank God, you will feel less and less grateful. But if you choose to thank God regardless of how you feel, you will feel more grateful more often. It is in this sense that gratitude is a key step of faith (along with serving love) that unleashes God’s blessing into your experience. (“Grateful servants are happy people.”).

 Warren Wiersbe – An attitude of gratitude is a wonderful weapon against unbelief, disobedience, a hard heart, and a bitter spirit. “Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1Thes 5:16-18). Instead of complaining about what we don’t have, let’s be thankful for what we do have, because God always gives His best to those who leave the choice with Him. (Bible Exposition Commentary Old Testament)

If you want to turn your life around, try thankfulness. It will change your life mightily.

The Christliest life (J.R. Miller, “Christian Essentials”)

“Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Thanksgiving should never be lacking in a Christian life. It is not enough to observe one day in the year for ‘Thanksgiving’ although that is a beautiful thing to do. Nor is it enough to put a sentence of thanksgiving into our daily prayers, although that, also, is proper.

It is the grateful spirit which pleases God, the spirit that is always full of praise. There should be a note of thanksgiving running through all our life.

Too many of us go to God only with requests, with our burdens, our worries, our troubles; while we but rarely go to Him with any word of thanks.

We are not to be thankful only for the pleasant and agreeable things that come into our days — we are to be thankful, too, for the things that appear to us to be adversities. “Give thanks in everything.” That means . . .
in the sad days, as well as in the glad days,
when clouds are in the sky, as well as when the sunshine is pouring everywhere.

It is said here that this is the will of God for us. The Christliest life — is the one that is always keyed to the note of praise and thanksgiving.

Andrew Murray: “Let us thank God heartily as often as we pray that we have His Spirit in us to teach us to pray. Thanksgiving will draw our hearts out to God and keep us engaged with Him; it will take our attention from ourselves and give the Spirit room in our hearts.”

John MacArthur

“A thankful heart is one of the primary identifying characteristics of a believer. It stands in stark contrast to pride, selfishness, and worry. And it helps fortify the believer’s trust in the Lord and reliance of His provision, even in the toughest times. No matter how choppy the seas become, a believer’s heart is buoyed by constant praise and gratefulness to the Lord.”

Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887)

“Pride slays thanksgiving, but an humble mind is the soil out of which thanks naturally grow.”

“The unthankful heart discovers no mercies; but let the thankful heart sweep through the day and, as the magnet finds the iron, so it will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings!”

Thanksgiving is not just a holiday, it’s an attitude we can practice every day.

Here is the opening quote from the Thanksgiving Proclamation signed by George Washington, President of the United States of America, October 3, 1789:

 Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor– and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.

Today in America this proclamation of George Washington would offend somebody and likely bring a lawsuit to attempt to stop thankfulness to God becoming an attribute of our nation. In the name of tolerance, we have pushed away the essence of thankfulness to God Almighty for His many blessings. Without God this nation would have crumbled long ago. Now so many are foolishly trying to take God out of everything and rewrite our history or try to point to the flaws of men or women to negate God’s hand in blessing our country time and time again. We do not have to follow the crowd and let thankfulness disappear from our hearts.

I believe that the real difference in the American church is not between conservatives and liberals, fundamentalists and charismatics, or Republicans and Democrats. The real difference is between the aware and the unaware. When somebody is aware of the love that the Father has for Jesus, that person is spontaneously grateful. Cries of thankfulness become the dominant characteristic of the interior life, and the byproduct of gratitude is joy. We’re not joyful and then become grateful—we’re grateful, and that makes us joyful.—Brennan Manning

Romans 1 clearly outlines the degradation of thankfulness and the spiral downward into thankless idolatry.

 Romans 1:20-25 (Amplified): For ever since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through His workmanship [all His creation, the wonderful things that He has made], so that they [who fail to believe and trust in Him] are without excuse and without defense.

21 For even though [d]they knew God [as the Creator], they did not [e]honor Him as God or give thanks [for His wondrous creation]. On the contrary, they became worthless in their thinking [godless, with pointless reasonings, and silly speculations], and their foolish heart was darkened.

22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools,

23 and exchanged the glory and majesty and excellence of the immortal God for an image [worthless idols] in the shape of mortal man and birds and four-footed animals and reptiles.

24 Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their own hearts to [sexual] impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them [abandoning them to the degrading power of sin],

25 because [by choice] they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

This downward spiral out of thankfulness starts with failure to see the magnificence of God in His creation. Pause for a moment to think about the beauty of the majestic mountains to the roaring sea to the tranquil trees and the amazing landscapes that all paint a portrait of God’s heart. We fail to see His divine workmanship in everything around us including the wonders of the human body. We become blinded by the chaos around us and fail to simply take a moment and reflect on the splendor of God’s creation. This leads to a mindset of a lack of trust in God. We fail to honor Him and we fail to thank Him. We lean on our foolish speculations and misguided reasonings and think we have all the answers. Instead of becoming wise, we become thankless fools. This opens the door to idolatry and sin distorting our passions to lust. We exchange the truths that cause us to overflow with thankfulness to lies that breed discontent. The truth becomes an enemy as we plunge further into bondage because we refuse to be thankful and allow the truth to set us free. Romans 1 patterns the downfall of a culture from thankfulness to God to self-absorbed foolishness.

In contrast, since we have received Christ, we are commanded to walk in thankfulness as a habitual way of life.

As you have therefore received Christ, even Jesus the Lord, so walk (regulate your lives and conduct yourselves) in union with and conformity to Him. Have the roots of your being firmly and deeply planted in Him, fixed and founded in Him, being continually built up in Him, becoming increasingly more confirmed and established in the faith, just as you were taught, and abounding and overflowing in it with thanksgiving. (Colossians 2:6-7, AMP)

And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness. (NLT)

Abounding and overflowing with thanksgiving comes from being firmly and deeply planted in Christ and continually growing in Him. When we are fixed on Christ and build our lives on Him, thanksgiving flows from our hearts like a mighty river.

We also are thankful for the final victory for all eternity that only rests in Christ, the way, the truth and the life.

2 Corinthians 2:14 (Voice): Yet I am so thankful to God, who always marches us to victory under the banner of the Anointed One; and through us He spreads the beautiful fragrance of His knowledge to every corner of the earth.

I Corinthians 15:57: But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Let us make our lives as a model of gratitude. Not just once a year, but every day let us overflow with thanksgiving to God for His countless blessings. Thanksgiving is the foundation to the Christian walk for without it our faith, hope and love will fade away. At the heart of thankfulness is the amazing grace and mercy of God. The grace of God defines who we are in God’s eyes. We are God’s masterpiece because of His grace and mercy.

Take a moment every day to be quiet and just thank God for His love and care over your life. Thank Him you have eternal life and an inheritance that can never fade away. Thank Him that He cares for you so deeply, He knows the number of every hair on your head. Instead of complaining like the world, let us shine as lights, being thankful to God in every circumstance and in every challenge. Your life will be transformed by simply remembering to be thankful always.

Ed. note: I am thankful for Precept Austin where a lot of research came and some of the links will take you to their website: https://www.preceptaustin.org/

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Who are You? In Christ: A Complete Transformation of Identity

Every morning we wake up and every night we go to bed we have a picture of ourselves in our minds that drives everything we do and every thought we think. The most critical question you will ever answer is who am I? Why am I here? Where am I going? Do I have worth? Do I have value? What defines who I am? You cannot escape these questions. You cannot ignore this inquiry. These are some of the most important questions you will ever face in life.

Where do you go to get answers to these critical questions? The newspaper, television, politics, social media or the internet? What is the truth to who I am and our identity. Who knows the enduring truth of who am I and what can I be?

All of the books written by the human mind do not have the answer. All the secular universities do not have a clue. All the talking heads on the news cannot give you the key to your identity.

John 1:1-4:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

The same was in the beginning with God.

All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.

In him was life; and the life was the light of men.

And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. (Did not understand it or overpower it or appropriate it or absorb it and is unreceptive to it).

Only in the God-breathed Word will you find the answers to these questions. The living words of God revealed in the Bible contain the truth as to our identity. Only in the glorious person of Jesus Christ, the Word in the flesh, will our eyes be opened to who we are.

The world tries to form our identity out of darkness. The darkness of our failures, the darkness of our past and the darkness of our mistakes become the deep-seated source of our identity. Culture sets up norms that we must conform to be somebody. Conform or be rejected by the systems of this age. These cultural norms have very little, if any light in them, and are not rooted in the Word. Their purpose is to weaken you, capture you and put you in bondage as you try to live up to an image that has been thrust into our minds and hearts. The image is distorted and twisted and bombards our mind causing us to have an identity crisis. We have long forgotten we were originally created in the image of God and our desperately trying to find our identity within ourselves, but come up empty.

One of the first truths in the Bible in Genesis reveals that of you want to destroy someone, you go right for the jugular and destroy their identity. Look at the example of Adam and Eve as they began to question God and believe the lie that they did not need God, they had spiritual amnesia as to their identity. They forgot who they were and God’s magnificent purpose for them. Fear and confusion flooded their heart. Sin separated them from their identity. The entire ministry of the devil revolves around gendering mass confusion concerning our identity. Without God and without the Lord Jesus Christ, our identity is like sinking sand, a puff in the wind, which is here today and gone tomorrow. Either our identity is going to be defined by Scripture or it will be defined by the world around us.

One of the side effects of ignoring God is that human life is, unquestionably, devalued. If there is no God, then there is no Supreme Maker who gives life intrinsic value. There remains only relative value. In other words, apart from God, a human being’s real worth is determined by an adjustable standard based on laws and “morals” of a particular society or civilization. In our generation we value or devalue a person based on their perceived worth. Some people are simply viewed as being more valuable. And without God in the picture, our understanding of human dignity is naturally skewed. Our judgments our upside down using many filters to judge a person’s worth such as wealth, status, power, possessions, beauty and success. These worldly filters mean nothing to God. This is not how God values a human being. With God out of the picture, people become expendable because there is no divine standard to declare their worth. The prevailing spirit of this age attempts to decide how valuable people are or how desirable people are and this is very dangerous because it always leads to the condemnation of many as not worthy, not valuable and a menace to society.

We will never be rich enough, good-looking enough, connected enough, smart enough, witty enough and good enough for the world. Satan’s goal for each and every one of us is to destroy our identity and never let us see what we could be in Christ.

2 Corinthians 4:3,4:

And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

Are our eyes blinded by the god of the world as to our true identity? Do you want to see who you really are or can be in Christ?

One of the most amazing verses in the Bible is in 2 Corinthians 5:17 and this is a promise of identity to all those who come to Christ. This is not a wish, or a motif or an exaggerated promise. This is the truth for all those who believe. Romans 10:9-13 gives the prerequisite to this verse:

Romans 10:9-13:

Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.

11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.”

12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him.

13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

There is no threshold requirement as to status, race, position or accomplishments to call on the name of the Lord. There is no works requirement or identity demanded. The promise is to everyone Black, White, Hispanic, Asian, rich, poor, old, young, Muslim, Buddhist, atheist or agnostic. The Lord Jesus never discriminates because of identity because he knows we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).

We confess with the heart and believe in the heart. An amazing regeneration takes place called the new birth. 2 Corinthians 5 speaks to this truth:

2 Corinthians 5:17:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 

NLT: What this means is that those who become Christians become new persons. They are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone. A new life has begun!

 Phillips: For if a man is in Christ he becomes a new person altogether – the past is finished and gone, everything has become fresh and new.

Paul expounded on the idea of a believer’s new identity, using the phrase in Christ or its synonyms (over 160 times in some form – in Him, in the Beloved, in Christ, in Christ Jesus, in the Lord). In Christ summarizes the profound truth that believers are now and forever in spiritual union with the Lord Jesus Christ.

In Christ defines every saint’s eternal, permanent, spiritual location, the spiritual “address” and the “spiritual atmosphere” as it were in which we now live and breathe and have our being.

It is a new sphere we are to live in. Fish have water as their sphere of living, birds have the air as their sphere of living and Christ is our new sphere of living.

Let’s look at some of the words in this magnificent verse to deepen our understanding.

Anyone: What a great promise this pronoun holds out for lost men and women. Any sinner, no matter how awful, despicable, depraved, disgusting (and the list could go on and on) who repents and believes in Christ is placed in Christ wherein he or she is a new creature, regardless of how corrupt and decadent the old creature was in Adam.

In: The word “in” does not in this connection speak of location, such as “in an automobile,” but carries the idea of union. On the resurrection side of this experience we have His life. He has come to live in us. It is this that marks the real difference between the old life prior to our salvation and the new life now that we are saved. It is necessary before the believer can enjoy victory in Christ for the power of the old life to be broken.

Colossians 1:27: To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

Ephesians 1:22:  And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

In Christ- The key word is environment, for being in Christ is not a barren state or an almost unreal positional truth (as it is often presented), but a vital, pulsating, functioning involvement. The chief characteristic of this environment is resurrection lifethe life of Christ Himself.

Colossians 3:4a Christ who is our life

In Christ describes every believer’s new position and new sphere of existence. Before we were born again into the Kingdom of God (Jn 3:3,5), our existence was in Adam.

I Corinthians 15:22:  For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.

God has dealt with the whole human race through two representative men, Adam and Christ. Adam is the source of all in the old sphere; Christ is the source of all in the new sphere. By Adam sin entered into the world; by Christ salvation came to all men; the sinner is in Adam; the believer is in Christ. – “In Adam” we are what we are by nature; “in Christ” we are what we are by grace. – “In Adam” we have the life received through human generation; “in Christ” we have the life received through divine regeneration. – “In Adam” man was ruined through the first man’s sin; “in Christ” man is redeemed through the second Man’s sacrifice. – “In Adam” all is sin, darkness and death; “in Christ” all is righteousness, light and life. These two spheres are the exact antithesis of each other. Every human being is one of these two spheres and his relationship to JESUS CHRIST determines which one it is.

Romans 5:12: Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—

Adam’s sin brought sin and death into God’s creation. Sin is passed on through the blood and every person born in this world is under the condemnation of sin and death.

Ephesians 2:1-3: And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. (Spiritually dead and under the dominion [supreme authority, power, jurisdiction, sway, control, absolute ownership] of the Sin “virus” we inherited from Adam.)

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,

Without Christ we are dead in trespass and sins. This does not change. This is our spiritual identity. We were by our very nature in the flesh and in Adam the children of wrath under the absolute dominion, authority and jurisdiction of sin. You cannot run into a sandbox and cover up your sin nature. It is at the root of every act of violence, hostility, pride, and bitterness in the world. It often bursts forth like a firework, but quickly fades into nothing. This is not where our identity lies. It is the counterfeit image of God.

Yet God made us alive in Christ and seated us in the heavenlies in Christ. This is our true spiritual position.

Galatians 2:20: I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

This is our new identity that Christ lives in me by faith and His love becomes my love, His touch my touch, His compassion, my compassion and His strength, my strength. What a revolutionary change of identity!

The expression in Christ sums up as briefly and as profoundly as possible the inexhaustible significance of man’s redemption. It speaks of security in Him who has Himself borne in his own body the judgment of God against our sin; it speaks of acceptance in Him with whom alone God is well pleased; it speaks of assurance for the future in Him who is the Resurrection and the Life; it speaks of the inheritance of glory in Him who, as the only-begotten Son, is the sole heir of God; it speaks of participation in the divine nature in Him who is the everlasting Word; it speaks of knowing the truth, and being free in that truth, in Him who Himself is the Truth. All this, and very much more than can ever be expressed in human language, is meant by being in Christ. (Paul’s Second Epistle to the Corinthians: The English Text with Introduction, Exposition and Notes)

The moment a penitent sinner puts faith in Christ as Saviour he steps out of life “in Adam” and enters into life “in Christ.” Through the ages upon ages to come he will be “in Christ.” We will never understand Paul’s Epistles if we do not understand the expression “In Christ.” It is the key to the whole New Testament. It or its equivalent is used one hundred and sixty times. These two words are the most important ever penned to describe the mutual relationship between the Christian and Christ. To be “in Christ” determines the Christian’s position, privileges and possessions. For to be “in Christ” is to be where He is, to be what He is and to share what He has. To be “in Christ” is to be where Christ is. But Christ is in the heavenlies, so that is where the real home of the Christian is. He is a pilgrim on earth, for his real citizenship is in Heaven. “For our conversation [citizenship] is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20).

To be “in Christ” is to be what Christ is. Christ, the Head of the body, and the Christian who is a member of that body have one life. The blood of the human body is its life. The blood which is now in my head will soon be in my arm. It is the same blood. So the life that is in Christ in the heavenlies is the same life that is in the Christian on earth. “Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world” (I John 4:17). We are so enfolded by the Lord Jesus that God cannot see Christ today without seeing us. This moment as God looks at His Son He sees you and me. And what His Son is He sees you and me to be. To be “in Christ” is to share what Christ has. All that Christ possesses we possess. Every spiritual blessing in Him – joy, peace, victory, power, holiness – is ours here and now. If we are a child of God, then we are His heir and a joint-heir with CHRIST, so that all the Father has given to His Son, the Son shares with us. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3). “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32).

New Creation:

Creation-(ktisis refers to bringing something into existence which has not existed before). The act of causing to exist that which did not exist before, especially God’s act of bringing the universe into existence. It is notable that ktisis always occurs in the New Testament in connection with God’s creative activities.

When God begat in the believer a new nature He opened the door to a living, organic union between the Christian and Christ. Christ and the Christian are then eternally one. So what is it to be a Christian? It is to have the glorified Christ in us in actual presence and power.

To be a Christian is to have CHRIST the Life of our life in such a way and to such a degree that we can say with Paul, “To me to live is Christ.”

Arthur Pink (In the “The Sovereignty of God”) describes the new creation as radical, revolutionary, lasting:

In the new birth, God exerts a quickening influence or power upon His own elect. Regeneration is very, very much more than simply shedding a few tears because of some temporary remorse over sin. It is far more than changing our course of life, the leaving off of bad habits and the substituting of good ones. It is something different from the mere cherishing and practicing of noble ideals. It goes infinitely deeper than coming forward to take some popular evangelist by the hand, signing a pledge-card, or “joining the church.” The new birth is no mere turning over a new leaf–but is the inception and reception of a new life! It is no mere reformation, but a radical transformation. In short, the new birth is a miracle–the result of the supernatural operation of God. It is radical, revolutionary, lasting!

Dr Glen Spencer describes the Christian as a new creation…

A creation of God’s redemptive work. He is a new creature with a new Director, a new Determination, a new Demeanor, new Delights, new Desires, and a new Destiny. (Expository Pulpit Series – 1 John: Living in the Light)

All men are in one of two creations. As born into the world, they are sinful, helpless, and condemned. All their efforts to save themselves, or to assist God in their salvation by good character or good works, are futile, and leave them unchanged. The new creation is headed by the risen Christ, and includes all who have been redeemed from sin and given new life in Him. Because the new creation is all of Christ from start to finish, it excludes any thought of gaining God’s favor through character or works. A life of holiness is produced, not by the observance of ritual, but by yielding to Christ and permitting Him to live His life in the believer. The new creation is not an improvement of or addition to the old, but something entirely different. (MacDonald, W & Farstad, A. Believer’s Bible Commentary: Thomas Nelson)

A new creation points to our new standing before God. If I am a new creature in Christ, then I stand before God, not in myself—but in Christ. He sees no longer me—but only Him in Whom I am—Him who represents me, Christ Jesus, my Substitute and Surety (ground for confidence and security). In believing, I have become so identified with the Son of His love, that the favor with which He regards Him (Mt 3:17) passes over to me, and rests, like the sunshine of the new heavens, upon me. In Christ, and through Christ, I have acquired a new standing before the Father. I am “accepted in the beloved.”

A new creation points to our new relationship to God. If I am a new creature, then I no longer bear the same relationship to God. My old connection has been dissolved, and a new one established. I was an alien once, a hater of God, an enemy to His ways and dead in my sins. I am now a son; and as a son, have the privilege of closest fellowship. Every vestige of estrangement between us is gone (Beloved if you are like me, you may need to read that statement again!). At every point, instead of barriers rising up to separate and repel; there are links, knitting us together in happiest, closest union. Enmity is gone on my part, displeasure on His. He calls me son, I call Him Father. Paternal love comes down on His part, filial love goes up on mine. The most entire mutual confidence has been established between us. No more a stranger and a foreigner, I am become a fellow-citizen with the saints, and of the household of God, every cloud being withdrawn that could cast a single shadow upon the simple gladness of our happy communion. There has been truly a new creation; “old things have passed away, all things have become new.”

Our new relationship is for all eternity. He is eternally my Father; and I am eternally His son. I have the right to cry Abba Father in all things. This is a birth relationship and not just a formal title or nice religious saying. This is spiritual seed, a new birth, a new creation. This is a father son relationship by spiritual regeneration and creation. 

Old things have passed away

The old – Those things that characterized our pre-Christ life, our life in Adam.

The very core of the flesh in Adam is this sinful, corrupt nature, called “the old man,” which is a deep-dyed traitor that hates everything that GOD loves and loves everything that GOD hates. Through the first Adam’s fall “self” usurped the throne of man’s personality and has held it in its possession, control and use ever since. Every child is born into the world with KING SELF on the throne, a fact often made evident before he can walk or talk. “The old man” on the throne determines what the whole life from center to circumference shall be. His evil desires become evil deeds; his unholy aspirations are transmitted into unholy acts; his unrighteous character manifests itself in unrighteous conduct; his ungodly will is expressed in ungodly works. The root “sin” bears fruit in “sins.”

Few people are willing to admit that “the old man” sits upon the throne and rules the whole being with despotic power. How few are willing to say, “I know that in me… dwelleth no good thing.” Let us, then, pause for a moment to take a full-length portrait of this hideous self and see if we are not forced to accept God’s estimate of him, and to acquiesce in the method of deliverance from his sovereignty. The foundation of life in the natural man is foursquare: self-will, self-love, self-trust, and self-exaltation; and upon this foundation is reared a superstructure that is one huge capital “I.” Self-centeredness, self-assertion, self-conceit, self-indulgence, self-pleasing, self-seeking, self-pity, self-sensitiveness, self-defense, self-sufficiency, self-consciousness, self-righteousness, self-glorying – this is the material out of which the building is fashioned. Is this delineation of self true or untrue?

Deliverance from the old sphere “in Adam” and entrance into the new sphere “in Christ” demands the dethronement of self. No house can entertain two masters. If the Lord Jesus is to take the throne and rule over the human personality, then “the old man” must abdicate. That he will never do. So God must deal drastically with him. He is a usurper whom God has condemned and sentenced to death. That sentence was carried out on Calvary’s cross. Now God declares to every person who cries out for deliverance from the tyranny of self, “the old man is crucified with Christ.”

This truth becomes easy of apprehension if we but remember that God sees every person either “in Adam” or “in Christ.” He deals with the human race through these two representative men. When Adam died the human race died in him. You died in Adam. So did I. Through that spiritual death “the old man” found birth and usurped God’s place on the throne of man’s life. But Christ came as the last Adam to recover for God and for the race all that had been lost to them through the first Adam. Christ died and the race of sinners I died in Him. The old “I” in you and in me was judicially crucified with Christ. You “died,” and your death dates from the death of Christ.

Behold (idou): Spurgeon reminds us that “Behold is a word of wonder; it is intended to excite admiration. Wherever you see it hung out in Scripture, it is like an ancient sign-board, signifying that there are rich wares within, or like the hands which solid readers have observed in the margin of the older Puritanic books, drawing attention to something particularly worthy of observation.” I would add, behold is like a divine highlighter, a divine underlining of an especially striking or important text. It says in effect “Listen up, all ye who would be wise in the ways of Jehovah!”

Idou is used by the Biblical writers to (1) prompt or arouse the reader’s attention (introducing something new or unusual), (2) to mark a strong emphasis (“Indeed!” Lk 13:16) and (3) to call the reader to pay close attention (very similar to #1) so that one will listen, remember or consider. Behold emphasizes the dramatic aspect of the change in 2Co 5:17

The exclamation “behold!” sounds an unmistakable note of spontaneous jubilation. In its “sudden note of triumph”

The new has come:  In this respect the new creation has done wonders indeed. It has not only broken my chains, and given me the liberty of the heavenly adoption—but it has altered the whole frame and bent of my being, so that, as formerly, by the law of my old nature, I sought the things of this world, so now, by the necessity of my new nature, I seek the things above.

I behold everything in a new light, and from a new position and point of view.

Is your spiritual life a heavenly creation? Have you been created anew in Christ Jesus? Have you been born again by divine power?

Ordinary religion is nature gilded over with a thin layer of what is thought to be grace. Sinners have polished themselves up, and brushed off the worst of the rust and the filth, and they think their old nature is as good as new. This touching-up and repairing of the Old Man is all very well; but it falls, short of what is needed. You may wash the face and hands of Ishmael as much as you please, but you cannot make him into Isaac. You may improve nature, and the more you do so the better for certain temporary purposes; but you cannot raise it into grace. There is a distinction at the very fountain-head between the stream which rises in the bog of fallen humanity, and the river which proceeds from the throne of God.

The new creation has done wonders indeed. It has not only broken my chains, and given me the liberty of the heavenly adoption—but it has altered the whole frame and bent of my being, so that, as formerly, by the law of my old nature, I sought the things of this world, so now, by the necessity of my new nature, I seek the things above.

There is no part of the believer’s life from which the newness should be absent.  

Romans 6:4,11:

We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

How has my identity changed?

This is what the Word of the Living God says:

Sons and daughters of God (Romans 8:15-17: I John 3:1,2; Galatians 4:7)

Justified (Romans 5:1, 3:24, 4:23-25; 5:9,)

Made righteous (2 Corinthians 5:21; Romans 5:17,19; I Corinthians 1:30; Romans 3:21,22; Philippians 3:9) )

Accepted in the Beloved (lovely and acceptable) (Ephesians 1:6)

Remission and forgiveness of sins (Ephesians 1:7; I John 1:9, Colossians 2:13,14

We have been reconciled (Romans 5:1,2,10,11; 2 Corinthians 5:18,19; Colossians 1:20-23)

We have been given Power from on high (Acts 1:8; 2 Timothy 1:7: Ephesians 1:17-23;Luke 24:49)

Redemption (Colossians 1:14; Ephesians 1:7; Romans 3:24; I Peter 1:18,19; I Corinthians 1:30)

Comforter, Encourager, Teacher, Enlightener lives with us (John 14:16,17,26;John 15:26; John 16:13)

Gift of eternal Life (Romans 5:21; John 3:16; John 10:28-30; Romans 6:23; I John 5:13)

Citizenship (Philippians 3:20; Ephesians 2:19)

Member of the Body of Christ with a specific gifting, purpose and ministry (Corinthians 12:22-27; Ephesians 1:21.22)

Walk in the 9 manifestations of the holy spirit (I Corinthians 12:7-11)

Dwelling place of God (Ephesians 2:22)

Future hope and inheritance that is guaranteed (I Peter 1:3,4; Ephesians 1:11-14)

Produce fruit of the spirit as walk by the spirit (Galatians 5:17-23)

Power over sin (Romans 6:4-22)

Power over fear, anxiety and worry (I Timothy 1:7

Power to break every change of bondage (John 8:32; Romans 6; Galatians 5:1; 2 Corinthians 3:17; Ephesians 1:19)

Delivered from the power of darkness (Colossians 1:13; Acts 26:18)

We are His masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10)

We have bold and confident access to God (Ephesians 3:12; Hebrews 4:16)

Who are we really? We are who God says we are!

Romans 8:31-29: What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Nothing can separate us from our identity in Christ built on God’s endless love and grace. God is for us. God gave us our new identity. Nothing can change who we are in Him.

Our identity prayer is contained in Ephesians 3.

Ephesians 3:16-21:  that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being,

17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love,

18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth,

19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,

21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Each day we must decide do you live in the sphere of the old or the sphere of the new. Do you allow Christ to live His life through you by faith? Is the root of your life in Him? Your spiritual position has changed-you are now seated in the heavenlies with Him. You are His sons and daughters by birth, citizens of heaven, justified and righteous in His sight, now by faith are you going to live like it. The walk of the spirit is a day by day, step by step process as we bring that inner Christ into manifestation in our actions, thoughts, emotions and words in the world. Or do we return to the old ways of sin and the flesh, where self is on the throne, and what the Bible calls “the old man” rules.

To be a Christian is to have Christ the Life of our minds, hearts and wills so that it is He who thinks through our minds, loves through our hearts and wills through our wills. It is to have Christ filling our life in ever-increasing measure until we have no life apart from Him. Does He so fill you?

But I can hear some modern Nicodemus say, “How can these things be? How can I live such a life in my home where I receive no help or sympathy but rather ridicule, and where I have so long lived a defeated life? How can I live a consistent life in my social circle which is pervaded with worldliness and wickedness and where Christ is never mentioned or even thought of? How can I live a spiritual life in a place of business where all around me are living wholly in the flesh? How can I even live on the highest plane in my church when it is worldly and modernistic, and I am unfed and untaught?” Well, you cannot live this life, but Christ can. Christ in us can live this life anywhere and everywhere. He did live it on earth in a home where He was misunderstood and maligned; among people who ridiculed, scoffed, opposed and finally crucified Him. The whole point of this message tonight is to show that we do not have to live this life, but that Christ is willing and able to live it in us.

“Christ in you” was the passion of all Paul’s missionary service. Paul had but one aim and goal in every form of work done – that Christ might be formed in every convert. “My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you” (Galatians 4:19). Christ is the Christian’s center; Christ is the Christian’s circumference; Christ is all in between. As Paul put it, “Christ IS all, and IN all.” Christ is the Life of our life.

The spiritual history of every Christian could be written in two phrases, “Ye in me” and “I in you.” In God’s reckoning Christ and the Christian become one in such a way that Christ is both in the heavenlies and upon earth and the Christian is both on earth and in the heavenlies. Christ in the heavenlies is the invisible part of the Christian. The Christian on earth is the visible part of Christ. This is a staggering thought. Its plain import is that you and I are to bring Christ down from Heaven to earth that men may see who He is and what He can do in a human life. It is to have Christ’s life lived out in us in such fullness that seeing Him in us men are drawn to Him in faith and love.

Our identity now is defined by God in Christ. We have been made new.

Isaiah 43:1-3a:

But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.

For I am the Lord your God,

Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you,

“You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he.
Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me.

I, I am the Lord, and besides me there is no savior.

Also henceforth I am he; there is none who can deliver from my hand;
I work, and who can turn it back?”

Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness  and rivers in the desert.

Praise God for our redemption, our calling and that we are His. He has breathed into us a new thing, a new identity and made us a new creation. This is the magnificence of being in Christ. Nothing else can change our identity is such a glorious way. Nothing else compares to being in Christ.

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When Fathers Come Home

By Carter Conlon

Now it happened, when David and his men came to Ziklag, on the third day, that the Amalekites had invaded the South and Ziklag, attacked Ziklag and burned it with fire, and had taken captive the women and those who were there, from small to great; they did not kill anyone, but carried them away and went their way. So David and his men came to the city, and there it was, burned with fire; and their wives, their sons, and their daughters had been taken captive” (1 Samuel 30:1–3).

What happens when men of God seek refuge in places where God clearly has not called them to go? In this case, it all began with faulty reasoning. Those who carried the anointing of God—signified by the anointing on David, the man who was called to be king—began to be pursued. This is a type of when society turns against the men of God, which is what we are seeing in our day.

David was called to rule and bring glory to the name of God, but eventually he grew tired of the constant battle and determined, “Now I shall perish someday by the hand of Saul. There is nothing better for me than that I should speedily escape to the land of the Philistines; and Saul will despair of me, to seek me anymore in any part of Israel. So I shall escape out of his hand” (1 Samuel 27:1).

This is a picture of righteous men becoming tired of fighting—tired of trying to stand up and be godly, tired of constant opposition. And so the thought comes into the heart, “Well, I will just back away a little. I won’t be quite as radical or as vocal about the things I know are true, the anointing on my life, the place that God has promised to take me. I am just totally worn out.”

I understand we all get tired. We have been in a battle since the day humankind declared war on God. Jesus warned all His followers that in this world we will have tribulation (see John 16:33). No doubt about it, as a man of God, you are going to be opposed. There is going to be a fight for what God has called you to do. Yet the worst decision that can be made is the one once made by King David and the six hundred men who followed him. They essentially concluded, “We are so tired of constantly being opposed. Let’s just back away and make peace with our enemies.”

And so David and his men sought a false refuge. It is almost unthinkable that they ended up on the wrong side of the battle, aligned with the Philistines—those who were determined to destroy the testimony of God through His chosen people! It was all summarized back when the Philistine giant, Goliath, stood on that other side of the valley and taunted the Israelites, saying, “You will serve us!” (see 1 Samuel 17:8–10).

What voice are we facing in this generation? “You will serve us, men of God. You will bend your knee to us. You cannot fight against us. We are too strong for you!” This world is in open warfare against Jesus Christ and, therefore, against men of God. The devil knows that as men, we are called to lead and protect. We are called as conquerors; we have power in our speech. We are called to defend our families; speak into the lives of our children; defend our communities; stand up for those who have no voice to speak for themselves. We are not called to cower or just read our Bibles in the bathroom where nobody can see us. We are called to study the Word of God and stand as a bold declaration of righteousness!

GET UP AND GO HOME

After a season of being in the enemy’s camp, eventually things take a turn. “The princes of the Philistines said, ‘What are these Hebrews doing here?’ And Achish said to the princes of the Philistines, ‘Is this not David, the servant of Saul king of Israel, who has been with me these days, or these years? And to this day I have found no fault in him since he defected to me’” (1 Samuel 29:3). This is a prince of darkness talking about the man who was the Christ-type in the Old Testament! He was essentially saying, “We have not opposed him; we have offered him protection and peace. And all he had to do was defect from the side of God and join us.”

Then Achish called David and said to him, “Surely, as the Lord lives, you have been upright, and your going out and your coming in with me in the army is good in my sight. For to this day I have not found evil in you since the day of your coming to me. Nevertheless the lords do not favor you. Therefore return now, and go in peace, that you may not displease the lords of the Philistines” (1 Samuel 29:6–7). The very same thing is happening in our generation and will continue to increase in the days ahead: God is causing this world to reject you as a believer in Jesus Christ—which is the best thing that could ever happen to the Church! Remember, you do not belong to the world. If you cannot figure it out for yourself, the Lord will use the people who live in darkness to tell you, “We do not want you here anymore. Go back home.” In other words, “If you believe in traditional marriage, if you believe in the sanctity of human life, there is no place for you with us anymore. If you hold to a biblical worldview, you are no longer welcome here!”

As we saw in our opening scripture, David and his men came home to Ziklag to find that it had been burned with fire and their wives, their sons, and their daughters had been taken captive (see 1 Samuel 30:1–2). Do you wonder why our children are gender-confused in their schools? Why we are now having the discussion of murdering children even after they are born? Why prayer is not allowed in our high schools? Why Marxists are radicalizing young people in our colleges throughout this country? It is because the men of God have not stood up and been what men of God are supposed to be. It is not time to let our sons and daughters be taken captive by a godless agenda that will eventually cause the destruction of our whole society. No, it is time for men to stand up and declare what the Word of God says—unabashedly and unashamedly!

The scripture continues, “Now David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and his daughters. But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God. Then David said to Abiathar the priest, Ahimelech’s son, ‘Please bring the ephod here to me’” (1 Samuel 30:6–7). The ephod was the garment of prayer that priests wore. In other words, “I am going back to prayer, and I am going to find the will of God.”

David inquired of the Lord and said, ‘Shall I pursue this troop? Shall I overtake them?’ And He answered him, ‘Pursue, for you shall surely overtake them and without fail recover all’” (1 Samuel 30:8). So David set off with the six hundred men who were with him. Eventually, two hundred of them were so tired that they could not go on, so he continued the pursuit with the remaining warriors. God began to divinely lead them, and they came upon those who had captured their sons, their daughters and their wives.

There they were, spread out all over the land, eating and drinking and dancing, because of the great spoil which they had taken from the land to the Philistines and from the land of Judah. Then David attacked them from twilight until the evening of the next day. Not a man of them escaped, except four hundred young men who rode on camels and fled. So David recovered all that the Amalekites had carried away, and David rescued his two wives. And nothing of theirs was lacking, either small or great, sons or daughters, spoil or anything which they had taken from them; David recovered all” (1 Samuel 30:16–19).

One more time, God came in supernatural power. Although David and his men were vastly outnumbered, they were not concerned, because they had received a word from God. They had been in prayer and the Spirit of God had come upon them, enabling them to courageously fight for their families. And they recovered all!

CALLING ALL MEN

The prayer of my heart today is, “Lord, give us a spiritual awakening in this nation. Raise up warriors once again—men who are not afraid; men who will escape the captivity of trying to preserve themselves. Raise up men who will run for public office or stand in pulpits and speak; men who will open the Bible in the morning and speak to their families. Let the voice of righteous men be heard once again in the workplace and in our communities.”

Our only hope for this nation is a spiritual awakening, but it will not happen without men being men. To the men who are reading this newsletter: You cannot wait for the women to lead it. Yes, they will be an essential part; yes, they will be in the battle with you. But you cannot wait for them to take leadership of this. It is time to be a man. Take a stand for what is right. Be bold and believe God for your family, your home, your community. That is the call of God on your life in this generation.

As you start to pray, God will begin to lead you. And as God leads, suddenly you will realize that it is not all about preserving yourself, your image, your job. As Malachi said, you will begin to see children all around you who are looking for fathers. The promise of God in the last days is that if you will stand, the hearts of the children will turn to you as your hearts turn to them (see Malachi 4:6). You will have an influence in so many lives that it will stun you. God will bring the children your way.

Remember, all God has ever looked for is a voice. Even in Ezekiel’s day, He said that the land had become so corrupt that “I sought for a man among them who would … stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one” (Ezekiel 22:30). Just one man who would stand—that was all He was looking for. Sadly, He could not find even one. But by God’s grace, I hope today that He has found you willing to stand— willing to pray and believe that we have the power to take back our children, our families, our nation!

©2019 Times Square Church

Courtesy of http://tsc.nyc/sermon-newsletter/2019/09

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