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)

><>><>><>

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)

><>><>><>

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.

><>><>><>

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.

><>><>><>

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.

><>><>><>

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

><>><>><>

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.

><>><>><>

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.

><>><>><>

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)

><>><>><>

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)

><>><>><>

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.

><>><>><>

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.

><>><>><>

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

Posted in Bible Teachings, Inspirational Messages | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

Posted in Bible Teachings, Inspirational Messages | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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.

Posted in Bible Teachings, Inspirational Messages | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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

Available on Kindle:

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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/

Posted in Bible Teachings, Inspirational Messages | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in Bible Teachings, Inspirational Messages | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

Posted in Bible Teachings, Inspirational Messages | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

God is Perfect: God’s Perfect Will Revealed in the Scriptures

This is a sermon by Paul Washer delivered on June 27, 2019 

God is perfect in his nature. God is perfect in all his works. God is perfect in His will. And because of that you and I should strive to know His will and to obey His will. But this is an impossibility unless we dedicate ourselves to the study of God’s Word. One of the greatest reasons for spiritual weakness among God’s people is the neglect of the study of the Word of God. That is all there is it to it. It is true.

Even those who attend church regularly, even those who would pretend to be very spiritual, and involved in many Christian things, they do not know what God’s Word says. They may give themselves to all kinds of so called “spiritual duties” and they may put great emphasis on worship and spiritual gifts and the power of the Holy Spirit and yet they really do not know what the Word of God teaches.

Some of this can also be said about those who preach the Word of God. That ministers have become so busy, so full of programs and committees and meetings, so busy planning activities, that they look more like business men then men of God. Survey after survey tells us that many pastors spend less than a few minutes a day in the Bible. And oftentimes the sermons are not based upon a true exposition of Scripture.

But the preachers of old were very different than this. Let me give you an example. Alexander MacLaren, considered to be one of the great preachers of England, he was known to spend 60 hours preparing one sermon, 60 hours of study and prayer. It is quite common for men to spend 20-30 hours on a sermon, seeking to understand the Scriptures and seeking the power of God in prayer. But look at us today. It is all about noise. It is all about activity. It is all about special meetings. But how many people are devoted to the study of God’s Word?

What we are going to look at this hour is our need to respond correctly to God’s will. Our need to know God’s will thru the study of the Word of God. Now look at Psalms Chapter 1, verses 1 thru 3.

Psalm 1:1-3 (NASB):

How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in            the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!

But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night.

He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in                     its season And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers.

Let’s begin in verse 1. How blessed is the man, who number one, does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, number two, does not stand in the path of sinners, and number 3, does not sit in the seat of the scoffers. Now when we study the Old Testament, we must understand the way that Hebrew language works. There is something called a Hebrew parallelism. We see it throughout the book of Psalms and the book of Proverbs. A statement is made and then it is made again. The second statement may be a little different than the first, but it is saying the same thing, but with greater emphasis.

For a man to be blessed-and what does it mean to be blessed? Does it mean nice cars and big houses? No. When the Bible talks about a man being blessed, it talks about him being in God’s favor. He is reconciled to God and he enjoys God’s presence. I think a lot of people today, who claim to be Christians, would rather have material prosperity than God. And I think a lot of preachers are the same way. Why should we care about these little things, when the great thing is God’s favor, God’s presence, God’s life flowing thru us.

Now to be a blessed man, what must be done? Well first of all one must be reconciled to God. And how does that happen? Thru our works? Thru our church? Thru our activity? Absolutely not! It happens only one way, not thru a work we have done, but thru a work that God has done thru His Son Jesus Christ. We are reconciled to God only thru Christ’s death on Calvary. Jesus Christ lived the perfect life we could not live. He went to the cross and on that cross our sins were imputed to him. He bore our guilt and all the judgment of God that should fall upon us, it fell upon him. He was punished in our place for our sin. And with his death he paid the price. On the third day he rose again from the dead, 40 days later he ascended in heaven where he sat down on the right hand of God.

How might we be reconciled? By trusting in Him, by relying upon Him, by faith in His person and works on our behalf. If I died right now, I would go to heaven for one reason, 2000 years Jesus Christ died for this sinner. I hope in nothing else. Nothing else. If you trust in Jesus plus something else to get you to heaven, you are not trusting Christ. Everything that we would add would only pervert His work.

There was this farmer and he kept trying to witness to this carpenter. He was a master carpenter. The carpenter found it hard to believe that salvation was thru Christ alone. He thought he had to do something to add to Christ’s work in order to be saved. And so the farmer was thinking ‘how can I show him?’ So the farmer called the carpenter one day and told him I want you to build me a beautiful door. Your best wood; your best design; I want it to be beautiful. So the carpenter goes away. He spends weeks on the door. Weeks. He makes his best door with his best material with the most beautiful best design and he brings it to the farmer. He hangs it up on the door post. There it was; absolutely beautiful. So the farmer when he looks at the door, he doesn’t say anything; but he just walks away. He goes to his tool shed where he has all his tools and he comes back with a big ax and the carpenter says what are you doing? He said there are a few things I want to add to the door that you made. He starts cutting it with this big rough ax. It is utterly destroyed. The carpenter said you took my beautiful work and you destroyed it! The farmer said that is exactly what you are doing to Christ. Christ’s work on Calvary is perfect, but you think you need Christ plus your good works. Your good works do not add to what Christ has done, they pervert it and deform it.

We are saved by Christ alone. Therefore there is no boasting and yet those who have been saved, who have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit, they will be transformed by the saving power of Christ, and they will begin to walk in a newness of life. Works do not result in our salvation. Works flow out of the salvation that Christ has worked in our life. When a person becomes a child of God, he will want to do the will of God. He will want to walk in the blessing of God, which again is not referring to some material prosperity. It is the experience of God’s presence and power.

Now how as believers can we walk that way? Let’s go back to our verse. “How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers.” In order to walk in God’s favor, we must walk with God. But there is also the idea of separation. We must not walk in the counsel of the wicked. We must not walk according to their opinion. But how can we know that their counsel is wicked? Only if we have renewed our mind in the Word of God.

As a baby you were not born with discernment. As a newborn infant in Christ you were not born with discernment. You must grow in discernment by training your mind. We must not walk in the counsel of the wicked. We must not stand in the path of sinners. How can we know how to walk? How can we know what path to choose? Today Christians are hurting themselves and they are hurting the testimony of the church. Because like in the book of Judges they are doing what is right in their on eyes. And they cannot choose the path. But what did David say? His Word, God’s Word is like a lamp unto his feet and a light to his path.

Imagine that you were at a back of a room. On the other side of the room was a door. You need to leave that room because it is on fire. It is easy. You just run thru the door. But what if someone planted a minefield in that room so that if you stepped in the wrong place, you would be blown to pieces? Now what do you do? If you don’t leave, you are going to burn up. But if you try to leave, more than likely you will step on a bomb and blow up. There is no way out unless someone gives you a map that shows you where to walk and where not to walk.

That is a helpful illustration in regard to the Christian life. But we cannot remain paralyzed with fear. We must live in this world, but we must learn to walk. How? God’s Word. It is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. David said in Psalm 119 that it made him wiser than his own teachers.  We do not stand in the path of sinners nor sit in the seat of scoffers. People who are always scoffing. Always mocking. Always doubting. Always criticizing. Always against the will of God. How can we avoid this? How can we be filled with faith? How can we have great hope? How can we walk in simplicity? Believing God without grumbling? Again there is only one way. The Word of God. The Word of God.

Isn’t it amazing we will acknowledge the Bible is the Word of God and yet leave it upon the shelf to gather dust. When I would read old preachers, they would talk about people that would rather read novels than the Word of God. But then that changed. People that would rather watch television than read the Word of God. Then that changed. People that would rather surf the internet than read the Word of God. And play unrealistic video games rather than the Word of God. Not that some of those things are bad in themselves. But if you do that, more than you study God’s Word, what are you saying? Its horrible and you will be called on the day of judgment to give an answer for that. Constantly connected to the internet. There is hardly anybody connected to God. You want news of what everyone is doing so now you cannot even discern what God is doing. You should turn from it. It is wrong.

So you say, ‘so you believe the internet is bad?’ Not anymore than I believe food is bad. Food is not a sin, but gluttony is. The internet is neutral. I challenge you. Take the last week and write out how many hours you have been on the internet; how many hours have you been on TV; how many hours games; how many hours tweeting friends; and texting. And how many hours in the Word of God. You should not be laughing, but you should be crying right now. You should be weeping. That you love a little phone more than you love Jesus Christ. Really? I don’t want to hurt you, but it is a word you need to hear. We cannot even disconnect anymore. It is almost like all the Christians are obeying John 15 where Jesus says, I am the vine and you are the branches. But we have gotten confused. It should be written, the internet is the vine and we are the branches. Brothers this is wrong. What will be the next thing to come down the line that will make us even further away from God?

Now in verse 2: “But his delight is in the law of the Lord and in his law he meditates day and night.” Look at this. I think I can keep using the internet and all of this as an example. I have seen literally people, they shake until they can get to their phone. They got to find out what’s going on. It’s the last thing they do before they go to bed. It’s the first they do when get up. If only this was the Word of God. How strong we would be! How pitiful we have become! Like addicts.

But he says the godly man delights in the law of the Lord. He wants to know what has God said. He delights to hear it. He even delights in it when it rebukes him. Because he know that God is speaking to Him. Which means God has not given up on him. We delight in it. Delight in the law of the Lord. Do you? Do you? You can play with me all day long, but don’t do that with God. Does your life demonstrate that you delight in the law of the Lord?

What Scripture are you meditating upon? What are you trying to understand? What verse are you trying to incorporate into your life? When was last time you mourned because God struck your life thru some text in Scripture. The godly man, the godly woman delights in the law of the Lord. How do we know he delights in it? Is it because he tells us? How can we know he is really delighting in the law of God? It says in his law he meditates day and night.

Remember what we learned from Romans 12. Renewing our mind in the Word of God so we begin to think like Christ instead of think like the world. Do you do this? Yes or no? Do you do this?  Meditate in the law of God day and night? Please do not think this is something super spiritual that has no application. It is what everyone is supposed to do. And it how success comes to men doing the will of God.

Look at Joshua chapter 1. Moses has died. The great leader of Israel has died, and Joshua has taken his place. He is take them into the Promised Land. Now Israel was a large nation. But it was nothing compared to the nations that were in the Promised Land. They were giants. They had fortresses. And Joshua is to take a group of people into that and to fight against all these enemies. We’re not talking about just some little preacher. We are talking about a warrior who has to go in and fight in some of the most bloodiest battles ever recorded.

Look at verse 2 of chapter. This is God speaking “Moses by servant is dead!” Joshua you no longer have your spiritual father. You are alone. Now arise, stand up, and go cross the Jordan! You have any idea of what that was like.  You are alone. Now get up and cross the river and go fight all those people and then he gives him a promise in verse 3. “Every place on which the sole of your foot treads, I have given it to you, just as I spoke to Moses.” Look at verse 5: “No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life.” He has given him great promises. He gave him an impossible command to fulfill. Cross the river and fight those people. But then he gave him a great promises. Then another great promise: No one will be able to stand against you”

Now when Joshua looked at his army and he looked at that army, He had two choices. Believe what his eyes could see or believe what God has promised. God had promised him. But then Joshua does not only have to believe, he has to act.

Look what God commands him. Verse 6: “Be strong and courageous” Then look at verse 7: Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go.” He was going to fight a real military battle. But upon what did his success depend? Doing everything that God said in His law. It didn’t depend on how many soldiers Joshua had. It didn’t depend on how big the army was. Or how big the enemy was. It depended upon knowing the will of God and obeying it.

Look what he says in verse 8:  This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night (why should he meditate on it day and night?) so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.

Why did he meditate upon it? It is the only way to obey it. James warns us-don’t you look at the law of God, and then turn away and forget what you heard. Because it is not those who simply know or read, or study the Word of God, but those who do it.

So back to Psalms it says “his delight is in the law of the Lord and he meditates upon it day and night.” There is a good illustration of this that comes from the farm. I do not know if you know this, but cows have four stomachs. They do. They bite a piece of grass, they chew it, and they swallow it. Then do you know else happens? They regurgitate it again and they chew it, and they swallow it, and they do it again. They are getting every bit of vitamins and nutrients out of that grass.

That is the same way with the Word of God. We feed upon it; we go over it and over it and over it until it starts truly speaking to us. God honors those who meditate upon His law and will stay there day and night until they hear from God. Oh dear brothers and sisters in Christ we should be this way. We must be this way.

Now what will this man be like? Now first of all he will be like a tree. When God wants to talk about something that is not lasting, He will talk about grass and dew and clouds and vapor and smoke. When God wants to talk about something permanent, He talks about mountains, and rocks and trees. When He wants to talk about something strong, He talks about a tree. And we have this idea of a believer who is strong, who is solid, who is not going to move. He is there. He has his roots dug deep into Christ and into Christ’s word. Here there is this idea of spiritual strength. But there is also here the idea of life. Not just strength, but life. Spiritual life. He is not a tree planted firmly in the desert. But he is a tree planted firmly right beside the water. His roots go down into Christ, down into Christ’s word and He is filled with the Holy Spirit. He is filled with spiritual life. And out of that what happens? He yields fruit. He bears fruit. In his character, he grows, although it may be slow, he is growing. And in his ministry, there’s life, there’s growth.

You know one of the reasons why churches are so filled with activities and programs and gimmicks and entertainment is because there is no spiritual life. The pastors are not studying hours a day the Word of God. They are not in prayer. The leaders around them are not. And so there is no spiritual life. So they have to create a circus atmosphere so that things will happen. That is not the man of God. He bears fruit not because he is running around like a businessman. Not because he is in committee meetings all the time. But because he has dug his roots deeply in the Word of God and prayer. He yields fruit it its season and its leaf does not wither. Its eternal fruit. Its enduring fruit.

And it says in whatever he does, he prospers. Because it doesn’t matter what you are doing. Those who know the Word of God will do well. Whether it’s a pastor or an evangelist, or a rocket scientist or a dentist or a mathematician, those who meditate upon the Word of God will prosper. Now again what do I mean by prosper? They will be useful to God. And they will be a blessing to others.

I hear TV preachers quoting this all the time, I hear all those prosperity teachers quoting this all the time. Yielding fruit they say, prospering, becoming wealthy, big cars. Let me share with you something. This is talking about a tree that is bearing fruit. Let me ask you a question, have you ever seen a tree eat its own fruit?  Why does a tree bear fruit? He bears it for others to eat not himself. Do you see that? What does it mean to bear fruit? It means we preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and people are saved from hell. It means we preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and teach His Word and families are reconciled. It means we preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and the father does not come home drunk anymore. It means we preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and people start orphanages for poor children. To bear fruit. It’s to be a useful servant of God. And when we die there are thousands and thousands of people who have been saved because we lived. One solitary life dedicated to Christ, dedicated to His Word, dedicated to prayer, can result in the healing of nations. So when I talk about prosperity, that is what I am talking about. The salvation of God revealed to man.

Don’t you want to be this way? Where does it began? Remember what I told you this afternoon. What is the best time to plant a tree. A hundred years ago. That was the best time to plant a tree. But if you did not do it, what’s the best time to plant a tree? Right now.

This is another thing church you need to listen to. Why do we come together on Sundays? It is to hear the Word of God preached, but we should also be encouraging one another. Not legalistically, not critically, but encouraging one another. How is your time in the Word? What has God taught you this week? Can you share anything to me about your prayer life? Can you give me a testimony of what God is doing in your life?

Do you ever do that? You know what? When someone is a believer and they are not walking with Christ, when someone walks up to them and asks them those type of questions, do you know what they say? Fanatics! Legalists! Nosey! What does Scripture command? To be a life that bears fruit, not a barren life.

Posted in Bible Teachings, Inspirational Messages | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is God our First Love?

The third thorn in the Parable of the Sower and the Seed is the deceitfulness of riches. Millions of people have been corrupted, ruined and destroyed by the deceitfulness of riches. Wealth has a strong tendency to cause the heart to cry out “I don’t need you God! I have my riches! I have everything I need!” and therein lies the grave danger to the spiritual health of the heart. Riches can turn the heart away from God quicker than almost anything on earth.

John Wesley said wealth had destroyed the godliness of more people than other thing. This thorn illustrates the eternal truth in the Sermon on the Mount that “where your treasure is there will your heart be also” (Luke 12:34). Spurgeon said: “The heart must and will go in the direction of that which we count precious. The whole man will be transformed into the likeness of that for which he lives.[i]” It is when riches become the precious treasure of our heart, and we crave them with intense passion that the heart becomes overgrown with these thorns.

Nothing in the material realm has the power to satisfy a person’s spiritual needs. Nothing in the material realm can ever compare to God Almighty, and it can never quench the thirst of the heart to have an intimate relationship with Creator of the heavens and earth. God warns us in Psalms 62:10 that if riches or wealth increase not to set our heart upon them. As certain as the sun rises every morning, God promises in Proverbs 11:28 that if we trust in riches, we will fall. The love of riches leads us into worshipping them in adoration of their power and affluence. The passion for riches is like a habit-forming drug that we shoot into our heart giving us a momentary euphoria, but eventually we come crashing down enslaved in its wicked snare. Riches are an illusion of strength, security, and success, but are as flimsy as a paper house. The heart that is consumed with the love of wealth and accumulation of riches is on a path of spiritual destruction. The love of riches is a destroyer of relationships with friends, family, colleagues, and ultimately God, which is the biggest tragedy of all. This thorn is a destroyer of everything godly in the heart and needs to be rooted up, if we are ever to live a life that pleases God.

This third thorn is not simply riches, but the deceitfulness of riches where we are deceived into giving our allegiance to the pursuit of wealth above everything else. The Greek word for “deceitfulness” means to seduce by false promises and persuasion, to cheat, beguile, deceive or delude, to give a false impression by appearance, statement or influence, and to lead astray and seduce into error. In the Septuagint, it is the same root word used in Genesis 3:13 when the serpent deceived Eve and illustrates that the author of deceitfulness is the Devil. He weaves the web of deceit concerning riches to lead the heart astray on this deadly path. Riches are so deceitful because they give the false impression that they bring life, status, happiness and everything a person will ever need to have a meaningful life.

The Deep Root in Every Heart

A.W. Tozer in The Pursuit of God explains the deep root in every heart to possess which is at the center of the deceitfulness of riches:

Before the Lord God made man upon the earth He first prepared for him by creating a world of useful and pleasant things for his sustenance and delight. In the Genesis account of the creation these are called simply “things.” They were made for man’s uses, but they were always meant to be external to man and subservient to him. In the deep heart of the man was a shrine where none but God was worthy to come. Within him was God; without, a thousand gifts which God had showered upon him. But sin introduced complications and has made those very gifts of God a potential source of ruin to the soul. Our woes began when God was forced out of His central shrine and “things” were allowed to enter. Within the human heart “things” has taken over … There is within the human heart a tough fibrous root of fallen life whose nature is to possess, always to possess. It covets “things” with a deep and fierce passion. The pronouns “my” and “mine” look innocent enough in print, but their constant and universal use is significant. They express the real nature of old Adamic man better than a thousand volumes of theology could do. They are verbal symptoms of our deep disease. The roots of our hearts have grown down into things, and we dare not pull up one rootlet lest we die. Things have become necessary to us, a development never originally intended. God’s gifts now take the place of God, and the whole course of nature is upset by the monstrous substitution. [ii]

Our culture of greed is a living illustration of this monstrous substitution of “things” taking the place of God in the throne room of our heart. This is the driving mantra of our age as the hearts of so many are consumed with the desire to be rich and famous. Everyone wants to be a star, or an American idol, having fancy cars, big houses and a never-ending supply of new playthings. This is simply the old root of our sin nature raising its ugly head in the fierce passion to possess more and more things. Unfortunately we so often mark success in our culture by how many things we possess.

Exploitation of the Poor: One of the Major Reasons for the Flood

God is the source of all blessings. He gave so many blessings to Adam and Eve so they could rise to the fullest potential of life with their Creator. But when sin poured into human nature, human need changed to lust and the pursuit of things became the obsession of the heart. God’s gracious gifts became misused and distorted, as wealth was accumulated and hoarded at the expense of others namely the poor and less fortunate. By the time of the Noah, the deceitfulness of riches reached an enormous peak and played a major part in causing the earth to be completely corrupt before God and filled with violence. The deceitfulness of riches helped to corrupt God’s way on the earth. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia states:

Genesis 6:11,13 describes the socio-economic conditions prior to the Flood in terms of the earth being “filled with violence.” The word rendered “violence” in Hebrew was used by the prophets to describe the exploitation of the poor by the rich (Amos 3:10, Micah 6:12). Thus it appears that exploitation was a major reason for God’s destroying the earth with a flood.[iii]

God’s heart as expressed in the Mosaic Law was that each person and family was entrusted with the blessings of God, which included things like land, food, drink, livestock and material goods. Each person had the opportunity to express His faith in God by dealing justly and responsibly with what God had given to him by not hoarding their wealth, but by helping others in need. When we realize that everything we have is a gift from God, we will not spoil His generosity by turning His gift into personal accumulation. Luxury causes the heart to be ungrateful, arrogant and full of pride and blinds the eyes to see the hand of God and His blessings. God’s gifts are to be shared and given as a blessing to others. It is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35). Jesus talked about the rich man in the parable who wanted to hoard everything he had for himself with no concern for others.

And then, turning to the disciples, he said to them, “Notice that, and be on your guard against covetousness in any shape or form. For a man’s real life in no way depends upon the number of his possessions.” Then he gave them a parable in these words, “Once upon a time a rich man’s farmland produced heavy crops. So he said to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have no room to store this harvest of mine?’ Then he said, ‘I know what I’ll do. I’ll pull down my barns and build bigger ones where I can store all my grain and my goods. And I can say to my soul, Soul, you have plenty of good things stored up there for years to come. Relax! Eat, drink and have a good time!’ But God said to him, ‘You fool, this very night you will be asked for your soul! Then, who is going to possess all that you have prepared?’ That is what happens to the man who hoards things for himself and is not rich where God is concerned.” (Luke 12:15-21, PHILLIPS)

Rich Toward God

We do not truly love God and serve Him on a heart level if we hoard all our possessions for ourselves and do not reach out to those in need. No one can take his riches with them when they die. No one can take their possessions into eternity. The deceitfulness of riches hardens the heart to protect their riches at all costs and only use them to build their empire of vanity. It creates a false superiority over others and causes the heart to look in disdain to the poor, the struggling and those who do not have many earthly possessions. Pride fills the heart with cruelty and indifference as one is deceived into living in the world of luxury without any regard for God or others. Deceitfulness of riches causes the heart to be deceived into thinking that their rich lifestyle will go on forever and blinds the heart to the vital truths of eternity. The heart is darkened and foolishly does not realize that the bubble could burst at any moment, and then you must stand before the judgment seat of Christ where money and riches have no power to buy eternal life. They are filthy rags compared to the righteousness of God and the eternal treasures of His Word.

Life is Not Measured by Our Possessions

A person’s life is never measured by their possessions or wealth. God could care less how big your bank account is. The bigger question is what are we doing with the blessings that God has given us? Are we building bigger houses to store all our playthings or are we advancing God’s kingdom by being rich toward God and reaching out to bless others from our abundance? We are stewards of what God has given us, and He is to exercise His lordship over all our possessions so that we honor God with our giving. We are to become generous, like Christ is generous, for “in their generosity, believers reflect the character of God, who is the giver of all good things” (James 1:17). Then things do not control us for we are willing to let go of them for the glory of God in order to do His work upon the earth. Things no longer deceive us for we know the source of our blessings and our heart is ready to share those blessings with others. These thorns cannot survive or grow in this type of environment of the heart.

But we must never underestimate the power of riches to lead the heart to ruin. Money appeals to the flesh, as it wants to be master of the heart. Money demands allegiance. Money demands our first love. Money demands loyalty and devotion and has a strong pull on the heart to be lured into its trap.

No One Can Serve Two Masters

Jesus made it clear that we must decide whom we are going to serve. There comes a crossroad in a person’s life when they must make this critical decision: Am I going to devote myself to material things or God? Am I going to pursue money or God first in my life? What is my definition of success? Is it a life rich toward the treasures of this world or rich toward God?”

No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. (Matthew 6:24, KJV)

Mammon is an Aramaic word for wealth, property and anything of value. It refers to total wealth, which includes money, property and possessions. It is interesting in the Young’s Literal Translation of the Bible it capitalizes Mammon as if it were a god and in essence Jesus is saying “You cannot serve God and the god of possessions.” We cannot love wealth and love God at the same time. Both riches and God demand our time, energy, and devotion. Only one can hold and capture our heart. Only one can be the Lord of our heart. Only one will command our love, worship and reverence. One will be crowned king of our hearts and the other will be banished as insignificant. One will have our utmost loyalty and faithful service while the other will be relegated to the bottom of our priorities.

The Greek word for “hold” means to hold firmly, to strongly cling to, and to literally hold in front of one’s face. The Greek word for “despise” means to look down upon with contempt or aversion, to consider not important, to think little of, to neglect and not care for. It is pushing something aside because it is thought to have no value.

Ponder the meanings of these words for a moment and ask yourself which word describes the condition of your heart in relation to God and which word describes the condition of your heart in relation to possessions. We will strongly hold fast to one and place it continuously before our face. We will push aside the other one in contempt thinking it has no value. Do we hold fast to God or the god of possessions? Do we push God aside in contempt because we think He has little value or do we push aside the god of wealth and possessions? Which has more importance to us? Which has more value?

Too Little of God and Too Much of Things

Will we have the fruit of a life rich toward God or will the thorns of the deceitfulness of riches suffocate the life of God from our heart? Which one is our master? That which we love most, we worship as our God. God is always to be loved above all other things. Do we love things more than we love God? Too many of us have too little of God and too much of things.

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions-is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:15-17, ESV)

Where is Your First Love?

God commands us not to love the things of the world and not to have pride in our possessions for it will cause our love for our Heavenly Father to depart. Both loves cannot live within our heart. One love will suffocate and destroy the other. One love will crowd out and push the other from the heart. There is no room for double occupancy of both loves in the heart. They cannot live in peaceful co-existence. So the critical question for all eternity is: “Where does our first love lie?”

The Greek word for “love” is agapao, which is used to describe the unconditional, sacrificial love of God that He expresses for all men, women and children on earth. It is a love, which is awakened by a sense of value in the object that causes one to prize it. It springs from an appreciation of the preciousness of an object. It means to cherish with deep affection.

1 John was addressed to Christians in the church fellowship and contains one of the most important commandments ever pertaining to the heart. If we break this commandment, then our heart will turn from God and fall into great peril. There should be a huge warning sign beside this commandment. The breaking of this commandment contained in these three short verses will allow the enemy to gain control of our heart and enslave us in the trappings of this world. We are not be fooled by the mesmerizing and alluring display of what wealth and possessions have to offer. It is an illusion. It is such a glitzy presentation, but we do not realize the dangerous thorn and dagger that lurks right below the surface. Most Christians cannot resist. Most succumb to the temptation. Most sell out their love for God for gold. Most allow possessions to become the prize of their life, and God takes a second seat and becomes insignificant in their daily living. Most allow themselves to be deceived by riches and it chokes every trace of the Word of God from their hearts.

Lovers of Money More than Lovers of God

How this must hurt the heart of God when “things” replace God as our first love. We must guard our heart to never set our affection on the things and possessions of this world. We must never take this wonderful agapao love that is meant for God first and instead embrace the “things” of the world with it. This is at the heart of the deceitfulness of riches: the monstrous substitution of agapao love for God being replaced by agapao love for possessions.

We have become lovers of money more than lovers of God as our secular, materialistic society has contaminated our faith and corrupted our hearts. I pray God that this thorny weed of the deceitfulness of riches never is allowed to flourish in our hearts for it always contaminates our love for God and strangles it from our hearts.

We must ask our heart these questions daily: “Whom do I reserve my agapao love for today: God Almighty or the god of possessions?” “What do I prize as my most beloved possession: God or riches?” “What captures my affection and is the valuable treasure of my heart: God or our prideful possessions?” Both crave our love. Both crave our attention. Both crave our devotion. Both are jealous and want to be loved more than anything else. Which one will you choose?

Are we like the rich ruler in Luke 18 that desperately wanted eternal life, but he loved his riches so much that he refused to sell all that he had and give to the poor so he could accumulate great treasure in heaven? He went away very sorrowful from the presence of Jesus because his riches were more precious to him than Jesus. He cherished his possessions more than he cherished God. His wealth has such a hold on his heart that he walked away from eternal life!

Even Jesus was tempted by the Devil to sell his soul for the all the riches and power of the kingdoms on earth, but the Lord God Almighty was the treasure that Jesus’s heart worshipped. He would not bow his knee to the god of possessions and allow its thorny weeds to destroy his heart.

Our heart should cry out like Job 22:25-26: “Yes, the Almighty will be your gold and your precious silver. For then you will have your delight in the Almighty and lift up your face to God.” God must be our delight and joy. He is our precious gold, silver and treasure. God’s riches of love, grace and mercy are a thousand times more valuable than the riches of this world. What does it matter if we gain the whole world and all its possessions, but lose our soul? What does it matter if we have all our possessions, but lose our love for God?

Money cannot buy us eternal life or an intimate relationship with God. Money cannot buy us treasures in heaven. Money cannot buy joy, love, peace or even true happiness. Money is temporal and is like a vapor that is here today and gone tomorrow. Possessions pass away quickly and we cannot take them with us when we die. God is eternal and is from everlasting to everlasting. His magnificence, glory, grace, mercy, love and faithfulness are infinite and never perish. We have to be complete fools and absolutely deceived to place our heart in the hands of the god of possessions.

Wake up Christian church to this monstrous deception and cast down every vestige of gold from our hearts. Promise God that you will never worship our golden calf again. We must blazon this eternal truth in our souls and write it with a pen of iron on the tablets of our hearts: Nothing in the heavens and earth compares to our God! Nothing is greater, nothing is stronger, nothing is wiser, and nothing is more glorious that our Almighty God. He alone is what we should glory in. We should never waste the life of our heart on the temporal things of this world.

Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 9:23-24, ESV)

The Riches of Our Inheritance in God

Do we know the riches of the inheritance we have in Christ? Is our heart acquainted with the riches of the glory of Christ, which dwells within us? Do we know that the Bible declares we are heirs of God and joint heirs of Christ? Money is nothing and mere fool’s good compared to this.

Paul prays in Ephesians that the eyes of our understanding may be opened wide to see and know in no uncertain terms the riches of His glorious inheritance in the Christian believer. If we understand this mind-boggling truth, the riches of this world and their value will fade away into oblivion. The heart that understands these heavenly treasures in Christ will never be overgrown by the thorns of the deceitfulness of riches. There will be no deception because our eyes have been opened, and we have caught a glimpse of the heavenly glory of God’s rich inheritance that He has invested in each one of us.

The Example of C.T. Studd

C.T. Studd was born into immense riches and also became the most famous cricket player in England. He was the like the Michael Jordan or LeBron James of his generation, and he had it all: riches, fame, and luxury. However, he gave up everything to become a missionary in China, India and Africa.

What would lead a person to gladly leave riches, celebrity, and possessions to proclaim the gospel in some of the most remote areas on earth? He endured daily insult, danger, sickness, and extreme conditions of poverty when in China as even his bed was infested with scorpions. C.T. Studd could have been living in a stately mansion in England with his every need catered to, but he gave it all up, even living in tents in the deepest parts of Africa.

At the age of twenty-five, he was to inherit a large sum of money, yet he gave it all away. What would compel him to such a radical act of giving to win souls for Christ? Could it be that his heart beheld the living, glorious Christ and he knew him in such an intimate way that few ever experience. Something happens in the heart of a man or woman when they behold the cross and see the resurrected Christ in all his glory. C.T Studd beheld Christ, and his heart grabbed a hold of Christ, and his eyes were opened to the futility of a life sold out to possessions. He had experienced what the Apostle Paul had experienced, and he could not remain the same.

Yes, furthermore, I count everything as loss compared to the possession of the priceless privilege (the overwhelming preciousness, the surpassing worth, and supreme advantage) of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord and of progressively becoming more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him [of perceiving and recognizing and understanding Him more fully and clearly]. For His sake I have lost everything and consider it all to be mere rubbish (refuse, dregs), in order that I may win (gain) Christ (the Anointed One). (Philippians 3:8, AMP)

Nothing on earth compares to the priceless privilege of knowing Christ Jesus our Lord in an intimate and abiding relationship. This is the greatest possession a person could have and the greatest treasure to abide in the heart. C.T. Studd dedicated His life so others may gain this great possession, the pearl of great price Jesus Christ. Listen to the heart of C.T. Studd:

I cannot tell you what joy it gave me to bring the first soul to the Lord Jesus Christ. I have tasted almost all the pleasures that this world can give. I do not suppose there is one that I have not experienced, but I can tell you that those pleasures were as nothing compared to the joy that the saving of that one soul gave to me.[iv]

Norman Grubb in C.T. Studd, Cricketer and Pioneer wrote:

C.T’s life stands as some rugged Gibraltar—a sign to all succeeding generations that it is worthwhile to lose all this world can offer and stake everything on the world to come. His life will be an eternal rebuke to easy-going Christianity. He has demonstrated what it means to follow Christ without counting the cost and without looking back. The riches of Christ are eternal, glorious, and precious beyond measure and the lure of the riches of this world fade into the night in comparison. CT Studd lamented the fact that so many heeded the call of gold over the call of God: “Last June at the mouth of the Congo there awaited a thousand prospectors, traders, merchants and gold seekers, waiting to rush into these regions as soon as the government opened the door to them, for rumor declared that there is an abundance of gold. If such hear so loudly the call of gold and obey it, can it be that the ears of Christ’s soldiers are deaf to the call of God? Are gamblers for gold so many and gamblers for God so few?”[v]

So many do not even give a second thought to selling out for gold, and so few even consider the thought of selling out to God. C.T. Studd’s life stands as a shining example that worldly possessions and riches can never compare to the satisfaction and joy of living for Christ. Riches can never deceive a heart that has beheld the glory of Christ and has abandoned all to know and love Him for all eternity. A few stanzas of C.T. Studd’s timeless poem should ring in our heart.

Only one life, yes only one, Soon will its fleeting hours be done; Then, in ‘that day’ my Lord to meet, And stand before His Judgement seat; Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, the still small voice, gently pleads for a better choice Bidding me selfish aims to leave, And to God’s holy will to cleave; Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.[vi]

[i] Charles Spurgeon, The Gospel of the Kingdom: A Popular Exposition of the Gospel According to Matthew (London: Passmore and Alabaster, 1893), 37.

[ii] A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God (New York: Start Publishing LLC, 2012, originally published in 1948), 18, 19.

[iii] International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Volume Four: Q-Z, (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdman Publishing Company, 1988).

[iv] Norman Grubb, C.T. Studd, Cricketer and Pioneer (Cambridge: The Lutterworth Press, 1970), 33.

[v] Ibid., 127.

[vi] C. T. Studd, “Only One Life, Twill Soon Be Past” (1860-1931).

Excerpt from: “The Heart: The Key to Everything in the Christian Life” By Tim Rowe https://www.amazon.com/Heart-Key-Everything-Christian-Life/dp/148344791X/ref=sr_1_2?keywords=the+heart+the+key+to+everything&qid=1561297718&s=gateway&sr=8-2

Posted in Bible Teachings, Inspirational Messages | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Finishing our Work

A.B. Simpson

It is this thought of finishing things that I think God wants to speak to us about today. We are finishing, this morning, our ministry in this place; at least, we are gathering this Sabbath morning within these walls for the last time. For two years and one month the Lord has permitted us to labor in this place that was built for the worship of God, afterwards given to secular business, and finally, desecrated in the devil’s employ. It has pleased Him by a miracle of providence to give us, just at the time we needed it, this place for His work; and for twenty-five months He has permitted us here to do as much work, perhaps as many churches do in five or six years a good deal more than I ever did in six or seven years before, even counting by the number of services. We have had about 1,100 religious services in this place within the time I have mentioned. Many of them were for the comfort of Christians and the building up of God’s Church and people, and therefore have not had the same visible results in the way of salvation; but almost every evangelistic service that has ever been held here has been followed by the conversion of souls.

I have made no attempt to keep record of these names, but I should judge that at least as many as a thousand souls every year of our work here–which is only about twenty a week-have been awaked and talked with on the subject of their salvation sometimes a great many more. and very recently, in connection with our mission work, this number has been more than doubled. The Lord has permitted us, during these two years, to bring perhaps many souls to the feet of Jesus, whom we have not been able to follow afterward. God only knows; and I am sure that tens of thousands have come in here once or twice and passed on, having heard the word of eternal life.

I shall never cease to thank God for the wonderful providence that opened this place, and the still more wonderful grace that made it a perfect delight to minister and serve Him here. I thank Him also for the dear people that have gathered, for the laborers that have been always willing to lead souls to Christ, for the way in which He has raised, I think, at least $25,000 in these two years and met the needs of the work without our going to man. I don’t speak at all of the money given for the new tabernacle; I don’t speak of the money given to establish a home and sustain a training college; I don’t speak at all of the work done in connection with the work for which the Lord has made me personally responsible, but for the work of this church God has put in into the hands of you simple people to sustain. I thank Him the more because there has been nothing on our part to cause it; there has been nothing of human ability, but simple dependence in Christ. You know very well the truth given here has been very simple, and wholly designed to lead sinners to Christ and to lead Christians closer to His side. You know there has. been no great business capacity in the management of things, no ecclesiastical experience; we have been simply humble instruments of Christ, and He has seen fit to lead us on and to bless us; and we do this morning give Him all the praise and glory, place ourselves at His feet in great humility, and ask Him to use us. still.

Now, this is a most serious thought, this thought of finishing our work, finishing even this stage of our work. How much it means for this work, and how much it suggests for our whole Christian life and work. There is nothing, I think, in Christian life so sad as unfinished work. There is no memorial in the cemetery that brings the tears to our eyes more quickly than the broken column which tells of a life broken in the midst; and as I look around me, I see so many broken columns in human life. Someone said to Napoleon, in one of his pageants in Africa under the shadow of the Pyramids, as his veterans were marching in review: “Emperor, what is lacking here?” “Nothing, nothing,” said he, “but continuance.” He knew that in a little while these squadrons would dissolve and life itself be perhaps a bitter disappointment. And so, in the work of God we have seen so much that was incomplete. I have seen so much in my own work that I have cried to God, that, even if He gave me a very little work it would all be clear work, that it would be all finished work.

I remember that when, five years ago, this work began, how delightful it was that there were only a dozen or twenty members, and to feel that we were all on a Scriptural foundation; and the desire has never left me that whatever we do may last until the Master comes, even if it be humble work. As I look over the work of God, I see this curse incompleted work, strewing the way all along with miserable wrecks. I find the book of Judges telling us of five hundred years of declension because God’s people did not complete their work when they were in possession of Canaan. They conquered Jericho; they conquered thirty-one kingdoms; they divided the land among twelve victorious tribes; but they left here and there little strongholds that were not subdued, little tribes that could not or would not be driven out; and it was not long until they brought Israel under subjection, and neutralised all the work of Joshua’s conquest. I look again at the life of poor Saul, and I see that the one turning point in his life was where he stopped short of finishing God’s work, where he let his own fleshly heart control him, and left God’s work unfinished, and the curse of God’s rejection fell upon him.

I look at the ministry of Elijah, and never has the world seen anything more sublime than his victory on Carmel; but, 0, who has not wept at the reaction of the morrow, when at the shaking of a woman’s finger he fled into the desert and left the field in possession of God’s enemies; from which Israel never again recovered, but went down and down, until it passed away, not in captivity, but in extinction.

And so, it is. not enough to go on for a while. It is the last step that wins. 0, may God put on our hearts, as we leave here, this great thought, “that I may finish my course with joy and the ministry that I have received of the Lord Jesus to testify the Gospel of the grace of God.” How this has often been brought to my own heart, until it seemed to me that I could see nothing but just the closing days of life, the thought when it would all be finished and handed over to His hands and there were the two pictures; the one the thought of much accomplished, but much lost; something done, but something undone; and the sad bitterness of the thought: O, it is almost better not to have lived than to have failed to complete my one life, and yet to know that I can never live it again, and that something is left out forevermore. And then came the other picture; the soldier pressing on until the last hour, unflinching, unweary, afraid even of the thought of weariness; and, at last, looking back and saying; By the grace of God there is nothing left out that the Lord had in His heart to give me to do; I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course; henceforth it is all victory. And, as you go forth in this spirit, you will find that while you keep your eye on the end, it will give impulse and power to every step of the way.

Then, as we look at finished work, how much of it do we find in the work and Word of God.

We find, in the first chapter of Genesis. when God began the work of creation, He left nothing undone. So God finished, as we are told, the heavens and the earth, and God saw everything that He had made, that it was good, and then He sat down and rested on His own Sabbath day. There was nothing left undone. Take the most finished work of art and compare it with God’s smallest creations, and you find the sting of the bee is superior to the most perfectly wrought needle that ever came from the factories or the tools of man. You find that the most perfect polished surface under the magnifying glass seems like a great mass of hills and valleys compared with the surface of your hand. The wing of the smallest insect is all spangled and shining with burnished, radiant splendor, and no matter how carefully you inspect it, there is no flaw, it is all perfect. You find the little blade of grass is made as carefully as the immense pine tree. All God’ s work is well done, and myriads of things seem to be made that produce no adequate return. On every side of us there are things that we do not seem to understand the use of. Everything is done with a prodigal bountifulness, and yet all are perfect.

We read again about Moses, that he finished his work. In the last chapter of Exodus, we have this description, “So Moses finished the work as the Lord commanded. So did he.” His work was all done, and then God came in and took possession, and made it His dwelling place.

God does not want to come in and dwell in unfinished things. If you build a house and put no roof on it, it will fall to pieces, and so unfinished work will fail.

Again, we find that Joshua finished his work, and that was the secret of his power. “So Joshua took the whole land, according to all that the Lord said unto Moses. There was not a city that he did not take and there failed not one word of any good thing which the Lord had spoken unto the house of Israel.” He finished his work through and through, and all his life God’s blessing was on that work and on the people; and it was when Joshua passed away that they began slighting the work and then came the declension and ruin of the period of the Judges.

Again we read of Nehemiah, that he finished his work. The prophet Haggai had said about this restoration, “The hands of Zerrubbabel have laid the foundation of His house; his hands also shall finish it, and ye shall know that the Lord hath sent me unto you.” So we read about Nehemiah, “So the wall was finished on the four and twentieth day of the month.” There was no gate left out, no hinge broken, no breach in the walls that was not completed, no unfinished work; but every little thing, every bar, every hinge, every river, was all secure; then God blessed and established the work.

We read about the dear Lord Jesus, He finished His work. “I must be about My Father’s business; I must work while it is day; or, as it is in the original: I must work all the day long, every hour of the day, for the night is coming; My meat and drink are to finish the work, which My Father has given Me to do. And the hour came at last when He could say, “I have glorified Thee on earth; I have finished the work Thou gavest Me to do, and now I come to Thee.” His last word on the cross was just one little word, “finished.” And when He rose from the grave there was such a wonderful quietness and deliberateness about Him, such an evidence of everything being orderly and completely done, that even the napkin was found wrapped together in a place by itself, and His grave clothes were all folded up in order; there was not a trifle left undone. The Lord did everything perfectly, easily and well. We read about Paul that his one mission was to finish his course; and the time came when, within the sight of the Ostian gate where he died, he could say, “I have fought a good fight, I have kept the faith; henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord shall give to me in that day and not to me only, but to all them who love His appearing.” He finished his work, and, had he His life to live over again, perhaps there is nothing more he could add to it.

And now, dear friends, how about your work and mine? Let us look into it today. You are standing within a few steps of a border line, when this period of your life will close up forever. Have you accomplished that which you set out to do? Have you finished that which you began? How is it about your Christian character-is it entire, or is it incomplete? “I pray God to sanctify you, wholly, entirely, and that your whole spirit, and soul and body may be preserved blameless unto the coming of the Lord Jesus. Is that fulfilled, or are you only saved in spots, only cleansed here and there, and great blotches of sin are upon you like a moth-eaten garment? That is not God’s plan. God’s idea for you is entire wholeness of character–your spirit, your soul, your body all sanctified unto Him. Why not? It is because you have not taken God’s Word. It is because you have not been willing to enter into God’s blessing and God’s will. If you have not entered into here, it is not going to be any easier to enter into it anywhere else. 0, before this day shall close, just go to Him to give you that complete transformation. It is not a thing that you grow into; it is a thing that you take from Him as the free gift of His grace. May God help you today not to seek human perfection, not to say there is no room for progress, but to take and have the perfect Christ reaching every part of your life and going ever in your complete being, a perfect child, perhaps, but just as perfect as a perfect man. You know what it is to be a perfect babe. It is a poor, weak little thing, but it is perfect. You know what it is to have a poor, mutilated body with a hand off or an eye out. Now, God wants you to be a perfect child,to be complete, to be finished in all your parts, although with room for boundless expansion in the growth of your future life. The dear Saviour has it for you, and you are slighting His costly purchase if you do not receive it.

Again, have you entered into the complete plan and purpose of God for your life? Paul prays for the Thessalonians that they may know all the good pleasure of His goodness, and that the Lord will fulfill in them His perfect will. Are you reaching out to that for which you were apprehended by Christ, or is God all the time having to drive you forward and press you on? God calls you to a complete conformity to His will that you may be holy and please God, and He will give you the grace to do it.

How about your work; have you finished that? Have you started, and then got tired and dropped it? Have you been sent to some service, and at some little discouragement put it aside? Have you brought some soul to Christ and then left it again-never prayed for it, never sought to finish the trust that God gave to you? Have you promised anything and never fulfilled it? God calls us today, before we leave this place to balance all our accounts with Him, and to go away with the blessed thought that we have nothing more to do that could have been done; and He does not call us to anything unreasonable, extreme or impossible.

And then, as a church, have we finished that for which God sent us to this place? When we have passed away from Twenty-third Street to return, perhaps, in this sense, no more, shall we be able to say, “I am pure from the blood of all men. I have not shunned to declare the whole counsel of God; I have held up Christ before His coming to all I could reach; I have done all that I could do in these meetings to bring souls to Christ; I have finished the work that Thou gavest me to do.”

Even Sampson, in the last moment of his life, accomplished a life’s work in an hour. May God help you to accomplish the trust that has been committed to your hands, to leave nothing at least, undone.

So, in this special enterprise as a church, let us finish our work. We have started to secure our new church home,let us finish it. We have given our honor before God and man that we will independently, even at great sacrifice, purchase a house for God. Have you finished your part? Have you done what God has called you to do? Is it finished? Shall we go there with no raveled ends, with no loose, unfinished work, but with that promptness and that obedience which God loves, and on which He pours out His perfect blessing, even in financial matters, for He blesses His Church for generosity quite as much as He does for faith and prayer and Christian work, and I am sure that the blessing has come to this people, because we have been liberally meeting the claims of Christ in these past months.

And then our life work, dear friends, O, is that going to be a completed scroll, or is it going to be a torn parchment, unfinished? I don’t believe God wants it to be so for you or for me. O, what a precious life yours and mine is. Only once can it be lived; never again can we traverse this ground. O, remember as. you go forth: “I shall never pass this way again;” and so let every earnest fiber of your being be laid at His feet, and do it as you would wish it done in that day when you shall look back upon the life that shall come no more. I say this for myself, I say it for you, dear friends. Someone has said,

For at my back I always hear
Time’s swift-winged chariot hurrying near;
And onward, all before, I see
Deserts of vast eternity.

And Dr. Bonar reminds us:

Not many lives have we—but one.
One, only one!
How precious should that one life be,
That narrow span!
Day after day filled up with faithful toil;
Year after year still bringing in new spoil.

I heard, somewhere, of a poor fellow dying on the railroad track; and, as they picked him up all mangled, his face pale and blood flowing from every wound, he just had strength to say one sentence; “O, if I only had.” Nobody knew that terrible regret that came surging up in his memory; something he had meant to do and just put off that day; something he had promised God to do but he did not, and never could it be done again. “O, if I only had.” O, it speaks to me as the signal of an unfinished life, saved, perhaps, but not what God saved it for; coming in, but coming in to lose the crown God would have given. Happy, I hope. O, yes, in heaven you will have happiness even in the lower place, but the one that could be content to take the lower place has got a mean soul and cannot be very happy anywhere.

It is said that one of the old translators of the Bible, as he was finishing his work, felt the cold damp of death coming over him, calling his scribe, he said; “All is done but just one-half a chapter.” And, as his pulses grew colder, he summoned up his faith and courage, and called his amanuensis, and said; “Write quickly.” And he began to dictate, and words poured from his lips as fast as the hand could write. “Be quick,” he said, “be quick, the sands are running out.” And the words poured out as the last drops of the stream of life; and when he had finished it, he clasped his hands, and said “Now, glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.” And his lips were cold and his work was done. There was nothing lacking. The last line had been added, and the English Bible was put in the hands of man. That was finished work. God has something for you to do until it is all done.

Courtesy of http://www.sermonindex.net/modules/articles/index.php?view=article&aid=6366

Posted in Bible Teachings, Inspirational Messages | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment