Unity: Perfectly One

“I do not pray only for these, but also for those who believe in me through their word, that they may all be one; even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that you sent me.  The glory which you have given me, I have given to them; that they may be one, even as we are one; I in them, and you in me, that they may be perfected into one; that the world may know that you sent me, and loved them, even as you loved me.” ~John 17:20-23

I pray that the gravity of Jesus’ prayer would strike our minds and pierce our hearts; I hope that His words alone will bind our hearts in irrecoverable conviction for unity!

This unity is a witness to the world of God in Christ!  It is a witness of faith, of glory, and of abiding!

Jesus did not ask God that we would have the appearance of unity; He asked God to make us perfectly one!  And He asked God to apply His glory to this cause!

UNITY IN OBEDIENCE, NOT MYSTERY

“The secret things belong to Yahweh our God; but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” ~Deuteronomy 29:29

The great mysteries of God are His- His inner workings, reasons, and hidden counsels- they all belong to Him exclusively.  But, the revelation of His divine will belongs to His children for obedience.  Unity among the Church thrives in obedience to God’s revealed will.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I would neither discourage anyone from thinking deeply on the wondrous mysteries of God nor despise prophetic utterances (1 Thess. 5:20); when we come to our Father in the secrecy of our prayer closet, we are consumed with worship, admiration, and love in the glory and wonder of God!  And the prophetic utterances of the Holy Spirit are the timely expression  directly into our life of God’s love and will.   I do not see holding fast to the sound doctrine of God’s word as in any way opposed to the mysteries of God or the  current moves of the Holy Spirit; in fact, I see the former as a necessary prerequisite to the latter.

I am talking about when these contemplations become the teachings of the Church and a motive in our heart to look down on others who do not see the mysteries of God the same way as we do.  This always brings division!  It always diminishes fellowship!  Just consider how many Church splits have occurred because someone introducing the speculations of men into the Church, or how many brothers have been distanced because speculations about the mysteries of God took precedence over their drive to do the will of God.  And the same can be said of doctrinal teachings that are divorced from obedience in the Church; just think about how many Church divisions have occurred because someone was trying to get out of simple obedience to the doctrine that was clearly delivered to us by the apostles.

Unity and fellowship flourishes in the environment of obedience to the revelation of God’s divine will; His word was never intended to entertain and titillate our academic curiosities or to be subjected to the judgments of our divisive speculations; it was given to us for obedience to the heart of God’s divine will.

AS I AM IN YOU AND YOU ARE IN ME

Jesus prayed that we would all be one, even as the Father and He are one.  It was Jesus who was “about His Father’s business”, whose “food is to do the will of the Father”, and who “did nothing of my own will”.

Jesus said, “whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is my brother, and sister, and mother” (Matthew 12:50).

Jesus walked on this earth in unity with the Father from a position of absolute humility, as it is written, “being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.  Therefore God also has highly exalted him…” (Philippians 2:8-9).

AN EXHORTATION

Therefore, brethren, let me offer this exhortation to “purify our souls in obedience to the truth through the Spirit in sincere brotherly affection” and “love one another from the heart fervently: having been born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, through the word of God, which lives and remains forever” (1 Peter 1:22-23), and let us rejoice in knowing that “if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).

Nothing is impossible for God.  Genuine unity and fellowship among brethren of diverse backgrounds, even of diverse doctrinal persuasions, is wholly possible where souls that have been purified in obedience to the truth through the Holy Spirit in brotherly affection exists.  If we will walk in the light, we will have fellowship with one another.

CONCLUSION

Certainly as God moves to answer Christ’s petition for unity among us who believe, Satan also moves to offer a counterfeit unity; there is a cup of abominations being mixed in the name of unity by which people all around us are being made drunk with tolerance and filthiness, rather than being filled with the Spirit in love and holiness.  Have no doubt, Christian unity does not exclude the separation of holiness that we’re called to by Christ (2 Cor. 6:11-7:1)!

My hope and desire is that our hearts will be stirred up for true unity and fellowship in the body of Christ, and that we will be strengthened in love for patience with one another so that we will no longer look to the default position so many have taken in the past of distancing ourselves from those who we are called by the love of God to be one with!

Meaningful fellowship will thrive in obedience to the truth!  Even if there are certain brothers and sisters who you can share a deeper experience of fellowship with as you worship God in His mysteries, perfect fellowship is accomplished by God among all who walk in the light!

May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ abound to us all!

Walk Humbly With Your God- Introduction

Sunday, January 18th, 2015: Introduction

This week’s lesson is an introduction to the practice of walking humbly with God.  We are continuing to align our minds with the understanding of walking humbly with God.  This week is another invitation to spend time in prayer and meditation on the word, seeking to learn from Christ Himself how to position our hearts humbly before God.

We’re asking the question “what is humility” today.

Humility is the acknowledgement and subsequent walking in of our proper position before God: it is one of the chief marks of Christ as our Redeemer, and, therefore should be one of our chief marks of our uprightness before God.  Upright humility comes from God as He teaches us how to rightly position our hearts before Him.

Therefore, I invite you to join with us in seeking a deeper understanding in our hearts of humility.

Walk Humbly With Your God- Opening Thoughts

Sunday, January 11th, 2015: Opening Thoughts

This lesson is our opening thoughts for our series on walking humbly with God.  The purpose of this sermon is to get our hearts and minds thinking about humility.  In fact, this is less of a sermon and more of some thoughts on humility that I’m sharing and asking us to consider and mull over in our head.

My first aim is to encourage you not to view this as an academic subject to be studied and put aside; humility is the moving and repositioning of our heart before God.  We must move our hearts, and learn from Christ to do so.

MICAH 6:8

He has shown you, O man, what is good.
    What does Yahweh require of you, but to do justly,
    to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God? 

Consider what God has spoken through the prophet.

Let us count the cost, amen!

The Kingdom Sword

Do I want peace with the kingdom of darkness so much that I am afraid to pick up the Kingdom Sword?

We know that we will be at war with this world the moment we pick up the Kingdom Sword.  The Kingdom Sword not only threatens those who in the world, but it also threatens the way of life of any Christian who picks it up!

Jesus said,

Don’t think that I came to send peace on the earth. I didn’t come to send peace, but a sword.” ~Matthew 10:34

While many Christians have been sheathing their Kingdom Sword to make peace with the enemies of God, the spirit of this age knows that it is at war and has been busy trying to take as many captives as possible!

THE KINGDOM SWORD

What is the Kingdom Sword?

“And take… the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” ~Ephesians 6:17

The Kingdom Sword is the Sword of the Spirit; it is a living double edged sword that divides the righteous from the unrighteous.

There are whole families still accommodating devils because they would not take up the Sword of the Spirit to fight the enemy in their own home!

But Jesus said,

Don’t think that I came to send peace on the earth. I didn’t come to send peace, but a sword.  For I came to set a man at odds against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.  A man’s foes will be those of his own household.  He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me isn’t worthy of me.  He who doesn’t take his cross and follow after me, isn’t worthy of me.  He who seeks his life will lose it; and he who loses his life for my sake will find it.” ~Matthew 10:34-39

The Kingdom Sword will set you at odds with those around you who are still capitulating to the kingdom of darkness.  The Sword of Christ divides families!  That is why the “family focused” gospel in America is so false!

Have you signed a truce with the devil?

The kingdom of darkness never honors its treaties; it seeks a backdoor into your life and will come at you through your family, your friendships, or your employment.  But it never honors its treaties.  The kingdom of darkness wages relentless war until it accomplishes its goal to “steal, kill, and destroy”.

If you pick up the Kingdom Sword, you will be at war with the kingdom of darkness, and trust me, the kingdom of darkness is relentless.  But, if you set down the Sword to make peace with those who are hostile to the Kingdom of Light, then you will be found weak and defenseless when the kingdom of darkness breaks its treaty with you and attacks.

Let me exhort you, my brethren, to take up the Kingdom Sword against the kingdom of darkness; do not be ashamed of the gospel of God, for it is His power for salvation to all men- proclaim it in life, proclaim it in power, proclaim it with your lips- take the gospel of God to those who are bound in the kingdom of darkness and set the captives free!

 

 

Pray & Support the Stanley Family

One of our friends and brother in Christ from Louisiana shared a news report about the abduction of Hal and Michelle Stanley’s 7 children by Arkansas deputy Sheriffs because an anonymous caller reported the presence of toxic chemicals in their house that were endangering their children’s lives.

I do not know this family, but, I encourage you to read the above linked report and begin praying immediately for the Stanley family; my heart breaks at the thought of DHS breaking into my home under the ridiculous charge that we have toxic chemicals in our residence (but, I’m sure if you didn’t own any toxic chemicals like bleach to clean your home, they would break in to abduct your children because you were not keeping your home clean enough).

I also strongly encourage you to go to their gofundme.com page and support them there.  The Deputies said they would only be holding their children for 72 hours, and it has now approached a full week.

 

The Gifts of the Holy Spirit

The real cause of the loss [of the gifts of the Holy Spirit] was that the love of many, almost all the so-called Christians, had grown cold.”

~John Wesley

~~~

One of the chief arguments I hear against the continuance of modern day gifts of the Holy Spirit goes something like this: “if they are real today, why don’t we ever see them?”  I fear that the underlying presupposition of this question assumes that if the gifts did exist, we in America would certainly possess and see them because we are so enlightened.  And I fear even more that the question then exposes the littleness of our faith when we proceed to dismiss firsthand accounts of the gifts that are happening elsewhere (even sometimes in the States).  But, all this aside, I do believe this question merits a sincere answer.

RARITY DOES NOT MEAN EXTINCT

Please understand that I’m using the language I hear most commonly used toward this subject; not because I agree with it, but because it is widely used.  Words like “extinct” should not be used in relationship to any work of God, including His gifts (think of the ramifications if the gifts of God could really become “extinct”?)  It always gives me a slight chuckle when I hear people say “the gifts ceased when the apostles died out” as if they were talking about Dinosaurs or something.

However flawed our language may be, the “rarity” of God’s gifts do not equate with them “being extinct” or “ceasing”; in fact, I would suggest it reveals more about the state of our heart and life towards God than anything else.

In Samuel’s day, prophetic words and visions were very rare (1 Samuel 3:1), yet, they did not assume that God had ceased speaking appointing prophets.  And they certainly could have made that assumption by all human logic, the same logic we often use, seeing as how Moses had already given the law and confirmed it many times.

But when we look at the situation we see a priesthood that was out of order.  Eli was old, and his sons very corrupt.  The people had become dull!

We see the same thing throughout Church history; long periods of dullness followed by periods of great revival and awakening.

RARITY OF LOVE

John Wesley wrote the above referenced statement in regards to his own time.  Previously the gifts of the Holy Spirit had been considered “ceased”, yet, the Methodist movement experienced a number of miraculous occurrences.

His contemporaries had the same fundamental attitude as we often do: if the gifts do still exist, why don’t I see or have them?

Rarely do we ever say a sincere heart, “God!  Show me my error that I might repent!”

But Wesley’s answer deserves careful consideration: he wrote that the gifts of the Holy Spirit had only ceased because the love of so many Christians had grown so cold.  Wesley’s observation here possesses what I believe so many similar revivalist answers lack: heart.  Namely, many revivalist’s may preach a form of holiness that is dependent on external observance of form, and sight our lack of spiritual gifting to be because we have failed to observe their form, but Wesley went straight to the heart of the matter and showed that we do not have the gifts because our love is so cold!  His answer is less concerned with the form and more focused on the power!

We should not be surprised that it is our lack of love that has driven away God’s giving of the gifts.  For love is smack in the middle of Paul’s discourse on the Spiritual gifts!  The grand 1st Corinthians 13 discourse on love sits right between Paul’s two greatest discourses on spiritual gifts.  Love is the “more excellent way”.

Jesus’ command is love (John 12:15).  The law of Christ is love (Galatians 6:2).  If I do not have love, I am nothing (1 Cor. 13:2).

But genuine Christian love may be even more rare in our time than genuine the gifts of the Holy Spirit!  Worldly love is everywhere.  But the love of Christ is a hard thing to find today.  It is easy to find a plethora of pastors working hard to get a name for themselves or get money, but very hard to find a pastor who seeks the glory of God alone and to serve as Christ served in humility.  In fact, it may not be an exaggeration to say that the vast majority of Christians in Church today do not want a pastor filled with the genuine love of Christ in their pulpit!

Yet, look closely at the churches where genuine gifts of the Holy Spirit do exist, whether abroad or locally (however rare that may still be), and you will never fail to find an assembly where the love of Christ is chief among their gifts!

And you will find another attribute among them: they are less consumed with joy over their spiritual gifts as they are over the fact that they are known by God and have had their names written in the Lambs Book of Life (Luke 10:20)!

I believe that I have seen a few assemblies in the U.S. begin to have a genuine outpouring of the Holy Spirit’s gifts, but, boasting quickly set in, along with sin, and what they once had quickly became lost to them- and whatever they retained was not what they once had.

CONCLUSION

God is our chief joy and desire as Christians; nothing is to replace that.  Yet I often hear Christians making more of “walking in POW’AH” (you have to say “power” the right way to get the full affect) than they make of God.  I sometimes hear more made of “having a word” for someone than having His word dwelling richly within us!

My point is that we need to be spending more time examining ourselves than we are arguing over whether or not the gifts of the Holy Spirit exist.  We need to be preparing ready hearts to receive all the gifts God has for us.  We need to be seeking the things that God tells us in His word to seek (one such thing is spiritual gifts- 1 Cor. 14:1).

It is much easier to get caught up in a movement on one side or the other of this issue- whether with the charismatic chaos or with cessationist doubt- than it is to profoundly humble ourselves before God and accept whatever He has to give us instead of telling Him what He can give us.

May you be blessed with the full measure of Christ’s grace and peace, amen!

Judge (me) Not

Few things bring me to my knees with thanksgiving to God more than His great mercy and forgiveness by which I’ve been saved.  Indeed, I am living proof that “mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13).  That same great mercy and forgiveness is also my drive and the fire that compels me to preach Christ to the world.  That is why when I see the great destruction that is wrecked in the souls of people when Matthew 7:1 is abused I am filled with great sorrow.  But I am filled with even more sorrow when I see very sincere brothers begin to close their ears to what Jesus really taught in Matthew 7:1 because of how abused it has been.

So I want to begin this by encouraging my brothers not to become defensive with Jesus’ teaching not to judge, but rather, to abide faithfully by it, and teach others to be faithful disciples of what Jesus taught in Mathew 7 as well.

And I invite you to read a previous post on this subject entitled, “understanding Matthew 7:1-2“, which addresses a few things we won’t be looking at here today.

MATTHEW 7:1-5

Don’t judge, so that you won’t be judged.  For with whatever judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with whatever measure you measure, it will be measured to you.  Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but don’t consider the beam that is in your own eye?  Or how will you tell your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye;’ and behold, the beam is in your own eye?  

Mercy is at the forefront of Jesus’ teaching here as His very clear desire is to spare us from coming under judgment and condemnation.  Jesus’ desire is to protect us from the condemnation from God that befalls unrighteous judgment, He is not teaching us spiritual blindness.

That is why Satan’s handiwork in the perversion of this passage is so evident because it always leads into hypocrisy: everyone judges.  No one lives without judging anyone, which is why the “judge me not” use of this passage always leads to hypocrisy.  People judge police officers as evil for shooting innocent victims, they judge people for stealing, for rape, and for innumerable other personal offenses.

The truth is that the perverted use of this passage has one aim: to escape judgment for personal sin.  It is our modern equivalent of sewing fig-leaves over our nakedness.  And it is about as effective as that at covering our shame!

But I am less interested in how others pervert this text right now and how the important lesson Jesus is teaching us here is being swept under the rug by our tendency to sometimes react.

PURPOSE

Do not judge, so that you won’t be judged. For with whatever judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with whatever measure you measure, it will be measured to you.”

The Lord is addressing two issues here: first, the standard you use to judge (what law do you judge by) and, second, the heart by which you judge.

These are both incredibly important because God only recognizes one standard for righteousness (Jesus Christ) and has only appointed one measure to mete out victory over judgment (mercy).

The flesh hates to hear that the only standard for righteousness that is good enough for God resides out of its reach; for the flesh cannot please God and must be put to death first before we can receive the perfect righteousness of Christ.

So what standard do you use?

Is it a certain amount of time spent in prayer?  Is it tithing?  Is it charitable works, casting out demons, or evangelism?  Education?  Success?

By what standard are you judging others?

If your standard is tithing, will you or the widow be justified?  If it is prayer, are your prayers disqualified by how you treat others?  The problem with adopting standards that are not God’s standards is that He will judge us by them!

Here is the judgement that will befall this kind of unrighteous judgment: “But do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment on those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God?” (Romans 2:3)

Let me encourage you to ask yourself, and more importantly, to ask God, “what is my standard?”

The second issue being addressed here is your the heart with which you judge.

So, what measure do you judge with?

Do you have a disposition that finds satisfaction in the condemnation of others?  Are you eager to find the faults of others?  Or do you not understand that these are the things that cause heart wrenching grief to the Holy Spirit?

This is demonstrated very well for us in the account found when Jesus’ time had come for Him to go to Jerusalem.  He sent out messengers before Him to prepare the way, but, He was rejected in the Samaritan village because He was intent on going to Jerusalem.  When James and John saw this they were outraged and said “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?  But Jesus turned and rebuked them, and said, ‘You do not know what manner of spirit you are of.  For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.’  So they went to another village” (Luke 9:55-56).

The eager disposition to bring condemnation on people who are in the wrong is not Christ’s disposition.  Jesus was rejected, yet, He did not seek the destruction of men’s lives, even though they rejected Him!  Therefore “I desire mercy, not sacrifice”, God said, and so He does desire!

CONCLUSION

The lesson that Jesus taught us in Matthew 7 is immensely profound and desperately needed in the Church today.  I pray that we will not flee from Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 7 because other people pervert the passage, but rather, we will rejoice all the more to instill the true lesson of this passage deep within our hearts.

Consider what standard you are using to judge, and what measure you use when judging.  For I am certain that Jesus is being honest with His words when He says “for with what measure you use to others, the same will be used against you”!

I know that I want to be found on the judgment day having used the standard chosen by God for salvation with a measure that is full of mercy, patience, grace, hope, peace, and love!

Hindrances & Entanglements

Therefore let us also, seeing we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us. ~Hebrews 12:1

This is a two headed monster made of weights that hinder and sins that entangle.  It strikes at you with the cares, burdens, and obstacles of this world from the one side, and addictions and secret sins on the other.

We should be clear about the purpose of these attacks: the purpose of these weights and entanglements are to prevent us from finishing to the end the race that God has given us.

WEIGHTS THAT HINDER

Weights that hinder can be Satan’s most covert form of attack which brings things that are not always inherently sinful, like having a job, higher education, or family into our life to snare our attention and steal our energy and time.

Jesus said,

“So be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that day will come on you suddenly”  ~Luke 21:34 WEB

These hindrances are designed to weigh down our hearts; we become burdened by their demands in our life, and become unable to seek Christ because all our time, energy, and focus has been taken by these things.

And no one is exempt for these things: Satan looks for ways to burden all of us with these weights that hinder us.

For some ministers their hindrances take the form of the sheer mass of “things” that they need to “minister to” so that they eventually no longer have time to seek the face of God and draw near to Him in close fellowship anymore.

But, for others these hindrances can be more subtle: they can be the TV program you choose to watch instead of quieting yourself and seeking God, or the game you decide to play rather than using your free time to spend with the Lord.  The weight that hinders you may be a girlfriend who is kind, beautiful, and smart, but who doesn’t share your belief’s and takes all your free time and affections.  Maybe you’re a student, studying hard at college, and you barely had enough free time as it is to have a relationship with God, but, now, because of your new girlfriend, what little was left of your time has been tied up in her.  Now Jesus is just a “Sunday morning thing”, and maybe “once during the week” when you’re not “too busy”.

If these things are the “weights that hinder”, then “time” composes the “straps” by which they are fastened to our life, and two ideas form their “buckles”: they are “I will do it tomorrow” and “obedience is optional”.  With these two thoughts and the sheer amount of time we dedicate to these weights, our “race” to God gradually slows to a walk, then to a crawl, and finally grinds to a halt.

Time prevents me to address the parents who neglect their call to raise Godly offspring because of their “obligations” to work, or men and women who put off the Lord because of their hobbies.  But, just like the man who asked to follow Christ after he buried his father, we must understand the cost of following Jesus and gladly pay it, for the warning here is clear: the Day is coming upon us unexpectedly.

SINS THAT ENTANGLE

The entanglements of sin are Satan’s more overt, but, nonetheless, tempting attack on our soul.

When Jesus said,

“So be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that day will come on you suddenly”  ~Luke 21:34 WEB

He warned of sins like carousing (partying) and drunkenness that burden our hearts so that the Day of the Lord’s return will overtake us unexpectedly!

Many times our hindrances and entanglements are so closely intertwined that they almost cannot be differentiated: a young man’s hindrance may be his girlfriend- and it originally just started out as spending all his free time with her or thinking about her- but, it eventually becomes a sexually immoral relationship and he becomes entangled in sexual sin by which his heart is weighed down with guilt and his conscience burdened (until, one day after quenching his conscience long enough, his conscience dies).

But the sins that entangle us are the lies we tell, the lusts we entertain in our heart, and the pride we enthrone in our mind- they are all the works of the flesh by which we become children of rebellion rather than children of obedience.

LAY IT ASIDE & WATCH AND PRAY

Yet we are told that Jesus came to “set the captives free”.  You are not doomed to the hindrances and entanglements that have fastened them to your life.

Therefore in Christ there is liberty from these things!

Watch carefully how you walk, not as unwise, but as wise; redeeming the time, because the days are evil. ~Ephesians 5:15-16

“But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly.  For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth.  Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.” ~Luke 21:34-36

Part of the reason these things strap themselves so tightly to our lives is because we are not watching and taking heed to ourselves (in other words, examining ourselves).  Many times we make all the decisions in our own lives according to what seems best to us without first asking God and trying to understand His will.

There is a prayerlessness in our lives that enables the enemy to have great victories over us that he could otherwise never have if we would just pray. 

Likewise,

Grace to you and peace be multiplied in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, seeing that his divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and virtue; by which he has granted to us his precious and exceedingly great promises; that through these you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world by lust. Yes, and for this very cause adding on your part all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence; and in moral excellence, knowledge; and in knowledge, self-control; and in self-control patience; and in patience godliness; and in godliness brotherly affection; and in brotherly affection, love. For if these things are yours and abound, they make you to be not idle nor unfruitful to the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. ~2 Peter 1:2-8 (cf Galatians 5:22)

Grace and peace are multiplied to us in the knowledge of God and Jesus according to His divine nature which has given to us everything that pertains to life and godliness through His precious and great promises so that through these things we can escape the corruption of lust that is in the world.  The problem is that many of us have been seeking victory over these things through the strengths of our own powers, ability, and knowledge.  We’re looking to “12 step programs” rather than to the divine power of God.  We’re looking to the self-discipline of the flesh rather than the self-discipline that is a fruit of the Holy Spirit.

I encourage you to read 2 Peter 1:2-8 several times, paying attention to all the divine nature that God has called us to partake of, and seek these things in the knowledge of God and Christ with great prayer.

SUMMARY

Let me encourage you as my brothers and sisters to count the cost of following Christ and cast off all those things that hinder and entangle you.  Paul wrote “with food and clothing you should be content” (1 Timothy 6:8).  But some of us have yet to count the cost of following Christ, therefore, we cannot give up our jobs because we have not yet contented ourselves with the things that Jesus was contented with.

You cannot live with the hindrances and entanglements that weigh you down.  We are called to lay these things aside and cut them off.  They have no part of God, and those who have any part of Him will not try to figure out how to live with them.  The deadliest mistake we can make is to try and figure out how we can “live with” these things in our lives rather than looking to cast them off.

Therefore I pray for you, my brethren, and ask you to pray for me and my family, that “you lay off every weight that hinders you and the entanglements of sin so that you may press on towards the upward call of God in Christ Jesus and be filled with the love and glory of Christ, being formed as a holy tabernacle of God!  May you be filled with all the grace and peace of Christ, I pray, in the name of Jesus Christ His Son, amen!”

Restricted By Affections

Heavenly Father, I pray that you would open our ears with understanding to hear your word, and by your word, break our bonds that restrict us from coming near to you.  I ask for your grace, that I may concisely preach a message anointed for life and reconciliation!  In Jesus name I pray, amen! 

What is it that seems to hold us back from God?  Why does He sometimes seem so far off from us?

The answer is very plain and simple.  It is not flashy, exciting, or extravagant; the flesh will find no room to boast in the simplicity of this answer, but, it is an answer that even the simplest of people can comprehend.

Jesus said:

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” ~Matthew 6:21

For many people, God is so far off from them because their hearts are so far off from Him!

Don’t love the world or the things that are in the world. If anyone loves the world, the Father’s love isn’t in him.  For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, isn’t the Father’s, but is the world’s.  The world is passing away with its lusts, but he who does God’s will remains forever. ~1 John 2:15-17

Our distance from God is directly related to where our heart dwells: things like the lust of the flesh (comforts and physical pleasure), the lusts of the eyes (covetousness, envy, sexual lust, and the like), and the pride of life (success, power, boasting, the praise of men), reside in the kingdom of darkness, and, therefore, are very far from God.  If our heart dwells in these things, we will remain excluded from God.

Jesus said “be careful, or your hearts will be loaded down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that day will come on you suddenly” (Luke 21:34).  The things of this world, which tend to bewitch our passions and affections, become like a millstone which weighs us down and cause us to drown in this world.

Therefore, Paul wrote the following:

You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted by your own affections.  Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers.  For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness?  And what communion has light with darkness?  And what accord has Christ with Belial?  Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever?  And what agreement has the temple of God with idols?  For you are the temple of the living God.  As God has said: ‘I will dwell in them and walk among them.  I will be their God, and they shall be My people.‘ Therefore, ‘Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord.  Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord almighty.‘  Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.’ ~2nd Corinthians 6:12- 7:1

Paul is not exclusively addressing marriage here.  He is speaking from the point of marriage to the larger matter of holiness and the call of God to “come out from among them and be holy“., and he warned the Corinthians that the things which are restricting them are their affections for the things of this world- specifically Paul addresses marriage to those who do not have the love of Christ in them, but, certainly expands that perspective to include a greater realm by saying “all filthiness of the flesh and spirit”.

Brethren, we wander in the darkness of this age because our hearts are still set on the things of this world.  If we have not counted the cost of following Christ- truly counted the cost and considered it as rubbish when compared with knowing Christ (not knowing about Christ, but knowing Him)- and we have not taken up our daily cross to follow Christ, then we cannot be free from this world or from its desires.

The answer, therefore, is nothing flashy.  There’s no grand theological invention here for anyone to take pride in, thinking their intellectual ascension is so great, but there is the power of the cross to convey those who will hear with open ears out of the grips of the kingdom of darkness and into the Kingdom of God’s beloved Son.

Humble yourself before God, brethren, and deny yourself; I pray for you, whoever you are, that as you do this God would cause His grace and joy to fill your heart to the brim, even overflowing.

May His grace, peace, and mercy be with you, brethren, amen!

God Doesn’t Cover Sin, He Cleanses It

One time I heard a preacher who characterized God’s grace and forgiveness as windshield wipers, where sin was like rain, and the wipers represented God’s grace and forgiveness.  Your sin just pours down and He keeps wiping it away.

In China I heard a preacher characterize it as a beautiful garment or covering that God puts over us by which He no longer sees sin.

These views present Jesus as the enabler of our sin, rather than conquerer, and completely eliminates the blessed new creation by which those who “hunger and thirst for righteousness” are filled.

But these teachers are forewarned of in the scripture:

For there are certain men who crept in secretly, even those who were long ago written about for this condemnation: ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into an excuse for sin, and deny our only Master (see Titus 1:16), God, and Lord, Jesus Christ.~Jude 1:4

This counterfeit grace appeals to our flesh to seduce us by silencing  the call of the cross of Christ.  But this counterfeit grace has no power and cannot deliver you from sin and death!

Brethren, God’s grace and forgiveness is not a covering for sin:

He who conceals his sins doesn’t prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy. ~Proverbs 28:13

There is carnal comfort in the covering of darkness; the flesh loves to cover its shame in order to search out a means of boasting, but, whoever follows this way of deception and conceals his sin will not find relief, nor shall he or she live, but sudden death will come upon them in the hour of their appointed Visitation.

But the good news of Jesus Christ is that whoever confesses, that is, exposes their sin in the light, and renounces their sin, that is, to reject and abandon their sin, will find mercy!

Here we’re told the good news:

This is the message which we have heard from him and announce to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.  If we say that we have fellowship with him and walk in the darkness, we lie, and don’t tell the truth.  But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.  If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us the sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  If we say that we haven’t sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. ~1 John 1:5-10

The greatest perversion of God’s good news message is that we who walk in fellowship with our Father in heaven can walk in sin and the God of light (which exposes the deeds that are concealed in darkness) will not find out!

Did Jesus not see the works of the Church in Sardis, whom He said “I know your works, that you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead” (Revelation 3:1)?  He saw all their works, both those who did good, and those who did wrong.

It is an offensive gospel to the righteous that teaches people to think that the God of Light is blind and conceals in darkness the deeds of Satan!

Observe Yahweh’s word,

Behold, you trust in lying words, that can’t profit!   Will you steal, murder, and commit adultery, and swear falsely, and burn incense to Baal, and walk after other gods that you have not known, and come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, ‘We are delivered;’ that you may do all these abominations?  Has this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes?  Behold, I, even I, have seen it,” says Yahweh.” ~Jeremiah 7:8-11

Weep with me, you men of righteousness!  Wail with me, you women of a gentle and quiet spirit!  For the people are bewitched to believe a lie that will not deliver them!  They have favored the vanity of lying words that cannot save to the salvation of the truth and grace in God’s message of good news!

How long will we believe the lie and insist that we can continue in sin, seek friendship with the world, and love the idols of our age and not come under the judgment of God?

“For the eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers; but the face of the LORD is against those who do evil” ~1 Peter 3:12

Therefore, whoever will carry their cross humbly before God, being at peace with Him through the blood of Jesus Christ, will find abundant mercy and the divine power of the resurrection in the Holy Spirit by which they may draw near to God in fellowship and everlasting life!  Whoever walks in fellowship the light can trust securely in the blood of Jesus to cleanse them from all their sin and bring astonishing mercy by which they may overcome all temptation.

Brethren, seek God in truth, seek God humbly, and do not depart from the living words of God!

May the grace, mercy, and peace of Jesus Christ abide in you all, amen!

A ministry of faith