What’s The Difference

A Question That Exposes Your Relationship With Christ

A vehicle owner who is inexperience dealing with vehicle tires can be talked into paying top price for tires, not realizing they have purchased a low grade tire.  Many vehicle owners think, “Hey, a tire is a tire, right?”  They purchase tires expecting to get high mileage and top performance. It is not long the ever changing condition of driving breaks down the tire treads, thus the vehicle owner finds him or herself back in the tire shop purchasing new tires or worse yet unexpectedly setting along the road with a flat tire.  In their frustration, they cannot understand, it was ignorance about tires that put them were they are now. You see in purchasing tires – there are different treads, and stronger tire plies, such as four ply, six ply or eight ply and even ten ply tires.  Asking a tire specialist is always the high road to take before you purchase tires. 

Many believers in God find themselves walking in and out of church shops, if you will, frustrated, because they are inexperienced in the things of God. To them, “Hey, a church is a church, right?  Religion is religion, right?” They simply lack what it takes to determine the difference between believing from a world’s view and true belief in the things of the Lord.     

I would propose to you there are ten clear differences from someone who claims to be a believer in God and someone who is a Christian. Someone can claim to believe in something, yet never live in a way that indicates they believe what they say they believe in.  I spent thirty-two plus years in the farrier trade, the horse shoeing business. I can tell you there are people who claim to love horses, but the do very little to learn about, take care of or make plans to be involved in true horsemanship.  You and I can claim we want to do such and such, but when we do very little to learn about, nurture or participate in what we said we would like to do. The results are not living on the high road God wants us to travel on. 

Just what are ten clear differences between someone who says they are a believer and someone who expresses true saving faith in Jesus Christ as their personal Savior and Lord?   James, the half-brother of Jesus writes, “Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show my faith by what I do. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even demons believe that – and shudder. You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?” (James 2:18-20)   The answers to James’ challenge begins with:

Worldly Believing vs. True Belief

There is a difference between someone who says they believe and someone who follows Jesus commands.  Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will obey my commands.” (John 14:15)  He also said, “If you keep My commands, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” There are two key words we must grasp here. 1.) True belief and 2.) Abide.

Believe (πιστεύω pisteúō): Meaning to have faith in, causing you to seek the Lord, have hope in – along with an expectation that God is able and will do as He says He will. (Zodhiates, S. (2000). The complete word study dictionary: New Testament (electronic ed.). Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers.)

Abide (μένω ménō): Meaning to remain, dwell in or live in the life Christ lived before God, His father.  Means you are in the same heart, mind and will as Jesus Christ. (Zodhiates, S. (2000). The complete word study dictionary: New Testament (electronic ed.). Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers.)

Dictionary.com teaches us to believe is to have such a “confidence in something or someone it causes us to act purposely” Dictionary.com gives another definition: “to suppose or assume or understand.”   The practical application is: Christians seek the Lord’s direction, they trust in His sustaining empowerment and they long to enjoy God’s pleasure as they abide in His will for them.  Times Square Church felt led of the Lord to purchase a house for women who came out of the life style of prostitution. They wanted to not just tell women it was a sin, but make a practical way for them to come out, be provide for and have a hope for their future. Time Square Church sought the Lord for a way to provide a safe house for these woman and their children along with getting an education for them as well.  There are people who understand there is a God, they assume that He is in some kind of control and suppose that someone will do something. However, they do not participate in God’s work nor walk in His will for them.

Life application: Are you a believer with a worldly view point or an obedient Christian like Jesus was to His Father?

Church Attendance vs. Christ-like Participation

Another difference from a believer and a Christian is church attendance verses Christ-like participation. The Bible says, “Now about the gifts of the Spirit, I do not want you to be uniformed. …Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” (1 Corinthians 12)  Believers in God may very well be in church services every Sunday. Obedient Christians will seek to know their Holy Spirit gifts, they will exercise those gifts through sacrificial love for the good of all they may come in contact with for the glory of God and Jesus Christ His Son. The preachers and teachers of Jesus day were perfect at church attendance. They were so reliable in church attendance, they missed the most important Christian service ever, the death of the Savior of the world on Mt. Calvary.

Life Application: Is our church attendance like that of the religious dead of Jesus’ time or are we exercising Holy Spirit gifts like, encouragement, giving, leading music, teaching God’s Word. The Bible teaches there are at least twenty-one gifts we are to be exercising. The Lord knows our hearts.

Your Response To God’s Word

Another difference from a believer with a worldly influence and a Christian is their heart attitude toward the written or spoken Word of God.  When I became a Christian – I had my mother-in-law get me a Bible to read, Bonnie (my wife who passed away) put book markers on the pages so I could find the books of the Bible.  I thought – I could look up the passages of Scripture the preacher was teaching on and read it during the church service. In my worldly view, I thought that was the way it is done right?

On October 19, 1987 I receive a hunger and thirst for God’s Word. I had never read anything from the Bible, nor heard any real teaching from it until after I became a Christian.  Christians at the very least will have this heart attitude, the Bible is God’s Word and they will have some sort of a reverent respect for the written Word.

This is why: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He [Jesus] was with God in the beginning.” (John 1:1-2)  “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.  We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)   The “Word” (λόγος logos) meaning Divine revelation and declaration. Jesus encompassed all who God is and is the revelation of how we are live for God. The Apostle Paul wrote to Titus and to us as well, “He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that [we] can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.” (Titus 1:9)

Practical Application: The Word of God does not need some illustration or some kind of flamboyant story. The living Word stands on it own, Christians who grasp the life of Christ has the same heart of Psalmist who wrote these powerful truths, “Blessed are those who walk according to the law of the Lord. Blessed are those who keep His statues and seek Him with all their heart.” (Psalm 119:1-2) How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your Word. I will seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your Word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Praise be to You, Lord; teach me your decrees. With my lips I recount all the laws that come from your mouth. I rejoice in following your statues as one rejoices in great riches. I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your Word” (Psalm 119: 9-16)    

Approach To Prayer 

Another difference between a believer with worldly influence and a Christian is their attitude in approaching God in prayer. The Bible records the life of a man named Cornelius, he was a “devout man who… prayed continually to God.” (Acts 10:2)  Christians are called to “pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17)    “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of this world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God and we take captive very thought to make it obedient to Christ.” ( 2 Corinthians 10:4-5)  Corrie Ten Boom asked, “Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tire?” The most disciplined people are Christians who stay focused on surrendered prayer. They pray like Christ did, “Not my will but yours be done.” People who believe in God give Him His marching orders, Christians seek the Lord in prayer for their marching orders. Nothing wrong with taking God at His word, let us not use His Word to try to manipulate Him.

The Handling of God’s Word

Another difference between a believer and a Christian is there handling and response to the written Word. Simon Peter warns us to watch out for those who distort Scripture to their own destruction. (2 Peter 3:16)  Christians want to know what God’s Word says as it is written within the context it was written in.  Peter says people who will twist the Scriptures are ignorant and unstable – meaning they lack Holy Spirit enlightenment and illumination.  They may have teaching from the best Bible schools in the world, they just rely upon their own ability to study. This is why there are false teaching in the world today.  It is hard to believe that there are denominations who are embracing people in ministry who embrace lifestyles that break the heart of God.  The Bible warns us, there will be people who will surround themselves with teachers who will tell them what their itching ears want to hear. (2 Timothy 4:3) Peter tells us, “…There were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They secretly introduce destructive heresies… There is a popular TV series that uses Scripture to promote the lifestyle of having more than one wife.  Christians claim the teachings of Jesus, “’Haven’t you read,’ he replied, ‘that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”  (Matthew 19:4)  

Willingness to Suffer for Christ

Another difference between a believer and a Christian is their willingness to suffer for the cause of Christ. The Bible says, “…Those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.” (1 Peter 4:19) “Rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the suffering of Christ, so you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of God rest on you.” (1 Peter 4: 13-14)

In an article written by Megan Briggs, titled, Canadian Clergy to Franklin Graham: we read, “The Billy Graham Evangelical Association’s (BGEA) Festival of Hope…  in Vancouver, Canada. On the docket is a gospel message to be given by Franklin Graham. Last week, clergy representing 60 percent of the 1 million Christians in the progressive city asked Graham not to come to his own event. On Friday, February 24, 2017, the leaders issued a public letter expressing their concerns over Graham headlining the event. The reason: Evangelical, Catholic and mainline Protestant leaders were already compiling their concerns when the mayor of Vancouver, Gregor Robertson, approached them in February to discuss the security threat Graham represented. According to the letter released by the clergy, Robertson and the Vancouver Police Department perceived Graham’s appearance as potentially inciting violence.  In their letter, the clergy articulate the thrust of their concern over Graham’s appearance at the Festival in this way: ‘Our concern is that the contentious and confrontational political and social rhetoric that Mr. Graham has used has the potential to overshadow the message of Jesus and incite hostility in our highly charged social climate.’ And, more pointedly: ‘Regrettably, Franklin Graham’s public comments appear to compromise Jesus’ mission of love and justice for all.”’

Life Application: If we think that this is only a problem in Canada, we need to get on face-book and share God’s view on the issues Americans face today.  I am afraid we will see our friends list drop – we will find ourselves blocked by many.

Ownership vs. Biblical Stewardship

Another difference between believers with an worldly influence and Christians is their view on the things they own. Whenever you hear of someone saying “my this” or “my that” you hear the reflection of someone who has no clue about God’s ownership of everything. The worldly view that we own it is proven wrong at the moment people physically die. If it was theirs they would have taken it with them, not leaving it here for someone else to have stewardship over it for a season of their lives.  In Acts 17:24 we read that “God made the world and everything in it.”  The Psalm of David says, “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.” Christian stewardship entails the responsibility of investing whatever time, talents and possessions God has given them for the purpose for His glory, governed by the fact they will give a full accounting.  (AMG Bible Illustrations. (2000). Chattanooga: AMG Publishers)  Christians know that their finance are gift from Him, on which there will be an accounting. Christians know that every living creature they have charge over belongs to the Lord, of which there will be an accounting.  They know their Spiritual gifts, talents, skills and open door of opportunities are given by His hands, of which they will give an accounting. For example your pets or livestock. Ownership gives you the idea that it is yours, what you do with them is your business, the consequences of your actions will have no effect on you. However, when you approach the tending of God’s creatures and livestock as belonging to Him, you know there will be a day He will demand an accounting and there will be eternal consequences, curses or blessing will be handed out governed by His control.  A Biblical view puts a different perspective on things.

Life Application: There will be a day of judgment. The Bibles says, “just as it is appointed to man to die once and after that comes judgment.” (Hebrews 9:27) Do you approach everything you have as being given to you by God? Thus there will be a day of accounting, even the very words you speak, there will be the day of accountability and judgment.

Faithfulness Under the Pressure of Culture

Another difference between a believer and a Christian is their faithfulness to God under the conflict of the pressure of culture.  The Bible teaches about three faithful men of God, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They were men who would not serve the gods of Nebuchadnezzar nor would they bow and worship his image. When they were called to give an account, their response is worth taking to heart, “…we have no need to answer you in this matter. Our God is able to deliver us out of your burning fiery furnace and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king.” (Daniel 3: 17)  Which God did – and God did it in such a way that King Nebuchadnezzar saw His deliverance.  Listen to the king’s words, “Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who sent His angel and rescued His servants. They trusted in Him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God.”  (Daniel 3: 28)  Remember Daniel, he refused the government decree of not praying to His God, he went and prayed openly for all to see. Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den and God rescued him from the mouths of the lions. (Daniel 6)   Remember Steven, the New Testament deacon who defied the culture of His day and publicly preached Christ, of which he stoned to death for.  The Bible says, “Steven was full of the Holy Spirit, he looked to heaven and saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God.”

Life Application: Sadly there are modern day ministries who have fallen to the pressure of the culture around them.  They have chosen to not to speak against certain sins so they can continue to do ministry in certain countries.  Do we have the courage of Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, Daniel and Steven? Will we be seen as a ministry that calls sin, sin and proclaim God’s righteousness as the way we should live by?

The Way You Bear Witness for Christ

Another deference between a believer and a Christian is the way they bear witness of their faith in Christ. Listen carefully to the Great Commission, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, – Please take note of this last part of the commission, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28: 18-20)  Many will speak of their church building, the times of their church services and even the pastor of their church.  It is those who speak about the Christ who died for them, the Christ who can deliver sinners from bondage and equip the saints for sacrificial service, they are the ones who are enabled to see their calling for the Lord through to a healthy completion.

Saul, before he became the Apostle Paul, was very committed to the Jewish religion.  Saul under the authority of the Sanhedrin persecuted the church of Christ. Once he repented, received Christ and his commission, his focus was not on planting a religious church governed by dead religion, but the church for Jesus Christ filled with people exercising Holy Spirit gifts.  His focus was on teaching the truths that Jesus taught, a life walking in step with the Holy Spirit of Christ and a church of which Jesus is changing people for His Fathers glory.  A young man sold out for the work God was asked, “Do you love people?”  His answer, “I love people so much, I do not want to stay the same, but changed for the Lord’s glory.” Our call is not church membership, but disciples of Christ. A disciple of Christ is a person in whom Christ indwells through the Holy Spirit of Christ.

Knowing About vs. Knowing Christ

Lastly, there is a difference between knowing about Jesus and knowing Jesus. The Apostle Paul’s prayer, “I keep asking that the God of our Lord, Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation.” (Ephesians 1: 17)   “I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:16-19)

To know (ginṓskō) the Son, means to strive to live the life Christ lived before God, His Father. Zodhiates, S. (2000). The complete word study dictionary: New Testament (electronic ed.). Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers.  In 1 John we read, “We know that we have come to know Him if we obey His commands. Whoever says, ‘I know Him,’ but does not do what He commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys His Word, love for God is truly made complete in them. …Whoever claims to live in Him must live as Jesus did” (1 John 2:3-6)

Over the many years of working as a master farrier in the Arabian Horse business, I shod horses for Wayne Newton, Meadow Lark Lemon and Kenny Rogers.  I knew of them, but I did not know them.  I watched a great supper bowl game this year, I know about the quarter-backs, but I did not know them. My wife knows me! She knows when something is not right, when I am upset, depressed, or when I am happy, confident and Biblically Holy Spirit driven.  When I am upset, she patiently pries until she gets it out of me. When  I am hurting, she does whatever it takes to comfort me.  When the Lord is leading me she can just sense it, because she knows me, she asked “I can I do to help?” Pennie knows what upsets me and how I am going to respond in certain situations. I give her full permission to correct me.

Life Application: Do you know when Christ is upset with you? Do you know beyond a shadow of a doubt if is He is going to bless or chastise you for what you have done? Do you make it a point to be aware the presence of His Holy Spirit, surrendering to His will for you?  Have you given Him permission to correct you?  Are you hungry for the Lord’s presence, guidance, and enablement?

In closing: People who are inexperience in the things of the Lord may think, “Hey, religion is religion, right?” The Bible says we should examine [ourselves] to see whether [we] are in the faith, test [ourselves]. Do we live like Jesus Christ is in [us]? Unless indeed [we] fail to meet the test.” (2 Corinthians 13:5)     To be able to say that we past the test enables us to walk in faith that God will never leave us nor forsake us. He will be with us always and we need not continue to listen to the lies of the devil, whose desire is to destroy our faith in Christ. Testing our spiritual hearts with the truths found in this message enables us to drive on the high road God wants us on, riding on good quality tires, spiritual truths to live by in this world’s traffic system.

Unashamedly Living for Christ

Then He called the crowd to Him along with His disciples and said: ‘If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? If anyone is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His Father’s glory with the holy angels.’”  (Mark 8:34-38)

There is a tale of the great English actor Macready.   Macready was once asked by a preacher; “What is the difference between the two of them.”  The actor appeared before crowds night after night proclaiming fiction and people listened with delight.  The preacher spoke of the essential and of the unchanged truths of God yet, most people listened with no passion upon their hearts. Macready’s answer was.  “I present fiction as though it was true you present truth as though it were fiction.” That, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ is the answer to what needs to be seen in the Body of Christ.  Preachers need to return to fasting, prayer and keeping their offices as a place of study.  The children of God need to walk into church expecting to hear a message that is birthed from the Word of God while praying for illumination from the Holy Spirit.  Jesus’ view on passionate Christianity is clearly spelled out in the gospel of Mark.

Listen as I read Mark 8:34-38,Then He called the crowd to Him along with His disciples and said: ‘If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? If anyone is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His Father’s glory with the holy angels.’” 

I would propose to you that Jesus Christ desires for His disciples to live unashamedly for Him. How can a Christian’s life express the same compassion that Jesus has for the Body of Christ?

What Jesus taught then is still for all who are reads this  message today

In order to live passionately for Christ, Christians must grasp the truth of Jesus’ message.  It begins with understanding that what Jesus taught then is still for all who are within earshot of this message today.

Live unashamedly as His disciple 

A very key issue in expressing a passionate life for Christ is to live unashamedly as His disciple.  Jesus said, “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.”  (Luke 9:23)  Jesus knew how the separate the men from the boys.  The crowds had been following Him because of the miracles.  There would be those in the crowd, just like in church circles today, people who like religion, who love the works of God manifested in some way, but are unwilling to pay the cost of true discipleship.  (The Bible Exposition Commentary)   Discipleship is a daily discipline and true Christianity is a life that walks under the guidance of the Holy Spirit of Christ throughout the day.

Passionate Christian living is saying no to ourselves, not just simply to pleasure or possessions, but saying no to self-will.  Christians know that this is not a negative, such as denying oneself something, but, rather it is a positive action.  It is saying yes to the Lordship of Christ. The heart of Christ’s teaching is found in the word “deny,” (aparneomai) meaning to disown, disregard, forsake, renounce or reject.  Its practical application is to subdue the flesh and bring it under submission to a higher authority.  The Greek word for “deny” means that the person enters a new state or condition.  (Corinthians 5:17)  The apostle Paul wrote:  “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.” (Galatians 5:24)

Passionate Christian living enables the child of God to reject self-interest and self-fulfillment and diligently seek out how to fulfill the will of God in his life by becoming a disciple of Christ.  The closest contemporary word to “disciple” is probably “apprentice.”  A disciple is more than a student who learns lessons by means of lectures and books.  He is one who learns by living and working with his teacher in daily hands-on experiences. Jesus sets the style of true Christianity by the way of taking up one’s own cross daily and He commands Christians to live as He did.  Passionate Christianity trusts God in every situation of life.

The heart factor to passionate living for the Lord is found in many places in the Word of God.  One great instance is found in Daniel Chapter 1.  Verse 8 tells us this about a man who grasped his purpose for living, But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way.”  (Daniel 1:8) Daniel is a man of God who stayed devoted to his calling and faithful to God’s will for him in the midst of a sin-centered world no matter what cross was laid upon him.  He was a spiritual leader whose way of life and faith is to be considered and imitated. (Hebrews 13:7)

Daniel was taken in captivity to Babylon when King Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem. (Daniel 1:1: Who’s Who in the Bible)  He was chosen with three others (Daniel 1:6) to be trained in the language and literature of the Babylonians so they could become administrators for the Babylonian Empire.  While being a part of the Royal Academy, Daniel and His fellow servants of the Lord were given the opportunity to enjoy a daily amount of food and wine from the kings table. Daniel and his friends could have easily have justified their circumstances as being a blessing.  They could have said “We will obey what the king wants and just be loyal to God on the inside.” This is not the case with a man of God who has Biblical integrity.

I love the way the King James Bible puts it, But Daniel purposed in his heart…”   The Babylonians could change Daniel’s home, textbooks, menu, but they could not change his heart.  He and his friends purposed in their hearts that they would obey God’s Word they refused to become conformed to the world around them.

Daniel, Shadrack, Meshack, and Abendnego had their first real test of faithfulness to God here.  Daniel knew what was right and the other three captives resolved to do what was right also.  To eat meat and to drink wine from the king’s table would have caused them to become involved in indirect worship to the Babylonian deities. It was the custom of the Babylonians to throw a small part of the meat and wine upon the earth, as an initiatory offering to the gods, so as to consecrate to the gods the whole entertainment of the feast.  To have partaken of such a feast would have been to sanction idolatry and the worship of the Babylonian gods. There was only one true God and these four men proved their faithfulness of not bowing to other gods.  Later on in the Book of Daniel we read of his faithfulness in praying to God even when it came against the decree of king Darius to do so.  Because of his faithfulness in prayer he saw the Lord deliver him from the mouths of the lions.  (Daniel 6:1-22)  Shadrach, Meshack, and Abendigo were delivered by God out of the fiery furnace they were thrown into because they refused to bow down to the image made by Nebuchadnezzar.  These four men lived a passionate life before God and they carried their cross daily, choosing to obey the Lord rather than man.

Note, while the Lord’s children are living in this sin cursed world with all it’s false man made gods, they are to take special care to be living a life that is after the heart of God.  They are called to be a holy priesthood and not participate in the sins of the flesh, and the world.  Even when facing an attack on their faith, they are to express a life that is passionately pleasing to the Lord.  Christians are to be a peculiar people acting upon the spiritual light they have and the Lord will protect them.  Those who desire to excel in God’s wisdom and a holy life say in their heart as did King David, Let not my heart be drawn to what is evil, to take part in wicked deeds with men who are evildoers; let me not eat of their delicacies.” (Psalm 141:4)

The Lord has always done extraordinary things with people who are sold out to Him and His work.  The joy of seeing God use such people came after they had allowed the Lord to show His faithfulness in their act of denying themselves for the Lord.  One such man was George Mueller and when asked “What was his secret” he said, “There was a day when I died, utterly died – died to George Muller, his opinions, preferences, tastes, and will—died to the world, its approval or censure—died to the approval or blame even of my brethren and friends—and since then I have studied only to show myself approved unto God.”

The child of God who finds his value in what is done for Christ and Christ alone knows the joy of passionately living for the Lord.  (This portion of the message came about as I studied material from, Daily Study Bible Series; The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge; Word Pictures of the New Testament; Wiersbe’s Expository Outlines on the New Testament; New American Commentary; Matthew Henry Commentary; British Weekly;  Encyclopedia of 7,700 illustration; The Readers Companion; A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory Commentary; The Teacher’s Commentary; Tyndale Concise Bible Commentary: Barnes Notes and The Expository Bible Commentary and the Bible)

Unashamedly living for Christ and His cause

Passionate Christianity is expressed through denying self, taking up our cross daily and unashamedly living for Christ and His cause.  Jesus is very direct in pointing out an eternal fact, For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me and for the gospel will save it. (Mark 8:35) The foundational truth worth grasping is found in the words, loses his life for Me…”  It is better translated in the New American Standard Bible as, “…for My sake…”   The phrase, “The only thing that will count for eternal life is what is done for Christ” is a powerful truth to grasp.  Discipleship is a matter of profit and loss, a question of whether we will waste our lives or invest them for the sake of Christ and His work.  Personal devotion to Christ will lead to practical duties being done for the sake of Jesus.

To waste our lives is to use the spiritual gifts, talents, opportunities and possessions that He has given us on ourselves in order to gain ungodly wealth, power and fame.  Christians who invest their lives for the glory of Jesus and for the good of the kingdom of God sacrificially exercise their spiritual gifts and talents through sacrificial love.  They see all opportunities and possessions they have as coming from God.  They sacrifice pleasure, time and energy to develop and grow God given endowments for the good of others in hopes to bring attention to Christ and reaching the lost with the Gospel. Many have learned the joy of no longer working for themselves and have started using all they have for the Lord and for the sake of furthering the Gospel to family members, friends and co-workers.

I knew of a man who had a trade that he was very gifted at.  He loved his trade and spent all his time getting good at.  After reaching his goal he found that wasn’t satisfying, so he set his goal on making money and becoming famous.  Some money started coming in and his fame most certainly grew.  After a few years that did not satisfy.  Instead of repenting and turning to the Lord for forgiveness, he was surrendered over the lust of his sinful flesh. (Roman’s 1:21,24) After coming to His senses, he gave His life to the Lord and ever since he has done all his work, used his gifts and talents for the glory of Christ and for the good of others.

Youth Companion ran the true story of Abraham Bininger, a Swiss boy from Zurich, who came over with his parents on the same ship as John Wesley whose preaching Abraham was exposed to.  The father and mother of the lad died on the voyage and were buried at sea.  When Abraham grew to manhood he gave his entire life and heart to Jesus Christ. After hearing of the misery and the degradation of the negroes on the island St. Thomas, he wanted to go and take the gospel of Christ to them.  He sacrificed all he had to make it to St. Thomas and upon his arrival he learned that it was against the law for any person but a slave to preach to other slaves.  It was the policy of the planters to keep the blacks in ignorance and superstition. Abraham wrote a letter to the governor of St. Thomas begging urgently to become a slave for the rest of his life, promising to serve as a slave faithfully, providing he could give his leisure time to preaching the gospel of Christ to his fellow-slaves.  The governor was so touched by this man’s sacrifice of freedom for the sake of His Lord and for the Gospel he wrote an edict empowering Abraham Bininger to tell the story of Jesus Christ when and where ever he felt led of the Lord to do so, to black or white, bond or free man.”

(Much of the teaching found in this second division of the message came to my mind as I read these study books, The Bible Exposition Commentary; The Preacher’s Outline & Sermon Bible; Encyclopedia of 7,700 Illustrations and the Bible)

Unashamedly grasp His values

Those who give their entire life for the Lord and His gospel will be used of God and Christians are to unashamedly grasp His values.  Jesus points Christians to eternal values, What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?  (Mark 8:36-37) No man can gain the whole world.  But what if he could? All the pleasures and wealth and power and fame are nothing without it being obtained in the perfect will of God.

The Apostle Paul wrote the young pastor Timothy and gives a truth, But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.” (1 Timothy 6:6-7) Evangelist Billy Graham has done funerals for the rich and famous and through his years of ministry he has never seen a U-Hall trailer loaded with the possessions of those who have passed away being driven to the cemetery for a reason.  The physically dead are not taking their worldly wealth with them.

Jesus is not saying having wealth is wrong, for God has given many, Christians and no-Christians the gift to make and manage all kinds of wealth.   He is clearly teaching for mankind not to place his eternal value on how much they have or can obtain down here.  Passionate Christians keep their earthly possession in the proper place, for they know that death is the grave of earthly pleasures, but it is a gateway of heavenly joys.  They know to pass through this gate and not having a right relationship with Christ is to pay an eternal cost which cannot be purchased back even with the wealth of the entire world.

In His parable of the Rich Fool Jesus teaches us that, “…a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions .” (Luke 12:15b)  In this parable the rich fool found his security in the fact that he was blessed with a good crop.  “He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do?…  He said [I] have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” (Luke 12:19)  In the parable, “God said to him, ‘you fool!  This very night your very life will be demanded from you.  Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself.”  (Luke 12:20)  Jesus went on to say, “This is how it will be with anyone who stores up for himself but is not rich toward God.” (Thoughts coming to my mind and heart as I read these study books, The Preacher’s Outline & Sermon Bible; The Pulpit Commentary; Matthew Henry Commentary and the Bible)

Confesses unashamedly the Lordship of Christ

Lastly, passionate Christianity confesses unashamedly the Lordship of Christ. Jesus gives a powerful warning, “If anyone is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His Father’s glory with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:38)  Whosoever denies Christ Lordship over them, whether through pride, wickedness or fear here on this side will be rejected by Christ on the other side and this has an eternal cost.  On the other hand those who openly confess Him as Savior and Lord will have the privilege of having Jesus acknowledging them in heaven before God and all the angels.

Passionate Christianity speaks out as the apostle Paul did, I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes…”  (Romans 1:16) Paul was not ashamed of the gospel.  He knew God’s forgiveness and the power of it to save people from their sins.  This gospel message has power to free all who surrender to the Lordship of Christ from the bondage of sin.  Like this adulterous and sinful generation, Paul was carrying the same message Christians are to give today.

Like many in America who are without Christ, Rome was a proud city.  The Gospel came from Jerusalem, the capital city of one of the most insignificant nations in Paul’s time, according to Romans.  Christians in that day were not commonly known among the elite of society; they were common people and some even slaves. Any message handed down from Caesar would immediately get the attention of most in Rome.  Paul called his message, “The Gospel of God.” (Romans 1:1)  I have just recently read the testimony of one great Bible scholar who shared about a season in his life in high school when he held the position of office monitor.  He had the privilege of and was entrusted to take important messages to teachers and the school staff.  Often he had to walk in on the class and interrupt its lesson to give an important message.  No teacher ever scolded him, because they all knew his position and his message came from the principal’s office.  He was never afraid or ashamed because he knew by what authority it was given.

Passionate Christians are like the Apostle Paul, they are taking the only life giving message that can be proclaimed to a lost sin sick world that offers hope, forgiveness and empowerment to live victoriously over all that strives to keep mankind out of fellowship with the Lord.  They are not ashamed and they know that all authority has been given to Christ and He has called them to be involved in the Great Commission. (Matthew 28:18-20) (This portion of the message is birthed by studying these research material, The Preacher’s Outline & Sermon; Barnes Notes; The Pulpit Commentary; The Bible Exposition Commentary and the Bible)

Word of God holds truth and not fiction

Passionate Christianity lives in a way that causes all onlookers to see that the Word of God holds truth and not fiction.  This lifestyle knows the joy of dying to self and trusting in God’s ever-loving and protecting hand, regardless of what circumstance Christians may be facing. Passionate Christianity lives for the sake of Christ and causes Christians to fulfill their part in the Great Commission.  Passionate Christianity places the same value on their souls that Christ does and lastly passionate Christianity expresses a lifestyle that confesses Christ as Savior and Lord unashamedly.

A few years ago I had the privilege to meet Pastor Carter Conlon of Times Square Church in New York City.  His entire life expresses a passion for Christ.  His devotion to preparing the preaching of God’s Word comes from a close intimate relationship with Jesus, thus his preaching reflects his passion for Christ.  The way he lives his life, proclaims to others that God’s Word is truth.Before his encounter with the our living Lord he was a man who lived a life that was full of anger, loudness and bitterness that even his presence would at times cause his little girl to run to her room.  Then one day he experienced the power of the Holy Spirit of Christ coming into his life and heart and he was immediately changed. His little girl is now a young woman, who puts her trust in Christ because she has seen just how much the Lord changed her dad.  She had seen her dad continue to live passionately for the Lord even in the mist of having to carry a very difficult cross.   He is a man who has given up what he did so well so as to be obedient to God’s call on his life.  He has the same value on his soul as Christ does and He says no to the passions of the world to feed his soul the Word of God so he can fully enjoy the benefits of living passionately for Christ.  He is a man of God who has no problem with confessing to all in ear shot, that Jesus Christ is his Savior and Lord.

For the sake of application, are you a Christian that lives a life that says Word of God is truth and must be lived out or does your life present God’s Words as fiction before the eyes of those who see your life?  Do you trust in the Lord Jesus to empower you to carry your cross?  Have you surrendered your life over to God for the sake of Christ and how much are you involved in fulfilling the Great Commission?  Do you unashamedly express the Lordship of Christ in your life?

Let us pray!!!

Tested and Trained

Understanding God’s Purpose in Afflictions

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day–and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for His appearing.”  (2 Timothy 4:7-8)

Biblical look at God’s purposes in allowing afflictions

The Apostle Paul writes to the young pastor Timothy and there is a pleasure found in this passage of Scripture for all pastors as well as for those who are good soldiers of Christ.  Paul did not fear death and neither should good ministers of the Word of God, nor Christians, because they have a sure hope of being with Christ when they part from this world. There are three points for us to consider as we take a Biblical look at God’s purposes in allowing afflictions to come upon His chosen people. It is time of 1.) Testing so that Christians may be proved to be genuine believers in Christ.  2.) Training so His children will be able to achieve God’s will for them.  3.) Revealing His deliverance in the minds of mankind and before their eyes. I would propose to you that every one of us has the opportunity to speak in the same manner as the Apostle Paul who said, “…I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me–the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.”  (Acts 20:24)Just what will enable us to have the testimony that the Apostle Paul had toward the end of the ministry that was entrusted to him?

Proved genuine

Every child of God gift given of the Holy Spirit has the opportunity to be effective in the “Great Commission.”  The heartbeat of every overseer of a church is that the children of God will be proven genuine in their Christian faith.  Therefore, in this life there will be trials for the proof of a believer’s faith in God, Christ and in his ability to surrender to the enabling of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit moved the Apostle Peter to write, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade–kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith–of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire–may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (1 Peter 1:3-7)

Mankind places great worth on earthly things and considers the value of their lives by what they posses.  God’s Word tells us that genuine faith in Him is much greater than the things that mankind values.  The Lord knows what reveals genuine faith.  His stamp of approval will be on faith that has been tested by the refining fires of trials in this life. These various trials of life put the professing Christian’s religion to the test, thus revealing the nature of their real faith.  “All kinds of” (poikilos) trials means temptations (The Complete Word Study Dictionary) of all kinds including disobedience, deceptions and lust.  Christians will face various colors of trials (Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon; Dictionary of Bible Languages; New American Greek Dictionaries) including disease, demonic attack but not demonic possession.  They will face strange unbiblical doctrines, persecutions, and oppositions in service to the Lord.

“Proved genuine” (dokimiou) means “to test for the purpose of approving.”  (The Bible Knowledge Commentary; The Complete Word Study Dictionary)  Here it means the results of a test proofing that a child of God is genuine. Just as it is desirable to know whether that which appears to be gold is genuine, it should be desirable for those in the church to be tested to see if their faith is genuine.  To gold we apply intense heat so we may know whether it is what it appears to be.  So it is with Christianity.  Considering that our faith is far more important than gold, it is imperative that it be subjected to the right test. A Christian that wants to make a real mark for His Lord in this world wants the alloy (that which lowers or takes from perfection from someone) to be taken from his heart.  The Christian’s heart cry is not just “Lord use me,” but first “Make me usable.”  He is in agreement with the psalmist who wrote, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.”  (Psalm 139:23-24)

There is much in the world that appears to be valuable like gold yet it has no value.  There is much that appears to be Christian today, yet when tried through God’s testing, it has no real value. Genuine faith is not only the sign of a trusting child of God, but a source of praise, glory, and honor to God the Father, Jesus the Son and the wonderful sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. One of God’s greatest Apostles wrote,…we …rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.” (Romans 5:3-5)

In the Sunday School Times we read, “A skilled physician who was about to perform a delicate operation upon a man’s ear said reassuringly, ‘I may hurt you, but I will not injure you.’ How often the great Physician speaks to us the same message if we would only listen! He promises a richer life and a more abundant spiritual health if we will only surrender to His purposes in taking us through trials. Why defeat that purpose?” Let the Holy Spirit draw your attention to some of the great things that can happen in and through trials.  Paul’s sweetest epistles are from prison cells; John’s Revelation was written in exile; Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress came from the Bedford jail and Luther’s translation of the German Bible came as he was locked in Wartburg Castle. I am sure at times all these Christians felt like giving up, convincing themselves while in their most difficult trials God was finished with them and they had only the worst to face.  Yet in their trials they found the strength of God and when the test was over, they were proved to have genuine faith in Christ their Lord.  God is still bringing forth fruit from their labors today.

When man is faced with trials or temptations he draws closer to God.  Christians are more aware for the need to pray to the Lord.  Thus, God uses various methods in that cleansing process.  God uses adversity from outside and even from within the church to expose what is in a man’s heart.  King David was attacked from outsiders, from men within his own ranks and family members.  When these severe trails were over, King David was made into a better man of God by being purified and was proved genuine in his faith, unlike King Saul. For application’s sake today, “Do those who observe your life as you walk through the hot fires of trials see a genuine faith in God, Christ and enablement from the Holy Spirit?”

Discover God’s will

Once the child of God has been proved to have genuine faith, afflictions can enable him to discover God’s will.  Moses was such a man and his afflictions enabled Him to be a man of deliverance with God.  Hebrews 11:24-26 says, By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.  He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time.  He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.”   

Our text says “…when [Moses] had grown up…” meaning he had “become great.” Moses enjoyed all the benefits of living under royalty.  When Moses made his decision to be mistreated with God’s people it was not because he was a failure needing a change. Stephen tells us that Moses was forty years old (Acts 7:23) when he chose to identify himself with God’s suffering people and get away from a life surrendered to the “pleasures of sin.”  The “pleasures of sin” in this passage of Scripture does not only refer to lust and other gross sins, but describes a way of life that is consumed with what the world calls success.  This love for success breeds a hunger for position, prestige, power, wealth, and freedom from problems.  True faith leads to a life of separation from that which intrigues the lost who are bound by this world’s system.  Therefore the child of God can live a life dedicated to the work of the Lord and to what God has called him to do, even if that means being mistreated by those who may despise God’s people.

Christians who choose to forsake the pleasures of sin, that which rejects God’s ordained purpose for them, will find their place in God’s work.  They will accomplished exactly what He has ordained for them and they will find themselves successful in fulfilling their part of the “Great Commission.”

Moses occupied a unique place as God’s friend.  The Bible says,The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend.” (Exodus 33:11)  Moses, as the fountainhead of the prophets of God was the first to receive, write down, and teach the revelation of the Lord.  This revelation extended to all facets of life, including the laws of holiness, purity, rituals, family life, work and society. He identified with the Jewish slaves who were treated very badly and were looked at with contempt.  Slavery at the time Moses lived usually stripped an individual of legal and social status to the level of extreme poverty and was often a life style of forced labor. Moses preferred to suffer ill-usage with God’s people rather than have a short-lived life of sin and living apart from the Lord.

Wuest’s Word Studies tell us that Moses believed that God would fulfill His promises to His people.  Therefore, he valued the Lord’s work more than earthly treasures.  Like Abraham, Moses rejected earthly comforts and security in order to serve the living and true God and he did not want to continue to sin by denying his place among God’s people. Moses is a hero of the faith and his entire ministry with God was molded into character by opposition and affliction.  Christians who allow God to mold their character through opposition and affliction will overcome fear and temptation thus, living victorious Christian lives.

Moses’ parents’ lives are highlighted as overcoming fear and doing what is right by ignoring Pharaoh’s edict of having every Hebrew boy born thrown into the Nile. (Exodus 1:22)  They hid Moses for three months. (Exodus 2:2)    After they could not hide him any longer Moses’ mother made a water tight basket, she put Moses inside and placed it in the Nile River.  Moses was delivered out of the river and then placed back into his mother’s hands to be nursed until weaned under the financial support of Pharaoh’s daughter. (Exodus 2:6-7)  The affliction of Pharaoh’s edict brought Moses’ parents to that place of making a moral decision, to choose the world’s view or God’s way.   Their choice in this affliction upon their lives enabled them to enjoy and be trained for God’s service, that of raising Moses until weaned and teaching him all they could about the One True God.

When Moses had grown to manhood his rashness in taking matters into his own hands caused him to kill an Egyptian for beating a fellow Hebrew.  Because he was a slave and no longer had the authority of a prince Moses fell under the affliction of Pharaoh’s justice. (Exodus 2:15) Pharaoh’s desire to kill Moses to avenge the death of the Egyptian was most likely because of fear that Moses would be seen as the friend of the Hebrews and a possible champion to be followed.  When it became public about his killing an Egyptian who very likely was a man of authority, (Exodus 2:14) Moses had to flee for his life.  This caused Moses the afflictions of loneliness, humiliation and suffering that comes with having to leave family and the place where a man was raised.

In Moses’ distress the Lord finds a place of safety in Midian.  In Egypt God had provided what he needed to be well schooled in the ways of the Egyptians, a gentleman, a statesman, a soldier and a heart for the people of God which prepared him for the task God had for him. Yet, there was still something lacking.  He needed to learn communion with God, that ability to get revelation from the Lord that comes from being long in that place of servant hood and alone with God.  The Lord had brought Moses from prince, to slave, to shepherd so he could become God’s vessel of deliverance and a prophet.  All the afflictions that Moses suffered prepared his heart for devotion to God’s will. Those who are greatly used of God must be trained to deny themselves the pleasures and prestige that this world can offer so they can have fellowship with the Lord and be identified as being with God’s people.  They must be put in that place where they can be trained to hear the voice of God and have an ear and heart to respond to God’s call.  Often God uses afflictions to get Christians to the place in their spiritual hearts were they can be trained for real service unto Him.

For application’s sake, “Are you trainable in the afflictions that come with being seen as a Christian for the sake of Christ?  Are you allowing God to put you in those places where you can hear the voice of God and be made usable for His work?” There is no greater position than being tested and trained for the work of the Lord.  Athletes are tested for their abilities, disciplined lifestyle and heart for the game, so it is with the soldiers of Christ.

Show His deliverance

God allows affliction to prepare Christians for service unto Him and to show His deliverance in the minds of and before the eyes of mankind. Obedient Christians will praise God in the midst of their affliction and stay dedicated to Him regardless of the opposition.

Isaiah 48:10-11 says, See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.  For My own sake…  I will do this…”   This passage of Scripture is found in among other Scripture that promises deliverance to the people of God upon their repentance.  The key word the Holy Spirit wants you to grasp today is “refined” (sarap).  When it is applied to people, this word refers to the purifying effects of external trials that God often uses to purify His people from sin. Cleansing from sin and deliverance from the Lord will be to glorify His mercy among an unworthy people.  He will bring deliverance in a way that exalts Him in the minds of and before the eyes of mankind. The second word worth grasping is “tested” (bahar) or as the King James Bible puts it, “chosen.”  As it is used here it means “I have proved thee in the furnace of affliction.”

Consider the powerful example of the three Hebrew children, whom King Nebuchadnezzar threw into the fiery furnace. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were brought to the place of having to choose whom they were going to be faithful to.  Like Moses, they were about to face affliction in order to be faithful to God Most High, or do public worship to the image set up by Nebuchadnezzar. When confronted by the king they said, “…O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter.  If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and He will rescue us from your hand, O king.  But even if He does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”  (Daniel 3:16-18)

These three obedient men of God had seen the Lord defend His honor before.  When King Nebuchadnezzar was confronting the Hebrews he made a statement that put the battle into God’s hands with regard to defending His ability to bring deliverance.  This king of Babylon made a huge mistake when he said, “…Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?”  (Daniel 3:15)

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego spoke words that reflect a relationship that had been established through the afflictions that had come into their lives for the sake of God.  These same words will be found in mouths of Christians who are willing to suffer disgrace and affliction for the sake of Christ.  Many Christians have experienced the Holy Spirit enabling them to say, “Our God is able, but even if does not save us, we want you to know, O world, we will not serve your gods.”  These Christians find themselves being listed in the long list of heroes of the faith.

For those who may not know the rest of the story, the three Hebrews were thrown into the fire and Nebuchadnezzar was left looking at a sheer miracle.  The God greater than him and his gods was in the fiery furnace with those three men who chose to be identified with the One True God of heaven and earth.  In the midst of their affliction, God was with those who were faithful, just as He is always with His children who worship Him in spirit and truth.

God’s proof that He was able and faithful to deliver His obedient children brought forth an acknowledgement of truth for all to hear, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God.” (Daniel 3:26)  Their trust in the Lord and willingness to give their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God (Daniel 3:28) brought forth a proclamation that all need to heed today, “…Praise be to… God.”  (Daniel 3:28)  God showing Himself faithful in the affliction of His servants birthed forth a decree saying, “no one is to say anything against the God Most High.”

For application’s sake, in your afflictions are you worshiping Jesus Christ, no matter what oppositions are coming at you?  The world and devil can come with some pretty threatening ways of intimidating the children of God. Christians who have surrendered to the Holy Spirit’s sanctifying work in their afflictions make these statements with their lives1.) They belong to Christ and the afflictions they face prove that they are genuine believers who trust in Christ.  2.) In their afflictions God has done a work that makes them usable and reflects a surrendered life to the Lord’s will, thus, enabling them to hear the voice of God and walk in step with His Holy Spirit.  3.) In their afflictions, God is able to bring to the mind of others that He is the Only True God that can bring deliverance to His obedient children.

Adoniram Judson was one man of God who was proved genuine in his faith in Christ through sufferings in Burma.  He was able to hear the voice of God and enabled by the Holy Spirit of Christ to fulfill his calling.  In the affliction that he received in prison, God made known to others that He is a God able to bring deliverance. Adoniram so wanted to take the Gospel into India, yet was rejected entrance and was not permitted to preach to the Hindus.  After many trying times, frustrations, fears and failures, the Judson’s found an open door in Burma.   Upon their arrival it was discovered that there was not one known Christian in Burma.  The Judson’s had no friends and at first there was only the voice of God to guide and direct them.  After living with loneliness for some time a baby was born, but in eight months the couple suffered the affliction of losing their child to cholera.

The couple worked night and day under soul-crushing, heart-breaking condition for six years before they saw their first convert.  Converts came slowly and when it looked like things were about to change for the good, missionary Judson was thrown into prison condemned to die, accused of being a British spy.  After twenty-one months of intense prayer, Adoniram Judson was released.    His work with the Lord progressed and the gospel power began to open blind eyes, breaking idolatry and changed lives began to emerge. After thirty-four years of ministry, Adoniram Judson died at the age of sixty-two.  When he was dying, news came to him that some Jews in Turkey had been converted through reading of the account of his afflictions in Burma.  He told his wife, “This is good news.  When I was a young man, I prayed for the Lord to send me to Jerusalem as a missionary.  But he sent me to Burma to preach and to suffer the afflictions of imprisonment.  Now, because of my suffering, God has brought some Jews in Turkey to repentance!”

Sometime after his death a government survey recorded 210,000 Christians in Burma.  Adoniram Judson allowed the Lord to mature him in the afflictions he received for the sake of Christ.  And in a place where there were no known converts, God proved Himself mighty for His name sake by calling over 200,000 souls to Christ. Adoniram Judson is called a mighty man of faith, prayer, purpose, patience in afflictions and perseverance for the Son of God and for the souls of men. When the church does as Moses did, looks ahead to her reward, she will allow God to mold her into Christ-likeness in her afflictions.  Then great things with God will be enjoyed.

Let us pray!!!!

Victoriously Living Over The Flesh

  Mortifying the Flesh

 “Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it.  Ro 8:13 For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live,  Ro 8:14 because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” (Romans 8:12-14) Man’s most aggressive enemy, “The Flesh”

Donald Ballar, Reader’s Digest, shared this story of an instructor of student truck drivers.  The instructor gave this scenario to his class.  “You are in an 18-wheeler with a heavy load, barreling down a mountainous two-lane highway.  Ed, your co-driver, is asleep.  There are six trucks behind you, and as you come over the top of a hill, one of the trucks behind you pulls out into the left lane to pass.  As he comes along side you, you see several trucks coming from the opposite direction moving towards you.  One of the trucks coming at you is in your lane because it is passing an on coming truck.  There are five trucks behind and one beside you.  There are several trucks in front of you and the two out front have both lanes blocked.  The question is, ‘What will you do?’ ‘The answer is simple’ a student called out. ‘I would wake up Ed.’   ‘Why would you do that?’  asked the instructor.  The student replied with, ‘Because, Ed ain’t never seen a truck wreck like this before!’”

I would propose to you that Christians need not wait for a potential wreck with the flesh before they try to prevent a tragedy from happening.  God’s Word has preventative measures that will keep the child of God from having a tragic accident with his most aggressive enemy, “The Flesh.” Listen as I read Romans 8:12-14, “Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it.  For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live,  because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.”  Where is this battle with “the flesh” fought and how is victory achieved? What are our obligations in regards to the price that Jesus paid upon the Cross of Calvary?  Where is the power to overcome “the flesh” to be found?

To whom do Christians have an obligation 

All great armies that are victorious in battle are made up of soldiers who know that they have an obligation to fight with all their mind, heart and strength.  To whom do Christians have an obligation? In Romans chapter 8, verse 12, the apostle moves from instruction to exhortation, from what God has done through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit to what is expected of the child of God in way of response.  There is a strong emphasis on human responsibility in regard to what is truly the reflection of a repentant heart renewed by the Holy Spirit.  (The Expositors Bible Commentary) The obligation is to God, who created man’s body, mind and spirit. (Thru the Bible) He gave His one and only Son for the redemption of sinful mankind. (John 3:16)  The obligation is to Jesus Christ who purchased God’s chosen with His own blood. (1 Peter 1:1-2) “Obligation” (opheiletes) means to be bound by a duty. (Practical Word Studies of the New Testament) It is important to note that this is not an ambition, it is a duty (Bishop Handley Moule).  The application is this. With the position that the child of God has in Jesus Christ comes an obligation to live a life worthy of the gospel. (Word meaning in the New Testament) The Christian has a debt to mortify the flesh. (Vines Dictionary of the New Testament)   Because of the price that Christ paid for the Christian’s soul the child of God is obligated to surrender his mind, heart, tongue and literally every part of His body to the will of God.

Before a battle can be won, there must be the recognition of an enemy

Before a battle can be won, there must be the recognition of an enemy.  The most continual aggressive enemy the Christian has is the “sinful nature” or rather the “flesh.” The “flesh” (sarx) or that sinful nature has been compared to cancer.  It is not like a rotten branch on a tree that can be broken off and gotten out of the way, thus protecting the rest of the tree.  No, it lies deep always looking for its opportunity to grow and cause more damage.  Matthew Henry wrote, “Sin is a brat which nobody is willing to own up to, a sign that it is a scandalous thing.” It is that part in you that always wants to put the blame on someone else. The apostle Paul writes about the character of the flesh in Galatians 5:17, “For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.”

The Minnesota Crime Commission recognizes the power of the sinful nature and admits the truth that every person, if left to himself, will be overcome by the power of the flesh.  A few years ago they released this statement.  “Every baby starts life as a [potential] savage. He is completely selfish, and self-centered. He wants what he wants when he wants it – his bottle, his mother’s attention, his playmate’s toys, his uncles’ watch. Deny him these once, and he could go into a rage and aggressiveness, which would be murderous were he not so helpless. He is, in fact, dirty. He has no morals, no knowledge, no skills. This means that all children – not just certain children – are born delinquent. If permitted to continue in the self-centered world of his infancy, given free reign to his impulsive actions, to satisfy his wants, every child would grow up a criminal…” Romans 3:23 says, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” and the Psalmist wrote, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.”  (Psalms 51:5)

The Bible tells us of the fruit that comes out of a life that has lost its battle with the flesh.  It says they “…are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; Gal 5:20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions Gal 5:21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.”  (Galatians 5:19-21)

Mortification is the special ministry that enables the child of God to overcome those evil desires that could destroy the Christian’s relationship with the Lord 

The first step to “Victoriously Living Over the Flesh” is to agree with God that a sinful nature lives in us and the next is to understand what the Bible says about how to walk in victory.  The King James Bible says, “For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.” (Romans 8:13) The key word to walking victoriously over the flesh is “mortify” (thanatoo).  Mortification is the special ministry that enables the child of God to overcome those evil desires that could destroy the Christian’s relationship with the Lord.  It means to become dead to anything that would feed and give those evil desires strength to overcome you. (The Expositors Bible Commentary; The Complete Word Study Dictionary of the New Testament)  When you mortify the flesh you are deadening the desire that comes upon you.  True mortification will rob sin of it’s debilitating and emotional distracting influences.

The Apostle Paul says we are to “…count [ourselves] dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Ro 6:12 Therefore [we are] not [to] let sin reign in [our] mortal [bodies] so that [we] obey its evil desires.  Ro 6:13 [We are] not to offer the parts of [our] body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer [ourselves] to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of [our] body to Him as instruments of righteousness.  Ro 6:14 For sin shall not be [our] master, because [we] are not under law, but under grace. (Romans 6:11-14)

How can a Christian count himself as dead to sin thus mortifying those sinful desires that come upon him?  Jesus gives a clear teaching that will pave the way of putting to death the sinful nature.  He said, “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light.  Mt 6:23 But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. (Matthew 6:22-23) There is such a simple truth here that is so powerful and yet many walk blindly to it.  Corporations spend millions of dollars on advertising because of the principle Jesus is talking about here.  They know what goes in the eyes and ears will have an effect on the human heart and thus goes his life.  Movie theaters have promotional ads come up before the movie pointing people’s attention to the snack bar.  They know once it goes through the eyes and supported with the right music it will have their desired effect on their victims causing pop and candy sales to go up.   The snack bar is right in front of you when you walk in to catch the attention of the eye. The Christian who walks in victory over lust of the flesh is the one who does not feed it through the eye and ears.  He does not feed himself pornography, watch TV commercials, or pay much attention to ads that use sex to sell products.  The one who walks in victory over the sin full nature is the one who does not feed it.  He overcomes improper language because he does feed that sin by what he watches or read.  The Christian who lives in victory over bitterness, worldliness, and the pride of life is one who does not feed those sins by what he allows to influence his life.

Ed Wood shared this story he heard about an Indian who had come to Christ.  When asked about his new found faith he described it as having two dogs living inside him.  One is like an old dog.  He is mean, vicious, unmanageable, and down right untrainable.  The second is like a new dog that is obedient, longs to serve Christ, and gives attention to the Lord.    He described the two dogs as always fighting to get his attention and wanting to have control over his entire life.  When asked what dog wins he replied back with, “The one I feed the most.” In dealing with the sinful nature, Christians have to become like a man who owns an old dog that is untrainable, refuses to obey, always finds trouble when turned loose, bites children and causes a path of destruction wherever he goes.  Finally the law shows up on his porch with a court order informing this man that he must fulfill his duty and restrain the dog for the protection of himself and the safety of the community.  Thus, the man restrains the dog with something that is stronger than himself.  He puts the dog on a chain.

Today’s text, Romans 8:12-14 informs the Christian of his duty.  The restraining order is to mortify the flesh and become dead to that sinful nature. Every moment of the day we are feeding.  What we feed on will grow in our minds and hearts.  That is what is going to flow out of our lives.  Just as our bodies reflect what and how much we eat, our lives will reflect what we feed the mind, spirit and soul.

The Apostle Paul writes about the empowering agent that enables the child of God to live that victorious life 

Once we have the heart to mortify the flesh, we can trust in God’s power for victorious living.  The child of God who walks in victory is the one who realizes his sin it is not because of defeat, but because of disobedience. Mark Bubeck wrote, “The flesh is a built-in law of failure, making it impossible for the natural man to please or serve God. It is a compulsive inner force inherited from man’s fall, which expresses itself in general and specific rebellion against God and His righteousness. The flesh can never be reformed or improved. The only hope for escape from the law of the flesh is its total execution and replacement by a new life in the Lord Jesus Christ.”

The Apostle Paul writes about the empowering agent that enables the child of God to live that victorious life.  Romans 8:9-11 says, “You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. Ro 8:10 But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. Ro 8:11 And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit, who lives in you.”

The Christian who walks in victory over the sinful nature is the child of God who understands the truth that the Holy Spirit who raised Christ from the dead is living in them.  The victorious Christian agrees with God on what sin is.  He desires in his heart to put the flesh to death, then he allows the Holy Spirit to do His cleansing work.  Victorious Christians have revelation and illumination of, “…if by the [Holy Spirit] you put to death the misdeeds of the body…” (Romans 8:13) Only by obedience to the Lord and through the empowering of the Holy Spirit can the child of God live that abundant life promised by Jesus Christ.  When the child of God tries to beat the flesh on his own he is defeated because of the sin of disobedience.  He still wants to be in charge of his own life.  Victory comes through surrender and supernatural empowerment which are received by faith.

The Christian does not need to beat sin.  It has already been defeated upon the Cross.  He needs only to enjoy the pleasures that come with the duty of living by the power of the Holy Spirit, surrendered to His cleansing and leading.   I have spoken with great men of God who enjoy the power of the Holy Spirit helping them to defeat the flesh and continue to find the Holy Spirit’s power to keep the sinful nature subdued under the authority of Christ. They seem to have the heart of the psalmist who wrote, Ps 139:23 Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Ps 139:24 See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:24)   They have truly prayed from their hearts, “Lord show me how offensive this sin is to you.”  The Lord revealed it to them and they experienced a supernatural cleansing from the Holy Spirit because they knew that they could not get victory over it on their own.

There is no really good illustration on how the Holy Spirit helps the child of God overcome the sinful nature.  It is a supernatural work that can not be fully explained.  All we do know for sure is that confession brings forgiveness and purification.  1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” “Purify” (katharizo) in the spiritual sense is to cleanse from the pollution and guilt of sin.

The purifying work of the Holy Spirit is like the mother who was getting her four year old boy ready for church.  She gave him a bath and got him all dressed up.  She set him in front of the TV while she got herself ready and told him to keep his eyes focused on the TV. The little boy became distracted by something outside and he went out to investigate it.  In the process he fell down in the mud and wiped off his hands on the front of his pants.  He scratches his nose and brushed the hair out of his eyes. In just a few seconds he found himself covered in mud from the top of his head to his toes. Thinking nothing of his condition the dirty little boy went back and sat in front of the TV.  Needless to say, mom was hurt and disappointed over the condition of her little boy.  She informed him of his dirty condition and chastised him for his self-centeredness and for acting on his own accord.  After his apology, mother forgave him and then got him cleaned up for church.

It is the same with the child of God.  Even though his previous sins were washed cleaned by the blood of Christ, his sinful nature has a tendency to distract him from what he is supposed to be doing.  Thus, he finds himself soiled once again.  The Holy Spirit convicts him, God chastises him, Jesus Christ forgives him and sends the Holy Spirit to clean him up so he can be effective in the true church. The victorious Christian does not give excuses for his soiled condition. He agrees that his flesh distracted him, took his eyes off what he was supposed to be feeding himself, and in his disobedience he became dirty because of the indulgence of the flesh, the filth of the world and the lie of the devil. He just responds the Lord’s chastisements appropriately and then allows the Holy Spirit to clean him up.

Seven truths to victorious living are

Like the mother who sat the cleaned up little boy down to fill his eyes with something good until she returned to take him to church, the Word of God has truths that Christians are to be feeding themselves until Jesus returns for the church.

Seven truths to victorious living are:

One, recognize the fact that it is only by God’s enabling that you are going to be able to accomplish His perfect will for you.  Philippians 2:13 says, “For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose.”   Victorious living begins with a heart that is humble enough to ask the Lord for His help to live right before God.

Two, recognize the need to be filled with the Holy Spirit so you live a life that reflects being led of the Holy Ghost.  The apostle exhorts you “…to be filled with the [Holy] Spirit.”

Three, begin mortifying the flesh by confessing sins and claim Christ’s purchased ownership on your life and body.  Galatians 2:20 says, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

Four, saturate your mind with the Word of God and pray for Holy Spirit revelation and illumination so you can understand and live out God’s will for you. Romans 12:1-2 says, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.  Ro. 12:2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Five, recognize that every life produces fruit, surrender your heart over to the Holy Spirit’s cleansing so you can express the fruit of the Spirit out of your life.  Galatians 5:22, 23 says, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

Six, recognize that your body is not evil, it is the sinful nature that is within you, therefore, present your entire body, mind and soul over as instruments to the Lord’s use.  Romans 16:12,13 says, “Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather … offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness.”

Seven, recognize that you must express a life that says, “I love you Lord.”  Jesus said, Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ Mt 22:38 This is the first and greatest commandment.” (Matthew 22:37-38) Those who are victorious over the flesh are willing to examine their lives to see if they are living according to true faith in Jesus Christ and if they have accepted the truth found in the Word of God. (Thru the Bible; Barnes Notes)  2 Corinthians 13:5 says, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?”

Are you a natural person whose spirit is dead? Do your bodily senses and your natural desires control you? Are you a worldly Christian who has allowed Christ to enter your life but is still being mastered by the desires of the flesh? Is the big “I” still in control?  Or are you a spiritual Christian who has been crucified with Christ and is being controlled by the Holy Spirit? The child of God has three trucks pushing on him every day of his life.  The one labeled “The Flesh” is always the one mowing him toward a collision course.  He does not have to wait until he is about to be in the biggest wreck anyone has ever seen before he puts his foot on the brakes.   The Biblical way of mortifying the flesh is a sure way of avoiding the heart break that comes from the acts of the sinful nature.

Spiritual Christians are not perfect, but daily they crucify the flesh and consciously allow the Holy Spirit to fill them. When tempted, they invite Christ to fill their lives and they close the door of the flesh. When they sin, they ask for God’s forgiveness and strength to help them overcome the next temptation. They continually seek to offer themselves — mentally, emotionally, and physically — to Christ to be used for His purposes. Only through the power of the Holy Spirit can this occur, and only when He is invited to come in is His awesome presence and power enjoyed.

As you walk in this world you are and will be constantly attacked by the sinful nature, Christian or not.  What you feed is what will be dominant over your life.  You can give strength to the old man or the new man.  Victorious living comes as you walk in the Spirit, as you daily meditate on the Word of God, as you pray and as you associate with other Christians who feed not on worldly things, but on the things of God. Victory over the flesh, that sinful nature, is accomplished by mortifying the flesh and feeding the new life in Christ through prayerful reading of the Word of God.

Let us pray!

A Congenial Life


  • Congenial Life Learns to Listen
  • Congenial Life Gives Without Sparing.
  • Congenial Life Prays Without Ceasing
  • Congenial Life Does Not Complain or Argues
  • Congenial life Trust Without Wavering
  • Congenial life Promises Without Forgetting


        We live in a time were people are easily influenced by a world view off criticizing, complaining and the disregarding of the feelings of others.  The work place often has an atmosphere of tearing down others for the purpose of building one self-up.  Family members spend to much time speaking derogatory comments about and toward each other, rather than speak words of appreciation.  Coaches, parents, actually everyone in a place of authority find themselves under the radar of speculation and accusation rather than a searching heart of council and direction.

Recently, I saw a face-book pop-up, a picture of an old couple roller-skating together, with comments presenting love as forbearance, the empowerment for not killing each other after all those years of being together. I would propose to you that the Bible has principles to live by that surpasses forbearance and creates congenial surroundings filled with people who have a congenial spirit.  In this world filled with a complaining and a critical spirit, there are people who, through a disciplined life, live a congenial life. Jim Bennet, writing about the Congenial Workplace tells us, “When working alongside individuals that have an overly negative attitude, many people find that their own attitude becomes negative and progress in the workplace is slowed considerably.  It is the job of the business management to create a congenial workplace in which all of the employees are able to get along (at least to the point of keeping up positive attitudes and progressing throughout the work day without being slowed down by negative co-workers.)”

God knows the value of a peaceful atmosphere, that is why we are given this exhortation, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”        With such an exhortation, just what are Biblical truths that can enable us to have a pleasing nature?  How can we realistically create an atmosphere of living that people love to be exposed to?

Learn to Listen

        A key Biblical truth to developing a pleasing character is to learn to listen.  Proverbs 18:13 says, “He who answers before listening— that is his folly and his shame.” The Bible also says, “A man of knowledge uses words with restraint and a man of understanding is even-tempered.”

God warns us against rash talking, as well as protecting us from coming across as being rude and interruptive.   (Keil, C. F., & Delitzsch, F. (1996). Commentary on the Old Testament (Vol. 6, p. 273). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson.)  We make a mistake when we think that giving a quick answer shows others how sharp we are. We also deceive ourselves when we think that we must give answers right away.  The Bible is saying that it is folly for a man to speak about an issue before he has gotten all the facts and has understanding of the circumstances. (Henry, M. (1994). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: complete and unabridged in one volume (p. 995). Peabody: Hendrickson.; Smith, J. E. (1996). The wisdom literature and Psalms (Pr 18:13). Joplin, MO: College Press Pub. Co.) Communication skills are not just good interpersonal relations; they are actually moral issues of wisdom coming from prayerful understanding of the council of God’s Word.  Responding quickly without listening causes us to give our opinion, thus missing the opportunity to point people to seek the council of the Lord. (Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (Pr 18:13). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.) It is actually stupid, because it cause us to miss out on hearing from the Lord and make right judgments.

John 7:24 says “Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment.”   “Too often we are slow to hear—we never really listen to the whole matter patiently—and swift to speak; and this gets us into trouble.  It is wise to restrain the lips.  A godly person will study to answer, but a fool will open his mouth and pour out foolishness.  Potiphar did not listen to Joseph’s side of the story and committed a great crime because of it. Jesus and the Apostles were not permitted to tell their whole story; the verdicts were passed by their enemies before the cases were honestly tried.”. (Wiersbe, W. W. (1993). Wiersbe’s Expository Outlines on the Old Testament (Pr 18:13). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books)  “A man should get all the facts before giving his opinion. Otherwise he will be embarrassed when the full details are made known. There are two sides to every question: every divorce, every quarrel, etc.  Don’t agree with a person if you have not heard the other person’s side.” (MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 838). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.; Willmington, H. L. (1997). Willmington’s Bible handbook (p. 338). Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.)

Robert Herron wrote, “Good listening is like tuning in a radio station. For good results, you can listen to only one station at a time. Trying to listen to my wife while looking over an office report is like trying to receive two radio stations at the same time. I end up with distortion and frustration. Listening requires a choice of where I place my attention. To tune into my partner, I must first choose to put away all that will divide my attention. That might mean laying down the newspaper, moving away from the dishes in the sink, putting down the book I’m reading, setting aside my projects.”  (Robert W. Herron in Homemade, June, 1987 – Galaxie Software. (2002). 10,000 Sermon Illustrations. Biblical Studies Press)

The Book of Proverbs has it right, “The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer…” (Proverbs 15:28)

Gives Without Sparing

        A congenial life has a listening heart and it gives without sparing.  Proverbs 21:26b says, “…but the righteous give without sparing.” A person who touches the lives of others is a person who is ready to give time, strength and financially as the Lord provides.  This person has a heart that is discerning, knowing when it is being taken advantage of, but sees real needs.  They manage their time wisely so they can make time to help someone who truly needs it.  They are able to find strength to help that person who needs it, even in the late hours of the night.  They are willing to give joyfully without finding fault. 

I remember over hearing a couple talk about a church in the South east part of the United Sates, this Body of Christ knew the joy of giving.  There was a young couple in Nebraska, both veterinarians, they were trying to adopt a special needs baby.  They made the trip to Memphis, Tennessee to pick up their new baby.  They spent the day holding her, packed their bags, were heading their way out the hospital, when they were detained, due to some paper work that had not gone through. Heart broken, they made their way to a church service at Bellevue Baptist.  While attending the service they were asked what brought them to Tennessee.  They explained there situation and dilemma.  Immediately, Bellevue Baptist became a congenial atmosphere.  They put the couple in a motel, provided meals, transportation and provided whatever this couple needed until the paper work was all in order.  The family of God at Bellevue Baptist gave time, strength and finances for a full week.  Then, they joyfully saw the young couple off to Nebraska, with their new baby.

Prays Without Ceasing

        A congenial life gives without sparring and it prays without ceasing. Colossians 1:9 says, For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.”

The most congenial person I have ever known was my mother-in-law, Doris Stump.  It has often been said of her, “Doris was woman of prayer.”  Doris would seldom be heard running others down, complaining or feeding a continuous atmosphere.  I once heard a lady speak of Doris, “She is a woman who would assume as keep quite, and take the matter to the Lord in prayer and wait for Him to do whatever He chooses to do.”  People take note of life that is prayerful.

Before I was a Christian, I was attending a state championship football game.  Doris was setting to my right, a man at the game suffered a serious heart attack.  As the ambulance crew was attending to the patient, I notice, Doris, quietly closed her eyes, and did some serious praying.  I was not a Christian, that act of faith powerfully laid down a foundation for my own prayer life, after I became a Christian.

Does Not Complain or Argues 

        A congenial life prays and does not complain or argues.  Philippians 2:14 – 16, “Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life—in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing.”

The person who does not complain or argue is the person people like to be around or work with.  There is no greater trust an employer can have than having an employee who does not complain or argue.  The family member who is enjoyable to be around is the family member who does not complain or argues over issues.  The couple who is the happiest in life, is the couple who does not complain about each other to others, this couple chooses wisely their words toward each other. The married couple who people like to be around is the couple who cherishes each other, and lives out their adoration for all to see.  The couple who always speaks well of each other is the couple who are admired by others.  In the horse business, the trainer that is like is the one who does not complain about their customers.

The Apostle Paul was always concern about the life that was being lived by those who he had ministered the Word of God to. (Galatians 2:2)  The greatest concern for those who preach and teach God’s Word, “Are the people living out what is taught.” Nothing more disheartening to Christian parents, their children live a life that is complaining and argumentative.  In the work place people who find that they have been complained about, are hurt and they find comfort in being around co-workers who are known not to be complainers.

Trust Without Wavering

        A congenial life is one that is not complaining or argumentative and it trust without wavering. 1 Corinthians 13:7 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

The person who is looked to in the work place for training is the person who is patient, not prideful, not rude, is kind and truly wants to see others do well.  The congenial person in the work place, is that person who is protective, trust others and perseveres in their responsibilities.  The people who draw the hurting, the insecure and the frustrated are those who hold no record of wrongs.  Congenial people do not let past failures keep people who are trying from open doors of opportunity.  Ever seen the TV commercial of the little boy who is washing his dad’s convertible car with a water hose and the hood down, the little boy is getting all the interior wet.  Dad does not yell or tear down the little boy, but shows appreciation for his sons efforts – now that is a congenial act.

Promises Without Forgetting

        A congenial life always trust and it makes promises without forgetting.   Proverbs 13:12, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”

When I was a young man, I longed to learn how to train Arabian Halter Horses.  So I called a young man, one of the best in the field.  We made arrangements for me to go to his place in the Spring.  When Spring came, I called to complete the final details.  The phone rang, the secretary answered – I could hear the trainer in the background, telling the secretary to tell me, he was not available.  My heart sank, I felt there was no one to help me.  Years later, I met another trainer who was very successful at training halter horses.  He helped me purchase a book that I took home and read over and over again, which laid down the foundation to train and condition Arabian Halter Horses.  His promise to help me was kept and it open many doors of opportunity to me for many years.

In the early years of the Miss America Contest there was a  Miss Congeniality.  It was re-introduced in 2006, it is a quality of life award for a contestant’s platform. (Wikipedia)   Miss Congeniality is a coveted title. She is known by her peers as the most friendly, helpful, genuine and outgoing woman in the pageant.  Miss Congeniality is an award given by the hardest judges of all: The other contestants.  Miss Congeniality is given the award because she pays more attention to others than she does herself.  She gives her fellow contestants a hug when they need it.  She is a confidence builder to the other contestants. She helps other contestant avoid disaster, making sure other contestants looks their best.  She makes friends and gets to know the people around her.  (How Culture & Society)  If you were being voted on today by those who observe your life, would you be voted in as someone who has a congenial life?

In Closing: Let the Holy Spirit examine your heart with these questions.  Do you live a congenial lifestyle?   Do you listen, give without sparing, pray with out ceasing, live without complaining or arguing, trust and keep promises?   Let us pray!

Walking In The Confidence of God

Those who walk in the confidence of God have the marks of contentment

Those who walk in the confidence of God have the marks of contentment. They live a life without covetousness, they are satisfied with what they have, and they experience the constant companionship and care of Almighty God.  There is that confidence that the Lord Jesus will never leave them nor forsake them. “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?’”  (Hebrews 13:5-6)

I would propose to you that Christians must be free from the love of money and the things of this world.  They must be content with what they have and learn to walk in the confidence of God. Christians have the continual presence of the Lord within them.  God’s protection and provision are offered to them as well. The writer of the Book Hebrews quotes two great Old Testament passages of Scripture.  One is Joshua 1:5, “No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.”   Two, the writer quotes Psalm 118:6, “The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid.  What can man do to me?”

Just who makes such a promise and to whom is it extended? Today’s text shows obedient Christians that God will be with them and will provide what they need.  No matter what the call or the need, those who are walking in accordance to God’s directions will have the hand of the Almighty God upon them. Who makes the promise?  Our text says, “…because God has said…”  In at least two places in the New Testament it says God does not lie. (Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18)  Therefore, it is a yes and Amen.  When God says it, it goes down, it will be, you may stake your life upon it. The writer of the Book of Hebrews states a powerful truth, “…What can man do to me.” (Hebrews 13:6)  According to the Bible, all people throughout history stand in some relationship to God, whether living in rebellion and disbelief, or living in acceptance and faith in the Lord.  They are under God’s sovereign control. Therefore, the child of God who is walking in the center of God’s will need not fear any man for all are under the power of the living God. (Who’s Who in the Bible) The God who makes this promise is the one who says, “See now that I myself am He!  There is no god besides Me. I put to death and I bring to life, I have wounded and I will heal, and no one can deliver out of My hand.”  (Deuteronomy 32:39)

Christians can walk in confidence because this God is self-existent

Christians can walk in confidence because this God is self-existent.  John 1:1-3 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.  Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made.” The apostle Paul tells us this about the Supremacy of Christ, “For by Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. And He is the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything He might have the supremacy.”  (Colossians 1:16-18)

Jesus is the one who holds all things together.  He is the agent of creation and the goal of which all things will find their end.  Between the time when this earth, the atmosphere around it and the galaxies were created and until the new heavens and earth come about, Jesus is the one who holds it all together.  In other words the laws of gravity and laws by which the universe hold together are not only science but are divinely controlled.   Man does not hold this earth and everything in it together, the Lord does all that. We need one another to survive.  We cannot exist without parents whom God used to bring us into existence, we could not have grown up without someone to feed us, provide shelter and give some kind of guidance.  Everyone needs someone to do what they cannot do. This is not the case with God.  No one made the way for Him to come into existence, nor makes the way for Him to exist.

The word “supremacy” (proteuo) means to be first, chief, to hold first rank, the highest dignity.  The application is that Jesus Christ is given first rank over everything. (The Complete Word Study Dictionary; Word Meaning in the New Testament) The God of heaven and earth did just that. Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20) Christians can walk in confidence because they possess the Living Christ whom the Bible says, “It is written: ‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before Me; every tongue will confess to God.’  So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.” (Romans 14:11-12)

It is not a matter of if all mankind will kneel before God, it is a matter of when will they bow the knee and confess Jesus’ supremacy.  It is a matter that there is a God, the Father of Christ and the giver of the Holy Spirit. There is a God, He has a Son who is the Savior of the world and they have eternal existence.  In Revelation we read of Jesus saying, “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” (Revelation 1:8)  Jesus is Lord of all and there is nothing, literally no event and no time in the future which can separate Christians from the love of God. Christians can walk in confidence of their God because of the dominant theme of the Bible, which is the sovereign, continuous, purposeful activity of the eternal God.   All of life and the Word of God speak of a living Lord.  Every living animal and human being get their very heart beat from God.  Acts 17:28 says, “For in Him we live and move and have our being…”  (Acts 17:28a)   In his song of praise the Psalmist writes, “[God] makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for man to cultivate, [and He] brings food from the earth” (Psalm 104:14). At the Lord’s choosing He waters the trees (Psalm 104:16), He feeds the birds and clothes the lilies of the field and not one sparrow falls to the ground outside of God’s will  (Matthew 6:25-28; 10:29)

Christians walk in confidence because they serve not only a God who exists but also a “Providential God” as well

Christians serve a Lord whose plans and purposes come about.  Psalms 33:4-11 says, “For the word of the LORD is right and true; He is faithful in all He does. The LORD loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of His unfailing love. By the word of the LORD were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of His mouth.  He gathers the waters of the sea into jars; He puts the deep into storehouses.  Let all the earth fear the LORD?  Let all the people of the world revere Him. For He spoke, and it came to be; He commanded, and it stood firm. The LORD foils the plans of the nations; He thwarts the purposes of the peoples. But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of His heart through all generations.”

In gratitude toward God (The Pulpit Commentary; Barnes Notes), Job writes, “You gave me life and showed me kindness, and in your providence watched over my spirit.” (Job 10:12)  Job was recognizing that he owed God his entire life because God had gave him constant vigilance and had absolute control of his life.  (Barnes notes) The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia gives us this explanation of “providence.”  It “implies more than just seeing in advance.  It is anticipation causing one to take steps to meet a need through making a plan.  It is in a sense that pre-vision becomes pro-vision…  Applied to God, providence obviously includes the divine foreseeing, but God’s foreseeing has a fuller and broader reference in view of divine overruling.  Providence, then, is the preservation and superintendence of all things by God.  It is divine governance whereby all possible events are woven into a coherent pattern and all possible developments are shaped to accomplish the divinely instituted goal.”

The Book Esther is a remarkable book that shows God’s providence in the life of a person for the deliverance of a nation.  God’s name is not mentioned in the Book of Esther. However, the key purpose of this book is to show The Lord’s providential care of His people.  In this book we see that God’s providence overrules all things.  Even in a distant country and in dangerous situations, God’s people are yet in His hands. (Thru the Bible; The Expositors Bible Commentary; Matthew Henry)

Dr J. Vernon McGee wrote a book about Esther, entitled, “Esther, The Romance of Providence.”  As we study the Book of Esther and examine how God raised up Esther, a woman for such a time in Jewish history, we see that all obedient children of God have a purpose in God’s great plan.  However, obedience is a key factor of seeing the providential hand of God move. As we read the Book of Esther we discover that Mordecai had a powerful truth that we should take note of.  Mordecai sent word to Esther with regard to her responsibility of her position. His words to her were, “…Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:13-14)

There is no grander position of life for man’s calling than to be an adopted child of God through having Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.  With that comes the great responsibility of fulfilling your part in the Great Commission.  Just as the Jews were facing annihilation, people who are without Christ are facing an eternal death. Just as Esther had a job to do, the church of Jesus Christ has a job to do. How does this woman of intervention prepare for her God given task that enabled her to enjoy the Lord’s providential hand?  The Bible says, “Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai:  ‘Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.’ So Mordecai went away and carried out all of Esther’s instructions.” (Esther 4:15-17)

Those who enjoy the providential hand of God are those who fulfill their part and it begins with seeking the loving hand of the God who will fulfill His part.  He must be sought in humble prayer.  Prayer is the brokenness and humility that God wants to see in those who truly trust in Him. Three days of a national fasting and prayer meeting enables Esther to see the hand of God grant her favor with the king.  As the story really begins to unfold we see not only Queen Esther experiencing the providential hand of God, but Mordecai as well.    Instead of Mordecai being hanged upon the gallows built for him, Haman, the enemy of the Jews was hanged instead.  On the same day Haman was hanged, Esther was given Haman’s estate.  Mordecai was brought into the king’s service and given the signet ring that once belonged to wicked Haman.  Esther appoints Mordecai to overseer of Haman’s estate. (Esther 5:2; 7:10; 8:1-2)

Because of God’s plan to save His people, and His awesome ability to work among even a pagan people who did not serve Him, the Jews were given permission to take up arms, defend themselves, and plunder those who would attack them.  People of other nationalities became Jews because fear of the Jews had seized them. (Esther 8:17)  What looked like disaster, became a victory for the Jewish people, all because God’s reign on this earth is a providential reign, one that is pre-vision and becomes pro-vision.

Young Peoples’ Digest ran the story of a Christian English woman.  The ministry she oversaw required a large amount of provision every year.  Year after year she saw the Lord provide all they needed and many times when it felt like God was coming up short, He would make it clear that He had already provided and it need only be released from the bondage that was holding it up.  After much prayer God did release the funds which were in bondage and put them into her hands at the proper time. She was once confronted by a man who was very much against the Lord.  He asked what proof is there of such a God.  She said, “If you had made an appeal of a large amount of money from someone whom you had never seen physically, but yet you knew existed and that man sent you exactly the amount of money you asked for through a friend, who did not know the amount you requested, would you then believe and put faith in that the person for all your needs?”  The man who was hostile toward the Lord said “Yes.” The English missionary lady said, “Well, I made an appeal to God for the very sum of money that would buy all the supplies needed to do His work.  In His timing He has always raised the money through friends who also know of my Lord.  The amount of money they gave me has always been exactly what I asked for, without anyone but the Lord knowing what the need was.  I, therefore, claim to know the Lord who sees and provides.”

Christians who walk in the confidence of God have allowed Him to show Himself faithful.  They rest upon His providence and sovereignty knowing that He always does what is best.

Christians can walk in confidence because He is also a personal God

Christians can walk in confidence, not just because God exists and has providential control, but because He is also a personal God.  Psalm 147:10-11 says, “His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor His delight in the legs of a man; the LORD delights in those who fear Him, who put their hope in His unfailing love.” God is never portrayed in Scripture, as people often describe Him today, as an ever-present energy or force.  God shows Himself to be personal in relationship.  Scripture shows this relationship between Father, Son, and Holy Ghost and expresses His desire to have a real relationship with the redeemed children of God.

Song of Solomon 7:10 presents a wonderful truth in regard to our relationship with Jesus Christ.  It says, “I belong to my lover and his desire is for me.” The primary concern for those who will read Song of Solomon is that its application is a picture of the beautiful love relationship between the believer and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Thru the Bible; Matthew Henry; John Wesley Notes)   It is the picture of Christ and the church and depicts the communion of Christ and the individual believer.  This passage of Scripture portrays the love of Christ for the individual and the soul’s communion with Christ. These are the words of those who are confident in their marriage relationship with Christ.  They rejoice in the fact that the Lord’s desire is for them and these Christians are so illuminated with that fact that they speak out as the apostle Paul did. He writes with great boldness, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live but Christ lives in me.  The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)

The relationship the Lord is looking for is the one in which Christians say, “I am my beloved’s, not my own and I am entirely devoted to Him and I am owned by Him.”  Christ’s desire was so strong toward God’s chosen ones that He came from heaven to earth to seek and save that which was lost. He paid the ultimate price for His bride.  Someday He will return for those who are left upon this earth.  Be sure to catch the heart of Jesus as I read a portion of His prayer for all believers.  Jesus prayed, Father, I want those you have given Me to be with Me where I am, and to see My glory, the glory you have given Me because you loved Me before the creation of the world.”  Those who walk in confidence have allowed the Holy Spirit to place a heartfelt desire within them to be in fellowship with Christ. They’re not like the couple who went for marriage counseling.  The wife’s major complaint was that her husband never said, “I love you.”  When the counselor asked him about this he replied with, “When we got married 30 years ago, I told her then I loved her.  If anything changes, I will be sure to let her know.”

Professor H.W. Jurgen, a West German sociologist, claims that married couples chat with one another 70 minutes a day in the first year of marriage.  This drops to 30 minutes a day in the second year and then only to 15 minutes in the 4th year.  He said the most often cause of this is complacency in the marriage relationship.  They become comfortable and feel that they need not take the time to properly communicate, to plan, to dream together. Do you remember when you first got saved or when you recommitted your life to Christ?  How you often thought of the Lord, made plans to be with Him, do things that please Him and dream big with Him.  You had hopes of doing great things with God. How is your prayer life now, in comparison to what it was when you first entered into His service?  How much time do you spend in prayerful reading and studying of God’s Word?  Is there a thirst and hunger for Him and His presence?    Have you let what once sparked a heart ablaze for God to be replaced with just a religious observance?

Drew Stephens shared a story entitled “The Ring.”  It is a story about the greatest Christmas present that he had ever received from a woman named Joan Ellis.  Joan is now his mother-in-law and she gave him the engagement ring that her late husband gave her on their engagement night. It was given with the understanding that he was to give it to her daughter, Rebecca.  It was a gift given to him.  His mother-in-law gave it freely and it had an intended purpose. Now that it was in his possession he really could do anything with the ring he wanted to.  He could rebel and sell it, ignore that he even had it, or even give it to someone else. He had control over the ring which was now in His possession. He chose to give it for the purpose in which it was given and now he has been married to Rebecca for over 19 years.  He has never regretted that decision.  That ring offered promises.  It represented a life of joy and fulfillment with his bride. What the ring meant to him was fulfilled thousands of times.

Like the ring given to Rebecca, God has given a gift for which He has a designed and intended purpose.  That gift is our lives.  His intent is that our lives be eternally wed to His Son, Jesus Christ and we are eagerly awaiting His return so that we may be with Him forever. However, God gives us the freedom to use our lives as we choose.  Much like the ring, we can take its value and spend it on ourselves.  We can spend our lives on the pleasures of this world and please the flesh.  We can even give it to another, thus committing adultery and breaking and devastating the heart of Christ.  You can spend your entire life trying to find satisfaction only to end up in eternal torment. Or you can spend your life, the gift that God has given you in serving and loving Jesus Christ. You can take those talents, abilities and opportunities and spend them for the glory of Christ. You can choose to have an intimate relationship with the Lord and live a life that shows that you are the bride of Christ joyfully awaiting the “Marriage Supper of the Lamb.”

In closing:  The promise the Lord made to Jacob (Genesis 28:15), Joshua (Joshua 1:5) and Solomon ((1 Chronicles 28:20) belongs also to the faithful servants of God.  (Matthew Henry)  Never will He leave us nor forsake us. It is God who makes this promise and He is not a man that He should lie.  There is not one person who can harm us outside of God’s will so we can go and fulfill our mandate from the Lord in confidence. It is Jesus who holds all things together and He purchased us with His life’s blood.  He is in absolute control.  The very Holy Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead dwells in us, so let us walk a walk that expresses confidence that we will receive power from the Holy Spirit to fulfill our part in the Great Commission. Just as God had a plan to deliver the Jews through Mordecai and Esther, He has a plan for us in reaching out to the lost in Christ’s Name and to make disciples of those who have ears to hear and a heart to obey. We can walk in the confidence of God because he knows us personally and He will enable us to have that relationship with Him that is fulfilling and reflects a hope of being at the “Marriage Supper of the Lamb.”

Let us Pray!