Avoid Self-Purification

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                As Christians we are called to live our life in obedience to Christ our Savior. A life lived in submission to Jesus produces spiritual fruit in the believer. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23a) Many believers know that a genuine walk with the Lord shows through in that person’s life. They’ve seen people who know the Lord and know what that looks like as it contrasts with the fallen world.

                Many people fall into a cycle of trying to rid themselves of the fallenness in their hearts hoping that cleaning up their life will produce Christian maturity. The problem is they are using their flesh to control their flesh. That is contradictory to God’s design. Trying to control a spiritual process leads to self-reliance and pride. We must remember that the acceptance of Christ comes with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. That indwelling gives us the ability to mature in the truth given by God’s Word and displayed in Jesus Christ.  But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. (John 14:26) Indwelling of God’s Spirit creates an inward change in our hearts which develops into an outward manifestation in our lives. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. (Ezekiel 36:26)

                What we must be sure to understand is: simply trying to correct sin in our lives is futile. What good is there in attacking our sinful nature with a flesh that is also sinful? We must allow the sinfulness in our hearts to be replaced by the Holy Spirit of God. We must allow the darkness of sin to be forced out by the light of God. Just like cold is the absence of heat and darkness is the absence of light; sin is the absence of submission to God’s presence in us. The only way to drive air out of a cup is to fill it with water. In this case it is the living water found through Jesus Christ. Focus in being filled with the Holy Spirit and submitting. This will give you the ability to live a life where sin and its penalty (death) have no hold over you.

                The verse below talks about sin returning to a heart it has been removed from. When that heart isn’t filled with the good of God the sin has a place to return to. Think of addictions. When good habits aren’t developed the bad ones have a foothold to reoccur. The same is true with sin in our lives. Let the Holy Spirit dwell in your heart and leave no room for the deceiver to pull you away from the Father.

“When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.” (Matthew 12:43-45)

God’s Purpose in Trouble

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       It is inevitable in our Christian walk that we will encounter seasons of difficulty. Some people assume that walking with the Lord takes away the afflictions of this world. We might assume that God would only use those difficulties to punish people in their sin. He brings the clouds to punish people, or to water his earth and show his love. (Job 37:13) Let’s consider that God uses the difficulties of people’s lives to draw them closer to Him. Not only to draw the lost to Jesus and reconciliation with Him, but also to draw His children closer.

       God has no need to create punishment for those who walk in darkness. All He has to do is let their decision to turn from Him, into the darkness, leave them in a despair of their own doing. A life absent of God is all the pain most people need when all of their human effort fails. When all earthly securities fail there is a loving Father waiting with open arms to shine His light into their lives.

       The most important thing for believers is to make sure they turn to God when life becomes difficult. God uses all things for the good of those who love Him. Part of loving Him is the obedience found in reliance on His provision and perfect plan for your life. The times of trouble in our lives leave us with a big decision: turn to God or turn to the things of this world that are destined to fade. We can turn to the eternal or the temporary. Our treasure can be gathered here or in Heaven. Turning to God in a difficult season is not a onetime choice but a daily decision as the deceiver looks to draw you away from God in your desperation for immediate relief. Beware of turning to evil, which you seem to prefer to affliction. (Job 36:21) Look to God’s purpose, which is growing the faith of His chosen. Let hard times draw you to love God in deeper ways. Make relationship with God the result of troubles.

Angels of Opposition

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“Daniel, don’t be afraid. God has heard your prayers ever since the first day you decided to humble yourself in order to gain understanding. I have come in answer to your prayer. The [evil] angel prince of the kingdom of Persia opposed me for twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief angels, came to help me, because I had been left there alone in Persia” (Daniel 10:12-13).

                This piece of scripture points out that there existed an angel over Persia that was in opposition to the angel of God. We must see the significance of the evil angel that opposed the work of God accomplished through His angels from Heaven. This concept is huge. We know from Ephesians that: For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:12)

                Imagine with me that for every blessing God has for His children the deceiver has the ability to send one of his demons (fallen angels) to oppose that blessing, resulting in a spiritual battle. This battle exists around believers constantly. We walk in the peace and joy of the Lord and then find ourselves beat down by worry and doubt that results in depression and despair. We start to question God’s involvement when in fact it’s the actions of the deceiver through suggestion that cause us trouble. We are called to have faith in our Lord so that we can combat the seeds planted by the deceiver. We are called to put on the full armor of God to protect ourselves for his flaming arrows and then fight against him with God’s word as Jesus did in the wilderness.

                Don’t lose heart when you struggle. Those struggles only exist because the deceiver sees you as a threat worthy enough to require attention. If God wasn’t using you for an important purpose the devil would have no need to concern himself with you. Always reassure yourself that the troubles that attack you as you walk in faith are attacks from the enemy and not an absence of God. Use these attacks as a opportunity to ‘fine tune’ your armor and grow closer to God. As your faith matures along with your relationship to God, the deceiver will see that attacks on you become fruitless because the fruits of God’s Spirit abound in your life.

Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. (Revelation 12:7)

You Cannot Change Yourself

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       Many people come to Christ and dive into trying to be good. They imitate what they think a Christian should do and end up disappointed and exhausted in their effort. The yoke of Christ is light. He bore the burden of our sin and sent the Holy Spirit as our Helper to continue our growth and maturity. When we try to walk in our own strength we end up burned out and wondering where the peace and joy is. It is impossible to control your flesh with your flesh. Even if it were possible you would not be walking with God, you would still be alone. God didn’t send His Son to reconcile you to Him and then allow you to walk alone.

      Our job is to deny our flesh, turn from our sin and allow the Holy Spirit to create genuine and lasting change in us. God looks to break down our flesh and let His Spirit guide us in our walk. If we try to imitate godly attributes by ‘being good Christians’ God still has to break down those human imitations so that His Spirit can instill the eternal ones. Man-made attributes are motivated by man’s will and not the Spirit. Even at their best, which is broken, they build up man instead of glorifying God. God will not let His children settle for lesser gifts, He knows His Spirit is necessary for the relationship He desires. All your children will be taught by the Lord, and great will be their peace.

       Spend time daily with God in submission to His will and the correction of His Holy Spirit. Be led by the Spirit to lasting, eternal change in your spirit. It takes longer because it’s genuine. After experiencing the process, you will see changes to your heart that you were not even aware needed attention. Then you will experience the lasting changes of God that are accompanied by the peace and joy promised in Jesus Christ.

Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. (John 3:5-6)

Using satan to Grow

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                It is rare that we are exposed to preaching and writings that focus on the schemes of the deceiver. I agree that the love of God the Father through the sacrifice of His Son Jesus is the most important message by far; but the enemy of God’s love must be acknowledged. Thinking about an entity and his army trying to draw you away from God can be terrifying. As with all things, perspective makes all the difference. It is inevitable that a walk with the Lord will be met with equal opposition. If you don’t feel the opposition of the devil you might be walking in the direction he wants for you. If you don’t feel his opposition you may not pose a threat to his plan to destroy God’s reconciliation with His creation.

The closer you get to God the more the deceiver looks for a way to hinder your progress. You could get discouraged by this, or be prepared and wear his attacks as a badge of honor. You can know ahead of time that the deceiver wants you to fail and use the power you have in your Savior to walk in victory. Better than that, you can use satan’s prideful attempts to trip you to grow!

The deceiver will use earthly desires and pride to tempt you to settle for something far less than what God has for you. When he shoots the flaming arrows of Ephesians 6, use your shield to defend yourself and acknowledge where the devil was trying to hurt you.

 Let his attempts to hurt you reveal the weakness he perceives in you. When you are attacked stand secure in what God has promised you and let the deceiver point out the weak points in your armor. If he continues to aim at a certain place, he is just showing you wear your armor might be weak. Let your walk with God strengthen that part of your armor. Most of the time the deceiver will use your pride to draw you away. Not a chest pounding pride but the pride that makes you feel that you can do anything without God, the pride of self-sufficiency or self-focus.

When you feel drawn away or beat down in your walk with the Lord, identify what weakness the deceiver is looking to exploit and ask the Holy Spirit to help you in that weakness. Ask God to give you His power to grow in that area, closer to His grace and love. After having God’s view of the deceiver’s feeble attempts to hurt you, you will gain experience and get better at seeing the new ways he comes against you. Each new angle gives you another chance to grow closer to God and stronger in His Spirit.

As satan’s pride causes him to battle in vain to win a battle we know He loses in the end, use his pride to destroy yours. As the devil’s pride attacks, yours will fall away when you draw closer to God. Your self-reliance will fall to pieces and God’s indwelling Spirit will shine through in your maturity. Use the devil as a stepping stone. Each new stone lets you raise higher. As long as the hatred of the devil comes against us, we have another way to perceive our weaknesses. Now we can let the Holy Spirit work in us so that we are stronger in battle and closer to our Father.

God’s Repeated Warnings

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Yet if there is an angel at their side, a messenger, one out of a thousand, sent to tell them how to be upright, and he is gracious to that person and says to God, ‘Spare them from going down to the pit; I have found a ransom for them— let their flesh be renewed like a child’s; let them be restored as in the days of their youth’— then that person can pray to God and find favor with him, they will see God’s face and shout for joy; he will restore them to full well-being. (Job 33:23-26)

                Reading the passage above I am confronted with the extent of God’s mercy. This wonder scripture tells us about “one of a thousand” angels send to guide us in how to walk with God. That’s God’s one thousand plus attempts to guide us back to Him. Imagine the love involved in that kind of persistence. Would you have the love to try a thousand times to walk with someone who rejected every previous attempt? God allows people who turn from Him to walk into trouble repeatedly in the hope that the next angel sent to them will be the messenger of joy to Heaven.

                Then it’s revealed that the angel may find a ransom for that lost soul, that they might be renewed in the eyes of their Lord. All of Heaven knows that there is in fact a ransom which will reconcile us with God. He sent His Son so that He might be a ransom for all who believe in His name. the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28) For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as ransom for all (1 Timothy 2:5-6a)

                Praise God for the mercy, grace and love that led Him to seek His children a thousand times. Praise God for the gift of Jesus and His rescue from a death we all deserve in our sinful turning away. Although the events of Job take place well before the laws given to Moses or the birth of Jesus, we see the heart of God for His people. We can fall in love with a God who seeks us in our rebellion with a tenacity that has no bounds. Let this love for God lead you to share it with the lost as He sends to share the Gospel. Know that you are one of God’s thousands of attempts to make His love known in all the earth.

The Enemy in Psalms

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Many times, in the reading of the Psalms, there is a distance between our hearts and the heart of the psalmists. We read these words where someone is in anguish over their persecution. They have enemies that are actually pursuing and attacking them. It is rare in our modern lives to have the same kinds of situations occurring around us that drove the words of the Psalms to be penned. I see where this can cause a separation in what the message has the ability to convey to us.

                What if we had an enemy that was pursuing us day and night with the intention to defeat and kill us? Their sole motive was to take all that what was given to us by God. They existed to destroy a relationship with God that leads to sanctification. They found pleasure in our misery, depression, hopelessness, defeat, etc. They were willing to battle us until we turned away from God and too the comforts of the world. That enemy exists! That enemy is the devil and his army of fallen angels. We can read the Psalms and know that every word of desperation would be the crying out of our hearts if the deceiver were to make himself as clear as a physical enemy. Our biggest battle is with the spiritual realm and not the earthly realm that seeks to hold our attention. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:12) The deceiver is constantly looking for a foot hold in which to attack the hedge of protection God places around those who follow Him. The devil himself acknowledges this hedge when he complains of God’s protection of Job. Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. (Job 1:10)

                Don’t wait until the spiritual battle is manifest in the flesh. Read the Psalms and know the power of God against an enemy that attacks you in your mind and in ways you can’t always see immediately. Let your relationship grow with God as well as His hedge of protection from your enemy. Let the Psalms draw you closer to the nature of your Protector, Shelter, Sustainer, Rock, and Fortress against all enemies. Draw close to the hope found in the Psalms. Draw close to hope found in God.