I was listening to a lecture from a professor of theological studies and he made a point that resonated with me. It’s always amusing when a side note gets your attention. He was talking about the faithful characters in the Bible and how even in their failures God was pleased with their faithfulness. He reminded the audience that salvation comes through faith, not through success or results. We can thank Jeremiah for that example. Poor guy professed God for a lifetime and was repaid with rejection and failure, if you measure through results. The professors example was of two Christ following people who disagreed about the meaning of a piece of scripture. He explained that their faith in what the derived from the scripture was pleasing to God. This is a good example of the failure of Christian legalism in growing spiritual maturity and a stronger relationship with Jesus.
I thought of an analogy that made me smile so I wanted to share. God gives us direction through His Word and even an example in His Son, but we fail continuously. Many people get discouraged, but that should not be the case. Imagine as a parent you tell your child to get dressed. They run off and come back mismatched, different shoes and buttons done out of order. Are you angry at the lack of perfection or happy that they followed your direction the best they could? It’s probably a proud moment that they put so much effort into following your instruction and trying to make you happy. I feel God has a similar mindset for His children at times. He doesn’t give exact direction for all situations but allows you to honor Him in your actions and decisions. Then just like the parent of the mismatched child, He is more than willing to help add correctness and completeness to your faithfulness. Your Heavenly Father will rebutton the shirt and find the other shoe. Follow His Word and stay in communication with Him. God never asks for perfection, He only ask for your heart.
David made many mistakes and the Lord still blessed Him and allowed his line to bring about the Savior of the world. He was a man after God’s own heart even though he was far from perfect. We can also look at Joseph who was amazing in his faith because he was guided by a God honoring heart as opposed to directions from God. He trusted in God and honored him with his actions and the Lord prospered him and his family. A follower’s walk in faith is more loved by God than a perfection we can never achieve.
God has already given victory and completeness to His children through their faith. He sent Jesus to make a way for us to reach Him. We should never count on our ability to do everything right. We should be thankful that the grace and mercy of God are ours as His children through our faith in His Son.
Grace gives us what we don’t deserve, Mercy doesn’t give us what we do.
We all know people whose fire for The Lord doesn’t burn as hot as it once did. The bright light that was such an inspiration, such a beacon for Christ, struggles to even be visible. Maybe you are that person. You remember the joy of walking so closely to your Savior and now find the world smothering your passion.
As I sat in a bible study the Lord laid an image on my heart that was so clear it filled my mind and sparked my imagination. Living a worldly life is comparable to drowning. When we try to find our peace, joy, or purpose in earthly things we end up empty and alone. The lack of fulfillment causes us to struggle harder and to seek greater extremes to find the joy we remember. We can recall what we found in Christ but struggle to find the foothold we want to stop struggling against drowning in our sinfulness, pride, self-focus, and earthly desire. I imagine the panic and hopelessness of drowning and the inability to overcome the desperation, unable to remember what solid ground felt like. It’s kicking and fighting to stay afloat as hope sinks below the surface. We look up from under the water trying to remember what fresh air in our lungs felt like. It was this kind of feeling that caused the image the Spirit gave me to flourish in my struggling heart.
We struggle but our Savior walks on water and commands the seas to be calm. When Peter focused on Jesus he was able to walk on water too. It’s in a Christ focused existence that we can walk on top of the turbulent seas of worldliness, and that Christ can command those waves to be calm or show us how to let the water roll off our back as He leads us by example. When we take the right hand of God and allow Him to lead again, the water we once allowed to cover us becomes a mist, noticeable but harmless.
We are called to seek first the kingdom of God, focused on Christ, walking on the water with Him. We can be sure that even when we fall away and lose our focus on Him, His focus never leaves us. His hand is always outstretched and waiting for us to take it again. The world and all of the temporary things in it will quit on us and leave us alone and empty. We have a promise that our eternal God will never leave nor forsake us. Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you. (Hebrews 13:5 quoting Deuteronomy 31:6)
I found the picture above, it’s the closest one to the personal picture the Spirit gave me. I hope it helps make these words more real and reignites the hope in your heart that will fuel your fire.
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:33)
Many of us as believers find ourselves at odds with the secular world as we grow deeper in the Lord and walk in submission to the Spirit. The things that use to bring us happiness now grow cold when compared to the joy found in our Savior. I came across a few passages in 2 Corinthians that made some amazing points. Let’s look at the background and then make God’s word through Paul applicable to us today.
Paul was originally a persecutor of the faith. So not only was his message looked down upon as he spread the gospel, but the people also used his previous position to question his character and authenticity. Imagine the difficulty Paul faced being rejected personally and then having his message rejected as he traveled to share the good news. We all face the same issue after we find our value in the Lord. Not only are our beliefs questioned but the life Jesus turned us from stays with us as a stigma. People think we are hypocrites because they don’t yet understand the power in the blood of Christ. Let’s look at three passages that pulled at my heart and see how Paul walked in this. Let’s learn for him.
For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you. (2 Corinthians 1:12)
This is beautiful. People can question what you believe, but when you are walking in and led by the Spirit you are without fault in what you present. You bring the simplicity and godly sincerity of God’s Word and the good news of Jesus. The goal is not to rely on earthly wisdom (watered down Christ) to draw people but to let God be God while you plant His seeds. The harvest belongs to the Lord. It is because of this that Paul can have a clear ‘testimony of conscience’ when people question what he professes to the lost.
Therefore, when I was planning this, did I do it lightly? Or the things I plan, do I plan according to the flesh, that with me there should be Yes, Yes, and No, No? (2 Corinthians 1:17)
Here we find Paul explaining his presentation of the gospel and innocence in seeking acceptance from his actions. He makes the people aware that his explanation of the Gospel isn’t intended to gratify his flesh through praise for him. It is from the Spirit and focuses the glory to God. The reactions of the listeners is not a priority to a believer. We are called to be an example in a dark world. Our light should not dim when the environment we walk in stays dark. We reflect the light of God without apology and should accept the same rejection that our Savior received if that’s the result of our walk.
Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead (2 Corinthians 1:9)
This passage came before the others in the Word, but was kept until last as a summation which says it all. As children of the living God we can present His word and represent Him in our actions without worry. His Word is true, everlasting and unchanging. The reaction of the lost belongs to them and the transformation of their hearts belongs to the Lord. We should reflect God’s light through the guidance of His Word and Spirit never using our own wisdom which waters down His perfect power. His power is manifest in our weakness and submission. Your walk is with your Lord and the opinions that walk incites are the fuel that glorifies God and makes Him shine brighter. You be the vessel and let God be God! In that there is no fault.
As he said these things, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!” But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” (Luke 11:27-28)
During a quiet time this verse opened up to me and I’d like to share what I feel this verse is saying. Let’s put ourselves in the position of this woman. She sees Jesus in the flesh professing the truths of God and healing people. She has no doubt He is a great man and great teacher. I hear people that are like minded today believing that a great teacher with a great life philosophy walked around teaching 2000 years ago. They see the truth in His wisdom but can’t move into what He truly brought to earth.
Then there are those who believe in who Jesus was but neglect the relationship with the Father that His death provided. The Bible says that even the demons believe in who Jesus is. In the gospels they refer to Him as the Son of God before He casts them out. Believing that He existed as a great teacher or even believing He was the Son of God doesn’t provide the salvation His blood offers. The woman in the passage above admired and believed in His. She blessed the woman that gave Him life and was grateful for Him. She professed in front of a crowd her admiration for Him.
But let’s look at Jesus’ response. He explains that the true blessing is in the Word He brought to earth. The blessing is in Him as the Word and not a man. Jesus wants us to experience all that is available through Him, not just admire the miracles. Not just who He is, but the fullness of God’s Word manifest through Him. The true blessing comes in walking with the Lord and not just seeing Him walk by. The greatness of God is seen when we follow His lead, submitted to Him, instead of walking ahead and asking Him to catch up when we need Him. While His existence as God in the flesh is important to believe, it’s in the grace and love showed to us through His death that must be experienced to see God’s blessing. Hear God’s word spoken through the lips of the Savior. Follow His example of love and compassion for the lost. Submit to the Father just as the Son did and be filled with the same Spirit that brought Christ out of the grave.
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. (James 1:22-25)
For nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light. Take care then how you hear, for to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away. (Luke 8:17-18)
The passage above is referring to God making Himself known through His children on earth. He will fill our submitted hearts and allow us to be a reflection of the light found in Jesus Christ. We are to reflect the light of Christ to this dark world. As we walk out our salvation, the ways of God will be revealed to us through His work in our hearts and in our lives. God’s purpose for us and His work in redeeming us from our sin will give us a testimony that reveals more of God’s character and sovereignty to the world. All of the testimonies combined still can’t reveal the infinite God in His entirety, but it builds up a kingdom of believers known as the church to represent Him to the lost.
We should therefor take care how we hear God and how we walk with Him. We must make sure that our sinful flesh doesn’t cause us to misrepresent God to a world consumed with the darkness of sin. When we seek God with all our heart we find Him. When we ask God to lead, we receive Him. As we walk in the righteousness of the Holy Spirit our light becomes brighter because: “for the one who has, more will be given.” In turn, the people who make crooked the paths of the lost by leading with faulty revelation (the one who has not), what they think they have will be taken away. God puts to shame the wise. The wise will be put to shame; they will be dismayed and trapped. Since they have rejected the word of the LORD, what kind of wisdom do they have? (Jeremiah 8:9)
Let God be the leader of your walk. Let the Holy Spirit guide your heart as it fills you in your submission. Let God make straight your path and be the light at your feet. Let the light given to us in our Lord Jesus Christ shine through us just as the moon lights the night using the light reflected from the sun. Take care how you hear and how you walk. Walk in His righteousness so that more will be given to you in your obedience. Be careful not to let your flesh deceive you. It is then that what you think you have will be taken away. That may sound like a punishment but that is not the case. God’s infinite love takes away the lesser version of what you think you have in order to make His fullness available to you. His mercy leads you back to the fullness of His light and the blessing of being His representation to the darkness of this world.
I was listening to a sermon about spiritual warfare and had a thought about what kind of motive and opportunity the deceiver has to try and derail the walk of God’s children as they sojourn in a world where they are not made to walk. Our dependence on God, to lead us in this foreign place, leaves us vulnerable and leaves the enemy salivating as he prowls looking to devour. As believers we can accept that our Father loves us. He made that clear through His son, our savior, on the cross. He makes it clear again with His grace and mercy. I see the patience of my Heavenly Father as I stumble through this journey. At the same time, we have to recognize that the enemy opposes God in all things. He hates us because we are loved by our Creator. When God blesses us, the deceiver grows frustrated. When we turn our voice and heart to God in prayer, the deceiver is angry in his helplessness against the name of Jesus. A name that will force the devil to flee as we resist his attacks on us because of who we are in Christ.
Have you ever met a person that opposes instruction or advice just because of who said it? They want to cause trouble and make the person giving instruction seem ignorant or wrong. We can benefit when we see this motive in the deceiver, God’s adversary. We have to remember that he is our adversary too, because we are children of God. He doesn’t want to see God’s plan prosper in this family, His kingdom. The devil wants to steal God’s word when He gives it to us. If it can’t be stolen, he wants to manipulate it in order to make us struggle. If the word finds its place, the deceiver will manipulate the things around us to reduce the effectiveness of the word in us. When the Lord is working in us and through us, we will get the attention of the opposition. Count your alliance with God as joy along with the trials that will come in the process.
When we see the method and intent of satan, we can become more effective at receiving God’s word through the bible and through His Spirit. We can develop discernment and become tuned to God’s voice over the deceiver and even over our own. Not only do we need to get better at receiving the word but also more effective at walking in that word. We have to walk in trust with God, growing our faith. We have to rely on God as our refuge and strength. Walking with God creates opposition in our lives. If the deceiver is not against us, we haven’t gotten his attention with our walk and its effectiveness in the kingdom. When we wake each morning with new mercy to face the battle with the devil, find comfort in your certain victory in Christ and in the alliance that brings the adversary of your Father against you His child, His prized possession.
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.