Wednesday, February 29, 2012


“Let the whole world fear the LORD, and let everyone stand in awe of him.”    Psalms 33:8 NLT

As Christ embraces our life with the reality of an intimate personal relationship, we will seek to cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit. We will not take pride in the things we put off that are displeasing to God. We will humbly seek to "put on Christ" and be clothed with His virtues.  Humility is one of the highest graces and one of the hardest to attain.

Jesus said, "But this is not the way it is with you; rather, the greatest one among you must be like the youngest, and the leader must be like the servant.  Who is greater, the one who sits down to eat or the one who serves?  The one who sits down, of course.  But I am among you as one who serves.”  Luke 22:26-27 GNT

Oh, that we might have a servant's heart and seek to magnify the Lord in every phase of our life.  This will be the fruit of a humble heart and a contrite spirit that is in submission to His Lordship.

We must "cleanse ourselves of filthiness of the flesh and spirit." (II Cor.7:1)
Standing in awe of God must precede, not follow, the purification of our hearts. It is when we embrace a tenderness of conscience and a watchfulness of mind that our hearts are open in reverential awe of who God is.

 We desire to put off the filthiness of the flesh and sins, which arise from the body …… uncleanness, intemperance, lust, laziness, addictions, irresponsibility, and etc. Then there are sins of the mind -- pride, envy, malice, revenge, lies, hatred, deceit, and others that quench the Spirit. These must be cleansed, subdued, and put to death if we are to "perfect holiness in the fear of God."

"Holiness" is preceded by the fear of God and the image of God implanted in our soul. This is a positive renovation of the whole man by the power of the Holy Spirit. The fear of God is reverential awe of all that God is.

Jesus shed His blood so that we can “draw near” to God and have a relationship with Him (John 3:16; 17:3).

Jesus came that we may see how awesome and powerful God is and that we may always have a healthy fear of Him so that we would not dare to sin against Him.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Holy Spirit is our connection to God’s heart………

“And the Spirit of the LORD will rest on him—
the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and might,
the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.”  Isa. 11:2 NLT

Everyone has a fear of something.  People that do not have a right relationship with God fear things on earth instead of God.  People can fear other people, fear situations, and even fear the future when they do not fear God.

“They rejected my advice and paid no attention when I corrected them.
 Therefore, they must eat the bitter fruit of living their own way, choking on their own schemes.   For simpletons turn away from me—to death.  Fools are destroyed by their own complacency.   But all who listen to me will live in peace, untroubled by fear of harm.” Prov. 1:30-33 NLT

People that fear God have confidence on earth because they have no fear of anyone, any situation, or anything that can happen.

“Those who fear the LORD are secure; he will be a refuge for their children.  Fear of the LORD is a life-giving fountain; it offers escape from the snares of death.”   Proverbs 14:26-27 NLT

The fear of God comes through knowing God the knowledge of God comes through revelation given by the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Love.  As we become more spiritually mature in Christ our motive for obedience to Him changes from fear of discipline to fear of grieving His Holy Spirit in us.

The Holy Spirit is our connection with God, our unity with Him, He is our counselor that communicates God’s words to us, and He is our connection with God’s heart so that we can experience God’s emotions through the Holy Spirit.

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” John 15:9-11

As we obey God we remain in His love and His joy will be complete in us. True love, joy, and peace, do not come from us they come from experiencing God’s emotions through His Holy Spirit in us. When we sin we grieve the Holy Spirit and we become separated from God’s love, joy, and peace.

“Do not use harmful words, but only helpful words, the kind that build up and provide what is needed, so that what you say will do good to those who hear you. And do not make God's Holy Spirit sad; for the Spirit is God's mark of ownership on you, a guarantee that the Day will come when God will set you free.”         Ephesians 4:29-30 GNT

Monday, February 27, 2012

True love and fear of God……..

The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon Him, The Spirit of wisdom and understanding, The Spirit of counsel and might, The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD.”  Isa. 11:2 NKJV

True love and true fear of God are revealed and experienced through the Holy Spirit. God’s love is the power and motivation to do His commandments and God’s fear is the ability to understand and walk in His righteous judgments, His commandments, and reject our fleshly decisions.

Like a protective wall the fear of God keeps us walking on the right path. The joy of a clean heart does not come from our own self it comes from experiencing God’s joy when we walk in His love fulfilling His commandments.

“If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:10-13)

 The fear of God leads to obedience of God, which gives us confidence in our heart before Him. “Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God. And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight. (I John 3:21-22)

Walking in the fear of the Lord causes us to walk in righteousness, experiencing the joy of a right relationship with our God.  “Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, you righteous; And shout for joy, all you upright in heart! (Psalms 32:11)

 The Bible tells us that we perfect holiness in the fear of God. “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1).

It is by God’s grace and mercy that He adopts us to be His Children, and we accept Him as our Father as we acknowledge our need for His mercy.  Just as with a good earthly father, his children both love and fear him, the combination of this love and fear causes the children to walk in obedience.  The love and fear of the Lord is also needed in our lives to bring about spiritual maturity so that we will fully reject sin and cling to the One we love.

“Sin has been paid for by loving-kindness and truth. The fear of the Lord keeps one away from sin.”  (Proverbs 16:6 NLT)

People who study human behavior know that the most powerful way to control behavior is with a combination of positive and negative reinforcement, which is reward and punishment. God cares about us and our behavior that is why the Bible is full of positive and negative reinforcement like this passage; “Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses.  Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make.  Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live!  You can make this choice by loving the LORD your God, obeying him, and committing yourself firmly to him. This is the key to your life…..” (Deut. 30:19-20 NLT)

Your heart is directed toward the one that you fear and your loyalty is given to the one that you fear. When you fear God you do not fear man and when you fear man you do not fear God, you choose whom to fear.

Since they hated knowledge and did not choose to fear the LORD, since they would not accept my advice and spurned my rebuke, they will eat the fruit of their ways and be filled with the fruit of their schemes. For the waywardness of the simple will kill them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them; but whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm.”  (Proverbs 1:29-33)  

Jesus taught us to fear God and not man. “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father's will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 10:28-33 NKJV)

The fear of God comes from the knowledge of God which is from knowing God.  The Bible also tells us that the beginning of wisdom and knowledge is the fear of the Lord.  The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (Proverbs 9:10 NKJV)

As God’s presence is revealed to us physically and spiritually we stand in awesome respect of His power and majesty.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

A lack of the fear of God………..

“The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him—
the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and of might,
the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the LORD.”   Isaiah 11:2 NIV

The greater our knowledge of God the greater our love will be for Him and the greater our fear (awesome respect) of Him will be also. The prophet Isaiah had an encounter with God that changed his life. “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one cried to another and said: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!" And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke. So I said: "Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, The LORD of hosts." (Isaiah 6:1-5)

 In the revelation of God’s light and glory even our slightest shortcomings are revealed which causes us to immediately repent. Notice that Isaiah even felt contaminated by the sin of the people that he had been with, when he stood before God

The fear of God is a theme that is mentioned throughout the Bible.  But it is a subject that has been neglected by many pastors and teachers of God’s Word today.  The fear of God is a very important aspect in a Christian’s life because it is a characteristic of the Holy Spirit.

 A lack of the fear of God in a person’s life means they have a lack of sensitivity to the Holy Spirit. Without the fear of God a person becomes unbalanced in their understanding of God and in their relationship with the Lord.  The fear of God causes His children to run to Him, and His enemies to flee from Him.

 The fear of God is a gift from God, given through the Holy Spirit, which He puts in our heart to keep us close to Him.  “They shall be My people, and I will be their God; then I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear Me forever, for the good of them and their children after them. And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from doing them good; but I will put My fear in their hearts so that they will not depart from Me.”  (Jeremiah 32:38-40 NKJV)

Friday, February 24, 2012

My yoke is easy…………

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.   For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."   Matt 11:28-30 NKJV

“My yoke is easy”, literally means, “it is a good fit.” Jesus said, “Take my yoke, it will fit you perfectly, it will lighten your load.”  Yoke yourself with Jesus; there will be no disagreement and He will carry your load.  He will take the load of loneliness, depression, brokenness, pain, disappointment and addictions.  He will carry the burden you drag around everyday just release it to Him.

We have seen the separated life is to not be yoked with unbelievers, and if we already are, make sure we are the influencing factor in the relationship.  Also, the separated life is to be separated from the activities of the world.

Paul tells us “Do not be yoked together with the world and to be separated from the world.

"Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you……" 2 Cor. 6:17-18 NKJV

The example of separation from Jesus is quite different than the religious leaders they were legalistic and they practiced segregation where Jesus practiced separation.

Separation from sin verses separation from the world.  So when we follow Jesus we do not practice segregation but separation.

Separation is contact without contamination.  Jesus was holy, harmless, undefiled and separate from the world “yet a friend of sinners.”

“I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people- not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters.  In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who CALLS himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat.”  1 Cor. 5:9-11

Interesting it is just the opposite of what segregationists say. They said do not touch anyone who is not outwardly religious. The Bible says stay away from those who CLAIM to be religious outwardly and yet inside they are hypocrites.

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” 1 John 2:15 NKJV

Being separate from the world is not to segregate yourself from those who do not know Jesus, but it is to separate yourself from activities that are contrary to faith in God.   Love God and follow Him so that you will be the light of God to others.

Separation is to be separated from sin, separated from ungodly behaviors, and separated from of the world.

I dare to be different for Jesus!  

Thursday, February 23, 2012

A Yoke-----Joins Together…….

“Don't become partners with those who reject God.  How can you make a partnership out of right and wrong?  That's not partnership; that's war. Is light best friends with dark?  Does Christ go strolling with the Devil?  Do trust and mistrust hold hands?  Who would think of setting up pagan idols in God's holy Temple?  But that is exactly what we are, each of us a temple in whom God lives. God himself put it this way:

"I'll live in them, move into them;
I'll be their God and they'll be my people.
So leave the corruption and compromise;
leave it for good," says God.
"Don't link up with those who will pollute you.
I want you all for myself.
I'll be a Father to you;
you'll be sons and daughters to me."
The Word of the Master, God.”   II Cor. 6:14-18 Message Bible

As we read more about the separated life Paul writes in II Cor. 6:14-16: “Do not be yoked together with the world.

Paul is referring to Deut 22:10; “Do not plow with an ox and a donkey yoked together.” 

It is not speaking to us about the yoking together of two different beasts of burden --- but being bounded together with those who do not share our faith.  If you are, there will be problems, different morals, different agendas, a different world view and a different lifestyle that could cause you to justify, deny, excuse or compromise your relationship with Jesus.

You will find your life becomes like a donkey and oxen tied together.  You will discover that you will be working from different heights, going at different paces and having different dispositions.  If you yoke yourself with someone of no faith or one that pretends to have faith….…. the yoke is on you.

To yoke means - to join together.  A yoke is part of the tack used to harness beasts of burden to a load, like a cart or a plow. The yoke distributes the weight and lightens the load for the animal.  A yoke can connect several animals together, like oxen, or donkeys so they can work together in pulling a burden. The animals are side by side, tied together, where one goes the other goes and they are virtually inseparable.

So Paul once again draws from the Old Testament principle and gives us the application as he says; “have no intimate relationship with someone that does not acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord.” -------they are marching to the beat of a different drummer.

It is a strong warning because their lives are so opposed that it makes it almost impossible for a Christian to thrive in an intimate partnership with an unbeliever. Paul contrasted it to righteousness and unrighteousness, light and dark, Jesus and the devil. The irony of separation from the world is just like those in Corinth, many of us have once lived lives opposed to the things of God.  

“You have had enough in the past of the evil things that godless people enjoy—their immorality and lust, their feasting and drunkenness and wild parties, and their terrible worship of idols.

 Of course, your former friends are surprised when you no longer plunge into the flood of wild and destructive things they do. So they slander you.  But remember that they will have to face God, who will judge everyone, both the living and the dead.” I Peter 4:3-5 NLT

If God has taken you from the standards of the world, how can you go back and live by those old standards?  

The standards of the world are different then the standards of the Church so others think we are strange ---- strange when we stand up for what the scriptures say is right. The things that the world says is acceptable are not acceptable for followers of Jesus.

When the world pushes for a “tolerance for ungodliness” we should stand up and say “no.”  We have a different world view even though many of us used to be just like the world, when Jesus came into our lives He took away that world view and placed within us the Holy Spirit.

 So how does this yoking thing apply to us today?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Set Apart by Obedience……

“With promises like this to pull us on, dear friends, let's make a clean break with everything that defiles or distracts us, both within and without. Let's make our entire lives fit and holy temples for the worship of God.”   II Cor. 7:1 MSG Bible

The separated life is to LIVE DIFFERENT THAN THE WORLD.

We are not to be isolated but insulated, moving in the midst of evil but untouched by it.

Look at Paul’s exhortation, because we have these promises from God; promises of His abiding Holy Spirit, promises that we are salt and light and because of these promises we should desire to live in holiness as we fear the Lord.

In 1 Peter 1:15 we read: “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: "Be holy, because I am holy."

Be holy, because God is holy.  It is an act of service, obedience, and an act of worship. We become holy as we are sanctified by the Holy Spirit by living a life of purity and living a life different than the world.

Today many in the Church live the same as the society or environment around them – not separate, but blending in.  Maybe it is because of the times we live in, but I think it is really that the Church is in love with the world and wants to have the best of both worlds.  Paul exhorts the Corinthians by saying “purify yourself from all the things that contaminates the body and the spirit.”

What is your witness when you are at a social event?  Does your faith shine or do you blend in? How are Believers to live differently than the world?

We live by the Word of God and walk in the power of the Holy Spirit.  Paul speaks in Galatians 5 about the acts of the sinful nature and the fruit of the Spirit, the contrast is huge.  The acts of the sinful nature are obvious- but the fruit of the Holy Spirit is just as obvious.

Reverence or fear of God leads us to action.  It begins with a true fear of God. It evolves into reverence for God.

The process of becoming holy begins with salvation and it is at that point that one has his/her sins washed away by the blood of Jesus Christ (Revelation 1:5).

When one has their sins removed, that person becomes holy. However, the holiness or sanctification process does not end there, it is just the beginning.

 We are still in possession of passions that lead to sin and the ability to be tempted.

We have to work to remove those things in our lives that lead us toward sin.

This is the idea of perfecting or completing holiness.

The challenge is to remain holy (Romans 12:1). To do this there must be transformation (Romans 12:2).  Our job is to be holy people (1 Peter 2:5). 

In order to do that we have to separate ourselves from those who would bring us down.

We are set apart by obedience to the teachings of the Holy Spirit found in God’s Word.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Set apart for God…….

Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”  II Cor. 7:1 NKJV

In the Church today we find very little teaching of holiness and even less in the performance of it.

It seems average Christians are satisfied with their spiritual life as is, without any desire to be all God wants them to be or any effort to "grow in grace" as Peter exhorts all to do (2 Peter 3:18).

Holiness is not some pious attitude that causes us to be isolated from the world or clothed with some self-righteous display that is of no affect to anyone.  We see too much of this and it is dishonoring to God.  Holiness is simply the displacement of self and the enthronement of God in His rightful place.  When He is on the throne of our heart, God is all and self is nothing.

The separated life is a sanctified life. Sanctified means to “be set apart.”  Our understanding of sanctification comes from God.  Just as the holiness of God means He is separate from all evil – so His children should live a sanctified life; a life separating ourselves from whatever could influence us away from fellowship with God.

What is the application of the life separated to God?  What does it mean to live a separated life?  How do we live in the world and yet keep the influences of the world from overwhelming us?

The city of Corinth was a melting pot of many cultures, a port city with people coming from many different places and bringing with them the worship of many different idols.  Corinth was a place of great immorality, with the temple of Diana at its center, with all its hideous practices.  By the time Paul wrote 1st Corinthians those in the church had begun to embrace many of the practices of that culture - that were contrary to faith in God.

God's call for separation began with the nation Israel, how they were to be different then the people who lived in the land God gave them. They were to be a separate community because they were chosen by God for a special purpose. That is Paul's point to us, and that is why believers are referred to as pilgrims and aliens, -- we are chosen by God to represent Him here on earth.

The evidence of a separated life is the fruit of the Spirit working and moving through us (Gal. 5:22-23). The evidence of a life not separated unto God, is anything that looks religious without a relationship with the Lord -- like legalism and rules – to make us look holy.  

Religion is a lifestyle that tries to justify sin and serve God at the same time. Secret sins that we refuse to turn over to God; the worship of idols -- the idol of self pity, the idol of self, the idol of laziness, the idol of addictions,  the idol of lust, the idol of wealth, the idol of self indulgence……...putting these things before the Lord is idolatry.

But Agape love is the evidence of a life separated unto God.  Loving God and following Jesus will teach us to live separated unto God.

“Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation. 1 Peter 2:11-12  NKJV

Monday, February 20, 2012

Full Circle……

“This is what the LORD says— your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the LORD your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.”   Isa. 48:17 NIV

We have all said once or twice,” I have come full circle” in a situation.  We have at least once commented that it seems we are ‘going around the same mountain again” or “it feels like I am just going in circles”.

We should confess that we will not balk any longer when God takes us in “circles”.  He is trying to teach us something, reveal a hidden treasure or break something off of us that has us stuck, going around the same mountain with the same problem because we refuse to let go or change.

In our Western way of thinking we have assumed that God moves in a straight line.  But as I continue to study His Word and His ways I am learning that He always moves in a circle.  That is why God is often mysterious, perplexing and sometimes hidden to me.  Once I learn the secret of His circles, all becomes clear.

Look at Joseph; God promised him power and authority in his dream.  Yet, instead of directly fulfilling the promises, God led him to slavery and to prison, the very opposite of his dream. 

Why?  Because God’s dealings with us are like the lines of space He created in the universe; they are circular.

Even Jesus was treated in this circular way.  He left His Father’s home to go out to mankind, down through the way of the cross to the tomb and then back home again.   This history is very clear to everyone.   What is not clear is that God uses the same route for all of us.

Why does God lead us in circles?   Why does He promise us things, and then deny them?   Why does He cause us to hope, and then give us disappointment?

Because God desires to make saints, not programs.  To develop spiritually involves outgrowing things that are no good for us and implanting things that are necessary.   That takes time!

We are all on a circle, at one point or another.   The apogee is the most distressful time because there everything seems to have gone wrong!   But that point, also, is the greatest time to trust because it starts the turn back.

“Lord, let me NEVER give up too soon!”

What encourages me immensely is that God constantly supervises my journey on the circle.  At whatever point I may be, He knows!   His determination is to bring me “home”.  And that will be my greatest exulting!!!!!  Praise God!

“LORD, I know that people’s lives are not their own; it is not for them to direct their steps.”   Jer. 10:23 NLV

“We know that God works all things together for good for the ones who love God, for those who are called according to his purpose.”  Romans 8:28  CEB

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Lifestyles reflect the heart of man….. Part II

The Corinthians should have known better.  Paul had previously written to them on this very subject, but they had apparently misunderstood him:

“I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters; for then you would have to go out of the world. But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he should be an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one”.  I Cor. 5:9-11

Realizing the far-reaching effects of such lack of discernment by the church, Paul had good reason to question, not only the salvation of one immoral Corinthian church member, but the salvation of others within the same church. There was strife, factions and jealousy (1 Cor. 1:10-12; 3:1-4). For those who have just been born again, these can be indications of spiritual babyhood, due primarily to lack of knowledge of God's will. Until now, the Corinthians had only been fed the milk of God's Word (1 Cor. 3:2). So Paul informed them how their selfishness displeased God, expecting that they, now enlightened to the truth, would repent.

Paul taught those who truly receive by faith God's gracious gift of salvation are transformed by His Holy Spirit. Because of His wonderful work in their lives, they become holy and continue to grow holier. They are born again, and the power of sin is broken over their lives. Christ lives in them. They become new creations. No longer are their lives characterized by the practice of sin. Certainly, true believers sometimes still do sin, but they no longer practice it.

As the apostle John wrote:

“If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness....No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God”        1 John 1:8-9; 3:9.

The salvation that comes through Jesus Christ not only provides forgiveness of sin, it provides deliverance from sin

Thus, the true test of our faith is our behavior.  And that is why Paul warns us, admonishing us to examine our lives to determine if our faith and salvation are bogus. Again, our works do not earn us salvation; our works prove that we possess true saving faith and the indwelling Holy Spirit.

“You can be sure that no immoral, impure, or greedy person will inherit the Kingdom of Christ and of God.  For a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world.

Don’t be fooled by those who try to excuse these sins, for the anger of God will fall on all who disobey him.”  Eph. 5:5-6 NLT

Although it is certainly possible for a born-again person to reluctantly and temporarily stumble into one or more of these various sins, no true believer will practice these sins.

His life is characterized by righteousness, not unrighteousness, because he has submitted to the Lord from his heart, and his spirit has been re-created by the Holy Spirit.

Paul wrote, "Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith."  Notice the word “IF”. That indicates the possibility that they were not "in the faith."  Paul did not say, "Test yourselves and you will see that you are in the faith, because I'm very confident of your salvation."

Is this not a clear indication that Paul believed the sure possibility existed that some of them might fail the test?

It was obvious that Jesus lived in Paul and Timothy, but it was not so obvious that Jesus lived in all the Corinthians who professed to believe in Him.

God does not want our offerings; He does not want our sacrifices; He wants our desire to obey; He wants our hearts; He wants us.  “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father” because that is the desire of His heart. (Matt. 7:21)

 King David was a man after God’s own heart because He wanted to do God’s will even though he often failed to obey.

The difference between true belief that leads to salvation and belief that falls short of salvation has to do with our devotion to the truth.

 “The pride of your heart has fooled you. You live in the holes of the rock. Your home is high in the mountains. And so you say in your heart, ‘Who will bring me down to the ground?”   Obadiah 1:3 NLT

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Lifestyles reflect the heart of man…..

Test yourselves and find out if you really are true to your faith.  If you pass the test, you will discover that Christ is living in you.  But if Christ isn't living in you, you have failed.”  II Cor. 13:5 CEV

In the above Scripture, we find a succinct definition of what a Christian is: He is a person in whom Christ lives and has a relationship with.

If Christ lives within a person, Christ changes him.  Obviously, according to Paul, it is possible—and advisable—to determine if Christ actually does live inside of us by means of self-examination.  Each of us who professes to be a follower of Christ should heed Paul's admonition to the Corinthians, by examining ourselves to see if we are "in the faith."

Quite obviously, Paul also believed that it was very possible for church members to be self-deceived, thinking they believed when they really didn't.  What error could be greater? What presumption could have more serious consequences?  If an unsaved person knows he is unsaved, at least there is a chance he will acknowledge his state, repent, and turn to Christ.

 But the self-deceived person is blind to his need. He is smiling on the road to hell believing he has fooled everyone when he is the only one fooled.  Worse yet, he considers the peace and joy he feels to be evidence of his salvation, not realizing that they are only the fruit of his self-deception.  

Like so many in the Church today, their understanding of the gospel was deficient. In their thinking, anyone who made a verbal confession of Christ was a true Christian, regardless of how he lived his life.

An example Paul used: One of their members in good standing was living in sexual immorality with his stepmother. Nothing was being done to correct the matter.

Paul, however, needed no further facts before rendering judgment.  He instructed them to excommunicate the man immediately, describing him as wicked: "Remove the wicked man from among yourselves" (1 Cor. 5:13).

Paul then offered the Corinthian Christians some important insight into the gospel: The grace that forgives also transforms. Thus, people who have not been transformed are not forgiven.  They will not inherit God's kingdom.  They are all those who are unrighteous in their behavior and Paul even went so far as to list several examples of the kinds of people God considers unrighteous:

“Do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God?  Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God “ 1 Cor. 6:9-10 NIV.

Why didn't Paul instruct the Corinthian church to follow the three steps of church discipline given by Christ, that is; to first confront the wayward brother privately, then by means of a small group, and finally by the entire church, before excommunicating him?

The simple answer is that Christ's instructions apply only to dealing with a true Christian believer who has sinned. The immoral man at Corinth, however, had proven beyond all doubt that he was not a true believer in Jesus.  He was a phony. His lifestyle betrayed his true character.  He was living in fornication.  Such persons, along with idolaters, the effeminate, homosexuals, thieves, the covetous, drunkards, revilers and swindlers, Paul categorically stated will not inherit God's kingdom.  

They demonstrate by their lifestyles that they do not possess saving faith in Christ; they are not regenerated by the Holy Spirit. Christ does not live in them; thus they do not belong to Him (Rom. 8:9).

The immoral Corinthian church member was, according to Paul, not a true brother, but only a so-called brother. And failing to understand the inseparable correlation between belief and behavior, the church to which he belonged failed to discern that his confession of faith was bogus.

The new birth changes the behavior of sinners, sometimes radically in the case of gross sinners.  Why is it then that the behavior of so many people who claim to be born again is not much different from those who do NOT claim to be born again?

Many people who think they are born again are not. They think they are going to heaven but they are not.

“If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” Gal. 6:3

Friday, February 17, 2012

…..stench of religion without relationship…….

“When you come before me,
whoever gave you the idea of acting like this,
Running here and there, doing this and that—
all this sheer commotion in the place provided for worship?

"Quit your worship charades.
I can't stand your trivial religious games: Monthly conferences, weekly Sabbaths, special meetings— meetings, meetings, meetings—I can't stand one more!
Meetings for this, meetings for that.  I hate them!  You've worn me out!              I'm sick of your religion, religion, religion, while you go right on sinning.
When you put on your next prayer-performance, I’ll be looking the other way.
No matter how long or loud or often you pray, I'll not be listening.

“And do you know why? Because you've been tearing people to pieces, and your hands are bloody.
Go home and wash up.
Clean up your act.
Sweep your lives clean of your evildoings so I don't have to look at them any longer.
Say no to wrong.  Learn to do good. Work for justice.  Help the down-and-out.
Stand up for the homeless.
Go to bat for the defenseless.”  Isa. 1:12-17 MSG Bible

 People do not want to change the way they do things because they have come to worship the form and practice of their religion.  The worship of form and practice makes ministry a substitute for a real relationship with God.

Forms and practices do not demand transparency in our own lives, genuine heartfelt concern for people, or a desire for intimacy with God.  Yet form and practice easily mislead us into thinking, all is well in God-Ville, when in reality our form and practice generates a stench that reaches to the throne of God.

One-hundred and thirty years before writing the admonition given by Jeremiah, God would speak through the prophet Isaiah words that communicated His heart regarding the stench of religion without relationship.  It is a message that is as timely and true in the Laodicean period of Church history as it was it the days of Isaiah and Jeremiah. 

In Isaiah 1:16 God directs His children to clean-up their lives. They were to separate themselves from the carnal, worldliness that preoccupied their lives and consumed their time. They were commanded to "cease" doing evil.

Here is where rules without relationship become a problem.

Why were the lives of the children of Israel consumed with selfish priorities and worldliness?

Why do Christians struggle with and argue about practices that are clearly worldly?

The answer is simple; they have religion without a personal, intimate relationship with God that generates self-deception. Therefore, they viewed God's commandments as intrusions upon their lives and restrictions upon the things they found pleasure in. They thought temporally and they lived temporally.  Their religious practices were simply a means to manipulate God into providing them the things they needed and wanted. They did not approach God in worship with an open transparency, seeking intimacy with Him.

They created their own manmade sources of fulfillment to sustain them spiritually and whatever form this takes, it is idolatry.  These were manmade sources for personal fulfillment and happiness.

This is what God calls "broken cisterns that can hold no water."  In other words, these manmade inventions will never be able to accomplish what they were made to do. They are superficial and self deceiving.

This is what God is referring to in Jeremiah 7:4 and 8 when He says, "you trust in lying words."  He is talking about self-deception. We are lying to ourselves when we have religion without relationship.   

Jesus quotes Isaiah 29:13 in Matthew 15:8 and applies it to the Pharisees.  How accurately this describes religion without relationship:"These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me".

If we are not driven by a concern about the things God is concerned about, our Christianity is nothing more than self deception.

Fruitful ministry will naturally flow from a life through which God overflows. When God finally gets a hold of your heart and you get a hold of His, He will overflow the "fruit of His Spirit" in you!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Religion without Relationship……

“This word came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying, “Stand in the gate of the Lord’s house and make this word known: ‘Hear the Word of the Lord, all you men of Judah who go through these gates to worship the Lord!’”   The Lord of All, the God of Israel, says, “Change your ways and your works for the better, and I will let you live in this place.   Do not trust the lies that say, ‘This is the house of the Lord, the house of the Lord, the house of the Lord.’

 For if you for sure change your ways and what you do for the better, if you are fair as you judge between a man and his neighbor, if you do not make it hard for the stranger from another land, or the child whose parents have died, or the woman whose husband has died, and do not kill those who are not guilty in this place, and stop going after other gods, for that will destroy you,  then I will let you live in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers forever and ever.

 “See, you are trusting in lies which cannot help you.  Will you steal, kill, do sex sins, make false promises, give gifts to the false god Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known, and THEN come and stand before Me in this house which is called by My name, and say, ‘We are safe and free!’ and still do all these hated sins?  Has this house which is called by My name become a place of robbers in your eyes?   See, I Myself have seen it,” says the Lord.”  Jer. 7:1-11 NLV

Unless we make a considerable effort to keep God, and our relationship with Him, at the forefront of our minds, it will not be long before our Christianity slips into self-deception.  When that happens we begin to take God for granted and just routinely do our “God-stuff” ----we just go through the motions.

We need intimacy with God, but we are usually unwilling to invest the time necessary to get to know Him, or to know what He expects from us in that relationship.

One thing we should all know for sure is that God wants intimacy with His children and is doing everything He can to bring us to the place where we will begin working on that relationship of intimacy. The difficulty is that we deceive ourselves into thinking that we already have an intimate relationship with God when we really do not.

We think because we go to church regularly and pray before our meals that all is well in God-Ville.  We also think because we give money to the church and read our Bibles that we are doing what we need to do to have intimacy with God.

 Self-deception comes in all kinds of forms and in many degrees.  The nation of Israel at the time of Jeremiah was guilty of almost every form of deception.  Rules without relationship will degenerate into self-deception.  Religion without relationship is equally as deadly.

The people of Israel had deceived themselves into thinking that everything in their lives was right with God as long as their Temple practices were in order (Jer. 7:4).  What a debilitating form of self-deception.  It was religion without relationship.

Religion without relationship tends to generate into a worship of form and practice that lacks in any real heart motivation for real ministry and a true concern for souls and lives.

“In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.  He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water"” (John 7:37-38).

If that is what you want to see in your life, you are going to have to seriously evaluate your priorities.  The flow of that "living water" will begin when your heart and God's heart are one.

Disobedience=Fruitless Christian……..

“Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them.  And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them.”  John 14:21 NLT

It is our practical obedience to what Jesus says to us that releases His hand to fulfil whatever He has said to us! It is when we act upon, or do what Jesus says, that enables us to capture what He has said in such a way that we get the benefits of what He says to us.

If we do not obey what He says, we soon forget what He has said.  We lose the benefits of the voice of God to us personally. If we are only passive hearers, then we are like the person who looks in the mirror, turns away, and then forgets what has been said to him. That precious moment in God when He speaks to us is lost because we fail to capture it, and then translate it into an act of obedience!

A disobedient Christian is a fruitless Christian when it comes to pleasing and obeying God.  If we do not obey, we will never enjoy the fruit of what God said to us in the first place!

‘For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror;  for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was.

But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.” James 1:23-25 NLT

God does not ever ask us to do anything we cannot do. He says what He means and He means what He says.  And when He tells us to do something, we should quickly obey because He will empower us to do what He has asked of us. He knows we can do it.  If we make excuses and say we cannot do it, then we are arguing with God and telling Him that He is not God and cannot do what He says.

When we are committed to hearing and obeying the voice of the Holy Spirit, there is no room for any excuses ~ at all!   Excuses are a means of telling God there is something wrong with our relationship with Him!  Excuses will take us into self-deception. When God speaks ~ and we obey ~ there is always a blessing in obeying God!

When God speaks, faith is released in us to do what He has asked of us. Faith is a prophetic word that “comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17).

Faith is action; the releasing or doing of that which God speaks to us. So many opportunities in life are missed and wasted because we fail to act upon that which God has spoken. Let us not be deceived any longer.

 Be committed to act upon that which God speaks, and you will see good fruit come out of it ~ every time!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Obedience is an act of love……….

“ Jesus replied, “All who love me will do what I say.  My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them.   Anyone who doesn’t love me will not obey me.  And remember, my words are not my own.  What I am telling you is from the Father who sent me.”  John 14:23-24 NLT

In John 14:15-31, we see that Jesus taught that the proof of our love for Him is our obedience to what He says. We cannot ignore what He says and expect to keep walking in His blessings.  That is deception . . . self-deception!

It is tragic that we have become so passive in our believing and faith.......we just sit in church and absorb rather than “hear and do.”  Sadly, that has caused us to miss out on so much of the supernatural of God, because we do not have confidence to believe that we can hear from God for ourselves.  We cannot ignore the importance of “hearing and doing,” for if we do, then we fall into self-deception.

We hear very little about the perils of self-deception today. The tragedy of self-deception is that we do not know when we are self-deceived!  Self-deception, if not dealt with through personal obedience to God, will continue to deceive us and take us on a downward spiral of decay.

The word “deceiving” (as recorded in James 1:22) means: “to reckon wrong, misreckon, miscount; hence, to draw false conclusions; then to cheat or deceive by false reasoning, hence, to deceive” (Bullinger’s). When we are drawing or coming to false conclusions, we are cheating ourselves of the knowledge and the power of truth. That then causes us to live in a state of deception . . . self-deception.

Deception ~ whether it be self-deception or otherwise ~ always takes us away from the truth of the Holy Spirit’s revelation.  Without the Holy Spirit’s revelation working in our lives we will fall to the level to the dictation of our flesh-life.

Therefore, it is imperative that we follow the clear instructions of the Lord by developing the “art of listening” to the Holy Spirit. It is only through our ability to hear and discern the voice of the Holy Spirit that obedience can be activated. If we listen, we will hear what He has to say.  And when we hear what He has to say, we then need to follow through on what He says to us with a physical action. That physical act of obedience to the voice of God demonstrates that we believe the voice of God more than our own doubts, fears, and what others might say about us, if we do something out of the ordinary.

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Word of God is a mirror……

The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who live in the clefts of the rocks and make your home on the heights, you who say to yourself, 'Who can bring me down to the ground?” Obadiah 1:3

Self-deception occurs when people who are committed to certain values act against those values while convincing themselves that what they are doing does not in fact violate those values.

We exhibit an amazing agility in avoiding the truth about who we are and what we do.  Our failures in being honest with ourselves are instances of self-deception.  All of us are, have been, or could be self-deceivers and we are prone to it, capable of it, and never more likely to be in its grip than in those moments when we are sure we are not.  As people of faith, we are called to be honest in our dealings with God, with others and with ourselves.

Self-deception lurks in denials, double-mindedness, rationalizations, cover-ups and cover stories, elaborate and almost convincing justifications, excuses, attributions of blame and evasions of responsibility.

The fact that we are easily self-deceived should surprise no Christian for, as the inspired prophet Jeremiah wrote centuries ago, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick, who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9)

Jeremiah quickly adds, “I, the Lord, search the heart and I test the mind, even to give to each man according to his ways, according to the results of his deeds” (v.10).  However, this deceitful heart, which each of us inherits as a result of the fall of Adam, leaves us in a bit of a quandary.   We are people with deceitful hearts, and at times incomprehensible motives.

If even the best and most sincere can be deceived by their own hearts, then how can we have confidence that any of our actions, thoughts or motives is pure?  How can we be sure that we are not deluding ourselves no matter how hard we try to live in integrity?  How then can any of us hope to live in such a way that we please God?  

The key is the infallible revelation found in Scripture.   Perhaps James explains it best when he compares the Word of God to a mirror;

“But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.”  James 1:22-25 NIV

The only means we have to free ourselves from habitual self-deception is the mirror of the Word of God.  The Scriptures reveal God’s objective standards by which we can examine our actions, thoughts and even motives, to determine if they are in compliance with righteousness.

 If we were to determine our standing before the Lord by feelings and guesses we would be drifting on a sea of subjectivity.  God has graciously not abandoned us to such folly but has given us clear detail and understanding in the ways that He would have us live.  We are to examine ourselves in the light of God’s mirror and determine if we are living as He desires.  Every area of our lives should be given careful attention in Scripture so that we might live with assurance before our Lord.