Flesh vs. Spirit – Romans 8:5-14

Living According To The Flesh Leads To Death

5 Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. 7 The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 8 Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.

9 You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. 10 But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. 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 because of his Spirit who lives in you.

12 Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation-but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. 13 For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.

14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.

Fleshly Failure

Carnal Christianity is a danger that faces the every disciple of Christ.  The world, the flesh, and the devil try to draw us away from the Spirit of God through the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life.  In the United States, the blessing of God has provided a petri dish where it is easy to focus on the pleasures of the flesh.  Financial prosperity clouds the judgment, and can provide an environment where people can forget that it is God that provides.  Culture seeks to please the flesh, rather than the Spirit, and leads people into every manner of evil.  Moral Relativism, self-actualization, Secular Humanism, the media, the entertainment industry, and advertisements all seek to draw people away from reliance upon God to reliance upon self, or the goods and services that are for sale.

Spiritual Specialization

Disciples of Christ are called instead to submit to the Spirit of God.  This is how we know that we are in Christ.  For the flesh desires what the flesh wants, and what our spirit wants is contrary to the flesh.  The Holy Spirit of God woos us through the word of God, gentle prodding and encouragement.

Yielding to the Spirit gives life.  Even though the flesh is subject to death because of the curse through the disobedience of Adam, the Spirit gives life, and life abundantly through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  Though the flesh may fail, the Spirit gives us life.  The Spirit can do this because of righteousness.  God is holy, and cannot abide rebellion to righteousness.  When we submit to the Holy Spirit, He conforms our desires to pursue righteousness instead of that opposes that which is righteous.

Careful Commitment

If a person claims to be:

  • A child of God
  • Saved
  • A Christian
  • A disciple of Christ

then they have an obligation to submit to the Spirit so that they will grow and draw close to righteousness, for the image-bearers of God should not be bearing the image of any other.  Salvation is not fire-insurance; it is the opportunity to be reconciled to a holy and righteous God.

Just as a criminal who claims to be reformed should act reformed, so should we as redeemed sinners.  What good does it do a criminal who has been freed to go back to the same life that they lived before?  Their actions will certainly catch up to them, and they will face judgment again for what they have done.  In the same way, disciples of Christ have an obligation to allow the Spirit of God to conform us to the life that lives in harmony with God.

The signature evidence that a disciple of Christ is a true child of God is that their life gives evidence that they are being led by the Spirit of God.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s as a question: Am I being led by the Spirit of God?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Thank You for the opportunity to draw close to You.  Thank You for giving me Your Holy Spirit to lead me, teach me, guide me, encourage me, convict me, pray for me, and advocate for me.  Father, help me to walk in righteousness before You.  The temptations of this world are strong, and I pray for the strength to resist their pulls on my life, and the wisdom to recognize that which will cause me harm.  You have provided the things on Earth for our pleasure, but to be enjoyed, not worshiped or pursued.  Help my heart to also pursue You first.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Press on Towards Christ – Philippians 3:12-14

We Have Not Yet Arrived

12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Aggressively Advance

Paul had a form of tunnel vision.  It was the intentional, singular goal in his life – that he press on towards Christ.  Paul realized that the distractions of life would pull at him, and try to derail his efforts, keeping him from doing what God had determined before time began that he should accomplish:

15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

Each of us has a calling from God to do what God has planned in advance for us to accomplish.  We must strive with every ounce of energy in our bodies to do that which God desires for us to accomplish for, and in, His name.

Awaiting  Arrival

Many people would look at the ministry of Paul and say that Paul had arrived, that he had advanced as far as he could spiritually, was mature and complete, lacking in nothing.  But Paul reminds us here that he himself recognizes that he has not yet arrived.  Paul can only see one thing – Christ and Him crucified.  Paul is in the process of allowing God to nail everything that is not of God that is still in Paul to the cross of Christ.  Paul still has a sin nature he inherited from Adam, and that causes him distress:

21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.

Forget the Former

Paul has a secret weapon that he uses effectively and mightily in the war on his flesh: He forgets what is behind.  When we dwell on the past, we are not able to focus on the future.  The past holds us in its grip, reminding us of our failures (guilt and shame), as well as our successes (pride and haughtiness), and traps us in a mental loop where we are unable to see clearly what we are doing or where we are going.  Paul reminds himself that he is forgiven.  You are forgiven!  All that you have ever done, are doing, and will do, is forgiven by God through the shed blood of Jesus Christ.

The ordinance of baptism is not only sign of obedience to God and to that world that you are now identifying with Christ rather than the world, it is designed, symbolically, to represent the cleansing of your sins, shedding all of the dirt of your past.  Practically, this act is designed to remove from your conscious and subconscious, all traces of guilt and shame for what has gone before.  When we go under the water, then come back up, our conscience is completely clean.  We feel new, and the burden of what was has been removed from our shoulders:

12 “A man named Ananias came to see me. He was a devout observer of the law and highly respected by all the Jews living there. 13 He stood beside me and said, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight!’ And at that very moment I was able to see him.

14 “Then he said: ‘The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth. 15 You will be his witness to all people of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.’ [Emphasis mine]

The blood of Christ washes our sins away.  Baptism washes the psychological effects of our sin away.  When we are baptized, we can feel that God has cleansed our conscience, and from there move forward.  If you have not been baptized because:

  • You have heard that it is legalism (it’s not – obedience to God is not legalism, it is the act of  gratitude and respect towards your Father in Heaven)
  • You have heard it is not required for salvation (it isn’t – the thief on the cross was not baptized, yet Christ promised he would be in his kingdom [also look at Joel 2:32].  Requirements are just that – absolute, inviolable precursors needed to ensure success)
  • You have heard that you don’t have to be obedient in this command

then I highly recommend that you find someone who is willing to baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit so that you can receive the blessing that comes both from obedience and the cleansing of your conscience!

Pointedly Proceed

Paul was straining towards what is ahead.  His sole focus was to keep his eyes on Christ, and continue to arrange his life in such a manner that he was passionately pursuing his own sanctification as well as the mission that God had provided to him.   Paul sought to please the Lord in everything he said, thought, and did.  He did not always succeed, but rather than live in the past, Paul strove towards the future and his goal: honoring his Lord Jesus Christ in all that he did and all that he was.

Gazing toward the Goal

The key to doing all of this is to keep our eyes focused solely upon Jesus.  There is a refrain in an old hymn that puts this in perspective:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  What am I doing to press on towards the goal?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, may all praise and glory be unto the Lord God Almighty, who is worthy.  I thank You for Paul’s life as an example of how to live in a way that honors and glorifies Your name.  Thank you for showing me that perfection in this life is not possible, but it is You that looks at the hearts of men, and gives grace and mercy to all of us who fail, even though we strive with all of our hearts to obey You in everything You have said.  Grant me the strength to forgive myself, and help me to keep my eyes upon Jesus, so that I would always look forward, and leave the past behind.  Father, I know it is Satan who tries to get me to dwell in my past.  Help me to let go of the past.  And Father, I ask that you would help me to better understand how baptism cleanses my conscience.  Give me clean hands and a pure heart, unaffected by my past, that I can strive with the singular purpose of love and obedience in following Jesus.  Amen.

Want more? Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Combat Training with God – Philippians 1:27-30

Show No Fear – That Will Be A Witness That Any Who Oppose You Will Be Destroyed

27 Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel 28 without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. 29 For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, 30 since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.

Live the Life

Paul exhorts us to live a life worthy of the gospel that we have received.  In the world today, it is so much easier to just “go with the flow”.  We must be vigilant, and guard our hearts against the pull of the world, our flesh, and the devil.  Everything that we do is being witnessed by men, angels, and God.

And although only God can see our thoughts, Satan has been around for who knows how many millennia, and he and his cohorts in crime are pretty good at guessing what we are thinking.  Impossible, you say?  How is it then that con artists are able to “read” a person – properly evaluate how a person is reacting to something – and then feed them information that will speak to their inner desires, resonate with them, and then get them to do things that no one in their right mind would ever voluntarily do?  They are able to see the “tells” that we all have.  We have imperceptible changes in breathing, heart rate, pupil dilation, fidgeting, and other subconscious involuntary reactions to our environment.  They are able to “read” them – notice them and then watch for them – as they probe us with their carefully crafted words.

Satan can do the same thing.  He and the demons have been studying humans since the creation of Adam and Eve.  They know more about you than you know about yourself.  They cannot read your thoughts, but because we are spiritual creatures, they are able to interact with us on a spiritual level, and “whisper in our ear” the lies that they want us to believe and internalize.  Not every thought in your mind started with you.  Satan can bring back to memory the deepest and most emotionally powerful memories that you have, usually of your failures (to shame you) or your successes (to lead you to pride).  That is one of the reasons that Paul told us that we should, “…take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

When we do that, we are able to put everything in its proper place, and remember our training (“If you love me, you will obey my commands…”, “…offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God…”).  A good offense needs a good defense as well.  Otherwise, the enemy will easily break through your line of defense, and cause you unspeakable pain while interrupting your carefully planned strategy for success.

Stand Strong

Paul also exhorts us to stand strong in the one Spirit.  In Ephesians 6:14, we are told to “stand firm“.  The Greek word for this is stEte.  It is an imperative command – we should do it! – and it has the word-picture of a Roman soldier who has dug his shield and both his feet firmly into the ground, bracing himself for the impact of a rushing hoard of enemies.  Paul tells us here we are to stand firm as well – stEkete, or “YE ARE STANDING firm”.   We are to lock shields with our brothers and sisters in Christ, hold the line, and in all of this, be unified in purpose and thought.

Unified Undertaking

Paul tells us to strive together as one for the faith of the Gospel.  We are to all be engaged in the last great commission of our Lord and Savior:

19 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, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

Face your Fear

Ah, the dreaded subject that is on our minds.  What will we do when we are opposed?  Internally, we are all frightened.  We are human, and God has instilled within us a very good mechanism that biologically activates a number of chemicals that inform us of what we should do when we are in perceived or real danger.  We experience fear.  It is a self-preservation mechanism that, if we didn’t have it, would cause many more of us to die unnecessarily.

If we had no fear in and of ourselves, we would do crazy things, like jump out of airplanes thousands of feet above the ground, jump off thousand food cliffs into coves of water, and…  Oh, I guess there ARE people who do these things!  We can overcome our fear of dying, pain, public embarrassment (that’s a hard one), public humiliation, and many other things that cause us fear.

But we don’t overcome them the way the way the world overcomes them.  We rely on and trust in the Lord God Almighty, who in our time of distress, gives us a peace that is beyond understanding and guards our hearts in Christ Jesus against anything that our enemies can bring against us.

When we react in this way, we are bringing two separate witnesses to bear:

  1. We are being saved (removes any doubt in the minds of those who oppose us)
  2. Our opposition will (eventually) be destroyed by a holy, righteous, and faithful God who doesn’t take it lightly when someone messes with their child (unless they repent).  Ask any parent what they would do if someone was trying to bring harm to their child.  Multiply that times infinity (God’s love and wrath are eternal), and you have God’s final reaction to any who refuse to acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord in the flesh and opposes His children.

Selected for Suffering

Jesus Christ endured great hardship and suffering while He walked the Earth and died on the cross for our sins.  Since the student is not greater than the teacher, we should expect similar hardship and suffering while we engage in His work here on Earth.  Endure all hardship as discipline.  Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.   Look to the life of Paul, and consider your suffering in light of His good example.  Remember what God said to Ananias concerning Saul, who was breathing threats against the brothers:

“I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question: When faced with fear, how do I respond?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have shown me that I am to show no fear in how I conduct myself.  You expect this of me, because You will provide for my every need at the time I need it.  You have said through Your servant John, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”  Help me to endure and allow perseverance to complete its work so that I may be mature in love.  Help me, as I overcome the enemy of my soul, that I would grow and mature in my walk with You.  Grant me the strength to walk, and the desire to live in holiness and righteousness before You and man.  Help me in my time of need when fear threatens to overtake me so that I would be bold, even unto death.  For even in death, You have promised me that You would never leave me nor forsake me.  This I ask in the precious name of my Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more? Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Carnal Christianity – Genesis 13:12-13

We Are To Pitch Our Tents Towards God, Not Towards Sodom

12 Abram lived in the land of Canaan, while Lot lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tents near Sodom. 13 Now the people of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the Lord.

Choose Carefully

Each of us will eventually be faced with a choice.  When we reach that fork in the road, we will have to choose which way we should go.  And though there may be more than two choices, there is usually one good choice, and not-so-good choice.

Lot was given first pick of where he would like to go.  Rather than choose the land as far from sin as possible, he chose the fertile plains near Sodom and Gomorrah.  In itself, choosing this direction is not evil.  However, we must be very careful when we choose to dwell near evil, because constant exposure to wickedness can deaden our revulsion to it.

In today world, in Western Culture, we have reports where people are being raped and murdered, and rather than help the innocent victims, like the Good Samaritan, people turn the cameras of their smartphones on and, in wonder, record the wickedness of men, only to later post the videos of the encounter on such file-sharing services as YouTube, hoping that it will “go viral.”  In a world where people would willingly allow unspeakable evil happen to their neighbor to generate ratings on their YouTube channel, they have become inured to the effects of evil.

The path to desensitization is a slow and insidious process.  Once we become desensitized to something, we can properly justify its existence, and if we are not careful, embrace it as normal, natural, socially acceptable, and then preferable.  Let’s look to the life of Lot to see how “pitching our tents towards Sodom” can lead a person from revulsion to acceptance and “tolerance.”

Parked in the Periphery

When the groups of men of Abram and his relative Lot became so large that there was quarreling between the two group, Abram told Lot to choose a direction and he would go in the other.  Lot chose the fertile plains towards Sodom, and “pitched his tents towards Sodom.”

When we intentionally head towards wickedness, we need to be particularly careful that we are not influenced by our situation.  We are called to be light and salt.  But we must not be deceived:

Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.”

Lot, in choosing what appeared to be the more verdant land that promised to greatly prosper his family, chose an area near a people who participated in great wickedness.  This would eventually lead to his family’s downfall.

Gathered at the Gates

After Lot had been captured and later rescued by Abram, we later see that he was sitting in the city gates.  This was the prominent position where the elders of the city would gather.  Lot, as a believer in the Lord God Almighty, should have been of great influence in the land.  He was now a part of the city elders, the equivalent of being on City Council.  He had every opportunity to talk to the people, but as we will see, the people did not heed his example, and later would threaten him for even suggesting that they abstain from abject wickedness.

Lot was no longer in the periphery, he was an active part of the community, and actually making decisions for the community.  On the surface this would appear to be an ideal situation.  But let’s look at how much the people actually respected and revered his position of authority with them:

Total Toleration

Lot’s place was now at the city gate.  He was in the thick of things.  He could either be an influence for good, or “go with the flow” and  “go along to get along” so that he wouldn’t rock the boat and possibly damage the economic benefits that came with such a position and influence.  Let’s see exactly how much he had influenced the culture:

4 Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom—both young and old—surrounded the house. 5 They called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.”

6 Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him 7 and said, “No, my friends. Don’t do this wicked thing. 8 Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them. But don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof.”

9 “Get out of our way,” they replied. “This fellow came here as a foreigner, and now he wants to play the judge! We’ll treat you worse than them.” They kept bringing pressure on Lot and moved forward to break down the door.

We can see that they, in their wicked and insatiable desires, immediately classified him as a foreigner, and an obstacle to their carnal desires.  They actually threatened to do worse to Lot than they had planned to do to the angels.  It is interesting to note that they are making a comment about Lot’s attitude towards their behavior.  Note that they say, …”and now he wants to play the judge!” (emphasis mine).  He apparently had not said a thing to the people of Sodom and Gomorrah about their wickedness.  He would have been soundly trounced and driven out of there had he said a single word that offended them.  Their reaction conclusively shows that he remained quiet about their lifestyle until now.  We can only speculate as to why.  But the Bible does say:

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

But now let’s look at Lot’s reaction.  While protecting visitors was of utmost importance in the culture regarding hospitality at the time, rather than rebuking them, he offered his two daughter’s to them to be ravaged with their peculiar predilections.  While it is true that in Lot’s time women were not thought of as highly as they are today in Western culture, this was an abomination – to sacrifice your own children.  Would it not be better to protect your family, and go down swinging?  Lot compromised by potentially harming his innocent family in order to try to maintain peace and the hope of still living among people who might very well have done unspeakable horrors to his innocent children.

Lot had been influenced by the culture rather than influencing the culture.  There is always the danger that, when living in the midst of cultural decay, we adopt the attitudes of what we see around us as acceptable, and don’t even realize how deeply we have been affected by wickedness until a time of desperation and great trial comes upon us.  It is only then that we will see how we will respond.  Which training and beliefs will win through the trial – the teachings and beliefs in Almighty God, or the Godless beliefs of the culture we have CHOSEN to live in?

Paul indicated that we are to separate ourselves from the world.  This is not to separate us physically from the world, but rather to separate our values, beliefs, morals, and actions from what the world system teaches.  As we go about our ways, we must constantly be in communication and communion with our Lord Jesus Christ and walk yielded to the Holy Spirit of God, lest we find ourselves slowly being sucked into culture, and eventually, indistinguishable from it.

When we reach this stage – where the way we act is indistinguishable from the world around us – that we find that we have become carnal Christians.  We are no longer disciples of Christ, but rather holding on to a semblance of piety, spouting belief in the holy word of God, and perhaps even memorizing the word, but not allowing its power to transform our lives into the character and caliber of people as befits us as image-bearers of God:

1 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God- 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.

Final Forbearance

When we get to this stage, we are confronted by a holy, almighty God:

14 “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:

These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. 15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.

19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. 20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.

21 To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I influencing culture, or is culture influencing me?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are a holy God, and cannot stand sin in Your presence.  Examine my heart, Lord God, and see if there is any wrongdoing in me.  Show me my transgressions, and expose any inroads that the enemy has purchased in my soul.  Help me to see how egregious this is to You, and to be shocked again at the vileness of sin.  Give me a right perspective that aligns completely with Your heart and Your word.  Let me not go my own way, but rather purchase gold refined by Your fire, so that I may be restored to You.  Help me to be a powerhouse influence in culture.  And if that costs me dearly, so be it.  I would rather be hated by men and near to You than to be loved by men and spewed out of Your mouth.  Help me to fight the emotional battles that need to be fought, and provide me with the strength to have solid footing when there are consequences for speaking up for You.  I announce to the world this day that my allegiance is with Almighty God, and not culture.  Do with me what You will, I already know my eternal future.  Let me say to the world, “come with me that you may have life, and have it super-abundantly”, and know in my heart that You are sovereign over all, Lord God.  This I ask in the name of Your Most Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more? Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Combat Training with God – 1 Corinthians 10:12-13

God Will Provide A Way For You To Honor Him When You Are Tempted/Tested

12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! 13 No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

Proper Precautions

Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.

Paul warns us that we should take a careful look at how we are walking.  When we think that we are doing well, and we are standing, BEWARE!  It is very likely that we will fall.  Pride has a tendency to distract us from having a proper perception of our circumstances.  While there are many who are walking properly, when we think we are walking, pay careful and close attention to your walk;  that is usually when you are about to step into a large pit of slimy quicksand up to your ears.

Common Causes

Paul tells us that there are common temptations that assail us.  The Apostle John lists them in three categories:

  1. The lust of the eyes
  2. The lust of the flesh
  3. The pride of life

These are the same methods that Satan tried to use to when he was testing Jesus after his forty day fast.  James reiterates that temptation is caused by our own evil desires:

13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

There is no temptation that is unique to you; it just feels that way.  You will find, if you talk to other people whom you can trust will hold what you say in confidence, that everyone faces similar temptations.  The source may be different, but the temptation is the same.  Everyone has different triggers, and it is up to us to ask God to remove those triggers so that we can start to react differently to temptation.  Removing a trigger in you life doesn’t mean that the evil desire is removed; it means that we have more than a microsecond to remember that we can say “NO!” to the temptation rather than giving in to it.

Royal Relief

It is terrible when we feel helpless to say “NO” to temptation.  But the reason that we say “YES” is that we are not saying “NO” in the first place!  God is faithful, and He will not allow us to be tempted beyond our ability to bear up under it.  We may not believe that, because we have been yielding to temptation for so long that, like Pavlov’s dogs, we automatically say “YES!” when the opportunity is presented to us.  But God is not cruel, and He will provide a way for us to honor Him when we face our temptations.

Difficult Door

The way to honor God during temptation is not easy.  And we need His help to overcome all temptation.  The good news is that the blood of Jesus Christ has freed us from the bondage of sin, so we now have the CAPABILITY to say “NO!” to temptation.  But how can we do that when our bodies are weak, and fail us each and every time we are presented with a challenge?

God is faithful to provide us with many examples in the Bible on how to deal with temptation.  The very first mention of temptation was when God approached Cain, and told him that if he did what was wrong, sin was crouching at his door, but he needed to rule over it:

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”

Joseph was placed into a precarious situation with Potiphar’s wife.  She desired to know him physically, and even engineered a situation where they would be alone so there would be no witnesses.  When Joseph realized the situation that he was in, he escaped sin by performing the ultimate Houdini act – he escaped by running as fast as he could from the temptation.  This is not always possible, but it can be very effective.

When Nehemiah was faced with the temptation to hide in the temple from his enemies, he perceived that this was a ruse to get him to sin.  Nehemiah refused to give in to the ploy, and did not cower in the temple.  Temptation can come from may places.  It is important to remember to be vigilant in guarding ourselves against the wiles of the enemy as he tries to get us to do what is not right in the eyes of Almighty God.

Jesus Himself gave us a wonderful way to face temptation.  He used scripture to refute it.  God will give us the ability and the way to escape temptation.  However, we must remember that there may be consequences for saying “NO!”  Joseph was placed in jail after Potiphar’s wife lied about her seductress encounter with him. The fate of many of the saints in the second half of Hebrews 11 tells of their woes.

We too may face social, career, financial, and possibly many other types of loss, ruination, or troubles because we have chosen to say “NO!” to temptation.  These consequences may have lasting repercussions in our lives here on Earth, as well as our family’s lives.  Count the cost – God desires obedience in the face of opposition.  But God is faithful, and as we are obedient to Him, He will provide a way for us.  Even if that way is to be reunited with Him in glory.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question: What is my tendency when I am presented with a temptation?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Thank You for Your faithfulness in all things.  Thank You for providing a way to say “NO!” to temptation.  Thank You for giving me the opportunity to honor and glorify You with my mind, my words, and my body.  Help me to be faithful, even unto death, so that You may be praised, honored and glorified.  Strengthen me during my trials, and show me the way to resist them so that I would honor You.  And when I have been backed into a corner, whether through my own fault, or the evil, sadistic, hateful plots of others to discredit and destroy me, give me the strength to do what is right, even in the face of death.  I pray that You would help me when the fallout from these encounters causes my circumstances to be grim and dire.  I know, Father, that You are sovereign over all things.  Help me to endure so that I would not lose my reward.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more? Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Combat Training with God – Titus 2:11-12

Live A Godly Life By Saying No To Worldly Passions

11 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age

Grace of God

Salvation to all people has now been made available through the graciousness of The Lord God Almighty.  Grace is the mitigating factor in for the perfect justice of God.  He cannot look upon evil with approval.  Grace provides us with the opportunity, clothed in the righteousness of His Son, Jesus Christ, to come before Him in prayer for the forgiveness of sin.

Taken to the extreme, grace can be abused.  Paul warns us that we should not continue sinning so that grace can abound.  We are to accept grace as an intervening agent that is our source of salvation, and provides us with the opportunity to walk in holiness and uprightness before God.  If we rely entirely upon grace to see us through life, and live our lives the way that WE want, we are not submitting ourselves to the Holy Spirit.  There are some key scriptures that bear repeating over and over.  One is the command of Jesus Christ, our Commander-in-Chief:  Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Me.  By relying completely on grace and ignoring the commands of the Holy Spirit of God, we place ourselves in a perilous situation where Christ may refuse to acknowledge us when He returns:

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'”

Decline Distractions

We are to be in training as soldiers of Christ, not involving ourselves in the affairs of civilians.  In this, we are to focus upon the desires of our Father in Heaven, and not the pursuit of worldly passions, which is ungodliness.  We are to rightly discern what is good and right, and what is wrong and evil.  This is a skill that every disciple should be training to do.  As we offer our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God, we can test God’s good, perfect, and pleasing will.

What is it that plagues you?  What trips you up, sucking you into its death spiral of doom, ruining your walk with God, and destroying your relationships and efforts at pursuing righteousness?  It is these things that we need to say “No” to so that we are able to say “Yes” to God, “Yes” to righteousness, and “Yes” to victory.  Without declining ungodliness and worldly passions, we are like a cup, being constantly filled with the world, with no space left to be filled with God.  Saying “No” empties us of the passions and pursuits that vie for our time, talent, and treasure in conflict with the known will of God through His word.

Get Godly

Live a life that is self-controlled, upright, and godly in this present age.  Each and every person alive on Earth, whether they choose to acknowledge it, is an image bearer of God.  Everyone, by their very existence, owe their very lives to God, for He has created us.  When we choose to live lives devoid of self-control, we deny what God has already declared is true – that we bear His image.

It is only by living upright, godly lives that we are able to properly bear the image of God.  We have been given the opportunity by God in a gracious act of love to be able to choose how we want to live our lives.  Plagued with a sin nature, and the constant goading and pressures of the world, the devil, and our own evil desires, we do not have the strength by ourselves to overcome this.  Always turn to God when you sin.  Allow His grace and mercy to overwhelm you, and take joy in Him who created You so that You will find the strength to continue when circumstances do their very best to destroy you.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Do I find that living a godly life is a greater desire in my life than that of worldly pursuits?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You constantly pour out your grace and mercy upon me.  Help me in my weakness so that You will be my strength.  Help me to lean upon You for strength as my circumstances overwhelm me.  Give me a heart like David, that I might continually turn to You and desire Your holiness in my life, regardless of how bad I have messed up.  Help me to be humble before You, that You would lift my head up and restore me.  Grant me the desire and strength to live a holy life, far removed from the worldly passions and pursuits that bombard me with promises of fulfillment that only You can fulfill.  Shake me out of my complacency, and equip me to focus on the tasks at hand.  Remove the pull of desire that distracts me from You and fulfilling Your will in this life.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more? Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Legalism and God – 1 Timothy 4:1-5

Everything God Created Is Good

1 The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. 2 Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. 3 They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. 4 For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5 because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.

Demonic Deception

The devil has been at it since the beginning.  He has some direct responsibility with the fall of man, and continues to lash out at God in the only way he knows how – by interfering in the lives of the very beings that God created to bear His image.  Not every spirit is of God, and many have fallen prey to the teachings of evil spiritual beings.  Even now, people struggle with spiritual strongholds in their lives because they have believed something that is not true, and hold to those teachings as truth.

For instance, baptism is an ordinance of the faith.  This is something that disciples should very much desire to do.  However, baptism as an act is not required for the salvation.  Even Abraham, the first patriarch of God’s people, was shown to be saved by believing God which was credited to him as righteousness.

Heretical Hypocrites

Many who are misled are now misleading others, convinced that they alone have the true interpretation of scripture (because it is at odds with what others are saying, therefore everyone else is wrong…).  While we are all sinners, and each of us has a sin nature that impedes our ability to properly and completely follow God (rather than our sinful desires),  this can lead to a life of hypocrisy.  It is very dangerous to lecture people to do something, and then do the exact opposite in private (or worse, publicly!).  And while each of us struggle with the sinful weakness that is within each of us, we must be honest with ourselves and others lest we pass ourselves off as someone who has overcome when we have not.

Many areas of life are affected, and many deceptions are being taught even today.  Cults have arisen around people who say that marriage is evil, and that everyone should stay celibate.  Others – in Paul’s day – were Jews who were still adhering to the Levitical practices of abstaining from eating food that was deemed unclean.  Even Peter was called on this when he had a vision from God in preparation for accepting the Gentiles as being called by God.

But there is the other end of the spectrum where people believe that they are now free to do anything that they want because grace will cover any wrongdoing.  This does not take into account that we are responsible for what we do in the flesh.  We are given grace to give us time to learn the ways of God, not as an excuse to gratify our sinful nature with its desires and the resulting serious consequences.

Thoughtfully Thankful

Paul understood that we are to receive all things with thankfulness, rather than to impose the ceremonial law on them.  Elijah was a prime example.  When sequestered during the great drought that he had announced, God provided him with bread and meat from ravens (unclean creatures under the ceremonial law) to eat every day as he bid his time at the brook in the Kerith Ravine.  We are to have hearts of contentment and thanksgiving, for it is God who provides for all of our needs.  Regardless of the size and type of bounty, we can be assured that God is the one who has provided for our needs.

Created and Consecrated

Paul tells us that we should do all things in thanksgiving to God who created all things as good.  We can enjoy what God provided to us in thanksgiving, not concerning ourselves with ceremonial law.  We need to keep in mind that we are still responsible for what we do.  Paul elsewhere has said:

I have the right to do anything,” you say — but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”-but I will not be mastered by anything.

It is important to realize that although we have freedom in Christ, we are not to abuse this freedom.  We are still to conduct ourselves in a righteous manner, for we are image-bearers of God.  Paul also has said:

23 “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything” – but not everything is constructive. 24 No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.

25 Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, 26 for, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.”

27 If an unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience. 28 But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, both for the sake of the one who told you and for the sake of conscience. 29 I am referring to the other person’s conscience, not yours. For why is my freedom being judged by another’s conscience? 30 If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for?

31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 32 Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God – 33 even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.

If in doubt, ask yourself “Is what I am about to do/say/think going to honor and glorify God?”  If you cannot answer “yes” to that question, then why should you do it?

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I doing all things with thanksgiving to God, for His glory, in light of His mercy and grace?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have provided all things for us to enjoy.  But even as You instructed Adam to not eat from the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil, keep me now from anything that would cause me to stumble.  Help me to accept that all things were created by You are good, and that while some things may not cause others to stumble, they may cause me to trip and fall.  Give me wisdom and discernment to abstain from anything that would cause me to stumble, and to accept their use by others.  Provide me with the strength and character to ensure that I am not mastered by anything, but rather that through self-control in submission to the Holy Spirit all things that I do, with thanksgiving to You, would be to Your glory.  And if I find that after a period of abstinence that something still has too great a hold in my life, help me to remove it or seek Godly council for help to stay away from whatever may cause me to fall.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more? Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Christian Households and God – Colossians 3:18-21

The Family Is Attacked By The Enemy Because It Displays The Order And Submission Of The Trinity

18 Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.

19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.

20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.

21 Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.

Orchestrated Order

There is order in the family just as there is order in the Trinity.  The order shows that the participants are co-equal but with different roles.  In this case, the order is that the husband has a role of authority over the wife and children.  The wife has the role of authority of advisor to the husband and authority over the children.  The children have the role of learning the roles of authority of the wives and husband.  The husband’s role is not one of tyrannical dictator, but rather the orchestrater of the plans and purpose of the family unit towards success in all things they set out to accomplish under the watchful and guiding efforts of the Spirit of God.

The key – the glue that holds this all together – is mutual submission.  Without submission, the family as a God-appointed organization will fall apart and fail.  The good news is that the Bible shows us how there is perfect submission in the Trinity of God, and to watch Jesus Christ’s example of this to learn the skills of submission and obedience to ensure the survival of the Family.

Wisdom for Wives

Paul starts out his instructions for Christian households with the hardest yet simplest command first – that wives submit to their husbands.  The enemy hates the concept of submission.  This can be seen in the first chapters of the first book of the Bible – Genesis – when the serpent plants seeds of doubt as to the character and nature of God in the ears of Eve, telling her that God is withholding something precious and valuable from her – the ability to be like God.  And the curse of sin reflects this, since women now desire the role of their husbands in family and life – to be in charge over everything.  And while it is certain that there are women who are more than capable of wielding authority (take the God-appointed judge of Israel Deborah for example…), the role assigned to women is as man’s helper.

The desire to serve self over others is key to sin.  When we desire to serve ourselves at the expense of others, we reject the love that God desires each of us to understand and obey:

4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”

“And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.‘”

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

God is love.  He desires that each of us display his love – agape love – towards others and Himself.  God has wired women to be able to display this type of love to others.  It was only fitting then that the enemy would try to corrupt what God instituted in the beginning.  Satan, hating God, unable to touch God, did the only thing he could – he tried to get women to stop loving, and in this particular case, convince Eve to stop submitting to God and her husband.  By eating the forbidden fruit of the knowledge of good and evil, Eve chose self-glory and abandoned her God-given role as the beacon of love and submission that she was intended to be.

Jesus Christ, as part of His mission on Earth, was to set straight our understanding of the Father by displaying Him (His character) to the world.  And Jesus did so through submitting to the Holy Spirit of God and the Father.  He did this to show us that this was how it was to be in the beginning.  It is only through submitting to the assigned and ordained roles that God places each of us in that we properly reflect His order and completion.

When women submit to their husbands through the execution of their innate ability to display unconditional, volitional, and sacrificial love towards their husbands in a respectful, submissive manner, they radiate the message that God intended and bring Him greater glory, restoring that which is lost to selfishness through the three primary influences:

  1. The Flesh
  2. The World
  3. The Devil

and the three primary attack vectors:

  1. The Lust of the Eyes
  2. The Lust of the Flesh
  3. The Pride of Life

Help for Husbands

Paul goes on to give husbands the key through which they are able to enable their wives to reach their full potential in Christ – to love them.

This is a simple concept that is not innate within men.  Men are wired for respect, not love.  Ask men whether they would rather be respected yet hated, or loved and disrespected, and most men would choose the former over the latter.  God recognizes this, and gives husbands the key to their wives’ hearts – they must love (agape) them as Christ loves the church, laying down his life for hers.

When husbands love their wives, they are putting their wives’ best interests over their own.  They are looking to ensure that their wives are taken care of first, and that their needs are fully met.  When husbands love their wives in this manner, it is easy for their wives to submit to their husbands and respect them – the wives are being placed above the husbands in all things except for his duty to God.  What wife can complain that her doting, loving husband who seeks the best for her when he is acting in this manner?  Is this a cause to hate, despise, ridicule, nag, and otherwise disparage and disrespect him?  May it never be so!

Coaching for Children

God gives children a simple directive (the verb hupakouete is an imperative command) – obey your parents in everything.  This is a training that will yield a great harvest of righteousness in the lives of children.  Obedience to their parents sets a pattern that will translate to obedience to God.  Additionally, obedience teaches submission.

When children allow themselves to be taught through obedience and submission, they are more likely and able to transition these skills into their adult lives.  And as mentioned above, submission is the key to the hearts of both men and women.  Obedience is the hallmark of love towards God.  In all of this, these two skills prepare you to live life to its fullest.

When children refuse to be trained by submission and obedience, we see the fall its ignoble display.  Seeking to grasp the forbidden fruit, it is not until long after the taste of the fruit leaves the mouth that the consequences of those decisions begin to haunt the one hungry for self-fulfillment.   But thanks be to God in Jesus Christ, for His blood atones for all our sins, and gives us the second chance no one deserves.

Failings of Fathers

There is a final warning to fathers concerning their children.  In the pursuit of training up a child in the way they should go, Father are to be very careful that their desire for respect is kept in balance with the needs of the children to grow and learn.  Fathers don’t have the innate ability to gauge when they are being too strict.  In their minds, obedience should be complete and immediate – a show of respect.  But just as anyone learning a new skill will tell you, it takes time and practice get good at it.

And while fathers need to be on their guard so that they don’t exasperate their children in their attempts to guide and teach them, they should also be wary of the manipulative sinful nature of all children to appear outwardly compliant while inwardly harboring hate, bitterness, and dissent.  Relationship is the key to influencing your children.  A child is more likely to respond to a parent that has a solid relationship with them than one who thinks their father either doesn’t care about them or won’t make time for them.

There is a story about a man and his son that goes something like this: a man and his son went fishing for a day.  They cast their bait out on hooks, but the fish just weren’t biting.  They finally went home, and each wrote in their diaries.  The man wrote,”We didn’t catch a thing all day.  The day was a complete waste of time.”  The son wrote, “I spent an entire day with my dad.  It was the best day of my life!”

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Are we submitting to each other in our families the same way that Christ submitted to the Father and the Holy Spirit?

A short prayer of presentation:

Father in Heaven, You have shown us Yourself through the life of Your Son, Jesus Christ.  Grant me the ability to submit to You completely and without reservation, that I may serve You in the manner that You desire and be obedient to Your every command.  Help me to accept the role that You have assigned to me in my family.  Give me the strength, wisdom, and words so that I can fulfill Your will as You greatly desire.  Help me to overcome my innate, sinful tendencies that I may embrace Your goodness, compassion, mercy, and grace, and help my family to succeed so that it will be a beacon on a hill to all who see.  May others praise You because of the example of my family.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Combat Training with God – Hebrews 12:1-3

Never Give Up, Never Surrender! (To Sin)

1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Discard Detritus

The author of Hebrews reminds us to throw off anything that would hinder us in our spiritual pursuit of Almighty God.  Each  of us have issues that are both unique and common, in that we each have trouble spots in our lives that not everyone else has, but that others similarly face and have faced. These issues impede us from our spiritual growth.  For some, it may be the temptation of alcohol.  Others may be sucked in by sports.  Still others by lust.  The list goes on and on.  And while not everyone suffers from these, many do and have, and struggle even to this day with them.

We are reminded to throw these things off.  Is there something in your life that just won’t go away, something that gets you in trouble each and every time that you encounter it?   It is time to bring it to the body, so that others can pray for your deliverance from it:

13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

Run the Race

The Olympic Games were very popular during the time when the author of Hebrews wrote this letter.  The imagery of the games would have been known and understood by all who had read it.  They had seen the training and effort that the participants who entered the games had endured in order to prepare for their opportunity to win their events.

We need to have in our minds the same mindset that the athletes of that day had – a complete and total focus on the goal.  They trained not only their bodies but also their minds for the sole purpose of doing the very best that they could in their field of endeavor.  The proper term is discipline.  They disciplined their bodies and minds.

In modern Western thought, discipline appears to be a pejorative, something that impedes a person from obtaining the desires of their hearts, and interfering with their pleasure and self-fulfillment.  But it is quite to the contrary; discipline helps us to eschew that which does not intentionally drive us towards our goal.  We cull the desires and behaviors that are at odds with our intentions and purposes and distract us from our pursuits so that we will be positioned to reap success from our endeavors.

We need to apply these same techniques and recognize their effectiveness as we learn spiritual discernment so that we can set aside the things that hinder us from completing our objectives.  When we are willing to do this, and allow the Spirit of God to provide us with the strength and endurance to overcome the emotional pain that this type of loss generates, we are able to fully embrace our freedom from sin and say “NO!” to it.  Every time we say “NO!” to sin, we grow a little stronger in our resistance to it.

Ask anyone who has quit smoking tobacco “cold turkey” how difficult it was.  The body rebels against the intentional withholding of the chemicals that brought pleasure and comfort and order with it.  The body rebels, and we may get irritable, the physical being greatly desiring what it is being deprived.  Withdrawal is never pretty, and it is the same way with spiritual withdrawal.  But such courses of action are necessary in order to grow and to regain control of that which we ceded to external stimuli and pressures.  And when we come in contact with other people who are doing what we used to do, the body cries out in a desperate attempt to ensnare the person again.  That is why it is sometimes so difficult for ex-smokers to be around smokers, and for recovering alcoholics to hang around drinkers.

Guide our Gaze

In this case, we have our goal in our sight – Jesus Christ is the one with whom we fix our gaze upon.  It is His example that we need to keep in sight as we move away from sin and move towards righteousness.  When we take our eyes off of the goal, it is easy to become sidetracked, blindsided, and fall back to old patterns of behavior.  It is hard enough trying to break a habit without having people constantly offer the very substance or circumstance that you are trying to avoid.

With spiritual habits, we are constantly bombarded by the devil and his minions to go back to life that we were living.  His calls to return are like daggers that zap our strength and feed the monster we are trying to starve to death.  And like anything else in this life, what you feed will grow, and what you starve will die (eventually).  Some things die long, slow, painful, soul-crushing, whining, loud deaths.  But die they must.  Remember to keep your eyes upon Jesus, our Redeemer, the one who shed His blood so that we could be free from our monsters.  Put the monsters in the dungeon where they belong, and make sure you don’t feed them – the enemies of our souls will try to do all that they can to feed and water them when we aren’t looking or ready for it.  Carefully planned ambushes that we don’t see coming are often the demise of the most well-intentioned Disciple.  Discernment keeps our spiritual eyes aware of our environment as we allow the word of God to light the path for our feet.

Wave off Weariness

Finally, we need to keep our eyes upon Jesus so that we can remember the strength that He had through submission to the Holy Spirit to endure all that God had preordained Him to endure for our sake.  We must always keep heart, even when our flesh and emotions fail us.  For long after our physical strength is exhausted, it is only through determination of heart that we are able to hold on and endure, pressing forward to the goal.  Most of us have not resisted to the point of bloodshed.  Let us remember the price that was paid, and determine in our hearts that the One who endured all of our sins upon the cross is worthy of fighting until our very last breath leaves our body, and we go into glory.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I feeding or starving the monsters I am trying to slay?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Your Son Jesus Christ has shown me the way to victory.  Give me wisdom and discernment to avoid the circumstances that would overwhelm me and cause my spiritual demise.  Help me to starve the monsters of sin that seek to overcome my soul, and give me the strength to resist them with Your word and Your strength when I am faced with them.  Help me to avoid the pits and ambushes of the enemy so that I will be best positioned to grow in Your word and Your ways.  And when there is no apparent way out, help me to remember the option that Joseph took when faced with the overpowering strength of Potiphar’s wife – help me to flee the situation so that I may not become entangled in it.  This I ask and pray in the name of your Most Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

 

Combat Training with God – Galatians 3:10-13

The Righteous Shall Live By Faith

10 For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” 11 Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because “the righteous will live by faith.” 12 The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, “The person who does these things will live by them.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.”

Crushing Curse

God gave us the Law – The Ten Commandments – to show us how we should live in harmony with Him, with family, and with others.  The most important feature of the law, encapsulated within the Tenth Commandment, is that even if we, with our mouths and our actions, outwardly appear to fulfill the law, the attitudes of our hearts betray us.  The law was intended to be a plumb line, showing us that with our sinful nature, we are incapable of keeping it in its entirety without the help of Almighty God.  For if we could, Jesus would not have had to show us His example of submission to the Holy Spirit of God, saying only what the Father told Him to say, and doing only what the Father does.  He could have done it on His own.  As it is, those who place the law upon their shoulders as the way to God are under a curse.  And Jesus tells us to take His yoke (burden) upon us, for we will find rest for our souls, and His yoke is easy and His burden is light.

Live the Law

The law cannot justify a person.  It merely identifies those under its curse as lawbreakers.  Jesus Christ – simultaneously both man and God – was the only man ever to completely fulfill the law.  Anyone under the law is required to keep it perfectly.  The very first time that there is any deviation from the law, the person is guilty before God.  And while the Jews were given animal sacrifice for their sins, it was merely as a type and shadow of the perfect sacrifice that would be made by the Messiah – Jesus Christ.

Christ and Christ alone was able to completely live the law without any deviation from it.  Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit within Mary, the wife of Joseph.  He was conceived without sin, born of the virgin.  Only someone who did not have a sin nature to tarnish their every thought, word, and action could be an acceptable sacrifice before God.

Fulfilled in Faith

The only way to fulfill the law is through faith in God through His Son, Jesus Christ.  The just shall live by faith.  And just as Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness, so our faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ as a payment for our sin is credited to us as righteousness.  It is through faith and faith alone in Christ that man is justified before Almighty God.  In the great exchange, Jesus has taken our sin and imputed His righteousness to us.

Now, we can live in the power of the Holy Spirit.  And when we are completely submitted to Him, it is God working through us for His goals and purposes, and we become merely tools.  Our actions and deeds are no longer our own, but those of Almighty God, untarnished by our sinful nature.  It is only in the life of complete submission to God that we are able to realize our full potential and fulfill the purposes that God has placed within us since before the creation of the universe.

Righteous Redeemed

We are redeemed by the blood of the lamb of God, Jesus Christ.  As the perfect and only acceptable sacrifice for sin to God Almighty, we have declared legally righteous.  It is up to us to embrace God through His love, mercy, and grace, so that we can live out our lives in a way that honors the sacrifice that Jesus has made.

Regardless of who is in governmental authority over us, we are to live our lives through faith in the One that has redeemed us.  We are now free to live righteously before God through our continued and absolute dependence upon our deposit – the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  The Holy Spirit will enable us through strength and the living word of God to live for God as we were intended to live before Adam and Eve fell.

Christ Crucified

It must be remembered that those who are dead are no longer under the influence of the law.  We have died to ourselves and have been made alive in Christ.  Jesus Christ was crucified so that He would bear our curse of sin rather than us.  And since we are declared dead to sin in Christ, and spiritually alive in Christ in His resurrection, we are able to say no to sin, and yes to God.  Let us live our lives in such a way that it brings glory and honor to Jesus our Savior who made the ultimate sacrifice for us.  For if we truly love Him and respect what He has done, we will be obedient to Him and all that He says.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I living my life in complete and total faith in the sovereignty of God in all things?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have indeed blessed me and everyone who has believed upon Your Son, Jesus Christ, as the perfect sacrifice for sin.  Help me father to live in such a way that I may honor His gift to me, the free gift of Salvation.  Help me to live life completely submitted to the Holy Spirit as Jesus has shown me in Your word.  Help me to be emotionally and intellectually invested in what is on Your heart, and not what is crying out in the culture or my flesh.  Help me to say no to anything that would impede my walk before You.  Forgive me of my sin, for there is not a day that goes by that I do not get my feet dirty while walking through life.  You have washed me clean in the blood of the lamb, and for that I am forever grateful.  Let my thoughts, words, and deeds reflect Your holiness and love as I step out into the world this day.  This I ask in the powerful name of Jesus, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Combat Training with God – Joshua 14:6-12

Give A Good Report

6 Now the people of Judah approached Joshua at Gilgal, and Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite said to him, “You know what the Lord said to Moses the man of God at Kadesh Barnea about you and me. 7 I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the Lord sent me from Kadesh Barnea to explore the land. And I brought him back a report according to my convictions, 8 but my fellow Israelites who went up with me made the hearts of the people melt in fear. I, however, followed the Lord my God wholeheartedly. 9 So on that day Moses swore to me, ‘The land on which your feet have walked will be your inheritance and that of your children forever, because you have followed the Lord my God wholeheartedly.’

10 “Now then, just as the Lord promised, he has kept me alive for forty-five years since the time he said this to Moses, while Israel moved about in the wilderness. So here I am today, eighty-five years old! 11 I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. 12 Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the Lord helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.”

Complete Conviction

Caleb was one of only two military-age males that survived the forty-year trek through the desert.  He and Joshua were the only ones to bring back a good report of the land from the twelve spies that were sent forty-five years ago by Moses.  It was the reports of the other ten, and the fear of the hearts of the people, that caused them to wander for forty years in the desert.  Caleb had complete conviction in his heart that God would help them to overcome the inhabitants of the land that God was giving them.

Reputable Report

Caleb gave the report that with the help of God, that the people of Israel could drive out the inhabitants of the land across the Jordan.  Caleb remembered that God had parted the Red Sea and that Pharaoh and his army of chariots were completely destroyed by God when the waters collapsed upon them.  Caleb remembered that God had delivered them from the tenth plague that took the life of the firstborn male of man and cattle during the Passover.  Caleb remembered every time that God had helped His people through the most difficult situations.  It is only remembering what God has done that we can look forward and say that God will do something.

Still Strong

Caleb then declares that, after eighty-five years, he is still strong and able-bodied, and requests that Joshua give him the hill country of the Anakites.  Caleb knows that regardless of his physical age, God is able to provide for him and his family.  Caleb knew that God is not able to go back on His word.  And God had said that the land that his feet tread upon would be his.  Caleb was merely claiming what God had already provided.  It should be noted that he took the most difficult of terrains available, in part because no one else wanted them, and in part because they were the best and most defensible.  Finally, he requested them because God had already given them to him – his feet had tread upon that land.  The other ten had already died.  Caleb had the pick of the land, and he chose the most difficult part of the land.  With great risk can come great reward.  And since God is for you, who can be against you?

Fight the good Fight

In all of this, Caleb was ready to go out and to take what God had promised him.  Caleb was fighting the good fight, not depending upon his strength or ability, but rather upon the strength and ability that God is able to provide.  He was merely going out to get what God had already given him.  Caleb had the eternal perspective that God had, and that gave him the confidence to go and take the most difficult and fortified regions of the land because it was God would be fighting for him and with him.  When we have been given a word from God, we should approach it in the same fashion.  Have a firm conviction in your heart that God will do what He says He will do, and then go and do what God has told you to do, regardless of what your circumstances appear to be.  For if God has said it, it is already done and written in stone.  For no one can change what God has already said will be done.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I claiming through obedience what God has already promised me?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have been gracious to Your servant.  Give me the strength and courage to do all that You have commanded me to do, and to leave the results up to You.  Help me to be faithful and obedient in all that You have revealed to me, and let not my heart faint when giants oppose me.  Rather, help me to be like David and Caleb, that I would remember that You are fighting for me, and have already gone out before me, and let me rush at my enemies that they would know I am not afraid, and that You are the all-powerful Lord God Almighty.  Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Combat Training with God – 1 Peter 2:13-17

Submit To God And The Ruling Authorities

13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. 15 For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. 16 Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. 17 Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.

Obey Orders

One of the toughest things to do is to obey the orders of a person who is evil.  The conundrum is that we are told to do what is right, but also to submit ourselves to the ruling authorities.  This can sometimes put us at odds with what we are told to do by man and God.

Jesus set the example by always doing what His father wanted Him to do.  We too should choose to follow God rather than man when there is a conflict between the two. Peter himself faced this dilemma when He was arrested for preaching the good news by the Sanhedrin.  Peter’s retort to them sets the stage for us:

But Peter and John replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges!

In this case, Peter and John were talking to men who professed belief in the One True God.  In today’s world, where many governments are atheistic, or are promoting Secular Humanism, they don’t have the background to rightly judge who to follow – they believe that they should be followed regardless of how evil their commands are.  Yet we, as believers, must give an accounting of ourselves as well as the unbelievers before God once we are called home.  Live in such a way that you can give a good report – obey evil rulers only to the point where their commands do not interfere with God’s.  Otherwise, do as Peter and John did – obey God when the conflict arises, and leave the consequences of that action upon the shoulders of Almighty God.

Follow in Freedom

Since the Son has freed us, we are free indeed!  But that doesn’t give us the right to use our freedom to act as a shield for evil.  We should never say, “I can do this because I know God will forgive me.  I am forgiven for all my sins past, present, and future, so I can do whatever I want.”   This dishonors God, and casts a light upon His character when His ambassadors act in a way that is counter to the One that has sent them.

Freedom in Christ is freedom from the bondage of sin.  Since we are freed, why would we then intentionally put ourselves in a position where sin can cause us difficulty?  It is better to suffer in righteousness than to have pleasure and ease in sin.  Freedom is meant to give us the opportunity to follow God, not our own evil passions.   When we refuse to self-govern, God will send oppressive rulers to govern over us and bring us back to a place of humility and submission.

Respect even Reprobates

It is a cultural thing to say that respect is earned.  If respect is earned, then when someone acts in a way that does not deserve respect, we may feel as if we can treat them as though they are contemptible.  This degrades the impact that disciples of Christ have on the world, for God loves all of us, and seeks us all.

We must give respect, even and especially when it is not deserved by a person’s actions.  This keeps intact their quality as an image bearer of God, regardless of how they choose to bear God’s image.  That doesn’t mean that we excuse the behavior.  We can hate the behavior, but love the person.  Show respect to those who are evil, but be wary of their intents.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I obeying the laws and directives of those in authority over me when they are not in direct conflict with God’s law, regardless of how silly or difficult they may be?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, it is extremely difficult to obey the directions and laws of people who are evil and intent upon my destruction.  Give me the strength to bear Your image properly before them and others.  Help me to honor You when any conflicts arise.  Please give me grace and mercy as I struggle to do what honors You when I am placed in situations where no matter what I do, it will be viewed as wrong by the world, and used to destroy my reputation, character, finances, and even my ability to live.  Guard me in all my ways, and help me to display Your character in the most difficult situations, even if that means that I will lose my life.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Combat Training with God – Galatians 6:1-2

Carry Each Other’s Burdens

1 Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. 2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

Seized by Sin

The sin nature within us never is satisfied.  Without constant vigilance, it is easy to slip up, and begin to justify sin.  Once sin has been embraced, it ensnares us and keeps us in bondage.  We need to remember this when we see other Christians who have been ensnared by sin.  It is with compassion and gentleness that they need to be confronted, and brought out of slavery and back to righteousness

Righteously Redeem

Paul instructs believers to gently restore those who have been caught in sin once more.  Sometimes, it is the unwrapping of grave-clothes of the newly released captives that needs to be addressed.  Other times, it is seasoned disciples that have gone astray.  Look at how far David had fallen.  God raised him from being a shepherd of sheep to the King of Israel, leading His people.  And while he was noted as being a man after God’s own heart, he raped Bathsheba and murdered her husband, never batting an eye.  Nathan the prophet was sent by God to restore him.  In the restoration of one who is entrapped, it is crucial that we do so gently.  Harsh or judgmental attitudes usually do not bring about the needed atmosphere for repentance.

Elude Entrapment

When we go to restore one who is in sin, we must be extra vigilant, for we ourselves may be tempted by the very same sin that we are trying to help another disciple overcome.  Oftentimes, it is something that we may have struggled with.  Sometimes, there is demonic activity involved, and the demons causing encouraging the behavior will try to do the same to the person who comes alongside the fallen.  They would like nothing better than to entice another disciple with their evil taunts, warping the thoughts of even the most pious people.

Bear the Burdens

Paul further encourages us to bear one another’s burdens.  This does not mean that we become enablers of lazy people by doing their work; rather, we help them with the things that weigh them down so that they can breathe again to complete that which they have been called to do.  Moses was confronted by Jethro regarding the way he was administering the law.  Jethro suggested that Moses find men who were capable men that feared God to help him with the task.  This greatly reduced the burden on Moses’ shoulders, and greatly reduced the time for justice to be enacted.  When you see someone who has an overwhelming burden, and you have the time and ability to help, offer what you can so that the person can be more effective.

Complete the Commandments

When we carry one another’s burdens, we fulfill the law of Christ – to love one another as Christ loved us.  Love fulfills the law, and helping each other is showing unconditional, sacrificial, and volitional love towards others.  And outsiders will know that we are the disciples of Christ when they see the love that we have for one another.  For if you love Jesus, you will obey His commands.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I loving others by helping them to bear their burdens?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have said through Your Son, Jesus Christ, that we should take His yoke upon us, for His burden is light.  Yet it is absolutely impossible without yielding our lives to You so that Your strength can flow through us to complete Your goals.  Help me to be yielded to You.  Show me how I can help others be more effective in their ministry, and help me to be more effective in mine.  Send others to help bear my burdens when they become too weighty, and help me to be there when You have enabled me to help them with theirs.  Father, help me when I engage others to help restore them from sin that I would not be tempted in the same manner that they were.  Guard my heart so that I would not because a casualty in the battles we face with spiritual enemies.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Combat Training with God – Psalm 51:16-17

God Does Not Delight In Sacrifices For Sin

16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
17 My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise.

Reparation Rejected

There are some action films where the antagonists, brightly decorated with gold chains and other “bling-bling“, saunter into a catholic church with their guns drawn and walk up to the priest.  They then pull out wads of cash, and then say to the priest, “Bless me, father, for I am about to sin.”  The payment for acknowledgement of a coming sin is confirming that the act is premeditated.  There is no repentance by the sinner, just acknowledgement of the hatred in his heart.  Indulgences have been part of Catholic teaching for over a thousand years.  These payments to God are supposed to reduce the amount of time that the sinner has to spend in Purgatory.  The concept of Purgatory is considered invalid from the perspective of Protestantism, for it negates the theology and doctrine that Jesus Christ’s sacrifice for sin was the complete and total payment for our sin, and introduces a works-based approach to salvation.

David captures the essence of useless sacrifice.  The sacrifice was to be a type and symbol of the final sacrifice of Christ for our sins.  If the sacrifices of the Jews were sufficient for their sins, then they had no need of a Savior, and looking for the Messiah would be a wasted effort, for the sacrifices would have had their intended effect – the total payment for sin.  As it is, the sacrificial system pointed to Christ’s ultimate sacrifice.  With regards to David’s comments here, David rightly identifies that animal sacrifices are not what God wants, for all of the animals are His.  God ALWAYS looks at the condition of our hearts.  Sacrifices were to remind us that there is always loss involved when we sin.  We instead need to examine our hearts to see where they are.

Subdued Spirit

David then speaks to the heart of the matter – the condition of our heart.  He rightly declares that God will not despise a broken and contrite spirit.  Isaiah says that God will not break a bruised reed.  God desires us to come to Him in humility.  Repentance is turning away from sin and turning towards God.  Sacrifice by itself has no redeeming effect, apart from the perfect sacrifice of Christ.  No amount of atonement on our part will negate our sin, but the blood of Christ washes us clean.  Jesus sums this up nicely in the Beatitudes:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  What is the condition of my heart when I seek forgiveness of sin?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have given us Your Son as a sacrifice for our sins.  He was the unblemished lamb, the perfect sacrifice.  Father, forgive me for my sins, and give me a heart that is broken when I sin against You.  Rather than mere acknowledgment of my transgression, help me to be broken over both my sin, and the sin of my country.  Forgive us, Father, for we have sinned mightily against You.  Direct Your people to seek Your face, turn from our sin, and embrace Your forgiveness, lest our hearts become hardened by sin.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Combat Training with God -James 3:7-10

How Can Salt Water Come Out Of A Fresh Water Spring?

7 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.

Triumphantly Tamed

Man has indeed tamed many beasts – those that roam the Earth, fly above the Earth, and swim in the waters of the Earth.  God has given man the mandate to rule over all living creatures of the Earth.  And man has been somewhat successful in his attempts at this.  James notes this to make a comparison to man’s utter failure at one very important aspect of control – his own tongue.

Terrible Tamers

Mankind is terrible at taming the tongue.  Very few have complete reign over their tongue.  The Bible tells us that out of our mouth is the overflow of our hearts.  Good men bring good things stored up out of their mouth, and evil men bring evil things.  And since no one is inherently righteous, we bring up evil things out of the storehouse of our hearts.  Very few people are able to say the right things when placed under great adversity.  We should remember that, and hold our tongues, for we will be acquitted or condemned by what we say.

Praise and Profanity

In the same way, James reminds us that we bring forth out of our mouths both praise and cursing.  While this sounds normal to us, it is anything but normal.  God ALWAYS brings forth good things out of His mouth.  Even His judgments are good and righteous.  Yet we as humans bring forth both good and evil.  How is this possible?

Disturbing Dilemma

James asks that question: how can we bring forth both praise and cursing out of our mouths?  We are not to be double-minded.  Before we knew God, we were bringing forth evil out of our mouths.  Our sin nature had us in bondage.  But now that we have been redeemed, and God has placed a new heart within us, we should only be bringing good things out of our mouths.  Praise should always be on our lips, not cursing.

How can a good tree bring forth both good and bad fruit?  It cannot.  It should not.  We must always remember that as God’s image-bearers, we are responsible for showing the world the Father, reflecting the Son, just as Jesus reflected the Father.  When we bring both praise and curses out of our mouth, we are not bearing the image of God properly.  Make the choice: ensure that the words from our mouths are in alignment with God’s character.  We have the choice, and should exercise it in the most holy of ways.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I bringing forth praise and/or cursing from my mouth?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have given us freedom from the bondage of the slavery of sin.  Thank You Father for the very precious gift of the blood of Your Son, Jesus Christ.  Help me to remember Your holiness as I struggle with frustration and the temptations of evil to do and say what is counter to Your character.  Strengthen me to choose to do the right things and say the right words, that You would be glorified.  Unite my heart with Yours that I would bring praise from my mouth and not cursing.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Combat Training with God – John 8:31-38

Adhere To The Teachings Of Jesus Christ

31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

33 They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”

34 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 37 I know that you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are looking for a way to kill me, because you have no room for my word. 38 I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you are doing what you have heard from your father.”

Disciples are Devoted

The term “Christian” has been used for over a thousand years to refer to people who say they believe that Jesus Christ is the Messiah. Originally, people referred to the followers of Jesus as chrestos, or “the kind ones.”  They were gentle and humble of heart.  Just after the crucifixion of Jesus, His followers did amazing things.  They would go down by the river to retrieve children that were tossed away by their parents and raise them as their own.  When plagues came to the cities, everyone fled, but the chrestos rushed in to provide relief and help, often to their own peril.

The term “Christian” was, at that time, a derogatory pejorative.  However, a more proper term for those who believe Jesus would be “disciple”.  Anyone can claim the title “Christian”, because all it means is that someone believes Jesus is the Son of God.  Even the demons believe, and shudder.  A disciple, on the other hand, would be expected to follow in their master’s footsteps, copying everything that their master did.  They were obedient to their master’s teachings, and not only professed to believe, but lived out their lives in a manner worthy of their master.  They were not merely claiming intellectual ascent to their master’s ideas and ways, they practiced them in such a way that they were indistinguishable from them, to the best of their ability.

Truth Triumphs

In a world where our leaders (and even leaders nearly two thousand years ago) would exclaim, “What is truth?“, we live in a time where culture embraces the idea that truth is relative to the person, and that there is no such thing as an absolute.  Rather, culture teaches that the end justifies the means, and whatever means necessary are not only valid but are required to ensure the desired outcome for anything that we do.

Jesus monumentally stated that when we know the truth, it will set us free.  And when we are set free by the Son, we are free indeed.  Sin keeps us in bondage to itself.  It is only by throwing off the yoke of sin and placing the yoke of Christ upon our shoulders that we are able to act freely.  This comes at a great price, as people scorn, persecute, and often execute those who do this.

Monumental Misunderstanding

The Jews that Jesus was talking to had claimed that they had never been slaves of anyone.  In their eyes, they had always been under the care and protection of the Lord God Almighty. It was He who was sovereign, and so if any difficulty came in the form of being scattered and sold as slaves, it was at the providence of God that it occurred.  Esther declared that they had been the slaves of others, but it did not bother them:

“For I and my people have been sold to be destroyed, killed and annihilated. If we had merely been sold as male and female slaves, I would have kept quiet, because no such distress would justify disturbing the king.”

Even she has admitted that they were sold into slavery, yet in their minds, they were the children of God, and merely being disciplined.

Slavery in Sin

Sin entraps those who choose it in a terrible, invisible prison of slavery.  Once we sin, we have become its slave.  Each and every time we say yes to sin, we become more inured to its effects.  Our thinking becomes clouded, and we being to justify what we are doing.  We are unaware of the hardening of our hearts, and the destruction of our souls.  King David went down this path when he raped Bathsheba.  He began a terrible string of errors to cover his sin that eventually led to the murder of Bathsheba’s husband.  Only a public rebuke by God through the prophet Nathan was able to get him to realize the extent of his sin.

Sin whispers that it is too late, and there is no recovery.  We often believe the lies and become its slave for a time.  But thanks be to God for His Son, Jesus Christ, who has overcome sin, the world, and Satan.  We have repentance through His blood and access to the throne of God to repent and again throw off the yoke of slavery that we bear in sin.

Phenomenal Freedom

Jesus Christ tells us that if the Son sets us free, we are free indeed.  The sacrifice for sin in the precious, sinless blood of the lamb of God was the final, complete, and unconditional payment for our sin in full.  In that blood, we are declared righteous by God; and once exonerated (pardoned), the crime can no longer be held against us.  When we are freed by Jesus from our sin, for all sins past, present, and future, no one can lay a charge against the elect of God – they have been declared sin-free.

We must now live out the freedom that Christ paid so dearly for with His blood in our daily lives as living sacrifices that are holy and pleasing to God.  It is through obedience to the teachings of our master that we the bondage and slavery of sin are shrugged off as we walk in the truth that sets us free.  For when we no longer walk in darkness but in the light, we are freed from the slavery that the absence of light perpetuates, for the darkness hates the light; the light has freed the captives.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Is there anything in our lives that is holding us in darkness and keeping us as its slave?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have freed me from the bondage and slavery of sin, and I thank and praise You for Your sacrifice.  Thank You for showing me the light of the world, and the eternal truth that is Your Son, Jesus Christ.  Help me, Father, to walk in the light as I willingly give myself to You fully so that Your purposes may be displayed in me.  Transform me with Your word through the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  Help me to walk in truth, and to free myself from the slavery of sin.  I cannot serve two masters, and willingly choose You.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Combat Training with God – 1 Corinthians 1:22-25

Seek After God, Not Signs And Wonders Nor Worldly Wisdom

22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

Seeking Signs

The Jews would often look for signs in the person who claimed to be a messenger from God.  In the past, God would use signs and wonders to confirm the validity of the prophets’ ministry.  However, many people desired the signs and wonders more than the message.  Jesus rebuked the people who were following Him after he had fed thousands with a few loaves of bread and small fish because they were seeking the gifts of the giver, and not the giver Himself.

Even today, there are Christians who seek after the manifestation of the gifts of God in the form of miracles, signs, and wonders.   They will go to any length to be present when the gifts of the Giver are given to bear witness to the power and glory of God to the unbelieving generation He is trying to reach.  It has been said that signs and wonders should follow Christians, rather than Christians following signs and wonders.  If a disciple of Christ is yielded to God, and is doing His will, God will provide whatever is necessary to bring about the results that He desires.  The disciple won’t need to follow signs and wonders:  God’s power and presence will be present in the disciple’s faithful execution of ministry.

Worldly Wisdom

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.  When we seek wisdom, we need to first consult with the One who created the universe, and in whom all things in the universe are held together.  Only God knows the beginning from the end, how the laws of the universe were placed, and why all things that are taking place are doing so.

When we seek worldly wisdom, we eventually put aside the wisdom of God and, believing ourselves to be wise, become fools in His sight:

21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.

When we seek wisdom only in the creation, and not the creator, we exchange the glory of God for what has been created.  Look at the detrimental effects of Secular Humanism.  Those who engage in this begin to worship human leaders rather than God because they believe that humans are capable of achieving moral and ethical righteousness apart from religion and God.  Paul, seeing this almost two thousand years ago, penned a letter to the Corinthian church.  And even now we are seeing the fulfillment of it.

Sweet Salvation

The message of the cross is a stumbling block to those who seek signs because the miracle has already happened:  God has raised His Son from the dead to everlasting life, and gives the amazing gift of salvation to anyone who believes.  Rather than believe the miracle, the Jews still seek Messiah of God to rescue them from the oppression of their enemies.  Two thousand years ago, it was the oppression by the Romans.  Now, it is the oppression by the fundamental adherents to Islam.  The players keep changing, but the situation is still the same:  Satan, the greatest of deceivers, is always after the chosen ones of God.

For those who are not direct biological descendants of the line of Israel, the message of the cross is foolishness.  After all, in life, everything must be earned or stolen to be gained.  It makes no sense that an all-powerful God could be the embodiment love, and give the gift of salvation freely to any who believe, given the effects that sin has brought upon us.  It appears either too fantastic to them (because they are too busy studying the creation for clues to the meaning of life, the universe, and everything that they are unable to look up to God for answers) or that it is far to simple to be plausible.  God has provided the answers to the big questions in life through His word so that we could focus on living in the present in relationship with Him.

God is Greater

Because God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent, He sees and knows everything that ever happened as well as everything that ever will happen.  When we humans look to ourselves or His creation for answers without first going to Him, we come up with the stupidest of conclusions:

  • The Earth is flat.  If you sail far enough across the ocean, you will fall off the world to your death.
  • The Earth sits on a great turtle, who in turn sits on another great turtle, and it is turtles all the way down…
  • There is nothing beyond this life – once we die, we just push up daisies with our dead, decaying flesh.
  • There is no such thing a God who exists outside of the physical universe.  Because man feels the need to worship, we must worship that which we see, because obviously it is the things on the Earth, beneath the Earth, or above the Earth that have power over us.

The wisdom of men is foolishness to God.  And the greatest strength and power of men is mere weakness to the God who, by speaking, caused the universe – including all matter and the laws that the created manner are to follow – to be formed in the first place.  What man cannot explain he mocks.  But be assured of this – God cannot be mocked: a man reaps what he sows.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I seeking God’s wisdom or man’s wisdom in all that I do?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have caused all things to be created and know all things.  Thank You for Your counsel in Your holy word, and for the counsel You have given those who fear Your name.  Help me to always seek Your counsel first before I undertake anything so that Your will would be done, and You would be glorified.  Keep me from the false teaching of the world and the devil so that I would solely and completely trust in You.  Guard my heart and preserve it for the day when Your Son comes in glory.  This I ask in Jesus’ Holy Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Combat Training with God – Romans 13:11-12

The Day Is Near

11 And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. 12 The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.

 Awake and Alert

Sin is like a blanket that shuts out the light.  It can make us feel tired and feeble, and unaware of its consequences.  We need to awaken from our slumber.  It is not right to sleep during the day, for the day is for working.  In the same way, we need to be aware of the time, so that we will do what we need to do.  Jesus has warned us to be found doing the master’s bidding when He returns:

35 Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, 36 like servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. 37 It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. Truly I tell you, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them. 38 It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the middle of the night or toward daybreak. 39 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. 40 You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”

The time has come to make sure that everything is ready for the master’s return.  We shouldn’t be doing things that are unwise, for Jesus’ return is imminent.

42 The Lord answered, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time? 43 It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns. 44 Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. 45 But suppose the servant says to himself, ‘My master is taking a long time in coming,’ and he then begins to beat the other servants, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk. 46 The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers.

Decry Darkness

We were once in darkness, and clothed ourselves with the deeds of darkness.  We spoke the language of darkness, and identified with the darkness.  The light had no place in our lives.  We may not have even liked where we were, but we felt trapped and held in bondage.  If we feel that way now, we need to throw off the deeds of darkness that bind us.

It is unbecoming of God’s people to walk around in darkness.  We are ambassadors to this world, not of this world but in it.  We are the image-bearers of God who have been shown how to properly bear His image and be a light on top of a hill.  We have been given the opportunity to be salt to a bland and tasteless existence without God.  When we walk in darkness, we suppress the truth with wickedness: we deny that God is holy through our very actions and speech.  It is only after we take off the clothing of darkness that we can put on the armor of light.

Amazing Armor

Once we have shaken off the clothing of darkness, we need to put on the armor of light.  Darkness and light don’t mix.  Where light enters into an area, the darkness flees.  That is the power of light – to dispel the darkness.  Light exposes the darkness for what it is, and gives us the ability to see clearly so that we can move intentionally and with purpose toward the direction and goals that become visible to us.  If we forsake the light, we forsake the tool necessary to awaken from slumber and the ability to work.

Let us put on the full armor of God, and when we have done every else, to stand:

13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I doing what my master has asked me to do in preparation for His return?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are light and dispel the darkness around us.  Search me, O God, and see if there is any wrongdoing within me.  Cleanse me of my sin, and show me the path to truth and righteousness, that I would bear Your image in a manner worthy of You to all people.  Help me to be a light on a hill.  Strengthen me as I wade through darkness today that I would not be affected by it, and cleanse me when my feet get dirty.  Remember me, O God, that I would honor and glorify Your name in all things at all times.  Forgive me when I fall short, and restore me in Your presence.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Combat Training With God – Luke 6:46-49

Practice Makes Perfect

46 “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? 47 As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like. 48 They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. 49 But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.”

Lord, Lord

Many call themselves Christians.  Jesus is looking for disciples:

19 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, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

Anyone can claim to be a Christian.  Many will go out into the world and do “great and mighty things,” but they have failed to understand the cost of discipleship:

Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.

Jesus has asked us to be obedient to his commands:

23 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.

Finally, Jesus had the following to say about those who would cry to Him, “Lord, Lord”:

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'”

Rooted in Rock

Christ is the solid rock of our salvation.  Any who build upon Him builds upon a solid and sturdy foundation.  When we are obedient to Jesus, regardless of the pressures of the world around us, we can overcome and live out the imputed righteousness that Jesus has provided to us through His perfect, shed blood.  This does not mean that everything will go well for us in this world – remember the faithful in Hebrews 11 who were rejected by the world, and yet the world was not worthy of them.  Jesus spoke about this:

20 Looking at his disciples, he said:

“Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
21Blessed are you who hunger now,
for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh.
22Blessed are you when people hate you,
when they exclude you and insult you
and reject your name as evil,
because of the Son of Man.

23 “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your
reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.”

Calamitous Collapse

All who do not build on Jesus Christ are building on ground without a firm foundation.  Nothing that we build on apart from Jesus Christ will stand.  If we go our own ways, and do not yield ourselves to the guidance and counsel of the Holy Spirit, we will utterly fail.  We may even have approval of those around us, but Jesus had this to say:

24 “But woe to you who are rich,
for you have already received your comfort.
25 Woe to you who are well fed now,
for you will go hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now,
for you will mourn and weep.
26 Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you,
for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.”

In all things, we need to be sure we are building upon the firm foundation that is Jesus Christ.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I building upon rock or sand?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, I thank You for Your word, and the blood of Your Son, Jesus Christ.  Thank You for Your patience, love, grace, and mercy.  Help me to be obedient to Your word, that I would build upon the solid rock of Jesus. Show me the way in which I should go, and what I should do, that I may honor and glorify You.  Help me to realize when I am going my own way, and to immediately come back to You.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Combat Training With God – 2 Timothy 2:3-6

Be Engaged In The Work Entrusted To You

3 Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer. 5 Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules. 6 The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops.

Equally Engaged

No one is above their master.  Jesus suffered at the hands of the very people that he was trying to bring the message of salvation – God’s people!  We have been charged with spreading the Good News to every nation and people.  We are going to experience the same resistance and, in some cases, the same persecution that He experienced.

No matter how many times we hear this, we need to hear it again and again.  God had directed the Israelites to build monuments of stone in certain places to remind them of what He had done for them.  When children would ask what the monuments were for, the parents were to explain it to their children.  It was also there so that the parents wouldn’t forget what God had done for them either.

Imagine being led by a pillar of smoke by day, and a pillar of fire by night FOR FORTY YEARS.  Imagine walking in the desert in circles FOR FORTY YEARS and your clothing and shoes NEVER WORE OUT.  Imagine gathering manna every day FOR FORTY YEARS in the desert where God provided all the food, shelter, and water that you needed.  And now imagine that the same people who witnessed this amazing power of God FOR FORTY YEARS so quickly forget His wonderful provision to them.

It would appear that we have the memory equivalent to that of gnats.

Committed to the Commander

In the same way that a soldier is committed to his commanding officer, we are to be committed to our commanding officer – Jesus Christ!  This requires discipline and the ability to do what our commander says.  To the extent that we listen to our Commander-In-Chief will be to the extent that we are successful in completing the missions that we are assigned.

And just like in the military, promotions and better assignments come to those who are obedient in their callings.  The committed military person doesn’t get involved in civilian matters, because they are dedicated to military matters.  In the same way, those who are Christ’s don’t pursue the pleasures and desires of this world, but instead pursue the instructions of Christ.  And like military members, we can be called at a moment’s notice to serve in whatever capacity that Christ desires us to serve – whether temporarily or permanently, often relocating our family to our deployment site.

Don’t Disqualify

Just as in the world of sports, we are not to cheat our way to success.  Jesus was given the opportunity by Satan to have what He was competing by submitting to Satan.  This would have been cheating.  God had rules in place that Jesus needed to follow in order to accomplish the goal that was set before Him in order to achieve complete success.

Moses learned this the hard way when he was faced with an obstinate and forgetful people.  God was trying to reveal Himself in a greater way to Moses when He asked him to speak to the rock to bring forth water.  This was far different from the previous method of striking the rock with his staff.  When Moses, in a fit of anger, disobeyed the revealed will of God by striking the rock twice with his staff, he forfeited his life early, and was not able to see the people that he had shepherded for forty years enter into the promised land.  Keep in mind that Moses appeared with Elijah on the mount of transfiguration with Jesus.  Nonetheless, ACTIONS HAVE CONSEQUENCES.  Disobedience is not looked upon very kindly by God.  There is always a penalty for disobedience.

It is only by obeying the rules that we win the race.  Jesus said that many will come to Him saying, “Lord, Lord”, but He will turn them away because of disobedience:

  21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!‘”

When tempted to go around what appears to be obstacles by doing what is specifically delineated as wrong in order to avoid pain, suffering, or a perceived delay in timing, remember that Jesus didn’t take the easy road.  And by doing so, He won the keys to Death and Hell for us.  It took a long time, effort, and pain.  Jesus willingly submitted Himself to all of this and more for us.  Should we not do the same for Him?

Receive the Reward

Paul planted, Apollos watered, and God gave the increase.  The use of agrarian principles to illustrate spiritual truths was widespread because the people at that time would have fully understood the implications of what was being said.  They lived it each and every day.  The farmer should receive the reward for his effort.  Paul was planting and watering the seeds of Godliness in Timothy as well as his grandmother and mother.  Paul had laid his hands upon Timothy, apparently with other elders, and God has provided Timothy with his spiritual gifting.  Timothy was to teach others.  Their spiritual growth and resulting efforts would be reflected back upon Timothy as he sowed and watered their seeds.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question: When engaged in my work, am I following the rules?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, I thank You for Your love, patience, and persistence with me as I try to obey You and do Your will.  Thank You for Your many mercies that renew every morning.  Thank You for showing me the Truth, and giving me the opportunity to do Your will.  Thank You for freeing me from the bondage of sin, and giving me the freedom to follow and obey You.  Thank You for revealing Your Son to me.  Help me to do all that You have instructed me to do, in the way that I should do it, so that it would honor and glorify Your name.  This I ask in the name of Your Precious Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Combat Training with God – Matthew 7:21-23

Obedience is the Key to Discipleship

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'”

Only Obedience

Anyone who would call themselves a disciple would be obedient to their master.  Disciples would follow along behind their master and copy everything they did.  They would even copy how they went to the bathroom.  In the time of Jesus, disciples would want to learn EVERYTHING about their masters so that they could replicate their success.  Obedience is more than just mentioned in scripture – it is a foundational principle of discipleship:

23 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.

18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 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, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”

“We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”

For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.

But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance.

He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.

Knowledge without obedience is a trophy.  It sits on the shelf of your mind, gathering dust, pretty to look at, but of no real value to the one who ignores its commands and calling.  Sanctification comes through obedience to the Word, not just knowing the words.  A person can read every book and manual on how to create software through coding.  But if they never put it to use, how much software do you think will come out of it?

Wasted Works

We are declared righteous through the perfect blood of Jesus.  Our works are as filthy rags.  It is only through submission to the Holy Spirit that He is able to do His work through us.  We may try to do great and mighty things in God’s name, but it is us who are doing it rather than God through us.

Works do not ingratiate us with God.  God desires relationship with us.  When we have that relationship, we are in tune with what God wants to do with us and through us.  Many will say that they have been doing things for God.  But what they are really doing is going off on their own.  People may see the miraculous, but we are also told that Satan will perform signs and wondersSatan has already performed false miracles.

Anything that we do in the flesh will be counted as hay and stubble, and will burn up when tested by fire.  It is only what God does through us that will withstand the test of fire and be shown to good and lasting.

Character Counts

Without obedience, we will go and do our own thing.  We will not experience sanctification, nor will we, through relationship and the Word of God, be transformed into the character of God.  We will not be able to experience Him, and who He is, if we are not obedient to His Word and His Spirit.

God will rightly declare us evil in His sight if we do not obey Him.  Without character and relationship, all of the works in the world will be meaningless.  If anyone tells you that your good works will get you into heaven, be forewarned that Jesus has already addressed that heresy:

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Are we being obedient to God, or trusting in our “good works”?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, I thank You for the example that You have given to me in Your Son, Jesus Christ.  Help me Father that I may live a life of total obedience and submission to Your will.  Help me to humble myself that I may be totally obedient to Your Word and Your will.  Remove from me the desire to rebel, and replace it with a desire to serve.  Strengthen me in my walk today that I would learn and grow in Your grace and mercy.  Show me the way everlasting, and forgive me for my many sins against You.  Help me to turn from sin and turn to righteousness.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Combat Training with God – Matthew 5:43-48

Love One Another As I have Loved You – Jesus

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Lavishing Love

God showers us with His love every moment of every day.  From every breath that we take, to the greatest of accomplishments made, God is helping us with every little thing.  He sought us and bought us with the redeeming blood of Christ.  For some, He sought them for decades before they came to Him.

To the crowds that Jesus was teaching (the Jewish people), they had the law to help guide them.  Leviticus 19:18 stated:

Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.

This left a lot of wiggle room, since it only mentioned “anyone among your people”.  The Israelites took this to mean that it ONLY applied to them, thus giving them the opportunity hate their enemies.  But Jesus died for all people:

“And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”

Lest we forget, all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.  And God wants us to display His character for all to see.  Since that is the case, we must love others as God loves them.

Favoritism Forbidden

God shows us that He does not show favoritismJesus died for all; the sun doesn’t only rise on the good (wouldn’t that be an odd sight – if sunlight only fell on the people and their property who were good?  What a dark place the Earth would be!); and the rain doesn’t just fall on the property of the righteous.  God, through His creation and His love, provides for everyone these basic things as an example of His character.

We are quick to love those who are easy to love, and usually not so quick to love those who are difficult to love.  Yet God loves us all.  Peter learned this with the centurion Cornelius and his family.  After God manifested His favor upon them, Peter stated:

…I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism

Otherworldly Outreach

Even the pagans love their own.  We are shown that we need to love with the love of Jesus.  He walked completely out of His way to see a Samaritan woman at a well.  Loving our enemies and people who are hard to love is a Godly characteristic that we all need to display.  We don’t need to go to the deepest, darkest regions of unexplored Africa to do this; we simply need to love the people who we come in contact with.  If we only spend time with our friends and family, how can we display the love of God to people that need to be reached?

19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. (emphasis and bold added)

Reaching “all nations” starts with your own.  It starts with your own community, then surrounding areas, and wherever you may travel.  It was once said, “If you aren’t engaging in mission work at home, please don’t export that somewhere else.”

Carefully Complete

The phrase, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” can be difficult to understand, since none of us are perfect, and even after we are redeemed by God, we still occasionally sin, whether by sins of commission or omission.  But we need to have a proper reference for this.  In the Greek, the word for “perfect” is teleioi, and is literally translated as mature, complete.  It infers a completeness, and that completeness, with regards to the character of God, is perfection.  Let sanctification through trials complete its work in you that you would be mature and complete, not lacking in anything.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask ourselves a question:  Are we loving those who are difficult to love the way that Jesus asks us to love them?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are perfect and complete in all Your ways.  Help me this day that I would be transformed by the renewing of my mind with Your holy word and with the trials that You allow in my life that I would be complete like You.  Strengthen me and soften my heart that I would learn the lessons needed for maturity in life and in faith.  Please have mercy upon me, for all discipline seems unpleasant as I go through it.  Give me a better sense of Your love for others as I encounter an increasingly wicked people everyday.  Help me to engage them, and to show them Your love, regardless of the outcome.  For even Your Son, Jesus Christ, died at the hands of those He was trying to reach.  Show me the straight and narrow path that I would walk on it and see the light of Your Glory.  This I ask and pray in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Combat Training with God – Philippians 4:8-9

All Character Building Starts in the Mind

8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Clarifying Contemplations

Paul lists several things upon which Christians should meditate (fill your mind with the Word of God, then prayerfully seek to understand the meaning of what you are dwelling upon as it relates to the rest of the Word of God and its application in your life as the Holy Spirit reveals its meaning to you):

  • True
    • Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life.”  He Himself is worthy of thinking upon and pondering.  Additionally, we should see what is true.  So much of the world we live in is built upon historical revisionism and incorrect understanding, that it is worthy to seek the truth and then to dwell upon it.
  • Noble
    • From the Greek, semna – to be grave, honorable, venerable
    • We are encouraged to seek out that which is deserving of honor and dwell upon that as well.  So much in the world is crass and dishonorable.  This helps us to remember what should be kept in a place of honor.
  • Right
    • From the Greek, dikaios – to be just, righteous
    • God is both Just and Righteous.  We should also think about events and actions that exemplify these Godly characteristics
  • Pure
    • From the Greek, hagna – properly, clean: i.e. (figuratively) innocent, modest, and perfect; and therefore chaste, clean, pure.
    • We are to discard the filth in our lives – anything that brings crassness to our speech, actions, or thoughts.  Instead, we are to focus on what is chaste, clean and pure.  This will realign our thinking from the base things of this world and remind us of the purity of things above.
  • Lovely
    • From the Greek, prosphilE – pros (to be for or inclined towards) and philE (to love with a brotherly love)
    • The fruit of the spirit starts with love.  We should think upon things that are lovely since God Himself is love.  It will help us to align our character with His.
  • Admirable
    • From the Greek, euphEma – well-spoken of, respectable, of good report
    • We should also dwell upon those things that are commendable.  They remind us of what we should be doing, that our actions would be commendable as well, that God would be glorified through them.
  • Excellent
    • From the Greek, aretE – valorous, excellent, to be praised, virtuous
    • We are to set our minds upon those things that are courageous, excellent, virtuous, rather than what is despised, selfish, and otherwise deserving of shame.  We are more than conquerors through Jesus Christ.
  • Praiseworthy
    • From the Greek, epainos – a commendable thing, praiseworthy
    • Since all glory, honor, praise, power, dominion, and strength belong to God, and we are the image-bearers of God, we should also focus our minds upon those things that are praiseworthy and commendable, as they will help us to train our minds to do the same when we are in difficult situations.

Experience Exercised

Paul encourages believers to look at his life and to do what he is doing that fits this criteria.  We should be looking towards leaders who exemplify these characteristics, and then emulate them as we are enabled to do so.  It is through practice that we are able to refine our skills and hone them to a sharpness that is able to cut through the garbage and be effective.  Watch what good leaders are doing.  Identify their commendable traits as proscribed by the Word of God, and implement them practically into your everyday life.

Peace Perceived

Paul leaves us with a promise.  When we put these characteristics into practice, God’s peace will be with us.  These do not make us any more commendable to God, for it is the righteousness of Christ that is upon us that does that.  The implementation of these characteristics by dwelling upon them in our minds will lead to actions of like kind.  God is pleased when we are living out our imputed righteousness, as we are image-bearers of God, after all…

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask ourselves a question:  Is what I am putting into my mind going to lead to the type of character development that God is seeking?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, I praise You for You are worthy of all honor, glory, praise, power, strength and dominion.  You have seen fit to make me, and to give me the task of bearing Your holy image – Your character.  Father, install within me today a better sense of Your holiness, that as I put things into my mind, that they would be beneficial to the growth of the type of character that You desire to see in me.  Help me to put aside anything that does not glorify You, and fill my mind with all that does.  Strengthen me that I would be able to put into practice all that You teach me through this.  This I ask and pray in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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Combat Training with God – 1 Peter 1:13-16

Be Holy as God is Holy

13 Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. 14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”

Sober Strategy

It is much easier to comprehend knowledge when we are not under the influence of mind-altering substances.  We are to abstain from these thing, including anything that would cause us to not be able to fully place our focus on the God’s grace.  We can be distracted by the things of this world; not only alcohol, but engaged in the things of the world that can distract us.  And while we need to engage in our jobs, our family, and other necessary things, we should be careful when selecting activities that will lead to distraction from our singular devotion to Christ.

Evade Evil

Peter reiterates here that we are not to be conformed to our prior evil desires.  The word conform in the Greek – suschematizo – is the same word that Paul uses in Romans 12:2 telling us to not be conformed to the pattern of this world (or, literally, do not be squeezed into the mold of). We must not allow any evil to squeeze us into its mold of thinking or action.

Have you noticed that things that are evil – even evil attitudes – try to get you to think a certain way to both obscure their true intent, as well as promote themselves as the better and more enjoyable path to comfort, pleasure, and/or ease?  Shortcuts are extremely appealing to us because we think we are gaining something or gaming the system – we think we are getting ahead. But in reality, these shortcuts deny us the very experience that we need in order to grow.  And in doing so, we become more dependent upon them, until there comes a time when we are called upon to do the necessary work.

Take plagiarism for instance.  It is very easy to copy someone else’s work and pass it off as our own.  When we do that (and we do it consistently), we miss out on the lessons that we need to learn in order to effectively research and compose writings based on critical thinking of our subject matter.  When we are then called upon to do something original (that no one else has done or researched), we may very well not be able to do so because we have become dependent upon the theft of other people’s intellect.

Having Holiness

God has called us to be holy.  Holiness is being set apart from sin, and set apart to righteousness.  We are to put behind us the things that have so easily ensnared and entrapped us and embrace the character of God.  This is not a suggestion – it is an imperative command – in the Greek, genEthEte – literally “be-ye-being-become!”  As we pull back from sin and pull closer to God through reading His word and praying for help in understanding and implementing Godly concepts, God transforms our minds into vessels that are better able to live out the imputed righteousness afforded to us through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.

And like anything else, when we learn new skills, we first learn the basics, and them move on to the advanced techniques.  It is the subtlety of nuances that will grow our faith and action from finger-painting to murals like “The Last Supper”.  This is a progressive learning experience through refinement of technique that sets apart the beginners from the masters.  Let us greatly strive to master the holiness of God.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask ourselves a question:  Are we setting aside anything that would impede our growth and mastery of holiness?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You call us to holiness, for You are holy.  Help me to recognize what attitudes, options, or ways of doing things are evil and impeding me from living righteously in holiness.  Cleanse me of all unrighteousness, and lead me in the way everlasting.  Refine me and test me, Lord God, that like the dross from gold and silver is skimmed to reveal the precious metal in the fiery forge, that through my fiery trials Your character would be refined in me.  Help me to rejoice in my suffering, and may it bear much fruit.  This I ask in the precious name of Your Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

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Combat Training with God – Judges 7:2-8

God Plus You > All The Known Universe

2 The Lord said to Gideon, “You have too many men. I cannot deliver Midian into their hands, or Israel would boast against me, ‘My own strength has saved me.’ 3 Now announce to the army, ‘Anyone who trembles with fear may turn back and leave Mount Gilead.'” So twenty-two thousand men left, while ten thousand remained.

4 But the Lord said to Gideon, “There are still too many men. Take them down to the water, and I will thin them out for you there. If I say, ‘This one shall go with you,’ he shall go; but if I say, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ he shall not go.”

5 So Gideon took the men down to the water. There the Lord told him, “Separate those who lap the water with their tongues as a dog laps from those who kneel down to drink.” 6 Three hundred of them drank from cupped hands, lapping like dogs. All the rest got down on their knees to drink.

7 The Lord said to Gideon, “With the three hundred men that lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hands. Let all the others go home.” 8 So Gideon sent the rest of the Israelites home but kept the three hundred, who took over the provisions and trumpets of the others.

 Required Resolve

God is looking for a people who will trust in Him and gather their strength from Him.  When Gideon was tasked with convening the army that would destroy the Midianites, he sent for the fighting men of Israel.  They replied, but not all were up to the task.  God reduced the size of the army by giving the fearful an opportunity to bow out.  God wants us not only to show up, but to trust in Him and overcome our fear through our trust in Him.  We need to have resolved in our hearts that God will provide whatever we need, since God has called us to the task.

Solemn Selection

“Not all who are called are chosen.”  God then indicated that there were STILL too many people in Gideon’s army.  It is a shame to Israel that God would say that because they had so many people in the army that they would boast after victory that they had delivered themselves by their own hands.  God is looking for confident but humble people, knowing the true source of their strength and victory.

it is still amazing that after more than two-thirds of the gathered men went home, God declared there were still too many people!  How counter-intuitive this must have seemed to Gideon!  Usually the largest, best-trained, best-armed, best-prepared army wins the battle.  But God was letting Gideon know and understand that the battle did not belong to him, but rather, the battle belonged to the Lord:

“All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.”

He said: “Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.‘”

Divine Deliverance

After God thinned the army even further, he chose only three hundred men for Gideon’s army.  Gideon must have felt overwhelmed and afraid, even though he knew it was the Lord that had called him to this purpose.  God placed fear into the hearts of the Midianites, and they feared the name of Gideon. When the Midianites heard the trumpets and battle cry of Gideon’s army, they cried out in fear, and began to kill each other as they fled.

Gideon’s army of three hundred water-lapping soldiers didn’t have to lift a finger; all they had to do was stand strong in the face of the enemy.  And God delivered the Israelites from the Midianites, as the other Israelite men faithfully pursued the Midianites and destroyed them.  God also tells us:

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

A Qualifying Question

So let’s ask ourselves a question: Am I standing strong in the Truth, with complete trust in the Lord?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You provide for all of my needs.  Grant me strength today when opposition comes against me.  Remember me – act divinely on my behalf, that I may overcome all fear and valiantly take a stand for You.  Remember me in my weakness, and drive all fear from my heart, for there is no fear in perfect love.  Regardless of the foes against me, whether they surround me, or any emotional issues that I may experience, grant me peace in my heart that I may honor and glorify Your name in these battles.  This I ask in the precious name of Jesus, Amen.

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Combat Training with God – 1 Timothy 2:1-3

Prayer to Provide Potentates with Power and Protection

1 I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

Petition for Penitence

Paul urges Timothy to pray for those that God has placed in leadership over us. One of the best prayers that we can pray for ungodly leaders is that God bring them to salvation.  Many people who love God and hate evil have been asking the question, “What can I do?  All of our leaders are evil!”

The best thing you can do is to pray that God would soften their hearts, send faithful people to witness to them, and that they would give their lives to Christ.  It is only then that they can be the servant-leaders that God calls them to be and to do what is best for the people that they have been charged with overseeing.  This is the only way to break the cycle of selfishness where those elected by us seek to enrich themselves through laws that are designed to exempt them (or, as they see themselves, the “ruling class”) from the penalties that any one of us (or, as they see us, the “peasant class”) would be thrown in jail with the key thrown away.  Without the fear of God – including accountability to God – they will continue to do what is best for themselves rather than what is best for those entrusted to their care.

But we must pray for repentance of God’s people FIRST:

 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

Prayer for Protection

As in the terrible recent days of violence in the United States of America, we need to be on our knees begging God for protection of those in authority over us.  The assassination of five police officers is a great example of why we need to pray this.  If, for some reason, a person has been treated poorly by those in authority over them, it is all the more important to pray for their protection, as it is a blessing to them.  And we are instructed:

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.

We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it;

If you encounter any message other than what you see above, whether it is from TV, Radio, in person, in a book, on the Internet, or from any other source – know that it is contrary to the Word of God.

The Interruption of Intercession

When we pray for the salvation of others, we are in effect asking God to sovereignly interrupt their life.  This can be quite disconcerting to our leaders, especially if their misdeeds are profiting them greatly, or they have committed acts of treason or treachery against the people.  Imagine what must go through their minds: “I have been sinning!  What will the people think?  How can I salvage my career?  What should I do next?  Should I give back all of the money that I received lawfully but wrongly?  Should I publicly announce my faith?  Will I go to jail for my misdeeds?”  There will be unbelievable pressure on these individuals to either keep quiet about Christ.  If they don’t, they will be eviscerated by the corrupt sycophantic media that not only approve of evil, but cater to the evil whims of the existing corrupt elite.  This will impact their lives for eternity, so any temporary loss now is minuscule compared to the great riches of knowing Christ.

Remember that this will be the most difficult issue they will ever have to face, and they will be doing so as a babe in Christ.  It is incumbent upon us to pray not only for their salvation; not only for their Godliness;  but also for the necessary strength to endure as their lives are turned upside down when they encounter the most cruel and insipid hatred that they will ever have to face.

Thoughtful Thankfulness

And in all things, we are to give thanks to God the Father, for this is His will for us.  Give thanks that God hears our prayers.  Give thanks that God is answering our prayers (in His timing in His way for His purposes for His glory).  Give thanks when our leaders come to repentance before God.  Rejoice as the angels do!  Give thought to your thankfulness so that you can be content in whatever circumstances you find yourself, regardless of who is in authority over us.

The Qualifying Question

Let’s ask ourselves a question:  Am I praying for the spiritual success of my leaders or just for their Godly replacements?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are fully just, yet full of mercy and grace.  Please work in the lives of Your people, that we would have revival in the body of Christ.  Help all of us to get on our knees and beg You for forgiveness of our sins.  Help us as a nation to turn from our sins, seek Your face, and confess our wrongdoing to You, so that You can heal our land.  Bless those whom You have placed in authority over us that they would come to know Your Son, Jesus Christ, as Lord and Savior.  Father, we know that this may very well not happen until we as Your people turn away from sin and towards You.  Give the faithful among Your people patience, grace, and peace, as we plead for the rest of the body to come back to reason.  Your blessing upon this country has clouded our minds, and like Sampson, we may go on thinking we are OK but not realize that Your Spirit is departing from us.  Bring Salvation to those in authority over us that Your Holy Name may be praised and blessed by all who hear it.  This we ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Combat Training with God – 2 Corinthians 10:5

 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,

We have been given a great gift – the gift of free will.  To have that gift, God has given us a mind that is able to think with reason AND emotion.  Part of spiritual warfare is recognizing the attacks of the enemy.  Paul indicates to us here that we are to take every thought that we have captive to obey Christ.

The word “thought” in the Greek is noEma.  The Strong’s note for this word indicates that it is:

a perception, i.e. purpose, or (by implication) the intellect, disposition, itself.

We are to take every thought, and path where our thoughts will go, captive (in submission) to Christ.  This is a challenge, but one that the Holy Spirit of God can overcome.

We are to implement a filter based on the Word of God so that every thought we have can be evaluated to see if it is good or malicious.  In the world of computers, there is a device (or application) that does this; it is called a firewall.  Firewalls protect you from malicious programs written by people who want to take control of your computer, steal your money, your intellectual property, and in some cases, render your computer so messed up that it is inoperable. This sounds an awful lot like someone we know:

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

Once this happens, it takes a qualified computer professional to get rid of everything bad.  Sometimes, this requires reinstalling all of your programs and restoring your files from a good backup (if you have even backed up your critical data!).

The Word of God transforms our mind and protects it against the social engineering attempts of the devil, the world, and the flesh to try to usurp our thought processes.  Some people have said, “Sure, I read the Bible once.  That’s all I need.”  But we see in Ephesians 5:26 that we are continually being washed clean by the Word of God.  The word “washed” in the Greek is katharisas.  It is the word from which we get the English word catharsis.

The Word of God is like anti-virus software: it checks every file (thought) in our file system (brain, patterns of thought) for known malicious software and configurations (patterns of sin  – arguments and lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God) and removes them before they can do any more harm.  But just like viruses, worms, trojan horses, ransomware, and other types of malware, they often cause damage before the antivirus program can clean them off or stop them.  It is the same with sin in our lives.

It is said that some people, as they read the Word of God and apply it to their lives, have had their hearts and minds so infused with the Word of God that when they think, they think in scripture.  Wow!  To know the Word of God so well, and have it experientially in your heart so deeply that it is the first way your mind forms thoughts!

So, let’s ask the question:  How deeply has the Word of God penetrated my heart?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You amaze us with Your forethought for our every need.  Even Your Word has greater purpose than to just instruct and provide direction; it cleanses us, protects us, renews us, and restores our minds.  Grant me success this day, Father, as I read Your Word, that it would so penetrate my heart that it would never come out.  Help me to remember Your word in such a way that all darkness and unrighteousness is exposed for what it is – sin.  Help me to reprogram my mind, that it would be transformed into what You would want, rather than what the world, the devil, and the flesh want it to be.  Guard my every thought, and help me to bring it captive to Christ.  This I ask in the precious and powerful name of your Most Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Combat Training with God – Mark 9:29

He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer [and fasting (the text in these brackets does not appear in all of the manuscripts)].

Some of the greatest feats in the Bible were done by people who prayed AND fasted.  Fasting is a nearly lost discipline in the American church.  We have been so blessed by God, we truly miss our three square meals (and sometimes snacks in between) each day.  People in Biblical times knew the value of fasting, and its importance.

In Mark 9:14-29, we see a desperate father looking to the disciples for help with his demonically possessed son.  They had tried unsuccessfully to remove the spirit that had seized the boy and tried to kill him.  Luke tells us, however, that Jesus had already given the disciples power and authority to drive out demons and heal the sick (Luke 9:1-2).  So what made this so difficult?  Jesus provides us with the clue in His response to the disciples’ question about why they couldn’t drive it out – this kind can come out only by prayer and fasting.

It wasn’t the act of prayer, or even fasting, that made it possible.  It was the relationship with the Father that gave Jesus the ability to drive it out.  Prayer is our first go-to for intimacy with God (although some find it through praise worship).  However, we have a sin nature, and our flesh can cause us problems.  The flesh is constantly crying out, “feed me”, “pamper me”, “I don’t want to”, and all other kinds of rebellion towards God.  Paul said he beat his body into submission.

One of the easiest, or hardest – depending on your viewpoint, ways to bring your body back into submission is fasting.  The flesh greatly dislikes being denied its pleasures – food, sexual gratification, comfort, etc.  When we fast, the flesh initially protests.  But after a while, it calms down, and we experience a type of peace that we don’t normally have when we eat.  As our bodies are brought into submission, we are able to draw ever so much closer to God in prayer.

Jesus knew this spiritual discipline, and practiced it often.  When the Holy Spirit let Him out into the desert to be tempted (tested) by the devil, He was fasting.  He was fasting the day that he drove out the spirit from the boy that was brought to Him.  Jesus is our role model.  We should walk as He walked.  And He fasted.  Even the Pharisees fasted, but to outwardly show their piousness, rather than draw close to God.  Daniel, when seeking an answer, fasted by only eating simple food to mourn and draw close to God.

Are you lacking power in your spiritual life?  Do you require answers in order to move on?  Do you seek a more intimate relationship with God?  Be obedient to God’s word, and fast.  Tell God in prayer that it is the desire of your heart to draw close to Him, and when you fast, He will meet with you in a mighty way.

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, it is my desire to draw very close to You.  Help me to overcome my flesh, and be obedient to Your word.  Help me to set aside time to fast, that I may experience Your presence and power in a more intimate, satisfying, and joyful way.  Help me to bring my flesh into submission through fasting.  Grant Your servant success that it might bring glory to Your name.  This I humbly pray in the character of Your Most Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Combat Training with God- 2 Chronicles 20:15

He said: “Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.'”

It never goes well when we try to do things on our own.  When we are faced with any issue, it is best to seek The Lord our God, for He will fight the battles we cannot fight.  God is more than willing to stand between us and our enemies.  We see this throughout the Bible:

There are others, but this should suffice.  When we are faced with overwhelming issues, we should always seek the Lord.  He may very well have planned to fight for us.  Joshua did not inquire of the Lord, and was tricked by the Gibeonites.  So, why don’t we seek God when we are faced with overwhelming issues?

  • We think we can do it on our own
  • God has been silent, and we don’t think He will come to our rescue
    • This is usually a test.  The teacher is usually silent when we take tests…
    • Sometimes, in order to see the beauty of the stars, night has to fall, because the Sun drowns out everything else…
  • We are paralyzed with fear
    • We have taken our eyes off God and placed them on our circumstances
  • We may have sin in our lives, and we feel guilty about asking God for victory
  • Disease, or worry, has worn us down and brought us to a place of misery and despair
    • When we are worn down by these things, we are in a very bad place.  Even seeking the Lord is difficult when every breath brings pain and every moment is sheer misery.
    • We need to be obedient to Scripture.  Have you followed God’s prescription for healing?

In all of these things, we need to seek God for everything: the large battles, and especially the small ones; forgiveness, and strength.  God is always working, and greatly desires us to seek Him in prayer that He may show up and bring glory to His name.  When God is silent, be faithful, and know that He is with you.  Seek Him out as did the Psalmists in Psalms 83 and 109.  Let nothing come between you and God.  We have so much technology that we often go to Google rather than go to God.  And God WILL show up to help, for He loves you very much.  And always remember:

But God…

So, what situation has you backed into a corner where you desperately need to hear, “But God…”?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are beautiful beyond description and a marvelous to behold.  You enter into our pain, give us comfort and strength, and guide us in the ways we should go.  You provide for our every need, and even for our desires.  You are forever faithful, and like all fathers, delight in Your children.  Help me this day, Lord God, for I am weary.  Enter into my circumstances.  Deliver me through them, and fight the battles that I cannot win.  Guard me against all evil, and my heart greatly praise You for who You are.  Help me to seek You always, even when You seem to do the opposite of what I ask.  This I ask and pray in the name of Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

 

 

Combat Training With God – Ephesians 6:14-17 (ESV)

14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God

Soldier, you have been given your marching orders by your commanding officer.   Now stop by the armory and pick up your armor and weapons.  Wait – you only need to pick up the last two components of your armor and your weapon.  The first three you already have on!

Notice the verb tense in verses 14 and 15:

  • having (already) fastened on the belt of truth
    • The Greek verb here (perizOsamenoi, meaning “girded about”) is past tense, indicating that it has already been done
    • Paul speaks of the Roman soldier’s armor because everyone at that time was familiar with it
    • The belt holds all of the Roman soldier’s armor together
    • TRUTH holds everything together.
  • having (already) put on the breastplate of righteousness
    • The Greek verb here (endusamenoi, meaning having put on) is past tense, indicating again that it has already been done
    • The breastplate was designed to take the full force of the enemy’s blows that were directed at the vital organs of the body
    • This is the imputed righteousness of Christ, which was placed upon you when you were saved
    • RIGHTEOUSNESS of Christ, for no one is righteous
  • having (already) put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace, which is the word of God
    • The Greek verb here (hupodEsamenoi, meaning sandaled) is past tense, indicating that it has already been done
    • The shoes of the Roman soldier’s armor were designed to thwart caltrops, a weapon of war designed to cripple foot soldiers.
    • With their shoes on, they could safely kick the caltrops away, clearing the path to their goal, and giving them a greater chance of victory
    • The WORD of God helps you to safely avoid the enemy’s tricks and insidious schemes to harm and cripple you in your walk with God

Now it’s your turn:

  • take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one
    • The Greek verb here (analabontes, meaning taking up) indicates something you do and continually do
    • This is something that is present and that you must do.  Your faith is your shield against the accusations of the enemy (flaming darts)
    • Your inheritance is that none of these accusations will stick, because you have been forgiven of all sins. past, present, and future.
    • The Roman shield wasn’t one of those itty-bitty round shields; it was a shield that would cover the entire body from the enemies frontal attacks when the soldier knelt down and dug in (when we are called to STAND FAST).
  • take the helmet of salvation
    • The Greek verb here (dexasthe,  which means “Receive ye!”) is an imperative command – Do it!
    • Know that you are saved.  This part of the armor protected the head from attacks.  Know that you are saved; don’t let the enemy gain any purchase into your mind.  Any attacks that get by your shield must be deflected by your helmet that are directed towards your head (your seat of intellect, judgement, will, and emotions).
  • the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God
    • When Jesus was under direct attack from the devil, how did He fight?  He used the scriptures (He may have been doing a devotion in Deuteronomy that day…).
    • The truth will always expose darkness and shine light to illuminate your path
    • The enemy prefers darkness for confusion and chicanery.  But when you use the word of God, it clears everything up.

Gird up, and soldier on.  It is now time to get our daily strategy from our Commander-in-Chief.

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You provide for our every need.  You have given us Your Word to help us, and great protection against the schemes of the enemy.  Help me this day to fasten on my armor, and to fight the good fight.  Show me this day, Lord, what I should do and how I should do it so that You may be glorified.  Provide to me today, Father, opportunities to share the gospel, and give me the strength, courage, and words to speak when these opportunities present themselves.  I know Father that this is Your will, and that You will joyfully provide this to me as I am obedient to You.  Give me a heart of obedience and submission to Your perfect Will.  May Your words be on my lips and penetrate deep into my heart, that I will be ready to give a reason for believing to anyone that asks.  This I pray in the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?