God’s Favor – Isaiah 61:1-3

God Displays His Favor Upon His Son

1 The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion-
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.

Faithfully Fulfilled

God has faithfully fulfilled many of His promises to us already in scripture.  Jesus Christ fulfilled the first part of this scripture.  He has indeed fulfilled it:

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”

Jesus proclaimed that He was there to fulfill the Law and the Prophets, not to abolish them.  Jesus faithfully fulfilled all that was prophesied about Him, down to the minutest detail.  He perfectly fulfilled all scripture about Himself so that the Father could be glorified and so that God would not be mocked, for He is not a liar like men.

Bind the Brokenhearted

Jesus promises to bind the brokenhearted.  And oh, how many woes await us each day!

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

It is a good thing that Jesus has overcome the world!

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

God restores what was broken and lost.  Even though there are consequences for our actions, God is able to restore and bring order and peace into chaos and unrest.

Proclaim Parole

God has freed the prisoners!  We were held in a prison of darkness, because we could not see the light.  Jesus is the light of the world.  Now that we have seen the light, we can join Him in displaying the light.  Lies and deceit keep us from seeing the truth.  Jesus IS the truth:

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

Jesus doesn’t just model truth; He IS truth.  “The Truth” is a title, not just a reflection of reality.  Jesus is the only accurate model of unvarnished truth that we have.  God has been gracious to proclaim freedom from darkness by sending The Truth into the world.  Now that The Truth has come, we are without excuse.

Value and Vengeance

God has pronounced His favor upon us.  By sending His One and Only Son, Jesus Christ, to take the punishment for our sins as He was tortured and crucified, He has given us great mercy and grace – great favor.  He has done so much more than we can imagine!  We have been blessed with every spiritual blessing!  We are more than conquerors in Christ!  No weapon formed against us will prosper, and we will refute every tongue that accuses us, since this is our heritage and vindication from God!  Regardless of our circumstances, we have been greatly blessed!

But there is a flip-side to this.  For those who refuse to accept the Lord’s favor – His mercy and grace, there will be a terrible day of vengeance.  God, after doing everything that He could possibly do to win His image-bearers back over to Himself after His enemies try to drag them away, will eventually need to show the next portion of His character – JUSTICE.  God is a perfectly just God, and He will rule and reign in righteousness.  God cannot abide evil (rebellion against Himself), and He will, after exhausting every effort, bring forth the penalty for disobedience to a perfect and holy God – first, physical death, and finally, eternal separation from Him – complete spiritual death.

Comfort and Console

God greatly desires to comfort and console those who are grieving over their sin.  He will give us oil of joy instead of mourning and a crown of beauty instead of ashes (used by the culture at that time to show great anguish in grief, mourning, and sorrow).  God has provided us, though the sacrifice of the perfect lamb of God, the promised Holy Spirit as our down-deposit for our inheritance.  We have Him to console us, to comfort us, and to guide us.

Towering Trees

God sees us through the robes of righteousness of Christ that have been imputed to us (legally declared to be ours).  As such, He sees us as Oaks of Righteousness.  He sees the righteousness of Christ rather than our filthy rags.  Just like a bank account, we may not see the money, but it is there, registered in our name.  Given the vast wealth of righteousness that is afforded to us through Christ, should we not then incorporate more and more of it into how we live?  Should we not display this immeasurable (spiritual) wealth just as we show off our homes, cars, jewelry, and other items that we seem to hold dear and treasure?

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Do I take the time to try to grasp just how truly rich I am in Christ?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Your generosity is beyond my comprehension.  You have given us uncountable wealth in Your Son, Jesus Christ, through His sacrifice for us.  Help me to better grasp just how far and wide Your love is for me.  Help me to internalize it, and to rejoice in it, as the cares of this world continually claw at me to drag me down to its depths.  Give me a right understanding of Your word, that I may embrace it more and more each day.  Help me to display to the world Your righteousness, for You have declared me to be an Oak of Righteousness.  Thank You for this and for all things, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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


Notes:

*The word used elsewhere in the scripture for the Gospel means “Good News”.

**During the year of Jubilee, the captives were set free, and land was supposed to be returned to its rightful owners.  Jesus may very well have been declaring that particular year a year Jubilee as God was freeing the captives.

In The World… Matthew 9:9-13

Jesus Came To Call Sinners, Not The Righteous

9 As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.

10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

12 On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Particular Pattern

Jesus, in His ministry, sets up an interesting pattern:

  1. He first calls us to follow Him
  2. He then eats and dwells with us
  3. He then teaches us
  4. He sets us free to replicate His success.

First, Follow

In another shocking event in the ministry of Jesus, He calls Matthew, a Jewish Tax Collector for the Roman Empire, to follow Him.  It was one thing for Jesus to call fishermen and other Jews to follow Him.  But to call a Tax Collector?  Stop the presses!

The Jews who became Tax Collectors were among the most despised people of the Jews.  They were considered traitors by most Jews who believed that they threw their lot in with the oppressive Roman government rather than stand against such villainy by uniting with the financially, socially, and otherwise persecuted Jews.

The Romans had inflicted terrible rules upon the Jews, including (among others) a forced census every fourteen years (the Roman Census forced all of the Jews [as well as the rest of the world] to return to their hometowns to register, imposing travel expenses and losses of revenue from their occupations due to the time (and goods) lost while they and their families [and their workers if they were employers] were off complying with the Roman dictates…), forced servitude (a Roman soldier could conscript a person to carry their possessions up to one mile),  and humiliation (the Roman soldier was permitted to slap a Jew on his/her face).

With this in mind, imagine the shock of all of the Jews (Matthew included!) when Jesus called out to Matthew to “follow me”.  Note that Matthew IMMEDIATELY got up and followed Jesus.  We too should have the same frame of mind, and constantly seek to follow Jesus in all that He said for us to do (and continues to tell us to do through the Holy Spirit within us and the word of God).

Second, Sup

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.

After we begin to follow Jesus, we are to sup with him.  Jesus (God the Son), God the Father, and the Holy Spirit (God the Spirit) take up residence within us.  They make Their home in us.  The Holy Spirit is our down-deposit on our inheritance provided to us through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ as heirs to the Kingdom of God.

Since He dwells within us, we can partake of the food which others do not know, and drink of the spring of Living Water that flows within each of us.  As we yield ourselves to God, we are able to partake of His character and know Him better.

Third, Teach

As we grow in our spiritual life, we begin to get a foothold on the truths of the word of God.  We then begin to overcome, then mature into adulthood.  When we mature, we should be seeking to handle the Word of God correctly.  When we handle the word of God correctly, we will then be able to teach others the word of God.

Fourth, Free

14 Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. 15 He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.

16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

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.”

It is time to free the captives.  Those who know they are sinners and are torn over what they should do about it know that they are slaves to their sin.  It is time for God’s people to get out and proclaim freedom for the captives.  It is time to remember our great calling, and to do what our Lord has commanded us to do.  Is is time to yield everything that we have and are to God, and let Him take care of the rest.  It is time to be proper examples to the lost – Light on top of a hill, and Salt to a culture that needs the savory flavor of freedom when everyone seems to be in bondage.  Let us not be lacking in compassion to those who are in a spiritual prison, but rather, let us be the ones who seek their release and rehabilitation back into the world of spiritual life.  For Christ has come to give us life, and abundantly so.  Let us finish His good work, so that we may claim our reward.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I prepared to be a productive worker in the kingdom of God?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have given me Your Son that I may be free.  And if the Son has freed me, then I am free indeed.  Help me to extend this freedom to all who would hear.  Help me to remember that I am just the messenger.  Father, prepare my heart for rejection, and my spirit for persecution, for I am not greater than Jesus, and should expect this when I step out for Him.  Give me the same passion and drive that You gave the Apostles and Paul.  Help prepare me so that I may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.  Help me to learn and know Your word, and how to handle it correctly.  Then help me to remember that in the time of challenge, that it will be Your Spirit who speaks through me so that I will be vindicated, for this is my heritage.  This I ask in the precious and holy name of Your One and Only Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

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

Legalism and God – Galatians 2:4-5

Do Not Allow Anyone To Enslave You And Take Away Your Freedom In Christ

4 This matter arose because some false believers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves. 5 We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.

Fake Followers

Do not be deceived:  not everyone who calls themselves a “Christian” is a disciple of Christ.  Many people labor under the false moniker of Christianity and in doing so, lead people astray or into bondage.

I was one of them.

I came out of the Mormon church.  Not understanding that being a disciple of Christ involved relationship with our Creator, I believed I was a Christian because I believed that Jesus Christ was the Son of God.   So do the demons, and they shudder at the thought.  I thought that was all that was required to be a Christian.  It wasn’t until God confronted me with a final warning to turn to Him and follow His Son that I actually became a Christian.  I did not just need to acknowledge that Jesus Christ was His Son, I needed to become a disciple of Christ to be a Christian.  I had to acknowledge that Jesus Christ was LORD – and accept the relationship and the responsibilities that accompany that profession.

I did great damage to the cause and name of Christ, living a life that was not only indistinguishable from the rest of the world, but in many respects, even worst that than most people.  Anyone who looked at my life as I “proudly” declared myself to be a “Christian” would have immediately rejected Christ out of hand because my example was so bad.  I didn’t understand that when I claimed the name of Christ, and then lived a terrible life, I was bringing shame upon the One whose name – His character – I was made to show to the world as an image-bearer.

There are many false followers of Christ.  Every one of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and each one of us will continue to struggle in one way or another with sin.  We must remember that we will never be perfect image-bearers of Christ in this life.  But let us not dishonor God intentionally, and if you are watching us, please be aware that we are flawed because of the curse of sin, and will not ever perfectly follow Christ [in this life].  That being said, be wary of those who don’t even have the appearance of discipleship in their lives.  And extend grace to those who are earnestly following the One True God, even and especially as we stumble in our failures while we seek to walk righteously before our God.

Subversive Spies

Those who are steeped in legalism become spies for the enemy.  They seek out those who don’t follow the same onerous, “You must do this exactly right or you aren’t a Christian” man-made rules that place a burden upon the shoulders of men and women.  They seek to impose their pious righteousness upon others to make sure they are doing everything exactly right.  They hate the freedom that God has granted the disciples of Christ, and spy them out in the hopes of winning them over to “their side”.  But remember this:

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

Encroaching Enslavement

When we begin to believe the lies that surround legalism, we become sucked into believing a lie, and we become enslaved in bondage.  Bondage in this sense is the feeling of oppression that comes over us as we desperately attempt to do whatever we need to do in order to ensure that we are fulfilling a specific aspect of the law so that we don’t sin against God.

The following is a worldly example that is meant to show the danger of this.  Some people believe the myth that if they step on a crack in pavement, it will somehow bring them bad luck.  People who accept this as truth will go to great lengths to avoid stepping on cracks and so avoid the pain and suffering that “bad luck” brings them.  As disciples of Christ know, God is sovereign, and there is no such thing as “luck”.  However, once we submit to this “rule”, our lives become burdened with an unnecessary rule that is supposed to help us, but rather complicates our life, makes us miserable and fearful, and generally causes us to miss out on the freedom and joy of walking freely where we would like to walk.

Foundational Freedom

Christ died to set the prisoners free.  We were once slaves (prisoners) to sin. The interesting part is that human beings have been, and always will be, slaves to someone or something.  Sin has enslaved us to do the will of Satan.  When we are free, we then choose who or what will then be our target of worship.

The act of worship is what makes us slaves.  Whether we worship God as His bond-slaves, worship our jobs, worship our “idols” (sports stars, TV stars, film stars, leaders of the world, etc.), worship the created things (sun, moon, stars, Gaia, animals, insects, birds, fish, rocks, trees, etc.), even worship ourselves, we will worship something or someone.  And when we worship, we will follow the rules that we believe are given to us by the very person(s) or thing(s) who/that we worship, thus putting us into a form of bondage if we do not worship God.

And though God has given us freedom to worship Him in truth and righteousness, we need to be careful about what we do with that freedom:

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.

Standing Strong

When faced with legalism, it is the right and duty of every disciple to stand strong and remember that Christ died for you on the cross so that you could be free from such bondage.  Stand strong against such people, and prayerfully consider your response to them, because they truly believe in their hearts that they are correct, not realizing the bondage they have placed themselves in.  If you are strong and mature, gently guide them through the scriptures and help them to see the freedom that they have in Christ.  If you are younger in your faith, or don’t know the scriptures well enough, find shelter with another body of believers who are not steeped in legalism, or you yourself may find that you have become their prey.

Guarding the Gospel

And in all things, guard the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ with fervency steeped in love, grace, and gentleness.  Do not allow others to besmirch the name of Christ who claim to be His followers, but gently guide them to the truth.  And if they refuse, understand that a seed has been planted, and God may want another to come and water it, and another to come to harvest it.  Do your part, and guard the gospel:

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Do I live part (or all) of my life in legalism?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have freed us from the bondage of sin so that we can worship and obey You in freedom.  Help me, Father, to walk in the freedom that was purchased with the tortured, shed blood of Christ.  Help me to walk in a way that honors and glorifies Your name.  Grant me the strength to go on when I am weak, and help me to study so that I would be an approved worker, handling the word correctly in truth.  Give me boldness before those who unknowingly oppose You in legalism, and guard my heart when I engage others that I will not be misled by smooth talk or intellectually compelling arguments.  Instead, help me Father that in all things Your word would be the defining word of truth in deciding what is right and what is wrong.  Give me discernment as I encounter these difficulties, and help me to rightly judge them and obey Your word in freedom.  This I ask in the name of Your Most Holy and Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

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


This post has been edited for clarity and spelling errors.

Freedom in Christ – 1 Corinthians 9:19-23

The Greatest Among You Will Be A Slave

19 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

Serving as a Slave

Paul willingly submitted himself to others to help win them to Christ.  Jesus Himself said that we should serve in a like manner:

26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave

It is only when we are able to serve in a selfless capacity that we are able to truly be effective for Christ.  Freedom gives us the opportunity to serve in this way, for sin causes us to pursue self-centeredness and prevents us from being fully useful to God.  Jesus was completely yielded to the Holy Spirit, and was able to put aside everything that would have impeded Him in His ability to live a life without sin.

Living the life of a servant can be lonely, difficult, unthankful, and unacknowledged by men.  We need only to look at the lives of the Apostles to see that their journeys were fraught with danger, difficulty, and at the time, little recognition from men.  We greatly value their contributions today, but while they lived their lives, they were seen as weak, inferior, and dangers to society.  Servanthood is a characteristic of God and should be greatly desired and emulated by those who walk with His Son.  The true test of a servant is how they react when they are treated like one…

Identify with Individuals

When people identify with you, they are more likely to listen and accept what you have to say.  And while salesmen and advertisers do their very best to get you to identify with them, their spokespeople, their products, or public figures with whom they tie their brands, it is for their own personal gain rather than true relationship.  Identity is still one of the strongest forms of persuasion that exist.  When people see that we are like them, they allow you to interact with them on a more personal level.

Paul did his very best to identify with those whom he interacted:

  • He became like a Jew to minister to the Jews
  • To those under the law, he behaved like them (though he was not under the law)
  • To those not under the law, he became like them (although he was under Christ’s law)
  • To the weak he became weak

In every aspect, Paul endeavored to be like the people that he was trying to reach.  And while this can be used for nefarious purposes (confidence men, rip-off artists, etc.), Paul was using the technique to seek greater access to those whom he was trying to reach.  We can do the same with those that we encounter.

Scatter Seeds

In all of this, Paul used his freedom to sow the seeds of the Gospel.  Although he had free will, he chose to use his freedom for the work of Christ.  In the Western world, we are taught to seek our own benefit first.  Both Paul and Jesus sought the benefit of others first, and lived their lives in such a way that it was attractive to those who they were trying to reach.  And while not everyone will respond, it is the duty of disciples of Christ to bring the good news of Jesus to every nation and people.  Use your freedom wisely, and allocate the time that God gives you for His plans and purposes.  When we do that, we are truly fulfilled and are then able to find the calling that God has intended for us since before the foundation of the Earth.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I using the freedom that God has given to me to glorify His name in the manner that He has appointed to me to fulfill?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have been gracious in providing freedom from sin through the blood of Your Son, Jesus Christ, shed upon the cross for my sins.  Help me to use the freedom that You have given me to fully dedicate myself to the plans and purposes which You have determined long ago.  Help me to fulfill Your desires and to do that which I am intended to do.  Keep me close, and remind me to always follow Your lead.  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 – 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?

Blessings Of God – Psalm 25:12-15

The Fear Of The Lord Is The Beginning Of Wisdom

12 Who, then, are those who fear the Lord?
He will instruct them in the ways they should choose.
13 They will spend their days in prosperity,
and their descendants will inherit the land.
14 The Lord confides in those who fear him;
he makes his covenant known to them.
15 My eyes are ever on the Lord,
for only he will release my feet from the snare.

Complete Counsel

The fear of the Lord will lead one to wisdom.  When we become wise, we follow the counsel of God, for we recognize that God’s counsel is superior to all of the counsel of man.  David said that God’s word was a lamp for his feet and a light to his path.  God instructs those who fear Him in the way that they should go.  Sometimes, that means waiting.  Elijah, after declaring that it would not rain, was sent away by God to a remote location to wait.  We too may need to wait for God’s timing.  In all of this, God provides us with His counsel through His word and His Spirit.  We can be assured that the counsel of God will lead us on the straight and narrow path.

Prosperous Proceedings

David indicates in this Psalm that those who fear the Lord will prosper, and that their descendants will inherit the land.  God not only prospers us spiritually, but also financially and with our relationships.  Children are a heritage from the Lord, and are a blessing from Him.  Regardless of our financial situation, God prospers us in many ways.  Those who are monetarily poor are often rich in faith. Regardless of how the Lord prospers us, He DOES prosper us, and we need to remember His many blessings

Wonderful Wisdom

We can be assured that God greatly desires us to follow Him.  And when we believe Jesus, He makes us His children.  God confides in His children, since we are His friends, rather than just tell the servants what to do.  He greatly desires us to be a part of His life, and part of that is His sovereign plan.  He reveals wonderful things in His word to us so that we can participate in His character.

Fully Free

God desires that we be free from the bondage of sin so that we can follow Him.  When we are free from bondage, we can operate in His light to glorify His name.  When the Son frees us, we are made free indeed!  This is an incredible blessing of God – that we would be free from the clutches of Satan and the bondage of sin.  We should never forget the sacrifice it took to free us.  May we remember God’s blessings and rejoice in them!

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I remembering the blessings of God in all my circumstances?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You bless us each and every day.  You pour out your grace and mercy upon us.  Help me, Father, to remember Your great generosity as I walk through my struggles today.  Lead me, guide me, and help me to walk beside You as the enemy seeks to destroy me.  Provide for my every need, and help me to count Your many blessings so that I would be encouraged when life seems bleak.  Blessed be Your Name Forever!  Amen.

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

Freedom in Christ – John 8-32

Freedom is not Free

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

Finding Freedom

Freedom can only be found in the truth.  And there is only one person who can rightfully claim the title of truth – The Lord Jesus Christ.  The word freedom is bandied about quite a bit.  But what is really meant by “freedom”?  Have we not already been given free will?  Are we “free” from obeying laws?  Where are the boundaries of “freedom”?

Boundaries Bared

Christ came to fulfill the law, not abolish it.  So we find that we still have boundaries.  Jesus said:

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”

We also know:

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

The boundary of freedom is love.  So, what exactly are we being freed from?

Pardoned Prisoners

Sin entered the world through one man, and through one man we have been redeemed.  Sin leads to bondage.  When we sin, it is like we are taking a very powerful, very addictive drug.  It immediately has its grasp on your life.  And, just as an addict is a slave to drugs, we become slaves to sin.  When we sin, we voluntarily enter into bondage, whether we realize it or not.

Sin prevents us from living out a full life.  Just as boundaries exist to protect people from danger, sin creates a different type of boundary, much like a prison cell.  It keeps the person from being able to do what God has called them to do.  Every person has a calling from God on their life.  Most don’t recognize that or see their calling because of sin.  As a result, we often lead meaningless lives in pursuit of whatever will temporarily fill the void in our soul, a void that seeks to be filled.  That void can ONLY be filled by having a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.  And we are prisoners in an invisible jail cell until we are freed by Jesus Christ, who brings truth to us.  And when we know the truth, we shall be set free from the bondage of sin.

Vexing Vigilance

But like God, who pursues all of us in an attempt at reconciliation with Himself, sin seeks to capture us again, and make us its prisoner.  John Philpot Curran said the following:

“It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt.”

To keep free from sin requires eternal vigilance.  The world, the flesh, and the devil continually exercise pressure upon men to conform to their desires.  It is only by spending time with Jesus Christ every day that provides us the power, desire, and ability to withstand the tugs.  Like a reformed alcoholic who is forced to walk past bars and liquor stores every day, we must resist the temptation to once again indulge in that which caused our imprisonment.  Only through eternal vigilance in this shall a man remain free from sin’s grasp.

A Qualifying Question

So let’s ask ourselves a question: Am I resisting or yielding to the things that so easily ensnare me?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You sent Your Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for my sins.  My soul replies, “Hallelujah!”  Please help me as I navigate through this world.  I am bombarded every day with temptation.  Guard my eyes and my heart that I may not yield to it.  Rather, help me to yield completely to the guidance and leadership of the Holy Spirit that I may honor you, Father.  Your word says that when I am weak, You are strong.  Provide me with the strength to follow Jesus and resist evil.  Instill within me a steadfast spirit of contentment and obedience.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Abiding in Christ – Judges 16:20

The Price of Freedom is Eternal Vigilance

Then she called, “Samson, the Philistines are upon you!”  He awoke from his sleep and thought, “I’ll go out as before and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the Lord had left him.

Complete Committal

One of the saddest phrases in the Bible is, “But he did not know the Lord had left him.”  Samson’s confidence in himself was the blessing that God had bestowed upon him – his great strength.  As long as no one cut his hair, God had poured out His blessing upon Samson.  He was so confident in God’s blessing upon his life that he started to do things that God had expressly forbade the Israelites to do:

Samson did not follow the Lord – he assumed he was fine because God kept blessing him with supernatural strength.  We need to be very careful, especially when God has blessed our ministry, that we are in the faith.  We need to be completely committed to God and His ways to prepare us so that we can avoid many pitfalls.

Subtle Separation

The separation from Samson from God didn’t just happen overnight.  It occurred over a period of time.  Sin does the same thing in our lives.  Once we veer off the straight and narrow path, we become further and further from the truth, and we are able to justify what we are doing.  The Holy Spirit will try to reconcile us, but if we ignore Him we will eventually sear our conscience (“con”=with, “science”=knowledge) and sin will truly blind us to what we are doing.  Samson kept going further and further away from God.  Although he led Israel for twenty years, he did so moving further and further away from God.

Odious Outcome

Captured now by his enemies, betrayed by his wife, eyes gouged out to cripple him, Samson languished in prison, a trophy of the Philistines.  We need to be very mindful of the consequences of our actions, especially when we are surrounded by people who seek to cause us harm, and possibly even death.  Samson is a prime example what can go wrong when we allow sin to reign in our lives.  David did the same thing when he went into the Philistine area during the time of Saul’s quest to destroy him.  He went there for a year and four months.  In that time, he lied to the king about who he was raiding and didn’t plan security for the wives and children which were under his care which resulted in their abduction by the Amalekites.

Resounding Restoration

God always wants us to come to repentance.  He restores us once we confess our sins and turn from them.  Samson had been humbled.  His hair had started to grow back.  Standing in the temple between the main pillars holding up the temple as the Philistine leaders gloated over their conquest of Samson, he asked the Lord to restore his strength.  And the Lord came upon him mightily.  In few moments, he destroyed the temple where they were and dealt a mighty blow to a people who had been oppressing Israel.

God seeks to restore us as well.  It doesn’t have to turn out in tragedy like it did for Samson.  We need to be on guard against the world, the flesh, and the devil.  We need to seek God with all of our heart, mind, soul and strength.  And through this vigilance we can avoid many of the pitfalls that we see of the great men of old in the Bible.  Their lives are both warnings and instructions to us so that we won’t repeat their mistakes.  But Solomon, the wisest person ever to live, rightly said “there is nothing new under the sun.”  Even with these warnings, we continue to do what we know is wrong.  But thanks be to God for His Son, Jesus Christ, who redeemed us and paved the path to repentance!

The Qualifying Question

So let’s ask ourselves a question: Do I learn from my mistakes?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You show us Your mercy and grace through Your Word.  Help me to be vigilant in all my ways that they may be pleasing to You.  Guard me from the influence of evil that I may walk in truth and righteousness.  Help me to abide in Christ, so that I may abide in You.  Help me to see the warning signs when I go astray, and reconcile me when I turn back to You.  Help me to have a steadfast spirit that is for You.  As You bless me and any ministries I am in, keep me free from pride and help me to keep everything in balance.  Deliver me from evil this day, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

 

 

 

Combat Training with God – Romans 13:1-2

1 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.

The United States of America’s government was unique in many ways.  One is that the founding fathers believed that its people could be self-governing.  This was predicated on the assumption of three interconnected principles:

  1. Liberty was only possible when virtue was present
    • Only people who are virtuous can be trusted with self-government.
    • Without virtue, abuses of all types would occur because of the freedom provided, and should the people no longer be virtuous, this form of government would fail.
  2. Virtue was only possible when faith (belief in accountability to a higher power) was present
    • Virtuousness is what restrains selfishness, promotes the general welfare of others, and holds the individual in check from abuse of power.
    • Although it is possible that people can be virtuous without faith, it is the accountability to a higher power that provides the framework that directs a person to adopt virtuous ideals and their practice.
    • An Atheist, for example, could live a virtuous life, but why?  What restrains them from changing their beliefs in virtuous living at any time once their circumstances change?
  3. Faith was only possible when liberty was present
    • Without the ability of the people to freely practice religion and LIVE out their beliefs, faith would not be permitted to flourish, and evil would suppress the expression of faith.
    • Faith is what promotes virtuous living through a framework of belief that standards that are set by a higher power that supersede their own.  It is because the standards originate outside of themselves – they originate from a holy God – that they therefore provide them with accountability.  This both draws them and helps them to feel compelled to obey them; for these standards were not made by mere men, and cannot be changed by mere men.

John Adams, the 2nd President of the United States, wrote the following in 1798:

While our country remains untainted with the principles and manners which are now producing desolation in so many parts of the world; while she continues sincere, and incapable of insidious and impious policy, we shall have the strongest reason to rejoice in the local destination assigned us by Providence. But should the people of America once become capable of that deep simulation towards one another, and towards foreign nations, which assumes the language of justice and moderation, while it is practising iniquity and extravagance, and displays in the most captivating manner the charming pictures of candour, frankness, and sincerity, while it is rioting in rapine and insolence, this country will be the most miserable habitation in the world. Because we have no government, armed with power, capable of contending with human passions, unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge and licentiousness would break the strongest cords of our Constitution, as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other. Oaths in this country are as yet universally considered as sacred obligations. That which you have taken, and so solemnly repeated on that venerable ground, is an ample pledge of your sincerity and devotion to your country and its government.

This circle – Liberty, Virtue, and Faith, provided the framework for self government.  But the Bible says that regardless of the type of government a person finds themselves a subject, they are to obey the ruling authorities (in Christ).  This is not a blanket get-out-of-jail-free card to do any evil that a corrupt government instructs us to do; rather, it is a call to show the world that just as Christ submitted to the Holy Spirit and God the Father out of respect and righteousness, so should we obey Godly government to demonstrate to the world that God is sovereign and is to be obeyed.

Paul goes on further in the chapter to say this:

For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.

When we disobey government (which we SHOULD do if they are requiring us to do something counter to the express Will and Holiness of God), we are in effect telling the world that it is OK to disobey God himself, for He has sovereignly appointed these people to govern over us.  What a tragedy!  Although there are many things codified in the law that are counter to God’s express will and holiness, we should be following the rest to honor and obey God!

As an example, every time I hear a pastor say, “Well, I drive a little faster than the speed limit myself”, I cringe.  What kind of example does that set for the flock, let alone those that don’t know God and watch with vigilance those who purport to represent God, when the spiritual leaders disobey the commands of God’s servants over them?  Are speed limits in direct violation of God’s express will?  If not, and you are not obeying them, why?

Paul takes this even further:

This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

Many complain of the onerous burden that the government has placed in taxes over the people.  But this was forewarned by Samuel prior to the appointing of Saul as the first human king of Israel:

Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.”

10 Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking him for a king. 11 He said, “This is what the king who will reign over you will claim as his rights: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. 12 Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. 15 He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. 16 Your male and female servants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use. 17 He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. 18 When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.”

God warns us to be careful, because we will get the government that we deserve.  This November, if you are a citizen of the United States, you have the privilege and solemn obligation to cast your votes for Godly government officials.  So you say you don’t know who is Godly and who isn’t?  The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.  Educate yourself.  And remember, God has provided you with the Holy Spirit to guide and empower you.  Use these vast resources to know who to vote for.  Then, should ungodly rulers be elected over us, you will be able to have a clear conscience before God and man that you were responsible for your part.

Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing. – John Stuart Mill

And finally, like Habakkuk was told,

“See, the enemy is puffed up;
    his desires are not upright—
    but the righteous person will live by his faithfulness

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have provided us with leadership through our governing officials.  You have graciously given us the freedom to responsibly elect people of faith and virtue to govern us.  Father, forgive us for allowing such evil people to come to power in the United States of America.  It is because of our failure to vote and do so in prayerful humility as well as disgust for the candidates that have been chosen by the major parties to represent us that we have failed to be vigilant in our responsibilities.   Father, please send revival to Your people in the United States.  Wake them out of their slumber, and encourage them to get involved with the sacred responsibility of determining who will govern over them.  Help us to submit ourselves to You and Your will, and heal our land, that there may be peace within our nation as well as between nations.  Only You are able to do this, Lord God.  We anxiously await for you to act.  We greatly desire that You would provide us with Godly leaders so that it would be with great joy that we may submit ourselves to their rule, rather than hang our heads in shame over their wickedness and hide in silence from their oppression.  This we ask and pray in the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

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