Be Prepared – 1 John 3:3

Without Holiness, No One Will See The Lord

All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.

Worthwhile Warfare

You are under attack.  Whether you realize it or not, you are being bombarded in the three main areas your adversary – Satan and his minions – have found to be most effective in derailing your efforts at remaining in Christ:

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

There is a VERY GOOD REASON that the Western World is not seeing the fulfillment of the promise of Jesus when He said:

Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.

The reason?  We are not a holy people.  We go to church (rather than BEING the church).  We seek and revel in the prosperity The Lord Jesus Christ has provided to us but don’t seek as our first priority that His kingdom prospers, even in our difficulties, and we don’t take the time to ensure that God has our full attention to transform us into the image of His Son.

I was recently at a worship/revival service where a man said that every believer should be able to do what Jesus did in His ministry:

Heal the sick, raise the dead (Gasp!  Anyone try this one lately?), cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.  – (Comments in italics mine)

He then dedicated the people gathered (a local body of believers who knew each other and a few others that were invited) for service to the Lord.  He prophesied over their lives in the dedication part of the service with complete accuracy, telling people about themselves that he could not have possibly known (including the strangers among them, of which I was one).  After the dedication, he began to heal those who were sick.  Broken bones were mended.  The crippled and infirm stood up, jumped up and down, and praised God.  He drove out demons, calling them by type or name, and released people from their control.

This was a first for me.  Never had I seen someone operate with the power of God in such a way.  Then he made good on his promise that anyone can do these things.  My wife had recently had a concussion, and went up for healing.  After being healed, a man with a broken ankle went up for healing.  Looking around, the guest speaker at the revival service spotted my wife, and said to her, “Come here – YOU lay hands on him!”

My wife, in faith, walked over, placed hands upon the man’s ankle, and was told by the guest speaker to command the ankle to be healed, and say it with authority.  My wife did exactly that.  And then the most amazing thing happened – my wife said that under her hands she felt the bones of his ankle moving around and mending!  The guest speaker asked the man to walk around, and he did.  He could now jump up and down on it.  My wife doesn’t have the spiritual gift of healing.  She was just being faithful to the Word of the Living God, and He responded.

The following morning, I decided, in faith, to put this to the test.  My wife suffered (past tense!) from hypothyroidism.  I laid hands on her neck where the thyroid was located, and prayed, “In the name of Jesus Christ, thyroid, BE HEALED!”  I sensed the Holy Spirit of God tell me to command it to “BE HEALED!” two more times.  But, how do you take a thyroid for a walk?  Later that evening, after putting on her bed-clothes, my wife said to me, “I’m hot.”  The only way that she was warm in the past was severe sickness (fever).  We took her temperature, and it was normal – almost two full degrees higher than normal.  It has been that way ever since.

WE DO NOT UNDERSTAND OUR AUTHORITY IN CHRIST

The Western church (at least, a significant portion of it) is not teaching the disciples of Christ how to engage in spiritual warfare and how to use their authority in Christ.  I will not speculate here as to why.

God wants us to be free – to live free! – for if the Son frees you, you are free indeed.  But we continue to live in bondage.  And the reason why?  One of the very core reasons of this is that we are not preparing ourselves to meet the Lord.

Proper Preparation

Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.

We are to be a holy people, set apart from sin, and set apart to God.  But truly, how are we set apart?  Apart from telling people the Gospel, would anyone be able to identify you as a disciple of Christ from your actions?  Are we feasting our eyes on the latest R-rated films?  Do we feast our bodies with excessive alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, or food consumption?  Can anyone tell us apart by the way we speak (not only the words we use, but how we say them)?  These are just a few indicators.  It was once said (I don’t remember who) that we should ask ourselves, “If there was a trial today, would there be enough evidence to convict you as a disciple of Christ?”

We are to be preparing ourselves as the bride of Christ.  The bride removes her old garments and puts on the wedding garment.  She waits in eager anticipation for the coming of the groom.  She preens and puts on her best makeup, perfume, jewelry, and has her nails buffed and polished to perfection.  She selects the very best shoes to wear.  She seeks to be as beautiful as possible for him, to be his delight.  If we do that just for OUR spouses, how much more so should we be doing this for The Lord Jesus Christ?

It is time that the church takes holiness seriously, and that the holy ones of God are released to do what God has purposed for them to do since before the foundation of the world.

Heart Hunger

We are to seek the holiness of God in our everyday lives.  We need to hunger and thirst for righteousness.  It is to be our heart-cry.  We are to eagerly desire the transforming work of the Holy Spirit as we grow in righteousness:

As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, my God.

Does your heart crave the word of God?  Do you long for and desire to be in the continual presence of the Lord?  Can you say, with complete honesty:

Better is one day in your courts
than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of the wicked.

If not, do you WANT to be able to say that with joy?

Delightful Deliverance

The good news is that there IS deliverance from the soul-crushing rut of running into the same sins and (to a certain degree the same temptations) over and over again.  If that is how you feel, YOU NEED DELIVERANCE.  Disciples of Christ can be overwhelmed and influenced by Satan and his minions in many ways.  Once we have granted the enemy LEGAL GROUND to afflict us through unrepentant sin, curses (generational and otherwise), and ignorance of the word of God, we are the enemy’s new plaything.

There are several fine resources available to help you to shake yourself free from the grasp of the enemy (a couple of them are listed below).  If you want to live free in Christ, please take the time to read these resources, do the hard work, and free yourself:

Free yourself, like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter,
like a bird from the snare of the fowler.

Awesome Authority

You have AWESOME authority in Christ!  With the same power in you that raised The Lord Jesus Christ from the dead (the Holy Spirit of God), YOU can live a free life, do the works that Jesus did, and even greater works than those, as you consistently yield yourself to the authority of the Holy Spirit as Jesus did when He walked the Earth two thousand years ago, and now sits at the right hand of God praying for you:

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.”

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question – Am I truly walking in the freedom promised to me by My Lord Jesus Christ?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, forgive me for not taking your word at face value.  Forgive me for not believing what You have made plain to me in Your word about Your authority, my authority in Christ, and for not seeking you with all of my heart, mind, soul and strength.  Lord Jesus, help me to be the bride that is radiant and adorned with holiness, greeting You when You come for me dressed and prepared for the wonderful future You have promised to me, sealing Your promise with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  Help me to tear down any stronghold that holds me captive to the lie and does not comport with Your holy word.  Help me to rely completely upon the Holy Spirit so that I would walk in Your ways.  Help me to fight the good fight, to prepare as I need to prepare, and to stand for You, even unto death.  Help me to put to death anything in my life that would keep me from following you with utter abandon.  This I ask in the name of Your Most Holy Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

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


Notes:  Here are two resources that can be used hand-in-hand for deliverance of demonic oppression and interference in your life.  Please note that while I may not agree with everything the authors say or live out in their lives, the information in these resources is extremely beneficial to taking off the last of the grave-clothes, and keeping them off:

The Bondage Breaker” by Neil T. Anderson

DELIVERANCE and SPIRITUAL WARFARE MANUAL” by John Eckhardt

If you have not been taught about spiritual warfare and deliverance, these resources may be challenging to both believe and read.  Set apart time to fast (a juice fast or Daniel fast if medically necessary) and pray that God would open your eyes when you read the books, protect you from interference from the enemy, and reveal the truth about spiritual warfare and His word to you as you read.

If you find that you cannot read these books (you feel pressure to not read them), pray earnestly that God would show you anything that you need to confess in your life to Him and repent of, anything in your life you need to renounce, and any amends that you need to make first (and go make them).  After this, open your Bible and begin reading the four Gospels and Acts.  If you feel reluctance to do that as well, seek out a church that will pray over you and help you with this issue (the interference of the enemy).  The body of Christ is there to uplift, uphold, bear the burdens of, and hold accountable all of us in our walk with God.

It IS possible to live freely in Christ.  Just because you haven’t experienced it yet does not mean that it is not possible or feasible:

my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge…”

Holiness and God – Hebrews 12:14-17

Without Holiness, No One Will See The Lord

14 Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. 16 See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. 17 Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. Even though he sought the blessing with tears, he could not change what he had done.

Pursue Peace

In a world where everyone is at odds with each other, it is not always easy to be at peace with people.  Although there is great evil in the world, Jesus Christ has overcome the world.  And as ambassadors for Christ, we need to live in this victory.  This is not to say that we will be able to be at peace with everyone.  This command is completely directed at us, not at the outcome.  Elsewhere, we are told:

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

This does not mean that you are to be a doormat.  Make every effort to live in peace with others.  They are responsible for their own reactions.  Otherwise, we would be their perpetual slaves, forced to do their bidding in an effort to bring peace at any cost to our relationships.

You can’t please all of the people all the time.  – Miranda Richardson

We have been set free, and should no longer be slaves to people’s desires or expectations from us or for us.  We are to instead be focused on the expectations that our Lord Jesus Christ has for us.

Seek Sanctification

We are to seek the Holiness of God in how we conduct our lives.  This is not works-based salvation, but rather a fulfillment of a Christ-proclaimed directive:

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.

1 Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent?
Who may live on your holy mountain?

2 The one whose walk is blameless,
who does what is righteous,
who speaks the truth from their heart;
3 whose tongue utters no slander,
who does no wrong to a neighbor,
and casts no slur on others;
4 who despises a vile person
but honors those who fear the Lord;
who keeps an oath even when it hurts,
and does not change their mind;
5 who lends money to the poor without interest;
who does not accept a bribe against the innocent.

Whoever does these things
will never be shaken.

God is holy.  He cannot abide sin.  It is for this reason that Jesus died on the cross, that we might have the opportunity through the righteousness (holiness) of Christ to be in the presence of God forever.

Being a disciple is more than mere intellectual ascent to the creed of your master.  It is the moment-by-moment imitation of your master’s activities, thought processes, and character so that you can be as near a perfect imitation of your master.  If a person thinks their way is better than their master, why waste the time, money, and effort of trying to learn their ways?  Discipleship is the recognition that your master knows how to do whatever it is you desire to learn to do better than you are able to do it.  God knows our hearts, and doesn’t seek people looking for “fire insurance.”  God desires those who espouse a great conviction that He is holy; He is truth; He is perfect; He knows best how to do everything; and we don’t.

Assist Another

Cain asked God, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”  The simple answer is, “YES!!!”  We are to look out for each other.  When we see someone else begin to falter, we are to render assistance to them, help them back up, and restore them once they have begun to walk right again.

We are to encourage one another in psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit.  We are to greatly desire that each member of the body of Christ be built up in the Spirit, fully mature, and lacking nothing.  We are to agonize in prayer over this.  The world says, “Family First!”  The body of Christ needs to place this in its proper perspective:  God first, family second, everyone else third.  Let us begin to treat other believers in Christ in our local body (where we worship) as our family, just as if you were born and raised with them.  Then, after we have that down (how much less strife would be in the church if we did just that!), let us treat the OTHER bodies of disciples of Christ as though THEY were our family as well!  United we stand, divided we fall.  This is just as true today as the day it was pronounced.

Impale Immorality

Sexual immorality was just as prevalent two thousand years ago as it is today.  We are reminded that we are to put to death anything that impedes our walk with our Savior:

27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.”

Sanctification is the process of the renewing of one’s mind in such a way that not only do we desire to be holy, we begin to walk in the holiness of God, accepting the consequences of our actions without regard to their difficulty.  God is character-driven.  We are to adopt and emulate His character in how we conduct the lives that He has given us.  Immorality of any type is to be rejected.  God is the one who decides what is moral and immoral, for our hearts (the root of our emotions, desires, and motivations) in their natural state are wicked, and unable to properly discern the truth even about themselves.

Rejoice for the Reward

Finally, we are admonished to greatly desire the reward that awaits us in heaven. Esau, for a meal, gave away his inheritance.  He desired the immediate gratification of the flesh over the (seemingly) far off reward of his inheritance.  Like Esau, we are impatient, self-gratifying, self-seeking, and unable to keep everything in its proper perspective.  We need to put these things to death in us.  We need to embrace the same mindset as Christ, who endured the cross for the joy that was set before Him.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Do I not only long for, but ferociously seek the holiness of God in how I conduct my life every second of every day?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are holy, and You cannot abide sin in Your presence.  Thank You again for the sacrifice of Your One and Only Son, Jesus Christ, so that I might have the opportunity to be in Your presence.  Thank you for the very life and breath You give to me now.  Help me to actively seek and desire the character of holiness that shines forth from You and repels the darkness.  Help me to better understand Your holiness, and the principles of character that You desire to be perfected in my life.  Sanctify me so that I might draw even closer to You.  Help me to live in such a way that You are pleased with my conduct, my speech, and my every thought.  Test me during the day, and even at night, so that I will be prepared for the great and glorious day when Your Son returns in glory.  Help me to be like the virgins who brought oil with them as they awaited the bridegroom, for our bridegroom is coming, and is coming quickly.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Spiritual Warfare and Fasting – John 9:14-29

When Confronting Certain Spiritual Powers, Prayer and Fasting Are BOTH Required

14 When they came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and the teachers of the law arguing with them. 15 As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him.

16 “What are you arguing with them about?” he asked.

17 A man in the crowd answered, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. 18 Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.”

19 “You unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.”

20 So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.

21 Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”

“From childhood,” he answered. 22 “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”

23 “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”

24 Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

25 When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the impure spirit. “You deaf and mute spirit,” he said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”

26 The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, “He’s dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up.

28 After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”

29 He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer [and fasting*]”

Mental Mayhem

The modern world, especially in the West, has turned a blind eye to its roots, and now discounts the validity of demonic possession and oppression among people.  It was once said that if the Gospel were told to those in psychiatric wards, most of them would be healed and set free (author unknown).  Paul indicates that spiritual battle is not with people, but with the spiritual ranks of the enemy:

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Here we see the evidence of demonic activity:  A demon was causing a young boy to do things that were detrimental to his and other’s safety.  The father of the boy even identifies the source of the issue as a “spirit”.  Since God’s spirit is a spirit of love, this is obviously a spirit of the enemy – of the nature of Satan.

Fact Finding

Most people would think that the first thing that Jesus would do is just command the spirit to leave the boy.  But since Jesus is our teacher, He guides us in how we should address the issue.  Jesus knows the truth about this (“I am the way, the truth, and the life…”), but for our benefit (just like He asked John to baptize Him even though He never sinned, to set an example for us to follow) He shows us the first step – engage in a little fact-finding.  Jesus asks the father about the boy to get a better understanding of what is going on.

Be a Believer

Notice that it Jesus was looking to strengthen the faith of the father of the boy.  Even in the midst of this, Jesus is on a mission to seek and save the lost.  Jesus reassures the father of the boy that all things can be done for those who believe.  We need to remember that when confronted with the activity of the enemy of our souls that has manifested in such a sinister way, we are to use these opportunities to help others to strengthen their belief and trust in God, or to instill a trust and belief in God.

There are two ways that demons can directly afflict people:

  1. Demonic POSSESSION
    • If a person does not have the Spirit of God within them, they are subject to the god of this world, Satan.  Once a person is freed from the control of any demons, they need to seek God to fill them with His Spirit:
    • 24 “When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ 25 When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order. 26 Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first.”

  2. Demonic OPPRESSION
    • Christians are sealed with the blessed Holy Spirit.  Once the Spirit of God has taken residence in a Christian’s body, He locks all the doors and keeps everyone else out.  This does NOT mean that Christians cannot do things to give the devil a foothold in our lives.  For instance, if Christians willingly participate in divination (witchcraft, Ouija boards, Tarot cards, casting of lots, etc.), this can open a door through which the enemy of our souls can torment us and cause us much grief.  This is not demonic POSSESSION, but rather OPPRESSION.  While it may FEEL like demonic possession, the Holy Spirit of God seals us against such an opportunity.  Turning towards the occult can make us vulnerable to believing the lies of the enemy, which can then cause havoc in our lives.

The enemy of our souls can also indirectly afflict us by sending thoughts into our minds to try to influence us.

Name the Name

The name of something is very powerful.  It reveals the nature of it.  Notice that Jesus doesn’t just say, “demon come out of him”.  Jesus commands the evil spirit by its very nature.  This is important, because it more specifically identifies who/what is causing the issue(s).  Jesus elsewhere has commanded evil spirits to name themselves for this very purpose:

6 When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. 7 He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!” 8 For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you impure spirit!”

9 Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?

“My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.” 10 And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area.

11 A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside. 12 The demons begged Jesus, “Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.” 13 He gave them permission, and the impure spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned.

Command and Control

Jesus then commands the evil spirit to come out of the boy.  He doesn’t ask it, he doesn’t plead with it.  He commands it.  We are to do the same in the name of Christ.  All authority and power resides in Jesus, not in us.  Jesus has said that we would do what He has done and even greater things.  All authority has been given to the disciples of Christ to do these very things to glorify the Father.  When people who are not God’s try to do this, they do not have Christ’s authority, which can be detrimental to their well-being:

13 Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, “In the name of the Jesus whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.” 14 Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. 15 One day the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?” 16 Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding.

Fasting Faithfully

So, what to do when faced with an evil spiritual entity that won’t listen?  First remember that where two or more are gathered, there God is in the midst.  Make sure that you have at least two mature, prayed-up, and fasting disciples present when confronting such a one as this.  Fasting draws a person closer to God.  By denying the flesh its wants and desires, the spirit of a man can draw even closer to God.   Make sure that when fasting, and especially for this purpose, that all known sin is confessed and repented.  Let there be nothing that any evil spirit can charge against you.  While a water fast is good, a hard fast (no food nor water) may even be better.

We cannot make ourselves any more presentable to God, for the righteousness of Christ does that.  By fasting, we are crucifying the flesh so that the spirit can draw even closer to God to do God’s will.  When a person has fasted and prayed up, the demon may even flee in the presence of the holiness of God as He shines through you.

Once the person is in their right mind, and the demon or demons have left the person (either come out of them or fled from their presence), talk with the person to have them identify what issue has occurred that allowed this in the first place (sin for the disciple of Christ, or lead that person to the Gospel of Christ, who is probably now in a better position to hear, understand, and accept that God needs to be in control of their lives rather than the enemy of our souls).

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I drawing close to God as I should?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have promised Your children that You would never leave them nor forsake them.  Forgive me, Most Holy God, for my every sin.  Reveal to me where I have been disobedient to You, so that I may confess my sin, renounce any spiritual activity that is not of Your nor approved by You, and please close every door that I may have opened in this process.  Help me to live in Your freedom, for if the Son sets me free, I am free indeed.  Help me to draw as close as I can to You, that I would be as far as I can from doing what the enemy of my soul desires for me to do, so that You would be honored and glorified.  Prepare me as the sanctuary for Your Spirit, pure and holy, set apart for You and You alone.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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


*Notes: This blog has been edited for formatting and punctuation.

“And fasting” does not appear in all the texts.  However, this is a tried and true method to draw the disciple of Christ closer to God.  When the flesh is crucified, the spirit can flourish.  In spiritual warfare, this is especially true.  The value of fasting is very evident in the life of Jesus AND His disciples – “when you fast…”  When confronting these issues, engage a more seasoned Christian who has experience in this field.  Or contact a Christian group who can point you to someone who can guide you in how to proceed (Focus on the Family offers counceling and assistance with all manners of Christian issues – 1-800-A-FAMILY / 1-800-232-6459)

Chastisement by God – Habakkuk 1:5-11

God Will Use Evil Nations To Chastise His People

5 “Look at the nations and watch-
and be utterly amazed.
For I am going to do something in your days
that you would not believe,
even if you were told.
6 I am raising up the Babylonians,
that ruthless and impetuous people,
who sweep across the whole earth
to seize dwellings not their own.
7 They are a feared and dreaded people;
they are a law to themselves
and promote their own honor.
8 Their horses are swifter than leopards,
fiercer than wolves at dusk.
Their cavalry gallops headlong;
their horsemen come from afar.
They fly like an eagle swooping to devour;
9 they all come intent on violence.
Their hordes advance like a desert wind
and gather prisoners like sand.
10 They mock kings
and scoff at rulers.
They laugh at all fortified cities;
by building earthen ramps they capture them.
11 Then they sweep past like the wind and go on-
guilty people, whose own strength is their god.”

Crisis Counseling

In the verses just before these, Habakkuk asks a profound, appropriate, and Godly question:  What are you going to do about the wickedness of Your people, Lord?

2 How long, Lord, must I call for help,
but you do not listen?
Or cry out to you, “Violence!”
but you do not save?
3 Why do you make me look at injustice?
Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?
Destruction and violence are before me;
there is strife, and conflict abounds.
4 Therefore the law is paralyzed,
and justice never prevails.
The wicked hem in the righteous,
so that justice is perverted.

God answers Habakkuk’s cry for intervention by the Lord with an answer that he did not expect, and one that would cause us all to take pause – He declared that He would raise up the Babylonians to conquer His people.  Habakkuk and the rest of us were most likely expecting a different response, something like, “I know it is difficult to watch, but I will surely turn the hearts of the people back to me, and all will be healed and restored, and there were be great joy and celebration of the people as they give their lives back to Me.”  Instead, Habakkuk now gets to hear about God’s plan to conquer Israel and enslave His people.

Careful Correction

The people Israel, descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, have had a tendency throughout history to wander off the beaten path to pursue their own desires.  God had shown them in the past that they should follow Him, in good times and bad.  However, Israel has required repeated correction.  Gentle rebukes by the prophets of God were met with stoning (they lashed out at the messengers because they couldn’t do it to God Himself, it would appear).

Time and time again, God increased the severity of hardships He placed on His people to get them to turn from wickedness and turn back to Him, the only Holy and Righteous God that exists.  But Israel, after turning back to God, quickly prospered, and then just as quickly went their own way.  And just as a human parent becomes annoyed when they spank a child and see in their eyes that, even during their correction, they are planning their very next act of rebellion, God took it up a notch.  They would be enslaved by the Babylonians.

Creative Chaos

It was bad enough to be “spanked” by God, but by the Babylonians?  That is like taking your child to the local bully guild, and then saying to them, “OK, beat up my child, he certainly deserves it.”  It was not only a rebuke by God, but humiliation as well.  Not only was God withdrawing His protection from His people, but using the equivalent of today’s modern gang-banger drug lords to do it.  God’s description of the Babylonians should give us pause:

  • They have no sense of law (God gave the Israelites the Law of God, something that they were very proud of)
  • They promoted their own honor (God warned against pride and haughtiness.  Rather than chastise the Babylonians, He was using them to chastise His people)
  • They were a violent people (God wanted the Israelites to be a people, and was using violence, antithetical to their law, to chastise the as well)
  • They mock kings and rulers (God’s law showed the Israelites to be respectful of authority.  God would use this very thing against them as a rebuke, since they themselves refused to honor and glorify God)
  • They were idol worshipers (they worshiped their own strength, rather than the One who gave it to them.  Again, a serious rebuke to the people who were told to worship God and refused to honor Him)

God would introduce chaos into their lives through a most stinging rebuke – a people who God would not immediately judge for doing even worse things than they were doing.  God is perfectly capable of bringing people back to Himself with love and kindness.  But when a people refuse the very love and kindness that are offered to them, what can be done?

Day of Distress

When we refuse God’s gentle (and sometimes not-so-gentle) nudges and rebukes, God resorts to the “bend your back” beat-down methodology.  God will allow another nation to thoroughly cause distress in the lives of His people.  And He does this for both the righteous (those who believe God) and the unrighteous (those who refuse to believe God, and through their sin, obscure the truth about God in their actions, words, and thoughts).

In the past, it was the Babylonians who were feared.  In today’s world, the new Babylonians are the Fundamentalist Adherents to Islam.   The F.A.I. have no fear – they strap bombs to themselves, their children, and anyone they can to cause the maximum amount of fear and disruption in society.  They behead, mutilate, rape, and disfigure anyone that has the impudence to oppose them and their belief system.  They pour acid on the faces of women who they accuse of disobedience to their laws.  They accuse women of sexual infidelity if a man rapes her, and her word is so despised, she needs several male witnesses to testify on her behalf that she was not at fault.  In all things, they act in ways that they believe honor their god, but that are, in God’s eyes, absolutely abhorrent.  They are promised great rewards in eternity, and are guaranteed entry into their heaven if they die while killing their enemies.  Only YHWH, the one true God, in His sovereign will, can change the mind of someone who is convinced that murdering others brings glory to their god.

God has been raising them up for more than a millennia now, and God blesses the fruit of their women’s wombs, while the rest of the world experiences barrenness and strife.  Their hatred of anyone who is not like them is amazing and appalling, and their adherence to the idea that the end justifies the means should place us all on guard (take a look at what is going on in Europe, especially Great Britain, France, and Germany…).  Any group of people who believe that what they do, no matter how cruel, evil, heinous, and despicable, is honored by their “god” because it advances the agenda of their “god”, is a people who should be watched and guarded against.  Just like the Babylonians more than two millennia ago, these people are the new force of evil that God is raising up to chastise the nations.  And they are very effectively chastising the nations even now.

Regal Rescue

YHWH, the one true God, is a God who is our strength and our rescue.  He is able, and willing, to rescue us from our every difficulty.  And just as God sent Jesus Christ to rescue us from our bondage to sin, He will rescue us again when we turn towards Him and away from sin:

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.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I doing anything that would justify God bringing His chastisement upon me, my family and my nation?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Your judgments are holy and righteous.  Everything that You do is right and good.  Father, forgive me for my sins.  Forgive my nation for its sins against You.  Father, because of the increase of lawlessness, the love of most is growing cold.  Forgive us for not better guarding our hearts against such wickedness, and for not speaking up when we had the opportunity.  Give me the courage to do what You desire me to do when faced with injustice.  Help me to encourage my family, my neighbors, and my nation to turn to You, worship You, and live our lives for You.  And when You send Your holy judgment upon us to chastise us, remember me, and keep me and my family safe from Your anger.  This I ask In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Repentance and God – 1 Kings 22:11-13

Our Hearts Should Be Broken Over Our Sin And The Sin Of Our Nation

11 When the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his robes. 12 He gave these orders to Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam son of Shaphan, Akbor son of Micaiah, Shaphan the secretary and Asaiah the king’s attendant: 13 “Go and inquire of the Lord for me and for the people and for all Judah about what is written in this book that has been found. Great is the Lord’s anger that burns against us because those who have gone before us have not obeyed the words of this book; they have not acted in accordance with all that is written there concerning us.”

Great Grief

King Josiah became king after two very wicked kings before him.  For fifty-seven years, Israel has been plagued with rulers who perpetrated great evil in the land.  King Manasseh, his grandfather, did great evil in the eyes of the Lord, leading the people to worship other gods:

1 Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem fifty-five years. His mother’s name was Hephzibah. 2 He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, following the detestable practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before the Israelites. 3 He rebuilt the high places his father Hezekiah had destroyed; he also erected altars to Baal and made an Asherah pole, as Ahab king of Israel had done. He bowed down to all the starry hosts and worshiped them. 4 He built altars in the temple of the Lord, of which the Lord had said, “In Jerusalem I will put my Name.” 5 In the two courts of the temple of the Lord, he built altars to all the starry hosts. 6 He sacrificed his own son in the fire, practiced divination, sought omens, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the eyes of the Lord, arousing his anger.

King Amon, his father, did so much evil in the sight of the Lord, and was so offensive to the people, that he only reigned two years before his own officials assassinated him:

19 Amon was twenty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem two years. His mother’s name was Meshullemeth daughter of Haruz; she was from Jotbah. 20 He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, as his father Manasseh had done. 21 He followed completely the ways of his father, worshiping the idols his father had worshiped, and bowing down to them. 22 He forsook the Lord, the God of his ancestors, and did not walk in obedience to him.

23 Amon’s officials conspired against him and assassinated the king in his palace. 24 Then the people of the land killed all who had plotted against King Amon, and they made Josiah his son king in his place.

When Josiah heard the words written in the Book of the Law, he tore his clothes.  This was an ancient Hebrew practice to show great anguish and grief over some situation.  Josiah’s heart was grieved when he learned that the people were not obeying the Lord.  Rather than continue in the practices of his father and grandfather, he turned his heart from sin and to God.

Supreme Sorrow

Josiah experienced great sorrow when he realized what he and the people had done.  It is interesting that Josiah had not read, nor even seen, the Book of the law until he was age twenty-six, and a copy of the Book of the Law was found in the temple where he had ordered work to be done.  How great must the evil had been, when no one had the Book of the Law to provide them with guidance?  His heart mourned in sorrow for both his own sin, and the sin of his people.

Josiah had the heart of a servant-leader.  His heart was responsive to the word of the Living God.  And he had the reactions that each of us should have when we realize that we have sinned against a holy and mighty God:

  • He was grieved by his sin
  • His soul was filled with sorrow
  • He mourned over his sin
  • He sought the Lord for help

Seek the Savior

Josiah didn’t just have an emotional response.  He called upon five people to inquire of the Lord to find out what he and his nation should do.  We have the scriptures of Almighty God as a testimony for us and to guide us in how we are to conduct ourselves before God.   We have been instructed to seek out God and to repent of our sin.  The first part of this is to confess our sin before God.  The second part is to turn away from sin and turn towards our most gracious and merciful Lord and God.

Confess Carefully

Josiah had instructed several people to inquire of the Lord on his behalf.  He recognized the need to confess his sin before God, and to learn how to turn back towards God.  We must each confess our sins before God.  Paul indicated that the reason that many of the people were sick and had fallen asleep (God had taken their physical lives) was because they were partaking of Communion improperly.  They were not judging their sin rightly, and taking communion without confessing their sin and repenting of it.

Many people in the church today take communion and give very little thought to how they are living their lives.  They take it more as an expected part of the liturgical service, and don’t give it the gravity that it rightly requires.  When we take communion improperly, we are, in effect, bring down God’s judgment against us!   We each need to carefully examine the scriptures to see what God has to say about this, and take this as seriously as a Holy God would take it.

The western church, in particular, has a tendency to place great emphasis on the grace and mercy of God as a sign of His love for us.  And God certainly IS full of grace and mercy, even to the point of sending His one and only Son to die on the cross for our sins.  But there is often a lack of balance between His grace and mercy and His holiness and righteousness.  God cannot condone sin nor have it in His presence.  Until we realize just how offensive sin is to our Most Holy God, we will not see our sin in its proper place.  God is complete in all things, and He is balancing His holiness with His grace.  Should we not give sin the same weight as Almighty God does?  Should we not consider the cost that God bore to enable Him to give us grace?

Delay Disaster

God was gracious, and because Josiah’s heart had responded to the word of God, He delayed the disaster that He had sworn to bring upon the His beloved nation Israel because of their great sin until after Josiah had passed away.

Since we have been the recipient of great grace through the innocent shed blood of the One and Only Son of God, we receive His grace.  But God will discipline us mightily if we think that we can go on sinning because His fountain of grace covers us.  We are not to live our lives walking on eggshells, worried that every little sin will bring disaster and discipline from Almighty God upon us.  But in the same vein, we should not be surprised if we are disciplined with sickness, hardship, and even death (falling asleep) if we fail to take the time to rightly judge how we are living our lives and then partaking in communion.

When we partake in communion, we are, in effect, showing through this ordinance of the church that we are identifying with the life of Christ, who is the bread of life, and whose blood is pure.  When we go to take communion, we are, in effect, saying that we are walking in the same manner as Christ walked, identifying with Him in every way.  Christ lived a perfect life, submitted to the Holy Spirit, never once sinning.  Sin is abhorrent to God, and sin in our own lives should be just as abhorrent.  We can live free from fear, but only if we take the time to review our lives and see if we are walking in the way.

When we walk in sin without even attempting to overcome it we are in effect sullying the very robe of righteousness that Jesus bled and died to provide for us.  Why be sanctified if grace covers all sin, you might ask?  Because we are to put on our wedding clothes, white as the driven snow, as a bride in anticipation of the bridge groom, prepared to be received by Him in joy in our spotless white attire.

When we walk in the Spirit, yielded to God, we will be filled with the fruit of the Spirit.  And love is the ultimate expression of God.  When we love God, our neighbor, and one another, we are fulfilling the law, just as Christ fulfilled the law with His perfect and holy life.  We will not need to be disciplined if we discipline ourselves in right judgment, and turn from sin by turning towards God.  By walking in the Spirit, we are delaying judgment and discipline in our own lives.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  What do I do when I sin?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, I ask that You give me a heart so sensitive to righteousness that sin would make me nauseous.  Help me to immediately, and without reservation, seek You when I find myself in a situation where I feel pressured to act in disobedience to You and Your known will for me.  Help me to immediately seek You and overcome the pull of all sin in my life.  Guard my heart against all wrongdoing, and give me a heart that seeks You and rejoices in You and Your holiness and righteousness.  Forgive me for my many sins.  Help me to enumerate them to You.  Bring to mind every sin that I have not confessed to You, that I may bring it out into Your perfect and holy light, that they would be known to me.  Grant me the strength and grace to leave them at the cross, and to walk in Your holy way.  Do whatever is necessary, and provide the situations needed, so that I can practice walking in holiness before You.  You have promised to never leave nor forsake me, and I call upon You now, Lord God Almighty, to make good on this promise so that I can worship You in holiness with clean hands and a pure heart, and take communion with peace in my heart, knowing that my walk pleases You.  This I pray in Jesus’ Holy Name, Amen.

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

The Holiness of God – Psalm 101:1-4

God’s Love Is Tempered In Holiness

1 I will sing of your love and justice;
to you, Lord, I will sing praise.
2 I will be careful to lead a blameless life-
when will you come to me?

I will conduct the affairs of my house
with a blameless heart.
3 I will not look with approval
on anything that is vile.

I hate what faithless people do;
I will have no part in it.
4 The perverse of heart shall be far from me;
I will have nothing to do with what is evil.

Just Judge

Almighty God is a loving God, full of mercy and grace.  He showers all of us – (unrepentant) sinners and saints alike – with mercies that renew every morning.  He shines the sun on all of us, and allows the rain to fall for all of us.  God woos us with His kindness, and declares His character through His creation.

God also is a holy judge.  He cannot stand sin in His presence.  He has been on task, calling all of us to repentance with His love.  But there comes a time when, after we have been continually wooed by His goodness and mercy, that He will instead give us His justice.

Clean Character

David greatly desired to know God’s character, and to participate in it.  He recognized the holiness of God – the complete and total absence of wrongdoing in God’s character – as something that was important to God, and important to him.  David recognized the need for personal holiness – a separation from sin and a separation to God.  David greatly desired to live a blameless life before God.  In the Psalms, many which were written by him, including Psalm 14 and Psalm 53, he declares:

1 The fool says in his heart,
“There is no God.”
They are corrupt, their deeds are vile;
there is no one who does good.

2 The Lord looks down from heaven
on all mankind
to see if there are any who understand,
any who seek God.
3 All have turned away, all have become corrupt;
there is no one who does good,
not even one.

David recognizes that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.  No one but Jesus Christ ever lived a perfect, sinless life on Earth.  David greatly desired to live in a way that shunned sin, and embraced holiness, in light of his fallen nature.

Insulated Inspection

David sought to shield his eyes from evil.  He did not desire to look upon anything vile.  The eyes, for most people, contribute a significant portion of all stimuli.  Men, in particular, are wired to react to what they see.  David purposed in his heart to keep his eyes from intentionally dwelling upon wickedness.

In Western culture today, the focus of advertising on television and the internet has a tendency to focus on sexual immorality.  And that is because sex sells.  The ironic aspect of this is that it is culture that both bombards men day in and day out with messages of promiscuity and satisfaction in lewdness and unfaithfulness and vilifies him if he consumes their product.  Once a man has taken the bait, and partakes of this “eye candy” and the forbidden fruit, the very culture that baits him with it are the very first people to turn on him, call him vile and degenerate, shun him, and destroy his good name.

David recognized this danger, and did his very best to keep his eyes from intentionally wandering towards that which would cause him difficulty.  It should be noted that the one time he failed, when he looked upon Bathsheba, he sinned mightily and paid a most dear price for it.

Despise Disloyalty

The desire for personal purity helped David to hate what faithless people do.  They wallow in their own sin, reject the law of Almighty God, and revel in their wanton disobedience to the One who created them and calls them back to Himself.  David does not hate the wicked, but hates what the wicked do.

It is important to make the distinction between hating someone and hating their actions.  It is especially important to make this distinction, for evil people will try to manipulate others by calling their own aversion to holiness and your disagreement with their thoughts, words and deeds as somehow being related to their personal identity and not to their personal ideology.  Unless we, as a culture, can separate what a person does from who a person is, we will be sucked into a violent maelstrom that threatens to pigeonhole everyone into accepting what is vile in order to avoid being perceived (and therefore accused in the public arena) as being racist, bigoted, and hateful people.

Somehow, people in their quest to be free from the responsibility that comes as a result of being created by God, even and especially to be His image-bearers, have lost their personal identity and replaced it with personal ideology.  In other words, you can no longer disagree with someone based on their thoughts and words without somehow casting an aspersion on their race or heritage.  The evil person tries to insist that the two are inextricably intertwined, thus forcing a person to accept their ideas in order to accept them as people, for to reject their ideas, in their mind, is to reject them and their value as human beings.

Purge Perfidy

David desires to have nothing to do with evil.  He goes to great lengths to prevent its influence and actions in his life.  He so greatly desires this removal from evil, he wants to place the perverseness of people as far as he can from his heart.  David loves people, and was called by God to be a shepherd over them as king by the prophet Samuel.  Yet David, in his role as king and judge, would not permit evil to flourish under his watch.

We too are to rid ourselves of the perverse things that so easily entangles us in sin.  There should be an active desire, fueled by the Holy Spirit, and guided by the word of the Living God, to separate ourselves from what is evil in the sight of God and separate ourselves to what is good in the sight of God.  Until we do this, we are, in effect, actively courting that which is offensive to a holy, sinless, and perfect God.  For people who claim to know God and claim to be His friends, this should never happen.  What true friend actively goes out of their way to cause others intentional pain and trouble apart from trying to strain the relationship?  But thanks be to God, for He is full of grace, mercy, and love!

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  While seeking the grace and mercy of God, do I also in the same measure seek His holiness in personal practice?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are a holy and just God.  You cannot look upon sin, yet You continually shower Your goodness and provision upon all who live.  Father, please help me to understand the depths of Your holiness, so that I can better understand why You hate sin so much.  Give me a hatred of my own sin, and help me to see it as You do.  Prepare my heart to do whatever is necessary to honor You, and to throw off the stench of my sin.  Help me to see it as I would rotting, decaying garbage.  I praise You, O God, for you have taken my sin from me and cloaked me with the righteousness of Your Son, Jesus Christ.  Help me to keep His cloak of righteousness from being stained by my moral failings.  Help me to bear up under Your trials as my sanctification prepares me to walk in holiness before You.  Help me to remember that You are a just judge, and that You will not tolerate willful sin from me anymore.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Priests of God – Malachi 2:1-9

A Warning To Priests To Be Holy Before The Lord

1 “And now, you priests, this warning is for you. 2 If you do not listen, and if you do not resolve to honor my name,” says the Lord Almighty, “I will send a curse on you, and I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have already cursed them, because you have not resolved to honor me.

3 “Because of you I will rebuke your descendants; I will smear on your faces the dung from your festival sacrifices, and you will be carried off with it. 4 And you will know that I have sent you this warning so that my covenant with Levi may continue,” says the Lord Almighty. 5 “My covenant was with him, a covenant of life and peace, and I gave them to him; this called for reverence and he revered me and stood in awe of my name. 6 True instruction was in his mouth and nothing false was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and turned many from sin.

7 “For the lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge, because he is the messenger of the Lord Almighty and people seek instruction from his mouth. 8 But you have turned from the way and by your teaching have caused many to stumble; you have violated the covenant with Levi,” says the Lord Almighty. 9 “So I have caused you to be despised and humiliated before all the people, because you have not followed my ways but have shown partiality in matters of the law.”

Coming Curse

The prophet Malachi gave a warning to the Levitical priests.  Because of their unrighteousness, God would turn their blessings into curses.  This would be the sign that God used to show the people that He would not tolerate their immoral behavior.  It is a terrible thing when the people who are responsible for administering the law do so in such a way that God’s name is disgraced.  With great privilege comes great responsibility, and God assured the people that He wouldn’t turn a blind eye to what was going on.

Regal Reverence

God expected His priests – the people who administered the law and provided instruction to the people – to be holy before Him, righteous and blameless (not sinless, for everyone has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God).  God would reassure the people that He took his covenant with Levi seriously, and that He would not allow the corrupt priests to dishonor His holy name nor their position.

Tell the Truth

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life…”  Jesus was the embodiment of the word of the living God.  He was truth personified.  Everything that He said was truth, and their was no deceit on His lips.  The priests were to act as the spokespersons for God, and they needed to tell the truth to the people.  When the priests were deceitful, and warped the word of God towards their own ends, they were in effect marring the image of God.

God does not take this lightly.  Jesus has had the harshest words of criticism for those who have been entrusted with guiding the people who follow Satan as their father:

You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

What a terrible thing it was then when the priests of God, the descendants of Levi, turned from God and turned towards Satan, and allowed falsehood to come to their lips.  This should be a wake-up call to all who are called by God to be priests, even of the order of Melchizedek, to speak only the truth.  God is truth, and there is no falsehood in Him.  The priests of Melchizedek must also walk a life where truth is their native tongue, that they may honor God in their speech and actions

Honorable and Holy

The covenant that God had with Levi and his progeny was a covenant of reverence towards God.  The Levitical priests were to be honorable and holy before God.  They were required to keep themselves from unclean things, and to wash and prepare in special ways before they would offer the sacrifices of the people to God.

Although everyone is held to the same standard for what they do, the priests were held more accountable before God because of their position and influence that God had provided to them.  God expected much more from them, for they understood the law and what God required.  Their knowledge and position demanded a higher standard of adherence to God’s requirements to be holy before Him.

Partiality in Precept

And one of the worst things that the priests did was to subvert the justice of God.  They showed partiality in the law.  It is very similar to allowing the Former Secretary of State of the United States of America to disseminate classified information through unlawful means to be exonerated from the penalties associated with that crime, while people of lesser stature were jailed and fined for far less serious crimes of a similar nature.

When partiality of the law is encountered, the faith of the people in justice dwindles, and the holiness of God is tarnished.  The people may attribute false characteristics to God, because the very people God has chosen to display his righteousness and justice have, in treason to God, perverted justice and dishonored His name.  And their blessing will be turned into curses.  God may be so greatly offended that He would divinely intervene in the election of officials of a nation to show His displeasure and place people who would fear Him and restore faith of the people in His good name, even through people who have sinned greatly against Him.  For God is able to forgive and use people who are willing to serve Him and yield to Him.

And to those who hate and despise the God of the Bible, and refuse to acknowledge His name and character by profaning His name through their actions and speech?  God will turn their blessings into curses, and bring ruination upon their families for generations.  Learn, therefore, you leaders of the world, that God will not tolerate your injustice and hatred forever.  God is being gracious, and giving all of you the opportunity to come to Him.  You are cordially invited by Almighty God to participate in His gracious offer to repent of your sins, and to be cleansed by the precious shed blood of the Son of God.  Avail yourselves of this opportunity while you still have it.  Do not delay, lest you find yourselves one day in that dire situation where you no longer have the opportunity to voluntarily do so, and face the white throne judgement of God, rather than the grace and mercy that God extents to you now.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I properly reflecting the holiness of God in word and in deed?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You call out to us day and night, and woo us to You with your kindness, compassion, grace and mercy.  Help me to turn from all of my wicked ways so that I would instead embrace Your holiness and righteousness.  Grant me the ability to desire with my whole heart to honor and glorify Your name.  And help me to submit myself to Your Holy Spirit, that in the same way that Christ yielded Himself to You, that I would yield myself to You as well.  Forgive me of my sin, and be Lord of my life, for You are perfect, and everything that You do is right.  You know what must need to be done, and I pray that You would give my every thought, word, and deed in Your righteousness, for You and You alone deserve all of the glory and honor that comes from what You do through me.  This I ask in Jesus’ Precious and Holy Name, Amen.

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

Weakness Before God – 1 Corinthians 1:26-31

God Uses the Weak To Shame The Strong

26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God-that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”

Poor Position

Most of those called by God have been called from lowly positions.  God did not call Pharaoh, but rather Daniel.  It is noteworthy that even His Son, Jesus Christ, was born into this world in such lowly circumstances as among animals.  God generally calls those of simple circumstances because when He uses us, it is recognized that it is His power working through us rather than anything special about us.

Superior State

God chooses the simple over the wise.  He chooses the insignificant over the influential.  He chooses the common over the noble.  God reveals that He cares about all people, and uses the simple, common, poor, ignored, and otherwise passed over in the eyes of the world to do the most amazing things.  Moses, chosen of God, wasn’t useful to Him in Egypt, but only after he had become a shepherd for forty years.  Shepherds were considered the lowliest of professions.  It was only after finding himself in these circumstances that God used him mightily.  While many of us desire wealth, fame, or rank in society, the superior state for being called and used by God is to be ordinary:

When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.

Becoming Better

God is able to use the ordinary to do the extraordinary.  When we are in Christ, He becomes our wisdom – our righteousness, holiness, and our redemption.  We no longer operate through our own power, but rather through the power of Him who called us.  God uses the lowly and the despised to shame the powerful and important, for all glory belongs to God and God alone.  When we begin to believe that we alone are responsible, we begin to become prideful.  Nebuchadnezzar discovered this at his own great peril.  Even after being warned by Daniel the prophet, Nebuchadnezzar still believed in his heart that everything that had been provided to him was of his own strength and doing.  After being humbled by God by living as a wild creature for seven years, God restored Nebuchadnezzar who then gave glory to God:

34 At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever.

His dominion is an eternal dominion;
his kingdom endures from generation to generation.
35 All the peoples of the earth
are regarded as nothing.
He does as he pleases
with the powers of heaven
and the peoples of the earth.
No one can hold back his hand
or say to him: “What have you done?”

36 At the same time that my sanity was restored, my honor and splendor were returned to me for the glory of my kingdom. My advisers and nobles sought me out, and I was restored to my throne and became even greater than before. 37 Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I content being seen as weak in the eyes of men?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are able to use the despised and lowly things of this world to shame the powerful and desired.  Thank You for giving me the opportunity to be used by You for Your purposes.  Help me to be strong in You, for Your strength is provided to me when I am weak.  Help me to boast only in You, for it is You who enables me to be strong in the face of adversity.  Help me to be the person that You desire me to be, so that I would be able to be used by You.  Anything done in my power is tainted by sin, but anything done by You through me will last the testing of time and fire.  Help me to yield myself completely to you so that all that You desire to do through me will be accomplished.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Holiness of God – Isaiah 1:16-17

Wash And Make Yourself Clean

16 Wash and make yourselves clean.
Take your evil deeds out of my sight;
stop doing wrong.
17 Learn to do right; seek justice.
Defend the oppressed.
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
plead the case of the widow.

Washed White

During times of thanksgiving and remembering the birth of our Savior, we must not forget why He came – we have need to be cleansed from our sins.  God has washed our sins in the lifeblood of His Son, whom He sent two thousand years ago, to cleanse us of unrighteousness and place upon our shoulders His positional righteousness in place of our sins.  The Great Exchange permits us to approach God in His throne room as children and heirs to the kingdom. When we give gifts and feast on food without remembering why the Savior was born, we do Him a great injustice, turning the remembrance of the holy day of His birth into a commercialized endeavor to feel good about ourselves.

Stop Sinning

God implores us to stop sinning.  Acknowledgement of wrongdoing without a change of heart is merely being sorry we were caught.  True repentance calls for two actions above and beyond the mere acknowledgement of wrongdoing – a turning away from the behavior that we now claim is abhorrent to us, and a turning towards the One who has redeemed us from our wickedness.

Learn Lawfulness

The Son of God never once sinned.  In everything He did, He honored God the Father and did His will perfectly.  We too are challenged to learn the will and ways of God so that we may learn to do good.  If we don’t know what is good, how can we do it?  The law merely points out that we are sinners.  But it also provides insight into the attitudes of the heart and shows us the expectations of a loving God eager to see us walk in righteousness before Him.

Judge Justly

God has repeatedly stated in His word that we are to seek justice.  We are to ensure that all who come before the courts of law are to be treated with the utmost of respect, and to receive what God would have happen – that justice would occur.  Justice is meted out with mercy and grace where appropriate so that it does not become the blunt object of abject horror that merely seeks the letter of the law and ignores the spirit of the law.

Defend the Distressed

Is justice served when those who are oppressed are ignored?  God greatly desires that the oppressed be helped as well.  Whether being harangued by people or governments, we are to intercede when people are oppressed.  Justice demands that each person be permitted to live their lives without oppression or the threat thereof.  When this is not done, we risk the wrath of the One who will take up the cause of the oppressed and ensure that the ones responsible are brought to justice.  And justice will be done, if not in this life, then at the great white throne seat of judgment.

Help the Helpless

In remembering the Son, we are to remember that He championed the cause of those who had no representation.  The people who were helpless before the law and courts in the day of the prophet Isaiah, as well as our Savior, were widows and orphans.  With no one to help them, they were often ignored – or worse – taken advantage of by ruthless people.  We are to take up their cause, for if we do not, God will take up their cause at our great peril:

49 “Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. 50 They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen.”

In this season of joy, let us remember the reason for the season, and bow down before the King of kings, and Lord of lords, who rightly deserves all glory, honor, power, dominion, and worship.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  What steps am I taking to ensure that justice is being done?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are a just judge, and cannot allow evil in Your sight.  Forgive me for my sins, and help me to see what I can do to ensure that justice is being done for the oppressed and the helpless.  I earnestly ask that You intercede in the affairs of my country’s government and instill within the people who have been placed in authority over us a proper sense of justice, that they would honor and glorify Your name as Your representatives in authority of Your people, for everything and everyone in the universe is Yours to do with as You will.  Bring about the change of heart needed in government so that You would be honored in the manner in which they conduct themselves.  Purge us of the evil that has infiltrated and obscured the workings of justice, and shine forth Your perfect light in such a way that those who shroud themselves in darkness would tremble and flee before the perfect light of Truth.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Holiness of God – Matthew 21:12-13

Do Not Profane What Is Holy

12 Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. 13 “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.'”

Righteous Rebuke

Jesus was not a wimp.  He was gentle and humble of heart.  But when He saw that His Father’s temple courtyard was being used in a manner that was disrespectful and counter to its intended purpose – to provide a space where the people could come to worship His Father, He reacted.  He overturned the money tables and benches of people who changed a place of worship into a place of profit.

To be clear, it is not that Jesus was against people making a profit with their labor.  It was the use of something holy in a profane way that was so egregious to Him.  They had taken a place that was meant for worship and defiled it by selling their wares.  God was to be glorified in this place, and yet the sellers of merchandise dared to use what was dedicated to God to line their own pockets.  God is genuinely jealous of what is His.  He will not allow us to prostitute ourselves to sin when we have been dedicated to His purpose.

Practice Prayer

Jesus had informed the ones who had defiled His Father’s house that they had maligned what God had declared was holy – set apart to him and set apart from the world.  The merchants did not care that the temple was to be used for prayer – for holy communication between man and God.  They only saw the opportunity to make some money providing the service of the easy availability of sacrificial animals to those who would come and worship.

We would do well to remember that we are now the temple of God.  And we are not just the temple courtyard; our bodies are the naos of God – the holy of holies.  God has declared us to be holy through the righteousness of Christ.  It behooves us to use our bodies in a manner that befits its station and purpose.  Otherwise, we will be responsible for defiling what God has made holy.

Design Destroyed

Not only were the merchants impeding the worship of God by their very presence with their wares, they were taking what was holy and making it worldly through their practices.  They had no regard for the things of God nor His holiness.  In making the temple courts their marketplace, they turned what was to be honoring God into profit.  Not only that, they would often have dishonest scales, robbing the people, and charging prices that were absurd for goods.  Rather than even offer their merchandise at a fair price, they sold their items at great cost.  The cost of convenience was steep.

We should be wary of those who seek to profit by using what God has declared as holy to line their own pockets.  And while the workman is worthy of his wages, it is not right to peddle the word of God for the purpose of profit.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I using my body as a temple of God or for some other purpose?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You delight in Your children, and greatly desire for us to seek You in prayer.  Help me to separate myself from the world, and draw close to You.  Keep me from the desires that would use my body in such a way that it would profane Your name.  Guard me against the desires of the world, the flesh, and the devil, that I would reflect Your glory for all to behold.  Watch over me this day, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Grace of God – 1 Peter 1:13-16

Set Your Hope On The Grace Of God

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.”

Grace of God

Most of the established denominational churches that profess to follow Christ stress the grace and mercy of God.  We are in desperate need of God’s mercy and grace, for without it, we would be subject to His judgement.  God goes to great lengths to remind us that it is only by His mercy and grace that we are permitted to be alive, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Grace is very important to remember and dwell upon, for in our time of need (which is every second of every day), we need to rely upon God’s character – both mercy and grace – to carry us throughout the day.  It is comforting to know that God is so generous with us because the other aspect of His nature – holiness – should give us great pause in how we view His grace and mercy.

The modern church often times stresses the grace and mercy of God as a way of living without the proper balance of the other portion of His character – holiness.  And while we are aware that God is holy, when we solely rely upon His grace and mercy without considering His holiness and righteousness, we do both God and ourselves a disservice.

We are told to fear God (reverentially and humbly view Him through the lens of love since He is, by definition, the embodiment of holiness).  The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.  It is foolishness to embrace God’s grace and mercy without embracing God’s holiness as well.

Eschew Evil

In order to embrace God’s holiness, we must first recognize that holiness is the abject hatred, scorn, and revulsion of evil.  It is only through despising evil that we can remove ourselves from its very strong call even after being freed from its bondage.  As beings with a predisposition towards sin, we are naturally attracted to and can easily embrace that which offends Almighty God.  It is only after understanding God’s viewpoint of sin that we are able to align ourselves and identify with God’s position on it.

Without a profound revelation of how much God abhors evil, we won’t be able to view it in the same way that God does.  And God understands that since we are predisposed towards sin, He offers us grace and mercy.  It is only through His grace and mercy that we can be forgiven such great offense towards God.  Until we are broken by our sin, we will eagerly embrace grace and mercy without the singular revulsion toward that which God so deeply despises.

Wholly Holy

As image-bearers of God, we have a sacred obligation to do that which we were created to do: to display the glory and holiness of God.  As recipients of grace and mercy, we are given the tools to do this.  Christ has broken the very strong hold that sin exerts in the lives of those who accept the free gift of God through the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ.  In receiving this wonderful gift, we are not to abuse God’s grace and mercy:

26 If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left,27 but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.

1 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

Living life completely dependent upon God’s grace and mercy without taking into account our own actions is to abuse God’s leniency.  As we submit our lives to the Holy Spirit, just as Jesus Christ did, we will find that we more greatly desire the holiness of God and obedience to His word as we seek to distance ourselves from that which offends God.  It is through the discipline of submission and obedience that we participate in the character of God, as Jesus modeled for us when He walked the Earth two thousand years ago.  As disciples of Christ, it behooves us to carefully consider our every action, word, and thought, that we would better emulate the character of the One that created us in order to reflect His love – the balance between grace, mercy, and holiness.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I seeking the holiness of God to the same extent that I see His grace and mercy?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, I thank You for all that You have done to free me from the bondage of sin.  Thank You for the sacrifice of Your Son, Jesus Christ, that I may live.  Thank You for Your grace and mercy when I fail to be who You created me to be.  Help me to submit myself to You so that I can live in the manner in which You have chosen for me to live before the foundation of the world.  Guard me and guide me in all my ways.  May I live solely to please You as I seek to walk with Your Son, Jesus Christ.  Help me to be the disciple that You so very much want me to be.  Help me always to remember that You are holy, and to not abuse Your grace and mercy.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Divorce with God – Matthew 5:31-32

Let No One Tear Apart What God Has Joined Together

31 “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”

Divorce is Difficult

Back in the time when Jesus walked upon the Earth, the Jews had a particularly low opinion of the permanence of marriage.  At that time, a man could divorce his wife for just about any reason.  Even if she displeased him in something small or facetious, such as burning the toast, a man could give a woman a certificate of divorce and move on to another wife.

In the United States of America, marriage has been reduced from a covenant to a mere contract.  Covenants were made to be binding in a way that compelled us to consider the agreement as sacred, sworn to by an oath before God. Contracts are merely agreements that any party can cancel at any time by paying the penalty.  There is no loyalty to the contract as people view contracts as disposable.  In the event that something better comes along, you can easily dissolve a contract.

We even have no-fault divorce.  This is a truly heinous dissolution of a covenant relationship that states that some of the parties are just tired of the agreement, even if everyone is keeping their end of the agreement.  By allowing the dissolution of this covenant with nothing more than the desire of one or two of the three parties involved (remember that God is the third party there to approve, empower, protect and provide in this covenant…), we have created a mindset that minimizes the seriousness of the oaths that were taken by all parties in the agreement.

Superior Signification

Jesus came to help us better understand the law, and showed us that there was a deeper connection in this than mere choice.  He indicated that there was no reason whatsoever that two people should dissolve the covenant relationship of marriage except marital infidelity.  Jesus later qualifies this by saying that Moses allowed divorce because of the hardness of men’s hearts.  As a result, if a man divorces a woman for any reason other than marital infidelity, he was making her an adulterer.  That status and its results would be laid firmly upon his shoulders.  He would bear that burden.

And worse, by doing so, anyone who then married that woman would become an adulterer.  It was as though God did not consider the covenant relationship dissolved, and she was having an unauthorized relationship with another man.  These were serious charges, and the Levitical penalty for adultery was death to both parties.

However, to get to the root of this, we must first understand that this covenant relationship was done in God’s presence for God’s purposes.  The covenant was between one biologically male person (born with XY chromosomes) and one biologically female person (born with XX chromosomes).  Even in this, modern thought in culture has warped the definition of the covenant term “marriage” to be between any two consenting adults (and therefore removing God as the third party).

The good news is, although we can assign different meanings to words, it still doesn’t change what God has created – the marriage covenant and relationship.  Calling a rose a petunia does not make a rose a petunia – it merely clouds the understanding of the meaning of these words as people try to convince other people that they have different meaning.  Marriage is still between a biological man and a biological woman, in a covenant relationship that is made by oaths before God, and is approved and sanctioned by God.  Anything other than this is a perversion of what God has intended, and is neither approved by God nor accepted by God.

God does not join together two men in this relationship, neither does He join together two women in this relationship.  Any attempt to claim that God is approving of this and joins these people together is calling God a liar and impunes the character and nature of God by assigning qualities to God’s character that are false and fictitious.  This is especially grievous for it does so for the purposes of justifying the lusts of people who desire God’s blessing upon their choices when God has clearly indicated that He does not approve of such behavior.

Character Counts

God keeps His word.  Everything that God promises to do He fulfills in His time and His way for His purposes to bring glory to Himself (for which He is more than worthy).  We should do the same.  Compatibility in marriage has more to do with character than it does with how we feel about each other.  We grow compatibility with our spouse as we work on our marriage relationship.  Rather than succumb to the feelings that our spouse is not meeting our expectations, we should instead submit ourselves to our spouse, and pour ourselves out for them as Christ did for us here on Earth, on the cross, and even now at the right hand of God as He prays for us.

Love can conquer anger, misunderstanding, and even betrayal.  It is better to forgive and heal than it is to destroy something that God has created.  God is in the business of restoring that which was broken, defiled, and destroyed.  However, knowing these things now makes us accountable for our actions, and should urge and prompt us to do everything we can to fulfill the covenant relationship that we swore an oath before God and man to uphold.

A Qualifying Question

For those who are married, let’s ask a question:  Am I upholding my part of the covenant relationship that I swore before God to uphold?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, I thank You for your word and for providing us with guidance on how to live our lives in holiness and alignment with Your character.  Father, strengthen me in my relationship with others.  Give me the ability to love my family in the same way that You love me.  Strengthen my relationships, and guard my heart against hardness when the relationships are tried and tested.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Holiness of God – John 3:20-21

Step Into The Light

20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

Dwelling in Darkness

We who were once evil shunned the light.  And ALL of us were once evil.  Even now, those who are evil try to avoid the light.  They stay as far away from God as possible.  And they not only try to hide what they do from plain sight, they intentionally wait until it is dark so that people cannot see them.  It is not that they just seek spiritual darkness, they seek physical darkness as well.

Full of Fear

Whether we realize it or not, we are filled with fear when we walk in darkness.  People are rightly afraid to bring show their deeds in the light.  How many people would willingly show that they were running a Ponzi scheme?  Or brazenly murder people in front of cameras?  We fear the repercussions of our actions, and rightly so.  God has placed people in authority to punish the evildoers.

But what happens when evil people get into the positions of power?  They operate openly.  They no longer fear God nor man, as there is no one to restrain them.  The more they get away with, the more brazen they become.  That is why it is incumbent upon all people who live in societies where they have influence in the selection of their leaders to participate in the process and keep the ones who would operate openly in evil from reaching positions of power and authority over them.  Unless the people themselves love the darkness and seek leaders over them who will continue to turn a blind eye to their evil and reward them for what is done in darkness…

Burst into the Brilliance

We need to come to the light.  Regardless of what we are doing, we need to bring our deeds into the light.  This provides us with both accountability by others and by God.  And we have no fear of operating in the light because what we are doing is being done through us by the Spirit of God for the glory of God, the deeds will be seen as being done by God through us.  When we come into the light, God will be rightly glorified and praised.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Is there anything that I am doing right now that is not being done in the light?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have provided us the light of the world in Your Son, Jesus Christ.  Help me to bring everything that I am doing into the light, that You may be rightly glorified.  Help me to yield more fully to Your Holy Spirit, that He would work in me and through me to accomplish all that You desire to be done.  May You receive all of the glory, and may Your name be praised because of the work You are doing in me and through me.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Holiness of God – 1 John 1:5-7

There Is No Darkness In Pure Light

5 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

Glorious Glow

God is perfect.  His light is without defect.  It is when we look through the lens of our own version of morality that we ascribe any wrongdoing to God.  When confronted with the facts, most people object to God based on morality, for God provides us with overwhelming proof of Himself and His Righteousness.

We cannot begin to understand God until we come to the realization that God is perfect.  It is only in the lens of perfection that God is able to be seen clearly.  John tells us that there is no darkness in Him at all.  Any perceived darkness that we think we see in God is our own darkness clouding the truth about God’s light.  God allows this to occur for many reasons:

Darkness of Deception

The bane of the church are those who claim to know Christ, and claim the title of Christian, yet refuse to live in the light.  When we walk in darkness, we cannot claim fellowship with the light.  It is like water and oil.  The two are immiscible – they won’t mix properly.  Shake them as together as much as you want, but the oil immediately separates from the water and floats on top.

We cannot claim to be light and hide the very thing that we claim to be.  When we obscure the light of God, we suppress the truth with wickedness.  This is like a person camping and trying to start a fire by pouring water over the dry wood.  Any sane person would be horrified at the results, and counsel the person to stop sabotaging their efforts.  Sin effectively sabotages our witness for it extinguishes any claim to light that we have.

There are wheat and chaff.  The wheat falls to the ground during the threshing, and the chaff blows away in the wind.  We experience trials to perfect our faith and endurance, so that as the mighty winds of difficulty come upon us, we will fall to the ground as kernels of grain rather than be blown away by the pressures of our trials.  And it is during persecution that there is a great separation of the wheat from the chaff.

The world watches us in hopeful expectation.  Some watch in the hopes that we will fail. When we do, they feel justified in their own sinful behavior.  Others watch in the hopes that what we say is true so that they can believe that it is really true and embrace the truth.  The way in which we conduct ourselves will impact many others.  Walking in darkness is guaranteed to have negative results, not only for us, but also for those who watch us.

Relationship in Radiance

When we walk in the light, we experience fellowship with each other and with God.  God intended for us to be with Him from the very beginning.  It wasn’t until Adam sinned that there was a separation between God and man.  Walking in the light is to enjoy the character and company of those who are like us and in the presence of God.

When we walk in the light, we are sanctified.  The light exposes our deeds of darkness, and gives us the opportunity to turn from darkness and turn towards the light.  The more we turn towards the light, the sweeter the fellowship is between us, God, and the ones who choose the light.  The blood of Christ is able to wash away our sins.  We can only do that when we turn from darkness and head towards the light.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Are we allowing the light of God to penetrate and expose any darkness in our ways?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are pure light, and there is no darkness within You.  You are perfect, and do not change like shifting shadows.  In all things, You are holy and righteous.  My ways are not Your ways, and my thoughts are not Your thoughts.  Help me, Father, to align my heart to Yours, that I would better understand Your ways and Your thoughts.  Purify me of all darkness that is within me.  Cleanse me of my unrighteousness.  Peel back the layers of darkness and deception that have infiltrated my life through the world, the flesh, and the devil.  Father, help me to turn to You at all times.  Guard and guide me so that I may walk in the way everlasting.  Help me to be a beacon of light on a hill, that it would lead others to You.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

 

Justice of God – Jonah 3:6-10

Justice Must Be Tempered With Compassion

6 When Jonah’s warning reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust.
7 This is the proclamation he issued in Nineveh:

“By the decree of the king and his nobles:

Do not let people or animals, herds or flocks, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. 8 But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. 9 Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.”

10 When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.

Doctrinal Dilemma

Many people have said the following:

“I can’t believe in a God who would send people to hell.”

What many people fail to realize is that God doesn’t sent them to hell; they send themselves to hell.  God does not arbitrarily point His finger and say, “OK, I’m going to send him and her and her and him to hell.”  Rather, God says the following:

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

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

And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

It would appear that God desires everyone to be saved from their Adam-inherited sinful, rebellious nature.  God is patient and seeks people for a long time.  We are told that should we hear His call, we should respond while He is near.  God has made Himself known to us, so that no one is without an excuse:

18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

So it would appear that:

  • God is compassionate
  • God is a just judge

This brings up an interesting dilemma:  How can a perfect God, who is full of mercy and grace, be a God full of perfect justice as well?

Beautiful Balance

We often impose our own moral values on situations, rather than look at them through the lens of God’s perspective.  Love cannot be merciful, graceful, and compassionate without being just:

  • Compassion without justice is anarchy
    • Without application of punishment for wrongdoing, we are effectively endorsing the person’s wrongdoing, and enabling them to repeatedly inflict harm upon others.
    • Without punishment, there is no recourse for the protection of law-abiding people from the wickedness of the evil people who disregard the law
  • Justice without compassion is emotionally void and cruel
    • There are appropriate penalties for wrongdoing based on the severity of the wrongdoing.  Actions have consequences.  We wouldn’t take a person’s life for a misdemeanor.  Nor should we give a slap on the wrist to someone who purposefully extinguishes the lives of others.
    • In each case, the severity of the transgression should be met with appropriate consequences.

Let’s define our words so that we understand what we are talking about:

  • Justice is the situation where the penalty for breaking the law has an appropriate disciplinary action based on the severity and type of crime committed.
  • Mercy is not getting what you justly deserve
  • Grace is getting a favor or blessing that was not earned (not based on merit)
  • Compassion is a deep sympathy or sorrow for someone who is in pain or suffering, with a strong desire to alleviate the pain and/or suffering
  • Holiness is the act of being set apart from ANY wrongdoing and set apart to complete and total righteousness (the inability to do anything wrong, and do everything right).   With the absence of wrongdoing, holiness is considered PERFECTION.

In order for Justice to be perfect, it must be tempered with compassion, mercy, and grace.  Otherwise, we have the knee-jerk reaction of the emotionless dictator who yells, “Off with his head!” to even the most trivial perceived rebellion.

Perfect Position

Since God is holy (and thus perfect), any rebellion of any nature must be punished appropriately.  The level of the rebellion must be met with the correct level of punishment.  God is infinitely holy and perfect, so any rebellion, no matter how small, needs to be dealt with justly.  The only just way to deal with rebellion, when perfection is the standard, is to remove the person from the population (through incarceration) so that they won’t harm anyone else.  Every country in the world has laws to protect its people from the evil of others.

So, why should we hold God to a lower standard?  People want God to just accept them as they are (which He does) and to not expect them to change.  This is the equivalent of a murdering cannibal going before a judge and saying, “You are an intolerant, racist bigot.  Just because I kill and eat people, you would deny me my freedom to be with other people?  How dare you!  I shouldn’t have to change to conform to your perverted sense of reality, judge!  My view of life is the correct one!  You must conform to my views!  You have no right to ‘judge’ me!  I demand that you immediately drop all charges, and I will be suing you for wrongful arrest and harassment!  You will see me in court!”

(Hopefully) No one would ever agree with that position.  Yet, when we say, “I can’t believe that God would judge me because I (fill in the blank), are we not doing the same exact thing?  Are we not saying that our morality and ethics are of a higher, more pure, more righteous, and more perfect nature than that of God?

God, recognizing that we have a sinful nature, has shown us compassion in His infinite wisdom.  He gave us an opportunity to be reformed and rejoined back to Him in relationship from isolation by sin.  God sent His One and Only Son, who never sinned, to die upon the cross to be a perfect substitutionary sacrifice for us. In this, he has shown:

  • Compassion – God wants to alleviate our pain and suffering by giving us the opportunity to repent
  • Mercy – When we accept Christ as Lord and Savior, we are no longer going to get the punishment that we rightly deserve
  • Grace – God didn’t have to provide a way – He is perfectly justified in sending the whole lot of humans to permanent incarceration within His holding cell – the Lake of Fire.  Instead, He gave us unmerited favor through the sinless shed blood of His Son, Jesus Christ, as an atonement (payment for wrongdoing) for our sinful rebellion against Him.

God has shown that He, and only He, has the perfect balance between Justice and Compassion.

Jesus paid our fine.  But who would consider a person “rehabilitated” if they refused to acknowledge that their actions were wrong by willfully continuing to do the same things over and over again without any regret or attempt to rectify the behavior? God loves us just as we are, but He loves us too much to allow us to stay where we are.

With reprieve comes the implicit understanding that the actions that led to the crime would not continue.  God calls this process sanctification.  We are being transformed from desiring evil and acting upon those desires into desiring righteousness and acting upon these new desires.  Even people who aren’t able to control themselves (the mentally ill) are placed away from the ability to do harm when they are unable to change.

Positional Preference

Our perception of God’s justice is marred by our sinful nature.  It is only when we see Him through the lens of Truth and Perfection that we can better understand and begin to grasp the wisdom, balance, and perfection that He displays when He operates in our lives.  We can no sooner fault God for injustice as we can exonerate ourselves from law by merely saying we don’t agree with the law.

While the laws of men may be (and often are) flawed, the laws of God are perfect.  They will withstand any criticism with one exception: those who are unable to critically think, and instead think with their emotions as it best serves them and their own desires – always at the price of others.  It is the self-serving that so piously and loudly denounce ethics and morality as unjust, antiquated, mean-spirited, racist, uncaring, and intolerant.  And the last is true:  Morality is intolerant of immorality (and, therefore, evil).  That is exactly why we have laws…

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Are we of the mindset that our morality is superior to that of God?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, I thank You that You are holy and just.  Help me to see past my own faults to gaze at Your glorious face, and see how far short of Your glory I fall.  Help me to remember that You and You alone are able to see without impaired judgement, as You and You alone are holy.  Help me to shed any and all attitudes, thoughts, and beliefs that do not conform to Your holy revelation of truth in Your Word.  Guide me in all that I think, say and do, that I would see everything through Your perfect eyes and perspective.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Sin Is Sin – James 2:10

God Views All Sin As Egregious

For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.

Pet Peeves

In a previous post, one of the most divisive, permitted sins within the body of Christ –  by the body of Christ – was mentioned.  Those who do not know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior act out of ignorance.  The body of Christ acts out of insolence when it is embraced internally by the children of God. This, of course, is Sexual Sin, and today in particular, the acceptance of the acted-upon desires of some to have sex with people who have the same chromosomal pairs that they do. We used to be able to call this homosexuality.  However, with today’s cultural acceptance of gender reassignment surgery and “gender identity”, it is becoming harder to assign that specific label to it from a cultural sense.

Each of us, whether we realize it or not, assign specific a “severity” to certain sins.  For some, historical revisionism (lying) is the absolutely worst sin a person can actively entertain.  After all, Jesus had rebuked the Pharisees when He called Satan their father for telling lies.  For others, it might be theft, adultery, or <fill in the sin that you find most “vile” here>.

How about murder?  Most of us would be quite uncomfortable being around a person who intentionally took someone else’s life in an unjustified, non-accidental way.  How many people would have been comfortable being around Jeffrey Dahmer?  Yet many people who were murderers – King David, Saul (who became Paul the Apostle), and others were murderers in the Bible!  We applaud their lives, and would gladly break bread with them.  What is the difference?

They were chosen by God and redeemed.  They repented of their sin.  So did Jeffrey Dahmer.  Wait  – did your opinion of Jeff suddenly change with that revelation?  If so, ask yourself why?  Of course, the answer if that once a person gives themselves to God – AND REPENTS OF THEIR SIN – they are considered blameless before all.  It is the act of REPENTANCE and the grace of God that does this.

But let’s look at this in view of the “open acceptance” of “active homosexual practice” within the body Christ.  Paul reprimanded the Corinthian Church for permitting – and being accepting of – sexual sin by members of that body of Christ (in this particular instance, incest).  Why is this important?

  • We are image-bearers of God.  As such, we should be acting in the character and nature of God.  When we continually engage in sin without repentance, we are obscuring the holiness of God and bringing shame upon His name – His character.
  • A little leaven leavens the whole lump.  When we allow open sin to be tolerated within the body of Christ, others will see it, and think that it is perfectly acceptable to engage in that sin.  Once sin begins to take a hold of our lives, it leads to the obscuring of our judgment of other sin, and it will be like a snowball rolling down a snow-covered mountain – it will get bigger and move faster, until it becomes nearly unstoppable, or starts an avalanche of snow.
  • We will be JUDGED.  When we engage in open sin, knowing that it is sin, and accept it (and maybe even be proud of our acceptance of it), we are engaging in the same behavior that the Israelites did when God sent conquering nations to overcome and disperse them.  If you like being “spanked by God”, feel free to slap God in the face and say, “I’ll do whatever I want to do, and You can’t tell me otherwise.  After all, God, You have to give me grace when I sin, so back off – I’m going to do this because it makes me feel good.”

Uncomfortable Union

So, let’s put all of this into perspective.  For the “sake of argument”, let us say that a person in the body of Christ is murdering other people.  It doesn’t matter how they do it – strangulation, knifing, shooting, raping to death, vehicular homicide, the method is not important.  What IS important is that they are doing it CURRENTLY.  Would you feel comfortable sitting beside a murderer who continues to practice murder, and then comes into the body of Christ AS IF THEY HAVE DONE NOTHING WRONG, and sit beside you and your family?

OK, while that is highly unlikely (as most of us would have reported them to the authorities for prosecution), let’s look at another sin that is more likely to occur.  How about the serial adulterer?  Would you be comfortable if your family and friends were sitting next to a man who was giving you or your spouse or children the “winking eye” looking at them as though they were a delicious meal waiting to be devoured, in a sexual sense?  That in every glance, it appeared that they wanted to just “take you” (or perhaps, everyone [as in an orgy]) right then and there?

Or how about an attractive, well endowed, shapely young woman who dressed with a low-cut blouse and a very short skirt, showing most of God gave to her through her near lack of clothing, making puckered lips with half closed eyes, winking at everyone, legs spread, nearly offering herself to any that would take her?  While I understand that this is a horrid picture of behavior in the body of Christ, most people would be uncomfortable with such an overt display of sinful behavior.

Most sins are within, or well hidden from the view of others.  It is the visible ones that we tend to assign greater disgust as we are aware of them.  But God doesn’t distinguish between them.  Whether we tell little white lies, secretly lust for someone, or any other attitude of the heart that is not only left unchecked, but actively pursued, is just as evil in the eyes of God as the man and woman mentioned above.  Or the man and his stepmother engaging in incest.  Or actively pursuing homo/bisexuality.

Know this: every person that you sit beside while worshiping has committed sin, including YOU.  We don’t have a problem sitting next to them, even though they may have committed the most egregious of sins.  So why do we place such an aversion to recovering homosexuals?  Aren’t we all:

  • Recovering liars?
  • Recovering adulterers (in attitude if not practice)?
  • Recovering murderers (in attitude if not practice)?
  • Recovering thieves (in attitude [covetousness] if not practice)?
  • Recovering idolaters (and many of us still ARE idolaters!)?
  • The list goes on and on…

Fantastic Friend

The good news is that Jesus is a friend of sinners.  Look at the company he kept:

Jesus befriended them, and us, because we were/are sick and are in need of spiritual healing.  We should do the same.  We acted in ignorance, and God gave us grace.  We need to do the same for those who are acting out of ignorance (those who do not know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior), regardless of their sin.  We need to embrace them as Jesus did.  People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

However, within the body of Christ, that is something else.  We are to keep leaven (sin) as far from the body of Christ (within the body of Christ) as possible.  We should not tolerate any sin within the body.  We are to encourage one another to be sanctified in the Word without being judgmental (judge the sin, not the person), confessing our sins to one another, and praying for one another so that our sins might be forgiven and we would be healed. All of this is to be done with tenderness, compassion, and love;  discipline without love is harsh and not well-received.  We look for a gentle rebuke from our Father in heaven, not a drill-sergeant screaming in our face at how poorly we have acted.  We should engage in discipline in the same way.

Jesus had the greatest compassion for those whose hearts were broken over their sin, and the harshest words for those who knew the law and didn’t follow it.  Let us, as the days grow darker and more evil, encourage one another along in our faith, our sanctification, and our hopeful expectation that our Lord Jesus Christ will soon appear again.  Make SURE you are like the five virgins who had stocked up on oil waiting for the bridegroom.  Don’t be caught abusing the servants – be about the master’s work, getting everything prepared for his return.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Are we viewing some sins as more grievous than other sins as we see them in others?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You cannot tolerate sin in Your presence.  Help me to view You as the Holy God that you are.  Show me in Your word where I am falling short, and help me to turn from unrighteousness to You.  Help me to be broken over my sin, and to seek You in forgiveness.  Father, help me to see others as You see them, that I would not categorize sin as anything other than what it is – disobedience to You.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

The Law of God – Psalm 119:17-20

We Should Meditate Upon God’s Law Day and Night

17 Be good to your servant while I live,
that I may obey your word.
18 Open my eyes that I may see
wonderful things in your law.
19 I am a stranger on earth;
do not hide your commands from me.
20 My soul is consumed with longing
for your laws at all times.

Following Faithfully

The psalmist recognizes that it is much easier to obey God’s law when we are experiencing the goodness of God.  When we are in the midst of trials, being tormented by our enemies, and trying to deal with our emotions, it takes a significant amount of concentration, control, and effort to react appropriately.  It is especially difficult when we are being tested, and the awareness of the presence of God about us seems to have disappeared.  God has not forsaken us, but is showing us what is really within us as He watches at a short distance, just like a teacher who is observing the student take a test.

There is nothing wrong with asking God to reveal His presence and peace to us during trials.  But in order to grow, God must take the training wheels off of our bicycle, and we need to put more effort into it to learn our lessons.  It is especially difficult when God does the opposite of what you request as you seek to honor and glorify His name.

Precious Perceptions

Sin clouds our perceptions and judgments.  We need God to remove the blinders from us so that we can see clearly.  When our blinders are removed, God can show us wonderful new things in His law.  As we are more obedient to the revealed truth of God, He entrusts us with more of Himself.

We will be judged not for how much we know, but for what we did with the truth that was revealed to us and that we understood.  As we are faithful in observing God’s laws and statutes, the blinders of sin will begin to fall away.  The psalmist greatly desires to know more of God’s character and insight.  We should do the same.

Concealed Concerns

The Earth is not our home.  We need God to reveal Himself and His truth to us so that we can live faithfully for Him.  We cannot live faithfully for God if He conceals His truth from us.  The psalmist knows that if God hides His face from him, he will not know the truth.  And since we are not yet with Him in Heaven, we need Him to show Himself to us as we patiently await the glorious day when His Son, Jesus Christ, returns in Glory, and we will know Him as we are fully known.

Delightful Desires

As we are yielding ourselves to the Holy Spirit, He will put an ever-increasing desire to know God’s character and to live it out within us.  The desire to live righteously and to see righteousness be done will increase greatly.  We will become so driven that the desire to live righteously will consume us.  We will long for it as the pants for the water.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask ourselves a question:  Is the desire to live righteously for God a consuming desire in our heart?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Your love for me is amazing.  You greatly desire that I be consumed with You.  As the desire of my heart is increasing for You, You have said that You will give me the desire of my heart.  Please do not hide Your face from me, but rather, help me to know Your holy character and live it out in faith.  Strengthen me as I am being tested, and keep me from stumbling.  Father, place such a great desire in my heart to know You and to live righteously that I will be consumed with it.  For Your Son has said that if we love You we will obey Your commands.  Reveal them to me, and help me to be faithful in following all of them, regardless of my circumstances.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

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.

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

The Justice of God – Isaiah 33:22

God Is a Righteous Judge

For the Lord is our judge,
the Lord is our lawgiver,
the Lord is our king;
it is he who will save us.

A Just Judge

God is a just judge.  He judges from the perspective of righteousness, for He is perfect in every aspect of character.  The Bible tells us:

Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
will accomplish this.

3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. 4 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. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.

We should rejoice that God is just.  We can be assured that in His justice, there is no fear – for there is no fear in love.  We don’t need to fear a just judge if we are doing right; it is only when doing evil that we need to fear.  And how much more should we fear God as our judge than mere human judges if we are doing evil?

The Law of Love

As a just judge, God gives us laws to establish His authority over us, and to act as a mirror with which we can properly see ourselves and who we really are, not just how we think we see ourselves, or how we portray ourselves to others.  God established just one law when it was just Adam and Eve on the Earth.  He established the Ten Commandments with Moses.  He provided the Israelites the expanded version of law in Leviticus and Deuteronomy.  And he shows us that in Christ, love fulfills the law:

8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. 9 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.”

If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right.

Kind King

God is a king, and He is our king.  God is also love personified.  Since God is love, and love is kind, we know that we have a kind king.  God shows this to us insofar as He does not immediately destroy us when we sin.  A harsh king – the idea of God from the world’s perspective – shows Him as an angry old ogre with His finger just above the “smite” button, just waiting for us to fail so that He has the opportunity to press it.

God shows us His love and kindness through the willingness to allow His only Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for our sins, so that we can be reconciled to Him.  He patiently waits for us and woos us to come and reason with Him – to see His perspective on all things.

His kindness is shown through His mercy and grace.  Only the kindness in love would allow such a holy God – set apart from all sin and unrighteousness – to tolerate us as we come to our senses and accept the free gift of His Son Jesus Christ’s perfect life, death, burial, and resurrection as payment for our sin.  When we view the cross of Calvary from His perspective, we can come to no other conclusion.

Sovereign Salvation

Only a life of perfect obedience could be the acceptable payment for sin.  And God provided that Himself through His Son Jesus Christ.  Salvation comes from the Lord, for He is able to save, and desires that all be saved.  Rejoice in your salvation!  It came at a very great price.

When taking communion with the Saints of God, remember who it is that is your King, that we may properly discern the body of Christ.  Prepare your heart before you go to worship.  Seek your King with all your heart.  Read His Holy Word.  Be sanctified and adorned as the beautiful bride that He seeks.  Do not be asleep:

for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,

Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask ourselves a question:  As we reap the benefits of grace and mercy, are we really seeing God as a Just Judge?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You reveal Yourself to us through Your Word and through our lives.  Help me to remember Your Holiness.  Give me a better appreciation for Your hatred of sin.  Help me to keep in mind that no one can see Your face, for we would surely die if we did.  Thank You for Your grace and mercy.  Help me to see my sin as You see it.  Guard me and guide me in all my ways.  Help me to prepare my heart that it would be in a proper state to take communion every day and at all times.  Help me to be consecrated to You and Your purposes, that I would be useful as a holy vessel.  You have already declared that I am a naos – the holy of holies.  Help me to live up to that.  Give me a better understand of You as my King.  This I ask and pray in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Victory in Christ – Revelation 2:17

Cultural Relevance is Very Important.

Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.

Special Stone

What’s so special about a white stone?  Unless you know its cultural relevance, absolutely nothing.  It doesn’t make sense, or one can come up with any number of meanings – there isn’t enough context to understand the meaning of this passage.

If you lived two thousand years ago, everyone in the area where Jesus preached would have understood the relevance.  A white stone with a person’s name inscribed on it would be given to the victor of the Roman athletic games.  It would give that person special access to a special awards banquet.

New Name

The other significant part of this was that we will be given a new name.  Names were very important in scripture.  A person’s name described their character:

  • Jacob (“deceiver”) was given the name Israel (“one who struggled with God”)
  • Saul’s name was changed to Paul (“small” or “humble”)
  • Simon’s name was changed to Peter (“little rock”)
  • Nabal (“foolish”) nearly died when he refused David and his men food from their harvest after they had faithfully guarded his workers.

Run the Race

Paul indicated that living his life for God was like he was running a race.  He wanted to run it like he was trying to win.  So often we focus on the grace of God (and do whatever we want – after all God has forgiven us of all sin – past, present, and future, right?) or the holiness of God (we live in aversion of the painful consequences of when we do anything wrong, so that oftentimes we are paralyzed that if we do anything wrong, we will receive a swift penalty for it), rather than a balance between the two.

Walk Warily

These metaphors are meant to illustrate that we need to live our lives in such a way that our character matches that of Christ, and that we strive towards the goal of perfection knowing that God will forgive us when we fail.  This balance – perfection vs. grace – helps us to continue striving towards God, and experience victory over sin and discipline in our everyday lives.

Victorious Venue

And when we shed this moral coil, whether it be in slumber or in apantesis as we are being gathered up into the sky with our Lord Jesus Christ , we can be assured that we have a place at the victor’s table as we will sup with God for all eternity, devoting ourselves in obedience, prayer, worship, and adoration.

A Qualifying Question

OK, let’s ask ourselves a question – Am I living my life in such a way that it looks like an Olympic athlete seeking to win the Gold Medal for Christ-like character?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You give us strength when we are weak, and carry us when we are broken.  Help us to live our lives in such a way that it reflects the character of Your Son, Jesus Christ.  Help us to discipline ourselves so that we will run the race set before us consistently and honorably.  Remember us when we fall; help us to get back up again.  Provide for our every need.  And show us our new name, our new character, that we may live in it and rejoice in it.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Perspective of God – Matthew 25:21-22

21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

In another stunning turn of events, Jesus turned the tables on those who would follow the letter of the law on the outside, but refused to change on the inside. The Pharisees were notorious for following the letter of the law without allowing the law to change their hearts; and in doing so, they broke the spirit of the law.  Jesus makes it clear here that God wants us to follow both the letter and the spirit of the law.

In just this one chapter of scripture (Matthew 5:27-48) , there are no less than five additional places where Jesus provided clarification regarding the letter of the law and the spirit of the law:

[Adultery]
27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

[Divorce]
31 “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

[Oaths]
33 “Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ 34 But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. 36 And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. 37 All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.

[Eye for an eye]
38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.

[Love for enemies]
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,

In each case, Jesus show how we should act when the law is brought into account.  Our sin nature desires what benefits itself most.  It is natural, in our old nature, to merely outwardly obey what the law requires.  We can easily overlook the deeper nature of what is required of us when we just seek to be justified in our perceived fulfillment through a minimalist attitude regarding obedience to the law.

Jesus was so upset with this from the religiously pious leaders that he called them white-washed tombs with dead men’s bones inside.   That is an interesting analogy!  What an insult that must have been to the pious leaders – that they were tombs, places where physically (but in this analogy, spiritually) dead people were placed.  And, appearing squeaky-clean on the outside, giving an appearance of cleanliness and holiness, they were instead filled with the rotting (spiritually dead) corpses that if touched, would make one ritualistically unclean for worshiping God.

Another example of this is a man who claims to know God. He is a very nice guy to all that he encounters, and appears to be of good moral character.  Due to a workplace accident, he is on disability.  He works as many side jobs as possible (perfectly OK), and asks for cash only when performing the work (still perfectly OK).  However, he doesn’t report the additional income he earns from these side jobs to the government so that his benefits are not reduced.  And while we all chafe at egregious taxation, he fails to take into account what Paul said in Romans 13:1-2,6-7:

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. 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.

We can easily deceive ourselves into making a righteous justification for just about everything we do that is counter to the Word of God in the name of “circumstantial difficulty”.  This is where moral relativism creeps into our lives.  And once we start down that path, we can then justify everything we do, and then fail to realize just how far short of the glory of God we are becoming.

So let’s ask ourselves the question: Am I following the letter of the law, or the spirit of the law?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, our hearts are filled with deceit, and we deceive ourselves when we merely follow the letter of the law.  Father, cleanse me now of all unrighteousness.  Show me where I have this attitude in my heart, and bring it into the light so that the light would dispel the darkness.  If this is rooted in bitterness of spirit from an experience of my past, please remove it, no matter how painful it is.  Help me to heal, and to avoid this attitude in my life.  Guard my heart, and keep it until the great and terrible day that Your Son, Jesus Christ, returns in Glory to claim what is His, and bring judgement on all that refused Him in life.  Bless not only me, but all who struggle with this issue.  This I ask in the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

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

 

A Promise of God – Ephesians 1:13-14

And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.

What a wonderful gift!  That the blessed Holy Spirit would take up residence within us!  He whose power raised our Lord Jesus Christ up from the grave abides in us.  We often can feel alone, but Christians should never say that – God is ever present within us, praying for us, comforting us, empowering us, and convicting us (among other things).

Paul indicates elsewhere that we should respond by being holy.  He exhorts us to consider that, because of the indwelling of the Spirit of God, we ought to respond in a correct way.

I Corinthians 6:12-20 states

12 “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. 13 You say, “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both.” The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14 By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also. 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! 16 Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.” But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit.

18 Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. 19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.

The word “temples” is especially interesting.  In Israel, the Solomon temple had four parts to it (from outside to inside):

In it was the Temple building itself:

  • The Holy Place.
    • This was also known as the Temple, and
  • The Most Holy Place (or Holy of Holies).
    • This is where the Ark of the Covenant was kept behind the veil, which was the seat of God’s power and presence.  The only person permitted to enter here was the Jewish High Priest, and only once a year, in order to offer the sacrifice of the people to God.  God took this so seriously that if the High Priest didn’t perform the ceremony properly, God struck him dead.  It was a practice at that time for the High Priest to tie a rope around his waist, so that in the event something went wrong, they could pull his body out of the Holy of Holies.  Otherwise, they would have to wait a year for the next High Priest to remove it…

The Greek word for the Holy of Holies was naos.  This is the same word that Paul uses in this passage to refer to our bodies as temples.  We are not the entire temple, or any less-important part the the temple – we are the Holy of Holies!  Because we have the imputed righteousness of Christ, God Himself can reside within us.  Wow.

So, in light of God’s glory and grace, how are we treating our naos?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, you have done the unthinkable and prepared our bodies as Holy Temples for your presence.  You have cleansed us of all sin, and with the righteousness of Christ, provide us with the Holy Spirit.  Teach us the ways in which we should go.  Help your servants to remember not just who You are, but who we are supposed to be.  Strengthen us this day, Lord, that we would treat these bodies – our thoughts, words, and deeds – in a manner worthy of being a naos.  This we ask in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

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

A Calling of God – 1 Peter 2:9

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

What a high calling!  To carry the requests of the people to Almighty God!  A great privilege indeed.  Oh, the needs are great in this wicked generation. What deep and soul-piercing burden has God placed on your heart to deliver to Him in His Throne Room?

Whatever your burden, bring it to God, who has the power to move Heaven and Earth to bring glory to His name.  Have you ever considered that the rainbow, God’s everlasting covenant with the Earth (Genesis 9:13), required Him to utterly change the very fabric of nature, to alter the laws of physics, to make the sign of His covenant (Genesis 9:12-16)?  What will He then do for you, His royal priesthood, out of love, mercy, and grace, to bring Glory to His name?

A short prayer of preparation:

Gracious Father in Heaven, forgive me my many faults.  Cleanse me of all unrighteousness, that with clean hands and a pure heart, I may bring my petitions and praises to you in full confidence of your ability and willingness to answer.  I an grateful that Your Holy Word tells us that you have already prepared an answer.  Grant your servant favor this day, as I bring these requests to You, for there is no request too small that You are unwilling to answer.  Amen.

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