The Great Commission – Acts 26:15-18

You Have Been Saved For A Purpose

15 “Then I asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?'”

” ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ the Lord replied. 16 ‘Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen and will see of me. 17 I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them 18 to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.'”

Seeking Servanthood

When Paul had his encounter with the Living God, he was first directed to be the servant of the Lord Jesus.  The first concern of God after people come to him is to follow Him and to serve Him:

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”

In a culture where we are told every moment of every day that it is all about YOU, this seems to be a foreign concept.  After all, if it is all about ME, why should I care about any of YOU?  This is a tool of Satan as he attacks our minds:

For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.

This three-pronged attack is very effective at distracting us from being effective servants of the Lord.  If Satan can get us to desire fleshly things, or covet with our eyes, or fill our hearts with pride, he can effectively destroy our walk and ministry for the Lord.

Servants have no rights of their own; their master is Lord over them.  Many of the letters in the New Testament start with the author identifying themselves as bond-slaves of Jesus Christ.  Jesus Himself said:

25 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave- 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Worthwhile Witness

A great deal of Christians, when witnessing to the lost say, “God has this wonderful plan for your life” or “Escape the fires of Hell!”.  And while both of these are true, we are to be telling people that God desires that people know Him.  We are to tell people what God has done for us in our lives – to free us from the bondage of sin, and to give us the opportunity to live life in victory.

We are to show that we are living lives in victory.  That is how Paul and Silas were able to sing hymns at midnight after being beaten with rods and thrown in jail, resulting in the jailer and his family coming to know Jesus as Lord.  Many have come to faith through the faithful witness of disciples of Christ after people see the peace they have in their lives through difficult time, terrible illness, and other distress.

Smash Strongholds

In order to live our lives in victory, and to help others live in victory, we need to break down the strongholds in our lives:

3 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

These strongholds are arguments and pretensions that we have in our minds that are contrary to the revealed word of God.  Just a couple of these (certainly not an exhaustive list!) are:

LegalismThere is no law against love

Our works earn us a place in heaven – It is by grace alone through faith that we are saved

God can’t forgive me of my sins, they are too great – If we confess our sins, God is faithful to forgive them

We can have strongholds in our lives about finances, sex, and any other number of topics.  God, through His word, is the only authority for all aspects of our lives.  He created the universe and us.  He knows everything there is to know about us.  He knows what will harm us and what will prosper us.  And since Jesus is the embodiment of Truth, we can trust what He says is correct.

Show Salvation

We are to tell of God’s salvation to the lost.  Before witnessing, we are also to pray that God will open the eyes of the blind and that the deaf might hear so that the lost will see the goodness of God, and the free gift of salvation.

By being faithful servants, who have been freed from the bondage of strongholds and pretensions in our minds through the word of the Living God, we are then able to go and do what we have been commissioned to do – make disciples of all nations.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I a faithful servant to Christ?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are glorious, and Your beauty is beyond description.  You shower us with your mercy and grace every moment of every day.  If I only knew just how much You provide for me and protect me from, I would not be able to get off of my knees in praising You.  Father, open my eyes to the strongholds in my life that keep me from being free to serve You as You desire.  Show me in Your word the truth that I need to see in order to shake myself free from the bonds that I have created.  Bind the works of Satan, and help me to be free, for since Jesus has freed me, I am free indeed.  And Father, please send me to people, or send people to me, that I may witness of what You have done in my life, that You would be glorified and that others would know of Your love for them, that they too might be freed and be saved.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Salvation and God – Colossians 1:21-23

Can Someone Lose Their Salvation?

21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation- 23 if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.

Two Thoughts

There are two main schools of thought concerning salvation:

  • Your salvation is secure because you did nothing to earn it, you can do nothing to jeopardize it.
  • Your salvation can be shipwrecked through your own actions

Since this is a salvation issue, it is important that we determine in our minds which of these is true.  This is one case where they cannot both be true; so one of them must be true and the other is at best a misunderstanding of the word of God, and at the worse worst, a terrible heresy.  Let’s take a look at both of them to see their merits and the reasoning behind them through the lens of the word of God.  Any time that we look at something, scripture must be taken as a whole.  If we only look at part of scripture, it can lead us to form improper conclusions, and possibly lead us into heresy.

Secure Salvation

The thought process around this is that since we did nothing to earn our salvation – that it is totally by the divine providence of God – that there is nothing that we can do to lose our salvation.  Since God is the author of our faith, we cannot somehow just lose it, because it isn’t from or of us.  Let’s look at some of the scriptures that this camp uses to reinforce this opinion:

Jesus Christ Himself has said the following:

25 Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”

This would appear to indicate no one who is called of God can be snatched out of the Father’s hand nor Christ’s hand.

12 “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? 13 And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. 14 In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.”

It would appear here that God is not willing, in His Sovereign Will, to allow anyone who is saved to perish.  Note that they are already sheep in the flock.

10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. 14 If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15 If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.

Even here, it would appear that even if we build upon the foundation of Christ with hay and stubble, though it be burned up when tested by fire, we will still escape, although singed and smelling of smoke…

There appears to be very strong evidence that once you give your life to Christ, that you are saved.  Nothing that you do, the enemy does, or anything on Earth or in Heaven that happens can remove your salvation from you.  Anyone who abandons their faith then, by definition, was never truly saved.  Therefore, the hallmark of salvation is that you remain in the palm of Christ and the Father, unable to be torn from them.  This is very comforting, and helps us to remember the grace and mercy of God in all of our moral failings as we continually repent and turn back to God.  God is always encouraging us to return to Him, and He is faithful to forgive us when we repent, so there is no concern.

So, what do we do about these other scriptures?

Shipwrecked Salvation

The second school of thought is that a person, through their intentional disregard for scripture and actions, can somehow shipwreck their salvation.  A person can be saved by God, receive God, but then later reject God, and God will let them go.  This seems counter-intuitive to the scripture telling us that no one can snatch us from the hand of Christ or the Father.  So how do we process the following scriptures?

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

This scripture would imply that there are false disciples – people who think they are disciples, but are not truly disciples.  The passage indicates that this these may be people who believe that the proof of their salvation is in the working of miracles and the driving out of demons –  a works-based theology.  But here is a question: How did they perform the miracles?  Are not all miracles performed by God (Satan can perform signs and wonders)?  Was God somehow then performing miracles to allow these fake disciples to believe that they were disciples, only to be turned away from salvation on the day of the Lord?  What is going on here?

1 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife. 2 And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have gone into mourning and have put out of your fellowship the man who has been doing this? 3 For my part, even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. As one who is present with you in this way, I have already passed judgment in the name of our Lord Jesus on the one who has been doing this. 4 So when you are assembled and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, 5 hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.

It would appear here that the Apostle Paul is implying that the person who was engaging in sexual immorality might not be saved on the day of the Lord if he keeps up his sin.  Paul has pronounced judgment upon him, and ordered him to be handed over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh to preserve him.   If his faith is secure, and he cannot be snatched from the hand of Christ nor the Father, NO MATTER WHAT, why would Paul do this?

18 Timothy, my son, I am giving you this command in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by recalling them you may fight the battle well, 19 holding on to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith. 20 Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme.

Here again, Paul has handed over two people to Satan so that they would not shipwreck their faith.  If they build on hay and stubble, and will come through the fire just fine, always saved (but without their reward), how can their faith can be shipwrecked?  When a sea vessel is shipwrecked, it is destroyed and remains just where it lies, short of its goal of reaching port.  The implication is that they were in the process of abandoning their faith.

5 The one who is victorious will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out the name of that person from the book of life, but will acknowledge that name before my Father and his angels. 6 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

Here, this is either a threat or a promise.  If it is a promise, it would indicate that those who overcome will surely not be blotted out of the book of life.  If it is a threat, then it should be a rebuke and reminder that God is holy, and will not tolerate continued, unrepentant sin or even ambivalence towards Him and His word.

22 May the table set before them become a snare; may it become retribution and a trap.
23 May their eyes be darkened so they cannot see, and their backs be bent forever.
24 Pour out your wrath on them; let your fierce anger overtake them.
25 May their place be deserted; let there be no one to dwell in their tents.
26 For they persecute those you wound and talk about the pain of those you hurt.
27 Charge them with crime upon crime; do not let them share in your salvation.
28 May they be blotted out of the book of life and not be listed with the righteous.

So, was David just venting to God, saying things that he really didn’t mean?  For instance, many people have said the following things in anger:

  • “I hate you”
  • “I wish you were dead”
  • “I hope terrible things happen to you”

But have you ever heard anyone so angry that they said, “I hope God doesn’t permit you to get into Heaven with the righteous”?  Does David really believe that God COULD, let alone WOULD, remove someone’s name from the book of life?  When we are saved, our name is written in the book of life.  Can or would God remove it for ANY reason, since no one can be snatched out of the hand of Christ and the Father?

Dividing Dilemma

These are very difficult things for us to understand.  On the one hand, God tells us to don the helmet of salvation to KNOW that we are saved.  On the other hand, we see passages in scripture that infer that there may be circumstances that could cause the ruination of our faith, and possibly jeopardize our eternal future (or is it just our reward?).

There are many scriptures that can support both sides.  But only one [school of thought] can be correct.  Each of us must search deeply into the scripture to be assured of our faith.  If we cannot determine which school of thought is correct, then let us consider one more scripture and its implications in our lives:

1 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. 2 Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. 3 Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. 8 Whoever has ears, let them hear.”

18 Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 19 When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. 20 The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 22 The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. 23 But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Which soil of the heart do I have?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are perfect in all Your ways.  Give us hearts that are tuned to yours, and this day I pray, Father, that you would give me wisdom and understanding to reconcile all of these scriptures so that I would know the truth.  Help me to understand Your word more completely.  Give me clean hands and a pure heart, that I may approach Your word with humility and learn the truth.  Keep me from being deceived, and help me to push on towards running the race well, that I would receive the reward that You have prepared for me.  Father, You are holy, and I know that You desire for me to live a life in holiness and righteousness.  Help me to focus on the goal, and to keep moving forwards.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

NOTE:  The following article was edited.  Brackets [*, *] were used to indicated text added later.

Combat Training with God – Philippians 1:27-30

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

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

Live the Life

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

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

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

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

Stand Strong

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

Unified Undertaking

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

19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

Face your Fear

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

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

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

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

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

Selected for Suffering

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

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

A Qualifying Question

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

A short prayer of preparation:

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

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

Combat Training with God – Titus 2:11-12

Live A Godly Life By Saying No To Worldly Passions

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

Grace of God

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

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

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

Decline Distractions

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

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

Get Godly

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

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

A Qualifying Question

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

A short prayer of preparation:

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

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

Announcing the Announcer – Luke 1:76-80

John The Baptist Would Prepare The Way For The Messiah

76 “And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,
77 to give his people the knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins,
78 because of the tender mercy of our God,
by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
79 to shine on those living in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.”

80 And the child grew and became strong in spirit; and he lived in the wilderness until he appeared publicly to Israel.

Proclaiming the Prophet

Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, had been struck mute when he was confronted by the angel Gabriel concerning the birth of his son.  After proclaiming his son’s name by writing it on a tablet, the condition was removed, and Zechariah began to prophesy concerning his son.  The first words from his mouth were praise and glory to God followed by the announcement that his son, John the Baptist,  would be a prophet.  He then spoke of a few characteristics concerning John.

Prepare a Path

John the Baptist was to prepare the way for the Lord.  John fulfilled this prophesy by proclaiming that the people needed to be baptized for their sins:

1 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene- 2 during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3 He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 4 As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet:

“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.
5 Every valley shall be filled in,
every mountain and hill made low.
The crooked roads shall become straight,
the rough ways smooth.
6 And all people will see God’s salvation.'”

John came out of the wilderness when the Spirit of God came to him.  He baptized by water all who desired to be prepared for the coming messiah.

Speak of Salvation

John spoke of salvation to the people, not only baptizing them for their sin in preparation for the messiah, but telling them that they needed to change by being obedient to the word of God:

7 John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 9 The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”

10 “What should we do then?” the crowd asked.

11 John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”

12 Even tax collectors came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?”

13 “Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them.

14 Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?”

He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.”

In each case, John the Baptist called people to stop living for themselves, and begin to love their neighbor as themselves.  He encouraged them to produce fruit in keeping with repentance.  Merely going through an act was not going to do them any good.  They were to have a change of heart, and live their lives in such a way that they showed the change.  Salvation came to those whose hearts were changed by the word of God so that they would believe God.

Burn Brightly

The people wandered in their hearts if John the Baptist was the messiah. He pointed people to the messiah and responded:

15 The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Messiah. 16 John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” 18 And with many other words John exhorted the people and proclaimed the good news to them.

John the Baptist faithfully pointed people to the messiah, and consistently told them that he was not the one they were looking for.  And when he saw his messiah come to be baptized by him, he faithfully announced Him to the crowds:

29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.”

32 Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. 33 And I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One.”

John the Baptist faithfully did everything that was required of him, and fulfilled the prophecy of his father in accordance with the will and word of God.  In every way, John had grown stronger in spirit in preparation for his coming assignment to prepare the way for the Lord.  John was faithful in all that he did.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I fulfilling the purposes that God has prepared for me to do for him?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have shown me the way to salvation.  Give me the strength and desire to bear fruit in accordance with my profession of faith in the completed work and shed blood of my Savior.  Help me to honor and glorify Your name with the works that You have prepared for me to do since before the foundation of the universe.  Strengthen me this day that I might be steadfast in shining for You as a light on a hill.  Prepare the soil of the hearts of all that Your word would take root and bear much fruit, for I know that time grows short and the return of Your son in imminent.  Help me to be aware of this always as I go about my day, and be in tune with Your spirit, yielding my spirit to You as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing in Your sight.  This I ask and pray in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Salvation and God – Obadiah 15-18

Jacob Will Be Saved, and Esau Will Be Destroyed

15 “The day of the Lord is near
for all nations.
As you have done, it will be done to you;
your deeds will return upon your own head.
16 Just as you drank on my holy hill,
so all the nations will drink continually;
they will drink and drink
and be as if they had never been.
17 But on Mount Zion will be deliverance;
it will be holy,
and Jacob will possess his inheritance.
18 Jacob will be a fire
and Joseph a flame;
Esau will be stubble,
and they will set him on fire and destroy him.
There will be no survivors
from Esau.”
The Lord has spoken.

Coming Calamity

The great and terrible day of the Lord is coming quickly.  It will overtake us with great speed and we will be unaware of its exact arrivalGod will redeem Israel, and destroy all whose names are not written in the Book of Life.

One of the most interesting things is that any whose name is not found in the book of Life will worship the beast.

Woeful Wrath

The nations will drink and drink as if they have never been.  The wrath of God will come upon all of them.  The justice of God is tempered by His love.  Eventually, God must mete out justice in accordance with His Holiness.  He will destroy everyone who refused to believe Him; for if they believed Him, it would be counted to them as righteousness.

Delightful Deliverance

God will bring about a mighty work on that day.  Israel will be redeemed!  The seed of Abraham will have the scales removed from their eyes, and they will worship and follow the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!  Israel in that day will finally receive their inheritance promised to them through Abraham by God.

Esau Eradicated

The interesting side note in this is that the seed of Esau will be destroyed.  And who might the seed of Esau be?  Those who rejected their inheritance.  Both Jacob and Esau came from Jacob, but Jacob’s line received the inheritance.  Remember what God has given to you, and stand fast in His love.  Do not deny Him, and He will not deny you.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I ready for the return of Jesus Christ (and if not, why not)?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have shown me Your love and compassion in revealing Your Son to me.  Help me to be prepared and be the faithful servant whom the master finds has everything in order when he returns.  Guard my heart against unrighteousness, and help me to walk ever closer with Jesus.  Thank You Father, for You keep every promise that You make.  And bless Your people Israel.  Provide for them, protect them, and save them.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

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

Prayer to Provide Potentates with Power and Protection

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

Petition for Penitence

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

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

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

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

Prayer for Protection

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Interruption of Intercession

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

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

Thoughtful Thankfulness

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

The Qualifying Question

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

A short prayer of preparation:

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

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