…Not of the World – John 17:15-19

Walk In The Same Manner As Christ – Sanctified By The Word Of God

15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.

Powerful Protection

Jesus’ prayer for us as believers wasn’t that God would remove us from the world, but rather that we would be protected from the evil one – Satan.  God has a plan that is unfolding every second of every day, and we are a part of that program.  We are Plan A of His plan – to reach everyone in every nation with the love and message of the Gospel (Good News) of Jesus Christ.

In order to do that, we need some divine assistance.  Jesus recognized from His own testing that we need to be protected from Satan.  As Jesus’ disciples, we are not greater than the master, but rather suffer the same way that He did.  James did give us some advice on how to overcome the testing of the enemy of our souls:

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

We tend to forget that first part, and go straight to the second part.  When we do that, it is like picking up an unloaded weapon and pointing it at someone who can see that the chamber is empty of a bullet.  We have a responsibility to first submit ourselves to God.  Let us do so, for we are not citizens of this world, but of Heaven.

Otherworldly Origin

Too often we become entrenched here in the world.  Like Lot, we pitched our tents towards Sodom, and the next thing we know, we are sitting in the City Gates, fully part of the culture that we have been sent to confront.  Our confrontation should not initially be with words, but with actions.  We are ambassadors for Christ, citizens of Heaven, just passing through.  We need to remember that so that we do not begin to look and act like the people that we have been sent to minister.  Otherwise, our ability to minister will be greatly impacted.

Paul said that he became like the people he was preaching to win many, but was not under the law.  When people see that we identify with them, they are more likely to listen to the message of Christ.  Is it not easier to minister to someone who is greatly grieving if we ourselves have experienced a similar loss?  Do we not then have the compassion and empathy towards their situation to be able to say, “I’ve been there.  Let me tell you what helped me through this…”.

Sacred Sanctification

Jesus’ desire for us was that we would be sanctified.  He desired that our character be conformed to the character of God.  He wanted us to live our lives in a way that properly reflected the righteousness that He would soon give up for us so that we could be reconciled to the Father.  Personal holiness is not required for salvation, but it should be a desire of every believer, for we wish to emulate the life and character of our teacher and savior, Jesus Christ.

Sovereignly Sent

Jesus asked the Father that He would send us out into the world just as God sent Jesus.  To be sent, we must first be made alive in Christ by the Holy Spirit of God indwelling us.  We are then tested by God.  Next, we are to be filled with the Spirit of God as He comes upon us mightily.  Walking in the gifts of the Spirit that God provides to us, we are sent out to minister to others and do God’s work in His will.

Truly Transformed

When we yield ourselves to God, He will conform us to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ.  We will shed the things of the past, and embrace the things of the Spirit and our future as we look forward to returning to our true home, Heaven.  Transformation through sanctification is a blessing that every believer should embrace.  In the same way that we expect a college student who has taken courses for the last four years to pass their exams and graduate, we also should be applying what we learn so that we too will properly use the education that God has provided to us for the purposes of glorifying His name and bearing His image properly to others.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  To the world, do I look more like them or more like Jesus?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You test me day and night.  Your word convicts me, and I desire to embrace the changes that You want to make in my life.  Give me the strength and wisdom to let go of the past, and to embrace the present.  Help me to apply the lessons that You teach me in Your word so that I will live a life worthy of the calling that I have received.  Help me to be light and salt to this world, and to use every available resource that You provide for Your purposes and not my own.  Give me the ability to yield everything to You, for You already own it, and want me to voluntarily see this truth and embrace it in my heart.  Transform me that I may be more useful in Your kingdom, and help me to do all that You desire so that I may hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant” when I next see Your Son, Jesus Christ, in glory.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Walking with God – Isaiah 50:10-11

Do Not Walk In Your Own Light

10 Who among you fears the Lord
and obeys the word of his servant?
Let the one who walks in the dark,
who has no light,
trust in the name of the Lord
and rely on their God.
11 But now, all you who light fires
and provide yourselves with flaming torches,
go, walk in the light of your fires
and of the torches you have set ablaze.
This is what you shall receive from my hand:
You will lie down in torment.

Reverential Respect

God asks us a question, and reminds us of how we should respond to Him. He qualifies that the advice He is about to give is for those who, first and foremost, fear Him. In this context, the fear of the Lord is a reverential respect of the Lord God Almighty. This is not the fear of absolute destruction, but rather a reasoned trust in someone who is far more knowledgeable, powerful, and faithful than ourselves. God not only uses this type of fear as a qualifier, but also lists another qualifier – those who obey the word of His servant.

Obedience to Orders

Obedience is a key aspect to the fear of the Lord. Obedience indicates belief in both our intellect and our heart. It would be disingenuous to say that we believe something then not act on it. While there may be times when circumstances prevent us from doing certain things (it would be hard to buy something you need on sale if you have no money, or go somewhere if you are in a coma…), we act upon what we believe. Obedience is an outward sign of acknowledgement of the authority of another. God calls us to obedience to Him. Disobedience is sin. In this manner, He is calling those who believe in His name – His character. And to all who believe God, it is credited to them as righteousness.

Ambling in Absence

In an interesting twist, Isaiah talks about walking in darkness. While we are told that the word of God is a light for our feet and a lamp for our path, this is a situation where the word of God is not shedding sufficient light to show you how to proceed. Here is an example:

  • You have a choice between two job positions, and both seem as though they will honor God, yet each one has a drawback. Which should you choose?

There will be times when God’s word does not shed enough light on your situation to make it clear how you should respond. When that occurs, you are walking in darkness. God may even withhold his peace from you in this time of darkness. That is a scary place to be.

Complete Conviction

And when you face this time of abject darkness, God tells us to trust in His name – His character – and rely upon Him. God desires that we have complete and total trust in who He is, especially when circumstances are against us. He may even do something that seems cruel and punishing – God may do the opposite. And when He does that, when there is no promise that He will help, and then the opposite happens in answer to every prayer, that can be devastating. You may begin to ask, “Does God even care?” It is in darkness that our faith is made stronger. In every case where we are walking in darkness, it is always better to wait upon God than to take matters into our own hands.

False Fire

God warns us about making our own fire and walking about in it. We can come to conclusions apart from God that are devastatingly wrong. Additionally, we will be out-of-step with God’s timing. EVERYTHING is about timing. If you doubt this, watch what happens when someone puts milk in a pot on medium heat, and walks away. If they don’t pay attention to it, they will receive a brand new kitchen! – the old one will burn down, and likely take the rest of the structure with it.

When we walk outside of the light of God – His timing and direction – we will not only miss the blessings that He has in store for us, but we may very well receive something that has terrible consequences. When we walk in our own light, we are, in effect, telling God with our actions that we don’t trust Him, and we can do it all by ourselves:

13 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. 17 If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.

Tumultuous Torment

God then promises what our reward will be for disobeying Him, turning our back upon Him, distrusting Him, and “doing things our own way.” We will receive torment from His hand. That is a powerful statement. Rather than receive His blessing, we will receive torment. Think carefully about that. God takes this very seriously. He is a holy God, upright and just in everything that He does. He does not take insolence and outright disobedience lying down. God may give you exactly what you ask for. And it will be torment, delivered from His just and holy hand.

Just as a very young child asking for an orangutan as a pet should be told “No!”, we need to trust in the wisdom of Him who is all-wise, all-knowing, and completely faithful. For if we don’t, and we decide to reject the Lord after He has graciously been faithful in all things, we will certainly deserve what we get. Don’t allow your circumstances to control your emotions and permit them to inform your intellect. Instead, trust in the Lord, and allow your intellect to direct your will, and force your emotions to be in obedience with God’s holy word – no matter how painful, devastating, and crushing your circumstances may be. For God will provide everything you need in the time that you need it to get through everything in life – “I will never leave you, nor forsake you.”

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question: How do I respond when I am walking in darkness?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Your Son is the way, the truth, and the life. He is the light that we need to seek and follow. He is the only way to You. Help me to trust in You and Your perfect character as my circumstances grow dim, and seek to destroy me. Help me to find comfort and encouragement in the lives of Job and Joseph, whose circumstances just kept getting grimmer every day, but who never stopped trusting in Your perfect character. Give my heart hope and peace in the midst of my trials, and help me to secure the emotional damage that the enemy inflicts ever painful, agonizing second that I am called to endure my trials. Guard my heart against all bitterness, and help me to grow in love. Help me to respond to my tormentors the same way that Jesus responded to His. This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Walking with God – Revelation 3:7-13

Let us be like the Church of Philadelphia, that God may have nothing against us

7 “To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write:

These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. 8 I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. 9 I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars—I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you. 10 Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth.

11 I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. 12 The one who is victorious I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will they leave it. I will write on them the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on them my new name. 13 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

Amazing Author

God confirms in the title of this author that it is Jesus Christ Himself who is speaking the words that John wrote and heard.  We can be sure that He has a proper grasp of all things, for Jesus is The Truth.

There are two churches that God does not reprimand for something – Smyrna and Philadelphia.  However, the church of Smyrna would have to go through the trials that were coming, and the church of Philadelphia would be spared them.  The Philadelphia church was the only one that was commended and found worthy.  It was highly commended by their Savior.  We should be aware of what Jesus had against the other churches so that we can avoid those pitfalls:

  • Ephesus: 4 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. 5 Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. 6 But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
  • Smyrna: [Based on the praise of the Philadelphia church, they may have not held to the command to endure patiently, and would have to go through the fiery trials.]
  • Pergamum: 14 Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: There are some among you who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin so that they ate food sacrificed to idols and committed sexual immorality. 15 Likewise, you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. 16 Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.
  • Thyatira: 20 Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. 21 I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. 22 So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. 23 I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.
  • Sardis: These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. 3 Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.
  • Laodicea: 15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.

Terrible Trials

The church has suffered greatly throughout the last 2000 years or so (read “Foxe’s Book of Martyrs” for more details).  Hebrews 11 tells of some of the sufferings they had to face.  The church throughout the world is undergoing trials right now, and even places that were safe for it fifty years ago are hotbeds of hostility.  Jesus gave us a warning about this:

12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13 but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

Faithful Foundation

We are exhorted to be faithful.  We can do so, for Jesus, our example and mentor, was faithful, even unto death, and death on a cross!  How much more so should we be faithful who only have to suffer a little bit.

It is not my intention to minimize the pain that people experience in their trials – it is very painful.  Some people are more able to cope with types of suffering that others find unbearable.  So we should be empathetic to the suffering of others.  And never discount the suffering of those who have had the trial of unending physical pain through incurable disease.  Just because you cannot see someone else’s pain doesn’t mean they aren’t experiencing it.

Let us be found faithful so that we may endure patiently and  persevere through suffering by leaning on our rock of salvation, experiencing His peace through the trial.  It is only then that we are able to overcome.  Prolonged suffering, whether physical or emotional without any relief for an extended time (think decades…) can drive a person to become depressed, angry, confused, withdrawn, and if not tended to properly, despondent.

Valorous Victory

Our reward for obedience and patience through suffering is victory over death in Jesus Christ.  No amount of works that we do commends us to God, but God is pleased as we display His character to the world.  Remember that the thief on the cross next to Jesus was admitted into the kingdom of heaven.  He believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.

Let us rejoice in victory, for Christ has already procured that for us in His victory over death.  And it is in Christ that we were crucified and raised from the dead in Him.  Therefore, the second death – eternal spiritual separation from God – has been overcome already.  That is our light at the end of the tunnel of suffering.  Gaze upon it, have your eyes fixed upon Jesus, and regardless of the struggle, He will get you through it.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask ourselves a question:  Are we keeping God’s command to endure patiently through trial?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have revealed Your Son, Jesus Christ, to us through the Book of Revelation.  I think You Lord for the warnings that You have given me in your letters to the churches.  Help me to be like the church in Philadelphia that you would find nothing against me.  Forgive me of all my sins, and show me where I am lacking, that I may grow.  Provide me with the strength and wisdom to walk in Your ways.  Help me to overcome.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Promise of God – Psalm 1:1-3

God Delights in Those Who Delight in Him

1 Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
2 but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.
3 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
whatever they do prospers.

Powerful Prose

The author of this Psalm uses poetry to indicate that there a three-fold process to spiritual failure when we begin to engage in sin.  These steps will eventually derail any Christian from their walk with God.  But the Psalmist also gives us hope with a promise.

Walking the Walk

The first step in spiritual decline in walking with God is to begin to walk in step with the wicked.  When sin begins to creep into our lives, we veer off the path of righteousness.  The enemy is crafty – they know that if it is a sudden move, people will recognize it and turn from it.  Most people don’t wake up in the morning in agreement with the thought, “You know, I think I’ll just go out and rob a bank and kill everyone there.  It’ll be a load of laughs!”  But when it is slow and gradual, most people won’t even realize it is happening.  We begin to walk in step with the wicked.  Rather than fighting the flow of the world, we begin to turn and walk with it.

This is not to say that we don’t engage with unrepentant sinners – Jesus came to seek and save the lost!  However, we must be sure that when we do so, we don’t start doing the things that they do that we know are contrary to the Word of God.  We engage in humble, compassionate righteousness.  We don’t do what they do to be accepted by them.  We show them God’s way – a better way.

Stop Standing

After we walk with the world, it invites us to stop for a moment to smell the roses.  This second, and even more dangerous step, gives us the opportunity to pause and reflect and enjoy the momentary pleasure (or false relief) that sin provides.  We are no longer walking but stationary in what we are doing.  We aren’t growing anymore, but rather have halted ourselves or have been halted by our circumstances.  And that’s when it becomes even more dangerous.

Sabotaged Sitting

After we have stood and participated, we are now in a sitting position.  We have fully embraced sin, and no longer even desire to move.  Sin has grabbed us and we have fallen for it hook, line, and sinker.  We don’t desire to stand up anymore; we are firmly rooted in our position, and may not even care.  The world, the flesh, and the devil have effectively ensnared us into despair or enslavement to desire, and we do not even think we can get up (or perhaps even want to get up).

Divine Delight

The Psalmist tells us that to avoid all of this, we need to delight in the Word of the Living God.  Delighting in the Word of God is:

  1. Reading the Word
  2. Praying over the Word
  3. Meditating over the Word (filling our mind with the Word of God, and thinking carefully about it with the deliberate intention of understanding its meaning and application in all aspects of our lives)
  4. Living the Word.

When we desire the Word of God more than life itself, the desire to walk, stand, or even sit with the ways of wickedness is overshadowed by the peace that transcends all understanding, and that guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus as we strive towards God.

Rooted Righteousness

When we delight in the Word of God, we become rooted like a tree.  The roots grow deep into the Earth, and being so close to the source of Living Water, the tree flourishes regardless of the conditions around it.  And as we flourish, we will bear fruit for God in Gods timing (in season).  We are also called “oaks of righteousness.”  The connotation here is that it is a sturdy, substantial tree that will not be easily moved or swayed from its convictions.  And if God declares it to be so, it must be so; for God cannot lie.

Provident Prosperity

As we become firmly rooted in the Word of God, the Psalmist indicates that we will prosper.  The Word of God is not a prosperity gospel – God is not a cosmic vending machine where you put in a prayer and out pops a blessing.  Rather, the prosperity is spiritual prosperity – experientially knowing the character of God.  We participate in His holy, perfect character, and in doing so, God is able to use us and draw even closer to us.  He will provide for our every need.  We need not worry, for God is sovereign over everything that He has created.   And that is promise that you can take to the bank :).

A Qualifying Question

So let’s ask ourselves a question:  Are we walking, standing, sitting, or delighting?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, I thank You for Your Word.  Thank You for revealing Yourself through it to me.  Father, guide my heart and my mind as I read Your Word that it would transform my mind to be more in alignment with Yours.  Help me to better understand and apply what You teach me in the Word so that I will be a doer of the Word and not just a hearer of it.  Forgive me of all my sin, Lord God.  Help me to turn from those things that so easily entangle me.  Father, I do not want to walk, stand, or sit in wickedness; help me to turn from any wickedness that I cherish in my heart and help me to walk in Your ways.  Guard my heart with Your peace as I suffer the consequences of sin so that I may continue to walk steadfast in righteousness, even and especially when it causes me great pain and loss.  Change is always painful, but discipline will produce a harvest of righteousness.  Help me to see the light at the end of the tunnel so that I will not faint along the way.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Walking with God – Isaiah 40:31 (KJV)

But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

This is a very famously quoted passage in scripture.  But there’s more here than meets the eye.  The NIV translates the first part of this as “But those who hope on the Lord…” from the Hebrew uqui, meaning “and ones being expectant of”.  However, the Septuagint indicates a different translation.  The words “wait upon” in the Greek is hupomenontes.  It means “to bear up under trial” and has the meaning of “being stretched (when enduring through a trial).”  When we are in the crucible of trials, God stretches us to our very limits, but doesn’t allow us to break.  When we are stretched, we can be extended, like a rubber band, but we spring back, and unlike the rubber band, we are stronger than when we started.  We renew our strength after the trial is over.  When we are enduring it, God gives us the strength to endure, for He will not allow us to be tempted without giving us the ability, or provide options, to overcome iteven if it means fleeing.

The other interest aspect of this is that when we walk, it is indicated that we might faint.  The Christian life is a very challenging one.  As we grow in Christ, we become more aware of His holiness, and the path seems straighter and narrower every day.  It takes great strength to continually walk in a manner pleasing to God.  But thanks be to God for sending Jesus, who in turn sent the Holy Spirit to indwell us and empower us!

Rejoice!  God gives you the ability to walk with Him, even when the day-to-day trials of life wear us down, sap our strength, and put us physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually in a place where we feel at any moment we will just pass out from exhaustion.  Cry out to the Lord, and receive new strength!

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are Almighty God; may all honor, glory, strength, power, and dominion be Yours forever, Amen and Amen!  You give me hope when there is no reason to hope, and strength when my strength fails.  Father, I humbly come to you in brokenness.  Help me in my circumstances.  Provide a way for your servant to overcome.  Grant me success this day.  Bless my enemies, and may Your kindness in this draw them to You.  Open doors that I cannot open, and fight these battles, Lord.  I need You Lord God, and greatly desire Your fellowship.  Help me to overcome, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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