Monday, August 21, 2017

Is Your Light Shining By The Power Of The Spirit Of God?

Blessed are the poor in spirit… —Matthew 5:3

{CHAMBERS} “The true character of the loveliness that speaks for God is always unnoticed by the one possessing that quality. Conscious influence is prideful and unchristian. If I wonder if I am being of any use to God, I instantly lose the beauty and the freshness of the touch of the Lord. “He who believes in Me…out of his heart will flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38). And if I examine the outflow, I lose the touch of the Lord. Who are the people who have influenced us most? Certainly not the ones who thought they did, but those who did not have even the slightest idea that they were influencing us. In the Christian life, godly influence is never conscious of itself. If we are conscious of our influence, it ceases to have the genuine loveliness which is characteristic of the touch of Jesus. We always know when Jesus is at work because He produces in the commonplace something that is inspiring.”

{ELGIN} Now and again I will meet someone who tells me that I was a significant influence in their spiritual life.  Something of which I was totally unaware.  Our goal is not to impress others with our spirituality or to rack up spiritual credits for heaven.  Our goal is to let our light shine before all men (Matthew 5:16).  Light does not discern or prescribe how it helps the one it gives aid to.  It only shines by the source of the power behind it.  I often ask Martie after I have spoken, preached or taught a Sunday school class,  “How did I do?”  I am not looking for a grade, what I am interested in is whether she sensed the Spirit at work through what I had just done.  The light is unaware of its influence.  One of the men in my class told me the other Sunday that he noticed that the preacher in the service very often emphasized some of the same things that I had taught that morning.  Sometimes even using some of the same verses.  I told him there had been no collaboration between us, but the same Spirit (Ephesians 4:4) is at work in each of us. That is not the first time I had been told about that happening.  It has happened in other churches at other times.  My point to you is that what we do is spiritual.  If you are born again, then everything in your life has a spiritual context. (2 Corinthians 5:17) When I am told something like that I am encouraged because I know that the Spirit is at work through me and that is my purpose in life.  What we do for God…. we must do by the power of God…. for the glory of God.  Anything else is wasted effort and will bear no spiritual fruit. I am reminded of King David when he ordered that the people be counted. (1 Chronicles 21) That angered God.  Why?  Because David was taking credit for something God had done .. he was robbing God of His Glory.  Be careful that you don’t follow David’s example.

Friday, August 18, 2017

The Problem With Trusting In Yourself More Than You Trust In God

When he heard this, he became very sorrowful, for he was very rich. —Luke 18:23

{CHAMBERS} “The rich young ruler went away from Jesus speechless with sorrow, having nothing to say in response to Jesus’ words. He had no doubt about what Jesus had said or what it meant, and it produced in him a sorrow with no words with which to respond. Have you ever been there? Has God’s Word ever come to you, pointing out an area of your life, requiring you to yield it to Him? Maybe He has pointed out certain personal qualities, desires, and interests, or possibly relationships of your heart and mind. […] every time He meets you at the place where He has pointed, He will simply repeat His words, saying, “If you really mean what you say, these are the conditions.” “Sell all that you have…” (Luke 18:22). In other words, rid yourself before God of everything that might be considered a possession until you are a mere conscious human being standing before Him, and then give God that. That is where the battle is truly fought— in the realm of your will before God. […] Discouragement is disillusioned self-love, and self-love may be love for my devotion to Jesus— not love for Jesus Himself.”

{ELGIN} All of us have remnants of our old nature that we can seems to shake .. or worse .. that we don’t want to shake or give up.  Why? Because in those things, we find comfort and assurance.  In our minds, they meet a great need in our lives.  A need that we fear the Lord cannot or will not meet.  It might be a relationship or perhaps a habit or perhaps something about our personality.  In their desperation, people very often do things that bring physical or emotional harm to themselves, convinced that the harm is worth the benefit they derive.  Why don’t they let whatever it is go, convinced that the loss will be worth the benefit they will derive by laying it down at the Lord’s feet and trusting in Him and not themselves. There are so many verses in the Bible that assure us of God’s love and provision.  The problem is, we don’t believe it. 

Someone once said the only part of the Bible that you believe is the part that you obey.  Think about that.  If the Bible says – Cast all your cares on Him – Be anxious for nothing – Trust in the Lord with your all – Come to Me all you that are weary and heavy laden – God is the God of all comfort – Offer yourself as a living sacrifice.  Oh the list goes on, and while we admit that the Word is Truth and trustworthy, we refuse to walk in that truth but cling to that which will not give us the life that we so desperately seek.  This new life we live is a life of faith. And if we are not walking in it, it is because we lack faith. The point of this devotion is not to condemn or judge but to encourage.  We all struggle with  our flesh and the conflict between our flesh and our new spiritual nature.  But thank God, we have victory over death and sin through Jesus Christ.  We must embrace that victory in every aspect of our lives.  We can only do that with God’s help. “Turn your eyes upon Jesus.  Look full in His wonderful face.  And the things of earth will go strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.”

Thursday, August 17, 2017

What To Do When You Hear God Speak

{CHAMBERS} “Have you ever heard the Master say something very difficult to you? If you haven’t, I question whether you have ever heard Him say anything at all. Jesus says a tremendous amount to us that we listen to, but do not actually hear. And once we do hear Him, His words are harsh and unyielding. Jesus did not show the least concern that this rich young ruler should do what He told him, nor did Jesus make any attempt to keep this man with Him. He simply said to him, “Sell all that you have…and come, follow Me.” Our Lord never pleaded with him; He never tried to lure him— He simply spoke the strictest words that human ears have ever heard, and then left him alone. Have I ever heard Jesus say something difficult and unyielding to me? Has He said something personally to me to which I have deliberately listened— not something I can explain for the sake of others, but something I have heard Him say directly to me? This man understood what Jesus said. He heard it clearly, realizing the full impact of its meaning, and it broke his heart. He did not go away as a defiant person, but as one who was sorrowful and discouraged. He had come to Jesus on fire with zeal and determination, but the words of Jesus simply froze him. Instead of producing enthusiastic devotion to Jesus, they produced heartbreaking discouragement. And Jesus did not go after him, but let him go.”

{ELGIN}  There are a couple of points in Chambers’ devotion that bear elaboration.  First, the manner in which Jesus interacts with us.  Chambers suggests that Jesus, Himself, speaks to us.  Except for Paul’s experience on the road to Damascus, I am not aware of another time that Jesus has interacted with someone directly.  We often say “Jesus told me or God told me”, but what that really means is that the Father or the Son spoke through the Spirit.  I have mentioned this on a number of occasions, but it bears repeating.  We hear God’s or Jesus’ voice by the Spirit through the Word, prayer, circumstances and other Believers.  That is one reason why we are encouraged to walk by the Spirit (Galatians 5:16) and to live by the Spirit (Galatians 5:25).  In order to communicate with the Father or the Son we must be submitted to the Spirit.  In order to be submitted to the Spirit, who is holy, our hearts must be free from sin. And we find that freedom through confession (1 John 1:9) How do you know if it is really God?  In my experience His direction will be confirmed in more than one of those 4 ways.  Let me add that often other Believers are reluctant to tell you what God has told them about you.  I think because they lack confidence that they heard God, but in my experience, God uses others for that very purpose.

The second point has to do with why we struggle with obeying what we are told.  Our flesh, our natural desires, are in direct competition with God for our devotion.  We may agree with God that what He says is right, but when it comes to doing it, laying our natural desires down and following Jesus, well….. that is something else again.  Jesus does not negotiate with us. Jesus does not compromise.  “I am the way and the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except by Me.” (John 14:6)  There is no other way, as much as you might want there to be one.  “You cannot love God and money” (Matthew 6:24)  The Bible does not say you cannot love God and “have” money.  But the money cannot “have” you.  If God says give it away, you give it away.  Just make sure it is God talking and not your emotion.  We don’t sing the old hymns much anymore, but the one that comes to mind as I type these words is “All to Jesus I surrender, all to Him I freely give.  I will ever love and trust Him, in His presence daily live.  I surrender all.  I surrender all.  All to Thee my blessed Savior, I surrender all.”  Great hymn but the only way we can do that is by faith and laying ourselves down as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1).  So how about it?

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Knowing More About Jesus Is Not Good Enough - You Must Know Jesus

He calls his own…by name… —John 10:3

{CHAMBERS} “It is possible to know all about doctrine and still not know Jesus. A person’s soul is in grave danger when the knowledge of doctrine surpasses Jesus, avoiding intimate touch with Him. Why was Mary weeping? Doctrine meant no more to her than the grass under her feet. In fact, any Pharisee could have made a fool of Mary doctrinally, but one thing they could never ridicule was the fact that Jesus had cast seven demons out of her (see Luke 8:2); yet His blessings were nothing to her in comparison with knowing Jesus Himself. “…she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus….Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ ” (John 20:14, 16). Once He called Mary by her name, she immediately knew that she had a personal history with the One who spoke. “She turned and said to Him, ‘Rabboni!’ ” (John 20:16). When I have stubbornly doubted? (see John 20:24-29). Have I been doubting something about Jesus— maybe an experience to which others testify, but which I have not yet experienced? […] When I have selfishly denied Him? (see John 21:15-17). Peter denied Jesus Christ with oaths and curses (see Matthew 26:69-75), and yet after His resurrection Jesus appeared to Peter alone. […] Do I have a personal history with Jesus Christ? The one true sign of discipleship is intimate oneness with Him— a knowledge of Jesus that nothing can shake.”

{ELGIN}  Since you are reading this, you have some spiritual interest.  One thing about the Church in the U.S., we don’t lack for teaching, for the availability of “spiritual tools”.  There is little information about virtually anything spiritual that is not at your fingertips on the internet.  (1 Corinthians 8:1) “We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies.”  Knowing a lot about something can puff you up, but love – Agape – the act of doing what we are knowing, builds up and fulfills our God-ordained purpose.  Jesus prayed that we would be “one” with Him even as He is one with the Father.  (John 17:20-23)  Think about that Christian!  Do you have that level of intimacy with Jesus?  With other Christians, even?  You don’t achieve it merely by reading devotional books or by listening to sermons, but by spending time with Jesus. Don’t minimize the importance of personal devotion time and depend on other people to speak to your heart when it should be the Spirit that is doing the speaking. Through reading the Word, meditating on it and prayer work on your relationship with your Lord.  That is the only way that you can become spiritually one with other Christians.  You are no part of a club merely sharing like interests.  You are part of the Body of Christ sharing the same Spirit and serving the same Lord.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Why You Should Embrace The Conviction Of The Holy Spirit

My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him. —Hebrews 12:5

{CHAMBERS}  “It is very easy to grieve the Spirit of God; we do it by despising the discipline of the Lord, or by becoming discouraged when He rebukes us. If our experience of being set apart from sin and being made holy through the process of sanctification is still very shallow, we tend to mistake the reality of God for something else. […]  and do not despise Him [the Spirit] when He says to you, in effect, “Don’t be blind on this point anymore— you are not as far along spiritually as you thought you were. Until now I have not been able to reveal this to you, but I’m revealing it to you right now.” When the Lord disciplines you like that, let Him have His way with you. Allow Him to put you into a right-standing relationship before God. “…nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him.” We begin to pout, become irritated with God, and then say, “Oh well, I can’t help it. I prayed and things didn’t turn out right anyway. So I’m simply going to give up on everything.” […] Am I fully prepared to allow God to grip me by His power and do a work in me that is truly worthy of Himself? Sanctification is not my idea of what I want God to do for me— sanctification is God’s idea of what He wants to do for me. But He has to get me into the state of mind and spirit where I will allow Him to sanctify me completely, whatever the cost (see 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).”

{ELGIN}  (John 16:8) “And He [the Holy Spirit], when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment;”  The Holy Spirit, the Helper, is God’s presence in us.  There is something “holy” in every Believer.  God can have no part of sin and so, the Spirit will make sin evident in us.  Often times, rather than see that as a good thing, we want to hide like Adam and Eve in the Garden.  You cannot hide from God … and you cannot hide anything from God.  “Confession” means to agree with God not reveal something to God that He does not already know.  The struggle we have with conviction is with our flesh.  It is because of our old nature that we sin.  It is because of our sinful nature that we want to hide our sin.  Darkness wants nothing to do with the Light.  We should embrace the feelings of conviction and run, not walk, to the feet of Jesus.  The danger we face is that there are some things in our lives that we want to hang on to.  Things that we should and must cast off, that cling to us or that we cling to.  It would be great if we woke up the day after our conversion and we were no longer tempted to sin.  But that is not going to happen.  For His reasons, God has chosen to refine us and our will little bit by little bit. 

I have quoted this before, but it bears repeating.  [John Newton] “I am not what I ought to be — ah, how imperfect and deficient! I am not what I wish to be — I abhor what is evil, and I would cleave to what is good! I am not what I hope to be — soon, soon shall I put off mortality, and with mortality all sin and imperfection. Yet, though I am not what I ought to be, nor what I wish to be, nor what I hope to be, I can truly say, I am not what I once was; a slave to sin and Satan; and I can heartily join with the apostle, and acknowledge, "By the grace of God I am what I am."”  A nearly perfect description of the Christian life.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Fear and Worry Are The Same Thing - Both The Enemy Of Faith

Why are you fearful, O you of little faith? —Matthew 8:26

{CHAMBERS} “When we are afraid, the least we can do is pray to God. But our Lord has a right to expect that those who name His name have an underlying confidence in Him. God expects His children to be so confident in Him that in any crisis they are the ones who are reliable. Yet our trust is only in God up to a certain point, then we turn back to the elementary panic-stricken prayers of those people who do not even know God. […] “…O you of little faith!” What a stinging pain must have shot through the disciples as they surely thought to themselves […] There are times when there is no storm or crisis in our lives, and we do all that is humanly possible. But it is when a crisis arises that we instantly reveal upon whom we rely. If we have been learning to worship God and to place our trust in Him, the crisis will reveal that we can go to the point of breaking, yet without breaking our confidence in Him. [Sanctification] will be expressed in our lives as a peaceful resting in God, which means a total oneness with Him.”

{ELGIN} There is really no difference between worry and fear.  They both are a reaction to an uncertain future.  So many times God said do not be afraid, and so many times Jesus said “fear not” and do not worry.  Why? Because God is sovereign and He is our defender and help in times of trouble. You may be able to do a great many things, but you cannot conquer death and disease.  You cannot control events around you, as least as much as you think you can.  You are a leaf in the eternal wind.  Job said “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21)  Paul said “I have learned to be content in all circumstances.” (Philippians 4:11-13) The lack of fear and worry has to do with where you have placed your trust. (Psalm 20:7) “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.”  That level of trust begins with your conversion … when you are born again.  You were saved by grace through faith – or trust, if you will (Ephesians 2:8-9)  For many it stops there, but that is not God’s intent and that is not sufficient to face the storms of life.  With a weak faith, you will surely turn to your own devices when trouble comes.  The Psalmist asks this question understanding that he is in the palm of the Creator God’s hand. (Psalm 42:5) “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” Don’t set certain things aside that you have decided only you can deal with.  (Proverbs 3:6) “In all your ways acknowledge Him”.  Trust God.

Friday, August 11, 2017

How You Can Be Like Paul, Elijah, And Elisha

Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. And Elisha…saw him no more. —2 Kings 2:11-12

{CHAMBERS} “It is not wrong for you to depend on your “Elijah” for as long as God gives him to you. But remember that the time will come when he must leave and will no longer be your guide and your leader, because God does not intend for him to stay. […] You have been to the Jordan over and over again with Elijah, but now you are facing it alone. There is no use in saying that you cannot go— the experience is here, and you must go. If you truly want to know whether or not God is the God your faith believes Him to be, then go through your “Jordan” alone. […] Jericho represents the place where you have seen your “Elijah” do great things. Yet when you come alone to your “Jericho,” you have a strong reluctance to take the initiative and trust in God, wanting, instead, for someone else to take it for you. […] When you come to your wits’ end and feel inclined to panic— don’t! Stand true to God and He will bring out His truth in a way that will make your life an expression of worship. Put into practice what you learned while with your “Elijah”— use his mantle and pray.”

{ELGIN}  As I was reading Chambers this morning, I could not help to think about a message I heard Dr. Howard Hendricks give in a football stadium in Colorado in 1993.  He was speaking from Ecclesiastes 4:12. “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”  He said that every Christian needs a Paul to build into their lives, a Barnabus to keep them accountable, and a Timothy into whose life they can build (as their Paul).  I wonder how many Christians have those three people in their lives?  Paul is like Elijah with the respect that they are someone who mentors by showing and teaching and coaching.  Martie and I have had many people like that over the years.  But the point of discipling is not to have the disciple stay by your side forever.  The point is that they would mature and then go and make disciples themselves. (Find a Timothy)  Unfortunately there is a trend in the American Christian culture to keep Christians “on the bottle” and not encourage them to strike out on their own.  Rather than come together to be recharged to continue in the battle, they come together to commiserate with each other and dream of what it might be like if they really did strike out.  Maybe they will hear someone speak about how they are striking out for God and thinking that they could never be like that.

When I speak to people about where God has taken us and how He has used us for His purpose, they marvel – well that may be a strong word.  At minimum they want to praise us for the work we have done.  I am quick to tell them that the only credit we can take is that we said “Yes” to God when He called.  We stepped out in faith.  He did the rest.  He gets the glory.  And that was the case with Paul, Elijah, and Elisha.  You can be like them … you are like them … in that you are called by God for His purpose … All you have to do is say “Yes”