Friday, March 23, 2018

All You Have To Do Is Act Naturally .. But By Which Nature Will That Be?

Where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal…? —1 Corinthians 3:3

{CHAMBERS} “The natural man, or unbeliever, knows nothing about carnality. The desires of the flesh warring against the Spirit, and the Spirit warring against the flesh, which began at rebirth, are what produce carnality and the awareness of it. But Paul said, “Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16). In other words, carnality will disappear. Are you quarrelsome and easily upset over small things? […] Is there a truth in the Bible that instantly awakens a spirit of malice or resentment in you? If so, that is proof that you are still carnal. […] If the Spirit of God detects anything in you that is wrong, He doesn’t ask you to make it right; He only asks you to accept the light of truth, and then He will make it right. A child of the light will confess sin instantly and stand completely open before God. But a child of the darkness will say, “Oh, I can explain that.” When the light shines and the Spirit brings conviction of sin, be a child of the light. Confess your wrongdoing, and God will deal with it.”

{ELGIN}  I can’t think of anyone who wants to embrace their failings in their new life in Christ.  We all struggle with sin but don’t want to think about it much and certainly don’t want to talk about it.  Although some like to talk about the sins of others.  But I will leave that to another devotion.  Before I was born again, sin was not really a problem because it was part of my nature. Once my heart was changed .. once I was reborn by the Spirit of God, that is when the conflict began.  I can remember my dad telling me that once you become a Christian that is when the trouble begins.  He was referring to the fact of having two natures – that are opposed to each other – both vying for control over my heart and will.  Our failing is in believing that somehow we can fix it ourselves .. to not sin through shear will power --- or won’t power may be more correct. I, on my own, am no more capable of making myself acceptable to God and resist sin now than I was before I was born again.  It is the Spirit of God and the Word that helps me live rightly.  My part is to be willing to submit to both. 

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Are You Spending Alone Time With the One You Love The Most?

Did not our heart burn within us…? —Luke 24:32

{CHAMBERS} “We need to learn this secret of the burning heart. Suddenly Jesus appears to us, fires are set ablaze, and we are given wonderful visions; but then we must learn to maintain the secret of the burning heart— a heart that can go through anything. It is the simple, dreary day, with its commonplace duties and people, that smothers the burning heart— unless we have learned the secret of abiding in Jesus. […] If the Spirit of God has stirred you, make as many of your decisions as possible irrevocable, and let the consequences be what they will. We cannot stay forever on the “mount of transfiguration,” basking in the light of our mountaintop experience (see Mark 9:1-9). But we must obey the light we received there; we must put it into action. When God gives us a vision, we must transact business with Him at that point, no matter what the cost.”

{ELGIN} Spending time with the one you are devoted to.  Is that a priority for you?  I was talking with my wife last night about the day.  This week we are working to rebuild two homes ravaged by Hurricane Harvey with a team of volunteers.  We are on a compressed schedule which means that my days are long. My wife was missing being with me and she told me so.  And I her.  The point is .. we love each other and have a strong desire to be with each other.  The spiritual point is .. if we truly love God and not just the idea of being saved and enjoying the benefits of His blessings… we will want to spend time with Him and will be painfully aware when we don’t.  Like time with your sweetheart … you will long for that companionship.  Do you have friends that you used to be close to, but time, distance and the priorities and circumstances of life have separated you .. and now, perhaps, you are not even certain where they live or how you might contact them?  Your heart has grown cold .. not in a mean-spirited way, but your heart no longer burns at the thought of spending time with them.  That is how it is with God often times.  I want to encourage you, and you to encourage others, to fully embrace life in Christ. And that means pursuing a relationship with the Father. Spending time – mano y mano – with Him.  And if that is not a passion, if there is no persistent desire to do that … well … “Houston we have a problem!” Listen – I am not trying to send anyone on a guilt-trip.  Instead, I want to encourage the Saints to examine their hearts and draw close to God.  And this is His promise … (James 4:8) “Draw close to God and He will draw close to you.”  And there is no better place to be.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

What To Do When You Come Face To Face With Sin

I have been crucified with Christ… —Galatians 2:20

{CHAMBERS} “The inescapable spiritual need each of us has is the need to sign the death certificate of our sin nature. I must take my emotional opinions and intellectual beliefs and be willing to turn them into a moral verdict against the nature of sin; that is, against any claim I have to my right to myself. […] My individuality remains, but my primary motivation for living and the nature that rules me are radically changed. I have the same human body, but the old satanic right to myself has been destroyed.  “…and the life which I now live in the flesh,” not the life which I long to live or even pray that I live, but the life I now live in my mortal flesh— the life which others can see, “I live by faith in the Son of God….” […] It is no longer a faith in faith, but a faith that transcends all imaginable limits— a faith that comes only from the Son of God.

{ELGIN} It’s easy for Christians to accept that Jesus overcame sin and death through the cross and His resurrection.  We are about to celebrate that truth in a couple of weeks.  We know that in Christ we have overcome eternal death and have eternal life.  (1 John 5:12) “He that has the Son has [eternal] life, and he that does not have the Son does not have [eternal] life” But sin? Now that is another question altogether isn’t it?  While we have overcome the power, the dominion of sin in our lives .. and its ultimate consequence … we continue to struggle with sin.  On Sunday mornings we may pose for other Christians and give the appearance of having all together spiritually, but every one of us struggles with the flesh and our old nature.  The temptation to sin continues to rise up in our lives.  (1 Corinthians 10:13) “There has no temptation taken you but such as is common to everyone, but, God is faithful and will not allow you to be tempted beyond that which you are able to bear and will, with the temptation, make a way to escape.”  Wow!  No matter how I may be tempted there is always a way to escape … to resist.  The question is … “Will I take it or will I submit to the temptation?”  (Psalm 119:11) “Hide the word in my heart” so I won’t sin against God. (Joshua 1:8) “Meditate on the Word … and the you will be successful”  There is a spiritual dynamic that is available to every Christian .. the combination of the Spirit in us and the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God … If you neglect the Word of God it is like doing battle unarmed … guess who is going to lose?  Think about it!

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Find Joy In Knowing And Doing The Will Of The Father - Just Like Jesus

Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing…? —Genesis 18:17

{CHAMBERS} “[…] friendship means being so intimately in touch with God that you never even need to ask Him to show you His will. It is evidence of a level of intimacy which confirms that you are nearing the final stage of your discipline in the life of faith. When you have a right-standing relationship with God, you have a life of freedom, liberty, and delight; you are God’s will. And all of your commonsense decisions are actually His will for you, unless you sense a feeling of restraint brought on by a check in your spirit. […]  Why did Abraham stop praying when he did? He stopped because he still was lacking the level of intimacy in his relationship with God, which would enable him boldly to continue on with the Lord in prayer until his desire was granted. Whenever we stop short of our true desire in prayer and say, “Well, I don’t know, maybe this is not God’s will,” then we still have another level to go. It shows that we are not as intimately acquainted with God as Jesus was, and as Jesus would have us to be— “…that they may be one just as We are one…” (John 17:22). […] “For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him” (Matthew 6:8). The reason for asking is so you may get to know God better. “Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4). We should keep praying to get a perfect understanding of God Himself.”

{ELGIN} (John 6:38) “For I [Jesus] have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him [the Father] who sent me.”  Can you say that about your life?  Is doing God’s will the thing that motivates you every day?  Or does life seem to always get in the way? Do you find it necessary to come to church on Sunday morning to sense the presence of God?  Is that the only time that you think about your Father who is in heaven?  I know that is not true because you are reading this.  But it is true for many Christians.  Friend, we must encourage one another in the faith.  Why? Because our tendency is to wander from it .. to allow the world and its concerns to creep in and dominate our thinking and doing.  Is there someone that you can encourage today?  I don’t mean by sharing something you read on Facebook without a word of explanation to all of your friends … like Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote “I shot an arrow into the air. It fell to earth I know not where…..”  That is a little like my devotion, I don’t know who is going to read this .. but I am referring to something that is more personal.  Targeted at someone specific . .someone that the Lord has laid on your heart.  You know who that is … why not text, call, write or visit them.  Not to thump them with the Bible, but to remind them of God’s great love for them.

Monday, March 19, 2018

How To Walk In Mud Puddles And Not Get Muddy

He went out, not knowing where he was going. —Hebrews 11:8

{CHAMBERS} “In the Old Testament, a person’s relationship with God was seen by the degree of separation in that person’s life. This separation is exhibited in the life of Abraham by his separation from his country and his family. When we think of separation today, we do not mean to be literally separated from those family members who do not have a personal relationship with God, but to be separated mentally and morally from their viewpoints. This is what Jesus Christ was referring to in Luke 14:26. Living a life of faith means never knowing where you are being led. But it does mean loving and knowing the One who is leading. It is literally a life of faith, not of understanding and reason— a life of knowing Him who calls us to go. Faith is rooted in the knowledge of a Person, and one of the biggest traps we fall into is the belief that if we have faith, God will surely lead us to success in the world. The final stage in the life of faith is the attainment of character, and we encounter many changes in the process. We feel the presence of God around us when we pray, yet we are only momentarily changed. We tend to keep going back to our everyday ways and the glory vanishes. A life of faith is […] a life of day-in and day-out consistency; a life of walking without fainting (see Isaiah 40:31). It is not even a question of the holiness of sanctification, but of something which comes much farther down the road. It is a faith that has been tried and proved and has withstood the test.

{ELGIN} (Luke 14:26) “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.”  We all have family who are not Christians .. well, ALL may be too strong a word … but I think that is true for most of us. If we carry that a little further, although some Christians are “isolated” in that they do not have any non-Christian friends, most of us do.  People we care deeply about. To stay mentally (natural versus spiritual perspective) and morally (the things we say, desire, and do) is a challenge.  Jesus was accused, in a round about way, of being a sinner because He associated with sinners.  (Luke 19:10) “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” So you are thinking – “But I am not Jesus!” Right! But you have the Spirit of God in you .. you have the Word of God … what you may lack is a deep devotion to the Father.  (Matthew 22:37) “Love God with all …..”  It does not leave any room for anything else.  Any love that you experience is .. should be … an outpouring from you love for God.  We are warned that “bad company corrupts good character” (1 Corinthians 15:33) How? It happens when Christians are not “mentally and morally separated from the viewpoints of the lost.”  So Jesus was, always, but we are not always.  In fact, since we struggle so with our old nature, we are often drawn like a moth to a flame.  We accommodate sin for fear of rejecting the sinner and even participate in the sin with the excuse that we are being a witness to the lost. In the end, we dilute our faith and compromise our testimony and devotion to God.  The point today … be careful my friend and if you have already given in to the temptation … repent and let your light shine to the glory of God.

Friday, March 16, 2018

What To Do When Another Christian Sins Against You!

We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ… —2 Corinthians 5:10

{CHAMBERS} “[…] Tolerating a wrong attitude toward another person causes you to follow the spirit of the devil, no matter how saintly you are. One carnal judgment of another person only serves the purposes of hell in you. Bring it immediately into the light and confess, “Oh, Lord, I have been guilty there.” If you don’t, your heart will become hardened through and through. […] No struggling or praying will enable you to stop doing certain things, and the penalty of sin is that you gradually get used to it, until you finally come to the place where you no longer even realize that it is sin. […] The deadliest attitude of the Pharisees that we exhibit today is not hypocrisy but that which comes from unconsciously living a lie.”

{ELGIN} It is a common thing for many Christians, I think, to sit in judgement of others .. especially when their sinful ways are obvious to everyone.  When that sin is directed at us or someone we care about, it is doubly easy to judge them.  But what do you do especially when it is another Christian?  Jesus told a parable about a common man and a religious man who came to pray ….

(Luke 18:9-14) “And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt:  “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.””

The first trusted in his “good works” to make him righteous … the second had no confidence in himself at all, and knew that he was incapable of being righteous on his own.  So what does that have to do with judgement? When you see people around you are sinning, understand that they are merely revealing their nature. When we see others sin, our place is not to judge, which is to condemn, God is the judge.  That is especially hard when the sin is against us.  So what do we do then?  As Christians – we understand the world from a spiritual context.  And, we understand sinful acts from a spiritual perspective.  The government has courts and laws to deal with violators of the law.  (In fact the jails and prisons are overflowing.  The problem with jails and prisons is that they don’t address the heart of the problem which is the heart.) So how do you respond? This is what Jesus said to do if another Christian sins against you ….

(Matthew 18:15-20) “If your brother [a person is not your brother or sister if they are not in the same family - my words] sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

Many times though we never get even before the first step .. we stop at the sinful act and harbor a grudge against the offender.  Someone once said “the only part of the Bible that you believe is truth is the part you obey.”  You must address the sin, but if the person will not repent then have nothing to do with them.  But what if they are a blood relative?  That does not matter .. although it does make it more difficult .. but that does not change what the Word says, only possibly what we are willing to do.

What if they do it again? There are two possibilities.  First they may not have repented .. and two, their struggle with sin is overpowering their desire to not sin .. like Paul ... like all of us at times ... and they need to confess and repent again and perhaps again.

(Luke 17:3-4) “Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.””

The key to forgiveness is repentance.  Forgiving before repentance is enabling the sin.  Saying what they did is OK.  Repentance means they know that what they did is NOT OK and they are sincerely sorrowful because of it.

So how many times should you forgive someone that has a repentant heart?  (Matthew 18:21-22) “Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? seven times? Jesus said to him, I say not seven times: but, seventy times seven.” In other words, there is no limit.  And that is how it is with you and God.  Aren’t you thankful?  1 John 1:9 makes that promise .. but listen .. it is only because of the blood of Jesus … not because you deserve it … and the same goes for the one who sins against you!  Think about it!

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Is Jesus Your First Or Last Resort ... Really, Which One Is He?

As they followed they were afraid. —Mark 10:32

{CHAMBERS} “At the beginning of our life with Jesus Christ, we were sure we knew all there was to know about following Him. It was a delight to forsake everything else and to throw ourselves before Him in a fearless statement of love. But now we are not quite so sure. Jesus is far ahead of us and is beginning to seem different and unfamiliar— “Jesus was going before them; and they were amazed” (Mark 10:32).[…] At first I was confident that I understood Him, but now I am not so sure. I begin to realize that there is a distance between Jesus and me and I can no longer be intimate with Him. I have no idea where He is going, and the goal has become strangely distant.[…] The discipline of dismay is an essential lesson which a disciple must learn. The danger is that we tend to look back on our times of obedience and on our past sacrifices to God in an effort to keep our enthusiasm for Him strong (see Isaiah 50:10-11). But when the darkness of dismay comes, endure until it is over, because out of it will come the ability to follow Jesus truly, which brings inexpressibly wonderful joy.”

{ELGIN} In our minds, it is easy to be a Christ follower.  In our lives … well, not so much.  Hebrews 11:1 says faith is an intangible substance – you can’t hold it in your hand …. You can’t see it in the sky …. You can’t put it in your pocket to save it for later … it’s spiritual … “the substance of things hoped for” – belief even though you don’t have any idea what is going to happen – “the evidence of things not seen”  Even the disciples who walked with Jesus for three years struggled while He was in their very presence.  Everything around – all of their years of being on the sea told them that they were doomed during a fierce storm .. they had done all they knew how to do … Well – I’ll let you read it ...

(Mark 4:35-41) “That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped.  Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!””

Ok, so the first clue should have been that while the disciples were sweating and fretting, Jesus was sleeping.  His sleeping in the midst of that storm was the picture of an absolute awareness of who He was and who His Father is.  That is a great picture of our lives. We sweat and fret over the issues of life .. the storms that come … and they will come.  (John 16:33) “These things I [Jesus] have spoken to you that you might have peace.  In the world you will have trouble, but be encouraged because I have overcome the world”  Jesus is the Master of the sea!  “If His eye is on the sparrow I know He watcheth me!” So Jesus is asking us the same question He asked the disciples .. multiple times .. “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”  or “Why did you doubt?’ or “Where is your faith?”  What is it that you are facing that defies your ability to resolve it .. to fix it .. to make it go away?  We look for peace and assurance on the outside but Jesus can give that to us on the inside.  Even if life does not go your way … even if the boat sinks … faith will see you through … Listen, your faith does not get stronger on its own .. faith is made stronger as it is tested.  Our challenge is to not be like the disciples … doing everything they could think of and then, as a last resort, turning to Jesus.  Jesus should be our first stop, not the last one.