Carrying Your Cross For Christ

“The value of your life is only found in the value you put in Jesus Christ as your life.”

by: Elder Kirk E. Hillman

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April Reminds Us of Our Spiritual Deficiency in God

If a person is born without physical sight, he/she doesn’t know their condition to be abnormal.  They do not know they are to see things through their eyes.  The appreciation of the world around them is through their faculties of feeling, hearing, and smell.  What they perceive from these inputs of sensations are what they understand to be the normal manner in which someone appreciates the world around them.  Only when someone tells them that they are supposed to be able to see with their eyes to appreciate the world around them, do they become aware of this “physical deficiency” they have and denial and disbelief usually follow the introduction of that truth.

Mankind is like this blind person.  Many believe their life is normal.  They believe that because they are a good person, they are on their way to heaven when they die.  They believe that everything is fine between them and God because this is primarily what they have been told from childhood.

Well, this is not true.  Mankind has a “spiritual deficiency.”  Mankind is under the condemnation of God and has been sentenced to eternal separation and punishment as a result of the sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.  Many people hearing this truth for the first time, go into a state of denial and do not believe it; much like the blind person.

Though God is just and must carry out the sentence of punishment He pronounces, He loves what He created and therefore provides a way for mankind to be saved from this condemnation.  The provision is in the person of Jesus Christ who came to earth to take upon himself God’s condemnation and the sentence of eternal punishment and separation.

This is what the Passion Week is all about from April 14th to April 21st.  We should recollect how Jesus suffered mankind’s punishment and died as a substitutionary sacrifice of atonement on a cross, thereby bringing forgiveness and restoration between God and mankind.

God provides through Jesus’ death and resurrection a free gift of eternal salvation for anyone who professes an abiding faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.  Anyone who calls on the name of the Lord is saved or brought out from under God’s condemnation.  They are adopted into His eternal family as a son or daughter all because of what Jesus Christ suffered during the Passion Week.

Just like how the blind person would rejoice if he/she received sight, so everyone who has received Jesus to be their personal Savior and Lord should rejoice because of what Jesus Christ has given to them; restoration and Eternal life with God the Father as a result of dying on the Cross of Calvary.

The Passion Week is our reminder of the punishment that waits for anyone who is not reconciled back to the Father through faith in Jesus Christ when the Day of Judgment comes because their name is not written in the Lamb’s Book of Life as a result of receiving Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

The death of Jesus Christ on Good Friday and the resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter Sunday are reminders of the gift of mercy and grace for those who come out of denial and believe the truth about mankind’s “spiritual deficiency” in God.

The Challenge of Paradigm

The situation most people of faith find themselves entangled with is the paradigm of godly lifestyle vs. the paradigm of ungodly lifestyle. It is the age-old struggle between good and evil, right and wrong, light and darkness, Almighty God and Satan.

The challenge to the person of faith is how not to conform to ungodly standards of morality by watering down or redefining what Almighty God says are His moral standards they ought to follow in living a godly lifestyle.

Know that the motivation of any person is key in their following any paradigm or model and in the case of a person of faith, the defining drive of their motivation is in their relationship with Almighty God.  This is because they have received Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Therefore, one must know the motivation of the person of faith is to live a godly lifestyle based on their reverence for God.

When the motivation of the person of faith to live a godly lifestyle begins to focus on the acceptance of their family, friends, acquaintances, co-workers etc., to participate in ungodly moral standards as they may be doing, and the person of faith does so, then there is a conformity to a different paradigm or model.  It is conformity to an ungodly paradigm.  A paradigm not of God.

People of faith must always ask themselves, what is the ungodly world telling them the components of a wholesome lifestyle are?  How have they defined wholesome?  Do the components they speak about line up with God’s components?  How much “alikeness” is there between them?  How have they defined moral values, integrity, virtue, truth, and righteousness?

People of faith should understand that their relationship with Almighty God is to be their primary relationship.  No other relationship is to trump that and therein lies the challenge for so many people of faith against the backdrop of this ungodly world.  How significant and/or important is having your relationship with Almighty God the most important relationship you have in your life?  This should be easy for a believer in Jesus Christ to understand, but for many, it is not.

Remember that participating in an ungodly life on this earth will blot out your sensitivity to God.  It will rob you of your quiet time with God.  It will steal your time put aside to meditate on God and His word.  Participating in an ungodly lifestyle will destroy both your quality of time and your quantity of time with the Lord.

So, take heed and pay attention to all the ungodly paradigms that surround you, and do not let yourself get enticed and dragged into them.  Ask the Lord to graciously keep you aware of those things that will erode the components of love, goodness, truth, and righteousness that undergird the morality of God.

Teach Me About God’s Grace

“Grace” is traditionally understood by many born-again believers to mean God’s unmerited favor. Ironically, this traditional definition has been so used and abused to where it has lost relevance in the lives of so many born again believers. Many cannot comprehend how pervasive this attitude of God is in their lives, and many cannot understand how they can be a recipient of it nor walk in it. In short, many born-again believers do not appreciate the depth nor the breath of this unmerited favor.

Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines “grace” in a way that reflects its deepest implication. It defines “grace” as unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration and sanctification.

Well, the implication here is that both the unbeliever and the believer as human beings are beneficiaries of a divine assistance that is unmerited. Meaning, it is an assistance that is given to them, not because of anything they did that qualified them to receive it, but it was given to them because of the character of the giver.

Now regeneration is the born-again experience and this pertains to sinful man. You see, sinful man needs divine assistance from God to be saved; to convert from an unbeliever to a believer in God. Sinful man cannot do this on his own merit.

Sanctification is the process of growing and maturing in God that a believer experiences once they have received Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. It means that transformation occurs in every aspect of their life, in a way that allows Christ to live through them, bringing glory to the Father through the multiplicity of good works God calls them to perform. Now the believer cannot do this on his own merit, he too needs divine assistance to accomplish it.

So what caused man to be in need of divine assistance?

The answer is in the Garden of Eden. It is the place where God put Adam and Eve to dwell and have dominion over all He had created. It is where they had intimate fellowship with Him. All was well. Life was good. Then something happened. Sin entered into the picture. The sin of disobedience to the command God gave, not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

God told Adam and Eve if they ate the fruit from the tree they would die the moment they did. God was referring to eternal spiritual death; eternal separation from His presence, His kingdom, and His intimacy. This separation brought the curse of physical death, the toil, and the change of their nature from godly to sinful with loss of dominion and authority over the earth. The result; man and God are separated. Eternally separated.

Well, it is at this point that the concept of assistance comes into play. God did something to bring about a reuniting of man to Himself because man could not bring himself to God due to his sinful nature. You see, sin cannot stand in the presence of God.

Therefore, man can do nothing to change his separated condition because he cannot be in God’s presence due to his sinful nature. Man is doomed to eternal separation from God.

ENTER GRACE:

John 3: 16-17 (NIV):  16For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.

This is God’s divine assistance for the purpose of man’s regeneration. God through His Son Jesus Christ provides rescue from eternal separation.

Scripture tells us that no one can come to Jesus unless the Father draws him and that those who do come will be raised up in the last days. Many people are under the assumption that they have the power to approach God for their salvation. Well, that is not true. God calls you to Himself because of His loving-kindness towards you. You must make a decision when this call comes, either to accept or reject the invitation.

Jesus tells us that He stands at the door and knocks. If anyone hears His voice and opens the door, He will come in and eat with them and they with Him. You see, God is reaching out to mankind and asking him to accept His provision of regeneration. This is the dimension of “grace” that is of greatest importance to God. His assistance in reuniting, reconciling, and forgiving fallen mankind for the sin of Adam.

Then there is the other dimension of “grace” that provides us with the assistance to live the Christian life while in our physical body. God provides us with help to do this in the person of the Holy Spirit. He is our Paraclete; someone who walks with us until we are taken home with Christ.

Scripture tells us the work of the Holy Spirit is to teach us all things and remind us of what Jesus has taught us. The Holy Spirit will guide us into all truth and will tell us what is yet to come and will take from the Father what is Christ’s and make it known to us.

This awesome disposition of God, this “grace,” is rooted in an attitude of God, to want to extend a favor to mankind because of His love for mankind. It is unmerited because man is not worthy of such a favor. Because of what Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden, man deserves to be punished. It is only through the mercy extended toward us from God that we are recipients of this unmerited favor or divine assistance.

God sees to it that not only does the assistance reunite, forgive, and reconcile us back to Himself, but it also covers us until the Day of Redemption when we will be taken out of our physical body and placed in a heavenly body that carries no corruption with it for eternity.

So as a born-again believer in Jesus Christ, walk continuously in the knowledge of the “grace” of the Father and be ever mindful that His “grace” is sufficient for you until you are taken home to eternity. Always be encouraged that God is faithful when He tells you He will never leave you nor forsake you.

I need rescue, I cannot escape…

Many people cannot spiritually understand nor comprehend what happens to them when they ask Jesus Christ to come into their heart and become Lord and Savior of their life.  They cannot fully understand what changed in their lives.  Many are looking for an outward change that shows that something is different.

Scripture tells us that a spiritual relocation takes place in the lives of all who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

We are told in Colossians 1:13:

“For He has rescued us from the one who rules in the kingdom of darkness, and He has brought us into the Kingdom of His dear Son.”

Many people do not know this truth.  They believe they come into the Kingdom of God by good works.  They do not know that they have been “rescued” from their former lives they lived in the kingdom of Satan and have been relocated to a new spiritual home in the Kingdom of Jesus Christ.

It is critical that you understand, there are only some life-threatening situations and circumstances that we can “escape” from; the rest require some form of rescue.”  Why?

Because in some situations you do not possess the power to overcome those forces that are life-threatening on your own effort.

It is like a person trapped in a burning room who is unable to overcome the power and effects of the flames, heat, and smoke that are consuming every breath of oxygen. Unable to safely make it to an exit, this person will die of suffocation and burn.

In effect, this person was not able to “escape” from the burning room on their own effort or merit.  They needed some form of external help such as a firefighter or Good Samaritan to come to their assistance.  They needed someone who had the power to overcome the effects of the burning room.

If that had happened, we would say that person was rescued” from the burning room by such and such; we would not say that they “escaped.”

The person who is trapped in the burning room has a final destiny that awaits them if they are not removed – the loss of their life – and they can do nothing on their own to stop it.  Make no mistake about it, they are going to die from suffocation and burning.  Their self-efforts are of no avail because they cannot overcome their physical condition.

This is the situation with mankind and God.  Man cannot escape” the sentence of eternal death that God has pronounced on them as a result of the sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

It is a fact; man is destined to be thrown in the Lake of Fire to be eternally separated from God and eternally tormented.

The devil wants you to think that you can “escape” from this sentence of death and separation.  He makes you think you are not in any danger with God.  He makes you think that all you have to do is be good throughout your life and you will be able to “escape” this sentence.  That goodness alone will give you eternal fellowship with God.

God tells us something different.  He tells us that we cannot “escape” His sentence of eternal damnation and wrath on our own merits or efforts.

He tells us the only way to have eternal fellowship and union with Him is through faith in Jesus Christ.

He tells us when we believe in His Son for what He did for us by taking our punishment and dying on the cross; shedding His blood to provide the forgiveness of our sins; and entrusting our entire lives over to His care – only then will we be “rescued” by Jesus Christ from the sentence of eternal judgment and condemnation.

Escape Is A Deception Of Satan

Don’t let Satan continue to deceive you with his lie that you can “escape” the eternal judgment of God by your good works.  It is only by believing and having faith in Jesus Christ that you can be “rescued” from God’s eternal judgment and condemnation.

The Mirror Of Rebuke

The blog message for today deals with something that all Christians find themselves struggling with at some point in their lives – confronting another person because of their actions toward you.

Usually, when people are confronted for something that they have done, they become indignant. They may say things like: “Who do you think you are?” or “Why are you coming up in my face with that?”

Well, listen to a response that you could give back to them.

“I’m in your face because I love you as a brother or sister in Christ and I want you to know the conduct you are demonstrating is not becoming of you.  You say you are a child of God, well, therefore, you should know better.”

”Stop using those curse words when you speak to me. Stop getting drunk every time you want to have some fun.  Stop trying to go to bed with every woman or man who comes your way.  Stop using people to get what you want.  Stop telling lies to cover up your mistakes.  Stop cheating on your wife or husband and stop abusing your kids and start being who you say you are; a born-again believer in Jesus Christ.”

Well, this type of confrontation is rare between people of faith.  We have come to a point where we think this kind of interaction is not Christian.

But let me remind you that confrontation is necessary for the life of a Christian. Without confrontation, spiritual growth and maturation will not happen in one’s life.

Confrontation defined is the state of being confronted.  As a face to face meeting; the clashing of forces or ideas or comparisons.

It is not defined as a negative or positive process.  It is just a process where ideas may clash, comparisons may clash, or opposing forces may clash.  It’s just a face to face meeting.

People have come to understand confrontation only from the outcome they take away from that face to face meeting.  Since many Christians do not like having someone tell them of their shortcomings or their faults or their idiosyncrasies, it’s difficult for them to see the process of confrontation as anything else but negative or not Christian.  Their reactions are usually defensive and counteracting.  Very rarely do they come away with edification or new insight into themselves.

As born-again believers in Jesus Christ, you are mandated in Scripture to confront your brother or sister to facilitate spiritual growth and maturation when they’ve offended you.   So, be thankful that you find me up in your face.  I love you with the love of Christ and want you to grow to maturity.

In the Scriptures, the word “rebuke” is the biblical word used instead of “confront”.

When someone offends you according to Matthew 18:15, it is your responsibility to have a face to face meeting with them. A “rebuke” in other words.

Listen to the scriptural reasoning for the necessity of this rebuke:

15If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault just between the two of you.  If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.  Matthew 18:15 (NIV)

You see, even though you have been offended by them, you are still responsible to go to them and show them their fault.  Something that is very difficult for many Christians to do.

But you go to them because you love them as a believer in Christ.  You go to them because you have faith in Christ that they will be convicted of their fault and confess their transgression.  And you go to them because it’s your duty in Christ.

We are told in Proverbs 28:23 (NIV) that:

23He who rebukes a man will, in the end, gain more favor than he who has a flattering tongue.

Also in Proverbs 27:5 (NIV) we are told:

5Better is open rebuke than hidden love.

Therefore, you do not rebuke them with your desire to avenge yourself, or your desire to get payback.  You rebuke them to win them over, to help them grow, to help restore the breach that they’ve made with you, and to show them the mercy of God.

Now there’s one last thing I want to add.  If you ever truly want to understand what it means to crucify your flesh, being offended is a good place to start.

Following an offense, your flesh will rise up and take over every emotion you have to justify itself or avenge itself.  Your flesh will present very convincing arguments to win you over to resentment, bitterness, anger, rage, etc. if you do not crucify it.

Since it is the proclivity of man to sin against his brother, it is then from the crucible of offense that you learn to be truly merciful to your offender.  You learn what it truly means to rely on your faith in Christ to crucify your flesh and to heal you from your hurt.

Wisdom NuggetIt is in the crucible of offense where you learn what the true meaning of forgiveness is.

As it is in the natural – so it is in the spiritual

“As it is in the natural, so it is in the spiritual.”  I am sure you have heard this expression before if you are a born again believer in Jesus Christ.  Somewhere during your Christian walk, someone has tried to help you gain the understanding of a natural circumstance you were involved in by relating it to a spiritual truth or perspective. Though you were able to follow their comparative analogy with your intellect, you may have had difficulty appreciating its truth with your spirit.  One reason for this difficulty could be that you are not familiar with the spiritual realm in which you exist; a condition I like to call spiritual illiteracy.

Consider this:  The past is what shapes us.  The way we have handled experiences in our past will dictate how we will perform in the present.  Another way of saying this is:  the past is experiential; the present is predictable because of our past, and the future is experientially unknown.

Therefore, salvation (being born again), is a present experience that presents problems to our comprehension because there are no past experiences in our memory banks that support its reality.

The same is true of our natural birthing process.  Once we come out of the birth canal we are in what you could call a “present” experience with no memory to support this new physical reality.  There isn’t one of us who has the memory of a womb experience.  We leave behind one realm of existence and enter into a new realm of existence.

And therein lies the parallel of the natural to the spiritual. The point being, you cannot live in the physical world using the dynamics you lived by in the womb; neither can you live in the spiritual world using the dynamics you lived by in the physical world.

Experiences in “new realms” bring “new experiences” as the order of the day with no past experiences to fall back onto.  The womb world has passed away, behold all things are new in the natural realm at the moment of birth, and the natural world has passed away, behold all things are new in the spiritual realm at the moment of conversion.

This parallel continues with the development of behaviors.  Parental and societal influences in a person’s life are the essential ingredients to the success of this process.

In the natural realm, a person’s behavioral habits are formed as a result of the interactions they experience with family and the society that surrounds them.  This is a development that begins at birth and continues throughout their formative years.  Likewise, the person who has been born-again forms spiritual behavioral habits through the interactions they have with other born-again believers.

Our natures undergird our proclivities.  Our proclivities give rise to our habits and our habits dictate our behaviors.

Here is an acronym:  H.A.B.I.T. = How All Behavior Is Taught.

Therefore, we can say that carnal behaviors and Christlike behaviors are taught.

Born again believers have a spiritual nature and a spiritual existence. Their essence is spiritual, that’s who they are.  They are not carnal in their nature.

Here is a critical observation…many to most believers are not able to identify with; make the connection with; acknowledge, or take confidence in their spiritual nature because they have no memory recall of that nature to fall back onto.  Their memory recall is only from their carnal existence and therefore they suffer conflict.  There are not enough accumulated spiritual experiences in their present life to draw upon.

Behavioral growth in the natural is dependent upon the influence of parents and the social environment that surrounds the baby.    The same is true with spiritual behavioral growth.  The spiritual parent of the believer is the Godhead (the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost).  The societal environment that surrounds the believer is the body of Christ (the church).

The born-again believer comes into the spiritual kingdom of God as the baby comes into the natural world;  innocent, immature, and undeveloped.  Both must go through a growth development that will mold their behaviors and attitudes.

As a child can be disobedient to the natural parent; so can the believer be disobedient to the Godhead.  As punishment follows disobedience in the natural; so does punishment follow in the spiritual.  As direction and guidance are given by the natural parent; so are direction and guidance given by the spiritual parent through the Word of God.

In my tenure as a biblical counselor, I have come to the conclusion that one of the major hindrances undergirding Christian people who are struggling with issues of life is their ignorance of who they are spiritually.  They have not developed strong habits of spiritual behaviors. I have found that many “born again”, “saved”; “redeemed” persons do not understand they exist in a spiritual realm once they give their life to Jesus Christ.  This truth is foreign to their understanding.  Many believe that the only thing that happens to them when they give their life to Jesus Christ is that their “sins” have been forgiven and they have received the gift of eternal life.  Though this is true, they have no understanding of the “rebirth” they experienced.

Though many will tell me their lives have changed drastically, I have come to the conclusion that they are referencing only the tangible things in their physical lives.  They are blinded by all the tangible elements of the physical world; they are indoctrinated by all the philosophies of the physical world; they are motivated by all the aspirations of the physical world and they set life goals according to the paradigms of the physical world.  They have not learned that their spiritual realm of existence is a reality of their “present” state of existence, so their behaviors and attitudes remain immature and undeveloped.

As it is in the natural, so it is in the spiritual is an expression of the truth that needs to be a reminder to us of the aspect of the world we live in but are not a part of.   A reminder that we are to concentrate our efforts on understanding the spiritual realm of existence we are a part of and not the carnal realm we came from.

And to always understand that the combined integrated influences we experience from our spiritual parents and the surrounding spiritual social environment we live in are what is needed for us to come to the fullness of behavioral growth and maturation in the Lord.

As it is in the natural – so it is in the spiritual.