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.

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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.

A devotional challenge – What Foundation Is Your House Built On?

Read this devotional message and then challenge yourself to follow what it’s asking you to do:

Matthew 7:24-27 (NIV)

24”Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  25The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.  26But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.  27The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

Insights:      Jesus Christ is the one making this statement.  He presents a truth; an insight into an element of belief that is overlooked many times by believers or not fully understood.

That element is “acting on what you believe”

People make decisions every day in accordance with what they believe, and what they believe is a result of their own processes of acceptance or rejection of presented facts.  A person will assume a posture of a belief that will reflect their understanding of those presented facts as being either true or false.

What is significant for us to note is what does the person do with their beliefs? They can either act on them or not.  Just because someone has a belief in something does not mean they will act on that belief.  When they “act on” their belief it is because they put their trust and reliance on it.  When they “do not act on” their belief it is because their trust and reliance are lacking.

We are told in the Gospel of John 1:14 (NIV) that Jesus is the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us.  We are also told in Psalm 119:160 (NIV) that all of God’s words are true and eternal.

Therefore, in verse 24 of our devotional scripture passage, Jesus is speaking about those persons whom He calls wise, who hear His words of truth and accept them as truth and act on them out of trust and reliance.

In verse 26 of our devotional scripture passage, Jesus is speaking about those persons whom He calls foolish, who hear His words of truth and accept them as truth but do not act on them because of a lack of trust and reliance.

Jesus is giving us insight into the dynamics of what our faith should be.  The truths of God’s words are what we are to trust and rely on.  If we do what He tells us to do – we are demonstrating the trust we have in Him.  If we do not do what He tells us to do – we are demonstrating a lack of trust in Him.

Jesus is telling us that only by having trust in Him and doing what He asks us to do will ensure that we will overcome the situations, circumstances, trials, and tribulations that come upon us.  We can and will withstand these things because we are anchored on a “rock” foundation that is not moved by any situation, circumstance, trial or tribulation.

On the contrary, if someone has little trust in what Jesus says then they will find themselves not doing what He asks of them and when those situations, circumstances, trials or tribulations come upon them they will suffer great loss.

Application:      Examine yourself over the next thirty days to see how much trust and reliance you are putting in Jesus Christ in the various situations, circumstances, trials, and tribulations you encounter.

Do the following:

  1. Write down what situation, circumstance, trial or tribulation you find yourself confronted with.
  2. Write out the options you have concerning your responses to these areas by drawing a line down the middle of a piece of paper. On one side, label it “My Ideas” to solve the situation. On the other side, label it “Jesus’ Methods” to solve the situation.
  3. Use your Bible to locate various scriptures that speak to your situation. Write those scripture references on the side of your paper labeled “Jesus’ methods.”
  4. Compare your side to Jesus’ side and see what discrepancies exist between the way you would handle your situation and the way Jesus would.  If there are discrepancies you will have to ask yourself how much you believe that Jesus’ methods are true and better than yours. The proof of your faith will be evident with your decision to follow Jesus’ methods.
  5. Record how many times you were successful following your methods’ versus how many times you were successful following Jesus’ methods.

Prayer:        Lord, give me the desire to put into practice the truths of your Word concerning all of the situations, circumstances, trials or tribulations I find myself in.  Strengthen my faith through my obedience in fully trusting and relying on your Word so that I can experience your wisdom of standing in you as my “rock” of deliverance.  Change me, Lord.  Change my habits of reliance on myself so that I can bring glory and honor to you in the way I respond to life’s challenges.

It is in Jesus name I pray.   Amen.

Don’t smother me, give me room to breathe

Christians are commanded to reach out to unbelievers and share the gospel message of Jesus Christ.  This is a truth stated by Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew prior to His ascension into heaven.

Matthew 28:18-20 (NIV)

18Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

 What I find interesting is that Jesus did not tell us how to do this, He just told us to do it.

In light of this, I have seen many Christians evangelize their faith by drowning their hearers in Scripture verses. I have also seen it done by debating with the hearer.  I have seen it done by critically passing judgment on the hearer because of their unbelief.  Very rarely have I seen evangelizing done by demonstrating love to the hearer.

An unbeliever needs to be allowed to disclose their many preconceptions concerning God, life, death, sin, etc.  They need time to explain their condition to you, otherwise, they will withdraw from the discussion and you will have lost a valuable opportunity to effectively witness to them about the love of Christ.

The Bible gives us a great example of a technique we should use when speaking with an unbeliever.

Acts 17:19-23 (NIV)

19Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we want to know what they mean.” 21(All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.) 22Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.  Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.”

 The Apostle Paul took time to study, observe and examine his audience in Athens.  Only when he was able to pinpoint a starting point for his dialogue with them did he present the gospel.  Because of this approach, he was able to hold their attention and “plant” the necessary seeds of the gospel message.  There is much we can learn from this approach.

When was the last time you took inventory of how you witness to an unbeliever?  Are you smothering them with information that is foreign to them?  Remember, the language of the Bible and many of the words you use are of the kingdom of God, not the kingdom of this world.

Therefore, it is a foreign language most of the time to an unbeliever.

Or are you finding that you pay no attention to the sinner’s worldview; how they think and reason.  Remember, you need to let the Holy Spirit show you where the “soft” spot is in the heart of the sinner you are trying to witness to – that is your entry for the gospel.

Another point of consideration is the outcome you expect when you witness.  Is it that the hearer immediately gives their life to Christ at the conclusion of your encounter or is it that you have successfully planted or watered a seed of faith in their heart?  Remember, it is only our duty to tell them of the good news; it is God who softens their hearts and leads them to Christ.