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.

A Point to Ponder…

A born again believer in Jesus Christ is anyone who puts their faith totally in Jesus Christ as their personal Savior and Lord.  It is someone who is said to have “entrusted” Jesus Christ with their entire life; to have committed themselves to Him because of what He has done for them and what He has promised them.

He has paid the penalty for their sinful nature by dying on the cross at Calvary which satisfied the righteous requirement of the law and as a result paved the way for all who believe in Him to be eternally forgiven of their sin and to be resurrected with Him unto eternal life with the Godhead at the end of the age.

This is the foundation of the Christian faith;  the rock of truth that every born again believer stands on with expectant hope.

Now, people don’t usually put their trust in something or someone who cannot deliver the “goods” so to speak; especially if it involves their very life.  If the person or thing falters on what was promised, they usually will disconnect themselves from them; move away from them; give up on them; or disown them, just to name of few of the possible responses.  They do this because they have lost “faith” in that person’s ability or the ability of the thing they relied on to deliver what was promised.

Though this behavior of giving up on someone or something for not fulfilling a promise is consistent with being human, it is not a behavior that is consistent with God.  Though people may fail to fulfill their promises to one another, God never fails to fulfill His promises to those who love Him and who receive Him as their personal Savior and Lord.

Ponder these verses of Scripture:

Numbers 23:19 (NIV):  God is not a man that He should lie, nor a son of man that He should change His mind.  Does He speak and then not act?  Does He promise and not fulfill?

2Timothy 2:11-13 (NIV):  Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with Him, we will also live with Him; if we endure, we will also reign with Him.  If we disown Him, He will also disown us; if we are faithless, He will remain faithful, for He cannot disown Himself.

Why not then, consider giving your life to the One who can save you from eternal damnation.  To the One who promises and always fulfills His promises. To the One who did for you what you couldn’t do for yourself.  To the One who promises you an eternal life, free of sin and corruption and defilement.  An eternal life of fellowship with the One who created you and loved you to the point of dying for you so you could be reconciled and made holy.

In the climate of today’s relativism, it behooves you to ponder this thought; this piece of truth that can bring you to hope with an expectant joy that the world cannot give you, or promise you.

Give your life to Jesus Christ, the only one who can save you from eternal damnation in the Lake of Fire and eternal separation from the one who loved you enough to die for you…

If you want to learn more about salvation, go to this link: “What Is Salvation” 

Is what you see, what you get?

Jesus tells us of an account he had with a fig tree when he was hungry.  It can be found in Mark 11:12-14 (NLT):

The next morning as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus felt hungry.  He noticed a fig tree a little way off that was in full leaf, so he went over to see if he could find any figs on it.  But there were only leaves because it was too early in the season for fruit.  Then Jesus said to the tree, “May no one ever eat your fruit again!”  And the disciples heard him say it.

Jesus expected to find figs on the tree to satisfy His hunger because the tree advertised it was carrying figs evidenced by its foliage, but when Jesus didn’t find figs, he cursed the tree.  What Jesus expected to find, he didn’t.

When people look at you, a professing born-again believer in Jesus Christ, what do they see?  Do they see the evidence of your union with the Holy Spirit or do they see your association with the world?

The fruit of your foliage is supposed to be the fruit of the Spirit:

(love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.)

Is that what people see when they examine you?

Be who you say you are; a born-again believer in Jesus Christ.  Let the phrases: it is, what it is or what you see, is what you get be true of you.

Eternal Directives…

The inspired Word of God is very specific about its directives to all born again believers in Jesus Christ.

In Matthew 28:19,20 we are directed to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and to teach them to obey everything Jesus has commanded us.

In Mark 16:15 we are directed to go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.

In Luke 24:46-47 we are reminded that the Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning in Jerusalem.

Why is it then that there are so many born-again believers in Jesus Christ who pay more attention to “worldly” nonsense than to the “eternal” message of Jesus Christ?  Why are there so many believers who would rather “preach” a message of “abundant life” than the message of “repentance and forgiveness of sins”?

If not for the “cross of Christ” we would all still be lost, condemned, cursed and eternally separated from God.  This is the message that we are instructed to tell people; this is the message that brings hope into the life of every person wanting to be reconciled to God.  Why aren’t born again believers doing what the Lord has commanded them to do, now that they have received the gift of the Father’s grace?

Don’t be complacent because you are “saved” and “redeemed”.  Don’t be insensitive to the condition of those who are still “lost” and “separated” from God.  Walk in the shadow of the compassion that was shown to you by the Father and Jesus Christ; walk in the gratitude of the love that was demonstrated by Christ on the cross.  Pay more attention to the message that holds eternal consequences and less time on the messages of this world that have no significance.

Show the love for your neighbor by preaching to them their need for repentance so that they too may receive forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and redemption; and be more willing to teach them in the way of sanctification.

Remember: The Lord is not wanting for anyone to perish, but for everyone to come to repentance. (2Peter 3:8-9)

The Battle Is More Real Than You Think

To forgive someone is an act of your will and a finished work of Christ in your heart.  Literally, it is releasing someone from the penalty of their offense against you.  Though they are guilty of the offense and rightly are indebted to you to meet the punishment connected with the offense, you make the decision from your heart to remit them from the debt.

Now, this all sounds simple, and with the grace of God working in you, it is, but many times we make it more complicated than it has to be because we fail to do what needs to be done to win the battle.

Consider this:  Before one can come to this point of resolve, one must overcome the battle that rages inside of themselves that follows an offense.  The battle is with their flesh; with their soulish realm, for the flesh wants payback, revenge, perverted justice and punishment to come upon the offender for what they did.

One must win the battle over their flesh in order to succeed in the area of forgiveness.

Understand, your flesh “talks” to you very convincingly about keeping alive your resentment and anger.  Even though you may plead the blood of Christ over your mind, thoughts, and emotions, your flesh perseveres to keep alive the perverted desires that come from your self-righteousness, and you can find yourself having a debate with your flesh about what you should and should not do to your offender even when you have made up your mind to forgive.

This debate can go on for days and even years at a time if you have not learned how to crucify your flesh.  And if you ever lose this debate you can find yourself sinning against God by not demonstrating the conduct of heart He commands of those who have been offended.

You see this battle is real and it happens in the mind.  Every one of us steps into this battle the moment we are offended or transgressed against.  No one escapes it, yet there are some who have learned to do what the Lord has commanded us to do with ungodly thoughts and desires.

We are told in 2Corinthians 10:5 that –

“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ”. 

The Lord tells us to be mindful of those self-righteous arguments that we say to ourselves:

“They had no right doing that to me, I’ll get them for that”

or

“I’ll kill you for what you’ve done to me, I hate you”

These thoughts have to be arrested.  They must be brought under the obedience of Christ because they go against the knowledge of God.  That means we must rethink those thoughts and replace them.

We must capture each one and “make it” obedient unto Christ.

“I’ll get them for that” becomes “God will avenge me”.

“I hate you” becomes “I love you because you are my neighbor but I don’t like what you did”. 

If we are going to defeat this flesh we must have faith in the spiritual weaponry we possess.  We must trust in the power that Christ has over the devil to demolish our ungodly patterns of thought.

You see, the battle is won by not allowing the thoughts of revenge, payback, punishment, etc. to run wild inside of your thinking.  The battle is won when you capture every one of those thoughts and make them obedient to what Christ has told you to do toward your offender or your enemy or someone who persecutes you.

Christ will bring those thoughts into submission inside your heart once you have arrested them and you will then find victory over them.  So don’t get frustrated if you find yourself battling with thoughts of whether to forgive or not.

Just follow 2Corinthians 10:5 and watch the Lord fight for you.

You Need To Be Ashamed Of Yourself…

Let me speak to my professing Christian brothers and sisters who are struggling with issues of forgiving.

Can you tell me what is it about forgiveness that causes so much upheaval in your soul?  How come you find yourself wrestling and struggling so hard with the notion of having to let someone “off the hook” who has offended you?  What is there that is so valuable in getting “your pound of flesh”?  Is punishing someone because they have offended you really so rewarding and satisfying?  Please, help me understand your pattern of thinking.

I mean, I understand that you profess to be a Christian, meaning you have entrusted your life to Jesus Christ by inviting Him into your heart.  I understand He forgave all of your sins and redeemed you back to the Father; rescued you from eternal damnation and separation and gave you the gift of eternal life.  I understand that you are “born again”, from above, by the incorruptible seed of the Father and you are a new creation – old things have passed away and behold all things have become new in your life.  Is this true?

Well, if so, then tell me why you struggle with giving to someone else that which you received so freely?  Wasn’t forgiveness given to you for all of your sins? Yet you say you cannot forgive someone for his or her sin against you?  Why is that?

What makes you more worthy to receive forgiveness over your brother or sister in Christ? Are you any better than they are?  Have you not also been guilty of hurting others or doing wrongs in the sight of God?

In 1Corinthians 6:9-11 we are told this –

“Don’t you know that those who do wrong will have no share in the Kingdom of God?  Don’t fool yourselves.  Those who indulge in sexual sin, who are idol worshipers, adulterers, male prostitutes, homosexuals, thieves, greedy people, drunkards, abusers, and swindlers-none of these will have a share in the Kingdom of God.  There was a time when some of you were just like that, but now your sins have been washed away, and you have been set apart for God.  You have been made right with God because of what the Lord Jesus Christ and the Spirit of our God have done for you.”

Did you get that?  At one time in your life you also were not worthy of the Kingdom of God, remember?  Have you become so holy and sanctified until you believe you can dictate to the body of Christ who is and who is not worthy to receive forgiveness?  Are you suffering from some form of dementia where you cannot remember that it is only a result of God’s divine forgiveness that you are justified by faith in Jesus Christ?

Let me repeat to you what God has told you in Romans 3:21-26 –

 “But now God has shown us a different way of being right in his sight – not by obeying the law but by the way promised in the Scriptures long ago.  We are made right in God’s sight when we trust in Jesus Christ to take away our sins.  And we all can be saved in this same way, no matter who we are or what we have done.  For all have sinned; all fall short of God’s glorious standard.  Yet now God in his gracious kindness declares us not guilty.  He has done this through Christ Jesus, who has freed us by taking away our sins.  For God sent Jesus to take the punishment for our sins and to satisfy God’s anger against us.  We are made right with God when we believe that Jesus shed his blood, sacrificing his life for us.  God was being entirely fair and just when he did not punish those who sinned in former times.  And he is entirely fair and just in this present time when he declares sinners to be right in his sight because they believe in Jesus.”  

How then can you think you have any power or authority to impute righteousness or justification on anyone?  Are you God?  How can you have the audacity to say to an offender that they are not worthy of forgiveness?  Have you lost your mind?  Do not forget that you too were a sinner forgiven and redeemed only by the grace of God.

Who has deceived you into thinking you have the right to refuse an offender forgiveness?  Who told you that was the will of God for you as a believer?  I know it wasn’t the Father; I know it wasn’t the Holy Spirit, and I certainly know it wasn’t Jesus.  Therefore, it could only mean that it was the devil himself who darkened the counsel of God in your mind.  Do not allow yourself to be duped into his lies.  Do not get so puffed up with righteous indignation and resentment toward an offender that you fall out of God’s grace.

You know, there was a great English Poet by the name of Alexander Pope who penned the famous phrase:  To err is human, to forgive divine.  He had insight into God’s will concerning forgiveness that you need to assent to.  That is, humans will err – all the time; it is their nature.  But the nature of God is to forgive.  God’s will is that you love one another and that you leave no debt outstanding between one another except the continuing debt of love, which you can never repay.

As a Christian, a born-again redeemed believer in Jesus Christ, this should be your pulse.  Like your physical pulse reflects the rhythmic beating of your physical heart, love should reflect the rhythmic beating of your spirit.  If you profess to be a Christian, your walk must be in accordance with God’s will, which exemplifies his divine character.  That character is love.

You owe it to your Christian brothers and sisters, seventy-times-seven, to forgive them when they offend you.  God demands it of you.  He is so emphatic about the command that he reminds you in Matthew 6:14-15 –

“If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly father will forgive you.  But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

Therefore, stop struggling with granting forgiveness.  Rise above your carnal desires and honor God.  Let the fruit of your redemption be exemplified in the way you trust him and follow his righteous commands.  Stop playing the part of a Christian and start being the Christian.  Ask God to give you grace to walk in his wisdom; ask God to search your heart for anything that is not clean and to purge it from you.  Do not be a fool and despise the wisdom and instruction of God.

Always remember this: Christians are forgiving people because they have been forgiven.

Where Can I Find Hope?

Today’s blog is intended for those listeners who are not yet born again believers in Jesus Christ and who are diligently searching for some kind of hope in their current life situation.

I am sure that for most of this group of people, there may be some confusion or ignorance concerning God.  Many of you may have never read the Bible; or even own one for that matter.  Many have never gone to church; have never prayed; sat in on a Bible study; or even have had an opportunity to talk about faith.  For some, they may have parents who brought them up in another religion; or they may have parents who know the Lord but still refuse to follow their faith.

Regardless, you still find that you are searching for some hope.  You have come to a point in your life where you can recognize that you have a deep seated void in your soul.  Your day to day routines and the path of life you find yourself on somehow do not carry any significance anymore.  You cannot seem to find any meaningful direction; you go in and out of temporary lapses of depression and dismay; you cannot seem to find joy in life.

Yes, you have periods of happiness and laughter but there is no joy in your heart.  You keep thinking to yourself “is this all there is to life, I know there has to be something more.”

Well you are correct – there is something more – and that something is faith.  Not just any faith; but specifically, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

But before you or anyone else can be expected to have faith in Jesus Christ, you must first have faith in Almighty God.  For we are told in the Scriptures,

But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6)

What this means is that a person must first believe that Almighty God exists.  That Almighty God is.

Now I am sure you have heard one of these following phrases sometime in your life:

  • I don’t believe in God or
  • There is no God

Well let me tell you something about these phrases. They are both proclaiming the same fact – the fact that Almighty God is; the fact that Almighty God exists.

Now I know you may be saying to yourself – how can Elder be getting that understanding from those phrases?

Well, in using these phrases the person does not mean they do not believe that “God” is; what they are saying is they do not believe “in” the God that is; or they “reject” the God that is.

You see, they are really referencing Almighty God when they make these statements because they cannot react to something that does not exist.  Nor can they refuse or reject something that is not there. That would not make any sense.  What they are doing by making these statements is expressing their decisions about a factual piece of evidence.  Either way, they are acknowledging that Almighty God is.

Scripture tells us in Romans 1:18-23

For the wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities-his eternal power and divine nature-have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.  For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.  Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images make to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

So you see, as much as you may want to deny the fact that God really does exist, you cannot change the evidence He presents to you.

In line with this, is the evidence God presents concerning Jesus Christ.  Before we can go any further you must first understand the relevance of Jesus Christ, both to the world and most importantly to you.  Here are three things you need to consider:

First consideration is that you must trust in what God says about Jesus Christ.

God says that you have been born with a sinful nature.  That you come into this world separated from Him.  For many, this is a difficult truth to accept; yet it is still a truth.  You come into this world not in fellowship with God.  You come into this world under His condemnation.  Your position of separation and your condition of condemnation is the result of sin that occurred in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve.

You are the inheritor of Adam’s sinful nature and only Jesus Christ can change that fact for the better.  Scripture tells us  in Romans 5:18-21 that:

Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men.  For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.  The law was added so that the trespass might increase.  But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Second consideration is that Jesus Christ did what you could not do.

He paid the penalty for the sin of Adam.  He appeased the wrath of God’s judgment in order to give man the opportunity to be reconciled and reunited with God.  Scripture tells us in the Gospel of John 3:16-18 and verse 36:

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.  For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.  Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.

You see, Jesus quieted God’s anger.  Jesus gave God the justice He required for the sin committed against Him.  Jesus put himself in your place and brought reconciliation between you and God by dying on the cross and shedding His blood for the forgiveness of sin.

Third consideration is what are you going to do about Jesus Christ?

If you want to get your life in order, then you need Jesus Christ to become your Lord and Savior.  Jesus explained it this way to Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council in John 3:3, 5-6:

I tell you the truth; no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.  I tell you the truth; no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.  Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.

If you are sensing that you are being drawn to God then know that the Scriptures are true when they say in John 6:44-45: that

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.  It is written in the Prophets, they will all be taught by God.  Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me.

So it is imperative that you follow your heart and come to Jesus.  Confess that He is Lord and believe in your heart that he was raised from the dead by the Father.  Call on Him now.  He is standing at the door to your heart and He is knocking.  Let Him in, know that Jesus loves you with an eternal love and that He will forgive you of your sin, and give you the gift of eternal life.  He will cleanse your heart and regenerate your spirit.  He will place God’s Spirit in you the moment you do what Romans 10:9-10, 13 instructs:

That if you confess with your mouth, Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.  Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

So if you have just done what God requires for salvation, know that you serve a risen Lord.  Jesus is alive and well.  He sits at the right Hand of the Father in heaven with all power and authority and He promises you that he will never leave you nor forsake you.

Welcome to the family of God.