Impact

“Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” What do people gain from all their labors at which they toil under the sun? Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever. Ecclesiastes 1:2-4

On the surface, this is actually depressing but you need to go a bit deeper in thought to ponder the words.

The writer is limiting his observation to the efforts of man and his desire to do things on this earth that will last. In reality there are very few people who have gone down in history as those we remember. The great majority of us will be forgotten within a generation after our deaths. I cite as an example, my father.

My dad passed away to be with the Lord on January 17th, 1991. He died before I was married and before I had children. My sons never met him and don’t know who he was. Since then, my mother also passed and the only ones who remember his deeds on earth are those who are now alive that knew him. Once my wife and I are gone and the generation that actually knew him is gone, my dad will be only a name on a gravestone that eventually will be forgotten by time.

The same will be for me and for you. This is why, as the writer says, “everything is meaningless”. We think that we are making some type of impact on this world and we deceive ourselves. How many great pharaohs did Egypt have yet they are all forgotten to history? The impact you have on this world is useless and futile.

The important impact we should concentrate on is the eternal one. We were designed to be eternal creatures. We were made to have an eternal relationship with God. The thing we need to concern ourselves with is not what impact we have on this world but on what impact we will have on eternity

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The Right Perspective

The writer of the book of Lamentations is extremely distraught. Horrible things were happening to the people of Israel and to this man in particular.

The writer’s name is Jeremiah. He is deeply saddened that, at this time, Israel is under siege, the beauty of the country and of its capital city, Jerusalem have been marred by attacks, poverty and a whole host of calamities.

Jeremiah understands the reason for all of this that has happened. It is all because the people of God have strayed from following him. They have sinned against God and because of this, things go terribly wrong for them. Even though Jeremiah is a devout God follower, he is also going through some bad times because he is a part of the group that is being disciplined by God.

Jeremiah is suffering collateral damage as a consequence of Israel’s disobedience. Although it makes him sad, he gets it. He knows that all of this is temporary and that it has to happen. Humanly speaking he is like all of us. He looks at the situation he is going through and is downcast.

19 I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. 20 I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Lamentations 3:19-20

Jeremiah admits that when he looks at his current situation, it sucks. It’s not fun. It’s actually terrible. In a similar fashion, when you go through tough times, it is normal for you to feel distraught and downcast. You may feel that a dark cloud is hanging over your head, and it is. We learn from Jeremiah that, from a human point of view, this is normal. It’s OK to feel bad when bad things happen to you but if you focus on the situation you tend to have the wrong perspective. You end up focusing on the present and not the future. You focus on your problem and not on God’s solution.

The right perspective is to look, not at your current situation, although it is bad, but on God and His grace. Jeremiah has his eyes firmly planted on God’s love and kindness. He knows that all of this is temporary in God’s time and so he calls to mind God’s love and compassion and this is what gives him hope.

21 Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: 22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” Lamentations 3:21-24

When you are going through a difficult time, you need to call to mind God’s love and compassion. You need to have His promises firmly impeded in your soul as you walk through this life so that when bad things happen, you can look to God and know that this is temporary. You have to have the right perspective.

God’s love and compassion are renewed for you every morning. He doesn’t look at you and say “you screwed up and so I want nothing to do with you.” On the contrary. God’s desire is for a deep, intimate relationship with you. All of the trouble you are going through is temporary. All you have to do is wait for him. God’s time is not our time and whatever you are going through will pass, one way or another.

Jeremiah says to himself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” You need to preach to yourself this fact so that when times of trouble come your way, you will have the right perspective. This will pass in God’s time, not yours. You need to have the right perspective.

Prosperity and Success

Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Joshua 1:8

On the surface, this verse tells us that by reading and studying the Word of God we will be prosperous and successful. This is, of course, if you take the verse out of context.

Moses had died and the people of Israel were poised to enter the promised land. The new leader, Joshua, who had already received instructions from Moses, now receives instructions direct from God. The Lord instructs Joshua to be strong and courageous, to adhere to the Law given by God and to take the unprecedented action of entering a territory that God had given the people of Israel.

God’s instructions to Joshua are not a promise that everything will go smoothly for him or the nation of Israel. They are a commandment to abide in God and get to know Him intimately. The promise is limited to the conquering of the land.

The history of Israel, as written in the Bible, shows that the people often failed to adhere to the words of the Law and they moved to do their own thing. They were told not to mix with the people who were currently living in the land. They did. They were told not to worship other gods. They did. Because of their failing to follow those commands, the Israelites started having trouble conquering what was given to them. They were defeated several times and failed to take over certain towns promised to them by God. The Philistines gave the Hebrews trouble all the time and I believe that the reason Israel today has such a difficult time with their Palestinian neighbors is because they didn’t do what they were ordered to do way back then.

Being prosperous and successful is not a promise that believers have as a reward for being close to God. Job proves that point. The prosperity and success promised is in doing the will of God not your own definition of prosperity and success.

There are too many preachers today promising their followers that if they believe and trust and follow God’s word they will be prosperous and successful attaining wealth and health. They also teach that if you are not prosperous and successful in this life, it is because you are not right with God and that you have to do certain things to get you there such as giving more money to the church. That is what it all ultimately boils down to. Mega churches proclaiming that you get by giving.

I don’t believe or find anything in the Bible, other than certain verses, taken out of context, that promise material wealth and prosperity as a reward for good behavior. On the contrary. God’s promise of prosperity and success transcends this temporal human experience we call life. Our prosperity and success is not rooted in this world. Wealth and health are fleeting and it is God who determines how much of each you have. It is not some reward God dishes out for obedience.

Obedience to God stands alone and the promise of the reward is not limited to this world. God’s promises of prosperity and success are eternal. We are meant to live forever, to be eternal creatures in the presence of God. True prosperity is the result we will see in the future for all eternity.

Why would you limit your goal of prosperity and success to a period of time that is, in most cases, less than 100 years when God’s goal is for your prosperity and success for hundreds of thousands of years? A believer needs to look at his life as never-ending. As a chosen child of God, you are eternal. He has, by His grace, through the sacrifice of His only begotten Son, given you eternal life. That is the true prosperity and success that God promises. Even Jesus said that “In this world you will have trouble.” (John 16:33) He then immediately follows it up with “But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) It is ultimately Jesus, Son of God, who is the source of true prosperity. He has overcome the world. He is the embodiment of success. Jesus lives forever and because we are in Christ, we also live forever. Success has already been achieved for us. Not because of what we have or have not done but because of what He did. We are prosperous in God’s grace in that we have eternal life because of Christ. Don’t limit your definition of prosperity and success to wealth and toys in this world. We are meant for much more than that. We are meant for eternal prosperity and success.

Give Credit Where Credit is Due

That day David fled from Saul and went to Achish king of Gath. But the servants of Achish said to him, “Isn’t this David, the king of the land? Isn’t he the one they sing about in their dances: “‘Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands’?”

David took these words to heart and was very much afraid of Achish king of Gath. So he pretended to be insane in their presence; and while he was in their hands he acted like a madman, making marks on the doors of the gate and letting saliva run down his beard.

Achish said to his servants, “Look at the man! He is insane! Why bring him to me? Am I so short of madmen that you have to bring this fellow here to carry on like this in front of me? Must this man come into my house?” 1 Samuel 21:10-15

Saul had a manhunt out for David. He was searching high and low for him because David was the king selected by God to replace Saul. In his rage, Saul put out an APB and a BOLO on David. He probably had offered a reward for David’s capture or death. David was a wanted man. Wanted: Dead or alive.

While running and hiding from Saul he comes to Gath to seek refuge but David is afraid that Achish, the king of Gath, will capture him and turn him over to Saul. Achish probably didn’t know why Saul wanted David captured. Then a thought occurs to David.

David fakes insanity at Gath and Achish wants nothing to do with a mentally impaired person. He has other more pressing matters to attend to. This gives David the opportunity to leave the area evading capture.

After all this happens, David sits down and writes a Psalm about the events of the day. He doesn’t take credit for his cunning plan but rather praises God for saving him from capture. David recognizes that the thought that was put in his head was not of his own making but that God put it there. David gives credit to God, as well he should, and as well we should.

1 I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips.

2 I will glory in the Lord; let the afflicted hear and rejoice.

3 Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together.

4 I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.

5 Those who look to him are radiant;their faces are never covered with shame.

6 This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles.

7 The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.

8 Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.

9 Fear the Lord, you his holy people, for those who fear him lack nothing.

10 The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

11 Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord.

12 Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days,

13 keep your tongue from evil and your lips from telling lies.

14 Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.

15 The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry;

16 but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to blot out their name from the earth. Psalm 34:1-16

Although Saul intended to harm David, David never lashed out at him or tried to harm him in any way. In David’s mind, Saul was his enemy but he refused to be Saul’s enemy. Even though David had several opportunities to kill Saul, he never did. David was righteous in the eyes of God and God watched over him and heard his cry for help. It was God that put the idea of feigning insanity in his head and David knew it.

If you are going through a difficult situation and your life is in tune with God, He will give you a way out. Sometimes a friend might suggest a course of action that you had not considered. Other times an idea will pop into your head that will remedy the situation. At that time, you need to recognize the source of the idea. Even though you may think that you came up with it, it was God that made it so that you would have that thought. All of the events, experiences, and lessons learned throughout your life have been orchestrated by God for just such a time as this. It is God, in his omniscience, sovereignty and, most importantly, love for you, that provided all of that so that the solution would be available to you.

David gave God the glory and the credit for getting out of this tough situation. We need to do likewise, recognizing that it is God who is in control of every situation and depending upon Him for getting out of a bind. So, give credit where credit is due; and it always is due to God.

Chosen

He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. 2 Timothy 1:9-10

We sometimes think and believe that we received God’s grace the moment we first believed on the name of Jesus Christ for salvation but according to Paul, that is incorrect. A believer is not saved at the time of conversion. He is saved from the beginning of time.

We tend to apply the laws of time to God and His grace but those laws don’t apply at all. If you are saved, it is not because you believed, got on your knees and prayed the sinner’s prayer. You were saved before the beginning of time.

God knew you and chose you to be a believer. He called you and picked you out individually. You could neither choose to believe or not to believe. You had no say in it whatsoever. God’s plans were drawn up before the beginning of time. It’s not that God knew who would or who would not believe. God chose who would or would not believe. He created each and every human being for a purpose. Some were created to be in His presence forever and some not. It is God’s sovereign choice, not ours, that provided salvation.

From God’s point of view, you have existed from before the beginning of time as a part of His plan. He saved you before you were born. He chose you to be a member of His family. Think about the anticipation God has always felt knowing that you would eventually be born, go through life and come to the point when you realized that God does love you and has chosen you. He waited patiently for you for eons until you finally arrived. The closest comparison if of a father or mother eagerly anticipating the birth of a child. The child is part of the family from the time of conception, not from the moment of birth. The parents wait nine months for child to arrive and they love that child in every way, shape and form even though he or she has not yet seen the light of day. The joy of the parents is complete when that child breaks through the womb and takes its first breath but it began the moment the parents learned of the conception.

Similarly, God conceived you to be His child. He just had to wait patiently for you to be born and conceptually arrive at the point of understanding His great love for you. God also created Jesus and provided all the means necessary for Jesus to be born, live and be crucified at a particular moment in time. It was God’s plan all along and time and history had to catch up to God’s eternal plan.

Being that this is all God’s doing and not yours, there is no reason to even think that you decided to follow Jesus. You decided nothing. God decided. It was God that loved you and chose you before the beginning of time. Think about how amazing God’s love is that you would be in His heart from time immemorial. You are so special and were created with a special purpose by God. You were chosen to be a believer and follower of Christ. You were chosen to be holy and live a holy life. You were chosen to be His child. What an amazing thought that God chose me and not the other way around.

To Remain Or Not Remain

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. John 15:5-8

Recognition of the source of power is what Jesus wants from us. There is nothing that a follower of Christ can do apart from God and His power.

Jesus gives two options. We either remain in Him, or we do not. He lays out the consequences of one and the benefits of the other.

The first thing he puts out there is the negative. “If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers”. If you are relying on your actions and deeds for salvation and wisdom, though you may believe it is a worthwhile endeavor, it is actually worthless. We sometimes fall into the trap of thinking and have the attitude that we are good Christians because we go to church, tithe, teach a Sunday school class, volunteer, and do a myriad of other things that are good.

There is nothing wrong with those acts in and of themselves. It is the attitude with which we do them that is the problem. A self-aggrandizing spirit can develop in us such that we pat ourselves on the back saying to ourselves “you done good”.

The problem with that attitude is that it presupposes that the source of the good things done is the desire of your heart and so you tend to honor yourself believing that your actions are deserving of some type of reward. This attitude internally and psychologically attributes the actions to the self. Jesus tells us what this attitude results in when he says, “such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.” This means that the actions and attitude are entirely worthless in the eyes of Jesus and of God.

The flip side of the equation is that of remaining in Christ. This means a 100% reliance on Jesus attributing all things to him. Any act that you do is not of your own choice or doing but it is Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit that dwells within you that creates the desire to do what is right and honorable toward God. Jesus says that “apart from me you can do nothing”. Nothing you do, however good or honorable, is of your doing. It is Jesus working through you that does these things.

Jesus gives us a promise that by having this attitude and thought pattern we have an amazing power; the power of answered prayer. “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” The conditional “if” is ever-present noting that receiving what we ask for is conditional upon remaining in Christ and having His words remain in us. You get that through communion with Christ on a deep and intimate level. That intimacy comes from being immersed in His words, relying on Jesus for all of your decisions, thoughts and actions.

There is a reason for having this attitude and it is based on the primary desire of God and the purpose for which we exist, God’s glory. Jesus says, “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” The Glory of God is the purpose of all acts, thoughts, attitudes, and behavior that a follower of Christ is to have as his sole reason for existing. By acknowledging the purpose for the actions, glory to God, and recognizing that the action is sourced in Christ, we begin to live out our purpose. It is this recognition of the source that produces a healthy attitude of dependence on Christ and not on our own ability and this is what proves your position in Christ. It is the disciple that is dependent on the teacher and not the other way around.

The source

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:1-5

Jesus is telling his disciples, the ones He chose, that they are to recognize the source of their lives as followers of Christ. Just as a light bulb cannot give light unless it is screwed into a socket and plugged into an out let that is wired to an electric grid, so is the Christian life. Jesus uses the metaphor of a grape vine. The vine is what supplies nourishment to the branches which are the ones that produce the grapes.

Notice the words Jesus uses. He tells us that it is God the Father that cuts away dead branches. In agriculture, pruning is a necessary task performed regularly to keep plants healthy and productive. Cutting away dead branches allows nourishment to flow to productive branches which produces a stronger, healthier plant. The fact is that God is the one who makes the ultimate decision as to whether a branch is healthy or not. His point of view is not impaired by selfishness. The branch cannot look at itself and make the decision to either prune itself or cut itself off. Similarly, the health and growth of a believer is sourced in God alone. The person is never the decision maker in whether or not he is part of the body of Christ. God chose that position prior to the person choosing to be a follower of Christ or not.

Jesus tells his followers that they “are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.” It is the word of Christ, the gospel that cleans and not the decision that is made by an individual. The decision to follow or not to follow Christ is a decision that was made long ago and comes into fruition in the present. As a believer and follower of Christ, you may think that you made the decision to follow Jesus but it was Jesus that chose you to be a follower before you made the decision to follow.

Here is also a remarkable statement. Jesus tells the disciples “Remain in me, as I also remain in you.” Now he transfers the responsibility to the believer. He reiterates that He is the vine. Jesus is the source to which the believer must be plugged into. It is the believer that needs to recognize that his spiritual growth is dependent on Christ and not his own actions. The source of nourishment is Jesus and the believer needs to be entirely dependent on God’s grace and not on his acts in order to be in Christ. We are called to be God reliant, not self-reliant.

Here are the really deep words: “If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit”. “If” is a conditional word. “If” is also a word that is used when making logic statements. “If this happens, then that is the outcome.” Jesus is giving us a logic-filled statement when he says that bearing much fruit is conditional upon remaining in Him and He remaining in you. Is remaining in Jesus based on a conscious decision by the believer? It appears that a Christ follower makes the decision to remain in Christ and be dependent upon Him for his salvation and spiritual growth but there is a second component to the equation. Jesus adds the next condition for bearing much fruit when he says “and I in you”. This condition is not dependent on any decision made by the individual but on Christ himself.

What if a person decided to remain in Christ but was never chosen to be a follower in the first place? This is the case with what is referred to as a false conversion. It is when a person listens to a sermon and is caught up is some emotional whirlwind at that particular moment that may be based on some traumatic event that he is going through or struggling with. Jail house conversions come to mind. When a person is put in jail for some crime committed, professes faith in Christ, then when he leaves prison, goes back to his life of crime, that is a false conversion. There are similar examples outside of prison. A person is struggling through a health or financial crisis, listens to a powerful sermon and decides to get his act together and follow Jesus. Some time passes and the crisis is either averted or not and the person then ceases his supposed walk with Christ and resumes his former life. Although one may think that the conditional “if” is dependent on the person, it is God the Father who ultimately decides the attachment of that branch to the vine.

Jesus concludes his thought on the matter by stating that “apart from me you can do nothing”. This is the foundation of grace. You can do nothing without Christ. You cannot go to the Father without going through Christ. You are not saved unless it is Christ who saves you. You cannot have faith without Christ. Jesus Christ is the source of all things. This includes your faith and salvation. You cannot do it at all. You are powerless without the power that is supplied by Christ. Let’s go back to the analogy of the light bulb. Unless the bulb is in the socket that is wired with a plug that is connected to an outlet that has electricity flowing through it, the bulb is nothing but glass and metal filament with no ability to generate light on its own.

Are you plugged into the outlet that is connected to the power grid of Christ? Or are you a light bulb in the packaging on the store shelf?

Follow God’s Example

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:1-2

The only way to truly love is to mimic God’s way of love. Ephesians 4:32 tells us what to do. “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other.” How do we forgive? Even if someone wrongs you, mistreats you, talks bad about you, or any other harm someone may do to you, you are to forgive that person “just as in Christ God forgave you”.

Living a life holding a grudge against someone is a selfish act and, at its core is idolatry. You see, if you don’t forgive, you are putting yourself in a place of high esteem. Your attitude is: “I deserve to be treated better than this, after all, I am in the right and he is in the wrong.” You are putting yourself on a pedestal or an altar, if you will, claiming some honor or respect that in actuality only belongs to God.

God forgave you in Christ. When you are born again, you no longer live, you are dead and Christ is alive in you. If someone insults or harms you, you are not the one being insulted or harmed, but Christ is. The question you need to ask is “does this bother you, Jesus?” The answer from Jesus is a resounding “No!” Why? Because God offers forgiveness to that person also. And if that is the case, then you no longer need to feel that you have been harmed in any way.

Since God has forgiven you and loves you intimately and unconditionally, you need to follow that same example and love the person that supposedly wronged you. Love is a chain that starts with God, is channeled through Christ and into us through the Holy Spirit. By forgiving and loving that person unconditionally, you are offering your sacrifice to the God of the universe. Conversely, if you do not forgive or love that person, you are offering your sacrifice to yourself as a selfish God who demands the adoration and acclamation of others.

Are you willing to take the place of God by demanding this false worship?

Foundation

1 Peter 4:7-12

7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 

8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 

9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 

10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 

11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 

12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

The essence and foundation of Christianity is love. It is based not on our desire to love but it is fist based on God’s love toward us.

It is God’s love that provides grace.

It is God’s love that desires an intimate fellowship with us.

It is God’s love that despises sin, unholiness, and evil.

It is God’s love that provides the path to be with God through Jesus Christ.

It is God’s love that allows us to be His children through faith in Christ.

If God’s love is the foundation of salvation, then it is ultimately God that is love. He is not some cosmic killjoy sitting on a throne watching for the moment we fail and then judging us. God’s deepest desire is to embrace all of mankind. Unfortunately, that is not mankind’s desire at all. Our desire is to be our own God and throw off any sense of responsibility toward anyone that is above us. That is why our essential disposition is not love but selfish desire.

Once you choose the path toward God, faith in Christ as the only way to get to God, then you have chosen love. Your choice to love God is not your own. It is a response to God’s love.

Love must be complete in order to be love. Love must be pure in order to be love because God is pure. It is not enough to say you love God. Love must encompass everyone. Love is not a feeling where you fall in and out of it. Love is a decision. Love is an act. Love is on purpose.

We are called to love like God loves, unconditionally. Regardless of what other say, or do to you, your response has to be out of love. Hate has no place in God’s reality. Everything God does is out of love and everything we do must be out of love.

May God’s love be so ingrained in me that I may reflect it toward anyone I come into contact with today and throughout all the days of my life.

Good advice

In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because,

“God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.

1 Peter 5:5-10

Peter is instructing the church on proper attitudes and behaviors. His main point is humility.

He begins by telling us to submit to the elders of the church.

There is a remarkable benefit in humility. Peter’s advice is to “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand”. The benefit is this–“that he may lift you up in due time”. Humility in the present will bring about an uplift in the future.

Peter drops in this piece of advice “Cast all your anxiety on him”. How does this correlate to humility? If you are anxious about your problems or needs it is because you are relying on yourself to resolve them. When you boil it down, this is the opposite of humility. If you look to yourself to resolve your problems, then you are exhibiting pride and arrogance. It shows self-reliance rather than God-reliance. Peter echoes the words and teachings of Jesus. If you trust God with all of your worries, anxieties, and problems, He will take care of them for you. Why? “because he cares for you.”

Use the brain God gave you to “Be alert and of sober mind.” The reason for this is that we do not live in a vacuum without enemies. We have an enemy that is very powerful. The enemy is Satan who “prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” Satan’s mission is to get as many of those who are followers of Christ to desert Him and be destroyed. He knows he is defeated but wants to take as many as possible with him.

We are commanded to “Resist him” How? By “standing firm in the faith”. Why? “because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” You are not alone in your walk with Christ. Millions of currently living souls go through the same temptations, suffering, and problems that you go through on a daily basis. If they can get through it by trusting Christ, then so can you.

All of this advice is based on a promise of something to be received in the future based on something we have already received in the past. God’s grace that He provided through His plan of salvation through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ was carefully planned out by God before the beginning of time. “And the God of all grace”. God gives us His grace, not because of something we have done to deserve it because He provided that grace long before you were even conceived. This same God has “called you to his eternal glory in Christ” before time began.

Suffering is a part of this life and this life is temporary. So “after you have suffered a little while”, God “will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” This is not in the present but in the future. You must rely on the promise of something to be received at some future point based on the faith that it will happen just as God has promised.

The Way

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” 

Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” John 14:1-7 NIV

Jesus was and is God’s plan from the very beginning of time itself. Jesus transcends time and space. He existed before the universe was made and He was the plan for the salvation of mankind from the beginning.

It is important to know that nothing catches God by surprise. God knew that mankind would sin. God knew that people would tend to go toward the path of least resistance. That is precisely why God had this plan all along of entering the world in human form, offering this human form as a sacrifice in place of mankind, and then defeating death by raising that human form from the grip of death.

His plan further reaches out to mankind to prepare a place for those whom He has chosen to be His followers. That place is with God Himself. If a place is prepared, there must also be a way to get to that place, a road if you will. That road or way is Jesus, God’s plan for mankind.

Jesus says that He is the way, the truth, and the life. He also says that no one comes to the Father except through Him.

Jesus is the way because of grace. God provided the way for mankind to be in the presence of God. God is holy and nothing that is unholy can be with God. Jesus makes us holy. We cannot do anything to make ourselves holy. No matter what we do, we are, by nature, a contaminant to the holy and pure presence of God. It is only by the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus, the embodiment of God, that this holiness is available to mankind.

Jesus is the truth because there is no other truth. Sure, we strive to learn as much as we can about the world, the universe, and how everything works but it is all for naught. This temporal world we live in is not real. Reality and truth are only found in the presence of God. It is eternality that is real. This temporary place we live in is not truth because it does not exist forever. At some point it will no longer exist therefore it cannot be truth.

Jesus is the life because He is the source of true life. We were meant to be eternal beings but the uncleanliness of sin that alienated us from the presence of God has also limited this physical realm to a temporary state that has a physical beginning and a physical end. Jesus, on the contrary, does not. Jesus has no beginning and no end. It is only in Jesus that we can find the reality of what we were meant to be-eternal beings.

Knowing that Jesus is all three, the way, the truth and the life, then there is no other conclusion than that the only way to get to the Father and to be what we are intended for is through Him. There is absolutely nothing that we temporal beings can do or not do in order to receive this amazing gift. We are meant only to trust in the fact that God provided this entry way to His presence only through His plan-Jesus.

We need to abandon all hope in our abilities or capabilities to do and be holy. The only way to be holy is to rely on the sacrifice of the man Jesus Christ to make us holy. This is contrary to human thought and logic but it is something that makes sense from the perspective of God. If God is the end-all and be-all of the universe, then we need to understand that we are not able or capable of being in His presence without going through Jesus.

Saying all of this, we also need to understand that God provided this for us without us deserving it. He provided it because He wanted to. That is grace. If He provided that for us, why don’t we just give up our lives and our intentions to make ourselves holy and let Him do it? That is the essence of Christianity; relying on something that someone else has done on our behalf to make us right with God.

 

True Peace

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:14 NIV

Jesus is speaking with his disciples and tells them that he is going away but that he will return. He also tells them a remarkable truth that they don’t seem to understand fully. He reveals to them that He and the Father and the Holy Spirit are one and the same. This is the essence of the trinity. They couldn’t understand the concept and they were his closest followers. We should not expect to fully understand it either. It is just something that we must accept.

Jesus tells the disciples that not only is He one with the Father but that the disciples are also one with Him. This means that the Father is also in them and similarly in us as followers of Jesus. The Holy Spirit is in us, we are in Jesus and Jesus is in the Father.

Because of this amazing, unexplainable truth, Jesus tells the disciples and us that He is leaving us with peace. Mind you, not the fleeting peace of the world that is ignited by any bit of trouble, but a lasting peace.

You see, before Jesus came on the scene, there was a war between God and you. God’s holiness and your sinfulness cannot coexist. By Jesus coming into the world and becoming the ultimate scape goat for your past, present, and future sins, the war is now over. The final battle for your soul has been won. This is not a cease-fire. This is the ultimate victory on Jesus’ part over our sin. That war is over. He won. He has given the peace treaty and that is based on our surrender.

Why should my heart be troubled? The peace is secure and everlasting; I am no longer an enemy of God. I am now under the new kingdom, adopted as His child, not as a conquered slave but as a citizen of the eternal nation of God.

Why should I be afraid of anything? He has conquered everything and not only that, He will be the everlasting king on the throne of the universe forever. I am on His side, not the losing side. This being so, I am victorious because He is victorious.

Yesterday’s gone

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:18-19 NIV

But forget all that—it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland. Isaiah 43:18-19 NLT

Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. Isaiah 43:18-19 NKJV

Isaiah is giving the children of Israel a very important message. God’s voice flows through him recounting the amazing things that God has done for Israel, His chosen people and reminds them of their failings. But even though they have failed God, God has not failed them.

He tells them the story again of the miracles and wonders He has done in their lives and, as if that wasn’t enough, God tells them to forget all that because He is going to go further. He tells them that yesterday’s gone.

Our magnificent God of the universe brings an amazing message to Israel and to us today. The message is that “Yes, I have done amazing things for you in the past. Yes, you have failed me. But all of that is now in the past. I am the God of today, not yesterday. Forget the past and watch what I am doing now and will do for you next because yesterday’s gone.”

You see, God does not dwell on the past. His mercy and grace is renewed every day. No matter how much you have failed, God has never filed you. No matter how many great things He has done for you, He will do more for you.

He tells us to look at the new thing He is doing in our lives and He asks, “Don’t you get it yet? Yesterday is gone!” God’s mercy and grace are never-ending. He offers us His love, friendship, and guidance unconditionally. How we choose to respond to that determines whether we receive His blessings or not. It is strictly up to the individual as to whether or not to receive His grace and accept it. The gift is there for the taking.

This is the first day of 2017. As I look back on 2016, I see the marvelous things God has done for me, personally. I also see the stupid things I have done and the ways I have hurt Him with my sin. Now it is time to let go of the past. Not just 2016, but every yesterday. God calls us to live today, this hour, this moment for Him and to only rely on His grace and mercy. If we do that, watch what He can do in all of our tomorrows.

Will you continue to dwell on the past?

What are you expecting from God in the present and future?

Joy received

Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you. Psalm 51:12

Too often we think about our salvation as fire insurance.

We believe that God loved us so much that He sent His son to save us from going to hell. Although that is true in a basic sense, we need to go deeper than that.

We have been saved into the Kingdom of God. We have been purchased and adopted as God’s children. We are entitled to everything God owns. We have the God of the universe on our side rooting for us. We have been given the gift of eternal life to spend it with God, not just at some future date but now.

angry-godGod’s love for us is so grand that He has joined us together with Him in His joy and happiness. You see, Our God is not an angry, moody, judge sitting on a throne watching our every move and looking for when we screw up so that He can punish us. His plan all along was to have us be as close to Him as possible, to share in His joy.

the-embrace-large-image-zoomGod is joyful. God is happy. God wants nothing more than for us to experience that joy and happiness with Him. The closer we get to Him, the more and more we want to obey Him because He provides all good things for us now and in the future. Trusting God to provide us with everything we need should bring us joy.

Pray today to experience and feel God’s presence in your life and to receive the joy and happiness He has for you and pray that He will give you the desire to obey Him more and more so that you will receive more and more joy.

Hide and Seek

You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in Your word. Psalm 119:114 (NKJV)hide-and-seek

Where do you turn to when you have a problem? Be honest. When you have a financial need, do you quickly look at your bank statement or investments? When you are stressed, do you look for distractions. When trouble comes your way, and it always does, do you look to your resources to find a way to fix the problem? We all do. But, is that what God wants?

When we turn to our resources instead of turning to God we are being prideful. When we look at ourselves and think “I can’t get out of this” or “I can get out of this”; that is pride at work.

It is in times of trouble that we need to seek that special hiding place where trouble cannot find us. We need to have a shield that we can hide behind that will protect us from imminent danger. That hiding place and that shield is God and His word. That is where we need to turn to first.

Read, study, meditate on His word to find wisdom and guidance. Pray for God’s hand in your distress. Put your hope in His word and not on your own abilities, resources or skills to get you out of trouble. We need to hide behind God’s power and seek His help.

Come in out of the rain

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14

Of all the things we could offer God, it is humility and repentance that He values above all.

When we sin God doesn’t kick us out of His grace. Instead, it’s as if we leave His come in out of the rainprotection. It’s kind of like being inside a house when it is pouring rain outside.

As believers, we are usually inside under the roof that protects us from the nasty weather. Every so often, we willingly leave the safety of the roof just to get a little wet. Well, there is no such thing as a little wet in a thunderstorm.

God’s grace tells us that if we choose to come in out of the rain, we’ll be warm and dry. But in order to come in out of the rain, we need to realize that we’re wet, cold, shivering and that we can’t dry off on our own.

It’s this humility that brings us to repentance and prayer; and it’s this prayer that God hears and its God that forgives our sin and heals us.

A prerequisite to praise

May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus. Then all of you can join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 15:5-6

 

As believers we are called to give all glory and praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ but we cannot do that without meeting a prerequisite. That prerequisite is to live in complete harmony with our fellow believers. Conflict in the body of Christ hinders our ability to praise God. No matter how much you sing, give, serve or do for God, You can’t praise and give God glory if you are in conflict with your fellow believers. The ability to of be in harmony with our Christian brothers and sisters comes from God. He is the one who gives us patience to bear those we don’t agree with and the encouragement we need to love them despite our differences.

Kindness and Grace

He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding. Ephesians 1:7-8

He is so rich in kindness and grace

Think about the kindness and grace of God then think about all the evil, wicked, mean, and nasty things that happen on a daily basis on this earth. Furthermore, think about the fact that you and I were born into this world as sinners, totally unholy and separated from God. Mankind, by its very nature is unfit to be in God’s presence because we are not pure and holy and clean. Only the pure, holy and clean can be in God’s presence and deserve the kindness and grace of God. But God is rich in kindness and grace and He extends that out to humanity.

In what way?

that he purchased our freedom

God purchased our freedom. You may ask: “Freedom from what or whom?” The reason mankind is not holy, pure and clean is because we are born into captivity like slaves. We are slaves of our nature, the natural tendency to be evil, wicked, mean and nasty. We are born with an innate need to satisfy our own needs and to seek out our own pleasure at the expense of others and even God Himself. We strive to make ourselves happy. We seek out pleasure at all cost. We desire to own more and more. When we don’t have what we want, we look at others and what they have and desire to have those things. We live with a “me first” outlook on life. That is the captivity we are in. We cannot get out of it on our own. What God has done is that he has purchased our freedom from that captivity to the self-centered way of life not because He had to but because He chose to. Not because He needs us in any way, shape or form, but rather because He takes great pleasure in providing His kindness and grace.

What did He purchase our freedom with?

with the blood of his Son

God deliberately took of part of His Godly attributes and entered this temporal realm to live among us, experience what it is to be human and was better at it than we are. He became a human being and taught us, in our own language and for our own understanding what it is that He wants for us not from us. And even though He was walking among us and knew that humanity would reject Him, He willingly accepted that and, without a fight, accepted the wrath of humankind on himself in physical form. We inflicted all sorts of pain and anguish on Him. We tortured Him, mocked Him, despised Him and killed Him. But it was He that voluntarily accepted it knowing full well that we would do all of these things. By His very nature, God, being eternal and outside of time itself, knew, in detail, the evil we were capable of and exactly how much pain we would inflict on Him. Yet He did it anyway. Jesus went through the most excruciating pain and suffering because He was and is God’s plan for humanity. The plan to go through this as a punishment for our wickedness was accomplished through the blood of Jesus Christ. It was absolutely necessary for this to happen the way it did and when it did because it was and is the price for purchasing our freedom from our natural captivity.

So what’s the end game? What is the outcome of this suffering?

and forgave our sins

By taking on this punishment willingly, God not only purchased our freedom from our natural evil nature but since He chose to die in our place He forgave our sins. Which sins? Past, present and future sins. He forgave our sin, our impurity, unholiness, and uncleanliness and separated us from our nature so that we could have the ability to be in His presence as holy, pure and clean. God forgives unlike we forgive. He wipes the slate clean, He reboots our hard drive and removes all of the viruses that are in our CPU’s. He dumps them into a recycling bin and hits the button that says “Delete Permanently”.

Now we go full circle. Why would He do such a thing?

Because of His kindness.

He has showered his kindness on us

God didn’t have to do this. He has no need of humans. He is content with Himself. But He did create us for a reason and He wants us, mere human beings with temporal, frail physical lives to live eternally with Him not as pets or slaves but as friends and family. God has us on His family plan. He wants to give us everything He has. He doesn’t hold back anything. At the same time He wants us to love Him not because of what He gives us but because of who He is. He wants us to enjoy Him and His presence forever.

Not only did God forgive us. Not only did He purchase our freedom from our natural state of captivity to sin. He also provides us with something else.

along with all wisdom and understanding.

True wisdom comes from understanding our position and purpose in the universe. When we understand that we were created for God’s good pleasure, we begin to see our purpose. For millennia, man has asked that one important question: “Why are we here?” God has that answer and has provided it for us in the life and teachings of Jesus. We are here and exist for God’s pleasure and we were created with a desire to please something other than ourselves and Jesus summed it up by telling us that the greatest commandments are to love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and strength and to love your neighbor as yourself. Turning our attention away from our desires and focusing it on loving God and our fellow man is the culmination of God’s desire. Our purpose is fulfilled when we find our pleasure and joy in loving God and loving others.

 

Discussion questions

How do you see God’s kindness and grace working together?

What kinds of wisdom and understanding are given to us?

What really matters

I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return. Philippians 1:9-10

We are usually so worried about our finances, jobs, material possessions and physical needs that we forget about what really matters.

Our focus needs to be on the eternal, the things that will last long after we no longer reside in this physical world.

So what is it that really matters?

Loving each other and growing in knowledge and understanding.

Why do they matter?

So that we may live pure and blameless lives until Christ’s return.

We are the champions

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it. John 1:5

When you go into a dark room and flip on the light switch, the darkness goes away.

This is what Jesus did when he came to our world. He defeated the darkness. He defeated the darkness of sin, depression, guilt and death itself.

Because we are in Christ, we are on his team and He has already won. He is the champion who has conquered all of these things and much more.

This means that we are conquerors and victors. We are the champions. Neither sin, depression, guilt nor even death have power over us.

Remember to live today as a champion trusting in Jesus who has defeated every possible evil that can come your way.

As the song says, “We are the champions, my friends, and we’ll keep on fighting till the end.”

Champion

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.
Hebrews 12:1-2

We are to run the race of holiness that God has set before us. It doesn’t say that we are to win the race because the race has already been won by Jesus the champion. The race is a marathon and Jesus already crossed the finish line. Our task is to follow Him and cross that line also. Jesus is the one who is helping us make it to that line. He’s already received the prize for us at the cost of his suffering and he did that because he kept his eyes on the future that awaited him. Similarly we need to keep our eyes on the same trophy he received because it is our trophy too.

A guilty conscience

Have mercy on me, O God,

because of your unfailing love.

Because of your great compassion,

blot out the stain of my sins.

Wash me clean from my guilt.

Purify me from my sin.

Psalm 51:1-2

 

As soon as King David realized that he had sinned, he quickly humbled himself in prayer asking for forgiveness.

As Christians, we are forgiven, not perfect and we do sin.

Let’s follow David’s example and quickly ask for forgiveness.

Note that he not only asks God to blot out the stain of his sins but he also asks to be washed clean from guilt.

Even after we have sinned and asked for forgiveness we sometimes go on feeling guilty for our past.

God’s grace has cleaned us. We do not have to bear the burden of a guilty conscience.

That is the freedom we have in Jesus Christ. He took our sin, past, present and future, and paid for it through His death.

Guilt is that tool that Satan uses to make us question God’s grace and mercy.

It is up to us to reject that tool and rely on God’s mercy that is renewed every day toward us and to live free from that guilt.

Plan A

Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. Ephesians 1:4-6

God’s love for us did not begin the moment we were born. God’s love has no beginning and no end. He loved us “even before he made the world”. So He was and is thinking about you and I eternally.

We were also chosen in Christ before hemade the world. Think of the implications of this. You are part of God’s eternal plan, His Plan A. You were not meant to live for eighty or so years then die and disappear from history, no. You are meant to live eternally with God in His presence. That is why He Chose us to be holy and without fault in His eyes.

Jesus’ birth, life, death, burial and resurrection were not plan B. That was the plan from the beginning to make us holy and without fault. That is the way God sees us who are in Christ.

Although at some point we choose to believe and follow Jesus as our Lord and savior, It was God who chose us and decided, well in advance of our existence on this planet that he would adopt us into his own family. He did this by bringing us to Himself through Jesus Christ, God’s plan A.

Why would God do this? Because “this is what He wanted to do”. Ultimately, God is in control and the God of the universe does whatever He wants. God’s purpose is supreme and He does what he wills for His pleasure and His pleasure alone. It is God’s great pleasure to love us and choose us to be in His family.

Since it is by God’s grace and for His pleasure that we, who believe in and follow Jesus Christ, we are to praise Him for the glorious grace he has poured out on us. We belong to His dear Son, Jesus because of His grace in choosing us and not because of anything we could have possibly done. We can praise God because we are the reason form His Plan A.

 

Discussion questions

If God is the one who chose us what role do we play in this choice?

What responsibilities do we have as part of His family?

If you chose to follow Christ, was it really your choice or God’s?

What about those who do not belong to Christ, whose choice is that?

United

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. Ephesians 1:3

One way to get the full meaning of a verse is to take it in reverse.

because we are united with Christ.

God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Through the sacrificial death, burial and resurrection of our Lord, we have been united with Christ. We have been united with him in His death and because we have already died, we will also be raised to life just like Jesus was. This is not only a promise but a fait acompli that is more true and real than the world we now live in.

Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was. Romans 6:5

For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:6

And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. Galatians 3:27

What is the purpose of this union?

  1. To Bring us near to God

But now you have been united with Christ Jesus. Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him through the blood of Christ. Ephesians 2:13

  1. To free us from sin

God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin. 1 Corinthians 1:30

  1. To produce good deeds for God

Because we died with Christ, we also died to the power of the law that condemned us. The law required that people do good things in order to be righteous in the eyes of God. Jesus came to fulfill the whole law so that we would not have to do these things in order to be righteous. He made it so that we are righteous and that righteousness produces the ability to produce good deeds for God without the need to do those deeds as an obligation.

So, my dear brothers and sisters, this is the point: You died to the power of the law when you died with Christ. And now you are united with the one who was raised from the dead. As a result, we can produce a harvest of good deeds for God. Romans 7:4

God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms

We exist in two separate worlds.

There is a seen and an unseen world.

for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see— such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him. Colossians 1:16

This material world where our bodies reside is temporary and we should not hold on to it too tightly. Our real life is in the heavenly realms where we have already received every spiritual blessing.

We are already seated with Him.

For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:6

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

All praise belongs to God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ not only because of the blessings He has provided us through uniting us with Christ but because He deserves it because of who He is. God is the God of the universe. He made what we can see and what we can’t and He has made it all for His glory and His praise. It is not that God is so insecure that He needs this praise but rather that He made all of creation including human beings with an innate desire to praise and worship. One of the dark consequences of sin is that man has turned his praise and worship away from God and has substituted it with other false gods. Some of these gods are wealth, power, pleasure, and even self. It is God’s will that we go back to the original plan and intent of creation.

 

Discussion questions

 

What are some of the implications of being united with Christ?

 

How can you live with a mindset on the spiritual realm?

 

Are these blessings visible or are they positional?

 

How can you praise God in your life for these blessings?

 

Apostle

This letter is from Paul, chosen by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus. I am writing to God’s holy people in Ephesus, who are faithful followers of Christ Jesus. May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace. Ephesians 1:1-2

What is an apostle?

The word “apostle” comes from the Greek word ἀπόστολος (apóstolos), formed from the prefix ἀπό- (apó-, “from”) and root στέλλω(stéllō, “I send”, “I depart”) and originally meaning “messenger, envoy”. It has, however, a stronger sense than the word messenger, and is closer to a “delegate”.[3] The Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament argues that its Christian use translated a Jewish position known in Hebrew as the sheliach (שליח). This ecclesiastical meaning of the word was later translated into Latin as missio, the source of the English “missionary”.

Traditionally, we think of the twelve disciples, chosen be Jesus, as the Apostles. After Judas’ suicide, Mathias was chosen by lot to be his replacement.

Then they cast lots, and Matthias was selected to become an apostle with the other eleven. Acts 1:26

But could Paul have been the actual replacement God had in mind?

What is the role of the Apostle?

  1.  Praying and teaching

Then we apostles can spend our time in prayer and teaching the word.” Acts 6:4

  1. Performing miracles

A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. Acts 2:43

The apostles were performing many miraculous signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers were meeting regularly at the Temple in the area known as Solomon’s Colonnade. Acts 5:12

  1. Making decisions for the church

Then they went from town to town, instructing the believers to follow the decisions made by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem. Acts 16:4

  1. Preaching

But the apostles stayed there a long time, preaching boldly about the grace of the Lord. And the Lord proved their message was true by giving them power to do miraculous signs and wonders. Acts 14:3

  1. Healing

As a result of the apostles’ work, sick people were brought out into the streets on beds and mats so that Peter’s shadow might fall across some of them as he went by. Crowds came from the villages around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those possessed by evil spirits, and they were all healed. Acts 5:15-16

Can someone who is not one of the twelve be an apostle?

For instance, there was Joseph, the one the apostles nicknamed Barnabas (which means “Son of Encouragement”). He was from the tribe of Levi and came from the island of Cyprus. Acts 4:36

Both Paul and Barnabas are called apostles in Acts.

How was Paul chosen “by the will of God”?

In the story of Paul’s encounter with Christ, it is clear that Paul was not searching to have a relationship with Jesus. On the contrary, he was persecuting the followers of Christ. It was Jesus that reached out to him.  Paul was chosen for reasons that only God knows but we can speculate that Paul’s background was what God had in mind for choosing him. Paul was well educated, multi-lingual, and zealous, probably a workaholic, disciplined, had great communication skills, and was Jewish. God chose to use these skills and traits for the benefit of the expansion of the gospel and to grow the body of believers throughout the world. It was God’s will to choose him for this vital work.

It is easy to surmise that God still does that. He chooses us, believers and and followers of Jesus for certain tasks that are essential to the body of Christ based on our skills, talents, gifts, backgrounds, etc. What we need to do is assess what those things are and see where we fit in God’s overall plan.

Now, Paul had a choice. When he was confronted and blinded on that road and heard Jesus speak to him, he could have chosen to say “no way” but he didn’t. Instead, he was overwhelmed and probably thought about this long and hard for those few days he was blind and made the conscious decision to answer Jesus’ calling.

What is God calling you to do? What are your skills, talents, gifts and abilities that make you unique and well qualified for Jesus to use? Are you willing to answer His call when He tells you what it is you are to do?

Who are the Faithful in Christ Jesus?

Just because someone believes in Jesus does not necessarily make him faithful.

Faithfulness is persevering in that faith despite any trouble that may come your way.

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. 2 Timothy 4:7

What is it exactly that we are to be faithful to? Jesus said that we are to be faithful to His teachings. We can only receive and understand His teachings by reading His word.

Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. John 8:31

Being faithful to God begins with being faithful to the teaching received. This is why it is essential to be taught and to learn and absorb the truth that is taught by those who you can trust.

But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you. 2 Timothy 3:14

Being faithful means not turning away from God. When bad things happen we sometimes turn our eyes off God and try to fix things ourselves. It is at these moments when we are to rely on God’s grace and mercy and not on our efforts to fix things. Similarly, when things are going great, when we get a raise or promotion at work, when we prosper, we tend to pat ourselves on the back for a job well done. This, in a way, is turning away from God and not giving Him all the honor, praise and credit for the wonderful blessings we receive.

But we are not like those who turn away from God to their own destruction. We are the faithful ones, whose souls will be saved. Hebrews 10:39

Although the choice to be faithful or not is ours, tt is the spirit which God has placed in us that makes us faithful. It isn’t really our own efforts. God’s grace is all-encompassing and it is His grace provided to us through the power of the Holy Spirit that gives us the ability to be faithful.

Do you think the Scriptures have no meaning? They say that God is passionate that the spirit he has placed within us should be faithful to him. James 4:5

It is by God’s grace that we remain faithful.

It is the same today, for a few of the people of Israel have remained faithful because of God’s grace—his undeserved kindness in choosing them. Romans 11:5

There is a reward for remaining faithful.

Faithfulness results in a reward that, although it is in the future for us, we have already received in our position in Christ. Since we are one with Christ because of God’s grace, we will share in all things that belong to Christ. What is it that belongs to Christ? Simply put, everything. He owns everything. Think about it, because of your position in Christ, you are wealthier than any billionaire on earth. Bill Gates, Donald Trump and Warren Buffett have nothing compared to what we have.

For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed, we will share in all that belongs to Christ. Hebrews 3:14

Faithfulness is not just some abstract concept. There is action that results from it. Faithfulness shows itself in deeds. Showing kindness to strangers and love for your brothers is a manifestation of that faithfulness. Good works are a result of your faithfulness.

There is a consequence to not being faithful. Destruction comes, not because God is mean but because the natural consequence of being unfaithful is destruction. Faithfulness to God takes us out of the path of destruction.

So I want to remind you, though you already know these things, that Jesus first rescued the nation of Israel from Egypt, but later he destroyed those who did not remain faithful. Jude 1:5

Dear friend, you are being faithful to God when you care for the traveling teachers who pass through, even though they are strangers to you. 3 John 1:5

Faithfulness surpasses suffering. It is in times of trouble and distress that we need to look to God knowing that “all things work together for good to those who love the Lord.” We need to rely on His comfort when we are going through times of trouble. That is part of being faithful.

Think back on those early days when you first learned about Christ. Remember how you remained faithful even though it meant terrible suffering. Hebrews 10:32

When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of all who had been martyred for the word of God and for being faithful in their testimony. Revelation 6:9

Faithfulness is a condition of fellowship with the Son and the Father. Although God’s love and grace are unconditional, certain other things are. When we stray from the path of righteousness and faithfulness, we lose fellowship with the Son and the Father. It’s not that He moves away from us but rather it is we that move away from Him. God does not force us into fellowship with Him. It is up to us to want and desire that fellowship more than anything else in the world.

So you must remain faithful to what you have been taught from the beginning. If you do, you will remain in fellowship with the Son and with the Father. 1 John 2:24

There is a consequence to not being faithful.

Grace and peace

Grace and peace originate with God the Father.

Discussion questions

Should there be an office in the local church titled “apostle”?

Should a believer aspire to be an apostle? Why or why not?

If your faith fails at times, are you unfaithful?

What is one way to remain faithful?

If you do not have peace in your life, is it because God has not shown you His grace or because you have not received His grace?

 

Can you prove that God exists?

Trying to prove the existence of God is like trying to prove the existence of good, bad, acceptance, guilt, joy or any other abstract concept.

Whenever I have encountered someone who asks me to prove the existence of God, invariably they are looking for tangible proof. Something that they can see, hear, touch and smell. In essence, they are looking for something that can be quantified scientifically and eventually examine it under a microscope and test it with sophisticated and advanced methods.

Anyone who believes in God will tell you that their belief is based on faith. Mind you, some who claim to believe in the existence of God are not thoroughly convinced. Their sole reasoning for accepting the idea that there is a God is based on sociological data. In essence, their parents believe in God so they believe in God. Their peers believe in God so they believe in God. They blindly accept the existence of God based on what others have told them.

Anyone that looks at this from the outside would surely not be convinced that the belief is valid because the same could be said for other ideas. Our ancestors believed the earth was flat because their ancestors believed the earth was flat. Our ancestors believed that the earth was the center of the universe and that the sun and stars revolved around it because their ancestors believed the same thing.

To an outsider, this type of faith would be the equivalent of faith in Santa Clause, the tooth fairy and the Easter bunny.

A more logical defense of the reasoning behind why one does or does not accept the existence of an all-powerful God is needed and so one would begin by asking does God exist? I propose that the question in and of itself is flawed. The flaw is that the very reason for asking the question is based on having observed that some people believe in the existence of God and others do not.

There is a flaw in the question as to whether God does or does not exist. If someone were to insist on proof of the existence of God, one should go back to the scientific method and perform the steps in order:

  • Ask a Question
  • Do Background Research
  • Construct a Hypothesis
  • Test Your Hypothesis by Doing an Experiment
  • Analyze Your Data and Draw a Conclusion
  • Communicate Your Results

Ask a Question

The question that should be asked is not whether God exists or not but rather if belief in God is justified.

Do Background Research

The background research that could be done in this case is to quantify the number of people that believe in God and those that don’t. The questions to be asked there would be of a personal nature to determine why those that believe in God believe in God and why those that don’t, don’t.

Another part of the background research should involve written documentation related to the subject. The documentation must include authoritative writings on the topic such as the Bible.

Construct a Hypothesis

The next step in the scientific process is to construct a hypothesis. This hypothesis would be either a. Belief in God is justified or b. belief in God is not justified.

Test your Hypothesis by Doing an Experiment

Now we come to the experimental phase. This one will involve a personal commitment on the scientist’s part. The experiment would involve actually believing or not believing in God and noting the results. It is important to note that throughout the history of the world there have been millions of people who have believed in God and millions of people who have not believed in God. One could see the impact of the belief or disbelief in their lives over long periods of time. The researcher could take a stance one way or another and note the results. This experiment would have to be a life-long endeavor because the results would have to be measured and quantified over a long enough period in order to have valid data. Now because there have been so many other people who, in the past have made the decision to either believe or not believe, the researcher could look at what those people have reported over their lifetimes by what they have left behind in terms of documents and the impact that they have had on their societies.

Analyze Your Data and Draw a Conclusion

At the end of this experimentation, the researcher should analyze the data and see the results. In this case, the researcher would no longer be physically alive but would have a definite conclusion to this life-long experiment one way or another. The researcher’s hypothesis would be either proved or disproved once their physical lives are ended. This would make perfect sense because if God exists, he would exist outside of our physical reality. Once the researcher reaches the realm where God would exist, the proof would be there. If God does not exist, the proof would be there also.

Communicate Your Results

Since there is no way to communicate your results after your physical exit from this life, the results should be reported during the experimental phase. The researcher should not be alone during the entire research so that those who outlive the researcher can also communicate their observations of the researcher throughout the life of the researcher. The observers would communicate their observations and findings to others.

To conclude, proving or disproving God’s existence is really a moot point. It is only through a life-long commitment in the belief in God or disbelief in God that one could determine the final result at the end of one’s life. Now, it is important to note that the researcher who decides to embark on this quest needs to be fully immersed in the experiment. It is not just a matter of taking a stand and saying “I believe in God” or “I do not believe in God”. The true researcher will get as deep as he or she can into the experiment by learning as much as possible about the topic, exercising the ground rules of the decision that have been set by the available documentation, getting to know the subject of the experiment more intimately and including as many other researchers in on the experiment so that all the data can be constantly compiled and analyzed.

For my part, I have chosen to conduct my experiment by accepting the existence of God. I am in a life-long process of getting to know my subject more intimately, studying the documentation and sharing my findings with other researchers. I expect to receive clear proof one way or another at some point.

Now my decision to choose to believe in God is based on observations of the outcomes of those who came before me that believed and those who did not believe. Based on the results of the lives of those who believed, I feel that there is sufficient evidence to justify the belief and embark on the experiment with a reasonable expectation of what I will receive at the end of the experiment.

Antivirus

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. Hebrews 10:23 (NKJV)

Paul exhorts us to hold fast or to cling tightly and without wavering to the confession of our hope.  What is our hope? In the sentences and paragraphs before this one, Paul lays out the case that the old system of sacrifices made by the Jewish priests had to be done continually because the people kept on sinning after the sacrifices. And so it was that a perpetual and ongoing system of sacrificing the lives of innocent animals so that people could be cleansed of their sins was instituted.

The problem is that the life of an animal is not equivalent to the life of a human. The animal cannot speak for man. The animal cannot empathize with man. The animal does not volunteer for the sacrifice, it is taken by force. So it was at that time that “every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. Hebrews 10:11

In contrast, Jesus Christ, the only begotten son of the God, the Father offered Himself as a human sacrifice. This was the plan from the beginning. The willing and voluntary offering of one human life who spoke with man and empathized with man is the only logical solution to clarify the problem of sin once and for all.

This human being had to be pure and holy, set apart for this very purpose in order for this to work. No ordinary human being could have taken on this role because every other human being was and is corrupted by the blood line of the first simmer, Adam. Since Jesus had no earthly father, there is no contamination and so he would be set aside for this very purpose.

Now, after going through the process of being a sacrificial offering in the place of man for the sins of man, Jesus now sits at the right hand of God, not in judgment of man, because he has already taken care of the sin issue, but as a king waiting for some future event. There is no judgment because all sin has been paid for by Jesus’ sacrificial and voluntary death. Because of this, God says “Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.”

This is called remission. Remission is the act of wiping away the slate, of wiping the hard drive and rebooting the system. This means that not only is every sin forgiven, it is also forgotten. Gone. It does not exist. If your past is no longer relevant in the eyes of God, it should not be relevant in your eyes either. But the past is only the beginning. Since the willing sacrifice of one human being with no ties to the human seed was the logical choice, the payment for sin is not only valid for sins of the past. Since the sacrifice occurred before anyone who is now alive was born, the sacrifice is valid for future sin as well. So any sin committed in the past is wiped away but also any sin committed in the future is wiped away also. It’s like having an antivirus software installed in your computer. As a virus (sin) invades the computer, the software will simply wipe it away not allowing it to corrupt the system.

antivirus-online-gratis-300x292Antivirus software is usually installed before any virus gets in to system and so does the work of cleaning the system from unwanted corruption. But it also works if the antivirus is installed after the system is infected. It will search and destroy any virus in the system that is doing harm and simultaneously protects the system from future attacks. If you do not have antivirus software on your computer and it becomes infected, you have to take it to a specialist who will tinker with it and clear out the viruses giving you a fresh computer. If no antivirus is installed at that point, you will be bringing your computer back time and time again to have it cleaned by a professional costing you a small fortune each time. This makes no logical sense.

Once the antivirus software was developed, the need for a professional is no longer there. The analogy here is that of the priest who offered sacrifices continually to clean people’s sin. Jesus changed all that. There is no longer a need for a continual sacrifice because one perfect sacrifice was made.

Jesus’ willing sacrifice is our antivirus software. The virus is sin. The virus is unavoidable. It will always creep in to the system by the very use of it. If you have the antivirus software it will protect you forever.

If you have antivirus installed, you are no longer fearful of what the virus can do because it is powerless to damage your system. This is where the confidence comes in.

Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Hebrews 10:19-22

There was a veil that separated the presence of God from the presence of people in the temple that God designed. When Jesus died on the cross, that veil broke and now Jesus is the veil. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, we are able to go through the veil and into the presence of God because Jesus is our High Priest over the house of God. Jesus is the antivirus that allows us to be clean of all viruses or sin so that we can plug directly into God. We are allowed to plug directly into God because of the protection we have so we do not have to be afraid to go directly into the presence of God. We can do this with full assurance and confidence in the ultimate antivirus software installed in our system that has cleaned us and is keeping us clean.

Now all this comes from God and is His promise to us. It’s like the warranty from the company that makes the antivirus software. Because the antivirus is perfect, God guarantees that it will protect us forever giving us direct access to Him. It is because of this guaranty that we can have full faith and confidence that the product works perfectly. God’s guaranty is perfect because “He who promised is faithful.”

If we rest our confidence in the creator of the software who offers an unconditional guaranty of it working perfectly, we are able to say out loud that we are confident in our hope, or faith, that the software works perfectly. There is no need to waver in our confidence in the efficacy of the software. It works. It always works without fail.

Now, it turns out that the moment you were conceived, this software was installed in your operating system but is in the off position. God gives us the choice of turning it on. It is at our option. We can either choose to go through our lives without the protection and having to manually try to wipe out the viruses that constantly infect our systems or we can choose to simply turn the software that is already in place on.

The moment we make that choice, we choose to give up trying to protect ourselves and rely on the ultimate antivirus software that wipes us clear of any sin. Since we are clear of the sin virus, we no longer need to feel guilty for having those in our system in the past since they no longer affect us. We no longer have to go to Geek Squad to have our system cleaned because it is clean. This allows the system to function optimally and gives us the ability to do more with our system than we ever imagined. Without the distractions of having to ward off virus attacks or trying to clean and constantly restart our system, we can be more productive operating at higher speeds, able to receive larger and more complex files, able to connect with other systems that are also virus-free.

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.

Christman

I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.

GALATIANS 2:20 NKJV

The essence of Christianity is giving up your very existence and realizing that through Jesus Christ, you died when Jesus died. Because you’re dead, your wants, desires, anxiety, depression, disappointment, wrath, and even sin are dead. what we have to do is to live up to our death.
The beauty of it all is that because Jesus rose from the dead, we did also and together with Jesus, have conquered death and the grave therefore the Christian is an immortal spiritual being.

By living up to our death, we realize that it is Jesus Christ that lives in our stead. Since Jesus does not fear, has no depression or anxiety, is not angry, does not get disappointed, and is holy, so is the Christian. Being one with and in Christ, the believer is a Christ man.
superhero-pages-coloring-12
The Christ man is somewhat like a superhero with amazing powers like peace in every hardship, joy through trials and tribulations, vision to see God’s daily grace an mercy, able to love all, power over Satan and his attacks, and strength to pray with faith that whatever he asks for will be answered. The Christ man has these powers.

The sad part is that most of us don’t realize we have them; or do, and don’t use them, living our mild mannered lives in obscurity, hiding our super powers from God and man thinking that we are still alive.

It’s time that we realize who we are, sons of the living God of the universe, co-heirs of the kingdom with Jesus Christ, members of the immortal army of God that has already destroyed the powers of Satan and his demons. We are eternal beings who have conquered death and no longer need to fear anything or anyone but God because we are ALIVE in Jesus Christ. We are members of the congregation of believers that Jesus established that is so strong that the very gates of hell will not prevail against it.

We, Christ men, and of course women, are champions, our team has won in advance and we need to live our lives in the victory that we already have in Jesus Christ and by his life.

Flood Waters

But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and livestock with him in the boat. He sent a wind to blow across the earth, and the floodwaters began to recede. Genesis 8:1

 

Have you ever felt so overwhelmed with problems that you thought you would drown or never come out of it?

Sometimes life’s problems seem too great for us to handle. We can get overwhelmed with financial, physical, and emotional issues that consume us. We feel that life has chewed us up and spit us out only to get trampled by something else.

Life’s problems can seem like a flood to us but a believer in God’s sovereignty and power can look at a flood in a different light. Yes, a flood does destroy things but it also washes away all the loose garbage and only the strong, well-rooted or anchored things remain in place.

The book of Genesis tells the story of a universal flood sent by God to wipe away the evil from the earth and start fresh with Noah, his family and the animals on board the ark. God provided a safe place for Noah and his family during the flood. Don’t believe that this was a pleasure cruise either. They were probably sea-sick on the ark. They had to live with the stench of thousands of animals in an enclosed space. They had to be in that hot, smelly, miserable ark for almost 9 months. Why? Because it takes time for flood waters to recede.

The problems that come our way in this life are only temporary and just like the flood, the water will recede. The issue is not that the flood of problems in your life will go away but rather that you are safe in something planned and provided for by God.

If you are overwhelmed with problems at this moment in time, be certain that the problem will eventually pass. It is only temporary. The question is, will you be washed away and drowned like the evil doers in the story of the flood, or will you have put your faith in God and enter His ark? God designed the ark to keep Noah and his family safe. It was up to Noah to have the faith to build it and later enter it.

Similarly, God has a plan for you to be safe during the floods that come into your life. Will you have the faith to build the ark of faith in your life before the flood comes? Will you have the courage to enter that ark and remain in it no matter how sea-sick you get and no matter how stinky it is during the flood? Will you remain in that faith no matter how long it takes for the flood waters to recede from your life?

As a follower of the Lord, you will have a refuge in your faith that God is in control and sends floods to wash away the bad things in our lives so that only the good remains. Build your ark of faith by getting closer to God, learning his word, and remaining in the knowledge of Christ before the flood comes into your life and you will have a safe place to be during your flood.

On God’s Side

How do you get on God’s side?

We’ve all read or heard the story of Noah. Hollywood recently made a terrible movie about him.

The reason Noah survived when all others died is that he was on God’s side when everyone else around him was against God. Noah loved the Lord God and worshipped Him. He knew that following God’s commands was the right thing to do and living to please God was the only way to live. He saw all of the evil and horrible things his fellow men were doing yet he took no part in them. Noah lived the right way. This is why it says: “But Noah found favor with the lord.” Genesis 6:8

What exactly did Noah do? Both in Chapters 6 and 7 the story says the same thing: “So Noah did everything exactly as God had commanded him.” Genesis 6:22 and Genesis 7:5 Noah followed and obeyed God. He may not have had the Ten Commandments or any scriptures yet, but Noah had the law of God written in his heart. He knew that God was supreme and the source of all life and he understood that he had to live by a different standard than all those who surrounded him.

In the New Testament, there is the story of John the Baptist who was baptizing people in the Jordan River. When some religious leaders came to him to be baptized he should have greeted them honorably and baptize them as they requested but John saw through them. They were religious but their motives were not in tune with God. Just like most religious leaders today, these Pharisees and Sadducees put their religion and theology above God and what He really wants. They did not live their lives by God’s standards and so John tells them to “Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God.” Mathew 3:8. It’s not what we say that’s important but rather our actions speak louder than our words to God.

What God wants is for us to repent of what we are doing wrong and start doing right for Him and for our fellow men.

Jesus also went to John to be baptized. John did not want to but Jesus explained that “It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires.” So John agreed to baptize him. Mathew 3:15 Jesus lived his life as an example to all of us. He knew that to be on God’s side, we need to do what He requires. We have to do the right thing. But how do we know what is the right thing to do?

 

 

After John agreed to baptize him, Jesus went off into the desert and there he was tempted by Satan himself. In Mathew 4 Jesus is tempted but fights off Satan with “For the scriptures say…” Jesus knew the scriptures. He kept them in his heart. Although you never hear Jesus say the book, chapter and verse, Jesus knew the will of God because he read and studied the scriptures. Jesus did not have any official training in the temple to teach him religious law. In fact, Jesus rejected the false religiosity of his time and instead taught his followers to follow God by following Him. He led by example.

What will you do today to find what God wants you to do?

Decide to read and study the Bible and learn the lessons contained therein. If you know in your heart what is the right thing to do to please God then you will be able to tell right from wrong and decide to do right.

I finish with the words from Proverbs 1:10 “My child, if sinners entice you, turn your back on them!” Turn your back on evil and you will always be on God’s side.

Freedom from God

Why are the nations so angry?
Why do they waste their time with futile plans?
The kings of the earth prepare for battle;
the rulers plot together
against the lord
and against his anointed one.
“Let us break their chains,” they cry,
“and free ourselves from slavery to God.”
But the one who rules in heaven laughs.
The Lord scoffs at them. Psalm 2:1-4
There is something about the human condition that craves freedom. It is this urge that has established democracies in nations around the globe. It is this urge that prompts us to be angered when we hear of people who are enslaved and imprisoned by their own countries and punished for daring to speak out against this oppression.
There is nothing inherently wrong with trying to be free and to have and enjoy the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness when it comes to dealing within the confines of this planet and those who desire to enslave others.
The human condition, prompted by sin, gives leaders and rulers the desire for power. Although they say they want was is best for their nations people, they end up taking away basic human rights and punishing those who would stand against them.

This same condition, gives human beings the urge to fight against any form of perceived oppression and the curtailing of freedoms. Human beings perceive God to be an oppressor who takes away freedoms and shouts to them from his imperial throne: “Thou shalt not…” Most of the time we see God as a mean judge that gives us a long laundry list of what we can’t do and that if we do them, we will be punished severely. Our perception of God becomes that of a tyrant. Because we naturally fight against tyrannical rule, we invariably turn ourselves against God and fight the notion that God is in control, created the universe, and is a loving father.

We try to throw off the shackles of tyranny and slavery to following the rules and rebel against God’s authority. We shake our fists at God and tell him to butt out of our lives. We deliberately do what we want, indulging in whatever feels good or right at the moment. We ignore the idea that God is everywhere and sees everything and simply go about our daily lives without thinking about God or his presence. In essence, what we want is freedom from God.

What we fail to understand is that there is freedom in submitting to God’s authority. The problem with living a life without acknowledging the existence or presence of the Creator and trying to live without rules is that there are consequences to every decision we make. It is not that God punishes those who turn their backs on Him. What God is doing is very different. God has a unique perspective of the universe that we cannot have. God sees past, present and future as occurring simultaneously. He sees the danger and destruction that is ahead much like a helicopter pilot hovering over a collapsed bridge will try to tell a driver on the road to take the detour, knowing that if the driver continues on that road, he will be harmed and perhaps die. The pilot is not being mean. The pilot is no tyrant. He is simply warning the driver of what is ahead so that the driver does not die.

Instead of seeing God as a tyrant, we should look at God more as a loving father that warns us of the impending danger that lies on path we are on. By turning our focus off of our own limited perspective and looking at life from a much higher perspective, like the helicopter pilot, then we can understand that there are good reasons for living life, acknowledging the existence, presence, and love of God. God has never wanted terrible things to happen to his creation. Instead, He has plans for your good. He has plans for you to prosper. He has plans for you to receive all the blessings and wonderful gifts that are available to you. All you have to do is decide that God does have your best interests in mind.

God is the source of true freedom. Rather than seeking freedom from God we can live a life of real freedom that comes from God. We can receive freedom from God.

In the Beginning

What better place to start the new year than reading the story of creation in Genesis 1 and 2.

Apart from all the discussion as to weather God created the world in a literal seven days or if it is an allegory for a long period of time for the proper development of all creatures, we find a story that gives all creatures, humans, plant and animal, one creator and Father.

Furthermore, it says that God created human beings. That is the one race he created. There is no black, Caucasian, Asian, or any other race. We are all human beings and need to find that one thread that unites us all. That one thread is the source of all human beings, God. If only all people would recognize that we have one common ancestry, war, hunger, and disease would be non existent because we should realize that we are all brothers and sisters with the same father and should treat each other like family and not enemies. There would be no need for nations, borders, or even religion because we would all love and worship the same father and creator.

In Mathew 1, we read the genealogy of Jesus how he was a direct descendant of the first man, Adam. The same is true for us so every other human being is a cousin, no matter how far distant they may be nor how different they may look.

When it says that God created man in His own image we should not imagine that God looks like us physically. That is absurd because God is so much more than a physical being. God is bigger and more encompassing than we can even imagine. God made us in His image in that we are sentient, we are aware of our own existence. This cannot be said of plants or animals. God made us as a trinity of sorts. We have a body, a soul, and a spirit. This is what makes us different from all other life forms. Our spirit is the life that was breathed into the first man’s nostrils by God himself. It is the first breath we take when we are born that comes from God and gives us life. All living creatures have this. The difference is that humans have a soul. It is the one thing that provides us a conscience, sentience, memory, ability to learn, and the ability to worship.

Mathew 2:1-12 tells the story of the wise men seeking the new born king. They were looking to worship him because they recognized who he was. This was God in the flesh that had come to live among his creation. The wise men were looking for the right object to focus their need to worship.

Out of all the creatures in the world, humans are the only ones capable of worship. Why is that? It is because God provided it to us. It is that gift given to humankind at the moment of creation that is a part of God and that ties us to God and that gives us the need to worship God.

Do all humans worship God? No. But all human beings worship something. Humans worship wealth, politics, the self, governments, rulers, idols, work, other people and even religion can be worshiped as a substitute for God.

Knowing that you are related to every other human being on earth, how do you think you should treat them? Knowing that you were given the ability to worship God by God himself, what steps will you take to worship God and not any of the other Gods that creep into your life?

Right or Wrong

Romans 2:14-16 “Gentiles don’t have the Law. But when they instinctively do what the Law requires they are a Law in themselves, though they don’t have the Law. They show the proof of the Law written on their hearts, and their consciences affirm it. Their conflicting thoughts will accuse them, or even make a defense for them, on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the hidden truth about human beings through Christ Jesus.” (CEB)

God’s rules are instinctive. Human beings have a conscience that naturally lets them know if they are doing something right or something wrong. This consciousness is available in us from the time we are children. As we grow, we are taught certain things by our parents, peers, and the society we grow up in.

Right-And-Wrong-Buttons

Humans know instinctively that lying, stealing, murder and doing harm to others is wrong. As we progress through life and the society we grow up in, we either confirm that these things are wrong based on the morals and customs of the society or the society changes our views on these behaviors so that we accept the opposite of what our natural consciences have told us.

The key here is that the natural conscience we are born with is the Law that is written in our hearts. When we do something that goes against that Law or consciousness, something deep inside tells us that it is wrong. As we persist in that behavior, that consciousness is silence or repressed and the wrong behavior is justified.

Your moral upbringing may tell you, for example, that watching pornography is wrong but you do it anyway. The more you watch, the more your conscience begins to accept it as normal. Eventually, the behavior becomes a natural part of your being and you see nothing wrong with it. As your conscience accepts the behavior as normal, you formulate logical reasons for watching porn. Eventually you determine that it is not only harmless but that it may be of benefit to yourself and to society at large. This is the twisted logic that is formulated when you suppress the natural consciousness.

The same principles apply to correct behavior. Society may judge certain attitudes, behaviors, and actions as acceptable according to its morals and norms but deep down inside the individual feels that those acts, behaviors and attitudes are wrong and will deliberately go against society because of his conscious.

As an example, society tells us that abortions, premarital sex, and homosexuality are acceptable according to the morals of the community however, your conscience may tell you that these behaviors are wrong and you choose to refrain from them. You deliberately choose to go against what society deems as acceptable because of your conscience.

Eventually, each human being will be judged by God’s law. The law which is written in our hearts, the conscience that tells us that we are doing either right or wrong. This conscious is not visible to anyone but God therefore it is the hidden truth inside each individual that will be judged.

Does this mean that if you conscience tells you that something is wrong, you should make that your mantra and force others to accept your point of view? The conscience is a private part of yourself and your decision to do or not do something is strictly a personal one that you make with God. By choosing to refrain from or indulge in any behavior, you need to reconcile your actions with your conscious. But be careful not to accept as correct a behavior that your instinct tells you is wrong.

Player or Spectator

Romans 2:12-13 “Those who have sinned outside the Law will also die outside the Law, and those who have sinned under the Law will be judged by the Law. It isn’t the ones who hear the Law who are righteous in God’s eyes. It is the ones who do what the Law says who will be treated as righteous.” (CEB)

Are you on God’s team or do you just wear the t-shirt?

go teamThe decision to follow Jesus is like joining a team. Once you join the team, you have to wear the uniform, go to team meetings, practice, and work out so that you can play well and be of benefit to the team. The idea is to be a player.

“Those who have sinned outside the Law will also die outside the Law,” Knowledge of what God wants your life to be like is worthless if you don’t apply it to your life. But not knowing God’s standards isn’t an excuse either. God looks at the heart and sees the intent with which you do or don’t do what He requires. Even without ever hearing the Ten Commandments, all humans know that murder, lying, stealing and adultery are wrong. Knowing that these things are wrong and doing them anyway is contrary to God’s desire and God judges those people based on that knowledge.

“and those who have sinned under the Law will be judged by the Law.”  The Law was given to God’s people, the Jews. Throughout the last 2000 years God’s message of what He desires has been spread around the world. The great majority of people have heard God’s message proclaimed in various ways and are aware of God’s standards. Knowing those standards and living contrary to them is a direct violation and God judges us based on that violation.

It isn’t the ones who hear the Law who are righteous in God’s eyes.” There is a difference between religiousness and righteousness. God determines who is righteous and who isn’t. Sitting in church on Sunday, listening to a sermon is of no value if there isn’t a change inside of you. Here you become a disinterested spectator.

It is the ones who do what the Law says who will be treated as righteous.” God judges us based on our heart and our intent. God’s judgement of people who never had the opportunity to hear His commandments is based on their actions. Before Jesus came to Earth, there were entire civilizations that existed without the benefit of even hearing about Him or what He wants. They still knew that certain things were wrong and that others were right. By living righteous lives and in accordance to His standards, they are treated a righteous.

It is clear that God’s choice is to judge people by their actions. Once you decide to be a Christ follower, your actions must be in line with God’s laws.  The moment you decide to follow Christ, you are a new person in God’s eyes. Your life, attitudes, and actions should change to conform to His desires.

If you have chosen to be a Christ follower, your actions must conform to God’s standards because your actions reflect the decision you’ve made.  It is not, however, the actions by themselves that make you righteous in the eyes of God. If you work out, practice, and buy a team shirt, that doesn’t make you a part of the team, You need to be fully committed to do whatever it takes to benefit the team. You need to be a player, not a spectator.

God’s team is open to all. It is you who has to decide to get on the team.

Question for discussion

Think of all the civilizations that existed prior to the Israelites being chosen as the people of God. How does God judge them if they had never even heard of Jehovah?

 

 

 

Religion or Relationship

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Romans 2:9-11 “There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. But there will be glory, honor, and peace for everyone who does what is good, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. God does not have favorites.” (CEB)

When it comes to how God looks at you and your position: things like the church your go to, your religion, denomination or status, are of no consequence.

God does not have a religion. As a matter of fact, when Jesus walked this earth, he was the biggest critic of religion and religious people. You see, it is the structure of religion that breeds injustice, wicked behavior, greed, jealousy, murder, fighting, deception, malice, gossip, slander, rudeness, pride, bragging, misunderstanding, disloyalty, disaffection, and lack of mercy. Has religion done some good things? Yes, but so did J. P. Morgan, atheists, and secular organizations.

God will reward everyone regardless of religious affiliation based on, not just good works for the sake of good works, but for good works based on a change of heart. This change of heart is the result of a relationship with God through Jesus Christ inspired by the Holy Spirit. It all has to do with a relationship and not an affiliation.

You could call yourself a Christian based on the church you attend on Sunday, but a Christ-follower does what Christ says twenty-four hours a day. It is a relationship of love and of living your life as a continual worship of Him. It is doing your job for Jesus. It is eating your meals for Jesus. It is driving your car for Jesus. That’s the relationship that God wants, not the empty worship of people on any given Sunday and any given church.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t attend church services or be a member of a congregation. In fact, the bible teaches that we are to be in fellowship with other believers and meet together regularly. What you need to be watchful of is your reason for attending church.

Examine your motives for worshiping or going to church. Is it because you have to or because you want to? Are you going as a sense of obligation, tradition, or habit or is there something inside of you that desires a true relationship with God to gather together with others and worship Him in Spirit and in truth?  Are you getting to know God through daily prayer and meditating on His word or are you living your life despite God?

Religion

Seek out a true relationship with God through Jesus Christ and your religion will be transformed by your relationship.

The “why” is more important than the “what”

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Romans 2:6-8 “God will repay everyone based on their works. On the one hand, he will give eternal life to those who look for glory, honor, and immortality based on their patient good work. But on the other hand, there will be wrath and anger for those who obey wickedness instead of the truth because they are acting out of selfishness and disobedience.” (CEB)

Our actions in this life have eternal consequences. God is righteous and holy. Because of His righteousness and holiness, nothing that is unrighteous or unholy can be in His presence.

From the moment you were born, all of your deeds are recorded in God’s history book. Once you come to a place in your life where you decide to accept God’s gracious gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, your actions and attitudes must change to be in line with God’s righteousness and holiness.

Eternal life is the ultimate reward for the Christ-follower. It is the Christ-follower who seeks glory, honor, and immortality. Although salvation and eternal life are not solely predicated upon being a good person and doing good works, it is the change of heart and the decision to have a relationship with Christ that should prompt you to do good works and to stay away from wickedness.

A true Christ-follower will reflect his or her decision to follow Christ by their actions. If someone claims to be a devoted follower of Christ yet continues to live life by doing wicked things such as being unjust, behaving wickedly, being greedy, being jealous, fighting, deceiving, gossiping, slandering, being rude, proud, disobedient and disloyal, among other things, then that claim is false and that person has not had a true change of heart. It is a self-deception to think that you are “saved” if you persist in doing evil actions. This doesn’t mean that by not doing these things and living a good life you are deserving of eternal life either.

Your good works should be a reflection of an internal, spiritual change that is brought about by the Holy Spirit once you make a real decision to change your ways and follow Christ.

why&whatEverything boils down to the “why” and the “what”. The “what” is the good works. The “why” can be one of two things.

First, if the “why” or reason you are living a good life, doing good deeds and not doing wicked things, the “what”, is to be rewarded with eternal life based on a sense of earning the reward, then you are on the wrong track. This would be a selfish attitude, elevating yourself, believing that you deserve a reward for doing good things and thus a form of self-worship.

The other “why” for doing good works is based solely on a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Your right actions are caused by your decision to follow Christ. The change of heart comes first and the actions are the outward evidence of that change of heart. Your actions should not be done with an eye on being rewarded for them but rather your actions must be solely based on a desire to please and worship God with your actions and your life.

The “why” is more important than the “what”. God sees the motives for our actions and we should look at our own motives for doing what we do. Examine your motives for doing good. Is it because it makes you “feel” good? Is it because you expect a reward for doing good” Is it because you don’t want something “bad” to happen to you? The common thread throughout these three questions is that they are focused on you – the self- and that is self-worship and idolatry.

The motive for doing good should be based only on a sincere desire to please God regardless of any recompense or feeling you may receive.

Changing Room

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Romans 2:3-5 “If you judge those who do these kinds of things while you do the same things yourself, think about this: Do you believe that you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you have contempt for the riches of God’s generosity, tolerance, and patience? Don’t you realize that God’s kindness is supposed to lead you to change your heart and life? You are storing up wrath for yourself because of your stubbornness and your heart that refuses to change. God’s just judgment will be revealed on the day of wrath.” (CEB)

A Christ follower’s life is supposed to reflect a change and a difference from those who are not followers. Your focus should be on your actions, behavior and attitude, not on those of others.

Sometimes we look at those who are not Christ followers focusing on their deeds and we judge them, believing that we are better than they are because, after all, we don’t do these things. The reality though is that, because we are human, we have the capacity to do evil.

By condemning the actions of others, you are thinking of yourself as superior to them. Instead, you should see yourself as equal to them but with a very specific difference. The fact that you have accepted Christ as the filter between you and God makes you a new being and changes your position in His eyes. You are still human and have the capacity to do the same things as non-followers.  This positional change is the result of God’s gift of salvation through Christ. It is because of God’s generosity, tolerance, and patience towards you as an imperfect human being that you have this position. Rather than judging and condemning those who do wrong, you should say to yourself: “There but for the grace of God go I.”

God’s gift of salvation through Jesus Christ should lead you to change both your heart and your life. The change of heart is a change in your thought process from that of a focus on what others do to a focus on what you do and the consequences in your life.

When you begin to see yourself as a servant of God, your actions will reflect service to Him and a focus on pleasing God with your life. Your life must be transformed from a self-centered orientation to a God-centered relationship. You must live your life to honor, praise, and worship God in all that you do without looking at yourself as better than those who have not come to this realization.

God’s interest is not in the action but in the heart. Change the heart and the action will change. It is the intent with which you do what you do that is of utmost importance to God. By changing your focus to serve God because of who he is and not because of your own efforts, your attitude and focus will be on God.

A persistent refusal to change your attitude displaces God and puts you on a path that will lead you to be judged by God for your attitude. Change your focus from the actions of others to your own actions and attitudes. Concentrate on pleasing God with your life and your attitude. Change is not inevitable.

changing room

Change is a choice you make. Chose to change your focus to pleasing God and away from judging others form not doing so.

Pure Judgement

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Romans 2:2 “We know that God’s judgment agrees with the truth, and his judgment is against those who do these kinds of things.” (CEB)

There are two types of judgments: our judgment and God’s judgment. Our judgment is and always will be flawed because of our imperfection. It cannot agree with the truth.

God’s judgment, on the other hand, is pure because He is pure. God is righteous and cannot have unrighteousness in His presence. Because evil and wrong are the opposite of what and who God is, only God can judge any action that is not righteous.

Since human beings are imperfect and we have the capacity to do wrong, our judgment cannot be correct. It is our very imperfection that disqualifies us from being able to judge based on perfect standards.

God’s judgment agrees with the truth that the actions that are being judged are wrong. If we as humans were to judge those actions, our judgment would not agree with the truth because human beings seldom can agree on anything. Some people will justify a wrong behavior blaming society or some other cause for why these acts are done. Others see nothing wrong with one or more of these actions because they see them as necessary to survive in society.

judgement

True judgment can only be rendered by someone whose standard is purity, righteousness and perfection and is himself incapable of doing wrong. The only one that can fit this description is God. Anyone else that attempts to judge without these qualifications is, in essence, taking the place of God and breaking God’s first commandment of not having any other Gods before Him.

Like the pot calling the kettel…

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Romans 2:1 “So every single one of you who judge others is without any excuse. You condemn yourself when you judge another person because the one who is judging is doing the same things.” (CEB)

judging_others

A Christ-follower needs to be very careful when judging others for their actions. You may be a person who believes that you are living a Godly life and look at others who are not as being beneath you. The danger is that at some point you may commit the same act or sin you are so critical of. Your condemnation then returns to you. As the saying goes: “When you point a finger at someone, there are at least three fingers pointing back at you.”

By looking at others who are doing these wrong actions as evil and not worthy of you, you are demonstrating a prideful attitude. Pride in yourself is a form of self-worship because it replaces God as supreme in your life. This is an example where religiosity interferes with the relationship with God.

It is better to look at yourself, not as holier than sinners but as a redeemed soul by God’s graces that could very easily commit those same sins.

Deadly Persistence

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Romans 1:32 “Though they know God’s decision that those who persist in such practices deserve death, they not only keep doing these things but also approve others who practice them.” (CEB)

dr_evil

God’s penalty of a death sentence is for those who persist in doing the evil actions mentioned in verses 29-31. It is the persistence and non-repentance that God despises. Someone who commits these acts and has a personal encounter with God through the person of Jesus Christ will be transformed so that he repents of the actions and ceases doing them. The key here is to willfully stop doing these things. It is a conscious decision on the part of the individual prompted by the Holy Spirit of God. Death here is the eternal separation from God.

There is a correlation between our actions here in the temporal world and their consequences in the eternal world. By getting closer to God and getting to know Jesus Christ intimately, the spirit works in you to convict you that these acts are wrong and that they are symptomatic of personal idolatry and self-worship.

The reason for the death sentence by God is not only the continuation of the acts but also the justification of those acts in the individual’s life as well as in the lives of others. You may be doing these actions and subsequently associate with others who do the same things. Through mutual approval you end up encouraging others to do these acts and, in turn, they encourage you to do them also.

The solution is to do the opposite. It is not only to refrain from these acts and behaviors but also to seek others who are committed to stay from those actions and behaviors.

Self Focus

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Romans 1:29-31 “So they were filled with all injustice, wicked behavior, greed, and evil behavior. They are full of jealousy, murder, fighting, deception, and malice. They are gossips, they slander people, and they hate God. They are rude and proud, and they brag. They invent ways to be evil, and they are disobedient to their parents. They are without understanding, disloyal, without affection and without mercy.” (CEB)

We have all heard of the seven deadly sins. Apparently that list was short because there are three times as many sins mentioned here. What these have in common is the focus on the self. None of these acts takes God or others into account or consideration. All of these acts are geared toward pleasing the self.

self focus

Injustice: To value yourself or something that gives you an advantage over another is an injustice to the other person.

Wicked Behavior: Acting in a way that causes damage to another for your own benefit.

Greed: Wanting more material possessions for yourself. More money, more toys, and more pleasure for you mean that you are focusing on your happiness and no one else’s.

Evil Behavior: Behaving in a manner that is selfish and does not take into account either the well-being or feelings of others.

Jealousy: Jealousy is not focused on the object but rather on keeping the object. As a result jealousy is self-centered.

Murder: As a capital offense, murder is always committed as a selfish act.

Fighting: Sometimes we fight to protect someone as an altruistic battle. Other times we fight to defend something we hold to be important to us. Fighting for selfish reasons is what is considered wrong. Fighting to get something for oneself; fighting to take something away from someone else; and fighting because you feel, rightly or wrongly, that you are in the right and someone else is in the wrong are all focused on the self and therefore idolatrous in nature.

Deception: Most of the time, the purpose for deception is to gain an advantage over someone in order to receive some benefit.

Malice: Malice is focused on the self and its own desire to inflict injury, harm, or suffering on another. The source of malice is either a hostile impulse or a self-focused attitude of being mean just because it brings pleasure to the actor.

Gossip: One of the worst behaviors of civilized society. Some people will gossip and not think that it is gossip, just a commentary. By speaking about someone else, the speaker is trying to elevate him or herself above the person he or she is talking about. The true source is an attitude of selfishness.

Slander: Saying something false about someone else to cover up your own deficiencies or to defend yourself from an accusation is a focus on the self that puts the other person in jeopardy.

Hating God: The decision to hate God is either based on anger at God for something that you blame Him for or the decision to believe that He does not exist. In either case the motive is self-centered. Blaming God for something precludes you from taking responsibility for your actions and decisions or the actions and decisions of others. This anger comes from a notion that if you were God you would do things differently, therefore putting yourself in the place of God and thus is self-worship. The decision to not believe in the existence of God presupposes that the origin of everything is either natural or that all success and advancement is only due to the knowledge and intellect of humans. It promotes the idea of self-reliance and disposes of any notion that God is in control. The self is at the center of both these decisions.

Rudeness: Rudeness shows contempt toward others. It is an attitude that demonstrates selfishness by not taking into account the feelings of others but only the feelings of the self.

Pride: Pride is an emotion that is directed inwardly referring to an inflated sense of one’s personal status or accomplishments. Pride is selfish in that the proud person is in love with their own accomplishments.

Bragging: Hand in hand with pride is the act of telling others about your accomplishments for the sole reason of making them jealous of those accomplishments. Sometimes we tell others what we are doing well as a way of building our own egos up. This too is selfish and inwardly focused.

Inventing ways to be evil: Probably the best word to describe this is Scheming or scamming. People who have the ability to quickly come up with ways to scam or cheat others out of money or any other thing are those who are inventing ways to be evil. They do it thinking only about their own personal gain and so are in direct violation of God’s commandment to not worship any other god.

Parental disobedience: Parents are placed in our lives by God as overseers. We are to live our lives in obedience of them and then, when the time comes and they need care, we are to care for them. Are all parents in line with God’s will? No. Obedience is required for everything that pleases God. If the parent is leading the child astray, or the child has no parent, then it is the Congregation’s responsibility to raise that child in the ways of the Lord.

Without Understanding: A lack of understanding does not merely mean a lack of education or knowledge. God’s understanding is not man’s. To understand God’s role in the universe and in your life means that you see beyond the temporal and physical world we live in. This understanding is that we are more than what we appear to be. To live your life based on the physical and believing that once you die, everything ends, is contrary to the thought and purpose of God and thus focused on the self. God sees us for more than just our physical form. He sees our souls and minds and desires them more than anything in the universe. God does not live a linear lifespan and neither do we. Yes, our physical bodies die and decompose but our life force is eternal and lives forever. This is why what we do in this life here on earth matters for all of eternity.

Disloyal: This is not merely the lack of loyalty rather going against the requirement of loyalty. A soldier has the duty and obligation to be loyal to his superiors. Similarly, human beings have a duty and obligation to be loyal to God. Those who choose to go against this obligation are, by definition, disloyal to God and loyal only to themselves.

Without Affection: A lack of affection toward others places the self above and before all others. One may have affection toward ones parents, children, spouse and family but what about the affection toward our fellow man. If we truly loved and had affection for our fellow men and women, we would not do anything that would be hurtful to them. There would be no lies, deceit, violence, wars, theft, slander, gossip, disobedience, malice, rudeness, greed, injustice, or murder. One part of the greatest commandment is that we should love our neighbors as ourselves. This is the affection we must have, not just toward those we know and are related to but to all people regardless of race, religion, size, or type.

Without Mercy: To demonstrate mercy toward someone means that you do something good for them regardless of whether they deserve it or not. The very essence of God is mercy. Romans 5:8 states: “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Just as God shows and has shown mercy to you, so should you show and have mercy on others. If someone is in real need, assist them in any way you can. A lack of mercy, on the other hand, demonstrates contempt for anyone but the self.

These evils exist and persist in the world because of humanity’s decision to turn from God and follow only the will of the self. It is because of selfishness that God has permitted all of this to happen and to continue. But there is a way for this to end. God has provided a way for you to destroy the self and eliminate selfishness. God sent His Son, Jesus Christ to demonstrate that this could be done. He told us to follow him and that we are to be in him as he is in the Father. He taught us that we are to imitate him and that if we did we would be one with him just as he is one with the Father.

But it all begins with one decision. The decision to stop living your life the way you are doing it now and to do it His way. This is the decision we are all presented with at one moment or another and it is up to us to choose to follow Christ or to follow ourselves. We already know what following our self produces. Stop. Think about your life and the selfishness you live with everyday. Decide to turn from this way of life and to follow Christ and be like him. This is the moment of new birth; when you begin a new life in Christ and it is strictly your choice. God has provided the choice because of His grace and mercy. It is up to you to either accept or reject it.

If it feels good…

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Romans 1:26-28 “That’s why God abandoned them to degrading lust. Their females traded natural sexual relations for unnatural sexual relations. Also, in the same way, the males traded natural sexual relations with females, and burned with lust for each other. Males performed shameful actions with males, and they were paid back with the penalty they deserved for their mistake in their own bodies. Since they didn’t think it was worthwhile to acknowledge God, God abandoned them to a defective mind to do inappropriate things. ” (CEB)

The problem with seeking to only please the self is that you tend to focus on the physical aspects of your life and forget that there is a spiritual aspect also. The search for physical pleasure becomes first and foremost in your life and everything you do is centered in on satisfying your personal wants and desires. The idolatry of the self leads you to seek to please yourself with material possessions, knowledge, distractions, and even sexual pleasure.

While sex is not an evil thing in and of itself, it is the deviations from purpose that is the problem and what God sees as wrong and sinful. A hammer was invented to fasten nails to wood. Can it be used to break a stick in two? Of course, it can, but a saw would work better because that’s what it was designed for. Just because you can do something and the outcome is satisfactory to you, doesn’t make it right.

Our society, and humanity, has chosen the philosophy: “If it feels good, do it.” The problem is that there are so many things that feel good but are not good for you or for society as a whole. Intoxication with drugs or alcohol may feel good but they tend to cause long-lasting physical problems to the user and are detrimental to society. The same is true about sexuality. Prostitutes may make the customer feel good but the fact remains that STD’s and AIDS can be transferred to the population due to these practices. Then we come to homosexuality and its consequences on society and in particular, the individual.

Homosexuality

Because homosexuality is an action that involves physical pleasure and the satisfaction of one of man’s basic needs, we need to consider the consequences of the act in and of itself. At some moment in a person’s life, they are introduced to sexuality. For most, unfortunately, it is at a young age. It is often this exposure to the first act of sexual pleasure that sets the tone for the rest of that person’s life. If a child’s first pleasurable sexual experience is with a person of the same sex, the child may make a Pavlovian connection to pleasure from that initial experience. Consequently, that person can be sexually aroused by thoughts that remind them of their first encounter and they want to continue to have the same level of pleasure experienced at that time. The problem is that each event is different and will never yield the same intensity as the previous one. The pleasure may be more or may be less but the experience will never be identical because it was unique.

Seeking to relive a childhood event is a result of inward self focus. It is the essence of idolatry and self worship to try to please the self with physical temporal pleasures. Because it is not possible to relive that experience, the individual now seeks various events to try to match that feeling and they can spend their entire lives seeking to satisfy that desire but never actually find it. Instead the individual finds new and different experiences that they classify in their minds as feeling good and so they decide that if it feels good, they should continue to do it. For some it is a personal choice to live this life. Others will tell you that they were born to be attracted to people of the same sex and that this is either by God’s design or it is totally natural. Neither of these is true biblically. There is not one example in the bible that shows a homosexual relationship. On the contrary, the act is criticized several times.

What we must understand is that the act and the person are two separate things. God loves the person. God hates the act. God hates the act because it involves idolatry and places something, physical pleasure, in the place of the worship of God. God is a loving God, not a slave trader or owner. He wants people to worship him because they love Him of their own accord. If you choose to be an idol worshiper instead of a God worshiper, God lets you. He steps back and says Okay, do it your way, but there are consequences to your actions. It saddens the God of the universe that people will choose to not worship and obey Him because he can see the future that choice brings. He abandons you to your own will so that, at some point, you may realize that you’re doing it wrong and then you’ll turn to Him for help. God gives us the right to choose but he also allows the consequences of our choices to play out. We have the right to choose who we will worship but we also have to take responsibility for the choice we make.

The lie

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Romans 1:25 They traded God’s truth for a lie, and they worshipped and served the creation instead of the creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

The act of trading one thing for another is voluntary. It is the notion of barter or exchange. We trathe liede money for things we need every day. That’s the concept of commerce.

In the spiritual realm, there is another exchange that takes place and it is strictly at the option of man. It’s a deliberate choice on our part to trade, or exchange, God’s truth for a lie or “The Lie”.

What is truth? More specifically, what is God’s truth?  God’s truth is not only that He exists. That’s too elementary. God’s truth is the concept that He created all things for His glory. All creatures were designed for the worship of God. It is only when we choose to worship, obey and serve God that we can find fulfillment in life because that is our purpose. You were born to worship and obey God. That is your purpose. God gives you the right to choose not to fulfill your purpose but that choice has consequences. It is choosing to meld with the purpose for which you were created that will bring peace of mind and purpose to your life.

The specific lie in this case is idolatry. In ancient times, human’s worshipped idols that they made with their hands and today we continue in worship of the idols of success, fame, wealth, and pleasure. The lie that human beings have believed is that we can live perfectly well without the need of God. The lie is that we can live perfectly happy lives while breaking God’s laws. The lie is that we seek first to please ourselves and satisfy our needs without even acknowledging the source of all things, God. This lie didn’t merely appear to us in an instant and out of nowhere. This lie has been skillfully crafted over several millennia. Its origin was a deception by Satan himself in the Garden of Eden when he told Eve “you will not die” and she ate of the forbidden fruit. Layer upon layer of untruth has been building on top of that one deception leading man to a supposed “illuminated” state of mind and consciousness that tells him “you are supreme over all things” and “the world is yours to take and possess for your pleasure”. We have been deceived into believing that we are gods ourselves and so we worship ourselves to the exclusion of the one true God.

Man’s worship of self and all that he has created is evident in the respect and admiration we have for the material things we enjoy in this modern age. We see the achievements of mankind in science, medicine, technology, literature, and the arts and we stand in awe. Not only do we merely respect them but we even love them and are devoted to these advances in an incredibly idolatrous manner. We are so proud of what we have accomplished in these fields and how they have made life more enjoyable. We see them as originating from humanity and so we worship what our minds have conceived and our hands have made and don’t acknowledge the one who created our minds and our hands.

Not only do we worship what we have made but we serve it almost as priests extolling the virtues of the most successful among us; reading their books to learn their ways so that we can be like them; paying our offerings of money to the ones who we deem successful so that they can teach us their ways. We serve our appetites for more and more material possessions because the more we have the happier we are with ourselves. We seek out opportunities to please our bodies with sexual indulgences, external stimulants and material possessions.

Some have chosen to be “religious” and substitute the actual worship of God for the ritualistic patterns of church attendance, repetitive prayer, and spirituality using religion as their god. Yes, you can replace God with religion. You may think you are worshipping God when you are really worshipping the institution and traditions that make up the religion. True worship of God comes through a relationship with Him through His son, Jesus Christ and inspiration by the Holy Spirit of God. Just because someone is religious, doesn’t mean that they are doing the right thing. It is the object of worship that is important, not the ritual.

Now that you know the lie and the deception that has been perpetrated on you, it is up to you to choose what you will follow. Are you going to continue in the lie or are you going to turn around and follow God’s truth?

When God backs off

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Romans 1:24 “So God abandoned them to their hearts’ desires, which led to the moral corruption of degrading their own bodies with each other.” (CEB)

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Have you ever seen and abandoned building? It’s a sad thing. When there is no one around to care for it, repair it, and maintain it, the building falls into disrepair and slowly begins to be destroyed.

The same thing happens to us when we abandon God.

God abandons you to your own ways and that is when the decay starts.

When you abandon God and His authority; trading the worship of God for the worship of self or something else, God steps away and allows you to do as you wish. God doesn’t impose Himself on you. He is there and desires a sincere personal relationship with you but only if you are willing. Forced love and worship is folly and insincere.

God steps away for a reason. He steps away so that you will see the uselessness of life without a relationship with God. When you step away from God by worshiping your “self”, you eventually become enthralled with seeking to please your “self”. The focus on the “self” leads you to seek a replacement for an eternal God in your life. You try to find joy and happiness in external pleasures and these external pleasures are centered on the physical body.

Pleasures of the body encompass activities such as sex, drunkenness, euphoria from drugs, and even the accumulation of wealth and objects. Since none of these will ever fully satisfy the need for God in your life, you eventually seek variations on these pleasures as replacements for the ones that don’t satisfy the need and you go deeper and deeper into them justifying your actions to yourself.

This seeking of pleasure is inexhaustible and you end up like a person digging a hole in the sand. The deeper you go, the more sand falls into the hole and eventually buries you so that you cannot get out by yourself.

This is the purpose God has in stepping away. When you are in a hole so deep you can’t get out of, you may get to the point where you either give up or ask for assistance. God is there for when you ask for assistance to get out. He has a purpose in backing off.

Are you a god?

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Romans 1:23 They exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images that look like mortal humans: birds, animals, and reptiles.

Perhaps the single biggest sin, besides the original sin in the Garden of Eden, which humans have committed against God, is that of the worship of other God’s.

The first commandment states: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You must have no other gods before me.”

What part of “You must have no other gods before me” is difficult to understand? God is one. There is no other. But what are these gods?

zeus 2Over the years, humans have decided to worship different deities that had different functions but not one of them had all of the aspects of deity rolled into one. The Romans had Mars, the god of war, Venus the goddess of love, and Neptune, the god of the seas but they did not have one God who embodied everything. Even the Greek god Zeus had his limitations and himself was a created being by yet another god or titan.

The problem with gods is that they have limitations.

Just because you don’t have a shrine to Zeus or Venus doesn’t mean that you don’t worship other gods in your life.  Gods come in many different forms.

Often we treat our money and finances as a god. We believe that we need money. We believe that without money, we cannot live. We treat money with respect and honor. We believe that money provides for our needs and we believe we must sacrifice our time, relationships, and sometimes even our health to get more and more money. This sounds an awful lot like worship, doesn’t it?

Self-EsteemThere is an even larger god that has become the object of man’s worship over the years. We, as human beings, have made ourselves out to be god. We worship humanity and ourselves. When we do something good, when we accomplish or achieve something, we tend to congratulate ourselves and have some measure of pride in that accomplishment. Because we are proud of the accomplishment we say to ourselves “you did a good job”. We look at things like our employment and tell ourselves that it is because of our skills, experience, and intelligence that we got the job. This can be a form of self worship. This is where the individual self is the god. Moses warned the Israelites about this very thing in Deuteronomy 8:17-18 Don’t think to yourself, ‘My own strength and abilities have produced all this prosperity for me.’ Remember the Lord your God! He’s the one who gives you the strength to be prosperous in order to establish the covenant he made with your ancestors”.

We tend to be self reliant. If any circumstance comes up, we are ready for the challenge. We say to ourselves: “You can do it.” Our focus tends to be on ourselves and our abilities to do something. This attitude, though, has helped man progress on this planet developing inventions and technology. The issue is that the attitude is one of self-worship. Deeming the self as the source of all ability and power, we have replaced God with man and thus we worship humanity above God.

A further form of self worship is when we look at any circumstance from a self-centered point of view. For instance: Something bad happens to you and you ask “why me?” The question comes from putting yourself in a place that says you are supreme and that this circumstance is beneath you, thus elevating yourself to a higher level. This too is self worship.

The focus of man’s worship has gone from theism to humanism in the course of the last 100 years. We have traded God for man. Humanity turns to humanity to solve its problems and answer its questions. The focus of humanity has gone from the one true deity to the self. We have come to rely on ourselves, and our own understandings to solve every problem we come across. Although man has made great strides forward in terms of technology, art, science, and philosophy, we have congratulated ourselves for these feats and not honored the one who gave us the understanding and the brain power to advance our civilization.

On a personal level, most human beings have turned inward and seek to advance themselves by their own will and power. They turn to self improvement experts who teach that the ultimate power comes from within; that the will can accomplish everything and anything.

The problem with seeking to look only to the self is that we as humans are not perfect and will always let ourselves down. With this comes disappointment leading to disillusionment and ultimately depression. Trying to fill this lack of satisfaction, the person turns to seek pleasure as a means of coping only to find that the more he experiences physical pleasure the more he sees it does not satisfy in and of itself. This is because seeking pleasure is a self-oriented activity and human beings are designed with the need to worship God.

Abandoning God for the worship of humanity or the self has consequences. Our alienation from God fuels our desire to please ourselves. Self pleasure is a never-ending pursuit because we are never satisfied with the pleasure we have but seek to have more pleasure. The human or humanity becomes the source of pleasure and we seek more and more of it, thus going around in circles.

Step out of the circle by focusing on the one true God who is outside of you and you begin to seek ways to please Him. By attributing all circumstances to the will of God, you no longer have the need to congratulate or honor yourself for neither good nor bad circumstances. Your point of view changes because your focus changes. By seeking to honor, worship and praise God for everything, you diminish your own importance in your life. By not having the need to rely on the self you no longer need to be disillusioned by yourself when a negative circumstance occurs. When everything is outside of your hands and in the hands of God, you no longer have the need to control anything. Giving up that control can be frightening at first, but with time it becomes easier and even more liberating. Your control of everything puts you in the place of God. It’s time to step off the throne and let God take over. Stop worshiping yourself and focus on God who is the only one that is to be worshiped.

Foolish Wisdom

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Romans 1:22 While they were claiming to be wise, they made fools of themselves. (CEB)

Wisdom and foolishness have little to do with education or intelligence. There are uneducated people with wisdom as well as educated fools.

Some misguided people attempt to explain God using their brains first. The problem with this method is that spirituality, belief and faith originate in the soul and not the brain.

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By using our limited brains to try to grasp the concepts of eternity, divinity, omnipotence, omnipresence and omniscience, we limit our understanding of who God is. Since we cannot grasp the idea of an invisible, eternal God with our brains and intelligence, we tend to define God in human terms. We limit God to what we know about physics, matter and logic.  This is why people come up with questions like “if God is so powerful, can He create a stone so large that He Himself cannot lift?” This question, like so many others, is fundamentally flawed in that it is limited by our understanding of matter and physics. The question puts God on the level of human physical strength and begs for a yes or no answer, both of which limit God’s ability. The question seems wise and logical on the surface but it is a foolish question because it does not originate in the heart.

In order to begin to understand God and His power you have to start with your heart and soul. This is because God defies logic and physics. It is only by accepting the impossible as possible that allows us to begin to make sense of God and who He really is.  Accepting an eternal entity that exists outside of our reality, our concept of time, and our laws of physics allows us to understand God’s ability to be everywhere at the same time, to know everything, to be all-powerful, and to exist eternally.

impossibleOnce you accept that the impossible is possible, it then becomes logical that what seems impossible is possible.  This acceptance is not done with the brain but with the heart and soul. It can’t be based on physical observation or experimentation because there is no matter that can be observed or experimented with.

Accepting the possibility of an impossible God does not necessarily mean that we will worship the one true God. History shows that civilizations have created their own deities in the physical forms of humans, animals and plants. This is because they applied temporal qualities to an eternal God thus limiting God and not being able to comprehend all that God is, leading to the foolishness of worshiping statues as representations of God and creating erroneous faith systems.

By using our mental ability to comprehend God, we come up with various ideas that seem to be wise to us. Some, by applying the judgment that the impossible is not possible, reject the existence of God. Others apply physical features to God because that is the only way they can comprehend the existence of an eternal deity with their human brains.

To truly find and accept God, you first have to conceptually give up the notion of impossibility. Are there some things that are impossible for us to do? Yes. Just because they are impossible for us does not make them impossible for God. Although God has the ability to do the impossible, God does have his rules for dealing with us. He will not force us to love Him. He will always allow us the freedom to accept or reject Him.

God’s greatest attribute is love. It is because of and through his love that he created the universe. It was by his love that he took pity on humanity and offered us a way to enter into his kingdom. It is love that caused him to take off the vestiges of his godliness and send a portion of himself in the form of Jesus Christ to live with us, teach about the kingdom of God, and die for our sins. It is by his love that he offers us the undeserved gift of being able to stand behind Jesus so that God will see us as righteous.

God gives us the choice to accept or reject him because of his love for us. This is the idea of free will. If he ordered us to accept him without a choice, then that would not be love. We, as human beings have that choice. You have that choice.

Foolish Hearts

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Romans 1:21 Although they knew God, they didn’t honor God as God or thank him. Instead, their reasoning became pointless, and their foolish hearts were darkened. (CEB)

Who can argue that the belief and knowledge of God resides mostly in the heart? It is impossible to comprehend God with our brains and so we were designed with hearts that want to seek God and understand the universe and the world around us. In trying to understand God we have deviated from using our hearts trying to wrap our mortal brains around who God is. By trying to explain God with our brains we have devised incorrect assumptions which in turn we believe with our hearts. Man’s worship has been directed towards false gods, science, and even himself.

worship-undignifiedThroughout the course of man’s existence, we have recognized that there must be some source that sparked the universe and all that exists. It is innate in our innermost being to want to worship someone or something that is greater than us. This natural tendency of humans is not a result of evolution or observation but rather is a need that has been programmed into us from our very origins.

Ignoring this programming is an option that MayanSunGodEffigyCliphumans have and throughout civilization, we have exercised that option choosing to set aside the need to worship one deity. Humans have disregarded this program placed in us from the beginning and replaced it with the worship of different deities. Some have chosen to worship animals, people, and things. Others have chosen to worship the self because they have pride in all of their accomplishments. Ignoring the one God, man has chosen not to honor Him as God but rather to look at nature as its own creation.

throneWhy is it important to thank God? Is god a super ego that needs constant stroking? No. The answer is in the recognition of God as the source of all things. By giving God thanks for the job you have, the food you are able to buy, your friends, your family, etc., you willingly give up the notion that it is you who has made these things possible. Thanking God is part of the abandonment of the self. We are raised to look at ourselves as the source of everything. “I got the job.” “I earned a raise.” “I built my business.” “I did this…” and “I did that…” Ask yourself, who gave you the brain that allows you to get the job? Who created the body that gets up in the morning, is able to dress, make breakfast and get out the door to the job? Who made the sand, limestone, gravel and water that went into making the concrete that formed the building in which you work? Thanking God is recognizing that you are not the end-all and be-all of the universe. You remove yourself from the throne and recognize God as the source of all things.

One of the things that distinguish humans from all animals is our ability to reason. We have the ability to solve problems and think through situations. While humans have recognized the existence of a supreme entity and have the natural need to want to worship a higher power, our history shows that we have made mistakes in selecting the object of our worship. Man came to the wrong conclusion of whom to worship and chose animals, and inanimate objects as their gods through erroneous reasoning. Rather than choosing to worship the source of all creation, man invented religions to worship created things. We still have religions today that need man-made objects to focus their worship on.

Because humans continued to worship what they reasoned to be deities, they developed complex faith systems and religions to explain their view of the universe, nature, disasters, and evil. By persisting and promulgating these belief systems throughout the generations they have become ingrained in us and intertwined with society. There are numerous examples of these faith systems permeating all aspects of society like morality, art, and government structure. Since the belief system is ingrained in every aspect of life, most come to accept these beliefs without question and reject any attempt to change their belief structure. By not questioning the worship of created things rather than an eternal, invisible God, their objectivity disappears and deliberately blind themselves to the possibility of an eternal, divine, loving God who created all things and sustains all things.

You are not excused.

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Romans 1:20 Ever since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities—God’s eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, because they are understood through the things God has made. So humans are without excuse. (CEB)

Claiming to not know God or not receive a visible or audible sign directly from God in order to believe is no excuse. In the courts, if you break a law even if you did not know it was a law, you are still guilty of breaking the law. The fact that you did not know there was a law is no excuse in court and the same is true for God. The evidence for the existence of God is readily available. It is nature, the natural world and the universe that show God exists. This natural world and universe is visible, we can see it with our human eyes. The visible universe includes all of the intricacies of the human body, all of the creatures on this planet, plant life, microscopic organisms and even the chemical bonds that hold everything together.

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Our natural curiosity about the origins of the universe has led most to the conclusion that there is an intelligent design that put everything in its place. The very laws of physics such as gravity have placed planet Earth at just the right distance from the Sun. Science has shown that our atmosphere contains just the right amounts of nitrogen and oxygen to sustain life. These are just two examples of many that show there has to be an unseen intelligence that put these ingredients together for the benefit of life on Earth.

It is because of this intelligent design that we can understand the presence of an intelligent designer. This intelligent designer exists outside of time and the physical visible universe making him eternal. Because this designer is outside of the physical, visible universe, he is set apart from mortal humanity making him so very different from us. You see, God is not a product of the laws of physics. Since He created those laws, it is conceivable that He would exist and operate outside of those laws and without being limited by them. God is an impossible being that violates the laws of physics. This is why one cannot attempt to either prove or disprove the existence of God, who created everything, by using the laws of physics. A being that exists outside of everything that exists would be impossible to detect using any possible method. It is this characteristic which we call divinity because we have no other word for it.

The qualities or characteristics of God are invisible—they cannot be seen with human eyes; they cannot be tested or put under a microscope. They are imperceptible by sight to mortal humans precisely because we lack the two basic qualities of God: Eternal power and divinity.

In order for something to be eternal, it must exist outside of time and be unaffected by decay. The Second Law of Thermodynamics states that All natural systems degenerate when left to themselves” From the moment we are born, we are dying. Everything is in a constant state of decay from the moment it begins its life or is manufactured. The original Greek word used is aidios which, simply translated, is “ever” or “always”. We translate it to “eternal” because it is the only word we have that explains something that is infinite in its existence. God’s power-His ability- is eternal. What God does he does in the past present and future simultaneously. There is neither beginning nor end to His power.

A second invisible quality of God is His divine nature, Godhead, or divinity. The word used in Greek is theiotes and its root is Theos which means God. Theiotes doesn’t refer to just one aspect of what makes God divine; instead it is the grouping of everything that makes Him divine. These are all the properties that make up our idea of God. It is the natural concept that humans have of what makes the divine. The characteristics that man cannot have such as omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence, immutability, eternality, righteousness, and sovereignty, are the very things that are divine. Humans recognize that we do not posses these attributes and that only a divine being could posses them.

The attributes of God can be understood through nature but this understanding doesn’t necessarily mean that man would know this divine being personally. Man can have a natural understanding of the existence of God and of what makes God, God but a personal relationship can only be established when this divine entity reaches out to man. He did this in the form of Jesus Christ because “all the fullness of deity lives in Christ’s body.” (Colossians 2:9 CEB) God became a man, entered our temporal world, yet fully maintained all of His divine qualities so that man could have a personal relationship with Him.

Nature vs. Nurture

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Romans 1:19 This is because what is known about God should be plain to them because God made it plain to them. (CEB)

blank slateThere has always been a debate in terms of how we learn. The two fundamental ideas are those of nature vs. nurture. While some propose that certain knowledge is natural, meaning that man is born with this knowledge, others sustain that it is through nurture that we gain an understanding of our environment. Western philosophy has embraced the concept of “Tabula Rasa” or the blank slate. The theory is essentially that individuals are born without mental content, and that all knowledge comes from experience and perception.

But what about the knowledge of God? Do humans learn about the existence of God from their parents or are we born with a natural tendency to want to seek God? To be able to answer this question, we need to ask another question first. If the Bible and the scriptures did not exist, would we know about God?

Every civilization on earth has and has had a moral code to guide them. You cannot find a civilization that considers things like murder, theft and deception as moral. A common thread is found that links all of human civilization to a certain moral code and an understanding of what is right and what is wrong, what is good and what is evil. These concepts, though learned through ancestry, eventually lead to the conclusion that they must have originated somewhere in the past and then passed on to future generations. In other words, we know the difference between right and wrong because we learned it from our parents and them from theirs. If you go further back to grandparents, great grandparents, and so on, going back through history, we get to the very beginnings of humanity. Where did they learn their concepts of right and wrong, of good and evil, of morality? Something or someone must have put it there. That someone is God. God has put those concepts in every human being. This is where the nature argument comes into play.

dnaIt is a natural thing for humans to want to worship a deity. We are designed with the knowledge that there is good and evil, right and wrong. We are drawn toward a supreme being that is all good. We understand this Supreme Being as God and we are drawn to His qualities of good, right, justice, and morality. As we grow and mature we experience life and our concept of God is transformed by our experiences and by what we learn from others. This is the nurture part of the equation.

Our human experience either draws us to or repels us from God. This is why there are theists and atheists. The experiences and perceptions of atheists have led them to the point where they reject the very existence of God. They have learned their version of how the universe operates and base their lack of faith on that knowledge and their experience. The fact that they reject God is evidence that they, at some point, had an understanding of God. This understanding of God comes from human nature. Atheists have simply chosen to go against their natural instincts of worshiping God because they don’t see it as natural but as learned and thus can be unlearned.

Similarly, theists, or believers in God, have a certain set of experiences and perceptions that draws us to embrace the existence of God. We view the universe and the world as a complex and intelligently designed product and can see that only a supreme creator could have created them. We have embraced the natural instinct that compels us to worship God and we draw upon that instinct to satisfy our curiosity about Him. Each of us, at varying degrees of intensity, desire to know more about God and the more we learn about Him, the more we want to know. We learn more about God through nurture because we have embraced the nature that is within us to seek God.

Human beings know about God by our very nature and we know of God from the nurture of our experiences, insights and ancestors. The knowledge of God has been made plain to all human beings. We can conclude, then that the source for our knowledge about and of God is from both nature and nurture.

The wrath of God.

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Romans 1:18 God’s wrath is being revealed from heaven against all the ungodly behavior and the injustice of human beings who silence the truth with injustice. (CEB)

RevHell1We tend to think of God as a loving, merciful God but we seem to forget about God’s wrath. Churches today preach love and joy, peace and happiness all the feel good things that come with being a Christian. Unfortunately, the sermons preached in many, if not most, churches don’t include teaching and preaching about the wrath of God. The reason they don’t is that they feel that messages on God’s wrath, hell, and judgment would probably scare some people off and they are probably right. What would you rather hear? A message about God’s eternal love for you or a message of the punishment that awaits those who reject God and the Lord Jesus Christ in the fiery pit of hell where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth?

As believers in and followers of Christ, we need to understand God’s wrath because it is part of his character and in order to get closer to Him, we need to understand as much as possible so that we can worship in spirit and in truth.

We hear the word wrath and negative images come to mind of an incredibly ill-tempered person who screams and yells and even causes bodily harm every time he’s upset. This isn’t the way God works or behaves toward humanity. He created us in his image and he knows mankind intimately and especially knows that we’re going to let him down most of the time.

The word for wrath used in the Greek is orge. Orge is not an uncontrollable anger that comes out in bursts. It refers to an anger that is slowly burning and swelling. God’s patience toward us is immense. He puts up with us but only for a time. Eventually God’s anger does have an end. Revelation 15:1 says Then I saw another great and awe-inspiring sign in heaven. There were seven angels with seven plagues—and these are the last, for with them God’s anger is brought to an end.”

yin_yangThe Chinese philosophy of “yin and yang” describes how seemingly opposite or contrary forces are interconnected and interdependent in the natural world; and, how they give rise to each other as they interrelate to one another. The idea is that good cannot exist without evil and evil without good. This doesn’t mesh with the nature of God. God and evil are neither interconnected nor interdependent. God is pure good and can and does exist without the need for evil.

To understand God’s wrath, you must first understand that God is the opposite of evil. God is holy, righteous, and good and thus despises unholiness, unrighteousness and evil.

Ungodliness is in all human beings and manifests itself in our wrongful actions that are opposed to God’s level of godliness. Colossians 3:6 tells us to put to death the parts of your life that belong to the earth, such as sexual immorality, moral corruption, lust, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). The wrath of God is coming upon disobedient people because of these things.” Additionally, in Ephesians 5:5-6 we read Because you know for sure that persons who are sexually immoral, impure, or greedy—which happens when things become gods—those persons won’t inherit the kingdom of Christ and God. Nobody should deceive you with stupid ideas. God’s anger comes down on those who are disobedient because of this kind of thing.” While God despises the behavior, the one who is doing that behavior is considered disobedient to God and thus headed on the conveyor belt toward the wrath of God.

God’s wrath is not directed toward people but toward their acts and behaviors. His wrath is directed toward ungodly behavior and the injustice of human beings who silence the truth with injustice. The justice spoken of here is not our human understanding of justice. It is God’s opposition to ungodliness that requires justice in the form of the destruction of ungodliness.

The message of the gospel is that God’ justice has been served and that all we have to do is accept the justice served as payment for our ungodliness. Through Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, God has destroyed the ungodliness that dwells within us by looking at us through Jesus Christ. Jesus is the human embodiment of godliness. By taking the place of humans, he accepted the punishment for ungodliness that God requires. Justice was served when Jesus died on that cross. God punished injustice through the death of the only godly person on earth and in history. This is the truth that is being silenced by the injustice of human beings with their injustice.

It is precisely because of God’s opposition to ungodliness that He wants His creation, human beings, to be godly and therefore be able to live in His realm eternally. In His love for mankind, God has given us the choice. John 3:36 declares “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life. Whoever doesn’t believe in the Son won’t see life, but the angry judgment of God remains on them.” Once you accept the sacrifice of Christ as the once and for all punishment for your ungodliness, God no longer sees your ungodliness but sees you through Jesus Christ’s godliness. Because Jesus went through the punishment for ungodliness and died, God sees you as having died. In Colossians 3:2 it says that you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.” This means that the wrath of God no longer applies to you and you will not be subjected to it.

crucifixionThis is God’s gift to all human beings, that a holy and righteous God loved humanity in such a way that He took the form a man, in the person of Jesus and willingly accepted the punishment for our ungodliness with the ultimate goal that we as humans would accept that as payment for our lack of godliness and righteousness. This is done by faith, believing in that sacrifice as the only payment for our unrighteousness and that nothing further is required. God now considers you righteous and godly because He sees you through Jesus; therefore you will not be subject to the wrath of God but instead you will be accepted as godly and can be part of God’s realm forever.