Strong in Love

Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong. And do everything with love.
1 Corinthians 16:13-14 NLT
http://bible.com/116/1co.16.13-14.NLT

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We face spiritual attacks upon our lives daily – but once we have Christ in us,  these “attacks” shift into being tests, into challenges – and once we set our hope firmly upon Jesus Christ as our Savior, we can recognize them as opportunities.

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The world might ask, in what kind of mad,  twisted realm do trials,  sufferings and persecution become opportunities? And we can explain to them that our own nature, we can understand the normal reaction of the flesh towards these things – we understand that being hurt by another,  the flesh cries out for payment of revenge in return. But we also have another voice that is active and alive in our lives, which tells us that even when it is to our clear detriment in this life,  even when it will not clearly benefit us in any way,  that we have the opportunity to choose to bring love,  peace, patience,  joy,  kindness,  goodness,  faithfulness,  and self control into this world even as a response to the evils of this world.

And when we do,  and when it is clear that it was not for our own benefit or gain or manipulation – what clearer and undeniable testimony might we raise up so that another might realize the truth of Christ who lives in us? How can someone who considers themselves or enemy and considers themselves an enemy of God deny our pouring out blessing upon their lives as repayment for the pain and hurt and disappointment they have dealt or to us? But isn’t this the very example of Christ,  that He loved us even when we were still sinners – that He went to the cross for each and every one of us who might choose to turn to Him and bear His name upon our hearts and our lives?

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So we have a great encouragement for standing guard against the attacks of the enemy,  but we have a great opportunity to see them with open eyes for what they really are – moments on this earth in our own lives where we might be like Christ in the garden at Gethsemane – where we might say,  take this cup from me Lord if you will, because it is bitter for me to drink, but it is better that your will be done than my own.

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And what is amazing is that once we are on other side of the trial,  once the Lord has moved that mountain and cast it into the sea because of our faith as small as a mustard seed that proved us faithful and clinging to Him firmly – we find that He is faithful and true and that He does bring us through and provide for us and bless us. And as we learn to do this,  moment by moment,  decision by decision,  as we serve the one that we have chosen to be our master,  we are molded,  we are shaped to be more and more like the thing that influences and directs our actions,  more like whatever is master over our lives.

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So we remain on guard because we should know who is in control. Are we still a slave to sin that is holding us captive and controlling or lives?  Then we need to find freedom from our captors,  we need to ask Christ to break those chains, and we need to walk out of that prison cell as we are sent on our mission to bring Christ to the world by being Christ in the world. We are the body of Christ,  being led by the Holy Spirit, bringing His good work and love and truth into this world – or we are dead flesh, waiting to be tossed into the flames with the sin that we have chosen to worship by allowing to have mastery over our lives.

If you admit that you have sinned, that is good,  because otherwise there is no truth in you and you would be a liar in the deep depths of darkness. But do you realize that there is one who offers you a spirit of power and strength and confidence over sin?  Do you realize that the Holy Spirit is not a voice of timidity or fear or guilt or shame – but one of deliverance,  of renewal, of victory over sin and temptation and the tricks of the enemy?

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So how do we walk in strength when we are so weak ourselves in the flesh? We choose to walk in His authority and power,  we choose to accept His annointing upon our lives. We seek for His will to be done in our lives, knowing that whatever the cost, He is the only prize worth receiving. 

Look, I have given you authority over all the power of the enemy, and you can walk among snakes and scorpions and crush them. Nothing will injure you.  But don’t rejoice because evil spirits obey you; rejoice because your names are registered in heaven.”
Luke 10:19-20 NLT
http://bible.com/116/luk.10.19-20.NLT

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord ’s favor has come. ”
Luke 4:18-19 NLT
http://bible.com/116/luk.4.18-19.NLT

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
John 13:34-35 ESV
http://bible.com/59/jhn.13.34-35.ESV

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
1 John 4:7-12 ESV
http://bible.com/59/1jn.4.7-12.ESV

For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Galatians 5:14 ESV
http://bible.com/59/gal.5.14.ESV

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
Romans 13:8-10 ESV
http://bible.com/59/rom.13.8-10.ESV

Constructive Criticism

I always thank my God for you and for the gracious gifts he has given you, now that you belong to Christ Jesus. Through him, God has enriched your church in every way—with all of your eloquent words and all of your knowledge. This confirms that what I told you about Christ is true. Now you have every spiritual gift you need as you eagerly wait for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will keep you strong to the end so that you will be free from all blame on the day when our Lord Jesus Christ returns. God will do this, for he is faithful to do what he says, and he has invited you into partnership with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
1 Corinthians 1:4-9 NLT
http://bible.com/116/1co.1.4-9.NLT

Paul wrote this letter to the church at Corinth in order to correct and instruct them in some areas where they needed additional guidance. But he doesn’t just start out immediately rebuking and condemning them, calling them fake Christians, crushing their hope – he first  offers them encouragement for the things that they can hold onto as assurance of their salvation.

It isn’t that hard to find faults in other people. It isn’t hard to find faults in the people you will find in churches. We are very familiar with those faults c we find in others because we ought to recognize them from our own lives. This is the great danger in judging others, because we forget that we too need that undeserved gift of grace to make us right with God. In fact,  many people have been hurt by those who are inside the church buildings participating in religious activities,  sounding religious,  acting religious,  but having no true love for their brothers and sisters. Some would say that the number one reason for atheists today is the hypocrisy of those who call themselves Christians – and they are probably right.

Loving. Forgiving. Merciful. Righteous. Faithful. True. Patient. Peaceful. Meek. Bold. Gentle. Wise. Humble.

Yes,  these are words about you,  child of God. More specifically,  they are words about who you have been given the power to be, due to Christ who lives in you. And I commend you in some of these. And I recognize in myself that I have grown in some of these. But now,  I urge you to press on,  and to press in towards God who is drawing you near to Him. Do not become complacent in your confidence that you are His,  but let it store in you a hunger to be even closer to Him in your walk. Let it urge you to. Walk in the Spirit and not in the flesh.

For if we are growing,  we can know that we are alive, and we can enjoy this relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ. But unfortunately,  how many of us are seeking a relationship with God,  versus how many just want Him “on our side” like a genie or a spare tire when we need the help that only He can provide? And I applaud you for not being like this,  friends of Christ, but for loving and seeking the Lord with your hearts.

But there are some who act like a pimp, perverting and pimping out the gospel truths and twisting them into nothing less than a feel good, self help guide for manipulating others for their own personal gain,  prosperity, and as an excuse / license for their remaining trapped deep in sin and darkness.

I am thankful that this is not you, child of God. But we must continue to press in further, to love one another with even more passion, to seek God with even more dedication and fervor, to share the Good News of Jesus Christ in even a wider reach, to prepare ourselves for His return.

And why do we do this? It isn’t because we consider ourselves perfect – no,  that is that liar of pride distracting you from the truth, sinner. It isn’t because we are striving to earn treasures – do you not know that He is your portion and prize – have many blind guides not yet claimed the only inheritance worth having? It is because how can we accept such a gift,  such an undeserved gift, and not be grateful,  and not respond to His love in kind?

And how does He tells us to demonstrate our grattitude? How does He tell us to demonstrate our love for Him in return?

“If you love me, obey my commandments.
John 14:15 NLT
http://bible.com/116/jhn.14.15.NLT

Jesus replied, “All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them.  Anyone who doesn’t love me will not obey me. And remember, my words are not my own. What I am telling you is from the Father who sent me.
John 14:23-24 NLT
http://bible.com/116/jhn.14.23-24.NLT

1 John 4:11 ESV
Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another

If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a fellow believer, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see? And he has given us this command: Those who love God must also love their fellow believers.
1 John 4:20-21 NLT
http://bible.com/116/1jn.4.20-21.NLT

If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person? Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions. Our actions will show that we belong to the truth, so we will be confident when we stand before God.
1 John 3:17-19 NLT
http://bible.com/116/1jn.3.17-19.NLT

Matthew 22:36-40 ESV
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

1 Corinthians 13:1-3 ESV
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law. For if you are trying to make yourselves right with God by keeping the law, you have been cut off from Christ! You have fallen away from God’s grace. But we who live by the Spirit eagerly wait to receive by faith the righteousness God has promised to us. For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God. But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another.
Galatians 5:1, 4-5, 13, 16-17, 19-26 NLT
http://bible.com/116/gal.5.1-26.NLT

Dear friends, I had been eagerly planning to write to you about the salvation we all share. But now I find that I must write about something else, urging you to defend the faith that God has entrusted once for all time to his holy people. I say this because some ungodly people have wormed their way into your churches, saying that God’s marvelous grace allows us to live immoral lives. The condemnation of such people was recorded long ago, for they have denied our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. 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.
And I remind you of the angels who did not stay within the limits of authority God gave them but left the place where they belonged. God has kept them securely chained in prisons of darkness, waiting for the great day of judgment. And don’t forget Sodom and Gomorrah and their neighboring towns, which were filled with immorality and every kind of sexual perversion. Those cities were destroyed by fire and serve as a warning of the eternal fire of God’s judgment.
In the same way, these people—who claim authority from their dreams—live immoral lives, defy authority, and scoff at supernatural beings.  But even Michael, one of the mightiest of the angels, did not dare accuse the devil of blasphemy, but simply said, “The Lord rebuke you!” (This took place when Michael was arguing with the devil about Moses’ body.) But these people scoff at things they do not understand. Like unthinking animals, they do whatever their instincts tell them, and so they bring about their own destruction.
What sorrow awaits them! For they follow in the footsteps of Cain, who killed his brother. Like Balaam, they deceive people for money. And like Korah, they perish in their rebellion. When these people eat with you in your fellowship meals commemorating the Lord’s love, they are like dangerous reefs that can shipwreck you. They are like shameless shepherds who care only for themselves. They are like clouds blowing over the land without giving any rain. They are like trees in autumn that are doubly dead, for they bear no fruit and have been pulled up by the roots. They are like wild waves of the sea, churning up the foam of their shameful deeds. They are like wandering stars, doomed forever to blackest darkness.
Enoch, who lived in the seventh generation after Adam, prophesied about these people. He said, “Listen! The Lord is coming with countless thousands of his holy ones to execute judgment on the people of the world. He will convict every person of all the ungodly things they have done and for all the insults that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.”
These people are grumblers and complainers, living only to satisfy their desires. They brag loudly about themselves, and they flatter others to get what they want.
Jude 1:3-16 NLT
http://bible.com/116/jud.1.3-16.NLT

But you, my dear friends, must remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ predicted. They told you that in the last times there would be scoffers whose purpose in life is to satisfy their ungodly desires. These people are the ones who are creating divisions among you. They follow their natural instincts because they do not have God’s Spirit in them.
But you, dear friends, must build each other up in your most holy faith, pray in the power of the Holy Spirit,  and await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will bring you eternal life. In this way, you will keep yourselves safe in God’s love.
And you must show mercy to those whose faith is wavering. Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. Show mercy to still others, but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives.
Now all glory to God, who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault. All glory to him who alone is God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord. All glory, majesty, power, and authority are his before all time, and in the present, and beyond all time! Amen.
Jude 1:17-25 NLT
http://bible.com/116/jud.1.17-25.NLT

Repent? But I’m saved by faith!

2 Corinthians 13:5 ESV
Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!

Galatians 6:3-5 ESV
For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load.

James 1:23-25 ESV
For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

Be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.
James 1:6-8 NLT
http://bible.com/116/jas.1.6-8.NLT

What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.
James 2:14-17 NLT
http://bible.com/116/jas.2.14-17.NLT

Lamentations 3:40 ESV
Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the Lord.

Acts 17:30 ESV
The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent

1 John 1:9 ESV
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Acts 2:38 ESV
And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

When the crowds came to John for baptism, he said, “You brood of snakes! Who warned you to flee God’s coming wrath? Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God. Don’t just say to each other, ‘We’re safe, for we are descendants of Abraham.’ That means nothing, for I tell you, God can create children of Abraham from these very stones. Even now the ax of God’s judgment is poised, ready to sever the roots of the trees. Yes, every tree that does not produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown into the fire.”
Luke 3:7-9 NLT
http://bible.com/116/luk.3.7-9.NLT

“So fear the Lord and serve him wholeheartedly. Put away forever the idols your ancestors worshiped when they lived beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord alone. But if you refuse to serve the Lord , then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord .”
The people replied, “We would never abandon the Lord and serve other gods. For the Lord our God is the one who rescued us and our ancestors from slavery in the land of Egypt. He performed mighty miracles before our very eyes. As we traveled through the wilderness among our enemies, he preserved us. It was the Lord who drove out the Amorites and the other nations living here in the land. So we, too, will serve the Lord , for he alone is our God.”
Then Joshua warned the people, “You are not able to serve the Lord , for he is a holy and jealous God. He will not forgive your rebellion and your sins. If you abandon the Lord and serve other gods, he will turn against you and destroy you, even though he has been so good to you.” But the people answered Joshua, “No, we will serve the Lord !”
“You are a witness to your own decision,” Joshua said. “You have chosen to serve the Lord .” “Yes,” they replied, “we are witnesses to what we have said.” “All right then,” Joshua said, “destroy the idols among you, and turn your hearts to the Lord , the God of Israel.” The people said to Joshua, “We will serve the Lord our God. We will obey him alone.”
Joshua 24:14-24 NLT
http://bible.com/116/jos.24.14-24.NLT

Titus 3:5 ESV
He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 ESV
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

Revelation 2:5-6 ESV
Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.

Our whole life

Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God.
Romans 6:13 NLT
http://bible.com/116/rom.6.13.NLT

What have we held back in our lives from God? What part of our lives have we kept of limits from the touch of God? Have we, allowed Him into some areas,  while leaving Him out of others?  Are we picking Him up at times,  but also leaving Him on the shelf sometimes? Do we tell God that we’ll spend time with Him later while we go about our day content with our own choices and decisions and will being fulfilled?

We are blessed with an amazing opportunity to commune with God. He will come and abide with us –

“If you love me, you will  keep my commandments.  And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever,  even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.  
“I will not leave you as orphans;  I will come to you.  Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.  Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.
John 14:15-18, 23-24 ESV
http://bible.com/59/jhn.14.15-24.ESV

How often do we trade this great blessing and become satisfied with being separated from God? Giving up our opportunity to abide with the, Lord and instead settling with hearing about Him through someone else –

Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.”
Exodus 20:18-19 ESV
http://bible.com/59/exo.20.18-19.ESV

Don’t let your fear of God or your interest in the temporary things of this world distract you from the blessing of His presence, of His annointing, of His constant guidance and participation in your life. He knows the best path and purpose for your life today. Are you keeping in contact with Him? Are you walking in the Spirit, meditating upon His Word as the divine instruction for your thoughts,  your actions,  and your words?

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.  For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?
Matthew 16:24-26 ESV
http://bible.com/59/mat.16.24-26.ESV

We let ourselves get into a hurry,  and unfortunately we forget God. It humbles me when I understand that I’ve let that happen. But He is my advocate and He offers me forgiveness even in those slip ups.

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.
1 John 2:1-6 ESV
http://bible.com/59/1jn.2.1-6.ESV

I am not perfect yet,  but I’m also not going to be content remaining the same, without growth and change and spiritual maturity taking place in my life. I don’t want my Jesus to be just words or empty religious rituals a few times a week –  I want to live and walk and talk with Him constantly. I want Him to touch every part of my life.

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.  Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.
Philippians 3:12-21 ESV
http://bible.com/59/php.3.12-21.ESV

Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience. For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
2 Corinthians 5:11, 14-15, 17-21 ESV
http://bible.com/59/2co.5.11-21.ESV

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.  By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.
1 John 4:7-13 ESV
http://bible.com/59/1jn.4.7-13.ESV

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
1 John 4:18-21 ESV
http://bible.com/59/1jn.4.18-21.ESV

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.  But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
Galatians 5:13-26 ESV
http://bible.com/59/gal.5.13-26.ESV

From Prisoner to the Flesh, to Student of the Word

But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.
Acts of the Apostles 20:24 NLT
http://bible.com/116/act.20.24.NLT

My life without Christ at the center was worth nothing. The wrong and selfish choices that I made brought bad consequences for myself and for those around me. My carnal nature had me chasing sensuality and all kinds of temptations that never satisfied me long term,  but only left me wanting more. I provided an example to others around me that led them into darkness and into their own bad consequences.

“A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit.  A tree is identified by its fruit. Figs are never gathered from thornbushes, and grapes are not picked from bramble bushes.  A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.
Luke 6:43-45 NLT
http://bible.com/116/luk.6.43-45.NLT

Continue reading “From Prisoner to the Flesh, to Student of the Word”

Disobedience? Compliance? Obedience? Grace?

Disobedience? Compliance? Obedience? Grace?

Disobedience
Do we know what disobedience is these days? Isn’t it choosing to do our own will instead of the will of God? What does scripture tell us about disobedience?

Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin.  A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son is part of the family forever.  So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.
John 8:34-36 NLT
http://bible.com/116/jhn.8.34-36.NLT

John 14:15 ESV
If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

Luke 6:46 ESV
“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?

Continue reading “Disobedience? Compliance? Obedience? Grace?”

What are we battling against

If we are going to war in our prayer closets, what are we setting our sights on?  The things that we hate and fear,  or the things that are the enemies of God?

I see a lot of prayer requests about sickness or death – healing in the flesh – but much fewer requests about healing eternal in the spiritual areas of life that matter most. I see requests and seeking of physical prosperity – security by earthly means – but much fewer requests about strengthening faith in God to provide what He has already promised.

If we are going to war in our prayer closets,  shouldn’t we know the enemy whom we should be targeting? And do we believe the true enemy to be who our deceitful hearts tell us to wage war against, or do we look to God for His guidance regarding who our true enemies should be? If we serve the Lord, aren’t His enemies clearly our true enemies that are the real threat to us and our brothers and sisters?

Proverbs 6:16-19
There are six things that the Lord hates,
seven that are an abomination to him:
haughty eyes,
a lying tongue,
and hands that shed innocent blood,
a heart that devises wicked plans,
feet that make haste to run to evil,
a false witness who breathes out lies,
and one who sows discord among brothers.

So clearly, these are big on the Lord’s hit list:

1) Pride
2) Deceit
3) Treachery
4) Wickedness
5) Gossip/False Testimony
6) Dissention/Division/Envy/Jealousy

1 John 2:15-17 ESV
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever

He again tells us not to love the world:

1) desires of the flesh
2) desires of the eyes
3) pride in possessions

Those things are passing away.

According to this, what many pray for as “blessings” are “not from the Father” but are “from the world”. So we might begin asking ourselves, who are they praying to if they are asking for those things to be given that are “from the world”? The Father has a name for this worldly, fleshly provider and it is mammon. These are not the “good gifts”, the “eternal gifts”, the “true riches” that God has stored up for His children.

If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches?  And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own?  No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”
Luke 16:11-13 ESV
http://bible.com/59/luk.16.11-13.ESV

The “unrighteous wealth”, it is “that which is another’s” and we are tested in whether or not we are faithful with it –  being good stewards, using it for God’s glory,  bringing Him Honor and glory – or whether we are enticed by the desires of the flesh,  the desires of our eyes,  and the pride of possessions.

These enemies of God, are they our enemies as well? Are we doing battle against these enemies in our prayer closets?

And isn’t it clear that our enemies are not our brothers and sisters?

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
Ephesians 6:12 ESV
http://bible.com/59/eph.6.12.ESV

And what enemies are keeping our brothers and sisters from entering into the Kingdom of God?  Aren’t these clearly the enemies of God’s wish that none should perish? Shouldn’t these enemies be targeted in our prayer closets? How do we recognize when these enemies are at work in our lives and the lives of our brothers and sisters?

Galatians 5:19-21 ESV
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Romans 8:7 ESV
For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.

Evidence of the work of the enemy, evidence of sin,  of sickness leading to eternal spiritual death:
1) sexual immorality
2) impurity
3) sensuality
4) idolatry
5) sorcery
6) enmity
7) strife
8) jealousy
9) fits of anger
10) rivalries
11) dissensions
12) divisions
13) envy
14) drunkenness
15) orgies

Be on lookout for this evidence of the enemy, as if standing guard on a watch tower. And let your battle cries to heaven be heard for spiritual reinforcements, and let your gentle encouragement be a warning to those ensnared and in need of healing.

We and our brothers and sisters need to be delivered from these enemies of God,  and that is why we do battle against these giants with the stone of our prayers.

1 John 2:4-6 ESV
Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.

We want to see the captives set free so they will live and will “walk in the way He walked”.

Romans 8:13 ESV
For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

Yes, we seek lives freed from the bondage of these captors, so that we all are growing and becoming more like our teacher, with our minds set upon the higher things,  not things of the world or of the flesh. 

2 Peter 1:5-8 ESV
For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

So put on your armor,  Child of God,  it is time to do battle, now that the light has been sinned upon our true enemies.

A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared.  In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil.  Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.
Ephesians 6:10-18 NLT
http://bible.com/116/eph.6.10-18.NLT

Our choices matter, and have eternal consequences

SIN
Isaiah 59:2 ESV
But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that He does not hear.

MERCY EXTENDED
Ezekiel 33:11 ESV
Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?

FORGIVENESS AVAILABLE
1 John 1:9 ESV
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

NARROW PATH VS LEGALISM OR CONTINUING IN SIN
Proverbs 14:12 ESV
There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.

GIFT OF GRACE
I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me,  for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand.
John 10:28-29 NLT
http://bible.com/116/jhn.10.28-29.NLT

RELIGION VS RELATIONSHIP
2 Peter 2:20-22 ESV
For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.”

FALSE CONVERT VS BORN AGAIN, SPIRIT FILLED
Hebrews 6:4-6 ESV
For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.

EXAMINING & IDENTIFYING OURSELVES
Hebrews 10:26 ESV
For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins,

THE PAYMENT HAS BEEN MADE
Isaiah 53:6 ESV
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

UNDERSTAND HIS LOVE
Romans 5:8 ESV
But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

CONFESS AND BELIEVE
Romans 10:9-10 ESV
Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.

THE CALL OF GOD – THE CHOICE OF MAN
Revelation 3:20 ESV
Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.

THE DECISION – TURNING AWAY
John 6:64-69 ESV
But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life,

THE DECISION – LIVE IN CHRIST & CHRIST IN YOU
John 15:5 ESV
I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

THE RESULT
And he also said, “It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life. All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children. “But cowards, unbelievers, the corrupt, murderers, the immoral, those who practice witchcraft, idol worshipers, and all liars—their fate is in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”
Revelation 21:6-8 NLT
http://bible.com/116/rev.21.6-8.NLT

What is God’s will?

However, those the Father has given me will come to me, and I will never reject them. For I have come down from heaven to do the will of God who sent me, not to do my own will.
John 6:37-38 NLT
http://bible.com/116/jhn.6.37-38.NLT

I am His. I know this because He draws me near to Him. I can trust that He will not forsake me. And He gave me the example to follow – to do God’s will and not my own.

So the next logical question is,  what is God’s will?

Continue reading “What is God’s will?”