Tough Love?

And on some have compassion, making a distinction; but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.
Jude 1:22-23 NKJV

With children, some situations call for compassion and some call for correction. If all we ever offer is compassion,  we will end up with selfish,  manipulative little devils. And if all we offer is correction,  we will end up with resentful,  rebellious little devils. It takes both to be an effective parent. And it takes listening to and receiving both to grow in maturity.

It is the same with the Kingdom of God. We must be willing to receive both His mercy and His discipline. Both are ingredients necessary for growth and survival.

A fool with little vision or understanding, looking at the strong heat of the sun bearing down on plants day after day, might see outwardly that the sun is causing them to bend under its power might, but not having any knowledge or understanding of what is going on inside the plant, this fool might completely misunderstand the purpose for the sun’s brightness shining down on the plants so they can grow closer to the sun.

This same fool might look at the soil of the earth and the rains that come down on the plant and bless the rain for providing the plant with mercy while cursing the sin for the harsh trials that it puts these plants through, not realizing that only through the sun – through its transforming the materials provided by the earth and rain to the plant – can any fruit be grown. Without the sun, no amount of water and soil will rise up to be anything more than water,  dirt,  or mud. It is the warmth of the sun,  and the power of its repeated, powerful shining down on the plants that awakens the seed to burst forth from the ground and reach towards the heavens as it grows.

And this is how our trials grow us. This is why both the mercy and the trials are important. If all we are interested in is the rain of His mercy and the resources of the soil of this earth – if we listen to the twisted message of the enemy and are interested only in receiving the rain of forgiveness and the wealth and comforts of this world,  but we refuse the trials and correction and discipline of repentance – don’t we understand that we are rolling in the mud like the pigs instead of reaching towards the heavens?

And if we will speak to others about Christ, if we will call ourselves teachers of His one way,  one truth,  one life – aren’t we called to follow Him in that way and to share the whole truth of this Christian life – not just the same story of the rain and the soil that even the pigs know how to get excited about – but singing praises of His trials and tribulations and discipline and chastisement and correction and redemption and delivery from the soil to reach for the heavens, yearning to escape the mud and grow closer to the sun?

Yes,  even the pigs get excited about rain and soil. Even the pigs get excited about forgiveness and prosperity. But only the living and growing plants appreciate the heat of the trials and sufferings and persecution that we as, Christians are promised in this life – because we understand that is where the growth happens,  that is where the escape from the ways of this world occurs, that is what draws us closer and closer to the source of our life even while we are still planted in the ground.

The Lord has made the sun shine down,  the rains fall down, and the earth to break open and allow room for our roots to grow deep – not so that we can cling tightly to this world,  but so that we can grow taller and higher and closer to the heavens. But if we are only grounded in the soil and mud, the storms of adversity would tip us over and we would only be useful as wood for the fire. We look to grow upward.

And we are meant to be those who abandon the ways of this world – those who follow Christ faithfully – those who are not just called to grow – those who have been chosen to be grafted into the strong and sturdy vine of Christ. Once we are tapped into that strong vine of Christ, when we are a branch that has been grafted into His tree, when we have Him as our foundation, we are not only growing towards the heavens,  but living alongside and with our Savior daily.

So we should ask ourselves where we are in this journey? Are we still rolling in the mud? Are we just bursting forth from the ground? Are we cursing the strong heat of the trials, wishing we were back in the mud? Are we shooting up fast and high above the mud in pride of our own accomplishments only to be withered away and fruitless because we are looking down on others and not up at the sun? Have we grown in the past,  but we’ve let ourselves become stunted in our growth because of our concern over whether we’ve gathered enough soil and water at the base of our roots,  worried about our toppling over instead of expecting to be grafted into a new vine? Have we been grafted in and we’re excited to see new buds growing on our branches? Have we been bearing fruit for some time but we’re wondering where it all went?

Yes, we are each at a different place in this journey – but we all have the opportunity to continue growing instead of turning back to the mud. There is something much better than the mud, friends, isn’t there? Don’t you know the truth? Tell someone else,  and find out if they also know that there is something better than the mud. Yes,  we all played in the mud at one time, but we have a better destination and purpose available. Are you Called? Following?  Chosen?

Are you certain? Why?

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.
Philippians 1:6 NLT

We can be confident that if God has started a work in us, that it will be completed. We can be confident,  when we look and see lives that are being filled with the fruit of the Holy Spirit,  with the change that comes from seed that has been planted and watered and has been budding and growing over time into a new and changed character in a person that there is something spiritual at work inside them. And when God starts a work in someone,  He intends to complete it,  so we can find confidence in His being faithful and true.

I look to the story of Balaam and his donkey. That very same donkey that he had ridden all of his life suddenly began acting quite different than usual. It resisted the way that Balaam wanted to go because it knew that if he went that way Balaam would be killed. But Balaam was concerned about how foolish he was looking to those around him by his not being able to follow in the same path where those men with him were going. He wasn’t concerned with the why, and he didn’t think about whether or not this path might be contrary to God’s will,  he intended to follow it. So he began beating his donkey.

“But I am the same donkey you have ridden all your life,” the donkey answered. “Have I ever done anything like this before?” “No,” Balaam admitted. Then the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the roadway with a drawn sword in his hand. Balaam bowed his head and fell face down on the ground before him. “Why did you beat your donkey those three times?” the angel of the Lord demanded. “Look, I have come to block your way because you are stubbornly resisting me. Three times the donkey saw me and shied away; otherwise, I would certainly have killed you by now and spared the donkey.” Then Balaam confessed to the angel of the Lord , “I have sinned. I didn’t realize you were standing in the road to block my way. I will return home if you are against my going.” But the angel of the Lord told Balaam, “Go with these men, but say only what I tell you to say.” So Balaam went on with Balak’s officials.
Numbers 22:30-35 NLT

If we know someone, especially if we have known them long enough to know their character,  the baseline of their normal behavior, we can also recognize when there is difference in their behavior that is “out of character” for them. We can have reasonable expectations for how both their emotional feelings and rational mind are going to work together to respond to a situation our circumstance, because we’ve seen the evidence and know their patterns. But there are also spiritual influences that can alter this normal/baseline behavior.

We can recognize the spiritual influence of growth and change in ourselves if we have received the baptism of the Holy Spirit and we are indeed born again Children of God, because our lives will be altered and we will bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives. This is how those who are spiritual can make right judgements about whether or not someone is “in the faith”. In fact, this is how we can encourage others to have confidence that God will complete the work that He has begun.

And it is not because someone pretends that they are perfect and without sin, because those are blind, lying to themselves, without any real understanding of the ways of c Good,  but blinded by their own prose and religious attitudes. It is also not because of a strong but short lived interest in God because someone has come to the knowledge of their sin and have felt shame and guilt and reacted in emotion towards the Word of God for a short time and then turned back to the ways of the world.

Paul in this letter to the Philippians can have confidence in what the Lord is going to accomplish in their lives because he has seen the change to their character,  the change to their baseline attitudes,  the change to their desires and motivations that comes from a new heart and the teaching and guidance of the Holy Spirit. Paul can confidently trust in the Lord and encourage them that the Lord will complete His work in them, not just because He saw them say a prayer,  not just because he saw them dunked under water, but because he saw the evidence of true change in their lives. If we know the change of repentance, if we examine our lives and see true change and interest in following the will of God,  we can find confidence in that.

But if we are more interested in following in the ways of the world, and we are frustrated that we can’t go the way of the world, afraid that we are going to look foolish in the eyes of the world if we don’t walk that same path that they are walking – if we are more interested in our own way, we might need to examine ourselves for fruit and determine whose way and life is truth and which leads to destruction.

Just because you’ve ignored that other voice in your head because it sounds foolish and limiting and restrictive doesn’t mean that you are wise or right.

Fools think their own way is right, but the wise listen to others.
Proverbs 12:15 NLT

I wonder how often we beat and resist the very donkey in our lives that has c a message from God for us,  because we are more interested in listening to the world than God?

This is why it is important that we examine ourselves – not so that we can think that, we’ve arrived – no,  that is pride! But so that we can have confidence in the Lord that He is, at work in us and that our deceitful heart is not deceiving us.

“The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? But I, the Lord , search all hearts and examine secret motives. I give all people their due rewards, according to what their actions deserve.”
Jeremiah 17:9-10 NLT

Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine. Test yourselves. Surely you know that Jesus Christ is among you ; if not, you have failed the test of genuine faith.
2 Corinthians 13:5 NLT

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. But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses. 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 5:16-26 NLT

Can I trust in the Lord and have confidence that He will complete the work that He has started in you,  friend? The answer depends not on God,  but on you,  whether or not you have believed,  received and repented so that His work has yet begun in you. Because His promises are faithful and true.

I hope the answer is yes. Our I hope if the answer has been no up to this moment,  that it will be yes today and forevermore and eternity as you surrender your life to Him,  choosing to now walk in the one way,  the one truth,  the one life,  Jesus Christ.

Choose the narrow gate of our only Hope in Jesus Christ, and walk the narrow path of Faithfulness, and the Holy Spirit of Christ will come upon you and anoint you with the Love of God that pours out upon His Children.

There is no greater peon,  there is no greater prize, than to serve at the feet of the Lord and never leave His presence – and I’m not talking about one day after you are dead. I’m talking about today, now, while your service is of use in waking others to the truth.


Let’s don’t fool ourselves, let’s examine ourselves.

Do you remember what I told you? ‘A slave is not greater than the master.’ Since they persecuted me, naturally they will persecute you. And if they had listened to me, they would listen to you.
John 15:20 NLT

A slave to sin is mastered by evil. It is because this slave is not stronger than His master that he cannot overcome the master and break free. Our world is full of people who are slaves to sin.

Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin.
John 8:34 NLT

And those who are slaves to sin are not the same as those who are freed. Those who are still slaves to sin are not yet a permanent member of the family.

A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son is part of the family forever.
John 8:35 NLT

And if we are still slaves to sin, isn’t it clear that we are not strong enough on our own to overcome that which has enslaved us? We need someone stronger than our current master so we might be delivered from slavery.

For who is powerful enough to enter the house of a strong man like Satan and plunder his goods? Only someone even stronger—someone who could tie him up and then plunder his house.
Matthew 12:29 NLT

But it was not God’s plan for us to remain slaves. This is why Jesus Christ came in the flesh,  to walk this earth as a man,  subject to the law – so that He could fulfill the law and free us from our bondage.

But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children.  And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.”  Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are his child, God has made you his heir.
Galatians 4:4-7 NLT

And if we are His and if we truly believe,  then we are set free from sin – not just free from the consequences – but free from being a slave to sin any longer.

So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.
John 8:36 NLT

And the prompting for us to cry out to Him,  the call for us to believe, it is a free gift extended to us from our Heavenly Father who wants to reconcile us back into His household as His children.

“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.  God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him. There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him.
John 3:16-18 NLT

The reason that we are free is not our own power – but in the authority that Christ gives us over all the power of the enemy. There is power in the name of Jesus Christ, in the name of Yeshua HaMashiach.

When the seventy-two disciples returned, they joyfully reported to him, “Lord, even the demons obey us when we use your name!” “Yes,” he told them, “I saw Satan fall from heaven like lightning!  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 10:17-20 NLT

But the problem then remains that we are free,  but we remain in a world filled with slaves. And those slaves are still serving their old master. They are still in darkness.

And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil.  All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed.  But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants. ”
John 3:19-21 NLT

The revealing and divisive thing about  Jesus Christ is that since He makes His power and authority available to us, we have no excuse for remaining in our sins. We truly have the ability to choose who we would rather love and serve – our old master of sin and wickedness and worldliness and things of the flesh, or our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who welcomes us into our Heavenly Father’s house and eternal life. We choose whether we love the things of this world or the heavenly and eternal treasures of God.

“Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal.  Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.  Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be. “Your eye is a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is good, your whole body is filled with light.  But when your eye is bad, your whole body is filled with darkness. And if the light you think you have is actually darkness, how deep that darkness is! “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.
Matthew 6:19-24 NLT

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.  If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.  And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?
Matthew 16:24-26 NLT

So if the world loves things of the world, if the world is seeking prosperity, and honor from one another, and titles, and pleasures, but we love the things of God – that is going to create some division. 

“If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first.  The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you.  Do you remember what I told you? ‘A slave is not greater than the master.’ Since they persecuted me, naturally they will persecute you. And if they had listened to me, they would listen to you.  They will do all this to you because of me, for they have rejected the one who sent me.  They would not be guilty if I had not come and spoken to them. But now they have no excuse for their sin.  Anyone who hates me also hates my Father.
John 15:18-23 NLT

Yes, it will cause division because there are two different masters involved. One whose works are evident in the flesh of those he still holds captive in slavery:

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.
Galatians 5:19-21 NLT

And the one true God who as our Heavenly Father,  by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ the Son, and through the gift of the Holy Spirit,  produces a new kind of life in those He is reconciling to be like Him:

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.
Galatians 5:22-24 NLT

So we must ask ourselves, are we still slaves to sin, serving the current master of this world’s slaves? Or are we called and chosen, set apart as a peculiar people – because we are light amongst the darkness,  the salt of the earth? And if we are His,  what must we do?

You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name.  This is my command: Love each other.
John 15:16-17 NLT

So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls. But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.
James 1:21-22 NLT