Glimpses or Wellspring

Sunrise on the farm

One of our security cameras caught a picture of the sunrise as Mandee left to take Mia to school yesterday. I was talking with a vendor at work who commented on how beautiful it is here where we live, and I had to agree. We have beautiful sunrises, beautiful mountain views, and we see surprises of new beauty from nature every day. We also saw a new resident on the farm that we have named “Charlie”, or “Chuck” for short. We were sitting at the kitchen table eating lunch, and Mandee exclaimed, “What is that?! Is that an animal?” So I grabbed my “good camera” and snapped on a zoom lens and was able to get a quick picture of Charlie.

Charlie the Woodchuck

Since my wife was getting ready and putting on her makeup this morning, I read our family devotional with Mia, Olive, Pompom, and I all snuggled up in our bed. And as I began reading, Mandee chuckled to herself about the fact that it started out “Man looks at the outward appearance but I look at the heart” while she was putting on her makeup.

Jesus Always – Feb 26

But this morning’s devotional wasn’t just about the outward display of God’s handiwork, or just about glimpses of His glory in nature, or just about warnings about letting ourselves get hung up on outward appearances.

No, the most important piece of the devotion that we needed to hear was to “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” And in case we were too sleepy eyed, or distracted, or foolish to realize that was the most important thing — like a good teacher laying hints during review for a test — the Word of God clearly emphasizes this by starting out “Above all else”.

A Wellspring in Nature

“Above all else” seems pretty important, don’t you think?

My mom and I talked about the state of the church in America on the phone last night, and how instead of ” guarding their own hearts” and insisting it is a “wellspring of life” — it seems like much of mainstream conservatism has become complacent and primarily focused on telling people what they should be “afraid of”, what they should be “offended by”, what they should be “loudly opposed to”. Outward appearance and loud demonstration “against things” seems to have grown to be the keynote for too many religious discussions — while too few focus on asking:

“What is the source of this fear? What is flooding fear into our hearts, and therefore flooding words of fear from our mouths and fearful posts from our social media influence?”

“What is the source of this offense? What is flooding offense into our hearts,  and therefore flooding words of fear from our mouths and offended and offensive posts in our social media influence?”

“What is the source of this opposition and divisiveness? What is flooding divisiveness into our hearts,  and therefore flooding words of exclusivity from our mouths and divisive posts in our social media influence?”

Polluted Waters

Some might say with pointed fingers that “What THEY are doing is causing us to act this way!” But Jesus explains how defilement happens quite clearly:

After He called the people to Him again, He began saying to them, “Listen [carefully] to Me, all of you, [hear] and understand [what I am saying]: there is nothing outside a man [such as food] which by going into him can defile him [morally or spiritually]; but the things which come out of [the heart of] a man are what defile and dishonor him. [ If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” ] When Jesus had left the crowd and gone into the house, His disciples asked Him about the parable. And He said to them, “Are you, too, so foolish and lacking in understanding? Do you not understand that whatever goes into the man from outside cannot defile and dishonor him, since it does not enter his heart, but [only] his stomach, and [from there it] is eliminated?” ( By this, He declared all foods ceremonially clean.) And He said, “Whatever comes from [the heart of] a man, that is what defiles and dishonors him. For from within, [that is] out the heart of men, come base and malevolent thoughts and schemes, acts of sexual immorality, thefts, murders, adulteries, acts of greed and covetousness, wickedness, deceit, unrestrained conduct, envy and jealousy, slander and profanity, arrogance and self-righteousness and foolishness (poor judgment). All these evil things [schemes and desires] come from within and defile and dishonor the man.”
Mark 7:14‭-‬23 AMP

Yes, He is talking about physical food not defiling us, but we “consume” more from television and the Internet these days than we could ever consume with our mouths to fill our newly expanded quarantine bellies. Do we fear that TV show or website or vaccine or implant because we think that it might “defile us” and that it is the “mark of the beast”? Or is the real fear that the real source of the “wellspring of our heart” might be those things Jesus described as the true mark of the beast, the true means of discerning whose are children of a very different Father. Those things that rise up from within the ravenous wolves to be visible beyond the white washed outward imitation of sheep.

Let’s contrast what comes out of the heart of men:

out the heart of men, come base and malevolent thoughts and schemes, acts of sexual immorality, thefts, murders, adulteries, acts of greed and covetousness, wickedness, deceit, unrestrained conduct, envy and jealousy, slander and profanity, arrogance and self-righteousness and foolishness (poor judgment).” – Mark 7:

Now the practices of the sinful nature are clearly evident: they are sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality (total irresponsibility, lack of self-control), idolatry, sorcery, hostility, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions [that promote heresies], envy, drunkenness, riotous behavior, and other things like these. I warn you beforehand, just as I did previously, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” – Galatians 5:19‭-‬21 AMP

To what springs forth from the Holy Spirit of God:

But the fruit of the Spirit [the result of His presence within us] is love [unselfish concern for others], joy, [inner] peace, patience [not the ability to wait, but how we act while waiting], kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature together with its passions and appetites. If we [claim to] live by the [Holy] Spirit, we must also walk by the Spirit [with personal integrity, godly character, and moral courage—our conduct empowered by the Holy Spirit]. We must not become conceited, challenging or provoking one another, envying one another.
Galatians 5:22‭-‬26 AMP

First, we must ask, “Does His pure life flow through me, or is my wellspring from something polluted and impure?”

If you see the need for change… for a new wellspring inside, beloved…

Do you believe with your heart in Christ as Savior, and confess your faith in Jesus openly with your life?

because if you acknowledge and confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord [recognizing His power, authority, and majesty as God], and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart a person believes [in Christ as Savior] resulting in his justification [that is, being made righteous—being freed of the guilt of sin and made acceptable to God]; and with the mouth he acknowledges and confesses [his faith openly], resulting in and confirming [his] salvation. For the Scripture says, “W hoever believes in H im [whoever adheres to, trusts in, and relies on Him] will not be disappointed [in his expectations].”
Romans 10:9‭-‬11 AM

Do you ask Him for the Holy Spirit, this wellspring of life, an abundant supply of His character, nature, and presence in your life?

So I say to you, ask and keep on asking, and it will be given to you; seek and keep on seeking, and you will find; knock and keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who keeps on asking [persistently], receives; and he who keeps on seeking [persistently], finds; and to him who keeps on knocking [persistently], the door will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you, then, being evil [that is, sinful by nature], know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask and continue to ask Him!
Luke 11:9‭-‬13 AMP

Thank you, Lord, for being our wellspring. Amen.

[Spruce Pine] Proverbs 5 Questions

Chapter 5 – Discernment & Self-Control

1) How does he describe discernment? (Verses 1-2)

2) What does he say about immoral women? (Verses 3-6, 8)

3) What dies he say about sex within a god ordained marriage? (Verses 15-19)

4) Why does a man die? (Verse 23)

Cross References

How does 2 Peter 2:17-19 in the new testament confirm and agree with what we have read in Proverbs chapter 5 (especially verse 23)?

How does 2 Timothy 1:7 in the new testament confirm and agree with what we have read in Proverbs chapter 5 (especially verse 23)?

Slaves?

What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.
Romans 6:15‭-‬18 NKJV

Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law. You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt  to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.
Galatians 5:1‭-‬5 NKJV

Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.  And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever.  Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.
John 8:34‭-‬36 NKJV

We naturally like the idea of being powerful and in control and in authority over our own lives. We naturally like our who to be inflated and proud,  in fact,  the world and modern society rewards and applauds those with inflated egos and envies them and puts them in high places of honor because they are usually very productive and successful from a worldly perspective.

I’m not saying that the humble cannot also be very productive and successful, but for the humble it is a byproduct of the Lord’s favor and blessing poured on them so they can help others – while for the proud, it is a heeping up of treasures for themselves. Yes, it truly is about the master of our heart and desires. You cannot say rich=favored/forsaken and poor=forsaken/favored anymore than you can say works=heaven and still=death. The Lord is not a respects of persons, stations, or titles and sets us each in our own position to be used according to His will and guidance, for His glory and honor.

Yes, if I’m seeking my own honor and glory, isn’t it clear which master I am serving? If I choose to live in evil and doubt over living in the righteousness of faith and godly love, isn’t it clear which master I am serving?

Do not fear, little ones, He corrects you in order to change you. He shows you what needs to be cast out of your life so that the enemy will not gain a foothold within your life. He tells you that there is a better master to free you, not just from the wages and consequences of death “some day” but to free you from a life of sin TODAY.

He who Christ sets free is free indeed. Are you on your way towards being set free? Are you longing for that day when sin and death and the darkness of this world will be long forgotten and you will walk in light? Then keep seeking Him diligently and remain steadfast in the faith,  because many have fallen away,  friend. And don’t rest in your own strength, which is weakness and imperfection. Our help comes from the Lord. Trust in Him and Him alone.  Hunger for righteousness for His name’s sake, not so that you can appear righteous in the eyes of others. Become a slave,  and in doing so, experience true freedom.

Slave to the master who frees slaves to an abundant life – or slave to the master who steals, kills, and destroys? We each choose. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

ALL Devoted Themselves

All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper ), and to prayer. A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity — all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved. – Acts of the Apostles 2:42‭-‬47 NLT

What a church! And I don’t say that because of grand buildings, or leaders with doctorates in theology, or a charismatic leader with controversial messages that appeal to the hearts of the worldly. This was a beautiful community of people sacrificing for one another because they loved God and loved one another. ALL of them devoted themselves, not just a few that claimed a “higher calling” while the others remained satisfied lukewarm and complacent and religious. They actually took to heart the teachings of Christ who wanted us putting the needs of others above our own wants. They actually sought Him and His ways diligently. They actually loved God.

So shouldn’t we ask, Do I love God? Do I love others? Does “my church” love God? Does it love others? Does it resemble this alive and thriving body of believers?

God of wind and fire, whoever would have guessed that ac ragtag band of Jewish followers could be bound together in a movement that would turn the world upside down? Only because of your Holy Spirit, who is fully God. Do that work again in our day; take a wildly diverse people who don’t naturally fit together, and make a peculiar and compelling community, beautiful because of Jesus. In His name we pray,  amen. (HC 53)

We need your revival, Lord. A change and a fire so peculiar that the world cannot hide from the bright light of our house upon a hill. Let us be the church publicly and unashamedly in our lives every day, not just privately in our buildings and prayer closets.

What a high calling, to be your church – not to just go to church – not to just be a church member, volunteer, teacher, preacher, evangelist, pastor, or servant – but to take up the call to be a disciple of Christ, a student of the Word of God, a Child of the most high God, a vessel of His Holy Spirit, a royal priesthood, the Body of Christ,  the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in Heaven. Help us to do your will today, Lord. Establish our footsteps so that we will walk upright in righteousness, truth, mercy and love. Fill our lives with the fruit of your Holy Spirit, and may our lives bring nourishment to those in need of hope, encouragement, love, and repentance – and bring honor and glory to your name.  Amen.

The Day of Pentecost

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.
Ezekiel 36:26‭-‬27 NKJV

When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, “Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? And how is  it  that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born? Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.” So they were all amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “Whatever could this mean?”

Others mocking said, “They are full of new wine.” But Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and said to them, “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and heed my words. For these are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams. And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; And they shall prophesy. I will show wonders in heaven above And signs in the earth beneath: Blood and fire and vapor of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood, Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord . And it shall come to pass That  whoever calls on the name of the Lord Shall be saved.’
Acts 2:1‭-‬21 NKJV

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15:13 NKJV
http://bible.com/114/rom.15.13.NKJV

Electricity, Power

Walter Knight tells the story about a little boy who had recently received Christ. “Daddy, how can I believe in the Holy Spirit when I have never seen Him?” asked Jim. “I’ll show you how,” said his father, who was an electrician. Later Jim went with his father to the power plant where he was shown the generators. “This is where the power comes from to heat our stove and to give us light. We cannot see the power, but it is in that machine and in the power lines,” said the father. “I believe in electricity,” said Jim. “Of course you do,” said his father, “but you don’t believe in it because you see it. You believe in it because you see what it can do. Likewise, you can believe in the Holy Spirit because you can see what He does in people’s lives when they are surrendered to Christ and possess His power.”

“If you love Me, keep My commandments.  And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever—  the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.  I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.
John 14:15-18 NKJV
http://bible.com/114/jhn.14.15-18.NKJV

Lord, you are amazing to not just forgive us for our sins,  to not just show us the way by the example of your walk on this earth, but to come and dwell with us and change or lives,  reconciling us to be more like Christ,  empowering us to put away the ways of the world and the flesh to walk in step with your Holy Spirit – as we surrender to your will. And this surrender is not just once in prayer,  but a daily death to self will and renewal in your grace, as we learn to walk in your Spirit as this new creation being molded and chastened and disciplined and taught by you.

Lord, help us to turn on the lights, to turn on the righteousness, to turn on the holiness, to turn on the sacrificial love in our lives that is clearly separate and different than the ways of this world – not so that we can stand proud of the change – but so that others who don’t yet know this power might understand that it is real. It is easy for someone to deny the existence of electricity if they’ve never seen it at work in a light bulb, television, or other appliance. If we say that power is in the lines,  but refuse to turn on the appliances to prove it, how foolish would we seem to those who don’t believe?

Lord, we want to walk closer to you today, more in your strength and power and less in our flesh nature – we realize this is not an easy walk and that it will put us in opposition to the normal,  natural flow of this world and its agents and influences – but we want to sell our worthless possessions and buy that field that has the real treasure in it,  those eternal blessings. Help us today to follow in your footsteps, bearing the burdens of others, sharing the testimony of you Holy Spirit alive and guiding us.  And this testimony is best communicated through our life example of faithful actions,  even to the point that words are only necessary to explain why our life is so peculiar, so different, so unique when examined by the commonplace ways of the world around us. Lord, let your light shine through us, so that your power cannot be denied, so that all of us might want the one and only thing that we need in our lives daily – more of You.

Will we enter in? Do we want to?

O Lord , who shall sojourn in your tent?
Who shall dwell on your holy hill?
 
He who walks blamelessly
and does what is right
and speaks truth in his heart; 
who does not slander with his tongue
and does no evil to his neighbor,
nor takes up a reproach against his friend; 
in whose eyes a vile person is despised,
but who honors those who fear the Lord ;
who swears to his own hurt and does not change; 
who does not put out his money at interest
and does not take a bribe against the innocent.

He who does these things shall never be moved.
Psalm 15:1-5 ESV
http://bible.com/59/psa.15.1-5.ESV

Can we see some of the words about His followers:
Blameless, righteous, truth, heart, keep oaths, lend

Can we also see some of the words about His enemies:
Slander, wrong, slur, vile, accept bribes

And can’t we agree that we know what is right from what is wrong? Can’t we agree that we have the opportunity to make choices each day between doing right or doing wrong?

And deciding to do right instead of deciding to do wrong has a name in scripture,  and it is called repentance. It is a step that is taken in a new direction,  it is a turning away from our old path as we decide to turn to a life seeking the Lord’s purpose and direction for our lives.

Yes, our deciding to change direction is the beginning of our journey and not the end. Because if repentance under our own power was out goal – if fighting against these old urges to keep them under control and in compliance with the law was all that we had to rely on, wouldn’t everyone turn back from the burdensome curse of the law?

And it happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the inland country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples. And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”
And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John’s baptism.” And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying. There were about twelve men in all.
Acts 19:1-7 ESV
http://bible.com/59/act.19.1-7.ESV

We can see that there is more than just repentance. We can see that there is more than just putting on an outward mask of compliance while wrestling to keep our carnal nature hidden under the wraps of religious exercise. That is not a place of peace, but one of fear, because how could those living that way “speak the truth from their hearts” while still meeting all of the other descriptions of a believer?

You see, it takes a divine intervention,  not just our own turning in repentance.

Yes,  it requires or repentance AS WELL, so please do not misunderstand me to be justifying grace as a license to sin. I expect that some itchy ears will seek out the false teacher they desire if that is the message they seek. But I pray that you would instead remain to hear the truth (even if it proves uncomfortable and convicting) that I share with you from the Word of God rightly divided and Holy Spirit led.

There is a point at which repentance shifts from striving against our old nature into a life of praise and worship to God for what He has done and is doing in our lives. That shift comes when we are made a new creation through the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

And I encourage you not to get hung up on which spiritual gifts you have and which you do not, whether you speak in tongues or you do not, whether you prophesy or you do not,  whether the Holy Spirit fell on you like Paul on the Damascus Road, or whether you received it from the laying on of hands like these disciples at Ephesus, or whether you were born with it and grew in it like John the Baptist – because we each are different parts of the body of Christ with our own callings,  seasons,  and purposes.  But I do encourage you to test yourself to see whether or not you are walking in the Spirit and living the life of one “who may dwell in” His sanctuary,  “who may live on” His holy mountain.

So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 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. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
Romans 8:12-17 ESV
http://bible.com/59/rom.8.12-17.ESV

We have much to celebrate, child of God! We have such a great reason to celebrate in praise and worship over what the Lord has done for us!

This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Psalm 118:24 ESV
http://bible.com/59/psa.118.24.ESV

The path of humanity

Speaking humanly –

We all know that it is better to do right than to do wrong. We all know that it is better to help someone than to hurt them. We all know that there are ways that we can all work together for the common good of a community.

But why do we on one hand know these truths, if on the other hand we say it is all about serving self and having the right to decide what is right for ourselves? How foolish is it for us to ignore central, unchanging truths about how life is best lived? How foolish is it for us to decide that “I know better”, “This won’t hurt me”, and “I can do what I want”. Are we so blind to the warnings of others, of history, of laws that we are simply fools to the consequences we are lining up for ourselves and others through our poor decision making and lack of self control and discipline? Or are we inviting destruction into our lives like a kamikaze pilot?

So, still speaking within the bounds of our humanly understanding, we should all be able to understand that there are bad paths with negative consequences, and that there are good paths with positive rewards. And yes, we can acknowledge that many times the bad path is trading off some small, immediate gratification at the cost of a later, higher cost – which is attractive to the foolish. And we can acknowledge that many times the bad path is trading off a small pleasure or treasure for ourselves at the cost of hurting, oppressing, or denying someone else – which is attractive to the selfish.

We could go on all day agreeing to what is good and what is bad, and building laws around these things to remind men of what they already know. And we could build prisons and lay out punishments for them, if they are just foolish and need to learn the truth that they are making decisions that are hurting themselves and others.

But through law and punishment alone, we cannot change the hearts and desires of those who are selfish, prideful, deceitful, hateful, gossipers, slanderers, adulterers, lustful, addicts, etc. Because the law doesn’t make any change to the inside, it just strives to force people to conform on the outside, leaving the underlying urges of people’s hearts to do things that are not right or good. The law doesn’t create obedience on the inside, it hides inward disobedience under the mask of compliance.

In fact, the law on its own then serves as a catalyst for those to argue, “But if I am born with this urge in my heart, then who are you to deny me” as they strive for the very lawlessness and destruction that their hearts desire. And can’t we, see this is true when we look at the eradication of our communities which were once vibrant and interactive and alive – but that have been traded for isolation and fear and all kinds of, wickedness rising up around us?

Yes, this world when left in the hands of men is headed on a collision course with disaster. Because men are either foolish, or they are selfish, or they are both. And there is no other kind of man. You yourself that is reading this, have you devoted much time to helping your neighbor this week? Have you clothed and fed the homeless? Have you treated your friends with kindness? How about your enemies, have you treated them with loving kindness? Have you loved and praised God like He deserves?

And some of you will jump at that with a startled reaction, and say “But I thought that we were talking humanly, why did you have to bring God into this?” And yes, that is the reaction of proud men who want to solve this predicament on their own. We do not want to admit that we are not in control and that we are unable to build our own stairway to heaven. Isn’t that the struggle? That we want to do it our way so that we can get some credit for ourselves?

And yes, there is one path that many choose where they can take credit for their own choices, their own decisions, their own works. And they can choose to lay the evidence of their life’s works on the table and be judged by a righteous and perfect God, and they will get what they deserve – the pit of eternal flames. Because each and every one of us deserves that if we are only under the law, right? How many times have you worn clothes of different types of fabric? How many times have you looked at someone other than your spouse with lust and committed adultery in your heart? How many times have you seen something that wasn’t yours and longed for it in envy and jealousy instead of being satisfied and content with the many blessings the Lord has already given you? How many times have you done things in the dark and alone and in secret that you don’t want the world to know about? How many times have you forgotten God’s way and done it your own way?

Do you not know that you are a wicked, foolish person far from the perfect ways of a just God who will judge with righteousness and uprightness? Do you not know your need to be changed on the inside – not by religious adherence to traditions of men, but by the transforming power of something greater than you that can change your very heart, nature, and desires?

As the people were in expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ, John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” So with many other exhortations he preached good news to the people.
Luke 3:15-18 ESV
http://bible.com/59/luk.3.15-18.ESV

I’m not asking you if you’ve received the baptism of John where you promise with your mouth to repent and interact with some water from this world, friend. I’m asking if you’ve come in contact with the living waters of the baptism of the Holy Spirit coming into your life and changing you from the inside out. Is there any breath of His abundant life in your lungs? Is there any fire in your bones for sharing the Good News with the nations? Is there a transplant for your cold, hard heart so that you now go out to serve and love your neighbors, the needy, the afflicted, the imprisoned, even your enemies?

And do you realize that none of YOUR works are pure, perfect, and good? But do you realize that if you allow Him to use you, He can do amazing works through you? If you realize this in your mind, I ask you, are you allowing it to take place in your heart?

And humanly speaking, if we all lived like Jesus. If we followed His example and His teachings, wouldn’t it be a better world? Are there some things that each of us must give up that our hearts desire and long for by nature, yes. But there is something much greater than desire, than pleasure, than lawlessness – and it is love for God and for others – and the payoff isn’t “someday when I get to heaven”. The payoff is now, both for you and for those around you.

Every good and perfect gift is from God, and His gifts don’t come with hidden consequences and destruction for you and those around you. But how many times have we accepted curses from that genie whose gifts always come at a cost because they come quick and easy – instead of living in the blessing of an abundant life filled with God’s presence.

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Psalm 16:11 ESV

What is valuable?

I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done.
Philippians 3:7 NLT
http://bible.com/116/php.3.7.NLT

When we first read this verse alone,  we might think that when Paul says “I once thought these things were valuable” that the “things” he is speaking about are the things of this world. That’s a valid leap of logic when we’ve gained a basic understanding of the types of things that the Bible teaches us. However,  if we look at the context of this passage –

Watch out for those dogs, those people who do evil, those mutilators who say you must be circumcised to be saved. For we who worship by the Spirit of God are the ones who are truly circumcised. We rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us. We put no confidence in human effort, though I could have confidence in my own effort if anyone could. Indeed, if others have reason for confidence in their own efforts, I have even more! I was circumcised when I was eight days old. I am a pure-blooded citizen of Israel and a member of the tribe of Benjamin—a real Hebrew if there ever was one! I was a member of the Pharisees, who demand the strictest obedience to the Jewish law. I was so zealous that I harshly persecuted the church. And as for righteousness, I obeyed the law without fault. I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!
Philippians 3:2-11 NLT
http://bible.com/116/php.3.2-11.NLT

We can see that Paul is talking about worthless “things” like the following are, a wrong perspective:
– “pure-blooded citizen of Israel”
– “member of the tribe of Benjamin”
– “human effort”
– “strictest obedience to the Jewish law”
– “zealous”
– “obeyed the law without fault”

And He counts these things as worthless because of what Christ has done. He makes it clear that knowing Christ and having a relationship with Him is really what matters. He points out to us that it isn’t about “measuring up to Christ”, that it isn’t that we must be highly religious to be saved.

He points out that this right perspective is about :

– knowing Christ Jesus as my Lord
– worshipping Him (by walking in) the Spirit of God.
– relying on what Christ has done for us
– putting no confidence in human effort
– becoming righteous through faith
– trusting God’s way of making us right with himself
– experiencing the mighty power (of the Holy Spirit) that raised Him from the dead
– suffering with Him
– sharing in His death

You see, this new perspective is not just human,  outward compliance to the letter of the law. It isn’t just striving to work hard enough for a master to earn something in return. It is a process by which our hope and belief in His promises leads us to an attitude of gratefulness and thankfulness for this amazing gift of grace – and it is in this humble place of receiving the undeserved,  unmerited gift of freedom that we have the opportunity to find love for God – to understand His love for us,  and to respond with a life loving Him in return, a life turned to Him in repentance and walking with Him faithfully because of the power of His Holy Spirit at work in us.

The results may look the same on the outside. Many people can act religious,  focusing on the outward obedience by striving on their own to imitate the walk of a born again Child of God. But if they don’t have His Holy Spirit inside powering their desires and motives,  their striving is worthless and useless because, I would have nothing.

If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.
1 Corinthians 13:1-3 NLT
http://bible.com/116/1co.13.1-3.NLT

And yes,  if we have this love we will obey His commandments,  not just continue a life in sin. We will repent of our sinful ways, so I’m not saying that this Grace is a license to sin. I’m saying that Jesus set the bar a lot higher than just outward compliance that looks to human eyes the same as true obedience of the heart. God weighs our heart, and we cannot fool Him with silly religious sacrifices when He desires mercy. He set the bar at love – true Godly, righteous love – the very in-dwelling of God’s spirit and nature in our lives that produces the fruit against which there is no law.

“If you love me, obey my commandments.  And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you.  He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you.  No, I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you.  Soon the world will no longer see me, but you will see me. Since I live, you also will live.  When I am raised to life again, you will know that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.  Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them.”
John 14:15-21 NLT
http://bible.com/116/jhn.14.15-21.NLT

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. Listen! I, Paul, tell you this: If you are counting on circumcision to make you right with God, then Christ will be of no benefit to you. I’ll say it again. If you are trying to find favor with God by being circumcised, you must obey every regulation in the whole law of Moses. 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 when we place our faith in Christ Jesus, there is no benefit in being circumcised or being uncircumcised. What is important is faith expressing itself in love. You were running the race so well. Who has held you back from following the truth? It certainly isn’t God, for he is the one who called you to freedom. This false teaching is like a little yeast that spreads through the whole batch of dough! I am trusting the Lord to keep you from believing false teachings. God will judge that person, whoever he is, who has been confusing you. Dear brothers and sisters, if I were still preaching that you must be circumcised—as some say I do—why am I still being persecuted? If I were no longer preaching salvation through the cross of Christ, no one would be offended. I just wish that those troublemakers who want to mutilate you by circumcision would mutilate themselves. 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. For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  But if you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out! Beware of destroying one another.
Galatians 5:1-15 NLT
http://bible.com/116/gal.5.1-15.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
http://bible.com/116/gal.5.16-26.NLT

What is growing in our garden?

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!
Galatians 5:22-23 NLT
http://bible.com/116/gal.5.22-23.NLT

We are blessed with the opportunity to praise and worship the Lord  – not just on Sunday, not just during our morning devotional,  but with our every breath,  every decision,  every action,  as we live a fruitful life.

And if we are living our lives in wonderment and awe over this amazing gift of grace extended to us, and if our lives are filled with His character traits – love,  joy,  peace,  patience,  kindness, goodness,  faithfulness,  and self-control – not only will our lives be fresh and healing and nourishing to others, but they will plant seeds of his Holy Spirit in the lives of others. The world is hungry for these things in their own lives,  and once they learn the Good News that Christ is available to fill their lives as well – once they see and cannot deny His touch upon our lives, they will seek Him in their lives as well.

So let’s not lose our childlike wonderment over God who came in the flesh as a baby in a lowly manger. Let’s not lose out amazement over Good who brings the free gift of unmerited and undeserved grace to each of us who believe. Let’s not forget the shocking price that Jesus Christ paid upon the cross to save us from our sins. Let’s be overwhelmed by the power that raised Him from the tomb to life,  to heaven,  to sit on the right hand of the Father.

Let’s maintain that perspective of wide  eyed expectancy for His return, and make ready for our eyeball destination,  seeing past our temporary circumstances and trials and struggles. Let’s walk, pray, praise and worship Him continually in Spirit and in Truth.

Have a blessed day and be a blessing to others today,  friend. Shine the light into the darkness that is not overcome.