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Archive for May, 2015

psalm-37-4Previously, we discussed the definition of desire.  Today, we will examine how desire shapes our character.  Where do desires originate?  They originate from within our heart:
Psa. 37:Delight yourself in the Lordand he will give you the desires of your heart.
This passage is not a recipe for asking God for whatever you desire; instead, it is an admonition to conform your heart to the ways of God.  The word delight in this passage is a word that means to be soft or delicate.  It implies we are to be molded or shaped by God, as if we are clay in his hands.  As we conform to his image, our desires will be in accordance with his will.  What is the problem with our own desires?  Apart from God, we are selfish people, and our desires are inherently selfish and evil:
Mark 7:15 “There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.”
In other words, it is what flows from out of our hearts that defile us.  There is a saying that is as follows: Sow a thought, reap an act.  Sow an act, reap a habit.  Sow a habit, reap a character.  Sow a character, reap a destiny.  This implies that our desires govern our character and determine our destiny.  Christ Jesus expounded on this further:
Mark 7:20 And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. 21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”
The root of the character of an individual is desire.  Our challenge in the kingdom of God is to rule that desire, instead of letting the desire rule us.  Apart from God, this is impossible.  Apart from God, we are slaves to our personal desires.  When we are born of the Spirit and submit ourselves to Christ, we then have the ability to make our desires subservient to the Spirit.


May 15

burning-desireGen. 3:And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.

What is desire? A simple definition of the word is a longing or craving, as for something that brings satisfaction or enjoyment.  Desire is what determines our actions.  In short, desire is our will.  Desire influences our thinking.  Once we desire something in our hearts, that desire will manifest itself in our actions.  People indicate what they desire not in their words, but in their actions.  This is what the Lord Jesus explained to us:
Luke 6:44 for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush.
In other words, there is a direct correlation between our desires and our actions.  While we can say with our mouths we want or desire something, it is our actions that truly determine what we desire.  I can say I want to learn to swim; however, if I never get in the water, I will not learn.  If I find excuses for why I cannot get in the water, then I really don’t have a desire to learn.  What are your actions indicating today?  If you say you desire to be a citizen in the kingdom of heaven, are you truly seeking first the kingdom of God?  Or, are you in reality seeking your own desires, just asking for God’s help?  Evaluate your actions today; what do they indicate?  Do you desire wealth? Safety? Security? Fame? Or, do your actions indicate that you desire God’s approval?  In that day, do you truly desire to hear “well done, my good and faithful servant”?  If so, what actions must you take today that are consistent with that desire?  

01-bearing-one-anothers-burdens4Acts 14:22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.
What are tribulations?  Simply put, tribulations are severe trials or sufferings.  The root of the word tribulation is a Latin word tribulare, which means to press or squeeze.  But why would a loving God require this of us while we are here on earth?  Even the Lord Jesus prayed that if there was any way possible for Him to avoid His cup of suffering, God would grant Him a way of escape.  It is in our human nature to avoid suffering at almost any cost. Most people don’t look forward to pain and suffering; indeed, many have been told in life that experience is not always the best teacher.  Yet, there is no reward that is received that was not preceded by some degree of sacrifice and suffering.  It is more than coincidence that the garden which Christ was in during His darkest hour was the Garden of Gethsemane.  The very name Gethsemane means oil-press.  It was the place of suffering.  Yet, Christ could not have been raised from the dead unless He had first suffered and died.  This is the pattern He set for us.  Likewise, we cannot be raised to life unless we first suffer and die.  It is easy to say we desire a heavenly reward; however, have we counted the cost of what is required of us to receive that reward?  There is no reward without competing, there is no competing without training, and there is no training without suffering.  It is for this very reason that our Lord admonished us that the road to life is not only narrow, but hard, and that there will be few that find it.  Christ had to travel the path alone, for He was the prototype.  We, however, were not created to carry such a burden by ourselves:
Gal. 6:2 Carry one another’s burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
It was for this very reason that we were baptized into one body – the body of Christ.  We don’t enter into the kingdom alone; we enter into the kingdom together.

crucified with ChristGal. 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
As much as I would like to boast that Christ died for me (for this is what I learned through religion), the truth is that there is a condition to that statement.  Christ died for me ONLY IF I AM CRUCIFIED WITH HIM.  Christ did not lay his life down in order that I can live for my dreams, my visions, my desires, and my will.  In truth, He laid His life down as an example for me to follow, that I too may lay my life down.  And while Christ laid His life down once, I must do it on a continuous basis:
1 Cor. 15:31 I protest, brothers, by my pride in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die every day!
Paul recognized that while we live in the flesh, we must daily put our flesh to death in order that Christ may live in us and through us.  Every day that God gives us the breath of life, we are engaged in a war to determine who will rule.  Will Christ rule in us, or will we be ruled by the world?  We must determine this day who we will serve: whether we will serve Christ by being crucified with Him, or we will serve the world by yielding to our flesh:
Gen. 3:So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.
The only way I can boast that Christ died for me is if I also boast that I died with Him.  The two are inseparable.  The risen Christ will not compete with any other gods for the throne of my heart.  Only one king can occupy that throne – either the god of this world, or Christ who is in heaven.

faith-1Yesterday, we examined the Biblical definition of the word “belief.”  Today, we will consider the concept of faith.
Heb. 11:Now without faith it is impossible to please God, for whoever comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who diligently search for him.
We are told that if we come to God, there are two things we must believe: a) that God exists; and b) that God rewards those that diligently seek him. If we use the definition of belief which we discussed yesterday, then we are convinced of the existence of God, and it is that conviction that compels us to seek him.  The words “faith” and “belief” in this passage in this verse are variations of the same Greek word – pistis.  This means that our words “faith” and “belief” contain the same concept of being convinced something is true to the point that one is compelled to take action.  It is this display of obedience which is the substance of things hoped for, and this same obedience is the evidence of things not seen:
Heb. 11:1 Now faith is the assurance that what we hope for will come about and the certainty that what we cannot see exists.
Put another way, saints of God are certain of the return of Christ, and obey His commands until the time of His return is fulfilled.  Their confidence in God’s existence is evident in their actions.  These saints are not preoccupied with proving to others that God exists, because that is not what Christ commanded them to do.  Christ commanded them to proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God, not prove to others that God exists.  For those who do believe, no proof of God’s existence is necessary.  For those who do not believe, no proof of God’s existence will suffice.  Our objective, as saints of God, is to obey God daily by listening and submitting to the Holy Spirit.  This is how we diligently search for the God which we cannot see with our eyes. Our certainty is that God will reward those who are actively engaged in seeking God and his kingdom.

abraham-and-isaac-sacrifice-craftGenesis 15:And Abram believed the Lord, and he counted that to him for righteousness.

What does it mean to believe?  In today’s world, to believe simply means that one is convinced that something is true.  If someone says “I believe in God,” that translates to “I am convinced that God exists.”  Biblical belief, however, has an additional component.  Biblical belief is not only being convinced that something is true, but it is such a conviction that it compels a person to take action.

Romans 10:For if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart, that God raised him up from the dead, thou shalt be saved:
The belief is not simply being convinced that God raised Christ from the dead, it is being convinced to the point that you must take action.  What kind of action would you take? Obedience to the commands and instructions of Christ Jesus.

Ephesians 5:22 Wives, submit yourselves unto your husbands, as unto the Lord.
For wives, true belief is not simply being convinced this is true, but being compelled to obey this command.

Ephesians 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the Church, and gave himself for it,
For husbands, true belief is not simply being convinced this is true, but being compelled to obey this command.

Romans 12:17 Recompense to no man evil for evil: procure things honest in the sight of all men.  18 If it be possible, as much as in you is, have peace with all men.  19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine: I will repay, saith the Lord. 20 Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him: if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.  21 Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with goodness.

For all saints, it is not enough to simply read this passage in the Bible and be convinced of its sincerity; saints must also be compelled to obey this command.  It is our obedience to the command that makes it a living truth.  It is through our humble submission that the world will know that the true and living God exists.  For what benefit comes from being convinced of a truth that doesn’t change our conduct:
Luke 6:46 But why call ye me Lord, Lord, and do not the things that I speak?  Why say that I am convinced that Jesus is Lord if I refuse to submit to His authority as Lord?  In this way, my actions are speaking my true heart:  I am convinced in my mind that I agree with what is written on the pages in the Bible, but in my heart I am not convinced He is Lord.  Biblical belief for saints of God is a conviction that requires an accompanying action.

offspring of AbrahamUpon reading the devotional pertaining to the two groups of people in the Bible last week, a reader asked a thought provoking question.  The question was how many different groups of people are there in the kingdom of God?  We understand that in the flesh, there are Jews and Gentiles, but what is the rest of the story?  Today, we will consider the rest of the story beginning with Ephesians 2:
Eph. 2:14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.
Since the kingdom of God is spiritual, there is only one group in the kingdom – saints obedient to the Lord Jesus.  In the  kingdom of God, the circumcision required is not one of the flesh, but of the heart, so all who are circumcised of the heart are citizens of the kingdom.  Those citizens can be either Jews or Gentiles in the flesh; however, in spirit, there is no circumcision of the flesh, so there is no such distinction in the kingdom of God:
Gal. 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.
So the rest of the story is this: if you believe that Jesus is the Christ, and submit to His rule, then you have the faith of Abraham, meaning you believe that what God promised he brought to pass in the form of Christ Jesus, whom God raised from the dead.  Since Abraham exhibited this faith BEFORE the circumcision of the flesh, then all who believe are considered the offspring of Abraham.  In conclusion, there is one group of people in the kingdom of God, and that is the offspring of Abraham.  

This morning, I want to share with you a testimony that I pray will encourage you as well as inspire you to continue pressing into the kingdom of God.  This year, our fellowship has been studying the book of Romans by examining one chapter a week.  So far, we have studied the first 12 chapters of the book.  Now, like others, there is the human side of me that seeks feedback to see if this study is having an impact on the lives of the saints.  The Lord, however, had his own way of showing me how the study is influencing others.  Recently, one of the brothers called me to tell me the Lord had him studying the book of Galatians.  He shared with me how clear that letter is to him now, and as he was sharing his thoughts with me, the Holy Spirit revealed that because of the time we have taken in the book of Romans, this brother is now able to better understand Paul’s other writings.
During a conversation with another sister, I asked her if the study had been helpful to her.  “Oh yes,” she said.  “We’re on chapter 13, right? I read that chapter twice.”  I was so blessed by her response.  This woman was provoked to learn by reading the chapter not only once, but twice!  Now, I will be the first to say that my style would probably be considered unorthodox by many.  I can’t just present a teaching to a group of people in such a way that I am talking AT them.  I must talk WITH them.  If they have questions, they need to be free to ask them so that they can obtain understanding.  It pains me to see many on Sundays sit through a teaching or sermon and not be able to receive understanding on the topic.  The gift that God has given me is not to be used to entertain; it is to be used to edify and strengthen the saints.  I should be provoking them to press into the kingdom of God, not prohibiting them from entering into the kingdom of God.  This week, we will be studying chapter 13, and I am looking forward to this study with great enthusiasm!  It is my hope that more saints will be liberated and strengthened from this study.  And how appropriate that this chapter focuses on two main topics: governments and love.  I pray that you have a blessed weekend!