Self-Sufficiency vs. Temperance

For September 19, 2021
When asked which was the greatest of all God’s Commandments, Jesus said there were two: we must love God with all our heart, soul, and mind, and love our neighbors to the same extent that we love ourselves (Matthew 22:36–40, Mark 12:28–34, Luke 10:25–37).

The Lord’s answer reveals His desire that we live in harmony with God, neighbors, and ourselves, even when meeting our physical, social, and aesthetic needs. Altruism sustains and improves our quality of life, while exploiting people and things for our own sensual gratification does not.

One biblical example was Simon Magus, who offered Peter money for the Holy Spirit’s power (Acts 8:13; 18–19). His intent was to enhance his own power and magic, when the Holy Spirit was free to all who sought a real spiritual transformation. There are many false teachers who embrace a secular form of Christianity where the Word of God and the Holy Spirit do not govern our thoughts, words, and conduct. Instead, they promote a new theology where whatever “feels” good or right is of greater value.

Theirs is a never ending battle to accommodate two diametrically opposed realities: to acknowledging Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and experience His abundant and eternal life, or to surrender to the Adversary, Satan, and embrace the consequential life of sin, debauchery and death.

The Bible depicts the time just before our Lord’s return as a lust-driven world of addictions, where iniquity abounds and where people no longer have a regard for their fellow human beings. Instead, using/exploiting human beings while protecting and cherishing animate and inanimate things will be common and expected as people pursue the pride of life, the lust of the eyes, and the lust of the flesh.

The pride of life is a self-centered obsession with power or influence, without regard for God’s purpose to maintain order, render justice, and help others in need. The lust of the eyes is coveting things of value for our own gratification when God wants us to show benevolence towards the less fortunate through charitable giving, to provide for His ministers (foreign and domestic) through tithes and offerings, and to take care of their families according to the bountiful measure the Lord has bestowed on them.

The lust of the flesh is the overindulgence of our sensual desires. Gluttony, substance abuse, and sexual incorrigibility are all forms of this obsession. The Bible teaches that sexual incorrigibility devastates God’s plan to sustain healthy, interpersonal relationships. Fornication, adultery, homosexuality, masturbation, voyeurism, pedophilia, rape, and pornography all lead to what one writer terms as false intimacy,

The fantasies of a sex addict are feeble attempts to gain what only God is capable of giving, which we will experience partially on earth and fully in Heaven. Sexual fantasy can conjure up a perfect world of nourishment, love, generosity, and tenderness…The truth is, however, that when we try to bury the core reality of emptiness, the result is false intimacy, not genuine. When we insist that our needs of intimacy be fulfilled and ignore the reality that loneliness is always present, we get the very opposite of what we’re demanding: We’re left alone to stare with open eyes at the harsh reality of nakedness.1

Sexual gratification outside of God’s purpose for intimacy yields shattered hopes, destroyed relationships, and feelings of intense guilt, shame, and emptiness. People who seek mere physical enjoyment outside of the commitment of love and fidelity in marriage, are deceiving themselves,

Don’t buy into the promotion of sex as mere physical enjoyment totally apart from the commitment of love. Men [and women] who open their Christmas present before the holiday invariably find themselves bored by the celebration.2

Sexual promiscuity has never been the identification badge that Christians should brazenly display brazenly before the world, because our Lord Jesus Christ calls us to represent Him with moral (and spiritual) purity. By His Holy Spirit, we are endowed with the remarkable ability to resist not only the lusts of the flesh in general, and sexual cravings in particular.

We admire those who practice a personal self-control by presenting a morally temperate lifestyle to contrast the licentiousness accepted and encouraged by our world. Christ gives us the strength we need to live in a sexually responsible manner. Through Christ, we now can share a willingness to honor him, to serve others, and to meet our needs safely and appropriately. When He transformed us from the inside out, He released us from the bondage of sin and gave us the ability to resist temptation as we walk in His Spirit.

Over time, we can grow into morally astute practitioners of the Christian faith who refrain from exploiting others. With our growing moral consciousness, we produce the living fruit that validates our Christian witness,

There must be a sincere change in one’s lifestyle. A person who has genuinely repented will stop doing evil and begin to live righteously. Along with a change of mind and attitude, true repentance will begin to produce a change in conduct.3

Joseph, in the Old Testament, expressed temperance toward Potiphar’s wife, and He said that having sex with her would be an offense against Potiphar and God. We who are in Christ should practice such chastity, especially since we represent Him and have His omnipotent Spirit living inside us.

Demonstrating a personal self-control before a morally decadent world is one way that we can provide hope to those who struggle in the area of sexual sin. Establishing appropriate sexual boundaries is essential,

What matters…[is] maintaining a boundary against sexual contact so that the unique potential of these relationships can be realized.4

Through this powerful nonverbal testimony, we can point others to Christ so that they too can receive spiritual help and healing. Then they can grow to love the Lord, others, and themselves—without guilt, shame, or regret—just as God intended.

God does not want us to drag interpersonal “baggage” into our personal and/or professional relationships. With the Holy Spirit, we can reveal our total surrender to Christ’s dominion over every area of our lives and experience complete fulfillment in Jesus Christ.

Oh that there were more of us who could find greater pleasure in serving God than in the pleasures of sin for a season. Worldly hedonism (the pursuit of pleasure) will not provide lasting fulfillment. It is far better to live for Christ than to own the treasures of the world. His reward will always yield us a far greater satisfaction. Won’t you commit your entire life and passions to the Lord Jesus Christ and experience true fulfillment today?

What a Wonderful Savior!

I Am The Vine!

For September 12, 2021
Jesus Disciples’ levels of perplexity, anxiety, and uncertainty must have been extreme as the Lord spoke that evening on their way to Gethsemane. Jesus was fully aware of Judas’ plot to betray Him, the Disciples’ abandonment and denials, the religious leaders’ disgraceful, mock trial, and His humiliating public execution.

The Disciples were oblivious to these facts and were bewildered because their Lord informed them He was leaving and would return later. He also told them about the coming Helper, but they were not sure when He would arrive—or how. They had no idea what would become of their faith movement after Jesus’ departure, or who would lead it.

Then the Lord told them something that must have seemed even more baffling,

I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. John 15:1-5 (NKJV)

Jesus identifies Himself as the True Vine, the authentic and legitimate “real deal.” Before Him, were imitators, and after Him, pretenders. In other words, He is the stalk, and we are fruit-producing branches proceeding from Him. We are rooted in Him, and without Him, we will wither and die.

Jesus alone is the source of our life and purpose. Because of our association, we can have access to all the spiritual, life-giving resources He has at His disposal. He alone is the object of our faith, the essence of our spiritual life, and the realization of all our future hopes and desires,

As God’s natural life is in the vine, Christ, that He may give life to His spiritual branches. The roots of this new vine are planted in Heaven, not on earth; and unto it, the half-withered branches of the old humanity are to be grafted, that they may have life divine. Our Lord does not say, “I am the root.” The branch is not something outside, which has to get nourishment out of the root. It is rather a part of the vine. Not only grounded in Christ as our foundation, but thrusting down root into Him as the deep, rich, all-sustaining soil.1

Abiding in the True Vine necessitates our complete surrender so that the Helper inside us can foster our consecrated, Christ-likeness,

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20 (NIV)

Crucified with Christ may appear strange at first glance, but it’s not. Christ is our identity; we draw our strength from Him. He is our life and power to perform godly activities that honor Him; activities our old nature protests and resists—vehemently.

Our Father’s pruning is required for successful fruit-bearing. The Greek word for pruning is kathairo (Strong-G2508), to cut away the undesirable and unfruitful parts, to cleanse from filth, to prune or eliminate that which is fruitless, or to purify.2

Romans 8:1 tells us that we face no condemnation in Christ as we walk and live surrendered to His Spirit, our Helper.  Our purging is of the Father in the whole process of our “removing temptations and afflictions.”3 This is our sanctification.

As we walk in His Spirit, we can experience the “power of Jesus’ resurrection and fellowship in His suffering;” in order to mortify the flesh and conform to His righteousness in living as Philippians 3:10 teaches.

We bear fruit by striving toward spiritual perfection through fasting4, prayer, reading and studying God’s Word (Bible), attending church regularly, and Christian service.

Ultimately, as we yield to the Holy Spirit’s work within us, we conform to the image and likeness of Christ. This was true for the Disciples then, and it is true for us today. Won’t you surrender to Jesus Christ, The Vine and become a fruit bearing branch for His grace, forgiveness, and love today?

What a Wonderful Savior!

We Are Precious Treasure in Earthly Vessels

For September 5, 2021
While in Macedonia on his third missionary journey, Paul wrote Second Corinthians. Scholars place the writings sometime after he wrote First Corinthians, around 57 AD. Second Corinthians contains Paul’s personal experiences with the Lord and features his testimony, Apostleship, restoration and unity within the church, and the need to financially support the Judean church. Paul also writes about being ‘caught up to the Third Heaven’ to answer certain Judaizers; the “super apostles,” who challenged his apostolic authority.

As he writes this encouraging letter to the Believers at Corinth, Paul states,

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed—always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:7-10, 16-18 (NKJV)

From these poignant words, five theme emerge:

I. We have this treasure in earthen vessels.

As it was customary in Paul’s day for nobles to store their treasures in clay containers “earthen vessels” for safekeeping, God has chosen you and me to store His eternal, heavenly treasures.

Through us, our God has chosen to make known to others everywhere around the world the incomprehensible riches of one all-compassing mystery: Christ in you, the hope of glory! Colossians 1:27 (My Paraphrase)

Christ in you, the hope of Glory provides us with:

    • Forgiveness of Sin—Salvation
    • Reconciliation with God—Atonement
    • Indwelling of the Holy Spirit—Sanctification
    • Assurance of eternal life—Glorification

II. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed—always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.

Despite our adversity, we can rest assured that the Our Lord, the Good Shepherd is with us: loving us, caring for us, protecting us, and providing for us each day until the day He returns for us (or we go to Him in death).

The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the Lord Forever. Psalm 23 (NKJV)

III. Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.

He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:29-31 (NIV)

IV. Our light affliction, works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.

Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. 1 John 3:2 (NKJV)

V. We do not look at the visible, but the invisible. For what is seen is temporary, but what is not seen is eternal.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen…But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Hebrews 11:1,6 (NKJV)

There is an old hymn that speaks to our grace and favor with God.

I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say1
Horatius Bonar (1808—1889)

I heard the voice of Jesus say, “Come unto Me, and rest; Lay down, thou weary one, lay down Thy head upon My breast.” I came to Jesus as I was, Weary and worn and sad; I found in Him a resting place, And He has made me glad.

I heard the voice of Jesus say, “Behold, I freely give The living water thirsty one, Stoop down, and drink, and live.” I came to Jesus, and I drank of that life-giving stream; My thirst was quenched, my soul revived, And now I live in Him.

I heard the voice of Jesus say, “I am this dark world’s Light; Look unto Me, thy morn shall rise, And all thy day be bright.” I looked to Jesus, and I found In Him my Star, my Sun; And in that Light of life I’ll walk Till trav ‘ling days are done.

Despite how the world identifies us as being insignificant and worthless, or how the adversities and uncertainties we experience can make us feel helpless and hopeless at times, God has declared otherwise.

We are His prized possession, and we have been entrusted with His glorious, heavenly treasure that ensures we will have His abundant life now; while it also guarantees that we will reach our ultimate destination—eternal life with God! Won’t you trust in the Lord today?

What a Wonderful Savior!

 

Overcoming Our Sin Problem

For August 29, 2021
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth and everything that comprises both. His is a perfect creation, flawless and pure in every way. The sun, moon, and stars—functioning light years away from the earth—serve to fulfill God’s intricate, harmonious plan for the earth to experience day and night; the four seasons; the heat, cold, wind, rain, and snow we often take for granted.

How we measure time in minutes, hours, days, months, and years is due to God’s perfect and reliable system of the earth’s rotation on its axis, and its rotation around the sun. The wonders of nature and our intricate human design all are undeniable witnesses to the wisdom of God in all its perfection. God does not create mistakes or blunders—even when He created you and me. His work is perfect and holy, as the Bible declares (my emphasis),

Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. Genesis 1:31 (NKJV)

God created a sinless Adam and Eve and placed them in the Garden of Eden with everything they could ever want or need. They would have had eternal fellowship with God as long as they followed His command not to eat the fruit from the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil,

And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”. Genesis 2:16-17 (NKJV)

The moment Adam and Eve disobeyed God and ate the fruit, they died spiritually and were forever separated from God. As a result, the entire world became sin-contaminated,

When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned. Romans 5:12 (NLT)

It is not our evil deeds that make us sinners before God. It is in our fallen, internal, spiritual nature that makes us sinners before Him. For our internal condition influences how we think, speak, and act in ways that displease God, imperil others, and harm ourselves. Although we have the capacity to do good deeds, the external good we perform does not compensate for the internal sin blot that contaminates us. And this is what God finds so offensive. In our efforts, we have no remedy and must look to our holy God to overcome our plight.

God could have solved our sin problem by programming us to obey Him like robots, but He wants us to love Him freely and surrender to Him willingly. God chose the most effective remedy instead. He became a human being—Jesus Christ—so that He could pay the price for our sin Himself,

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14 (AKJV)

At the onset of His earthly ministry, Jesus Christ announced that He could resolve our sin problem with His sinless life and precious blood when He declared, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.” Mark 1:15 (AKJV)

His was the greatest proclamation in history because it heralded a New Testament Age for all people everywhere. Now we can have our sins forgiven, experience a complete, internal, spiritual transformation, and we can have our need for an intimate, eternal fellowship with God satisfied as Ephesians 2:14-18 (NKJV) teaches,

For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.

This new period in history also revoked all claims of neutrality toward God. In John 8:24, Jesus warned that those who did not believe in Him would die in their sins. Either we can choose to receive His gift of abundant life on earth and eternal life in Heaven, or we can reject it and face an empty, unfulfilled life on earth along with a tormented eternity in Hell as a result,

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. John 3:16-18 (NIV)

Of Jesus’ Disciples, Judas was the one who was so preoccupied with obtaining a worldly kingdom that he refused to trust in the Lord and forever changed his identity from Disciple to traitor with a single kiss. The allure of thirty pieces of silver was too much to resist, and without Christ as redeemer, Hell awaited him.

Our Lord knew that Judas was a godless degenerate when He chose him to be a Disciple. Even more amazing was how the Lord loved him and gave Him every opportunity to repent. For three years, He revealed His redemptive plan to Judas through His moral and spiritual excellence, His astonishing miracles, and His eternal truths like,

Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. Matthew 7:13–14 (AKJV)

Although tragic, Judas’ example provides tremendous hope for everyone, including those who feel that God has forgotten them or that they are beyond redemption. In Judas, we see how patient, gracious, and loving Jesus is, as He extends Himself to the worst of us freely and willingly. Jesus gives rest to those who labor under heavy loads, with a yoke that is easy and a burden that is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)

Simon, another Disciple, recognized and understood the importance of having a sincere, penitent, and reverent faith in Jesus Christ. When the Lord saw this impetuous yet rock-solid leader, He changed his name to Peter (Greek: petros, meaning “rock”).

This characteristic was evident during the unfolding of Jesus’ warning to Peter that Satan desired to sift him as wheat (Luke 22:31-32). Although he denied his Lord three times, he repented, was restored, and later became the leader of the Apostles, who fed his Lord’s precious Sheep.

As we swallow our pride by stop relying on our own sin-tarnished self-righteousness and invite the Lord Jesus Christ to be our righteousness before God, we fulfill His prophecy that we are “not of the world” and show that we are the recipients of God’s amazing grace and love. (John 15:19; 17:14, 16)

As living examples of God’s love and grace, we live out the undeniable fact that God can transform vile sinners into His holy people—from the inside out—even today. Moreover, as we surrender to His Holy Spirit; allowing Him to guide us  daily, we can grow to be more like Christ and honor Him in everything we say, think, and do. Won’t you trust Him to resolve your sin problem today?

What a Wonderful Savior!

Our Faithful God Watches Over Us!

Our Faithful God Watches Over Us!

For August 22, 2021
In over six-thousand years of our human history, our God has demonstrated how loving, gracious, and compassionate He is to us. He is faithful to watch over, provide, and protect His own.

For instance, as the Children of Israel were sojourning through the wilderness for forty years, they ventured northward along the eastern side of the Dead Sea and the Jordan River where they encountered Balak, the King of Moab.

The Moabites were descendants of Lot, the nephew of Abraham (Genesis 11:26-27; 19:37). Balak, who was fearful of an Israelite invasion, hires Balaam, son of Beor to curse Israel. Balaam was well known for his blessing and cursing prowess, but he was no match against Israel, because God promised Abraham that his descendants (Israel) would be blessed and a blessing (Genesis 12:1-3).

Consequently, God compelled Balaam to bless Israel repeatedly, and when asked to explain his actions, he makes this statement,

God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good? Behold, I have received a command to bless; He has blessed, and I cannot reverse it (Numbers 23:19-20 NKJV).

It is comforting to know that we serve a faithful, loving God who will not rescind His promises to provide all our needs according to His riches in glory—through Christ Jesus our Lord just as Philippians 4:19 tells us.

Matthew 4:5-6 (NLT) offers an account of our Lord’s victorious encounter with Satan immediately after His forty-day fast in the wilderness. Futilely, Satan challenges the Lord to jump from the highest point of the Temple at Jerusalem in order to invoke the protection of his angels,

Then the devil took him to the holy city, Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, and said, “If you are the Son of God, jump off! For the Scriptures say, ‘He will order his angels to protect you. And they will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.

It is common tactic for our Enemy to take Scripture passages, like Psalm 91:11-12 out of context to achieve his nefarious plan to confuse and defeat the God’s Children. For the Psalmist never implied we have the license to jump off tall structures and rely on the angels to protect us. Nor did he imply we have carte blanche and invoke God to do everything we want.

God will always have a far better perspective than the one we have, and He will do what is best in every situation. This is because our Lord has a far better view of what is best for us from His eternal, transcendent, and flawless perspective. With goodness and mercy, He responds in our best interest every time,

You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings. Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the LORD forever (Psalm 23 :5-6 NLT).

We will never get everything we want as it would not be in our best interest. Yet, the Lord will supply our needs by providing things that allow us to accomplish His perfect will for us. This news is especially comforting in troubling, uncertain times like today. For if all we had to rely on was a mere “arm of flesh,” we would be ruined.

Thank God that just as ancient Israel found comfort and in their Eternal, Almighty God, we too can have the same confidence and assurance (my emphasis),

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria and the vast army with him, for there is a greater power with us than with him. With him is only the arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles (2 Chronicles 32:7-8 NIV).

Through our faith in Jesus Christ, God’s greatest miracle occurs—we become forgiven, reconciled, new creations! This is His perfect will for us because our inner, spiritual nature has been sin-tarnished so that we think, speak, and act in ways detrimental others and ourselves. This nature offends God and must be transformed spiritually.  

The good news is God can change our nature from vile and sinful to pure and holy, through the Born Again experience. When a computer is contaminated, it can function, but not as designed or at optimum level. However, once the virus is removed, and the hard drive is formatted properly; the machine can function at optimum level as designed. Much like this computer illustration, sin contaminated us, and we need spiritual reformatting.

Our transformation can happen the instant we acknowledge our contamination by confessing our sin before God, and by turning from the continual practice of sinful behavior through repentance. We then place our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and His Holy Spirit enables us to function according to our God ordained, original design—at full capacity!

In Christ, we can ask confidently with a sincere, humble, reverent, self­less faith. Then we can experience His eternal peace, providence, and satisfaction forever. We can have full confidence in the Lord and His promises, because as the Creator and Sustainer of the heavens and the earth, He keeps His promises. Won’t give Him your life and trust in His faithfulness today?

What a Wonderful Savior!