Monday, January 25, 2021

Grace, Grace

Years ago I read a story about a world renown zoo that purchased a great brown bear to become one of its exhibits. The zoo had purchased the bear from a circus where the bear had been confined to a small metal cage. Hour after hour and day after day the bear would pace back and forth from one end of the cage to the other. The zoo had a bear compound consisting of acres of lush, green grass, trees and a pool of fresh drinking water. The bear would be fed three times a day and would have nothing to do but to enjoy its new home. The day came when the bear arrived at the zoo and the zoo-keepers took him to his new habitat. When they opened the cage to release the bear to their surprise the bear continued to walk back and forth within the confines of the small cage. The zoo-keeper tried various things to coax the bear from the cage but it would not leave. Finally, the only solution that was left was to put some kerosene soaked rages on a pole light them and stick the fiery pole through the bars of the cage. This intimidated the bear to jump out of the cage and into his new home. The bear looked around but to the zoo-keepers amazement, the bear began to pace back and forth as though he was still in the small metal cage. Suddenly it dawned on the attendants that although the bear was released from its "metal prison" it still remained in a "mental prison."

Like the bear in this story, many Christians find themselves in a very similar dilemma. They have become accustomed to accepting thoughts of failure and defeat in various areas of their life. They are convinced that that things will never change. This type of thinking has crippled many born again, spirit-filled children of God who truly love the Lord. When they face some of the difficulties of life, they find themselves settling for far less than what God has for them. There are generally two reasons why believers entertain this type of thinking. First, they accepted the opinions of man (father, mother, siblings or others) who have spoken harsh condescending words over them for most of their life and or secondly, they have listened to sermons that provide believers with a steady diet of "you are nothing more than a sinner saved by grace who is weak and is incapable of ever pleasing God." They have been inundated with so many rules and regulations that they are held captive to this mental prison. However, the truth of the matter is, there is a powerful attribute of God that He has made available to all of His children that has freed them from this mental prison, it's called grace.

Philippians reveals grace this way, "For it is God Himself whose power creates within you the desire to do His gracious will and also brings about the accomplishment of the desire." (Philippians 2:13 Wey) I like to define it this way. Simply put, grace is the free unearned, unmerited favor of God that gives the believer the ability and desire to do God's will. God's grace is free, it is a gift, "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God." (Ephesians 2:8) As we grow to understand how this free gift from God works in and through our lives, we will find ourselves living in the freedom that the Father has provided through Jesus Christ.

Grace can be seen from two sides. First, it is the free unearned, unmerited favor of God for the believer. The truth is, we deserve nothing good, however, God working through Christ  has provided His amazing grace for all believers. His grace provides, forgiveness, healing, provision, peace, hope, eternal life; the list goes on and on. The other side of grace is, grace gives the believer the ability and desire to do God's will. So not only is God's grace upon the believer for his/her benefit, but it also works through the believer accomplishing God's will for the benefit of others. We need to keep this balance in mind so that we do not take the grace of God to an extra-biblical level. Many preachers in their efforts to present the message of grace to free the enormous number of believers held in bondage to rules, regulations, defeat and failure find themselves teaching grace from an unbiblical extreme. Unfortunately, we have done this very thing in the church in the past with such things as the discipleship movement and the faith teaching (to name a few). Just because something sounds good or sounds right doesn't mean that it is. This is why it is so important for believers to search the scriptures themselves to see if these things are so.

God's grace is available to all of His children. We receive grace through faith, "Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace..." (Romans 4:16) not through anything that we can do, "And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work." (Romans 11:6) We simply reach out and receive it by faith and thank God for His free gift of grace. So if you need God's favor in your life, if you need God's ability in your life and if you need a desire to do God's will, just receive His grace. "Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need." (Hebrews 4:16)     

Monday, January 18, 2021

My New Identity

The Bible reveals that Jesus has offered Himself as the perfect sacrifice for the redemption of humanity (Revelation 1:5-6). He suffered and died as mans substitute (Acts 2:29-36), paid for man’s crimes by satisfying justice (Romans 3:21-26), was made alive and justified in spirit (1 Timothy 3:16, 1 Peter 3:18), raised from the dead (Acts 13:33-34) and has taken His blood to heaven and sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on High making mans redemption both available and eternal (Hebrew 1:3, 9:11-12, 10:10-14).

Although redemption has been made available for all humanity through Jesus Christ, it only becomes a reality to those who confess the Lordship of Christ and receive Him as Savior. (Romans 10:9-10) With that said, I have found that there are few in the church today who really know, possesses and enjoy their God given rights and privileges that redemption has made possible. To fully understand and embrace what the Father has worked through Christ for believers takes revelation faith. In other words, we can read the Bible continuously, but until one "receives with meekness the implanted word which is able to save your soul," (James 1:21) it becomes a vague proposition at best. It becomes difficult to believe that we truly are what and who God says we are in Christ. God's Word must become a part of our very being in the same way that a child within the womb is a part of a woman's body.

The Holy Spirit speaking through the apostle Paul tells us, "So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Romans 10:17) Although our faith increases through God's Word, our faith is measured by our knowledge of our place and our rights as God’s children as well as our ability to stand in the presences of God without guilt, condemnation, shame or inferiority. When we truly know these things we will no longer deal with fear, doubt or unbelief and we will know that through faith in Christ we have as good a standing before the Father as Jesus had in His earth walk. This also means that the struggle of trying to acquire more faith is settled and we will live on this earth in the same manner that Jesus did. If we know who we are in Christ, then in a sense, there is no struggle for faith because we do not need faith for that which we know.

I have a covered patio that is attached to the rear of my house. A recent storm with damaging winds damaged a portion of the roof. I do not need faith to believe the patio is mine. I can see it and touch it. It is on my property and it is attached to my house. However, I may need to exercise faith for the finances to replace the roof  So you see, believers do not need to exercise faith for the things that they know to be true. How about if you went to a store and bought a television. You paid cash for it and have the receipt as proof of purchase. Who owns the television, you or the store? Of course you do. You paid the price required which met the conditions to make a legal business transaction thereby taking ownership of the television. Not only that, but because the television is yours, you can say or do whatever you want concerning the television. Now, what if the CEO of the company that manufactured the television came to your house and demand ownership of the TV. Who is the rightful owner? Of course you are. What if the CEO took you to court and his attorney pleaded a case of ownership to a judge. You hire an attorney and your attorney shows the judge the receipt, the proof of purchase. Who will the judge say is the owner of the television? Of course you are.

In the same manner the believer belongs to Christ! He owns us! We are His! (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) This also means that we are who and what He says we are! The following are a few things to meditate on concerning who and what we are in the mind of the God our Father...

  • We have peace with God (Romans 5:1)
  • We have God's wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:30)
  • We are one with Christ (1 Corinthians 6:17)
  • We are New Creations in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17)
  • We are the righteousness of God in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21)
  • We have been given every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (Ephesians 1:3)
  • We have been made alive in Christ and sit with Him in the heavenly places (Ephesians 2:4-10)
  • We have God working in us to do His will (Philippians 2:13)
  • We are citizens of heaven (Philippians 3:20)
  • We are holy and blameless in His sight (Colossians 1:22)
  • We are complete in Christ (Colossians 2:10)
  • We enjoy rest in Christ (Hebrews 4:3)
  • We are His own special people (1 Peter 2:9)
  • We are partakers of exceeding great and precious promises and the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4)
  • We have eternal life (1 John 2:25)
  • We are kings and priests (Revelation 1:4-6)
Although these passages of scripture are but a few that reveal who and what we are in the mind of God, take some time and meditate on these until you receive a revelation of these facts.
"So Christ has made us free. Now make sure that you stay free" (Galatians 5:1)….  

Monday, January 11, 2021

A Whole Lot of Love

Although there are many ways to express love, basically, there are only two kinds of love and one or the other will dominate every person. One kind of love is a natural or human kind of love in which every person has to some extent. Natural love though can speak highly of someone one moment and than the next moment completely turn around a spew words of hatred towards the same person. However, when Jesus came to earth He brought with Him a new type of love, a love that emanates from the Spirit which is the God kind of love. The very essence and most potent characteristic of God is love. The apostle John tells us, "...for love is of God..." and "...for God is love..." (1 John 4:7-8) 

One of the most exciting events that takes place when a person confesses with their mouth the Lordship of Jesus Christ and receives Him as Savior, is their dead spirit is reborn from above and they become completely new, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new." (2 Corinthians 5:17) To expand what this means, the Holy Spirit through the apostle John says, "And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace." (John 1:16) The Holy Spirit speaking through the apostle Paul tells us, "For in Christ there is all of God in a human body; so you have everything when you have Christ, and you are filled with God through your union with Christ. He is the highest Ruler, with authority over every other power." (Colossians 2:9-10 TLB) The apostle John also states, " He is, so are we in this world." (1 John 4:17) 

The moment that a person experienced New Birth they immediately receive the fullness of Christ. They are immediately filled with God. They immediately have the character of Christ. Now we may not know this or we may not take advantage of what this means, but it is fact! Another characteristic of this transformation into a New Creation is that our recreated spirit is also immediately filled with the God kind of Love, "Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us." (Romans 5:5) Every born again person has within them the ability to love as God loves because His love dwells within us. This new kind of love becomes our nature because we are "partakers of the divine nature." (2 Peter 1:4) We also see that our recreated spirit has been infused with nine wonderful attributes that are called "The fruit of the spirit" (Galatians 5:22-23) in which the first one is love, the God kind of love.  

When believers let go of natural love and let the God kind of love dominate their life, it makes them the master of life in the same way Jesus was as He walked the earth as the Son of man. For instance, Jesus never lost His temper which led to sin. His great love made Him master over every situation. When a believer losses his/her temper, the natural man (old man) takes over. The person, situation or circumstance that caused the believer to lose their temper now becomes the master. However, if we let the God kind of love flow from us, then we become impervious to these things and stand in victory over them as master in the same manner that Jesus stood as Master over them. 

How powerful is the God kind of love? Look at the last day of Jesus ministry as the Son of man. He was beaten, mocked, spit upon and nail to the cross and yet those who did this did not realize that the moment they took Him captive, He actually became Master which eventually led Him to become the conquering King of kings and Lord of lords. "For God so LOVED the world that He gave His only begotten Son..." (John 3:16) "But God demonstrates His own LOVE toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8) 

It takes faith to rest in and depend on the God kind of love to dominate our life. Remember, we have the fullness of Christ in us. God is not limiting us to operate in this manner. The only limits that are upon the believer, are the ones that the believer chooses to imposes upon himself. To operate in the God kind of love is a choice that each believer must make daily. In doing so we fulfill the commandment that Jesus has given to all believers, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."  (John 13:34-35) So let us rise above selfish natural love, exercise the God kind of love so that the world will see the Father's tremendous surrounding, abounding love for them operating through us.   

Monday, January 4, 2021

Jump Up and Shout

Every season of each year brings various sporting events, whether, baseball, football, soccer, hockey, tennis and so on. Events like these are considered team or individual sports. That mean that there are two different teams or individuals competing against one another. It also means that there are spectators that are cheering for their favorite team or individual. When the contest is close or especially when those who are competing score points, the spectators most likely jump up and shout. For the most part, there is nothing wrong with having a favorite team or person that you want to see win the contest. But as Christians, do we tend to shout more for achievements of people who have no ability to save, heal or deliver another person from the bondage of sin and Satan than we do for the Lord and Savior of all men? I believe the best way to answer this question would be to take some Sunday's and visit several church congregations to observe the peoples response or actions during worship.

Praise and worship is a powerful way for believers to express their humble adoration as well as their jubilant admiration for all that God is and what He has done through Jesus Christ. Jesus is the champion of all champions. No one in the history of mankind has ever gained such an incredible victory or as it were, scored more points than He, and yet most Christians approach to praise and worship is just singing nice songs. We disguise our lack of passionate, energetic, heartfelt praise and worship by saying "we are showing our reverence toward Him" and yet without hesitation, will clap and shout aloud at a sporting event. Case in point. I recently attended what was called "Grandparents Day" at a Christian School. There were about 300 in attendance. The students sang numerous songs with lyrics about Gods magnificence, splendor and glory. Song of the greatness of the Lord Jesus Christ and yet the atmosphere was quiet and reserved. Even at the end of each song, with the exception of myself, there was no shouts of "amen, praise the Lord, hallelujah" or any such thing. 

One of the greatest accounts recorded in the Bible that reveals uninhibited praise and worship is found in 2 Samuel 6 and 1 Chronicles 13, "And so it was, when those bearing the ark of the LORD had gone six paces, that he sacrificed oxen and fatted sheep. Then David danced before the LORD with all his might; and David was wearing a linen ephod. So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouting and with the sound of the trumpet." (2 Samuel 6:13-15) "Then David and all Israel played music before God with all their might, with singing, on harps, on stringed instruments, on tambourines, on cymbals, and with trumpets." (1 Chronicles 13:8) Try to imagine what was taking place. Israel, led by David the king were transporting the Ark of the Covenant which included the Mercy Seat, to the City of David. To Israel, this sacred piece of furniture represented the presence of God. 

Notice, "David danced before the Ark with all his might while all Israel played music before God with all their might." This should strike a chord in our heart. Again, the Ark represented the presence of God not the indwelling, empowering presence of God that comes to all those who confess with their mouth the Lordship of Jesus Christ, receive Him as their Savior and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Think about it. Jesus had not yet become mans substitute for sin, therefore not one person at this time was born again and filled with the Spirit, yet the leader of Israel, King David thought nothing of dancing before Israel and the Ark with all of His might while Israel played music with all their might. 

Some may say that it was a cultural thing, but I contend it was a God thing. They were celebrating "The God Who Sees" (Genesis 16:13), "Almighty God" (Genesis 17:1), "The Lord Who Provides" (Genesis 22:14), "The God Who Heals" (Exodus 15:26), "The Lord Who Sanctifies" (Exodus 31:13), "The God Who Keeps His Word and Makes it Good" (Numbers 23:19), "The Lord Who is Peace" (Judges 6:24), "The Almighty Who is Excellent in Power, in Judgment, and Abundant Justice, Who does not afflict" (Job 37:23), "The Lord the Shepherd" (Psalm 23:1), "The Lord Who is Good" (Psalm 34:8) "The Lord Who Delivers" (Psalm 34:17), "The Lord Who is Merciful and Gracious" (Psalm 103:8), "The Lord Who is full of Compassion" (Psalm 145:8). 

Of course if we do not know God's true nature and character, as revealed in the above scriptures which are just a few examples of many, then it becomes difficult to let go and worship Him as Israel did. However, let's keep in mind, "For I am the LORD, I do not change..." (Malachi 3:6), "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever." (Hebrews 13:8), "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning." (James 1:17) God has not, nor will He ever change. In fact He reveals His will, nature, character, purposes and plan through Jesus Christ more than the Law or the Prophets or any one else (Hebrews 1:1-4). 

There are numerous Bible references revealing the presence and power of God released when His people truly praise and worship Him. The picture painted in Revelation 4 - 5 of worship in heaven before God is a tremendous sneak preview of what the saints will be doing for eternity. So, if we are going to shout at the achievement of men, then it is time to shed our fears and inhibitions and as the children of God, lift up our voices and shout even louder to Him Who sits on the Throne and unto the Lamb. Someone shout, "PRAISE THE LORD."          

Monday, December 28, 2020

Resolute in Christ

There is much history concerning celebrating "New Years," In brief, New Year's Day is observed on January 1, which is the first day of the year on the modern Gregorian calendar. The Gregorian calendar was used by the Roman Empire around 45 BC and is accepted today by most countries as the calendar most used. The Romans originally dedicated New Year's Day to Janus, the god of gates, doors, and beginnings for whom the first month of the year (January) is named. New Year's Day is probably the world's most celebrated public holiday, often observed with fireworks at the stroke of midnight as the new year starts in each time zone. By Roman definition, beginnings, we can see why so many people make resolutions, that is, taking a course of action one determines or decides to do as a new beginning. Looking into New Years resolutions you would discover that on the average ninety percent of all New Years resolutions fail. Why is that? Generally speaking...

  • Most people try to make several resolutions instead of focusing on one...
  • People tend to set unrealistic goals....
  • After a resolution is made, most people have no one to encourage them to see it through...
  • Failure to adopt new behavior and thought patterns..

You may think of more reasons, but these four points are to bring us to the place to understand that the flesh is weak. One example of a New Years resolution which is probably most popular is weight loss. Usually, beginning in November, television, news papers, magazines, internet and other forms of media focus their advertisements on weight loss. However, every time I see an advertisement promoting weight loss, I find it interesting that they never reveal the failure rate. If you do some research, you will find that only about five percent of the people who make a resolution to loss a certain amount of weight make their goal and keep the weight off for five years or more.  Although I am using weight loss as an example, there is certainly nothing wrong with trying to loss weight if you have a weight problem. Actually, it's a good thing. 

For the believer however, a so called resolution should not be a first day of the New Year thing. Believers should be determined to be a reflection of Christ in and through their life every day, but we must remember and act upon some sound advise. "And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men." (Colossians 3:23) "For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord's.' (Romans 14:8) Everything in the believers life should not be to gratify ourselves or to please men per se, but to please the Lord. Solomon tells us the conclusion of all of mans vain self efforts, "...Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man's all." (Ecclesiastes 12:13)

Next, we must not try to do things through our talents and strength, but, "Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths." (Proverbs 3:5-6). The apostle Paul reveals several things along these lines. But one of the greatest revelations that he received was through his pray to the Lord asking Him to deal with the messenger of Satan that was stirring up persecution and opposing the work that the Lord called him to. The Lord said to Paul, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." The revelation Paul received was, "Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Corinthians 12:9-10) It is of the utmost importance that believers rely upon the Lord, His strength and abilities to accomplish any task or conquer any trial that may be encounter in this life. This is why Paul was able say, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." (Philippians 4:13) 

Another area to consider is understanding who believers are in Christ. When believers come to a full knowledge of no longer being identified with who they were before they were born again and know who they are in Christ, then they will understand what it means when Jesus said, "nothing is impossible to those who believe." (Mark 9:23) Knowing who one truly is in Christ sets believers free from shame, condemnation, guilt and inferiority. They will walk in a freedom that will cause them to not make resolution but find the grace and power to overcome and live victorious. For instance, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ.." (2 Corinthians 5:17-18) The old nature, the old way of doing things, the old person that you were prior to your salvation is gone. You have been made completely new in Christ and have right standing with God.

Finally, you must have and use your own faith. What does this mean? All believers one day must come to the place where their own faith has grown and has brought them to know without doubt, "Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him." (1 John 5:14-15) This is actually a realm of Christianity that few believers come to. Not because they do not desire to have this level of faith. It is mostly due to a lack of studying and meditating on God's Word as well as faithless church leaders leading people down a path that causes then to believe man's doctrines over God's Word. These things will prevent believers from having their own faith but will cause them to rely on another believers faith hoping to live a victorious Christian life. 

All of these things if applied in the believers life will change their behavior and thought patterns. These things are not self imposed, by Holy Spirit inspired. The apostle Paul tells us to, "...Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh." (Galatians 5:16) So you see we do not have to make New Year resolutions to only have them fail. We can live in the power and ability of God everyday through faith in Jesus Christ to overcome every obstacle of life and do the impossible where others fail. So this New Years, do not make a New Years resolution but, "...lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of you." (Philippians 3:12) And as the apostle John said, "Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers" (3 John 2) is also my prayer for you. HAPPY NEW YEAR...

Monday, December 21, 2020

What A Great Story

The "Christmas Story" is one of the most remembered and by far the most told of any other story in human history. Not only does this story reveal the birth of Christ the Lord, but a closer look reveals the movement of creation itself in bringing forth the Savior. It is the Gospel according to Matthew and Luke that uncover the events of the "Christmas Story." So as we look at these events, we will see the infinite wisdom and love of God at work in human history for only one reason, "to open their (humanity) eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.'  (Acts 26:18) 

In Luke 1:5-25 we see a priest named Zacharias chosen to minister before the Lord in the temple in the form of burning incenses. His wife's name was Elizabeth and they were both descendants of Aaron, Moses' brother and first Priest chosen by God along with his sons. (Exodus 4:14, 28:1)  Zacharias was a praying man and his prayers were heard. The angel of the Lord, Gabriel was sent to give him the good news concerning what was about to break forth into human history. However, we see that Zacharias first response was doubt. Like Zacharias, we too can get so caught up in doing our regimented Christians duties or building our own personal kingdoms, that we miss what God is about to do. Then when God reveals to us His plan we again like Zacharias do not believe. I believe that most Christians today struggle with a lack of faith for the very same reason. They pray, look for God, but when He reveals Himself doubt enters and they forget the very things that they were praying for. Most often, God revealed Himself His way not their way. Although, Zacharias doubted God's Word, what the angel had spoken still came to pass. 

Next, Luke 1:26-38 records another miraculous event happening. The same angel, Gabriel appears to a virgin woman whose name is Mary who was betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph. He reveals that she is “highly favored" by God and "blessed among women" and that it would be Mary who would be used by God to bring forth the One who would be the Deliverer. Mary questions Gabriel, but his answer should cause believers to see God for who He really is, "For with God nothing will be impossible." This is an important key to having prayer answered as well as living a victorious life. Jesus says it this way, "If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes." (Mark 9:23) Not only are all things possible with God but He makes all thing possible to all believers who exercises faith. It is very apparent that Mary believed Gabriel's report, "Then Mary said, "Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her."

Although we see Mary exercising faith for the impossible, we see a different picture with Joseph, her betrothed. Again, we see doubt take the place of faith. (Matthew 1:19) However, we do see an angel of the Lord appear to Joseph in a dream explaining the situation to him, which caused Joseph to respond to what the angel had spoken. (Matthew 1:20-25) You may be thinking, "Well getting the news that your wife is with child and you have had nothing to do with it certainly would cause one to doubt." This may be somewhat true, but remember Zacharias had a visitation of an angel of the Lord but he still doubted. Also, Matthew records that Joseph was a "just man' which means, "justly, righteously, in accordance with what is right."

So, we have to assume that for Joseph to have this type of character, that he attended synagogue and or was versed in the the scriptures. If so he had available to him what was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, "Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel." (Isaiah 7:14) But isn't that the problem that the children of God have struggled with then and still struggle with today? For most believers, although we have the Word of God recorded in what we call the Bible, many still chose to look at the circumstances in the natural like Zacharias and Joseph and entertain doubt rather than faith in a faithful God, "that what He has promised He is also able to perform." (Romans 4:21) Although it appears that Joseph had some doubts, he still responded to the command of the angel to take Mary as his wife.

The wonderful events continue to unfold. Luke 2:1-7 records that not even Caesar Augustus the top official of the human government at that time could do nothing more than to bring the prophetic Word of God spoken 700 years prior through Micah to pass, "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting." (Micah 5:2) Joseph following the orders of the government, made his way with Mary to the very town where Christ was to be born, Bethlehem. 

Finally, Luke 2:8-20 shows us the culmination of the events of the birth of Christ. Again, an angel of the Lord appears. This time to "shepherds living out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night." It is recorded that the"angel stood before them and the glory of the Lord shown around them" and the angel reported the most incredible event to date in the history of humanity, "For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger." Once the angel gave this report "suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!" Not only were the people of the earth moved to be participants in the ingenious plan of God (whether they knew it or not) but even the angels of God rejoiced. Think about that. The angels of God who are spirit beings were excited for humanity that now the plan of God was manifested for the salvation of humanity. Deity and humanity has now come together as Jesus Christ the Lord. 

We all should see Christmas as a time for great rejoicing. A is new birth. A new birth in our love towards God and toward one another. A new birth in dedicating our lives to His service. Christmas not New Years should be a catalyst for change, hope and increased faith. A great expectation of what God can and will do through those who believe. For some, maybe we need to see Christmas through the eyes of three wealthy wise men who left their nation and traveled a great distance to behold an infant King. Three men who apparently exercised faith having only the knowledge of ancient writings and a star that guided their way. Christmas is not just about a baby in a manger, it's about the complete redemption of humanity. We should celebrate Christmas as one of the two greatest moves of God in human history. That baby, the Christ, had come into the world to save humanity from Satan's power, to reconcile God to man and man to God for us to have "life and to have it more abundantly." Have a wonderful and very "MERRY CHRISTMAS."

Monday, December 14, 2020

More Than a Conqueror

A Gladiator was a man during the time of ancient Rome who was trained to fight with various weapons  for two purposes. One purpose was to fight against other men or wild animals in an arena and the other purpose was for defending or opposing a cause. On May 5, 2000 an epic historical drama film entitled "Gladiator" was released in the United States. In short, the film portrays a fictional character, a Roman general who was loyal to the emperor, who is betrayed when the emperor's ambitious son who murders his father the emperor, seizes the throne, has the generals family murdered and attempts to have the general killed also. However, the general escapes certain death, is taken into custody by slave traders, sold and forced to fight in the Colosseum in Rome as a gladiator Through all of this, the general had a cause, to make right all that had been stolen from Him. 

The Holy Spirit through the apostle Paul gives us some great insight in the letter written to the church at Ephesus concerning the dress of a Roman soldier whose dress was also worn by gladiators. Paul uses the natural to reveal an application for the believer to use in the spiritual, "Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places." (Ephesians 6:10-12) 

The believer is not to rely on his own abilities but must fully rely upon Gods ability in order to withstand the schemes of the devil, "...that we should not trust in ourselves but in God..." (2 Corinthians 1:9). Paul reminds us that the wrestling that is set against believers is not in the natural realm but in the spiritual. According to Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, the word wrestle means "to sway."  This is very key to understanding what Paul is presenting, because most believers are under the influence that they are to war or fight against the devil. In fact, to sway sheds much light on the believers position as he/she withstands the schemes of the devil. In other words, if we let him, the devil will come against us and try to sway us away from faith and into fear, doubt and unbelief. However, look what Paul continues to tells us,  "Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand." (Ephesians 6:13) Believers are to stand their ground in faith. When we do, the devil cannot sway us from trusting God nor cause us to question the integrity of God's Word. 

When dealing with the forces of darkness believers must keep in mind what Jesus did through His death, burial and resurrection, "The hostile princes and rulers He (Jesus) shook off from Himself, and boldly displayed them as His conquests, when by the Cross He triumphed over them." (Colossians 2:15) and, "Since then the children referred to are all alike sharers in perishable human nature, He (Jesus) Himself also, in the same way, took on Him a share of it, in order that through death He might render powerless him who had authority over death, that is, the Devil." (Hebrews 2:14) Jesus has conquered the devil and his gang. He has rendered them powerless. Yes, we are in a battle. Yes, we are to put on the armor of God, but it is against principalities and powers that Jesus has defeated through His death, burial and resurrection, "And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all." (Ephesians 1:22-23) 

The church is the Body of Christ and the principalities and powers are under the believers feet! So the believers focus is not fighting with a defeated enemy, but focus is to be on building and strengthening our relationship with Christ as we stand in victory over the adversary. The believers position when standing against the schemes of the devil is one of victory, "But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Corinthians 15:57) The believer should see himself as one who stands triumphant in Christ, "Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ..." (2 Corinthians 2:14)

Paul tells us what the real fight believes are to engaged, "Fight the good fight of faith..." (1 Timothy 6:12) When believers understand what the real battle is and begin to appropriate what Jesus did between the cross and being seated at the right hand of Majesty on high, we will understand that we wrestle the forces of darkness by our faith in God's Word preventing them from trying to sway us from faith into living in doubt, fear and unbelief. Why is this a high priority on the devils list of lies and deception? He want to keep us in the the realm where we exercise sense knowledge faith, that is, relying on our senses and not revelation faith, that is, the kind of faith that is spiritual that believes even when there is no physical evidence. Sense knowledge faith relies solely upon what our senses can understand which is the thing hat has kept most believers (including most church leaders) believing things that is contrary to the Word of God. This is the very thing that the apostle Thomas did, even after living and traveling with Jesus for three years. He could only believe what his sense could understand. (John 20:24-25) 

Now concerning the armor of God, Paul continues, "Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." (Ephesians 6:14-17) Every piece of armor is important and has its place, but notice that Paul use the words "above all" in describing the last three pieces of armor. First, the "shield of faith." Faith is the channel that quenches, extinguishes, suppresses ALL the schemes of the devil. A gladiator would use his shield to suppress his opponents aggression toward him. Faith not only pleases God (Hebrews 11:6) but it also releases the power of God for the believer to do the impossible. (Matthew 17:20) 

Next, Paul tells us to "take the helmet of salvation." Naturally, the helmet would protect a gladiators head from death dealing blows, but think of the helmet of salvation for the believer from this perspective, "That we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting." (Ephesians 4:14) Paul also tells us, "For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ." (2 Corinthians 10:3-5) Believers must keep renewing their minds with the Word of God. (Romans 12:2, Ephesians 4:23). The Word of God will separate false doctrine from sound doctrine as well as expose arguments and renegade thoughts that are contrary to the truth. 

Finally, Paul tells us to take, "the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." This was the gladiators only offense against his opponent. The believer is to use the Word of God, to uphold and enforce everything that Jesus has accomplished through His death, burial and resurrection. "For the Word of God is living and powerful..." (Hebrews 4:12) Jesus knew this and shows us the standard for striking down the schemes of the Devil. In Matthew 4 and Luke 4 Jesus is tempted for forty days and night by the devil. Jesus did not war against the devil, He simply stood His ground and use the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. In the three temptations recorded, Jesus put the devil in his place by saying, "It is written." After the forty days of being tempted of the devil were completed, the Bible records, "Then the devil departed from Him..." (Matthew 4:11) 

If you are struggling with any issue that the devil is trying to hold you in bondage to, you can be free from every one of them and walk in the liberty that Jesus has purchased for you. Be a gladiator with a cause. No longer let the devil cheat you out of your inheritance in Christ. Begin to exercise your faith, stand your ground and "hold fast the confession of our faith without wavering, for He who promised is faithful." (Hebrews 10:23) God's Word never fails!!!