Wednesday, September 4, 2019

ALMOST PERSUADED OR FULLY PERSUADED?



            Have you ever had someone try to persuade you to do something you were reluctant to do or even determined not to do? In my (much) younger days, I went to a theme park with some of my cousins. The guys wanted to ride a roller coaster that turned upside down, and I said, “absolutely not”. (It was relatively new at the time.) So, I removed myself from the line for that ride and told them to have fun. The next thing I knew, I was being lifted from my place outside the line back inside the line. Guess what I did. I rode the roller coaster. Did I enjoy it? Of course, I did! The only reason I didn’t want to ride it in the first place was because it was not familiar to me and I was afraid. I just needed a little persuasion.
            Riding or not riding the roller coaster really made no difference in the quality of my life, even though I still remember it after all those years. But being persuaded or not being persuaded to follow Christ will make all the difference for now and eternity.
            To persuade someone means to appeal to them by advising or urging them to do something or believe something. One who is persuaded by this urging becomes fully convinced and will carry out their belief until it is entirely accomplished. The proof of someone’s persuasion is in their actions, not just their words.
            On one occasion, the apostle Paul was taken from his prison cell to state his case before the Roman Governor Festus and King Agrippa who was visiting Festus. First, Paul acknowledged that he was happy to speak before King Agrippa because the king was well-versed in the Jewish law and was also knowledgeable of Jesus and His works, crucifixion and resurrection. After that Paul gave an account of his own life as a Pharisee and a persecutor of those who followed Jesus until he met Jesus personally. He told them of his conversion when Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus and changed his course. He also gave a testimony that Jesus is the Messiah they had been waiting for. “Then Agrippa said to Paul, “In a short time [and with so little effort] you [almost] persuade me to become a Christian.”
My cousins’ “persuasion” to change my mind was physical. They actually lifted me back into the line with them. But we can’t do that in trying to persuade someone to follow Jesus. We cannot lift them into a place of full surrender. That is entirely up to the individual.
            Agrippa knew about Jesus firsthand. He knew the Jewish laws and traditions. He knew the prophecies about the Messiah. Now he had heard Paul’s testimony. And he was almost convinced to follow Christ, but he didn’t. ‘Almost’ is still a negative. Almost is very nearly, but not quite. If someone almost dies, they are still alive. If someone almost wins, they have still lost. It remains that they did not die or they did not win. The end result is not altered by ‘almost’. Being almost persuaded is not receiving the gospel. Having respect for those who follow Christ and acknowledging holy things as holy is not receiving the gospel of Jesus Christ. King Agrippa’s “almost persuaded” status left him just like he had been, or maybe a little worse because he had heard the truth and rejected it. He had a divided heart. It seems he believed mentally but not enough to change his course.  He wanted what he had in this world more than Jesus Christ. He received nothing because he did not surrender to Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the Living God. We must be all for God, His Kingdom and His will. We cannot have a heart half-way for God. He will not accept it. We must give Him all. Those who are almost persuaded are still outside the kingdom of God.
Abraham was a different story. “He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; And being fully persuaded that, what He had promised, He was able also to perform. And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness.”  (Romans 4:20-22)
Abraham was fully, completely, entirely persuaded that what God said was true. He was certain that everything God said would be entirely accomplished, so he obeyed everything God told him to do. If you receive a box containing all the pieces to construct a bookshelf and you follow the directions on how to put it together, you will get a bookshelf just like the picture on the box it came in. You were promised the outcome and were given the instructions on what to do to get the promised results. But only if you are fully persuaded that whoever wrote those directions knows how to deliver what they promised will you actually follow the directions. Abraham believed, so he followed God’s instructions, and he saw the promise come to pass. If Abraham had not believed God’s Word to him and had not acted on it, God would not have bestowed on him the blessing of being “the father of many nations” and “the friend of God”. But Abraham was fully persuaded, and he fully followed God’s instructions, so he received exactly what God promised.
Abraham even believed for things he knew he would not see in his lifetime. Much of what God promised him was for his descendants. But there was no unbelief in him, and everything God promised him happened. God blessed Abraham immensely both physically and spiritually because of his faith and even declared him righteous by faith. Because Abraham was fully persuaded, it changed the course of his life and the course of many lives.
We find in the Bible that God has promised great things to those who believe Him enough to follow His directions and give their all to follow Him completely. But we must be fully persuaded. We cannot be persuaded “all except”. We may not understand it all, but faith means we believe God anyway. Abraham didn’t understand it all, either.
We are not fully persuaded if we have a divided heart. If we believe part of God’s Word, but not all of it, we have a double heart and try to take the place of God by determining which part is true and which is not. Those who are fully persuaded have an undivided heart and their actions prove their persuasion. Whatever God says is true and they believe truth whether they understand it perfectly or not.
When King Saul rebelled against God’s instructions, God rejected him. Saul obeyed part of what God told him to do, but not all of it. Saul himself decided to determine how the spoils of battle should best be used, putting his own judgment above God’s. So, God rejected him and chose David to succeed him on the throne of Israel. It didn’t happen immediately. Many years went by before it came to pass, but David believed what God had promised him. And quite some time after the death of Saul it happened. Warriors from each of the twelve tribes of Israel came to David to make him king over all Israel, “to turn over the kingdom of Saul to him.” These men are described like this: “All these, being men of war arrayed in battle formation, came to Hebron with a perfect (committed) heart to make David king over all Israel; and all the rest of Israel were also of one mind to make David king.” These men were trustworthy, men of honor without any sort of hidden agenda or double purpose.
God had already turned the kingdom over to David. The people were now confirming God’s choice and making His will their own. They joined the kingdom God had already declared many years before. They placed themselves under David’s command willingly and unconditionally. Although they came from many tribes, they gathered for one purpose – to acknowledge David as king. They were fully persuaded.
If we are fully persuaded to follow Jesus, we must come with an undivided heart; no hidden agenda, no double purpose. We must come fully surrendered to Jesus’ rule over us willingly and unconditionally, and acknowledging what God has already declared – Jesus Christ is King of kings and Lord of lords, now and forevermore! Everything is under subjection to Him, and the day is coming when “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Those who are only almost persuaded are still outside the kingdom. Those who are fully persuaded and have given their all to Jesus will receive His righteousness, wisdom, discernment, and an inheritance as His children. One day we will all bow and confess Jesus as Lord. Why not today?
Are You Fully Persuaded?


Wednesday, August 7, 2019

BREAK UP YOUR FALLOW GROUND




Jeremiah 4:3 says, “For thus says the Lord to the men of Judah and Jerusalem: Break up your fallow ground, and do not sow among thorns.”
            Most farmers are familiar with fallow ground, but for those of us who are not farmers, let me give you the definition. It is a field that has lain idle, so the crust needs to be broken up before it can receive seed again. The ground that was once plowed, fertile and ready for harvesting, but was left untended and became hard and dry. In other words, it is uncultivated and left to whatever nature does with it. It has become useless.
But God wasn’t just talking to them about their fields. He was talking about their hearts. Through years of neglect and disobedience to God’s Word, their hearts had become hard. Just like the hard crust on the ground of a fallow field. Seeds can’t grow in it because they cannot penetrate the hard shell.
Once we willfully disobey God’s Word and resist the conviction of His Spirit, it becomes easier and easier to do it the next time, and so our hearts harden a little at a time. These men had come to the place where they couldn’t receive God’s Word or sense His Spirit. But God was telling them it wasn’t too late. They could soften their hearts through repentance and surrendering themselves to God.
In Matthew 13, Jesus taught the parable of the sower, the seed and the soil. He said, “And some [seeds] fell among thorns; and the thorns sprang up and choked them.” He explained the parable like this: “And the one on whom seed was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the Word, but the worries and distractions of the world and the deceitfulness [the superficial pleasures and delight] of riches choke the Word, and it yields no fruit.” Why did God say not to sow among thorns? Because it is useless.
We hear these teachings from Jesus and think of all the people who hear the Word and remain unmoved. But what about us? The Seed is the Word, the Sower is God. They remain the same. They are perfect. It is the soil of our hearts that varies and determines the yield.
When is the last time we tested the condition of our soil? The test might be painful, but we can reap rewards if we are willing to change. What God does or does not do in us depends on the condition of the soil in our field. If we don’t continue to cultivate our hearts, we will become useless. We may attend church and be active there, but if our hearts are hard and crusted over, the Word of God won’t be alive in us. Just because we are moving, it doesn’t mean we are making progress. And whatever we accomplish without the Holy Spirit has no life. So we need to hear AND follow the Word of God.
When we hear a message, do we automatically think that it applies to somebody else? Do we say, “That was a good word. THEY really needed to hear it.”? If God confronts me with a message, regardless of how it comes, it is for me! And He requires a response. I am responsible for what I hear. If I don’t respond, I have in essence told Him “no”. When we hear the Word of God we need to make a practice of stopping and asking ourselves, “Am I walking this out in my life every day?”
Let’s be honest. When we have been saved for a long time, we have read the Bible so much and heard so many sermons and teachings, that we feel like there is nothing more to learn. But God wants us to come deeper into His presence and deeper into a knowledge of Him. When we get settled in a spiritual rut, we become hardened against the Word of God and will resist it without even realizing it. The fact is, we may have already heard most of what the preacher is preaching, but has it changed us? If we are not consistently growing in the Word and the Spirit of God, we are consistently becoming fallow.
     When we hear the Word of God, what do we do with it? What has God spoken to you about today or yesterday? Did you hear Him? Did you receive it into your heart personally and begin to apply it to every part of your life? Have you allowed the Word to bear fruit? Or did you tell Him “no”? I don’t think we maliciously say “no”, but we are so busy that we lose what we have heard almost immediately. We just don’t stop long enough to let it sink in. We don’t take time to meditate on the Word of God. We are up and running to the next thing on our agenda and forget what God spoke to us because we are entangled with the cares of this life, the worries and distractions of this world.
When we become settled in our past experience rather than moving from glory to glory, our hearts have become fallow ground. If we have become unresponsive to God’s Word, if it no longer convicts us, if we no longer open our hearts to the examination of the Word, we might want to check the integrity of our soil. It is so hard to come face to face with the truth sometimes. But if we are lacking, we need to be aware of it so we can change. We know so much of what the Bible says, that we feel like we are doing it all. But often the application of it is missing.
If we realize our hearts are fallow, we can change the condition of our soil. How do we do it? Clearly, God told the people YOU break it up and stop sowing among the thorns. You are wasting your time by putting the Word in hardened ground. It just sits on top and never sinks in that way. First prepare your heart. Surrender it to Jesus, withholding nothing. Repent and prepare loose, rich soil for the Word to grow in. Don’t get caught up following the ways of the world, letting nature do whatever it wants with your heart.  Instead, seek God – first and foremost, above all! We have to be open to God’s voice, ready to hear Him and ready to change. He doesn’t do that for us. God doesn’t repent for us. He says YOU break it up! Then live deliberately in obedience to the Word of God. When we show Him a receptive, broken heart we will begin to see the seeds He sows springing up. As we openly look into the Word, we will find areas that need to be cultivated, but it is totally up to us to obey. So we are to read the Bible, then change our lives to live by what it says. It’s that simple. But it can be overwhelming when we realize what it demands.
A.W. Tozer wrote concerning obedience, “Just do the next thing you know you should do to carry out the will of the Lord. If there is sin in your life, quit it instantly. Put away lying, gossiping, dishonesty, or whatever your sin may be. Forsake worldly pleasures,…Get right with any person you may have wronged. Forgive everyone who may have wronged you. Begin to use your money to help the poor and advance the cause of Christ. Take up the Cross and live sacrificially. Pray, attend the Lord’s services. Witness for Christ, not only when it is convenient but when you know you should. Study the Bible to learn the will of God and then do His will as you understand it. Start now by doing the next thing, and then go on from there.”
We grow day by day. God will not put on us more than we can handle at one time. If He gave me a list of everything I need to change, I would be overwhelmed. I am thankful He allows us to grow from glory to glory. Not all at once. But if we keep trying to sow seeds of God’s Word without letting the soil of our hearts be prepared to receive it, it will do us no good. If we are open to obey the Word no matter the consequences, the Word will do His work.
We don’t see things as God sees. That’s why we need to ask Him to show us. Proverbs 16:2 says, “All the ways of a man are clean and innocent in his own eyes [and he may see nothing wrong with his actions], But the Lord weighs and examines the motives and intents [of the heart and knows the truth]. He knows the condition of the soil. He knows when it needs attention. So we need to ask God to show us, then follow what He says. We don’t need to be obsessively introspective. That isn’t healthy. But we do need to be open for the Holy Spirit to speak to us.
We can have a fruitful life. It begins with a plowed heart – broken – fully surrendered to God. Are we prepared to open our hearts to God as He calls us deeper and deeper into His presence and farther away from the world? It requires us to trust that He is perfect in all His ways for us. And it requires us to surrender every moment into His hands.
God told the prophet Jeremiah, “See, I have this day set you over the nations and over the kingdoms, To root out and to pull down, To destroy and to throw down, To build and to plant.” Jeremiah 1:10
That sounds like a negative ministry, but you can’t have one without the other. There is a time to reap a harvest, but it only happens after the soil is broken up and cultivated to receive the seed. The plow may hurt, but the results will be worth it all. Then the rain and the sun are sent to work with the soil to bring forth much fruit. If we want to see His Spirit rain on the work of our hands and see spiritual fruit within us and through us, we need to keep the condition of our soil in good shape. When our hearts are soft, the seeds of God’s Word can take root in us and keep our souls alive and healthy.
Hosea 10:12 says, “Break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the Lord, till He come and rain righteousness upon you.” 
Now is the time!
Are you ready for change?
Are you ready for complete surrender?
Will you take the challenge to break up the fallow ground and receive God’s Word?


Wednesday, July 3, 2019

THE RICHES OF OUR INHERITANCE




            The wonder, power, majesty and glory of God is revealed somewhat in segments throughout the Bible, both Old and New Testaments.  What we read is unfathomable to our human minds. In Genesis we see God creating the world and all that lies beyond it from nothing but the power of His living Word. Yet, the makeup of every substance of life – plant, animal and human – is perpetual, and the intricacies are beyond human knowledge. God spoke, and it came into existence.  God said, “Let there be light”, and light was.
            In the book of Job we read about God’s storehouses of snow, His authority over lightning bolts, thunder, rain and hail. He laid the foundation of the earth and hung the stars in their places. Everything was done by His design. Some of the prophets saw visions of such splendor that it was impossible to completely describe in words.
            In the New Testament we see the same Word that created everything coming to us in human flesh, casting out devils, healing the sick, raising the dead. Then He allowed His flesh man to be crucified, died and was buried. But He came out of the tomb alive and later ascended back to the Father.
            In the book of Revelation, we see the resurrected Jesus in His glory revealed through the things He showed to John, one of the disciples. John saw Him in such brilliant light and glory that he fell at His feet. When you consider Jesus’ greatness beyond what we could ever imagine, it seems impossible that we could ever approach Him or that He would take notice of us. But in Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection, He not only made provisions for our sins to be forgiven, but for us to receive His righteousness and to be joint-heirs with Him of the Father’s estate. After He ascended, He sent the Holy Spirit to live in us and work through us. His Spirit is the guarantee of our inheritance. He invites us into the fullness of His kingdom right now where we become sons and daughters of the King of kings.
            Our inheritance is above and beyond anything we could imagine. Descriptions of it use words like abundant, exceeding, great, and glorious. There is treasure to be had and He wants us to have it all, but first we must give Him all of us. Then we can have the riches of heaven.
            “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the [Holy] Spirit who is from God, so that we may know and understand the [wonderful] things freely given to us by God.” (1 Corinthians 2:12, Amplified) Let’s look farther into the Scripture to see some of those wonderful things God has made available to us. If we don’t know about them, we won’t search for them, and we will miss out on all the wonderful riches that belong to us.

John 10:10 – Jesus said, “The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance [to the full, till it overflows].”  Jesus doesn’t just offer us life. He offers it to the fullest extent for eternity. He will open the eyes of our understanding to see spiritual things clearly. Satan does not want us to know what God has made available to us. He tries to steal our spiritual enlightenment and destroy our spiritual life.  But if we will accept Jesus’ invitation to deny ourselves and follow Him, we will begin our lives in the kingdom of God, living life abundantly. It may seem odd that such favor and blessing can be given to us even in the middle of this world that opposes us so violently and causes us to endure trials and persecution. But Psalm 23:5 says, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over.” (NKJV) God will feed us and pour out His Spirit on us even as the enemy looks on. He prevails over the enemy.

2 Corinthians 4:6-7 (KJV) – “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” Just as God moved on the face of the waters and penetrated the darkness with His light, He will do the same for us. He will move in us and enlighten our spiritual eyes with His light. Have you ever seen an object in a dark, shadowy room and it appeared to be one thing, but when the light was turned on you saw it for what it was? Light shows things as they really are. When we look at life through the light of God’s Spirit rather than the darkness of this world’s view, everything becomes clear. In Him is light and there is no darkness at all. Light reveals truth. Although we live in these earthen vessels, God places the Holy Spirit in us with His knowledge, wisdom and discernment. It is up to us to give Him the preeminence and allow the glory of God to be seen instead of our vessels.

Ephesians 3:12 – “In whom [Jesus] we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him [that is, our faith gives us sufficient courage to freely and openly approach God through Christ].”  One of the most amazing privileges we have as children of the King is our access to Him. We can actually enter into His presence by the righteousness of Jesus Christ in us. We should constantly use this privilege, because in His presence we receive truth and confidence in His Word. Impossibilities become possible, pain is eased, confusion gives way to peace. We gain understanding into the deep things of God. In Psalm 84:10, the psalmist writes about the greatness of God’s presence. “For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand [anywhere else]; I would rather stand [as a door-keeper] at the threshold of the house of my God than to live [at ease] in the tents of wickedness.” Nothing in this world can compare to the presence of God that He has made available to us. If you want to have an audience with an important public figure, you probably will never get that chance. If you do, it will be through a long process. But the God of the universe has invited us into His presence! Enter in!

1 Peter 1:3-4 (Amplified) – “Blessed [gratefully praised and adored] be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant and boundless mercy has caused us to be born again [that is, to be reborn from above - spiritually transformed, renewed, and set apart for His purpose] to an ever-living hope and confident assurance through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, [born anew] into an inheritance which is imperishable [beyond the reach of change] and undefiled and unfading, reserved in heaven for you,”.  We are totally transformed through Christ. In Him we are always changing “from glory to glory”, coming into the fullness of our inheritance that is unending. This is accomplished by the Holy Spirit. Children of kings are taught how to be royal, and are trained to rise up to their calling and position in life. There are people whose job is to prepare them. We are prepared by the Spirit of God Himself for the same purpose. So, let’s rise up to our calling.

Ephesians 1:17-20 – “[I always pray] that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places.” Without the riches of God’s grace and mercy toward us, we could not receive all the other treasures. Realize your inheritance. It is not symbolic. It is real. It is genuine and legal because it is all based on the work of Christ on our behalf. None of it is because of our goodness. None of it is because we deserve it. If it were based on our merits, we would have nothing from God. But God so loved us that He made provisions for our redemption and equips us for His service, giving us the wisdom, power and authority to carry it out.

Philippians 3:8 (NKJV) – “Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ.” What do we actually give up to know Christ and to follow Him? If what we gain in exchange is far greater and more lasting, have we really given up anything? We give up a life of fleeting tenure that is full of pain, disease, sin and all its consequences; a life that ends in death and hell. In following Christ we gain eternal life and an inheritance far greater than all the riches of this world. Then when this life is over we enter into life in the presence of God forever with peace, joy and complete satisfaction. What have we actually given up?  We receive the supreme privilege of knowing Christ Jesus personally. That is why Paul considered all the persecutions in this life as “light afflictions”. It is difficult for our flesh to deny itself or our physical and emotional being to go through persecution. But the rewards far outweigh the trials.

Ephesians 3:20 – “Now to Him who is able to [carry out His purpose and] do superabundantly more than all that we dare ask or think [infinitely beyond our greatest prayers, hopes or dream], according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations forever and ever. Amen.” All the riches, power and enlightenment he gives us is to be used for the glory of God and to accomplish the Great Commission of reaching others with the gospel, bringing them into the kingdom and inheritance of God. He will give us more than we can even think to ask for so we can give more than we can imagine. He does this as we let Him freely work through us. What comes to our hands is to go through our hands to bless others and glorify Christ, whether it is a revelation of His Word or a material blessing. Jesus said, “Freely you have received, freely give.” Use what God has given you to touch the lives of others and to build His kingdom. When a blessing comes into your life, ask God how it can be used for His glory. He doesn’t give us spiritual riches and enlightenment so we can exalt ourselves. He gives to us so we can give the words of life to those who need them.

Are you aware of your inheritance?
Are you rising up to your calling and your position in Christ?

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

THE CONVICTING POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT



            A few months back, I started feeling the beginning of a sinus infection. I treated myself with some over-the-counter medicine that did little more than cover the symptoms, making them seem less intense for a short while.  While I avoided going to the doctor, the root of the problem was increasing in strength.  When it got out of hand, I went to the doctor.  I got the right remedy that not only made me feel better momentarily, but removed the root of the problem.  Treating only the symptoms had allowed a sinus infection to culminate into full blown bronchitis bordering on pneumonia.
            The root of sin cannot be eradicated with manmade remedies. It’s like trying to change the color of your hair. You can cover it, but you can’t change it from the roots.  The real color will show again before long. Try as we may, we cannot control our tendencies to sin.  When we think we have things under control, we find that jealousy, temper, lust and bitterness pop up to prove us wrong.  We cannot control ourselves against the power of sin because it is inherent, part of our makeup.  We can’t get rid of it with OTC religion.  We can’t do enough good deeds, give enough money to the church, or learn enough doctrine to make us righteousness.  We need sin uprooted, not just covered or controlled. Nobody likes to admit that they can’t conquer sin.  But that confession is the first step in being free from it. Jesus can set us free from sin because He changes us at the root – from the inside out.  He removes the old root (sin) and replaces it with His root (righteousness).
            Jesus told His disciples,“Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.  And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.”(John 16:7-12, NKJV)
            Jesus is speaking here about the Holy Spirit as the Helper. But how is convicting us of sin being a Helper to us? Most people confuse conviction with condemnation. Conviction and condemnation are two very different things.  Conviction means to tell someone their fault or to bring it to light. Conviction uncovers the wrong in order to allow for repentance and change. It offers a better way.  Condemnation offers no hope.  It accuses and sentences with finality. It usually comes as a spirit of darkness and doom that overwhelms us. Jesus clearly stated that He did not come into the world to condemn the world, but to bring life and light. There will come a day of final judgment when there will be no recourse.  But for now, we live in a day of grace and hope. That is why it is so imperative for the Spirit to show us our need for a Savior now while there is still time. It is a great kindness to us. If I was going to stand before a group to make a presentation and you saw that I had a terrible stain on my white blouse, I would much rather you tell me while I could do something about it rather than keeping quiet and waiting until I saw it myself when it was too late for me to change. Conviction is like a friend warning us of danger ahead and directing us around it. It shines the light on the sin in our lives to make us aware of the problem, then offers a way to change it.
Why is it so difficult for us to admit that we are sinners and go to Christ for a transformation?  1 John 1:8-10 says, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.” Until we come into agreement with God, we cannot be forgiven and changed by receiving a transformed heart. Agreeing with God about our sin is where our journey begins, a journey of righteousness that leads us on the path of everlasting life.
The Holy Spirit will also convict or convince us of righteousness. According to Strong’s Concordance, righteousness is “the state of him who is as he ought to be.” We can be righteous when our heart is changed and made good.  Jesus said, “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good, and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil.  For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45, NKJV) 
If our heart is born sinful, then how can we get a good heart? Scripture says, “And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.” (Deuteronomy 30:6, NKJV) There are other references to the cutting away of the sin nature and our hearts being replaced with a heart of flesh, soft and pliable in the Potter’s hands. (Colossians 2:11, Ezekiel 11:19) This righteousness is not in memorizing all the dos and don’ts and making sure we keep each one.  That is the law. We can’t do it. It has already been proven. So, God changes our hearts. He places a good treasure in our hearts, His very own Spirit. That’s when we begin learning to listen to the Spirit of God within us and trusting Him enough to walk out what He tells us. That is when we become as we ought to be.
God often speaks to us in our hearts, but if they belong to another we cannot hear Him.  He will lead us in the ways of righteousness that most of us already know in our minds. But Jesus wants us to go deeper than just following rules.  He wants us to know Him intimately and learn to walk in His righteousness, His ways.  As we practice walking with Jesus, there may be times the Holy Spirit will convict us of a behavior or attitude. We may think it is petty and nothing to be concerned about, but the Holy Spirit convicts us so we can deal with it in the early stages before it has time to take root and cause heartache later. “Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled”. (Hebrews 12:14-15) If we cooperate with Him, the Holy Spirit will help us to walk in peace, holiness and grace.
There are also times He may convict us of a direction we have taken that will lead us outside of His will. He speaks to us so we can change our course and not be turned aside. In Acts 16:6-7, we see how the Holy Spirit corrected Paul’s course. It wasn’t a sin, but a wrong direction.  “Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them.”  He forbade them to go certain places, then gave Paul a vision of a man saying, “Come over into Macedonia, and help us.”  The Holy Spirit will guide us and position us for the assignment we are to do next if we will learn to listen to and follow Him even when we don’t understand.
Conviction is good.  It shines on our sins to make us aware of our need of a Savior and it continues to serve us in our walk with Christ if we will listen to the voice of God’s Spirit.  Ephesians 4:30 says, “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” We are also told not to resist the Holy Spirit.  We need to learn to trust Him and work with Him.
            The Holy Spirit will also convict us of coming judgment. Judgment can mean several different things.  Justice and condemnation are two of them.  Satan has already been condemned. His sentence is set. He has been justly sentenced because the terrible wrath of God is against evil.  It was not God’s intention for us to be the object of His wrath. Yet, He was not caught off-guard when sin entered the picture. He had a plan in place so our destiny doesn’t have to be bound up in Satan’s destiny. If we received justice, we would share Satan’s condemnation. But there is time for us to receive a new heart and change condemnation to glory!
            The Holy Spirit convicts of the guilt of our sin and our desperate need for a Savior. Allow the convicting power of the Spirit to draw you to Jesus. Don’t turn away. If you have refused Him a hundred times, don’t refuse Him today. We are not promised tomorrow. We are not promised another opportunity to hear His voice.
            Righteousness is within reach. The Holy Spirit may be speaking to you now about walking in integrity, godly character and true holiness with a new heart that will love and obey God.  Don’t resist His calling. Jesus paid the price for you to be holy, not just forgiven.
            Judgment is certain. It will come to all of us. You don’t have to have a part in the condemnation of the devil.  He is a liar and deceiver.  He wants to draw you in to his fate.  Don’t grieve the Holy Spirit by placing yourself in the onslaught of God’s wrath against evil instead of having His favor. He never intended you to be destroyed by sin.  He intended you to live in perfect harmony with Him.  If you are reading this, you still can.
            Allow the Holy Spirit to stir you to the depths of your soul and raise you higher and higher into the presence of God, so you can shine as a light of His glory in this world.

 “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world,
but that the world through Him might be saved.”

Saturday, May 4, 2019

WHICH CHURCH?




            When a professed sinner behaves as a sinner, we should not be surprised; grieved for sure, but not surprised.  But when those who profess to belong to Christ live according to the world’s sinful pattern, we should be shocked and grieved. Yet for many it has become the normal pattern of “Christian” life.  Many professing Christians are living in the world instead of the kingdom of God. I would like to take a look at two “churches” that are active today.  I realize we cannot point out individual congregations as being in one category or another.  We should never try.  Just as God’s true church is made up of all born-again believers from every nation and every generation, so is the church of man.  Let’s look at them both to bring it to a personal level and determine in which we as individuals have our membership.
THE CHURCH OF MAN – I have read accounts of the “great awakenings” and revivals in the 1700’s, 1800’s and early to mid 1900’s. In recounting their experiences, several of the revivalists noted a common problem. Many of the old established churches were the root of the greatest opposition to what God was doing. I saw that personally in the 1970’s. It seems some churches had left their first love and were carrying on in the power of man. There was no evidence of the work of the Holy Spirit among them. They, like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day had exchanged the power of the Holy Spirit for the traditions of men.  Jesus said, “so you nullify the [authority of the] word of God [acting as if it did not apply] because of your tradition which you have handed down [through the elders]. And you do many things such as that.”  (Mark 7:13, Amplified) They were so accustomed to their false religion that when the real came, they thought it was false and rejected Jesus. What about our day? Have we not done the same? We need to examine our beliefs in light of Scripture, not traditions. Be careful what you accept as truth.  Know the Word of God and follow it.  The church of man has attempted to lower the standards of God’s Word and limit the power of the Holy Spirit. But God’s standards, commandments and teachings cannot be lowered or His Spirit limited.
I heard a message from a pastor who spoke passionately for the church to return to the teachings of Jesus.  His heart was broken because the church has stood by and said nothing as the Word of God has been compromised. Church leaders have lowered the standards to allow what Jesus does not allow, and they have had no resistance in doing so in most cases. Jesus never compromised truth. He did not run after the rich young ruler who wouldn’t submit to the cost of discipleship. Yet no one loved him more than Jesus. Jesus laid down His life for that young man, but He did not make an exception to allow Him to enter the kingdom of God without full surrender because the kingdom of God is a place of full obedience to the will of God. Jesus has not changed, but the church has. It is not only a matter of allowing what Jesus condemns, but of not doing what Jesus gave us power to do. It is alarming to see that much of the church has evolved into a powerless, sin-ridden organization devoid of the leadership of the Holy Spirit. Where is our brokenness and repentance for what we have lost?
The church of man convenes to rethink the commandments, judgments and teachings of Jesus so they can keep the Word of God updated and in step with our culture. Instead of changing the world, they attempt to change the Word. But God’s Word is timeless, just as God Himself. It never changes. “All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, and its flower falls away, But the word of the Lord endures forever. Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you.” (1 Peter 1:24-25) Who are we to take the Word of God to task, and try to adjust His words to be politically correct for our times rather than standing firm on the permanence of God’s commands? We are here but a moment. God has always been and always will be. Yet the church has reestablished itself on the foundation of human wisdom and a changing world rather than the truth of God’s enduring Word and the power of His unchanging Spirit. The church of man is very tolerant of those who practice what God says is sin and, in fact, takes pride in its alliance with the world. It has a full house of compromised Christians with no spiritual power. It is a religion strong in number that soothes the conscience of those who profess Christ with their mouths but continue in ungodly lives. There are no uncomfortable conditions of discipleship in this religion. Every person is free to do as they please with the leaders’ guarantee of their place in heaven. They have made their gospel so soft and cheap that when the real gospel of truth is spoken, they draw back and say that surely God would not expect that of anyone. They are like the crowds in Jesus’ day who said, “This is a hard saying” and quit following Him. When we read the Bible as it is, we find that Jesus never side-stepped issues of truth.  They are too important to water down. Why do they try to change God’s Word?  To make it easier to gain members, to allow for worldly pleasure, to avoid persecution and to create a sense of assurance of heaven, among others.
Religion runs deep, but the true character and authority of Christ are missing from the church of man.  Many moral doctrines are taught but there is no regeneration to transport its members into the kingdom of God.  The church of man is void of the presence of God, the power of the Holy Spirit and the conviction of sin that accompanies the Spirit’s moving in both saint and sinner. It offers a neatly packaged religion that assures you of a home in heaven, no problems or difficulties on earth, and no need to abandon your worldly pleasures and sinful lifestyle.  It allows one foot in the kingdom and one in the world.  It is a dangerous place to be because it is false.  It is an organization of man with no power and no life.  God does not accept such doctrines.
Many believe we are okay as long as we are sincere in what we believe. That is not true.  We are not right with God until we are born again and surrender to Him. We cannot enter the kingdom of God by joining a church, observing the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, turning over a new leaf, paying tithes, giving to religious causes or any other works. Those are all good things to do, but they will not save us. If they could, there would have been no need for Jesus to die for us.
The church of man is an apostate church. They have abandoned the faith of Jesus Christ and created a church instituted by man for man. It is not the true church. They have left behind the genuine foundation, leading many to spiritual ruin and destruction.  The Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy about such a ‘church’ in the last days.  “Holding to a form of [outward] godliness (religion), although they have denied its power [for their conduct nullifies their claim of faith].  Avoid such people and keep far away from them.” (2 Timothy 3:5, Amplified)  When we deny the blood of Jesus to cleanse us from sin, the power of God’s Spirit and His grace to make us a new creation and to empower us to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, we are turning our backs on our only hope of entering into the kingdom of God.  There must be a regeneration, and only Jesus can accomplish that. Then, on our part there must be a full surrender to Jesus, leaving this world behind us.
1 Corinthians 6:9-10 tells us clearly that practicing sin will keep us from the kingdom of God.  Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.
Are you free to practice these things? Yes! But the consequence is not worth it. God will not change His commandments for any of us.  He has not only made a provision to cleanse us from sin, but to deliver us from it, too. It was with great love and sacrifice that God made that provision. Those who refuse His sacrifice and continue to practice sin (make it their lifestyle) are allied with this world. They are the enemies of God. If we are to live in the kingdom of God, we have to let go of our former love and live true to Jesus. “You adulteresses [disloyal sinners – flirting with the world and breaking your vow to God]! Do you not know that being the world’s friend [that is loving the things of the world] is being God’s enemy? So whoever chooses to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (James 4:4, Amplified)  When we read such passages of Scripture, we tend to skim over them and think we are better than that, so it doesn’t apply to us. We consider our good qualities and say, “God wouldn’t keep me out of His kingdom.”  But we keep ourselves out if we are not living in obedience to His Spirit and Word. God is a God of love and comfort, but He is also a God of wrath against all ungodliness and sin. We decide which side we will be on. If we align ourselves with sin and live according to this world’s dictates, we set ourselves against God as His enemy.  We don’t have to do that!
The power of God is available to change us from sinner to saint, from an enemy of God to His child; but we must abandon ourselves to Jesus.  He will accept no less.  He does not accept membership from a manmade religion. Search your heart and the Word of God.  Don’t compare yourself with other people, it may give you false security and make you seem to be a pretty good person.  Compare yourself with Jesus and His teachings.  Are you sure you are in His church? The church of man gives false hope.  Wake up before it is too late, and listen to the voice of Jesus calling you away from the world, into His kingdom.
                                    
THE CHURCH OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST This church is made up of people who have acknowledged their utterly sinful state in contrast to the holiness of God. They recognize they are hopeless on their own merits, but have accepted the sacrifice of Jesus Christ to make them righteous. The conviction of their sinfulness has thrown them on the mercy of God and has brought about true repentance and remission of their sins. They are like Isaiah. When he stood in the presence of God his hopelessness was overwhelmingly evident, and he cried out, “Woe is me! For I am ruined.” He had no way to purify himself. He confessed his sinful state in the presence of God and an angel was sent with a coal off the altar to cleanse Him.
Our “coal from the altar” is the blood of Jesus Christ. He is the only hope we have to be cleansed and to appear righteous before God. We cannot save ourselves.  We cannot change ourselves.  We cannot please God in our flesh. We must be born again. When Jesus spoke to Nicodemus, He said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3, NKJV)  What? Did Jesus realize who He was talking to? Nicodemus was a Pharisee, a teacher of the Law of God. He was about as holy as you could get. Was he not allowed into the kingdom of God? No! Not in his present condition. Our natural, fleshly self cannot enter the kingdom of God. It is a friend of the world. We must be transformed from the sin nature of mankind to the righteous nature of God. It is a spiritual transaction that takes place. John G. Lake said, “the secret of Christianity is not in doing.  The secret is in being.  Real Christianity is in being a possessor of the nature of Jesus Christ.” Through the blood of Jesus, our penalty has been paid, but we must accept it and be born again. Then we leave the world behind and surrender ourselves to follow this new nature, the nature of God.  We begin to grow from our infancy of the new birth into men and women of the kingdom.  Born again believers live and move and have their being (existence) in Christ.  They live in His presence and grow more like Jesus every day, exhibiting His character, power and authority. The world is of little interest to them, not because they have a duty to leave it behind, but because they have found a greater, lasting joy. This world pales in comparison to the revelation of Jesus Christ in their lives. They have been raised in newness of life in Christ.
“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.” (Colossians 3:1-2, NKJV) Those in the true Church seek the heavenly things and find them.  They have their eyes enlightened by the Holy Spirit.  But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him. But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God.” (1Corinthians 2:9-10) Their understanding comes from the Spirit of God, not man’s intellect. They understand God’s Word and His ways because they are taught by His Spirit and led by His Spirit.
The true Church seeks to have the vision of Christ, His compassion for the lost, and His power and authority. They do not follow the path of the world. They have no desire for it. They overcome the world because they are born of God. “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world - our faith.” (1 John 5:4)  They overcome the pull of the world because of the Spirit of God within them, not by the strength of man.  The grace of God is at work in them; the Divine influence in their hearts, changing them more and more like their Master. They have a zeal for the presence of God. This transformation flows out of their lives as a witness to the world. “And they overcame and conquered him” [Satan, the accuser of the brethren] “because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, for they did not love their life and renounce their faith even when faced with death.”
You might say, “What powerful people!” Yes they are, but they are not powerful in themselves. It is only by the power of God within them. They are not proud or arrogant. They are keenly aware that without Jesus they are nothing! They want to do nothing outside of Him. And with Him, they can do anything.  They are ordinary earthen vessels, but filled with the glory, power and character of God. If the world can see an example in the lives of those in the true Church, their eyes will be opened to believe in His love and glory. The world has seen so much from the church of man, that they do not believe Christ. But if we are living, shining examples of truth and power, we can make a difference in the world, showing them there is hope and transforming power in the new birth.
The true Church follows the teachings of Jesus, and is living from the new nature, the nature of God.  The closer they come to Jesus, the less the world appeals to them. But they also know that those who live godly will suffer persecution.  They know the world will not love them and the church of man will oppose them. Jesus didn’t hide anything.  He said, “If you belonged to the world, the world would love [you as] its own and would treat you with affection.  But you are not of the world [you no longer belong to it], but I have chosen you out of the world. And because of this the world hates you.” (John 15:19, Amplified) Yet we are left in this world to be light in the darkness and examples of the work of God in these earthen vessels. We are living witnesses of the miracle of the new birth! Jesus has given us everything we need to be overcomers.  Are we living up to our full potential in His Spirit? Are we members of the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ?
Once again, please note that I speak of the church at large, both false and true.  I would never attempt to label local churches or denominations as one or the other of these two categories because there may be a mixture of members in each local congregation as was the case in the church at Sardis. Jesus said to them, “I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God. Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you. You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.” (Revelation 3:2-5)
 The point is to narrow down our focus to the individual. You and me. Which church holds our membership?  Are we a member of God’s kingdom or the church of man? We need to examine ourselves according to the Word of God and allow God to change us into His image more and more every day. If we do not have a consistent personal encounter with Christ, we are not alive in the Spirit. It may appear on the outside that we belong to Christ, but Jesus knows His own, and those who are imposters. Consider this parable of Jesus’.
  “Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’ But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.” (Matthew 13:24-30)
The enemy, Satan, has successfully sown evil seeds among the good. So the wheat and tares grow together.  But the day will come when the tares will go into everlasting torment and the wheat into eternal life in the kingdom of God.  Make certain you know which church you belong to while the grace and mercy of God is still being extended. One day it will be too late. Don’t wait.


Saturday, March 30, 2019

LIVING IN THE KINGDOM OF GOD




            A.W. Tozer wrote, “The happiness of all moral creatures lies in the giving of obedience to God, the Creator.  The angels in heaven find their complete freedom and highest happiness in obeying the commandments of God.  They do not find it tyranny – they find it a delight! Here is something that we should know and realize: Heaven is a place of surrender to the whole will of God, and it is heaven because it is such a place.”
            The Garden of Eden was a perfect place.  But when the surrender to the whole will of God was broken there, darkness entered the souls of mankind, and peace was lost to them.  Sin ruled in their hearts and they were evicted from the Garden. They found themselves outside the presence of God.  That sinful state was passed on to us, the seed of Adam. 
From that root of sin in us, acts of sin spring up everywhere, like weeds multiplying at an uncontrollable rate.  We have no means to remove it. A perfectly sinless sacrifice was the only way to save us from the destruction set in motion by the devil, and that excluded all of us.  We are completely helpless to save ourselves, and hell was our destination until Jesus changed that for us at great cost to Himself, the shedding of His blood.  Why did He take our place?  Because He loves us and He wants what is best for us. He wants us to have all that He planned for us in the beginning.  Adam brought sin on us all.  But Jesus brought righteousness to all who will receive Him. Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life.  For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.” (Romans 5:18-19, NKJV)
We now have a choice to enter the kingdom of God or remain rooted in this world.  “God has made it plain that hell is a real place, a final abode for people who do not want to love God and serve Him!” (A.W. Tozer)  God doesn’t force us to live in His kingdom. He doesn’t force us to love Him or serve Him. If we so choose, we can stay rooted right where we are in this world’s kingdom until we face God in the judgment, at which time hell will become the “final abode”.  We are free to reject Jesus’ sacrifice, but we will never live free without Him.
Heaven is not the home of those who reject Jesus Christ. However, we can choose to live in the kingdom of God. If we do, our roots must to be taken out of the soil of the world and transplanted into the good soil of God’s kingdom.  From roots planted deep in the rich soil of God’s kingdom, the fruit of righteousness will prevail.
Jesus always operated in the realm of God’s kingdom while He walked in human flesh on this earth. That is why He remained sinless and unmoved in the face of opposition, temptations, danger or confusion.  He was never swept into camaraderie with this world. Nor was He caught up in the drama of circumstances.  He simply took charge of them.  Jesus stayed firmly rooted in the kingdom of God.  He was free to hear the voice of the Father and obey Him. We can be, too.
            A kingdom is “the territory subject to the rule of a king.”  We can submit ourselves to Satan, the prince of this world’s kingdom, or we can be born again into the kingdom of God, submitting to the King of kings. These two kingdoms are diametrically opposed.  We cannot live in both.
            The world as we know it is full of evil and has a ruler, Satan.  Yet Satan has his boundaries that God will not allow him to exceed.  Many people, some knowingly and others unknowingly, listen to Satan and try to find fulfillment through other avenues of spirituality, but they remain outside of God’s Kingdom.  There is only one Truth, one way to God and one way to receive eternal life.  His name is Jesus. 
Satan comes to steal, kill and destroy, but Jesus came into the world to “destroy the works of the devil” and “to seek and to save that which was lost.” What was lost?  Our right standing with God that allows us to live, move and have our being in His kingdom. We, as Adam and Eve, were standing outside the Garden. But when we enter a covenant with God through the shed blood of Jesus Christ, we can move into the kingdom of God with the living Word and the light of God’s Spirit within us to reveal the will of God. Our part of the covenant is to “surrender to the whole will of God”. By His grace we are free to surrender to His will and walk in the Spirit.  There we will find freedom, power and wisdom beyond anything this world has to offer.  It is a delight to walk in the will of God.
Jesus came preaching and teaching the kingdom of God, inviting us to enter in.  “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed or with a visible display; nor will people say, “Look! Here it is!” For the kingdom of God is among you [because of My presence].” (Luke 17:20b-21, Amplified Bible)  The King James Version of the Bible says, “the kingdom of God is within you.”  Jesus sent the Holy Spirit, His presence, to live in us. He will not reside in us if our hearts, minds and actions are still submitting to the world.
We need to carefully comprehend the words of Jesus when He said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21) It is very clear that insubordination to the will of God has no place in the kingdom of God.  Those who choose to reject His will also reject His grace and salvation. 
Recently I have felt God calling His people to become more aware of His kingdom and more responsive to His presence.  He spoke to my heart one day to ‘listen’ to Him, then repeated the message from two other sources.  Since then, I have found that God is speaking to many of His children to ‘listen’.  Not to listen to just any voice, but to listen exclusively to the Spirit of God. We need to be attentive to the voice of the Holy Spirit to know the mind and will of God.  He has something significant to say to us.  When we hear what the Holy Spirit is saying, we are being led by the Spirit.  As we follow what we hear from Him, we are walking in the Spirit.  In that way, we are living in the realm of the kingdom of God although we are physically very much in this world. He may speak to us about something in our lives that needs to change, a person we need to speak to, or a place we need to go. I have found the more I listen, the more He reveals to me of His Word, His will and Himself.  There are times I feel overwhelmed in His nearness.
The most precious part of the kingdom of God is that the presence of the King is there.  And that should be our greatest delight. There is perfect peace and harmony in the presence of God, and in releasing our will to His will. That is where Jesus found strength to completely humble Himself to the will of the Father, even unto death – in the realm of God’s kingdom.  There we have access to the throne through prayer. “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)
Jesus instructed His disciples to pray differently than the long, showy public prayers offered by the Pharisees. They were all performed so other people would see and hear them. Jesus told His disciples when they prayed to ”go into your most private room, close the door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees [what is done] in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:6 Amplified Bible)  What is our reward?  The presence of God.  He wants us to really know Him, to leave the world behind and come close to Him. One on one.
Remember what God told Abraham?  “Fear not Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.”  God had promised Abraham a country and descendents as the stars of the heavens and the sands of the sea.  But the greatest reward Abraham received was God Himself.  How could Abraham stand in God’s presence?  Abraham “believed in the Lord; and He counted it to him for righteousness.” (Genesis 15:6)  His faith led to obedience. Obedience led him closer to God. Abraham made some mistakes, but he believed God and acted accordingly, and he was called the friend of God.
To submit to the Word and will of God is evidence of our belief in Him. Disobedience is evidence that we do not really believe.
To those who believe, God has given “exceeding great and precious promises.” But our greatest reward is to know Him and to live now and forever in His presence.

“Heaven is a place of surrender to the whole will of God,
and it is heaven because it is such a place.”