Monday, February 4, 2019

BELIEVE IN THE ONE WHOM HE SENT



            What do you believe?  I mean really, really believe…enough to base your life on? Do you believe Jesus is truly the Son of God Who lived, died and was resurrected so we can be saved?  Do you believe He really meant what He taught? It seems many professing Christians do not believe everything He said. Instead, they are trying to make his teachings more acceptable to our society so more people will “accept Christ”. But have they really accepted Christ, the real Jesus? When we change what He said by giving our interpretation of what Jesus “really meant”, we have ceased to share the truth Jesus taught.  Oh, that instead of trying to change Jesus, we would allow Him to change us and transform us to His image.  Oh, that we would allow the “hardness” of His teachings to draw us closer to the Christ of the teachings.  When we really know Him, His “commandments are not grievous (burdensome).”
I fear we have become too much like the crowd who said, “This is a hard saying”, and walked away from following Jesus. If the first century Christians had softened all the “hard sayings” of Jesus, Christianity would have disappeared before it ever began.  But God always has a remnant of those who truly know Him, who will take Him at His Word and submit to Him. When the crowd left, Jesus asked the twelve disciples if they would leave too.  Peter said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68, NKJV) They stayed because they believed. They believed because they knew Him.
Some of the crowd that Jesus had fed asked Him, “What are we to do, so that we may habitually be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered, “This is the work of God: that you believe [adhere to, trust in, rely on, and have faith] in the One Whom He sent.”  (John 6:28-29, Amplified Bible) We cannot do the work of God without a belief in Jesus Christ that we base our lives on. If we don’t trust Who He is and what He said, we cannot do the work of God, because we will not follow Him.  Jesus loves us so completely and undeservedly that He not only gave His life for us, but boldly told us the truth.  He never backed down to gain a convert because compromised truth ceases to be truth and loses the power of truth.  Yet real truth is there for anyone who wants it.  And only the truth can set us free.  We need to explore the teachings and examples of Jesus and begin to do the work of God.  Let’s look at His humility, because we find that many other teachings are also understood and accomplished through humility.
            Jesus was selfless.  He had no interest in fulfilling the dictates of His flesh. He wasn’t seeking fame, position or money.  His whole purpose was to do the will of the Father.  1 Peter 2:21-24 tells us that is to be our purpose also. “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps:  “Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth”; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself [His cause]  to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness - by whose stripes you were healed.”  We are to follow His example even unto death.  This is the humility that Jesus taught and lived.  He wasn’t setting His own agenda.  He listened to the Father.  Then He said what the Father said, and did whatever the Father told Him to do.  It was not always easy.  He proved that in the Garden of Gethsemane when He struggled against His flesh, but obeyed the will of the Father.
            Jesus was completely submitted to the Father. He said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.” (John 5:19, NKJV)  We do well to follow Jesus in His humility and submission to God.  God can do great things through a submitted vessel.
            Andrew Murray said, “I feel deeply that we have very little conception of what the Church suffers from the lack of this divine humility, the nothingness that makes room for God to prove His power…Let us consider deeply how far the disciples were advanced while this grace was still so terribly lacking, and let us pray to God that other gifts may not so satisfy us, that we never grasp the fact that the absence of this grace is the secret cause why the power of God cannot do its mighty work.  It is only where we, like the Son, truly know and show that we can do nothing of ourselves, that God will do all.”  He goes on to say that humility is the “place of entire dependence on God” and is the “root of every virtue”.
            If we want God to do great things through us, we must stop trying to do it on our own.  The effort we expend is to be in carrying out what God says, not in using our own wisdom and power to accomplish our will.  The hearts of those who have a real desire to follow Jesus, are broken when we learn how far we are from His humility.  But it can also create a stronger desire to cut off self to make room for God alone.  That is what Jesus did to His flesh.  He gave it no voice, no thought, no chance to act of its own accord.  Allowing self to dictate even part of our lives is to allow pride to have its way. 
            Think of the purity of heart Adam and Eve had when they were first created and placed in the Garden of Eden.  They simply fellowshipped freely with God and obeyed what He had told them.  Why?  They believed Him.  That all changed when Satan entered the Garden and they listened to him.  They believed him and began to distrust God.  Satan had the root of pride in him, and he was able to transplant part of that into Adam and Eve through His deception and cunning. He said they could have so much more, but, instead, he caused them to lose the best and trade it for sin, sorrow, pain, lies and eternal death.  That is what pride does to us.  It strips us of our belief in God and causes us to believe in self. It removes humility and purity.
            It was pride that caused the downfall of Satan.  He was thrown out of heaven because he tried to usurp God.  He tried to be God.  He didn’t succeed.  But he still tries to sow the seed of pride in every human heart.  He told Adam and Eve that they could be like God through their own wisdom, and power.  He lied and they lost out.  Pride binds us and kills us.  Humility raises us to new heights with God.  Remember how Satan tried to pull the same scam on Jesus?  He promised Him instant comfort, fame, and worship.  Everything that appeals to the pride of the flesh. He will try that scam on you, too. But Jesus showed us and told us the way to all these things is humility, emptying ourselves of self and allowing God to fill us.
            How do we attain this humility?  Ask Jesus.  He said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavily burdened [by religious rituals that provide no peace], and I will give you rest [refreshing your souls with salvation]. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me [following Me as My disciple], for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest (renewal, blessed quiet) for your souls.  For My yoke is easy [to bear] and My burden is light.”
            When some of Jesus’ disciples asked for the seats of honor in Jesus’ kingdom, the other disciples found out and were angry.  Then Jesus called them all to Him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but, whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave - just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”  (Matthew 20:25-28, NKJV)  Jesus said if you want to be great in His kingdom, you have to learn to be the servant of all.
            Serving God is one thing, but serving others? What about the other “disciples” who are not as important as we are?  Let’s see what Jesus said about that.  So when He [Jesus] had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.” (John 13:12-14, NKJV, emphasis mine)
Take note that Jesus even washed the feet of Judas.   Which brings us to another question. What about our enemies?  I believe Jesus had something to say about that, too.  You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so?  Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5:43-48, NKJV)
            What do we do when someone does something “unforgiveable” to us? What did Jesus do when He hung on the cross?  And when they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on the right hand and the other on the left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” (Luke 23:33-35, NKJV)  Jesus also told us, “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:14-15, NKJV) Hard sayings?  Yes, but they are truth that will free us!
            Humility frees us from bitterness, plotting revenge, anger, jealousy and hatred. It empties our souls of self and leaves room for the Spirit of God to fill us, lead us, comfort us, and work miracles through us. 
Believe Jesus
Learn His humility
Empty of self
Filled with God



Monday, January 14, 2019

THE RACE THAT IS SET BEFORE US




            It’s the first month of a brand new year. At 12:00 midnight on December 31st, a shift took place and we landed in another year in a second’s time.  This shift into something new usually causes us to look back at all that happened in the past year.  I suppose it is a salute to it as we leave it behind and embrace a fresh start. Or maybe it’s to glean a little wisdom from its experiences – both good and bad, losses and gains.
            God told His people to remember all He had done for them. His instructions were to repeat it often to make sure their children knew of His character, power and the miracles He performed on their behalf.  God also reminded them that He alone is God.  There is no other. Some things we don’t need to forget.
            1 Corinthians 10:11-12 tells us that all the events recorded in God’s Word about His dealings with His people are there so we can learn from them.  We can be encouraged and warned by them.  Now all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.
            We can also learn from our own relationship with Jesus.  Our failures can teach us how to avoid snares in the future.  The times we go through trials can serve as future encouragements when we remember how God walked through them with us.  Or when we stepped out in faith and God made a way in the wilderness.  The past can be a wellspring of inspiration and encouragement, but we are not to get stuck there and refuse to move ahead.  The present and the future are vital parts of God’s plan too.
            In Isaiah 43:18-19, we read, “Do not remember the former things, Nor consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing, Now it shall spring forth; Shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness And rivers in the desert.” (NKJV)   Here God is telling us to step out into the “new thing” He is doing.  He has a fresh anointing, a new song, a new direction, a new season for our lives.  The Spirit of God is constantly moving us forward. Will we step out into it by faith, or will we stay in the shadow of yesterday, holding on to what was. Take the lessons learned from the past with you as you press into the path God is leading you into now.
            As we remember God’s mighty acts in the past, it should give us courage and confidence to boldly follow Him into the future.  It should help us better understand His purpose and join with Him in bringing it to pass. Never let the voice of the past keep you from hearing what God is speaking now.  It is meant to be a springboard from which we continue to see His miracles and His power at work in the present.
Just as God provided for His people in the past, He will provide for us.  Just as He used ordinary people in the past who were listening and obedient, He will use us if we are listening and obedient.  We have to keep moving along with Him and keep pace with where He is leading us today.  The kingdom of God stretches before us, and He wants to do a new thing. He cannot use us to carry it out if we refuse to move forward.
Our God is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End.  He is not limited by time.  He is in the past, present and future all at the same time.  That is hard for us to understand because we have limitations, but God knows the future as well as the past and present.  We can trust Him and confidently follow His leading. We can move beyond what is known and comfortable to us, because the future is known and comfortable to our God.  In following the vision He shows us, we fulfill the work He has called us to do in His kingdom.
What God determines to do will be done.  The question is, are we going to be part of it?  Are we going to look at life from our own narrow perspective, or are we going to catch God’s vision and run with it?  We need to ask God to show us His perspective. Ours is usually skewed by the world system or what we already have experienced.  We cannot follow God’s vision and our own, too.  It is time to press ahead and stop looking back, except to use the past works of God to encourage ourselves to move forward against all odds and trust Him completely.
What are we going to do today?  Paul said, “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”  (Philippians 3:13-14)  Paul knew he had not arrived.  There was more work to do in God’s kingdom.  And he was determined to do his part.
What are you reaching for?  What goal are you pressing to accomplish? What vision has God placed in your heart for today? We can look to the past at all the men and women of faith who were godly examples and be strengthened to press on ahead.  Each one seized the moment and followed the way God told them to walk. For many of them it was something new and even frightening.  But they obeyed in faith.  That is how we, too, can work with Him to fulfill His purposes.
Hebrews 12:1-2 says, “Wherefore seeing we are also compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith; Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” 
A weight is a burden or anything that is a hindrance to us.  It may not be sinful, but if it is keeping us from reaching God’s goal for us, we need to lay it aside. What is keeping you from accomplishing God’s direction?  It could be an attitude, the things of this world, fear, pride or even seemingly good things.  A lot of things are good, but they are not the things God has called us to do. Sometimes it may be possessions that we label as “mine” that keep us from following Jesus.  Jesus did not allow weights to attach themselves to Him. He did not become entangled with the things of this world. He remained free to finish the work He started, our salvation!  He kept His perspective and knew when to say ‘no’.  He is our perfect example.
This passage also speaks of sins that beset us.  When we allow sin in our lives, we throw the door open wide to the power of evil.  And it will act as a opponent in a race or an enemy who thwarts us in every direction.  Have you ever tried to walk through a large crowd and everyone seemed to cut you off from your destination.  You try to find a space to push through, but doing so takes you farther from your goal because you have to make so many turns. After awhile, you lose where you are in relation to your goal.  You are just trying to find a place where you can walk without being crowded out of space, regardless of where it leads. The sins that beset us do the same thing.  They will turn us away from the race.  They also cause us to completely lose sight of the goal. We need to make sure we can see Jesus from wherever we are.  If we cannot see Jesus, we are in the wrong place, and need to get back in right relation to Him.  So, instead of being bent down by weights, and turned aside by sins, we are told to look to Jesus, to keep our eyes steadfastly on Him. In order to do that, we have to turn our eyes away from other things and fix them on Jesus. 
We are also told to run the race that is set before us.  Notice it is not behind us. That part of the race is over.  There is nothing we can do to change any of it or to bring it back.  We can, however, choose to start from here and run this race without sin and without weights, looking ahead and allowing Jesus to guide us through the course.  If we allow hindrances in our lives, we will bow under the weight and be unsuccessful.  If we open the door to sin, we will never make it to the finish line. The race is in front of us.  Jesus is going before us, so keep focusing on Jesus.  If we are always looking behind, we won’t see it.  If we keep our focus on Jesus, He will lead the way. 
Look to Him and reach for His goal.  Jesus had a fixed goal – the joy of completing the will of the Father.  We have that same goal.  We can pursue the way God puts before us just like Jesus did.  He finished the work and is now “set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” God’s race has everlasting rewards.

Start out fresh this year determined to run the race that is set before you.