Saturday, March 30, 2019


            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.”

Saturday, March 2, 2019


            In last month’s article, we explored the humility of Jesus Christ and how we are to follow in His footsteps by being emptied of self and filled with God’s Spirit.  But what does the humility of Christ look like in our daily lives? Most people think of humility as being quiet and never doing or saying anything to rock the boat.  If you have read the gospels and the book of Acts, you know that is not what humility looks like.  Jesus said to learn from Him, so let’s look at the lives of Jesus and His followers.
We already know that Jesus was humble and submitted to the Father.  However, it did not mean He was quiet, passive and apathetic.  It meant He was not self-oriented.  His whole purpose was to do what the Father did and say what the Father said – no self agenda.  And the results of this submission were powerful deeds and powerful words!  Deeds that brought healing, made the blind to see, cleansed leprosy and even raised the dead. And teachings that delivered truth with authority the people had never heard before.
Jesus’ words were not always popular.  Especially when He warned the scribes and Pharisees of their pride and hypocrisy saying, “ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.”  He spoke clearly and plainly to them to show them the error of their ways, not to condemn them.  (See John 3:17)  People need to hear the truth if change is to be initiated. This wake-up call could have released them from the trap of pride and freed them to follow God.  Instead, it made them angry to the point of plotting to kill the Messenger.  The disciples, on the other hand, eventually heard Jesus’ words with their hearts and followed them. Again, speaking to His disciples and the multitude about the scribes and Pharisees, Jesus said, “But all their works they do for to be seen of men…and love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi. But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren…But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.” (Matthew 23) Jesus was teaching His disciples and the multitude the right voice and the right example to follow. He was telling them not to follow the example of the religious leaders or fall in step with their motives. They were to follow His example and His voice.
Henry David Thoreau said, “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.  Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.”  If we step to the music of the Pharisees, it will lead to emptiness and religious bondage.  But if our heart is open to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit, He will lead us into all truth, power and freedom.  When we have ears to hear the rhythm of God’s kingdom, we will not be in step with this world.  We may be considered fanatics, narrow-minded, dreamers or trouble-makers.  But that is okay if we are following Jesus.  He challenges us to listen, then “step to the music” of His Spirit, “however measured or far away”. Jesus was bold because He was humble. He simply carried out the will of the Father with no thought for self. He calls us to do the same.
Remember how the disciples were afraid right after Jesus was arrested and crucified? They were afraid to be identified with Him because they did not want to suffer the same fate.  They were protecting self until Jesus appeared to them, alive from the dead.  He was with them for forty days teaching them the things of the kingdom of God. His promise to send the Holy Spirit was fulfilled not many days after His ascension.  When the disciples received the Holy Spirit, self was forgotten. They began to listen and follow the Spirit’s leading. They began to do what Jesus did and say what Jesus said because they had the same power living in them, and the same voice guiding them.
They received the power of the Holy Spirit.  The word is dunamis from which we get the word dynamite.  It is the force of God’s Spirit changing us and working through us with His energy and force.  The word dunamis means “inherent power, power residing in a thing by virtue of its nature (God’s nature in us), or which a person or thing exerts and puts forth.”  The power within them became the river of living water that poured out of them and changed the world forever. We can be world-changers, too, when we receive the power of the Holy Spirit and keep in step with Him.
After the infilling of the Spirit, Peter stood up and addressed a huge crowd of people including the religious leaders who killed Jesus and the crowd that had called out “Crucify Him”.  His message was all about Jesus.  Here are a few of his words.  Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know- Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it…Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”
Peter had no guarantee that those words would not cause the crowd to do to him what they had done to Jesus.  But he boldly proclaimed the truth with no thought for himself because the people needed to know the Truth that would set them free. And the Spirit brought in a harvest. “Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?”…Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” (Acts 2:22-24, 36-40, NKJV) 
Bold! Selfless! Purposeful! Dynamic! Would we have been bold enough to plainly tell the religious leaders and the people that they were murderers of the promised Messiah? But Peter and the others were filled with the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead and they had a holy boldness to speak the truth Jesus spoke.  Have we received this Spirit?  We have the same Holy Spirit available to us today, right now!  We can ask and receive.
            After Peter’s message, about 3000 people believed in Jesus, were baptized and joined with the disciples. On another occasion, Peter and John went to the temple to pray.  Outside the temple a lame man was asking for money.  Peter told him he had no money, but what he did have he would give him. What do we have to give? The things of this world will pass away, but if we are filled with the Spirit, we can pour out spiritual blessings on others.  They will last forever. That man was healed in Jesus’ name and began to walk, leap and praise God.  Once again, a large crowd gathered and Peter took the opportunity to preach Jesus to them.  The number of believers grew to 5000. This time the religious leaders arrested them, and demanded to know by what power or name this man had been healed.
            Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders of Israel: If we this day are judged for a good deed done to a helpless man, by what means he has been made well, let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’ Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:8-12 NKJV)
            The rulers were highly upset because they were preaching and healing in Jesus’ name.  But a notable miracle had been done and witnessed by the whole crowd, so they just threatened Peter and John and told them not to preach or speak in “this name” again. But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:19-20 NKJV)  That is listening to the Holy Spirit and keeping in step with Him.
                        Peter and John left the rulers and elders and reported what had happened to the other followers of Jesus. Then they all began to pray. “Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus.” And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.” (Acts 4:29-31)
            They prayed for boldness, not self-preservation or even a change of heart from the religious rulers.  Notice they immediately received the boldness they requested and continued to speak in Jesus’ name, just like Jesus had told them to do.  What happened to their meekness and humility?  Shouldn’t they have kept quiet? No! Were they not being defiant? No!  They would have been defiant if they had disobeyed Jesus’ command.  Jesus told them to preach the gospel to everyone regardless of what happened to ‘self’, and regardless of whether they were rejected or accepted. Meekness is bold as a lion proclaiming the Word of God and doing His works, yet it is quiet in proclaiming self and never tries to use the power of God for selfish causes. It is not showy, arrogant or vindictive.  We need to pray for boldness to keep speaking God’s Word. In this day of political correctness imposed by those who hate and deny Jesus, it is easier to stay quiet, but the world needs the light of truth now more than ever in this present darkness.  We are to speak the truth plainly and point others to Jesus Christ in love so they can repent and be baptized.  Souls depend on us.
            Listen!  Do you hear the music of the kingdom?  When you do, be sure to “step to the music” you hear, “however measured or far away.”

Be Humble - Be Filled with the Spirit - Be Bold