Things are not always what they appear to be. There’s much that goes undetected below the surface (in the inner workings) that we can’t see. Evil has a way of incubating in secrecy, and darkness until it’s time to rear its ugly head—by then it may be too late.
Parable of the Wheat and Tares—A Cautionary Tale
The premise in the parable Jesus told about the wheat and tares in Matthew 13:24-30, is about a man who sowed good seed of wheat in his field, but while he was asleep, an enemy came and sowed tares among his wheat. The tares that Jesus referred to were (and still are) common among the region where the listeners lived. A tare is a toxic weed known as darnel, which is a species of rye-grass that is bitter tasting and poisonous. It bears a close resemblance to wheat until the ear appears. Wheat is golden, but the tare reveals its true color when it ripens. It’s only then that the difference is discovered. Jesus went on to explain the meaning behind the parable after his disciples asked him to.
“He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, but the tares are the sons of the wicked one.The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels. Therefore, as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age. The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” (Matthew 13:36-43).
WAKE UP CALL: Your Basis of Truth Matters
How do you determine what is true and what is false? Where do you go to help you to discern what’s right and what is wrong? Your answer will determine what type of seed is sown in your heart to take root and either direct you or misdirect you. God’s Word (as the written Word (Eph. 6:17), and as the living Word (Rev. 1:16, 19:15)) is compared to a two-edged sword in Hebrews 4:12 that’s quick and powerful, capable of sharply piercing and dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow—discerning the thoughts and intents of the heart (that which is begotten of the flesh and that which is begotten of the Spirit (John 3:6), as well as between the natural and spiritual (1Cor. 2:13-14)). The word ‘discerning’ comes from the Greek word kritikos, meaning that God’s Word acts as a ‘critic’ to be man’s judge (John 12:48). Yet men and women have become the critics, deluded by their deceitful hearts (Jer. 17:9, Rom. 3:10, 23), and dare to sit in judgment on that very Word that is meant to judge them. God’s Word is clear though, that in the last day men and women will be criticized (judged) by the same Word on which they today sit in judgment (Rom. 1:18-31)
It’s time to wake up and realize that an enemy has been sowing tares among the wheat (Eph. 5:8-13). Make no mistake about it, we’re living in troubling times where evil is called good, and good is called evil (Isaiah 5:20). The enemy of God, Satan, has been sowing lies and perverting the truth of God since he slithered into the garden (Gen. 3). The root, core, and motive of Satan is to oppose, pervert, and destroy all that God has created for good and for His purposes. Lying is his native language and his purpose is to entrap and destroy those that buy into his enticing words (John 8:44, 1 Pet. 5:8). This dark evil should not be taken lightly as we war not with flesh and blood, but with dark spiritual wickedness and forces in high places (2 Cor. 10:3, Eph. 6:12). Please don’t be duped into the enemy’s lies that puff up your fleshly mind telling you that you can handle this on your own or in your own strength (Col. 2:18).
It’s unbelievable what’s being promoted, accepted, and celebrated in our society today—and even more so that those who dare stand up against it are being silenced and persecuted. Don’t be discouraged as God has not left us defenseless or ignorant of the enemy’s devices (2 Cor. 2:11, 10:3-5). All we need to discern between the true and the false and be equipped is provided in God’s Word (the only source of what is true) (2 Tim. 3:16-17, Heb. 4:12, Eph. 6:10-11, 13-17, Col. 2:2-3).
Our Creator and Redeemer is the only One Who has our best interest at heart (Rom. 5:8-11, Eph. 2:4-10, 1 John 4:9-10). We can trust His pure, faithful, unchanging, and immutable Word (James 1:17, Titus 1:2, Heb. 6:18). We can also learn more about God’s enemy and how it will end up for him (Isaiah 14:12-15, Ezekiel 28:12-18, Rom. 16:20, Heb. 2:14, 1 John 3:8, Rev. 12:9, 20:2).
Anything that leads you in the opposite direction of what God has clearly stated in His Word is from Satan so take heed before you swallow his bitter and poisonous lies.
To help you gear up, I pray that the following chart will help you dig into God’s Word so you can discern/understand the differences better between the True and the false and redeem the time because the days are evil (Eph. 5:16).
“Do not be deceived; God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man sows, that will He reap. For he that sows to his flesh will he reap. For he that sows to his flesh will reap corruption (ruin/perish); but he that sows of the Spirit will of the Spirit reap life everlasting. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:7-10).
May you be established by the root of righteousness that can’t be moved and yields fruit (Prov. 12:3, 12).
When we think about God there’s so much that’s beyond our human minds to grasp—for that which is finite can never explain the Infinite (1 Timothy 3:16). We, the created, can’t (as much as we want) ‘be as God’ (Rom. 3:23). The fact that our Creator has revealed any information at all about Himself to mankind is the most wonderful thing (Psalm 8:4). Through God’s creation and His inspired Word He’s allowed us glimpses into understanding a bit of Who He is (Rom. 1:18-20, 1 Cor. 2:9-11, John 1:14, Heb. 1:1-3, Psalm 93, 97, 99, Isaiah 6:1-3).
What a vision the prophet Isaiah was allowed to see of the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up. The train of God’s robe filled the temple. Seraphim were above Him crying, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!” The posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke.” Isaiah’s response was, “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of people of unclean lips, for my eyes have seen the King, The Lord of hosts” (Isa. 6). The apostle John (by the power of the Spirit) viewed the Lord’s brilliance, causing him to fall at His feet as dead (Revelation 1:1-18). He beheld God’s throne room in heaven and witnessed a vision similar to Isaiah where four living creatures were in the midst of the throne and around it saying, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!” (Revelation 4). Hymn writer, Reginald Heber in 1827 wrote the hymn, “Holy, Holy, Holy” after being inspired by this portion of Scripture. The popular chorus goes, “Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty… Merciful and Mighty! God in Three Persons, blessed Trinity!” Holy, holy, holy is a three-fold unit. One of God’s most perplexing aspects for our finite minds to comprehend is that He is triune (three in one). In 1 John 5:7 it says, “For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one.”Throughout the Bible there are references to this triune God. In Genesis 1:26, “Let us make man in our own image after our likeness.” In Genesis 11:7, “Let us go down.” The Word was in the beginning with Godand in Him all things were created (John 1:1-3, Col. 1:16). Christ is the image of the invisible God —the express image of His person (Col. 1:13, Heb. 1:3). In Numbers 6:24-26 we see a three-fold blessing: (1) The LORD, Jehovah, the Father, the source of all blessing (Eph. 1:3, Heb. 10:7); (2) The LORD, Jehovah the Son, the channel of all blessing (Eph. 1:3, Acts 3:25, Heb. 10:8); (3) The LORD, Jehovah the Spirit, the witness of all blessing (Heb. 10:7, 10, 15).
Our triune God is not only Holy, righteous, and just, but (thankfully) He’s also loving and merciful.
God didn’t want man to be alone so He created a counterpart, woman, for him (Gen. 2:18-24). God communed with man directly prior to the fall. Once sin entered in God, being merciful, provided humankind with a way to temporarily cover their sin through the blood sacrifice of an animal (Gen. 3:21). “…Without the shedding of blood there is no remission” (Heb. 9:22). He instituted the Passover for His people, the Israelites, while they were captive in Egypt (Ex. 12, Heb. 11:28). He commanded Moses to build a moveable tabernacle (‘tent of meeting’) so He could dwell, have fellowship, and communicate with them after their exodus from Egypt. The Lord laid out the steps for the tabernacle in purposeful detail so that a sinful people could approach a holy God. This special place was divided up into three basic sections, partitioned by special curtains: the Court, the Holy Place, and the Most Holy Place. The Most Holy Place (or the Holy of Holies) contained The Ark of the Covenant (which contained the stone tablets with the Ten Commandments given by God, a jar of manna, and Aaron’s rod). Only the high priest could enter this area and only once a year (on the Day of Atonement) where he would enter and sprinkle blood on the Mercy Seat to atone for the sins of all the people. This continued for 400 years until King Solomon built the temple. These systems were only temporary and never permanently took away their sins, but when the perfect, unblemished Lamb of God came, He would (Heb. 9:24-26. 10:19-21, John 1:29, 2 Cor. 5:21, 1 Pet. 1:19). For believers today, it’s all God’s gift of grace that one only needs to receive through faith (Eph. 2:4-9, Col. 1:12-14).
Salvation has been carefully constructed for us by God the Father— sacrificially carried out by God the Son — and powerfully worked in by God the Spirit. It’s been secured by the Father’s eternal love— the Son’s redeeming work— and by the Spirit’s regenerating power.
Our posture to our Holy, triune God, should not be found in ourselves.
Jesus directed the parable in Luke 18:9-14 to ‘some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others’. He made the comparison between a Pharisee and a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed, “God, I thank You, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as the tax collector.” The tax collector, who was standing from afar said, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” Jesus ended saying, “I tell you; this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” It’s truly in realizing who we are in relation to our Holy triune God that we’re able to receive His amazing grace and respond to His revealed Word and be powerfully transformed (2 Cor. 12:9-10, Phil. 2:9-11).
There are ‘other spirits’ who would desire to control us (Eph. 6:12, 2 Cor. 11:3-4).
Another puzzlement to our limited minds is the mystery of lawlessness. God uses all things for His own purposes and while we may not understand it all now, we will someday (Prov. 16:4-6, 2 Thess. 2:7-12). In the meanwhile, this present world lies in wickedness—in the wicked one (The god of this world, the prince of the power of the air) (1 John 2:16, 5:19, John 14:30, 2 Cor. 4:4, Eph. 2:2). It wasn’t enough that Lucifer was the anointed cherub in God’s holy mount. His desire to be God and his pride in believing he could lead to his fall (Isa. 14:12-14, Ezek. 28:11-19). After his fall he only honed his deceptive methods. One only has to look at how he tempted Eve in the garden. He masterfully misquoted and took God’s Word out of context. He also planted seeds of doubt so that she would question God’s Word, and lastly, he tricked her into believing the lie that she and Adam could be as gods (Gen. 3:1-5, 1 Tim. 2:14). The truth is the devil is an accuser, compulsive liar, murderer, devourer, and tempter—the antithesis of God (Rev. 12:10, John 8:44, 1 Peter 5:8, Matt. 4:3). He will stop at nothing to stir up the fallen nature of men and women by tantalizing their flesh through its lusts (2 Cor. 10:3-4, Eph. 2:3, 2 Pet. 2:18).
Our society has been inundated with all that’s unholy.
The trail of rotten fruit that’s been littered throughout our fallen world by those who’ve turned away from God’s truth and righteousness is devasting (Rom. 1:18-32). At the recent Grammy Awards, a musical duo that won Best Pop Duo or Group Performance sang their song, “Unholy” with lewd lyrics and lascivious gyrations, and images to match. The perversion of God’s design and purpose of marriage, male and female gender roles, etc. have become obvious and should come as no surprise for those who know God’s Word as the Scriptures tell us, “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power“ (2 Tim. 3:1-5).
“Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap” (Gal. 6:7-9). God has appointed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness by His Son, Who He ordained to do so (See John 16:7-11, Acts 17:31, Rom. 1:18-32, Rev. 19:11-16).
Even so, the Lord is ever longsuffering and desires that all men and women be saved and come to the knowledge of truth (1 Tim. 2:4, 2 Pet. 3:9)—but the window of this present dispensation of grace is narrowing.
In the meantime, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution while evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived (2 Tim. 3:12-13). Believers today must live soberly, righteously, and godly, receiving their strength in the grace of God while rejecting ungodliness and worldly lusts (Titus 2:1-4, 2 Tim. 2:1, 3). So, stand strong in Almighty God for greater is He Who is in you than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4). Although our outward self is perishing, our inward self is being renewed day by day (2 Cor. 4:17). We will endure evil as our mind is upward and we’re filled with the Spirit, making melody in our hearts to the Lord, (Eph. 5:18-21). Better things DO await us! So, keep your heart directed toward an attitude of patient anticipation of Christ’s second coming. It’s then that He’ll appear in glory and do away with all unholiness and set all things right. Hallelujah!
A citizen is a native of a city, or an inhabitant who enjoys the freedom and privileges of the city in which he/she resides. A citizen is distinguished from a foreigner, or one not entitled to its privileges. Citizenship is the state of being sanctioned with the rights and privileges of a citizen.
In order for a non-U.S. citizen to voluntarily become an American U.S. citizen there is a 10-step naturalization process. Once one becomes a U.S. citizen, they owe their allegiance to the United States and are entitled to its protection. They also have rights and responsibilities that they should exercise as citizens.
Being a member of the church of the body of Christ today has the unique privilege of receiving salvation by grace and the glorious position (never before revealed or enjoyed by any previous believer or calling) of sitting together with Christ in heavenly places—the new realm of citizenship (Eph. 2:1-9). This heavenly place is ‘far above’ all principality, power, might, dominion, name, and all things (Eph. 1:20-23). “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself” (Philippians 3:20-21). The process is much easier today if one desires to voluntarily become a believer (or a Christian) and receive heavenly citizenship.
Obtaining Heavenly Citizenship
· One voluntarily hears the word of truth, the gospel of their salvation and believes in Christ—receiving what He has accomplished for them (redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins) (Eph. 1:7, 13, 2:8). That’s it. They become sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise—purchased by His blood (Eph. 1:13). This seal is a distinctive mark that implies possession and security. It’s permanent—not transitory like a visa or passport. This seal is the earnest of their inheritance (Eph. 1:14). Signed, sealed, delivered—now His! The new citizen becomes ’hid in Christ’ in God and protected until it’s time for Christ to appear. At that time, they’ll appear with Him in glory in their heavenly home (Col. 3:1-4).
This calling and citizenship goes far beyond the one offered during the time of the Acts period where the Gentile believer (called the uncircumcision) was subordinate to the Israelite believer (called the circumcision) and was grafted in as a wild olive branch (contrary to nature) into the true olive tree (Rom. 1:16, 11:11-32). Chapter 15 of Acts goes further, due to disagreements with believing Jewish leaders regarding Gentile believers customs and habits, to instate certain ordinances and decrees. It was advised to the Gentiles that they needn’t be circumcised or keep the law of Moses, but it would be helpful for them to abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication (Acts 15:28-29). This is what the apostle Paul is referring to in Ephesians 2:11-13, likening it symbolically to a ‘middle wall of separation’. But beginning in verse 14 of Ephesians 2, Paul describes how all the decrees and ordinances of the Acts 15 period have now been abolished in order to create, in Christ, one new man from the two (the believing Gentile and believing Israelite). Gentiles are now fellow heirs of the same body (Eph. 3:6). “Now, therefore…no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (Eph. 2:19). They both would be made one, where every kind of distinction that they carried previously would now cease to exist, “so making peace” (Eph. 2:15, Col. 2:14-23, 3:10-11). Neither Jew nor Gentile had ever in times past been associated with a calling that went back to before the foundation of the world, or rose so high as to be “far above all” where Christ sits (Eph. 1:4, 2:6, 4:10). This new man/one body, where Christ is the Head, and new program/dispensation of the Mystery is described and explained in Ephesians three and Colossians 1:18-29, 2:8-23.
Citizens’ Rights and Responsibilities
As the heavenly realm is the place of citizenship, that’s where all spiritual blessings, in Christ Jesus, will be found (Eph. 1:3). The citizen’s acceptance in the Beloved and standing is based solely on what Christ has done in their stead (Eph. 1:6, 2:4-9). The gift of the new nature is a pledge of God’s future gifts in the same kind, thus differing from any ordinary pledge. This gift enables the heavenly citizen to walk worthy and fulfill the good works that God has preordained for them to walk in while in their temporary dwelling. These responsibilities are spelled out in Ephesians 4-6 and Colossians 3-4.
The imperative for the heavenly citizen today is to keep their focus on their true homeland and spiritual blessings above, not on earthly things as doing so may cause them to fall into temptation and a snare (Phil. 3:20-21, Col. 3:1-4, 1 Tim. 6:9-10, 1 John 2:15-16). They’ll be able to stay on course as they refer to their Citizen’s Handbook (2 Tim. 3:16-17) and travel light— “… godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it’s certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content” (1 Tim. 6:6-8).
How glorious it will be when we finally reach our heavenly home to dwell forever with the Lord in eternal glory! Hallelujah!
What goes into a dessert or dish determines its deliciousness. So, it’s important to use the purest ingredients and leave out those that ruin it. This can be applied to the ingredients of the New Man (or new nature) that a believer is given when they trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as their Redeemer and Savior (Eph. 1:13-14, 2:8-10).
“Oh, taste and see the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!” (Psalm 34:8)
WHAT TO LEAVE IN
The recipe of the New Man is from God alone, as well as the ingredients (tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering, forbearance, forgiveness, and love) for they are Divinely-sourced—making them 100% pure, and fresh from above. These ingredients bring life and bear fruit (James 1:17, Gal. 5:22-23, Col. 3:10, Eph. 4:24).
WHAT TO LEAVE OUT
The ingredients that come from the original recipe, Old Man (fallen, sin-filled man/woman) are MAN-ufactured, processed, dead, full of contaminants that corrupt (Rom. 3:23, 5:12, 19, 6:23). As they are impure in nature, they’ll ruin the recipe of the New Man so they must be set aside and not put in (Eph. 4:22, Col. 3:8-9). Some of the effects of using these contaminated ingredients can be seen in Galatians 5:19-21 and Colossians 3:5-9. The illustration of leaven in the Bible is similar because it’s also something that must be ’put away’ as it permeates everything it’s mixed with (Matt. 13:33, Luke 13:21, 1 Cor. 5:6, Gal. 5:9, Hos. 7:4). In every instance in the Scriptures leaven is associated with (and symbolical of) only that which is evil. It’s used as sacrifices never to be rendered to God with any offering made by fire (Lev. 2:11, 6:17, 10:12). It’s also used as a metaphor for doctrine, as the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees (Matt. 16:6, 12, Gal. 5:9). Lastly, it’s used of the effects of evildoers (1 Cor. 5:6-8, 15:33). So, in order to have a delicious outcome in either cooking, baking, or as a Christian walking in this world, attention needs to be placed on what’s put in (or on) and what should be put away or left out.
EACH INGREDIENT SERVES A FUNCTION (AND FOLLOWING DIRECTIONS MATTERS)
In a cookie recipe each ingredient plays a role. Fat is added for flavor and controls how chewy or crunchy the cookie will be. Sugar is obviously a sweetener, but it’s also a tenderizer and controls how much the cookie will spread. There’s usually some type of rising agent that will determine how flat or puffy the cookie will turn out as well as a binding agent that will hold the cookie together. Following a recipe’s directions, including the order that each item is put in is equally important.
THE CHRISTIAN’S VITAL INGREDIENT
It’s the same in the recipe for the ingredients of the New Man: “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another… But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection” (Colossians 3:10, 12-14). You may notice the ingredient that’s most important is listed last, but it’s listed first in the Fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22). Love is the bonding agency as well as the strengthening component in a Christian’s make-up. When you ‘put on’ the above list minus Divine love, it may look good on the outside, but without this fundamental ingredient, the recipe of the New Man will be tasteless and flop (1 Cor. 1-3). It’s the inner ingredients that are most important and love is the greatest (1 Cor. 13:13, 1 Sam. 16:7). Following directions is important and so daily time in God’s Word is a must for the New Man recipe to succeed (2 Tim. 3:16-17). A Christian is fortified by God’s Spirit in their inner man where Christ dwells in their hearts by faith. The more you are rooted and grounded in Divine love, the more you’ll be able to comprehend (to some degree) the vast dimensions of the love of Christ so that your inner filling is fruitful with the fulness of God (Eph. 3:16-19). So don’t be tempted to substitute imitation ingredients for the real Divine ones or go back to the old recipe and follow your own will and ways (Col. 2:17-21). Rather empty out the old and fill up with the new and you’ll have no problem walking in the love of Christ and filling up the atmosphere around you with a sweet-smelling aroma (Eph. 5:1-2, 17-21).
How can one experience joy in the midst of evil, disappointments, and trying situations?
The prophet Habakkuk lived in evil times and was perplexed with the silence and forbearance of a holy God that allowed evil to continue. In his prayer to God, he said this, “Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines; Though the labor of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food; Though the flock may be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls— Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation” (Hab. 3:17-18).
Well, you might say, “Good for him”.
One Chronicles 16:27 says that glory and honor are in God’s presence and strength and gladness are in His place (sanctuary, dwelling). True joy can’t be MANufactured. You may be able to ‘put on a happy face’ but true joy is something deeper. It can only be acquired by tapping into thefruit of the Spiritwhich comes from God (Gal. 5:22). It seems that strength and the joy of the Lord go together. Nehemiah 8:10 declares, “For the joy of the Lord is your strength” (defense, refuge).
How does one access or increase in their joy of the Lord?
The prophet Isaiah gives us a hint, “The oppressed shall increase their joy in the Lord” (Isa. 29:19). Why the oppressed? When one is oppressed, they’re in a position to receive something more powerful than themselves. Striving in our own strength and trying to control the uncontrollable leaves us frustrated, tired, and grumpy. When we think that we don’t need God or can manage just fine on our own, thank you, we set ourselves up for Satan to come in with his fiery darts and attack. The apostle Paul pleaded with the Lord three times to remove his ‘thorn in the flesh’, but instead God responded, “My grace is sufficient for you: for My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:7-9). Paul realized and was more than glad to glory in his infirmities knowing that the power of Christ would rest upon him. “Therefore, I take pleasure (joy) in infirmities, insults, necessities, persecutions, and distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:9-10). No matter his circumstances Paul could be content while empowered through Christ’s strength (Phil. 4:11-13).
The ultimate example is found in Christ Jesus, “Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross” (Heb. 12:2). What was the joy set before Him that He focused on in order to withstand the excruciating pain He experienced on the cross? It was God’s ultimate purpose and the glory that would follow (1 John 3:8-9, Eph. Phil. 2:8-11, 1 Cor. 15:57).
What joy is set before us?
It’s conceivable to endure a prolonged, cold winter when our sights are set on a warmer, sunnier season ahead.
It’s possible to get through a long work week when the weekend is in view (TGIF).
We can survive lengthy, arduous travel when we know that our destination will be desirable.
As Christians we possess an even greater hope with a most glorious destination that our sights can be set on while we forebear hard times, evil and suffering.
The truth of the matter is this: The joy that’s set before us can be found where our citizenship is and where our Savior (the risen Christ) sits at God’s right hand. This is where we’ll appear with Him in glory (Phil. 3:20-21, Col. 3:1, 4). As our focus is properly placed, we’ll be more than conquerors through Him who loves us (Rom. 8:37). So, when we’re hard-pressed on every side, we will not be crushed; When we’re perplexed, we will not despair; When we’re persecuted, we know that we’re not forsaken; When we’re struck down, we will not be destroyed. We can get through all these scenarios because we have this amazing treasure in our bodies of dust that give us a power of excellence from God that sustains us (2 Cor. 4:7-9). We can suffer long with joy because we are strengthened with the might and power of His glorious grace (Eph. 3:20, 6:10). Our all-bountiful El Shaddaiwill supply (fulfill, accomplish) our every need according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19). So, we will not lose heart or become discouraged because although outwardly we are perishing, our inward man is being fueled by the only truly renewable resource (2 Cor. 4:16, Col. 3:10). For our temporary light affliction is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory (2 Cor. 4:17-18). We can join Habakkuk and say, “I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.”
“Rejoice in the Lord always: and again, I say, Rejoice. Let your forbearance be known unto all men” as you’re strengthened with His almighty, glorious power unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness (Phil. 4:4-5, Col. 1:11).
May you go forward in this new year in the Joy of the Lord!
The Christmas season is a great time to reflect upon the faithfulness of God. After all, the prophecy of old of a coming Messiah was fulfilled. “Joy to the world, the Lord has come. Let earth receive its king.” Sadly, the king, who came for His own (the nation of Israel) was not received by them (John 1:11).
“Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1).
“Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17).
Without faith, it’s impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6).
The Bible records the unfolding eternal purpose of God. Throughout the ages, God has used various modes of communicating as well as different principles of administration (unique to each period in time) to accomplish His purposes (Heb. 1:1-2). During history, there have been men and women (in the times they lived in) that displayed great faith. These were not sinless or perfect people, but they proved themselves faithful because after hearing the word of God, they believed what He said and acted upon it (Many times standing alone against what was ‘seen’ and popular). Some of them, dubbed the ’Heroes of Faith’, are listed in Hebrews chapter eleven. From this list are those that have a connection to the lineage of Christ. Their testimonies reveal the faithfulness of God (Deut. 7:9, Heb. 10:23, Lam. 3:23, Ps. 36:5, 89:8). We can be inspired by them to be faithful in our own time as we, too, look to the Author and Finisher of our faith (Heb. 12:2).
The key to the prophetic teaching of the Scriptures (either prophecies concerning Christ Himself, heaven and earth, man, Israel or the Gentile nations) begins at Genesis 3:15, “I will put enmity (opposition)”. Even though the first man and woman (Adam and Eve) were not faithful (as they disobeyed God’s word), we see the hint of God’s eternal plan in the Prophecy of the Coming Seed of the Woman — but it would not come without opposition from Satan (Gen. 2:16-17, 3). The origin of evil is indeed a puzzling enigma to us. The animus between the two seeds is a subject introduced by God and a vital component in how God is working out His eternal purpose. The presence of this opposition is the key to understanding the parables of the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven, and a reason for the rejection of Christ at His first coming—” An enemy has done this” (Matt. 13:28).
We can start to trace the Seed of the woman shortly after Adam and Eve’s eviction from the garden as the Bible records in Genesis 4:1-2 that Eve conceived two sons, Cain and Abel. It was Abel (the first of the faithful listed, Heb. 11:4) who the Seed of the woman would continue through and so Satan’s opposition to him. Disobedience to God’s Word gives opportunity for the devil. “…Cain was of that wicked one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brother’s righteous.” (Gen. 4:8, 1 John 3:12, Jude 1:11).
A truth that can build our faith is as much as God has allowed mankind and the angels freewill (to choose God’s will or their own), He ultimately rules as He steps in when it affects His eternal plan (Job 5:12, Ps. 33:10-11, Prov. 16:9, 19:21, Eph. 1:11). And so, He substituted another Seed for the Messiah to come through, Seth (Gen. 4:25).
We next see Satan behind the corruption of almost all flesh upon the earth when the ungodly intermarried with the godly line of Seth and filled the world with violence (Gen. 6). There was only one man, Noah, who did what was right in the sight of the Lord and whose lineage had not been corrupted with ungodly seed (Gen. 6:9-10, 22, Heb. 11:7). The whole purpose of the flood was to preserve mankind through Noah’s family and thus the Seed of the woman.
We next jump to Abram (later named Abraham, Gen. 17:5) who came from the line of Noah’s son Shem (Gen. 11:10-26). God chose Abraham to continue to carry out His plan by becoming the father of a new nation (Israel) as well as heir to a land through an unconditional covenant (Gen. 12:2-3, 17:4-7, 15:18). Abraham believed what God had said and left his family and traveled away from his hometown (Gen. 12:1-4). He was content to ‘dwell in tents’ because he believed what he heard about the ‘heavenly city’ from God (Heb. 11:8-10, 13-16, 12:22, Rev. 21:10-27). It was through Abraham’s seed (and this new nation) that the promised Seed of the woman would come (Gal. 3:16). This new nation would be separated from the other nations (Ex. 33:16, Deut. 14:2). The Lord Jesus Christ was not only the promised Seed of the woman (which indicated that He was to become a man) but He was also to be the seed (descended from) Abraham (Matt. 1:1, Gal. 3:16). As we trace the descendants of Abraham, we discover the lineage of Christ to continue through Isaac, the child of “promise” (Gen. 26:3-4, Rom. 9:9). By faith, Abraham also when tried by God offered up Isaac, his only begotten son, trusting in God (Gen. 22:1-14, Heb. 11:17-19). Through Isaac comes Jacob (Gen. 25:23-26, 28:13-15). Isaac exhibited faith by blessing Jacob and Esau over things to come (Gen. 27:28-29, Heb. 11:20). In Genesis 32:28 we read that God changed Jacob’s name to Israeland blessed him. Jacob in turn exhibited faith by blessing each of the sons of Joseph as he died worshipping the Lord (Gen. 48:14-15, Heb. 11:21). Through Jacob (Israel) came twelve sons from which sprang the twelve tribes of Israel (Gen. 49:1-28). It’s further revealed that the Seed of the woman would come from the tribe of Judah (Gen. 49:8-10, Matt. 1, Rev. 5:5). Christ is also referred to as the Son of David as God promised David back in 2 Samuel 7:12-13, 16 that He’d set up and establish a kingdom one day where David’s seed (Christ) would sit upon his throne and rule and reign forever (Isa. 11:1, Matt. 1:1, Acts 2:29-32, 13:33-37, Rev. 5:5, 22:16).
When it was time God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law, and “the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us” (Gal. 3:16, 4:4, John 1:14). It’s evident that many of the Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled at Christ’s first coming as well as the events leading up and through His death, burial, and resurrection. It’s also apparent that some prophecies and promises have yet to be fulfilled. At Christ’s first advent the King was in Israel’s midst and ‘His own’, not only did not receive Him–they crucified Him (John 1:11, Acts 2:22-23, 36, 3:13-15). Had Israel repented at the call of John the Baptist, and of the Lord, the long-expected Kingdom would’ve been set up and the Old Testament prophecy of the ’last days’ fulfilled. God allowed Israel yet another opportunity to receive their Messiah (Acts 2:38-39, 3:19-26), but as a nation they again rejected Him (Acts 28:26-28). He then stopped the prophetic clock, (postponing the Kingdom for a time) as Israel became temporarily Lo-Ammi (not My People) (the fulfillment of Hosea 1:9, 3:1-4).
God then unfolded a new dispensation, the dispensation of Grace, using the apostle Paul as His steward. Though it was in God’s mind before the foundation of the world, it was a ‘mystery’ (sacred secret) that had never been prophesied or revealed before (Eph. 1:4, 3:1-9, Col. 1:25-27). God’s new program introduced a new group (or company) of people composed of individual believing Gentiles and Jews that would form one Body (organism), called the church of the Mystery, or the One Body (where Christ is their Head) (Eph. 1:22-23, 4:15-16, 5:23, Col. 1:24, 2:18-19). Even though the creation of this new Body, was accomplished through the cross, it did not occur at the time of the cross as God had waited for it to be revealed by the apostle Paul until Israel’s postponement. Today most associate a *church with a building, but in the church of the One Body there are no denominations, creeds, rituals, etc. to keep in order to join or to become a member. Each individual must be saved by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8-9). The moment one trusts in Christ, they’re added to this church and are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise until the day of redemption (Eph. 1:13-14, 4:4). This new group has unique attributes that distinguish it from Israel’s calling as well as new privileges, blessings, and hope. Their status is ‘the perfect man’ (Eph. 4:13), (not ‘the Bride, the Lamb’s wife’, which belongs to Israel). The position of believers today is seated together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus where all their spiritual blessings lie. Their citizenship and hope are also found there where their Savior and Lord Jesus Christ will appear with them in glory (Eph. 2:4-5, Col. 3:1-4, Phil. 3:14, 20-21, 2 Tim. 1:9-14, Titus 2:13). *The word ‘church’ has different meanings in the Bible. In Hebrew, it’s ‘kahal’ and in Greek, it’s ‘ekklesia’ meaning an assembly, or a gathering of ‘called-out ones.
It’s helpful to see that Prophecy is devoted to and hinges on three main themes: (1) The Advent of Christ, (2) The return of Israel to their land to become a kingdom of priests, (3) The Second Advent of Christ to (a) reign for 1,000 years, which will be the winding up of the “former heavens and earth” under the reign of sin and the usurpation of the devil, (b) The continuance of Christ’s reign through the new heavens and earth, and on throughout the Day of God until “the end” (goal) is reached (1 Cor. 15:24-28). Refer to the charts below. One of the diagrams show the Bible in five portions (the three that deal prophetically from above are the Old Testament, the Gospels, and Revelation). “The Acts” is a transitional period because it records the transition between two different programs of God that took place. However, the bulk of the book of Acts is on Israel’s rejection, their subsequent blinding, and how they were set aside. The following epistles written during this time are I and 2 Thessalonians, I and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Romans, and Hebrews. “The Epistles” refer to Paul’s prison epistles (after Israel’s rejection) that dictate the program that we’re following today consisting of: Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians, I and 2 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon. Paul warned the believers in his later prison epistles of relying on philosophy, the ways of the world, and the traditions of men instead of holding fast to the Head. The enemy of our soul is not flesh and blood, but he’ll use flesh and blood to attack us and so the necessity of the shield of faith to thwart his fiery darts (Eph. 6:12, 16, 4:14, Col. 2:8, 18, 20-23, Matt. 15:6).
God desires us to know His complete Word (all that’s written—not just portions of it) as well as the importance of keeping in mind that not every part of it is addressed to us or about us (Rom. 15:4). We, alone, are responsible for diligently reading and studying it for ourselves, in context, as it’s written, to whom it’s written, without editing it or adding any private interpretation (Rom. 10:17, Acts 17:17, 2 Tim. 3:15). See the Bible Study Helps below.
In order to be a Faithful Servant that walks worthy of our calling today we need to exercise care with the duties and responsibilities that God has dictated to us regarding our position (Eph. 1:18, 4:1, Col. 1:10). Similar to any job, the employee who knows and performs their assigned duties well is the one that gets promoted and receives a raise in pay. Contrarily, if an employee neglects his own duties and responsibilities (and instead cuts into another employee’s position or duties), he/she will most likely be demoted or terminated. Likewise, when we take or rob the prophecies, promises and plans that God has prepared for another person or people, we miss out on what God has planned and purposed for us and thus the rewards in it. The apostle Paul is an example of a faithful servant as he was diligent in the work that God had called him to do. He believed in what God said and displayed faith that it would be accomplished (2 Tim. 4:16-18). May we too be able to say as he did, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” and receive the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give us (and all that love His appearing) that day (2 Tim. 4:7-8).
When I was growing up our family had a simple prayer that we took turns saying at each meal,
“God is great. God is good. Let us thank Him for our food. Amen.”
My four siblings and I were more interested in eating so we’d often say it as fast as we could, not giving much thought to what was being said. The truth is we need to be mindful of the Giver of all good things and be thankful for all He’s blessed us with. God has taken a bad rap by a false narrative in our fallen world. His goodness, greatness, and public image has been maligned. The worship He so rightly deserves has been wrongly transferred to the created (Rom. 1: 21).
“Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who trusts in Him!” (Psalm 34:8, 1 Pet. 2:3).
God is great. His greatness is evident (Rom. 1:19-20, Ps. 111:2). He is omnipresent (all-present/everywhere) (Ps. 139:7-12, 46:1, Prov. 15:3). He is omnipotent (all-powerful/mighty) (Gen. 17:1, Ps. 91:1, Jer. 10:12, Rev. 1:8). He is omniscience (all-knowing) (Isa. 40:13-14, 28, Rom. 11:33-34, 1 Cor. 2:11). God is eternal and immortal (everlasting) (Isa. 9:6, Jer. 10:10, 1 Tim. 1:17, 6:16, Rom. 1:23). He is immutable (unchanging, Heb. 6:17-18, 13:8).
“For the Lord is great and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods” (Psalm 96:4).
God is good. It’s His essence. He is filled with compassion, grace, and longsuffering and abundant in mercy and truth (Ex. 34:6, Ps. 86:15). God is incapable of lying (Titus 1:2, Heb. 6:18) and cannot be tempted with evil, nor tempt anyone with evil (James 1:13). He is true, righteous, and faithful to His word and promises (Heb. 10:23). James 1:17 says that, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with Whom there is no variation or shadow.” This means every good and perfect thing in your life is from the hand of God and so should be received with gratitude.
“Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever” (Psalm 136:1).
God is grand. His grandest gift to mankind is eternal salvation through His one and only begotten Son, Jesus Christ (John 3:16, 1 Cor. 15:57, Col. 1:12-14, Tit. 1:2, 3:7). One of the greatest attributes of God that mankind can be thankful for is His longsuffering (forbearance). He has allowed men and women free will to choose good (His ways) or evil (their own selfish ways and desires). God’s longsuffering is salvation as He’s not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance and the acknowledging of the truth (2 Pet. 3:9, 15, 2 Cor. 4:6, 2 Tim. 2:25). His mercy is so rich, and His love is so great (even while we were still sinners Christ died for us) (Rom. 5:8). Even when we were dead in our trespasses, God raised us up together with Christ Jesus to sit in heavenly places (Eph. 2:4-5). This is an undeserved gift that must be received from God through faith (Eph. 2:8-9).
“Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (2 Cor. 9:15).
Benefits of a Grateful Heart
“Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving…” (Ps. 95:2).
When we focus our minds on the Giver and our blessings above, the things of the earth pale. As we receive His gifts with a grateful heart (lifting up our prayers to Him with thanksgiving) we receive a peace that passes our understanding and a protection for our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:6-7). “Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen” (1 Tim. 1:17).
“…Giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph. 5:15-21).
The Bible records the unfolding eternal purpose of God. It’s a conflict of the ages—the ultimate good versus evil, and a story of redemption. It’s also a record of the battle of wills—the will of God versus the will of the created.
THE FIRST RECORDED REBEL
Lucifer (the exalted cherub) had it all with his position of privilege, beauty, and wisdom. When his heart was lifted up due to his beauty and brightness, his wisdom became corrupted. He desired to rise above the boundary that God had set for him and be like the Most High God (Isa. 14:13-14, Ezek. 28:12). He said in his heart, “I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the Most High” (Isa. 14:13-14). Following his own will instead of God’s led to his fall (Isa. 14:15, Ezek. 28:17-19) and ultimately to his demise (Heb. 2;14, 1 John 3:8). Mankind shortly after followed suit as they believed in Satan’s (fallen Lucifer, aka the serpent) lie that they could be as God (Gen. 3, Rev. 12:7). All who come after Adam, born of the woman, have the same free will to choose God’s ways or to trust in their own understanding (Prov. 3:5-7).
THE WAY OF CAIN
After Adam and Eve were evicted from the garden, Eve bore two sons, the first Cain and the next was Abel. Abel trusted in God’s ways, but Cain trusted in his own (Gen. 4). Cain welcomed sin and its desire led to the first recorded murder (and an important indicator that pride (trusting in self) gives place to the devil). “Cain who was of the wicked one” murdered his brother because his works were evil and his brother’s righteous (1 John 3:12, Heb. 11:4). Cain’s name would become forever synonymous with the evil way (‘raising Cain’–meaning ‘raising hell’ or ‘raising the devil ‘). Many others would follow after ‘the way of Cain’ (Jude 1:11).
THE TOWER OF BABEL
After the flood, God blessed Noah and his sons and told them to be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the earth (Gen. 9:1). Sadly, through the line of Noah’s son Ham, his descendent Nimrod led a rebellion in defiance of God. He encouraged all to unify in one place and build a city for themselves, and a tower whose top is in the heavens in order to make a name for themselves (desiring to be their own gods) (Gen. 11:4). God will not be mocked and whatever man sows, he will also reap (if not immediately, eventually) (Gal. 6:7). Everyone proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord; though they join forces, none will go unpunished (Prov. 16:5). Even though God has allowed mankind free will, He is ultimately in control and even uses Satan and evil for His larger purposes (Prov. 16:4). When man’s will (plans) interfere with God’s ultimate will He steps in (Prov. 16:9), and He did so in this instance when He scattered the people abroad over the face of the earth and confounded their language (hence the name ‘Babel’) (Gen. 11:5-9).
TO GOD BE THE GLORY
God, the Creator, is not mortal, fallible, or corruptible so His thoughts and ways are so much different and superior than anything He’s created (Isa. 55:8-9). Even though God has clearly revealed His invisible attributes, eternal power, and Godhead through the things He has made (creation), men and women have chosen not to glorify Him nor be thankful. They’re naturally bent on doing things their own way (independent of God). The irony is as they profess themselves to be wise, they become fools and become futile in their thinking. They exchange the truth of God for the lie— and worship and serve the corruptible creature rather than the incorruptible Creator (Romans 1:18-32). The three things that men boast of and trust in are wisdom, power, and riches. God’s way of thinking is not only superior in relation to what He’s created, but it flip-flops the worlds way of thinking. God chooses the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty. He chooses meaningless things of the world and the things which are despised, and the things which are not valued in society to bring to nothing the things that are prized in the world. Why? —For the sole purpose that no flesh should glory (boast) in in His presence—He that glories, let him glory in the Lord (1 Cor. 1:27-31, Jer. 9:23). And that brings us to the epitome of humility and obedience—
THE WAY OF THE FATHER
The long-awaited Messiah of the Jews was born in a lowly manger (Luke 2:7). There was no outer beauty that attracted men and women to Him, in fact He was despised and rejected (Isa. 53:2-3). His triumphal procession as their king was on a donkey, not a steed (and not just a donkey, the foal of one) (Zech. 9:9, John 12:12-15). Jesus Christ was obedient to the Father unto death on the cross (Phil.2:5-8, Gal. 3:13). One only has to look at His recorded words in the Scriptures during His time on earth prior to His crucifixion (note the contrast of ‘not my will’ vs. Lucifer’s ‘I will’):
• “…I do not seek my own will but the will of the Father Who sent Me” (John 5:30);
• “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him Who sent Me” (John 6:38);
• “…My doctrine is not Mine, but His Who sent Me” (John 7:16);
And knowing that the time for His crucifixion was near He prayed, “…not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42). Jesus could then truly say to God the Father, “I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do” (John 17:4).
And to further support God’s ways are not the ways of the world, He exalts the humble in due time. After Christ’s supreme sacrifice, “… God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:9-11).
HUMILITY KEEPS THE DEVIL AWAY. PRIDE GIVES HIM A PLACE TO STAY.
The above rhyme popped in my head one day and has actually come in handy, (especially when I’m out driving my car) (nothing like a little humility on the road). Boy that prideful nature can sure rear its ugly head when we’re fixated on our will and desires instead of looking solely to God and being obedient to His will.
Here’s the thing, Satan is a liar and an accuser of those who believe (John 8:44, Rev. 12:7, 10). He not only desires to suppress God’s truth, he wants to take away the believer’s focus from worshipping God, their Creator, and instead turn them toward worshipping the creature or created (whether it be self, or anything or any person of the world that we idolize or put in the place of God). To be a friend of the world is to be an enemy of God (Rom. 8:5, 7-8, James 4:4, 1 John 2:16-17).
TRAPS OF THE DEVIL—PRIDE PRECEDES CAPTIVITY (Jer. 13:15).
God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempt any man. Every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Lust brings forth sin and sin death (Gen. 4:7, James 1:13-15, Prov. 29:6, 25).
God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. Therefore, submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord and He will lift you up (James 4:6-7, 10, Prov. 3:34, 1 Pet. 5:5-6). Beware of false humility (it’s a façade for pride and a trap) (Col. 2:18, 23).
Since our flesh has nothing good to offer us (Rom. 7:18, Phil. 3:3), this is the realm in which Satan desires to tempt us in. His method involves luring the believer into his trap by stirring up and energizing their corrupt flesh to sin (Rom. 13:12, 14, Eph. 4:22, 26-27)).
ACTING ON EMOTIONS “A fool vents all his feelings, but a wise man holds them back” (Prov. 29:11).
Emotions are a part of being human, but we need to be mindful of what’s ruminating in our head and take each thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor. 10:3-5). This means submitting to the Lord and allowing His Spirit to give us self-control so that we do not act on our emotions and sin (Eph. 4:26-27, Gal. 5:23, Tit. 1:8, 2 Pet. 1:6).
Pride exalts itself above the knowledge of God and brings about shame, strife, and destruction (2 Cor. 10:5, Prov. 11:2, 13:10, 16:18, 28:25). We live in volatile times where there are many destitute of the truth—those who are already in the snare of the devil to do his bidding (2 Tim. 2:25-26, Prov. 29:25, 1 Tim. 6:9). They are proud and obsessed with disputes and arguments over words from which come envy, and strife that stir up the flesh. We are not to engage with them but withdraw as this is a trap (1 Tim. 6:4-5, 2 Tim. 2:4, 3:2-5). Contrarily a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition (2 Tim. 2:24-25). In God’s economy, when we are weak, He is strong. We can submit to God and rely on His sufficient grace, trusting in His ways and direction (Eph. 6:10, 2 Cor. 12:7-10, Phil. 4:19). You see although God has allowed the whole world to lie in wickedness due to the fall and sin entering in as a consequence, Satan is a defeated foe (1 John 5:19, 5:4-5). Greater is He Who is in us then he who is in the world (1 John 4:4). Satan knows he can’t touch the believer’s eternal security, so deception is his mode of diversion and trap setting (Eph. 1:13-14, 1 John 5:18, Col. 3:3). Fear and worry are of the devil (2 Tim. 1:7, Prov. 29:25, Phil. 4:6-7). We have access to God’s Word which is living and powerful and as Christ used it on earth (when Satan came to tempt Him), we can as well, (but you can’t use effectively what you don’t know) (Heb. 4:12, Matt. 4:1-11, 2 Tim. 3:16-17). Correctly handling God’s Word should be our priority as this will keep our walk lowly even though our calling is on high where our focus should be (2 Tim. 2:15, Eph. 4:1-2, Col. 1:9-11, 3:1-3, Phil. 3:14). The time will come when we’ll be lifted up and our present bodies of humiliation will be fashioned like His glorious body (Phil. 3:20-21, Col. 3:4). Until then be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might (not your own) (Eph. 6:10, Col. 3:12).
“…Walk in the Spirit, and you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16).
Believers are assured of walking in victory daily (even in the midst of a corrupt world) if they are led by the Spirit rather than their flesh. The source of all our struggles in this present world result from the fallen nature that each of us are born with (as we’ve all descended from fallen Adam). None of us are righteous by nature—we’ve all sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Gen. 3, Rom. 3:10-18, 25, 5:12, 18-19).
It’s helpful to become familiar with the many names of this fallen nature in order to recognize it when it rears its ugly head (as it can with such subtlety and deceit):
· The Flesh“That which is born of the flesh is flesh” (John 3:6). This flesh “cannot please God” (Rom. 8:8); “profits nothing” (John 6:63), and has “no good thing” in it (Rom. 7:8).
· The Natural Man“receives not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness to him: neither can he get to know them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 2:14).
· The Old Man“is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts” (Eph. 4:22).
· The Outward Man “… is perishing” (2 Cor. 4:16).
· The Heart (the natural heart) is “deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jer. 17:9)—so deceitful that only God can really know it. Jesus said that “Out of the heart precede evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornication, thefts, false witness, blasphemies” (Matt. 15:19).
· The Carnal Mind is “enmity against God” (Rom. 8:7). This aspect of the old nature deals with the thoughts (“minding” the flesh), and imaginations of the natural man. These thoughts propel the flesh into action.
· SIN is the nature and the root while “sins” are the outcome (or fruit) of that nature. In Romans 1:18-5:11 it speaks of theses “sins”. From Romans 5:12-8:39 it’s “Sin” (the old nature) that is dealt with. Even though the sinner is justified in Christ, he/she still senses the old nature at work, and experiences the conflict between that and the new nature.
It’s a Lost Cause to try to improve this nature or change it as that which is of the flesh remains flesh. It can’t be turned into spirit. Its end is death (Rom. 8:6). “In Adam all die” (1 Cor. 15:22). The first Adam was made of the dust of the earth, and to dust all his descendants “return” (Gen. 3:19). He or she that sows to his/her flesh will of the flesh reap corruption (Gal. 6:8). All efforts to improve the flesh, provisions made for the flesh, and all ordinances connected with the flesh—end in corruption and death—all “perish with the using” (Col. 2:22). “For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it…” (1 John 2:16-17).
Thankfully there’s a superior alternative, the spirit. It’s divine in nature—something begotten by God, created in righteousness and true holiness (Eph. 4:24). For those who partake of it, the whole course of life can flow in a different direction (2 Cor. 4:16, 5:17, Eph. 4:23). This new nature also has several names that it’s known by:
· Spirit “That which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6). As the “flesh” partakes of the nature of Adam, so the spirit partakes of the nature of the Holy Spirit.
· Divine Nature“…partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (2 Pet. 1:4).
· The New Man“…which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24, Col. 3:10). This is also referred to as “a new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17, Gal. 6:15).
· The Inward Man“is being renewed day by day” (2 Cor. 4:16). It’s called the “inner man” in Ephesians 3:16. The Holy Spirit fuels and nourishes the partaker with grace and strength enabling them the capacity to experience something of God’s vast love (Eph. 3:16). This inward man delights in the law and ways of God and so is in direct conflict with the outward man (Rom. 7:22).
· The Mind (this “mind”) serves the law of God and delights in it (Rom. 7:22-23, 25).
· Christ’s Spirit(Pneuma-Christou) is the new nature which makes one a “son of God” as Christ is “the Son of God” so Pneuma-Christou is another name for the “sonship spirit” (Rom. 8:14-15, Eph. 1:5-6).
· Divine Spirit (Pneuma-Theou) is begotten from God— “not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:13, Rom. 8:9).
This nature is perfect and impervious to change—it remains spirit (John 3:6). It originates from the Spirit of God and its instrument is the Word of God (1 Pet. 1:22-23, John 6:63, 2 Tim. 3:16-17). This gift of the new nature or spirit is called our ‘sealing’ which is ours on believing (Eph. 1:13). If we are “complete” in Christ, we cannot become incomplete (Col. 2:10). This new nature can’t be canceled out (even by sin). If any man or woman sins, they have an Advocate with the Father (Jesus Christ, the righteous) and He is (and remains) the propitiation for our sins (1 John 2:1-2).
THE TRAP OF RELIGION
The believer needs to be ever mindful of his/her standing in Christ (and where his/her true citizenship lies, Phil. 3:20, Col. 3:1-4) so they don’t fall into the trap of religion. Religion has to do with the flesh (and all the things that the flesh can perform) and is concerned only with what it can see, hear, and comprehend (1 Cor. 2:14). The rules of the flesh profit nothing (John 6:63). These works are dead and in these works they deny God (Tit. 1:16). The Pharisees erred thinking that in themselves (and more rules, laws, ordinances, etc.) they could improve themselves, but they were called out by Jesus for the phonies and hypocrites that they were (Matt. 23, John 8:44).
Christianity is not religion and isn’t made up of articles, creeds, confessions, ordinances, etc. but in the Person of Christ Jesus and the sonship relationship the Christian has with God in Him. The apostle Paul knew the dangers of a believer not realizing his/her position in Christ and how that opened them up to deception. He reminded the Colossians in his letter to them that because they were now complete in Christ (which is the Head of all principality and power) all ordinances were therefore done away with. He warned them to beware of anyone who tried to cheat them through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, or the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ, Who is the Head (and source of all nourishment that helps the body to grow with the increase that’s from God) (Col. 2:8-15, 19). He furthered urged them to not fall back to futile things— “…if you died with Christ to the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, are you subjecting yourselves to its regulations that are according to the commandments and doctrines of men? These things may have an (outward) appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are useless against the indulgence of the flesh” (Col. 2:20-23). In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians it was a similar theme as he pressed them to walk worthy of their calling and use their gifts for God’s purposes (Eph. 4:11-12), the goal being a perfect man (fully grown) with perfect (or full) knowledge of the Son of God in order that they’d no longer be tossed to and fro, like children, from one wind of doctrine (teaching) to another— coming from the cunning, deceitful agendas of men (backed by the devil himself) Eph. 4:1-16, 6:11). It’s okay to be righteously angry at the corruption and injustice we see in the world today, just keep it transitory and exhibit self-control or the flesh will be fed, and an opportunity will be given to the devil (Eph. 4:26-27).
KNOWING GOD is the KEY to not being deceived and the source to stay spiritually minded
Understanding (through the Holy Scriptures) the knowledge of God is so vital and also a necessity to empower one to walk in the Spirit as well as perform the good works He preordained for the believer to walk in (2 Tim. 3:16-17, Eph. 2:10, Phil. 2:13, Tit. 2:14, 3:8, 14). Without the continual renewing of the mind (daily feeding of the new nature) (Deut. 8:3, 2 Cor. 4:16, Rom. 12:2, Eph. 4:23-24, Col. 3:10) the believer can fall into the trap of having confidence in their flesh once again (Phil. 3:3, Rom. 13:14, Ga. 5:16).I catch myself minding my flesh when my striving doesn’t lead to peace or any of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). Thankfully I remember that I can’t do anything profitable in my own strength and flesh and I turn to the One Who can.
“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh (See Eph. 6:12, 1 John 2:13). For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,” (2 Cor. 10:3-5).
A believer won’t be aware of what to cast down if they don’t have some firsthand knowledge of God. They won’t be able to use the spiritual weapons (Eph. 6:10-17) that God has so graciously provided for them if they can’t differentiate between the knowledge of God and the arguments and high things that exalt itself against it. Hebrews 4:12 reminds us that the Word of God is alive and powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword, dividing and differentiating between that which is begotten of the flesh and that which is begotten of the spirit (in the individual but also between the natural and spiritual man) (1 Cor. 2:13-15). Read the apostle Paul’s first prayer to the Ephesian believers in Eph. 1:17-23. He prayed that God would give them the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Himas this was the key to leading them to know what the hope of His calling was…and the exceeding greatness of His power to those who believed.
PARTING WORDS OF ENCOURAGEMENT
Even though it says in 2 Timothy 3:12 that those who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution don’t get discouraged. The suffering of this present time is not worthy to be compared with the glory which awaits us (Rom. 8:18, 2 Cor. 4:17). Even though our outward man is perishing, our inward man is being renewed day by day. Take good care of your spiritual self (by properly feeding it) as it will pay off and help you to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age. Keep your mind upward, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing our great God and Savior Jesus Christ (Rom. 13:13-14, 2 Cor. 4:16-18, Col. 3:1-4, Titus 2:11-14).
“If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” (Gal. 5:25).
Bad news surrounds us as new viruses abound, gas and food prices continue to soar, and corruption, violence, and lawlessness becomes more pervasive. It sure can become easy to get caught up with all that’s wrong.
Who or where you turn to when the going gets tough will determine your state of peace.
What’s your ‘go-to’? A ‘go-to’ is the person or thing most trusted to accomplish a purpose, and relied on regularly for expert knowledge, skill, or performance. When we operate out of our fleshly sinful nature ‘quick fixes’ like shopping, gambling, over-eating, drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, etc. are easy to turn to. Some of these alone aren’t necessarily bad in moderation, but when they become our ‘go-to’ the tendency to overindulge, binge, and engage in addictive behavior brings enslavement—not lasting peace. Other drawbacks regarding these ‘go-tos’ are buyer’s remorse, debt, weight gain, ill-health, and premature death. And just as detrimental (when used in excess) is technology in the forms of social media, videos, and online gaming as they high-jack our time away from true, meaningful relationships and experiences. When our ‘go-to’ is our self we can become over controlling and then ironically spiral out of control when things don’t go as we’ve planned.
Maybe you do turn to God as your ’go-to’ (mostly) but struggle with staying on a steadfast course with Him. It’s easy to get side-tracked, distracted, or preoccupied with earthly things. The author Bob Goff said, “Distraction robs us of the ability to both live in the moment and discern what lasts.” Cultivating a long-term perspective is necessary because it’s in the things of God that one receives the best return on investment of their time (Phil. 3:20, Col. 3:1-2). The apostle Paul said, “For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come” (1 Tim. 4:8). Paul wrote in his 2nd letter to the Corinthians, “Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Cor. 4:16-18).
If you’ve ever tried to hold still and balance on one leg, you might’ve found that you could do it longer when your focus was on what you were doing. Once your mind starts veering to other things, you’re inclined to teeter and then fall. We all know that’s how it is for most things, whether it’s putting in too much (or too little) of an ingredient in baking or tripping and running into something when our mind wanders. Those who take their attention off the road (either by texting or other distractions) while they’re driving are more apt to get into an accident. We can also be headed for a crash in the same way when we divert our focus away from the Lord and onto our troubles, taking on a posture of fear instead of standing firmly in God’s strength (Eph. 6:10-11, 13). A mind that’s ever renewed with God’s truth remembers that He is so much more reliable, infallible, and eternally powerful than we are or whatever (or whoever) is in the world (Rom. 12:2, 1 John 2:16-17, 4:4). God is the only good, pure, righteous, and superior source to turn to. Our sight is limited while God is all-knowing and not bound by time (Isa. 46:9-10, 40:21-31, Rev. 1:8).
“He will not be afraid of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord” (Psalm 112:7).
————–—————————————————————————————————————————— Our faith is built as we stay in God’s Word and communicate with Him on a daily basis. This helps us to stay in ‘trust-in-God’ mode rather than turn to lesser things. Those who are steadfast in faith repel the devil’s fiery darts (Eph. 6:16, 1 Pet. 5:8-9). Those who cast all their anxieties on the Lord have a peace that passes all understanding as their hearts and thoughts are guarded in Christ Jesus (1 Pet. 5:7, Phil. 4:6-7). It’s helpful to get in a habit of declaring God’s lovingkindness in the morning and His faithfulness every night (See Psalm 92:2). In the morning we can direct our voice to the Lord and look up to Him for direction as we begin our day (Psalm. 5:3, Prov. 3:5-7). In the evening it’s just as important to refocus our minds on Him instead of on earthly worries. We can put them to rest for the night when we give them to the Lord in prayer (Phil. 4:6).
“I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: For You, Lord, only make me dwell in safety” (Psalm 4:8).
This summer disconnect and disengage from your temporary ‘go-tos’. Think long term. Be available to notice the beauty and the opportunities that the Lord has allowed you to be a part of for His greater purposes (Eph. 2:10). Be present in the moment. Pay attention to whatever is true, noble, just, pure, lovely, things of good report, virtuous, and praiseworthy. Meditate on these things (Phil 4:8). Let the Lord be your ‘go-to’ and allow your heart to stand in awe of His Word and bring you peace (Psalm 119:161, Isa. 26:3).