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Posts Tagged ‘religion’

Consider these two Bible verses:

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”(Ephesians 2:8-9)

“For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” (James 2:26)

Now *replace the word ‘works‘ with the word ‘religion‘. Ephesians 2:8-9 now reads, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of RELIGION, lest any man should boast.”  Swapping our those words helps us to understand that religion, the very God-given components of our faith (i.e., going to church, worship, praying, reading your Bible, getting baptized, fellowshipping with other believers, taking Communion, obeying the moral teachings of Jesus Christ and/or those prescribed in the Bible, etc.) can NOT save you.

Why can’t religion save you?

Because the Christian religion (the aforementioned elements of our faith) is NOT for unbelievers – it’s for believers: those who believe and follow Jesus Christ as both Lord and Savior, having confessed and repented from their sinful behavior and having turned to obey and serve Him.

Now consider the James 2:26b passage, “So faith without RELIGION is dead, coupling it with the religious components that comprise our faith. Are you a saved, born-again believer, but not going to church, not worshipping, not praying, not reading your Bible, not getting baptized, not fellowshipping with other believers, not taking Communion, and not obeying, following and submitting to the moral teachings of Jesus Christ and/or those prescribed in the Bible?

If you’re not, may I suggest that your faith is dead. These are some of the very things believers should be doing in order to know Jesus better, discern His will, and receive His help. This is the reason God has breathed life into the Christian religion as prescribed in His Word, the Bible. Frankly, there is no relationship with Jesus without these religious components. I’m not saying you’re not saved, although you might want to reevaluate your spiritual position in Christ.

For these reasons, believers need to stop pronouncing religion as bad, regardless if they may have had bad experiences with man-made doctrines as a kid or new believer, or they were raised in one of a million other false religions, or they experienced or witnessed hypocrisy within the Christian church. Know now that there is only one, true religion and it is Christianity. It’s God-given and found within the pages of God’s word, the Bible, it’s not for the unsaved, it’s for you the believer, and it is an essential treasure chest of tools that equip us to know and serve Jesus better.

*DISCLAIMER: I am not adding to or subtracting from the word of God, nor am I saying that ‘works’ and ‘religion’ are synonymous, despite similarities. I am however suggesting that they are complementary in that neither one saves a person, but should be evident in the saved-person’s life. I also believe that if a Christian insists on bad-mouthing the “R word without the context it is due, he or she could very well cause someone to stumble in their faith. 

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The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs–heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. Romans 8:16-17

Are You a Child of God?

Sadly, the term ‘child of God,’ (or children of God), is far too often misappropriated. While it is true we are all of His making, we are not all His children. God’s word is explicit: all people childare God’s creation (‘For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth…All things were created through Him and for Him.’), but only those who are born again are children of God. That’s not to say God doesn’t love everybody. John 3:16 reminds us that God loves everyone and desires that all become His children. But know this: the ‘child of God’ designation is reserved for a very unique group of people.

Some will disagree.

To them I lovingly say that this isn’t my opinion; it’s the Bible, so we should examine what God has to say on the matter.

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. John 1:12-13

This passage is pretty cut and dry: only born again believers have the right to be called children of God and subsequently are joint heirs with Christ Jesus. In fact it was Jesus who said,

“Truly I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ John 3:5-7

Born Again?

The phrase ‘born again’ literally means ‘born from above,’ signifying that it is something we cannot do ourselves; it’s 100% Divine. Our re-birth is in reality an act of God that we receive by faith; believing that God’s word (His Bible) is true and that God sent Jesus (our Lord and Savior) to die for our sins. Therefore (and because God has already declared it), we believe we are new creations in Christ, that Jesus did the work that we were unable to, and that it was all according to His Grace and His mercy. A born-again person is a saved person, and a saved person is a child of God.

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. Ephesians 2:8-9

Chastened?

If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons (Hebrews 12:7a)

This verse reminds us that children of God (both sons and daughters) are willingly stusubmitted to their Father; it is a choice freely made. But don’t let the word ‘chasten’ frighten you away. While it’s true that chasten does mean to correct by punishment, that’s only part of the equation. The word used here [in the Greek] is paideiva,’ and it covers the entire scope of training and education, relating to holy cultivation of both mind and morals, employing direct commands, admonitions, reproof, and yes, occasionally punishment for the purpose of correcting mistakes and curbing passions.  In this regard children of God understand that whatever God does to us, is a benefit for us.

“If you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons.Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. Hebrews 12:8-10

God’s Words, Not Mine

But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Hebrews 1:8 

Bastard is not a term I would have used, as it seems a bit unkind, but God uses it to drive home the point. Plainly said, if you’re not a born again Christian, you are illegitimate and cannot be considered His son or daughter, and therefore, you have no Heavenly inheritance. I’m not bringing it up in order to mock or belittle you, but rather to offer you a change and invite you into the family of God. As His child, I have His permission to do that. All that is required of you is that you believe (you don’t have to understand).

Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1

Do you want to know more about coming into God’s family and being saved? Then please click on this link.

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By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible. By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, lest he who destroyed the firstborn should touch them. By faith they passed through the Red Sea as by dry land, whereas the Egyptians, attempting to do so, were drowned. Hebrews 11:24-29

God’s Grace Through Faith

There’s a lot of hope found in Hebrews 11. As we read through the entire chapter we quickly catch hold of the theme: God through faith equips His children to do His work. By faith (we read) the church understands God’s word. By faith Abel made his offerings to the Lord. By faith Enoch spoke testimonies of the Lord. By faith Noah built. By faith Abraham obeyed. By faith Sarah was strengthened. By faith Issac blessed. By faith Joseph prophesied.

moThe Biblical Hall of Faith continues with the likes of such other notables as: Rahab, Gideon, Sampson, David, and Samuel, but in the middle of these hallowed halls the writer pauses over Moses in order to reflect upon 7 consequences of his faith. I find them conspicuous in that they were all allotted to one man and that they seem to be the same things that the Lord desires to works through us, His children.

Are these things in operation in your walk of faith?

The Magnificent 7

1) By faith we reject what the world has to offer.

By faith Moses…refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter

By faith Moses turned down the world’s offer; refusing the title and the position, and rejecting that which his flesh had previously craved. By faith, Moses was able to (as per Romans 12:2), ‘not be conformed to this world, but was transformed by the renewing of his mind, that it could be proven what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.’

2) By faith we let go of sin.

By faith Moses…(chose) rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin 

By faith Moses repented and let go of sin, choosing to suffer the consequences associated with leaving one’s past behind. By faith Moses understood that, ‘Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.’ (James 1:12)

3) By faith we invest eternally.

By faith Moses…(esteemed) the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt

By faith Moses invested in things eternal. By faith Moses had the assurance of, ‘hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began (Titus 1:2). Missionary Jim Elliot must have understood the concept as well, otherwise how could he have written, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”

4) By faith we stand.

By faith (Moses) forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king

By faith Moses was fearless. By faith Moses knew to, “Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)

5) By faith we see Jesus

By faith…(Moses) endured as seeing Him who is invisible

By faith Moses had spiritual vision. A Christian’s faith isn’t truly blind, for the reality is believers see more.  By faith Moses knew, ‘Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’ (John 20:29)

6) By Faith we are religious

By faith Moses kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood

By faith Moses kept the precepts of our religion, knowing it was not the faith or the religion that saved. By faith Moses knew these components were given by God in order to brig him closer to God. Moses understood ‘If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.’ (John 15:7)

7) By faith we move.

By faith (Moses) passed through the Red Sea as by dry land, whereas the Egyptians, attempting to do so, were drowned

By faith Moses moved forward, obeying the word that he heard; knowing that to reject the truth of God’s word was to die. I can almost imagine Moses saying, “One thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13b-14)

So what is this thing called faith?

Again, I found an answer during my research that is better than anything I could have come up with on my own. I found this definition from ‘The Complete Bible Answer Book,’ by Hank Hanegraaff (AKA: The Bible Answer Man). Hank writes:

“The Bible defines faith as “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1). Thus, in biblical vernacular, faith is a channel of living trust—an assurance—that stretches from man to God. In other words, it is the object of faith that renders faith faithful. Furthermore, faith is the assurance that God’s promises will never fail, even if sometimes we do not experience their fulfillment in our mortal existence. Hebrews 11 underscores the fact that we trust God to fulfill his promises for the future (the unseen) based on what he has already fulfilled in the past. Thus, our faith is not blind, but based squarely on God’s proven faithfulness.

Finally, the faith that serves to protect us in spiritual warfare is not to be confused with mere knowledge. Millions worldwide believe in the trustworthiness of Billy Graham. They have heard him proclaim the good news on television and yet do not believe that his message corresponds to reality. Thus, they have the knowledge that it takes to be saved but do not have saving faith. Others hear the message, agree that it corresponds to reality, but due to the hardness of their hearts do not bow. Rather, like the demons, they continue to live in fearful anticipation of the judgment to come (James 2:19). Some, however, have what Scripture describes as genuine justifying faith—a faith that not only knows about the gospel and agrees that its content corresponds to reality, but a faith by which they are transformed.”

What kind of faith do you have?

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For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. 2 Corinthians 5:10-11

Persuading Others

This clip reminds me of the coming judgment.  Did you know judgment is coming? Did you know there are two separate judgments for two separate groups of people? When you mention biblical judgment, many people think of the Great White Throne judgement (although they may not know that is what it’s called). You should know that if you’re a follower of Jesus Christ, this is not the judgment that you will receive.

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. Revelation 20:11-15

Perhaps you have heard it said, Every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess.” Well I believe this will occur at the White Throne Judgement. Everyone who stands before Jesus on that day will bow and proclaim that Jesus is Lord, but sadly, it will be too late for them.

Not so for you, Christian.

Your name is written in the book of life, therefore, you aren’t going to hell. However there is another judgment spoken of and believers refer to it as the Bema Seat judgement. I’d like to say it’s more akin to an awards ceremony for Christians, but I don’t believe that’s a fair assessment, despite the fact that there will be awards (crowns) presented.

The Apostle Paul speaks of that judgment day:

Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. 1 Corinthians 3:12-15

Bema Seat

While searching for intelligence on the Bema Seat judgment, I happened upon these two paragraphs from the ‘Got Questions.org‘ website. Frankly, it was easier just to cut and paste their explanation, then to re-absorb the data and put it into my own words.

They say (and I concur):

Romans 14:10-12 says, “For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat…so then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.”Second Corinthians 5:10 tells us, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” In the context, it is clear that both scriptures are referring to Christians, not unbelievers. The judgment seat of Christ, therefore, involves believers giving an account of their lives to Christ. The judgment seat of Christ does not determine salvation; that was determined by Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf (1 John 2:2) and our faith in Him (John 3:16). All of our sins are forgiven, and we will never be condemned for them (Romans 8:1). We should not look at the judgment seat of Christ as God judging our sins, but rather as God rewarding us for our lives. Yes, as the Bible says, we will have to give an account of ourselves. Part of this is surely answering for the sins we committed. However, that is not going to be the primary focus of the judgment seat of Christ.

At the judgment seat of Christ, believers are rewarded based on how faithfully they served Christ (1 Corinthians 9:4-27;2 Timothy 2:5). Some of the things we might be judged on are how well we obeyed the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20), how victorious we were over sin (Romans 6:1-4), and how well we controlled our tongues (James 3:1-9). The Bible speaks of believers receiving crowns for different things based on how faithfully they served Christ (1 Corinthians 9:4-27;2 Timothy 2:5). The various crowns are described in 2 Timothy 2:5,2 Timothy 4:8,James 1:12,1 Peter 5:4, and Revelation 2:10.James 1:12 is a good summary of how we should think about the judgment seat of Christ: “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.”

What does any of this have to do with the Schindler’s List clip?

Glad you asked.

Well first it reminds me that I can always do more. And just so we’re clear, I’m not referring to a ‘in-my-own-flesh’ kind of approach (Heaven forbid). No, I’m talking about in an ‘obedience to the Holy Spirit’ way.

Looking back over my [personal] Christian history, I know my stewardship-efficiency-ratio (SER), if there is such a thing, has been substandard. I’m not comparing myself to anyone else; I perceive because the Holy Spirit has revealed it. So at this juncture please do not accuse me of that, or worse, of beating myself up over my past. That is not what I am doing. I am merely reflecting upon my past in order that I might do better; that I might learn from my mistakes. I fully understand that I will fall short in the future, but it is my desire (placed there by God), to improve my performance, knowing full well I’m not earning my salvation, for that is a done deal, all praise be to Jesus.

schThe video clip also reminds me that there will be tears in Heaven. Just like the movie portrayal of Mr. Schindler, when the Heavenly books are opened and I see all that I’ve done in Christ’s name compared to what I could have done, there will be great remorse. Oh, I’m still going to Heaven, but this revelation will be gut wrenching. The only question that remains is,

“How gut wrenching do I want it to be?”

When I watch the movie clip, that’s what goes through my mind.

Heaven’s Gate

I envision it all going down like this:

I stand before the Bema Seat and watch in astonishment as most of my works burn-up before my eyes; praying, hoping that something survives the furnace. Sweat pours down my face, but it’s not due to the torridity of the blaze. Then Jesus turns to me and opens the book and shows me all the opportunities I’ve willingly and knowingly squandered. I want to protest and defend myself, except, “But, but, bu…” is about all I can say. Then it happens: perfect realization.  It will be the first time that the word perfect will be applicable to me, for with perfection I will fully understand how I quenched the Holy Spirit so much more than obeyed Him. With that, the tears will begin to flow and I sense this sobbing will be truly uncontrollable. There is no time in Heaven (so I have heard), but I picture this examination going on for decades, as every second of my Christian life is replayed with not one event being omitted.

Finally, mercifully, this occurs…

God (wipes) away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.” Revelation 21:4-5

Then I hear these words…

‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’ Matthew 25:23

Hearing this pronouncement, I want to cry again, but I can’t! There is abundant joy and crying is now impossible for me!

I’ve made it home!

So why do I fret over a silly video clip? Well I’m not fretting over it, it merely serves to remind me that Jesus has work for me to do, or more accurately, Jesus has more work that He wants to do through me. The Holy Spirit, working somehow through the clip, prompts me to be tuned-in to His will, submitted and obedient to all this Kingdom stuff that’s going on.

I was thinking that you might want to be tuned in as well.

When the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.1 Peter 5:4

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Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1

For the Believer

Christian, I have a word of encouragement for you today.

Are you familiar with the ‘Hall of Faith‘ in the Book of Hebrews, chapter 11; that list of our Biblical heroes who triumphed in faith, by faith?  If you are, did you ever notice that this extraordinary list begins with someone very near and dear to your heart?

Who is this special person?

It’s you!

Check out what God recorded in His word:

“By faith ‘we’ understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.” Hebrews 11:3

Did you see it? “By faith ‘we’ (that’s you and me) understand this Godly stuff! Isn’t that so cool that God took the time to put us at the top of the list, above such notables as Moses, Noah, Abraham, and Issac? What an honor!

But don’t be too surprised. After all, didn’t Jesus say…

“If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor.” John 12:26

Hold on there, Babalouie!

Is this Hebrew passage really talking about you? In order to find out you must ask yourself these questions:

quickDo you believe that the worlds were created by God through His  word?

Do you believe in the invisible attributes of all creation?

Do you believe in the Biblical ‘Genesis’ account of creation? Or do you embrace unbiblical doctrines or the unprovable theories of evolution and big bangs?

If you do believe in those things, then the Hebrews passage is not talking about you, and therefore your are not included in the Hall of Faith. Sorry. The facts would show that you just might be a nominal Christian; that is, a Christian in name only.

But…

It could also mean that you’re merely immature in the faith.

Not to worry!

I remember being right where you are. When I became a new-believer, I carried around the nonsensical teachings of the world for years and it wasn’t until I became a diligent and submitted disciple of Christ that the truth of the Bible was revealed to me. In the light of that truth, I could not help but embrace it!

It can happen to you!

But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Hebrews 11:6

Are you diligent in seeking Him?

The dictionary defines ‘diligently’ as steady application and care; with industry or assiduity (constant effort); actions not done carelessly or negligently.

Diligence of the Biblical sort is deliberate in its effort towards holy accomplishment, both attentive and persistent, and obedient to follow-through with the results that are discovered. In contrast, the unenthusiastic Christian is not rewarded, for God is not pleased if we are operating outside of faith. Would a parachute instructor be pleased if you refused to don the chute, even after being convinced it will save you? Similarly God is not pleased if you neglect your faith and His truth.

Diligent Christians believe by faith that ‘God is’ and that He rewards our faithful attentiveness.  It is not enough for us to just know God is God (head knowledge), we must seek Him with a persevering faith that says He will provide the things He knows we need.

To know Jesus is to know truth. For the Christian, ‘seeing is believing‘ is an errant and worldly concept, for it is our testimony that believing is the first step to seeing those things that truly matter. It is by this faith we understand God is the Creator and it is by this faith we are inducted into the Hall of Faith.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made…And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” John 1:1,3,14

I pray you were somehow blessed today. If you enjoyed the post please like it, share it, subscribe to it, or leave a comment on it. I read and respond to every comment.

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Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it. For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it. For we who have believed do enter that rest, as He has said: “So I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest,’ “although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. For He has spoken in a certain place of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all His works”; and again in this place: “They shall not enter My rest.” Since therefore it remains that some must enter it, and those to whom it was first preached did not enter because of disobedience, again He designates a certain day, saying in David, “Today,” after such a long time, as it has been said: “Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts.” For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day. There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His. Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience. (Hebrew 4:1-11)

Let’s Rest

The previous chapter (Hebrews 3) taught us (reminded us) about Moses and the ‘generation of unbelief’ that could not enter into the JoshuaPromised Land (Canaan). We learned that the thing that kept them out of the promised location was their disbelief; they did not believe that God would want to bless them and that He would follow through on His promises. Their actions bore witness to that truth.

So we see that they (Israel) could not enter in because of unbelief. Hebrews 3:19

Using the Promised Land episode as an example, Hebrews 4 begins by telling us we should fear not entering into our promised rest.  The lesson is simply to believe what God has said by faith, and to not waiver in it. The Good News is of no worth to a person if there is no faith.  Nothing has changed in this regard. Ancient Israel was taught salvation in God alone just as we are today.  If we do not enter in and accept the Spirit-filled life, by faith, then there obviously is no benefit.

We who have believed do enter that rest!

Hebrews 4 is establishing that our rest is in Jesus Christ, despite the fact that the Jews would say that they have a rest; a one-day in seven rest, called the Sabbath Day.

Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made. Genesis 2:1-3

But the writer of Hebrews is referring to another rest; a future rest, that is better and God sent.  The Sabbath rest established by God in Genesis is merely a picture of the full rest we are to have in Christ; a spirit-filled life we may associate with entering into the Promised Land, being mindful that the Promised Land is not the promised rest.  Joshua took Israel into the Promised Land, but if that rest was sufficient there would be no talk of another day to come, of course pointing to Jesus Christ.  Ultimately, it’s not the Promised Land rest or the Sabbath Day rest we’re promised, they just pictures of the rest to come that commences on the day we first believe and receive Jesus as Lord and Savior.

 “Do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion, As in the day of trial in the wilderness, When your fathers tested Me; They tried Me, though they saw My work.  For forty years I was grieved with that generation, And said, ‘It is a people who go astray in their hearts, And they do not know My ways.’ So I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest.’ ” Psalm 95:8-11

Regarding our rest, we see that Psalm 95 (cited by the writer of Hebrews), demonstrates that God is speaking of a yet-future event.

A Better Rest

JesusI like the way Jon Courson said it (paraphrased here): the rest being spoken of [in Hebrews 4] is not a vacation (a Sabbath Day of rest), nor is it a location (as was the Promised Land), but rather it is a relation with Jesus Christ. For the Christian, the Christ-rest is finally understanding and accepting that there is no work to be done in regard to our salvation—the work has been done and we can rest in His work by faith.

So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” John 19:30

It’s worth repeating: the rest that people are truly craving (and God wants to provide) is not a vacation (Sabbath) or a location (Canaan), but a relation in Christ that’s everlasting. Let us not be fooled into believing that a respite or a region (alone) will bring you rest. True rest, a rewarding rest, a blessing and sustaining rest, and most importantly, a saving rest, is found only in Christ Jesus. Locations and vacations are temporary solutions at best, if Jesus is not included.

Don’t be robbed of the blessing—there is no profit, nor is there any rest in the Gospel where there is no faith.

Do Want to Know Jesus?

The blog posted prior to this one might assist you.

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And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable. 1 Corinthians 15:17-19
~
The Opossum

opossumOpossums (aka: possums) get a bad rap. Where I live, people consider opossums to be a stupid animal, so much so that when you hear the old joke, Why did the chicken cross the road, ” the punch line is frequently, “to show the opossum that it can be done.”

Poor possum – no respect.

However it has been told that the opossum has one trait that is not only unique, it is lifesaving. An opossum will not enter a hole unless there are two sets of tracks; one going in and one coming out. For the timid opossum it certainly would be foolish, and possibly fatal, to enter a place that was already occupied.

Why Did You Cross the Road?

Why do Christians believe in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior? We certainly did not cross the road to see Jesus upon a cross. Hearing this opossum-tale, I am reminded of the Apostle Paul’s words to the Corinthians.

If Christ is not risen, your faith is futile

feetExamine the facts: our Jesus was crucified, dead, and buried, and on the third day, He rose again. Just like the opossum, we have the proof that Jesus entered and exited!  What makes Christ’s resurrection even more magnificent is that He said He was going to do it. Oh what a fatal move it would be to reject Christ Jesus and walk into a false religion where there are no footprints; no proofs whatsoever.

And (Jesus) began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. Mark 8:31

The Mystery Revealed

How can you keep news like this to yourself? Christ’s resurrection is not a story or a fairy-tale, but the solution to our separation problem. By this feat we have living proof that through Christ alone we may have eternal life with Him in Heaven. This is not only news worth telling, it is news each believer is mandated to tell. Have you told your children? Have you told your friendly neighbors? Have you told your not-so-friendly neighbors? Have you told a someone living on the edges of the earth?

Have you crossed the road?

foolIf you haven’t, it’s probably because you have not been convinced of these facts. Perhaps to you all these accounts seem silly and absurd. If that is the case; if it all seems foolish to you, then you need to know God agrees with your assessment. Oh not that the accounts themselves are foolish, but that you perceive them to be as such. God goes on to provide the explanation as to why you feel as you do in 1 Corinthians 2:14…

The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 

Did you catch the reason? In order to understand these things; in order to see these occurrences as the facts that they are; as the truth, you need the Holy Spirit to come reside in you. That occurs when you say by faith, “God, I don’t understand, but I believe.” If you’re willing to take Jesus at His word without seeing the proof up front, He will reward you by revealing the truth as you walk in your faith; not all at once, but significant pieces as you require them.

What must you believe?

Incredibly the first thing you must acknowledge is something you do have proof of — that you ARE a sinner.  This is the first critical step. If you cannot admit this truth; even to yourself, then there is no hope of you ever crossing the road.

“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” Romans 3:23

Then understand by faith that sin (even one sin) separates us from God. Eternally speaking that means you cannot enter Heaven. Please understand that every human being will live forever, but only the faithful get to spend eternity with the Lord. If you reject Jesus on earth, He will respect your wishes and not be with you in Heaven. The place where God is not is called hell. Simply put, Heaven is God-filled, and hell is God-less. Because of its Godlessness, hell is also a place of horrible torment; it is not a place where you will hang out with all your old buddies.

The Bible declares in Romans 6:23 that, “The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” 

Good News!

Romans 5:8  proclaims, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” By faith, and without understanding, believe this.

Romans 10:9, continues, That if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” Nowhere does it say you have to understand it. Trust that comprehension will come later on!

Romans 8:1 rightfully concludes, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

Today is the day!

Want to receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior right now? Then tell Him. Talking to God respectfully is called prayer. He is faithful to listen and respond to the faithful. Here is a prayer you can pray:

“God, I confess that I have sinned against you and am deserving of punishment. I believe by faith that  Jesus Christ took the punishment that I deserve so that I could be forgiven. I turn away from my sin and by faith, I turn to Jesus. With your help, I place my trust in You for salvation. Thank You for Your grace and forgiveness and the gift of eternal life! Amen!”

If you enjoyed the blog please “Like” it,  or share, or subscribe to it. Please leave a comment too! If you have prayed the prayer to receive Jesus Christ into your life, please let me know in a comment or tell somebody!

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“But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come.” 2 Timothy 3:1

Jesus is Coming Soon

Do you believe that? The Apostle Paul did, and he lived his entire Christian life as if Jesus would be coming to get him at any moment. As a result his attitude of faith served to make him spiritually healthier. But please don’t ever say:

“Paul was wrong, Jesus never returned for him.”

paulFirst of all, that’s just not true. But regardless, Paul would tell you that his actions were right, despite the fact his rapturial timing was askew (Paul’s harpazo was of a personal nature and likely occurred when he purportedly lost his head). Let us be mindful of Christ‘s own words, That day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.”

Back to Paul’s attitude: consider 1 John 3:2-3

“Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.”

In case you missed it, Paul is proclaiming that whoever has this hope becomes purer and thus more like Jesus. I think it was Billy Graham, when asked what if God is not real, responded, “Then I will have lived a better life.”

Paul would have likely agreed. Not only is Jesus Christ the real-deal, but in our waiting for His return we are being made better, not for our glory, but for His!

“For this is the will of God, your sanctification” 1 Thessalonians 4:3a

Want to know God’s will for your life? Well there it is!

The Contrasting Christian

What is the net result when Christians do not live as if Christ’s return was imminent? Jesus tells us Himself in Matthew 24:48-51

“But if that evil servant says in his heart, ’My master is delaying his coming, ’ and begins to beat his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunkards, the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him and at an hour that he is not aware of, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Clearly, if our behavior does not reflect an attitude of Christ’s return being near, than it’s likely emulating the worldly conduct that surrounds us. In other words, if we’re not surrendered to the sanctification process, that is the setting apart of ourselves for all things Spiritual and submitted to God for the changes He desires to see in us, than we’re behaving as the rest of the world behaves. This person must question whether or not he or she is truly saved. Keep in mind that merely going to church doesn’t make you a Christian anymore than going to McDonald’s makes you a hamburger.

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:1-2

I implore you as well.

Jesus is coming soon and you do not want to delay. If you are not a Christian, you must rectify that immediately revive(here’s how). If you are a nominal Christian, you need to start acting like a normal Christian. Repent or be revived! Now is the time. We are closer to Christ’s return than we have ever been before and if you should die before Christ returns for all of us, then you will be a witness to a private audience with the King of Kings. At that time if you do not know Jesus as your Lord and Savior, He will not receive you into His Kingdom — that’s just the way it is.

I beg you, stop rejecting the only Savior.

 “And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of heaven will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.” Luke 21:25-27

I pray you were somehow blessed by the post. If you were, please like it, share, subscribe to it, and please leave a comment. I read and respond to every comment I receive. Have a blessed day in the Lord Jesus.

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“For the Lord God is a sun and shield; The Lord will give grace and glory; No good thing will He withhold From those who walk uprightly.” Psalm 84:11

Prayer Warrior

It’s a term we all recognize. I have used it, my pastor has used it, and probably every Christian I’ve been blessed to schmooze with through the years, has used it. We use the expression because it best prayerwarrior7describes the actions of those of the faith who earnestly lift others in prayer; who consistently and persistently go before the Lord with all requests, supplications, intercessions, and thanksgivings, and often time while possessing prayer lists and maintaining prayer logs. They are classified as our  ‘go to’ people within the body of Christ when an appeal, a plea, or petition is desired. That brings me to a twofold question:

“Is the label right (and by ‘right’ I mean Biblical), and is it harmful?”

I’ll explain. First…

Is it Biblical?

The short answer is, I don’t believe so. While there are certainly folks in the church who fit the definition, I’m not convinced God would concur that a special designation is called for. Is being a prayer zealot a gift of the Holy Spirit? If so, I’m not seeing it. The Bible records three main passages regarding spiritual gifts: Romans 12:6-8;1 Corinthians 12:4-11; and 1 Corinthians 12:28. According to the list, we see…

Prophesying, serving, teaching, encouraging, giving, leadership, mercy, the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, faith, healing, miraculous powers, distinguishing between spirits, speaking in tongues and interpretation of tongues, helps, governments, and diversities of tongues.

But, I don’t see prayer warrior on the list.

I suppose you could make an argument that tenacious prayer falls under one (or more) of these categories, but I sense that’s when we begin to stretch the doctrine a little too thin. Let’s be honest, prayer is a vital component of each of these giftings, but is not the actual gift.

Is it Harmful?

Yes, I believe it is, and I’ll tell you why — our Father in Heaven desires that we all pray in this manner. Could we really believe that the Lord would want us to delegate our conversation to somebody else; someone who we perceive is better at it then we are? Where in the Bible does God suggest to us to go find a prayer warrior, or even to make a separate distinction? Nowhere that I can find, but I do see this…

“In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality.” Acts 10:34

Elevating someone to the status of prayer warrior may encourage the believer who happens to fit the mold, but it simultaneously sends an erroneous message that this person is gifted in a way that we are not, and therefore, we have been relieved of this duty. Do we really believe that? Aren’t prayer warriors doing the very thing that we are called to do? Wouldn’t it be more accurate to say that prayer warriors are obedient, rather than gifted? Finally, should we be seeking out a prayer mediator when the Father has already provided us one?

“For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus” 

Haven’t we also been given a Helper in our pursuit of prayer?

“Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” Romans 8:26

Here’s the truth — God desires all His children pray in this manner! The fact that you don’t now is not the point. God never intended that in your discouragement (in this regard) you turn to another Christian, but rather you turn to Him. Therein lies the point!

Look at these directives from God’s word…

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

There is nothing in there that remotely suggests we find a prayer warrior to do this for us.

Pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17-19

Do you see anything in there that implies this is somebody else’s job? Me either. The one thing that does jump out at me [is] that if we’re not praying like this, we’re throwing water on the fire that is the Holy Spirit. That cannot be good.

One more…

“Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints” Ephesians 6:17-18

The Last Word

Try to look at like this — it’s the church (not God) that has created a prayer warrior status. When we serve to encourage others with the moniker, it is a wonderful, Christian gesture, but what we’re really saying (when we use the term), is that we recognize there is a great void within the body Christ that only very few are filling. It might be better to recognize this Christian’s faithful obedience instead. May I suggest that the next time we sense the need to identify another believer in this manner, that we also ask the Lord to examine our own hearts to determine why the title is not befitting for us. The question should not be, “Lord, why am I not a prayer warrior,”  but rather, “Why am I not submitted to Your will in my life?”

Am I suggesting we should not seek out others to pray for us?

Heaven forbid!

We are called to pray for one another. I’m saying that there is not a circumstance to ever shy away from being the type of communicant the Lord wants us to be or to relegate the duty to someone else. God wants to talk with us directly and has fully equipped us to be fervent communicators.

Talk — God is listening.

If you enjoyed the post please like it, share it, comment on it, or subscribe to it. Frankly, I am blessed that you stopped by to read it today. God bless you too!

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“What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.” (John 6:28-29)

It’s been estimated that since Christ’s time on earth, 70 million Christians have been martyred for their faith. Recent statistics reveal that over 100,000 Christians are killed each year. Their crime: faith in Jesus Christ. Some reports say that annual number is closer to 160,000 deaths per year! As for general Christian persecution not necessarily leading to death, it is estimated that currently over 200 million Christians are being persecuted worldwide. That’s 200 million Christians who are routinely subjected to oppression, humiliation, jail, beatings and/or torture.

Again, that’s 200 million!

How should we respond?

I don’t know about you, but I very often feel helpless. My attention has been drawn to the reports of American Christians, arrested in foreign lands. Names like Saeed Abedini, Kenneth BaeMaryam Rostampour and Marzieh Amirizadeh have made our recent headlines, thanks primarily to a select few media sources, such as Fox News.

Why would God allow this to continue?

The answer to that question has too many facets for us to count. In a sad way (and in one small SaeedAbediniaspect), I see these arrests and the media attention they are receiving, as a good thing, in that the eye’s of American Christians are being opened to the horror. Is this a tiny portion of God’s plan? It very well could be, although I would not be dogmatic about it. The reality is that many of us have heard the outrageous statistics, but at the end of the day they are just numbers on a piece of paper and we do nothing. So in a sense, Saeed Abedini and Kenneth Bae have become the face for Christian persecution — essentially they are the poster boys for the 200 million tyrannized Christ-followers, worldwide.

Now that you know, what will you do?

I submit to you that God has a purpose for each of us in this, and that the directive behind the purpose is unveiled, at least in part, in these two Bible passages:

“Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:1-4)

“We ought to obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29)

To simplify…

Pray and  Obey

As a first response to any situation, prayer is our course of action. Frankly, it is the best thing we can do. God, through prayer, does many incredible things, but the fact that God changes us when we pray could perhaps be the most significant factor. Don’t believe God changes us? Then try praying sincerely for your enemies or for the needy or praying thanksgiving over the blessings you already have, and watch how God changes you. The truth of the matter is that in our earnest prayers, God reveals the next step we are to take. It might be a baby step or it might be a grand leap, but whatever it is, He shares the maneuver with us. In contrast, if we do not pray, we probably will not hear.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)

We need to know that our prayer, at least as it pertains to how God wants to change us, is often rendered powerless, unless it is our intention to obey whatever we learn from God in those prayers. In actuality, we might want to include that talking-point in our prayer, for as we know it is not an uncommon thing for our Spirit to be willing, but our flesh to be weak. It has been my experience that if the Lord detects any insincerity in this regard, He likely guides us to address our submission issues, while putting the other items we presented on hold. Not always, but remember, our Father is a God of order, not chaos.

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10)

Practicality 

What God says to you may not be the same thing He says to me. It could be, but I believe the Father takes our individual needs into account, in order that the changes He makes in us are most appropriate for us. That makes sense, doesn’t it? Let us also keep in mind that these changes in us are for His glory, not ours.

For example, when I began to pray for the persecuted church, God’s initial response to me was that these prayers needed to be an everyday, consistent practice of mine. The Lord then moved me to share the dire situation with others so they would pray. I’ve got to be honest with you — I was waiting for God to say to join some cause, or financially support some persecution ministry, such as Voice of the Martyrs. He still might! I am willing, but that’s not the direction God is nudging me, today.

One substantial thing He has led me to do is to exercise my liberty as a US citizen — to share the Gospel more boldly and passionately. It seems to me, and I could be wrong, that God would not have reached me with this change He desired to make, unless I had been praying for the persecuted church and the likes of Pastor Saeed Abedini and Kenneth Bae. All that is to say, God is faithful.

I don’t know firsthand what the Lord is doing on behalf of Saeed and Kenneth, and the millions of nameless Christians whose plight we bring before the throne each day, but I know God’s way is the best way and that He will get His glory in each situation. My prayer is that you will be encouraged to pray for the persecuted church and  all things, with an attitude of submission to God’s will.

Expect to hear from the Lord and be prepared to obey.

If you enjoyed the post please like it, share it, comment on it, or subscribe to the blog. God bless you.

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