Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Embracing Jesus Himself as our personal Redeemer!

(William Bacon Stevens, "The Almost Christian!")

"King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you do!" Acts 26:27

Alas! Belief of the truths of Scripture, and practice of its precepts--are too often disjoined!

Alas! An intellectual or theoretical assent to Christianity--is often coupled with the most practical disregard of its duties!

It is indeed strange, that truths so momentous in themselves, and so vital to the interests of the soul, if believed at all--should not be followed by a practice conformable to that belief! Such conduct is contrary to all known principles of human conduct in worldly matters. Let a man be convinced of the truth of anything, or the propriety of any course of conduct which promises him temporal advantage--and how quickly does he carry his mind's beliefs into active practice!

Yet there are multitudes of people who believe the Bible to be God's Word--who do not receive it into their lives as a matter of living faith. Like Agrippa, they believe the prophets--and yet will not do what the prophets require!

If religion were a matter of the intellect only--then such men would be saved. But salvation reaches us, not so much through the faculties of the mind--as through the affections of the heart. For the mind, by its clear power of reason, may be forced to accept as true--that which the heart dislikes, and refuses to acknowledge, or obey.

We are saved, not by believing Christianity as a system--but by embracing Jesus Himself as our personal Redeemer!

This differentiates the Christian religion from all other religions and all other philosophies: they are all based on dogmas and beliefs--but the Christian religion is based on relationship with a Person!

How the Holy Spirit Enables Us to Obey

The power of the Spirit
The Christian life is lived by the power of the Spirit –
– we obey by the Spirit (Eze 36:27).
– we kill sin by the Spirit (Rom 8:12-13).
– we are sanctified by the Spirit (2Th 2:13).

But what does that mean?
Maybe someone in your small group says something hurtful to you.
You know you ought to forgive them — lay down your anger, not hold it against them, not carry a grudge.
So what do you do?
For years I just relied on my own will-power, and resolved to forgive them.
I tried to feel loving toward them, tried to not think about what they did, tried to not nurse a grudge.
Usually — over time — the anger went away.
And I figured the Holy Spirit had enabled me to forgive.

Was it the Holy Spirit?  Or was it just my will-power?
Is what I did any different from what unbelievers do — when they try to feel loving, try to not think about their hurt, try to not nurse a grudge?

What I didn’t understand
I believed in the Holy Spirit.  I knew He indwelt me the moment I trusted Christ.
But I did not understand what He does — that He loves to –
And when He does this –
  • my faith is strengthened.
  • my passion for Christ is deepened
  • my hurts are healed.
  • my lusts are defeated.
  • my worries are overcome.
  • my pride is humbled.
AND — I will obey.  Gladly.  Joyfully.  Passionately.  Enthusiastically.  I will obey.

See the difference?

Will-power says –
  • resolve to forgive this person,
  • try to feel loving towards them,
  • don’t think about what they did,
  • don’t bear a grudge –
– and maybe in time your heart will change (a little).

Faith says –
  • Father, forgive me through Jesus,
  • pour out Your Spirit upon me,
  • help me feel that what I have in You is far more than what this person cost me,
  • crush my wounded pride by showing me your mercy,
  • so fill my heart with Your love that I genuinely love them –
– and the Spirit will change your heart (completely).

Making a car move

Let’s say your car is on the side of the road and you want to move it.
So you take off the emergency brake, move to the back of the car, and start to push.
If the ground is level, and you’ve been doing your squats, it will move.
Slowly.  With a lot of effort.  But it will move.

There’s an easier way
The car has an engine.
So why not put the key in the ignition, give it some gas, and let the engine do the work?
It would be a lot easier.

Same with your obedience
You have an engine — the Holy Spirit.
Put the key in the ignition — by praying for more of His work in your heart.
Give it some gas — by pondering the truth of Gods’ Word.
He will change your heart and empower your obedience.

The fine print
I don’t want to make this sound easier than it is.  It’s called the fight of faith because — well — it’s a fight.
A sword-slashing, shield-crushing, spear-stabbing fight (1Tim 6:10; Eph 6:12) –
  • to humble ourselves before God,
  • confess our sin,
  • plead for the work of the Spirit,
  • and set our hearts to trust God’s Word.
But when we do — in time — we will feel the Spirit changing our hearts, freeing our hearts, motivating our hearts.
You can count on it — because God has promised (Luke 18:27; John 6:35; John 8:31-32; 2Cor 3:18; Rom 8:13; 2Pe 1:4).

~Written by: Steve Fuller on Living By Faith Blog
(Picture by FaceMePLS from everystockphoto.)

Monday, February 27, 2012

What are you trusting -- really?

Something puzzling
When I studied faith and trust in the Bible, I discovered something puzzling –
I discovered that it’s not just believers who have faith. Everyone has faith.
Everyone is always trusting something to secure a satisfying future for them.
For example, Jeremiah 46:25 says people trust in Pharaoh.
Psalm 52:7 says people trust in treasure.
Isaiah 31:1 says people trust in chariots.
What does it mean to trust Pharaoh, treasure, or chariots? It means trusting them to secure and satisfy you.

Everyone lives by faith
So it’s not just believers who live by faith. Everyone is always trusting something to secure and satisfy them.
Take my day today. I started off fighting the fight of faith with Ezekiel 1-3, Job 1, John 7, and 2 Peter 1 — and the Holy Spirit strengthened my faith so I was trusting Jesus to secure and satisfy me.
But then at breakfast I heard something that depressed me because I thought it would make me look bad — which shows I had turned from trusting Jesus and was now trusting recognition from people to satisfy me.
But then I got some prayer time and confessed to Jesus that I had turned from Him — and asked Him to strengthen my faith once again.
And Jesus answered by having me get an email from a friend who shared a Scripture — which God used to restore my trust in Him as my all-satisfying Treasure.
So all morning I was living by faith in something — but it was not always Jesus Christ. I turned from trusting Christ, to trusting people, then back to trusting Christ.

How can I tell what I am really trusting?
My father taught that whatever I trust the most to satisfy me, I desire the most; and whatever I desire the most, I obey.
So there’s two crucial questions that show me what I am trusting.

What am I obeying instead of Christ?
Christ calls me not to look upon any woman lustfully (Mat 5:28).
So if I disobey Christ and entertain a lustful look, that shows I am no longer trusting Christ to fully satisfy me; I am trusting that sexual pleasure will satisfy me more.
Christ also calls me to meditate on His Word regularly (John 8:31).
So if I disobey Christ and watch TV without taking time for His Word, that shows I am no longer trusting Christ to fully satisfy me; I am trusting that TV will satisfy me more.
So one way to see what you are trusting is to ask — what am I obeying instead of Christ?  Whatever it is — that’s what you are trusting to secure and satisfy you.

What am I desiring more than Christ?
The other crucial question is — what am I desiring more than Christ?
Think about it. Over the past 24 hours, what has brought you the most joy? What have you been most excited about?
Monday Night Football? Profit in your 401k? Getting new furniture? Or Jesus Christ?
The answer will show what you are really trusting.
Not that we can’t find joy in other things. But when we desire other things more than Christ, it shows we are trusting them to satisfy us more than Christ.
This dishonors Christ, because He is the all-satisfying Treasure. And it leaves us empty, because nothing else will satisfy us fully and lastingly.

Monitor your heart
Throughout the day, take a faith-reading of your heart.  Ask — what I am obeying instead of Christ?  What am I desiring more than Christ?
The answer will help you see what you are really trusting — which will help you fight the fight of faith.

Taken from Living By Faith Blog- Steve Fuller

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Slip Away and Be With God - Paul Washer

Yield Yourself to God

“But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord, and went down to Joppa.”  - Jonah 1:3
Instead of going to Nineveh to preach the Word, as God bade him, Jonah disliked the work, and went down to Joppa to escape from it. There are occasions when God’s servants shrink from duty. But what is the consequence? What did Jonah lose by his conduct? He lost the presence and comfortable enjoyment of God’s love. When we serve our Lord Jesus as believers should do, our God is with us; and though we have the whole world against us, if we have God with us, what does it matter? But the moment we start back, and seek our own inventions, we are at sea without a pilot. Then may we bitterly lament and groan out, “O my God, where hast thou gone? How could I have been so foolish as to shun thy service, and in this way to lose all the bright shinings of thy face? This is a price too high. Let me return to my allegiance, that I may rejoice in thy presence.” In the next place, Jonah lost all peace of mind. Sin soon destroys a believer’s comfort. It is the poisonous upas tree, from whose leaves distil deadly drops which destroy the life of joy and peace. Jonah lost everything upon which he might have drawn for comfort in any other case. He could not plead the promise of divine protection, for he was not in God’s ways; he could not say, “Lord, I meet with these difficulties in the discharge of my duty, therefore help me through them.” He was reaping his own deeds; he was filled with his own ways. Christian, do not play the Jonah, unless you wish to have all the waves and the billows rolling over your head. You will find in the long run that it is far harder to shun the work and will of God than to at once yield yourself to it. Jonah lost his time, for he had to go to Nineveh after all. It is hard to contend with God; let us yield ourselves at once.
-Charles Spurgeon's Evening Meditation

Sunday, February 19, 2012

With God All Things are Possible!


"With God all things are possible!" Matthew 19:26 
The omnipotence of Jehovah is ruled by His wisdom and holiness, His justice and love. He can do everything consistent with those attributes--but nothing contrary to them.

God's omnipotence is altogether on the believer's side. All that God consistently can do--He will do for His people. Nothing is too hard for the Lord.

He can make us contented in the most trying circumstances--and happy in the deepest affliction. He can so bring down our minds to our condition--that we shall glory in tribulation. He can turn darkness into light, and bitter into sweet; and bring the richest joy out of the deepest sorrow.

The omnipotent God is your God!  His omnipotence is engaged for you!

Do not look at your difficulties--but at the omnipotent God as engaged for you!
Do not look too much at what you are--but at what your God can make you!
Do not dwell on your own weakness--but on the Lord's strength!

Call nothing impossible. "Is anything too hard for Me? Do not I fill Heaven and earth, says the Lord?" His ways are in the sea, His paths in the mighty waters, and His footsteps are not known! 

It is possible for God to hold you fast . . .
  in the most slippery path,
  when surrounded by the most determined foes,
  and feeling the greatest weakness--and He will do so!

None shall be able to pluck you out of His hand!
It is possible for God to supply all your needs, in the most trying times; as He did Elijah by the ravens, and the poor widow by the increase of the oil and meal. And He will do so! Only seek the Lord, trust in the Lord, leave difficulties with the Lord--and you shall not lack any good thing. He will display His wisdom, sovereignty, pity, and power in dealing with you; and perhaps fill you with wonder, surprise, and love, at His ways.

All that God is--He is to you!
All He has--He has for you!
All He has promised--He will fulfill in you!

Ever, ever remember that all things are possible to . . .
   your God,
   your Father,
   your Savior,
   and your Friend!

"I can do all things through Christ, who gives me strength!" Philippians 4:13

~James Smith