Keeping the Faith

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2 Timothy 4:7-8

I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.

The great Apostle Paul was writing to Timothy and he says, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith”. Paul goes on in this section of scripture to make it clear that he is ready to depart this life. Yet Paul is also aware that he will not receive his crown of victory until judgment day.

Since Paul had fought the good fight, then there must be a bad fight. In a fight you meet opposition. In a fight there is aggressive and there is defensive actions. In a fight the opposer sometimes lands some punches. The Apostle Paul was a human being just as we are and I’m certain that sometimes the opposer landed some punches on Paul. Paul’s testimony wasn’t that he had been perfect and had never failed or suffered some wounds at the hand of the enemy. Rather Paul’s testimony was, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith”.

Paul had finished his course. The course of life that had been appointed to him was complete and his claim to fame at the end of life’s journey was, “I have kept the faith”. Paul didn’t claim to have been perfect but rather simply, I have kept the faith.

We are not going to do it perfectly but even in the midst of suffering a few cuts and bruises and in the midst of getting knocked down sometimes, we can keep the faith.

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I Am the LORD

Leviticus 19:18

Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD.

Based on my experiences in my humanity, this must be one of the toughest things we do as Christians. Personally I don’t have a big problem letting go of and separating from toxic and negative situations, however when it comes to not avenging or not bearing a grudge, it is an entirely different thing. That is something, that for me, takes more perseverance and determination. It’s not that we can overcome that spiritual battle on our own but rather it takes a determination and perseverance to not allow your humanity to drag you away from the foot of Calvary’s cross.

If my vision is on Christ’s sacrifice at Calvary when I find myself in those places of life where it would be easy to seek revenge and easy to bear a grudge, how can I not forgive and love my neighbor as myself?

When I think back to where I was when Jesus Christ forgave me and translated me from darkness into the Kingdom of Light it very quickly becomes easy to love my neighbor as myself. The first sign that I’ve forgotten what Jesus did for me is that I feel a desire to avenge myself and I’m holding a grudge.

It’s because of who Jesus is and not because of anything that I’ve done that Jesus accepted me and saved my soul. How can I possibly hold a grudge and feel the need to avenge myself if I truly understand what Jesus did for me when I came to Calvary in repentance and what He continues to do for me every time I return?

Dear Jesus please help us to understand what you did for us at Calvary and teach us to love our neighbor as ourself.

Jesus’ Love

Proverbs 20:9

Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin?

No one can say, “I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin.” As human beings we do not have the power to make our heart clean. The only person who can do that is Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ, the spotless Lamb of God, lived as a man and suffered the death of crucifixion, paying the price for my sin. As it says in Hebrews 4:15, “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” I have never lived without sin therefore only Jesus is a worthy sacrifice and is able to pay the penalty of sin. What amazing inexplicable love that the spotless Lamb of God would pay the price for my sin that I may spend eternity with Him.

John 15:13, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” Most human beings would not give their life for a righteous person much less a flawed and imperfect creature. Yet that is exactly what Jesus Christ did. Before I ever even knew I had a problem and needed a way out of it, he had already made a way for me.

What selfless infinite love!

As I’ve said before, we can refrain from sinning against our spouse because we feel like that is the right thing to do or we can refrain from sinning against our spouse because we love them so much. Likewise with Jesus. We can refrain from sinning against Him because that’s what the law says and because we are scared to death of Him or we can refrain from sinning because we love Him. How can we not love someone who choose to die in our place even though He is the only one who ever lived without sin. It is impossible for me to understand that kind of love. I want that kind of love.

Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin? No one can say that but that is exactly what the love of Jesus Christ will bring to pass in our life.

Sufficiency

John 3:11-12

Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness. If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?

Jesus was speaking with Nicodemus in this passage of scripture. Nicodemus, whose name means conqueror, had come to Jesus by night because he had witnessed the miracles and works that Jesus had done. Nicodemus understood that Jesus was a teacher come from God because of the miracles Jesus had performed. However, Nicodemus’ understanding was still lacking when it came to the fact that Jesus is the only Begotten Son of God.

What Nicodemus saw happen wasn’t enough. He wanted to question Jesus about who Jesus was.

How often in our life have we taken the same position with Jesus? After all the difficult situations Jesus has brought us through in life, which has been nothing short of a miracle in mine, His Word should be enough for us.

He said in His Word, “I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” Yet we often look to money, a relationship with some human being or possessions as the thing we need to bring happiness and a sense of completeness into our world.

Jesus is enough. He loves us and died a death of crucifixion that we may spend eternity with Him. May God Almighty help us to embrace His sufficiency in this world.

Commit thy Works

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Proverbs 16:3

Commit thy works unto the LORD, and thy thoughts shall be established.

 

If I commit my works unto the LORD then the LORD will put the thoughts in my mind that will guide me to where He has planned for me to be.

To commit is to roll away or to roll onto another. 1 Peter 5:7 says, “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” It is like when the stone on Jesus’ tomb was rolled away. When we roll the thing holding us in the grave over on to the LORD, we can come out in resurrection power to do the Lord’s work of teaching all nations as the Great Commission requires of us.

The very thoughts of our mind will be established by the LORD. When we come to Jesus and empty ourselves of all judgments, opinions and bias, then the thoughts, imaginations and plots that come to us will be established and firmly fixed in Christ. As the LORD told Israel in Exodus 15:17, “Thou shalt bring them in, and plant them in the mountain of thine inheritance, in the place, O LORD, which thou hast made for thee to dwell in, in the Sanctuary, O Lord, which thy hands have established.”

Shortly after the LORD said that to Israel in Exodus 15:17, she found herself at Elim, in verse 27, where there were twelve wells of water and seventy palm trees standing tall and straight, firmly established, planted and fixed around those wells of water. This is a beautiful picture of how we can grow straight and tall towards heaven, regardless of the situation we find ourselves in, when we commit our works unto the LORD and firmly resolve to stand upon the truth that we are children of a God that loves us so much He sent His only Begotten Son to die a death of crucifixion on an old rugged cross.

What more do we have need of? Jesus, this day I commit my works unto Thee.

He That Hath an Ear

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Revelation 3:19-20

As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.

 

Each of the seven churches had their own particular set of issues and the Lord addressed each church in its individuality without comparing it to the other churches and yet there was one thing specifically that He said to all seven of the churches. “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches”.

The Lord never says something frivolously just to have something to say. If He says something you can believe that we will see that thing around the corner. For example He told Noah to build a boat and sure enough there came a flood.

Adam and his wife were instructed to dress and keep the garden and not to eat of the Tree of Knowledge and sure enough the serpent managed to find entrance into the Garden and lead them into eating from the Tree of Knowledge.

If the Lord is telling the churches, if you have ears you better use them and hear what the Spirit is saying, then it’s because the Church’s issue is in not hearing what the Spirit says to it.

It’s an awesome eternal privilege and joy unspeakable to be a part of God’s church but the thing we have to watch for, as the church, is the spiritual pride that sneaks in and stops the ear so that we can not hear what the Spirit is saying to the church. Psalm 58:4 says, “Their poison is like the poison of a serpent: they are like the deaf adder that stoppeth her ear;”.

Spiritual pride is a serpent that causes us to have ears that don’t hear what the Spirit says. Regardless of what church age or dispensation we are in personally in our walk with the Lord and regardless of the sign out in front our church home, the issue we Christians must watch for is spiritual pride. When we have experienced God’s love through the gift of His only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, we begin to unconsciously feel like we are something and then we begin to judge and unconsciously look down our nose at those who have not accepted Jesus Christ and at those in other churches.

Let us beware today. The Lord said to all seven churches. “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches”. The first sign that I am susceptible to spiritual pride and to missing what the Spirit of God is saying to me is that I am a part of the Body of Christ.

Jesus please open our ears this day to hear what the Spirit is saying to the church.

What is Love

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1 John 5:2-3

By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.

 

What is love really? Is it a feeling, an emotion? Love is very simply, “a choice.”

Love is a choice. That is why in Matthew the fifth chapter we are instructed to love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you. How am I going to do those things unless I just choose to. The feelings and emotions of my humanity is not going to want to bless when I am being cursed nor is it going to want to do good to those that hate me. Love is a choice and I can choose to love my enemies, I can choose to bless those that curse me, I can choose to do good to those that hate me and I can choose to pray for those who despitefully use me and persecute me. The feelings and emotions may not be there but I can choose to love.

1 John 4:8, “He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.” God is love therefore everything He gives birth to, begats or creates is love. How can anything but love come out of a being whose very essence is pure love? So when I choose to love my neighbor I am loving God because because the substance my neighbor is made of is the same substance I am made of, specifically God’s love.

When I love God and keep His commandments I will choose to love my neighbor as myself not because of all the great feelings and emotions of love but because we love God and therefore we choose to love His children.

Love is a choice. May Jesus teach us to love as He does.

Vanity

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Ecclesiastes 1:2-3

Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity. What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun?

 

In Verse 14 of the first chapter of the Book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon said, “I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit.” After becoming filled with wisdom and acquiring riches and ruling over others, Solomon’s conclusion was that it was all vanity and vexation of spirit or it was empty, troubling and annoying. By the end of the book Solomon’s conclusion is, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.” Ecclesiastes 12:13. Solomon concluded that both the wise and the foolish end in death so the best course of action is to fear God and keep His commandments.

Some would suppose that human beings are earthly creatures that have a spiritual experience when they accept Christ as the Lord of their life. I would suggest, however, that we are actually spiritual creatures having an earthly experience here in time. I may amass fame, riches and possessions but one day both the rich and the poor, both the wise and the foolish will bth come to the end of their earthly experience and return to the spiritual world on the other side. Death levels all things and all creatures. The only thing that is going to matter when I stand before the Creator and Judge of all things is, how I have treated others.

It is no wonder that Jesus said in Matthew 7:22-23, “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” I can wrap myself in clothes of seemingly good deeds and service but have I reverenced, respected, served and loved Christ and kept His commandments? Acquiring, serving, getting and appearances are all vanity and vexation of spirit. The only thing that is going to matter when I leave this earth and stand before God Almighty is my relationship with Him.

May Jesus have mercy on our souls and prepare us for that day!

Repentance

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Mark 6:12

And they went out, and preached that men should repent.

 

It was His disciples in this passage of scripture that went out and preached repentance. There were many who were affected by Jesus’ ministry and experienced healing, deliverance of one sort or another and being miraculously fed, but there was a group that Jesus sent out specifically to share with others and that was the disciples.

There is much talk and discussion in the Christian world today about discipleship and making disciples. What is the difference between a disciple and a normal Christian though? The difference is that a Christian experiences Jesus and is affected on a personal level by those experiences but continues on in their life. A disciple on the other hand shares those experiences with others and preaches repentance.

It is not just the Pastor’s job to preach repentance. It is also the job of disciples.

What is repentance? Repentance means to change one’s mind for better or at the most basic level it means to return to the starting point. For a moment think about the way you saw and experienced things as a child versus now as an adult. To return to the starting point or to repent is to go back to the way I saw and experienced Jesus when I first accepted Him as Lord of my life. Joy, dependence and constant communion! Preachers use repentance as a malicious club in the pulpit in order to scare people into acting right, in their opinion, but repentance is way more than that. Repentance is returning to that state of innocence, love and dependence on Jesus Christ.

A true disciple of Jesus Christ watches for the opportunity to share the wonder, love and joy of their repentance experience and how it changed the way they approach life with others.

Are you a disciple? Do you share the wonder, love, comfort, peace and joy with others that your experience of repentance has brought into your life? Jesus teach us to be true disciples.

Sons of God

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John 1:12-13

But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

 

We have power to become the sons of God. We can not be the Only Begotten Son of God, that is Jesus Christ who died on Calvary’s Cross for our sin but we do have power to become the sons of God.

So if we become the sons of God that means it is a transition from something that we already are into the sons of God. What we already are is a human being in a fallen state who is estranged from our Creator and the lover of our soul. To rectify the fallen state that we find ourselves in all we must do is accept Jesus Christ into our heart. When we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior we are translated from the kingdom of darkness into His marvelous light.

As we walk in His light this power to become a part of the sons of God is at our disposal. 1 John 1:7, “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” As we walk in the light we grow into the mature christian that the LORD intended for us to be because this power is at our disposal. Then instead of being a taker as an infant, toddler or child is, we grow into a mature Christian who is able to give to others as we have received. Matthew 10:8, “Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.”

Receiving Jesus Christ in to my heart as my Lord and Savior is the greatest thing that has ever happened to me. However that is only the beginning of a marvelous journey into a place where I am able to love my neighbor as myself.

“I will bless the LORD at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth.” Psalm 34:1.