Isolation

This is another MD Anderson scene that brought a spiritual truth to my mind. 

Isolation. 

One of Satan’s favorite schemes. Take the coal out of the fire and put it to the side by itself and what happens? It goes out. No fire. The same is true of the Christian. Take him/her out of church and isolate them from other believers and their spiritual zeal will diminish or go out entirely. He that wanders from the sheep fold becomes easy prey.

 The church is the Body of Christ and Jesus is the Head. He instituted the local church as a place for His children to be taught truth and be built up spiritually to carry on His work in the earth until He returns.  Through the writer of the Book of Hebrews, the Lord says:

[25] not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.

One of the many benefits of obeying this command and assembling together in church, is the encouragement we give and receive from one another.  We need courage to face our daily battles and challenges that we might not feel isolated and slip into fear.

He also warned that there would be tares, false Christians, in the visible church. Not all church goers that claim the Name of Jesus are born again believers.  There are also Christians who are walking in the flesh (controlled by indwelling sinful nature). Satan uses both, to say things or do things in congregations that ultimately hurt or injure hearts of others and make them never darken the doors of church again.  If you currently are, or have been a member of a church, you may possibly be able to identify with this.  

There are those, through no fault of their own, who are unable to attend church due to jobs, illness or disabilities.  In those cases the church can reach out to them and bridge the gap with visits, internet, prayer and other means.

Let it suffice to say, DON’T ALLOW YOURSELF TO BE ISOLATED FROM THE BODY OF CHRIST.  If you know someone who is isolated,  reach out to them and encourage them to get back into a church where there is fellowship in the Lord, the Word of God is preached and people are encouraged to read the Bible themselves.  If you know an isolated shut-in maybe the Lord is showing you a place to pour out the grace He has bestowed on you.

Thank you for your time.

Let’s Pay Close Attention To Ourselves.

Carl

Good Advice

While recently at MD Anderson in Houston I noticed that the signage in some departments held a message applicable to Christians.  This one was in a patient’s room and the normal meaning is obvious.  The spiritual message is:

Call (for the Helper), Don’t Fall (into Satan’s snare). Stay safe (in the Grace of God). Call for help (when under attack).

The Lord Jesus, after He went into Heaven, sent the mighty Spirit of God to be the believer’s Helper, Comforter, Teacher and Sanctifier.  Each born-again believer is sealed in Christ Jesus with the Holy Spirit of promise (Ephesians 1:13).  Jesus knew we would need a Helper.  Sometimes The Helper in us is all we need to overcome sin and the devil.  At other times we may need the prayer, advice or encouragement from the Helper in a brother or sister in-Christ.  Avail yourself of the Holy Spirit’s assistance if you need it.

Remember:  Call. Don’t Fall. Stay Safe. Call for help.

But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper shall not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.”  Jesus (John 16:7)

And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent, rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.  And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit…”. (Acts 2:2-4)

….but be filled with the Spirit…” (Ephesians 5:18)

May it be so for all of us!

Carl

Soul Purification: Hypocrisy vs True Love 

“Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls…”  (I Peter 1:22 NASB)

“….just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her; that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she should be holy and blameless.” (Ephesians 5: 25-27 NASB)

The second verse talks about the church in all her glory, “having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing”.  A “spot” or “wrinkle” used metaphorically in scripture means a moral blemish.  The church Jesus is coming back for will have  no moral blemish; i.e. the sinful nature of these people will not have dominion over them; therefore, they are NOT habitually walking in sin.  We will have more to say about spots, wrinkles, stains, etc. in a later post.

Today’s “spot” or moral blemish is hypocrisy. 

In the book of I Peter, Peter is addressing this habitual sin in the believers.  There were two reasons for it.  First, from Peter’s letter it is intimated that some in the church had returned to their old associates who they loved and therefore they did not love their fellow believers but they acted like they did. Secondly, in the early church you had a membership made up of everyone from slaves to the very rich. As you can imagine it was an odd social/economic/status mix of people and nationalities. People who did not have a lot in common except for the Lord Jesus and did not socially mix.  Maybe like the church you go to now.  In both cases, the church members where faking their brotherly love for each other; therefore, being hypocrites.  The word was used of an actor on Greek stage; someone speaking from “under a screen or mask”, concealing his real identity.  When used in the New Testament it refers to “one who assumes the mannerisms, speech, and character of someone else, thus hiding his true identity” (Wuest).  They did not really love one another so they put on a fake face and mannerisms and acted like they did. 

But when the Lord looked at them He saw a spiritual garment with a “spot” or moral blemish on it and the “spot” was hypocrisy.

In I Peter 1:22 Peter is noting that they had repented of this sin and, as a result of their change in behavior, he says they had purified their souls from this sin by obeying the the word (“obedience to the truth”) and truly showing “brotherly love” for one another. “Brotherly love” here is the Greek word phile which is “a love called out of one’s heart by the pleasure one takes in the person loved”. “It is an affection or fondness, a purely HUMAN attachment for another, and perfectly legitimate”. (Wuest) 

 In the second half of verse 22, God through Peter exhorts His children to go even further than brotherly love and to “fervently love one another from the heart,…” The word for love here is agape.  Agape is different from phile in that it means ” an reciprocal love that springs from your hearts because of the estimation of the preciousness of the brethren, and which is DIVINELY sacrificial in its essence”.  It is the love of John 3:16.  And note that God thru Peter says “from the heart” or from the true “you”. No hypocrisy.  In our true inner man, the real us, we love our fellow Christian with agape love. We agape our Christian brother not only because we take pleasure in him (phile), but because he is precious to God and, therefore, we love him with a love that is willing to sacrifice one’s self for the benefit of the brother.  A blend of the phile and agape.

You see the same progression from brother love to agape love in II Peter 1:5-7 and is a natural progression in the Christian life.

If it stays brotherly love only it could degenerate into an attachment to another that becomes very selfish and smothering. If the two loves are blended it becomes a heavenly love that blesses both parties and the body of Christ. And pleases Jesus Christ. 

The Expanded Translation says:

“Wherefore, having purified your souls by means of your obedience to the truth, resulting in not an assumed but a genuine affection and fondness for the brethren, an affection and fondness that springs from the hearts by reason of the pleasure you take in them; from your heart love each other with an intense reciprocal love that springs from your hearts because of your estimation of the preciousness of the brethren, and which is divinely self-sacrificial in its essence,…”

In closing, I confess that I had to repent of hypocrisy.  After studying this, I was convicted that I was like these Christians Peter was writing to. Not showing true phile love and, surely not showing agape love for all my brethren.  A few, yes; all, no. And from what I have seen in the visible church since I was a child, this message is sorely needed for the church.   May the Lord show you what is truly in your heart. 

The question becomes how to have such heavenly love for one another.  I quote Wuest: 

“The answer is simple. This love is produced in the heart of the saint who is definitely subjected to the control of the Holy Spirit. This love is one of His fruits (Gal. 5:22). Thus God exhorts the saints to love one another with a divine love, and then produces that love in their hearts as they trust Him to do that for them and by the action of their free will choose to be loving and exert themselves to act in a loving way towards their brethren.”

This truth about hypocrisy and true love is a crucial piece of our growth as Christians AND practicing apape love brings assurance of our salvation.  II Peter 1: 8-10 says:

“For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance in to the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you. ” [emphasis mine]

The qualities referred to here are in II Peter 1: 5-7:

“Now for this very reason” (becoming partakers of the divine nature, verse 4) “also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge; and in your knowledge, self control, and in your self-control, perseverance; and in your perseverance, godliness; and in your godliness, brotherly kindness” (phile) “and in your brotherly kindness, love”  (agape). [emphasis and inserts mine]

All of these qualities lead us to agape love in the progression of our Christian growth.  Hypocrisy is an anomaly (sin) and has no place in our growth to more Christ likeness. 

If this applies to you, like it did me, repent and begin to practice agape love and wash your soul with the pure water of obedience and remove this “spot” from your garment.
“…and may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all men,…”…so that He may establish your hearts unblamable in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints.” (I Thessalonians 3:12-13)

Carl

Source of True Happiness 

While visiting with relatives, I read Greg Laurie’s new book Steve McQueen: Salvation of an American Icon. Book is about the famous actor’s life and how he came to salvation in Jesus Christ prior to being diagnosed with a terminal disease.

The following C. S. Lewis quote was shared in the book:

“God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other. That is why it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way without bothering about religion. God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there.”

May you find your “happy” and peace today as you fellowship with the Father and the Lord Jesus through the Holy Spirit!

Carl

P.S. If your old enough to remember Steve McQueen, I recommend the book. 

“…Fragrance of Christ…”

“But thanks be to God, who always leads us in His triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life.” (II Corinthians 2: 14-16)

Our last post was about bringing our salvation to its ultimate conclusion which is for us to become more Christ like in our earthly life.  And how this Christ likeness needs to affect our family, friends, and others. 

 The verse says a born again person is the fragrance of Christ among both the people “who are perishing” (a lost person)  and “those who are being saved” (born again person).  This “sweet aroma” is sensed by both classes as we interact with them in our daily lives. Those who are perishing are described by the Holy Spirit as ‘dead” in the sense of “dead in your trespasses and sins”. Their human spirit is dead and that is one reason they need to be born again.  Ephesians 2:1-3 describes people in this state and includes us prior to coming to Christ. 

Following is a note my wife had written in the page border to accompany this scripture.  May it bless and encourage you:

“I am not just the bearer of the aroma or incense but I am the incense myself. I am the means by which the effect is registered on both classes if the knowledge of Christ is going forth thru my life. I must move amongst men , in Christ (walking in the experiential knowledge of the truth) having learned the truth of the knowledge of Him thru various trials, tests, fires and experiences and thereby becoming a living expression of it.  A ministration of Christ comes as a result.”

May you leave the aroma of Christ where ever you go today and every day.  May God’s children be encouraged by interacting with you and may those that are perishing see something that is missing in their lives.

Carl

“…Constantly…”

“Wherefore, my beloved ones, as you always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, carry to its ultimate conclusion [likeness to the Lord Jesus] your own salvation with a wholesome, serious caution and trembling, for God is the One who is constantly putting forth His energy in you, both in the form of your being desirous of and of your doing His good pleasure.”  (Paul writing to the Philippians in 2:13)

Amazing! Today. All day today.  Everyday. God is CONSTANTLY releasing  His energy into our lives — in our decisions, in our battles, in our relationships, in our work, in our ministry, in our idle time, in our busy time, in our trial, in our victory, in our suffering, in our joy, in our sickness, in our vigor, in everything — for the purpose of bringing OUR salvation to it’s ultimate conclusion:  more likeness to the Lord Jesus….NOW, not when we get to heaven, NOW, while we live on earth, NOW, while we can still make an eternal difference in our family, our friend’s lives, and lives of others. NOW, before I die and I am ashamed to stand before Him at the Judgement Seat of Christ. 

What an awesome God we serve. What provisions He has made for His children. How He is committed to His Purpose for you and me!

Enjoy walking with God today!

“Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless, ….” (II Peter 2:14)

Carl

Two Things God Cannot Do

There is a place on our property where two wet weather creeks merge. From a vantage point you can view the water moccasins hunting prey. Once, I watched one tightly coiled up adjacent to where the water rippled over some debris and fell into the main channel. The snake laid in ambush for some poor victim, just as that ancient serpent Satan does today.

 Apostle Paul told us Satan walks around as a roaring lion seeking someone to devour in Ephesians 5:8. Paul also wrote the Corinthians (II Corinthians 2:11) about the schemes of the devil:

“But whom you forgive anything, I forgive also; for indeed what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, I did it for your sakes in the presence of Christ, in order that no advantage be take of us by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his schemes.”

In the spirit of Paul’s statement about not being ignorant of Satan’s scheme, I want to share two things God can not do.

In Romans 8: 33 Paul wrote concerning the blessedness of the “chosen out ones”:

“Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies.”

The first thing God can not do is He can not ACCUSE you and JUSTIFY you at the same time.

In Romans 8:34 Paul continued:

“Who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.”

The second thing God (Christ) can not do is He can not CONDEMN us while He is always MAKING INTERCESSION for us.

Even God cannot do these two things: accuse while justifying and condemn while always making intercession for us. KNOWING THIS HELPS US DISCERN THE ATTACKS OF SATAN.

We know the human mind is a spiritual battlefield and is one portal through which Satan attacks us. Not all of our thoughts originate with us. That is why Apostle Paul said “…and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (II Corinthians 10:5)

In 2 Corinthians 11: 3 Paul says to the believers in Corinth the following about Satan’s schemes:

“But I am afraid lest as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds should be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.” (NASB)

And how did the serpent spring his craftiness upon these believers MINDS? By using words and thoughts from the serpent and his servants. In the very next verse Paul says this:

“For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully.” (NASB)

There is a tremendous amount of Truth that could be shared on the subject of spiritual warfare. But let it be sufficient for this post, to say that we need to be aware that accusing and condemning thoughts are not from God The Father or the Lord Jesus Christ, nor are thoughts that are contrary to what the Word of God (The Bible) teaches. If we read and study the Word of God (The Bible), we will begin to understand what the Lord Jesus would say and do and the same for God the Father. Then, when we have thoughts or reasoning that is questionable, we have a backdrop to hold it up against and evaluate if it is from the Holy Spirit, ourself or Satan. Doing this, we will not be deceived by another Jesus, another spirit, nor will we be deceived by a different gospel.

The Lord Jesus tells us in Revelation 3:19 how he deals with us:

“As for myself, as many as I am fond of, I reprove so as to bring out conviction and confession, and I discipline, correct, and guide.” (Wuest)

Reprove means “to criticize or correct (someone) usually in a gentle way.

Conviction means “the state of being convinced of error or compelled to admit the truth.

Confession means in this context “to confess our sins”.

He corrects us to convict us of our sin so we will agree with Him, that it is sin and repent of it so our fellowship with Him and The Father can be restored and we increase in personal holiness. The Lord goes on to say that He will “discipline, correct, and guide.” Hear what the Holy Spirit says in Hebrews 12:7-11 (Wuest Expanded Translation):

“And you have completely forgotten the exhortation which is of such a nature as to speak to you as to sons,…..stop making light of the Lord’s discipline, correction, and guidance. Stop fainting when you are being effectually rebuked by Him. For the one who the Lord loves, He disciplines, corrects, and guides, and He scourges every son whom He receives and cherishes. It is for the purpose of discipline, correction, and guidance that you are enduring. As those who by nature are sons is God dealing with you. For what son is there whom the Father does not discipline, correct, and guide? But if you are without discipline, correction, and guidance, of which all [sons] have been made partakers, it follows therefore that you are bastards and not sons.”    
“Furthermore, we have been having indeed fathers of our flesh as those who disciplined, corrected, and guided us, and we have been in the habit of giving them reverence. Shall we not much rather put ourselves in subject to the Father of spirits and live? For on the one hand, they disciplined, corrected, and guided us for a few days upon the basis of that which seemed good to them, but He disciplines, corrects, and guides us for our profit, to the end that we might partake of His holiness. In fact, all discipline, correction, and guidance for the time being does not seem to be joyous but grievous; yet afterward it yields a return of peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been exercised by it.”
In conclusion, Satan is the one who accuses us and condemn us and not God the Father or Lord Jesus. The Father has justified us in Lord Jesus at a great cost and He, Lord Jesus, is interceding for us before the throne of God. Satan wants to bring us to depression, hopelessness and defeat, believing we are forsaken by God. Whereas, God wants us in fellowship with Him walking in the light and growing in personal holiness, forsaking sin. He reproves and disciplines because we are His children and He loves us. Bless His Wonderful Name. If God is for us, who can be against us?

Let Us Pay Close Attention to Ourselves for the Purpose of Holiness,

Carl