Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Whole-Hearted Effort

Whole-Hearted Effort
“God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24).

To understand the concept of worship we must allow God’s love to develop a feeling of reverence for Him and His divine attributes. As humans, we tend to be more focused on the physical things in life. One example of this haphazard mindset is how we can be more concerned with getting to worship service than with what we offer to God in worship. We must always remember that God is Spirit and our efforts to please Him must be offered with a sincere heart that lives according to the Spirit’s guidance (Romans 8:13).

Paul reminds us to keep focus on our spiritual service: “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship” (Romans 12:1). We should be motivated to live in a sacrificial way, giving every effort to be transformed into the image of His Son. He is not only speaking of a physical but a spiritual sacrifice being offered by denying the physical desires of our flesh to serve our God without wavering. God has given us the opportunity to serve Him, but to do that we must stay focused on His life.

To accept God’s life of sacrifice, service and surrender, we must be willing to humble ourselves to His grace. The first recording of an offering to God in worship comes with the story of Cain and Abel. Abel’s offering reveals some spiritual treasures of true worship: “Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and for his offering” (Genesis 4:4). Notice how God deals with man concerning his worship. The Hebrew word used for “had regard” actually means “to look at.” God “looked at” the sincerity (or heart) of the worshiper before He noticed what was offered. God wants our hearts first and foremost.

Sometimes we can become morally blinded when it comes to our service to God. Paul wrote of the people outside of Christ and said they walk “in the futility of their mind” (Ephesians 4:17). These words display a sense of ignorance or darkness in those outside of Christ. But in verse 20, the contrast shows that those in Christ are different as they serve God through striving for a deeper relationship with Him. They are motivated by His love to learn how to achieve the most from this divine love. But desiring to serve God is not without opposition. Satan always tempts us to fall prey to his purpose by choosing to entertain his desires for us instead of sacrificing the flesh’s desire to please God.

When we come to worship God we must come with a devoted heart to His way, His truth, and His life. We cannot come with one foot in the worship service and one foot in the restaurant door. Our hearts and minds must be totally focused on the One who makes life available to the true worshiper. Our hearts should be filled with reverence as we remember the great work done through us and for us by the living Savior that died for us on that cross. And this sacrificial way of life goes beyond the worship assembly. Jesus said, “So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth” (Revelation 3:16). Let’s strive to give a whole-hearted effort to reveal the life that makes God proud by avoiding the temptation to live in a way that makes Him sick.

In His Love,

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Love's Affect

Love’s Affect
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

When this verse is truly understood, it becomes more than a definition of love; it becomes motivation to perform in love. It becomes a guideline for what it means to serve God and His creation. When God saw man’s spiritual needs, He came to us in love, willing to sacrifice what He held dear, for our spiritual benefit. This revelation opened the door to how we define love. He opened our hearts, minds and hands to a life guided by this divine authority of His love. In fact, He opened the door for us to be loved: “We love, because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

We do not have to get too technical in our discussion of this text to understand true love. Right out of the gate it is easy to see that true love motivates sacrificial giving. It is amazing how many will say they love God but are not willing to sacrifice anything, let alone everything, for His purpose. Oh, there are many that may “give” but it is a limited giving. Some give what they feel they can without any hardships but are not willing to make any sacrifice to see God pleased. Their heart may feel good about this way of giving but the heart is not a good guide for serving our God: “The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). God’s love does not count the cost of what is given to make our lives better.

The next observation we can make about love is that it provides a way to a better life. God delivered His grace through His loving Son to a world that had no clue of how to live in a way that is pleasing to Him (Titus 2:11-14). When God’s love is working in our hearts then we are changing what we believe. The church is structured in a divine way to produce divine results (Ephesians 4:10-16). Our definition of belief has been changed from a common knowledge of God to an intimate relationship with Him and a desire to accomplish what God’s love is working to produce within us. We are convinced, convicted and converted by the love God has bestowed on His creation. God’s love provides the sacrifice needed to wash away the effects of sin.

One more observation of love that can be extracted from this passage is that God’s love touches us eternally. God is a loving Creator that loves every soul. But, God loving us is not enough as we must receive His love to take full benefit of its power. When we believe in God’s love then we allow it to take control of our heads, hearts and hands. We surrender the person we once were for the “new creation” God is trying to produce in us. Paul reminds us that for love to accomplish this we must “die daily” (1 Corinthians 15:31). God did not send His love for mankind to remain in the lifestyle that kept them separated from enjoying the full benefit of receiving this love. He sent it to change who we are inside to reveal to us the deception of the evil one that persuades us to live according to the desires of our flesh. This life lived according to the flesh is slowly decaying because it is not protected by the grace that is wrapped in God’s love.

We do not have to be rocket scientists or brain surgeons to understand the truth of God’s love. But we must open our minds, hearts and hands to intimately know the Son and the eternal life that His love is working to produce in us. If we are to become wise, we must first open our lives to the love of God that will give us the power to live in a way that He will find acceptable.

In His Love,

Monday, April 18, 2011

Submission Power

Submission Power
“For not knowing about God's righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God” (Romans 10:3).

What made Jesus so successful in life is the same quality that can make leaders in our times successful. It is the power of knowing how to be submissive to God: “The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works” (John 14:10). A good leader is always a good follower. Jesus remained in His Father’s love by staying focused on the goal of His Father’s will (John 15:10). The church can only be successful by avoiding stumbling blocks and being good followers of the devotion of Jesus to God’s successful plan.

When Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus, he wrote through the inspiration of God’s Spirit. This relates to us an idea of submission. There was a purpose for the words that were written. God wants us to utilize the power of knowing His truth in all situations of our lives. In the fifth chapter of Ephesians, Paul’s inspired words give us direction on how to be led according to the Spirit so as to be led to the success of a faithful life. We can learn a great lesson for life from his devotion to accomplishing the desire of His Lord through his willingness to be utilized for the glory that can only be revealed in truth. Being submissive is making ourselves available to God.

God can only work His good in the hearts of the submissive. His will is to change our hearts about the ideas we once held as valuable in the flesh by subjecting ourselves to the power of His Spirit: “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God” (Romans 8:14). He desires obedience to His will so that His success can be made known through us. But there are some in this world who will remain limited by the power of their own flesh and will not subject their lives to His power which will cause them to remain in Satan’s hands. When we open our hearts, minds and hands to the Lord’s power then we allow the world to see the beauty of His handiwork and the church will remain a shining light in a world darkened by doubt and fear.

Paul’s words in Ephesians chapter 5 also show us that being subject to God leads us to the purity of sanctification, “so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word” (v.26). God has called us through His gospel for the purpose of receiving His glory (2 Thessalonians 2:14). When we become submissive to His authority of salvation, the blood that dripped down from the cross where Jesus’ sacrifice was offered cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7). Subjecting our lives to the power of His blood sets us apart from a world that does not know the purity of God’s sanctification. Responding to God’s love in love is living for His purpose (Romans 12:2), no longer allowing our decisions and actions to be made according to the impurity of flesh, but now living sacrificially to prove God’s will as the only pure life.

Later in the same chapter in Ephesians, Paul reveals that submission to the Lord is not something we can do without the help of the Holy Spirit, “for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church” (v.29). When Jesus was led into the wilderness, He was led by God’s Spirit and His success came from the strength provided by the word of God. God calls us to a holiness that can only be attained through submission to His Spirit and His promise is to not only to call and lead us to holiness, but also to sustain us in our walk in His holiness. Submit to God and walk in the power of His resurrection.

In Him,

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Good Fight

The Good Fight
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).

The world is demanding action to bring the downfall, death or departure for the Khadafi regime. The world can see the damage of the immoral mind of this leader and can attest to the destruction of the physical bodies that his arms of wrath can reach. His uncompassionate heart leaves a wake of death behind him and his ruthless aggression continues to wreak havoc on this earth.

But, on the spiritual side of life, there is another evil force wreaking even more havoc on our fellow man. And just as the world leaders see this battle to end Khadafi’s regime as a good fight worthy of intervention, Christians see the battle against this evil ruler worthy of their participation. Christians understand that they have been enlisted in the army of God that has been commissioned to fight against the forces that try to infiltrate hearts and minds with deceitful doctrines set out to separate them from the source of life. This army is in a continuous battle to set man free from the result of serving the source of death, who is none other than Satan himself.

When Paul wrote to a young struggling preacher to encourage him in his efforts, notice how he addressed him: “Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 4:3). When Jesus was called into service to fight against the evil forces, He was called into a strategy of success, a strategy not without cost. Jesus was called to serve a system of self-denial, suffering and sacrifice, a strategy that seemed to play right into the hands of the enemy until Jesus was resurrected and ascended into heaven to sit at the Father’s right hand. See, death was thought to be victory for the other side, but God’s love conquered that evil power and now has revealed the victory that is in faith: “But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, ‘Death is swallowed up’ in victory” (1 Corinthians 15:54). Dear friends, the victory in faith comes when we die to the powers of Satan that once held us captive to his deceitful scheme of destruction.

We must fight the flesh to keep our souls in the hands of the Creator. Satan’s attack on the souls of God’s creation is just as despicable as Khadafi’s attack is on his own people. But we have an undefeatable defense system called faith: “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world--our faith” (1 John 4:4). God has given us a strategy that has already proved to be victorious. If we are smart people then we can easily see the choice to surrender to His plan is the way to be victorious: “[B]ut thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57). Many false teachers will come into your camp with another strategy and, to the soldier of Christ, he is an enemy, a soldier fighting against our faith: “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!” (Galatians 1:8).

The enemy’s weapons of mass destruction are lies used deceive the flesh to cause divisions within the Lord’s troops (1 Corinthians 1:10). But hope that “does not disappoint” (Romans 5:5) will keep the Lord’s army intact and among the fighting elite because of their uncompromising faith in their Commander. They have set their minds on things above (Colossians 3:2) and will not be persuaded to fall from the ranks of the victorious army of God. Don’t lose heart and keep fighting the good fight of faith. Avoid the snares set by Satan’s deceitful ways to receive victory.

In His Love,