When you read the Old Testament, there are many rules about “cleansing” yourself before you pray, or eat or enter the Temple. There were rules about clothing, eating, methods of worship, and even buying and selling. Rules, rules, rules. Why in the world so many rules?
Stop and think now. All those people who lived before Jesus had no access to God. No one was clean, no one was righteous, no, not one. Only through an annually absolved priest could the people have any access to God. And only through obedience to His law could they stay His wrath.
What a huge difference in the New Testament. Those who lived by the “new and living way” through Jesus were “clean” in God’s sight. By Jesus taking the “capital punishment” for your crimes against God, you were made clean and acceptable in His sight. Wow!! No more priests, no more sacrifices, no more Temple nor ablutions needed. Just come as you are and He takes it from there. Don’t get me wrong now—you come as you are, but in Jesus, you don’t stay as you are.
A picture is worth a thousand words and the one I think that describes this now possible access to God the best is the one of young John Kennedy, Jr. (John-John) in the oval office. President John F. Kennedy is at his big, stately desk discussing the world’s weightiest matters of the Cold War with some of the most notable men in the world…and peeking out from under Kennedy’s desk is his young two-year-old son, John-John. The loving relationship of father to the son allowed that young, untrained, uninformed waif access to the most powerful man in the world!
And in the same way, you and I have that same kind of access to the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. No more rules to keep control of only the external behavior or provide a semblance of vicarious cleanliness. Through Jesus Christ, you now have access to the Sovereign God of all creation. The indwelling of God’s Spirit now allows you to be the “Temple of God”, housing the holy nature of God. The only thing you need to do is allow the Spirit of God to come forth in all you do, instead of letting the broken Adam nature rule. You don’t need the Law anymore—just the love of Christ ruling you. In that way, you will obey all the directions of God and not sin.
I thank God He has made the way and that heaven’s gate does not have a big “no jerks allowed” sign on it. We all have access now through Jesus. Thank You Lord. Endure the fire…it’s producing pure gold!
You may ask, “How are we ever to know the truth? Just read a book on nutrition or childcare or marriage and book after book will detail what to do to help in a specific area, but how are we to know which one is true? And, more seriously, how are we to know what is written about God is true?"
Go to God. Even in gleaning information about the world around us, God will lead us and guide us. He will not lead you to something He did not author or authorize. Too many are seeking the truth based on culture, religion, opinion, and feelings. All of those areas are broken. We are born in sin and all have fallen short of the glory of God (oh, how we hate to hear that!). Too many seek God with their brains, but those brains are “broken”, too. We try to “figure God out” with something that cannot know Him.
Try Psalms or Proverbs for starters. They really proclaim who God is, what and how He thinks and so much else to explain and soothe our hungry souls.
Psalm 119:103-104, “How sweet are Your words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth. From Your precepts I get understanding; there I hate every false way.”
Wow! Do those words stir your heart? Do you know them to be true? The gospel, the good news about God, salvation and rescue through Jesus and the new and living way taught and lived by Jesus are foolishness to those who are perishing. Are you perishing? Have you given your heart and life to Christ? Or are you just going through the motions? Many are going to church but not many are going to heaven. Where will you go when you die? Best know the truth now, because when you die and meet God face to face, that is one heck of a time to find out you were wrong!
Trust God to get through to you. You will hear Him, not because you are such a good hearer, but because He is such a good speaker! Go ahead now, have that little talk with Jesus. Endure the fire…it’s producing pure gold!
“You are members of God’s very own family, citizens of God’s country, and you belong in God’s household with every other Christian.” (Ephesians 2:19)
People have frequently told me that their relationship with God is “private”. They live their lives, hiding in their little religious closets, encumbered by their own opinions of God and their interpretations of what God means to them.
How awful to consider God “private”. Our relationship with God certainly is personal, but was never intended to be private. We need to be lively stones, vibrantly involved with others in God’s family. In addition to personal and intimate time alone with God, we need to be studying His word together, worshipping Him together, praying together, and fellowshipping together. We should be bursting at the seams with spiritual growth together…not in isolation.
I urge you; don’t hide your gifts, talents, love and knowledge of God in your “private” relationship with Him. Rather, grow in your personal relationship with Christ Jesus, that you might live it and give it freely to others. Joyfully tell others of how good God is, what He has done in your life, how He has changed you for the better.
Go to your pastor and tell him or her what you are willing to do for your fellow believers in your church family and those in the community. Go to your church prayer meetings, seek out how to be involved on your church committees and planning boards, seek God for unique ways to serve those around you. Come out of your “private” relationship into His marvelous light of open service for the body of Christ and His kingdom.
Do you love your church and serve the people faithfully, or do you just attend a service or two? Don’t just labor about church…love it. Endure the fire…it’s producing pure gold!
The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing! What is your “main thing”? Hopefully it is to serve God with all your heart, mind, soul and all that is within you. Or do you find yourself looking for a little “applause” from those in your piece of the world?
It is often difficult to live this life rightly before the Lord. Many mundane tasks fill our lives. Hardworking dads feel unappreciated; hardworking moms (if blessed enough to be at home) feel isolated and alone with the little ones (is there any adult conversation out there?); hardworking college students try and balance all the classes with the growing pains; workers dread going to work; pastors just can’t bear hearing of another problem—on and on goes the list. No one is applauding and no one is encouraging you. Heavy hearts, drudgery—yuk! I don’t see anywhere that God says it’s supposed to be like that. But what can we do?
Glad you asked! One thing we must do is always realize Whom we are serving. It is often really difficult to please those around us. So many conditions, so many expectations, so many opinions! But God is well pleased with His children. He just wants us to obey Him. He is excited and happy when we obey. He is glad when we offer up our work to Him or in His honor. He is often applauding us when others are scoffing or complaining. Don’t ever forget that visual in the midst of your mess.
Think on this—it is God we serve, not ourselves. Don’t serve for the praise of others, do it to please God. He is a rapt audience, and loves His children to live all of the hours of their days in awareness that He is there and He is watching. If He is pleased with you, it makes no difference who is booing in the audience! Focus on the applause of the Lord and your whole viewpoint and response will change. Endure the fire…it’s producing pure gold!
Ever notice how things appear in a dimly lit room? Soft lights mitigate some of the stark realities like the stains on the carpet and the chips and cracks on the furniture. Even imperfections on your clothing like small rips and tears or the drop of coffee or gravy that made its way to the front of your shirt. Yup, being in the dark cloaks the realization of the imperfections, so much so, you have the false notion that they are not there. But the darkness cannot cover the truth, it only covers the reality…the imperfection is there, it does exist, but you are blinded to it.
Well, you can’t see any imperfections, at least not until the light is turned on. In a bright light, all imperfections are seen for what they are. It’s like that in the Lord. In John 8:12 Jesus said, “Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” I want that, I hope you do, too. Without it, we can be so grievously deceived.
In my first book, “The Climb” (still available on Amazon, along with the second one, “DMR-5, The Next Generation”), I use an illustration of the danger of being in the dark. If you were in a darkened room, you could reach down to the floor to pick up what you thought was a rope, but in reality is a snake that will bite you. Or you may cuddle up to what you think is a little kitten but is really a rat that will eat your heart out.
So, only in a bright light can you detect the dangers as they really are. And so it is spiritually. Only in the light of God’s truth can you see the actual moral and social issues, thus knowing what to put your hand to and what to avoid.
Satan and his minions live in the darkness and are eager to assure you join them there. But remember, it is only dark when you back away from the source of light. The closer you are to Jesus, the less you will be deceived. Endure the fire…it’s producing pure gold!
Live for God, not for others and you’ll be a lot more content. Ever notice you can hardly please people sometimes. Not so with God—you can always please Him—just obey Him!
Competition, getting ahead, keeping up with the Joneses—whew—it’s exhausting. You don’t have to do that. You can come to God just as you are. He has no false, pre-conceived ideas of you and no expectations. He knows you were born spiritually handicapped and is not angry when you then stumble as you try to walk on His road to eternity.
Focusing on pleasing God takes time and discipline. But as you practice letting God be the “motor” that runs the machine of your life, then you can start focusing on being interested in what pleases Him.
That doesn’t mean you live in a cave away from people to be that focused on Him. Quite the opposite! Two things start happening—your life changes so that other people’s opinions don’t influence you over God’s opinions, and, second, that change in you, for the good, will start to attract others to the lifestyle of Jesus that you are emulating.
So getting closer to Jesus doesn’t mean you’ll get further away from people. It just means you’ll be more like Him as you walk among them. Endure the fire…it’s producing pure gold!
We’ve talked about sitting in quiet time with Jesus. But what do you do once you get there? I struggle many times to assure I spend that precious time with the Lord at the start of each day. But once I’m there, it seems my “gotta be doing something” button gets pushed!
When you have a nice conversation with your spouse or friend, or co-worker, do you have to do anything? No, of course not. You just banter and talk; you discuss and opine and they do the same in return. Sometimes a memory is shared, a problem solved or a plan defined. Often the conversation is peppered with humor or loving comments. Sometimes, even a bit of disagreement or misunderstanding. But overall, the conversation and the time shared are pleasant and fulfilling.
So why don’t you just do the same with Jesus? It took me awhile, but once I realized that Jesus and I could “visit” each other, I really started to cherish our time together. We laugh, go over good times and bad, discuss plans and dreams. It is really the best part of my day. I can trust Him to not make fun of my questions or be angry with my mistakes. I can cry with Him in my sad times and, I’m ashamed to admit, have yelled at Him and blamed Him for not doing something I dearly wanted Him to do.
All along though, He comforts me and doesn’t interrupt or correct me at that moment. He lets me get it all out because He knows my heart really belongs to Him. He knows I’ll quickly settle down as I feel His mercy and compassion start to cover my soul in its broken and hurting condition. He also knows I will eventually obey Him in all His directions.
Conversation with Jesus is a no brainer! It’s ours for the taking. I still am in awe that I can actually sit with the King of Kings and Lord of Lords each and every day. Little ol’ me and big ol’ Jesus having coffee together.
He influences me to change for the better. He gently guides me away from thoughts and habits that slow my spiritual progress and personal success. He’s helped me develop a viewpoint on life seen through His eyes. Whether it is money, relationships, health issues or the injustices and pain that still fill our world. No matter what the issue or circumstance, our time together has caused a change in me, that He never forced...it was always a gentle leading. It’s sort of like the old saying that you become what you hang around.
The changes for good that you do desire cannot be accomplished by yourself—it requires the Friend of Friends—Jesus. Go ahead, meet up with Him, He’s dying to meet you and you don’t need to go through a secretary or any middleman. You can have a “face to face” anytime. Make that appointment today—you won’t regret it. Endure the fire…it’s producing pure gold!
How can we accomplish all that God requires of us? The rich helping the poor, not with handouts but with help to become self-sustaining. Forgiveness for those who have rejected us, ripped us off or caused great pain and loss. Continued generosity in the face of diminished income, etc. How can we do these things?
It boils down to dying to self. Oh, Yuk! We hate that directive! And the only way to do all that God requires is have Him and His power and perfection come through you more often than you come through you. And the only way that can happen is to tuck away more with Jesus.
Ah, but that world around us is very demanding. A sense of busyness and “more is better” pervades our thinking and our habits. We have become a world full of “Martha’s” and not enough “Mary’s”! We must improve at putting time with the Lord on the front burner and not the back one. Time alone with Jesus will refresh and invigorate you. It will bring joy, rest and revelation. It will fill you for the tasks ahead.
Don’t delay – spend quiet time with Jesus and away from our noisy world. In that intimate, focused time you will hear His still, small voice and fall in love with Him all over again and again. Love for Him always manifests in love for others and the accomplishment of His will. Endure the fire…it’s producing pure gold!
Did you ever notice the upside down world of God? Well, Jesus turned the world upside down as He taught God’s truths of a changed life by God’s Spirit. The life’s principles He taught were certainly considered backwards, at least it seemed, to good ol’ human logic.
The world back then (and sadly still now) admired and looked up to the rich, beautiful and famous people who were fattened with success. But, if you notice, Jesus didn’t “hang” with those types. He served and ministered to the poor and the persecuted…the ones the pagan world left in the dust. I’m not indicating here that the rich should be shunned; I’m just saying that Jesus’ principle was to help those who were in need. It is the physical word picture of the spiritual condition…He came to save those in spiritual need…lost in sin, which was the resultant human condition after Adam’s disobedience.
God’s grace doesn’t leave anyone behind…rich or poor; it changed all that and it should change us. In the beginning of the Christian world, it did. The first few centuries of the early church mirrored Jesus’ example and they ministered to those in prison, paying their debts to release them. They fed the poor, clothed the naked and tended to the sick. Back then, there weren’t any fancy hospitals and the sick and infirm were often just lying around on the streets. The early Christians would actually take them into their homes or pay someone to tend to their needs. This all worked really well until good old Constantine’s edict. In a well-meaning but misguided move, he “mandated” Christianity as the official religion of his empire. Hm-it’s been downhill ever since!
It seems to me that a lot of the “church” has left the poor to be taken care of by government social programs and civic organizations. All the while, many mega-churches, even though surrounded by areas dealing with poverty, addictions, broken families, low employment and educational opportunities, sit basking in wealth and political power. Oh, they may throw some money at the issues, but never dirty their hands with the actual people and their miserable lives.
I am not holding up our church in any self-adulation, but I consider us blessed to humbly serve the disenfranchised that God often brings our way. It is sad that some of our attenders couldn’t even get in the door of larger churches based on their odd demeanor or dress, and the odors that emanate from them. If we all serve Jesus and are supposed to emulate His ways and have His grace flow through us…then how has this happened?
Jesus was surrounded by sinners and the disenfranchised, while the rich intellectuals and “religious” leaders stood at a distance trying to discredit Him. Some were even plotting His death.
What kind of a Christian are you? A wealthy by-stander paying peons to do the “dirty work” of serving the less fortunate? Or a radical like Jesus who let the Father’s love and grace pour forth from Him to those who were genuinely shocked but grateful for His care when no one else would.
Are you too holy to get your hands soiled? Don’t be like what may be around you. Shake off the shackles of legalism and let God’s love take its place. Doing it Jesus’ way there would be no “welfare state”. There would be hard working people providing for their own families and there would be loving people helping the unfortunate who couldn’t work. The reprimand would go to those who could work but won’t. Sounds like that elusive Utopia we all seek, but possible only in Christ. It’s a long, hard journey. Keep going! Endure the fire…it’s producing pure gold!
2 Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for you…” Boy, you hate to hear that sometimes, don’t you? Do you find yourself saying, “Hey God, I want a miracle? I want You to remove, resolve, and rescind all my problems, challenges and tribulations. This is just too hard!”
Well, Sherlock, if you haven’t noticed, this is not heaven down here! The world, the flesh and the devil are active and alive, at least for a while longer. Pain, death, confusion, hardship—these are the realities of the seasons of our lives. But what God has said is true—His grace is sufficient for you. Grace doesn’t mean you won’t have trials, it just means that how you get through them is totally changed…for the better!
I don’t want to leave it at that either. You have to look at the last part of that verse where God says, “…for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Not meaning He wants you weak, He’s just saying when you are so overwhelmed with the situation that there is nothing you can do, it also means you are too weak to interfere and God has full control.
Paul was shouting to the world that he would gladly boast that he was weak so Christ’s power would fully manifest. So, keep humming that tune, “when I am weak, You are strong”…it’s really the best situation in which to be. Endure the fire…it’s producing pure gold!