Why Standing Stones?

Why Standing Stones?

In ancient Israel, people stood stones on their end to commemorate a powerful move of God in their lives. It was a memorial to something God spoke or revealed or did. Often these standing stones became reference points in their lives. Today, we can find reference points in the written Word of God. Any scripture or sermon can speak something powerful into our lives, or reveal something of the nature of God. In this blog I offer, what can become a reference point for Christians, taken from God's ancient word and applied to today's world.

Monday, February 29, 2016

The FULL Revelation of Jesus

I’ve spent a long time wondering why some people so easily change once they get saved and others remain bound in sin and fight against what God would do in their lives.  The idea for me s a pastor is to bring someone to a relationship with Jesus that pushes the desire to be like the world out of their thought processes, but I realize that there’s only so much I can do.  I can preach the word of God; I can be a living example of Christian living, and I can exhort them to do the things that will help them to escape the bondages of sin – Pray, read their Bibles and come to church. It’s them that must embrace God’s will, though.  I can’t change them; they have to want to change.  Some people want God’s blessing in their lives, but they don’t want to allow God to rule in their lives.

So I’ve figured it out.  I’ve thought about it and I understand why some are willing to change and be a party of God’s will and others aren’t.  What makes change possible in our lives is our revelation of Jesus and who He is.  That word revelation means that something is now visible that was once hidden.  Before we’re saved we don’t have a full understanding of who Jesus is.

Sometimes it’s really obvious when you hear non-believers talk about Jesus that they don’t understand His authority, His love, His sacrifice on the cross, or His willingness to do God’s will.  That’s what I want to post about today:  The full revelation of Jesus and its ability to change us. 

Matthew 17:1-2 (NKJV)
17:1 Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves; 2 and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light.

There are four things I want to touch on. 

A Revelation of His Glory

In our text Jesus has taken some of His disciples to this mountain.  While on the mountain Jesus reveals His glory for the first time on this earth.  His glory is a light that shines from within Him.
 Revelation 21:23 (NKJV)
21:23 The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light.

This is the first time that we SEE Jesus as fully God and full man.  As His glory is revealed to us, we have a revelation of the fact that Jesus is God.  Revelation 21:23 says, “The Glory of God illuminated it.”  So, the glory is a sign of Jesus being God, but they didn’t see it all the time.  It had to be revealed to them and it has to be revealed to us. 

This takes place just after Jesus takes the disciples to Caesarea and asks whom people say that He is.  Then He asks the disciples whom do you say that I am, and Peter answers, “You are the Christ, the Son of God.”  Look what Jesus says to him:

Matthew 16:17 (NKJV)
16:17 Jesus answered and said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.

Revelation comes from God, but if you’re not looking for it you won’t see it.

Jesus is God, that’s the first revelation that we need to have.  Because He is God and the creator, “All things that were made were made through Him,” (John 1:3), He has authority over our lives, right?  When you create something you have the authority to determine what becomes of it and how it is used.  The creator is the ultimate authority so we are bound by His commands. 

When we understand that Jesus is God we will begin to live by His commands.  His will becomes our will.  That’s the first step to change:  Knowing who is in command of your life.  If you have a revelation of Jesus’ glory you will turn your will over to Him.
 John 15:14 (NKJV)
15:14 You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.

So that is the first revelation that you need.

A Revelation of His Love

John 15:12-13 (NKJV)
15:12 This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends.

This is the greatest sign of someone’s love for you; that they’re willing to lay down their life for you.  Parents understand this – Who wouldn’t sacrifice their own life for their children?  Because we love them we’re be willing to do that.  That’s what Jesus did for us.  His life wasn’t taken from Him, He freely gave it.  It was a sacrifice for you and I.  He did it to release us from the bondage of sin, but we have to allow ourselves to be released.  Think about this for a moment:

You’re in prison.  You’ve been there for a long time and it’s finally time for you to be released.  The warden comes to you and says, “Okay, you’re free to go.”  The problem is that you’re comfortable there.  You like jail food.  You have your prison buddies.  You like the lifestyle there.  So you look at the warden and say, “warden, I ain’t a going.  I’m staying right here and you can’t make me leave.”  So, even though the opportunity is there for you to be released, you don’t accept the freedom that’s offered.  The warden has done what he can do – now it’s up to you. 

Jesus, because He loved us gave us the opportunity to be free.  He didn’t have to do that; He chose to – out of love.  So, He came and He allowed Himself to be executed, to free you. 

This is the second step to change recognizing that out of His love, He releases you from the bondage of sin.  If you have a revelation of Jesus’ love then accept His sacrifice and be released from the bondage of sin.

Romans 12:1-2 (NKJV)
12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

This is the second revelation that we need.

A Revelation of the Cross

Luke 22:33-34 (NKJV)
22:33 But he said to Him, "Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death." 34 Then He said, "I tell you, Peter, the rooster shall not crow this day before you will deny three times that you know Me."

Crucifixion is the most agonizing form of execution ever devised by man.  It causes great suffering.  Basically, your lungs fill up with blood and liquid and you slowly suffocate.  It can take hours:  So long that the Roman’s would break people’s legs so that they couldn’t push up and take a breath.

It starts with being whipped with a cat-of-nine-tails, nine strands of whips linked together in one whip, with metal and bone fragments woven in to rip your flesh.  Nails are driven into your wrists and heels into the mass of nerves for hands and feet and you’re hung up to bleed and suffocate naked in the sun.

The cross is the payment of the price of our sin.  Jesus suffered this and a crown of thorns for you freedom.  This is the price that He paid for you. 

We sometimes don’t understand the real suffering of the cross.  It has to be revealed to us, because we’ve never experienced anything that even approaches that kind of suffering.  Jesus suffered that willingly, as I said His life wasn’t taken from Him, it was freely given, out of love.

I recently saw the video presentation called Bamboo in Winter.  There is a powerful scene there where people are being baptized and the communists come to arrest the pastor.  The people kneel down in front of him and take a beating so that he can escape.  The pastor doesn’t want to go but someone says to him, “They’re suffering all of this for you, do you want that suffering to be for nothing?”

Those people are like Jesus, they’re suffering willingly.  Are we allowing Jesus’ suffering to be for nothing?  It like saying you suffered for me, so that I could be free, but I refuse to accept the gift of freedom.  When we do that we are saying, “You suffered for nothing.”

This is the third step to change recognizing what he suffered to free us:  Knowing that he paid a huge price for us on the cross, and turning from our sin so that He wouldn’t have suffered for nothing. 

Luke 6:1-3 (NKJV)
6:1 Now it happened on the second Sabbath after the first that He went through the grainfields. And His disciples plucked the heads of grain and ate them, rubbing them in their hands. 2 And some of the Pharisees said to them, "Why are you doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath?" 3 But Jesus answering them said, "Have you not even read this, what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him:

The third revelation we need is a revelation of the cross.

A Revelation of His Submission

Matthew 26:39 (NKJV)
26:39 He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, "O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will."

This is Jesus on the night before His crucifixion.  He knows what He’s about to face.  He knows that there will be great suffering.  He knows that He’ll die, and knowing that He’s thinking, “If I don’t have to do this and they can still be forgiven then change what will happen.”  Isn’t that a prayer we’ve all prayed?  “God deliver me from these circumstances.”  That’s what Jesus is praying, here, “Deliver me from this,” but Jesus does something that we don’t like to do, He says, “Not my will but yours be done.”  He submits to God’s will.

God has a plan for you, too.  Maybe that plan won’t be as enjoyable as you would like.  Maybe there will be some personal suffering.  Maybe you’ll just have to give up something you like to do, like your favorite sin.  Jesus submitted Himself to God’s will to take on the suffering of the cross.

He’s probably not asking you to go to the cross.  Although, He could if He wanted – Lots of people have been martyred for their belief in Him.)  Are you willing to follow His example and put God’s will first?  Are you willing to submit to God’s calling on your life?  That word, submit means to allow Him to rule YOUR life; to be under His authority. 

The fourth step to change is to submit your will to His; to accept His authority for your life.

Luke 7:8 (NKJV)
7:8 For I also am a man placed under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to one, 'Go,' and he goes; and to another, 'Come,' and he comes; and to my servant, 'Do this,' and he does it."

This centurion is a picture of Jesus.  He submits himself to the authority of his commander.  He also has authority over others, who must be submitted to his authority.  Jesus does the same thing.  He is submitted to the authority of His Father, and obeys.  We should be submitted to His authority and do what He says. 

In closing, if we have a full revelation of Jesus, a revelation of His Glory, a revelation of His love, a revelation of the cross and a revelation of His submission, if we desire to be like Him, which is what a disciple desires, then we must be willing to change; to put aside our sin, suffer with Him and submit to His will.  Are you contending to be like Him?

The problem is that we often become Christians for what Jesus can do for us, to solve our problems or to give us blessing.  We act as if Jesus is there to serve us.  Jesus has served us, and he continues to bless us.  He provides or us.  He delivers us from our circumstances and problems, but if you have had a revelation of whom He is, and what he feels for you, and what he has suffered for you, and how He has submitted Himself to God in order to release you from sin.  If you’ve had that revelation of Jesus – the FULL revelation then you must decide to change.  It’s making a decision to have all that God has for you.  That’s a decision a Christian makes.  If you’re unwilling to make that decision then I would say that you haven’t made a decision to be a Christian.  Some people want to blame their pastor for their own inability to serve God, but their pastor can’t cause them serve God or not to serve God.  They can only be an example of someone who is serving God.  They can’t give you a revelation of Jesus, either.  God has to do that.  You have to have a desire to find that revelation.  

Monday, February 15, 2016

Stealers Gonna Steal

None of us are crying out for hardship, are we?  I know what Paul said about rejoicing in tribulation.  I understand what he’s saying… but no one really looks forward to that. 

Don’t get me wrong, we need tribulation.  That’s how God works in us.  That’s how God changes us.  That’s how God completes us, but life on its own has a lot of stresses and struggles, too.  If we’re honest we have to admit that we need blessing, as well.  So this post today will look at how to get blessed.

John 10:10 (NKJV)
10:10 The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.

Stealers Gonna Steal

Jesus has come that we may have life more abundantly.  God blesses – Isn’t that what you’ve heard?  I say that all the time, God wants to bless you.  I know that some of you think that this is just “preacher talk.”   It’s just what preachers say to keep people coming.  You’re thinking, “Yeah, he says that all the time but I’m just not seeing it.” 

This scripture tells you why.  Jesus came that we may have life more abundantly, but what else does it say?  It says that the thief comes to steal, kill and destroy.  He’s a thief.  What does a thief do?  He steals.  So, there is someone who comes to steal the blessing of God from your life.  He’s a glutton; a devourer – He swallows your blessing.

That word devourer means an excessively greedy eater.  Devourer – One who swallows and eats ravenously.  That’s what God calls the devil in the book of Malachi.

Malachi 3:11 (NKJV)
3:11 "And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, So that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground, Nor shall the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field," Says the Lord of hosts;

Malachi is telling us that God will rebuke the devourer for our sakes.  The devil is the devourer.

Let me ask a question, here.  Have you ever felt like there isn’t enough money to make it to the end of the month?  Maybe that’s even a reality in your life.  Maybe you're constantly struggling to make ends meet.  Your credit cards are maxed out.  The bills are more than you get paid every month.  Creditors are calling and demanding payment.  If that’s you, you don’t have to be embarrassed.  The thief is doing what thieves do – stealing.  You know hater’s gonna hate?  Well stealers gonna steal.

The devil hates God and he hates you!  The thing that really makes him mad is you believing God.  The devil hates your faith.  He hates it when you believe God for His promises.  He will do whatever he needs to do to make you doubt.  He’s also looking for those that will be easy to trick into unbelief. 

1 Peter 5:8 (NKJV)
5:8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.

The devil is an adversary:  That means he opposes and resists you, and he’s looking to devour you.  Why would you let the devil win?  Look at what we need to do to beat him back:

1 Peter 5:9 (NKJV)
5:9 Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.

Resist him – You don’t have to let him win.  Stay faithful – faithful means full of faith.

I know it’s hard, sometimes.  This happens in my family, too.  We’re getting near the end of the month and the end of the money, and we’re wondering what’s going to happen.  We start to waver in our faith.  We struggle in our faith, too and I’ve been a Christian for a long time.  I should be past that struggling with that, but there’s still that struggle of faith because the devil, that lying, cheating devourer wants me to doubt God.  He knows that if I can’t believe God for His provision; if I doubt that His promises are real, then he can cause me to doubt whether or not God’s really saved me.

That’s dangerous because if I lose faith that I’m really saved, the devil can turn me away from God, because I’ll begin to doubt that God is even real.  If you start to doubt God’s promises you’ll eventually doubt that God is real, and that’s all that he needs to do to win.  The devil doesn’t need to get you to commit serious sin, he just needs to make you doubt.  It’s the sin of unbelief that will cause a lot of Christians to miss heaven.  This is why resisting is so important, because he comes to steal your blessing, he comes to kill your faith, and he comes to destroy your soul. 

The devil wants to remove blessing, but Jesus is just the opposite of the devil.  Jesus doesn’t come to steal he comes to give.

Jesus Has Come to Give

“I have come that you may have life and that more abundantly.”  What does abundant mean?  Abundant means marked by great plenty – That means a lot of supply or support.  God is not stingy.  He doesn’t just keep it all for Himself.  God gives abundantly.  He will supply you. 

Matthew 6:30-32 (NKJV)
6:30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.

Again, it’s a matter of faith.  He says, “Don’t worry.”  God knows what you need  and God doesn’t withhold.

Malachi 3:10 (NKJV)
3:10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house, And try Me now in this," Says the Lord of hosts, "If I will not open for you the windows of heaven And pour out for you such blessing That there will not be room enough to receive it.

Test me.  Check out what I say.  Here’s my promise, “I will open the windows of Heaven.”  Then remember Malachi 3:11, “I will rebuke the devourer.”  That’s God’s promise.  That’s life more abundantly.  Jesus has come to give that.  The Bible even says, “Test me now in this.”  There’s a way to test the promise of God.  God tells you how He can prove to you that He blesses.  Do you want to know what it is?  The following scripture is the key to getting blessed.

Malachi 3:10a (NKJV)
3:10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house,

This is the test we can use to see if God will keep His promise.  When we do that God will show us this:

Malachi 3:10b (NKJV)
3:10 "If I will not open for you the windows of heaven And pour out for you such blessing That there will not be room enough to receive it.

The tithe – Tithe means tenth – a tenth of your resources.  If you make NTD $60,000 (US $2,000) then your tithe is NTD $6,000 (US $200).  Test it out.  God is challenging you to try it.  God says He will make you a believer.  

I know that some of you think that you can’t afford it.  You think that you don’t have enough, so you won’t test God in that.  But guess what – That’s exactly how the devil rips you off.  It’s how the stealer steals.  It’s a spirit:  It’s spiritual:  We call it a “Poverty Spirit.”  I call it the “Spirit of Not Enough.”  Uh-oh, some of you may be thinking, “He just wants our money.”  I’m not posting this so that I can get blessed; I’m posting it so that you can get blessed. 

As a pastor, I have seen people who have tested this and God has blessed them.  They’ve stood up and testified about God’s miracle provision.  There are others who tested this for a few weeks and then they backed off.  Maybe it wasn’t what they expected.  I don’t know.  Maybe they expected a pile of money to fall out of the sky.

How it Really Works

The following is a testimony by James Dobson:

“As an evangelist, my dad could never depend on the compensation he would be given.  The local church would collect a freewill offering for my father, but many times the gifts barely paid his traveling expenses.
 He would usually stay with the pastor during a ten-day revival.  While there, he often observed that the children needed shoes or books or medication.  So, on the final night of the revival, my dad would take enough money to get home, and then donate the rest to meet the needs of the pastor’s family.  Then my dad would return to be greeted by my mother and me.  I can still hear the conversations between them.        “Did you have a successful revival?” my mother would ask.        “The Lord was with us," my dad would reply.        “How much did they pay you?”
        “Well, I need to talk to you about that,” my father would say, grinning.        “I know,” Mom would say, “You gave it all away, didn’t you?” A few days later when the bills began to accumulate, our little family would gather on our knees before the Lord.  Dad would pray first, “Lord, you know we’ve been faithful with the resources you’ve given us.  We’ve tried to be responsive to the needs of others, when you laid them on our hearts.  Now Lord, my family is in need.  You’ve said, ‘Give and it shall be given unto you’ (Luke 6:38).  So we bring to you our empty meal barrel and ask you to fill it.” As a child, I listened intently to these prayers and watched carefully to see how God responded.  I tell you, without exaggeration, that money invariably arrived in the next few days.  God didn’t make us rich, but He never let us go hungry.

This is a perfect example of how it really works.  God doesn’t make you rich, He just keeps supplying you.  I’ve told you before about the widow of Zarephath.

She’s collecting sticks to make a fire and cook the last meal for her and her son.  They have nothing; just enough for one last meal and then they starve.  She has nothing.  No husband to provide for her.  Nothing to sell for money.  No prospect of any more – There’s a drought.  All the crops are dead.  This is the end of her resources.

Then the prophet comes by and has the nerve to ask her to feed him before they eat their last meal.  He literally says to her, “Give to me, first.”  The prophet’s not looking to get blessed.  What’s a small cake for him; it’s a little thing, but he knows if she responds, she’s going to be sustained.  She’s going to receive a blessing, and so, she does – She gives him a cake. 

She probably thinks, “This is my last meal, what’s a small cake more or less?”  She has nothing to lose and everything to gain.  So what does God do?

She doesn’t receive a huge amount all at once, but for the next three and a half years God meets her daily needs.  Think about it she gives one day’s food and receives back 1,277 days’ worth of food.  She wouldn’t be able to store all of that.  That’s abundance – That’s how God blesses.

But it takes faith – trust in God’s promises.  Let me tell you on more story – about another widow.  This one is at the temple; Jesus is watching her.  She’s near the donation box; where people give their tithes and their offerings.  Jesus is standing near there also, watching.  All of these rich people come and put in their offerings.  Then the widow comes up to give.  She, like the other widow has nothing; no husband, no son, no money; nothing.  All she has is two cents…well, she has one other thing:  She has faith; she believes.  She gave it all.  How many of you trust God like that? 

So, here’s the question for today:  If you can’t trust God with your finances.  If you really can’t trust God with ten percent of your resources, are you really trusting Him with your salvation.  Faith is the cornerstone of Christianity.  It’s what sets the foundation for our lives.  If we don’t have faith then prayer is a waste of time.  It’s a useless endeavor – Faith activates miracles.  If we don’t trust God, we have no salvation.  We’re not saved because salvation is based on believing and trusting Jesus.  If we don’t have faith there will be no miracles.

Hebrews 11:1 (NKJV)
11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Be a person of God and let God prove Himself to you.  That’s how you find blessing.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The War Within

When I was a kid, like any kid I had rules that I was supposed to follow.  Sometimes, I looked at the rules and, in my judgment, the rules were arbitrary things that were put in place to keep me from doing something I wanted to do.  “The man is just trying to keep me down”:  The “man” being my parents.  Kids think they know so much more than their parents.

Our house was on a lot that was set about 15 feet above the street, so there was this nice hill to roll down on our little soapbox type go-kart that my dad and I built. My mother told us not to do that, because we wouldn’t be able to stop.  The kart didn’t have any brakes and we would roll down the hill into the street, if a car was coming it could be very dangerous.  We tried to obey that rule, but we struggled.  It was a battle to keep from doing what we knew we shouldn’t do.

Many times as adults, we fight these same battles, not with rules that our parents or bosses put on us, but with sin.  We know that sin is wrong; we understand the cost that it has, but sometimes the desire is too strong.

I was thinking about Eve as she faced the serpent in the Garden.  God has told her not to eat the fruit of the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  She knows that it’s wrong, but when the devil comes in and lays out the lie she goes right ahead and eats it, anyway.  I wonder if his is the first time she’s struggled with temptation over this fruit, or if she was already struggling with the temptation, when she was talking to the serpent.

Satan doesn’t always have to make us sin, sometimes it’s our flesh and our own nature that draws us into sin.  She’s seen the fruit before:  the Bible says that she saw that it was good for food.  Maybe she’s struggling with idea a bit.  Then the serpent comes up and says, “Did God say you’d die if you ate that?  You’re not going to die,” so she ate it.  We don’t see in the Bible that she struggled much with the decision to eat the fruit.  I think that perhaps the struggle had been taking place before the serpent showed up.

Eve had the capacity to sin, already.  The serpent didn’t really tempt her; he just laid out a good justification for her:  “He doesn’t want you to be like him.  The man just wants to keep you down.”  So, she jumped on it.

We fight this battle ourselves, to overcome the flesh; overcome the temptation to do what isn’t right. 

Romans 7:18-25 (NKJV)
7:18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. 19 For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. 20 Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. 21 I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. 22 For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. 23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. 24 O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 I thank God--through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.

In my Flesh Nothing Good Dwells

When the Bible refers to our flesh, what it’s really referring to is our carnal nature; our physical appetites:  Those things that drive us; the things our bodies crave.  Human beings are set up with survival mechanisms.  Those are things that are a part of us in order that we can preserve ourselves.  We have a sexual drive, because we need that to keep our species alive.  We desire food because we need food to sustain our lives.  Sin is when we allow those drives to control us.  There is nothing wrong with sex in marriage, but fornication is a sin.  There’s nothing wrong with eating, but gluttony is a sin.  The devil doesn’t make us sin, he merely places the opportunity before us.  It’s up to us whether or not we’ll act on it. 

When I first got saved I was really lonely.  I hadn’t had a relationship with anyone in a long time.  Almost as soon as I got saved, there were some women who wanted to be with me.  I had struggled with that for a long time, now the opportunity was right before me. There was a struggle but I won out over my flesh.  That’s the way the devil works, our flesh is looking for gratification, and suddenly that thing, which will provide that gratification is right before us.

You struggle with finances and then you have access to company money.  People steal from their jobs all the time, for exactly this reason.  You and your wife are having problems in your relationship and that single girl at work that you’ve always thought was attractive suddenly comes on to you.  You start to wonder, “Can I get away with this?”  It’s not like that cartoon where the devil is one shoulder saying “do it, do it!” and an angel is sitting on the other shoulder saying, “Don’t do it, don’t do it!” 

You begin to rationalize it to yourself.  “The company doesn’t pay me what I’m really worth.  My wife doesn’t understand me.  I deserve to relax and get drunk; I work too hard.”  That’s not the devil you’re fighting with, it’s your flesh.

It isn’t that we don’t want to do what is right; most of us genuinely desire to be righteous in our decisions and actions.  Even sinners speak of being morally right.    We want to do the right thing, but many times we sin anyway, and we justify it.  Sometimes we even feel compelled to do it; we call it an addiction.  We call sin disease or addiction because that takes away the responsibility to overcome it.  You need to be treated for a disease, right?  It’s beyond your control, right?  It is something that’s outside of you.

When I got saved I was a drunk, but I didn’t need a program to stop drinking, I just began to fight with my desire to drink.  When the urge and the opportunity came up, I used the tools of my salvation – Prayer, the Bible, fellowship and preaching.

It’s a fight; a struggle.  Have you ever watched a WWE wrestling match?  WWE is a perfect example, because each match is a battle between good and evil.  Both wrestlers are fighting for the upper hand.  One will move one way, the other will try to counter it.  Sometimes, we can easily beat the devil, but other times we have to fight it out with him.  That’s exactly how it is when the opportunity to sin is placed before us – It’s a real fight – Sin is aggressive.

Genesis 4:7 (NKJV)
4:7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it."

The idea behind the word “lies” in that scripture is that sin is like an animal crouching at the door ready to spring on us, if we open door to it.  We open the door through our flesh.  Paul says, “If I do what I will not to do then it is not me, but the sin that dwells in me.”  It’s that carnal nature; it’s the flesh in which nothing good dwells.

Romans 7:21 (NKJV)
7:21 I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good.

Even though, we desire to do well there is evil present with us.  This is a law.  Scientists understand that there are certain physical laws, and those laws are always true.  For example, there is the law of gravity that states that the attraction between any two bodies is directly proportional to product of their masses and inversely proportional to their distance from each other.  That means that planets are more attracted to each other based on what they both weigh and less attracted based on how far away they are.  The moon orbits the earth, because the earth has a huge mass and the moon is relatively close to it.  This law is ALWAYS true and it is the reason that what goes up must come down.  The lighter body; that which is thrown, is attracted to the heavier body that is the earth, because it never gets very far from the earth.

Paul is telling us that in every one of us there is a will to do what is right but there is also a desire for evil.  Philosophers have said that man is basically good, but Paul tells us that we want to be good but that we’re basically evil.  We can desire to live the will of God:  We can desire to live for Jesus, but that the nature of man, that sin nature, is still present in us.  Nothing I ever easy, is it? 

I wonder how many times a day that we struggle with sin.  How many times a day do we want to leap out in our flesh?  When that idiot cuts us off on the freeway?  When the boss is gone and we can sneak away from work a little early – “Who will know if I put the full number of hours on my time card?”  “I’m alone who’s going to see what I’m looking at on my computer?”  “How’s my wife going to know that I’m flirting with that woman in the cubicle next to mine?”  We struggle with it and sometimes we lose to our flesh.

I Delight in the Law of God but…

Romans 7:22-24 (NKJV)
7:22 For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. 23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. 24 O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?

“I delight in the law of God…”  That word delight literally means that it’s a great pleasure to serve God.  We enjoy doing the right thing.  Paul says, “I delight in the law of God according to the inward man.”  That phrase, “according to the inward man” means from the bottom of my heart.”  That is, the thing which he desires most is the joy; the delight of doing the will of God.  But…

He finds there is one thing in his heart, but another in his members, (meaning his body parts).  It’s a joy to live for Jesus but there’s a constant tension with our flesh.  Paul has certain appetites; certain things that must be overcome.  The problem is when those appetites win out over our minds. 

We go on diets and our minds tell us what a great thing it will be to lose weight.  It will be a great joy to come to our target weight; to be healthy and look good.  That’s thing we desire from the bottom of our hearts.  So then why do we, so badly want to grab a dish of ice cream.

It’s because we have developed an appetite for it.  We allow our minds to dwell on it.  “That ice cream looks so good and it’s so sweet.”  This is where we lose the victory a lot of times.  Suddenly, we’re fighting this battle with our flesh with only half of our mind, because the other half is thinking how good the sin will feel.  That’s why Paul asks, “Who will deliver me from this body of death?”

Here’s the concept behind what he’s saying:  One of the ways that the Romans punished lawbreakers was to tie a dead body to the one being punished; face to face, hand to hand, and foot to foot.  They would have to go through life with this dead, putrefying, decaying body tied to them.  Paul is saying that this is a picture of our sin nature; that we are tied together with the sins of the flesh – That eventually, just as the person being punished in this way by the Romans, died.  This sinful flesh will kill us as well.  We need deliverance from it.

We need to be released from the hold of this body of death.  He’s saying that you can struggle against it; you can fight for life, but eventually the flesh will overwhelm you and you’ll be destroyed by it, unless something takes place that releases you from it.  This is the crux of the matter, right here, that we’ll eventually do what our flesh wants, unless we’re delivered from it.

Where does deliverance come from?  It’s not found in our willpower.  It’s not found in our personality.  It’s not found in our physical or mental strength.  It’s outside of us.  Just as those who couldn’t untie the dead body and remove themselves, neither can we loose ourselves from our flesh.  There’s something that must take place outside of us.  Something supernatural must happen in our lives.

Jesus delivers me From This Body of Death

Romans 7:25 (NKJV)
7:25 I thank God--through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.

Jesus Christ is the deliverer.  He does it through the renewal of our minds.

Romans 12:2 (NKJV)
12:2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

The word renewing speaks of restoring.  The renewing of our minds is the restoration of our minds to the way God intended in the Garden before sin.  If in our minds we delight to live the Law of God, then when we sin or are in our flesh, we are out of our minds.  Salvation restores our minds.  It brings us back to that place of delight in serving God.  Jesus is the one who will deliver you from the body of death.  His grace, his mercy and shed blood is what releases us – It isn’t us, it’s the spiritual transaction that took place when He died on Calvary’s cross.

We still have a responsibility, though:

Titus 3:8 (NKJV)
3:8 This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men.

If we believe God, then we should live for him.  When we were sinners how many of us lived all the way, one hundred per cent, for the devil.  That struggle is still present with us but we have the tools of our salvation with which to fight the fight.

When we pray, we strengthen our relationship with God.  This is where we begin to have relationship with Him.  Think about this – If we know someone, but never speak to them it isn’t much of a relationship, is it?  But as we talk we get to know them better and a relationship forms.  This is essential to avoiding sin. 

When we read the Bible we gain an understanding of the purposes of God for our lives. 

When we fellowship with brothers and sisters in Christ – Don’t run off and isolate yourself – When we have relationships with other saved people it becomes easier for us to stay in the will of God.  We can avoid sin through “peer pressure.”

When we hear the word of God our faith is strengthened.  Faith comes by hearing the word of God.  Where do we hear the word of God?  In Church, that’s where.

These things will allow your mind to be renewed.  It will help you to overcome the flesh and you’ll be more likely to win the battle and serve God throughout your whole life.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Faith is Action

This is part  two of “Praying in Faith.”

A couple of weeks ago I posted on faith.  In that post, I said simple human faith is found in the phrase, “Seeing is believing.”  In other words, I’ll believe it when I see it.  I also said that REAL faith is found in the phrase, “Believing is seeing,” or I see it because I believe it.  But that’s not the whole concept. 

There’s another component that’s also very important, that’s embodied in this phrase, “Faith is action.”  So, what I want to post today, is part two, of that post:  Faith is Action.

Acts 14:7-10 (NKJV)
14:7 And they were preaching the gospel there. 8 And in Lystra a certain man without strength in his feet was sitting, a cripple from his mother's womb, who had never walked. 9 This man heard Paul speaking. Paul, observing him intently and seeing that he had faith to be healed, 10 said with a loud voice, "Stand up straight on your feet!" And he leaped and walked.

Going Beyond Seeing is Believing

I want to start by refreshing your memory:

Hebrews 11:1 (NKJV)
11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

I talked about this in the context of the woman with the issue of blood.  She’d been afflicted for twelve years.  She’d spent all her money on doctors.  She’d been hoping for a cure, thinking, “I will be cured when the symptoms disappear.”  This is how most of us are – We have to see it in order to believe it. 

Then the woman sought out Jesus and found Him in a multitude.  She KNEW that she would be healed, if she could just touch the hem of His garment and she took the action necessary to see that done.  Jesus then told her, “Your faith has made you well.”  Where was her faith found?  It was found in the action.  That action of faith was the thing that made the healing that she had been hoping for real.  Those things that are hoped for become real when we act as if they are.  That brings us to our text.

Here is a man in Lystra, who has been crippled for his entire life.  Paul comes across him as he’s preaching in that city.  Paul sees the man listening, sees that he has the faith to be healed and says to him, “Stand up straight on your feet!”  The man leaps to his feet and walks!

Let’s look at what happened here.  The man is sitting there; this is what he’s always done.  He’s been like this his whole life.  He hears the Gospel and he believes.  Now, this is where it gets interesting.  Paul tells him to stand up on his feet.  At this moment, from the man’s perspective, nothing has changed.  He hasn’t seen any change take place in his legs.  He hasn’t walked a step, yet.  He’s still the same as when he sat down, except that now he has faith, and in that faith, without seeing – He leaps up!  Suddenly, that healing becomes real.

All of us that are Christians have faith.  We have the faith to be healed – The problem is that we don’t act as if we are already healed.  There was no apparent evidence that the man was healed before he leaped up.  He just believed it and acted as if it was true, and it became real.  Faith is found in action.

The woman with the issue of blood is the same thing:

Mark 5:25-28 (NKJV)
5:25 Now a certain woman had a flow of blood for twelve years, 26 and had suffered many things from many physicians. She had spent all that she had and was no better, but rather grew worse. 27 When she heard about Jesus, she came behind Him in the crowd and touched His garment. 28 For she said, "If only I may touch His clothes, I shall be made well."

For twelve years she suffered.  She went to doctors – The Bible says she suffered many things.  She wasn’t getting better, in fact she was getting worse, but she knew that if she could just touch Jesus’ clothes that she would be well.  She believed.  She had faith, and so having faith that this would heal her she did it:

Luke 8:44b (NKJV)
8:44b And immediately her flow of blood stopped.

She wasn’t getting better as she got closer.  She wasn’t hoping that touching His clothes would heal her.  She believed, and took action in that belief:

Luke 8:48 (NKJV)
8:48 And He said to her, "Daughter, be of good cheer; your faith has made you well. Go in peace."

Faith is found in action:  Faith IS action

Contrasting Real Faith with Just Believing

I wonder how many of you really believe the promises that are written out for you in the Bible.  Promises like this:

Malachi 3:10 (NKJV)
3:10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house, And try Me now in this," Says the Lord of hosts, "If I will not open for you the windows of heaven And pour out for you such blessing That there will not be room enough to receive it.

God promises blessing when we bring our tithes.  How many of you are willing to put that into action?  The man from Lystra heard the promises in Paul’s preaching and had the faith to leap up, even though there was no visual evidence that anything would change.  Do you have that kind of faith when it comes to tithing?

What about this promise:

Mark 16:17-18 (NKJV)
16:17 And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; 18 they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover."

God promises that when hands are laid on the sick they will recover.  How many believe that’s true?  So, who has the faith to lay hands on the sick?  Who has the faith to be well when hands are laid on you?  The man in Lystra and the woman with the issue of blood did.

I want to show you the difference between believing wholeheartedly and Faith:

Mark 4:36-38 (NKJV)
4:36 Now when they had left the multitude, they took Him along in the boat as He was. And other little boats were also with Him. 37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling. 38 But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, "Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?"

So, here we have the disciples riding with Jesus across the sea.  A storm comes up.  The boat starts taking on water.  These men are experienced fisherman – They have seen storms before.  This is nothing new for them. 

They know Jesus.  They’ve seen the miracles and the power.  They know who He is.  They’ve followed Him.  They believe in Him, wholeheartedly.  They had to know that is wasn’t His destiny to drown in the sea.  So, why was there so much fear?  Jesus even asks them, “How is it that you have no faith?”  We know that they believe, but we don’t see the actions of faith.  If they had faith they wouldn’t have woken him up.

Now, I want to show you someone who has faith:

1 Samuel 14:6 (NKJV)
14:6 Then Jonathan said to the young man who bore his armor, "Come, let us go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised; it may be that the Lord will work for us. For nothing restrains the Lord from saving by many or by few."

Here’s the story:  Israel is facing the Philistines, once again.  Only Jonathan and Saul have real weapons – swords and armor.  Jonathan believes the statement, “Nothing can restrain God from saving by many or saving by few.”  He believes that, wholeheartedly.  He speaks that to his armor bearer.  Remember, in my last post, “The Rabshakeh” I wrote that words have power.  The Rabshakeh used them to deceive, discourage and demoralize.  In this case, Jonathan uses them to incite faith in his armor bearer. 

Jonathan put that belief into action – Faith is action.  Right then, he went from believing to faith:

1 Samuel 14:15-16 (NKJV)
14:15 And there was trembling in the camp, in the field, and among all the people. The garrison and the raiders also trembled; and the earth quaked, so that it was a very great trembling. 16 Now the watchmen of Saul in Gibeah of Benjamin looked, and there was the multitude, melting away; and they went here and there.

God moved.  Jonathan’s action of faith activated a move of God.  The man from Lystra was healed as he leaped.  The woman with the issue of blood was healed as she touched Jesus’ clothes.  The Philistines were defeated as Jonathan moved up.  God will move as YOU take an action of faith.

Most of us are like the disciples in the storm.  We believe – but in the storms of life we allow unbelief to creep in.  Not completely; we don’t stop believing in God:  We just forget that a move of God is activated by our own movement; the movement of our faith.

How to Put Faith into Action

So, how can you turn faith like Jonathan’s loose in your life?  Jesus tells us how to put faith into action in Mark 11:

Mark 11:22-23 (NKJV)
11:22 So Jesus answered and said to them, "Have faith in God. 23 For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be removed and be cast into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says.

So, there it is – “Whoever says…”  Stop and listen to yourself sometime.  How many times do you speak in unbelief?  When we get healed we act as if it’s temporary.  “It doesn’t hurt right now… at this moment; I believe that it’ll be back later, though.    Stand up straight on your feet!  How many times have I heard that? – “I would if I could.”  Here I sit, in this wheelchair.

The point here is that you have to begin by changing the way that you think about faith.  You have to begin by speaking I faith.  We say things like “God WILL help us.”  “God WILL change our circumstances.”  That’s not speaking in faith, though.  It’s speaking in hope.  Faith says, “I’ll receive it right now.”

1 Peter 2:24 (NKJV)
2:24 who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness--by whose stripes you were healed.

This is a really interesting scripture.  It doesn’t say by His stripes you WILL get healed.  It’s not future tense.  It says by His stripes you WERE healed.  This is Past Tense, as if it has already happened.  So, we are already healed – Why aren’t we living that?  Why aren’t we speaking that?  Faith is right now!  It’s already happened.  If we think and act like that then it will be so.  Jonathan says, “He can heal by many or by few.”  He didn’t say maybe He can.  He said nothing restrains Him.  There is no roadblock to a move of God if you have faith.  Often, we are the roadblock.

Begin to speak and think in faith.  The actions will follow.  God blesses when we give.  God heals when we lay hands.  It doesn’t matter what we see… It matters what we do!

Editor’s note:  I preached this sermon in my church, recently.  At the conclusion of the sermon, I stood up out of my wheelchair.”