Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Higher Ground



The higher ground, the deeper walk of faith in Christ is what the Lord desires each of His children to experience.  He desires for us to be weaned from the milk of the Word, progressing to the meat of the Word.  To go to a deeper walk in Christ will require a dying to self in a manner which one has not yet likely experienced.

Hebrews 5:13 (NASB), "For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant."

Self-pity and doubt are enemies of faith.  To go to a deeper faith walk, we must put away self-pity and the doubts that come against what we know to be true in scripture.  We must put away carnal excuses for not being obedient to what we know in scripture.

We will have teachers along the way that have experience chewing the meat.  We will be wise to listen to what they have to say, using Biblical discernment as always.  Such Christians have experienced brokenness and have a history with the Lord.  They have tested His Word and proven it true in their life experiences.

A deeper walk will take us through dark valleys where we don't see any possible way out apart from divine intervention.  We may feel as though we are in a dark cave and cannot see our hand in front of us.  It is in such dark times that we must fully rely on the Word of God and what we know to be true about our Lord and His promises.  We must not rely on our emotions, our own intellect, or our circumstances.  We must listen to godly counsel and shun worldly advice and counsel.  We will need to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.

2 Corinthians 10:5 (NASB), "We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,"

What does a deeper faith look like?  For example:  Have you found that it seems you are alone with no one to really talk to?  Perhaps you should consider that the Lord wants you to learn sufficiency in fellowship with Him.  While He does want His body, the church to fellowship, He also wants us to know that all our needs are met in Him.  We should not bemoan the fact that we are alone or feel alone, but look at it as an opportunity to go to a deeper place in Him.  This ought to cause a heart to praise Him for drawing us into such intimacy with Him.

The deeper we go in Him, the more we will look like Him:
2 Corinthians 3:18 (NASB), "But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit."

I often hear Christians talk about their anxieties.  Some hold onto them as a treasure.  Unfortunately we may even use talking about them as a means to garner attention from others.  The apostle Paul said, "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God" (Philippians 4:6 (NASB). 

To grow deeper in the faith we need to realize that the Lord is our all sufficient provider.  When we are anxious it is because in our heart we have decided that we want things to work according to our will and timing rather than surrendering all of our will to the will of our heavenly Father. If He is truly Lord in our heart, then it won't matter where He leads us.  This is a deeper, well rooted faith.

We will never go deeper in our faith as long as we make excuses for ourselves.  "I'm only human is not a valid excuse for a Christian because He have become partakers of the divine nature.  We are to reckon the carnal nature dead and walk alive in Christ.  The apostle Paul stated it well, ""I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me"  (Galatians 2:20 (NASB).

Hebrews, chapter 6 encourages and admonishes the Christian to leave the basic levels of the faith and move on to maturity.  Hebrews 6:1-3 (NASB), "1Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2of instruction about washings and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment. 3And this we will do, if God permits."

There is a hymn called, “I’m Pressing on the Upward Way” also called “Higher Ground” that talks about our deeper experience with the Lord.  I will wrap up this writing with the lyrics to that hymn:

 I’m pressing on the upward way,
New heights I’m gaining every day;
Still praying as I onward bound,
“Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.”

Chorus:
Lord, lift me up, and let me stand
By faith on Canaan’s tableland;
A higher plane than I have found,
Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.

My heart has no desire to stay
Where doubts arise and fears dismay;
Though some may dwell where these abound,
My prayer, my aim, is higher ground.

I want to live above the world,
Though Satan’s darts at me are hurled;
For faith has caught the joyful sound,
The song of saints on higher ground.

I want to scale the utmost height
And catch a gleam of glory bright;
But still I’ll pray till rest I’ve found,
“Lord, lead me on to higher ground.”

Source: http://www.hymnal.net/hymn.php/h/396#ixzz2MnzAvloD

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Transformed


2 Corinthians 5:17, "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come."

Unregenerate sinners are like caterpillars crawling along the ground.  They have very limited vision of the earth and no vision of the heavens above. But Christians are like butterflies who can fly above the ground and view things the caterpillar was never able to see.  They have been transformed into new creatures and in reality will NEVER will be like caterpillars again. 

But what if the butterfly didn't know it could fly? What if it only remembered it's past as a caterpillar? Even though it had beautiful new wings, it would crawl along the ground being very visible for prey to attack.

Christian, you are not your past. If you continue to look to your old nature you will be easy pray for the devil. You are new in Christ and you have wings to soar in Him. Don't just believe in who He is but believe both who He is and what He says in His Word. You will fly to new places and new heights in Him and the enemy will not be able to defeat you.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Critical Faith

In these last days before the return of our Lord Jesus Christ, we must be walking by faith or we most certainly will fall.  I am not saying if you are born again that you will lose salvation because you won't.  But if we are not exercising our faith, then as God's Word states, "Faith without works is dead." (James 2:26)

Three to four years ago I had impressed in my spirit 1 Corinthians 10:12, "Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall."

The times in which we are now living are not going to get easier. If we are not standing firm in our faith, knowing the Word of God and exercising what we know, then when disasters or very severe trials come we will be like a house built on the sand.  As Jesus said, "Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand." (Matthew 7:26, NASB)


I know many people who profess Christ, but are terribly anxious from one day to the next. Faith is not anxious. Faith believes, trusts, and relies on the Lord and the truth of His Word. If we cannot stand when times are not severe but only daily trials, how do we think we will stand when VERY difficult times come?

Jesus is returning soon for His Bride, according to the signs we have read in the scriptures and now see coming to pass,  but before He comes we may face things we have never before had to face as Christians.  I pray you will stay in His Word, believe what you read, and act upon it every day.

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Absolute Truth, the Gospel of Jesus Christ


Every person is born a sinner [has a sin nature] in need of a savior because we are descendants of the fallen man, Adam. 

Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”   Our sin demands payment to the righteous and holy God.  Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” 
A person is born an enemy of God; at war with Him.  Romans 8:7, “For the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so.”

No one can do enough good deeds to enter heaven because we still have to deal with the fact that we have a sin nature which cannot be eradicated by our own works.  Isaiah 64:6, “For all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither life a leaf, and our iniquities like the wind, take us away.”

But Jesus, the Son of God, was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of a virgin.  Because He was not a descendant of Adam, He was born without sin and remained without sin for His entire life on earth.  And God the Father, in order to redeem His elect, sent Jesus the sinless one, to be the sacrifice for sin in our place. 

John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.”  2 Corinthians 5:21, “He [God the Father] made Him [Jesus] who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him [Jesus].” [Amplification mine].  Jesus was crucified on the cross of Calvary to satisfy the wages of our sin debt.  He arose on the third day and later ascended to His Father where He now intercedes continually for those who believe upon His name.

 In order to be saved, we must be born again.  To be born again means that our spirit which became corrupt and died in Adam, becomes alive in Christ.  We experience an actual rebirth of our spirit through the power of the Holy Spirit.  How can we be born again?

Romans 10:9-10, “…if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart  that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.”

To confess Jesus as Lord is not just mouthing the words ("The devil believes and trembles'), but is true belief that Jesus is not only Lord, but is Lord over you and your life.  And, we must believe that God has raised Him from the dead, because it is in that power over death and the grave that we know He will also resurrect those who place their faith in Him unto eternal life.

When we believe on the Lord Jesus, placing our trust and faith in Him for the forgiveness of our past, present, and future sins, and for eternal life, His righteousness then becomes our righteousness by faith.  I will stress again that we never become righteous through any works or deeds of our own flesh.    Just praying a prayer and getting dipped in a baptistery or a river somewhere does not give us eternal life.   When we pray to the Father, we will only be heard if we are born again by believing upon the Lord Jesus Christ.  Baptism always follows salvation by grace through faith.  Baptism does not save in and of itself.  Baptism is our profession before God and before others that we have truly believed upon the Lord Jesus Christ, having been identified in His death (buried with Him in baptism) and as new creatures in Him will now walk in the power of His Holy Spirit, following Him (raised to walk in newness of life).

Once a person has been born again, they will indeed be a new person.  Their believe will result in new desires and behaviors.  The Holy Spirit begins to conform the person to the image of Christ.  2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come.”  2 Corinthians 3:18, “But we all [born again believers], with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” [Amplification mine]   Romans 8:29, “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.”

To be saved (born again), you must believe and if every member of your household is to be saved, they must believe also.  

Acts 16:30-31, “And after he [the jail guard] brought them [Paul and Silas] out, he said, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’  And they said, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved, you and your household.’”  [Amplification mine].

It is extremely important that you believe and be saved because those who have not believed upon the Lord Jesus Christ unto salvation are judged as unrighteous and are already under condemnation.  John 3:18, “He who believes in His is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”

 If we die IN Christ, we have nothing to fear, but have  the promise and hope of eternal life in the presence of our loving God.   But if we die OUTSIDE of Christ [not having have placed our faith in Him to follow Him] we have the eternal wrath of God abiding upon us resulting in eternal torment in the lake of fire (Rev. 19:20).

Hebrews 9:27, “And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, so Christ also having been offered once to bear the sins of many, shall appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.”

Today is the day to believe upon the Lord Jesus Christ as no one is promised another moment of breath.  2 Corinthians 6:2, “for He says, ‘AT THE ACCEPTABLE TIME I LISTENED TO YOU, AND ON THE DAY OF SALVATION I HELPED YOU’; behold, now is ‘the ACCEPTABLE TIME’, behold, now is ‘THE DAY OF SALVATION.’”

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Ouch! I Am Being Pruned!

John 15:1,  1"I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser."  2"Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit."

A few years ago we had a major ice storm in our region. When the ice melted the trees looked like a nuclear bomb had ravaged them! The devastation was tremendous. A few seasons later those passing by would scarcely notice what had occurred as the trees had grown new limbs lush with foliage. Had it not been for the dead wood lying on the ground, one may not have realized the previous pruning of nature.


Our lives as Christians have many comparisons to nature. We too, in order to become lush with growth and to bear much fruit, must be pruned. Pruning is very often painful to the Christian. At the time of pruning we may have a thriving ministry for the Lord and believe that we were serving Him completely in His will. And it is quite likely that is often true. But the Lord may at times even cut off a ministry to allow further growth in Him. The Father's first and ultimate goal is to conform us to the image of His Son (Ref.: Romans 8:29).


Chastening is not the same as pruning although some chastisement may be involved in the pruning process. The Apostle Paul endured much pruning. He was faithful to preach the gospel wherever the Lord sent him. He even preached to those in authority over him as a Roman citizen. With a thriving evangelical ministry, Paul found himself more than once behind the bars of prisons. But it was in those prisons that Paul dictated the letters to the churches and to his spiritual sons in the faith, Timothy and Titus. Those Holy Spirit inspired writings are still bearing spiritual fruit in Christians today.


Paul may not have envisioned his ministry for the Lord as something which would occur from a prison cell. However, Paul was sold out completely to Jesus Christ and grateful for the grace which he had received, he accepted his pruning and walked with the Lord.


When we are pruned, we may be asked to sacrifice what we believe is more than our share. Like the Apostle Paul we may have to take many wrongs against ourselves. It may not seem fair to us. We may wonder why the Lord doesn't fix some of the other people in our lives. We may pout and wonder why we have to be the ones to sacrifice so much while others seem to continue in their old irritating habits. While those are very human attitudes, they are not the attitude the Lord wants to cultivate in us.


If we will recognize the hands of the Master Gardner in our pruning process and understand that He prunes us for growth to become more like Jesus, then we will gain the proper perspective and adjust our attitude accordingly. It is a very high calling and blessed calling that He would allow us to serve at a cost to ourselves. King David exclaimed, "...I will not present burnt offerings that have cost me nothing," (1 Chronicles 21:24). Burnt offerings symbolize a full surrender of our lives to the Lord.


The Lord does not want just a portion of us, He wants all that we are. The Apostle Paul understood that the Lord want us to be a living sacrifice to the Lord. Romans 12:1, "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."


We must not underestimate the term "sacrifice". While salvation was free to those in Christ, it cost Jesus everything; and to follow Jesus will cost us everything we are as well. Matthew 16:24, "Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me."


We are not to worry about what the Lord has for His other disciples. Every disciple of Christ will have a personal relationship with the Lord and the Lord will deal with each according to His will. While we are to encourage others to grow and even admonish them at times we are to examine our own walk first. For if we are more concerned about what others are doing than we are about our own walk of faith, we have things backwards. We are told before we judge others to be sure we have first examined ourselves and repented where needed (Ref.: Matthew 7:3-5).


Peter appeared to be more concerned about John's walk than his own in the following account: John 21:18-23, 18“Truly, truly, I say to you [Peter], when you were younger, you used to gird yourself and walk wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go.” 19Now this He said, signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, “Follow Me!” 20Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them; the one who also had leaned back on His bosom at the supper and said, “Lord, who is the one who betrays You?” 21So Peter seeing him said to Jesus, “Lord, and what about this man?” 22Jesus said to him, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!”23Therefore this saying went out among the brethren that that disciple would not die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but only, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you?”


When the Lord comes to prune you, don't fight His pruning shears. Submit to Him and walk where He leads. He may ask you to spend time sitting at His feet. There is no better place to be than abiding in Christ for that is the place where we will flourish and bear much fruit.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

When Emotions Lie

When we accept Jesus Christ as Lord, it does not mean that we will now have comfortable, pain free lives. Jesus said, "These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world." (John 16:33).

The Lord has many reasons for allowing trials in our lives. He may want to prove our faith genuine, grow us in spiritual maturity, prune us, chasten us, or use our trial for someone else to see Jesus in us or in our lives. His purposes are multifaceted.

Just as a person training for a marathon eats a proper diet and exercises to train, the Christian needs to feed on the Word of God, pray without ceasing, and exercise his/her faith. The best time to to that is before the trial comes rather than when it hits. But oftentimes we wait until the crisis comes before we begin to do any of those.

When the trials come we sometimes begin to look at our circumstances and begin to walk in our emotions rather than by faith, relying on God's promises and character. If we depend upon our emotions, then we may not feel the Lord's presence, we may not hear His voice clearly, and we may begin to doubt Him. That is very shaky ground upon which a Christian will stand if dependent upon the emotions or natural senses.  Our emotions will lie to us.

Ephesians 6:10, "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might."

When going through difficult times, if we are to remain standing firm, we must be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might and not leaning on our own strength to make it. God does not look at weakness the same as man does. He will often allow us to be broken in our own strength, because He loves us and wants us to trust Him and depend upon Him.

The greatest weakness we can have is depending upon our own control and strength. The Lord allowed the apostle, Paul, to have a thorn in his flesh so that the power of Christ would rest upon him in his weakness. Therefore Paul learned to glory in his weakness rather than bemoaning his weakness.

""And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me." (2 Corinthians 12:9)

As the Lord's chosen, we need to learn the love the Father has toward us. He loves us so much that while we were yet sinners, He sent His Son to die in our place to pay our entire debt of sin (Romans 5:8).  He has loved us from everlasting to everlasting, which means from eternity past and for all of eternity. During our dark nights of the soul, we need to rely on the love He has for us and realize that He will never do anything that will send us away from Him, but that all He does for us is to bring us closer to Him, to conform us to the image of His Son, and to glorify Himself.

I will end my saying this:  When enduring trials of any kind, focus on faith, not on feelings.

May the joy and peace of the Lord be with you.  Amen









Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Fruit-bearing Christian

Colossians 1:5-6, "Because of the hope laid up for you in heaven, of which you previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel which has come to you, just as in all the world also it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing, even as it has been doing in you also since the day you heard of it and understood the grace of God in truth;"


It is the Lord's will that every born again Christian constantly bear fruit and ever increasingly as they walk out their faith.


Many times we have our focus on ourselves, our past, or circumstances of today.  The way we will be victorious in our day to day living is to keep ourselves in the Word of God and walking in His Spirit.  


Many whom I counsel do not often read the Word of God.  If we do not read it, we will not practice it.  It is not about reading it as an obligation, but of a necessity.  How can we expect to reap the blessings of the Spirit if we do not recognize the leading and voice of our Shepherd, Jesus Christ?


The best counsel I can give anyone is to surrender their lives to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.  Having done that, we will need to walk in His Spirit.  Many Christians today have not been discipled and do not know the importance of knowing His Word so that they are able to discern the voice of the Holy Spirit.  But lack of discipleship is no excuse.  It is our own responsibility to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12).  This is not working FOR our salvation, but working out and walking in the salvation that we have already received in Christ.


Jesus said, ""I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing." (John 15:5)


I want to encourage all of you who are born again to not just read the Word of God, but study it, internalize it, and live it.  As you walk in the light of the faith you have already received, you will receive more light and more faith.  You will find that as you walk in faith and by faith that you are victorious over and through your circumstances, whatever they may be.  Faith believes before seeing.  The more we read the Word of God and speak the Word of God, the more we will live the Word of God and believe that what He has said is indeed true!


May the grace of God our Father and His Son, Jesus Christ be with you all.  Amen.