HOW DO I FOLLOW (Walk With) JESUS?

PROVERBS 8:32-36: “And so, my children, listen to me, for all who follow my ways are joyful. Listen to my instruction and be wise. Don’t ignore it. Joyful are those who listen to me, watching for me daily at my gates, waiting for me outside my home! For whoever finds me finds life and receives favor from the Lord. But those who miss me injure themselves. All who hate me love death.” NLT
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OBSERVATION: How do I follow Jesus? How do I walk in His steps? How do I get to know Him? How do I grow in His character? How do I experience His presence daily?

Every believer should be a Christ-follower. Yet, unlike the apostles, we do not have the privilege of walking with Him as they did when Jesus walked this earth. Is prayer the key to walking with Jesus? Is worship how we walk with Jesus? These verses from Proverbs give us the key to answer this question.

  • “And so, my children, listen to me, for all who follow my ways are joyful. Listen to my instruction and be wise. Don’t ignore it. Joyful are those who listen to me, watching for me daily at my gates, waiting for me outside my home!”

To walk with Jesus is to abide in the Scriptures. In Proverbs 8 we see that wisdom, understanding, and knowledge are personified. This chapter is speaking about the living Christ, the Logos (Word) of God. Wisdom is personified in Jesus. Understanding is personified in Jesus. Knowledge is personified in Jesus. To walk with Jesus is to abide in Him. To abide in Him is to abide in His Word!

  • “In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone.” John‬ ‭1:1-4‬ ‭NLT‬‬
  • “But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love…When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.” John‬ ‭15:7, 9-10‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Why is this so important? Why is God’s Word primary to even prayer and worship? The Scriptures never say prayer was God, or worship was God. Yet, they do say – “The Word was with God, and the Word was God.”. Prayer and worship are important elements of our life in Christ, yet they are not the primary way that we follow Christ. Let’s look at the reason why.

Prayer is our means of sharing our heart with God and God sharing His heart with us. Jesus spent much time in prayer with the Father. Jesus taught us how to pray. Yet, prayer without God’s Word will have no foundation, no direction, and no power. Without the Word of God, it will inevitably lose its focus. Jesus taught us to pray – “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven…”. The only way we know His will is through His Word!

Worship is the surrender and expression of our life and love for God. We are to offer our lives as living sacrifices. We are called to sing to the Lord in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Yet, if we rely on worship alone we are prone to be swept away by mere emotions. We are called to worship God in spirit and truth. The truth is God’s Word. Throughout the Scriptures, we have example after example of how the people of God worshipped incorrectly because their worship was not focused on the Word of God.

God’s Word is not words printed on a page. God’s Word is the living revelation of Jesus Christ. It is through God’s Word that we meet Jesus in all of His glory and splendor. As we abide in God’s Word we abide in Jesus. Our prayers are answered because we begin praying according to the will and heart of the Father. Our worship is accepted because it is worship that is based in spirit and truth.

When we seek God’s Word with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength – we are seeking Jesus!

Is it any wonder why the greatest struggle in most believer’s lives is maintaining a disciplined program of Bible reading, meditation, and study? The enemy of our souls does not want us to walk in the power and favor of the Lord. The enemy of our souls does not want us to abide in Jesus. If he can keep us out of God’s Word he can diminish our prayer life, tarnish our worship, and keep us weak and ineffective in the work of Christ.

I am convinced that the greatest call of the believer’s life is to seek God’s Word. To seek and abide in God’s Word is to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. It is how we follow Jesus each day. It is where we get our marching orders for the day. It reminds us of the priorities of life and refocuses us on our mission. It produces joy, life, and favor from the Lord. There is nothing that can compare with the joy of abiding in God’s Word!

Years ago I was frustrated with my inability to maintain a simple discipline of Bible reading, meditation, and journaling. I had tried every reading program – only to fail. Then, one day, I feel the Lord gave me a plan that is so simple. It does not have any reading schedule or dates attached to it. I simply read three chapters of the Old Testament and one chapter of the New Testament each day. With this method, I can miss over 60 days of reading and still complete the Bible in a year. Since I started using the L.I.F.E. bible reading program I have successfully read through the Bible every year. It has become the joy and passion of my life!

Whatever method or program you use, I pray that you will find the joy of abiding in Christ by daily abiding in His Word! If you would like more information about the L.I.F.E. bible reading program, please send an email to rcoutreach@aol.com. I am praying for you!

In Jesus Name!

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THE PATHWAY OF LIFE…(Law or Grace?)

PROVERBS 7:2-3: “Obey my commands and live! Guard my instructions as you guard your own eyes. Tie them on your fingers as a reminder. Write them deep within your heart.” NLT
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OBSERVATION: What is the pathway of life? Is there a difference between the pathway of life and the source of life? What role does grace have in the relationship between salvation and obedience? A clear understanding of these questions is needed!

There is a clear difference between the source of life and the pathway of life. When we misunderstand these two principles we will either miss the door of salvation all together or we will never reach our full potential in Jesus Christ. The commandments of God were never meant to be the source of life. The source of life is found only by grace through faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ!

  • “Obviously, the law applies to those to whom it was given, for its purpose is to keep people from having excuses, and to show that the entire world is guilty before God. For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are.” Romans‬ ‭3:19-20‬ ‭NLT‬‬

If we approach God’s commands as the source of life we will be continually frustrated. The law was given as an expression of God’s holiness, which is life. However, when we try to achieve a right standing with God by keeping these commands we fail. His commands, His holiness, only reveals how sinful we really are! Paul wrestled with this as he wrote his epistle to the Romans.

  • “…So I discovered that the law’s commands, which were supposed to bring life, brought spiritual death instead. Sin took advantage of those commands and deceived me; it used the commands to kill me. But still, the law itself is holy, and its commands are holy and right and good. But how can that be? Did the law, which is good, cause my death? Of course not! Sin used what was good to bring about my condemnation to death. So we can see how terrible sin really is. It uses God’s good commands for its own evil purposes.” Romans‬ ‭7:10-13‬ ‭NLT‬‬

So, how do we justify these statements of Paul with the exhortation of Proverbs? Paul acknowledges that the Law, God’s commands, are holy, just, and true. However, the law is not what is the concern. The concern is our sin. If we use God’s commands as the source of life we find ourselves under the condemnation of sin. We must be delivered from this condemnation by something more powerful than our sin. We must be delivered by grace through faith in Jesus Christ!

  • “But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.” ‭‭Romans‬ ‭3:21-24‬ ‭NLT‬‬

So, if God’s commands are not the source of life, what are they? They are the pathway of life! The pathway is the walk of faith for those who have been redeemed through faith in the completed work of Jesus Christ. They do not obey these commands to be accepted by God. They obey these commands because of their deep love for what He has done for them through our Lord Jesus Christ! They begin to live by the power of grace through the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus!

  • “Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires. Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God. Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace.” ‭‭Romans‬ ‭6:12-14‬ ‭NLT‬‬

God’s commands no longer produce in us the knowledge of sin because we have been crucified with Christ and we are risen with Him to a new way of living through the Spirit. What once brought death now brings light and life. It is not because of our effort, it is because of the freedom we have been given by God’s grace. What we could not do before Christ we find ourselves doing in the freedom and power of the Holy Spirit. As we walk in His love we are empowered to walk in His light and life. The commandment that proved to be death before we were saved becomes the pathway of life and fulfillment through God’s grace!

This is the difference between God’s commandments being the source of life and the pathway of life. God’s commands, apart from God’s grace, always lead to guilt and condemnation. The commandment reveals our sinful nature. This knowledge of sin brings us to Christ as we recognize our need for a Savior. When we are saved by grace through faith the commandment that once worked death becomes the very pathway of life as we walk no longer in our own strength but in the power of the Holy Spirit.

So, let’s read the verses from Proverbs again in this light. Let’s meditate upon them with the understanding of grace and the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. Let’s begin to enter into the fulness of life as we walk in the light of His life!

  • “Obey my commands and live! Guard my instructions as you guard your own eyes. Tie them on your fingers as a reminder. Write them deep within your heart.” (Proverbs 7:2-3 NLT)

In Jesus Name!

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JESUS LIGHT? (Whatever happened to sin?)

ACTS 20:21: “I have had one message for Jews and Greeks alike—the necessity of repenting from sin and turning to God, and of having faith in our Lord Jesus.” NLT
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OBSERVATION: Whatever happened to sin? Have you noticed that the concept of sin is diminishing in both the world and the church? What we once understood as wrong is now embraced as normative. There is a blurring of the lines in our message today.

We have begun proclaiming – “Jesus Light.”

What is “Jesus light?” It is the Gospel of Jesus Christ without the call to repentance from sin and turning to God. It is the invitation to add Jesus to your life and continue living in the same lane. It is the message that you can turn to God without turning from your sin.

It is “Jesus Light!”

Paul proclaimed that he had only one message for both the Jews and the Gentiles. It was the necessity of repenting from sin, turning to God, and having faith in the Lord Jesus. Note the progression. To have faith in the Lord Jesus one needs to turn from their sin. To remain in sin and have faith in Jesus Christ was not a concept that Paul taught or held.

  • “Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people—none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God.” 1 Corinthians‬ ‭6:9-10‬ ‭NLT‬‬

When Paul says – “…those who do wrong…”, an understanding of the Greek is needed to see the impact of this statement. Paul is not saying that anyone who has sinned will not inherit the Kingdom of God. The construction of the Greek words “do wrong” shows an ongoing action. Those who continue to do wrong. Those who continue to live in their sin. In other words – those who never repented and turned to God!

If this meant those who sinned, we would all be destined for hell. All of us are sinners and have fallen short of the glory of God. Yet, to those who have repented, turned to God, and placed their faith in Jesus Christ, there is a radical change that takes place.

  • “Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” 1 Corinthians‬ ‭6:11‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Why is this so important? Without the knowledge of sin, there is no need for repentance. Without repentance, we feel no need to turn to God. Without turning to God there is no faith in Jesus Christ. And, without faith in Jesus Christ, there is no cleansing and salvation.

If the enemy of our souls can convince us that we can believe in Jesus and continue in our sin, he can trap us in a life of darkness that will ultimately lead to eternal death. Is this possible? Is it possible to convince oneself that you are a believer and be lost for eternity? I defer to Jesus to answer this question.

  • “Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’” Matthew‬ ‭7:21-23‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Some may object – “Your preaching works righteousness!” Absolutely not! All I am doing is contending for the message of the Gospel to be proclaimed exactly the way Jesus proclaimed it.

  • “Later on, after John was arrested, Jesus went into Galilee, where he preached God’s Good News. “The time promised by God has come at last!” he announced. “The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!” ‭‭Mark‬ ‭1:14-15‬ ‭NLT‬‬

This was the message of John the Baptist, Jesus, Peter, Paul, and the apostles. The message was never – “Give Jesus a chance,” or, “Ask Jesus into your heart.” The message was exactly as Paul described it.

  • “…The necessity of repenting from sin and turning to God, and of having faith in our Lord Jesus.”

I am afraid that we have raised an entire generation under the wrong message. As more and more sectors of the church begin to embrace many sins as a normative way of life, we are at a breaking point. We must recapture the true Gospel message. We need to preach repentance from sin and faith in Jesus Christ. We must be bold in our call to repent and turn to God. The eternal lives of those who hear us are at stake.

Paul took this very seriously. In his understanding, he saw himself as a watchman on the wall. In Jewish law, if a watchman failed to warn the city of impending doom, he was guilty of the fate of all those he failed to warn. As Paul gave his closing farewell remarks to the Ephesian believers he stated,

  • “And now I know that none of you to whom I have preached the Kingdom will ever see me again. I declare today that I have been faithful. If anyone suffers eternal death, it’s not my fault, for I didn’t shrink from declaring all that God wants you to know.” ‭‭Acts of the Apostles‬ ‭20:25-27‬ ‭NLT

To proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ is an awesome responsibility. It is the call of death to life. It is the call to repent from sin, turn to God, and place one’s faith in Jesus Christ. Without repentance, there is no turning. Without turning there is no faith. And, without faith, there is no salvation.

God has established His moral law as a reflection of His holiness. We cannot simply subtract from it because we do not feel comfortable with it any longer. To do so is to diminish the very nature of God. What was sin in the Old Testament is still sin today. In fact, if we honestly read the entire Bible we will see that God’s holiness has neither an Old Testament nor New Testament framework. It is simply the revelation of who He is!

Lord, as I consider this I pray for boldness to speak Your truth in love. I do not want to shirk back from the full proclamation of Your Good News. You came to save us from our sin. If we change the definition of sin then we really do not need saving. Awaken my heart and awaken the church. Help us to proclaim the whole counsel of God through Jesus Christ to our world!

Lord, deliver the church from the message of “Jesus Light.”

In Jesus Name!‬‬

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IS MY LIFE CONTINUALLY BEING TRANSFORMED?

ACTS 19:17-20: “The story of what happened spread quickly all through Ephesus, to Jews and Greeks alike. A solemn fear descended on the city, and the name of the Lord Jesus was greatly honored. Many who became believers confessed their sinful practices. A number of them who had been practicing sorcery brought their incantation books and burned them at a public bonfire. The value of the books was several million dollars. So the message about the Lord spread widely and had a powerful effect.”

OBSERVATION: Is my life continually being transformed? Have I grown stagnant and indifferent in my walk of faith or am I constantly changing? Am I willing to count the cost of discipleship or am I attempting to negotiate my own terms with God?

The story of the Ephesian believers always challenges me when I read it. Ephesus was the center of pagan worship and the home of the temple of the goddess Artemis. This was so important to the city that one of the biggest industries in the city was the production of silver idols. When Paul came proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ, his message, and those who believed, turned this city upside down.

Paul was not making any friends among the silversmiths. Demetrius, a leading silversmith, incited a riot in the city in opposition to Paul and the believers. A line was being drawn. There was no middle ground. You either were a disciple of Jesus or you were a disciple of Artemis. There probably would not have been an issue if it hadn’t been for the reaction of the Ephesians who believed.

The Ephesian believers not only professed their faith in Jesus Christ, but they also made a public break from their sinful past. It was not just a symbolic break. It was a costly one. It was so costly that it threatened the very livelihood of the entire city. There was no doubt in their mind. To be a follower of Jesus Christ meant a dramatic change. They could not simply believe. They needed to lay down everything they put their trust in before they trusted Christ.

  • Many who became believers confessed their sinful practices. A number of them who had been practicing sorcery brought their incantation books and burned them at a public bonfire. The value of the books was several million dollars. So the message about the Lord spread widely and had a powerful effect.”

Their faith impacted a multi-million dollar industry! No wonder Demetrius was upset. If this continued they would be totally out of business. Christianity was no longer just another religion. It was an imminent threat to their way of life. Battle lines were drawn!

Am I living for Jesus Christ with the same zeal and sacrifice? Is my life marked by such raw and heartfelt devotion? Am I willing to lay down my all for Jesus – even if it affects my pocketbook? Is my life different today than it was last year? All of these questions rush to my heart as I meditate upon this powerful story of faith and sacrifice!

I am afraid that it is easier to compartmentalize our lives than allow the Holy Spirit to change them. So many times I am tempted to put my past in a shed and lock it up rather than allow it to be burned upon the open flames of the holiness of God. It is easy to convince myself that I have changed while I still hold on to the things of value from my past. The Ephesian believers were willing to take a radical step of discipleship – and so should I!

Throughout my life, I have faced these junctures of decision. The Holy Spirit has called me to repentance and change. There has always been an initial hesitance on my part. No one likes change, especially when the change involves sacrifice. Yet, by the grace and mercy of God, I have learned that this change is both necessary and worth the cost. Whatever God has called me to cast in the fire – He has replaced with His goodness and provision.

I think of the discourse between Jesus and Peter. Peter understood the cost of discipleship, but he wondered – “Is it worth it?” Jesus replied,

  • “…And I assure you that everyone who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or property, for my sake and for the Good News, will receive now in return a hundred times as many houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and property—along with persecution. And in the world to come that person will have eternal life. But many who are the greatest now will be least important then, and those who seem least important now will be the greatest then. ”. Mark‬ ‭10:29-31‬ ‭NLT‬‬

The world will never understand the pathway of the cross. In fact, they will oppose it with anger and hostility, because it threatens their lifestyle and livelihood. The cross calls us to repentance, discipleship, and change. It is God’s light shining upon our darkness and calling us to His light and love. Those who reject the Gospel hate the light because it exposes the reality of their deeds. They will ridicule and oppose every step of change in our life. Yet, God will bless and reward every step of obedience to His grace.

There is so much that remains to be changed in my life. When I look to Jesus I realize how much I fall short. Yet, I do not see disappointment in His eyes. I see His loving hand reaching out to me, empowering me, and encouraging me to take the next step of obedience and change. He meets this call with the power of the Holy Spirit and the provision of His grace. And, as I lay down the next layer of my life I am clothed in the next layer of HIs righteousness. What a wonderful promise and provision for all who believe!

Lord, this morning I want to change. I want to count the cost of discipleship. I want to have the boldness of the Ephesian believers who cast their old sinful practices into the fire – even though it cost them millions. Grant me the grace to take the next step in my call to take up my cross and follow You!

In Jesus Name!

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I NEED THE HOLY SPIRIT!

ACTS 18:24-26: “Meanwhile, a Jew named Apollos, an eloquent speaker who knew the Scriptures well, had arrived in Ephesus from Alexandria in Egypt. He had been taught the way of the Lord, and he taught others about Jesus with an enthusiastic spirit and with accuracy. However, he knew only about John’s baptism. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him preaching boldly in the synagogue, they took him aside and explained the way of God even more accurately.” NLT
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OBSERVATION: I need the Holy Spirit! The Church needs the Holy Spirit! Is it possible to be fervent for the Lord, to know the Scriptures, to be engaged in His work, and leave the Holy Spirit out of the picture? As we study the Book of Acts the answer is a resounding Yes!

There is a difference between being born again by the Holy Spirit and living in the power of the Holy Spirit. Every true believer is brought to faith in Jesus Christ through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit comes to indwell the hearts of all believers. Yet, we also need to be baptized in the Holy Spirit. We need the fullness of the Holy Spirit in everything that we do!

Apollos was an exemplary man. He was well versed in the Scriptures. He had followed the baptism of John and had embraced Jesus Christ as his Savior. He wasn’t sitting on the sidelines. Apollos was actively sharing what he knew about Jesus. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him they realized that something was lacking. It was not his commitment. It was not his enthusiasm. It was his understanding of God’s full provision.

As a disciple of John, Apollos fully understood the importance of repentance from sin and a willingness to walk according to God’s Word. Yet, even John the Baptist understood there was something more coming.

  • “I baptize with water those who repent of their sins and turn to God. But someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not worthy even to be his slave and carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” Matthew‬ ‭3:11‬ ‭NLT‬‬

John died before he could witness the fulfillment of this promise. Apollos had lived outside of the unfolding of this promise that was fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost in Jerusalem. His love for the Lord, his desire to serve him, needed to be empowered by receiving the fullness, the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Apollos was not lacking in commitment – just understanding. This was not uncommon then and it is not uncommon today.

I grew up in a church that proclaimed the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Yet, my understanding of the Holy Spirit was limited to Him being just the third member of the Trinity. I was trained in the teaching of Jesus, yet I did not have the power to walk in these teachings. When I committed my life to Jesus Christ as Lord, I too was enthusiastic about my new walk with Jesus. Yet, I still did not understand anything about the Holy Spirit. I thank God that, like Apollos, I had those who took me aside and explained the way of God even more accurately.

I had been saved, by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. I had been called into the ministry. I had enthusiastically witnessed to others with my newfound faith. Yet, I was really empowered more by enthusiasm than the Holy Spirit. As I read the Book of Acts, as I witnessed the ministry of the apostles unfold, I knew that there was something more. I was like the Ephesian believers who had not even heard (or been taught) about the Holy Spirit!

  • “While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul traveled through the interior regions until he reached Ephesus, on the coast, where he found several believers. “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” he asked them. “No,” they replied, “we haven’t even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” “Then what baptism did you experience?” he asked. And they replied, “The baptism of John.” Paul said, “John’s baptism called for repentance from sin. But John himself told the people to believe in the one who would come later, meaning Jesus.” As soon as they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then when Paul laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in other tongues and prophesied.” Acts of the Apostles‬ ‭19:1-6‬ ‭NLT‬‬

There was a great difference in the life of Apollos once he knew the way of God more accurately. There was a great difference in the life of Paul and Peter once they were filled with power from on high. It is not our mastery of the Scriptures, our eloquence, or our presentation that leads others to Jesus Christ. It is the Holy Spirit! We are called to be filled, to walk, and to live in the power of the Holy Spirit! It is the anointing that truly breaks the yoke.

There is a difference when we minister in the power of the Holy Spirit. God gets all the glory. Lives are changed. And, the church is edified in the love and life of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit always leads us to Jesus Christ. He alone convicts the human heart of sin, righteousness, and judgment. We are fully dependent upon His ministry in and through us to be effective ministers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Have you been baptized in the Holy Spirit? I am not asking you if you have the Holy Spirit. Every true believer in Jesus Christ has been born again by the Spirit who now lives in their heart. What I am asking is if you are experiencing rivers of living water flowing through you each day? Are you experiencing the gifts of the Holy Spirit in your life? Are you seeing His life working through you to touch the deep inner needs of those you minister to?

This promise of overflowing power is not given to the elite. It is a promise to all who believe! Yet, like the Ephesians, our experience or background may limit us in our understanding and keep us from this wonderful provision. What do you need to do? All you need to do is ask the Father in Jesus’ Name! It is that simple.

  • “So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.” Luke‬ ‭11:13‬ ‭NLT‬‬
  • “On the last day, the climax of the festival, Jesus stood and shouted to the crowds, “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’” (When he said “living water,” he was speaking of the Spirit, who would be given to everyone believing in him. But the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus had not yet entered into his glory.)”. John‬ ‭7:37-39‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Heavenly Father, I thank you for Your Son, Jesus Christ – my Savior, Baptizer in the Holy Spirit, Healer, and Soon Coming King! I ask You to fill me anew this morning with Your precious Holy Spirit. May I walk in His power and presence today and may my life give glory to Jesus Christ in all that I do!

In Jesus Name!

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THE EVIDENCE OR EXPRESSION? (How do we know if we are truly saved?)

ACTS 15:8-11: “God knows people’s hearts, and he confirmed that he accepts Gentiles by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he did to us. He made no distinction between us and them, for he cleansed their hearts through faith. So why are you now challenging God by burdening the Gentile believers with a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors were able to bear? We believe that we are all saved the same way, by the undeserved grace of the Lord Jesus.” NLT
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OBSERVATION: What is the evidence of salvation? Is there a difference between the evidence and the expression? When Jesus said – “You will know them by their fruits…”, was He talking about the evidence or the expression? Is there a difference or is this just another case of splitting hairs?

This question was front and center in what has become known in church history as the Jerusalem Council. The church was born on the Day of Pentecost in Jerusalem. All of the first believers were Jewish. Having come to faith in Jesus Christ, being baptized in water, and filled with the Holy Spirit, they continued their newfound faith in much the same pattern of expression as they practiced before that day.

As the Gospel began going forth beyond the boundaries of Jerusalem, Gentile believers began embracing Jesus Christ as Lord through faith. Peter was the first to experience this wonderful outpouring as he shared the Gospel with the members of the house of Cornelius, the Roman captain. As they heard Peter’s message they were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in tongues, giving praise to God (just like the 120 did on the Day of Pentecost).

It was not long until a debate began between the Jewish believers in Jerusalem and the new Gentile believers that were coming to faith through the ongoing ministry of Paul and Barnabas. The Jewish believers said that all the new Gentile believers needed to be circumcised and follow the laws of Moses. Paul and Barnabas objected to this strongly. The question that needed to be established was –

What is the evidence of salvation?

Paul made it very clear in his defense. The evidence of salvation was not found in anything these new Gentile believers had done or would do. The evidence of salvation was found in what they had received through faith in Jesus Christ.

  • “God knows people’s hearts, and he confirmed that he accepts Gentiles by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he did to us.”

The evidence of salvation was the gift of the Holy Spirit. Peter understood this as he witnessed the household of Cornelius being filled with the Holy Spirit as they embraced the Good News of Jesus Christ. The indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit was the difference between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. In the Old Covenant, they received the Word of God, but the Holy Spirit only fell upon select individuals. In the New Covenant, through Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit was poured into the hearts of each and everyone who believed.

The indwelling and empowering presence of the Holy Spirit in our life is the evidence of salvation!

Is that all there is? What about all of the Old Testament practices? What about circumcision? What about the Law? What about all of the principles the Jewish believers had grown up with? Aren’t these important anymore?

  • “So why are you now challenging God by burdening the Gentile believers with a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors were able to bear? We believe that we are all saved the same way, by the undeserved grace of the Lord Jesus.”

Paul saw all of these as an unnecessary yoke that the Jewish believers were trying to put on the Gentiles. In fact, Paul pointed out that it was a useless yoke to carry since no one, including their ancestors, was able to bear it. Salvation had come to the Gentiles as it had come to the Jews – by the undeserved grace of our Lord Jesus Christ! It was by grace, through faith, and not of works, so that no one could boast!

If that is true, if the evidence of salvation is the Holy Spirit, then why did the Apostles send the following instructions to the Gentile believers?

  • “And so my judgment is that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead, we should write and tell them to abstain from eating food offered to idols, from sexual immorality, from eating the meat of strangled animals, and from consuming blood. For these laws of Moses have been preached in Jewish synagogues in every city on every Sabbath for many generations.” ‭‭Acts of the Apostles‬ ‭15:19-21‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Was this just the “law light,” or was this something else completely? The Jerusalem Council’s decision was not just an adaptation of the Law that would fit the Gentiles. Rather, it was a call to worship, purity, and love. These three are the expression of our salvation.

When we come to Christ in faith we lay down all of our sins and all of our idols – including ourselves. We are restored once again into fellowship with God. We are filled with the Holy Spirit and we have the privilege of abiding in Jesus Christ. The exhortation to abstain from eating food offered to idols was a call to worship the Lord Jesus Christ with singleness of heart. It was a call to live an outward expression of worship that was evident to all. Jesus Christ is the only Lord and the only one worthy of our worship!

The second was a call to purity. To abstain from sexual immorality was to live a life of distinction from the present world. It was an outward expression that the true Temple of God was the heart of man. This temple was to be kept holy, separate from sin and offered as a living sacrifice to the Lord in worship. Sexual immorality was a defacing of this temple. Therefore, the call to live distinctly from the culture of the day was not a means of salvation but the very reality of it. Paul echoes this truth in his letter to the Corinthians.

  • “Don’t you realize that your bodies are actually parts of Christ? Should a man take his body, which is part of Christ, and join it to a prostitute? Never!” 1 Corinthians‬ ‭6:15‬ ‭NLT‬‬

The final expression is a call to love. Just as the Jewish believers were exhorted to embrace their Gentile brethren with love, so the Gentile believers were exhorted to show the same love in return. Although they were not under any obligation to follow the dietary laws of the Old Testament, they were asked to refrain from eating things that had been strangled, or from eating blood. This was not an evidence of spiritual maturity or superiority. This was a call to love!

  • “And when you sin against other believers by encouraging them to do something they believe is wrong, you are sinning against Christ. So if what I eat causes another believer to sin, I will never eat meat again as long as I live—for I don’t want to cause another believer to stumble.” ‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭8:12-13‬ ‭NLT‬‬

So, let’s sum it up. The only evidence of salvation is the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is given when one repents and believes in the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord. There is no outward evidence of salvation. To make an outward act an evidence of faith is to return to the Law as a means of righteousness.

However, a changed life produces changed behavior. This is evidenced in our worship, our activities, and our love. To live in Christ is to live by the Spirit. To live by the Spirit is to walk in love. And, to walk in love is to worship in spirit and truth, both in our life of faith and our expression of the same. It is to live a life of worship, purity, and love. This is the true expression of one who is saved by the undeserved grace of Jesus Christ!

Lord, this morning, may I place my trust only in the completed work of Jesus Christ. Fill me anew this morning with Your Holy Spirit. As I trust in You alone, help me to live out this life of faith showing the evidence of worship, purity, and love – through Your undeserved grace!

In Jesus Name!

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WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO SIGNS AND WONDERS?

ACTS 14:1-3: “The same thing happened in Iconium. Paul and Barnabas went to the Jewish synagogue and preached with such power that a great number of both Jews and Greeks became believers. Some of the Jews, however, spurned God’s message and poisoned the minds of the Gentiles against Paul and Barnabas. But the apostles stayed there a long time, preaching boldly about the grace of the Lord. And the Lord proved their message was true by giving them power to do miraculous signs and wonders.” NLT
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OBSERVATION: Whatever happened to signs and wonders? As you read the Book of Acts you see a regular flow of the miraculous in the life and ministry of the apostles and early disciples. They seemed to live and flow in a continual stream of the Holy Spirit’s anointing.

What was their secret?

This is a trick question. It assumes that the early disciples possessed something that we do not have today. Did they have more faith? Were they simply closer to the miraculous ministry of Jesus Christ? What was it that differentiated their life and ministry from ours?

Some teach that this outflow of signs and wonders ceased after the first century once the canon of Scripture was established. However, church history, both past, and current do not support this view. All one has to do is hear the testimony of missionaries overseas to discover that God is still performing signs and wonders in the world today. Why does it seem to be so different in the western world?

As I wrestle with this question I suspect there are two dynamics at play. While this is not exhaustive by any means, we can glean these two dynamics from this text in Acts and our personal experience.

  • The first is we have abandoned our mission.
  • The second is we have begun trusting in everything else but the Holy Spirit’s empowerment.

What is our mission? Someone has put this question in a different format. Is the church a luxury cruise boat or an aircraft carrier? A luxury cruiser offers all the amenities of comfort and entertainment known to man. Its main objective is to entertain the passengers on board. The boat is full and there is no urgency to add new passengers.

An aircraft carrier is on a mission. It is not worried about the comfort of those on board. It is concerned only about one thing – fulfilling its objective. The crew onboard are focused on ensuring that the pilots reach their destination and fulfill their mission. Everyone is focused on the same mission.

What is our mission? Is it to provide programs, entertainment, and comfort to the members of our church, or is it to reach the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Is our church a luxury cruise boat or an aircraft carrier? Is our ministry marked more by our outreach to the unsaved and unchurched or by our programs for the members who sit in comfort on our padded chairs and pews?

Is there room in our ship for the lost, discouraged, and disenfranchised?

The second factor is our utter dependence upon the Holy Spirit. We seem to forget Jesus’ words in the Gospel of John.

  • “But in fact, it is best for you that I go away, because if I don’t, the Advocate won’t come. If I do go away, then I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment. The world’s sin is that it refuses to believe in me. Righteousness is available because I go to the Father, and you will see me no more. Judgment will come because the ruler of this world has already been judged.” John‬ ‭16:7-11‬ ‭NLT‬‬

We must remember who does the work in human hearts. Our call is to proclaim the Good News of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. It is the Holy Spirit who convicts men and women of their sin, teaches them to walk in the righteousness of Jesus Christ, and manifests His power over the enemy through signs and wonders. This is exactly what Jesus promised and what was happening in the Book of Acts.

  • “And then he told them, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone. Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved. But anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned. These miraculous signs will accompany those who believe: They will cast out demons in my name, and they will speak in new languages. They will be able to handle snakes with safety, and if they drink anything poisonous, it won’t hurt them. They will be able to place their hands on the sick, and they will be healed.” Mark‬ ‭16:15-18‬ ‭NLT‬‬
  • “And the disciples went everywhere and preached, and the Lord worked through them, confirming what they said by many miraculous signs.” ‭‭Mark‬ ‭16:20‬ ‭NLT‬‬

This is exactly what was happening in the Book of Acts. The disciples were not holding “Healing Meetings.” They were not advertising a “Miracle Service.” They were focused on one thing and one thing only. They were going into all the world to preach the Good News to everyone. This is what Jesus had commanded and this is what they were doing. And, as they did this, the Holy Spirit did what He alone can do – “…and the Lord worked through them, confirming what they said by many miraculous signs.”

  • “But the apostles stayed there a long time, preaching boldly about the grace of the Lord. And the Lord proved their message was true by giving them the power to do miraculous signs and wonders.”

It was never the apostles who were doing the miracles. It was the Lord, through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, proving their message through signs and wonders. Is it any wonder why most of the stories of signs and wonders come from missionaries on the front lines as they proclaim the Gospel to those who have never heard it?

Today, in our western culture, we live in a post-Christian world. Most people do not go to church. When they come to a crisis in life they do not even consider consulting the Bible for answers. The western world is now more of a mission field than many third-world countries. In fact, many third-world countries are now sending missionaries to us! If we can learn anything from the Book of Acts it is that we need to return to our mission and our full dependence upon the Holy Spirit working through God’s Word!

What would happen if we allowed the Holy Spirit to conduct a full and honest review of our churches and our ministries? Would He simply reshuffle the deck chairs and change the program schedule – or would He lead us in converting our cruiser into a battleship on a mission to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to our dying cities, communities, and world?

Heavenly Father, I pray that You would move in our hearts so that when we hear Your call it will truly be – “All Hands On Deck!”

In Jesus Name!

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WHEN GOD BREAKS OUT OF OUR BOX!

ACTS 11:19-21: “Meanwhile, the believers who had been scattered during the persecution after Stephen’s death traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch of Syria. They preached the word of God, but only to Jews. However, some of the believers who went to Antioch from Cyprus and Cyrene began preaching to the Gentiles about the Lord Jesus. The power of the Lord was with them, and a large number of these Gentiles believed and turned to the Lord.” NLT
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OBSERVATION: Have you ever considered how ludicrous it is to assume that you can put God in a box? Yet, that is exactly what we all do. We establish a concept of God through the way He has worked in our life. Then, we take this experience and imagine that this is the way God works in everyone’s life.

In essence – we try to put God in a box.

Peter and the disciples did the same thing. After the day of Pentecost, the church exploded. Yet, their outreach and ministry were limited to Jewish believers. God had sent Jesus to the lost sheep of Israel. It was 120 Jews who were baptized in the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. And, it was over 3000 Jews that were baptized after Peter’s great sermon. God had revealed Jesus to His chosen people.

It was natural to assume that this was the extent of God’s plan. This new church settled into their routine, going to the Temple daily, and meeting from house to house. They quickly forgot Jesus’ instructions that He gave to them before He ascended into heaven.

  • “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts of the Apostles‬ ‭1:8‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Jerusalem was comfortable. It was easy to settle in and forget about Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth. God working in His people, in the City of David, at the Temple of the living God – this was a convenient and attractive box. It took persecution to move this young church out of their comfort zone and into the purposes of God.

Yet, initially, they did what we all do. They took their box with them. Even Peter required divine intervention to break out of his paradigm. It took a vision from God, the call of a Gentile soldier, and the wonderful intervention of the Holy Spirit to expand Peter’s thinking and concept of God’s purposes and call!

  • “As I began to speak,” Peter continued, “the Holy Spirit fell on them, just as he fell on us at the beginning. Then I thought of the Lord’s words when he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ And since God gave these Gentiles the same gift he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to stand in God’s way?” When the others heard this, they stopped objecting and began praising God. They said, “We can see that God has also given the Gentiles the privilege of repenting of their sins and receiving eternal life.” Acts of the Apostles‬ ‭11:15-18‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Wow! Talk about a box implosion!

Peter had preached – “…Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38). It took a move of God to bring Peter to a Gentile’s home, and a Roman soldier at that. Then, Cornelius and his household didn’t even follow the pattern that Peter had proclaimed. They had the audacity to be baptized in the Holy Spirit while Peter was speaking! No altar call, no water baptism…what in the world was going on?

We are just like Peter. We take our experiences with the Lord and we store them up in a box. When someone comes to us for help we reach into our box and draw from our experience. This is natural, and it is not wrong within itself. It only becomes a hindrance to the moving of the Holy Spirit when we begin to believe that our box is the totality of all that God has revealed and all that He will do. Like Peter, if we live this way, we will either stagnate in our walk with the Lord or we will be in for a big surprise!

I have met so many believers who are stuck in their Christian experience of the past. They reject new expressions of worship and faith simply because it was not how they did things in the past. This can infect a church and keep them from fulfilling God’s purpose and will in their life. Boxes are good to store things in but we should never live in them! We serve a God of the new. We are filled with the Holy Spirit of promise. We are called to always go forward – even to the ends of the earth!

In Acts 11:19-21, we see the stark contrast between the two groups. One lived in their box (reaching out to only the Jews), and the other allowed God to do a new thing in their life (going to Antioch and preaching the Gospel to the Gentiles). Barnabas was a box crusher. He traveled to Antioch to strengthen the Gentile believers and he even reached out to Saul (Paul) to join him in this ministry. Barnabas and Saul (Paul) continued in Antioch for over a year – crushing boxes and reaching people.

It was this willingness to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit and cross both racial and sociological lines that demonstrated the awesome love of Jesus Christ and the real power of the Gospel. Is it any wonder why,

  • “…(It was at Antioch that the believers were first called Christians.)”. Acts of the Apostles‬ ‭11:25-26‬ ‭NLT‬‬

I wonder what would happen in our churches today if we had a “Box Sunday?” What would happen if each one of us took our box and laid it down at the cross? What would happen if each one of us recommitted our lives to fulfill the call of – “…Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the world.”? What would happen if we reached across racial, gender, and generational lines with the love of Jesus Christ?

Perhaps we might experience something new! Perhaps we would be visited with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit for our generation!

Lord, this morning, I lay down my box at the foot of Your cross. Do a new work in me I pray.

In Jesus Name!

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THE PLANS OF MICE AND MEN… (When your plans don’t work out the way you thought they would!)

PSALMS 138:8: “The Lord will work out his plans for my life— for your faithful love, O Lord, endures forever. Don’t abandon me, for you made me.” NLT
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OBSERVATION: Have you ever been disappointed by the plans you have made for your life? When we are young we are all filled with great hopes and dreams. However, when we reach middle age we begin to realize that our pathway is mixed with a combination of unexpected twists and turns. Rarely do our original plans become the pathway of our life.

This is not to say that one should stop hoping and dreaming. The ability to hope, our vision for the future, these are both a gift of God. They are what propel us to take the next step in life. The balance to these hopes and dreams is learning to juggle reality along the way.

As the saying goes – “Even the best-laid plans of mice and men…”

Like the Psalmist, I can now say – “I was young and now I am old.” The benefit of getting older is the gift of perspective. As you look back over the pathway of your life you can begin to understand that what you once viewed as a disruption to your plans was actually the loving hand of the Father redirecting your path. This disruption is what led you to the next open door in fulfilling God’s plan for your life.

The difficulty is – no one likes disruptions. I still don’t like them! The gift of perspective gives balance but it does not remove one from disappointment. I am currently walking through one of those disruptions as I ponder on this Scripture. Perspective reminds me that God will be faithful. However, my humanity still struggles with the turn in the road. The plans I thought were before me have changed – once again! How do I walk through this – once again?

Praise God for His Word! My prayer this morning was – “Lord, when will I find Your open door?”, “Lord, when will You fulfill the vision You have given me?” And, then, as I simply continued in my daily reading and meditation upon God’s Word I found myself in Psalm 138:8 reading this verse,

  • “The Lord will work out his plans for my life— for your faithful love, O Lord, endures forever. Don’t abandon me, for you made me.”

As I read this my spirit received some spiritual chiropractic. It is easy for our thinking to get out of whack. We need the loving adjustment of the Holy Spirit bringing our hearts and our minds in concert once again with God’s Word. It is as if I could hear the literal cracking and popping of my spiritual bones falling back into place as I read this verse.

The Lord is working out His plans for my life – not mine!

In reality, this is what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. Jesus, Himself, taught us how to pray – “…Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” We witnessed Jesus struggle with the same thing in His humanity when He prayed in the garden – “Lord, if there is another way, let this cup pass from me. Yet, not my will, but Your’s be done.” To struggle with the plans and pathway before is us merely to be human. To rest in His plan for our life is divine!

God does have a plan for each one of our lives. It is not what His plan is that is important. The important thing is how we respond to His plan. God’s plan is ultimately the best expression of His love for our life. This is why the Psalmist says – “…for Your faithful love endures forever.” In these words, we learn something else about His plan.

The Lord’s plan for our life is an eternal plan!

We struggle in life because we feel like we are under a time clock. Life is passing by and we still haven’t achieved…(fill in the blank). I remember when we used to travel to Florida to visit Disneyworld for vacation. It costs a lot of money so we wanted to get the most out of every moment we were there. This was really counterproductive because we were always aware of the clock and were disappointed that we were not able to get to a certain attraction. Now, living in Florida, we have a season pass. We come and go as we want. We have the entire year so there is no pressure. If a ride has a long line we say – “We’ll get it next time!” Lord – help me adopt this attitude to my life!

David had the dream of building a Temple for the Lord. Yet, this plan would not be realized in His life. It would be fulfilled by His son Solomon. Yet, David continued preparing for this plan, right up until the time he stepped from this life into eternity. Who knows what David is doing now in God’s heavenly kingdom! God’s plan for his life, and David’s plans, did not stop when he died – they just shifted gears into eternity!

Lord, this morning I needed to be reminded that You are faithfully fulfilling Your plan for my life. My call is not to struggle to make it happen. My call is simply to be faithful, obedient, and trusting. I need to rest in Your faithful love as You work out Your purposes in my life. Grant me the grace to understand that life is not an “E”-ticket but it is an eternal lifetime pass in Your love!

In Jesus Name!

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MY STRUGGLE WITH OBEDIENCE…

I SAMUEL 15:22-23: “But Samuel replied, “What is more pleasing to the Lord: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams. Rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft, and stubbornness as bad as worshiping idols. So because you have rejected the command of the Lord, he has rejected you as king.” NLT
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OBSERVATION: Does anyone else struggle with obedience? The story of Saul’s disobedience is imprinted on my heart and mind. I remember hearing this story as a child as my Sunday School Teacher laid it out on flannel-graph. And, I have preached on this text multiple times.

Yet – I still struggle with obedience!

Why do I struggle? It is the same reason that everyone struggles with obedience. The spirit indeed is willing but the flesh is weak. There are two things that we are all born with. The first is a sinful nature. The second is a Ph.D. in rationalization. When these two things get together the struggle with obedience becomes an all-out battle!

When I read God’s Word my spirit rejoices. Yet, my old man is ready to begin making his case for adjusting God’s command to fit the situation. This is what happened to Saul. God had commanded Saul to completely destroy the Amalekites for their refusal to help the children of Israel. Saul was also commanded to destroy all the plunder, including all the livestock and wealth they uncovered.

I don’t know about you, but this seems rather harsh. This type of judgment is alien to our New Testament concept of ethics and conduct. Yet, in the Old Testament God used the sword of Israel as His instrument of judgment against ungodly nations. His command to Saul and the army of Israel was not to be adjusted to their preference. God’s command was to be obeyed!

We know how the story goes. God tells Samuel about Saul’s disobedience. When Samuel approaches Saul he hears the bleating of sheep and the lowing of cattle. Samuel then confronts Saul about his disobedience and Saul defends his actions. In fact, Saul boasted of his obedience to Samuel.

  • “When Samuel finally found him, Saul greeted him cheerfully. “May the Lord bless you,” he said. “I have carried out the Lord’s command!… It’s true that the army spared the best of the sheep, goats, and cattle,” Saul admitted. “But they are going to sacrifice them to the Lord your God. We have destroyed everything else.” 1 Samuel‬ ‭15:13, 15‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Saul began to justify his disobedience to Samuel. After all, he was going to use the sheep, goats, and cattle to worship the Lord. It did not make any sense to destroy these valuable resources. Saul convinced himself that he had obeyed the Lord. Self-justification is a powerful tool that can easily lead us astray. When Samuel pressed Saul further he then blamed his soldiers for his disobedience.

Self-justification always leads to finger-pointing.

  • “Why haven’t you obeyed the Lord? Why did you rush for the plunder and do what was evil in the Lord’s sight?” “But I did obey the Lord,” Saul insisted. “I carried out the mission he gave me. I brought back King Agag, but I destroyed everyone else. Then my troops brought in the best of the sheep, goats, cattle, and plunder to sacrifice to the Lord your God in Gilgal.” 1 Samuel‬ ‭15:19-21‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Here is what I need to understand about obedience. Obedience is what the Lord desires from my life. Obedience is a natural response of my spirit but an unnatural response to my old nature. There will always be a struggle when I am faced with obedience. The temptation I will face is to justify bending God’s commands to fit my personal preferences and pointing the finger at others when I fail.

Obedience is a call that I am incapable of fulfilling in my own strength!

Paul recognized this and wrote about this struggle in his epistles

  • “So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. Galatians‬ ‭5:16-17‬ ‭NLT‬‬.

When Saul failed to obey the Lord, when I fail to obey the Lord, it is for this very same reason. If I walk after the desires of my sinful nature I will fail. If I let the Holy Spirit empower me and guide me I will experience victory. What I lack in my personal strength and good intentions God supplies with the power of His Spirit within me!

  • “Dear friends, you always followed my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important. Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.” Philippians‬ ‭2:12-13‬ ‭NLT‬‬

My struggle with obedience will always be a struggle until I acknowledge the struggle and receive God’s provision. Peter denied Jesus three times as he struggled to obey. Yet, the same Peter stood before thousands to give testimony of the risen Christ. What was the difference? It was the power of the Holy Spirit working in and through Peter.

The power of God working within us to obey His commands is the Holy Spirit!

Suddenly obedience becomes a simple choice. Walk in the light of my own wisdom and reasoning – failure. Walk in the wisdom that is from above in the power of the Holy Spirit – success. One is a struggle, the other is a gift. I can struggle my way through life and leave a path of broken promises and disappointment or I can be lifted up and empowered by the Holy Spirit to walk in newness of life on the pathway of obedience.

The choice is simple and the choice is mine!

  • “The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.” Romans‬ ‭8:3-4‬ ‭NLT‬‬
  • “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.” Galatians‬ ‭5:22-25‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Lord, this morning, help me to lay down my struggle with obedience and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit in every part of my life.

  • “What is more pleasing to the Lord: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams.”

In Jesus Name!

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