Insight: 3 Practical Ways Believers Live Immersed in The Holy Spirit(Part 2 of 2)

 

In the first part of this series, I discussed the importance of living in the fullness and the power of the Holy Spirit through abiding in Him by humbling yielding to the Lordship of Jesus. Today, I would like to explore three practical ways in which believers can live immersed in the Holy Spirit. Unquestionably, the believer’s heart must be humble, repentant and submitted to God so that His Spirit can operate undeterred by the works of the flesh. This is an over-arching focus that will be interlaced throughout each recommended way. Being humble and taking up our crosses daily is at the core of what it means to live in Christ and to clothe ourselves with the righteousness of Christ.

Supportingly, in Paul’s letter to the churches of Galatia, he instructs believers:

“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do”(Ga 5:16–17)

Here are 3 practical ways for believers to live immersed in the Holy Spirit:

  1. Pray in the Spirit: Those who have been born again by the power of the Holy Spirit(see John 3) have been gifted with the very Spirit of Almighty God when they gave their lives to Jesus by humbly trusting and surrendering by faith through grace. Therefore, as believers we are now children of God who are new creatures with a new identity in Christ having been seated with Him in the Heavenly places(Eph 1:3-4)! We have been filled with new affections, desires, goals and with this comes a beautiful God-Ordained purpose to which we have been called. However, being adopted into God’s Family also means that we will now be in the enemy’s crosshairs. We are in a spiritual battleground and so we must be prayerfully in communion with God because prayer is the primary lifeline by which we are spiritually strengthened to defend ourselves against the attacks from the enemy. Without prayer, there is no fuel to power the Holy Spirit for the believer making us increasingly vulnerable to sin, leading to backsliding and failing to live the life of spiritual victory. It all starts with prayer. Our time spent in prayer will exponentially increase as we see our own spiritual depravity and our infinite need for God. Similarly, our humbled postured hearts will lead us to a deeper desire and sincerely-recognized need to be steadfastly in prayer!
  2. Renew Our Minds by Abiding in God’s Word with Spiritually-Opened Eyes: Even an atheist can read and study the Bible. Interestingly, there are even secular Biblical scholars who have attempted to use Bible verses to disprove the existence of God! In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells His followers, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will”(Mt 11:25–26). God delights in it when His creation recognize their need before Him and raise the white flag in surrender. It is only when we come to the end of ourselves that God’s Spirit can move and accomplish the surgical procedure within our hearts. Consequently, we must approach reading God’s Word with reverence and humility recognizing that it is all Truth even and especially when it contradicts our lifestyle. Otherwise, it will turn into an academic exercise resulting in people being puffed up with Bible head-knowledge rather than the heart-transforming Words of Life like God intended(like the Pharisees and experts of the law). When we read the Bible with spiritually-open eyes and an enlightened heart, everything changes! The words of God’s Holy Book will literally come alive and they can now have their intended heart-transformational impact. The veil from our hearts, even as believers, needs to continually be removed so that we unlock the Bible within the Bible. This will only happen through walking uprightly and obediently with God in unbroken fellowship. Sins needs to be confessed and repented from, or else our spiritual-vision will be blocked and we find ourselves chasing after the things of this world.
  3. Work Out What God Has Already Worked In (Faith Without Works is Dead)– God intends for His people to not merely be consumers of Christianity but rather to become partakers in helping to build His Kingdom on earth. For clarity, we are not doing this to be saved, rather, we are doing this because we are saved. Once we have been built-up and equipped spiritually, it now our commission to go out and share the good news of the Gospel with those around us in tangible ways! After all, what good is it to be in prayer and to be full of Bible knowledge if we do not actually do anything?! We must let Christ’s love stream freely in us but also through us and towards others as the Holy Spirit delights in! Our hearts should be so overjoyed with this glorious gift of salvation that we cannot help but share this gift with others. Oftentimes this may simply look like being the hands and feet of Christ through serving by meeting the physical needs of those in the community at a homeless shelter. Other times, it may extend to verbally sharing our faith with co-workers and others in our spheres of influence. James teaches us that true Christianity is “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world”(Jas 1:27). It is entirely about extending our love towards others as an overwhelmingly thankful response to the love which Christ has shown to us on the Cross when He obediently accepted death on the Cross, dying the death that you and I should have died!

Father God,

I pray that you help us to walk immersed in Your Holy Spirit! Liberate us from a life characterized by mediocre Christianity and fan the flame of Your Spirit within us so that we can be productive disciples during our short-time within this life! Help us to come together as a Church and to repent from our sinful ways starting on an individual level so that Your Holy Spirit may work as He desires! In Jesus’ Name, I pray, Amen!

5 Reasons Discontentment Will Destroy

Introduction

God has been exceedingly good and gracious to all of His creation even within this sin-bent world. He even goes as far as extending His common grace to unbelievers too, providing steadfast patience desiring for all to come to repentance(2 Peter 3:9). Why then are Christians, in the wealthier parts of the world especially, left feeling discontent? Hasn’t God already provided all we need and then some through His Son, Jesus?

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Perspective: Why Our Trust Must Be Rooted in Christ and Not Christianity(Religion)

Preface

Have you ever stopped to consider and ponder that Christianity is not the same as Who Jesus Christ is? Christianity as a religion is comprised up of imperfect humans who are gradually being transformed into the image and likeness of Christ. Christ is perfect, Christians are not. Sadly, one of the main stumbling blocks I encounter when witnessing to others is their exposure to a misrepresentation of the Christian Faith. Therefore, as Christians, we should not be placing our faith in fellow Christian brothers and sisters on a micro-level and/or even towards Christianity on a macro-level. We are equally broken–Christian and non-Christian–who are all in as much of need for Jesus as the next person. Yet, we regularly put other Christians on pedestals almost on a daily-basis, commonly without consciously thinking about it. The tragic result is disappointment when they do not fulfill our expectations, but, more significantly, it is a diminishment of the all-sufficiency of God. In turn, we end up idolizing other Christians, rather than placing our unwavering faith in Jesus Alone for our salvation and spiritual growth.

Christianity Cannot Save You, But Jesus Can

Within the West, I believe that we are at a comparative spiritual-disadvantage to that of poorer parts of the world. We have so much material wealth, abundance, and prosperity to the degree that it becomes easy to trust and depend on things other than God Himself. Christian resources are almost too readily accessible, thereby presenting the temptation for us to exchange these Christian supplements in the place of diligent study in God’s Word.

What I believe is one of the leading causes of lukewarmness within the Christian Church in the West today derives itself from the false belief that the Church saves us. The implicitly-held belief among several Christians in the West is that as long I attend weekly church service, partake in helping through various ministries and fulfill the requirements of other rituals, then I am saved.

Church-goers swiftly become enticed by the allure of comfortable Christianity. Even lesser known local churches have such an unparalleled access to ministry resources. It becomes almost too easy to become spiritually-lazy through relying wholeheartedly on the local church to feed us, while we ourselves lack the spiritual disciplines. In doing so, we place too much weight on the pulpit and we begin to ignorantly think that we absolutely need an intermediary between ourselves and God in order to grow in faith of Jesus. Devastatingly, the local church slowly, but surely takes the place of Jesus. Rather than trusting in Jesus and His finished work alone, the mindset of the church-goer shifts to placing their trust in their church instead. Paradoxically, the local church becomes an idol and stifles the spiritual life of the believer which Jesus graciously provided. Rather than being a faith in Jesus by grace alone, it subtly evolves into a religion by self-effort.

Disclaimer: I do believe that all Christians need to actively be apart of a local, Biblically-Rooted Church. However, I also believe that the purpose of the Church is to equip its Saints to boldly go out and point others to Jesus. We need to be cautious to never forget that our foundation is built upon Jesus and that He is the Only One worthy of our full allegiance. 

Religion by Self-Effort vs. Salvation by Faith

The major implication for those who idolize their church is that they re-enter into the bondage of law and rule-keeping, the very thing that Jesus has already saved them from. For church-goers, this manifests itself in the form of religion when Jesus Christ by faith is replaced by religion through self-effort. Because it is impossible to earn our salvation or to somehow work our way to heaven, those who place their trust in their own righteousness will perish in the end. The figure below helps illustrate the differences between the two:

O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? (Galatians 3:1–4).

Those attending the church of Galatia had naively returned to works of the law even after having begun by the Spirit. I think that it is important for us all to do a self-examination to ensure that we have not fallen into the same trap. Paul provides us with instruction on how God desires for His children to live by in verse 11 below:

Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith (Galatians 3:11).

Believers must live by faith in Jesus out of reliance in the future grace which He extends to all who trust in Him. This reliance can only come when the believer’s heart is rightly postured before God. No amount of sacrifices, good deeds, and/or religious rituals will ever be enough because God doesn’t delight in external performance. As seen below, God desires a surrendered, repentant, and humble heart from us. It is then and only then that He can provide us with a new nature in order that we can live the resurrected life as His new creation!

For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise (Psalms 51:16–17)

Heavenly Father,

Forgive us for anytime that we have trusted in anything other than Your perfect righteousness for our salvation and continued spiritual growth. Help us to continue to live by faith in You Alone. Remind us that Your Son, Jesus, has torn the veil between us and You which has provided us with direct access to Your throne of grace. This is something that no religious teacher can ever provide. Provide us with rock-solid confidence in You as we seek journey and grow with you in faith. In Jesus’ All-Sufficient Name, Amen!

Don’t Be a People Pleaser!

People Pleasing Defined

Although the terminology of “people pleasing” may not necessarily always be associated with when it is occurring, I still believe that the activity of “people pleasing” pervades much of our lifestyles even as Christians.

“Psychology Today” defines the characteristics of a people pleaser as follows:

A people pleaser is one of the nicest and most helpful people you know. They never say “no.”  You can always count on them for a favor.  In fact, they spend a great deal of time doing things for other people. They get their work done, help others with their work, make all the plans, and are always there for family members and friends.

Issues with People Pleasing

There is nothing inherently wrong with the desire of being there to help out those who are in need. In fact, as Christians we are called to love others self-sacrificially, which would certainly include those times when it is inconvenient for us. Two pivotal issues need to be expanded upon in order to better grasp why Christians should never allow the worldly activity of “people pleasing” to infiltrate their service to God.

  1. Motives of Heart Any professing-believer who serves others in order to curry the favour and the respect from other people is clearly not doing it for God. The person ought to examine the motives of their heart to identify why they choose to serve others. They should ask the question: Am I doing this for God’s glory, or for my glory instead?
  2. It is Impossible to Please Everyone– When you try to gain everyone’s approval, the inevitable result is that you will gain no one’s approval. Apart from this heart attitude being completely unbiblical, it is also completely self-defeating because it will never succeed. The simple truth of the matter is that you cannot please everyone, regardless of how hard you try! I believe that God designed it this way so that we would be drawn to Him in humility. If and when this form of unhealthy behaviour persists and develops into a patterned behaviour, it will lead to an array of adverse physical health effects. For the Christian, their spiritual vitality will also be neutralized and they will become very unfruitful. God has never intended for us to live in such a harmful way.

 

Personal Confession

I am somebody who has struggled with the sinful pattern of people pleasing for most of my life. God has blessed me with a kind attitude and a heart for serving others but there are times when my motives go unchecked causing me to fall into the “performance-trap”. What I mean by this is that I begin to care more about what others think about me than what God thinks about me. Tragically, when I do this I am essentially telling God that His approval is not enough and that I want more. I become forgetful and I need to be reminded that I already stand right before God which is immeasurably more meaningful than the approval of man. Even as believers, we need repeated exposure to the Gospel either through self-preaching or preaching from others. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why Jesus likened us to forgetful sheep and also why we have been given God’s Holy Word to read over and over again.

Hope in the Gospel

This right standing(justification) is not as the result of what I could ever accomplish, but rather, what Jesus has accomplished when He accepted the punishment for my sins on the Cross. When God looks at those Who place their trust in Him as Saviour and Lord, He sees His Son, and with us He is also well-pleased. This is precisely the Truth which sets Christianity apart from all world religions. God has already reached down to us in and through His Son, Jesus, where He has paved The Way for us to Heaven. We cannot work to somewhere earn it, all we can do is accept it humbly with open arms. Not only does the Gospel free us from the need to perform to please others, it also provides us with right relationship to the Only One True God where He sees us perfectly.

How God Instructs Us How To Serve Others

When it comes to serving others, God expects His children to act very differently in comparison to those who are of the world. Fascinatingly, it is possible for unbelievers to possess an appearance of spirituality without actually possessing a saving faith. 2 Timothy 3:5 refers to this said cohort of people(fully described in verses 2-5) by describing them as possessors of, “…the appearance of godliness, but denying its power”. Clearly, this is a superficial and a vain attention-capturing form of godliness which is of the flesh, not the spirit. Verse 4 even supportingly describes them as “swollen with conceit”. At the core, it starts with the intent of the heart, which only God has the ability to see and know fully. This is both terrifying and reassuring at the same time. On the one hand, we can fool others with our “righteous deeds” while God cannot be fooled. On the other hand, because our hearts lay open before God, He knows when our deeds are genuine despite what others may think. When we do good deeds so that we are noticed and given recognition before man, the gratification we receive from this temporary approval is the full extent of our reward as seen below in Matthew 6:1-4:

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

We are called to serve in the utmost humility and surrender to God alone because it is not about us; it is about God and Him getting the maximum glory. This can only happen as we decrease and He increases(John 3:30). The point I believe that Jesus desires to drive home is that when our hearts are postured in the right way before God, the fruit that we bear will be an overflow of what has been supernaturally sown within the roots of our new heart. This simply cannot happen in our carnal and fleshly state. The only undefiled and pure fruit yielded that will last eternally is the fruit that comes from a redeemed heart. And only Jesus can provide us with this redeemed heart!

I pray that Christians may be challenged and encouraged to live unwaveringly for the glory of God knowing that we are 100% approved by Him no matter what the world tells us. Please solidify the awe-inspiringly beautiful foundational truth that our identities are safe and secure in Jesus Christ! In Jesus’ Name, I pray. Amen.

Reference:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/shrink/201210/are-you-people-pleaser

The Paralyzing Power of Fear(Part 2 of 3)

The entire narrative contained within the Bible focuses on a spectacularly all-encompassing Love Story of Redemption where God graciously extends salvation towards rebellious human beings. Within this broken world, only God’s boundless and exceedingly rich love extended through Christ Himself is capable of perfectly casting out fear in our fragile lives. Not only did Jesus Christ model the perfect example of what it means to love one another, but He also lived a perfect live of obedience to God, the Father. Therefore, those who place their full, unbridled trust and surrender in Jesus alone making Him the Savior and Lord of their lives, will be saved from the dominion of sin in their lives. In a similar way, Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:21 that “God made Him Who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God”. Jesus paved the only way(John 14:6) for perfect reconciliation between us and the Father. Until we are made right before God through being justified by the blood shed by Jesus, we will continually be at enmity with God being under His righteous judgement.

The Christian Church today is under siege by false teachers who masquerade themselves as apostles of Christ(2 Cor. 11:13) whom are in control of many of the world’s largest religions(some of which operating under the guise of
prosperity-gospel“Christianity”
) . To many of you reading, this probably doesn’t strike you as strange considering the vast growth and popularity of the Prosperity Gospel within the West, even being exporting to other countries around the world. What I feel compelled to share and expose is that fear-based religion, whether it functions under the Christian label or not, is not of God, nor is this what God has ever designed for His redeemed people. This is purely of man, and it is basically a repackaged form of the way the Religious Leaders(Pharisees, and other Experts of the Law) of Jesus’ day sought to oppress and enslave the people of this time. Astonishingly, those who adhere to any form of fear-based religion are in greater danger of perishing than those without any religious affiliation, like the atheists, agnostics and/or those who have not yet heard the full Gospel message. Allow me to explain by quoting from part 1 of this series below:

However, the church is always one of the most dangerous places you can be if you ignorantly fool yourself into thinking that you are saved when you are really not. Essentially, you have not only become a hypocrite without even realizing(or through suppressing it) but once you are within the clutches of religion, it is exceedingly difficult to escape because the enemy has cunningly fooled you through using religion as his choice of weapon.

I don’t think that I need to remind everyone that Jesus also reserved the sharpest rebuke for the hypocrites who, ironically, were those within the religious community of this time. Therefore, it is critically important that we examine ourselves to see whether we are in the faith as Paul prescribes in 2 Corinthians 13:5 saying, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you–unless, of course, you fail the test”. There is no such thing as a lukewarm, half-committed Christian contrary to popularly held opinion. We are either true Christians, or merely impostors–it is as simple as that. This also is why we need to be continually growing in our faith walk by pursuing the Lord daily and putting to death the deeds of the flesh(Rom 6:11-13), otherwise we will be drawing further away from Him.

One of the strongest indicators that you belong to a fear-based religion is that those who are placed in leadership seek to control you. We will term this, the “spirit of control”. Usually such people have been prematurely respected and therefore placed in positions of leadership in churches and ministries before their character can be clearly confirmed. This spirit of control will eventually lead to destruction if it is not stopped immediately. The distinction between God’s Holy Spirit and this demonic spirit of control is that the Holy Spirit liberates while the spirit of control imprisons. The Spirit-led person cares solely about being controlled by Christ, as opposed to the spirit of control which focuses on manipulating people. The main cause of someone with the spirit of control is almost always because they have not yet completely surrendered to Christ. When someone like this is ignorantly placed in leadership within a church, the consequences are wide-reaching and far-extending. These ripple effects are opposed to the work of the Holy Spirit, and tragically those who follow such leaders will replicate their hypocritical example.

spirit-filledThis is why spiritual discernment is absolutely essential for every believer which comes from being in God’s Word and leading a Spirit-filled life through surrender. Our spiritual walk is greatly contingent on the level of discernment we possess as believers. Isn’t it interesting how the majority of the followers of the religious cults of today are almost always those who lack Biblical Literacy? There is an unseen spiritual battle in our midst which is why we need to always be alert, and continually equipped with the entire armor of God(Eph 6:10-18) wielding the sword of righteousness which is the Word of God. It can only be effective if we keep it sharpened which comes from actually reading, meditating, and living out God’s Word. Otherwise, we as believers are extremely vulnerable and destined to fall away from the faith. False teachers prey upon the naive and the ignorant. They hope that they know the Bible better than you and I in order that they can exploit and manipulate us for their personal gain. One of the biggest lies “progressive Christianity” teaches is that once we are saved, we are free to live however we like because of God’s abundant grace. This heretical teaching has already been soundly debunked by Paul in Romans Chapter 6 and consistently throughout the entire book of Galatians. Rather than an easy-believism, seeker-sensitive, man-centred false gospel of health and wealth, the true Gospel must always be preached in its entirety. Being a real disciple of Jesus requires more than just attending church on Sundays and going out for brunch with some friends afterwards, it requires dying to self daily through continual repentance. The true Gospel message does not end at salvation. Salvation is like the first side of the coin which is like the first step in the Christian’s walk of faith. The second side is repentance through surrendering every single area of your life to Jesus so that the old self can die in order that the new self may live(see Galatians 2:20).

Those who reject the necessity of repentance within the Christian Walk were probably never saved in the first place, despite fooling themselves into thinking that they somehow were. Such people are in grave danger and they are really at the mercy of fear-based religious institutions which help to propel this false sense of security. While many fall into this category, there are still those who have genuinely accepted Jesus as Savior but not as Lord of their lives through repentance, thereby quenching the supernatural power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Since the Holy Spirit drives the whole engine of the Christian life, we need to be Spirit-filled and Spirit-controlled in order to walk in the fullness of God’s Plan. This can only happen through humility and dying to self. Indeed, fear will consume and paralyze the Christian when they do not live Spirit-filled lives through this daily surrender and repentance. The source of any kind of fear is not of the Father, nor can it ever be, it is of the flesh, primarily coming from the irrational fear of man. Those who are saved and living the Spirit-filled life are not only thriving spiritually and being used as instruments of God’s mercy and grace, but they are free from fear itself because of Christ Who dwells inside them through the Holy Spirit. In Luke 12:4-5 Jesus teaches,

“I tell you friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has the power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear Him”

Because Jesus has conquered the world and overcome death itself, His followers are liberated from the fear of man. The only fear we should ever have is the Fear of the Lord consisting of a reverential and holy fear because of God’s omnipotence and His supremacy over all things.

May God Bless everyone! Stay tuned for the last part of this series where I will share some practical steps to overcoming fear in your life through the power of the Cross and armor of God.

Father, I pray that You can use this blog entry to remind of us of who we are in Christ while re-orienting our attention to the Holy Spirit, Who is often the most neglected Person of the Trinity. Father, remind us of the need to lead a Spirit-Filled life in order to be victorious in the ongoing spiritual warfare we face and to be fruitful for furthering God’s Kingdom. Demolish any strongholds set by the enemy and as you perfect us by Christ’s love, I pray that the fear of man may also be eliminated!

In Jesus’ Name, I pray, Amen.

Reference: http://www.godfactor.com/blog/are-control-freaks-killing-your-ministry

 

The Mark of a True Christian

I have been very fortunate to grow up in a healthy home with loving and supportive parents who raised me well. The importance of being obedient to my parents and respecting their decisions was instilled within me at a young age. My parents were stricter than most and at times I felt like I was missing out. I even recall being ridiculed by some of my peers for supposedly living too sheltered of a life. Admittedly, there were occasions where I was inclined to agree, particularly with the severe forms of discipline I faced when I made poor decisions. In retrospect, I am very grateful for the way in which my parents raised me because of the person that I am today.

In a very similar way, the Scriptures reveal to us that God not only desires our obedience but He commands it. In John 14:15, Jesus pointedly tells us that “If you love Me, you will obey-god-in-loveobey what I command”. He later expands on this by saying, “If anyone loves Me, he will obey My teaching, My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching(John 14:23-24). Without reservation, Jesus declares that obedience is required within the Christian Walk as we follow Him. In effect, the love which we have for God through Christ results in obedience to do what God has asked and called us to become. In John 14 verse 23, we are also told that as we obey God’s teaching that the Father will love us and that They(we) will also make Their home with us. Jesus is referring to when the Holy Spirit resides within our souls in our bodies which have now been transformed into holy temples through Christ’s perfect atoning sacrifice on Calvary.

I am about to digress a little here but I assure you that is for good reason. What I find alarming and disconcerting about the way in which the Gospel is preached today is that there is an imbalanced emphasis on salvation by grace with little to no mention of the need for the now-saved-sinner to pursue continued repentance. I understand that the work on the Cross is finished however this does not preclude the absolute vital need for repentance through making war with sin by the power of the Holy Spirit. When the Gospel is preached while neglecting the essential repentance aspect, a half-truth Gospel is being spread which is really no Gospel at all(Galatians 1:6). What I have seen is one of the results from this twisted gospel message is people ignorantly presuming on God’s grace, thinking that they have a licence to sin because the need for repentance is either minimized or forgotten altogether. The other dilemma is that the majority of this time the person is not genuinely saved, though they falsely think that they are. This half-truth Gospel falsely portrays Jesus as a sort of functional savior where nothing is required from the sinner after accepting Jesus. Jesus Himself warns and advises us to count the costs of following Him. He demands our full allegiance and this will require sacrifice and our unbridled commitment. 

I need to provide some basic Christian theology of justification in order to bring things full circle. Being indwelt by the Holy Spirit initially occurred when we believed in Christ alone for our salvation, in turn making Him the Savior and Lord of our lives. Now God declares us as justified before Him. Amazingly, when God looks at us He sees us clothed in the righteousness of His Son, Jesus. The mark of a true Christian is not that we are now perfect, or not going to stumble, rather, it is derived from true repentance.     

I believe that it would be helpful to establish a working definition of repentance in order to ensure that we are all on the same page. Easton’s Bible Dictionary defines repentance as:

an actual hatred of sin (Ps. 119:128; Job 42:5, 6; 2 Cor. 7:10) and turning from it to God…and a persistent endeavour after a holy life in a walking with God in the way of his commandments. The true penitent is conscious of guilt (Ps. 51:4, 9), of pollution (51:5, 7, 10), and of helplessness (51:11; 109:21, 22). Thus he apprehends himself to be just what God has always seen him to be and declares him to be. But repentance comprehends not only such a sense of sin, but also an apprehension of mercy, without which there can be no true repentance (Ps. 51:1; 130:4)”.

Repentance is all about turning away from the sin which formerly held us captive through taking off the grave clothes and putting on the grace clothes. As believers in Christ, we now possess this power to be victorious over any and all sin because its stronghold and grasp over us has been destroyed. True believers in Christ are sealed with the Holy Spirit by God. Therefore, the Holy Spirit is not something that comes and goes within real Christians. However, even as believers, our flesh is very weak and we are ourselves are incredibly prone to go astray. That is why it is indispensable that we walk in obedience by following God’s commands, especially when it comes to daily repentance and putting to death the deeds of the flesh(Romans 8:13). As Jesus continues speaking in John 14 about obedience, He becomes more direct about what He meant in verse 23 when says, “we”. In verse 26 Jesus says, “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you”. We need to be continually filled by the Holy Spirit in order that we may be led and controlled by Him so that God becomes the Lord over all entire lives…not just on Sundays. As I see it, this only happens as an overflow of our love for God through active obedience to God and His commands. Even the smallest, seemingly insignificant day-to-day decisions make the biggest difference over time. CS Lewis put it this way,

“Good and evil both increase at compound interest. That is why the little decisions you and I make every day are of such infinite importance. The smallest good act today is the capture of a strategic point from which, a few months later, you may be able to go on to victories you never dreamed of. An apparently trivial indulgence in lust or anger today is the loss of a ridge or railway line or bridgehead from which the enemy may launch an attack otherwise impossible(CS Lewis p 132).

The Holy Spirit drives the whole engine of the Christian life, therefore when it is grieved or quenched by our disobedience, we stumble back into our sinful and comeholyspiritfleshly tendencies. Herein lies the danger of disobedience. Although believers are indeed indwelt by the Holy Spirit, God does not remove our free will. This means that we have the choice each and every day to either obey God allowing our souls to be filled with the Holy Spirit or to disobey God thereby quenching the Holy Spirit. The former way enables God to work in and through us where He works mightily enabling us to be all that God has designed and purposed for us to become. The latter way leads to an unfruitful and strangled Christian life where instead of thriving we end up merely surviving.

Like loving parents who know what is best for their children, we can rest on the ironclad promise that God knows what is best for us. Even though there are times when we feel like we know better, we need to trust in God and His perfect timing for all things. He is our good Father and He will withhold no good thing for us as we lovingly obey and walk rightly with Him (Pslam 84:11).

The importance of obedience to God is instrumental for living a fruitful, God-honouring, Christ-exalting, kingdom-furthering Christian life. The Old Testament contains numerous examples of those who stepped out in faith to pursue what God was calling them to do. Comfortable Christians cannot change the world. It is not until we leave our comfort zones that God is able start to work through us in ways which you and I cannot begin to imagine.

Lord, I pray that this blog post may serve to help embolden Your Church to courageously pursue opportunities where we are being called even if they make us uncomfortable. I also pray that we delight in following You and Your commandments because of our pure love and devotion to You. Help us to live real Christian lives marked with repentance and an unceasing passion to reach the lost. In Jesus’ Name, I pray, Amen.

References:

Easton’s Bible Dictionary by Matthew George Easton

Mere Christianity by CS Lewis

 

What Does God’s Word Say?

What is Happening Today

Within the West today, we are experiencing a rapid decrease in the number of genuine, faithful, practicing Christians. The influence of Eastern World Religion has been continually on the rise and it has permeated much of the culture in which we live today. We only need to look at what is on the best-selling book list to see hundreds of self-help books proposing new ways to unlock our full potential from within. In addition, life-hacking techniques are merely a web click away teaching us ways in which we can supposedly live our best life now with the least effort expended.  I don’t think we have ever lived in an era with such a myriad of leaders, gurus, mentors, and coaches who somehow all profess to have the key(s) to help us live our most successful life. To make matters worse, Biblical Christianity has even begun to absorb these adverse effects through becoming re-packaged into a sort of “Convenient Christianity”.

When Supplements Turn into Substitutes

“Convenient Christianity” has strong ties with the Prosperity Gospel Movement which focuses on gaining health and wealth, rather than salvation and forgiveness from our sins. We have so many material resources in the West and, if we are not careful, this will lead to complacency deterring our faith walk with God. Even within the Christian subculture, there are numerous resources which we can utilize to study God’s Word such as: podcasts, songs, articles, books, devotionals, study Bibles…just to name a few. Our Bibles themselves are full of commentaries, cross-references, and study guides of various kinds. We barely need to put forth any effort when it comes to understanding the Scriptures since this work is seemingly already done. While on the one hand this is super convenient and helpful, on the other, this is extremely dangerous because it relegates the quality of our Bible Study time. Not only are we depending more on the individual to tell us what God has said(which belittles God’s authority), but the richness and intimacy of unpacking God’s Word is pointedly reduced. Plus, God’s Word is unable to have the full intended impact within the affections of our heart. What is initially perceived to be a shortcut actually turns into a major stumbling block towards our spiritual growth and maturity.

Certainly, there are benefits and value towards supplementing our Bible-reading time with Christian resources. The keyword is supplement though! We cannot allow these supplements to turn into substitutes. The moment that this happens is when we risk committing idolatry because we are in effect telling God that we place greater value in what the theologian, for example, is saying over God Himself. The Scriptures are God’s Gift to us and they are truly the sword of the spirit within our armor of God(Ephesians 6:17). However, the sword of the spirit is only effective if we equip ourselves with it and this only comes from studying and knowing God’s Word. This can only help through intentional time spent studying it.

Practical Advice

In my own life, I confess that I have been spending an inordinate amount of time with supplementary resources, particularly with podcasts and Christian literature of various kinds. Sadly, even during my personal Bible devotional time, I have sometimes given too much authority to the study commentaries. I find that it is very helpful to pray before reading the Scriptures through asking God to provide us a fresh perspective and to speak to us through His revealed Word. Then we should read through it slowly, unpacking what the author is trying to convey about God and His character within the overall Gospel Narrative. We need to soften our hearts so that God’s Word will have their full transformational impact on our affections as the Holy Spirit does His work within us. This approach to Bible-reading helps make our experience direct, personal and intimate during the time in which we encounter God face-to-face through His All-Powerful Word.

Implications from Biblical Illiteracy

On a macro level, what I believe we can in attribute the dwindling influence of Christianity primarily towards is Biblical Illiteracy. We are living in an Information Age. Biblical-IlliteracyKnowledge has never been so widely and easily accessible to us as it is today. With this comes various disadvantages, like the ease by which uncredible sources have platforms to disseminate misconceptions and falsifications of Christianity. Christian Cults holding onto heretical teachings have even emerged which propagates confusion all the more. In modern society, Biblical Christianity is viewed as anything but the answer because we have strayed so far from orthodoxy. Nobody knows what truth is anymore and culture is experiencing moral-decay because it has become morally-relativistic. The media keeps pumping out lies upon lies, and people are believing them because they have no discernment. This should be no surprise for unbelievers, but what is striking about this is that even believers are falling prey to some of these lies. The Church is being disestablished as we speak and we as a Church are being paralyzed by fear and comfort. I contend that at the core of all this is Biblical Illiteracy. People do not know God and His purpose for them because they do not know their Bibles. The Bible reveals Who God is and what we are called to be as partakers of His Redemptive Plan. Without staying in God’s Word, we will continue to be deceived by the lies of the world and tossed about by the wind. Worst of all, we will be ineffective and unproductive for God’s work. John 15:6-7 tells us the following about remaining in Jesus,

If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.

These are harsh words from Jesus Himself and they should serve as reminders of the absolute importance of remaining in His Word, otherwise we will face these devastating circumstances.

Lord, I pray that you help us rise up against complacency and spiritual-laziness through returning to the roots of Biblical Christianity through Your Holy Word. Teach and equip us to be the courageous men and women of God You have called us to be on this spiritual battleground!

In Jesus’ Name, I Pray Amen.

 

Why Are You Sleeping?

This particular blog post vividly conveys the importance of regular and intimate prayer time with the Lord.

Truly, we are in an unseen spiritual battleground against principalities much stronger than mere mortal beings. The enemy is constantly tempting us, hoping to make us stumble, consequently rendering us inffective for God’s work. It is only through prayer that God’s unprecedented power through His Holy Spirit is able to be unleashed, providing us with inexplicable strength to conquer all things. This is why maintaining a vibrant and healthy prayer is absolutely indispensable as we persevere throughout the good fight of faith, pressing on towards the finish line!

Original Blog Entry:

Why are you sleeping?

He Orchestrates Your Life

Great post!
It’s very encouraging, and so incredibly true!
Good things certainly come to those who prayerfully and faithfully wait upon the Lord!
I have definitely learnt the importance of always trusting in God by leaning on His strength and relying on His wisdom from His Word particularly throughout life’s valleys!
The precision of His timing for those who obediently submit to Him is unparalleled and it is infinitely greater than we could ever accomplish alone.
Thanks for sharing!

Original Blog Entry below:

https://witnessministries.wordpress.com/2015/06/01/he-orchestrates-your-life/