The Faith Life (Part 4: Faith’s Direction and Location)

“And he said unto them, Where is your faith? And they being afraid wondered, saying one to another, What manner of man is this! for he commandeth even the winds and water, and they obey him.”  (Luke 8:25)

“And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God.”  (Mark 11:22)

On that stormy night so long ago, Jesus addressed His disciples on three issues concerning faith. He addressed the problem of “no faith”, He addressed the problem of “little faith”, and now He addresses them concerning what may be the greatest problem of all: “Where is your faith?”

The same question could be asked of Christians today. Where is your faith?

There are those who mistakenly have faith in themselves. They have been told by well-meaning but errant advisors, “God helps those who help themselves.”

They spend their lives dependent upon their own abilities, or wisdom, or knowledge expecting that God will stand by as a faithful servant to bless all of their endeavors whether it be His will or not.

“These things hast thou done, and I kept silence; thou thoughtest that I was altogether such a one as thyself: but I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine eyes.” (Psalm 50:21)

Although they may enjoy temporal success in this world, and may on occasion be able to deliver themselves out of precarious circumstances by their own devices, one who is dependent upon himself is headed for spiritual bankruptcy.

“I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.” (John 15:6)

Then there are those who put their faith in others. It may be due to the fact that a certain individual possesses great knowledge, or apparent wisdom, power, or even anointing. They lift him or her up more highly than they ought and bestow their faith in a human being.

No matter how well intentioned, that individual will ultimately stumble, and those who have put their faith in that person will fail.

If we have no faith, the adversary of our soul has us in his grasp. If we have little faith, he is not concerned about us because we have no power.

If our faith begins to grow, then he attempts to distract us by causing us to misplace our faith by putting it in a person, whether that person be ourselves or another.

This was the condition of the disciples in the boat, for they said of Jesus, “What manner of man is this?” They had their faith in Jesus for the wrong reason.

Some followed Him for the miracles, some followed Him for the provisions, and some even followed Him hoping that He would restore the glory of Israel.

For whatever reason, by their own statement of “What manner of man is this?” they revealed that they still believed they were following just a man. In their own hearts, they had put their faith in a man.

A very special man. A very anointed man. But still just a man.

It wasn’t until after the resurrection that they came to believe in who He really is.

“And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.” (John 20:28)

“Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” (John 20:29)

The last misdirection for faith is the most insidious, for it impersonates itself as the true spiritual direction for faith. This is where much of the church today has been deceived.

This is when we take the faith that God has given us, this ability to believe and not doubt, and we put that faith in our faith.

The world calls it the power of positive thinking. The church spiritualizes it and calls it the power of faith or the power of prayer.

It is believing that by praying hard enough or long enough, it is the prayer itself that changes the situation. Or similarly, it is the idea that believing strong enough for something to happen will cause it to come to pass.

We even have phrases to describe this that sound very spiritual. “Prayer changes things” and “Faith changes things” sound good, but they miss the mark. They may just slightly miss the mark, but they are a miss nonetheless.

We ought to be saying, “God changes things.”

There is only one direction for faith:

“And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God.” (Mark 11:22)

“For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith.” (Mark 11:23)

The mountain will be removed when spoken to, the prayer will be answered and the things desired received, but the foundation that must be established before any of this can happen is to have faith in God.

There can be no other direction for faith.

This ability to believe and not doubt, to have this God kind of faith, is a gift given by God for the sole purpose of returning it to Him: to believe and not doubt in Him, to believe and not doubt in His power and ability, to believe and not doubt in His nature, His love, and His faithfulness.

“God hath spoken once; twice have I heard this; that power belongeth unto God.” (Psalm 62:11)

“And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” (Mat. 28:18)

“For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 8:38-39)

“To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David. O LORD, thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off. Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD, thou knowest it altogether.” (Psalm 139:1-4)

How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with thee.” (Psalm 139:17-18)

Before Moses came, God revealed Himself to men as the Almighty God. When Moses came, He revealed Himself to the nation of Israel as the Lord. When Jesus came, He revealed God to each individual as the Father.

God is your Heavenly Father. He knows your innermost thoughts and desires. Nothing can separate you from the love that He has for you through Christ Jesus. His thoughts about you are so many that they cannot be numbered.

And when Jesus died on Calvary, the veil that separated God from man was torn by God from the top to the bottom, so that there is nothing that separates you from God. You can get as close to God as you want to.

Nothing can stop you from being as intimate with your Heavenly Father as you want to be, to know Him, and His faith, and the power of His resurrection.

Innumerable books and sermons have been written upon the subject of faith. Faith has been dissected, taken apart, examined, and put back together in every way that can be imagined.

But I fear as the Apostle Paul did:

“But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.” (2Cor. 11:3)

The sum of the matter and the simplicity of the matter is this:

God has given to every believer “the measure of faith.” Every believer has been given the same amount of faith. It is God’s faith, not your own.

It is like a mustard seed and needs to grow. Hearing from God is the only thing that will activate it and make it grow.

Hearing and recognizing the voice of God can only come by the Word of God. By spending time with God in reading, studying, and meditating upon His Word.

By getting to know and understand God intimately, you will hear His voice and know His will in every situation and will be able to take this God kind of faith, this ability to believe and never doubt, and redeposit it back in God and see God manifest His power and perform His will in all His glory.

You will pray and believe according to His will, mountains will be removed, things prayed for will be received, and the glory of the Lord will be your rearward.

In other words, God’s glory will remain when everything else is said and done.

And you will know what it is to walk in the faith of God.

Tomorrow- How to Experience the Power of God

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The Faith Life (Part 3: Fully Grown Faith)

“And the Lord said, If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you.”  (Luke 17:6)

It is like a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and cast into his garden; and it grew, and waxed a great tree; and the fowls of the air lodged in the branches of it.”  (Luke 13:19)

How does the little mustard seed measure of faith grow to be the mature, fully grown God kind of faith? Just as a seed needs the proper type of ground, water and sunlight to grow, so the mustard seed of faith needs the proper nourishment.

“So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Rom. 10:17)

The Bible says in Romans 4:3,

“For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.” (Rom. 4:3)

Other than Christ, Abraham more than anyone else is to be our example of faith. What is so special about Abraham?

In the book of Genesis, we read of how God chose Abraham and told him to leave his idolatrous home and go to a land that He would show him. Abraham obeyed, and later God told Abraham that his descendants would be as the stars of the heavens for multitude.

In his later years, he and his wife Sarah had a son named Isaac. As Isaac grew into manhood, God told Abraham that in Isaac would his seed be called. In other words, that his descendants through Isaac would be as the stars of heaven for multitude.

Then a strange thing happened. God told Abraham to take Isaac and go to a certain mountain and offer him as a burnt sacrifice.

Most, if not all, believers would not have believed that God spoke this to them and would not have gone. This was contrary to God’s promise. How could Abraham have descendants through Isaac and they be as the stars of heaven if Isaac was dead?

Isaac had not yet married and had any children.

This was also contrary to God’s nature, for God forbade human sacrifice and said that it was an abomination to him. But yet Abraham took Isaac and went anyway. Why?

Over the years Abraham had become so familiar with God that he knew His voice and never doubted. Abraham had walked with God. He had sat in the door of his tent and ate with God.

The more time that Abraham spent with God, the more he knew His voice, His nature, His power, and His plan.

Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice and another they will not follow.” (John 10:27)

Abraham had learned that God always keeps his promise, so he knew that even though it seemed impossible for God’s promise to be fulfilled if he obeyed God, he still knew that somehow God would make his descendants through Isaac as plentiful as the stars of heaven.

Abraham knew that God would never require a human sacrifice, so he knew that something would happen to prevent it. Abraham knew that God’s power was unlimited, so that even if his son suffered death, God was able to raise him up in order to fulfill His word.

And Abraham knew that God does everything by design. He knew that God had a plan, and that everything was for a reason.

So he told his servants, I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and WE shall come again.”

Even when Isaac asked him, “Father, here is the wood and the fire but where is the lamb for the sacrifice?”

Abraham said, “God himself will provide a lamb for a sacrifice.”

After ascending the mountain, Abraham bound his son with cords, placed him upon the wood, and raised his knife. An angel immediately appeared and called to Abraham.

“And the angel of the LORD called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I.” (Gen. 22:11)

“And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou anything unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.” (Gen. 22:12)

“And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son.” (Gen. 22:13)

“And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovahjireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the LORD it shall be seen.” (Gen. 22:14)

“And the angel of the LORD called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time,” (Gen. 22:15)

“And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the LORD, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son:” (Gen. 22:16)

“That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies;” (Gen. 22:17)

“And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.” (Gen. 22:18)

The word “Jehovahjireh” means, “The Lord will provide”, or more literally, “The Lord will see to it.”

Abraham believed God and never doubted because he had come to know the voice of God. He also trusted God. He had come to know the nature of God.

The Bible says, “God is love.” He knew that God would never do anything contradictory to his nature, and so he knew that everything would work out for his good.

Abraham never doubted, even though the circumstances seemed against him. And because he never doubted but had faith and obeyed, God was able through this situation to foreshadow the coming of the Messiah

God was able to portray a beautiful picture of Jesus Christ the Lamb of God slain for the sins of the world so that we might go free. Because of his obedience, Abraham received a blessing from God which now the Bible says that we have inherited.

How did Abraham have the faith that never doubted, the God kind of faith? By knowing and hearing the voice of God.

Romans 10:17- “Faith cometh by hearing…”

How could Abraham have been so certain that it was God’s voice that he heard? Because he had come to know God by spending time with Him. God’s voice might be imitated, but never His nature.

Romans 10:17- “…and hearing by the word of God.”

Abraham could sit in his tent door and spend time with God to get to know Him.

God has given us His written word so that we can read it, spend time with Him in it, and get to know Him even more so than Abraham did.

“Then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me,” (Psalm 40:7)

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1)

As you daily read the word of God, you get to know Him and His nature. As you spend time with God in His word you develop spiritual hearing and learn to recognize the voice of God.

Hearing and recognizing God then causes faith to grow from the “measure of faith” to the God kind of never doubting faith.

“He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” (Mat. 11:15)

“So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Rom. 10:17)

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:” (John 10:27)

Tomorrow- The Faith Life (Part 4: Faith’s Location and Direction)

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The Faith Life (Part 2: A Certain Measure)

“For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.”  (Rom. 12:3)

The Bible teaches that this gift of faith, this God kind of faith, is given only to those born again believers in Christ in whom the Holy Spirit has come to live.

The Bible teaches that when we confess with our mouth the Lord Jesus Christ, and believe in our heart that God raised Christ from the dead, then we are saved and become born again. (Romans 10:9)

The Bible says in Romans 8:9 “… Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” When we are born again, the Holy Spirit comes and dwells inside of us and with Him comes this measure of faith. It is His fruit. It is, among other things, what He produces. (Galatians 5:22)

Understanding that God through the Holy Spirit is living inside of you right now, and that the Holy Spirit is producing God’s faith inside of you right now, is the beginning of operating in His faith right now.

There are those who say to “release your faith”. This is not Scriptural. God’s faith does not need to be “released”. It is not bottled up inside of you or in prison. As a matter of fact, the Bible says that even our unbelief cannot make the faith of God of none effect. (Romans 3: 3 & 4)

It is God’s faith. It is inside of you. It is right now a miracle working faith. But Jesus compared it to a mustard seed.

“And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.” (Mat 17:20)

It is the measure of faith. It has miracle working capabilities. But it is like a mustard seed. And as a mustard seed, it needs to grow.

“It is like a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and cast into his garden; and it grew, and waxed a great tree; and the fowls of the air lodged in the branches of it.” (Luke 13:19)

The Gospels tell of an occasion when Jesus was with his disciples in a ship upon the sea and a storm arose. As the storm blew, Jesus was asleep inside the ship. When the disciples feared for their lives, they awoke Jesus and he spoke three things concerning their faith.

To those who were still not believers (remember Judas Iscariot) he said, “How is it that you have no faith?” These were the ones who asked Jesus, “Carest thou not that we perish?”

They didn’t believe that the Lord even cared for them, that He was unaware or could care less about their situation or what was happening to them.

Then there were those to whom Jesus said, “Oh ye of little faith.” These were the ones who said to Him “save us, we (including Jesus) perish.” They were believers in Jesus because they had been given faith.

They knew Jesus loved them and cared for them, because He stayed with them during the storm. They knew that He would never leave them even if it meant that He would sink with them. They knew that He could save them, because they asked Him.

However, they were unsure if it was His will to save them. This is the position of many Christians today. They believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. They have been born again and have received the measure of faith.

They know God can do anything and that His power is able to deliver from any situation, but they do not know what His will is concerning that situation.

These are those of little faith. They have the mustard seed of faith, but it needs to grow. They may think they know God’s will, or they may hope that it is His will, but as long as there is any doubt then it cannot be the fully grown God kind of faith that sees something come from nothing.

Tomorrow- The Faith Life (Part 3: Fully Grown Faith)

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The Faith Life (Part 1: God’s Gift to Those Who Believe)

“But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”  (Heb. 11:6)

FAITH.

The Bible says that it is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Simply put, it is the ability to believe in something or someone without any evidence of the existence. (Heb. 11:1)

No taste, no sight, no sound, not anything to prove the reality, yet you still believe with all of your being, even to the point of eternity. This is real faith. This is the God kind of faith. This is the faith that never doubts.

Just as there is a God kind of love (agape love), there is a God kind of faith. This is the kind of faith that calls those things which be not as though they were, and then they are. This is the kind of faith by which God framed the worlds.

Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.” (Heb. 11:3)

Unwavering, unshakeable, undeniable faith.

There are those who think they don’t need it. That if it can’t be seen, or felt, or touched with the senses then it doesn’t exist. Such is a miserable existence.

There are those who think they have it, or who hope they have it, or who work hard to try to get it. Such is an uncertain existence.

And then there are those few in whom it actually dwells. Those who walk with God. Those who, as it says in the book of Daniel, do exploits for their God. These are those who live and walk in real joy, and peace, and the anointing of God.

There is only one way to obtain it, and that is to receive it. And there is only one you can receive it from, and that is from God.

God is the only one who can create it, and He is the only one who can give it away. God is the source of faith, and it is His gift. This ability to believe and never doubt is a gift from God.

And there are few who have it.

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:” (Eph. 2:8)

“Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” (Mat. 7:14)

Tomorrow- The Faith Life (Part 2: A Certain Measure)

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The Gift that God Accepts

“Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.”  (Mat. 5:23-24)

The Gospel of Matthew chapter six verses one through four says,

“Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.”

“Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.”

“But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth:”

“That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.” (Matt. 6:1-4)

Jesus is teaching on alms giving. This is one area where many Christians have failed terribly in God’s plan for having a giving life.

The giving of alms, or money for the poor, is very important in the eyes of God.

And once again, there is an apparent meaning and a spiritual meaning. The spiritual meaning reveals the truth in following the example of Christ and entering into “perfectness”.

“Whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor, he also shall cry himself, but shall not be heard.” (Prov. 21:13)

The Lord wants us to seek honor and acclaim in His eyes only.

That is why the Lord says that the giving of alms should be in secret, however the Pharisees and the hypocrites were doing it to seek honor in the eyes of men for various reasons.

The Pharisees practiced a vain and defiled religion which they had created by adding traditions and misinterpretations to the Law of Moses.

They practiced it to appease their inward wrong attitudes. They really did not believe in God actively engaging in their lives.

That is why they were so startled when individuals were delivered from demons or healed from diseases. That is why they were so offended when Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath day, even though it was God who did the healing.

They were so intent on the minutia of their tradition they had lost sight of what was important. It didn’t matter to them if it was God who did it or not. They were totally involved in self-satisfaction and gloating over all the religious acts which they observed.

This religious attitude still persists today.

Several years ago, I was leaving a Hospital after visiting a sick individual when I felt prompted by the Holy Spirit to hand a Gospel tract to a gentleman who was passing by.

I asked him if he knew that Jesus loved him and he declared that he was a Presbyterian.

I replied, “Great! Have you been born again? Jesus said, ‘except a man be born again he shall not see the Kingdom of God’.”

He replied, “I don’t care what Jesus said. I told you I was a Presbyterian.”

This religious pride is most prevalent in the Church today when it comes to giving.

The emphasis from the pulpit is often upon obedience to the law, the amount of the gift, and honoring the giver regardless of the reason for the giving and the attitude of the heart.

“But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.” (1Sam. 16:7)

Matthew chapter 25 verses 34 through 40 declares,

“Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:”

“For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:”

“Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.”

“Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?”

“When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?”

“Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?”

“And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Matt. 25:34-40)

First Corinthians chapter four and verse five also says,

“Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.” (1Cor. 4:5)

These Scriptures are talking about when we shall come into the presence of Lord. If we give in secret for God’s eyes only, we shall receive praise from God as we stand before His throne plus He says that He shall reward us openly now.

When we give in secret it is God who receives the glory because there is no one standing in the way to receive the acclaim.

The Bible says that God who sees in secret shall reward openly.

This is a promise of prosperity not only in this life, but praise from God in the life to come. It is hard to imagine being praised by God, but God says He is going to do it.

James chapter 2 verses 15 and 16 says,

“If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?” (James 2:16)

The answer is it profits nothing.

God’s faith is a practical faith. Jesus met the physical needs of the hungry multitudes as well as meeting their spiritual needs.

Love and charity are practical.

And just as faith without works is dead, love and charity must have works also.

The Bible says that faith works by love.

“For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.” (Gal. 5:6)

First Corinthians chapter 13 and verse three declares,

“And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.” (1Cor. 13:3)

There has to be charity, there has to be love involved in the giving, otherwise the giving profits nothing.

Many times people give wrongfully, such as the Pharisees and hypocrites did, because of the pride of self-sacrifice.

There is a certain pride in giving away what we believe we have worked so hard to earn.

There is a pride in believing that since we worked so hard for it then it is a great sacrifice and we should be honored for giving it.

John chapter three and verse 27 says,

“John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven.” (John 3:27)

And in First Corinthians chapter four and verse seven,

“For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?” (1Cor. 4:7)

Everything we have is not because we worked for it but we have it by the grace of God.

Therefore, if God has given it unto us then we can freely give it back to Him by giving it to others.

When we have this attitude of stewardship instead of ownership it takes away all pride and God is able to bless our giving.

First Timothy chapter six verses 17 through 19 tells us,

“Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not high-minded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy;”

“That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate;”

“Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.” (1Tim. 6:17-19)

The Greek word for communicate literally means “to give to the poor”. The Lord teaches us that giving in love is instrumental in receiving back from him.

Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.” (Luke 6:38)

In conclusion, Jesus Christ is, was, and always shall be the same.

“Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever.” (Heb. 13:8)

Jesus Christ and the Father are one.

“I and my Father are one.” (John 10:30)

Jesus Christ is perfect.

Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” (Mat. 5:48)

We are to follow the example of Christ and strive for perfectness.

“For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:” (1Peter 2:21)

“And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.” (Col. 3:14)

We follow in His steps and strive for perfectness through charity, and we achieve charity by following His rules for Kingdom living as Jesus described in His “Sermon on the Mount”.

This can only be done through Christ in us, the hope of Glory, the power of the indwelling Spirit of God, the Holy Ghost.

“Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the LORD unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts.” (Zech. 4:6)

Only then shall we see the manifestation of God’s power in our lives and receive the blessings of obedience.

Tomorrow- The Faith Life

"The Sound Doctrine Seminar Volume Two: Revelations from the Sermon on the Mount" available now for $4.99 at bn.com for the Nook, amazon.com for the Kindle, the iBookstore for the iPad, and Lulu.com for the PC and all other e-reading devices.

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The Bible’s Key to being Perfect

“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”  (Mat. 5:48)

Jesus tells us in Matthew chapter five verses 38 and 39,

“Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.” (Mat 5:38-39)

In these verses of Scripture, Jesus is not contradicting the law of the land.

The Law of Moses had said “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.”

People who committed injury or crimes against another were to be brought before the proper authorities and punishment was to be issued by the appropriate judges in their judicial system.

However, during the times of Jesus many people had taken it upon themselves to avenge their wrongs and they were using the Word of God to justify it.

This is what the Lord is talking about in these verses.

Jesus here is talking to individuals who would later become Christians. They were going to know God as their Heavenly Father.

He tells them to resist not evil. He says that if someone slaps you on one side of your face, then offer them the other also. In other words, forgive them and give them another chance.

Jesus goes on to say in Matthew chapter five verses 40 through 42,

“And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.” (Matt. 5:40-42)

Jesus is teaching us that instead of avenging ourselves, we should go out of our way to demonstrate to those who would misuse us that, by the Grace of God, we have been changed from someone who would be angry and resist or retaliate.

We have been given a new heart and a new spirit made in the image of His heart and His Spirit. As God’s children, we should act as our Heavenly Father would act.

“Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?” (Rom. 2:4)

In Matthew chapter five verses 43 through 48 Jesus says,

“Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.” (Matt. 5:43)

But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;” (Matt. 5:44)

“That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matt. 5:45)

“For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?” (Matt. 5:46)

“And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?” (Matt. 5:47)

“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” (Matt. 5:48)

Verse 43 is one example of what Jesus called the “vain traditions” of the Pharisees.

They had taken two unrelated Scriptures out of the Old Testament and had put them together to form a tradition.

Leviticus chapter 19 and verse18 says,

“Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD.” (Lev. 19:18)

The unrelated verse which they combined to the verse in Leviticus and formed the proverb “Love thy neighbor and hate thine enemy” is found in Deuteronomy chapter 23 and verse six.

“Thou shalt not seek their peace nor their prosperity all thy days forever.” (Deut. 23:6)

The Pharisees’ great desire was to appear righteous before men but they had no concern as to how they appeared before God, so they would take Scriptures out of context to vindicate their positions.

Over time these “vindications” became traditions which they lived and taught by. Jesus said that in doing so they made the Word of God of “none effect”.

Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.” (Mark 7:13)

Another example of this can be found in Matthew chapter 15 verses four through six.

“For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death. But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition.” (Matt. 15:4-6)

The Pharisees had created a tradition that promoted retaliation or hate against their enemies. Retaliation is nothing but fear. It is the attitude of “I have to stop them before they hurt me.” It is an attitude of fear.

However, Jesus said to “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven.”

He went on to say, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”  

The Bible says in First John chapter four and verse 18,

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.” (1John 4:18)

Charity or love is the doorway to perfection, and the “perfect love” that the Scripture is talking about in First John chapter four and verse 18 is the love that many people call the “agape” kind of love.

This is the “God kind of love” which loves someone even when they may be against us. This is what God did when He sent Jesus. This is what God did when He loved us before we loved Him.

“We love him, because he first loved us.” (1John 4:19)

Colossians chapter three and verses 12 through 14 says,

“Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering;”

“Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.”

“And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.” (Col. 3:12-14)

As Jesus said in Matthew,

“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”

The Bible says that charity is the “joint tie” or bond of perfectness. The Greek words that are translated “perfect” in Matthew 5:48 and “perfectness” in Colossians 3:14 are the words that mean “complete” or “completeness”.

It is only through charity, or “agape” love, by which we can achieve completeness, or full maturity, in Christ.

There are 3 different Greek words which are translated “love” in the New Testament.

The first type of love the Bible talks about is the Greek word “philio”. This love is the type of love that an individual has with his or her spouse or children. This is a familial love or love for family.

The next Greek word translated “love” in the Bible is “agapao”. This is a moral type of love. This is a general type of love or love for all mankind. This is the type of love that creates a willingness to give. It doesn’t mean that you have given but it means that you have a willingness to give.

This is the love that God had when he “so loved (agapao) the world.”

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

He loved the world with “agapao” love but then He did something about it.

He gave.

God’s general love for all mankind was transformed into perfect personal love when He gave His only begotten Son Jesus Christ.

This is “agape” love.

It is created by and is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. It is manifested in us when we walk in the Spirit and do the works of God, when we give.

This is perfect love.

The Bible says we are to put on charity. (Col. 3:14)

So many times people pray, “Lord give me agape love. Give me charity.”

God has already given us the love, the willingness, the desire to give, when he gave us a new heart. When we add works birthed out of that love then it is a fruit of the Spirit for all to enjoy.

Faith without works is dead. Love without doing is not charity.

God gave his Son because He loved, and when He did it His love became agape love.

First Corinthians chapter 13 verses four through seven is the definition that the Word of God gives us for charity.

As we read these verses of Scripture we should substitute our name in place of the word “charity” and let it be a gauge to see if we truly are walking in agape love.

“Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.” (1Cor. 13:4-7)

When we substitute our name in the place of the word charity, is it a true statement? By the time we come to the end of the verses, we can truthfully answer as to whether we walk in charity or not. This is an inward look at our own heart as we come face-to-face with ourselves.

If we have answered truthfully after taking this little test, we can each admit that we all have a lot of work to do in our own lives concerning agape love.

Tomorrow- The Gift that God Accepts

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A New Man, a New Heart, and a New Spirit

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”  (2Cor. 5:17)

One of the reasons why God is able to give us the victory and keep us from falling is because He has given us another nature empowered by the Holy Spirit that we can choose to live by.

It is only because of this new man living inside of us that we can determine right from wrong and have the strength to live according to the principles of the Kingdom of God.

Matthew chapter five verses 31 and 32 instructs us,

“It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.” (Matt. 5:31-32)

These Scriptures give us the parameters concerning divorce. However, as it is with all the words of Jesus, there is the apparent meaning and there is the deeper meaning.

One of the things we must realize concerning the principles of the Kingdom of God is that the Lord is talking about living according to the abilities of a new and righteous heart.

He is talking about always living in peace and forgiveness.

In the Gospel of Mark chapter ten and verse five,

“And Jesus answered and said unto them, For the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept.” (Mark 10:5)

We who have been born again and filled with the Holy Ghost have been delivered from a hard heart. The Lord says,

“A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.” (Ezek. 36:26)

We as Christians have been given a new heart.

The psalmist cries out in Psalms 51 verse ten,

“Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10)

As believers in a Christian marriage, God gives us no excuse to head towards divorce. We do not have a hard heart but we have a softened heart. We are able to work things out.

We can come to the peace that God wants us to come to if we are willing to change and forgive.

However, for unbelievers sometimes such is not the case.

In First Corinthians chapter seven verses ten through 17 we read the Apostle Paul’s instructions concerning marriage as given through the inspiration of the Holy Ghost.

“And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband:” (1Cor. 7:10)

“But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife.” (1Cor. 7:11)

“But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away.” (1Cor. 7:12)

“And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him.” (1Cor. 7:13)

“For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy.” (1Cor. 7:14)

“But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace.” (1Cor. 7:15)

“For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?” (1Cor. 7:16)

“But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all churches.” (1Cor. 7:17)

In verses ten and 11 the Lord through Paul is talking to husbands and wives who are both believers and married in the Lord. He says to “Let them not depart.”

In verses 12 through 16, the Apostle Paul says “but to the rest speak I, not the Lord”. Here he is referring to believers who find themselves married to unbelieving spouses that are not part of the body of Christ.

In verse 14 the Bible says that the unbeliever is sanctified, meaning set apart, by the believer. They are sanctified unto salvation. In God’s eyes that saved individual’s unbelieving husband, wife, or children are set apart from the rest of the world.

It is true that all individuals have to come to a personal acceptance of Christ for their salvation, but when God says they are sanctified it means that He has set them apart for a concentrated ministration of the Holy Spirit to convict them of sin and bring them to Christ.

By living with a changed, born again individual on a daily basis, 24 hours a day seven days a week, the unsaved spouse or children will witness firsthand the reality of God and His ability to transform a life through the power of a new heart and a new spirit.

“Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation (Greek: behavior) of the wives;” (1Peter 3:1)

God has not only promised to save us but He is has also promised to save our household.

“And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” (Acts 16:31)

These Scriptures go on to say, “But if the unbelieving depart let him depart. A brother or sister is not under bondage in such cases.” (1Cor. 7:15) Not under bondage means they have been set at liberty.

First and foremost, God has called us to peace.

The key for a believer to continue in marriage to a non-believer are the verses which declare “be pleased to dwell”,

But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away.”

“And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him.” (1Cor. 7:14-15)

The unbelieving spouse must accept and be pleased with the changes in the spouse who has become a believer.

In no way does God condone abuse. The Scripture says, “God hath called us to peace.

Matthew chapter five verses 33 through 37 instruct us concerning the assurance of our words,

“Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths:”

“But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God’s throne:”

“Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King.”

“Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black.”

“But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.” (Matt. 5:33-37)

The apparent interpretation of these Scriptures is that God is dealing with swearing and oaths, but the deeper interpretation is that God is dealing with the attitude of pride.

When someone swears an oath such as “I swear on my mother’s grave”, or “I swear to God”, or any other such proclamation, they are really swearing that something “shall be” or “is so” regardless of the circumstances.

By doing such a thing, they are expressing their total dependence upon themselves to make it happen.

This is pride.

We should be saying, “If it is the Lord’s will.”

“For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.” (James 4:15)

The Lord says not to swear by anything, but let your words be simply “yes” or “no”.

In other words, there should be no need to convince anyone by swearing that what we are saying is the truth. As a Christian, our character alone should be all that is necessary for someone to know that what we have said is “yea” or “nay”.

James chapter five and verse 12 tells us,

“But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation.” (James 5:12)

In this verse of Scripture the Apostle James says, “above all things.” This is a tremendous significance to put upon the words that come out of our mouths, especially concerning whether we are “swearing by” something or not.

Why would the Scriptures put such significance on this?

“For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.” (Matt. 12:37)

The condemnation that is being spoken of here is the condemnation of the devil. We read in First Timothy chapter three and verse six,

“Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.” (1Tim. 3:6)

The Bible says that God resists the proud.

Pride brings condemnation upon us before the throne of God.

Boastful words come forth from a prideful heart. A non-repentant prideful heart is not walking after the Spirit. We only escape condemnation when we walk after the Spirit and not after the flesh.

“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” (Rom. 8:1)

Revelation chapter 12 and verse ten says,

“And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.” (Rev. 12:10)

The devil wants to accuse you. The devil wants to condemn you. The devil wants to hinder your prayers.

When we swear or do anything else to reinforce what we have declared, it is an outward manifestation of the pride of self-determination that is in our hearts.

James chapter four verses 13 through 17 declares,

“Go to now, ye that say, Today or tomorrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain:”

“Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.”

“For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.”

“But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil.”

“Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” (James 4:13-17)

God is beholding and listening to our conversation, for the Bible says, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” (Matt. 12:34).

The words we speak are an indicator to us and others of what is really in our hearts.

Tomorrow- The Bible’s Key to being Perfect

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“The Letter Killeth but the Spirit Giveth Life”

“It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.”  (John 6:63)

“Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.”  (2Cor. 3:6)

Matthew chapter 5 verses 23 and 24 says,

“Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.” (Matt. 5:23-24)

Now, as Christians we don’t bring a bullock or goat to be slain upon the altar of God. The Bible tells us that we offer the fruit of our lips as a sacrifice of praise.

“By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.” (Heb. 13:15)

God tells us that before the sacrifice of praise is even acceptable unto Him, the ought that we have in our heart against someone or the ought that someone else feels against us has to be reconciled.

I know in my own life, if someone is angry with me or if I have ill feelings in my heart against someone else, I can’t preach, I can’t study, I can’t pray as I should or praise God until I get it dealt with.

That is why the Bible teaches that we have to be washed before we come into the Holiest of Holies with our Lord. In the Old Testament the High Priest had to be cleansed with water, but we must be cleansed by the blood of Christ before we offer our gift.

It doesn’t matter whether we were wrong or we have been wronged, God declares that He will not accept our gift until we have done everything possible to make peace.

There should be no schism in the Body of Christ.

“That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.” (1Cor. 12:25)

Matthew chapter five verses 25 and 26 tells us,

Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.” (Matt. 5:25-26)

Jesus said, “The words that I speak unto you they are spirit and they are life.” (John 6:63)

The words of Christ have a deeper meaning in these verses than just giving advice concerning civil matters involving judges, officers, prison, and fines.

Hebrews chapter 12 and verse 23 tells us that God is the judge of all.

“To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,” (Heb. 12:23)

“But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.” (Rom. 14:10)

The Lord tells us that we are to come to an understanding with our adversary quickly while we are still engaged in the disagreement, before we part and go our separate ways.

Once we part company and the Holy Spirit begins to convict each heart, the one who repents first of the division commits as it were the other to the chastisement of God.

If my brother in Christ and I were to get into an argument, and I went home muttering against my brother, whether I was right or wrong, and my brother went home and went before the Lord in prayer repenting and asking forgiveness for the argument, then he has delivered me to the Judge.

He has cleansed his heart before God whether right or wrong.

He has forgiven me and asked forgiveness for himself, while as I on the other hand, holding onto my resentment and anger and still having ought in my heart, have been delivered to the Righteous Judge by my brother.

As long as I stay in my bitter and unforgiving attitude, we can rest assured that coals of fire will be heaped upon my head and I will receive the chastisement of the Lord until I turn and repent of my sinful pride and anger.

This is why Jesus says to agree with our adversary quickly while we are in the way with him, lest he delivers us up to the judge and the judge delivers us to the officer and the officer delivers us to the prison.

We will not come out from there until we have paid the uttermost amount.

In other words, we will not come out from under God’s chastisement and conviction until total repentance on our part has come forth.

“Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.”

“Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.”

“Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Rom. 12:19-21)

Jesus said in Matthew chapter five verses 27 through 30,

“Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery:”

“But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.”

“And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.”

“And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.” (Matt. 5:27-30)

In these verses the Lord is talking about moral and spiritual impurity, and once again we see that is the same punishment for the act as well as the intent of the heart.

Let’s look at the spirit of Jesus words.

He is not saying that we should literally cut our hands off or pluck our eyes out in order to overcome the problem of impurity in our lives.

What He is saying is to mortify or count as dead our members upon the earth.

Treat them as if we had cut them off and it would therefore be impossible to commit the sin.

This is similar to the instance when Jesus was talking about being the bread sent down from heaven:

“Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:53-54)

Jesus wasn’t talking about His literal flesh and blood. He was talking about partaking of Christ and receiving Him into your being. Jesus went on to say,

“It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” (John 6:63)

However, there were those who didn’t understand, and because they didn’t understand, they no longer followed.

Colossians chapter three and verse five tells us to,

Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:” (Col. 3:5)

The word mortify literally means “to count as dead.” The Lord instructs us to consider our members to be so dead to sin, that rigor mortis has set in and they cannot be revived.

Romans chapter six verses 12 through 14 declares,

Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.”

“Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.”

“For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.” (Rom. 6:12-14)

I have literally had to stand sometimes as if I was looking sin right in the eye and say, “Sin, you do not have dominion over me. You cannot cause me to have this evil thought. You cannot cause me to have this evil attitude. You do not have dominion over me.”

The Word of God tells us that sin shall not have dominion over us if we will not allow it.

James chapter four verses seven and eight says,

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.” (James 4:7-8)

James says to “cleanse your hands ye sinners.” I believe that some Christians might need to clean their houses also before they can have victory in their lives. They might need to get rid of certain magazines with immoral pictures or certain unrighteous television programming, for the Bible says:

“But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof.” (Rom. 13:14)

I have counseled people who tried to quit smoking by trusting in the Lord for His help and yet were still unsuccessful. I counseled them that it takes not only faith to experience God’s power, but it also takes obedience to His Word.

I advise them to do as the Word of God says and make no provision for the flesh.

Remove the ashtrays, break them, get rid of them, get rid of the cigarettes, have your clothes cleaned, and fumigate your home if necessary.

Do whatever it takes to make no provision for the flesh to fulfill the lust thereof, and you will have the victory that you are seeking from God.

He wants you to have that victory more than you even want it.

Jude chapter one verses 24 and 25 tells us how much he wants us to have it.

“Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, To the only wise God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.” (Jude 1:24-25)

God is the one who is able to keep you from falling. God is able to do it.

Tomorrow- A New Man with a New Heart and a New Spirit

"The Sound Doctrine Seminar Volume Two: Revelations from the Sermon on the Mount" available now for $4.99 at bn.com for the Nook, amazon.com for the Kindle, the iBookstore for the iPad, and Lulu.com for the PC and all other e-reading devices.

“The Sound Doctrine Seminar Volume Two: Revelations from the Sermon on the Mount” available now for $4.99 at bn.com for the Nook, amazon.com for the Kindle, the iBookstore for the iPad, and Lulu.com for the PC and all other e-reading devices.

God’s Righteousness vs. Religion

“For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.”  (Mat. 5:20)

“For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”  (2Cor. 5:21)

Jesus warns us of being religious like the scribes and the Pharisees.

“And the Lord said unto him, Now do ye Pharisees make clean the outside of the cup and the platter; but your inward part is full of ravening and wickedness.” (Luke 11:39)

The Pharisees were clean on the outside but they were wicked on the inside.

There was another time when Jesus told them that they were like a whited sepulcher full of dead men’s bones. In the book of Isaiah chapter 64 and verse six we read,

“But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” (Isa. 64:6)

The Pharisees, who were the religious leaders of the day, refused to recognize that their thoughts were evil and they were unrighteous.

Like the religious folk of every generation, they failed to acknowledge that they were prideful. They failed to acknowledge the fact that they had evil attitudes towards one another and others.

They thought that by physically obeying the rules and regulations of their religion then their thoughts and attitudes didn’t matter. They thought they had attained righteousness by keeping the letter of the law when in reality they were failing miserably.

The Pharisees believed that they were righteous in the eyes of God. They went about making their own righteousness with their works and traditions and they ignored the fact that God had concluded all under sin.

The Bible says all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory,

“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;” (Rom. 3:23)

This is why many of the religious leaders and crowds followed Jesus and His miracles. They believed that because of their righteousness and holiness God was finally rewarding them by sending a deliverer to remove the Roman oppression and restore the Kingdom of David.

Their self-righteousness had blinded their minds to the words of the prophet,

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9)

They believed that because of their religious deeds they had no sin and did not need the suffering Messiah described by Isaiah,

“Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:4-5)

When Jesus came into Jerusalem riding on a donkey, the people went before him laying Palm branches on the ground and crying “Hosanna to the son of David”.

They believed that He was going to use His miraculous power to destroy the Roman armies and restore the Kingdom of David physically upon the earth.

They failed to realize the need for a suffering Messiah to die on a cross and bear the penalty for their sins.

The Pharisees and religious sects of the day had come to the conclusion that they had no sin because of the religious traditions which they fulfilled.

Therefore, when it became apparent that Jesus was not going to remove the Romans and set Himself upon a throne, those who followed Him for that reason turned against Him.

The same crowds that a few days before had been crying “Hosanna” now were crying “Crucify Him.”

They refused to believe they were sinners and needed a Savior. Their pride and self-righteousness blinded them to their need for a redeemer to pay the penalty for their sin.

They did not understand that they were sinners in the eyes of God. No amount of religious works and traditions could establish their righteousness in God’s eyes.

Second Corinthians chapter five and verse 21 says,

“For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” (2Cor. 5:21)

Jesus came to establish His righteousness, and then to give us His righteousness in exchange for our sins at Calvary. He came to give us a new spirit, a new heart, a new attitude and will.

“And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh:” (Eze. 11:19)

Jesus said,

“It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” (John 6:63)

The Pharisees were concerned only with the letter of the Law and their appearance unto men.

God is concerned with the spirit of the Law, our attitudes, our hearts, our will, and our emotions.

Hebrews chapter ten verses 16 and 17 tells us,

“This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.” (Heb. 10:17)

The Bible tells us that God speaks to us.

Jesus said,

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:” (John 10:27)

If we have been born again, then God speaks to us. He impresses our hearts and speaks into our minds. We don’t have to go through someone else to hear from God.

God is our Father.

He will speak to us and deal with us personally. He will give us strength in our inner man to overcome the flesh and the carnal mind.

Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.” (Rom. 6:12)

The Bible says:

If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.” (1Tim. 6:3-5)

We are to follow the words of Jesus. These are the principles for walking in the Kingdom of God.

This is the righteousness that exceeds the righteousness of the Pharisees.

Matthew chapter five verses 21 and 22 tells us,

“Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment:”

“But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.” (Matt. 5:21-22)

Let’s look at the spirit of the words of Jesus. In these verses we see Jesus presenting the double standard of the Pharisees.

The Pharisees had come to a point where they said if a man commits murder then he is in danger of the judgment, but if a man just says Raca or vain fellow then he would have to go before the Sanhedrin Council and receive a minor reproof.

In other words, instead of making spiritual and moral decisions, the Pharisees had become civil and criminal judges issuing physical punishments.

But Jesus judged the issues of the heart that could lead to eternal consequences. Jesus said if a man has anger without cause he is in danger of the judgment, and if a man goes on to say thou fool he is in danger of hell fire.

Jesus was showing that it is the same consequence for either action or attitude.

God is concerned with the heart. We must have a new heart. Man’s righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees.

The Pharisees had a double standard. Jesus was illustrating the spirit of the Law.

In First John chapter three and verse 15 the Word tells us,

“Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.” (1John 3:15)

God equates hatred with murder. This is God’s standard.

First John chapter three and verse ten says,

“In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.” (1John 3:10)

According to the Word of God a person who hates their brother, hates a fellow Christian, has ought against them, will not relinquish that ought, or will not forgive them is not of God.

The Bible tells us that if we are of God we will love and forgive our brother.

Jesus teaches that a man who would say “thou fool” is revealing the anger or judgment that is in his heart.

It is an outward manifestation of an inward wrong attitude.

Jesus says in the Gospel of Luke chapter six and verse 45,

“A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.” (Luke 6:45)

Whatever is in abundance in our heart we will speak. We may try to deceive, but what is really in our heart will come out in an unguarded conversation or emotional words.

Ephesians chapter four verses 26 and 27,

“Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the devil.” (Eph. 4:27)

Notice the colon mark after wrath. The Bible is telling us that if we close our eyes in sleep without repenting of our anger and forgiving others, then we have given the devil an opportunity. We have sinned.

There are two ways to anger unto sin. One is to act upon our anger in a sinful way. The other is to do nothing about our anger and let it fester and become hatred.

The Scripture tells us that the devil is the accuser of the brethren. (Rev. 12:10)

He is standing before the throne of God continually and likes nothing better than to see unrepentant sins in our lives that transgress the Word of God so that he can accuse us before our Heavenly Father.

He wants to accuse us as to why God shouldn’t answer our prayer or meet our need. He is the accuser of the brethren.

The Bible says he accuses us day and night before God.

This is why the Bible says, “Let not the Sun go down upon our wrath: neither give place to the devil.”

Take care of it quickly, because if we let the sun go down upon our wrath, if our head goes to the bed pillow still angry at someone, we can be assured that the devil is standing by to report what we have done before God’s throne and argue against our righteousness.

However, when we repent of our sins and forgive others their trespasses, we are washed in the blood of Christ and the devil has no case against us. We stand in the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus.

“Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” (Eph. 4:31-32)

This is the righteousness that exceeds the righteousness of the Pharisees.

Tomorrow- “The Letter Killeth but the Spirit Giveth Life”

"The Sound Doctrine Seminar Volume Two: Revelations from the Sermon on the Mount" available now for $4.99 at bn.com for the Nook, amazon.com for the Kindle, the iBookstore for the iPad, and Lulu.com for the PC and all other e-reading devices.

“The Sound Doctrine Seminar Volume Two: Revelations from the Sermon on the Mount” available now for $4.99 at bn.com for the Nook, amazon.com for the Kindle, the iBookstore for the iPad, and Lulu.com for the PC and all other e-reading devices.

God’s Kingdom in Us should be “Savored” and “Seen”

Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.”  (Mat. 5:13-15)

The Gospel of Matthew chapter five and verse 13 tells us,

Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.” (Matt. 5:13)

In the days of Jesus, salt was used mostly as a preservative instead of a spice. It was used to preserve meat.

Here Jesus says that if the salt has lost its savor (strength or ability) and can no longer do what it is supposed to do, then it is good for nothing but to be thrown out and walked upon.

Now our strength, our keeping power, our preservative is our faith.

The Bible says “the just shall live by faith.” If our salt is faith then this Scripture is saying that if we lose the power of our faith it is good for nothing.

Our faith can become vain and useless by taking it and putting it in something other than Christ. (Gal. 5:1-6)

“And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God.” (Mark 11:22)

There is only one direction for our faith, and that direction is not in ourselves, our abilities, our accomplishments, our commitment, our holiness, or anyone or anything else.

The only direction for our faith, the only place where our faith can be deposited, is in God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

“And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight: If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister;” (Col. 1:21-23)

There are those who think they have faith but they have let their faith die. The Bible says faith without works is dead.

“But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?” (James 2:20)

Faith is active. Faith is going. Faith is doing.

Ephesians chapter six and verse 13 says,

“Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” (Eph. 6:13)

Many people believe that if they become a Christian then their life will become boring with nothing to do. However, there is so much that God will give us to do if we really want to get close to Him, that we won’t have time to worry about things that we shouldn’t do anymore.

Being a Christian is very active.

A Spirit filled Christian who is drawing closer to Jesus is very active in the kingdom of God.

Faith is active.

When faith ceases to be active, it can die.

The Gospel of Matthew chapter five and verse 14 declares,

“Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid.” (Matt. 5:14)

We cannot hide, we cannot afford to hide, our faith and dedication to God.

Romans chapter two and verse four tells us,

“Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?” (Rom. 2:4)

People are going to see God in our lives. They are going to see God in our lives and they are going to see the goodness of God in our lives.

It is that goodness of God that leads men to repentance.

We cannot allow ourselves to be a light that is turned off.

The Bible says the city that is set on a hill cannot be hid.

John chapter 18 verses 20 and 21 says,

“Jesus answered him, I spake openly to the world; I ever taught in the synagogue, and in the temple, whither the Jews always resort; and in secret have I said nothing. Why askest thou me? ask them which heard me, what I have said unto them: behold, they know what I said.” (John 18:21)

Nothing that Jesus did was hid behind closed doors. Jesus Christ was openly and freely proclaiming the counsel of God.

God is open. God is clear. God is light.

The Bible tells us in John chapter one and verse five,

“And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.” (John 1:5)

Our witness for God has to be as God.

It has to be clear. It has to be light. Our witness to the world has to be pure, unadulterated, and without compromise.

God will use the light of His love in you and through you to draw sinners to repentance.

I’ve seen ministries and outreaches fail and go down the drain because they dimmed the light. They compromised. They may have succeeded in the world’s eyes but they lost the anointing of God.

The people of the world do not need a ministry or a gospel that looks like what they have already tried in the world. Those who are seeking a change in their lives have already found that what the world offered was empty and unfulfilling.

They have already found that the world and all that is in it is no help at all for their problems. The people of the world are hungry for something that is different, something that is pure, and something that is true.

They are tired of what they’re living in and they are not going to want anything that looks and feels the same. They want something different. They want something clean.

They’re tired of the degradation and they’re tired of the uncleanliness that the world offers. They want something that is pure, clean, and true.

Without realizing it, their souls are craving the anointing and the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Our witness has to be pure and unfeigned.

Second Corinthians chapter four verses three and four declares,

“But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.” (2Cor. 4:4)

If someone does not get saved, let it be because they rejected the truth. Don’t let it be because they never heard the truth.

The apostle Paul says my gospel wasn’t hid to anyone except to those who didn’t want it. It was hid to those who were blinded by the prince of this world.

Matthew chapter five and verse 15 says,

“Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.” (Matt. 5:15)

Our witness should not just be on a hill so the world can see it, but our witness should also be in the house of God so the church can see it. Don’t let your light be put under a bushel in the house of God and in the family of God.

The Bible tells us that every one of us is a “member in particular” of the body of Christ.

“From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.” (Eph. 4:16)

Each of us is an important individual in our local assembly and among the believers that we associate with in our lives. We are like a link in the chain and it has been said many times that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

Each one of us has our place in the body of Christ. Each one of us has individual gifts that have been given to us by God that are useful to the building up of the entire body.

“Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.” (1Cor. 12:27)

No one is a “nobody” in the eyes of God. Each of us is a “somebody” in His eyes.

God has created each of us, saved us, anointed us, and deposited within us that certain “something” that no one else can duplicate.

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matt. 5:16)

For God to be glorified our works must be a result of faith in God and love.

Belief alone is not enough to please God.

“Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?” (James 2:19-20)

God wants to see the active result of our belief and faith with works.

“For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.” (Gal. 5:6)

If our faith is going to be working it has to be working by love.

“And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.” (1Cor. 13:2-3)

Faith and love together comprise good works which men will see and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Tomorrow- Religion vs. God’s Righteousness

"The Sound Doctrine Seminar Volume Two: Revelations from the Sermon on the Mount" available now for $4.99 at bn.com for the Nook, amazon.com for the Kindle, the iBookstore for the iPad, and Lulu.com for the PC and all other e-reading devices.

“The Sound Doctrine Seminar Volume Two: Revelations from the Sermon on the Mount” available now for $4.99 at bn.com for the Nook, amazon.com for the Kindle, the iBookstore for the iPad, and Lulu.com for the PC and all other e-reading devices.