Jesus knew the Old Testament (OT) Scriptures. Five times in the Gospels, He links what was taking place at that moment with fulfilling Scripture. There were other times when a controversy came up, “but Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God” (Matthew 22:29). Knowing and believing Scripture is how we will know its power.
Another time when Jesus was seeking to make a clear point about Himself, He quoted from Psalm 118:22-23 and said, “have you not read this Scripture?” (Mark 12:10). Jesus was speaking to persons who should have known what the OT said, particularly about Himself, the Messiah. Why was it that the OT meant so little to the learned Jewish leaders?
Jesus answers that question when He said they were “making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do” (Mark 7:13). In some cases, the authority of Scripture in the hearts of people is taken away by the practice of tradition. How serious is this? Read the following verse:
“And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men’” (Mark 7:6–7).
We must insist on the authority of Scripture, first in our own hearts so that our worship is right and acceptable to God, then in our practice and in the teaching of others.
There is a work of God taking place which you will not find in magazines or hear on any broadcast anywhere in the world. It is His secret work in the hearts and minds of those who have chosen to RETURN TO SCRIPTURE as their only authority for faith and practice. Because the Holy Spirit is confirming biblical principles in their hearts, they are discovering a joy like they never had before.
This is just like the church in Thessalonica. Paul went there with Silas in January 51, “and Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ”” (Acts 17:2–3).
Such discussion using the Scriptures as Paul’s foundation for conversation over three weeks is what caused God the Spirit to move among these people. Paul wrote them later and said, “our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake” (1 Thessalonians 1:5).
This is what we see happening in various parts of the world; not because the people are trained or gifted, but because they are allowing the Holy Spirit to teach them with HIS AUTHORITY. When that happens in us, there is no limit to what He will do.
There is one person in the whole Bible who had this title: “Friend of God” (James 2:23). What is the support for such a title? As we look over the record of Abraham’s life, we find some special events that support this title.
We can see from these major events in Abraham’s life that he certainly deserved the title. But is he the only person who has such a favored title?
Just hours before Jesus was going to be crucified, He revealed to the disciples a truth about their relationship with Him and the coming of the Holy Spirit (John 13 to 17). During these moments together, He says to them; “You are My friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing” (15:14-15).
What a relationship! Are you experiencing being a friend of Jesus? If not, where are you disobeying the Word of God?
Some conversations can only take place with certain people. God watched the progression of mankind and saw “that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually… and it grieved Him in His heart” (Genesis 6:5-6). There are rare times when God shares His feelings with someone who has a measure of understanding. God had one person — Noah.
“Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord” (6:8). “And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth” (6:13). Imagine receiving news like this and still trusting God.
Noah’s family and the animals on the ark were the only life that existed in the new world. This caused much gratitude with Noah and he “built an altar to the Lord and…offered burnt offerings on the altar” (8:20). God was pleased with Noah’s response for sparing them through a judgment that should have been theirs also.
This prompted a second conversation between God and Noah. “ “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done” (8:21). “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” (9:1). From that moment forward, God has kept His promise to Noah; a man who walked with God (6:9). It was a conversation that resulted in life!
How do your conversations with God end? Do they include the promise of life?
This is not the kind of conversation you want to have with God; “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen?” (Genesis 4:6). Out of jealousy, Cain killed his brother Abel because Cain put a lot of labor into an offering for God and God did not accept it. Instead of seeking answers from God as to why his offering was not accepted, Cain got red-hot with anger and killed Abel.
Because the circumstances involved the worship of God, it was right for God to ask Cain to explain his motive. Notice that what was going on in Cain’s heart and life was seen in his face; it had “fallen.” We often try to hide our private actions and their motives by thinking no one sees or knows, yet we forget that God was right there observing every word and action.
There is another problem with this conversation. When God faces Cain with the death of his brother, “Where is Abel your brother,” Cain first lied and then tried to justify himself; “I do not know (lie); am I my brother’s keeper (self-justification)?”
This conversation could have been very different if Cain had quickly acknowledged his sin and asked for God’s forgiveness and help. Sadly, this is the pattern that many follow, which only deepens the guilt and shame. Your problem may not be murder, but if you struggle with any sin, quickly confess the sin and seek repentance from God. The outcome will be FORGIVENESS!
How do your conversations with God end?
In some of the lessons in God’s Plan for His Church that I am taking disciples through at our church, we have been going back to God’s original plan in Genesis 1 and 2. As we do this, we are able to compare our experience today with the original design. One of the most significant pieces of God’s design was the ability for conversation between God and His special creation; man and woman.
Think with me for a moment about the environment that God created and placed man in. He was not put somewhere in outer space like a star in orbit. In the creation of earth, “the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there He put the man whom He had formed. And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food” (Genesis 1:8-9). It was a perfect place with perfect conditions.
In these perfect surroundings, “the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work I and keep it” (1:15). Do you see how intentional God was in this plan and design? Not long after this, “they [Adam and Eve] heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day” (3:8). It was another of those special moments when God wanted to talk with them.
Can you imagine the disappointment and sadness for God when that special purpose for this special creation was replaced with distance and hiding? This feature of man’s creation was so important to God that He planned, long before failure happened, that we could be “reconciled” back into a relationship with God where free, open and intimate conversation could take place again.
How is your conversation with Him today?
There was a good reason why this was Paul’s final word to a church he had planted and visited a second time. It was a church that 27 years later lost the love they had for Christ when they first believed in Him. Though Paul did not know this would happen, he was very wise to warn them from prison that dangers lie ahead.
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil” (Ephesians 6:10–11).
It is not personal strength or determination that makes us strong, but how we see ourselves “in the Lord.” This theme is all through Paul’s letters — seeing who we are in Christ and the absolute need of depending on His strength, not our own. This kind of close and dependent walk with Christ is what keeps us from departing from that first, fervent, hot love for our Savior.
To another church that had struggled with all sorts of sin among its members, Paul said, “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong” (1 Corinthians 16:13). To be strong we must also “be watchful.” In other words, be alert and always be aware that dangers to our faith are everywhere. The enemy of our souls and our witness is always seeking to shake us from the solid foundation of faith in Christ. Spiritual manhood and womanhood mean that we refuse to be weakened by popular and seductive teaching that is not according to the Word of God.
As a soldier of Jesus Christ, commit yourself to standing strong in Him, no matter what the cost!
God gave each of us a measure of faith (Ephesians 2:8) that He expects us to use. At the end of Moses life, he spoke to all Israel and reminded them of the reasons why God chose them and promised to give them the Promised Land. But there was an obligation. “You shall therefore keep the whole commandment that I command you today, that you may be strong, and go in and take possession of the land that you are going over to possess” (Deuteronomy 11:8; 31:6-7, 23).
After Moses died, God spoke to Joshua, Moses’ successor, and said the same thing; “Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them” (Joshua 1:6-7, 9). Leading this nation to take possession of the land now rested on Joshua.
Joshua in turn challenged the people at the end of his life to do the same as he had done; “Therefore, be very strong to keep and to do all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, turning aside from it neither to the right hand nor to the left” (Joshua 23:6).
After the death of king Saul, David said to the people of Israel, “Now therefore let your hands be strong, and be valiant, for Saul your lord is dead, and the house of Judah has anointed me king over them” (2 Samuel 2:7). There are many more references, but let these speak to your heart.
The day we live in requires that we be spiritually strong. This requirement is not just for yourself, but also for those in your circle of influence. Come back to this blog tomorrow as see how the Spirit is saying the same thing to the Church today.
We sat with the husband and wife for one hour. She has been battling cancer for several years, but continues to care for her family in difficult circumstances – with a smile. They were willing for us to come into their humble circumstances and minister Christ to them the best way we could. What we offered was not much, but they responded with appreciation to the love of Jesus.
As we came home, my heart was filled with joy, not because of what we had done, but because we served them in the name of Jesus. He reminds us that there is a reward for the small things we do in Jesus’ name. “And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward” (Matthew 10:42).
It is our human nature to want to make a big ‘splash’ so others will see and applaud us. Jesus is interested in the little things that reflect Him and no one else sees. A “cup of cold water” is not much to give someone, but size does not matter. What matters is the heart behind the service.
DO NOT BE AFRAID TO GIVE THE SMALL, SIMPLE ACTS OF LOVE. That is JESUS!
Trust is a very important part of life. Often relationships become strained and even broken when trust is broken. The reason why trust is so critical to relationships is because we are looking for truth to be the anchor of the relationship. When we discover that someone we trusted is being dishonest, trust is broken and it takes a long time to rebuild confidence again.
Balaam learned a very important lesson when he tried to curse the people of God and said; “God is not man, that He should lie, or a son of man, that He should change His mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?” (Numbers 23:19). If we are seeking to represent God to others, our degree of truthfulness will also be the degree to which others will see the character of God in us.
Perhaps this principle is tested the most in close relationshipssuch as marriage, parents with children and among leaders. Paul understood this principle when he said, “Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another” (Ephesians 4:25).
Earlier in Ephesians 4, Paul exhorted us to be “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (4:3). You can be assured the Spirit will never join Himself to dishonesty or lying. Are we really interested in representing God clearly to others, or do we try to protect a false image of ourselves? There is divine power in letting the Spirit purify our hearts so our words are true.
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