Love is the Soul of the Christian

Love is the soul of the Christian religion,
and it is that which constitutes a real Christian.

Thomas Watson

Christian love is the greatest and yet seems to be the hardest and most elusive concept to understand many times. Have you ever felt that way to? Well, I believe the Bible gives us the greatest reason as to why that is, but sadly, many do not take the time to read or study the Bible.

Our open quote (to me anyway) is a simple, yet bold proclamation on what true Christian love should be, and the Bible agrees as well. First God has told the people of Israel in Deuteronomy 6:5, and then Jesus Himself repeats it in the Gospel of Matthew 22:37-38 as well as Mark 12:30, and Luke 10:27.

“And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment.”

My opinion is this. Since Many have Bibles and yet do not take the time to read, to study, to pray, to grow, many love God little if at all. Going to church x amount of days per week, listening to sermons, listening to Christian music, is great and all, but in those times are you hearing God speak to you, is He leading and guiding your life for His glory, or is this just our self-stamping approval that we are “in”?

This is God, and this is His commandment. You shall love the Lord your God! Not others first, not self first, not anything in this world, love the Lord your God! If we cannot get this right, then that means love for anything else with be out of alignment with our faith, and that is where many are today. So first and foremost that needs to be corrected, and that starts by giving up the things of this world to spend more time with Him. After all, if the end of the Christians life with be eternity in heaven worshiping Him, praising Him, having a relationship with Him, don’t you think it is a good idea to start now?

Now the next part gets to be a little controversial in the Christian circles,and again a reason why we need to be in God’s Word. Many people think that the 10 Commandments are not important to the Christians life, that they need to be modified, changed, antiquated, but this is God’s Word, and not only does He make the rules, but said what He meant and meant what He said, so much so in Matthew 5:18 “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.”

You see, just like in Jesus’ time, people did not like to be under the law, it was a burdensome yoke, and it still is today. Many wonder why it still matters that we know and see the 10 Commandments so clearly and have them on our minds daily, and the answer is very simple, because we are; vile wretched sinful creatures who sin much each day, and the 10 Commandments (God’s laws) remind us of that all the time. Don’t believe me, let’s do a little test then, we’ll start with an easy one. Remember, this is between you and God.

  1. Have you ever told a lie?

Duh! We all have!

 2. Have you ever stole anything? (And just to clarify, stealing means ANYTHING that does not belong to you)

Ummmm. yeah, we all have!

 3. Have you EVER looked at anyone with lustful intentions? (I don’t really have to explain this one I hope!)

Of course, we are human after all!

Okay, so by my own admission (I cannot and will not speak for you, but I will give you a hint, the Bible already has) I am a lying, thief, who is an adulterous person at heart! And these are only THREE of the 10 Commandments. If your flesh and pride are saying that you do not agree as of yet, and God has not convicted you guilty, then maybe refresh yourself with the other 7. If it has been awhile since you have read your Bible, they can be found in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5.

We have become so self-centered, so worried about ourselves and little if at all about others, we want all the attention and love, and many have gone so far as to make themselves (a false) god. Many of the things I have said are proof positive that we DO NOT do as God command. He is not center of their life (if at all), they spend little time with Him (again if at all), and they do not truly love Him (if they did, the first to points would not exist). I think the great Puritan writer and Pastor Matthew Henry said it best in his commentary on Genesis (the fall of man that got us all into sin in the first place.)

“If sinners will but consider where they are, they will not rest till they return to God.”

Many of us give little to no thought where we are with God, and that my friends is a VERY dangerous place to be! Not only that, like Adam and Eve, that is EXACTLY where Satan wants you to be, separated from God! For if you do not belong to God, you belong to Satan, and He does NOT give up people from their bondage to sin that they may be God’s easily. That is why we need God all the more daily!

Many people might now be saying “yeah, well I…” and that proves right away where their focus and attention lies at, their focus is on what they have done, what they can do, and they want the credit (glory) for doing it, and guess what, that too is a sin! And all of these things and so much more is why Christ came to seek the lost, those who are (and still are) sick with sin, and those who have realized apart from God, there is no hope for them but eternal damnation in hell. This is why we need God’s grace and mercy!

Because we ARE so sinful! And until He gives us a new heart (Ezekiel 36:26 – And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.), You must be born again by the Holy Spirit (John 3), and the transforming of our minds and knowing God’s will (Romans 12:2) so that we are able to see with our eyes, hear with our ears and understand with our hearts, how sinful we are before a Holy (God’s first and highest attribute, without it there would be no pure law and justice), Righteous, Judging God, whose love is wrapped up in all who He is, and that He would grant us the ability to turn from our sins (repent) and put our faith in trust in Him and that we would be healed (spiritually); Mathew 13:14, Acts 28:26 both quoted from Isaiah 6:9-10. This is a brief nutshell is the Gospel.

There is so much more to say that is upon my heart, but I will leave you with this quote again from Matthew Henry

“Those who by sin have gone astray from God should seriously consider where they are; they are afar off from all good, in the midst of their enemies, in bondage to Satan, and in the high road to utter ruin.”

My prayer is that these words have not fallen upon deaf ears, have broken strongholds of Satans grips of sin on your soul, that it would give you much to think and pray about, so as the Bible commands in 2 Corinthians 13:5-6 “
Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test! 6 I hope you will find out that we have not failed the test.” And trust God and His Word, this is NOT one test that you want to fail! For the consequences are eternal!

#ToGodBeTheGlory

WHODUNIT PART 2

If I cast up a confessed, repented, and forsaken sin against another, and allow my remembrance of that sin to colour my thinking and feed my suspicions, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

Amy Carmichael

Last week in Whodunit Part 1 we spoke of the importance and the difficulty of confessing our sins, because it admits guilt to the greatest crimes of all, and that is sin against a Holy, Righteous, Judging God. I wish I could say it might get easier this week, and for some it is, because we have a right focus on the Cross of Calvary, and that of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In doing so, a lot of people miss out on the importance and the spiritual blessings of these verses!

When we think about and understand the purpose of confession, what are some of the things that come to mind. Well, we already determined in part one the admission of guilt, and depending on the sin, we might even feel dirty, or shameful, we may feel weak, worthless, unworthy, broken, and that’s okay, because that is where God works His best, a repentant heart!

Although the translation I used for the devotional is from the ESV, I prefer the latter have of verse 16 from the KJV, for it says this “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”

Breaking this down, the first word, effectual, means producing or able to produce a desired effect. Our prayers are fervent, which means exhibiting or marked by a great intensity or of feeling zealous. However, these prayers are from a righteous man avails much.

But here is where we run into a bit of a problem. For Romans 3:10-18 says this:

as it is written:

“None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”

13 “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.”
14 “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16 in their paths are ruin and misery,
17 and the way of peace they have not known.”
18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

There are none who are righteous, no on understands, and no one seeks for God. That is, unless he or she is born again, spiritually, filled with the Holy Spirit who cleanses the unclean spirit in the person. Who by the effectual working of the blood of Christ on the Cross of Calvary, is the sinner, the unrighteous, the unholy person forgiven. For even Christ says of His accusers and executioners, “Father, forgive them, for the know not what they do.” Luke 23:34

But here comes the best part, remember our main word from Part 1, confession, well, it is also used in a positive context, which helps make our verse even more powerful. Let’s look at Romans 10:8-10: But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); 9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.

The Word, the spirit of God, that is in a man’s (gender neutral) mouth and heart, is able to confess Christ as His Lord and Savior, thereby who has the righteousness of God, who He (the sinner) is confessing his sins to, and by confessing Christ as Savior, he also has an Intercessor, and Great High Priest, who takes these prayers before the throne of God. How much more do we need to be convinced of these promises of scriptures? Either we believe and act as adopted children of God, or we don’t. The fastest way to kill prayers is pride, doubt, and lack of faith.

We also tend to pray for things of this world instead of the things above, and we should not be worried of things here, including our health. The healing can be referred to a physical, but more importantly, a spiritual healing, one that is in the trust and care of Jesus Christ. Matthew 6:32-34 –

For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Hopefully we all now have a better understanding on the basic importance of confessing Christ as Lord and Savior and how it relates to Salvation as well as the importance of expanding on that and confessing our sins not only to Him, but to our neighbors as well. There is so much more that could be written, but I pray that has stirred the embers of the Holy Spirit in your heart to go and seek Him in confession and prayer and that He would humble us and lift us up in Christ and Christ alone.

#ToGodBeTheGlory

WHODUNIT PART 1

A man who confesses his sins in the presence of a brother knows that he is no longer alone with himself; he experiences the presence of God in the reality of the other person. As long as I am by myself in the confession of my sins, everything remains in the clear, but in the presence of a brother, the sin has to be brought into the light.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

My wife and I have started back to reading together before bed and I cannot tell you what a blessing it is before laying down and let the stress of the day fully release. We are currently reading the wonderful book by Jerry Bridges called The Pursuit of Holiness and I have included a link to it on Amazon should you be interested. I for one highly recommend it!

If you read yesterday’s blog post, we spoke about the wonderful gift of discernment that God gives His children insight beyond basic knowing right from wrong, but more importantly to see sin and He sees it, and the things He hates and finds as an abomination.  (what, you have not… well here’s the link – (Do You See What I see )

Today we are going to look at another great ability that we as Christians do such a great disservice to each other, and more importantly sin against God. But before we get into that, we must continually be understanding how Holy God is and how sinful we not only are, but are capable of being. Now I know that sin is not a very popular topic among the modern day church today, and many think that it is just not all that serious, can be swept under the rug or in the corner, or worse, ignore it and it will just go away (BIG mistake!).

When we look at today’s teaching from the book of James, we are going to be talking about (and hopefully learning AND applying this to our lives daily, starting today if we are not already) on confessing. This is probably one of the things that Christian do not like to do, and is also probably one of our greatest sins and do not even realize it! Secondly, this is also probably one of the biggest bonds of chains of slavery to that sin that Satan has bound us with! Why? Well 1 John 1:9-10 says “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” Two things here. 1) No confession, no forgiveness, no cleansing from unrighteousness! 2) If we deny that we are NOT sinners, we make Christ to be a liar, and it shows others that the truth (the Word of God) is not in us.

So when we look at James 5:16 it starts with the word Therefore. My old Pastor in TN always pointed that out when reading texts and would tell the listeners that it was a BIG cue to make it obvious that it was marking the importance of what was about to be said, or as it he put it, why is the therefore there for (or something like that). Now if you do not already do this (and I highly suggest we all do), we need to study the Word of God, with intensity, diligence, prayer, and great care. Although it is written in our language, we should go back to the language it was written in to get the deeper meaning and context. I use the great free online resource at BibleHub

For example, when we look up the first word, Therefore, we get the following.

oún (a conjunction) – therefore, now then, accordingly so. 3767 (oún) occurs 526 times in the NT and is typically translated “therefore” which means, “By extension, here’s how the dots connect.”

Look! You may have also learned your first Greek word! So 526 times in the New Testament alone, God is trying to tell us “Therefore” and how to connect the dots!

Now here comes two words we normally avoid at all costs and cause us to sin (not confessing). What’s worse than confessing our sins to God, confessing them to one another! We don’t like to admit fault, we are too perfect to (yeah right!) We are flawless, self-righteous, too proud, haughty (remember that from yesterday and how much God hates it!) arrogant, slanderous, and the like. Wait a minute! You mean to tell me these things are sinful? I just thought things like adultery, murder, stealing, you know BIG sins (which of course I do not commit thank you very much) were the sins we were to confess, and since I do not do those things, I confess nothing to no one. Well, you may not commit those sins, but we all do commit many others that we probably do not even think about. Things like embellishing stories (lying), talking about the opposite sex in a lustful manner (Yup, Jesus says it is still adultery!), maybe something even as simple as not showing appreciation for a waiter or waitress for a job well job serving us and we have the means to bless them with a nice tip! Still have not even touched the tip of the sin iceberg. There is actually over 600 sins listed in the Bible, and just don’t have time to list them all here, the point is, WE ALL SIN!

So know that is out of the way, what are we going to do about it? Well, start by connecting the dots. We just learned what therefore means, but what does confessing truly mean and entail? Well, this is why it is very important to understand the meaning of words used in the Bible and the context therein. Confess can (and is) used in two different contexts in the Bible, we see here one in James 5:16, but what about Romans 10:9 “Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Now the two ways are similar in that they mean “to acknowledge”, but in the Greek have two different words and meanings. To put it simply, the usage in Romans 10:9 is confessing, acknowledging Jesus in a covenant manner and believing who the Bible says He is and why He came as God in the flesh, leads to Salvation.

The confess in James means that we are admitting guilt, wrong doing, but let us see as God see, we S-I-N! Learn to say it, embrace your sinfulness, let it drive us as a hard taskmaster (at first, because we will go kicking and screaming) to the cross of Calvary. Learning to properly do this though brings many benefits! It helps to make us humble, to quit focusing on others sins and faults (NO ONE is more or less of a sinner in God’s eyes apart from being covered by the precious blood of Christ). We become more compassionate, kind, loving, caring, less cynical, and most of all, honor God in what He commands us to do!

It has been a little longer read than usual today, and I do hope you were encouraged and whetted your appetite, given you some new tools, and encouraged you to find ways to get into God’s Word more deeply and passionately. Thank you for reading, and hope you will come back for part two tomorrow as we finish this great lesson in the ability to confess.

Until then…

#ToGodBeTheGlory

WHAT DOES CHRISTIAN LOVE LOOK LIKE

WHAT DOES CHRISTIAN LOVE LOOK LIKE

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. - 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

The Apostle Paul

You know something… I cannot think like you do, but I can feel like you do and somewhat express things like you do. What do I mean by this? Well, like you, I know what it is to be hungry, experience pain and suffering, happiness and sorrow, and to a certain extent, love. I mean after all, I am only a dog. See, when God created creatures and man, he created us different. If left alone, I will live by instinct, but you live by reason (a story for another day perhaps).

Before we go on to love, I want to use an extremely absurd analogy to (hopefully) get my point across clearly.

Say you saw a quick glimpse of someone doing something extremely crazy silly, say smacking themselves in the head with a hammer, and you found it funny. The next day, you saw the same person doing the same thing, and still found it some what funny, but now it is starting to concern you. The next day you see the same thing, but you stop for a moment and realize that the person eventually starts to show signs of pain and bleeding. Would you think it to be funny anymore? I should hope not, but even more so, should be showing great cause for care and concern for this individual and why they would be doing such a thing. You see, you missed it the first few times because you were just passing by. Maybe you were in a hurry or concerned with just yourself.

Sadly this analogy is not far from the truth of real life and real people. Many times we see others hurting themselves in many ways that cause much pain. Many do not stop and show them love by being concerned not just with the physical being, things that are seen, but more importantly, their spiritual well-being, what is both seen and unseen. And just as sad, many of the times people don’t want to truly be loved, because they like their lifestyle of sin (which can hurt them spiritually and physically). Many have even been hurt by the church of all things and have lost faith and hope in Christians, how sad is that!

Look again at what Christian love should look like in the opening quote. Did you know that love is both a noun and a verb, in the sense of 1 Corinthians 13, it is a call to action. We are to be patient, kind, not envy or boast, be not arrogant or rude, selfish (our way), love bears others burdens. Does this describe you? If we are Christians it should, and if it does not reflect our character towards others in a Christlike manner, this should greatly concern us and grieve us. It should cause us to take as much time as needed to examine ourselves and our motives in the Christian faith. As the Apostle Paul says in the second half of verse 1 “but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.”

Let me boil this down real quick for us. You cannot truly love God if you do not truly love people, and your cannot truly love people if you do not love God. Clear as mud?

We are called, commanded, exhorted, even disciplined all because of God’s love. The Bible even says we love because He first loved us – 1 John 4:19

If you profess to be a Christians, please take these words to heart, examine yourself in light of the scriptures, spend time with God daily in His Word and prayer, that He would grant you tenders and love towards others, and a heart to be like Christ in their lives. As the old hymn goes “They will know that we are Christians by our love!)

#ToGodBeTheGlory

WHEN YOU THINK OF LOVE

WHEN YOU THINK OF LOVE

This is my commandment,
that you love one another as I have loved you.
John 15:12

Jesus Christ

When you think of love, what are some of the first things that come to our minds? Maybe it is our spouse, our kids, our family, our lifestyle perhaps. Maybe it is a certain food, or a vacation memory or certain event. These are all well and good when kept in their proper perspectives, unfortunately most don’t and this is what makes up their perception of love.

1 John 2:15-16 – Gives us this very stern exhortation: Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life is not from the Father but is from the world.

So why this warning and why is it so dangerous? Well, we must look back to the Garden of Eden (there is so much to learn from Genesis 3) where the fall took place.

Genesis 3:6 – So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.

Do you see the deep similarities compared to 1 John 2:16? Eve falling for Satan’s lure of slick rewording of God’s command not to eat… You will not surely die (exactly the same words but in a different order!)  then to set the hook of sin, Satan says “Your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God…” Let’s be honest with ourselves and especially with God. How many times have we wanted things our way and did not like His ways? So Eve sees, and it turns into delighting desires, and ends with her pride that she is not going to have God telling her what to do! Yeah, us either!

But wait, I thought this was about love? Oh, it is alright!

So after all of this in the garden, what does God do? He curses everybody! Satan goes on his belly and eats dust all the days of his life, eve pains in giving child birth, Adam having to work for their food and provide for their families. But God also showed great mercy and the type and shadow of His Son, Jesus Christ was also their in the garden, when God slew the animal and made skins for Adam and Eve to cover their shame. So it is to this day, that Christs’ blood is still the only and perfect atonement to cover all of our sins who have been given grace and mercy to believe in Christ and why He came.

Now look John 15:13-14 – Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. What is it that He commands those who He has saved? Well, we again need to go back to the Old Testament for some background.

Leviticus 19:17-18 – You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. 18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.

Deuteronomy 6:4-6 – Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.

Deuteronomy 10:12 – And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

These two laws sum up the 10 Commandments, the first 4 Commandments belong to the worship of God alone, and the other 6 commandments are how to properly live in this world loving others and obeying God. However, we do not keep these commandments for ANY reason to earn or keep our Salvation, rather we use them as a mirror or God’s law and expectation on how to live for Him and bring Him glory. 

However, we fail so much and so often because we live more of our lives in the world and its flesh than we do of faith in God, trusting His Holy Spirit to lead and guide us in the narrow ways of this treacherous sinful world. That is why many times you see in John’s epistles the word “abide”, which means to accept or act in accordance with. 

We all need to properly use all that God has blessed us with accordingly in that He always has first place in our lives, but He also gave in abundance so that we may also love others, but do we? Do we truly love God and truly loves others, especially Christians as we are commanded, not suggested, COMMANDED to do? May this give much to think about, pray about, repent of, and seek to be more like Christ.

Be sure to come back tomorrow as we continue more deeply into loving our neighbors as ourselves.

#ToGodBeTheGlory