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Wednesday, January 25, 2017

How Do You Motivate Christians To Serve?

The scriptures themselves answer this inquiry. I will answer this question by first saying what it’s not. The motive cannot be for self-aggrandizement. If you try to use self-aggrandizement as a motivating tool it becomes the seeking of vain glory which amounts to stealing Glory from God. Don’t tell people they will feel better about themselves for serving humanity. If people come to you with a desire to make themselves feel good, seeking enjoyment, gratification or comfort in doing things as part of the body of Christ it’s good and proper to point them to the better motivation.

We must understand that as followers of Jesus Christ fundamentally God will be doing the work and not us. He will use us as individual and as a body of Believers in His work however, it is His plans that will be done. It's about Him not me. 

Jesus said, “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. - Matthew 5:14-16 (NIV)

Who does Jesus say gets the praise for the works we do? God does. Not us.
Notice one more thing in these verses. There are quite a few references to ‘light’ in these verses. What makes up this ‘light’ he’s referring to? The best way to answer that question is how did Jesus show us what this light was?

It has at least two part to it. Preaching and Works. Everywhere Jesus went he did two things, told all who would listen the gospel of the Kingdom of God and met people’s needs; physical healing, feeding, security. He spoke and He did. Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. - Matthew 9:35 (NIV)  He also told His disciples to do the same thing. Go and tell everyone who would listen about the kingdom of God and meet their needs. And when you come back glorify God.

Without question Jesus came to speak first and foremost. Like Paul says, “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” - Romans 10:14 (NIV). Our eternity was His priority not our bellies. Our bellies were a means to an end, our souls.

That is Jesus model of ‘light’. It should be ours, if we considered ourselves as Ambassadors of Christ.
For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. - John 6:38 (NIV)

Then how do you deal with the inevitable feeling of satisfaction, enjoyment and comfort that naturally flow after participating in good works? First ask the question did I share the gospel of the Kingdom of God or participate in the sharing process of the gospel of the Kingdom of God. I mean, sooner than later and later than never. The point being, sharing the gospel is essential. It can never be an option. Jesus and the disciples modeled and told us this was without question.

There’s this famous quote that gets thrown around in Christian circle today. It sounds deep and spiritual. It even has the flavor of something biblical. “Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.” I get the sentiment and reason behind these words however, it’s opposite of what Jesus showed us. If people are quoting this, they’re just wanting to sound spiritual. Must people wouldn’t intentionally steer people away from Jesus example. We all get caught up wanting to be liked. It’s part of our frailty as humans.

That’s why we need each other as a body of believers. To encourage one another. To remind each other. I know I need it.
So the right way to motivate believers is to point them to Jesus. Don’t appeal to the sinful human nature that’s in all of us.

If you go to serve an unbelieving world without the desire to share gospel of the kingdom of God as the primary motivating factor, then you’re doing for self in the disguise of ‘doing it for others’. Which means you’re doing it for the wrong motives as a believer.

It’s OK to know you’re going to experience joy, just remember it’s the joy of the Lord.

 For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. - Ephesians 2:10 (NIV)

Monday, January 23, 2017

Why Bad Thing Happen To People?

Why do bad things happen to good people? Or even why do bad things happen to people? Someone might say, ‘maybe they deserved it,’ ‘Karma caught up to them.’ Someone else might ask, ‘What about that young couple, that are youth pastors, and the mom and baby she was carrying contracting HIV from a blood transfusion?’ Why them? People might think maybe there was something we didn’t know and God caught up with them. Jesus answered this question.

Luke [13:1] Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. [2] Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? [3]I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. [4] Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? [5] I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”
[6] Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. [7] So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I've been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven't found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?'[8] “‘Sir,' the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I'll dig around it and fertilize it. [9] If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.'”

From Jesus’ answer in v.2 you can surmise the question being asked.  Did these people commit some sin that God’s judgment had them died in such an unholy way? Jesus said No! God didn’t judge them by having Pilate capture and kill those people in a pagan ceremony. In his answer, their deaths wasn’t a result of God’s direct judgment, as the people thought. He then gave another example of people dying in an incident that involved a building collapsing. His answer was still the same. No! God didn’t collapse that building on them in judgment. Or supernaturally lead them into it because He knew the exact moment it would fall. There deaths were a result of a Fallen world. Jesus didn't believe in karma. No need to read more into it then that.  

Whether by the hands of people directly or an accident of circumstance we are all sinner before God. No one is in better standing before God than any other person in their community or even the planet. Dying in this life is not a matter of God’s judgment however, it is because we live in a fallen, broken world. Prone to decay. People are evil. Because of this reality, don’t hesitated to get ready.
Jesus wanted them to redirect their thinking about these matters. We should be concerned about the judgment that is to come. A judgement that has eternal ramifications. That’s the perishing you need to be concerned with. He was saying in effect, change now while you can, because there may come a time where it will be too late. Therefore, take care of things here and now because someone evil might cross your path or the decay of all things might find you when you least expect it.

Then He tells a parable to drive the point home. Repent and bear fruit because of your repentance. For us today, within the body of Christ, we should not say we know Jesus and our life doesn’t bear the fruit of the Spirit.

When we know Jesus, the one who was raised from the dead, he has the right perspective of life and death matters. He is the author of life and He experience the life and death of a human.  Morn those that pass however, use the occasion to reflect on your life. Have you changed your mind about Jesus? Not the Jesus of the institutionalize religion we see today. I’m speaking about the Jesus of scripture, unfiltered, not someone else’s opinion about scripture.  Bad things have been happening since the Fall up to the present day. Get ready.

 “Therefore bear fruits in keeping with repentance, ….. - Luke 3:8 (NASB)

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Don't Get Blind Sided!

Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes.                                  - Ephesians 6:11 (NIV)

in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.                                              - 2 Corinthians 2:11 (NIV)

Ever since humans have been warring against humans strategies have been developed, both defensively and offensively. If you have a kingdom mindset and your kingdom has boundaries’. The enemy surrounds these boundaries, searching for an opening.  Constantly trying to get a foothold, to gain some ground. Once they do, they lay down smokescreens. Confusion the goal.

Satan does this because his appetite for human souls is never satisfied. He prowls around like a hungry lion looking to devour both Christian and non-Christian. He is blind with rage, his desire to rule is threatened by a greater power though.

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. - 1 John 4:4 (NIV)

We can stand firm and lift high, the holy standard. Jesus is coming soon.

The enemy will distract with cheap disguises, well-crafted fa├žade or innocent distraction. Then he'll infiltrate the body of Christ and split you into factions. He’ll use weapons; of greed for money, fame and power. Vanity is one of his favorite weapons. Let’s not forget pride. He’ll also use the cultures zeitgeist.

He never sleeps. If he’s shut down here or there, he’s constantly planning some new angle.
As followers of Jesus we must be diligent to keep from getting entangled and trapped. At the same time always looking forward to Jesus’ return with His permanent kingdom. The King of Kings, in justice, wields the sword of His Word. It is with this same power that he has given us now, today, this very minute. We are His people and He's our great reward.

I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore, be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.  - Matthew 10:16 (NIV)

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

What's More Important: Doctrine or Practice?

Is it just me or do we see this over emphasis on orthopraxy in Christian churches and Para Christian organizations across the USA? To the point where what you believe is not as important as what you do. Therefore, we give room for non-traditional, even aberrant Christian doctrine, which are elevated to a place of normalcy and acceptance within the body of Christ, the human manifestation of the Kingdom of God?

So, what’s more important for the transmission of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God to humanity? Orthodoxy or Orthopraxy? You can tell which one you subscribe to by how you do ministry.

I knew this one minister that proposed to open a human weigh station of the sort. A place where people can come and do business in a non-business atmosphere. He wanted it to be an incognito Christian ministry. He said because Jesus use to tell people not to tell anyone about what he did, therefore, we won’t be emphasizing Jesus there. As a matter of fact, they wanted the gay major of the town to dedicate it. They had a philosophy of ministry that emphasized orthopraxy to the exclusion of orthodoxy.

There was this one time I was sitting in my living room with one of the main leaders within a district of a Christian denomination. The meeting was about church planting. After we were done talking about that subject, I told him about a bible study I went to, taught by one of the young ordained ministers in this denomination. I inform him that this young minister was teaching those at the study that he believed that God didn’t know what he was going to have for breakfast the next day (false doctrine of God called Open Theism). The response of this bishop type person within this denomination said to me, “People aren’t interested in theology. They’re interested in how to live.” (It may sound good but it’s unbiblical.)

If that is your approach to the message of the kingdom of God, then why teach theology? If theology doesn’t really matter, then Jehovah Witness are good? Because they live more Christian then a lot of Christian I know. Maybe we should partner with them and get some tips and not be concerned about what they teach. The same could be said about the Mormons. If orthodoxy doesn’t really matter or is treated as a by-the-way item, then having a different Jesus doesn’t matter. The message of the gospel of the Kingdom of God takes a back seat with this mentality. This is where the enemy wants the church and we’re inviting him in.

So what does the New Testament teach us on this subject? That, it’s not an either/or proposition. It’s a both/and. We see this with Jesus first.  Everyone loves the part of Jesus’ ministry that meets people’s needs. How he healed and feed the masses. The physical part of Jesus ministry. A part he wanted his disciples to follow. But in wasn’t to the exclusion of the preaching of gospel of the Kingdom of God. As a matter of fact Jesus always told people about the kingdom of God during the times he met people’s needs.

Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. - Matthew 9:35 (NIV)

We see in Matthew 10, Luke 10 or Mark 6 He sent the disciples out to preach the Kingdom of God and meet people’s needs. It was doctrine and practice. Why? Because Jesus knew what these people needed in order for them to hear the plan of redemption for their souls, the gospel of the Kingdom of God. Souls are forever. Our life here on earth in temporary. If you meet people’s needs they may be more favorably inclined to listen to what you want to say about the kingdom of God.  But you must speak. It’s not an option. Jesus didn’t make it one for himself, the disciple’s and I don’t see where he makes it one for the body of Christ.

Paul tells Timothy, 1 Timothy 4:16 "Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.” It wasn’t an either/or proposition for Paul either. For him it was both/and plus he taught Timothy the same thing. I think he’d teach me the same thing also. Because he tells us elsewhere, "Follow me as I follow Jesus” and we know this was Jesus' way of doing things.

Paul even calls Christian leaders out by name, in certain Christian communities, who teach false doctrine or live worldly lives. In 1 & 2 Timothy he calls out Hymenaeus, Alexander, Philetus and Demas. The first 3 were people teaching false doctrine within the body of Christ. He called them ungodly. He said their teaching was like gangrene. He handed them over to Satan. Paul didnt play patty cake with the body of Christ like so many overseers do today in local churches all over the U.S.  For Paul doctrine was not to take a back seat to orthopraxy. It was both/and.

Now Demas was what we might call an assistant pastor or for his place at the time, an assistant apostle. In other words, someone that would have been respected in the Christians communities of that time as a leader. In his closing remarks, Paul acknowledges and includes him, with Luke, in at least two of his letters to the churches. However, by the time of 2 Timothy 4:8, Paul accuses Demas of loving the world. It wasn’t about what he was teaching but how he changed his lifestyle. Remember that being charged with loving the world is very serious business within the body of Christ.

Elsewhere in the New testament, it says in James 4:4 “You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” Indirectly Paul is calling Demas, a once beloved brother in the faith, an enemy of God. John says, 1 John 2:15 “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”

Paul doesn’t play around with doctrine or lifestyle when it comes to the body of Christ. They are both important parts of the message of the gospel of the Kingdom of God. For Paul it was all about Jesus and protecting His work. Calling out "leaders", who teach false doctrine or live a worldly lifestyle, in a public way is not mean spirited, it's scriptural. However, we must judge rightly and be gracious.

Both correct doctrine and right living are essential elements in professing to be a follower of Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

What Does It Mean To Be An Heir?

If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.                                - Galatians 3:29 (NIV)

In order to be a citizen in God’s kingdom you must be ready to receive. Who was Abrahams seed? Isaac. If you are familiar with the story of Isaac in the Old Testament you know that he was an heir of Abrahams estate. In the same way, Isaac shows us that we are people who receive just as he did. We are heirs.  Heirs of the promises. If you are an heir, then there is an inheritance. If we are a follower of Jesus Christ we enter that inheritance. We receive this inheritance.

Abraham’s first child was Ishmael. He was born in slavery. His mother, Hagar, was a slave thereby making Ishmael a person born a slave. Slavery was his inheritance. However, Isaac, Abrahams second born was born a free person because his mother was a free person. In the New Testament Sarah is a symbol of grace; Hagar represents the Law. Grace means that redemption and citizenship into God’s kingdom is a free gift of God. Meaning, we can doing nothing on our part to earn these things. Jesus did it all.

In Paul’s letter to the Romans he makes it clear that all people depend on grace for their salvation.  In Galatians, he shows that the believer depends equally on this same grace for successfully living the Christian life. We never did anything. We never gave God anything for our salvation. There is nothing on our part that opens the door that allows us to enter into the citizenry of God’s kingdom.  Then after we are welcomed into the family of God grace still conveys us.  Not even making faith something that we do but completely relying on His grace and continuing to receive. Jesus has prepared for us everything. It’s all about Jesus.

Jesus’ work has two sides. First, you and I are in Christ. Second Christ is in you and me. The product of our relationship with Christ is governed by these two statements of what God has done. Jesus himself said, “Remain in me, and I will remain in you.”

By our position in Christ we reap benefit from the facts of His history. His life, death, resurrection and His ascension to God’s right hand. When we enter in to the New Covenant all his work becomes ours, all that he has already done and is covered by the statement “it is finished”. The fact that Christ is in us we participate in His life. All his power, all that He can do now, all that he is today, becomes ours. Both these aspects of our relationship with Him are included in our inheritance. If we enter into all our inheritance and we must see them both. If we only know that we are in Christ we are passive and weak. If we only know that Christ is in us, life is uphill and something is missing. Neither is sufficient alone. Both are gifts already given to us to provide for our life, our future, our standing before God, our practical holiness. God begins everything, by giving us a new position so that we have a new start. He does this by placing us in Christ. If I find myself at the bottom of a horrible pit, then I continue there was no way of getting out of it, until God lifts me out and puts me on a rock. That is what He has done for us in Christ. By placing us in Him He has settled all our past, just as by placing the life of Christ within us He has given us all we need for the present and for the entire future.  The two sides are necessary to deliver us out of our agonized striving to attain, and into that place of rest were all is from God.

We need that new start in Jesus. Before we become citizens of God’s kingdom we are sinners in God’s sight and we need deliverance and a new standing before God. We can never attain it on our own.

I belong to the race of Adam, and I have only Adam in me. Not only is my conduct bad but I am bad. People themselves are wrong and not merely in their actions.

 As young Christians, we take a long time to learn this. Only after frustrating experiences does it dawn on us that it is no mere question of dropped produce but of the faultiness of the bag. If we find one thing after another dropping out of our pockets, eventually we give up putting them back in there. We feel around instead to see if the pocket has a hole in it. It is the unfailing recurrence of our sins of hasty speech, quick-temper, eager self-seeking and so on, that even when we know God’s forgiveness, we are exposed to the fact that the trouble is within ourselves.

The apostle Paul makes this clear in the first section of Romans where he shows us how peoples conduct is wrong and the cure for this is God’s forgiveness through the life, which is His shed blood, of Christ. Then in the second section, through chapter 8, he shows us how the people themselves are wrong and how it must be dealt with. What is the remedy? There is one thing only: we must die.
God didn’t say, “The soul who sins is the one that must be cleansed.”  It says “The soul who sins is the one who will die.”  Paul says, “because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.” (Romans 6:7) There is no other remedy. In the sight of God we must die.

However where would our redemption be if we were to end their? That’s why we need the resurrection to new life and a new start. We must not only die in God’s eyes, we must rise again.  This then leads to a new position.  I must not only live by must live for God. Since He is in heaven we must ascend to that place.  Therefore, there must be a death, a resurrection and ascension before the trouble we’ve inherited from Adam is reversed. Before Eden can be restored.

What makes this possible? How can I die, be raised and ascend to where God is? The simple answer is that we cannot. People may seek this kind of death, but they can never achieve it. They may seek resurrection but all they get is a grave. They may seek heaven but remain earthbound. They ability to escape from the inheritance of Adam and from sin reign is an insurmountable problem.

There is only one solution and this is clearly stated in 1 Corinthians 1:30 “you are in Christ Jesus”. This is an important affirmation for the Christian.  It is God’s work that has placed me in Christ Jesus.  There is nothing that I could have done or could ever do.  You see everything for my redemption comes from the fact that God has done it.

Here’s an illustration. I have a bus ticket. I put it into the pages of a book. I put the book into the fire and burned it. What happens to the ticket? Or a throw the book into the river. what about the ticket? Maybe I put the book into a box and mail it somewhere. Where’s the ticket? You can answer each question with absolute assurance; and yet it is the fact that, once it was in the book, I did nothing more with the ticket. I did not send the ticket somewhere.  I sent the book.  Because the ticket is in the book, where the book goes the ticket must go. It has a part in everything that happens to the book. When I tell you what has happened to the book, you do not have to stop and think what happened to the item that is included in the book.  

We have been placed in Christ. When Christ was put to death, we died in him, because we are in him.  (Romans 6:6) Plus the work of God did not stop there, because Jesus rose and ascended to the Father’s right hand. Since this happened and because we are in Christ we also are made alive with him, raised and seated with him in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 2:5-6) We have a new standing in the presence of God and it is not something we have earned but something which we receive because we are in Christ. These facts, which are historically true of Him, become real in our experience.
It is important to realize that Scripture makes our death, resurrection and ascension a historic reality in Christ. The fact that our sinful human nature was crucified with him is something we know. (Romans 6:6) Meaning the sinful part of our human nature has been rendered powerless if we chose to take advantage of the power God has given us. This power is the Holy Spirit. Unless we have a reason to count ourselves not to be ‘in Christ’, we cannot say that these facts are untrue. They follow logically from what God has done in the initial step of our redemption.

We cannot emphasize this enough as the first element in our inheritance in Jesus.  Our death in Christ Jesus, and the freedom from sin which goes with that death, are not just a doctrine but an inheritance. They are not things that I have to do but gifts that I have received. However hard I try, I will only prove to myself that by striving will not work. However, if I see that God has worked and that my sinful human nature, which has been such a problem, was crucified long ago, rendered impotent, then I will know what it is to walk in newness of life.

There are an abundant of people within the Christian community that have a sense they are missing something in their walk. Sin is defeating them. There is something wrong. We seek God in prayer and scripture. Looking for a light in this darkness. Clarity comes when we realize that nowhere did God ever say, “You must be,” but always, “You have been.” However, because of constantly failing this doesn’t seem possible, unless we’re dishonest with ourselves. We then think only dishonest people could make those statements.

However, it’s not about what we think but what the scripture say. 1 Corinthians 1:30 says, “you are in Christ Jesus,” and this is God’s work not ours. Therefore, if Jesus died and God put me in Him then I must have died also.

The trouble with us today is that we think crucifixion with Christ is an experience we have work for. It is not. It is something God has done, and we have only to receive His work. The whole difference lies here: Is the crossed a doctrine to be grasped and then applied?  Or is it a revelation which God flashes upon our heart? It is quite possible to know and preach the doctrine of the cross without seeing the wonderful fact.

Everything God has done, He has done first of all to Christ, and only then to us because we are in Christ. God does nothing directly to us. Apart from and outside of Christ, God has no work of grace. God has not only given us Jesus, he has given us Christ experience; not only what He can do but what he has already done. From his death, onward, all that He has is ours. Our inheritance. This is the divine provision that Isaac illustrates.

 We can’t stop there. We have seen the fact of Christ, all that He has already done in the past which we now have in Him has settled our own past because we are in Christ. On the other hand, Jesus is in us, not for the past but for today and the future. His life is given to us so that His life is our power. You in him, have received His finished work. He in us gives us his power.

And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to  your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.  Romans 8:11 (NIV)

It is the Holy Spirit that gives us (which is synonymous with ‘Christ in you’)the power to resist the pull of our sinful human nature when temptations come our way. It is Satan who uses temptations to revive our sinful human natures impulses, in those areas of weakness that each of us have.

Remember the woman plagued with the lifelong bleeding condition. The world made her condition worse. It was only her small bit of faith in Jesus that moved her to take action and reach out and just touch a piece of his clothes. With this small act power went out from Jesus and she was healed.
In the same way, that power is also available to us, to heal our broken human nature. By putting our faith in Jesus and setting out to embrace him, abide in him and He in us, He will heal you. It will be with that same power that raised him from the dead. The resurrection power will bring life to our souls so that we can chose NOT to give into our sinful human nature when temptations come our way. We have power to resist the devil when he uses the things that tempt us to sin.

Paul says, ‘I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.’  It is Jesus Christ that only satisfies God’s heart. This is the life that brings God satisfaction in the life of a believer and there is no substitute. ‘I no longer but Christ living in me’, this means Jesus instead of me.  When Paul uses, these words is not claiming to have achieved something his readers have not yet reached. He is defining the Christian life. The Christian life is the Christ centered life.  Jesus in me has become my life and is living my life instead of me. It is not that I trust him as a separate sufficient act but God gives Him to be my life.

This new life can be described as a law. Not in the Old Testament sense of the word but as an illustration. A law that determines what that life is like an expression. It is not just that life a is present in me, if that was it, I would then have to hold tightly on to it. There is the law of the Spirit of life and that law looks after itself.

When we put a book on a table we do not always need to take great car to place down on the tables surface. We can let it go, just as we can drop a piece of paper into a waste paper basket. The law of gravity is working, and it ensures that the book will fall into place. Without the law of gravity, we would have to be more careful, or if might go up instead of down. But the law takes care of it and we do not have to take care of the law.  In the same way, we do not need to look after the law of life in Christ Jesus the law will look after us.

Often we find something in the Christian life difficult, and so we turn to God for help. We start trying t use the life instead of letting the life use us. We need to let go and the law will operate, and the life itself will work.  We then begin to pray, ‘I cannot do it, however, Your life in me can and will. I am putting my trust in you.’ There is a law and the law must always work; we have only to rest in it. Like Isaac, we have everything done for us by the father.

Then we can trust what Paul says in 1 Cor.1:30b, ‘who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.’ This means that my righteousness and yours is not a quality or a virtue. It is not a thing at all but a living Person that dwells in the soul of every true believer. My holiness is not a condition of life but the person of Jesus Christ. My redemption is not a hope but Christ in me, the hope of glory.  We need to internalize this, Christ in me and Christ in you, this is all we need.

The daily life of the Christian is summed up in the word ‘receive’. Every challenging thing that God demands of me tolerant, meekness, humility, goodness, holiness, joy, is not something I am, or something I do, or some virtue I acquire or earn or reach as in a goal. It is Christ in me. Each is a indicator of Him. Therefore, let him be revealed naturally and spontaneously, and that is enough.
He ‘has become for us’.  It does not say that he does these things. He is these things. Christ in us meets every demand of God, and every demand of the circumstances around us.

It is not in us to be humble, nor will we find it helps to trust in the power of Christ to make us humble. Christ is humble naturally, it is his very nature and his humility has become our humility, for Christ is our all. Even faith and trust and obedience, if we regard them as virtues to which we attain, will prove ineffective. It is not that I trust his Word therefore I can be tolerant. It is that Jesus is tolerant. Praise God Christ is in me. Once again, this is Isaac, natural, simple, spontaneous, trusting implicitly and without question, because the Father has made absolutely sufficient provision. He was an heir of all Abraham had. He did nothing. So, it is with those in Christ. We are heir of all God has, we did nothing for it. 

by Watchman Nee
edited by John Maier

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Does God Accept Everyone?

Most people have this innate desire to be accepted. Typically this comes from not wanting to be alone. We want security from the forces outside ourselves that threaten us. The God who created us understands this. Because we were created not to be alone, however, when sin entered humanity loneliness became part of the human condition. Insecurity resulted. Ever since, people has striven for some kind of acceptance. 

You see we were meant to be in a relationship, first with our Creator and second with one another as human beings. These relationships were to be without strife or obstacles. A relationship flowing with love and abundant life. There was to be no barrier between us and God; no wall, no curtain, no chasm. This was the environment of the Garden of Eden. A perfect place where the ills of this world we see today did not exist. However, when humanity chose to determine for themselves what should be good and what should be evil we chose to reject God’s standard of good and evil. We wanted to be the determiners of good and evil just like God.This resulted in us being expelled from Utopia and into a dystopia of our own making. Bringing about loneliness and our desire to be accepted by someone or something or some group because we have rejected the God that gave us these thing completely but now can't because of sin. However, He also knew how to fix our broken condition. Humanity has constantly been striving to overcome loneliness or being alone.

An outcome of our problem brings about certain beliefs. The very culture in which we live in today wants to believe that there are intelligent civilizations in our universe. Very intelligent people, scientists propose that because of the vastness of our universe this is proof enough for them to postulate that intelligent life must exist outside of the planet on which we live. Cultures have devoted millions upon millions of dollars trying to find intelligent life outside of our planet. That exhibit the adage "Put your money where your mouth is". You don’t spend this kind of money unless you believe in this idea. Even though there is no proof from a scientific standard. This belief still exists in the hearts of very smart people. I believe one of the motivating factors for this belief, which is a belief based on faith not true science, is because they are disillusioned with the condition of humanity on this planet. We can survey history and look at our present and understand that mankind will never fix it's broken condition.

Faith is not just a term synonymous with a religion. Faith is the mental facility every person uses every day in their practical daily lives and in their held beliefs. Faith takes what you know and helps you traverse what you don't know so that you can act on what you believe. For example; The chair you sat in was an act of faith. You believed it would support you when you sat in it and not collapse below you sending you crashing to the ground. Because before you sat in it you did not know if the integrity of the material that hold it together last time it was sat in has not been compromised. Whether by an individual out of the sight of any human eyes or that point in time were material things just wear out.

That no matter how hard humanity tries we will never overcome sickness, famine, political power struggle, murder, pride, malice, immorality, torture, and the list can go on of the evils of humanity. So some believe that just maybe an intelligence greater than ours in this vast universe will come and rescue us from the broken condition of humanity. Maybe they have an answer to our problems. If not we have to accept that were alone because for most of these people’s perspective there is no God. This then leads to a loneliness with no hope. When there is no hope there’s no reason to go. However, to survive we must believe in something outside of ourselves to keep hope alive. The world says believe in yourself. The world says believe in the greater minds of science. The world says that’s all we have because there is no God. However, believing in ourselves or in science still leaves us all alone and without a cure to the broken human condition. Why? Because we didn’t create ourselves and neither did science.

It is the Creator who understands the creation. He knows how to restore that which was broken. He knows what it takes for us to be accepted by Him.  That's why Jesus came. Because of Jesus and the resurrection we now know that God wants to bring us back to that place where we belong, Eden. Where love is the governing principle of living life. It is here in which all that ails humanity is done away with. Where no one ever suffers loss, sickness, pain or death.

I want to be accepted in order to be a part of this restored Eden. Jesus said, “all that the father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.” In Jesus, God wants and is willing to accept people from every nation, no matter what your background or ethnicity is; but also expects us to be accepting of all people and not show favoritism or show prejudice towards any people.

However, even though God wants to accept everybody to be a part of his kingdom not everyone will be a part of his kingdom. Why? Because Jesus in His very first sermon said repent for the kingdom of God is near. Not everyone is willing to repent in order to be accepted by God. Repentance is essential in order to be welcomed into the kingdom of God. We must be willing to change or be changed in order to be a citizen of the kingdom of God. What does this change look like? It is an internal change. This internal change says “not my will be done but your will be done God”. It’s no longer the arbitrary standard I set up on how to live my life but it’s your standard oh God that I accept. It is what I want to live by. It’s not me who determines right or wrong but it’s you who determines what is right or wrong and I accept that as the standard by which I will now live by.

Jesus tells this parable of the kingdom of God. The setting he uses is a wedding banquet.

Matthew 22:1-14 (NIV)
 [22:1] Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: [2] “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. [3] He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come.
[4] “Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.'
[5] “But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business. [6] The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. [7] The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.
[8] “Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. [9] Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.' [10] So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.
[11] “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. [12] ‘Friend,' he asked, ‘how did you get in here without wedding clothes?' The man was speechless.
[13] “Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'
[14] “For many are invited, but few are chosen.”

You see the person who wanted to be a part of this amazing banquet did not want to change. He wanted all the benefits. He wanted all the perks. He wanted all the good things but he was unwilling to change therefore God would not accept him. And as the parable teaches, he was rejected. So does God accept everyone? The answer is yes however it is a conditional yes. Now don’t get this confused with God’s unconditional love. You see it is his unconditional love that extends the invitation for us to be accepted into his kingdom. He loves us no matter what our condition however that condition must change once we are in God's kingdom, if you accept citizenship into the kingdom of God.

There are many who “say” they believe in Jesus but inwardly have not changed. They hold onto their sin. They justify their sin. They refused to repent of their sin. The Bible teaches us that the demons believe in Jesus and we know they will never be chosen because they will not change. 

Acts 3:19 (NIV)
[19] Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord,

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