Set Apart for God

Today’s message is a little bit harder to swallow than most, but none-the-less it is God’s Word. In 2 Corinthians 6 verses 14-18 Paul is warning the believers in Corinth about partnering with unbelievers. First off it is important to realize that there were a lot of false teachers who were infiltrating the church and spreading a false message. They presented themselves as Christians, but did not bear the message of Christ. Secondly it is not saying to hate unbelievers or even to be harsh towards them. Instead it is about the believer and follower of Christ setting themselves apart from the world. It is about not being overcome by evil, but overcoming evil with good (Romans 12:21).

As Christians we are exhorted to Love God and to love our neighbors (Matthew 22:36-40) and by the blood of Jesus Christ we have been made holy for all time (Hebrews. 10:10). To be made holy means to be set apart to God. In the Old Testament the level of holiness determined who could enter the temple of God. Those who were unbelievers or non-Jews, for this example, were not allowed past the outer courts, Jew’s the inner courts, priests the Holy Place, and the High Priest the Holy of Holies and only once a year. The closer to God people got the more holy they needed to be. Luckily for us the curtain of the temple which separated man from God was torn when Jesus was crucified (Matthew 27:51) and because of that we are now able to approach God directly, but we are still to make ourselves holy, confessing our sin to God and repenting, when we approach Him. What that means for us today in regards to the following passage is that we must not team up with those who follow Satan, those who do not follow God, and we must remain Holy so that we can remain in close fellowship with God.

2 Corinthians 6:14-18
14 Don’t team up with those who are unbelievers. How can righteousness be a partner with wickedness? How can light live with darkness? 15 What harmony can there be between Christ and the devil? How can a believer be a partner with an unbeliever? 16 And what union can there be between God’s temple and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God said:
“I will live in them
and walk among them.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
17 Therefore, come out from among unbelievers,
and separate yourselves from them, says the Lord.
Don’t touch their filthy things,
and I will welcome you.
18 And I will be your Father,
and you will be my sons and daughters,
says the Lord Almighty.”

This does not mean we should not talk to unbelievers, but it does mean that we need to be on guard, it means that we must realize that as long as they choose not to follow God that they are considered enemies of God, until such a time that they choose to follow Him. Military personnel are a prime example of this. When deployed to a combat zone military personnel are often times out in the midst of the “enemy” sometimes the enemy is known and has a face, while other times the enemy is unknown and hiding amongst civilians. Military bases are generally more safe than being “outside the wire” or outside the confines of the base and less vigilance is needed within the confines of the base; however, when going outside of the base everyone needs to remain super vigilant for their own safety and for the safety of their team. That does not mean they are to be rude or mean to people, but it means they must be on guard because there could be someone waiting to cause them harm, and at the same time there may be others who do not want to be associated with the enemy.

As Christians we must be vigilant when we are associating with non-believers so that we do not become like them. We must remain aware that Satan is out to attack God’s people in any way that he can and he will use those who are under his control to do his work, even people that we might consider friends and family. We have been called to live a different life than those who do not follow God. Of course these people may be great people, but if they are not for God then they are against Him and we must be on guard when around them so that we do not go astray.

Being a Christian means that we must go out into the world in order to share the Gospel, but that also places us at risk. On the extreme side of things there may come a time when you feel as though you cannot minister to a friend and you may feel as though you can no longer be around them because of their refusal to accept God’s message, but only you can make that determination as you are so led by the Holy Spirit living within you. Remember it is our responsibility to spread the Gospel message to the world around us and when we place ourselves in the proximity of unbelievers we must not waiver in our beliefs and in our love for God. This is a hard place to be, especially for new believers and those who are weaker in their faith because when we first come to Christ and when we are not firmly grounded in the Word of God we can be easily led astray.

People should always be able to recognize that you are a Christian, even if you are with someone who is not. We are not to hide in our own little safe bubbles where nothing can harm us because then we are doing nothing to let the world know how great our God is, but we must be ever vigilant when we are in the world so that we do not become seduced by the ways of the world.

May God bless you today as you faithfully and courageously follow Him. May He keep you out of the hands of the devil even when you are in close proximity to those who follow his ways. May you be a light to a dark world to bring people to the only one who can provide a full and satisfying life, God. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen and Amen!

Numbers 6:24-26
24 ‘May the Lord bless you
and protect you.
25 May the Lord smile on you
and be gracious to you.
26 May the Lord show you his favor
and give you his peace.’

To be Saved or NOT to be Saved

What does it take to be a “good Christian”? Romans 3:10-12 says “none is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” So if no one is righteous, no one understands, no one seeks God, and if all have become worthless then what does it take to become a “good Christian”?

The word “good” here really has no bearing since being a Christian is really what it is about, because in order to be a Christian one must follow Jesus, after all that is what a Christian is, a follower of Christ. So the real question then becomes what does it take to be a Christian? The answer is simple and complex at the same time because becoming a Christian is somewhat simple while being challenging as well. To become a Christian you must “declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead” and then you will be saved “for it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved” (Romans 10:9,10). Likewise, Matthew 10:32 states that “whoever acknowledges me [Jesus] before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father [God] in heaven.”

Becoming a Christian is a relatively simple process on the outside but complex on the inside because Satan wants us for himself and will do anything within his power to keep us from accepting Jesus as our Lord and Savior. He comes only to “steal and kill and destroy,” but Jesus has come to give us life in the fullest (John 10:10). There is a spiritual battle that is taking place when someone comes to a place of decision or is being led to a place of decision of whether or not to accept Jesus. This is a battle that can often times be seen, but is more often likely to be felt by the pre-Christian. It is a battle of the heart of whether to acknowledge sin and confess it before the Lord and to hand over one’s life to Him or to continue living for self by following the ways of Satan.

Romans 3:23 states the “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” There is no exception here. We are all sinners and do not have the ability to be righteous in the eyes of God on our own accord. “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23) and “unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). So how does one become born again? “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Which brings us back to confessing with our mouth that Jesus is Lord and believing in our heart that God has raised Him from the dead that allows us to be saved (Romans 10:9-11).

Becoming a Christian is a battle, but outside of the battle it is a relatively easy process; we must accept that Jesus is Lord and profess it. Once we become a Christian though the battle continues. Just because a person is a Christian does not mean that Satan has given up on us. For me this is a sign that once saved always saved may not apply. I do not know if once saved always saved is true or not. I would rather be certain that I am saved and thus I will do what I can to live a life that glorifies God, though I will fail, I will continue to try.

Jesus came to give us life, but we still have to accept it and to live that life and this is where it becomes tricky because to whom much has been given much will be expected (Luke 12:48). The greatest thing that we can be given is life through Jesus Christ. In Him we are promised a place in His Father’s house; we are promised life eternal. So if we have been given the greatest thing of all then how much more is expected of us than the person who has not been given life?

This is where things become really tricky, because the world has been conditioned to believe that there is no absolute truth or that God would not send people to hell when the reality is that we live in a world of absolute truths, which is why we have laws. I do not believe there is a single person who does not know that it is wrong to kill someone, this does not stop people from doing so, but it is an absolute truth. We know that it is wrong to take something from someone else that does not belong to us, this is an absolute truth. We live in a world of laws created on what people believe to be absolute truths so to say that there cannot be only one way, one truth, or one way to receive life eternal does not hold water. Absolute truth is all around us and is evident in life and for those of us who have truly given our lives to Jesus we know that this is true regardless of what the world may think.

Being a Christian requires that we live life differently. Having the Holy Spirit living within us leads us to live a life that is different from that in which we used to live, but it is just a leading, we still have a choice to make which is where we so often go wrong. I cannot tell you how many times I have ignored the guiding of the Holy Spirit, the voice inside of me showing me truth, and done my own thing only to have it blow up in my face. And let me tell you that these things may not always blow up in our faces right away; we may go a long time before we see the results of our turning from God, but our choices always come with consequences. Refusing to follow God comes with consequences such as financial difficulties, struggles in marriage, struggles in parenting, addictions, instability in life, and death. But following God begets life and it fills our life with the Fruit of the Spirit, “Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control” (Galatians 5:22).

“You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder” (James 2:19). Belief in God is not enough. Our belief, our faith, our acceptance of Jesus as our Lord and Savior needs to be expressed. When we accept Jesus as our Lord we receive the Holy Spirit who dwells within us and leads us in truth.

John 14:15-21

“If you love me, obey my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you. No, I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you. Soon the world will no longer see me, but you will see me. Since I live, you also will live. When I am raised to life again, you will know that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them.”

Being a Christian is about obedience, but it is about love first. Notice that Jesus did not say obey my commandments and then you will love me. Jesus said, “if you love me, obey my commandments.” The only way to be a “good Christian” is the only way to be a Christian; we must love Jesus and obey His commandments. But how is it that we come to love Him?

How is it that we can come to obey Him by our love for Him? This is truly the question and this is what keeps so many of us wandering and not truly living the life that we are to be living. Matthew 6:33 says to “seek first the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” The way to learn to love Him is to seek first the Kingdom of God. We must be diligent in our study of His Word, we must be diligent in seeking to honor Him in all that we do, we must trust the voice of the Holy Spirit living inside of us and when we do He will provide us with everything that we need. We must show Him our love by seeking to honor Him in all that we do and He will provide. His provision may start as peace or joy, it may be something monetary, He may begin to restore your relationships, but your life will begin to take noticeable change and you will learn that He is faithful in all things. And as we begin to learn how much love God has for us we will learn to love Him more. 1 John 4:19 says that “we love because he first loved us.”

Being a Christian starts with understanding that God loved us so much that “He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). There is nothing that we can do to earn life; all we can do is lay it down for the one who laid it down for us. When we realize how much God did for us we begin to understand His love and in turn our love should represent the love that He has for us, because it is through Him that we have life and will receive His blessing.

Deuteronomy 15:4-6 states that “There should be no poor among you, for the Lord your God will greatly bless you in the land he is giving you as a special possession. You will receive this blessing if you are careful to obey all the commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you today. The Lord your God will bless you as he has promised. You will lend money to many nations but will never need to borrow. You will rule many nations, but they will not rule over you.”

God has provided us with life eternal, but often times we are quick to forget what He did for us and we do not have the resolve to live a life that honors God and the gift that we have been given through His Son, Jesus Christ, who laid down His life for us.

James 4:1-10

What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you? You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.

You adulterers! Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again: if you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God. Do you think the Scriptures have no meaning? They say that God is passionate that the spirit he has placed within us should be faithful to him. And he gives grace generously. As the Scriptures say, ‘God opposes the proud but give grace to the humble.’

So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.

How close are you to God today? Have you wandered away? Does your life represent what you have been given?

God’s Word is clear! We must love Him and obey His commandments. If we do not do both we are only fooling ourselves into believing that we are honoring God. The gift of life through Jesus Christ is the greatest gift that we could ever receive. When we truly follow God we will be blessed in our life. We will certainly still have trials, but we must remember to always seek first the Kingdom of God and where we have been proud of our sin we must turn from it with sorrow and humility and draw close to God once more through repentance and by living a life that honors Him. There is only one way, one truth, and one life and that is through Jesus Christ (John 14:6). All others lead to death and destruction. Which way will you choose today? God is waiting to bring His love and power through you and me, all we have to do is to love Him and to follow Him and He will do the rest.

A Life of Worship

I go to church on Sunday and I raise my hands to the music as it moves me, sometimes I sway a little bit, and once in a while I may even shed a tear. But…it doesn’t always happen. Sometimes it seems that no matter how hard I try I cannot get into it and then the message comes. Sometimes the message is powerful and it really makes me think and yet others I really cannot relate. I go to church because it is what Christians do, but sometimes I wonder if I really need to go. After all, I don’t really need to be at church to be a Christian or to experience God right…

Most of us at some point in time or another in our life have felt this way and if you haven’t then you have truly been blessed. Sometimes this even happens to us in the middle of our walk, things have been going really well and then all of a sudden….BAM…we are in a “dry spell.” I have personally experienced this and know that it is no fun, but is it me or is it God? I would submit to you that it might be both, there are times when God becomes silent and causes us to go through a time of testing; however, I would say that more than likely it is us.

So if it is us then how do we change it? Where did we go wrong? The answer is probably simpler than we think, yet more challenging than we think. The answer lies within our worship of God. Joshua knew what it meant to worship God. He met with God on a regular basis when he was Moses’ assistant. When the pillar of cloud would descend on the tent of meeting he would go in with Moses and even when Moses would leave to give the people a message from God Joshua would stay there as long as the pillar of cloud was present (Exo. 33:7). Joshua met with God regularly and knew what it meant to worship Him; he had learned from Moses to trust God and to give Him all the glory.

Joshua was so familiar with worshipping God that it became a priority in his life. When God had instructed him to lead the Israelites across the Jordan River one of the first things that he told them was to “consecrate ourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you” (Josh. 3:5). He was making sure that they were prepared for God to be in their presence. Then as they began to cross the Jordan which had been overflowing from its banks the river stopped and created a wall of water that stood up and made way for them to pass through on dry ground (Josh. 3:17). In the midst of this occurring, once everyone had safely passed through the river, Joshua commanded that one man from each of the twelve tribes go back to the dried up bottom and get a boulder and bring it back to where the priests stood with the ark of the Lord as God had commanded. When they returned Joshua built a memorial in which all of the future generations would be reminded of how God had stopped up the waters of the Jordan and had provided safe passage for them (Josh. 4:1-24).

Joshua was more than familiar with the importance of worshipping God. It took priority in his life and as a result God continued to bless him. He also understood the importance of consecrating himself by repenting of his sins and seeking forgiveness. For Joshua worship was a lifestyle. God desires his people to worship Him and when they do He responds, but He wants more than for us to simply feel moved to worship on Sunday morning at church. He wants for our entire lives to be an act of worship. As Paul stated we are to offer up our bodies as a living sacrifice that is hoy and pleasing to God for that is our spiritual act of worship. He followed that up by saying that we must not be conformed to the world, but must test and discern what is the will of God (Rom. 12:1-2).

Photo by Nicolas Raymond
Photo by Nicolas Raymond
So how do we begin to worship God and offer our bodies up as a living sacrifice? The answer will be different for each of us, but it starts with meeting with God regularly and learning to discern His voice. It starts with the heart. Just as Moses and Joshua would meet with God in the same place every time it is helpful to create a private place to worship God; a place in which we can go to everyday and put aside the distractions of our day and truly worship God. The more that we do this the easier it will become and soon a habit will form, just as it had with Joshua. We must learn to consecrate ourselves to God daily and to seek forgiveness for where we have not met His standard. By doing this we begin to actively see what God desires for us and as our lives begin aligning with His plan we will begin to see more of His hand in our lives, but it takes practice, it takes honesty, and it takes commitment. We all have a choice as to how we will respond just as Joshua had given the Israelites a chance to choose for themselves who they would serve, God or the gods of the world. Joshua stood and proclaimed that he and his house would serve the Lord (Josh. 24).

How will you respond? Will you and your household serve the Lord?

If this was helpful or encouraging to you please feel free to share it with others. If you have any questions or comments please feel free to make a comment. We all have a purpose and can be used to help others draw closer to God. God bless you in your journey to knowing Him deeper than before and accepting yourself with all of the qualities that God desires for you to have.

We all fall short sometimes…

Whether or not you know me you know that I am not perfect, even though I try my hardest and do my best I am by no means perfect. Sometimes I feel as though my expectations of others are much greater than what their expectations are and I feel let down or disappointed. I feel this way because I know what they are capable of if they only put forth the effort. Some of the most frustrating moments occurred when I was a training instructor for the military. We would get young men and women in of all different backgrounds and upbringings. Some of them seemed destine to just get by, their attitude was clear and they seemed to lack the motivation or drive to apply themselves. That was sad enough, but my biggest frustrations were when those who had the motivation and drive, they had the desire, knowledge, and ability to do the things that they were required to do and they would go above and beyond, but when they didn’t it caused me much frustration and even pain at times. I knew what they were capable of and that they could make a great impact if they only stayed the path.

The same is true for us. I’m not sure exactly what kind of emotions God has, but there are many examples of him having various different emotions so I would say that He can and does get frustrated with us at times, but in a way of knowing what we are capable of and desiring us to see it in ourselves. For me I find that often times when I am praying in the morning I am asking for help in certain areas, usually having to do with being a man after God’s own heart who brings light into the world by building people up rather than tearing them down, but it seems that I often miss the mark and have to ask God for forgiveness for where I did not stay true to the path that He set before me. There are many things that God wants for us and to love is perhaps the greatest, so why is it so difficult to love God and to love others? Perhaps we need to look to Jesus for the answer.

Jesus humbled himself many times during his lifetime. One such time that we know of is when He washed his disciples feet. He placed himself in the lowest position and he served those whom he loved. He demonstrated what it meant to be a disciple in word and in deed. Shortly after washing his disciples feet Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35). I know in my life I often can easily portray that I am better than others, not necessarily in a highly obvious way, but in a way of judging others and their situations, of how they act, or even by what they say. I know that I miss the mark often, and I believe that if I could truly know what it means to humble myself before others that I could hit the mark way more often. Rather than looking at someone and seeing their situation maybe I could see them for the hurt that is within them instead. Maybe I could be someone who, with the Holy Spirit’s guidance, could bring some healing to the hurting and broken hearted.

How is God’s heart hurting for you today? We all have different things that we struggle with, I have just shared one thing that I struggle with every day, but struggle signifies a desire to fight and to change. If you are in a place of acceptance then maybe it is time to relight the fire within you and re-engage with your God given desire to be holy, just as He is holy. Certainly we will never be completely holy, at least not in our own power, but through the blood of Jesus we have been made new. We have been restored in God’s eyes, all we have to do is to repent and ask for forgiveness for our failings and follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit wherever he may lead us. You have the ability to change people’s lives around you. You have the ability to restore lost people, hurting people, grieving people. You also have been given the responsibility to do these things. How will you respond?

Until next time, may God richly bless you as you walk boldly in the path that He has set before you. May your life be filled with the joy and the peace of knowing that you are doing what God has called you to do. May your hearts be overflowing with love for everyone you encounter.