Living Life for Eternity: Are You Building Treasures in Heaven?

08b010eGod promises rewards at the judgment seat of Christ for our faithful service to Him as Christians. This is a constant theme in Scripture and is a vital part of our future hope in Christ. How awesome will any reward be that comes from the hand of God! These rewards are eternal and will never fade away. They will be on display for all eternity. The promise of future rewards was a major motivation of the Apostle Paul’s relentless service in the gospel.

Phillipians 4:14(NLT):

14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

A W Tozer writes that…

Our motives in the Christian life should be both right and genuine. God is the Faithful One. We are to love Him and serve Him because He is God—not because of the gracious things He does for us or for the rewards He promises us!

However, it should be said that God does not expect us to forget or ignore the gracious future promises He has made to us. It is a glorious truth that if we believe God and honor His Word, if we walk by faith in love and obedience, there will be eternal rewards for each of us in that great coming day. The rewards will differ. Wisdom and knowledge and love reside in Him who is our God. He will make the right judgments for His people.

I for one will not be surprised if some of God’s faithful people serving Him today should rise as high and shine as brightly as the heroes of faith listed in the book of Hebrews.

I say that in all truthfulness because I do not think that all of the heroes of faith are dead and gone!

THIS IS ONE OF THE GREAT RULES OF FAITH THAT GOD IS A REWARDER.

Hebrews 11:6 (NASB): 6And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.

Ruth 2:12: 12 The LORD repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!”

Don’t you want to receive a full reward at the judgment seat of Christ?

II John 8 (NIV): 8 Watch out that you do not lose what we have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully.

Revelation 22:12,13 (NKJV): 12 “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.”

What an awesome verse!!! Jesus Christ is coming back and his reward is with him to give to us according to our work for Him. What motivation this should give us to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and love and serve others.

Matthew 16:27 (NIV): 27 For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.

Matthew 19:29 (NIV): 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.

The reward will be so much higher and greater than the work that was done. God is a rewarder and he will abundantly reward us for our faithful service of love.

Matthew 25:14-27 (NIV): 14 “Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. 15 To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag,[a] each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16 The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. 17 So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. 18 But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

19 “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20 The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’

21 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

22 “The man with two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.’

23 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

24 “Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’

26 “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27 Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.

What are you doing with the abilities, talents, gifts and word of God that God has given you while Jesus Christ is in heaven and before he comes back? Are you sitting on them are putting them in use for your Lord?

I Corinthians 4:1-5 Amplified

1SO THEN, let us [apostles] be looked upon as ministering servants of Christ and stewards (trustees) of the mysteries (the secret purposes) of God.

2Moreover, it is [essentially] required of stewards that a man should be found faithful [proving himself worthy of trust].

3But [as for me personally] it matters very little to me that I should be put on trial by you [on this point], and that you or any other human tribunal should investigate and question and cross-question me. I do not even put myself on trial and judge myself.

4I am not conscious of anything against myself, and I feel blameless; but I am not vindicated and acquitted before God on that account. It is the Lord [Himself] Who examines and judges me.

5So do not make any hasty or premature judgments before the time when the Lord comes [again], for He will both bring to light the secret things that are [now hidden] in darkness and disclose and expose the [secret] aims (motives and purposes) of hearts. Then every man will receive his [due] commendation from God.

Hebrews 6:10, 11 (ESV): 10For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do. 11And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end.

Philippians 2:14-16: 13For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. 14Do all things without murmurings and disputings: 15That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; 16Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain.

God works in us so that we can do His good pleasure upon the earth and shine as lights in this crooked world and rejoice in the day of Christ. All labor outside God’s working and calling on your life is in vain and ultimately serves no eternal purpose.

A BEMA SEAT
MINDSET

Beloved let me offer a “Biblical grid” through which you can (should) filter every thought, word and deed in your life for the rest of your life in light of your future personal appointed appearance at the Bema Seat of Christ

Whether, then, you eat or drink
or whatever you do,
do all to the glory of God.
1Corinthian 10:31

I Corinthians 3:5-9 (NIV)

What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. 6 I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. 7 So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. 8 The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. 9 For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.

Most of the things we worry so much about won’t matter in 3 weeks, let alone 3 months or 3 years. We focus on the trivial and forget to pursue the eternal. But 10,000 times 10,000 years from now, you’ll still be glad you invested your life for Jesus Christ….

John Wesley rightly said that…

The real value of a thing is the price it will bring in eternity.

Matthew 6:19-21 (NIV): 19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Store up (Store up (thesaurizo) is the same verb used in Mt 6:19 and is in the present imperative which is a command from our Master make the habit of our lives to store up eternal treasure in heaven!

Note carefully that the question is not whether we will store up wealth. Everyone will. That’s a given. The vital question is where we will do our “banking”, on earth or in heaven?

In context, the treasures refer to whatever it is you most value.

Luther said…

What a man loves, that is his God. For he carries it in his heart, he goes about with it night and day, he sleeps and wakes with it; be it what it may

WHERE IS
YOUR TREASURE?

2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. (NASB: Lockman)
Amplified: For we must all appear and be revealed as we are before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive [his pay] according to what he has done in the body, whether good or evil [considering what his purpose and motive have been, and what he has achieved, been busy with, and given himself and his attention to accomplishing].
MLB (Berkley): for we must all appear before the tribunal of Christ, so that each may receive as his due what he practiced while in the body, whether good or bad.
Montgomery: For we must all be made manifest, in our true characters, before the Judgment-seat of Christ; so that each one may receive according to that which he has done in his body, whether good or evil.
NJB: For at the judgment seat of Christ we are all to be seen for what we are, so that each of us may receive what he has deserved in the body, matched to whatever he has done, good or bad.
Phillips: For every one of us will have to stand without pretence before Christ our judge, and we shall be rewarded for what we did when we lived in our bodies, whether it was good or bad.
TLB: For we must all stand before Christ to be judged and have our lives laid bare—before him. Each of us will receive whatever he deserves for the good or bad things he has done in his earthly body
Weymouth: For we must all of us appear before Christ’s judgment-seat in our true characters, in order that each may then receive an award for his actions in this life, in accordance with what he has done, whether it be good or whether it be worthless.
Wuest: for it is necessary in the nature of the case for all of us to be openly shown as to our true character before the judgment seat of Christ, in order that each one may receive the things which were practiced through the agency of our body, whether they were good or bad.
The glorious rewards for Christian service and good works will be given at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Every born again son or daughter of God will give an account of their character, their conduct, their words, their actions and their motives of heart, in the service of Christ. Our lives will be openly revealed and made completely visible as to full and true reality of our character. Jesus Christ will uncover the motives and passions of our heart, as he will not simply look at what we did, but will examine the motivations of our heart as to why we did it. The Judgment Seat of Christ should not be confused with the Great White Throne Judgment of the Book of Revelation, as they are two different judgments. No one before the Judgment Seat of Christ will be cast into the Lake of Fire and receive the sentence of the second death mentioned in Revelation 20. The Judgment Seat of Christ has nothing to do with obtaining salvation, as we are saved by grace because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and not by works. Jesus Christ paid the price for our salvation, and we have eternal life as a gift of God’s grace. The Christian believers will already be in heaven with their glorious new bodies after the Rapture when they stand before Christ’s Judgment Seat. This judgment is to determine our eternal rewards and our position of responsibility in His kingdom. God will examine the fruitfulness of our lives and the total pattern of our conduct while Christians upon the earth. God will bring to the light the plans, purposes, and motives of our heart and give amazing rewards for those works of goodness that pass His test. The Judgment Seat of Christ will issue forth the final verdict as to our eternal rewards and destiny in His kingdom. Will we be decorated with rewards and victor crowns and given great responsibility before God and His Son Jesus Christ in the future kingdom, or will we barely get into the door and that only by the grace of God? What will be our destiny before the Judgment Seat of Christ? Our lives are the testing ground for eternity, as each day we are either making or marring a destiny, winning or losing a reward, and securing or losing a crown. Will our motives, our heart, our plans, our purposes, and our works withstand the test of fire at the Judgment Seat of Christ? We need to set our heart on eternity as Christians and adjust our motives and heart accordingly. It is never too late to begin to accumulate and earn future rewards in the service of our Lord. God has equipped us with everything we need to walk in obedience

to His Word and serve Him. God is ready to help us in anyway He can to secure these wonderful future rewards. God earnestly desires us to be abundantly awarded at the Judgment Seat of Christ and has given us the power, strength, courage, and love to accomplish His plans for our lives. God’s purpose and plan for our lives will not only result in a bumper crop of spiritual fruit, but also a decorated awards ceremony for our faithfulness to Him.

The words “judgment seat” are the translation of the Greek word bema, which means “a raised place or platform reached by steps.” It literally means the step forward made by a foot. In ancient Greek culture, it referred to both a seat of judgment and a platform where athletes were awarded for their performance in the games. It was also used of a platform where the Roman magistrate or Emperor would address a public assembly, conduct official business, make speeches to the people, and administer justice. A judge or jury would also pronounce their verdict from the bema, or raised platform, in both Greek and Roman culture. The city of Corinth had a bema on its main street, where the authorities rewarded citizens and rendered justice.

When the bema was used as a platform to give rewards for athletes in the various Greek games, the judges would observe and evaluate the actions of the athletes in the contests. If any athlete broke a rule, one or more judges would point to him and cry out “disqualified!” This contestant would miss the prize regardless of how he placed in the competition. The victor’s wreath would be lost because he was disqualified for not following the rules of the games. Also, once the particular event in the game was completed, the athletes stood before the bema to hear the judges’ announcement of the results and to receive any prize they won because of their performance in the games. This was an awesome awards ceremony from the bema, giving great honor and recognition to those contestants who distinguished themselves in the competition.

The Judgment Seat of Christ will be an awards ceremony that will take your breath away. Nothing on Earth can ever match it. I remember watching in awe many Olympic games and the amazing opening and closing ceremonies, along with the emotion of the medal ceremonies. Although these events are truly awe-inspiring, nothing will compare to the magnificent honor and privilege of receiving eternal rewards at the bema, personally given to us by Jesus Christ himself. Do you think a life of Christian service, a life of trusting and loving God with your whole heart and walking in obedience is worth the sacrifice and commitment? How about when Jesus Christ smiles at you, hugs you, and announces from the bema the wonderful everlasting rewards you earned because of your commitment to Christ. I can’t express in words just how tremendous, glorious, and awesome this event will be for the faithful in Christ Jesus.

According to I Corinthians 3, every born-again Christian believer is an expert builder, which from the Greek means “architect, skilled craftsman, and master worker.” By our works, we are constructing a building on the foundation of Jesus Christ. This building is the sum total of the quality and character of our deeds, words, and actions throughout our Christian life. We can build good works on this foundation by using the good materials of gold, silver, and precious stones, or we can build selfish works using materials of wood, hay, and straw. At the Judgment Seat of Christ, the quality of our workmanship will be tested and we will be rewarded according to how the building passes the inspection. A wise master builder does not throw together the building haphazardly, but contemplates every detail, and works tirelessly to bring about the best, quality product.

God is our co-worker, our fellow-laborer, and our building partner, and He will help us build a beautiful structure of good works that is unmatched in quality if we only let Him. God has magnificent architectural plans and drawings for your beautiful house and is so excited to help you build it. God has all the right contacts, knows all the right people, and knows all the proper building techniques to construct the best home that perfectly suits your life. Whose architectural blueprints are we going to follow? God’s or the world’s? Our new creation in Christ’s plans or our sin nature’s plans? Isn’t God the best suited to help us build a quality Christian life that glorifies Him in word and action? God is the ultimate wise master builder, and without His help our building will not pass the inspection.

Every Christians building will go through a complete and thorough testing process at the bema. The word “test” in I Corinthians 3 in the Greek means “ to put to the test for the purpose of approving.” It is a critical examination of something to determine its genuineness. The word was used in secular Greek literature to describe the action of the examining board putting its stamp of approval on those individuals who passed the examination for the degree of Doctor of Medicine. It was also used of a candidate who passed the test as fit for public office. This Greek word describes a process of approval, not condemnation or punishment. You either passed or failed, as the testing was not done to determine how much good or evil was in the product or person being tested. The testing was done to determine whether the thing tested passed the examination according to specifications. It was also used in classic Greek to describe the testing of precious metals, usually by fire, to determine if they were truly authentic and measured up to their stated worth. The word also implies that the testing was done with the expectation and hope that the person or thing being tested would pass the test with flying colors.

God fervently desires that our building will pass the inspection at the bema and we receive abundant rewards. God has given us the gift of holy spirit, the revelation of His written Word, and a restored relationship with Him. He fully expects us to utilize these tools to construct our house of life. He will guide us, counsel us, comfort us, and strengthen us in this journey of building a quality, good, holy life for the service of our Heavenly Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. The whole quality of our life and character will be tested at the Judgment Seat of Christ to see if God puts His stamp of approval on it and finds it worthy of a reward, or rejects it as unfit for any type of recompense.

Both I and II Corinthians state that if our works pass the test, we will be recompensed, or receive a reward. The word “reward” in the Greek means “wages or pay.” It is pay that is due for labor or service performed. This will not be minimum wage or a paltry pay for our labor. Who will even be able to measure the greatness of this reward that will be mingled with praise and love? Who can value the depth and vastness of these wages? By the grace and love of our wonderful God, these rewards will be a million times greater than the work that was performed, and they will last forever. These magnificent rewards will reflect the essence of God’s goodness. When we make His goodness our lifestyle and practice good day after day, God will reward us at the bema with good rewards that for eternity will radiate the brilliance of His goodness.

The Bible gives us some glimpse into the magnificent nature of these rewards by setting forth five crowns that are the ultimate and highest awards for Christian service. The Greek word for “crown” is stephanos, and Wuest’s Word Studies from the Greek New Testament explains the meaning of this word:

It was the crown given to the victor in the Greek

athletic games, the runner who first crossed the

goal, the athlete who hurled the discus farthest,

the wrestler who pinned the opponent to the mat.

It was given to the servant of the State whose

work deserved to be honored. It was worn at

marriage feasts. A stephanos was therefore a

symbol of victory, of deserved honor, and of

festive gladness. The crown was woven of oak

leaves, of ivy, of parsley, of myrtle, of olive, of

violets, of roses.

Although the Bible does not tell us the exact nature of these crowns, these rewards must be simply breathtaking in their beauty and represent an eternal symbol of victory, deserved honor, and overflowing gladness. It will be a more magnificent crown than any victor’s wreath that ever graced the head of a Greek athlete. It will be more splendid then a thousand gold medals at the Olympic Games. It will be more superb than all the Nobel Peace Prizes ever given in the history of the world. Imagine what a privilege it would be to be handed a glorious crown by the Lord Jesus Christ! What an inspiring moment that would be! What an awesome recognition for a job well done. How remarkable would it be to wear a crown throughout all eternity that sends forth the brilliant message of our love and commitment to Him? Nothing can match the exceeding greatness and honor of these five crowns.

The first crown is the incorruptible or imperishable crown (I Corinthians 9:25) that is given to the Christian who has given his all in winning the spiritual race that God has marked out for each believer. It is given to the Christian who exercised self-control in everything and with great discipline gave all of their heart, soul, mind, and strength to do their best for the Lord. It is given to the Christian who excelled in their walk with God, keeping their body, mind and heart under control, directing it to the service of God and the good works He has planned for us to accomplish.

The second crown is the crown of rejoicing (I Thessalonians 2:19) that is given to those who have diligently won others to Christ. The crown represents every single person whom they have led to the Lord Jesus Christ and ministered the saving grace of His Word. It is given to those Christians who with great joy witnessed about the Lord Jesus Christ and the good news of salvation, righteousness, justification, and all the wonderful things Jesus Christ accomplished through his death and resurrection. It is given to those who stand against all the hindrance and obstructions of Satan and still hold forth the Word of Life and its wonderful message of deliverance. This crown is the glory of soul-winners.

The third crown is the crown of righteousness (II Timothy 4:8) that is given to those who long for Christ’s return and love His appearing as the exalted head of the Body of Christ and King of Kings and Lord of Lords. It is given to those Christians who have fought the good fight of faith with their eyes riveted to the hope of Christ’s coming as the anchor of their soul. It is given to those Christians who have a deep yearning to see the Lord they love face to face and rejoice in his glorious presence.

The fourth crown is the crown of life (James 1:12) that is given to those Christians who endured and persevered through trials and temptations, remaining faithful to the Lord. The Christian who receives this crown has stood faithfully in their love and obedience to God, despite attempts by the devil to storm the depths of their heart and cause agitation, fear, and unbelief. The crown of life is given to those who are steadfast in their stand for the truth, regardless of the afflictions, pressures, pleasures, persecutions, and troubles that are thrown against them.

The fifth crown is the crown of glory that is given to leaders in the church who willing and eagerly shepherd God’s people, as these leaders shine forth as great examples of heart, service, lifestyle, and conduct for the Lord. It is given to those who follow the heart and example of the Chief Shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ, as they lovingly serve and take care of God’s precious children. The motive of these spiritual leaders is not money, fame, or pride, but love and passion to do God’s will as they carry forth their responsibilities in the ministry of the gospel.

Surely these five magnificent crowns should provide us great motivation for a lifetime of Christian service. Nothing could compare in this life to the thrill and honor of receiving the ultimate reward of a crown or crowns at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Perfect justice will be decreed from the bema, as each Christian believer will be compensated and rewarded for their works, words, and actions they accomplished for the Lord. The final verdict as to rewards will be absolutely perfect, fair, and good. Not one Christian will be cheated, overlooked, ripped off, or passed by when it comes to the proclamation of their eternal rewards.

The Bible describes a range of emotions that will be present at the Judgment Seat of Christ, as we stand face to face with Jesus Christ to give an account of our Christian lives. There will be confidence for some because of their devotion and faithfulness to the Lord. There will be shame for some, as the quality of their building and works did not measure up to the test. There will be cheerful courage and assurance for some, because of their intimate closeness and fellowship with the Lord as they carried out His work. There will be disappointment for some, who know in their hearts they failed to live up to the great purposes and plans of God for their lives. There will be unspeakable joy for some, whose heart will thrill at seeing their loving Lord face to face. There will be fear for some, because they dedicated their words and deeds to the service of their selfish sin nature and turned their backs on serving the Lord. There will be loss and sorrow for some, as they received little or no rewards because their works did not reflect God’s goodness, love, and grace. There will be guilt for some, as their eyes are opened to see that their character really missed the mark of quality God expects for His children. There will be humility and praise, as every knee shall bow to Jesus Christ and confess him as Lord to the glory of God our Father. There will be amazement and awe at the magnificent nature of this event as we stand in our new bodies in the presence of Jesus Christ. There will be love for the Lord and extreme gratitude for his sacrifice for each one of us.

What a day that will be, and we can make the decision now to live our lives in such a way that we stand at the bema before the Lord in confidence, courage, love, and joy. How we live from this day forward will determine to a great extent what emotions we will have before the Judgment Seat of Christ. In that day, we will see that it was worth the sacrifice and it was worth the effort to give our all to labor for the Lord doing His good work upon the earth.

But after the final verdict for rewards is given at the bema, I Corinthians 4:5 declares that every single Christian will receive praise from God. The word “praise” in the Greek means “praise upon, applause, commendation, and worthy of praise.” Detzler, in New Testament Words in Today’s Language, says, “the basic meaning of this word is ‘applause’. It speaks of expressed approval or public recognition.” God will stand and with great love in His heart give us applause as we enter into His kingdom. Even if the only thing we ever did with our life was to get saved, God will still give us applause and praise at the bema for that one great decision to come to the Lord Jesus Christ for our salvation. That wonderful moment gave us everlasting life and the finished, glorious work of Jesus Christ is so big, so enormous, and so complete for us that it merits the applause of God. We are the praise of the glory of His grace, according to Ephesians, and He has bestowed upon us the greatest gift to be called and accepted as His beloved. One person who was lost and now is found by the Great Shepherd causes waves of joy to flood the depths of heaven, for this was God’s great purpose for the ages. God will give you recognition at the bema for simply making that momentous decision of accepting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.

But don’t we want more? Don’t we want an even greater level of praise and applause because we faithfully loved God with all our heart and soul in the midst of the darkness of this world? Don’t we want the honor and recognition from our Lord for boldly standing for the truth of the gospel, regardless of the opposition from the kingdom of darkness? As a mighty warrior and superior spiritual athlete, don’t we want the thrill of eternal victory to burst forth from our heart? This makes life a mighty adventure with our Lord, as we give everything we are to bring His goodness into the hearts of men, women, and children. No sacrifice is too great and no work is too hard when it comes to serving the Lord.

Paul used the imagery of an athlete when describing the intensity of commitment and devotion of heart that a Christian should have in doing God’s work.

II Timothy 4:7 (NIV):

I have fought the good fight, I have finished

the race, I have kept the faith.

(Wuest):

The desperate, straining, agonizing contest

marked by its beauty of technique, I like a

wrestler have fought to the finish, and at

present am resting in victory. My race, I like

a runner have finished, and at present am

resting at the goal. The Faith committed to

my care, I like a soldier have kept safely

through eternal vigilance, and have

delivered it again to my Captain.

I Corinthians 9:24-27 (Message):

You’ve all been to the stadium and seen the

athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run

to win.

All good athletes train hard. They do it for a

gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You’re

after one that’s gold eternally.

I don’t know about you but I’m running hard

to the finish line. I’m giving it everything I’ve

got. No sloppy living for me! I’m staying alert

and in top condition.

I’m not going to get caught napping, telling

everyone else all about it and then missing out

myself.

New Living Translation:

Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs,

but only one person gets the prize? So run to

win!

All athletes are disciplined in their training.

They do it to win a prize that will fade away,

but we do it for an eternal prize.

So I run with purpose in every step, I am not

just shadowboxing.

I discipline my body like an athlete, training

it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that

after preaching to others I myself might be

disqualified.

Philippians 3:13,14 (New Living Translation):

No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not

achieved it, but I focus on this one thing:

Forgetting the past and looking forward to

what lies ahead,

I press on to reach the end of the race and

receive the heavenly prize for which God,

through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

Ephesians 6:12 (The Message):

This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll

walk away from and forget about in a couple

of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight

to the finish against the devil and his angels.

As Christians, we are in an intense battle with our spiritual enemy, the devil and his kingdom, and God wants us to fight the good fight with the discipline, intensity, and effort of an athlete. The word “fight” in the Greek means: to contend in the Greek games for a prize with great physical exertion and intensity in an enormous struggle against an adversary; to labor fervently with persistent effort and to exert oneself as an athlete with every ounce of discipline, conviction, strength, and ability in a strenuous conflict; and to contend with adversaries with strenuous zeal. It means an all out push for victory with every ounce of physical and mental strength striving for the honor and reward of triumph. Nothing is left on the sidelines. The root of this word comes into English as the word “agony.” These Greek athletes were engaged in the intense competition of the games even to the point of physical agony. To understand some of the intensity and motivation of the Greek games, we need to know that the Greek boxer wore fur-lined gloves covered with cowhide that had lead and iron sewed into it, and the loser of a Greek wrestling match had his eyes gouged out. Do you see the intense motivation and physical struggle of these athletes to the point of agony in these games? Everything was on the line, and it demanded their full and complete effort.

Should we have any less intensity, motivation, discipline, and passion to do the good works of God than the Greek athlete had to win a prize? Should we labor any less fervently for Christ than the Greek athlete labored in the games? We should make it our aim as Christians to fight the good fight and finish the race God has called us to run with everything we have. No half-hearted, weak effort is acceptable. Fight the good fight! This is not a fight against our jobs, our spouses, our families, or opposing political views, but this is a fight for good and against evil. This is a fight for Christ and against Satan. This is a fight to stand up for God and proclaim His goodness with every ounce of our being. It is the biggest spiritual Super Bowl on the face of the planet, and it is the forces of good against the forces of evil. We are at war! This is your destiny, and God has given us everything we need to fight the good fight. God is our team captain, and He urges us to get in the spiritual arena and compete and fight for His will and purposes. We should accept nothing less than an all effort in this fight.

For too long Christianity has been too weak, too entangled, too preoccupied, too half-hearted, and too soft to fight for the truth of the gospel with an intensity of an athlete. Are we willing to lay everything we have on the line for the Lord Jesus Christ? Or is our Christianity a convenient Sunday show for an hour that does little to wake up the world to Christ or transform us into His likeness? You are in a fight, the ultimate contest, the supreme event, and you can either get into the ring and fight or stay on the sidelines of life, never adventuring to take the hand of God as your team captain and give it every fiber of your being to finish the race. It takes courage, it takes fortitude, it takes energy, it takes conviction, it takes passion, it takes commitment, and it takes tenacity to stand for Christ in this world. Are we willing to make the sacrifice to do the good works that God has prepared for us to walk in as Christians? Are you prepared to make the sacrifice to accomplish His glorious purpose for your life upon this earth? Are you prepared to push yourself to the point of physical and mental exhaustion for the cause of Christ?

When you really shed all the layers and the subterfuge, what else is there in life worth living for?

1 Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your (the) toil is not in vain in the Lord. (NASB)
Amplified: Therefore, my beloved brethren, be firm (steadfast), immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord [always being superior, excelling, doing more than enough in the service of the Lord], knowing and being continually aware that your labor in the Lord is not futile [it is never wasted or to no purpose].Barclay: So then, beloved brothers, show yourselves steady, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your toil does not go for nothing.
Gordon Clark paraphrase: Therefore we should mortify emotion, be steadfast, unchangeable, not erratic and scatterbrained, easily discouraged, and should multiply our good works in the knowledge that the Lord will make them profitable.
Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Now, my brothers and sisters, in the light of these sublime truths, be steadfast in doing the Lord’s work, knowing that he will reward you at his coming. NET: So then, dear brothers and sisters, be firm. Do not be moved! Always be outstanding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.NIV: Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
NLT: So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.
Phillips: And so brothers of mine, stand firm! Let nothing move you as you busy yourselves in the Lord’s work. Be sure that nothing you do for him is ever lost or ever wasted.

Everything you do now, will echo throughout all eternity. We must not lose these wonderful rewards by looking at earthly things and failing to see things from the perspective of eternity. Make a difference for God with the love of God and compassion of Christ and lay up for yourself treasures in heaven. Lift up your eyes and see the glory of our future hope in Christ and live accordingly.

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“And I Sought for a Man”: The Call to Change a Generation

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Editor note: “And I sought for a man” is a quote from Ezekiel, but the call of God to change a generation in spiritual decline is not just to men, but to every person who chooses to rise up in faith and believe God to show mercy and do the miraculous, the impossible and the wondrous as He transform lives, cities and nations for His glory.

The Book of Ezekiel speaks of an hour of decline in Israel—a nation
that had claimed to know and walk with God. Sadly, the reality was that
they had fallen far from the standard God had set for them. It has been
the pattern throughout history that when the sin of a people reaches a
certain point, God releases His hand of protection, and the nation begins
to consume itself by virtue of its own behavior. We see this illustrated in
the following passage: “And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Son of man, say unto her, Thou art the land that is not cleansed, nor rained upon
in the day of indignation. There is a conspiracy of her prophets in
the midst thereof, like a roaring lion ravening the prey; they have
devoured souls; they have taken the treasure and precious things; they
have made her many widows in the midst thereof” (Ezekiel 22:23–25).

Typically when a nation is beginning to stray from righteous
living, the voice of a prophet is raised up to warn the
people of what is to come—the succession of events
that will inevitably unfold if they do not return to God. Yet in this case,
the prophets in Israel had become compromised. They were “taking the
precious things,” or in other words, robbing the people of the treasure of
God that should have been available for that generation. “Making her
many widows” means that families were beginning to break apart; the
strength of the nation was being lost.“Her priests have violated my law,
and have profaned mine holy things: they have put no difference between
the holy and profane, neither have they showed difference between the
unclean and the clean, and have hid their eyes from my sabbaths,
and I am profaned among them…And her prophets have daubed them
with untempered mortar, seeing vanity, and divining lies unto them,
saying, Thus saith the Lord God, when the Lord hath not spoken”
(Ezekiel 22:26, 28).

There was no longer a clear distinction between what was of
God and what was not. Lusting for power, the prophets began to tell
people whatever they wanted to hear, so long as they could retain
their prominent positions. They were not concerned about whether
what they spoke was truth or not,freely declaring to the people,
“Thus saith the Lord God,” when the Lord had not spoken.
“The people of the land have used oppression, and exercised robbery,
and have vexed the poor and needy:yea, they have oppressed the stranger
wrongfully” (Ezekiel 22:29).

Here we see the breakdown of a nation—its utter social, spiritual, and moral
decline—which placed it on the brink of judgment. Surely by now we must recognize the
similar state that our own country is in today. We have cast off restraint;
evil is now good, and good is rapidly becoming evil. We, too, have used
oppression and exercised robbery.The very basic unit of the family
is being destroyed right before our eyes. Anybody who has ever studied
anthropology or sociology knows that once the family structure is lost, the
society is bound to unravel.

MERCY STILL TRIUMPHS OVER JUDGMENT

Clearly the Lord is just in judging the people who claim to know
Him yet have allowed this kind of debauchery at every level in
society to govern them. However, look at His response as we continue
in the passage in Ezekiel:

“And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and
stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it:
but I found none. Therefore have I poured out mine indignation
upon them; I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath: their own
way have I recompensed upon their heads, saith the Lord God” (Ezekiel
22:30–31).“I sought for a man!” God had actually scoured the nation,
looking for even one person to stand in the gap—to stand between the
nation and God’s removing His hand, which would ultimately
allow society to follow the course of its own destruction.

It is amazing that God could not find anyone, especially when you
consider, for example, the temple. The temple would have been filled
with all kinds of people attending religious services and studying the
Scriptures. There were certainly people in those days who, at least
marginally, would have been trying to live upright, moral
lives. Therefore I cannot help but wonder: Is it possible that
God could not find anyone not because the people didn’t study
or know the Scriptures, but because nobody believed any
longer that He would be merciful?

You see, it is possible to get into a mind-set, particularly as the people
of God, where we become so gripped by the sense of judgment that we
forget that mercy triumphs over judgment. We look out in our streets
or watch the news and conclude, “Surely God is going to judge this.” It
becomes easy to agree with judgment when the evidence is mounting before
our eyes. And the danger of it all is that if we do not truly know the
heart of God, we can arrive at a point where we no longer believe that God
desires to show mercy.

A SPIRITUAL AWAKENING

The good news, however, is that throughout history, there have been
moments that I like to call “spiritual awakenings.” This is when somebody,
or perhaps many people, suddenly become aware of God’s willingness to
restore and to heal. They understand His willingness, in the midst of our
poverty, to release His riches once again—His willingness to take
us, not in our strength, but in our weakness. After all, the Scriptures
do not tell us to come to the throne of God when we are strong. Rather,
we are to come when we are weak to find help in our time of need
(see Hebrews 4:16).

It is almost like an auctioneer who, at unexpected moments, suddenly
pulls back the curtain and makes available an incredible treasure. In
our case, we are being offered the extraordinary treasure of God’s mercy
and power. The moment of awakening occurs when people begin to hear the
Lord speaking: “I know your land is desolate. I know your prophets
are not speaking for Me. Instead,they are leading the people into
powerlessness, having created a religious system around them
to help prop up their error. I know the people have used oppression,
exercised robbery, and vexed the poor and the needy. Nevertheless,
I am still willing, one more time, to be merciful.”

Is it possible that in Ezekiel’s day, God simply could not find anybody
who believed that He could use them for this purpose, despite all natural
odds seemingly being against them? Perhaps there were people who actually
did believe God was willing to be merciful, yet as they began to look
at their own resources, they concluded, “Well, I suppose God could be
merciful, but never through me.”

Imagine if that moment of mercy had come to Gideon and he, too,
formed a wrong conclusion. After all, when God appeared to Gideon and
called him a “mighty man of valor,” the nation was being swallowed
by 135,000 Midianites who had come in to take everything that the
Israelites were trying to harvest (see Judges 6:12). Initially, Gideon did
essentially question the messenger of God, “Are you speaking to me?
My father’s tribe is the least of the tribes of Israel. My father is the least
of his tribe, and I am the least in my father’s house. And in case you
didn’t notice, my father has an altar to a heathen god in the backyard. Are
you sure you have the right address?”

Yet God had sent His Word to Gideon, which is all we need in order
to be a mighty man or woman of God.Eventually, as Gideon followed the
Lord in a plan that made no sense to the natural mind, the Bible tells
us that God granted him and his army of a mere three hundred men
a great victory over the Midianites (see Judges 7:20–22).

It doesn’t take a hundred people to change your neighborhood;
it only takes one who believes that God is willing to
show mercy. What would have happened if that moment of mercy had somehow
passed him by? What if God had sought for a man, but He could not
find a Gideon—or a Moses, or an Esther? We don’t know what would
have happened to God’s people who were enslaved in Egypt, or what
would have been lost in the day when Esther had an opportunity
to go in and petition the king for the future of her people.

And so, in our generation, the treasure is being unlocked one
more time! It is as if the auctioneer is standing before the people, saying,
“Here stands an invaluable treasure. It is only revealed from season to
season. Who will give me a hundred dollars? Who will give me fifty?”
Silence. “Who will give me twenty-five? Ten? Five? Who will give
me a dollar for the treasure?”

Likewise, God is calling out to men and women whom He wants to use
for His glory. In fact, when you and I get to the throne of God one
day, we will finally understand the number of times throughout history
that He was speaking and searching for somebody. Remember, it doesn’t
take a multitude of people to change a nation. It doesn’t take a hundred
people to change your neighborhood; it only takes one who believes
that God is willing to show mercy. However, if nobody steps forward,
once again the treasure is forfeited and hidden until some undisclosed
future time. People who could have been spared are lost. It is such a
tragedy when God looks for somebody in a season such as the one in which
we live, yet He cannot find anyone who believes He could be merciful,
or that they might be used for this purpose. Therefore, the hand of God
is lifted, and as the Scripture says, the way of the people is recompensed
upon their own heads.

STEP FORWARD IN FAITH

It is clear that if we desire to be used of God in this hour, we must
be willing to step forward in faith, just as David did when he walked
into the Israelite camp and heard the mockery of God (see 1 Samuel
17:23). Astounded that the name of God could be brought into such
disrepute among His own people, he asked, “Why is nobody fighting
this? Why is everybody just standing still as if we don’t have God on
our side?”

Although the Israelites became offended at him, David said, “Don’t
let any man’s heart faint, I’ll go fight this giant.” One more time, somebody
believed that God was willing to be merciful. David went forward into
that valley with a sling and five stones, believing that God would
take the little he had and multiply it for His glory. That is exactly what
happened—David defeated Goliath and brought the people of God back
to faith again for that season.

Faith means we look away from the mirror. This is the essence of faith, and
this is what God is looking for in our generation! As the book of
Hebrews describes, faith is “the substance of things hoped for, the
evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good report.
Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word
of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do
appear” (Hebrews 11:1–3).

In other words, faith believes that the spoken Word to my heart
is all I need. If God created the universe out of nothing,
I don’t have to have something in order for God to use me. I just have
to have a heart that embraces the Word of God! Faith means we look away from the
mirror. We turn away from what we believe about ourselves, despising
every voice that has ever condemned us or said, “You can only go this far
and no farther.” The Bible tells us that David refused to listen when
Saul warned him, “Thou art not able to go against this Philistine
to fight with him: for thou art but a youth, and he a man of war
from his youth” (1 Samuel 17:33).

That is because faith says, “When God speaks, I will go forward!
I believe that He will give me the power to be everything He has
called me to be. I will not stand here in unbelief when the God of
this universe, the God who created me in His own image, is speaking
to my heart. I am going to believe Him for the miraculous to happen
through my life!”

If after all of our learning—after two thousand years of books and
testimonies—we have merely arrived at a place where we do not fully
believe that Jesus is today who He was in the Bible, then we are
to be pitied above all people. We will be left possessing knowledge
without power.

The writer of Hebrews continues:

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

We will not please God by our church attendance, Bible study
or even prayer. These things are important, but without faith, it
is impossible to please God! At some point, all of these things must
produce faith that is willing to adopt the plan of God, even if it does not
make sense to the natural mind.

WHO WILL BID?

“I sought for a man,” the Lord said. “I sought for somebody who would
believe that I wanted to be merciful.I sought for somebody who believed
that I could still use them, doing the miraculous through their lives.
I sought for somebody!”

That same call of God is resounding once again in this hour. The question
is: Will we see the history of Ezekiel’s day repeat itself? Will we be a nation
that simply goes down into judgment without a season of mercy? Or will
somebody, somewhere be willing to stand up and bid for this treasure of
Christ—His life, His mercy, His power? Perhaps you desire it but wonder,
How can I buy this treasure when I have hardly anything to give for
it? If so, consider God’s incredible invitation, spoken through the
prophet Isaiah: “Every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters,
and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy
wine and milk without money and without price” (Isaiah 55:1).

It is time for us to rise up in faith, leaving the familiar to obtain
the impossible.That is the cry of God. If you think you only have a dollar, then bid your
dollar. If you only have fifty cents, stand up and bid your fifty cents for
the treasure. God is not looking for our resources or our strength. He is
looking for the heart that simply says, “Lord, here am I; take me! Take me
with my five cents; take me with my loaf of bread. I have hardly anything
to give, but if You are unveiling the treasure, if there is an opportunity
for me to know Your power and mercy for the sake of others, then count me in!”

We must not allow the treasure of God to be hidden again; the curtain
cannot close on this generation in a season of incredible mercy. How
tragic it would be if the Lord were to say of New York City: “I searched
for a man and found no one.” No!It is time for us to rise up in faith,
leaving the familiar to obtain the impossible, trusting God for the
ability to accomplish all He has called us to do. As we bring to
the Lord what little we have, let’s believe that He will take
it and change a generation!

Carter Conlon
©2014 Times Square Church

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Ecclesiastes and Christian Living

bible-ecclesiastes-578x246Ecclesiastes is all about quality-of-life issues, helping us set and follow daily guidelines to direct our lives. Throughout the book, primarily by means of comparisons, Solomon helps us to analyze which choices are better. For the Christian, then, life comes down to one important question: How shall I make the best daily use of my calling? Ecclesiastes helps us to answer this vital question by providing practical guidelines intended for day-by-day use in our lives.

We have learned from personal experience that life is not only merely difficult, but it is also very much like a convoluted labyrinth. Making right choices to follow the correct path is not always easily discerned. Each section of Ecclesiastes that we have completed to this point has presented us with overall perspectives and guidelines to give us principles to live by.

For example, the introduction in the first chapter highlights the apparent meaningless of human life “under the sun.” Everybody faces what God clearly exposes in this chapter. Solomon gives two helpful clues: First, the phrase “under the sun” indicates a life, regardless of how full and productive it may appear to casual observation, lived with little thought of God and His purpose for His creation. What is the lesson? Avoid this!

The second clue is to note that the meaninglessness of human life is apparent. Life is in no way meaningless to those called of God. It appears meaningless to casual observation because God has not yet opened the minds of the vast majority to remove the spiritual blindness by which Satan has deluded them.

Thus, to the blinded, life can appear to have no purposeful direction because the same general events keep happening over and over again regardless of when and where one lives. It is as though human life is lived like a hamster on a treadmill. There is endless activity and movement, but one gets nowhere. An important overall conclusion can thus be discerned: Ecclesiastes gives important guidelines to provide direction to the called so that they can live their lives purposefully, moving toward the goal God has revealed. Ecclesiastes is written especially for their benefit.

Chapter 2 begins to focus on elements of life important to the purpose God is revealing to the called. Solomon writes about work, pleasure, and entertainment, and within each subject, he evaluates what is wise and what is of lesser value. Here, he first indicates that contentment with God’s gifts is important to the life of the called. We must not let our minds wander to what we do not have, a habit that is particularly destructive to accomplishment. We must be positively thankful for what we have because what we have is God’s calling and knowledge of His purpose. This is a huge benefit.

The third chapter is vital to the called because it decisively inserts God into the flow of life, showing Him initiating, directing, and judging events in our lives. What He provides are events or exercises that help prepare us for His Kingdom. It is a tremendously encouraging chapter. We are not alone! God is personally and deeply involved in the lives of the called to provide help to fulfill the purpose toward which He is directing us. His purpose involves eternity, and thus life has a definite point toward which He is drawing it. This chapter urges us to get in harmony with it. It reveals Him as deeply involved in the timing, both the beginning and ending, of the events of our lives.

From the inspiring teachings of chapter 3, the next one returns us to the corrupt world we live and move in. Solomon reminds us of the unjust courts and the oppressions of this present evil world. However, he also reminds us that God is judging, implying that we must not be distraught and allow ourselves to become caught up in the world’s problems. We are to stay focused. God is taking care of things.

Solomon also compares work attitudes to allow us to examine our own and choose which one will produce the most toward God’s Kingdom. He briefly examines the workaholic, the lazybones, the balanced man, and the miser. He also touches on the value of companionship and cooperation within partnerships, and he admonishes us briefly about pride, the instability of civic life, and the fickleness of the public. Once again, he also strongly suggests that choosing to be content is a necessary quality.

Along these lines, Solomon begins analyzing many daily life experiences, describing them in such a way as to point out what the better choices are. While leaving the decisions to us, he provides enough detail that, if we are serious about pleasing and glorifying God, we will choose this rather than that.

A Visit to the Temple

After making the observations and comparisons that appear in chapter 4, Solomon pays a visit to the House of God to evaluate what he sees reflected in the attitudes and conduct of those worshipping the Creator God directly within their relationship with Him. His conclusions are important to the well-being of the maintenance of this most-important-of-all relationship:

Walk prudently when you go to the house of God; and draw near to hear rather than to give the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they do evil. Do not be rash with your mouth, and let not your heart utter anything hastily before God. For God is in heaven, and you on earth; therefore let your words be few. For a dream comes through much activity, and a fool’s voice is known by his many words. When you make a vow to God, do not delay to pay it; for he has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you have vowed. It is better not to vow than to vow and not pay. Do not let your mouth cause your flesh to sin, nor say before the messenger of God that it was an error. Why should God be angry at your excuse and destroy the work of your hands? For in the multitude of dreams and many words there is also vanity. But fear God. (Ecclesiastes 5:1-7)

To those whom God has called, nobody is more important than God Himself. This should be self-evident because, to us, God is a reality, a family reality. However, we are not like those whom Solomon describes in chapter 1, those to whom life is essentially meaningless. It is not that the uncalled have no goals in life; that they do not plan what they will do with their time; that they are not buying or selling or repairing their homes, going to games or theaters, or seeking the latest fashions. Most of their lives are quite busy, involved in the normal activities of marrying, having children, divorcing, taking vacations, repairing their automobiles, going to work, and returning home at night to dine and read a book or watch television.

To many of them, involvement in a church is a portion of life, but God is not a reality to them in the way He must be to us because we truly believe Him and live by faith in Him. They may have some awareness and concern about Him. Yet, through the blood of Christ and the covenant we made with Him, we have dedicated our lives to Him. Thus, what God thinks, works on, and is planning are not guiding, overriding concerns to them as they are to us.

Recall that, in chapter 4, Solomon pays a visit to a courtroom and comes away critical of what he saw. He then goes to the marketplace and observes four different workers and the way they ply their trades. He then comments on partnership and the instability of civic life. All the while, he is speaking of the uncalled.

In chapter 5, Solomon visits the House of God. What he observes leaves him with foreboding thoughts about the spiritual state of those he saw. Until the specific context ends, it suggests that he is concerned about whether the worshippers are truly worshipping God in spirit and in truth. Chapter 5 directly addresses those whom God has called.

Perhaps we have seen a television program or movie in which a family grumpily staggers through dressing for Sunday morning church, arguing with each other about what they will or will not wear. They continue on to services in the family car, either totally silent or bickering about things that irritate them. Then, as soon as they leave the car and enter the sanctuary doors, a broad smile creases their faces, and they are polite to all who greet them. When they sing a hymn, their eyes are reverently closed, and on their faces are rapturous expressions, as if they are about to be transported to heaven itself. When services are over, they fly out the door and back to the dog-eat-dog real world. That quickly, their behaviors and attitudes return to normal.

All of this is, of course, a huge exaggeration, but it makes clear that attitudes and conduct can be flicked on or off depending on whom the person wants to impress. This on-and-off attitude toward God is the very kind that is Solomon’s concern.

Why? Because it indicates unresolved hypocrisy. Undoubtedly, Solomon observed people whom he deemed were not consistently and faithfully sincere about God in relation to their lives. The context gives the impression that their worship of God was confined to their appearance at the Temple on the Sabbath. But what about the rest of life?

Be Careful to Include God

Each of Solomon’s analyses in chapter 4 involves an aspect of daily life. Whether the subject is the courts, the manner that a worker addresses his labors, a partnership, or a life of public service, he makes not even a single mention of God. By way of contrast, where does God fit into the lives of those he observes in chapter 5?

It is interesting that, in the New King James Version, verse 1 begins, “Walk prudently when you go to the house of God.” The King James Version reads, “Keep your foot when you go to the house of God.” Prudently indicates “with care.” “Keep your foot” can just as easily be translated as “watch your step,” which is also a warning to be careful. Careful of what? Following the previous chapter where God is not even hinted at, chapter 5, in which Solomon is observing people going to the House of God, implies a warning to be careful not to leave God entirely out of life.

More positively, we can also take it as an admonishment to make sure that we strive to keep Him actively involved in our lives because at baptism we gave Him a solemn promise always to submit to Him in every facet of life. We have been converted to serve Him. Recall Jesus’ admonition in Luke 14:26-27:

If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.

Thus, before committing our lives to Him in baptism, we are strongly counseled that we must count the cost of Him being first in our lives.

Were the attitudes and conduct of those whom Solomon observed such that they were robbing God of the reverence, honor, and respect that He deserves? Were their acts of worship perfunctory, insincere, and hypocritical? Our so-far cursory reading of the context has provided us with a clue: Solomon does not direct the admonishment of chapter 5 toward those who have no relationship with God at all, but he focuses it on those who do have a relationship with Him. They have specifically gone to the House of God, ostensibly to continue the relationship.

However, additional information reveals that, though they have good intentions, their minds wander easily. They find it hard to focus, to give Him their full attention, and to follow through in obedience. This is another gentle reminder to the called of God that in our lives everything matters. Going to the House of God is most definitely not a time to lose focus and let down in our discipline.

To help drive this thought home, notice the next phrase in verse 1. It speaks of those who “draw near to God” but who “give the sacrifice of fools.” “Draw near” clearly describes people who are doing something about their relationship with God, which shows a good intention. The word “sacrifice” indicates something given in the behalf of another, as Christ sacrificed His life in our behalf.

The subject here, though, is a foolish sacrifice. Christ’s sacrifice was not foolish in the least. These sacrifices are not merely foolish, however, because Solomon immediately elevates them to a far more serious level: as evil. English synonyms for the underlying Hebrew word translated as “evil,” are “bad” as a modifier and “wickedness” as a noun. Thus, what these people—who have a relationship with God and who are making a sacrifice in attending Temple services—are doing is far more dangerous than they appear to understand.

Strong’s Concordance adds that the Hebrew word behind “evil” combines both the deed and its consequences, indicating injury both to the perpetrator and to those around him. Solomon is saying that whatever these people are doing will do nobody any good. It is especially grievous in its effects to those who have a relationship with God because their actions either begin or sustain a destructive course.

Solomon’s Counsel

We need to consider the counsel Solomon gives because it provides specific insight into the evils these people were committing. He says in verse 1, “Draw near to hear.” In verse 2, he advises, “Do not be rash with your mouth,” as well as, “let not your heart utter anything hastily before God” and “let your words be few.” In verse 3, he states, “A fool’s voice is known by his many words.” Finally, back in verse 2, he counsels humility, “for God is in heaven, and you on earth.” This comment implies that whatever they were doing was more serious than it appeared on the surface.

His initial counsel involves hearing, so we will look at several scriptures on that subject and its importance to us. Jesus says in Matthew 13:8-9: “But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”

The first command to hear lies in the Parable of the Sower and the second in the Parable of the Wheat and Tares. Both have the same urgent sense and end with exclamation points, emphasizing urgent seriousness. The instruction on hearing in the Parable of the Sower is quite clear. Consider these factors in what Jesus said: The seed is the Word of God, so what the sower cast was good. In addition, the human soil the seed fell upon was also good.

However, one factor is still beyond the sower’s power. The soil, that is, the person the seed fell on, has the power to allow or reject the seed’s taking root by choosing to listen or not. That singular choice is of particular importance at this point in the parable. The same conclusion is true in verse 43 concerning the hearer choosing the Lake of Fire or the Kingdom of God. When Jesus uses the term “hear,” He means more than just hearing audible sound; we also “hear” as we read His Word. He is thus emphasizing that people have the power to shut off hearing completely even though the Word of God enters their ears or their eyes and He has opened their minds to grasp it. It is the individual’s responsibility to hear, consider, and then accept or reject it.

Mark 4:23-25 contains the same urgent warning, but he adds an additional truth that is important to us, a second lesson:

“If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” And He said to them, “Take heed what you hear. With the same measure you use, it will be measured to you; and to you who hear, more will be given. For whoever has, to him more will be given; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.”

We must selectively choose from among all we hear and thoughtfully accept or reject. In others words, we must discipline ourselves to be selective in order to grow, overcome, and glorify God.

Romans 10:16-17: “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Hearing may very well be our highest responsibility in our relationship with God because we must live by faith (Hebrews 11:38), and faith begins and is sustained by hearing. A blunt conclusion at this point is that hearing is serious business for the children of God.

Our Words Reveal the Heart

Now notice what God says about speaking:

Proverbs 10:19: “In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise.”

Proverbs 17:27: “He who has knowledge spares his words, and a man of understanding is of a calm spirit.”

James 1:19: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.”

James 3:2: “For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body.”

Each of these well-known scriptures says essentially the same thing, and many others touch similarly on this subject, though less directly. So many verses give similar counsel about speech that one cannot help but understand the importance that God places on being careful about what we allow to leave our mouths. Matthew 12:35-37 drives this point home:

A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.

Speaking is a major aspect of character, providing a clear window into our hearts. A quotation often mistakenly attributed to Abraham Lincoln is apropos to the passage in Ecclesiastes 5:1-7: “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.” What sets Solomon’s counsel apart from other verses on speaking is that the others are good advice for relationships in general. Solomon’s verses, however, are focused directly on a person’s relationship with God.

What do we talk about when we are before God? Before going any further, we should clarify the nature of being “before God.” Solomon says that we must not forget that God is in heaven and we are on earth, implying His sovereignty. Yet, he also mentions going to the House of God, implying a specific place and time we go before God. Is Solomon’s main concern here on God’s sovereignty or on the specific place? Since the unwritten but over-arching theme throughout Ecclesiastes is that everything in life matters, his main concern here is a gentle reminder that we are always before God.

The main issue of his counsel is not the number of words we say, though we are cautioned to be neither rash nor hasty, so our words should be few. Rather, the main thrust of his counsel lies in verses 4-7. His concern is whether we thoughtfully follow through and keep our promises regardless of when, where, or to whom they are made, that is, unless following through would cause us to sin. The major sin that he is concerned about, despite not being directly stated, is ultimately the matter of hypocrisy.

Hypocrisy is misrepresenting who and what we really are. Solomon’s concern is probably not deliberate hypocrisy but forgetfulness and carelessness in our witness. In other words, we cannot allow ourselves to let slip from our minds who we are and whom we represent. It is a matter of not being as disciplined and focused as we need to be. Focus is that important to the proper use of faith. Do we ever “let our hair down”? Is it possible that we display hypocrisy because we are not as zealous as we need to be?

Notice the string of clues in the terms he uses to reveal that undisciplined carelessness is the root of the problem, which triggers hypocrisy, a sin that a person can fall into without effort. He uses “fools” (three times), “rash,” “hastily,” “do not let,” “do not delay,” “error,” “excuse,” and “words be few.” Overall, he paints a picture of a person of undisciplined mind who prattles about whatever amuses him at the time without considering the effects of what he is saying. He is later caught and exposed by, as Solomon says, the messenger of God.

I Peter 1:13 and James 1:22 provide sound counsel about what must be done to eliminate the accusations of a loose tongue. I Peter 1:13 charges us to, “Gird up the loins of your mind,” and James 1:22 adds, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” Remaining focused on achieving the goal set before us to follow through in obedience to God will meet the responsibility of paying all our vows to God.

Sometimes, it slips our minds that we made a covenant with God, and in return for our pledge, gave Him our lives as living sacrifices. That covenant seals our holy promise to Him that, if He will forgive our sins based on our repentance and faith in Christ’s sacrifice, we in turn will devote our lives in service to Him. Thus, we must keep our wits about us because, though God is merciful, everything should matter to us.

The “messenger of God” Solomon mentions is anybody or any circumstance that triggers the revelation in our minds that we have sinned or are continuing in a sin. Thus, Solomon is showing that God is faithful to bring the knowledge of our sins to mind so that we might repent, and that, of course, causes us a measure of disappointment that we have once again fallen short and failed to honor and glorify God.

A Summation at the Halfway Point

In order to fit within the context of the preceding verses, “dreams” in verse 7 does not mean the random mental activity a person has while sleeping and over which he has little or no control. Rather, it indicates the wanderings of a person’s mind while seemingly fully awake—in other words, daydreams. For the most part, daydreams are nothing but sheer vanity, time-wasting drifts of the mind that lead nowhere positive. While daydreaming, we are not focused and disciplined, which is the opposite of what God desires of us.

Something else is of interest here. This verse contains both the major concepts that the book begins with, that is, vanity and the thought or goal the book ends with, “Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” Halfway through the book, Solomon is directly declaring what the urgent aim of every life needs to be. We need to proceed from the meaninglessness of an under-the-sun life to the fulfillment of life’s purpose through fearing God, as shown in living an over-the-sun life.

The way to get and stay right with God is encapsulated in these seven verses. It can be stated in three simple principles:

1. Do not just hear God, listen to Him carefully with focused attention.

2. Speak with a matching level of focused attention.

3. Follow through in obedience to what we vowed when we committed ourselves to the New Covenant.

A tension exists in what Solomon counsels us regarding our relationship with God. Though we may not think of it all the time, we understand that, for our own good, God demands our highest allegiance. We willingly accept that because we believe the gospel, knowing who He is and what He offers us. However, being human, we are sometimes easily distracted. There are times that we would rather do almost anything else short of an outright sin than to listen attentively to what God says.

Constant Distraction

The next section covers Ecclesiastes 5:8-12:

If you see the oppression of the poor, and the violent perversion of justice and righteousness in a province, do not marvel at the matter; for high official watches over high official, and higher officials are over them. Moreover the profit of the land is for all; the king himself is served from the field. He who loves silver will not be satisfied with silver; nor he who loves abundance, with increase. This also is vanity. When goods increase, they increase who eat them; so what profit have the owners except to see them with their eyes? The sleep of a laboring man is sweet, whether he eats little or much; but the abundance of the rich will not permit him to sleep.

Matthew 19:21-24 adds an important truth to help us understand these verses:

“If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

First, the rich young man was so preoccupied by his material wealth that he really did not hear that Christ was offering him eternal life. Second, anything of this earth that we truly treasure can potentially influence us to so increase our fear of losing it as to cause us to choose not to hear Christ. The treasure does not have to be money. Third, no matter how great the distractive power of what we consider valuable, God stands ready to save us from it. Jesus did not say it was impossible.

No doubt, Solomon wants to help us with this spiritual struggle. He uses money as his main illustration because everybody easily relates to it. However, he does not introduce the subject of money until Ecclesiastes 5:10. Instead, he writes of social injustice within the worldly system we live and function in. Why? Because the system itself is a constant source of distraction through its constant barrage of news reports in which we hear of social injustice. Most often, the poor are its targets.

He cautions us not to be astonished by the vanity of all this injustice, but at the same time, he wants us to be aware of it. He does this in verse 8 by mentioning “a high official watches over a high official, and higher officials are over them.” He seems to be saying that from bottom to top, the entire system is corrupt; every stratum of the culture struggles to make its way by taking advantage of others. Nevertheless, none of this injustice is an excuse for us to involve ourselves in the “everybody’s doing it” routine and sin too.

A key to understanding what Solomon is driving at is the word translated “watches.” In Hebrew, the term can be used either positively or negatively. Positively, a person watches to protect or help, and negatively, he may have circumstances under surveillance to gain personal advantage from them. The present context is definitely negative. Solomon is still describing the self-centered attitudes of those “working” the system. Like their political leaders, ordinary citizens also greedily watch to gain the best and most for themselves. Their approach is not to serve and share. Verse 9 confirms that this self-centered attitude goes all the way to the top—to the king. He, too, is served by the corrupt system.

God has deemed it our responsibility to prepare for His Kingdom by overcoming, growing, and being loyal to Him and His way within such a circumstance as Solomon describes in these last few verses. Our hope is promised in Isaiah 9:6-7:

For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.

The solution to this present evil world is on the horizon, but it will not come until Jesus Christ is here with us on earth. Thus, God has willed that we must deal with the corrupt and unjust system that now is, looking forward in hope to the relief of Christ’s return.

John Ritenbaugh

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Don’t Give Up On Your Prayers: The Power of Persistent Prayer

Pray
Do we give up too easily in our prayer lives? Do we put a timetable in our requests and prayers before God? Does our faith sizzle out after a few days of not seeing any results in our prayer life? Are we persistent and unwavering in our prayers and confident in our faithful God or is our prayer life plagued with doubts, worry and fear? Do we expect God to hear and respond to our prayers or do we think God has turned a deaf ear? Is our prayer a few seconds of weak, unfocused words with little trust or faith. Is our prayers a mere formality, a vain repetition of words with little heart and passion in them?

Eric Ludy-This is not some bb gun that God has given us to try to shoo away raccoons in the night. Prayer is nuclear power, world renovating in its epic strength. When used according to the pattern of Scripture, prayer alters history, alters the natural world, and alters the human soul. The Sword is too heavy for a mere man to carry, but prayer enables us to lift it, swing it, and transform the world around us with it. Prayer is the catalyst behind everything Godly taking place in the earth.

EM Bounds- Our praying needs to be pressed and pursued with an energy that never tires, a persistency which will not be denied and a courage that never fails.

Ludy-This concept of “praying through” can alter your entire spiritual life, but it can make you greatly uncomfortable, because it goes against the way we are naturally built as humans. The great giants of the faith like George Mueller, CT Studd, Hudson Taylor, Rees Howell and Amy Carmichael all knew what it meant to pray through. Prayer is taking from God’s purchase on the cross (His promises in the finished work of Jesus Christ) and like a grappling hook throwing the hook up to heaven to these promises and pulling, pulling and pulling until the promise comes into manifestation on the earth. Prayer is the action of faith on the earth. Prayer is our way of saying: “I’ll prove that God is who He says He is, just watch.” Framework of prayer-thy kingdom come thy will be done on earth as it is on heaven. We have a God job to do in persistent prayer. Take what God has done and bring it to the earth through prayer.

James 5:16: Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

17Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months.

18And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.

Availeth-Greek-means “granting great power for extraordinary deeds”

No limits are set to the power of prayer.

Look at the persistence of Elijah’s prayer in Elijah’s prayer in I Kings 18, which is one of the greatest moments in the history of the world. It illustrates the mockery and foolishness of serving or praying to anyone but God. Elijah had the promise verse 1. Prayed and brought it from heaven to the earth. This whole amazing demonstration of the powerof God was a result of time he had spent in intense prayer in his prayer closet. Prayer prepares you to face the challenges of ministry.

Prayer closet-Matthew 6:11ff “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 6But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

AW Tozer-The man who would know God must spend time with Him. True prayer demands more of our lives than most are willing to give and therefore few ever taste of its power and delights. You need to be radical in your prayer life.

The Doctrine of Answered Prayer

God has promised and He cannot lie

You can stand on it like a solid rock; we do not waver.

Answered Prayer is guaranteed when prayer is done God’s way and according to His pattern set forth in Scripture. Prayer is not based on a guess as God for certain wants to bring His promises into manifestation on the earth. Don’t stop praying until you see the promise come to pass. Faith when it is real expresses itself through prayer. Prayer is a holy confidence, a godly certainty and an unwavering trust in God’s promise and you don’t back down. You know what God is able to do and you immediately take it to God in prayer knowing He is faithful beyond measure.

Hebrews 6:15-18 (NLT)

13 For example, there was God’s promise to Abraham. Since there was no one greater to swear by, God took an oath in his own name, saying:

14 “I will certainly bless you,
and I will multiply your descendants beyond number.”[b]

15 Then Abraham waited patiently, and he received what God had promised.

16 Now when people take an oath, they call on someone greater than themselves to hold them to it. And without any question that oath is binding. 17 God also bound himself with an oath, so that those who received the promise could be perfectly sure that he would never change his mind. 18 So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie.

WORD OF GOD NOT STUTTERING ON THESE POINTS

Ask, and it shall be given you . . . – Matthew 7:7

And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive. – Matthew 21:22

But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee. – John 11:22

And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. – John 14:13

If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it. – John 14:14

. . . whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you. – John 15:16 . . . Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. – John 16:23

Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full. – John 16:24

Hebrews 6:35-39 (NIV):35So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. 36You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. 37For in just a very little while,”He who is coming will come and will not delay.38But my righteous one will live by faith.And if he shrinks back,I will not be pleased with him.

A. W. Tozer portrayed a praying Christian as a constant threat to the stability of Satan’s government writing that…

The Christian is a holy rebel loose in the world with access to the throne of God

Since prayer is detrimental to the evil one’s purposes, Satan and his minions do their utmost to interfere when we pray especially opposing us when we try to take time for prayer because. The enemy knows better than most Christian’s the power of persistent prayer!

In any posture, in any attire, at any time, in any place, and under any circumstance prayer is appropriate. Prayer is to be a total way of life, an open and constant communion with God.

Ludys’ Wrestling Prayer-The greatest threat to our prayer life isn’t the devil. It’s not some external force, some harassing demon from without. Surprisingly the greatest threat to the powerful life of prayer is none other than you–its self within.

God’s destiny for you is to be transformed into the image of His son and like Jesus become a spiritual rescuer. This is what prayer is all about. It is about doing the rescue work of Jesus on the earth. Prayer in a nutshell is kingdom business. God desires to build us into his workforce and set us about the Father’s business. You see, in God’s economy, things on this Earth do not change through wishing, through positive thinking, or through good karma. They change through faith expressing itself in loving fervent prayer. God’s people are commissioned to ask, to seek, to knock and to plead the realities of heaven be made reality down here on Earth.

But there is a rebel part of your being that detests prayer, that seeks to avoid it at all costs, that gets extremely tired at simply the notion of it. This is what the Bible refers to as the flesh. And this flesh is the greatest and most formidable enemy of prayer.

The promises of prayer are extraordinary, but for prayer to work it must be purged of self and doubt. Doubt and unbelief are prayer killers. Your faith must be unwavering, stouthearted, persistent and unmovable.

True prayer never violates the nature of God. What He is like is what our prayers should be like. True prayer has the glory of God as its aim-not the comfort of men, nor the fleshly pleasures of humanity or a selfish plea for comfort and blessing as prayer is not using God as our personal servant or an ATM machine. True prayer must be offered out of a life that is true-true to God, true to Scripture, true in heart, true in motive and true in purity.

Wiersbe writes that praying without ceasing…

certainly doesn’t mean that we should constantly be repeating prayers, because Jesus warned against that kind of praying (Mt 6:7). Rather, it means to make prayer as natural to us as our regular breathing. Unless we are sick or smothering, we rarely think about our breathing; we just do it. Likewise with prayer—it should be the natural habit of our lives, the “atmosphere” in which we constantly live.

Luke 22:28You are those who have stood by me in my trials. 29And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me…

31″Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you[a] as wheat. 32But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

“Blessed be God, which hath not turned away my prayer.” — Psalm 66:20

The Six Things that Hinder Prayers

1. It is a Prayer that is Born of the Flesh Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume [it] upon your lusts. – James 4:3 KJV. Flesh always after self outside of God. Flesh always after your ends, your betterment, your wealth, your desires and your security. If come to God praying out of the flesh, there is no guarantee that God is going to answer your prayer. Lust-intense appetite for self gratification. Lust is one of the number one prayer killers. IT IS ALL ABOUT ME-When you approach God on those terms, you are living in the wrong kingdom. In God’s kingdom, you give up self-it is no longer after self’s agenda. Most of us are nominal Christianity who live for self in bondage to the kingdom of darkness.. We are bought with a price; we are His and we should say do God whatever you wants with my life. That is the beginnings of prayer out of a soil of selflessness. Structure your prayer life after the spirit and not after the flesh. Pray God prayers. Ever ask God what to pray about? God has an agenda and He is looking for saints to carry the burden and make intercession in prayer. God knows exactly what needs to be done down here. God what do you want to pray about? We feel His heart, His love, His compassion. God knows the mountains and barriers that need to be crushed. Any doubt God will answer a prayer that He has initiated and started?

2. Prayer that is Errant – not in Alignment with God’s Nature, Will, and Purpose on Earth

And this is the confidence that we have in him, that if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: – 1 John 5:14

Prayer that is missing God’s bulls eye. Sin-one definition is missing the mark. Not in alignment with God’s nature, will and purpose upon the earth. The Bible is the revealed Word and Will of God. Understand the scriptures and you will know His will. God’s Word contains His exceeding great and precious promises. This is our promised land. Go and take it. The Word of God sets the territory and boundary of prayer.

3. We Ask in Prayer Wavering and Unsure

But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. – James 1:6-7

We doubt and do not believe that God will keep His promises. Do we have complete confidence in the Word of God? We have an entire generation of Christians that are struggling with uncertainty and that are wavering and unsure. Faith must rise up and look at template of Word.

4. Living in Disobedience and Impurity

And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight. – 1Jo 3:22 KJV

If I had cherished sin in my heart; the Lord would not have listened. Psalm 66:18 In the Hebrew sin refers specifically to an idol.

And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood. – Isaiah 1:15

Are we are living the way He asks us to live? If we live according to the world and the flesh then are prayers are greatly hindered. Remember the teaching breaches in your walls? Titus says the grace of God teaches us we should deny ungodliness and worldly lusts and live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world.

5. Lack of Heavenly Honor

Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with [them] according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered. – 1Pe 3:7 KJV

Honor is a higher behavior, a holy mindset, a regal bearing in the midst of a polluted world. It is an absence of all perversion-a state of being untainted by the filth of this age. Honor is a selfless disposition, a servant’s posture, a sentinel’s gaze, and an intercessor’s readiness. Honor is the mark of heaven on a man, It is spiritual poise, grit and moral command where you have harnessed the old sin nature and you exercise a holy restraint on its emotions, passions and mental wanderings.

6. Lack of Abiding

If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. – John 15:7 Caveat-abiding in Him and his word abiding in you.

Another key prayer killer is anxiety, fear and worry which Jesus Christ taught we are not to have an ounce of in our hearts.

Philippians 4:6,7

6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Two Parables of Persistent Prayer/Praying Through-Luke 18 and Luke 11-Show what Faith is.

Luke 18:1-8 (NIV):

1Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. 2He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. 3And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’

4″For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care about men, 5yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming!’ “

6And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 8I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

Luke 11:5-9

5Then he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and he goes to him at midnight and says, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, 6because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him.’

7″Then the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children are with me in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ 8I tell you, though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is his friend, yet because of the man’s boldness he will get up and give him as much as he needs.

9″So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.

Don’t let go of your God until He has done it.

One thing God requires of His children is to believe Him. You are unmovable and not pushed around on the promise.

E.M. Bounds-Nothing distinguishes the children of God so clearly and strongly as prayer. It is the one infallible mark and test of being a Christian. Christian people are prayerful, the worldly-minded, prayerless. Christians call on God; worldlings ignore God, and call not on his name. But even the Christian had need to cultivate continual prayer. Prayer must be habitual, but much more than a habit. It is duty, yet one which rises far above, and goes beyond the ordinary implications of the term. It is the expression of a relation to God, a yearning for divine communion. it is the outward and upward flow of the inward life toward its original fountain. It is an assertion of the soul’s paternity, a claiming of the sonship, which links man to the eternal.

Importunate prayer is a mighty movement of the soul toward God. It is a stirring of the deepest forces of the soul, toward the throne of heavenly grace. It is the ability to hold on, press on, and wait. Restless desire, restful patience, and strength of grasp are all embraced in it. It is not an incident, or a performance, but a passion of soul. It is not a want, half-needed, but a sheer necessity.

In this study however, we turn our thought to one phase of prayer-that of importunity; the pressing of our desires upon God with urgency and perseverance; the praying with that tenacity and tension which neither relaxes nor ceases until its plea is heard, and its cause is won.

He who has clear views of God, and scriptural conceptions of the divine character; who appreciates his privilege of approach unto God; who understands his inward need of all that God has for him-that man will be solicitous, outspoken, and importunate. In Scripture the duty of prayer, itself, is advocated in terms which are only barely stronger than those in which the necessity for its importunity is set forth. The praying which influences God is declared to be that of the fervent, effectual outpouring of a righteous man. That is to say, it is prayer on fire, having no feeble, flickering flame, no momentary flash, but shining with a vigorous and steady glow.

The repeated intercessions of Abraham for the salvation of Sodom and Gomorrah present an early example of the necessity for, and benefit deriving from importunate praying. Jacob, wrestling all night with the angel, gives significant emphasis to the power of a dogged perseverance in praying, and shows how, in things spiritual, importunity succeeds, just as effectively as it does in matters relating to time and sense.

As we have noted, elsewhere, Moses prayed forty days and forty nights, seeking to stay the wrath of God against Israel, and his example and success are a stimulus to present-day faith in its darkest hour. Elijah repeated and urged his prayer seven times ere the raincloud appeared above the horizon, heralding the success of his prayer and the victory of his faith. On one occasion Daniel though faint and weak, pressed his case three weeks, ere the answer and the blessing came.

Many nights during his earthly life did the blessed Savior spend in prayer. In Gethsemane he presented the same petition, three times, with unabated, urgent, yet submissive importunity, which involved every element of his soul, and issued in tears and bloody sweat. His life crises were distinctly marked, his life victories all won, in hours of importunate prayer. And the servant is not greater than his Lord.

PRAYING THROUGH MEANS YOU PRAY UNTIL YOU SEE IT HAPPEN. It could be days, months or years but you do not give up. It is praying without letting go; praying relentlessly in pursuit of the promise. We often blame God for not answering prayer, but what actually happened is that we stopped praying. We are in spiritual battle. You don’t see everything. Our job is to believe. Our job is to stand firm in faith until God answers. This is why it is important to know and understand God’s nature. Why is it easier to trust men and women on this earth than the God who created us? Your God is coming. You hold fast to that petition. Don’t look at your circumstances. God, you are the only one that has what I need and I won’t let go. That is faith.

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El Shaddai, Or The God Who Is Enough

1111Godisenough

(Editor’s Note: Do you know it is possible to walk before the Lord with a perfect heart? It does not mean a sinless, flawless existence. A perfect heart is wholly true to God and completely undivided in its loyalty to God. It is a heart that utterly trusts and leans on God in every circumstance and does not depend or put its confidence in the strength of another. It is a heart that empties itself of every ounce of self-pride, self-exultance and self-reliance and is totally consumed and dependent upon God. It is a heart that does not rely on its own talent and abilities or on any other person or thing , but totally relies on God giving all of itself to God without reservation. It is to perfectly trust the delivering power of God. It is a perfect confidence that allows God to act. Abraham became the father of all us who believe when he received the revelation of God as El Shaddai, the Lord Almighty, the All -Sufficient One who always is enough for His children and is our all in all in everything. Enjoy this wonderful study by A.B. Simpson, the Canadian preacher and author, who lived in the mid 19th century to the early 20th century.)

By A.B. Simpson

I am the Almighty God. Walk before Me and be thou perfect. Genesis 17:1 There are epochs in every great life, and perhaps this day marks an epoch in many of our lives. The text marks such an epoch in Abraham’s life. Several similar crisis hours had already come in the history of the patriarch. The first was when he left his native land at God’s bidding. The second was when he entered Canaan and found it a famine-stricken land of foes. The third was when he separated from Lot and God appeared to him and gave him the promise of all that he had left and much more besides. The fourth was when God gave him the promise of a son, perhaps fifteen or twenty years before the present epoch. That promise was accompanied with a very wonderful revelation of God and a covenant covering all the future and foreshadowing the blessing of coming ages. But Abraham had not been altogether true to the high calling which God had given him. He had not doubted God’s promise and yet he had staggered under its weight enough to unite with Sarah his wife some fourteen years before the present incident in helping God to fulfill His promise by taking into his family Hagar, their servant, and striving through her to bring about the fulfillment of the promise of a son in the person of Ishmael. In all this God had seen the wavering of a double mind, and now when He appears to Abraham in his hundredth year He very obviously alludes to Abraham’s doubtful attitude by the startling message which is as much a reproof as it is a promise, “I am El-Shaddai. Walk before Me and be thou perfect.” He had not been quite upright in his faith because he had not quite believed in the all-sufficiency of his God, and therefore it was necessary that God should come to him in a new revelation of His power and require from Abraham a new expression of his faith. It may be that this is just where some of us are standing today. We have been trusting God in part and have been trying to do the other part ourselves, and God is speaking to us by His new and almighty name and saying to us “I am El-Shaddai. Walk before Me and be thou perfect.”

I. A NEW REVELATION OF GOD

Every advance step in our spiritual life must spring from a new view of God. It was the vision of God that sent Abraham forth on his new career of faith, and it was a new revelation of God that led him to further advances in the successive steps of his life of faith. It was the revelation of God to Jacob, first at Bethel and next at Peniel, that led to the great crisis of his life. It was a revelation of God that sent Moses forth to deliver Israel. It was a similar revelation that made Joshua the conqueror of Canaan. The vision of God brought healing and new life to Job and called Isaiah to his great prophetic mission; and it is such a vision of God that alone can meet the needs of our hearts and inspire our souls to our heavenly calling. It is God we need to see and it is God in this mighty character as El-Shaddai, the All-sufficient One.

THE GOD OF THE SUPERNATURAL

This name stands for the Almightiness of God. We might translate it to mean the God of the supernatural. Men are trying to get the supernatural out of the Bible and explain it all on rationalistic principles. The devil is engaged on a parallel line to get the supernatural out of Christian life and to bring religion down to a mere matter of ethics, morals and humanitarian improvement. The very essence or Christianity is that it is the revelation, worship and fellowship of a supernatural Being and it is all Divine from the first to the last century. God’s great object is to make Himself known to us and then to work out His almightiness in us. Every situation into which He brings us is just a frame in which to set His promises and a mold in which to cast some new manifestation of His all-sufficiency. The very difficulties that surround our lives today are but opportunities for God to show Himself to us as El·Shaddai.

WHAT THIS MEANS

This does not merely mean that He is almighty in the abstract and that He has the attribute of Omnipotence. All will concede this in a general way, for if God be God at all He must be omnipotent. But many of us hedge Him around with such limitations, laws and modes of operation as to practically tie His hands and make it impracticable for Him to do any real supernatural thing in our lives. To really believe in the all-sufficiency of God means that He is actually at liberty to do for us all that we need a God for, and that we have a right to take Him for everything for which we are unequal and insufficient. It means that He has promised all things necessary for life and godliness, that He has provided all things and that we have a right to come to Him for all things, presenting without question the mighty check on the bank of heaven, “My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”

ABLE TO SAVE

It means, in the first place, that we have a God that is equal to our salvation and the salvation of any sinner, however lost and however long resisting the mercy and grace of God. It means that He is equal to the salvation of your boy, your friend, your soul, whoever you are and whatever you may be. It means that He is equal to your sanctification and the sanctification of any temperament, no matter how impracticable; the counteracting of any habit, no matter how confirmed; the overcoming of any defect, infirmity and sin, no matter how deeply rooted and aggravated; victory over any and every temptation that may come, and a life sanctified through and through and preserved blameless unto the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. It means that He “is able to keep you from stumbling and present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy.”

ABLE TO HEAL

It means that He is equal to your physical need and has made provision for your sickness as well as your sins, your infirmities of body as well as your infirmities of temper and the supply of all needed strength, health and help until your life work is done. It means that He is equal to your circumstances, that He can sustain you, comfort you and keep you under all possible unfavorable conditions, making you happy when everything around you is uncongenial, using and blessing you when everything seems to conflict and hinder, and then transforming circumstances, turning the curse into a blessing and bringing up the fir tree and the myrtle instead of the thistle and the thorn. It means that He is equal to your work, no matter what the difficulties and obstructions may be, that He can overcome the antagonism of China, the caste of India, the barbarism of Africa, and even the lethargy and selfishness of the church itself, and can carry on and complete His glorious work in spite of the selfishness of man, the hate of Satan and the faithlessness even of His own followers. As old Matthew Henry quaintly expresses it “El-Shaddai just means the God that is enough.” Enough for you, enough for me, Enough for all forever.

II. A NEW EXERCISE OF FAITH

It is not enough to have an almighty God, but we must be able to respond to His promise and appropriate His almightiness. There must be in us a corresponding faculty of faith which first comprehends and then appropriates and proves in action the reality of all His power and promise. In Eden man lost this power and got away from the sphere of God’s supreme attraction, and since then has been like a wandering star out of its orbit, off from its center and plunging into the blackness of darkness forever. Faith is the law of spiritual gravitation which brings man back to God and swings his life into the orbit of trust, fellowship and obedience. In this Abraham is our great forerunner, and our part is to follow in the steps of our father Abraham, and as we follow we shall find that all his steps were steps of faith. But Abraham’s faith was not as yet perfected, and God had now to give him a startling object lesson of what it really means to believe God. And so He does much more than talk to Abraham. He requires Abraham to meet Him and answer back by the actions of responsive faith. And so we see in the following verses the most dramatic picture of the steps of faith to be found in the Bible.

THREE TENSES OF FAITH

First – God gives Abraham the promise of future blessing. “I will make My covenant between thee and Me.” Abraham meets this promise and goes down upon his face before God to claim it. Then follows secondly the next tense of faith, which is the present tense. “As for Me behold My covenant is with thee.” The thing that God would do He now does. The thing that Abraham expected he now accepts and takes as a present fact. The future becomes the present tense and faith becomes action. But there is still a third tense and a third step of faith. “Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, for thy name shall be Abraham for a father of many nations have I made thee.” It is now the perfect tense.” The thing that was promised was done and is now finished. Action has become transaction and has passed even beyond the present tense, and therefore Abraham must take the position of one who has passed through all these stages and has actually received his yet unseen blessing. He must change his name and stand before the public and be laughed at and called a fool, an old man in his dotage, a dreamer; as his neighbors ask him the reason of the strange difference in his name, and he tells them that God has made him the father of many nations. Faith must be sealed by testimony and testimony must be steeped in trial, shame and many a waiting hour of trusting in the dark. But at length there comes the day of vindication, when the laugh is turned upon them and little Isaac is called the name of “Laughter” because God has made him to laugh instead of them in the glorious vindication of His believing child.

RECKON ON GOD

This, beloved, is the way in which we must meet El-Shaddai. We must not only take the promise for the future, but we must bring it into the present and claim it as an immediate fact in this moment of our lives. Then we must translate it into the past and take the position that it is an accomplished fact and call it so, nor be ashamed to have men know that we believe our God and venture on even calling the things that are not as though they were. This is the committal of faith. This is the place where so many fail to enter in, but this is the very ladder of blessing described in the thirty-seventh Psalm, where David says, “Commit thy way unto the Lord, trust also in Him and He worketh. Rest in the Lord, be silent to God and wait patiently for Him and He shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light and thy judgments as the noon day.” Do we want salvation? First, there is the promise “Him that cometh unto Me I will not cast out.” There must come a moment when that promise is brought into the present and faith must say, “He does not cast out, He does receive.” And then faith must take one step further and add “He has accepted. I am saved,” and accept the new name of child and call Him Abba, Father. Then it is that the Spirit witnesses to the soul and the glorious reality pours into our conscious life.

THE WAY TO RECEIVE HIM

Is it sanctification and the indwelling of the Holy Ghost that we seek? We must take the same three steps of faith, He will, He does, He has given the Holy Ghost. I am His and He is mine and Christ is within me the Hope of glory.

A TRANSACTION

Is it healing we seek? We shall pray in vain and in vain expect the promise to be fulfilled until we accept the promise as fulfilled and pronounce the word of accomplished faith and pass into a Divine transaction. And so with every blessing that we may need and every promise that we may claim, each of them must be passed through these stages of promise, the appropriation and the acknowledgment of testimony and praise, and then the great wheels of God’s mighty co-operation will begin to revolve, and the glorious results of faith will pass into living realities in your life.

HE STAGGERED NOT

Abraham successfully passed through this crisis place, and henceforth we see him walking before El-Shaddai upright, perfect, unwavering and triumphant. If we turn to the fourth chapter of the epistle to the Romans, we shall find a magnificent picture of the new Abraham after he met EI-Shaddai. We are told that his faith was so strong that against hope he believed in hope. We are told that he could look at his own body and consider it as good as dead without being discouraged, because he was not looking at himself, but at the Almighty One that could quicken his body and make it equal to the fulfillment of the promise, and in spite of Sara’s age and inability could supernaturally work through her for the accomplishment of His will. We are told that “he staggered not at the promise through unbelief.” He did not walk with a wobbling or unsteady gait, but stood straight up unbending beneath his mighty load of blessing, and instead of growing weak he waxed strong in the faith, growing more robust the more the difficulties became apparent, glorifying God through his very insufficiency and being “fully persuaded,” as the Greek expresses, “that He who had promised was” (not “able,” as our version has it, but, as it literally means) “abundantly able,” munificently able, able with an infinite surplus of resources, infinitely able, “to perform.” He recognized it as an easy thing for God to do all this, and for this God was glorified, pleased, delighted, and He holds him forth as an eternal example of the faith He expects from us in the later days of the Christian dispensation and in the age of a risen and ascended Christ and a present Holy Ghost. The best application that I know how to make of this sublime message of God is the passage quoted above in the third chapter of Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians, “Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all we ask or think.

EXCEEDING ABUNDANTLY

1. It tells us that He is able exceeding abundantly. He is the God of boundless resources. The resurrection and ascension of Christ is forever the pattern of what we may expect Him to do for us. 2. The only limit is in us. Our asking, our thinking our ideas are too low, our prayers are too small, our expectations are too limited. The Greek is very strong – “far beyond all that we ask or think.” He is trying to lift us up to a higher conception and lure us on to a mightier expectation and appropriation. Oh, shall we put Him in derision! 3. There is but one measure here given for His blessing, and that is “according to the power that worketh in us.” God will do for us just as much as we will let Him work in us. His temporal provisions will be commensurate with our spiritual experience. As much as we know Him in our hearts we may know Him in our lives and circumstances. As much as He works in us He will work for us. As much as He prays in us He will make real in His glorious answering providences. 4. The sphere of His mighty working is in the church. It is through His work, His word, the building up of His kingdom, that we are to experience the glorious riches of His power. He will not give it to us for selfish or worldly needs, but He will use it for the building up of His church and the bringing in of His kingdom. He is head over all things for His body, the church. All that He is and all that He has over yonder is for the completion of the church, the preparation of the bride and the evangelization of the world. There is no limit to what we may ask and expect of our glorious El-Shaddai. 5. But to Him must be the glory. All this must be in the spirit of self-abnegation, and Christ alone must be exalted. The way to glorify Him is to take much from Him and let Him do much for us. 6. There is one more suggestion in this sublime passage, “throughout all ages, world without end.” Literally, it means through the generation of the age of ages. In the apostle’s mind time and eternity consists of generations and ages unfolding forever. We are living in one of those generations. This is the generation in which He wants to work for us as He never worked before. Oh, that He may give us grace to be men for our generation, to understand the sublime significance of this last age of the Christian dispensation and to make our generation one that shall shine among the rolling ages of the coming eons as the sublimest exhibition of the power of the glory of our King amid all the ages that have been and that through it and through us He may yet make known to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places in the ages to come the manifold wisdom of God.

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Restoring the Majesty and Grandeur to Christianity

majestyThere is unlimited power, overwhelming grandeur, breathtaking beauty, and glorious majesty in Christianity that has been all but lost in the modern day church. We have not caught the vision of what it means to be a Christian. We have fallen into a spiritual slumber and need a jostling of our soul as to the heart of our God when He gave His only begotten Son to crush the enemy and bring life in a manner never before seen on the earth. The voice of God in Ephesians still cries out: “Awake, O sleeper, rise up from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”

Do you know the grandness of what it means to be a Christian? Do you understand who you are and your position as a son or daughter of God in the kingdom of God? We need to have an awakening of our soul to the magnificence of the gospel and the power, the glory and the strength of God that we can live in on this earth when we are in Christ. The picture has faded into gray and we have not seen the absolute triumph and victory that is supposed to be the norm in Christianity. We have become play-actors who have not experienced the exchanged life where our mighty Lord Jesus Christ lives his life, his very existence, in and through our lives. We need to have the rock of the living God as the cornerstone of our soul. We need a serious tutoring about the life of triumph in Jesus Christ. Are we tired of a Christianity that does not work? Are we tired of the futility of trying to live as a Christian? Why are we letting the Devil use us as his play thing? The Lord Jesus Christ came into the world to redeem us and to restore us to our true humanity and function, to restore us to the Life that was lost in Adam, so that we can be in Him and He can be in us.

Ravenhill: We are not saved to stagnate. Conversion is not a goal; it is a gateway. We are to progress from strength to strength, from glory to glory.

Romans 8:29 sets the goal for the life of every Christian: “ For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

The grandeur and majesty of Christianity is Jesus Christ. He is the head of the body of Christ and the Lord of our lives. We need to have an outflow of Jesus Christ in our lives.

God wants us conformed to the image of Jesus Christ in every detail of our life from our thoughts, to our words, to our actions and to our heart. This is what God wants to build. Do you know that your life is no longer your own? Do you know he purchased your body on the Christ? Give Him what is rightfully his.

I Corinthians 6:19,20 (Phillips):
Have you forgotten that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you, and that you are not the owner of your own body? You have been bought, and at what a price! Therefore bring glory to God both in your body and your spirit, for they both belong to him.

I Corinthians 3:23 (Phillips):
For you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God!

Do you have a limit to your obedience? If you have a limit to your obedience then something is wrong with your Christianity. Do you draw the line with God and say I will follow you this far and anything beyond that “No Way God!”-that is extreme. Doesn’t God own you? You belong to Christ. You submitted your life to Him and He can do with you what He wishes. Who are you to give your life to Jesus Christ and then define the terms how he will use your life? Is your prayer to God-“Please have me excused?” Are you willing to follow Him? Are you willing to go where he wants you to go? Are you willing to obey Him at all costs and do what He tells you to do? If you say “no”, who in this generation will say “yes?”

Living this grand vision of Christianity starts with realizing the truth that YOU CANNOT LIVE THE CHRISTIAN LIFE, but He can. You cannot walk in your own strength, your own ability, your own determination, your own power as you will fail. You cannot mount the white steed of Christian living, but he can.

Ian Thomas in The Indwelling Life of Christ: All of Him in All of Me:

The Christian life can be explained only in terms of Jesus, and if your life as a Christian can still be explained in terms of you -your personality, your willpower, your gift, your talent, your money, your courage, your scholarship, your dedication, your sacrifice, or your anything – then although you may have the Christian life, you are not yet living it! … True Godliness leaves the world convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that the only explanation for you, is Jesus Christ.

Tozer in The Divine Conquest says,

“The experience with men that walked with God in olden time agree to teach that the Lord cannot bless a man until He has first conquered Him. The degree of blessing enjoyed by any man will correspond exactly with the completeness of God’s victory over him…Only the conquered can know true blessedness…For life we are wholly and continually dependent upon God, the Source and Fountain of life. Only by full dependence upon Him are the hidden potentials of our natures realized. Apart from this we are but half-men, malformed and unbeautiful members of a noble race once made to wear the image of its Creator…It was to save Jacob from deceptive hope that God confronted him that night on the bank of the river. To save him from self-trust it was necessary for God to conquer him, to wrest control away from him, to take his great power and rule with a rod of love…We might pray well for God to invade and conquer us, for until he does, we remain in peril from a thousand foes. We bear within us the seeds of our own disintegration. The strength of our flesh is an ever present danger to our souls. Deliverance can only come to us by the defeat of our old life…Real faith must always mean more than passive acceptance. It dare mean nothing less than surrender of our doomed Adam like nature to a merciful end upon the cross…There begins the divine conquest of our lives.”

O GOD BUILD YOURSELF IN ME!

Major Ian Thomas in The Indwelling Life of Christ: All of Him in All of Me states:

God so engineered you and me that His presence is indispensable to our humanity, teaching our minds, controlling our emotions, directing our wills, and governing our behavior. Your new birth put God into action in you…What kind of Christian do you want to be? To choose to be a carnal Christian is spiritual oblivion. But if you decide genuinely that Christ be everything and have everything in your life…then He is ready to lead you into discoveries that can completely revolutionize your whole humanity for time and eternity…Consent, therefore, to die to all that you are which does not derive from all that Christ is and thank Him for His willingness to make it real…The resurrected Christ now lives, to continue His Life in you…You must die to your own natural ability to deal with the flesh, for you cannot crucify yourself. That is God’s business…You realize that it was never God’s purpose to improve the flesh, to educate it or tame it, let alone Christianize it. It has always been God’s purpose that the flesh-condemned, sentenced, an crucified with Jesus Christ-might be left buried in the tomb and replaced by the resurrection Life of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. The risen Christ must exercise control in your mind, in your emotions and in your will, expressing Himself through your personality.

Eric Ludy-When the gospel it truly received it costs you everything, your life, your old ways, your old mannerisms, your old self. This is a cost that comes in knowing God and the Lord Jesus Christ. You cannot hold on to a scrap of the old you. The problem is us. We have a born disposition that is in rebellion against the most High God. I want my life on my terms. I want the benefit of Jesus Christ and have Jesus Christ and my Heavenly Father on my terms. I want a little of the peace, a little of the joy, a little of the power and of course then get out of hell free card. But that is about all I want now because I want to be a Christian on MY terms. You can have all that Jesus Christ is but there is a little caveat: He gets all that you are. Oh the glow, the soul satisfaction, the radiance that comes from giving our all, our entire lives, EVERYTHING to Him. Few want to live Christianity like this. Can you look God square in face and say you made me, you fashioned me for a purpose and a destiny, you gave your Son to set me free, and I now give you my life and will do what you require me to do. I don’t want my way. I want your way.

Eric Ludy-Do you know you have a thousand moments in every day that you need to be rescued and delivered? From what? From YOU, from the problem of you. You have a desire; you have an esteem for that very throne in your life. You want to be in control; you want it to be your way. You are a problem; you are a rebel against the kingdom agenda.

Galatians 2:20 (NIV): 20I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

The old you, what the Bible calls “the old man,” died on the cross. It is dead in Christ. We must reckon it dead and not allow it to be raised and control one inch of our life. Every ounce of this fleshly nature must be eradicated from the throne of our heart. Christ must live through our body.

Are you a true disciple of Jesus Christ? “It is enough that a disciple become as his master” Matthew 10:25. The whole purpose of discipleship is to align yourself with someone, with the intent of becoming like him. A disciple is simply a student whose desire is to be ultimately like his master or tutor. The test of our discipleship is how much our life resembles him.

The disciples were first called Christians at Antioch. What is a Christian-it is a disciple who has arrived at his goal of being Christlike. “You are Christlike. We can tell you have spent time with Jesus. You act like Him, you walk like him, you talk like him, you love like him; clearly you are a Christian.”
The Communion ceremony is wonderfully symbolic of this. It is a covenant. It is an exchange of lives. We are giving up of our old life in exchange for a new life. There is an exchange of body and life. My body for His body; my blood for His blood. Bread: remembering covenant engaged in with the living God. My body for yours Lord Jesus. He can do with it whatever he sees fit. Blood represents –life. Jesus gave up his life for you. You take my life God so I can have yours. Your life belongs to Jesus.

These truths in Romans must burn in our souls for if we want to live this Christian life by Jesus Christ living through us, we must not let sin reign in our mortal body. Our body is his and it must remain undefiled and pure for our Master’s use. The flesh became unemployed for every Christian at Pentecost. Keep it that way.

Romans 6:1- What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? 3 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
6 knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. 10 For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. 11 Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. 13 And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. 14 For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace
.

It is important to know that the old man is immutable! He will never change! He is ever and always CORRUPT! The old man will never improve himself (in fact, when you are saved the old man will seem even worse!). The old man will never reform. He is incorrigible! He is utterly depraved and will always be so. When a person is saved the old man is not changed and the old man is not transformed. How then does (did) God deal with the old man? God does not change the old man. God does not transform the old man. What did God do with your old self? What did God do with all that you are and all that you have in Adam? Romans 6:6 answers this: “OUR OLD MAN WAS (past tense) CRUCIFIED WITH HIM.”

Our lives and walks must be free from hypocrisy. We cannot live a duplicitous life where we say one thing and do another. We cannot live a double life.

Romans 12:11: Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.

Philippians 1:10 (KJV):
That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ.

The word “sincere” has an interesting etymology in the Latin. It comes from two words meaning “without wax.” In Roman and Greek culture the sculptors would hide the flaws in their work with wax to deceive the viewer. When a work had no wax it was honesty in all its perfection. Our lives are to be without wax; our love is to be without wax. The Greek word means “found pure when unfolded and examined by the son’s light; unmarred in its purity.” God wants us pure in our character until the day Christ returns. We continually test things that come into our lives and only allow into our lives things that are excellent, pure and undefiled by the world. Our lives are to be sincere, without wax and pure in love until the day Christ returns. Love and purity together is the inseparable pair. We see this is in Scripture with the words “heart and the reins (kidneys).” Kidneys keep the blood pure and the heart is the center of you and pumps the blood throughout the body. We want all wax to melt away in our heart. No hypocrisy. No wax.

God is not a fan of playacting. God is not a fan of leading a double life. God hates hypocrisy for it is like a cancer to the church of Jesus Christ and destroys the witness of a son or daughter of God for their entire generation. There may not be a greater sin that more damage to the gospel of Jesus Christ around the world than leading a double life. Too many pastors, too many Christians and too many churches are leading double lives. God did not call us into defeat. God did not call us so we could live in mediocrity. God did not call us so we live in confused unbelief. Isn’t it time to start living what we are preaching? Isn’t time to bring the majesty, grandeur and splendor of God back to Christianity? Isn’t it time to stop making excuses for our lack of faith, our lack of trust and our lack of living the gospel? Isn’t it time to take God at His Word and simply believe it? Why are we so weak? Why are we so pathetic in our Christian walks where we talk, live and act no different than the world? Why don’t our lives present a picture of the magnificence of Jesus Christ and reflect the glory of our God. Why are we wrapped up in the trivial and consumed with the temporal things of this age? We have become too busy for God and we do not seek His face diligently or run after His heart with passion. We are tepid; we are lukewarm; we are barely awake and this spiritual apathy is a serious detriment to our walk in Christ. Why are we playing with sin? Why are we so in love with the world?

We have a strange brand of religion (often misunderstood to be Christianity) that gives the called “liberty” to live in a constant state of excess and self-seeking pleasure. Welcome to the world of the flesh where our sin nature reigns supreme and controls our lives.

In much of modern day America and Christianity our god is our belly: our idol is our appetite, our self-seeking pleasure. Our appetites and not the spirit of God is controlling and leading us. We have become gluttons of the flesh. Unmitigated self-appetite can have a forceful and terrorizing grip on both an individual life and the life of society. To be American used to carry with it (whether it was deserving or not) the Puritan ideals of integrity, chastity, prudence, temperance, goodwill, generosity, and mercy. But times have certainly changed. Now, it appears that around the world today, the “American” is often known instead for their bizarre sense of entitlement. The once noble and honorable word “American,” has become a synonym for “Glutton.” Oh, for the Church of Jesus Christ to come out from among this and be separate.

Philippians 3:18-20: For I have told you often before, and I say it again with tears in my eyes, that there are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 They are headed for destruction. Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and they think only about this life here on earth. 20 But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior.Verse 19 (ESV): Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.

Are we serving our appetite instead of serving our God? Do we go running to serve every time our appetite rings the bell? “Yes appetite! Anything you want belly, you get. I want to make sure you are happy!” Are we pampering our self in detriment to our walk about God? The cry of the belly: “It’s mine! I want! I need! It’s my life! It’s my body! It’s my time! I can do with it what I want. I will give a little to God and the rest of it belongs to me!” It’s like the tithe mentality: I will God 10 percent of my money and the rest belongs to me. It’s like we are doing God a favor. All our money belongs to God. None of your time, none of your body, and none of your life belongs to you. It belongs to God. It was purchased on the cross. In the Kingdom of God you relinquish your rights and life. It is HIS! Every aspect of your body, mind and life belongs to God. Philippians says we do nothing out of selfish ambition and deceit. Our heart is “God I am here at your disposal!” Living sacrifices. Are we even available to God when He needs us? The Bible says no Christian is to seek his own; we are servants to the most High God and each other. Do you know the belly is a symbol of the curse laid on the Serpent in Genesis? Making your appetite your God is what got Eve in trouble and this lifestyle was cursed in the Garden. Satan has crawling on his belly was cursed and the belly is a symbol of an appetite gone wild. We are filled with the gift of holy spirit, Christ in us, and our spiritual womb, our spiritual belly should be given over to God Almighty so that Christ may be birthed and grow in every aspect of our character and in every fiber of who we are. Out of our belly is to flow living waters. Is your belly the center of your life? Or is God the center of your life? Whom do you serve this day?
Freedom in Christ Jesus is freedom from the power of sin and the power of the power of the flesh to rule our life. It is to be free to obey the living God, its freedom to glorify God, its freedom to do what is pleasing in God’s sight. It is not to be free do whatever you want to do. We cannot sin like a trooper and think that it doesn’t matter to God or the advancement of His kingdom. It is like a dog returning to his vomit according to II Peter.

Ray Steadman: All too frequently they feel they have been set free to do as they please, to live as they want to live. But they are set free in order to battle. That is the call which comes to all Christians. We are not set free in order to enjoy ourselves. We are set free to do battle, to engage in the fight, to overcome in our own lives, and to become the channels by which others are set free. Thus there comes this call to us in this closing chapter in the letter to the Ephesians: Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, (Ephesians 6:10-11a RSV)

WE MUST LIVE IN CHRIST AND WALK WITH THE SWAGGER OF A SUPER_CONQUEROR, THROWING OFF EVERY REMNANT OF THE FLESH AND WALKING IN COMPLETE VICTORY AND TRIUMPH. THIS IS CHRISTIANITY! .

One of the names of God is THE LORD OF HOSTS-THE LORD OF BATTLES; The Great Warrior God. Do you know that God has never lost a battle? NEVER! Do you know if you are with God you always win? Obey God you win.

David has the Heart of a Warrior-the Swagger of the Freshly Anointed. We need the Growl for Glory: Gritted Teeth: Absolutely take no guff from the enemy. David: The
Lion, The Bear and the Man Beast.

I Samuel 17:34-37 (KJV):
And David said unto Saul, Thy servant kept his father’s sheep, and there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock:
And I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth: and when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and smote him, and slew him.
Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear: and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, seeing he hath defied the armies of the living God.
David said moreover, The LORD that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine. And Saul said unto David, Go, and the LORD be with thee.

This is a picture of Jesus Christ and our Christianity as a father, a husband and a pastor. Nothing touches our flock; nothing touches our family. Don’t mess with God’s children and you don’t mess with truth.

Luke 10:19 (Phillips): It is true that I have given you the power to tread on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the enemy’s power—there is nothing at all that can do you any harm.

CT Studd: If you don’t want the Devil to hit you, hit him first, and hit him with all your might, so that he may be too crippled to hit back. ‘Preach the Word’ is the rod the Devil fears and hates.

I Samuel 17:26b (KJV) for who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?
45 Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied.
46 This day will the LORD deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcases of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel.
47 And all this assembly shall know that the LORD saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give you into our hands.
48 And it came to pass, when the Philistine arose, and came, and drew nigh to meet David, that David hastened, and ran toward the army to meet the Philistine.
Hastened: To Move with Liquid Ferocity Like a Lion Toward Its Prey. He sprints into the jaws of danger for He knows His God does the impossible.

We take no junk from the enemy. We don’t listen to his voice mocking us. He is defeated. He is powerless to stop us. We need to get the spiritual growl for glory; the heavenly audacity; the firebrand in our soul; and a volcanic eruption in my heart for the living God. We must rise up and be a man; rise up and be a woman! We need to develop that fight, that vigor, that holy zeal in our soul. Grit your teeth and tell the Devil “Not on my watch!” O God make this man; make this woman live like that man, David. God honors the patriot. God honors the good soldier and warrior. Do you understand the nuclear power created in you at the new birth? Do you know what resides in you when the Bible says “It is Christ in You the Hope of Glory?” We are to make war against darkness. We are to break down every stronghold in our life; we demolish them for the glory of God. We subjugate every thought that enters human mind to the obedience of Christ. Are you ready and built for battle with our enemy or are you the great pushover? The Church of Jesus Christ is to bring violence against the kingdom of darkness. Grit your teeth and believe the word of God and don’t back down. If God promised, He will come thru. We do not let go of our God. We are not the cowards of this generation anymore. Let hell tremble because the church is being awakened. We follow in the train of the conqueror. Know your position church of Jesus Christ! This is not playacting! This is life! We do not back down; we don’t quit walking. We continually say in confidence-“Watch what my God will do!” My God wins.

We are princes and princesses representing a kingdom. We walk in this world as citizens of another realm demonstrating in this realm the behavior of our beloved Lord Jesus Christ. We are not of this world and we do not behave like it! This is what it means to be holy. We must have a practical holiness in our lives. God commands us in I Peter to be holy as God is holy. Maybe this is not our favorite verse to decoupage and hang above our sink, but it is a command of the Lord. Everyone should see Jesus in us. God is shaping us into a greater picture of Himself. How exciting is this! That our life becomes a representation of God’s glory.

Never forget we live in hostile territory. We are an enemy of the state when we sided with Jesus Christ. We cannot pander the world for approval and pander God for approval at the same time. No One can serve two masters! You have to choose your side! Is it God or the world? It is our belly or God? We have to choose which way we are going to live and whose approval we are going to seek. Are we a servant of Jesus Christ or a servant of this world? You can’t have it both ways. There is nothing more detestable to any kingdom than someone who attempts to serve both sides. Who are you going to be? A servant of God or a servant of the enemy? Do we look at the pantry of God for our appetite or is our belly raiding every other pantry of the flesh. Is it all about satisfying our needs, our wants, our appetites and our pleasures? If so, this is not how Christianity is supposed to operate.

Too many think lightly of sin, and therefore think lightly of the Saviour. He who has stood before his God, convicted and condemned, with the rope about his neck, is the man to weep for joy when he is pardoned, to hate the evil which has been forgiven him and to live to the honor of the Redeemer by Whose blood he has been cleansed. (Spurgeon)

Ravenhill: God’s goal is not to raise a generation of sandbox Christians. It’s fine for children to play and putter around in the sand, but grown-ups who insist upon remaining at that level of maturity will never enjoy the satisfaction of being used of God. Their lives will be wasted on foolish, fruitless pleasures rather than fulfilling God’s purpose in their generation.

Excerpt from my new book on the heart:

We are a new creation in Christ and the flesh which allowed sin to rule our mind, thinking and body is now dead. The flesh has no right to exercise any authority, power or control over any part of our mind or body for it was crucified with Jesus and died on the cross. Its reign is over. Its kingship has been overthrown. Its right to rule has ended. We must declare its death sentence daily and never give sin and the flesh one inch of our thought life or soon it will be building strongholds and ruling our thinking. The risen Christ has imparted His new life to our mind and body and He has the right to rule every single part our mind and body including our thinking.

We have a choice to make. We can allow our mind, thoughts and body to be instruments and weapons of sin or instruments and weapons of righteousness. My eyes are now His eyes, I only see what He would see; my ears are now His ears, I only hear what He would hear; my thoughts are now His thoughts, I only think what He would think; my mouth is now His mouth, I only speak what He would speak; my hands are now His hands, I only work the work that He would work; My heart is now His heart and out of my new heart comes His love, His compassion, His kindness, His tenderness and His mercies. We now have the mind, thoughts and motives of Christ because of our new nature birthed within us and the mind of Christ is the new ruler of our thought life. Allow Him to do the impossible in our thought life. Allow Him to separate the chaff form the wheat in our thought life. Allow Him to bring the fires of holiness and purity to our thought life. Allow Him to build Himself in our thought life. If we allow Jesus Christ to be the king of our thought life, our heart will be transformed into the most beautiful picture of our Lord that the world has ever seen and will become a brilliant lighthouse to all the world of the glory and splendor of our God.

My prayer for you from Philippians 1:

2 May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.
3 Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. 4 Whenever I pray, I make my requests for all of you with joy, 5 for you have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now. 6 And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.
7 So it is right that I should feel as I do about all of you, for you have a special place in my heart. You share with me the special favor of God, both in my imprisonment and in defending and confirming the truth of the Good News. 8 God knows how much I love you and long for you with the tender compassion of Christ Jesus.
9 I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. 10 For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return. 11 May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God.

CT Studd: Too long have we been waiting for one another to begin! The time of waiting is past! The hour of God has struck! War is declared! In God’s Holy Name let us arise and build! ‘The God of Heaven, He will fight for us’, as we for Him. We will not build on the sand, but on the bedrock of the sayings of Christ, and the gates and minions of hell shall not prevail against us. Should such men as we fear? Before the world, aye, before the sleepy, lukewarm, faithless, namby-pamby Christian world, we will dare to trust our God, we will venture our all for Him, we will live and we will die for Him, and we will do it with His joy unspeakable singing aloud in our hearts. We will a thousand times sooner die trusting only our God, than live trusting in man. And when we come to this position the battle is already won, and the end of the glorious campaign in sight. We will have the real Holiness of God, not the sickly stuff of talk and dainty words and pretty thoughts; we will have a Masculine Holiness, one of daring faith and works for Jesus Christ.

Some wish to live within the sound Of Church or Chapel Bell. I want to run a rescue shop within a yard of Hell.

Let us not glide through this world and then slip quietly into heaven, without having blown the trumpet loud and long for our Redeemer, Jesus Christ. Let us see to it that the devil will hold a thanksgiving service in hell, when he gets the news of our departure from the field of battle.

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The Power of the Prevailing Word Over Every Trinket of Darkness

the_power_of_god__s_word_by_kevron2001-d4gb497When Paul came to Ephesus he found the city in the grip of superstition, fear, demonism, and darkness. It was a city devoted to sex and to religion — in other words it was the San Francisco of the Roman empire. The great temple of Artemis was located there and was as familiar to the people of that day as the Golden Gate bridge is to us. It was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Tourists traveled from all over the Roman empire to see it, just as they come to San Francisco to see the bridges and cable cars.

In the nineteenth chapter of Acts, Luke gives us a fascinating account of how the gospel can reach and affect an entire city, and even its surrounding province, through a relatively small band of Christians. The church has forgotten for a long time that God never wins his battles by majority vote. He always uses a relatively small band of people who, working with a different approach than the world has available, are able in a fantastic way to affect whole cities, whole areas, whole nations by the effectiveness of their methods and the power that is available to them. This is what the church has forgotten and we need so desperately to rediscover it, as we are now doing in many ways.

The major problem in Ephesus was that it was a center for witchcraft. Superstition, demonism, and witchcraft held this city in its thrall. A weird mixture of black arts, worship of demons, astrology, occult practices of various kinds, and superstitious fears, had filled this city with priests, magicians, witches, warlocks, and quacks of every description. The inevitable consequence, as always among people who are held in bondage by witchcraft, was that people lived in fear and darkness, indulging their lusts in painful, degrading practices, and were sunken in slavery, in squalor, and in drunken debauchery.

To that city the apostle came and there he assaulted the strongholds of evil with the weapons of spiritual warfare. Remember that it was from this city that Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, and in one of those letters he said, “The weapons of our warfare are not carnal [not worldly, not the ordinary human plans and programs], but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds, casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ…” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5 KJV). And it was to Ephesus that Paul wrote from Rome, “We wrestle not against flesh and blood [people are not our problem], but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places…” (Ephesians 6:12 KJV). Those words underscore the viewpoint the apostle had of this great city of Ephesus — that here was a stronghold of darkness which could only be overcome by the weapons of truth and love and righteousness and faith — the weapons of our warfare.

There are many strongholds like this today. In this account we see what can happen when a church begins to catch on to the power that God has put at its disposal and operates in the way it was intended to operate. Paul begins, as always, in the synagogue, as Luke tells us in Verse 8:

And he entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, arguing and pleading about the kingdom of God; but when some were stubborn and disbelieved, speaking evil of the Way before the congregation, he withdrew from them, taking the disciples with him, and argued daily in the hall of Tyrannus. This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.

And God did extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that handkerchiefs or aprons were carried away from his body to the sick, and diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them. (Acts 19:8-12 RSV)

What a remarkable account! You notice that Paul began, as he always did, with the weapon of truth. He spoke in the synagogue concerning the kingdom of God, i.e., God’s rule over the hearts of men and his desire to bless them and fulfill them and to lead them into the place that he had originally intended man to be, a station of dominion and authority under the control and sovereignty of God. This kingdom of God, Paul said, had come with the coming of Jesus Christ, and it was opposed to the rule of Satan.

Wherever the gospel went it found men locked into the authority of the kingdom of Satan. The powers of darkness reigned in human affairs. That is why human history is the checkered account of man’s struggles to be free from that from which he cannot free himself. It is this rule of darkness, this authority of the kingdom of Satan, which the kingdom of God in Christ challenges. This is what Paul was preaching in the synagogue.

At first it was welcomed. You remember that the Jews here had made Paul welcome, and had invited him to come back. He had returned as he promised and for three months, every Sabbath day, he reasoned with them out of the Scriptures about the kingdom of God. But when some of the Jews understood that to submit to the rule and authority, the Lordship, of Jesus meant to have to confess the emptiness of their religious respectability, they opposed Paul. When they realized that they could no longer pose as respectable because of their outward morality, but had to acknowledge that inwardly they were just as desperately dark and evil anyone else, they resisted him. Religious respectability is the toughest nut to crack in all the satanic kingdom of evil.

So these Jews made trouble for Paul, as they always did, and at last he decided to withdraw, taking the disciples with him. They moved out of the synagogue into rented quarters, the hall of Tyrannus. This unquestionably was one of the lecture rooms which the Greek teachers employed to teach philosophy and various other subjects of the arts and culture of the day. Paul rented it, according to some ancient authorities, from eleven o’clock in the morning till four in the afternoon. The Revised Standard Version has a marginal note which says, “Other ancient authorities add, ‘from the fifth hour to the tenth,'” which, according to the Greek method of reckoning, was from eleven till four.

That was the time in Ephesus when all were taking a siesta. They closed up their shops, went home and had a leisurely meal, took a nap, worked around the garden, etc. The working day began at about seven in the morning. The shops closed at eleven and everyone went home until four when the shops reopened and business went on until about nine-thirty at night. This was their normal day. Evidently the Apostle Paul made tents during the morning hours to support himself. But at eleven o’clock he came to the hall of Tyrannus and lectured for five hours every day for two years.

Now, five hours a day, six days a week, fifty-two weeks a year for two years, adds up to 3,120 hours of lecturing. That equals 130 days of lecturing continuously for twenty-four hours a day. The content of those lectures was the great truths that we find in The Epistles of Paul. What a fantastic time of teaching! Wouldn’t you like to have been in Ephesus, and had Paul teach you The Epistle to the Romans? And The Letter of Paul to the Ephesians? And all his other great books? Imagine the tremendous impact of this teaching! No wonder we read in Verse 10 that, “all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.” That was an entire province, an area larger than the state of California, filled with many cities.

Of course, it was not Paul who was teaching throughout this area. It was the Christians who heard him in the lecture hall of Tyrannus, and who, captivated and galvanized by these truths, began to spread the word throughout the whole area. They formed churches in other cities which evangelized in turn, so that in two years this whole province was reached by the gospel of Christ. Is not that amazing?

It was during this time that the church at Colossi was begun by Epaphras and Philippians, who carried the gospel up the Lycus valley into the cities there. Others, perhaps Trophimus and Tychicus, young men from this province, were involved in preaching to other cities of the region. They may have been the founders of the churches to which John later wrote his letters in the book of Revelation — Smyrna and Sardis and Thyatira and Pergamum and Philadelphia and Laodicea, all of which are in this area and were begun by these Christians, largely unnamed and unknown, who heard the Apostle Paul proclaiming this fantastically revolutionary truth in the hall of Tyrannus in Ephesus. What power there is in the Word of God! In addition, Luke tells us, the word was confirmed by signs:

And God did extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that handkerchiefs or aprons were carried away from his body to the sick, and diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them. (Acts 19:11-12 RSV)

Underline the word “extraordinary.” These miracles were unusual. They were of a different kind than before. The quality which made them unusual was that they were performed by carrying away these cloths from the body of Paul, so that the miracles were accomplished at a distance from him.

Do not think that there is anything magic about this! There was no value inherent in the cloth. In fact, we can be misled greatly by the translation here. It was very difficult for the translators to put this in terms that would be meaningful to us in the western world, for these were not handkerchiefs or aprons in the usual sense. They were not little cloths that Paul used to blow his nose nor aprons like you ladies have in the kitchen. The handkerchiefs were literally sweatbands. The word means “sweat.” They were bands of cloth which he bound around his head as he worked at making tents, to keep the sweat from running down into his eyes. They were, therefore, associated with the labor, the toil, that he went through to make the gospel available. The aprons were made of leather. He wore them while making tents, not while fixing his meals. It was these that were used for these miracles. Again, this is not an attempt to support the practice of many faith healers of today who claim to do this kind of thing. They anoint cloths and mail them around the country. That is superstition, hocus pocus, a form of magic. This is not what Luke is talking about at all.

These are symbols which God chose to employ in order to underscore the characteristic of the apostle which made him a channel of the power of God — just like Moses’ rod. Cast on the ground it became a serpent, and another time when lifted over the waters, it poured them back. There was nothing magic about the rod itself; it was a symbol of something about Moses which God honored. So these sweatbands and trade aprons were symbols of the honest, dignified labor of the apostle, his labor of love and humbleness of heart, his servant-character which he manifested and which released the power of God. This is what God means to teach by this — that it is through a man whose heart is so utterly committed that he is ready to invest hard, diligent labor in making the gospel available, and who is humble at heart, willing to stoop to a lowly trade, that the power of God is released. The first sign of the crumbling of the stronghold of darkness in Ephesus was the attempt on the part of the powers of darkness to make an alliance with the Christian cause. As we have seen before this is often Satan’s favorite trick. He tries to join the team:

Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to pronounce the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches.” Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this. But the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?” And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, mastered all of them, and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. And this became known to all residents of Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks; and fear fell upon them all; and the name of the Lord Jesus was extolled. (Acts 19:13-17 RSV)

These seven sons of Sceva knew a good thing when they saw it. They were sons of a Jewish high priest, and they recognized that here was an opportunity to use religion, and the interest in religion, to advance their own cause. So they attempted to jump on the bandwagon and, employing these two names as though they were some kind of magic formula, they tried to cast out evil spirits by saying, “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches.”

This reveals something remarkable about people of this kind. We have many like them today, fortune tellers and swamis and yogis and gurus and mediums, who know enough about the occult to sound impressive but who are basically ignorant dupes, fooling around with powers they do not understand, and who do not know what will happen when people become involved with them. This is what these men were doing, attempting to use this as a way of making a good living, aggrandizing themselves.

But what happened is almost ludicrous. It is humorous. As they adjured the evil spirit by these names, the man in whom the evil spirit dwelt (notice Luke’s careful distinction, as a physician, between the man and the evil spirit who possessed him), was under the control of that spirit. The spirit led him and empowered him to challenge these seven sons and to take them all on single-handed. You can imagine the scene. Can you not see them tumbling out the doors and windows with their clothes torn half off, bloody and wounded, as this man drove them out of the house?

The evil spirit was angered by this use of the name of Jesus, and it is interesting what he said in response to this adjuration. Our translation misses it a bit. There are two words which he used for “know.” He said, “Jesus I know…” (using a word that means, “I know him with a deep, instinctive, innate knowledge.”), “and Paul I am acquainted with…” (i.e., I know his name, I know who he is. I don’t know him as well as I know Jesus, but I am acquainted with him.), “…but who are you?” That was the signal for his attack upon them and their ridiculous exodus out the doors and windows. This incident, no doubt because of the humor involved, became known all over Ephesus and both Jews and Greeks heard about it. It was impressive. And the result was that the name of Jesus was magnified. It took on impressive stature in the sight of these people of Ephesus because here was a name of power — power in the realm of the invisible world.

This is also the first sign of a crack in the stronghold of darkness that held the city in thralldom, because, as Jesus said, “When Satan’s kingdom is divided he can no longer stand…” (Matthew 12:26). Here you see a kingdom divided. These Jewish exorcists, who were the unwitting dupes of satanic philosophy, were attacked by an evil spirit who supposedly should have been on their side. But you see, already the kingdom is beginning to crumble under the attack of truth and love and righteousness and faith, these weapons of the Christians’ warfare. This combined assault went on to yield a tremendous degree of success. Luke now gives us the next scene:

Many also of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices. And a number of those who practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all; and they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver. So the word of God grew and prevailed mightily. (Acts 19:18-20 RSV)

There were two movements in this development. Luke details them for us:

It started with the believers, the Christians, who began to clean up their own lives, who came and divulged their hidden practices, confessed what they were doing in private. Obviously these were relatively new Christians and perhaps they had never thought that anything was wrong with these practices. But as they sat under the teaching of the apostle and saw the kingdom of God and how God longs to set people free, they began to see that what they had been doing — the astrology, the reliance on horoscopes, the belief in the influence of the stars, and all their other superstitious practices — had held them in bondage. They were the reason why they were weak and fearful, upset and distressed within themselves. So they began to confess all this and therefore to be free from their bondage.

And that, in turn, precipitated another movement. The pagans around them in the city began to take a second look at their own practices. Many of them who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them when they became Christians under the influence and power of the gospel, and thus they were set free from their own deadly delusion. Again this illustrates how light breaks forth through the church. It is the church that is the light of the world. When the church begins to straighten out and clean up its life, and act and live as God has called men to do, then the world will begin to see itself as it is, and see what is wrong, and start straightening up and being freed from the practices that are darkening and blinding it, hounding and inhibiting, blasting and ruining. This is what happened here. They surrendered all their occult literature — and that was a costly thing to do. As they totalled up the value of these books, and the various paraphernalia that was brought to be burned, it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver. That is approximately ten thousand dollars, which was a tremendous sum in those days. It meant that these people were forsaking their livelihood. They were actually changing the total pattern of their lives, as they saw that they could no longer practice the occult and live as Christians too. It revealed how willing they were to be free from this terrible practice.

Someone told me just this morning of a similar scene in Idaho this past summer, when great crowds of young people from the hip culture gathered in Boise. There, as they heard the gospel and were convinced of its power, many of them brought their drug paraphernalia and their books on astrology and had a public bonfire. The gospel had set them free of these things.

This account makes very clear the means by which witchcraft seizes hold of people. You see, human beings are not easily invaded by demonic force. God has made man to be a king, and has built into us certain safeguards which operate naturally to keep us independent, free from control by these demonic forces which are supernatural and present all around us. So they cannot force their way into a human life. They cannot overpower us and take possession, though they long to do so. What they must do, therefore, is deceive us. They must find a way by which they can trick us into yielding our wills to their influence and power. And when we voluntarily give way, then they move in, possess the mind, control the thoughts, and dominate the whole life.

This was called very sharply to my attention a few years ago when I taught a home Bible class right here in Palo Alto. Among those attending were a number of people who had been involved with witchcraft, scientology, and various other practices of this type. A girl took me aside after a class was over and said,

“I want to ask you about something. You know, I’ve been having some strange experiences. They started about a year and a half ago when I was a school teacher in Alaska. Another girl and I roomed together. During those long winter evenings, when there was nothing to do, we whiled away the time by amusing ourselves with a Ouija board. We were getting various answers and messages by doing this and we thought of it as nothing but a game.

“But soon I began to be aware of very strange thoughts in my mind when I’d go to bed at night. I would seem to think of certain words and strange things to say. At first I could put them out of my mind and go to sleep. But gradually they became more and more insistent until I finally found that I couldn’t sleep unless I’d pay attention to them and think about them. Then these inner voices began to suggest that I take a pencil and write these things down. At first I tried to resist, but they became more and more insistent and I found that I couldn’t go to sleep until I’d write down what they told me. It was always filthy, obscene words.

“Then I talked with my roommate and found that she was going through the same experience. Shortly after that we came down here to California. Now I can’t go to sleep until I write out, sometimes for hours at a time, all the filthy things which these voices insist that I say. Now,” she said, “is this God?”

I said, “No, you are becoming the victim of some of the powers of darkness.” I turned to Deuteronomy and showed her what the Word of God said there, warning the people of God against these things which are an abomination to the Lord. She was tremendously helped by this. Then I showed her how to become a Christian, and she received the Lord. I told her to pray and ask God for help whenever she felt this kind of influence. Several weeks later I saw her in a restaurant and she said, “Oh, Mr. Stedman, I can’t thank you enough for what you told me. It’s been so marvelous to be free from these voices. I’ve been doing what you suggested whenever they approach and I’m finding that the Lord keeps them away.”

This whole business of astrology and horoscopes, of Ouija boards and of scientology, of yogism and other practices of Eastern philosophy — these are all means by which satanic forces trick us into opening our minds and yielding our wills to them. The books on any of these subjects, if you read them, all suggest that you are going to discover a “hidden” power that few know about. A man writes me almost every week about some new book he has found in the back room of some obscure book store, covered with dust and hidden in the back shelves, and which, he has now discovered, contains the secrets of the universe. “Such tremendous truths it contains!” He says that if I would just read one of these books my eyes would be opened and I’d learn and understand so much that I don’t know now. The trouble is that I do not see that he knows any more than I do — or even as much. But this is the way these evil powers attempt to seize upon us.

Here in Ephesus, Paul and the other Christians, by the power of the truth, broke through this deception. They assaulted this stronghold of evil. They cracked it wide open, so that Luke says, “The word of the Lord grew and prevailed mightily,” and the city was shaken to its core. In fact, the very next account, which we will take up next Sunday, tells us that a riot was precipitated because of the way the Christians had demoralized the strongholds of evil in this community.

That is how a church ought to operate — in the power of the Spirit, and by the authority of the Word. There are strongholds like this all around us today, bastions of darkness. Drugs is one, witchcraft another, homosexuality a third, in this area, now. There are a hundred thousand homosexuals in San Francisco alone, being deluded and trapped by a philosophy which tells them that they ought to accept their condition and treat it as though it were normal and natural. This will lock them into a bondage they will never be freed from. How desperately this situation needs the assault of truth and of light, as does the whole matter of crime, and of riot and revolution. God longs to deliver people from these strongholds, and he has given the church this power.

God grant that we may wake up to what we can do in this day, to how the whole nature of life around us can be drastically altered by the truth and by the sharing of accepting love, by the living demonstration of righteousness, and by faith in a living God who opens doors and gives access, not just for leaders but for anyone, anywhere, who is part of the body of Christ. God grant that we will open our eyes and minds to understand how much can be done by this church, in this area, according to the pattern which is demonstrated here by the Apostle Paul.

By Ray Steadman

Courtesy of http://www.raystedman.org/new-testament/acts/off-witchcraft

Prayer:

Our heavenly Father, we thank you for the truth that is revealed here. We ask you to make our faith grow strong enough to understand that this is what you long to do in this very area. We see similar powers of darkness holding people enthralled, locking them into misery and heartache, superstition and fear, hostility and emptiness. Lord, help us to understand that this is a very strategic time to live, and that we must not waste our time, frittering it away in empty activity. Help us to give ourselves to this exciting, glorious encounter against these powers of darkness. We ask it in Christ’s name, Amen.

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