The Third Thorn in Parable of the Sower: The Deceitfulness of Riches

The third thorn in the Parable of the Sower is “the deceitfulness of riches.” Millions of people have been corrupted, ruined and destroyed by the deceitfulness of riches. Wealth has a strong tendency to cause the heart to cry out “I don’t need you God! I have my riches! I have everything I need!” and therein lies the grave danger to the spiritual health of the heart. Riches can turn the heart away from God quicker than almost anything on earth.

John Wesley said wealth had destroyed the godliness of more people than other thing. This thorn illustrates the eternal truth in the Sermon on the Mount that “where your treasure is there will your heart be also” (Luke 12:34). Spurgeon said: “The heart must and will go in the direction of that which we count precious. The whole man will be transformed into the likeness of that for which he lives.[i]” It is when riches become the precious treasure of our heart, and we crave them with intense passion that the heart becomes overgrown with these thorns.

Nothing in the material realm has the power to satisfy a person’s spiritual needs. Nothing in the material realm can ever compare to God Almighty, and it can never quench the thirst of the heart to have an intimate relationship with Creator of the heavens and earth.  God warns us in Psalms 62:10 that if riches or wealth increase not to set our heart upon them. As certain as the sun rises every morning, God promises in Proverbs 11:28 that if we trust in riches, we will fall. The love of riches leads us into worshipping them in adoration of their power and affluence. The passion for riches is like a habit-forming drug that we shoot into our heart giving us a momentary euphoria, but eventually we come crashing down enslaved in its wicked snare. Riches are an illusion of strength, security, and success, but are as flimsy as a paper house. The heart that is consumed with the love of wealth and accumulation of riches is on a path of spiritual destruction. The love of riches is a destroyer of relationships with friends, family, colleagues, and ultimately God, which is the biggest tragedy of all. This thorn is a destroyer of everything godly in the heart and needs to be rooted up, if we are ever to live a life that pleases God.

This third thorn is not simply riches, but the deceitfulness of riches where we are deceived into giving our allegiance to the pursuit of wealth above everything else. The Greek word for “deceitfulness” means to seduce by false promises and persuasion, to cheat, beguile, deceive or delude, to give a false impression by appearance, statement or influence, and to lead astray and seduce into error. In the Septuagint, it is the same root word used in Genesis 3:13 when the serpent deceived Eve and illustrates that the author of deceitfulness is the Devil. He weaves the web of deceit concerning riches to lead the heart astray on this deadly path. Riches are so deceitful because they give the false impression that they bring life, status, happiness and everything a person will ever need to have a meaningful life.

The Deep Root in Every Heart

A.W. Tozer in The Pursuit of God explains the deep root in every heart to possess which is at the center of the deceitfulness of riches:

Before the Lord God made man upon the earth He first prepared for him by creating a world of useful and pleasant things for his sustenance and delight. In the Genesis account of the creation these are called simply “things.” They were made for man’s uses, but they were always meant to be external to man and subservient to him. In the deep heart of the man was a shrine where none but God was worthy to come. Within him was God; without, a thousand gifts which God had showered upon him. But sin introduced complications and has made those very gifts of God a potential source of ruin to the soul. Our woes began when God was forced out of His central shrine and “things” were allowed to enter. Within the human heart “things” has taken over….There is within the human heart a tough fibrous root of fallen life whose nature is to possess, always to possess. It covets “things” with a deep and fierce passion. The pronouns “my” and “mine” look innocent enough in print, but their constant and universal use is significant. They express the real nature of old Adamic man better than a thousand volumes of theology could do. They are verbal symptoms of our deep disease. The roots of our hearts have grown down into things, and we dare not pull up one rootlet lest we die. Things have become necessary to us, a development never originally intended. God’s gifts now take the place of God, and the whole course of nature is upset by the monstrous substitution. [ii]

Our culture of greed is a living illustration of this monstrous substitution of “things” taking the place of God in the throne room of our heart. This is the driving mantra of our age as the hearts of so many are consumed with the desire to be rich and famous. Everyone wants to be a star, or an American idol, having fancy cars, big houses and a never-ending supply of new playthings. This is simply the old root of our sin nature raising its ugly head in the fierce passion to possess more and more things. Unfortunately we so often mark success in our culture by how many things we possess.

Exploitation of the Poor: One of the Major Reasons for the Flood

God is the source of all blessings. He gave so many blessings to Adam and Eve so they could rise to the fullest potential of life with their Creator. But when sin poured into human nature, human need changed to lust and the pursuit of things became the obsession of the heart. God’s gracious gifts became misused and distorted, as wealth was accumulated and hoarded at the expense of others namely the poor and less fortunate. By the time of the Noah, the deceitfulness of riches reached an enormous peak and played a major part in causing the earth to be completely corrupt before God and filled with violence. The deceitfulness of riches helped to corrupt God’s way on the earth. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia states:

Genesis 6:11,13 describes the socio-economic conditions prior to the Flood in terms of the earth being “filled with violence.” The word rendered “violence” in Hebrew was used by the prophets to describe the exploitation of the poor by the rich (Amos 3:10, Micah 6:12). Thus it appears that exploitation was a major reason for God’s destroying the earth with a flood.[iii]

God’s heart as expressed in the Mosaic Law was that each person and family was entrusted with the blessings of God, which included things like land, food, drink, livestock and material goods. Each person had the opportunity to express His faith in God by dealing justly and responsibly with what God had given to him by not hoarding their wealth, but by helping others in need. When we realize that everything we have is a gift from God, we will not spoil His generosity by turning His gift into personal accumulation. Luxury causes the heart to be ungrateful, arrogant and full of pride and blinds the eyes to see the hand of God and His blessings. God’s gifts are to be shared and given as a blessing to others. It is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35). Jesus talked about the rich man in the parable who wanted to hoard everything he had for himself with no concern for others.

And then, turning to the disciples, he said to them, “Notice that, and be on your guard against covetousness in any shape or form. For a man’s real life in no way depends upon the number of his possessions.” Then he gave them a parable in these words, “Once upon a time a rich man’s farmland produced heavy crops. So he said to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have no room to store this harvest of mine?’ Then he said, ‘I know what I’ll do. I’ll pull down my barns and build bigger ones where I can store all my grain and my goods. And I can say to my soul, Soul, you have plenty of good things stored up there for years to come. Relax! Eat, drink and have a good time!’ But God said to him, ‘You fool, this very night you will be asked for your soul! Then, who is going to possess all that you have prepared?’ That is what happens to the man who hoards things for himself and is not rich where God is concerned.” (Luke 12:15-21, PHILLIPS)

Rich Toward God

We do not truly love God and serve Him on a heart level if we hoard all our possessions for ourselves and do not reach out to those in need. No one can take his riches with them when they die. No one can take their possessions into eternity. The deceitfulness of riches hardens the heart to protect their riches at all costs and only use them to build their empire of vanity. It creates a false superiority over others and causes the heart to look in disdain to the poor, the struggling and those who do not have many earthly possessions. Pride fills the heart with cruelty and indifference as one is deceived into living in the world of luxury without any regard for God or others. Deceitfulness of riches causes the heart to be deceived into thinking that their rich lifestyle will go on forever and blinds the heart to the vital truths of eternity. The heart is darkened and foolishly does not realize that the bubble could burst at any moment, and then you must stand before the judgment seat of Christ where money and riches have no power to buy eternal life. They are filthy rags compared to the righteousness of God and the eternal treasures of His Word.

Life is Not Measured by Our Possessions

A person’s life is never measured by their possessions or wealth. God could care less how big your bank account is. The bigger question is what are we doing with the blessings that God has given us? Are we building bigger houses to store all our playthings or are we advancing God’s kingdom by being rich toward God and reaching out to bless others from our abundance? We are stewards of what God has given us, and He is to exercise His lordship over all our possessions so that we honor God with our giving. We are to become generous, like Christ is generous, for “in their generosity, believers reflect the character of God, who is the giver of all good things” (James 1:17). Then things do not control us for we are willing to let go of them for the glory of God in order to do His work upon the earth. Things no longer deceive us for we know the source of our blessings and our heart is ready to share those blessings with others. These thorns cannot survive or grow in this type of environment of the heart.

But we must never underestimate the power of riches to lead the heart to ruin. Money appeals to the flesh, as it wants to be master of the heart. Money demands allegiance. Money demands our first love. Money demands loyalty and devotion and has a strong pull on the heart to be lured into its trap.

No One Can Serve Two Masters

Jesus made it clear that we must decide whom we are going to serve. There comes a crossroad in a person’s life when they must make this critical decision: Am I going to devote myself to material things or God? Am I going to pursue money or God first in my life? What is my definition of success? Is it a life rich toward the treasures of this world or rich toward God?”

No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. (Matthew 6:24, KJV)

Mammon is an Aramaic word for wealth, property and anything of value. It refers to total wealth, which includes money, property and possessions. It is interesting in the Young’s Literal Translation of the Bible it capitalizes Mammon as if it were a god and in essence Jesus is saying “You cannot serve God and the god of possessions.” We cannot love wealth and love God at the same time. Both riches and God demand our time, energy, and devotion. Only one can hold and capture our heart. Only one can be the Lord of our heart. Only one will command our love, worship and reverence. One will be crowned king of our hearts and the other will be banished as insignificant. One will have our utmost loyalty and faithful service while the other will be relegated to the bottom of our priorities.

The Greek word for “hold” means to hold firmly, to strongly cling to, and to literally hold in front of one’s face. The Greek word for “despise” means to look down upon with contempt or aversion, to consider not important, to think little of, to neglect and not care for. It is pushing something aside because it is thought to have no value.

Ponder the meanings of these words for a moment and ask yourself which word describes the condition of your heart in relation to God and which word describes the condition of your heart in relation to possessions. We will strongly hold fast to one and place it continuously before our face. We will push aside the other one in contempt thinking it has no value. Do we hold fast to God or the god of possessions? Do we push God aside in contempt because we think He has little value or do we push aside the god of wealth and possessions? Which has more importance to us? Which has more value?

Too Little of God and Too Much of Things

Will we have the fruit of a life rich toward God or will the thorns of the deceitfulness of riches suffocate the life of God from our heart? Which one is our master? That which we love most, we worship as our God. God is always to be loved above all other things. Do we love things more than we love God? Too many of us have too little of God and too much of things.

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions-is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:15-17, ESV)

Where is Your First Love?

God commands us not to love the things of the world and not to have pride in our possessions for it will cause our love for our Heavenly Father to depart. Both loves cannot live within our heart. One love will suffocate and destroy the other. One love will crowd out and push the other from the heart. There is no room for double occupancy of both loves in the heart. They cannot live in peaceful co-existence. So the critical question for all eternity is: “Where does our first love lie?”

The Greek word for “love” is agapao, which is used to describe the unconditional, sacrificial love of God that He expresses for all men, women and children on earth. It is a love, which is awakened by a sense of value in the object that causes one to prize it. It springs from an appreciation of the preciousness of an object. It means to cherish with deep affection.

1 John was addressed to Christians in the church fellowship and contains one of the most important commandments ever pertaining to the heart. If we break this commandment, then our heart will turn from God and fall into great peril. There should be a huge warning sign beside this commandment. The breaking of this commandment contained in these three short verses will allow the enemy to gain control of our heart and enslave us in the trappings of this world. We are not be fooled by the mesmerizing and alluring display of what wealth and possessions have to offer. It is an illusion. It is such a glitzy presentation, but we do not realize the dangerous thorn and dagger that lurks right below the surface. Most Christians cannot resist. Most succumb to the temptation. Most sell out their love for God for gold. Most allow possessions to become the prize of their life, and God takes a second seat and becomes insignificant in their daily living. Most allow themselves to be deceived by riches and it chokes every trace of the Word of God from their hearts.

Lovers of Money More than Lovers of God

How this must hurt the heart of God when “things” replace God as our first love. We must guard our heart to never set our affection on the things and possessions of this world. We must never take this wonderful agapao love that is meant for God first and instead embrace the “things” of the world with it. This is at the heart of the deceitfulness of riches: the monstrous substitution of agapao love for God being replaced by agapao love for possessions.

We have become lovers of money more than lovers of God as our secular, materialistic society has contaminated our faith and corrupted our hearts. I pray God that this thorny weed of the deceitfulness of riches never is allowed to flourish in our hearts for it always contaminates our love for God and strangles it from our hearts.

We must ask our heart these questions daily: “Whom do I reserve my agapao love for today: God Almighty or the god of possessions?” “What do I prize as my most beloved possession: God or riches?” “What captures my affection and is the valuable treasure of my heart: God or our prideful possessions?” Both crave our love. Both crave our attention. Both crave our devotion. Both are jealous and want to be loved more than anything else. Which one will you choose?

Are we like the rich ruler in Luke 18 that desperately wanted eternal life, but he loved his riches so much that he refused to sell all that he had and give to the poor so he could accumulate great treasure in heaven? He went away very sorrowful from the presence of Jesus because his riches were more precious to him than Jesus. He cherished his possessions more than he cherished God. His wealth has such a hold on his heart that he walked away from eternal life!

Even Jesus was tempted by the Devil to sell his soul for the all the riches and power of the kingdoms on earth, but the Lord God Almighty was the treasure that Jesus’s heart worshipped. He would not bow his knee to the god of possessions and allow its thorny weeds to destroy his heart.

Our heart should cry out like Job 22:25-26: “Yes, the Almighty will be your gold and your precious silver. For then you will have your delight in the Almighty and lift up your face to God.” God must be our delight and joy. He is our precious gold, silver and treasure. God’s riches of love, grace and mercy are a thousand times more valuable than the riches of this world. What does it matter if we gain the whole world and all its possessions, but lose our soul? What does it matter if we have all our possessions, but lose our love for God?

Money cannot buy us eternal life or an intimate relationship with God. Money cannot buy us treasures in heaven. Money cannot buy joy, love, peace or even true happiness. Money is temporal and is like a vapor that is here today and gone tomorrow. Possessions pass away quickly and we cannot take them with us when we die. God is eternal and is from everlasting to everlasting. His magnificence, glory, grace, mercy, love and faithfulness are infinite and never perish. We have to be complete fools and absolutely deceived to place our heart in the hands of the god of possessions.

Wake up Christian church to this monstrous deception and cast down every vestige of gold from our hearts. Promise God that you will never worship our golden calf again. We must blazon this eternal truth in our souls and write it with a pen of iron on the tablets of our hearts: Nothing in the heavens and earth compares to our God! Nothing is greater, nothing is stronger, nothing is wiser, and nothing is more glorious that our Almighty God. He alone is what we should glory in. We should never waste the life of our heart on the temporal things of this world.

Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 9:23-24, ESV)

The Riches of Our Inheritance in God

Do we know the riches of the inheritance we have in Christ? Is our heart acquainted with the riches of the glory of Christ, which dwells within us? Do we know that the Bible declares we are heirs of God and joint heirs of Christ? Money is nothing and mere fool’s good compared to this.

Paul prays in Ephesians that the eyes of our understanding may be opened wide to see and know in no uncertain terms the riches of His glorious inheritance in the Christian believer. If we understand this mind-boggling truth, the riches of this world and their value will fade away into oblivion. The heart that understands these heavenly treasures in Christ will never be overgrown by the thorns of the deceitfulness of riches. There will be no deception because our eyes have been opened, and we have caught a glimpse of the heavenly glory of God’s rich inheritance that He has invested in each one of us.

The Example of C.T. Studd

C.T. Studd was born into immense riches and also became the most famous cricket player in England. He was the like the Michael Jordan or LeBron James of his generation, and he had it all: riches, fame, and luxury. However, he gave up everything to become a missionary in China, India and Africa.

What would lead a person to gladly leave riches, celebrity, and possessions to proclaim the gospel in some of the most remote areas on earth? He endured daily insult, danger, sickness, and extreme conditions of poverty when in China as even his bed was infested with scorpions. C.T. Studd could have been living in a stately mansion in England with his every need catered to, but he gave it all up, even living in tents in the deepest parts of Africa.

At the age of twenty-five, he was to inherit a large sum of money, yet he gave it all away. What would compel him to such a radical act of giving to win souls for Christ? Could it be that his heart beheld the living, glorious Christ and he knew him in such an intimate way that few ever experience. Something happens in the heart of a man or woman when they behold the cross and see the resurrected Christ in all his glory. C.T Studd beheld Christ, and his heart grabbed a hold of Christ, and his eyes were opened to the futility of a life sold out to possessions. He had experienced what the Apostle Paul had experienced, and he could not remain the same.

Yes, furthermore, I count everything as loss compared to the possession of the priceless privilege (the overwhelming preciousness, the surpassing worth, and supreme advantage) of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord and of progressively becoming more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him [of perceiving and recognizing and understanding Him more fully and clearly]. For His sake I have lost everything and consider it all to be mere rubbish (refuse, dregs), in order that I may win (gain) Christ (the Anointed One). (Philippians 3:8, AMP)

Nothing on earth compares to the priceless privilege of knowing Christ Jesus our Lord in an intimate and abiding relationship. This is the greatest possession a person could have and the greatest treasure to abide in the heart. C.T. Studd dedicated His life so others may gain this great possession, the pearl of great price Jesus Christ. Listen to the heart of C.T. Studd:

I cannot tell you what joy it gave me to bring the first soul to the Lord Jesus Christ. I have tasted almost all the pleasures that this world can give. I do not suppose there is one that I have not experienced, but I can tell you that those pleasures were as nothing compared to the joy that the saving of that one soul gave to me.[iv]

Norman Grubb in C.T. Studd, Cricketer and Pioneer wrote:

C.T’s life stands as some rugged Gibraltar—a sign to all succeeding generations that it is worthwhile to lose all this world can offer and stake everything on the world to come. His life will be an eternal rebuke to easy-going Christianity. He has demonstrated what it means to follow Christ without counting the cost and without looking back. The riches of Christ are eternal, glorious, and precious beyond measure and the lure of the riches of this world fade into the night in comparison. CT Studd lamented the fact that so many heeded the call of gold over the call of God: “Last June at the mouth of the Congo there awaited a thousand prospectors, traders, merchants and gold seekers, waiting to rush into these regions as soon as the government opened the door to them, for rumor declared that there is an abundance of gold. If such hear so loudly the call of gold and obey it, can it be that the ears of Christ’s soldiers are deaf to the call of God? Are gamblers for gold so many and gamblers for God so few?”[v]

So many do not even give a second thought to selling out for gold, and so few even consider the thought of selling out to God. C.T. Studd’s life stands as a shining example that worldly possessions and riches can never compare to the satisfaction and joy of living for Christ. Riches can never deceive a heart that has beheld the glory of Christ and has abandoned all to know and love Him for all eternity. A few stanzas of C.T. Studd’s timeless poem should ring in our heart.

Only one life, yes only one, Soon will its fleeting hours be done; Then, in ‘that day’ my Lord to meet, And stand before His Judgement seat; Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, the still small voice, gently pleads for a better choice Bidding me selfish aims to leave, And to God’s holy will to cleave; Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.[vi]

Two Attitudes That Allows This Thorn to Take Root

Let’s finish our examination of this third thorn of the heart by examining 1 Timothy 6 that pulls no punches in describing exactly what the love for riches will do to the human heart.

But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows. But you, Timothy, are a man of God; so run from all these evil things. Pursue righteousness and a godly life, along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness. Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment. (1 Timothy 6:9-12, NLT)

The Bible speaks of two attitudes in these verses that will open the door for the thorn of the deceitfulness of riches to take root in the soil of our hearts. The first attitude is to “long to be rich” and the second attitude is to “crave money.”

First Dangerous Attitude: Longing to be Rich

This first mindset is characterized by the attitude that we earnestly desire to seek riches as the main purpose of our lives. This always signals there is an immense amount of trouble and devastation that lies ahead on the horizon. The Greek word for “long for” means decision, purpose or plan, which is the result of inner deliberation. It describes something that has been reasoned and planned with intelligence. It is the weighty consideration, which precedes the effecting of the will.

This is not a fly by night decision of the heart. It is not wishful dreaming. It is not hoping that we may win the lottery someday. This involves much inner deliberation, consideration and reasoning to come up with a master plan to be rich. It consumes the heart. Nothing is more important. Everything in the heart is directed to utilizing all resources to accomplish this purpose. The heart cries out, “I must be rich! I must have many possessions! I must live in luxury with everything I need in the material realm! Nothing can stop me! I want to be a millionaire and enjoy the fruit of my money!”

The Second Dangerous Attitude: Craving Money

The second attitude of the heart is to have an intense craving for money. The Greek word for “crave” means to stretch one’s self out in order to grasp something, to passionately long for, and to give oneself up for something. It is interesting the same word is used in Hebrews 11:16 to describe the heroes of faith craving for their eternal home, the heavenly city that God has prepared for them. Their eyes were set on things above, not on things of this earth. However in these verses Timothy instead of being directed toward eternity, their craving is turned toward money. They love it with all their heart. They stretch their entire body and soul out so they can grasp the gold of this world. They crave it so much they would give up everything to obtain it. It is an unbridled passion that consumes the heart. The heart must have it. The heart is obsessed with it. The heart will not rest until it worships it as its own. They are obsessed with it and will not let go. They believe this is the precious treasure that gives life meaning and everything must be sacrificed to get it.

When we have either one of these attitudes of heart, the thorns burst forth from the soil suffocating and crowding everything in their path. The heart falls into the trap and is plagued by many foolish and hurtful desires that plunge it into ruin and destruction. The Greek word for “plunge” means to sink into the deep, to drag to the bottom, to submerge, and to drown. It is like a ship sinking to the bottom of the deep or a person drowning in the sea. It is in the indicative mood in the Greek, which is the mood of certainty, stating something as a fact that has occurred or will occur. The words “ruin and destruction” according to The New Linguistic and Exegetical Key to the Greek New Testament are used “in the sense of ruin that suggests irretrievable loss.”[vii]

When we deliberately purpose to be rich with great longing, our heart is going to take the big plunge. It is guaranteed that we are going to sink. Our life is going to be dragged to the bottom of the deep and we are going to be drowning in ruin and destruction. We will suffer irretrievable loss both in our earthly lives and in eternity.

Is it worth it to sacrifice everything for the fleeting glimmer of gold that is full of empty promises and temporary satisfaction? The Word of God promises life and the love of riches promises a life that will ultimately be irretrievably lost in ruin. The Bible says this is a fact that will absolutely occur if our heart is sold out to riches. This is where the subtlety of the thorn of the deceitfulness of riches comes into play for only when the heart is deceived can it make such a foolish choice. The heart is seduced into error and becomes blind to the destructive nature both now and throughout all eternity of a life that serves the god of possessions. God is giving us a stern warning of the danger to the heart of the passionate love of money. In the end you will drown in the hopelessness of a life that puts the service to money ahead of the service to God.

The Love of Money Establishes a Root of Evil in the Heart

The love of money establishes a root in the heart and from this root all kinds of evil grows. This root anchors the heart to evil. So many evil words, actions, and attitudes spring forth like budding plants from this root. Pride, arrogance, bitterness, rivalry, lust, greed, covetousness, indifference and hatred are just a few of the evil works that spring forth from the root of the love of money. A root is embedded deep in the soil and if it is not uprooted will constantly produce these thorns. It is like a cancerous tumor that spreads its disease throughout the heart and contaminates it with evil. This root will cause disastrous consequences if allowed to remain and flourish in the heart.

The love of money seeks wealth as a solution to life’s problems. We see this attitude in the buying of a lottery ticket because we think if we win the lottery, it will solve all of our problems. Ironically just the opposite happens as the love of money brings a mountain of problems, hurt and devastation.

The love of money has severe and eternal consequences.  This is why Hebrews 13:5 (NASB) says: “Let your way of life be free from the love of money, being content with what you have…” The love of money creeps into the heart when we desire to have more than what God gives. The love of money slithers in when we forget that life is a gift from God. Our heart should be content and thankful for what we have, and we should make it our aim to pursue godliness not riches. There is incredible freedom in the heart that is content and not wrapped up in the rat race of possessions. If we have food to heat, clothes for our body and a roof over our head, our heart should overflow with joy and thankfulness to God.

The love of money also has the tragic consequence of causing the heart to wander from the true faith. The Greek word for “wander” means to cause to go astray, and to lead away from the truth to error. The love of money can have such a powerful influence on the heart that it can cause you to walk away from God, from the lordship of Jesus Christ, and from the body of Christ. God is cast aside in order to bow at the altar of the god of possessions. Our foolish heart becomes darkened as we turn from the light of God and His Word and are led astray into the darkness of this world. We hopelessly stumble and wander as we have left the truth path of God. We have lost our eyes to see and our ears to hear. The heart will ultimately be pierced with many sorrows and consuming grief. The love of money will destroy any fruit for God in our hearts, suffocating the tender plant that is trying to produce fruit. Is it worth it to lose our hearts over money?

The Tragic Lesson of Judas

There is no greater example of this in the Word of God than Judas. Judas was one of the original twelve disciples that Jesus had chosen and throughout Jesus’s entire ministry on the earth, he was part of Jesus’s inner circle. Judas lived, ate, traveled and ministered with the Master. He witnessed amazing miracles on a daily basis: the dead raised, lepers healed, demons cast out, sicknesses healed and the captives set free. He was present for the Lord’s teachings and instructions and time and time again had the awesome privilege to hear the Lord share his heart to his disciples. Jesus gave Judas power over devil spirits to cast them out, to heal all manner of sickness and disease and all power to tread over the devil and his kingdom. Judas was sent out with the twelve to minister with this amazing power in the name of the Lord.

Can you imagine how astounding and exhilarating this must have been to witness firsthand the glory of God manifested! He lived and breathed in such closeness to the Son of God that he saw and heard the Lord Jesus in an intimate matter that only a few had the honor to be part of this inner sanctuary. This is the long awaited Messiah of Israel, the Savior of the world, the Lord of Lords and King of Kings! Think of what a magnificent and breathtaking experience this must have been!

But even in the midst of living with the Messiah and experiencing the Lord of Glory in his wonderful earthly ministry, the love of money and the god of possessions began to work on Judas’s heart. Judas was keeper of the moneybag for the ministry of Jesus and began to steal from it according to John 12:6. The love of money began to take root in his heart as he became a thief and stole from the Lord Jesus. Judas’s heart was beginning to wander and be led astray by the enemy and the thorn of the deceitfulness of riches was beginning to raise its ugly head and grow in the soil of his heart. This thorn began to rapidly increase suffocating any plants growing from the seeds of the Word of God sown by Jesus. The door was opened through the thorn of the deceitfulness of riches for Judas to be receptive to the devil’s promptings.

Oh how dangerous, deceitful and powerful is the love of money to cause Judas, one of the original twelve, to betray the Lord Jesus! Jesus even reached out to Judas at the last supper by washing his feet, giving him the sop which was given to the most beloved guest, and giving him the opportunity to repent. But this thorn was so strong and the love of money had established such an evil root in the heart of Judas that the Bible says Satan entered into him. He left the presence of Jesus to sell him out, driven by the love of money. It was the dark night of his heart.

The love of money had such a hold on the heart of Judas that it drove Judas to seek out the enemies of the Lord Jesus and make the mind-boggling statement: “What will you pay me to betray Jesus?” There is no more tragic statement of the heart in all Scriptures than this: “What will you give me to throw down the love, light, teaching, and ministry of God’s beloved Son and trample them under foot?” Psalm 41 states in prophecy that Judas was a close friend of Jesus in whom he trusted. But Judas threw it all away for the love of money. Money was more important to Judas than the Lord Jesus. Money had become the god of his heart. His heart had turned dramatically as he became a lover of money more than a lover of God.

It did not take much money for Judas to betray Jesus. He sold out the Savior for the paltry sum of thirty pieces of silver which according to Exodus 21:32 was the fine to be paid when a man’s ox gored another man’s servant and injured him. Only thirty pieces of silver, the lowest price of a slave, was the price paid for the betrayal of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Judas had been led astray from the faith and seduced into the most egregious sin and error in human history by his greed and love of money. This should be a sober lesson to us all as God pleads with us in Ephesians 5:3 to not have one hint of greed or covetousness in our heart. The idolatrous sin of the love of money should never once be named in the chambers of our heart or in the body of Christ. It is too dangerous to even allow a sliver of this monstrous thorn to abide in the heart.

It is interesting according to The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia that Judas was called “Iscariot” and it could have been a descriptive nickname for Judas meaning “Man of the Lie.”[viii] Is there any greater lie promulgated today than money is more worthy of our devotion than God? Is there any greater deception today than we should sell our souls for the pursuit of the Almighty dollar and its promises of fame and fortune? Everyone wants to be a millionaire no matter what the cost. God demands that we renounce all other lovers if we are to serve and worship Him. Are we going to be lovers of God or lovers of money? God has the exclusive right to the love of His children and He will tolerate no rival. He will not accept our heart as rooted and grounded in any other thing than Him.

[i] Charles Spurgeon, The Gospel of the Kingdom: A Popular Exposition of the Gospel According to Matthew (London: Passmore and Alabaster, 1893), 37.

[ii] A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God (New York: Start Publishing LLC, 2012, originally published in 1948), 18, 19.

[iii] International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Volume Four: Q-Z, (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdman Publishing Company, 1988).

[iv] Norman Grubb, C.T. Studd, Cricketer and Pioneer (Cambridge: The Lutterworth Press, 1970), 33.

[v] Ibid., 127.

[vi] C. T. Studd, “Only One Life, Twill Soon Be Past” (1860-1931).

[vii] Rogers and Rogers, The New Linguistic and Exegetical Key to the Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1998), 498.

[viii] International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Volume Four: Q-Z, (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdman Publishing Company, 1988)

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The Parable of the Sower: The Second Thorn-The Cares of This Life

The second thorn in the Parable of the Sower is “the cares of this life.” The same Greek word is used for “cares” so these are still anxious worries that divide and distract the mind and agitate the heart with fear, but it is a different category of cares. The word “life” is bios which means the life which we live or the manner of our lives. This is our surface life, the things of everyday living, or the basic needs of life to sustain it on a physical level. Examples of bios are food, shelter, physical health, water, jobs, finances, bills, relationships and all problems that may arise from our day to day living.

These second thorns are anxious worries of daily living such as: “How am I going to pay my bills? I lost my job! How am I going feed and clothe my family? What happens if I get a serious illness? I have no medical insurance. My family schedule is too demanding. I am so tired! My job is too overwhelming as by boss expects too much! My car is on its last leg!” These anxious cares will grow rapidly in the heart and choke the promises of God that declare in no uncertain terms that God will provide and meet all of our daily needs of living. Jesus perfectly illustrates these anxious cares in the Sermon on the Mount and commands these worries have no place in the heart of the child of God.

Matthew 6:25-34 (ESV):

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?

Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?

And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin,

Yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’

For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

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

These anxious worries of everyday living are some of the most common thorns that the human heart must deal with on a daily basis. They are deadly to the growth of the Word of God in our hearts for at their core they indicate a lack of trust that our Heavenly Father is really big enough to take care of our every need. These thorns indicate a heart that is full of unbelief and little faith that God can provide for even our most basic necessities of life. On an even deeper level these thorns are indicative of a heart that really does not know their Heavenly Father and His character, and consequently does not have an intimate relationship with Him.

The Bible declares one of the names of God is Yahweh Jireh, the Lord sees and provides. He has given us thousands of promises in His Word that He will provide for us on every level of our physical existence even down to the smallest detail of life. He promises that He is our provision and our daily bread and will never forsake, leave or fail us. This is our Heavenly Father’s very nature and to know God is to have full confidence in this fundamental truth of Christian living. This is why God declares in no uncertain terms, “Do not be anxious about your life!” From the Greek sense of this phrase it strongly states: “STOP perpetually worrying about EVEN ONE THING!” Our heart must be fully confident of this truth that God promises to take care of us, and we need never have one ounce of worry, fear, doubt or anxiety about anything.

Jesus paints a beautiful picture of how God takes care of the birds and the wild flowers of the field, attending to their every need. God is always faithful to feed the birds even though they never plant or harvest food, and faithful to clothe the flower with some of the most beautiful garments on earth.  Look at how God has so wonderfully adorned the wildflower and clothed it with His breathtaking beauty. Have you ever gazed at a flower and seen its intricate detail, its vibrant colors, and its indescribable perfection? Even the great king Solomon, the richest, wisest and most powerful king in the Old Testament, clothed in all the glory of his kingly raiment, cannot compare to the beauty with which God has dressed a single flower. Flowers illustrate a free and carefree existence in the presence of their Creator and display the wonder and faithfulness of God.

What about God’s children? Will He do any less? We have a thousand times more value to God than a bird or flower so why do we even have one iota of anxiety that He won’t take care of us? Oh how little our faith has been in our Heavenly Father! Oh how little we trust His faithfulness! Oh how our heart has been deceived into thinking that God does not care! Oh how little confidence have we have in his promises!

Anxiety and Fear: The Habitual Mindset of This World

Worry, anxiety and fear is the habitual mindset of the world and the unbeliever. Everything is this culture is designed to weaken our trust in God and seize the heart with fear. The world harvests a bumper crop of these thorns daily and is ever ready to sow them into our hearts. These thorns are the bait of the enemy to try to get us to doubt our God and His faithfulness to His Word. Anxiety and fear will never have one positive contribution to the Christian heart and, are in fact, its greatest enemies. These thought patterns kill faith and turn the heart away from God to unbelief, robbing us of the joy of walking in intimacy with our Lord. If allowed to take root, these thorns are extremely powerful and have a tendency to consume the heart. There is no better example than the children of Israel and their exodus from Egypt to see the dangers of this thorn.

God worked incredible miracles to get the Pharaoh of Egypt to let the children of Israel leave under the leadership of Moses. When Pharaoh had a change of heart and pursued the Israelites with the force of the Egyptian army, God performed one of the most amazing miracles in the history of the world. God parted the Red Sea for the Israelites to pass through safely, and then closed the waters on the Egyptian army. God had intervened in battle for His people against the most powerful army on the face of the earth without Israel lifting one weapon to defend themselves. What an inspiring testimony of the Almighty God to protect and care for His people under the most adverse circumstances imaginable.

Can we imagine seeing this with our own eyes? How much would our faith in God skyrocket? How much wonder would fill our hearts at the majesty of our God?  Wouldn’t we fall down our knees and worship God! The Israelites even sang a song of praise giving God all the glory, as they proclaimed His overwhelming victory.

The Complainers

Yet look at their hearts just 72 hours later as we begin to see thorns taking root and consuming their hearts.

Exodus 15:22,24 (NLT):

Then Moses led the people of Israel away from the Red Sea, and they moved out into the desert of Shur. They traveled in this desert for three days without finding any water.

When they came to the oasis of Marah, the water was too bitter to drink. So they called the place Marah (which means “bitter”).

Then the people complained and turned against Moses. “What are we going to drink?” they demanded.

The Israelites hearts were full of anxious fear that they were going to die in the wilderness. Three days in the hot sun of the desert, caused them to forget God’s miracles of provision and lose all trust in God. Their faith in God and His promises withered in the scorching desert sun, and the soil of their hearts began to produce the thorns of the anxious cares of this life.  God made the bitter waters sweet and showed the Israelites again that He will take care of their needs of daily living. However, this wondrous work of God’s love did little to change their heart and keep these thorns from suffocating the promises of God. We see the same pattern one month later, as these thorns became more dominant in their hearts, turning them again against God and His prophet.

Exodus 16:1,2 (NLT):

Then the whole community of Israel set out from Elim and journeyed into the wilderness of Sin, between Elim and Mount Sinai. They arrived there on the fifteenth day of the second month, one month after leaving the land of Egypt.

There, too, the whole community of Israel complained about Moses and Aaron.

“If only the Lord had killed us back in Egypt,” they moaned. “There we sat around pots filled with meat and ate all the bread we wanted. But now you have brought us into this wilderness to starve us all to death.”

This wasn’t just a few malcontents, but the whole community of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron with shocking words that were born out of a heart full of fear. They wished God would have just killed them in Egypt because at least their bellies were full.  Thirty days in the wilderness caused their hearts to be so overgrown with thorns, and they refused to have one ounce of trust in their God to take care of them. God rained manna from heaven six days a week to feed His children as the Bible testifies of the astounding heart of God to go to any length to provide for His children.

So why do we doubt that God will take care of us? Why are we anxious that God will forget our basic needs of living? Why do we think that God will abandon us? Why do we let our heart so easily be driven to these conclusions? I often wonder if I was part of the congregation of Israel if I would have joined in the murmuring and complaining against Moses and Aaron or if my heart would have trusted God to provide me with food and drink. How would your heart respond? Would you be a trustor or a complainer? Would your heart be full of anxiety or full of confidence in your God? Would the thorns of the anxious cares of this life consume your heart?

I Peter 5:6-8 (Amplified):

Therefore humble yourselves [demote, lower yourselves in your own estimation] under the mighty hand of God, that in due time He may exalt you,

Casting the whole of your care (merimnao) [all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you watchfully.

Be well balanced (temperate, sober of mind), be vigilant and cautious at all times; for that enemy of yours, the devil, roams around like a lion roaring [in fierce hunger], seeking someone to seize upon and devour.

Humility: The Great Fertilizer of the Soil of the Heart

Anxiety, fear and worry die at the altar of humility. Humility is the great pesticide to kill these thorns of anxious cares and eradicate them from the heart. Humility is also the fertilizer of the soil, allowing our hearts to flourish in an environment free from the torment of anxiety and fear. Humility is the essential ingredient the heart needs to live care free. K.P. Yohannon in Destined to Soar says:

The foundation for learning to walk with the Lord, for serving Him and for becoming a blessing to others begins with the humility to act on God’s thoughts instead of our own…We must determine to act on His Word rather than our own thoughts or those the devil may whisper into our minds.[i]

To have the heart full of humility acting on God’s Word, causes the tender plant to grow strong, and the thorns of anxious cares to wither and fade into nothingness. To have anxiety indicates a lack of humility in the heart. Fear, worry and anxiety are all rooted in pride. Too prideful to let go and cast all our concerns on God; too prideful to realize we desperately need God’s help; too prideful to think we cannot solve our own problems, and too prideful to realize that the self-made man or woman is an illusion of our culture.

Anxiety melts away when we realize we are not self-sufficient, but God sufficient. Anxiety disappears as a vapor in the night when we allow God to assume the rightful throne of our hearts. Fear, worry, doubt and anxiety are burned up in the holy presence of our God.

God has very broad shoulders, and He makes it perfectly clear that every anxious care in our hearts must be cast upon Him. We cannot allow one thorny care to remain for they will multiply and strangle the Word of God from the heart. The thorny weeds of the anxious cares of daily living are some of the peskiest weeds ever known to the human heart. We must diligently watch the garden of our heart for these weeds will try to pop up daily and contaminate our lives with their propaganda.  Anxiety is not a normal emotion of life for the Christian heart, but a thorny weed that has no place in the one who trusts and obeys the Heavenly Father.

We are God’s personal concern. We are God’s beloved children. God’s thoughts about us are more numerous than the sand of the sea. God affectionately and watchfully cares for us. God is our keeper, protector and helper, but we have to let Him do His job. How the heart of God must be in anguish when He sees His own children’s hearts overgrown with the thorns of anxiety, worry and fear as they try to carry burdens that only He can carry. God commands His children to once and for all cast every anxiety, fear, worry and doubt on the broad shoulders of God and never look back. Never again must the heart be agitated and disturbed by these anxious cares for our God is bigger, our God is stronger and our God is more powerful than all of these thorny weeds. We uproot every weed of anxiety, worry and fear and give it to the Master Gardener of our heart.

There is a loud roar of the lion in these anxious cares of life. The roar attempts to intimidate by fear. The roar attempts to grab the heart with anxiety. The roar attempts to overwhelm the heart with worry. The lion’s roar is a weapon to send a message of fear. The lion’s roar is meant to freeze the heart in fear. The lion’s roar is not the voice our heart should be listening to or considering as it always tries to drown out the voice of God speaking from the Scriptures.

The Greek word “roar’ means the howl of a beast in fierce hunger and is in the present tense which means the roar is a continuous, habitual action daily that represents the devil’s lifestyle. The devil wants to fiercely devour the heart so he is constantly roaring attempting to get the thorns of anxiety, fear and worry to take root and consume the heart. The roar is designed to produce these thorns and give the devil the open door to devour the heart. There is not a place upon the earth where this roar is not heard as it is a universal tool of the enemy to capture and destroy the heart.

Yet God is in the business of stopping the mouths of lions like He did for Daniel in the lion’s den. Only God can silence the roar of fear, anxiety and worry in the human heart for our times are in His mighty hands. We need not fear for God is our Heavenly Father and on our side, and He will fight every battle with this raging lion.

The Greek word for “devour” in I Peter 5:8 literally means to drink down or cause something to pass through the mouth and into the stomach, to swallow up completely, and to gulp down. Figuratively it means to cause the complete destruction of something or someone. The Greek word was used to describe engulfing waves of the sea which swallow up and drown a person.

Do you see why these anxious thorns are so destructive to the heart and must be eliminated at all costs? These anxious thorns allow the enemy to swallow up the heart. If we do not learn how to overcome anxiety, fear and worry by unwavering trust in our God, our heart is going to be swallowed up by the Devil. When the heart is overwhelmed with anxiety, it becomes immobilized where we cannot please God nor do His will. A fearful heart cannot love God and love others. An anxious heart cannot walk in the mighty power of God. A fearful heart cannot serve God.  An anxious heart cannot praise and worship God and be thankful for His blessings and protection.  A fearful heart denies the Lord Jesus and says to the world “I do not know the man!” Fear causes our heart to deny any commitment to Jesus in front of the eyes of the world.

The Word of God cannot live in a heart that is overrun with the thorns of anxiety, worry and fear as they allow the Devil to mold us to reflect His character. Our heart can never be conformed to the image of Christ if we allow anxiety, worry and fear to take up their abode as residents of our heart. Fear and anxiety are a clear indication that we doubt God’s love for us, and we really do not know our God. Whether it is the anxious cares of this age or the anxious cares of daily living, we must be ever so vigilant to not allow these thorns to gain a foothold in our hearts and suffocate the Word of God into extinction.

[i] K.P. Yohannon, Destined to Soar (Carrolton: GFA Books 2009), 118,119.

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Parable of the Sower: The Third Soil of the Heart: The Five Thorns to Avoid

Let us examine the third soil of the heart and what happens when the Word of God is sown into it.

And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them. Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful. (Matthew 13:7, 22, NKJV)

Other seed of the same kind fell among thorn plants, and the thistles grew and pressed together and utterly choked and suffocated it, and it yielded no grain. And the ones sown among the thorns are others who hear the Word; Then the cares and anxieties of the world and distractions of the age, and the pleasure and delight and false glamour and deceitfulness of riches, and the craving and passionate desire for other things creep in and choke and suffocate the Word, and it becomes fruitless. (Mark 4:7, 18-19, AMP)

And other seed fell in the midst of the thorns, and the thorns grew up with it and choked it off. And as for what fell among the thorns, these are the people who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked and suffocated with the anxieties and cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not ripen (come to maturity and perfection). (Luke 8:7, 14, AMP)

In this third soil of the heart, the seed of the Word of God fell among the seeds of thorns and both began to grow in this fertile soil. This word “thorn” in the Greek means a thorny plant, a bramble bush, briers, and thistles. It is essentially a prickly weed.

Thorns were not a part of God’s original creation as they came from the disobedience of Adam and the curse of sin upon God’s creation. After Adam sinned, thorns began to spring up on the earth, but they also began to multiply in the hearts of people. Thorns are an obstacle to the way of God in our lives. A heart that produces thorns and thistles is worthless in its fruit before God.

Characteristics of Thorny Weeds

Physical thorns have sharp points that cause pain. These thorny weeds rob the good plants of moisture, light, nutrients and space. Weeds are very aggressive in growth and reproduce rapidly. It is estimated that a single plant of pigweed can produce over 120,000 seeds, and a single plant of mullein weed can produce 223,200 seeds! These figures are staggering as to how many weeds can multiply from one simple plant.

Also the longevity of the seed that weeds produce is amazing. The seed of the curly dock is viable for 80 years once it is sown into the ground, and the seed of the black mustard weed is viable for 50 years once it is sown.

Weeds are not only prolific seed producers capable of quick reproduction, but have an amazing resilience to survive and grow even in the harshest environmental conditions. Weeds have deep roots, and are very tolerant and can thrive in adverse growing conditions. Weeds will out compete almost all native vegetation, as they have an earlier growth in the spring and get a head start on moisture and nutrients in the soil. Weeds are masters of survival and quickly can dominate an entire landscape. Weeds cannot be ignored, as they do not suddenly go away, but spread like wildfire if not aggressively dealt with.

There are even weeds that are classified as noxious weeds by the government because they are injurious to agricultural and horticultural crops, livestock, and humans. Noxious weeds can create an undesirable habitat for plants and insects, and even eliminate certain species because of their control of the environment. These weeds can increase wind and water erosion, and alter nutrient cycling.

Weeds can also be carriers of toxins, disease and pests that can destroy crops and livestock. Government agencies work aggressively to control these noxious weeds from causing too much damage as they realize the devastating effects weeds can have on a community, state and nation. Weeds dramatically affect the amount of crops the ground produces. It is estimated 15-20% of the world’s potential crop production is lost annually because of weeds. This amount would be doubled without the use of pesticides and herbicides.

Israel in Bible times had a great variety of these thorny weeds throughout its land. In fact travelers called the Holy Land a “land of thorns.” Giant thistles, growing to the height of a man on horseback, frequently spread over regions once rich and fruitful. Many of the most interesting historic spats and ruins in Israel are rendered almost inaccessible by thickets of fiercely armed buckthorns. Entire fields are covered with the troublesome creeping stems of the spinousononis thorny weeds, while the bare hillsides are studded with the dangerous capsules of the puliuris and tribulus weeds. Prickly roses abound on the lower slopes of Hermon, while the sub-tropical valleys of Judea are choked up in many places by the thorny lycium. There are more than 125 species of thorns and thistles that are found throughout Israel and some are beautiful to the eye, hiding their dangerous and invasive qualities.

The same characteristics of thorny weeds in the physical realm also apply to the mental, emotional and spiritual realm of the heart. Thorns can grow rapidly in the soil of the heart and continue to thrive for an entire lifetime. Thorns can take over the environment controlling the amount of light, truth, and life that abounds in the heart. Thorns can control the spiritual food that the heart feeds off and the boundaries of the heart in thought, word and action.

Thorns are very resilient and can come back again and again with relentless fury to make their permanent home in our hearts. Thorns are carriers of spiritual disease and allow rebellion, lust, and idolatry to ride into the human heart. Thorns hinder the heart from producing fruit for God and good works that glorify Him.

A thorn is a symbol of the flesh that God is not enough for me, and I need to revel in the ways of the world. Thorns are symbolic of a lack of trust in God and a lack of faith in God’s faithfulness to His Word. Thorns will consume our love for God, replacing them with an idol to devour our thoughts and emotions. Thorns always choke and suffocate the Word of God in the heart and do not allow it to come to full fruition. Thorns are a detour, a wrong path to follow, and have severe consequences for the health of our heart.

Thorny seeds are always lurking, ready to sprout into action, to take control of the soil of the heart. Since the fall of Adam when sin poured into the very nature of the human race, thorns have been natural and indigenous to the soil of the heart. For most of us, thorns have been growing in our hearts all our life until we met the Master Gardener, the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ came to uproot these thorns for they were not planted by our Heavenly Father. Thorns are very much at home in the heart as their seeds are scattered in the soil of every human heart on earth.

Sooner or later we will all face the question “What are we going to do about these prickly, thorny weeds that want to dominate the vineyard of our hearts?” What are our weed management and control policies when it comes to our own heart? Is our heart overgrown with weeds that our suffocating the spiritual condition of our heart? We cannot ignore these prickly weeds if we want our hearts to reflect the glorious image of our Lord.

Jesus Christ is the only solution for these noxious weeds for only through Him can we overcome these thorny weeds and prevent them from becoming the natural habitat of our heart. These prickly weeds must be cut down by the sword of the spirit and uprooted daily by the renewing of our minds to the Word of God. We must boldly proclaim that the soil of our heart has been washed by the blood of Jesus Christ and the living waters of His Word and these thorny weeds will no longer contaminate, control or grow in our hearts. We pledge to be ever vigilant on our weed watch over our hearts and aggressively uproot any thorn when it begins to show its ugly head.

Thorns do not like to give up their space and soil to anything. Thorns are fiercely loyal to sin, rebellion and disobedience and get nourishment from our own sin nature if they are allowed to run wild in the heart. Thorns want to control the landscape of the heart and these prickly weeds will consume all life out of the soil if we allow them. These thorny weeds can overshadow, crowd and choke any plant of godliness in our heart.

In the parable, the two plants, one from the seed of God’s Word, and the other from the seed of the enemy, began to grow and spring up at the same time. One will live and one will die in the soil in the heart. They cannot both co-exist and bring forth fruit. One will flourish and one will wither. One will blossom and one will wilt.

The Word of God began to grow in this soil of the heart and a beautiful, tender plant was arising and reaching towards the heavens. However, the thorny weeds were rapidly sprouting up right alongside this tender plant. The prickly weeds multiplied and began to crowd the small plant aggressively invading its space. The thorns entangled around the plant and grew above and around it, blocking the rays of sunshine from heaven and taking vital soil nutrients and moisture from the new plant. The thorns continue to rapidly press against the plant and soon it cannot take in the sunshine, moisture, oxygen and nutrients essential to its survival. Engulfed in the shadow of the thorns, the plant begins to choke as the slow process of suffocation starts. The growth suddenly stops and the tender plant is fighting for its very life.

The thorns stranglehold on the plant strengthens, and the plant is choked more aggressively, as it is suffocating by the compression of the thorny weeds. The new plant is gasping for oxygen. It is struggling to receive sunshine from heaven, and is dying of thirst as it is robbed of life-giving water from the soil. The thorns are multiplying at a staggering rate, and the tender plant is being overwhelmed and slowly killed by suffocation, lack of care and starvation. Finally the plant is crushed under the weight of the thorns and all potential for fruit vanishes as it withers and dies. It is killed by strangulation and an aggressive invasion of its life support system. May God help us to never allow these thorns to suffocate the Word of God from our hearts!

The third soil of the heart allows the thorns to win the race for the human heart. Never underestimate the power of the thorns to choke the growth of the Word of God from the soil of the heart. We cannot serve our God, love our Lord and follow His will if we allow thorns to dominate the landscape of our heart. Thorns are always ready to corrupt our heart and to destroy our God-given calling. We must have daily weed control when it comes to the heart, or we will be barren and fruitless in the service of our God.

When we look at all three accounts of this parable as a whole, we see five specific thorns that Jesus warned us about that will keep us from being fruitful for our God. These five thorns have an amazing ability to suffocate and choke the good seed sown in our hearts rendering it ineffective to change and transform our lives. These five thorns are some of the most destructive things on earth to the heart and are five agents of sin with the assignment to destroy every remnant of the Word of God from the heart. These five secret emissaries of the Evil One are masterfully deceptive and are the means to seduce the heart into their tempting snare. Jesus set forth each of these thorns by name so we are not ignorant of their existence, nature and power.

To ignore these thorns is to set the heart in grave danger of being invaded by the Enemy to be used by him at His will. Thorns are one of the great weapons of the devil to ensnare the heart in his tangled web and devour it. He arranges the world system and orchestrates images for our eyes to see and words for our ears to hear that promote the rapid growth of thorny weeds in the heart. The devil is not only throwing thorny seeds into our hearts if we let him, but he also has many fertilizer and growth supplements for these thorns. If we allow his images, words and thoughts to settle in our hearts, we are fertilizing the prickly weeds so they will explode in growth and spread into every corner of our lives. We must identify and examine each one of these five thorns so we can uproot all of these dangerous weeds from our hearts.

The First Thorn: The Cares of This World

The first thorn is “the cares of this world” (Matthew 13:22; Mark 4:19). The Greek word for “cares” in these verses means an anxious worry that distracts and divides the mind. It is to be mentally distressed, agitated and troubled with anxiety. It is a brooding fear that brings with it a feeling of apprehension, uneasiness and dread. It describes the mental state of being pulled apart in different directions. It is to have a worrisome expectation and aching sense of grief of some danger or misfortune. These anxious cares and worries always cause one to have a divided heart that is distracted and pulled in a wrong direction away from God. These anxious worries and cares are indicative of a heart that does not trust God.

There is a very interesting etymology of the word “worry” from the Old High German word “wurgen” which meant “to strangle.” The Old English word meant “to strangle or choke” and was further defined as to grasp by the throat and lacerate with the teeth, or to injure and kill by biting and shaking. It is like a dog that attacks an animal by taking it in its mouth and violently shaking it. This is what worry does to the heart. Worry strangles and chokes the life out of you and figuratively grasps the heart by the throat and does not let it breathe. Worry lacerates the heart as it takes it in its mouth and violently shakes it bringing it into a state of hopeless confusion and utter calamity.

It is enlightening to look at the usage of this word in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, as it gives us further understanding into the biblical meaning of this word.

I will also appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, that they may live in their own place and not be disturbed (merimnao in Septuagint and ragaz in Hebrew) again, nor will the wicked afflict them anymore as formerly. (2 Samuel 7:10, NAS)

The Hebrew word ragaz means to shake, tremble, agitate, disturb, and provoke. It is to be shaken and disturbed by intense emotion because of specific circumstances. When God planted His people and they obey Him, there are no thorns of disturbance and agitation that arise in their hearts. They are not shaken by the enemy or put into bondage by fear. No circumstance, problem, or evil can disturb the heart. The wicked cannot afflict the heart of the person who is planted firmly in God.

For I confess my iniquity: I am full of anxiety (merimnao in Septuagint) because of my sin. (Psalm 38:18, NAS)

Unrepentant sin is a major cause of anxiety in the heart. Sin is the fuel of these thorny cares and is a formidable opponent of a fruitful heart that will glorify the Lord of the Harvest. Sin lurks within, ready to produce a bumper crop of thorns to reproduce its kind in the heart, suffocating the seed of the Word of God. The thorns of sin agitate the heart, robbing it of peace, and strangling the heart with fear and anxiety. A heart full of thorns has lost its trust in God. It has abandoned faith in God’s love, grace and faithfulness. The thorns of sin multiply like wild fire and consume the heart with its fruit of fear. Jesus Christ crushed the power of sin and through Him we can thwart the thorns of sin from reigning in our hearts. Anxiety, worry and fear are sin, and should have no place in the heart of a Christian.

When we examine this first thorn of “the cares of this world,” the Greek word for “world” is aion. Remember aion means “age” which is all that exists in the world at any point of time and the current state of the world’s affairs. It is all the opinions, fashions, trends, maxims, speculations, politics, morals, and aspirations at any time current in the world. It is the present day atmosphere and heartbeat of our culture and is broadcast to our hearts through television, radio, Internet, movies, newspapers, and books. It is the modern state of global affairs and the driving forces behind it. The spirit of this age tills the ground of the heart making it ready for the planting and growth of these thorny spiritual weeds.

All we have to do is turn on the television, pick up a newspaper or get on the Internet to get a vibrant picture of these thorny “cares of this world.” This category of anxious cares are more global in their scope as they are rooted in the current state of affairs in our communities, cities, and nations around the world. The chaos of the age is at the heart of these thorns. Terrorism, violence, recessions, unemployment, poverty, wars, droughts, and crime are but a few of the enemy’s weapons to throw at the heart to get it in a state of anxiety and fear. Daily our hearts are bombarded with disasters, bad news and terrible forecasts all aimed to get us to fear and lose faith in God.

We cannot let the negative news of the day choke the Word of God from our hearts. God will always provide for us if we trust His promises. He will never fail us no matter how bleak the world looks around us. Our lives are in the mighty hands of God Almighty. Our hearts need a good dose of the words of our Creator in Psalm 91 to combat the increasingly dreadful events that happen around the world every single day.

Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. This I declare about the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him. For he will rescue you from every trap and protect you from deadly disease. He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection. Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night, nor the arrow that flies in the day. Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness, nor the disaster that strikes at midday. Though a thousand fall at your side, though ten thousand are dying around you, these evils will not touch you. If you make the Lord your refuge, if you make the Most High your shelter, No evil will conquer you; no plague will come near your home. You will trample upon lions and cobras; you will crush fierce lions and serpents under your feet! The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my name. When they call on me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue and honor them. I will reward them with a long life and give them my salvation. (Psalm 91:1-7, 9-10, 13-16, NLT)

These words are from the heart of God who truly loves and cares for you. No terror, plague, devastation, recession, or violence can harm a hair on your head for God is your refuge and place of safety. He provides for you, even if he has to send ravens to feed you like Elijah or rain bread from heaven, God will never fail to take care of you in the midst of the chaos of this world. If you are fearful about the current state of world affairs, you do not trust in your God. You are allowing the thorns of these anxious cares to choke the truth of Psalm 91 and other Scriptures from your heart.

My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth. He will not let you fall. Your guardian will not fall asleep. The Lord is your guardian. The Lord is the shade over your right hand. The sun will not beat down on you during the day, nor will the moon at night. The Lord guards you from every evil. He guards your life. The Lord guards you as you come and go, now and forever. (Psalm 121:2-3, 5-8, GW)

Our help does not come from our checking account, political affiliation, educational degrees, material possessions, and natural abilities. Our help comes from the Maker of the heavens and earth. He is our protector; He is our guardian; He is our defender; He is our keeper; He is our shepherd; He is our anchor; He is our shield; He is our refuge, and He is our Heavenly Father. Why are we so anxious? Why are our hearts so intoxicated with worry? Why do these anxious thorns of this age so easily grow in our hearts?

The Bigness of Our God

Do you have any idea how big our God is? 2 Chronicles 6:18 says, “The heavens, even the highest heavens cannot contain you.” The entire universe is not big enough to contain our God! John Bevere in Enemy Access Denied says God is “bigger that you are even capable of thinking.”[i] Can you even catch a glimpse of the vastness and majesty of our God?

If we would board a plane, it would take twenty-one years to reach the sun, which is ninety-three million miles away, and a whopping fifty three BILLION years to reach the nearest star, which is four and one-half light years away. The stars we see shining at night are one hundred to one thousand light years away. Light travels at one hundred eighty-six thousand miles per second, or seven hundred million miles an hour, and it would take hundreds and hundreds of years to reach them. NASA’s Hubble Space telescope has sent back pictures of galaxies that are seven thousand light years from the earth. Even more amazing, the Keck Observatory in Hawaii has observed galaxies more than fifty to three hundred million light years away! The farthest galaxy would take you three hundred million years to reach traveling at seven hundred million miles per hour! Now that is a long plane ride!

Yet God says in Isaiah 40:12 that “He has measured off the heavens with his fingers.” It is estimated that there are five hundred billion galaxies in the universe and three hundred billion stars in each galaxy and Isaiah 40:26 says God created every single star, and “He brings them out like an army, one after another, calling each by its name. Because of his great power and incomparable strength, not a single one is missing.”

Are you beginning to get an inkling of how big our God is? Isaiah 40:15 says “He picks up the whole earth as if it were a grain of sand” and Isaiah declares God is “the High and Lofty One that inhabits eternity!” It is incomprehensible to the human mind to even begin to understand the limitlessness and supremacy of our God. Nothing compares to Him! Yet we are worried and full of anxiety about the evening news!

Our heart needs to wake up and open its eyes to the greatness of our God. We need to turn our heart toward God’s mighty throne and say, “Fear not! Behold your God!” The anxious cares of this age melt away when we begin to see the immeasurable glory, strength and power of our God! Isn’t it time we begin to trust in Him regardless of the negative news headlines of despair that the media broadcasts daily around the world.

Men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. (Luke 21:46, NASB)

The world is shipwrecked and gone mad, drunk on its own sin and self-serving ways as it has rejected the Word of God and the authority of God to rule their lives. The world is in a state of rapid decay. Evil will progressively get worse because the devil is the prince of this world and the god of this age. His character is stamped on world events and his heart is manifested in the unspeakable evils that are seen and heard every day and night. No politician will ever come up with some magic pill or brilliant plan to solve the world’s ills. The world news will only get worse because its prince is bent on its destruction. We cannot allow ourselves to get wrapped up in this negativity and chaos or our heart will fail us because of fear and uncertainty. Everything that is happening in the world is designed to get us to fear and lose faith in our God.

God commands us not to be anxious about anything that is happening in this crazy world. God is on our side and He resides within us and nothing can stand against us for we dwell in His strong tower.

The major problem with the world is there is no fear of God in their eyes. This is at the root of every problem and evil in the world. The world does not stand in awe of the name of the Lord. The world tells God to get out of the way for you are not needed or wanted here. The world despises God’s Word and rather trusts in their iniquity, which causes evil to flourish and eventually shatter their world into pieces.

Our hearts must come out and be separate from the world, and with a holy, reverential awe of God, place all of our trust in God. With quiet confidence, we know our God shall never fail or forsake us in this wicked age, as fear has no place in our heart. We rip these thorny plants from the soil of our heart for we know God is our refuge in times of trouble.

The Pressure to Measure Up to the World’s Image of Perfection

There is another aspect to the “cares of this age” that I would be remiss if I did not at least briefly comment on. Anxious worries and fears also arise from the cultural fads, trends and fashions of the current times that pressure the heart to conform to its ways. The world tells us we are not pretty enough, not thin enough, not young enough, not hip enough and not cool enough so we become obsessed with changing our image to conform to this world. The pressure to measure up to the world’s image of perfection is overwhelming and consuming for millions of people of all ages. People become obsessed with diets, plastic surgeries, fashion, possessions, money, cosmetics and social media to look like the airbrushed images of models in magazines and the latest icon coming out of Hollywood. We have become a culture of beauty, fame, power and riches at any cost. We judge people based upon their outward appearance and not upon the content of their heart.

Even in the midst of a recession in America, over ten billion dollars was spent on cosmetic procedures with over ten million surgical and non-surgical procedures. This does not even include the billions spent on cosmetic products to try to make us look more beautiful, younger and attractive. This insane and relentless pursuit of the world’s image of beauty has caused an epidemic of depression, eating disorders, addiction, unhappiness and even suicide. The culture’s anxious cares are crushing the hearts of old and young. A.W. Tozer said, “It will require a determined heart and more than a little courage to wrench ourselves loose from the grip of our times.”[ii]

God Has Made You Beautiful

God wonderfully made every detail of our bodies and knit together every amazing feature in our mother’s womb. God made each of us beautiful in His eyes. Our physical bodies are a masterpiece of His creation. God does not make anything ugly, so why are we so dissatisfied with our physical image? God handpicked the color of our eyes, the shape of our face, the color of our hair, the length of our body and thousands of other details that make you His beautiful masterpiece.

God is the Divine Sculptor who takes blocks of granite that have been scarred, cracked, discolored or made rough by the world. God begins to smooth the rough corners and jagged edges, take away the discoloration and remove the scars and the blocks of granite begin to resemble the shape and contour of the Divine Sculptor’s Son. The Devil charges into the Sculptor’s studio and points out the granite’s imperfections, weaknesses and flaws, but God looks at the finished product and sees His Son in every chisel mark and every hammered stroke. He sees the image of His Son when He looks at us. Nothing is more breathtaking to behold than the beauty of Christ in us.

The world’s image of beauty is fake and superficial. It drives the human heart into an unhealthy obsession of pursuing worldly beauty at all costs, even to the point of extreme physical and emotional harm. Americans alone spent a whopping 33.3 billion dollars annually on cosmetics and other beauty products as America is obsessed with their body and image. Their self-worth is measured by their beauty and how it measures up to the media—blitzed images that bombard us daily. The cult of the body and the cult of the beautiful draw so many unsuspecting women and men into their deadly snares. It causes their hearts to be seized with extreme anxiety if they do not measure up to the pattern of this world. It is battle they will never win because true beauty does not reside in the latest trends and fashions of the age. Physical beauty fades quickly in the world’s walkway. The world magnifies tiny flaws into mountains and soon discards us to the trash pile of the ugly because we have failed to meet their impossible standards.

However God’s holy Word says in Psalm 39:5-6 that “man is his best state is altogether vanity” and that “every man walks in a vain show.” In the Hebrew “vanity” means a breath or puff of air, a vapor and a mist. The Hebrew word “vain show” means a shadow, and an empty image. A man or woman at their best is but a mere puff of air or a vanishing vapor. People put on a vain show each day as they proudly display their beauty to the world, but it is a mere shadow and empty image when compared to God Almighty.

Stop the Masquerade

God sees us completely different from the world. He created us and He often sees His beauty marred by the imperfections of sin and broken by the hurts, disappointments and sufferings of life. He sees a heart that can be mended, healed, and restored. He calls beautiful what the world calls ugly. God is passionately pleading with us to present every part of our body as a living and holy sacrifice to Him putting our entire body at His disposal. God commands us to: “Stop assuming an outward expression in our body that is conformed, patterned and fashioned after the cultures and trends of this age!”(Romans 12:2). God cries out to “Stop masquerading in the habits, mannerisms and expressions of this world that do not reflect the pure beauty of Christ in us and the honor and dignity of our calling as sons and daughters of God!”

This masquerade costume that we often put on acts as a covering so we cannot radiate the beauty of the Lord Jesus. No cosmetic product or procedure on earth can transform our appearance into the glory of the Lord. We should radiate the brilliance of God’s attributes like Jesus did on the Mount of Transfiguration. This is God’s heart for us as we are to be conformed to the image of God’s Son, not the image of Cosmopolitan or Muscle and Fitness Magazine.

I am not saying it is wrong to wear make-up or work out, but what image are we obsessed about? What image drives us to get up in the morning and is our focus throughout the day? What image do we pursue as our sacred passion? We will never be satisfied if the culture’s latest trends is the image we chase after for we will never be good looking enough, never rich enough, and never perfect enough. Someone will always be wealthier, more beautiful and more connected. Quite simply we will never measure up, and we our opening our hearts to bitter disillusionment, anxiety and fear.

Once you are caught up in this trap of chasing the fading beauty of this age, the world has a tendency to brutally go after its own with harsh criticism, ridicule, and contempt. This drives so many to destroy their lives with drugs, alcohol, sex, and even suicide. The indifference, ruthlessness, and cold-heartedness of this age have demolished the hearts of those who have fallen for this cruel masquerade. These are the thickest of thorny weeds, and have ruined countless lives.

This is not harmless stuff as it is radically transforming the hearts of a generation. So many people destroy their lives in the shallowness of something that never brings true happiness or joy and never advances God’s kingdom. Never allow these thorns to put your heart in a state of compromise. As Becky Tirabassi said in Sacred Obsession, “On my journey I have discovered passion has no bounds. Once you let it in, it takes you prisoner … what you chase after you become … whether it is holy or unholy … You will always gravitate toward that which you, secretly, most love.”[iii] What do we have more passion for and deeply love? It is God’s holy image of beauty or the Devil’s image of beauty? What image captivates our heart?

Ephesians 1 says that God has made us lovely and acceptable in Christ. The true beauty of our adornment comes from within, the inner sanctuary of the heart, that has been pervaded with the beauty and fragrance of Christ. The Hidden Man of our heart is the Lord Jesus and His sweetness, love, beauty and splendor should be overflowing from our hearts daily. He will make our outward appearance shine with his glory when the gaze of our heart is steadfastly set upon Him. Our inner and outward beauty comes from our relationship with Him.

We must never fall into the trap of the anxious cares of the fads and beauty of this age, which present a false façade of worth, but in the end only offer disappointing misery and emptiness. We cannot build the inner life of the heart on these deceptive images of worldly beauty that bring nothing but dishonor and disgrace to our lives as Christians. The beauty of the world fades and grows faintly dim in the light of the beauty of our wonderful Lord Jesus. We do not need the trappings of the world to shine as a light in this twisted and dark world, but only the living Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit living within.

[i] John Bevere, Enemy Access Denied: Slam the Devil’s Door with One Simple Decision (Lake Mary: Charisma House, 2006), 28.

[ii] A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God (New York: Start Publishing LLC, 2012, originally published in 1948), 68.

[iii] Becky Tirabassi, Sacred Obsession: What You Chase After You Become (Carol Stream: Tyndale House Publishers, 2006), 1, 5.

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Parable of the Sower: The Second Soil of the Heart-Persecution and Offense:Whose Brand do You Carry? Part 2

Persecution: Pursued With Intense Hostility

The second thing that causes the seed of the Word of God to be uprooted from our hearts and wither away is persecution. The Greek word for “persecution” means to chase and follow hard after with hostility. It is to pursue an enemy and was the word used for chasing criminals. There is an intensity of effort, urgency and diligence in the pursuit. Picture a manhunt vigorously pursuing a fugitive with bloodhounds who are tracking the scent as they furiously attempt to capture the criminal. It is to hunt like an animal and to run swiftly after something. The word was used in the Old Testament to describe Pharaoh and his army’s pursuit of the Israelites before their destruction in the Red Sea. This shows the intensity of the pursuit even to their own deaths.

Persecution also means to harass in a manner designed to injure, vex, grieve or afflict. It can be a program, process or agenda designed to oppress and destroy a belief, idea, or pattern of conduct from living in the human heart. As a legal term in the ancient Greek world, it meant to prosecute. A form of the word even meant “the prosecutor.”

The comparable Hebrew word to “persecute” in the Septuagint means to beat down, subdue and bring to extinction. Persecution is a persistent beating down of the heart by a relentless pursuit to subdue and control it. Persecution wants to make the Word of God extinct in the human heart.

Persecution in Scripture always arises when the Word of God is believed and begins to grow in the hearts of people. The kingdom of darkness is after the Word of God. The Devil stands as the ruthless pursuer to discredit the Word of God and uproot it from living in the heart. The Devil stands as the harsh prosecutor who is always presenting his false evidence against the Word of God so the human heart rings out a verdict of rejection. This slick prosecutor is the master of deception and weaves cunning lies against the truth. He persuades heart to be full of unbelief and disdain for God’s holy Word. This is the epicenter of all the Devil’s spiritual, mental and physical persecution. His mission: kill the Word of God in the heart. Never allow it to take root and flourish.

The Devil’s target is always the Word of God and his opening statement in the trial of our hearts is the same one he used in the Garden of Eden- “Did God really say?” This strategy has been so successful in eradicating God’s Word from the hearts of millions with the blistering heat of doubt and unbelief.

Jesus Christ: The Focal Point of all Persecution

Persecution arises out of the violent clashing between two spiritual kingdoms. The Word of God is the mighty weapon of one kingdom and the despised enemy of the other kingdom. The heart is at the center of this fierce battle. The intensity of this battle was raised to a new level the moment Jesus Christ, the Word of God in the flesh, was born. The Book of Revelation speaks of this.

And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she gave birth he might devour her child. And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron; and her child was caught up to God and to His throne. And there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon. The dragon and his angels waged war, And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. Woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, knowing that he has only a short time. So the dragon was enraged with the woman, and went off to make war with the rest of her children, who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. (Revelation 12:4b-5, 7, 9, 12b, 17, NASB)

Jesus Christ is the focal point of all persecution because He is God’s plan for redemption. He is the Savior, the Great Shepherd, the second Adam, the Alpha and the Omega, the light of the world, the bread of life, the way, the truth, the life, and the door to God’s kingdom. He is the great restorer, healer and deliverer who crushed the head of the serpent and his kingdom of darkness, exposing all of the Devil’s schemes and strategies. He restored everything that Adam and Eve had lost in the Garden of Eden and conquered sin and death. He opened up the prison door so any person can come to him for eternal salvation and be freed from the chains of Satan’s kingdom.

Jesus Christ came to dwell in our hearts as his permanent home, not as a visitor, but as its Lord. He is the great transformer of the human heart, and he desires to make our hearts into his image, so that the words, thoughts and deeds that flow out of them represent Him.

Jesus Christ declared in John 18:36 that “my kingdom is not of this world” and in John 14:30 “the prince of this world cometh and hath nothing in me.” The prince of this world, Satan, desires to mold our hearts into the image of his kingdom. He wants to exclusively rule from the throne of our hearts. This is where the kingdoms violently clash and the battle rages for control of the heart. As a Christian, if we take our stand in Christ, and live rooted in Him, we become a rebel to Satan’s kingdom. We become the hunted and the persecuted as he makes war against all Christians who keep the commandments of God and hold fast to the testimony and witness of Jesus Christ.

If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: “A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.” (John 15:18-20, 25, ESV)

You will be hated by all for my name’s sake. (Luke 21:17, ESV)

Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and insult you, and scorn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man. Be glad in that day and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven. For in the same way their fathers used to treat the prophets. (Luke 6:22-23, NASB)

I have given them your word. And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. (John 17:14, NLT)

My persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. (2 Timothy 3:11-12, ESV)

The world system, orchestrated by the Wicked One, hates the heart where Christ lives. We have Christ in us, the hope of glory, and wherever we go and whatever we do, Christ is to be manifested and seen as alive in us. We are the living representatives of Christ upon the earth, His ambassadors in the midst of the kingdom of darkness. We are to shine as brilliant lights in every dark corner of this world. This brands us as a traitor to the world system, a citizen of another world, as we belong to God, not Satan.

Christianity brings intense hatred and persecution because it is the magnificent testimony of Christ’s complete victory and Satan’s humiliating defeat. It is a painful and miserable reminder to the Devil that his kingdom was soundly defeated at the cross and eternally routed in the triumph of Calvary. Words fail to describe the Devil’s depth of hatred for Christ and the Word of God.

Spurgeon said in his sermon Persecuted but Not Forsaken:

There are two things that are inconceivable in length and breadth. The first is the love of God to His people, which is altogether without limit. And the next is the hatred of the devil, which is and must be finite, for he is only a creature, but still, it is as great as it possibly can be. We have no idea with what determined vehemence Satan hates these who belong to Christ! He will do anything he can in the hope of destroying one of them. He goes about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.[i]

The Greek word for “hatred” in John and Luke means to pursue with hatred, to detest, to have extreme hostility towards, and to abhor. This great hatred is what fuels the persecution of Christ and the seed of the Word. The heart built by God can withstand all persecution and hatred by the enemy, and stand boldly in Jesus Christ, no matter how hot the heat becomes. Like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, not a hair of our head will be scorched from the fiery furnace of persecution, and we will not even smell like smoke, when our hearts take an immovable stand for God and the integrity of His Word.

Eric Ludy in Wrestling Prayer: A Compassionate Communion with God says:

Jesus Christ-the rightful king of every human soul … has received his anointing. It is accomplished. He is the King. But this anointing was a “renegade anointing.” The horn of oil was poured upon His Head in the heart of Lucifer’s dominion-Earth … Our rightful king has not yet taken His throne upon the physical earth … there is a bounty upon all who would identify with Him … If there ever was a time to rise up and join our King, it is not when He has entered into the fullness of His glory and all knees are bowed unto that person. Rather, it’s now, in the season of persecution. This is when the true motives of the King’s followers are proven … To identify with Jesus is to prove a traitor to the governments of the world system. To stand with Jesus is to stand against Lucifer, sin and the flesh. You cannot stand with darkness and light simultaneously. To acknowledge Jesus as King is … to live as one of the hunted.[ii]

Branded for Jesus Christ or the World?

From now on let no one cause trouble for me, for I bear on my body the brand-marks of Jesus. (Galatians 6:17, NASB)

Is our heart branded for Jesus Christ? The brand was the mark of ownership on the body of a soldier or servant. According to ancient oriental usage, slaves and soldiers bore the name of their master or commander. It was branded into their bodies so there was no doubt who they belonged to. The Apostle Paul also bore the physical scars of service to Jesus Christ left by many beatings, imprisonments, and hardships he endured as a good soldier and faithful slave of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Are we willing to be branded for Jesus Christ so that wherever we go, this world knows beyond any shadow of doubt that we belong to Christ. Or does our heart shrink back, refusing to bear the mark of the hated, despised and hunted in this world. How do we respond to the pressure that the world exerts on our heart to conform or be labeled as an outcast? Whose brand will our heart bear?

No Fear: Shaking the Gates of Hell

We must never allow persecution to cause us to fear the enemy. We can overcome the world by our faith in Christ as greater is the power and authority that is in us, than the power, authority and evil that is in the world. We always triumph in Christ. We are God ordained super conquerors in Christ. We are immovable, untouchable, invincible and fearless in Christ. Our heart cannot glorify God when it is full of fear of the enemy and ignorant of who we are in Christ. Victory not defeat is the battle cry of Christianity.

Later the seventy came back full of joy. “Lord,” they said, “even evil spirits obey us when we use your name!” “Yes,” returned Jesus, “I was watching and saw Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning! 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. (Luke 10:17-19, PHILLIPS)

Our heart no longer has to be the playground of the enemy. God has given us mighty power in our new birth in Christ to trample the devil’s kingdom and overcome the enemy. Nothing can harm us when our lives are rooted in Christ, and we walk in the authority of the Word of God. Spiritually we are seated in the heavenlies with Christ and all things of this world and the kingdom of darkness are under our feet. By the grace and mercy of God, this is a position of immense power and authority in Christ.

We are to be on the offensive as a soldier of Jesus Christ, taking back territory for the kingdom of God and delivering souls from the power of Satan to God. We should be shaking the very gates of hell because of the triumphant Christ that lives and moves in our heart. The Devil wants to keep us bound in our old grave clothes with little knowledge of what was accomplished on the cross of Jesus Christ. For our heart to rise above the hatred of the world and the persecution of the enemy’s kingdom, we must know who we are in Christ.

A.W. Tozer in I Talk Back to the Devil: The Fighting Fervor of the Victorious Christian says:

The Devil makes it his business to keep Christians in bondage, bound and gagged, actually imprisoned in their own grave clothes … He knows that if we continue in this type of bondage, we will never be able to claim our spiritual heritage … Satan has been in this business of intimidating and silencing and oppressing the people of God for a long, long time … I am sure it is not glorifying to God that Christians should be so intimidated and silenced in our day … Satan is an old dragon that defies us to this hour. He is saying to Christians, “I defy you—what are you going to do about it?” … This has to be the secret of our praise and enthusiasm—Jesus Christ is our Overcomer! In our own strength we cannot overcome anyone or anything … It is for us to trust wholly in the Lord Jesus. This is the only way in which we can conquer fear and live in blessed victory … through Jesus Christ I am the victor! … Brethren, God never meant for us to be kicked around like a football … when the devil starts tampering with you, dare to resist him! I stand for believing God and defying the devil-and God loves that kind of courage among His people. If you are still wrapped in grave clothes and great fears lie upon you, it is time for you to dare to rise and in sweet faith in the risen Jesus Christ declare: “I will not take this any longer. I am a child of God-why should I go mourning all the day? Will God answer? “All right my child,” He will answer as the burden rolls away, “I have waited long to hear you say that. Jesus is Victor and in Him you overcome!”[iii]

Cast off forever the old grave clothes from our heart and pledge to God that we will never be intimated, frightened or silenced by the Devil or his kingdom ever again. We must defy the Devil daily by standing firmly in Jesus Christ, the Overcomer, and never allow our hearts to be uprooted from him because of the scorching heat of persecution. God has given us the victory in Christ and promises to deliver us from every single persecution that is ever thrust upon our heart by the roar of the enemy. Our cry in persecution should be like the wonderful song in Psalms 44 for when we depend on God, persecutions will bounce off the protective shield that God has built around our heart. No enemy can contend with God Almighty.

You are my King and my God. You command victories for Israel. Only by your power can we push back our enemies; only in your name can we trample our foes. I do not trust in my bow; I do not count on my sword to save me. You are the one who gives us victory over our enemies; you disgrace those who hate us. O God, we give glory to you all day long and constantly praise your name. (Psalm 44:4-8, NLT)

Surprising Source of Most Persecution

To help protect our hearts from falling into this second soil, we must know the strategies of the enemy regarding persecution. The Devil is very subtle as persecution often arises from our close inner circle: our churches, fellow-Christians, family, friends, co-workers, teachers, professors, neighbors and community. Persecution will test where our true loyalties lie. Is our heart rooted deep enough in the Word and Christ to withstand the questioning, ridicule, mockery and disdain of many in our inner circle? We so often think persecution of our faith simply comes from the secular world and outsiders. However, it is eye-opening when we realize the source of most persecution, as the Bible gives us hundreds of examples so we are not fooled.

The great majority of persecution comes from religious people who are entrenched in religious systems and doctrines. If we stand up for truth in a number of churches, we are going to get persecuted. It may be surprising to learn that throughout history many of the ruthless persecutors of the Word of God and Christians came from within the church. Look at the persecution of the Inquisition where the church went after its own with reckless abandon and tortured, maimed and killed them in some of the worst ways ever imagined.

The devil loves religion because it has nothing to do with the true God and is an easy façade to hide his deceptions. Look at our Savior as the constant persecution to his ministry was from the Pharisees, Sadducees, chief priests and scribes, who were the religious elite of his day. The religious establishment that was supposed to represent God, hated Jesus Christ, and viciously persecuted him culminating in his torture and death. The great religious men and their corrupt system crucified their Messiah.

God takes off the mask of man-made religion in the Bible and reveals its true heart as perverse and full of darkness. It breeds evil and will stop at nothing to protect its existence and doctrines even to the point of trying to eradicate the Word of God and all those who stand upon it. God places a huge neon sign in Scripture that says “BEWARE!” when it comes to the religious systems of people who do not know God or love Him. There is a tremendous persecution today from the zealous proponents of Islam around the globe from people whose hearts are sold out to a religious system borne of this world and the kingdom of darkness.

Persecution also comes from the inner circle of our family, friends and close associates whom the Devil craftily influences to shake our faith in God and His Word. Under the scorching heat of this inside persecution, many hearts begin to wilt and become uprooted from the Word of God and Christ. The devil often uses those we love and care about to shoot a fiery missile into our hearts.

I think of Job and his three friends who were miserable comforters in his time of distress. Also look at Jesus Christ as a vivid example, as he received persecution from his family, his followers and even one of his inner twelve disciples. When Jesus Christ entered Jerusalem near the time of his crucifixion, great multitudes of apparent followers and disciples cried out “Hosanna (save us please) to the son of David, blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord even the king of Israel! Hosanna in the highest!” This whole multitude rejoiced and praised God with a loud voice. Many of these people had been with Jesus when he called Lazarus out from the grave and had heard about this great miracle. The entire city of Jerusalem was moved and the multitude declared “This is Jesus, the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee!”

Surely this multitude would never turn on Jesus and persecute him. Jesus should be able to count on their support in his greatest hour of need. Yet in just a matter of days, this same crowd of apparent followers and disciples, when Pilate said “Behold your King!” cried out, “Away with him, away with him! Crucify him! Crucify him!” They joined in the persecution and demanded Jesus be put to death. How quickly the hearts of his followers and friends viciously turned on Jesus. How fickle are the hearts of men and women when it comes to their commitment to God and Jesus Christ!

John 7:5 states that Jesus Christ’s own family did not believe in him and there came a dramatic moment in the gospels when his mother and family showed up at his door in attempt to halt Jesus’s ministry and forcibly take him home. They thought he had lost his mind.

And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.” (Mark 3:21, ESV)

The Greek word for “seize” means to take hold of forcibly, to take into custody and arrest, to continually hold back, to hinder and restrain, to prevail and rule over, and to take into one’s possession. The Greek word for “out of his mind” means to be out of one’s senses, to be insane, to be deranged, and to be driven out of his mind. It was the word used when wine turned sour causing one to disfigure their face because of the taste. The word was also used when you felt someone was bewitched or demonized.

His very own family, which we know from the later verses in this chapter, included his mother and brothers, pursued Jesus to his house with the firm intent to forcibly take him into custody and restrain him from ministering again. They believed his actions flowed out of insanity, confusion and derangement. They may have even felt he was bewitched, possessed or demonized, like the scribes who at the same time accused him of being possessed by Beelzebub.

This is his own mother and brothers who fell into the trap of persecuting Jesus! Jesus had become like sour wine to them and they were determined to put an end to this insanity and become the guardian over Jesus. Could our heart withstand this type of persecution from our own family who wants to arrest us? Could we withstand them wanting to commit us to a mental institution because they think we are insane or even worse possessed and bewitching people? Jesus shared with his disciples that this is a common occurrence to those who stand for Christ and refused to budge off the Word of God.

Even those closest to you—your parents, brothers, relatives, and friends—will betray you. They will even kill some of you. And everyone will hate you because you are my followers. But not a hair of your head will perish! By standing firm, you will win your souls. (Luke 21:16-19, NLT)

Our hearts must be so rooted in Jesus Christ that the hatred and mockery from the religious establishment, world and even our friends and family does not turn our hearts away from God to the path of least resistance. Jesus Christ is to be the bedrock and firm foundation of our heart so that we can withstand the beating storms and pressures of life. Jesus Christ must captivate every thought, be infused into every action, and be interwoven into every word that comes forth from our heart. When this happens, a great transformation of the heart takes place in the midst of this crooked generation. His heart becomes our heart, His love becomes our love, His fearlessness becomes our fearlessness, and His strength becomes our strength as we become the true and radiant reflection of our Lord in persecution.

Tribulation and persecution have a tremendous impact on the heart as they are either going to make the heart stronger or weaker in the Lord. They will either cause the heart to have abundant joy, deeper faith, more confidence and greater love for God or cause the heart to be resentful, bitter, discouraged, apathetic and hateful toward God. The Devil uses tribulation and persecution to uproot the Word of God from the Christian’s heart. The Devil uses tribulation and persecution to turn the Christian’s heart against God and betray Him. The Devil uses tribulation and persecution as powerful tools to eradicate the Word of God from the heart and place it in a condition of rebellion and disobedience towards God. The Devils uses tribulation and persecution to get the heart into a condition of spiritual barrenness where it is not producing fruit for the glory of God.

Our hearts must be diligently prepared and fortified in the Word of God and our faith must be strong, unmovable and unwavering in confident trust of our God and His Word. This will enable us to stand boldly on the truth when the storms of mental pressure and persecution roar against the heart like a fierce hurricane.

Have you ever seen a picture of a palm tree during a hurricane? It is so deeply rooted in the ground that the fierce winds and rain can bend and toss it, but it is not uprooted and destroyed? Our heart must be like the palm tree that does not become uprooted from the Scripture and our faith in Christ when the devil tries to squeeze, crush and intimidate us with tribulation and persecution.

Tribulation and persecution will test how deep our relationship is with God our Father and His Son Jesus Christ. Tribulation and persecution will test the lordship of Jesus Christ and bring to light who really is the lord of our hearts. Tribulation and persecution will put our faith on trial and determine its depth, purity and genuineness under its fire. Tribulation and persecution are the environmental testing grounds to analyze the soil sample of our heart, as they will show the condition, content and category of the soil.

As a wise farmer, we must diligently prepare the soil of our hearts so that it is fertile ground for the Word of God to develop a deep root system. The root system is to be nourished by the living waters of the Spirit of God allowing the life of the seed of the Word of God to grow strong in the heart. Then the tender crop can endure the blistering heat of persecution and tribulation. We will have great joy at harvest time as we reap the most beautiful spiritual fruit that the world has ever seen. We will never cease from yielding fruit as long as our root system is strong in Christ. Each persecution and tribulation thrown at us by our enemy only makes us stronger because we abide in Him.

The Dangerous Condition of Offense

Persecution and tribulation not only harden the heart against God and destroy a weak root system, but also can cause the heart to enter a dangerous and deadly condition. The Bible uses one word to describe this toxic condition and that is offense. Offense is a deadly disease of the heart that causes it to be ensnared by the enemy. We must guard against our heart from ever becoming offended or we are headed for enormous trouble spiritually. An offended heart always betrays our Lord in word, thought and deed. An offended heart stands in opposition to the Word of God. It is a fertile growing ground for evil as it produces the fruit of bitterness, unforgiveness, and resentment. An offended heart is spiritually barren for God and will never produce fruit for the Lord. It is where the love for God has gone ice cold. An offended heart is full of envy, strife, and hostility. It is disobedient and rebellious against God and His commandments.

If our heart is offended, we cannot love, trust and serve God Almighty. If our heart is offended, we cannot do the work of His kingdom with the compassion of Christ. The sin of offense has plagued Christianity throughout its history causing massive division in the Body of Christ. Christian brothers have despised, hated and killed other Christian brothers. Churches have split, and thousands of denominations have formed. Christians have been tortured and killed and have fallen into apostasy and forsaken Christ, all because their hearts became offended.

Time and time again Jesus taught his disciples not to allow the heart to enter a state of offense. He instructed his disciples about the persecution and tribulation that would be coming, fueled by the hatred of Satan, so they would not be offended. Jesus knew what offense could do the heart.

Offense caused the twelve disciples to forsake the Lord and scatter in fear when Jesus was seized and crucified. Offense caused Peter to repeatedly betray the Lord and deny Him. Offense caused John the Baptist to doubt that Jesus was the Christ, as he sent his disciples to Jesus to ask him if he was the Messiah, or should they look for another. Offense caused Judas to betray His Master for thirty pieces of silver. Offense caused King Saul to repeatedly attempt to assassinate David, God’s chosen King. Offense caused the Pharisees, Sadducees and other religious leaders to despise Jesus, plot his death, mercilessly beat him and finally put him to death by crucifixion.

How Will You Respond to Offense?

These are humbling lessons in Scripture especially if we think our heart could never become offended in our Lord and betray Him. God set these examples in the Bible as a solemn warning as many of God’s top men fell into the trap of offense. Jesus Christ warned that it was impossible that offenses not come (Luke 17:1). The critical question becomes how are we going to respond to offense? Offense often rides into the heart through a negative reaction to persecution and tribulation. Blessed is the person who is not offended in Christ and the persecution, tribulation and hatred his name brings (Matthew 11:6). We must be the watchmen on the lookout that the sin of offense never enters the door of our heart and make its home there.

The Greek word for “offended” is skandalon and it means to entice to sin, to distrust and desert, to cause to stumble, to cause to fall away and cease believing, to cause annoyance and displeasure, and the laying of a trap to capture. Skandalon referred to the trigger of a trap on which bait is placed. When an animal touches the trigger to eat the bait, the trap springs shut, and the animal is caught. The animal is enticed to its destruction. The trigger is what enables the trap to work and suddenly catch the prey in its deadly snare. The trigger allows the trap to be lightening quick and swiftly ensnare the poor animal before it even knows what happens.

Offense is that deadly to the health of the heart. It is the trigger that the Devil uses to suddenly capture and turn the heart away from God and keep it in a constant state of agitation, bitterness, envy, unforgiveness, and indignation. I cannot stress enough the importance of knowing how suddenly and quickly offense can consume the heart and completely destroy any fruit for God.

When used in a moral context, skandalon indicates the enticement to conduct that will ruin a person. Offense always ruins the heart for God and corrupts its moral fiber. Offense is the breeding ground for sin as it is the gateway for sin to destroy the witness of the heart. Offense thrusts the heart into the danger zone where the toxicity of the kingdom of darkness begins to infiltrate its inner chambers and consume it. Offense is the trigger for the bait of Satan, and it opens the door of the heart for Satan to enter and captivate it. When Satan is allowed to enter our heart through offense, he immediately begins to uproot and discard any tender plant that has been growing from the seed of the Word of God. The heart is then held prisoner by Satan to do his will and to conform to his evil characteristics.

Offense causes the heart to stumble and fall away, wandering around in spiritual blindness. Offense always destroys relationships as more have been devastated by offense than almost any other attitude of the heart. Our relationship with our Heavenly Father and our Lord Jesus is shattered when offense dominates our heart. Our relationships with our spouses, our brothers and sisters in Christ, our children, family and closest friends are ruined by offense. Offense is the great thief of relationships and the great destroyer of love. Offense always causes love to wax cold as selfishness, bitterness, and resentment raise their ugly heads. The desire for revenge, the desire to hurt, the desire to get even, and the desire to elevate oneself and put others down, all flow out of an offended heart.

Offense is one of the great stumbling blocks of the Christian walk and one of the great diseases of the human heart. Offense is a wall builder that tries to keep God out. Offense erects prison bars around the heart, and the longer the heart is in a state of offense the harder it becomes to win the heart back for God. Our heart cannot live out the new life we have in Christ when offense reigns in our hearts.

A brother offended is harder to be won over than a strong city, and their contentions separate them like the bars of a castle. (Proverbs 18:19, AMP)

Every shred of offense must be completely eliminated from our hearts so it does not take root and contaminate it. Not one vestige of offense can remain because it is like yeast in bread, as it will spread quickly and envelop the entire heart. We must not delay. We cannot hesitate. We must not procrastinate. Offense requires immediate, urgent action by the Christian believer. All offense must be uprooted and thrust from the heart before it destroys the seed of the Word of God from growing and producing fruit. The prison walls of offense must be torn down before it becomes a stronghold in the heart. Offense always seduces the heart into sin and it must be ruthlessly eradicated or its disease will spread like cancer throughout the heart. Jesus taught his disciples in no uncertain terms that if any offense existed in their lives, it must be radically and quickly eliminated. To allow offense to remain gives the devil a foothold in the human heart.

Jesus Christ: The Rock of Offense

Every person will one day come face to face with the rock of offense Jesus Christ. How will our heart respond? Jesus Christ will either bring bountiful joy and immeasurable love into our heart or he will cause our heart to be offended. These are the only two responses. Which path will your heart choose? How our hearts respond to the Rock of Offense is the most important decision we will ever face because this single choice will affect everything we do for the rest of our life and determine our eternal destiny.

When Jesus Christ stands at the door of your heart and knocks, asking us to turn from our selfish ways, take up our cross, forsake all and follow him, will you be offended? When Jesus Christ knocks on your heart and says, “I purchased you with my own blood on the cross, you are mine and I want your life” will your heart be offended? When Jesus Christ says, “Stand with me as the light in this dark world and you will become the number one enemy of the kingdom of darkness; you will be hated, despised, mocked and ridiculed by friends, family, colleagues, neighbors, and public opinion,” will the rock of offense caused you to be offended and stumble? Will offense cause our hearts to turn away from the Lord Jesus for he is simply asking too much of me?

There is a passage to this effect in scripture, and it runs like this: ‘Behold, I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious, and he who believes on him will by no means be put to shame’. It is you who believe in him that he is “precious,” but to those who disobey God, it is true that: ‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.’ And he is, to them, ‘a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence.’ Yes, they stumble at the Word of God for in their hearts they are unwilling to obey it—which makes stumbling a foregone conclusion. But you are God’s “chosen generation,” his “royal priesthood,” his “holy nation,” his “peculiar people”—all the old titles of God’s people now belong to you. It is for you now to demonstrate the goodness of him who has called you out of darkness into his amazing light. In the past you were not “a people” at all: now you are the people of God. In the past you had no experience of his mercy, but now it is intimately yours. (1 Peter 2:6-10, PHILLIPS)

There is no place for offense in the Body of Christ. We are God’s chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation of believers, and His beloved children, sanctified and made righteous, in Christ. God has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light. Jesus Christ is not the Rock of Offense to the Body of Christ, but the head of it, and the captain of our salvation. Every member of the Body of Christ is filled to overflowing with the fullness of Christ. Offense only arises in the Body of Christ when our hearts are unwilling to obey the Word of God and rise up in rebellion against it. Offense causes us to stumble when we reject the Rock of Ages from being the Lord of our hearts.

There is no middle ground when it comes to the Rock of Offense. Partial obedience to the Word of God is one of the greatest sins of the church, as is vividly illustrated by the tragic fall of King Saul and the loss of his entire kingdom. The Rock of Offense demands all of our hearts, not just a part of them. The Rock of Offense requires more of your time than just an hour on Sunday. The Rock of Offense demands to be the center of every single activity and life choice we make. The Rock of Offense does not want a lukewarm, half-hearted, and tepid devotion to Him. He demands a 100 percent commitment of wholehearted love and dedication. Nothing less is acceptable. He wants living sacrifices, consecrated and fully given to Him with nothing held back. We cannot draw lines with the Lord Jesus Christ. Does this offend you? Is this too much for our hearts? How will your heart respond to the Rock of Offense?

How do we keep our hearts from being offended and ultimately betraying our Lord? How do we keep offense from establishing even one root in our heart? How do we make sure our heart is pure and completely free of offense? A wonderful verse in Psalms gives us the great remedy against offense.

Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them. (Psalm 119:165, KJV)

The Hebrew word for “love” is ahab, which means to desire, long for or breathe after anything. It means to delight in with great love. It is the love and deep longing of relationship. To breathe after something is to have an intense desire to pursue it with the whole heart. It is the same word used in Deuteronomy when the children of Israel are exhorted to love (ahab) the Lord God with all their heart, soul and might, and is used in the Song of Solomon to describe the intense longing, desire and love between a bride and bridegroom.

It brings a picture to my mind of longing for something so deeply that you pant for it. It is the deep and earnest feelings of the heart that produce a passionate desire for someone or something. This intense longing for God and His Word is illustrated in other Scriptures.

My soul is consumed with longing for thy laws at all times. (Psalm 119:20, NIV)

I opened wide my mouth, and panted; for I longed for thy commandments. (Psalm 119:131, ASV)

How I delight in your commands! How I love them! (Psalm 119:47, NLT)

Oh what love I have for your law! I give thought to I all day long! (Psalm 119:97, BBE)

I run the way of thy commandments, for you have given me freedom of heart. (Psalm 119:32, NJB)

As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for you, O God. (Psalm 42:1, NAU)

We must have an intense yearning and deep love for the Word of God, greatly desiring that it lives in our hearts, if we are ever going to stop offense from taking up residency. We must seek after God’s commands with every breath. We should pant to feed upon every precious truth contained in Scriptures. We should adore the Scripture and let our hearts bask in the beauty, majesty and power of the Bible.

The Bible is supernaturally charged with the life and power of God Almighty and it will absolutely change, alter and transform every heart where it resides. We love Scripture for when we devote time to read and study it, we encounter the magnificent God of the heavens and earth in intimate detail.

Eric Ludy in the Bravehearted Gospel says, “Most Christians ‘respect’ the Bible, but very few treat it as precious, drink in its every word as if it were the dew from heaven, and cherish its every thought as though it were, in fact, divine.”[iv] When we crave God’s Word like we crave physical food. When we delight and mediate upon it, hide it in the depths of our inner being, and treasure and obey it with relentless passion, then our hearts have great peace. In the state of peace, nothing can offend our heart or cause it to stumble. Nothing! Not one thing can shake our hearts and agitate them when we love God’s Word with great desire. Offense cannot penetrate the shield of peace built by the great love of Scriptures in our hearts.

The reason why there is so much offense in the church and the world today is their hearts have no peace. They have no peace because they have no respect or love for God’s Word. They have no awe of the authority and power of Scripture and the Bible becomes just another book relegated to the dust-covered bookshelf.

Jesus Christ: The Prince of Peace

Every jot and title in the Bible testifies as to the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ. Without Jesus no person on earth can ever have true peace. If Jesus Christ lives in our hearts, and we seek his instruction daily through the Word, then we will never be offended in Him. The Rock of Offense will bring great peace to the heart of any person who turns to Him and accepts his mighty work on the cross.

In Hebrew, the word for peace, shalom, means wholeness, completeness and soundness. It is a harmony and unity of heart and soul because of a restored relationship with God, our Father. It is an inward and outward tranquility, a quiet assurance, and a complete well-being where nothing is lacking or broken. Peace is the symphony and harmony of life, in which you enjoy all that is good because of your right relationship with God. It’s the freedom from being disturbed, agitated, stressed and troubled. It is the absence of discord, strife, and anxiety. It is to be at ease and calmly unaffected by circumstance. Peace is the highest measure of contentment, joyfulness, happiness, and satisfaction in life.

There is absolute security, safety, and victory at the center of peace. It is the absence of inward conflict, condemnation, and torment, and rather a state of rest, calmness, and quiet confidence. Offense cannot live and make one stumble in this type of environment. The heart cannot fall into the trap of the enemy and become disturbed and offended by tribulation or persecution when peace reigns in the heart.

True peace is complete oneness and unity with God where there is a wonderful mutual sharing of the enjoyment of that bond. God is the source of all peace, and we have peace because of our relationship with Him. His peace is our peace. His wholeness is our wholeness. His soundness is our soundness. His completeness is our completeness. No man or woman can ever have peace without a vibrant, living fellowship with our Heavenly Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. We can’t buy peace, we can’t medicate peace, and we cannot manufacture peace. We cannot produce true peace from some mental gymnastic exercise, self-help book or seminar. It is impossible to have peace apart from God, and it will never be manifested in our hearts without a great love for the Word of God and a passion to live it. Peace cannot live in a heart full of unbelief.

Peace and offense cannot co-exist together as either the heart is going to be offended or be at peace. We must never allow our hearts to become indifferent, uncaring and unloving concerning the Word of God for then we open the door to the sin of offense.

The Devil is constantly trying to get our heart to doubt the integrity, accuracy and truth of the Word of God with his sly questioning, “Did God really say?” Satan’s whispering is relentless as he tries to remove the Bible’s worth in the human heart by diminishing its value and credibility. He twist its words and throws contempt at its message. He wants to get the heart in a state of offense and to do so he must uproot any vestige of the Word of God from the heart. An offended heart is insulted by the Word of God in writing—the Bible. An offended heart is also insulted by the Word of God in the flesh—the Lord Jesus Christ. An offended heart refuses to conform to the pattern of Scripture and refuses to allow Jesus Christ to exercise his lordship over the heart.

It is easy pickings for Satan to fill us with offense and all its bitter fruit if our heart does not delight after Scripture as the greatest treasure on earth. The Bible reveals the very heart of God and how can we not gaze upon it with great love and adoration for it is the honorable and worthy message of our King.

Jesus illustrates the second soil of the heart and its tragic consequences in Mathew 7.

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash. (Matthew 7:24-27, NIV)

If we hear the Word of God as it is sown in our hearts and obey it by putting into practice, our hearts will be built upon the awesome Rock, Jesus Christ. When the storms of tribulation and persecution fiercely beat upon our heart, and the winds howl ferociously against us and the waters arise all around us, we will not crash and burn because the foundation of our heart is built on Christ and the living Word of God.

However, if we hear the Word sown in our hearts, but we do not love and obey it, but rather are offended and refuse to put it into practice, we are the foolish person who builds our heart on sinking sand. When the fierce storms of tribulation and persecution relentlessly beat on our hearts and the waters dangerously arise all around us, our lives will come crashing down in a great and dramatic fashion. The heart will be shattered into a hundred pieces and blown out to sea for it had no root and foundation in the Word of God.

Is our heart built on the Rock or on the sinking sand? Is Jesus Christ the Prince of Peace or the Rock of Offense to our heart? Is the Word of God the Word of peace or the Word that offends? The condition of the soil of our heart will be determined by these crucial questions. The true test will come when the storms of tribulation and persecution arise from the dark sky and violently beat against our heart. Then we will find out what our heart is made of. Then we will find out whether our heart is built upon the Rock or built upon sinking sand. We will find out the true condition of the soil of our heart.

[i] Charles Spurgeon, Persecuted by Not Forsaken, delivered at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington, on March 8, 1883.

[ii] Eric Ludy, Leslie Ludy, Wrestling Prayer: A Passionate Communion with God (Eugene: Harvest House Publishers, 2009), 99-101.

[iii] A.W. Tozer, I Talk Back to the Devil: The Fighting Fervor of the Victorious Christian (Camp Hill: WingSpread Publishers, 1972), Kindle Edition, 185.

[iv] Eric Ludy, The Bravehearted Gospel (Eugene: Harvest House Publishers, 2008), 167.

Excerpt from Tim Rowe’s The Heart: The Key to Everything in the Christian Life, available on Amazon, Kindle, IBook and Barnes and Noble

 

 

 

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What is Your Mirror in Life?

What do you see when you look in the mirror? How often do you see your reflection in a mirror? Some studies say that the average person looks in a mirror 8 to 10 times a day. Other surveys say it could be as many as 60 to 70 times a day, whose image do you see? And what is our mirror? There are multiple mirrors in this world. Which one do you believe shows your true self? Mirror of social status? Mirror of wealth? Mirror of success? Mirror of television? Mirror of the media?

We are always beholding something. What are you looking at? What are you beholding? There is a principle in the Bible that we become what we look at. Where are your eyes focused in regard to who you are and your purpose in life? A. W. Tozer said: God wants us to recognize that human nature is in a formative state and that it is being changed into the image of the thing it loves. Men and women are being molded by their affinities, shaped by their affections and powerfully transformed by the artistry of their loves. You become what you love? You become what you chase after. In the unregenerate world of Adam this produces day by day tragedies of cosmic proportions!

The eye is the critical foundation in repairing and restoring your true image. The ear is the important key to building our image to reflect how God sees us but it all begins with the eye. The eye needs to be looking like a laser to what God says we are and that is revealed in the Bible. It is the real you and our true image.

James 1:22ff: Don’t I beg you, only hear the message, but put it into practice; otherwise you are merely deluding yourselves. The man who simply hears and does nothing about it is like a man catching the reflection of his own face in a mirror. He sees himself, it is true, but he goes on with whatever he was doing without the slightest recollection of what sort of person he saw in the mirror. But the man who looks into the perfect mirror of God’s law, the law of liberty (or freedom), and makes a habit of so doing, is not the man who sees and forgets. He puts that law into practice and he wins true happiness.

Another translation: If some fail to do what God requires, it’s as if they forget the word as soon as they hear it. One minute they look in the mirror, and the next they forget who they are and what they look like. 25 However, it is possible to open your eyes and take in the beautiful, perfect truth found in God’s law of liberty and live by it. If you pursue that path and actually do what God has commanded, then you will avoid the many distractions that lead to an amnesia of all true things and you will be blessed.

The Bible is a mirror that lets us see ourselves as God sees us.

The fundamental purpose of God’s Word is to give us true self-knowledge; it is a real mirror, and when we look at ourselves properly in it we see ourselves as God wants us to see ourselves. The assumption behind this is that the purpose of God’s revelation is for us to become transformed, to become the people God wants us to be, but this is impossible until we see ourselves as we really are. The problem with the distractions of this world, we have amnesia, we forget who we really are as God sees us and often do not have the slightest recollection of what the mirror of God’s Word is showing us.

2 Corinthians 3:17,18: Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 We all, with unveiled faces, are looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit.

Psalm 34:4-8: I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!  Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!

We reflect what our eyes are focused on. Our image is determined by what we look at with our eye and hear with our ear. Don’t forget what the Word of God says about you or the world will delude you and beat down your true identity. Our eyes are critical to our spiritual growth.

The golden rule for your life and mine is this concentrated keeping of the life
open towards God. Trust Him, commune with Him, study His word, meditate and think about it. Build it into your heart so it can tear down the strongholds of wrong images in your mind. Be passionate about your relationship with Him. Christianity is about relationship with God. The relationship is reciprocal and mutual. No other religion claims this.

God is not a duplicator. Of the seven billion people on the planet earth not one has the same fingerprint. God is not a duplicator, a copycat, and a counterfeiter, but God is a Creator; God is an originator: God is a visionary. God only has one you. No one can ever be you. God only designed one you. He only has one blueprint that he masterfully used to make a masterpiece called you. God has designed you wonderfully unique and awesomely made as a true original. God has the most spectacular design for your life that is absolutely breathtaking and specific down to the littlest detail.

 

Who knows you better than God? He has loved you since the foundations of the heavens and earth. He created you. He formed you. He made you. He has had plans for you since the sun’s first morning light.

Psalm 139:15-18 (NLT): You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.16 You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.17 How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! 18 I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up, you are still with me!

Jeremiah 29:11-14:  11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. 13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.

Seek God and His plans. Know how precious you are to God. Know you have value to God. Know you have a future and a hope. It all starts by knowing your identity in Christ and seeing from Scripture who you really are.

Look at the true mirror. Behold your God! Behold His Son! Behold your salvation and birth as a son! Behold who you really are!

I John 3:1.2a: Consider the incredible love that the Father has shown us in allowing us to be called “children of God”—and that is not just what we are called, but what we are. Our heredity on the Godward side is no mere figure of speech—which explains why the world will no more recognize us than it recognized Christ.Oh, dear children of mine (forgive the affection of an old man!), have you realized it? Here and now we are God’s children.

Have you realized it? You are God’s child, His son through the finished work of Christ.

2 Corinthians 4:4-7: In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants[c] for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.

Satan, the god of this age, main goal is to blind you so you cannot see the light of the gospel, cannot see who you are in Christ and cannot see your worth to God. God has shined in our hearts and when people see us they should see a reflection of he glory of God.

Devil-the one who constantly throws accusations through you and about you, so you dwell on the wrong image of yourself. He is called in Scripture the deceiver, the accuser, and the father of lies. He wants you to look in the wrong mirror and become discouraged by what you see. He wants you to think you have no worth, and no value. He wants you to see sin instead of the Saviour from sin. Your value begins with the price God paid for you, which was to offer His only begotten Son Jesus to take your place on the cross; to suffer the torture and pain of the cross so your sin is paid in full and before the court of God you are declared not guilty. This is unfathomable love for you. Christianity is about reconciliation, restoration and transformation.

We are His image bearers. The fullness of God dwells in you as A Christian.

What does the mirror say?

World says you are rejected and ugly.

The mirror says you are lovely and accepted as His beloved.

The mirror says you are chosen.

The mirror says all the fulness of God resides in you.

The mirror says all your sins are forgiven.

The mirror says you are a new creation in Christ.

The mirror says you are justified by the blood of Christ and are at peace with God.

The mirror says God is your heavenly Father and you are His son by the new birth.

The mirror says you can cry “Abba Father!” to God.

The mirror says you are blessed all spiritual blessings in Christ.

The mirror says you are born again and seated in heavenly places with Christ.

The mirror says you are sealed with the holy spirit and have received the gift of holy spirt at the time of the new birth.

The mirror says you can energize the exceeding greatness of God’s power when you believe.

The mirror says you have been made righteous and completely complete in Him.

The mirror says you are an heir of God and joint-heir with Christ.

The mirror says you have an inheritance in heaven that is undefiled and will not fade away and is reserved in heaven for you.

The mirror says you are God’s most treasured possession.

The mirror says you are God’s masterpiece.

The world rejects all these truths and wants you to conform to their image. The world says your worthless and of no value. The world says you are a failure, a nobody, discarded and abandoned. Who do you believe? What mirror are you looking at?

Romans 12:2: Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold, but let God re-mold your minds from within, so that you may prove in practice that the plan of God for you is good, meets all his demands and moves towards the goal of true maturity.

Do not be conformed to this world. Do not let the world squeeze you into its mold but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Think according to the Bible and not according to the world.

2 Timothy 3:16,17: All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God[b] may be complete, equipped for every good work.

All Scripture is God-breathed. He only wrote one book. Its words are spiritual life. Its words vibrate with energy and power. It is an immeasurable wonder that God has given us an inspired book containing the truth about himself and his ways and what he wills for our lives.

Often, we hear that God is silent or God does not care. “Don’t say God is silent when your Bible is closed.”

I don’t know who said or shared it first, but it’s clear this simple statement resonates with many, at least it has with me. These ten words rebuke our fear that God might be inactive or uncaring in the brokenness and messiness of our lives, and reminds us that he cares, he sees, and he speaks. But too often, we’re just not listening and our book has remained closed.

God is always ready to speak into our lives. We simply need to listen, tuning our ears and hearts to what he is saying in the book he inspired. When we open the Bible, we find more than 750,000 words breathed out by God himself for us.

Matthew 4:4: But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone,  but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Attention to diet is becoming more and more recognized as essential to nutrition and growth. A low condition of bodily health is produced by inattention to the laws of nature as to suitable diet….A low condition of spiritual health is produced by improper feeding or neglect of necessary food, which is the Word of God…The root of all evils which abound in the spiritual sphere at the present day lies in the fact that the Word and the words of God are not fed upon, digested or assimilated, as they ought to be.

Our physical diet is important, but what about our spiritual diet? How much of the Word of God are we feeding upon, digesting, and assimilating into our heart and soul? If we ever want to be spiritually strong and excel in our gifting before the Lord, we cannot neglect the spiritual food of the Bible.

Jeremiah 15:16: Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O Lord, God of hosts.

I Peter 2:2,3: As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.

I promise you that if you set sometime aside every day to read and meditate upon the Scriptures, your life will be energized and transformed by the mighty power of His Word. There is life in the Word, and it will change the heart to become more like Him. There is light in the Word, and it will extinguish the darkness of everything that may hold us in bondage. There is comfort in the Word, and it will overcome the worries and fears of this age. There is wisdom in the Word, and it will guide our paths into the right way and help us avoid the obstacles set up to distract us and make us fall. There is healing in the Word, and it will restore our mind and body in complete wholeness. We need to open the book and let it speak to our heart. Pray that God enlightens your understanding and directs you to the words that you need to hear and believe. Just be faithful with being in the Word, as you will begin to realize that the more time you spend in the Word, you will begin to crave, desire, and cherish the time that it is just you and God in the Word. We cannot stand effectively for God without it. If we spend two minutes a week in the Word and twenty hours in front of the television, our spiritual lives will be out of balance.  We will be anemic and weak spiritually, as our hearts will be receiving little nourishment from the words of God.  It is like trying to put your life together without the training manual of life provided by your Heavenly Father.

People go through the journey of life looking for something that is useful, profitable, or advantageous for their life. They diligently search for principles of life that will help them accomplish their goals and make their life worth living. Nothing they could ever find is more useful, beneficial, and profitable for life than the God-breathed Scriptures. This Word of God boldly proclaims that every word contain in Scripture is profitable, and in the Greek this word means: useful, profitable, serviceable, helpful, beneficial, and refers to that which yields advantageous returns or results. It provides something that someone needs to attain a certain goal. God has set a wonderful purpose for us in our generation, and the Word of God is the vital tool that equips us to accomplish it. The benefit and usefulness of the Bible is fathomless and is so great that it cannot even be measured by human means.

A.W. Tozer said, “The Bible is not only a book which was once spoken, but a book which is now speaking.” God wants to speak to us today, and every day, through His Word. God’s word is not simply “once spoken.” God’s word is always “now speaking.”

We silence the sound of God’s voice in our lives when we leave our Bible on the shelf. Many have shared another popular statement: “Complaining about God being silent when your Bible is closed is like complaining about not getting texts when your phone is turned off.”

God is always speaking to us through His Word. But the Bible is clear we need special, God-given ears to hear him. The Scriptures call us to have “ears to hear” seven times in the Gospels, and seven more times in the beginning of Revelation. Unclog your ears from the noise of the world and listen intently to what He has to say.

Martin Luther rightly declared “The Bible is alive, it speaks to me; it has feet, it runs after me; it has hands, it lays hold on me.”

Hebrews 4:12a: For the Word that God speaks is alive and full of power [making it active, operative, energizing, and effective];

The Word of God lives and abides forever. It cannot be destroyed, diminished or overcome. It cannot be superseded. It will never fade or become obsolete. It is words from the heart of God and the power of God lives in every syllable. It is the Creator of the heavens and earth, your Heavenly Father speaking. It is life-giving communication.

We all want to know who we are. We seek and search and try to “find ourselves.” Many of us have taken personality tests and other assessments. But as helpful as those tests can be, have you ever stopped to ask, “What does God think about me? Who does he say that I am?”

In all your years as a Christian, have you asked this question about who you really are? God has a lot to say about what he thinks about us — a whole Bible full. But if we could summarize it in a short space, here’s how it might sound.

You Are Valuable

I am the Creator and you are my creation. I breathed into your nostrils the breath of life (Genesis 2:7). I created you in my own image (Genesis 1:27). My eyes saw your unformed substance (Psalm 139:16). I knit you together in your mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13). I know the number of hairs on your head, and before a word is on your tongue I know it (Matthew 10:30Psalm 139:4). You are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14).

You are more valuable than many sparrows (Matthew 10:31). I have given you dominion over all sheep and oxen and all beasts of the field and birds of the heavens and fish of the sea (Psalm 8:6–8Genesis 1:2628). I have crowned you with glory and honor as the pinnacle and final act of the six days of creation (Psalm 8:5Genesis 1:26).

However, from the very beginning, you exchanged the truth about me for a lie. You worshiped and served created things rather than me, the Creator (Romans 1:25). You have sinned and fallen short of my glory (Romans 3:23). Just as I said to Adam and Eve, the penalty for your sin is death (Romans 6:23Genesis 2:17). And in your sin, you were spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1). You were children of wrath, living as enemies to me (Ephesians 2:3Romans 5:10). You turned aside from me. You became corrupt. There is none who does good, not even one (Psalm 14:2–3). What you deserve is my righteous judgment (Psalm 7:11–12).

And yet, in my great love, I gave my unique Son, that all those who believe in him will not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16). While you were still sinners, Christ died for you. While you were still hostile toward me, you were reconciled to me by the death of my Son (Romans 5:810). Sin doesn’t have the last word. Grace does (Romans 5:20).Now everyone who calls on the name of Jesus will be saved (Romans 10:13). You who have believed are born again (1 Peter 1:3). I have adopted you (Ephesians 1:5). You are children of God, heirs of God (1 John 3:2Romans 8:16–17). You are no longer orphans. You belong to me (John 14:181 Corinthians 6:19). And I love you as a perfect Father (1 John 3:1Luke 15:20–24).

You Are New

In my eyes, you are a brand new creation. The old has passed away; the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17). Sin is no longer your master, for you died to sin and are now alive to me (Romans 6:11Ephesians 2:4–5).You are finally free from the slavery of sin and death. There is now no condemnation for you (Romans 8:1–2). All your sins are forgiven (1 John 1:9). All your unrighteousness has been cleansed by the blood of Jesus (1 John 1:79). You are now righteous in my sight with the very righteousness of my perfect Son (Romans 4:5).You’ve been saved by grace (Ephesians 2:8). You’ve been justified by faith (Romans 5:1). You are utterly secure in me; nothing will be able to separate you from my love in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:39). No one is able to snatch you out of my hand (John 10:29). And I will never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5).

You Have My Spirit

You not only have a new Father, but also a new family of brothers and sisters (Luke 8:21). You are now part of the people of God (1 Peter 2:9). And together the life you now live is by faith in my Son (Galatians 2:20).Look to Jesus. Keep your eyes on him. He is the author and perfecter of your faith (Hebrews 12:2). Christ is in you by my Spirit, and you are in Christ (John 15:5Colossians 1:27). Stay close to Jesus. Abide in him (John 15:4). For your life is found in him (John 14:6Colossians 3:3–4). To live is Christ, and to die is gain (Philippians 1:21).Don’t live by your own power or understanding. No, live by my Spirit within you (Zechariah 4:6Proverbs 3:5). Remember, I have given you the Holy Spirit to be with you and in you (Romans 5:5John 14:17). The Spirit will guide you into all truth, help you to obey me, and empower you to do my work (John 16:713Acts 1:8Galatians 5:16).

You Will Be Transformed

As you seek me and see more of my glory, I am transforming you into the image of my Son (2 Corinthians 3:18Exodus 33:18). One day you will be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet sound (1 Corinthians 15:52). When Jesus appears, you will be like him, because you shall see him as he is (1 John 3:2Romans 8:29).You will be delivered from your body of death through Jesus Christ, and your dwelling place will be with me (Romans 7:24–25John 14:3). And I will wipe away every tear from your eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore (Revelation 21:3–4). You will drink from the spring of the water of life without payment, and I myself will make for you a feast of rich food and well-aged wine (Revelation 21:6Isaiah 25:6). You will enter my rest, inherit the kingdom I’ve prepared for you, and step into fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore (Hebrews 4:9–11Matthew 25:34Psalm 16:11). But most of all, you will see my face and be with me where I am (Revelation 22:4John 14:3).

You Represent Me

“Look to Jesus. Keep your eyes on him. He is the author and perfecter of your faith.”

Therefore, walk in a manner worthy of your calling (Ephesians 4:1). You are no longer darkness, but light in my Son. Walk as children of light (Ephesians 5:8). You are the light of the world, a city set on a hill (Matthew 5:14). I have called you (2 Peter 1:3). I have chosen you (Revelation 17:14). You are now a saint, a servant, a steward, and a soldier (Romans 1:7Acts 26:161 Peter 4:102 Timothy 2:3). You are a witness and a worker (Acts 1:8Ephesians 2:10). Through Jesus you are victorious (1 Corinthians 15:57). You have a glorious future (Romans 8:18). You are a citizen of heaven (Philippians 3:20). You are an ambassador for my Son (2 Corinthians 5:20).

I have only scratched the surface on what the Bible says about you. God is very personal when it comes to you. He thinks about you all the time. He cares about you immensely. Open the book and let Him speak to you and show you who you really are!

The greatest tragedy in life is when we turn our backs on God’s design and purpose for our lives. This tragedy hurts the heart of God for He knows what could have been. The story that never came to pass; the beautiful masterpiece that was left in the box. The awesome calling that faded away. He has written a beautiful story for our life, but when we pick up the pen and try to write the book ourselves, everything falls apart and crumbles before our eyes. Pray to God. Talk to God. Ask God to show you day by day His design and function and purpose for you on this earth. Pray to God that you fulfill every jot and tittle of it. It is glorious. It is immense. It is adventurous. It is the best. This purpose always has at its fabric that you have a heart of service to God and others. It begins with salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ and the new birth. No one can accomplish their destiny without the Lord Jesus Christ. God is with you every step of the way and He will help you, strengthen you and guide you into fulfilling His purpose He has for you in your generation. Don’t ever waste your potential, your purpose and your design on things, paths, ways that God never intended for you. Be all that you can be for God. Every cell in your body was designed for you to fulfill your purpose that God knew about before time began. Let God make your life count and ring as a gem of God’s glory throughout the halls of eternity forever. Every moment counts; every day counts; every week counts; every year counts, but we live with God one day at a time.

Romans 10:11: For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him [whoever adheres to, trusts in, and relies on Him] will not be disappointed [in his expectations].”

The glitter of the world with its man-made theories and philosophies will always let you down. It is like building your life on sinking sand. God will never disappoint. God will never let you down. Faith is a gateway to recovery and discovery. The truth about who you are will set you free. The Bible opens the prison door and obliterates self-condemnation and self-hatred. It enables you to love yourself because it shows you how much God loves you and what He has done for you.

It all begins with the call to salvation; the invitation of Jesus Christ to come and see. He is the Way, He is the Truth, He is the Life. Only he has the promise of life that is in Christ for now and for all eternity. You will not thirst again when you come to him for he is living water and holds the keys to eternal life.

I Timothy 2:3-6a: This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man[a] Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all…

The transformation of who we are, the restoration of our true image begins with the new birth in Christ. Repent of your past sin, turn to God, confess Jesus as your Lord, believe that God raised him from the dead and receive the gift of eternal life and complete salvation. This is the new beginning for our lives and then we let God build us through His Word. Think of yourself as God thinks of you. No other opinion is important. Look in the mirror of the Bible, the God-breathed Word to see the real you, the one that Jesus gave his life for. You have immense worth. You have immeasurable value. You are God’s treasure put on this earth to shine as a light. Never let the world convince you otherwise. Take God’s hand in this new adventure. Know that God loves you more then you will ever be able to comprehend, and He is here every moment for you. He is for you. He is your refuge. He is your strength. He is your helper. He is everything we ever need in life. He will never abandon you, never forsake you and never leave you. Now is the time to return to your loving Heavenly Father. Now is the time to make Christ your Lord and to be set free from every bondage and every prison that holds you captive.

Numbers 6:24-26: 24 The Lord bless you and keep you;25 the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;26 the Lord lift up his countenance[c] upon you and give you peace.

 

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Tetelestai-It is Finished!

“IT IS FINISHED” (John 19:30note) which can also be translated “PAID IN FULL!” THREE words in English, ONE word in Greek – TETELESTAI! The GREATEST WORD from the GREATEST MAN on the GREATEST DAY in all eternity! One word, but no word ever uttered has so changed the history and destiny of mankind. In Latin tetelestai is rendered with two words “Consummatum est” (It is consummated!) Jesus spoke 7 times on the Cross (Lk 23:34noteJn 19:36noteLk 23:42noteMt 27:46noteJn 19:28,30noteLk 23:46note). TETELESTAI was Jesus’ next to last word and was followed by “Father, INTO THY HANDS I COMMIT MY SPIRIT.” (Lk 23:46note). “IT IS FINISHED!” “Yes, indeed/Finished, ev’ry jot/Sinner, this is all you need/Tell me, is it not?” (Ira Sankey)

As C H Spurgeon says TETELESTAI conveys

“an ocean of meaning in a drop of language, a mere drop. It would need all the other words that ever were spoken, or ever can be spoken, to explain this one word. It is altogether immeasurable. It is high; I cannot attain to it. It is deep; I cannot fathom it. IT IS FINISHED is the most charming note in all of Calvary’s music. The fire has passed upon the Lamb. He has borne the whole of the wrath that was due to His people. This is the royal dish of the feast of love.”

J C Ryle wrote that

“It is surely not too much to say, that of all the seven famous sayings of Christ on the cross, none is more remarkable than TETELESTAI.”

A C Gaebelein adds

“Never before and never after was ever spoken ONE WORD which contains and means so much. It is the shout of the mighty Victor. And who can measure the depths of this ONE WORD!”

A W Pink writes that

“Eternity will be needed to make manifest all that TETELESTAI contains.”

Matthew Henry described TETELESTAI as a “comprehensive word and a comfortable one.”

Charles Simeon adds that

‘since the foundation of the world there never was a single word uttered, in which such diversified and important matter was contained. Every word indeed that proceeded from our Saviour’s lips deserves the most attentive consideration: but TETELESTAI eclipses all. To do justice to it, is beyond the ability of men or angels: its height, and depth, and length, and breadth, are absolutely unsearchable.”

Clearly to contemplate TETELESTAI is to come to the realization that “the place whereon we stand is holy ground.” May the Holy Spirit help us to comprehend and to handle rightly “this text which is at once so small and yet so great!”

It has been well said that Christ’s RESURRECTION is the Father’s “AMEN” to His Son’s declaration “IT IS FINISHED.” Looking at the Cross we see the work of redemption completed. Looking at the open tomb we see Jesus’ finished work fully accepted by the Father. The payment required for sin is death (cf Ge 2:17noteRo 5:12noteRo 6:23note) and when Christ said TETELESTAI, He was saying that the sin debt was “PAID IN FULL!” If you believe that dear reader, His righteousness has been credited to your account (Ro 4:3noteRo 4:24noteGal 3:6-7note). We owed a debt we could never pay. Jesus paid a debt He did not owe! Tony Evans says “All the funds necessary to pay for our total redemption were put up by Jesus Christ on the Cross.” Or as Warren Wiersbe put it “He took my bankruptcy and covered it with His solvency.” He didn’t just make a down payment and then expect me to keep up the installments. “But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (Hebrews 9:26note). His empty tomb and His resurrection are indisputable testimony to the fact that the Father accepted His Son’s payment for sin on our behalf, as our Substitute. Thus TETELESTAI is not a cry of defeat of a dying Man, but a cry of triumph of a Living, Life Giving Redeemer, a divine proclamation that the WORK OF REDEMPTION had been fully, finally and forever accomplished (cf Jn 4:34noteJn 17:4note).

Spurgeon adds

“What a grand utterance (is “Tetelestai”)! Now are we safe, for salvation is complete. The (sin) debt was now, to the last farthing, all discharged. The atonement and propitiation were made once and for all and forever, by the one offering made in Jesus’ body on the Tree. There was the cup; Hell was in it; the Savior drank it—not a sip and then a pause—not a draught (a single act of drinking) and then a ceasing. He drained it till there is not a dreg left for any of His people. The great ten-thronged whip of the Law was worn out upon His back. There is no lash left with which to smite one for whom Jesus died. The great cannonade (“continuous heavy gunfire”) of God’s justice has exhausted all its ammunition—there is nothing left to be hurled against a child of God (Beloved, do you believe these great benefits are yours in Christ?). Sheathed is thy sword, O Justice! Silenced is thy thunder, O Law! There remains nothing now of all the griefs and pains and agonies which chosen sinners ought to have suffered for their sins, for Christ has endured all for His own beloved (1Th 1:4note) and IT IS FINISHED. Christ has paid the debt which all the torments of eternity could not have paid. Once again—when He said, “IT IS FINISHED,” Jesus had totally destroyed the power of Satan, of sin and of death. The Champion accepted the challenge to do battle for our soul’s redemption against all our foes. He met Sin. Horrible, terrible, all-but omnipotent Sin nailed Him to the Cross. But in that deed, Christ nailed Sin also to the tree. There they both did hang together—Sin and Sin’s Destroyer. Sin destroyed Christ and by that destruction Christ destroyed Sin.”

TETELESTAI is the perfect tense (see below) of the verb teleo which is derived from telos (a goal achieved, a consummation, a result attained) and means to bring something to a successful end to or to its intended or destined goal. It does not mean just to complete a task but to carry it out fully, to bring it to the finish or to perfection. It follows that Jesus’ cry of TETELESTAI is a word of finality. The idea is “It is finished, it stands finished, and it always will be finished!” His work of redemption is complete and nothing needs to be or can be added to it. Sin is atoned for (Heb 9:12noteHeb 10:12note), Satan is defeated and rendered powerless (Heb 2:14-15note1Jn 3:8), every requirement of the Law has been satisfied and God’s holy wrath against sin has been satisfied (or propitiated) (Ro 3:25noteHeb 2:17note1Jn 2:24:10). Redemption is eternally secured. We are reconciled in Christ’s “fleshly body through death” that we might be presented before God “holy and blameless and beyond reproach.” (Col 1:22note). Speaking of Christ’s cry of TETELESTAI, Frank Boreham makes the interesting observation that “This divine self-satisfaction appears only twice, once in each Testament. When He completed the work of Creation, He looked upon it and said that it was “very good,” (Ge 1:31note) when He completed the Work of Redemption, He cried with a loud voice TETELESTAI! (Jn 19:30) It means (in essence) the same thing.”

THE PERFECT TENSETETELESTAI is in the perfect tense which describes a PAST completed act with PRESENT effect, emphasizing that the past completed event of Christ’s death on the Cross has ongoing, even permanent effects. Jesus’ sacrifice may have occurred in time and space, but its results will last for eternity! In other words, when Jesus declared “IT IS FINISHED”, He was saying that His mission to redeem sinners had reached its intended goal and that the benefits to the redeemed would last throughout eternity. Erwin Lutzer adds that “This means that my sins are on Jesus, not on me. Yes, there is sin within me but not on me. My sinful nature keeps luring me toward sin, and even in my best moments my works are tainted with selfish motives. But legally, I am accepted on the basis of the merit of Jesus. Figuratively speaking, I have a new set of clothes and a clear record in heaven. The righteousness of Jesus has been (forever) credited to my account.” All that truth in one Greek tense! Beloved our Redeemer’s ransom payment is sufficient for this life and the life to come! May God enable us by His Spirit, to live victoriously in light of the truth of this “Word of the Cross” (especially the great word “tetelestai”) which is the “power of God” to us “who are being saved (daily by the Spirit)” (1Cor 1:18note).

Observe how the word TETELESTAI was commonly used in the ancient world:

(1) SERVANTS:

Servant used TETELESTAI when reporting to their master, “I have COMPLETED (TETELESTAI) the work assigned to me”. In another ancient secular Greek text we read of the example of a father sending his son on a mission. The son was not to return until he had performed the last act of the mission. When he did return from a successful mission, he used the word TETELESTAI to report to his father that he had accomplished the goal. As Jesus Himself testified “I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to ACCOMPLISH (teleioo – also derived from telos = goal) His work. I glorified Thee on the earth, having ACCOMPLISHED (teleioo) the work which Thou hast given Me to do. (And so He laid) down His life for His friends.” (Jn 6:38noteMk 10:45Jn 4:34noteJn 17:4noteJn 15:13note)

(2) PRIESTS:

Priests would examine animals for blemishes before they were sacrificed. If the lamb was faultless, perfect, and acceptable, the priest would say, “TETELESTAI!” Jesus is the Lamb of God Who alone was “without sin” (Heb 4:15note, cf Jn 1:29note1Cor 5:7note). As Peter testifies we “were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.” (1Pe 1:18-19note)

(3) ARTISTS:

Frank Boreham writes that “When the painter or the sculptor had put the last finishing touches to the vivid landscape or the marble bust, he would stand back a few feet to admire his masterpiece, and, seeing in it nothing that called for correction or improvement, would murmur fondly, ‘Tetelestai!’ ‘Tetelestai!’” “IT IS FINISHED!” All the Old Testament “pictures” (types) of Messiah were fulfilled in Christ and were only a “shadow of what is to come; but the substance (reality) belongs to Christ.” (Col 2:17note). The death of Jesus on the Cross “finished the picture” of redemption, a masterpiece which had been in the Father’s heart “from before the foundation of the world” (1Pe 1:20note2Ti 1:9note).

(4) MERCHANTS:

In ancient times when a promissory note was paid, the one holding the note wrote “TETELESTAI” across it. A deed to property was not in effect until it was dated and signed, and when this was accomplished, the clerk wrote “TETELESTAI” across the deed. When someone had a debt and it was paid off, the creditor would write “TETELESTAI” on the certificate of debt signifying that it was “PAID IN FULL”. It is reported in several secondary sources that several years ago, archaeologists digging in Egypt uncovered the “office” of an ancient “CPA.” In this office they found a stack of bills, with the Greek word “tetelestai” inscribed across each bill – “Paid in full“! (See next paragraph which gives historical support for the interpretation of tetelestai as “paid in full.) When Christ gave Himself on the Cross, He fulfilled all the righteous demands of the law and our “sin debt” was PAID IN FULL. The OT sacrifices covered sin but could never take sin away. Jesus accomplished what all of the old covenant sacrifices could not do. “In eternity the Son gave the Father a “promissory note” that He would pay the price for humanity’s redemption (see Heb 10:5–7note). On Calvary the note was PAID IN FULL. TETELESTAI!” (H H Hobbs) As Spurgeon said “There is no mortgage on the saints.” Wayne Grudem adds that “If Christ had not paid the full penalty, there would still be condemnation left for us. But since he has paid the full penalty that is due to us, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Ro 8:1note).

Documentation of Use of Tetelestai Meaning Paid in Full – Some writers question whether tetelestaiwas ever used which the meaning “paid in full“, stating that while this is frequently quoted as a fact, no original ancient sources are ever given. That is a fair critique, but I think there is Greek papyri evidence to support this common explanation as recorded in the following 1896 work by Grenfell and Hunt entitled New classical fragments and other Greek and Latin

On page 78 we have a section entitled “L. Second Third Century A. D. From the Fayoum” (Fayoum is in Egypt) where we read that “The 14 papyris grouped together are receipts for various taxes paid by persons transporting goods on baggage animals from the Fayoum to Memphis and vice versa across the desert road.”

Continuing on page 79 we read “The formula in these 14 papyri is with some variations as follows. It begins with the abbreviation tetel. (which in one case, f2, written out in full, tetelestaidia pules(“through the gate”), followed by the name of the village; then comes the name of the tax of which there are three varieties, etc. (page 79)

This ancient manuscript substantiates that tetelestai was occasionally used to mean “paid in full” in secular (commercial) settings.

(5) PRISONERSFYI – While the following illustration of Tetelestai is “attractive” and sounds Biblically reasonable, I have been unable to document that this description was the actual practice in Roman prisons. Therefore one might want to either ignore this illustration or use it as an illustration but with a qualifying explanation. The esteemed pastor Adrian Rogers used this illustration in at least five messages, but unfortunately he did not reference a specific resource.

When a Roman citizen was convicted of a crime, he was thrown into prison. A “Certificate of Debt” listing all his crimes was nailed to his cell door so that anyone passing by could know what he had been accused of and the penalty assessed. When the prisoner had served his sentence and was released from bondage, the indictment was taken down from the door and the judge who had put him in prison would sign the indictment and write across it the word TETELESTAI. The freed prisoner was then given this document and if questioned as to why he was out of jail, he could point to the indictment across which the judge had written TETELESTAI. He could rest in safety and security because the word TETELESTAI guaranteed his deliverance and his liberty. The charges for those crimes could never again be brought against him. He would never be a victim of “double jeopardy” (having to pay for the same crime twice). When Jesus cried “TETELESTAI” on the cross, He was saying that anyone who places his trust in His sacrificial death on their behalf, receives in essence a “certificate of debt” with the inscription of “tetelestai”, indicating that all their “crimes” (past, present and future) against God have been PAID FOR IN FULL! In light of this truth, Paul could write that because our debt was PAID IN FULL by Jesus, God “has forgiven you all your sins: Christ has utterly wiped out (Greek = completely obliterated) the condemning evidence of broken laws and commandments which always hung over our heads, and has completely annulled it by nailing it over His own head on the Cross. And then having drawn the sting of all the powers ranged against us, He exposed them, shattered, empty and defeated, in His final glorious triumphant act!” (Col 2:14-15 Phillips-note) Erwin Lutzer adds that “On the cross, the justice of God was fully satisfied when our heavenly Substitute paid the great price of ransom. As Spurgeon put it, we can stand with confidence despite the thunder of the law and the lightening flash of justice, “for we are safe beneath the cross.” He paid the very last cent of the wages of our sin.”

Beloved, Satan may accuse us of “high treason” against God (read Rev 12:10note), but now and forever “we have an Advocate (paraclete) with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous” (1Jn 2:1-2note) Who cries “I object” to every accusation of the Adversary, to which the Father says “Objection Sustained!” Yes, when we sin, we need to confess and repent in order to enjoy fellowship with God (1Jn 1:9note), but our our eternal salvation is never in doubt or subject to “double jeopardy” because Christ has once and for all time cried “TETELESTAI!” Beloved child of God, if you have a sin regarding which you find it difficult to accept the Father’s full forgiveness, let your mind dwell on the truth of “TETELESTAI,” and then put that sin on God’s ledger and write “Paid in Full” next to it! The truth inherent in the word TETELESTAI should give every believer great assurance, comfort and peace that all of our sin debt, past, present and future, is PAID IN FULL and there remains no sacrifice to be paid! There is nothing we must or even could contribute to the remission of our debt, except receive the “free gift of eternal life” by faith (Ro 6:23bnote). Jesus “having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God.” (Heb 10:12note). As the hymn writer E M Hall put it “Jesus paid it all, All to Him I owe; Sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow.”

Andrew Murray writes that

“every day that our confidence grows fuller in Christ’s FINISHED WORK must see our heart more entirely yielding itself like Him, a whole burnt offering in the service of God and His love.”

Spurgeon says that

“The general religion of mankind is “DO,” but the religion of a true Christian is “DONE.” IT IS FINISHED is the believer’s conquering word. INCARNATE LOVE has fulfilled His self-imposed task. Jesus, as the Substitute for sinners, was condemned to die, and He died that He might finish the work of our redemption. Your sins have sustained their death-blow, the robe of your righteousness has received its last thread (cf 1Cor 1:30note2Cor 5:21note). It is done, complete, perfect. It needs no addition; it can NEVER suffer any diminution. Oh, Christian, do lay hold of this precious thought. I may not be able to state it except in weak terms, but let not my weakness prevent your apprehending its glory and its preciousness. This thought is enough to make a man leap, though his legs were chained with irons, and to make him sing, though his mouth were gagged. We are PERFECTLY ACCEPTED in Christ, and our justification is not partial (cf Ro 5:1noteRo 5:9noteRo 8:30note). It does not go to a limited extent, but goes the whole way. Our unrighteousness is covered. From condemnation we are entirely and irrevocably free. ‘Consummatum est. The work is done, redemption is accomplished; the salvation of My people is forever secured. Sin will never be mentioned against them anymore, forever. Oh, wondrous deed of Deity! Oh, mighty feat of love accomplished once for all!”

J C Ryle encourages us to REST our souls on the finished work of Christ (Heb 4:10-11note) noting that

“We need not fear that either sin or Satan or law shall condemn us at the last day. We may lean back on the thought, that we have a Savior Who has done all, paid all, accomplished all, performed all that is necessary for our salvation. We may take up the challenge of the Apostle, “Who is the one who condemns? (cf Ro 8:1note) Christ Jesus is He Who died, yes, rather Who was raised, Who is at the right hand of God; Who also (continually) intercedes for us.” (Ro 8:34note). When we look at our own works, we may well feel ashamed of their imperfections. But when we look at the FINISHED WORK of Christ, we may feel peace (cf Heb 12:2note).” Hallelujah!

Spurgeon

“Christ has said, “IT IS FINISHED!” and we must cease to work too (Ro 4:3note), not only with our hands but with our souls—working no more for life, for that is given; working no more for justification, for that is concluded; but to-day RESTING in Christ (cp Ro 4:5-6noteMt 11:28-30note) for “It is finished!” There is nothing for God to do. “IT IS FINISHED.” There is nothing for you to do. “IT IS FINISHED.” Christ need not bleed. “IT IS FINISHED.” You need not weep. “IT IS FINISHED.” God the Holy Spirit need not delay because of your unworthiness, nor need you delay because of your helplessness. “IT IS FINISHED.” Every stumbling block is rolled out of the road; every gate is opened. The bars of brass are broken, the gates of iron are burst asunder. “IT IS FINISHED.” Come and welcome; come and welcome!.”

This is exactly what the great missionary Hudson Taylor, founder of China Inland Mission, did as he meditated on “IT IS FINISHED” writing that “There dawned upon me the joyous conviction that since the whole work was finished and the whole debt was paid upon the Cross there was nothing for me to do but to fall upon my knees, accept the Savior and praise Him forevermore.” Amen!

And since the work of redemption is finished by and in Christ, now based on the fact that we are God’s “workmanship (poiema = masterpiece!), created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them,” our goal should be to daily seek to enter into His works, works that so to speak have already been “pre-paid” and “pre-pared” in Christ, even before the foundation of the world! (Eph 2:10noteEph 1:4note, cp Heb 4:3note1Cor 3:11) This great truth should relieve us of some of the pressure we often feel in evangelical Christendom to “perform” and should give us the freedom to learn to rest in what the Spirit of Christ can do through us when we are totally surrendered to His will. Yes, we will still have to “labor and strive” just as did Paul (Col 1:29note), but now it is working out what the Spirit of Christ works in (Php 2:12notePhp 2:13note).

The evangelist Alexander Wooten was approached by a young man who asked, “What must I DO to be saved?” Wooten replied “It’s too late!” The young man became alarmed asking “Do you mean that it’s too late for me to be saved? Is there nothing I can DO?” Wooten replied “Too late! It’s already been DONE! (IT IS FINISHED!) The only thing you can DO is BELIEVE.”

Therefore, beloved, the same principle holds for the works prepared beforehand in Christ Jesus in which we now are to daily walk (Eph 2:10note) The only thing we can “do” is BELIEVE! The same way we got through the small gate and onto the narrow way (Mt 7:13-14note), is the same way we are now to work for (in) Jesus — by faith, motivated by love. As Paul exhorted the saints at Colossae who were being “tempted” by false teachers to veer off the narrow path of liberating grace and into the rut of futile legalism (Col 2:20-23note), he also exhorts us – “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him.” (Col 2:6noteWalk is in the present imperative, a command calling for this to be our lifestyle… continually! BUT be careful! To “try” to do this in our own strength is doomed to failure. The Good News (the Gospel) is that for every divine commandment, He also provides divine enablement. How? The dunamis of the indwelling Spirit (cp Acts 1:8note). Now we need to learn to lean on Him, continually jettisoning “self-reliance” and continually cultivating a “spirit” of “Spirit-dependence. Study also the two intimately related commands to continually “Be filled with the Spirit” (Eph 5:18note) and to continually “Walk by the Spirit” (Gal 5:16note). Notice also how Paul was able to labor [to point of exhaustion! = kopiao] and strive in agony [agonizomai] in Col 1:29 (noting that Paul uses dunamis to describe “His power”!) Now, back to Col 2:6 – How did we receive Him? By faith. How do we now daily walk in Him? By faith! How should we daily work for Him? By faithRemember

It is done!

Tetelestai!

Finished!

Jesus Paid It All” from Passion 2006.

Lifted up was He to die,
“It is finished,” was His cry;
Now in heaven exalted high;
Hallelujah! what a Saviour.

-Phillip Bliss

Hallelujah, What a Savior – Shelly Moore Band

Courtesy of Precept Austin

http://www.preceptaustin.org/tetelestai-paid_in_full

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Parable of the Sower: The Second Soil of the Heart-Rocks, Scorching, and Withering, Part 1

Let’s examine the second soil of the heart and what happens when the seed of the Word of God is sown into it.

As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. (Matthew 13:20-21, ESV)

Other seed [of the same kind] fell on ground full of rocks, where it had not much soil; and at once it sprang up, because it had no depth of soil; And when the sun came up, it was scorched, and because it had not taken root, it withered away. And in the same way the ones sown upon stony ground are those who, when they hear the Word, at once receive and accept and welcome it with joy; And they have no real root in themselves, and so they endure for a little while; then when trouble or persecution arises on account of the Word, they immediately are offended (become displeased, indignant, resentful) and they stumble and fall away. (Mark 4:5-6, 16-17, AMP)

And some fell on the rock, and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away. (Luke 8:8, 13, ESV)

On the surface, this second soil of the heart looks like good, fertile ground for the Word of God. However, there is a huge problem not visible to the human eye. The soil only has a few inches of depth and covers up a thick layer of solid rock that makes sustained growth of the seed impossible. The seed has a sudden, brief growth spurt, but its young root can never develop and become strong. Once it hits the rock, the root soon withers away causing the tiny plant that has emerged from the soil to die. This tender plant, that looked so promising, is scorched by the heat of the sun and wilts. The second soil of the heart is as hard as a rock just below the surface and hardness of heart is the great enemy to the growth of the Word of God.

Never forget how important it is for the seed of the Word of God to take root deeply in our hearts so it can produce fruit. This seed of the Word of God contains everything that God is: His love, righteousness, grace, salvation, goodness, holiness, faithfulness, peace and joy just to name a few. Faith comes by hearing this magnificent seed of the Word of God and allowing it to grow and become engrafted into the very fiber of the heart. The seed of the Word of God contains all His precious promises to escape the corruption of the world and to enter God’s Promised Land. It is here the heart is built into a mighty bulwark to advance the kingdom of God.

Importance of a Strong Root System

For the seed of the Word of God to prosper and grow into a strong, healthy tree, it must have a deep root system. The root system allows the growing seed to obtain vital moisture and nutrients from the soil. The root keeps the young plant anchored in the ground and the root also stores food to help nourish the plant at all times. When the seed of the Word of God has strong and deep roots, it anchors the heart to withstand the scorching heart of the enemy. A strong root system of the Word of God provides vital spiritual food to feed the heart so it becomes spiritually alive, an enduring fountainhead of truth, where the characteristics of the living God flow out from it into the world. The root system allows the heart to be anchored to the character of God.

2 Kings 19:30 declares that we must take root downward, so that we can bear fruit upward. Proverbs 12:12 declares that the root of the righteous yields fruit, and shall not be moved, because it is anchored in the Word of God. For the heart to be anchored in anything else is utter foolishness. The heart is always a reflection of what it is anchored in. The problem of the second soil of the heart is its inability to sustain the root system of the seed of the Word of God as it begins to grow. Without a vibrant, deep root system, the Word of God will wither away from the heart. This is a very deadly condition for the heart and will keep it from shining as a light in this dark world.

It is imperative as Christians that we cultivate a deep root system of the Word of God in our hearts. The wonderful book of Psalms begins with this important truth that our root system is the key to our spiritual growth, and our hearts yielding abundant fruit for the glory of God. Psalm 1 in the early transcripts of the Bible was not numbered, as it is believed to be an introduction to the entire book of Psalms. It is the foundation of Psalms and lays out the pattern that must be followed in our walk with God. The truth in Psalms 1 is vital to maintain a healthy spiritual heart.

Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, But whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers. (Psalm 1:1-3, NIV)

The word “blessed” describes the condition our heart should be in daily and it is linked to what it is rooted in. The Hebrew word “blessed” conveys the idea of happiness that flows from a sense of well-being and rightness. It describes a heart that is in sync with God and His living Word is its life-blood. This condition is only available if you do not sit, walk or stand with those who detest the instruction of Scripture and live in a manner opposed to God’s holy commandments. Bad company will corrupt the heart and destroy its root system. We cannot allow those who live in opposition to God and immersed in a culture that hates righteousness and truth to have a place in our hearts. Our delight, desire, and longing must be to know God and His Word as the great treasure of our hearts. We guard the Word with our very life. It is the precious cargo of the heart. It is the spiritual energy our heart needs to survive in this wicked world.

Do we delight in the pure words of Scripture more than the words from television, radio, Internet and chatter of the trivial that relentlessly bombards our lives daily? Would we rather hang out with God than hang out with our old ways, friends and places entrenched in sin?

Don’t ever forget this critical truth that if you lose your root, you lose your heart. When we delight in the Word of God and mediate upon it daily, the spiritual root system of our heart is strong in God. A heart rooted in Scriptures can stand the heat no matter how intense it gets. Then our lives will successfully advance the kingdom of God.

A.W. Tozer in The Root of the Righteous declares the vital importance of the root to the Christian life:

There is no lasting life apart from the root….A tree can weather almost any storm if its root system is sound, but when the fig tree which our Lord cursed “dried up from the roots” it immediately “withered away.” A church that is soundly rooted cannot be destroyed, but nothing can save a church whose root is dried up. No stimulation, no advertising campaigns, no gifts of money and no beautiful edifice can bring back life to a rootless tree.[i]

For our heart to be strong and whole it must be rooted in Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the true vine and we are to abide in Him if we are to be branches that bear much spiritual fruit. Jesus Christ is to be the root of the heart for He is the only root that can endure the scorching heat of the enemy’s kingdom. Jesus Christ is the root of David and His kingdom shall rule forever and the gates of hell cannot prevail against it.

As you have therefore received Christ, even Jesus the Lord, so walk (regulate your lives and conduct yourselves) in union with and conformity to Him. Have the roots of your being firmly and deeply planted in Him, fixed and founded in Him, being continually built up in Him, becoming increasingly more confirmed and established in the faith, just as you were taught, and abounding and overflowing in it with thanksgiving. (Colossians 2:6-7, AMP)

And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness. (NLT)

We are commanded by God to have the roots of our being firmly and deeply planted in Christ. We are to let the roots of our heart grow deep into Him so our lives are firmly built on the foundation of Jesus Christ.

But this did not happen in the second soil of the heart. They received the Word of God initially with joy, but something happened that caused the Word of God to have a shallow root system and wither away under the intense heat of the sun. In a short season they become offended in the Word of God and its growth suddenly dies. The tender plant of the Word of God hits the stony ground of the heart and its growth is suffocated as it fades away.

What caused this drastic reversal of growth? What scorched the Word of God from the heart? The Parable states two things: tribulation and persecution. In this time of testing of the heart, those who have the second soil fail miserably. Tribulation and persecution cause the heart to become offended and in this state of offense, the Word of God wastes away from the heart. Let’s examine tribulation and persecution in more depth and see how they have such a dramatic effect on the heart.

Tribulation: The Forceful Squeezing of the Heart

The Greek word for “tribulation” is thlipsis which means to press, squeeze, compress, and crush. It is to be pressed into a narrow place. It was used to describe the squeezing of olives in a press to extract oil and the squeezing of grapes to produce juice. It conveys the idea of being forcefully squeezed under intense pressure or crushed beneath a heavy weight. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia adds that: “Thlipsis derives from roots that graphically portray that in which a person is first limited, then walled in and gradually squeezed until something must give.”[ii]

When you squeeze something, what is on the inside comes out. What is coming out of our hearts when they are squeezed and placed under crushing pressure? When mental distresses, difficult outward circumstances and troublesome afflictions press into our hearts with an enormous weight and burden, what happens? Do these intense pressures crush the life of God from our hearts? What flows from our hearts when the temptations of life powerfully squeeze us from the inside and the outside? How do our hearts respond?

The Lesson of Joseph

Thlipsis is the word to describe what Joseph went through before He was made governor in Egypt. This gives a vivid mind picture and also shows us what was in the heart of Joseph. What crushing pressure he faced mentally and physically, yet his heart remained steadfast to God and he never caved in to thlipsis.

Joseph’s own brothers hated him and when the opportunity arose, they thrust him into an empty pit. After this they sold him into slavery to a passing caravan. Joseph was bought and taken out of his homeland into Egypt. Imagine how this must have felt! The burden and sadness that must have pressed into his heart! His own flesh and blood despised him so much that they plotted his death. Only Reuben saved him from being murdered by his brothers. When he was cast down by his own family into this abandoned pit in the wilderness without food or water, he had no idea if he would get out. What crushing weight must have squeezed his heart!

His brother Rueben recalled the anguishing pleas of Joseph from the dungeon in Genesis 42:21: “We are truly guilty concerning our brother, for we saw the anguish of his soul when he pleaded with us, and we would not hear…” Joseph soul was in anguish over the cruel actions of his brothers and he desperately pled with them to let him go, but they were silent. Joseph greatly loved his brethren and their betrayal of him was an overwhelming discouragement to his heart. How would our hearts handle this situation? How would hearts respond to this type of pressure?

The mutiny of his brothers was bad enough, but his life took another shocking turn. Suddenly he was sold as a slave to a traveling band of Ishmaelites. He no longer was a free man. In an instant he became a slave, a piece of property to be bought and sold. Joseph would be taken as a slave for a mere twenty pieces of silver into a foreign country away from everything familiar to him. His life would never be the same. He wandered if he would ever see his father again or his brothers whom he still loved.

Can you imagine the enormous weight of these life-changing circumstances? The mental pressure and trauma of slavery were added to the crushing pressure of betrayal by his brothers. How do you think his heart felt?

Are you beginning to get a mind picture of this word thlipsis? How would our hearts react to this thlipsis? Would we become offended in our God? Would we accuse God of unfaithfulness? Would we blame God in bitterness and frustration because of our overwhelming predicament? Would we lose faith and confidence in our God? Would our hearts wither under the scorching heart of betrayal and indifference?

On the surface, it looked like God had forsaken Joseph during this calamity, but nothing could be further from the truth. God was with Joseph every step of the way during this intense thlipsis period of his life. God blessed Joseph with his new master Potiphar and he found grace in his sight and was made overseer of all his possessions. Potiphar was a very powerful man in Egypt, an officer of Pharaoh and captain of his guard.

But he had an unfaithful wife who lustfully desired Joseph. She relentlessly pursued Joseph to have sex with her, but Joseph refused to sin against his God and dishonor his master. Potiphar’s wife was furious when she was rebuffed so she grabbed his garment and falsely accused him of attempted rape. She claimed he was mocking his master with such a detestable act.

Suddenly Joseph lost all favor with Potiphar and was thrust into a dungeon reserved for enemies of the state, those who were a threat to the kingdom of Egypt. Thlipsis had returned to the heart of Joseph with a vengeance as he felt the intense crushing pressure of being jailed in a dungeon over false accusations and losing his trusted position in Potiphar’s household. He was completely innocent, but no one would listen. Would he be freed from the dark captivity of this dungeon or see the light of day again?

Have you ever been falsely accused? Have you ever been thrown into prison when you are innocent and without any fault? How would your heart respond to this squeezing and what would come out?

Joseph remained in this dungeon for at least two years and despite this daily thlipsis, Joseph never lost his faith in God. How rooted his heart must have been in God and His faithfulness to deliver! God was with Joseph and showed him mercy, giving him favor with the keeper of the prison. Joseph was in charge of all the prisoners because God made him prosper. Joseph had the joy of the Lord overflowing from his heart even in the midst of all his trouble. Thlipsis never stole his joy. Joseph even asked the chief butler and chief baker why they were so sad. Joseph was not miserable in prison as the presence of God was a living reality in his heart.

After interpreting both the baker and butler’s dreams, Joseph asked the chief butler to remember him and tell Pharaoh he did nothing wrong to merit prison. However, thlipsis returned as Joseph was forgotten by Pharaoh’s butler, and he never brought up Joseph’s injustice to the Pharaoh for two years. Each day Joseph waited, but nothing happened.  Joseph felt the crushing pressure of being forsaken again, yet he did not uproot his heart from God.

Imagine the thlipsis that Joseph endured! He was stolen from his homeland, subject to the cruelty of his own flesh and blood. He was cast into a political dungeon as an innocent man, and forgotten by a friend who failed to take any action to get him out of prison.

Although the exact amount of time this thlipsis lasted is not known, I believe it was in the neighborhood of 10-13 years! Could our hearts remain faithful God and rooted in His promises during 13 years of extreme thlipsis? Would we be crushed into the ground by this relentless pressure?

Throughout this long period of intense pressure, Joseph never wavered in His love for God. He did not complain to God or become overwhelmed by his circumstances. Joseph never allowed a root of bitterness to grow in his heart because of the injustice, unfairness and cruelty that he faced in life. Joseph did not become offended against God because everything seemed to be working against him. He did not believe he was forgotten, forsaken or abandoned by God. He did not allow thlipsis to destroy his heart for God. His faith in God was never shaken.

God honored Joseph’s steadfastness. He blessed, protected, and prospered Him for his heart was fiercely loyal to God. God was alive to Joseph in his daily living.  Acts 7:9,10 declares that “God was with him (Joseph) and delivered him out of all his afflictions (thlipsis).” God gave Joseph grace even in the midst of thlipsis’s most trying circumstances.

No matter how crushing the pressure, or how hard we are being squeezed, or how heavy the burden, God can deliver us from every thlipsis. Joshua 10:14 boldly declares that no idol can rescue us from thlipsis. Only God’s power and strength can be victorious over any thlipsis that grips the heart. The Parable of the Sower and the Seed makes it clear that how we respond to thlipsis is determined by the deepness of our root in God’s Word.

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation (thlipsis). But take heart; I have overcome the world. (John 16:33, ESV)

The world specializes in thlipsis. As long as we live in this world, our heart will have to deal with thlipsis. Our heart will be tested with thlipsis to determine the genuineness of our faith and the deepness of our root system in Christ. Will our heart withstand the test of thlipsis and stand strong on the Word or when the blistering heart of the sun comes, wilt away?

Jesus Christ: Our Example in Times of Thlipsis

Thlipsis is nothing to Jesus Christ. He endured the worst thlipsis ever known to mankind in the ordeal of the crucifixion. His sweat was like great drops of blood in the Garden of Gethsemane in intense prayer to his Heavenly Father. The weight of our sin became a deep and crushing weight to his soul. He was about to go through forty hours of beatings, mocking, torture, physical disfigurement, and unbearable pain. He would not even resemble a human being, but a bloody pulp of flesh. He endured this brutal physical punishment to pay the price for our sin and crush the power of the kingdom of darkness, ushering us as citizens into his kingdom.

Thlipsis never turned the heart of Jesus Christ from his Heavenly Father. He accomplished salvation and eternal life for all those who will come to Him because he did not allow thlipsis to squeeze the life of God out of his heart. He did not permit thlipsis to offend him. He did not allow his heart to melt under the sweltering heat of thlipsis as he became the captain of our salvation and accomplished the greatest triumph the heaven and earth has ever seen.

Only in Jesus Christ can we be victorious over thlipsis. Only in Jesus Christ will our root system flourish. Only in Jesus Christ can we endure and overcome the blistering heat of the kosmos, the entire system that the Devil has set up as the Prince of the Power of the Air.

We do not belong to this world. We are citizens of another kingdom. The world hates Jesus Christ, who as the light of the world, exposed its love and worship of evil. The world hates the Word of God, which exposes the error of its ways and the lies it so adores. The world will pursue with intense hatred all those rooted in Christ, relentlessly pressuring them to denounce Christ and reject His Word. The spirit of the world is fierce and it will come at us with persistent pressure to squeeze our hearts into its mold. The spirit of the world is out to destroy our growth in Christ and eradicate the living Word from our hearts. We must withstand its thlipsis if we want our hearts to shine forth with the beauty of Christ.

Can your heart stand the pressure of being labeled a bigot, a fool, an idiot, a religious nut, a deceiver, a fanatic and an extremist? Can you stand the heat of standing against this world system that defies the living God and become a spiritual rebel against all the forces of darkness that embrace every level of our culture. Only in Jesus Christ can we withstand this pressure and emerge triumphant over every burden and weight thrown at our heart.

Thlipsis and the Birth of the Extraordinary

God always births something extraordinary in the heart when we come through a season of thlipsis still firmly rooted in Christ and the Word of God.

Whenever a woman is in labor she has pain, because her hour has come; but when she gives birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish (thlipsis) because of the joy that a child has been born into the world. (John 16:21, NASB)

God uses the word “thlipsis” to describe the anguish the female body endures in labor. There is intense pain as she tries to squeeze and push the baby from her body, but nothing compares to the joy of giving birth to a new child. The woman is pregnant with something extraordinary and amazing with a wonderful, beautiful baby forming in her womb. But she has to go through a period of thlipsis before the child is born into the world.

Likewise our heart is pregnant with the extraordinary plans, purposes and works of God Almighty, but it is only when we come through the labor pains of thlipsis that the heart gives birth to something extraordinary. So many Christians never give birth to the extraordinary, because in the time of thlipsis, they get scorched. How tragic that we never give birth to God’s amazing plans and purposes for our life because under the crushing pressure of thlipsis we have a miscarriage. We fail to give birth to God’s breathtaking fruit because our root system is shallow in God and cannot endure the labor pains of childbirth.

Look what was birthed out of the heart of Joseph when he passed the thlipsis test. Joseph became ruler over all of Egypt and second in command only to Pharaoh. What an extraordinary thing God birthed in the heart of Joseph to go from a slave, condemned in prison, to a ruler of a mighty kingdom.

Jesus Christ endured the intense thlipsis of the crucifixion and bearing the sin of the human race, but now he is seated at the right hand of God having obtained eternal redemption for all those who believe. He obliterated the power of Satan’s kingdom, conquered sin and death, and will establish forever his kingdom as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

David remained faithful to God during the relentless thlipsis caused by King Saul who used the might of his kingdom to try to assassinate God’s chosen king. God birthed an extraordinary calling and work in the heart of David as he became the greatest king in the history of Israel and a man after God’s own heart.

The Apostle Paul was deeply rooted in Christ and the Word of God and endured great thlipsis during his journeys to spread the gospel. He suffered beatings, stoning, false accusations, imprisonment, shipwreck, hunger, weariness, riots and persecution. He proved himself a minister of God through thlipsis and became one of the most influential Christians who has ever lived. He penned, through the inspiration of God, a great part of the New Testament and established the gospel in many parts of the world. His ministry turned the world upside down, and he shook the gates of hell with the truth of the gospel. God birthed such an extraordinary thing in the heart of Paul as he turned people from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God.

We must never allow thlipsis to cause a miscarriage of God’s extraordinary plans and purposes for us by allowing its crushing pressure to scorch the seed of the Word of God from our hearts.

[i] A.W. Tozer, The Root of the Righteous (Camp Hill: WingSpread Publishers, 2006), 2.

[ii] International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Volume Four: Q-Z, (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdman Publishing Company, 1988), 913.

Excerpt from The Heart: the Key to Everything in the Christian Life by Tim Rowe. Available on Kindle, Amazon, IBooks and Barnes and Noble websites.

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