LIVING SACRIFICES

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship” (Romans 12:1).Romans 12.1

Paul tells us to “offer our bodies as living sacrifices.” That word offer means literally “to place beside.” It was used of an Old Testament worshipper placing his sacrificial animal on the altar as an act of consecration to God. This is a strange concept to us who have never seen an animal sacrifice and to whom the whole idea may be rather repulsive.

But let’s try to project our minds back to that day. Come with me to the tabernacle. You are an Israelite, a farmer, and the Lord has been good to you. He’s given you a good harvest. Your flocks and herds are reproducing. Your children are healthy and strong. There has been peace in the land. But best of all, you are thankful to God for providing the means for your sins to be forgiven. And you want to worship Him, to thank Him for what He has done, and to rededicate yourself and your family to Him. What do you do?

You bring an animal: a bull, a sheep, a goat, a dove or a pigeon. At the entrance of the tabernacle you give the animal to the priests. One of them takes a knife and slits the throat of the animal while another catches the blood in a bowl, takes it to the altar and sprinkles it there as a reminder that God has forgiven your sins. Then the priests skin the animal, cut it in pieces, wash the pieces and lay them on the altar, one by one, until every part is sizzling on the hot fire.

You have given God the whole animal, because He has given everything to you. And you have given it up completely to Him. You have surrendered your right to use it as you please. It is no longer yours but God’s, to be used for His purposes. Your sacrifice actually represents your life. You are consecrating anew to the Lord everything you are and have. That is a sacrifice acceptable to God and your reasonable service.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

CULTIVATING THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT

Galatians 5:19-25

“Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, 21 envy, drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar, about which I tell you in advance—as I told you before—that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, 23 gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” 24Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. 25Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

This is an interesting series of verses. It gives a clear comparison and contrast to sinful nature and the fruit of the spirit. Let’s compare:

Sinful Nature

sexual   immorality

impurity

debauchery

idolatry

witchcraft

hatred

discord

jealousy

fits   of rage

selfish   ambition

dissensions

factions

envy

drunkenness

orgies

Fruit of the Spirit  

love

joy

peace

patience

kindness

goodness

faithfulness

gentleness

self-control.

Which of these characteristics do you exhibit most often? Which describe your relationship with others?

When people observe you which list are they likely to read from?

If you look around you, you probably already know others that clearly exude the fruit of the Spirit. You have probably noticed they act and react differently from others. By reading the list, you can now see, and understand why.

Fruit is a public testimony to a believer’s sensitivity to and dependency on the Holy Spirit. It is the telling sign. Fruit sets the abiders apart. It is not simply one mark of a Spirit-filled life; it is the preeminent mark. When we see fruit in a life, we know without a doubt that the Holy Spirit has custody over that particular child of God. The person is more than His possession; the person is under His influence.

The closer you get to believers who are truly walking in the Spirit, the better they look. There is nothing plastic about them. You don’t get the impression that they are hiding something. They radiate integrity. You get the impression you could trust them with your most intimate secret. You may even find yourself opening up to them in a way that is uncharacteristic for you.

Intimidation is not their game. They don’t rely on personality and trumped-up enthusiasm to win you over. They seem to be at peace with who they are. And they seem almost anxious to accept you for who you are as well. For that reason, you may feel drawn to them. They are the people you find yourself wanting to be like, not because of a particular skill or talent, but because of the depth of their character.

We are not talking about perfection. In fact, you will hear more apologies from the lips of those who walk by the Spirit than any other group of people. Their sensitivity to the Spirit provides them with an uncanny ability to know when they have offended or hurt someone. Their internal security allows them to respond quickly once they realize their sin or error in judgment. They are not afraid to admit their faults. They have reconciled themselves to the fact that they are sinners. However, they are aware that they have within them the power to rise above their fleshly appetites and desires.

Spirit-filled believers make their biggest impression during troubled times. Then it becomes most apparent that the source of their abiding character is something that lies deep within them. When all the crutches and props are kicked away and they are still standing, no one can argue that their uniqueness was simply a byproduct of their environment. They have their down times. They don’t win every battle. Doubt and temptation take them out of the race from time to time. But their recovery time is remarkably short. They don’t stay down. And once they are back, it’s as if they actually benefited from the experience. Specifically, their lives will be characterized by the nine fruit Paul calls the fruit of the Spirit.

 The fruit of the Spirit may be divided into three groups:
    1- Love (charity), joy, peace: Our God ward relationship.
2- Patience, kindness, goodness: Our relationship with the people.
3- Faithfulness, gentleness, self-control: Our inward relationship, the attitudes and actions of the inner self.

These 9 fruits are all related to each other, that’s why Paul calls all of them “the fruit of the Spirit”, and all should characterize our lives when we abide in Christ and Christ in us, by the power of the Spirit, for the glory of the Father, for our own good, and for the good of the Church.

1.  Love: Love seeks the highest good of others.

Love is not based on emotions or feelings.  It is a decision to be committed to the well-being of others without any conditions or circumstances.

2.  Joy:  Gladness not based on circumstances.

Joy is more than happiness.  It is not based on financial success, or health, or popularity.

By believing in God, obeying his will, receiving his forgiveness, participating in fellowship with other believers, ministering to others, and sharing the gospel, believers will experience joy.

3.  Peace:  Contentment, unity between people.

Peace is a state of assurance, lack of fear, and sense of contentment.  It is a fellowship, harmony, and unity between individuals.  Peace is freedom from worry, disturbance, and oppressive thoughts.

4.  Patience: Slow to speak and slow to anger.

Patience is slowness in avenging wrongs.  It is the quality of restraint that prevents believers from speaking or acting hastily in the face of disagreement, opposition, or persecution.  Patience is bearing pain or problems without complaining.

5.  Kindness:  Merciful, sweet, and tender.

Kindness is an eagerness to put others at ease.  It is a sweet and attractive temperament that shows friendly regard.

6. Goodness:  Generous and open hearted.

Goodness is the selfless desire to be open hearted and generous to others above what they deserve.

7.  Faithfulness:  Dependable, loyal, and full of trust.

Faithfulness is firm devotion to God, loyalty to friends, and dependability to carry out responsibilities.  Faith is the conviction that even now God is working and acting on one’s behalf.

8.  Gentleness:  Humble, calm, non-threatening.

Gentleness is a humble non-threatening demeanor that derives from a position of strength and authority, and is useful in calming another’s anger.  Gentleness is not a quality that is weak and passive.

9.  Self-control:  Behaving well.

Self-control is to restrain one’s emotions, actions, and desires, and to be in harmony with the will of God.  Self-control is doing God’s will, not living for one’s self.

The fruit of the Spirit is not an optional extra in the life of a believer but the evidence that the Holy Spirit is in residence and working to make us more like Christ each day. But how do we ensure that the fruit of the Spirit is growing in our lives and is evidenced in our lives?
Galatians 5: 24-25 tells us how:

24Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. 25Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

Paul says we are to crucify the flesh……the sinful nature with its passions. Note will you he says we crucify the flesh. It is not something done to us but something we do. It is a deliberate putting to death.

Metaphorically we are to nail the desires and passions of our flesh to the cross and leave them there.

Only criminals were condemned to die by crucifixion and our old nature is to be treated as a criminal. Death by crucifixion was lingering but it was certain. When we nailed the old nature to the cross by coming to faith in Christ we began the process of the gradual, but certain, death of the old nature. That death will be complete in heaven.

When a criminal was crucified he was left to die but soldiers kept guard to ensure no one took him down before he died. We must leave our old natures on the cross to die and not allow them back off every so often. Then in verse 25 Paul says the positive thing we must do is to ‘walk by the Spirit,’ keep in step with the Spirit.  In verse 18 we are led by the Spirit – the Holy Spirit takes the initiative. In verse 25 we are to be active participants.

Paul uses a word for ‘walk’ which speaks of someone who ‘walks in line.’ So, Paul is encouraging believers to follow what is right, what we know to be right. This is a disciplined walk in the things of God. Just as a natural tree requires

  • healthy soil,
  • the right food,
  • careful pruning,
  • a mixture of rain and sunshine in order to bear good fruit

   – the same is true of our lives.

*  We require good nourishment from prayer, Bible reading, and fellowship.                                                                  

                       

  • We require careful pruning by God through His Word.

                                                                 

  • We require the times of trial and blessing in order that the fruit of the Spirit might be seen in our lives.

                                                                

To finish let me say once again – Paul says ‘fruit’ – singular – this is not a pick and choose list – all of these must be evident in our lives.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

IS THE OLD “YOU” STILL KICKING?

man in casket

“If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with” (Romans 6:5-6a).

Who you were before you got saved was nailed to the cross. Now the question is this. If you’re old “you” was nailed to the cross, how come the old “you” is still kicking?

Any mortician will tell you that cadavers can do very interesting things. For example, a dead person’s hair and nails continue to grow for a period of time. One mortician told me that the cadaver sometimes quivers on the table, which explains why I will never be a mortician.

One mortician told me that on one occasion, the cadaver had a muscular nerve reaction and actually set up on the table….which means if I were there, there would have been two dead people in the room.

But it never bothers a mortician, because he will tell you that “Even though there may be the quivering, setting up, jumping, nail and hair growing actions of life, he knows and acts on something that the average person doesn’t understand, and that is that dead is dead even when it acts alive.

So it is with you and me who are crucified with Christ. Even though sin still rears its ugly head because the sin principle is still around, you’ve got to know that it’s your old cadaver wanting to act like its alive. But you must recognize that it’s dead because it was crucified.

“For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin– because anyone who has died has been freed from sin” (Romans 6:6-7).

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

MANURE THAT DOESN’T SMELL SO BAD!

“Where there are no oxen, the manger is empty, but from the strength of an ox comes an abundant harvest” (Proverbs 14:14).

A wonderful little kernel of truth lies neatly tucked among the shelves of God’s library of Wisdom. Listen to this powerful insight: “Where there are no oxen, the manger is empty, but from the strength of an ox comes an abundant EMPTY MANGERharvest.”

On the surface that short gem seems to only state the obvious. Everyone knows that a barn without a cow is a clean place. And any rancher worth his brand would tell you that having a cow is better than not having a cow.

So what’s the big deal? Take a second to look beyond the obvious. Hear the principle. “There is no milk without some manure. Some disturbance is the price of growth and accomplishment.” The point is, if you want the milk, you have to put up with the manure. It’s true of cows and barns, of family and children, of business and customers, and it is especially true of pastors and churches.

With the roses comes the thorns. As a pastor I have learned that most people will appreciate you, love you, support you, and pray for you. But there is no way you can please everyone. You will have enemies. You will have people who want to tear down your ministry. Who will criticize anything and everything you do. There will be people whom you can never please.

At times you will want to pull your hair out and long for the days of peace and quiet and order.  But this one thing I have learned as I’ve dealt with the barbs. When the cow is in the barn, things will get a little messy, but if you will………

* Consider yourself uniquely blessed by God.

* Not panic or be afraid.

* Acknowledge God as Lord even over this event.

* Be ready to give a witness.

* Keep a good conscience……….. the manure won’t smell so bad!

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

FEASTING ON GOD’S WORD

“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).

     This is an amazing statement by our Lord Jesus.  He was quoting from Deuteronomy 8:3. He is talking about God’s provision for His people. God has provided more than earthly food. He has given us the Scriptures.BIBLE DIG IN

In the Old Testament, from which Jesus quoted so regularly, and the New Testament, which is the fulfillment of much that is written in the Old, we have the Bible as the completed Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:19-21). It is a book in which “Thus saith the Lord” and like expressions recur constantly. God speaks in the first person or through His representatives.

The Word of God is alive and active (Hebrews 4:12). It lives and abides forever (1 Peter 1:23). Its glories are sung in Psalm 119. Since the Bible is God’s communication to man, the instructional manual by man’s Owner and Maker, we ought to diligently consult it every day we live on earth. This constant attention and obedience is precisely what is commanded in the Bible (Deuteronomy 6:6-9).

God’s Word will impart many blessings to the one who reads it, studies it and obeys it. Some of these blessings include:

1.  Salvation: 1 Peter 1:23

2.  Nourishment: 1 Peter 2:2; Psalm 19:10; Hebrews 5:12, 24

3.  Growth: Acts 20:32; 1 Peter 2:2

4.  Wisdom: Psalm 119:99-100

5.  Cleansing: Psalm 119:9, 11; John 15:3

6.  Guidance: Psalm 119:105

7.  Comfort: Psalm 119:28, 50, 76; Romans 15:4

8.  Joy: John 15:11

9.  Blessing:  Deuteronomy 28:1-8; Joshua 1:8

Timothy summed up the importance of God’s Word when he said, “Every Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for instruction, for reproof and conviction of sin, for correction of error and discipline in obedience, [and] for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16).

Is it profitable to you? The blessings come only to those who spend time reading it, studying it, meditating on it, and putting it into practice. JUST DO IT!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

WHEN YOU WALK THROUGH THE FIRE

But now, this is what the Lord says—     he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.  When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; (Isaiah 43:1-3).

 God does not promise the Christian that he will never have trials. In fact……. just the opposite is true. Isaiah 43:2 says, “When you pass through the waters… when you walk through the fire.”

 Everyone is going to face the “flood and flames” of life. It is true that many things that we must learn can only be learned though trials. However, the Christian can face these experiences of life with assurance that Christ is going to go through the flood and the flames with him to guide and strengthen him. I find three important promises within this wonderful passage of Scripture:

1.  First, God’s Divine Presence will sustain us through the flood and the flames.

Isaiah 43:2 says, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you.”

We do not face our struggles alone. God is there in every situation. You will never have to face a circumstance, a trial, or trouble in which God is not there to bring you through. Every flame and flood has a reason.  I admonish you to lean upon Christ. He will always be there waiting to help and strengthen. He has promised, ..”I will never leave you nor forsake you”  (Hebrews 13:5).

2.  Secondly, God’s Divine Protection will sustain us through the flood and the flames.

The trials of life are inescapable. Every person must face them. But how wonderful to know that God is there to protect us with His omnipotent power.3 HEBREW CHILDREN

Isaiah 43:2 says, “…when you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned.”  Certainly the three Hebrew children who were cast into the fiery furnace learned this truth. They  discovered that God’s mighty hand was able to protect even in what seemed to be a hopeless situation. When facing a furnace heated seven times hotter than ever before, God was there to assist.

In fact, after being taken from the furnace, Danie13:27 says, “…the fire had no power, nor was a hair of their head singed, neither were their coats changed, nor the smell of fire had passed on them.” You can trust the living God for help and protection. He will strengthen you in your time of need.

3.  Lastly, God’s Divine Provision will sustain you through the flood and the flames.

Many times it is not God’s will that we escape trouble, but rather His will that we learn of His provision through the trouble. I have seen God heal people, including myself, miraculously. But that is not always the will of God.

As Christians, one of the most difficult lessons we must learn is how to accept the will of God. God’s will is always the best way for our lives, but not always the easiest way.

The Apostle Paul, who had to be the greatest Christian that ever lived, had a thorn in the flesh. It was not God’s will to remove this thorn. However, God did provide Paul with extra grace to sustain him. Pain is a part of living. Even our Lord endured the sufferings of Calvary on our behalf because it was the will of God. God will provide whatever you need to face life’s struggles.

If the flood and the flames are upon you, turn to the Word of God. Anchor yourself to a promise from the Word of God. God will be with you; He will protect you; and He will provide for you. He is able, He knows your name, He says, “Fear not “

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

SITTING AT JESUS’ FEET

Picture1As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.  She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.  But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”  “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “You are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:38-42).

     As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, Luke says, they came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.

     When I read this passage of scripture I get the image of a house busy with people engaged in numerous conversations around the house. Martha is running about trying to figure out how everybody is going to get fed and coordinating the logistics of cooking for all the people.

Somewhere in a secluded corner the Lord Jesus Christ is calmly teaching a handful of people who are intently listening to His every word. Mary is sitting at His feet, very content and very settled.

Martha came to Jesus to complain about her sister, Mary.  “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “You are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42 NIV

This story demonstrates to us where our priorities should be.
A time management expert was speaking to a group of business students one day.  As the expert stood before the class of high-powered overachievers, he said, “Okay, time for a quiz.”  He brought out a one gallon, wide-mouthed Mason jar and set it on a table in front of him.  Then he produced about a dozen fist sized rocks and carefully placed them, one at a time, into the jar.    When the jar was filled to the top and no more of the big rocks would fit inside, he asked, “Is the jar full?” Everyone in the class said, “Yes.”

The speaker replied, in a sly manner, “Really?”  He reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel.  Then he dumped some gravel in and shook the jar, causing pieces of gravel to work themselves down into the spaces between the big rocks.  Then he smiled and asked the group once more, “It the jar full now?”

By this time, the class was getting the picture, and one of the students answered, “Probably not.”

“Good!” he replied.  He then reached under the table, and this time he brought out a bucket of sand.  He started dumping the sand into the jar, and it went into all the spaces left between the big rocks and the gravel.

Once more he asked the class, “What do you think?  Is the jar full now?”  “No!” the class shouted.

Once again he said, “Good!”  And then he grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it in until the jar was filled to the brim.  Then, he looked up at the class and asked, “What is the point of this demonstration?”

One eager student raised his hand and said, “The point is, no matter how full your schedule is, if you try really hard, you can always work some more things into it.”

“No! No!” No!” the expert said, “That’s not the point.”  What we have here is a life lesson we dare not forget, namely this:  If you don’t put the big rocks in first, you’ll never get them in at all!”

Wasn’t that a great lesson to give those students?  “If you don’t put the big rocks in first, you’ll never get them in al all.”  This serves as a reminder to us to focus on the real priorities… the “big rocks,” the key things… first, because in the hectic pace of this life, if you don’t work them in early, they will likely get left out altogether.

And what are the big rocks of life for you?  What are the real priorities for you?  What do you give your time and effort and energy to first?  What is the most urgent crucial commitment for you?

According to Jesus, your first big rock is your relationship with Him.  Sitting daily at His feet.  Learning from Him.  Fellowshipping with Him. Can you honestly say that is your number one priority in life?

“Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed.  Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken away from her.”

Daily, do you choose what is better?  Is sitting at Jesus’ feet your number one priority?  If not, that’s the invitation today.  Make a decision that from now on you are going to be a Mary; you’re going to choose what’s better.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment