“One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another's, who will give you that which is your own? No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” Luke 16: 10 – 13 ESV
How faithful (devoted, staunch, committed, trustworthy, dependable, reliable, dedicated) are we to the commands of Christ? Among His commands was the requirement to DAILY take up our cross and FOLLOW Him. “And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9: 23. However, there are many times we are less than faithful and actually choose to deny Him.
What is denial? It is the attitude that avoids looking realistically at issues. It is pretending or claiming to be something or someone that we are not. It is rejecting or “disowning” that which He has commanded of us. We could go on and on, but I believe the point is made—we are to DAILY choose to follow the Living Christ and strive to live in accordance with His teachings/commands.
In Every Day With Jesus, Ann Graham Lotz writes, “Most Christians (myself included) are to varying degrees held together by denial. Deep down we sense that if we were to face the realities of life openly and honestly, we might not be able to cope, and so we pretend things are not what they are.” There is a great deal of truth in that statement.
We all know (and are probably guilty of) professing Christians that pretend that what we have in our lives satisfies far more than it actually does. We pretend life’s circumstances have not hurt us deeply. We refuse to face and feel what is going on inside us, due to the strange belief that such confessions are expressions of a lack of faith.
Only Christ satisfies! Only faithful obedience to Him brings ultimate JOY into our lives. We can be content in every circumstance of life if we will DAILY choose to pick up His cross and FOLLOW Him. We cannot pretend to follow. We cannot act as if we are fulfilled. We must abide in Him, pick up that cross DAILY, and FOLLOW Him.
I challenge you to look deeply within yourself. Is what you display you say you have in Christ real or fake? We cannot ignore what is going on inside us, we have to face it and deal with it. This “pretending” to be something we are not is responsible for more casualties in the Christian life than we can imagine. A Christian psychologist says: "I am convinced that much of what we admire as spiritual maturity is a fragile adjustment to life based on the foundation of denial.” Think about that statement a bit.
This would mean that much of what we call Christian maturity might very well be based on a “foundation of denial.” We “pretend” to be something we are not. We cling to the world AND try to be Christian in our own strength. We pretend to be faithful, when we are giving God our leftovers and not our firstfruits. In my own observations, I have found many non-Christians to be more open and honest in facing what is going on inside them than some Christians.
Denial is NOT a wise plan for life. Again, Ann Graham Lotz writes, “The choice, then, is stark: either to deny and live comfortably or to face every painful issue - and go on to climb the heights with God.” No matter how much we try Jesus’ truth remains His truth – NO MAN (or woman, or child, or youth) can serve two masters! Our pretending will produce a façade that covers up our weakness and allows us to “meander in the wilderness.” Our choosing to admit who we are and where we are in Christ – to BE REAL – and then, strive to pick up that cross daily and FOLLOW HIM allows us to experience the fullness of a faithful life in Christ and “climb to new heights with God.”
It is my prayer that today I will be real with God! That I will choose to take up His cross and strive to FOLLOW Him. I pray that I will not be so afraid that I would pretend instead of trusting Him. Truth is, there is NOTHING we will face today that is greater than God. If I will admit that truth, accept His provision, TRUST Him completely, and strive to follow Him, I WILL experience the fullness of Christ. I will know the joy of His abiding presence in my life. I will have His Joy and the peace that surpasses all human understanding. What we are longing to experience is found in Jesus, but we must be real with Him. Strive to be faithful in the “small stuff” today, so you can experience His faithfulness.
"SEEING THE crowds, He went up on the mountain; and when He was seated, His disciples came to Him. Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying…” Matthew 5: 1 – 2. (The Amplified Bible)
This is how the Sermon on the Mount passage begins. One might think there is nothing to be taught in verses that set up the scene. I think we can learn a great deal if we simply read through each passage prayerfully and carefully, both “listening” for God to speak to us and as we “hear” Him to act in obedience. I was taught that to “hear” God is to obey God.
The first phrase---SEEING the crowds---taught me something as I read through it this morning. Everywhere Jesus went, masses of people followed Him. They were seeking something from Him and pressed upon Him. The scripture records elsewhere that He saw the “multitudes,” that He saw them as “sheep without a shepherd,” and that we were go out into the harvest field. So, He SAW the multitudes---but here the word SEE takes preeminence.
Reading that this morning, I sensed not simply viewing the mass of people before Him, but I also visualized my Lord looking into my very being and truly seeing me for who I am; where I hurt; how I live my life; what I truly need to find fulfillment in life. These people that had come to Jesus had come with their own needs/agendas/desires, and Jesus SAW them (their hearts), He began to teach them. He spoke, and to find what they (we) really needed, they needed to HEAR Him and act in obedience.
In the mass of people that would “follow” Jesus, there were Scribes and Pharisees seeking to catch Him in something that would reduce His impact on their “turf.” There were those in need of healing, and the sick would often cry out loudly for healing. There were some who wanted to see Him destroy the Romans – they had a political agenda that did not align with the purpose of Jesus’ coming to this earth. Some people were just plain curious. When we read the scripture, we see often that people would jostle (push, shove) one another to get a closer look to Jesus. We see this also in the account of the healing of the woman who pressed in to simply touch the hem of His garment.
As the news spread about Jesus, it seemed as if the crowds would drop all they were doing and rush to be in His presence. They came for whatever reason, but they needed to HEAR Jesus and follow Him! In this account, Jesus SAW the crowd of people and He began to teach what we reefer to as the Beatitudes – what we need to understand to experience the blessings of God.
I don’t know how I really see the setting of the Sermon on the Mount. I see a crowd pushing and shoving, seeking their own agenda. This would mean there would be a noisy buzz in the crowd. Yet, I see a serene setting of Jesus sitting on the mountain, lovingly (and quietly) speaking these words to the mass of people. However, I noticed something as I read these verses that taught me something “new.”
Note: Jesus SAW the crowd, but His disciples came to Him and He began to teach “them.” Isn’t this saying that as the crowds closed in around the disciples, all became quiet. At that point, Jesus delivers what we have named the "Sermon on the Mount." But it appears Jesus was actually teaching his twelve disciples these truths. Those in the crowd closest to them were also treated to the most profound teaching ever heard.
This same Jesus is our Teacher. He has wisdom to share with us that will amaze us, just as it did to those who heard Him with their own ears that day. We do not have to be sitting in a quiet sanctuary or a Sunday School class for Jesus to teach us. As we read His Word daily and LISTEN to Him, we can learn from Him. He can teach us something no matter where you are, even in a noisy crowd. His sheep KNOW His voice and FOLLOW Him! We need to pay close attention when Jesus speaks to us (through His Word, the teaching/preaching/proclamation of others, etc.) so we don't miss the word He has for us!
Like the crowds of that day, we come with a lot of hurts, personal needs, private agendas, and a lot of baggage. We may even come thinking we “know” the answer. The answer my friends, is NOT found “blowing in the wind.” The ANSWER is found in Christ Jesus so we need to LISTEN UP for and to His voice, HEAR what He is saying to us, and act in OBEDIENCE. It is my prayer we will HEAR Him today, and experience the abundant blessings He offers to all who follow Him.
“But Naomi replied, "Return home, my daughters. Why do you want to go with me? Am I able to have any more sons in my womb who could become your husbands?” Ruth 1:11 HCSB
The account of Ruth and Naomi used to be quoted often in Christian wedding ceremonies. The scripture used in the actual ceremony is Ruth’s declaration to go wherever her mother-in-law went and experience the life that God had set before them together. Truth is, what both Naomi and her daughter-in-laws faced was a hopeless situation in the times they lived. Orpah chose to heed her mother-in-law’s counsel, wept, kissed her goodbye, and returned to her people. Ruth determined to stay with her mother-in-law. What Ruth and Naomi faced together offered very little hope, returning to Naomi’s people – in their circumstances – promised them the potential for very little provision.
In 21st Century North America, we do not understand the circumstances of this account because it is foreign to our way of life. Naomi and Ruth both faced a hopeless situation, but at least Naomi was returning to her people. Ruth was placing herself in foreign territory and the consequences could have been far different from the story we know. What did she face?
With that, Naomi said no more and she returned to Bethlehem with her daughter-in-law from Moab. Perhaps there was some degree of “protection” for Ruth in the presence of her mother-in-law as long as she was alive. But we do not understand the consequences of a foreigner with no provision in the culture of that day.
Henry Blackaby would describe what was before Ruth as a “crisis of belief.” Have you described your crisis of belief to God? Do you have faith to go even when the prospects look dim and darker? Today, each of us needs to listen to that inner voice and be obedient to God, no matter the circumstances of our lives.
I love the “rest of the story.” We know the immediate provision as Ruth gleaned the fields and encountered, and found that kinsmen redeemer in Boaz. But through that provision in her life, we have the provision of our own kinsmen redeemer in the person of Jesus. If you are not familiar with the full account, simply understand this – Ruth (this woman of another race and culture) and significantly placed her in His redemptive story. She was the wife of Boaz, mother to Obed, grandmother to Jesse who was the father of King David. From the house and lineage of David, we have our redeemer, Jesus the Christ.
What seemed like a bleak and hopeless future was in God’s plan from the beginning. Her love, faithfulness, and obedience “paid off.” We need to learn from the lessons of her life and take our circumstances, our “crisis of belief” to God, and TRUST Him to provide ALL that we need.
“For you formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb….And in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as of yet there was not one.” Psalm 139: 13, 16b, NASB
“Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you…” Jeremiah 1: 5a, NASB
“I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life.” 1 Samuel 1:11, HCSB
In 1 Samuel we see that Samuel grew up knowing he was born for a unique purpose. Before we move on from that statement, let us UNDERSTAND that each of us was born for a unique purpose! The birth of Samuel itself had been an answer to his mother's impassioned prayers.
We know the story, Hannah prayed that God would give her a child. She further prayed that if God gave her a son, she would dedicate him to God. Samuel did have a choice in how he lived, but he wisely chose to follow the path that God set out for him. Samuel lived his entire life secure in the knowledge that God had created him for a purpose. As I stated previously, each of us have been created by God for a unique purpose. Like Samuel, we can be sure that our life has great meaning. God created you intentionally--not accidentally! God has a purpose for you.
In a recent devotional regarding Hannah’s prayer, I read this statement: “You're probably unaware of just how many prayers God has heard with your name attached to them. Long before you were born, godly ancestors may have been praying that their children and grandchildren would trust and follow God. Even if your parents aren't Christians, you may have no idea how many times others have prayed specifically for you.” Meditate on that thought for a moment and that in itself provides comfort and strength to follow Him.
When I read that statement, I thought of John 17 where Jesus Himself prayed for us. If you have not read John 17 as our Lord’s prayer for you, then I encourage you to read through it slowly. As you read, think on the specific things Jesus asks the Father on YOUR behalf.
The scriptures I listed above give clarity to a truth about each of us. We are not insignificant to God! God has had His hand on you from the very beginning. In fact, BEFORE you were formed in the womb He had a plan and a purpose for YOU. You matter a great deal to Him, and He still has much that He wants to do in your life and through your life if you will allow Him.
Take time today to celebrate your uniqueness that God has created in you. Thank God, for the people who have faithfully prayed for you over the years. Praise God answering those prayers and for making you His from the very beginning. Isn’t that comforting, from the very beginning we belonged to God. When we choose to live for Him and follow His path as Samuel did, we are much more secure in our walk with Him and fulfilled with our lives.
"For no temptation (no trial regarded as enticing to sin), [no matter how it comes or where it leads] has overtaken you and laid hold on you that is not common to man [that is, no temptation or trial has come to you that is beyond human resistance and that is not adjusted and adapted and belonging to human experience, and such as man can bear]. But God is faithful [to His Word and to His compassionate nature], and He [can be trusted] not to let you be tempted and tried and assayed beyond your ability and strength of resistance and power to endure, but with the temptation He will [always] also provide the way out (the means of escape to a landing place), that you may be capable and strong and powerful to bear up under it patiently." 1 Corinthians 10: 13 - Amplified Bible
Believers need to UNDERSTAND that we , in effect, have the assurance of an "escape clause." I chose the Amplified Bible rendition because it so vividly declares the truths of this scripture. The lessons we need to learn include:
1. Temptation has and always will be a struggle for Christians. We sometimes act as if no other person has endured the trials, tribulations, temptations, etc. that we have. There is some peace in simply knowing that we are NOT alone.
2. God won’t allow you to face more than you can bear. To understand that God's "hedge of protection" around His children filters trials/temptations is reassurance to us as believers. NOTHING overcomes us that, with His help, can not be overcome!
3. He will ALWAYS provide a way out - a "means of escape to a landing place." As we look back to those times we have yielded (and we do every day), we can often times see where God had vividly displayed the escape hatch to our failures. We need to learn from those past failures to see through spiritual eyes more quickly and NOT yield to the temptation that lures us. As we grow in Him, that can take place!
We need to recognize Satan wants us to fail, but God wants us to live victoriously over sin. God has provided the way for that to take place every day! That "sure escape clause" is not JUST a "way out" of a mess when we recognize it. Understanding it fully/trusting God as a result, is a means to not yield to the lure/the temptation that is before us. As we abide in Him, we will see with spiritual eyes and trust God more, going His way.
In a recent devotion using this verse the author wrote, "I complain when the fire drill sounds. Whether it’s cold outside or I’m just busy, I don’t want to exit a building that’s not on fire. However, the first time I experienced a real fire emergency, I was thankful for the drills that prompted me to find the safest escape route." That's a good analogy for a lot of things we encounter day-to-day. Spend time with God. Learn from Him. Trust His Word. Learn from past experience. You'll know better how to react in times of real crisis/temptation.
Unfortunately, like the people of Corinth, many people are not looking for an escape route from temptation. The city was synonymous with rampant immorality. The culture of today is much the same! Paul tried to teach believers in Corinth how to live for Christ in corrupt, ungodly surroundings. His lessons can still be taught today, and we need to learn how to live for Him, despite the rampant temptations to forsake His ways and follow the ways of the world.
Take some time today to "look around you" and see how God has prepared the way for EVERYTHING you will encounter. The scripture teaches that He goes before us; He goes with us; we can trust Him in every circumstance. Take the time and you will grow as a result of the knowledge that He has not left you alone or forsaken you. He is with you right now!
Associational Missions Strategist at Tar River Baptist Association since November, 2000. Called of God to work with member churches to strengthen the local church in its efforts to impact lostness in THIS generation! I will ATTEMPT to add to this blog almost daily. People are free to use the ideas shared in any way they wish. The purpose of the posts are merely to help us in our search to BE the people God is calling us to BE in Him!