Category: Christian Living

What is the Fruitful Christian Life?

What is the Fruitful Christian Life?

In the creation story, the very first command given to man by God was “to be fruitful and increase in number” (Genesis 1:27-28). Interestingly, Jesus gave the same command to His followers in John 15:16: “to go and bear fruit – fruit that should remain” (or that will last).

But what fruit (or fruits) is Jesus referring to in this passage? What does it mean for a believer to be fruitful? And how are Christians supposed to bear fruit?

The Believer’s Fruit

There are three kinds of fruits that the passage can be referring to: the fruit of the Spirit, the fruit of our labor and our good works.

1. The Fruit of the Holy Spirit

Whenever the Bible speaks of fruit or being fruitful in Christ, it is often in reference to the fruit of the Holy Spirit operating in the life of a believer: love, joy, peace, longsuffering (patience), kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

Galatians 5:22-23 NKJV

Notice that these fruits are attributes of God-like love, peace, faithfulness, and goodness. It is expected that these fruits will closely resemble the parent plant, which in this case is the Spirit of God. While it is true that we cannot see in the human heart to know who is truly born again and who is not, we can see the fruit of a person’s life or the absence thereof.

A person who is truly saved and belonging to Christ, having already crucified the flesh with its passions and desires, is now living according to the Spirit. And if he is living according to the Spirit then he is also walking according to the Spirit, thereby making the fruits of the flesh less visible (Galatians 5:24-25).

2. The Fruit of His Labor

Before Jesus ascended to heaven, He gave this command to His disciples: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” and He promised, “I am always with you to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).

This mandate is not only for the eleven disciples of Jesus but for every believer in Christ. When we share our faith with others and they respond by acknowledging their sinfulness and accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior of their lives, they become our fruit.

How many persons have come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ because you cared enough to share the gospel message?

3. The Fruit of Good Works

The good works that the believer does can also be counted as fruits. When you show even the simplest acts of kindness to Christians and non-Christian alike that you come in contact with, extend a helping hand to those in need, or share your time and talent (money) in support of your church ministry, you are bearing the fruit of good works.

However, I need to emphasize the cardinal biblical truth that good works do not have any bearing on our salvation. We have been saved by grace through faith alone in the Lord Jesus and this is not from ourselves. Salvation is the gift of God, not by our works so that none of us can boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).

The good works we do are fruits of our salvation. In other words, they are evidence of our genuine faith, which is what is needed to receive God’s gift of salvation. This is actually what James is pointing out in his epistle when he said, “Faith without action is dead” (James 2:14-26).

We do not have to prove to God that our faith is genuine; He knows because He sees our hearts. But our good works will prove to others that we are truly saved and we belong to Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Do not weary doing good to others

The Fruitful Life: Abiding in the Vine

If we read the entire passage wherein Christ appointed His followers to be fruitful, He specifically said that the only way they could carry out this task was for them to abide in Him (John 15:1-10). What does it mean to abide in Christ?

The fact that the word “abide” is mentioned eight times in seven verses (John 15:4-10) strongly points out how the branch cannot produce its own life; it must draw that life from the vine. In other words, it is crucial to abide in Christ if we are to live a fruitful Christian life.

Note: And if you’re reading from the New International Version, the word “remain” is mentioned eleven times (John 15:4-10 NIV).

After Jesus announced to His disciples that He would be leaving them soon and promising the Holy Spirit to abide with them forever, we now come to the seventh and last of the “I am” statements of Christ recorded in the gospel of John.

As Jesus spoke to His disciples probably in the upper room, preparing to leave, He uses the imagery of a vine to describe the new relationship which His disciples are about to enjoy with Him and with the Father. Our Lord is the vine; the believers are the branches, and the Father is the vinedresser (gardener) who tends the vine, removing dead branches and pruning them so that they will become even more fruitful (John 15:1-2).

The Father Prunes

Our heavenly Father is never nearer to us than when He is pruning us. Sometimes He cuts away the dead wood that might cause trouble, but often He cuts off the living tissue that is robbing us of spiritual vigor.

Pruning does not simply mean spiritual surgery that removes what is bad. It can also mean cutting away the good and the better so that we might enjoy the best. Yes, pruning hurts, but it also helps. We may not enjoy it, but we certainly need it.

At times the Father also prunes us (the branches) by allowing difficult circumstances and situations in our lives such as poor finances, poor health, misunderstanding and conflict with others, difficult relationships, etc. These trials are designed to bring us to the end of our own strength and will awaken in us a need for a deeper surrender to the Lord.

*Read here: The Christian Response to Trials

How to Live the Fruitful Christian Life

Jesus Christ is the True Vine

Notice how Jesus speaks of Himself not merely as the “vine,” but as the “True Vine.” The vine was a familiar symbol in the Hebrew Scriptures for the nation of Israel (Psalm 80:7-8, 14-17; Isaiah 5:7; Ezekiel 19:10-14; Hosea 10:1-2). During the Maccabean period, they even adopted it as their national symbol.

However, the use of the vine as an image for the Jewish nation was often used in a negative sense (Ezekiel 15:1-8; 17:1-8; Jeremiah 2:21; Isaiah 5:1-2). The vine, which is the nation of Israel in the Old Testament, did not bear the fruit that God intended because of their unfaithfulness.

In contrast, Jesus is the True Vine, replacing the Jewish nation and Christians must be rooted in Him if they are to bear fruit for God. The vine and branch picture emphasizes complete dependence and the need for constant connection. Of itself, a branch is weak and useless. It is good for either bearing or burning, but not for building (John 15:5-6).

The Lord as the true vine is the source of life, strength, and fruit for the branches (believers). The branches obtain life through the vine; they are sustained by the vine and they produce fruit through the vine. The branches then become the visible manifestation of the life of the vine and God’s instruments for fruit-bearing.

Abiding in Christ: Living in Obedience

The abiding relationship is natural to the branch and the vine, but it must be cultivated in the Christian life. It is not automatic. Rather, it is something that we are commanded to do, and which takes effort and action on our part. To abide in Christ the true vine, demands worship, meditation of God’s Word, prayer, sacrifice, service and above all, obedience to God and His Word.

Jesus made this very clear when He said, “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love” (John 15:9-10). Simply put, to abide in Christ and in His love is to keep His commandments.

By the way, Jesus is not saying here that we abide in His love when we keep the Law. Jesus inseparably joins love and commandment keeping. This is evident when He summed up the Law by two commandments, both of which were commands to love in Matthew 22:34-40.

But when the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

God gave His commandments out of love. What God prohibits, He prohibits for our own good. What God requires, He requires for our own good. God’s commandments are a manifestation of His love for us and He expects us to obey them out of our love for Him.

God’s laws or commandments should be the delight of every Christian because it is a manifestation of God’s love (Psalm 1:1-2). God gave us His commandments to keep us from those things that would destroy us and to point us to Jesus Christ – the One who can save us. So whenever we are tempted to look at God’s commands as something other than the expression of His love, we are headed for serious trouble.

And if we are looking for the best illustration of obedience, we must look no further for Jesus has exemplified the finest illustration of this kind of abiding with His total submission and obedience to the will of the Father (John 8:28-29).

Jesus never acted independently of the Father. In fact, He was completely obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross (Philippians 2:8). Christ’s obedience made possible man’s reconciliation with God.

What does it mean to Remain in Christ

Conclusion

Living the fruitful Christian life is the calling for every believer. Not that we chose Jesus, the King of kings, but He chose us, He has called us to be His friends and appointed us to be fruitful (John 15:15-16). It is a humbling experience indeed!

And while it brings glory to the Father when the branches bear much fruit (John 15:8), the branches share in the joy of the vinedresser. The joy and satisfaction that go hand in hand with the bearing of more perfect and abundant fruit are not only reserved for the vinedresser, who is the Father but are shared by the branches as well.

Once again, the only way for believers to be fruitful in Christ is to abide in Him. It is our communion with Christ through the Spirit that makes possible the bearing of the fruit. The sooner we as believers discover that we are but branches, the better we will relate to the Lord, for we will know our own weakness and confess our need for His strength.

Are you bearing fruit for Christ to the glory of the Father in heaven?

Descriptions of a Childlike Faith

Descriptions of a Childlike Faith

Jesus’ statement to His disciples in Matthew 18:3 about them not entering the kingdom of heaven unless they are converted and become as little children speaks volumes of the importance of having a childlike faith.

But what is childlike faith? What makes one’s faith childlike?

Faith Rooted in Security

During the days of childhood, one learns how to survive and prosper, how to love and share, and how to serve and praise. A well-cared-for child has no worries about house payments, no anxious moments over job opportunities, no apprehensions about failure, and no thoughts of vengeance.

David exemplified this kind of faith while he was on the run from Saul. In Psalm 131:1-2, David compared the calmness and serenity he had in the Lord to that of a weaned child with his mother.

Content with God and the works He was doing in his life, David did not concern himself with great matters such as selfish ambition and self-promotion. Rather, he found serenity and security in his relationship with God.

Descriptions of a Childlike Faith

To have a childlike faith is to find serenity and security in our relationship with God no matter the circumstance.

Faith that Praises

Jesus loved children. He loved to use children to teach hard-headed and hard-hearted grown-ups about faith and praise. While preaching in the region of Judea, Christ was encircled by a great crowd.

“Then little children were brought to Him that He might put His hands on them and pray, but the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.’ And He laid His hands on them and departed from there” (Matthew 19:13-15).

He later reminded the priests and scribes that “the mouth of babes and nursing infants” would offer praise fitting for God’s Anointed (Matthew 21:16). When Jesus entered Jerusalem riding on a colt, a very great multitude that included children cried out saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest” (Matthew 21:9)!

The sound of the children praising Jesus in the temple courts made the chief priests and scribes indignant. In response, Jesus quoted from Psalm 8:2. God does not only want prayer in His house, He also delights in praise.

To have a childlike faith is to have a heart that always longs to praise and glorify God in each and every life’s circumstance.

*Read here: The Elements of Praise

Faith that Believes

Jesus used the lad with the five barley loaves and the two small fish to feed five thousand people (John 6:9). To show His power over death, He used a little girl. Jairus, a ruler in the synagogue, fell at Jesus’ feet begging Him to come to his house and save his dying twelve-year-old daughter.

Jesus agreed and tried to make His way with Jairus, but the surrounding crowd made the trip difficult. Word came that Jairus’ daughter had died. But Jesus responded, “Do not be afraid, only believe and she will be made well” (Luke 8:50).

At the house, as the parents wept over their loss, Jesus said, “She is not dead but sleeping” (Luke 8:52). Through tears, the people laughed at the impossibility of what they heard. Jesus then asked everyone to leave the room, and then He said, “Little girl, arise” (Luke 8:54), and she did!

Descriptions of a Childlike Faith

Romans 4:17 says that “God gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did.” Jesus spoke to the girl with the power of God, and she was raised from the dead. Jairus’ faith definitely played a part in the miracle healing of his daughter just like the faith of the woman who had been bleeding for 12 years had made her well (Luke 8:43-48).

Nothing is impossible with God if we would just believe. This is what it means to have a childlike faith.

Faith that is Humble

Another time, Jesus used a child to teach humility. In Matthew 18:1-5, we read how the disciples came to Jesus asking, “Who then is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” and how did Jesus respond? He called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them and said, “Assuredly I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.”

He then went on to say, “Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me.”

The fact that Jesus had been sharing with the disciples that truth about His approaching suffering and death did not affect them for they were thinking only of themselves and what position they would have in His Kingdom. So absorbed were the disciples in this matter that they actually argued with each other (Luke 9:46).

Pride – the very sin that caused Satan to be cast down from heaven is what’s causing people to think of themselves more highly than others. When Christians are living for themselves and not for others, conflict and division are bound to result (James 4:1-2).

Descriptions of a Childlike Faith

True humility means knowing ourselves, accepting ourselves, and being ourselves – our best self – to the glory of God. It means avoiding two extremes: thinking less of ourselves than we ought to (as did Moses when God called him, Exodus 3:11), or thinking more of ourselves than we should (Romans 12:3).

The truly humble person does not deny the gifts God has given him or her but uses them to the glory of God. The truly humble person also helps to build up others, not to tear them down. This person is a stepping-stone, not a stumbling block. Thus, we must remove from our lives anything that makes us stumble. If we don’t, we will cause others to stumble as well.

An unspoiled child has the characteristics that make for humility: trust, dependence, a desire to make others happy, and an absence of boasting or selfish desires to be greater than others. By nature, we are all rebels who want to be celebrities instead of servants. And so we need a great deal of teaching for us to learn the lesson of humility.

Final Words

As Christians, we are encouraged to have a childlike faith. To have faith like a child is to completely trust our heavenly Father’s goodness, care, provision, leadership, and protection.

Have you experienced the peace of a well-cared-for child in letting Jesus take care of your worries? Have you found the healing that faith in Jesus brings? Have you praised His name with the joy of a child? Have you answered Jesus’ call in childlike faith, asking Him to be your Savior?

The Biblical Principles of Worship

The Biblical Principles of Worship

Whenever we hear the words praise and worship, it is always in a church setting. Praise and worship is that part of a church service when the congregation offers songs of praise and adoration to God.

Two months ago I published an article on what praise is all about. In this post, I will be tackling worship. What is the true meaning of worship? What are the elements of Christian worship?

The Meaning of Worship

The dictionary defines worship as an expression of reverence and adoration in thought or in deed to a Supreme Being or deity. Christian worship can then be defined as the expression of reverence and adoration to God.

The word worship is the New Testament Greek word proskuneo, which means “to fall down before” or “bow down before.” In contrast to praise, which involves the stretching of the hands, worship is often coupled with the act of bowing or kneeling, which shows humility and contrition (Psalm 95:6; 2 Chronicles 29:28; Revelation 19:10).

Psalm 95:6

The Object of Worship

The Scripture is very clear in Matthew 4:10; we are to worship the Lord our God and Him only shall we serve. (See also Luke 4:8.) The Bible teaches that God alone is worthy of worship (Psalm 29:2), but it also sadly records accounts of those who worshiped other objects.

Among those were people (Daniel 2:46), false gods (2 Kings 10:19, images and idols (Isaiah 2:8; Daniel 3:5), heavenly bodies (2 Kings 21:3), Satan (Revelation 13:4), and demons (Revelation 9:20). It is indeed tragic that many worshiped gods they could carry and not the God who could carry them.

God Almighty alone is worthy of worship. We are to worship the Father (John 4:23). We are to worship Him because of what He has done, loving us and giving His Son for us.

We are to worship the Son Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior (John 9:38). We are to worship Him because of what He has done, His incarnation, life, and sacrifice.

Worship by Israel

The central aspect of Israel’s worship was the object of their worship, the Lord. While other nations paid homage to many gods (Deuteronomy 29:18), only Israel worshiped the one true God (Exodus 20:3). This worship could be private (Exodus 34:8), as a family (Genesis 22:5), or corporate (1 Chronicles 29:20), as a congregation.

Since so much of the Bible is devoted to Israel’s public worship, it deserves special notice. It included offering sacrifices (1 Samuel 1:3), adopting a reverent posture (2 Chronicles 7:6), verbal praise – either spoken (1 Chronicles 16:36) or sung (Psalm 57:7), instrumental praise (Psalm 150:3-5), prayer (2 Chronicles 6:14-42), and the great feasts (Leviticus 23:25).

One needs only to read the Psalms to see the excellent form of worship and spirit in which the godly Israel worshiped.

Matthew 4:10

The first place of worship for the people of Israel was the tabernacle constructed by Moses (Exodus 25-27); 30; 31; 35-40) and later the magnificent temple constructed by King Solomon (1 Chronicles 22:5). These structures served to localize the worship of the entire nation.

This geographic limitation stands in bold contrast to the privilege o immediate and direct access to God now available to the New Testament believer who himself is the temple of God (Hebrews 4:16; 1 Corinthians 6:19).

Read how Christian praise and worship was patterned from the Jewish way of worship at the Tabernacle of Moses in this article: The Biblical Roots of Christian Praise and Worship

3 Important Elements of Worship

True worship involves at least three important elements:

1. Worship requires reverence.

This includes the honor and respect directed toward the Lord in thought and feeling. It is one thing to obey a superior unwillingly; it is quite another to commit one’s thoughts and emotions in that obedience.

Jesus said that those who worship God must do so “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). The term spirit speaks of the personal nature of worship: It is from my person to God’s person and involves the intellect, emotions, and will. In essence, worship gets to the heart of who we are.

Worship is the art of losing self in adoration of another. And that is why in order for us to truly worship God, we must let go of our self-worship. We must be willing to humble ourselves before the Lord and surrender every part of our lives to Him and adore Him not only for what He has done but for who He is.

Worship is an attitude of the heart

On the other hand, the word truth speaks of the content of worship. God is pleased when we worship Him, understanding His true character. This is why every worshiper must desire to have a knowledge of what the Bible teaches about who God is.

2. Worship includes public expression.

This was particularly prevalent in the Old Testament because of the sacrificial system. For example, when a believer received a particular blessing for which he wanted to thank God, it was not sufficient to say it privately, the expressed his gratitude publicly with a thankful offering (Leviticus 7:12).

Note: This element of worship will be dealt with more extensively under the subtopic “The Expression of worship.”

3. Worship means service.

These two concepts are often linked together in Scripture (Deuteronomy 8:19). Furthermore, the words for worship in both Testaments originally referred to the labor of slaves for the master.

For the believers in Jesus Christ, service as an expression of worship is always understood to mean getting involved in any of the Church’s five-fold ministry (Ephesians 4:11). However, the concept of worship must not be restricted to church attendance but should embrace an entire life of obedience to God.

Obedience is the highest form of worship

The Expression of Worship

Since worship encompasses thought, feeling, and deed, there are many expressions of it. Worship especially includes praise, thanksgiving, and adoration which may be expressed privately or publicly, either by grateful declaration (Hebrews 13:15) or by joyful singing (Psalm 100:2; Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16).

Portions of early Christian hymns or worship actually may be observed in the New Testament (1 Timothy 3:16; 2 Timothy 2:11-13).

One very important expression of worship for the church is remembering the death of Christ through the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:26). The Lord’s Supper was instituted by Christ Himself (Matthew 26:26-28) and judged by Paul not to be taken lightly (1 Corinthians 11:28-32).

Giving is also a way of expressing worship to God. It includes but not limited to:

  • the cheerful giving of money to God’s work (2 Corinthians 9:7)
  • the giving of one’s time to the Lord’s work
  • the use of one’s spiritual gifts in ministry to the body of Christ and occupying a church office (Ephesians 4:11; 1 Timothy 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9)
  • ministry in edifying saints and evangelizing sinners

But the single most important act of worship for the Christian is the unqualified presentation of himself to God as an obedient servant. This dedication involves the body and the mind (Romans 12:1-2): the body because it contains the tools by which the will of God is carried out; the mind because it coordinates the actions to be executed by the body.

When the body and mind are gladly devoted to God, they become instruments by which He effects His will on the earth. Such faithful and joyous service makes one’s entire life a performance of worship.

The Reasons for Worship

So why should Christians worship God?

1. Worship is a command.

The first reason for worship is simply that God commands it (1 Chronicles 16:29; Matthew 4:10). The first four of the Ten Commandments, which are also the longest, clearly charge men to worship the one true God and Him alone (Exodus 20:3-10).

To allow any person or things to usurp the position of lordship over us constitutes gross disobedience to the will of God and incurs His terrible wrath (Exodus 20:5; Deuteronomy 27:15). All people are destined to pay homage to God anyway, even if unwillingly (Philippians 2:10).

2. God is worthy and deserving of our worship.

An equally important reason for worship is that God deserves our worship and He is worthy. He alone possesses the attributes that merit our worship and service. Among these are goodness (Psalm 100:4-5), mercy (Exodus 4:31), holiness (Psalm 99:5, 9), and creative power (Revelation 4:110.

The Elements of Christian Worship

When men of biblical times clearly saw the unveiled glory of God, they could not help but fall prostrate in worship. Examples of this response can be seen in the actions of Moses ((Exodus 35:4-8), Paul (Acts 9:3-6), and John (Revelation 1:9-17).

3. Men need to give God worship.

A final reason for worship is that men need to give it. People cannot find personal fulfillment apart from the glad submission of themselves in worshipful obedience to God. He is the Creator and they are the creatures (Revelation 4:11)

People who adopt as their master anything less than God are building their lives on quicksand. They will be no stronger than the object they worship (Psalm 115:4-8). One who worships God, however, not only participates in the occupation of heaven (Revelation 7: 9-12), but finds joyful satisfaction for the present.

Final Thoughts

Just as praise is closely intertwined with thanksgiving, worship is intertwined with surrender. And so it is impossible to worship God and anything else at the same time.

One important thing to remember is that the place where we worship God is immaterial. What matters is the spiritual condition of our hearts. We can worship at home, in the church, etc.

We worship God when we enter into His presence and engage in worship, the highest occupation for every believer.


*Recommended Resource: For All God’s Worth: True Worship and the Calling of the Church
By N.T. Wright

This insightful book by N. T. Wright explores both the meaning and the results of Christian worship.

Part 1, “The God Who Is Worthy of Praise,” focuses on what worshiping God actually means. Wright celebrates the greatness and beauty of God as the ground and reason for worship and shows how reflection on who God is leads us to true, heartfelt worship (from “worth-ship”), as we seek to give God all He’s worth.

Part 2, “Reflecting God’s Image in the World,” addresses a range of issues that flow from the activity of worship. Since worship can never remain isolated from the task of the church, Wright here explores how true worship leads to the mission of the church in various specific ways.

Based firmly on sensitive and creative readings of the biblical text, this book is an inspiring call for renewal in the worship and witness of today’s church.

What Can We Learn From Suffering?

What Can We Learn From Suffering?

The subject of human suffering is not easy to understand, for there are mysteries to the working of God that we will never grasp until we get to heaven. Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people? What can we learn from suffering?

Some people argue that the suffering of the righteous is the major obstacle to faith in God. They reason that God cannot be loving and all-powerful if disasters strike good people. Either he doesn’t love His followers enough to take care of them or He isn’t powerful enough to protect them.

What Can We Learn From Suffering

If God’s love or power is defective, He isn’t worthy of human worship and allegiance.

In the Word of God, there are four great examples of believers suffering for the sake of righteousness: Joseph, Job, Jeremiah and Paul. In this article, we will look at the accounts of Job and Paul and see what we can learn from them.

The Suffering of Job

Whenever Christians speak of suffering, it is impossible to not consider the account of Job. The Bible describes Job as a blameless and upright man; one who feared God and shunned evil (Job 1:1).

Job was prosperous in his family life (Job 1:2-3). The events in this book took place during the Patriarchal Age (Job may have been a contemporary of Abraham or Isaac), when a large family was seen as a blessing from God (Genesis 12:2; 13:16; 30:1). His children must have enjoyed each other’s company since they met frequently to celebrate their birthdays.

And after each every feast, Job would offer special sacrifices to God not because their celebration was wicked and that they needed to repent. It only shows that Job was a pious man and wanted to be sure his family was right with God.

Until it happened that Job suffered the loss of his wealth and the death of his children, all in one day. Then, sometime later, his health failed, and apparently he would never get well.

Finally, his best friends came and accused him of being a secret sinner who needed to get right with God. Add to this Job’s wife who was of the opinion that he should curse God for letting all this misery befall him (Job 2:9). In her eyes God had obviously failed Job.

Interestingly, Job never found out why disaster struck him. Job knew what had happened, but he did not know why it had happened; and that is the crux of the matter. Because the author allows us to visit the throne room of heaven and hear God and Satan speak, we know who caused the destruction and why he was allowed to cause it.

The Suffering of Paul

Paul who used to be Saul, the number one persecutor of Christianity, but later on became Paul, the number one propagator of Christianity, had suffered quite a lot for the sake of the gospel.

In his second letter to the Corinthian believers, Paul opened his heart to them (and to us) and revealed the trials he had experienced. To begin with, he had been severely criticized by some of the people in Corinth because he had changed his plans and apparently not kept his promise to visit them again (2 Corinthians 1:12-18).

When Christians misunderstand each other, the wounds can go very deep. Then there was the problem of opposition to his apostolic authority in the church. One of the members – possibly a leader had to be disciplined, and this gave Paul great sorrow.

Finally, there were the difficult circumstances Paul had to endure. He was plotted against several times (Acts 9:23, 29; 20:3; 21:30; 23:10, 12; 25:3), was stoned and left for dead (Acts 14:19), was subjected to satanic pressure (1 Thessalonians 2:18), was beaten and jailed at Philippi (Acts 16:19-24), was ridiculed (Acts 17:16-18; 26:24), was falsely accused (Acts 21:21, 28; 24:5-9; endured a number of violent storms at sea (2 Corinthians 11:25; Acts 27:14-20), was beaten by a serpent (Acts 28:3-4) and was forsaken by all (2 Timothy 4:10, 16).

Learning from Suffering

Perhaps the most painful question confronting the believer is the problem of suffering. Why does a loving and wise God permit His children to suffer?

1. Suffering helps bring out the best in us.

While Satan attempts to use temptation and suffering to bring out the worst in us, God uses them to bring out the best in us.

The hosts of heaven and of hell watched to see how Job would respond to his first test: the loss of his wealth and  children. He expressed his grief in a manner normal for that day, for God expects us to be human (1 Thessalonians 4:13). After all, even Jesus wept (John 11:35).

But then Job looked up, worshiped God and uttered a profound statement of faith: (Job 1:21). Instead of cursing God, as Satan said Job would do, Job praised the Lord. Anybody can say, “God gave me what I had” or “God has taken it away,” but real faith says, in the midst of sorrow and suffering, “Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Job 1:21 NKJV

But Satan does not give up easily, and he returned to God’s throne to ask for His permission to torment Job physically, which the Lord willingly gave (Job 2:1-7). We get the impression that God was confident that his servant would not fail the test.

Satan was absolutely sure that his strategy of suffering (Job 1:11; 2:4-5) would destroy the faith of Job, which the devil consistently misunderstood (Job 1:9-10). After losing all his wealth and children, and afflicted with painful boils all over his body, Job’s faith in God remained firm. His wife told Job to “curse God and die” which was exactly what Satan wanted him to do, but he didn’t (Job 2:9-10).

The two things Job would not give up were his faith in God and his integrity. Even if God permitted evil to come into his life, Job would not rebel against God by taking matters into his own hands. God used Job’s sufferings to bring out the best in him.

2. God uses suffering to silence the devil.

Satan accused Job of merely serving God for the material blessings involved (Job 1:9-11). We might paraphrase it like this: “The only reason Job fears you is because you pay him to do it. You two have made a contract: You protect him and prosper him as long as he obeys you and worships you.”

We can see that Satan’s accusation against Job was really an attack on God. Satan was telling God, “You are not a God worthy of worship! You have to pay people to honor you.” So the Lord allowed the devil to torment Job to demonstrate that His servant loved God because of who He was, and not for what he could get from Him (Job 1:12).

God found no fault with Job, but Satan did. God’s statement in Job 1:8 echoes the description of Job in verse 1, but Satan questioned it. The word “Satan” means adversary – one who opposes the Law. Imagine a courtroom scene where God and Satan each deliver different verdicts. Satan said Job was guilty, but keep in mind that God said, “Not guilty!”

Romans 8:1 NIV

The readers get the sense that Job’s life was a battlefield over which the forces of light and darkness waged war. Satan suffered a tremendous defeat, but Job never knew it. Eventually, Job’s insight into God grew, but that in no way diminished the horror of his suffering.

Some of the so-called tragedies in our lives have really been weapons of God when He is “silencing our enemies and all who oppose us (Psalm 8:2).” We may not know until we get to heaven why God allowed certain things to happen.

Meanwhile, we are to “walk by faith” and say with Job, “Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

3. Suffering teaches us to depend on God.

In his second letter to the believers at Corinth, Paul began with a doxology (2 Corinthians 1:3). He certainly could not sing about his circumstances, but he could sing about the God who is in control of circumstances. Paul had learned that praise is an important factor in achieving victory over discouragement and depression.

Despite his suffering, Paul was confident that whatever the Father did for Jesus when He was ministering on earth, He is able to do for him and for us today. We are dear to the Father because His Son is dear to Him and we are citizens of the “Kingdom of His dear Son” (Colossians 1:13).

We are precious to the Father, and He will see to it that the pressures of life will not destroy us. God enables us to bear trials. But the first thing God must do is to show us how weak we are in ourselves.

Paul was a gifted and experienced servant of God, who had been through many different kinds of trials. Surely all of his experience would be sufficient for him to face new difficulties and overcome them. But God wants us to trust Him, not our gifts or abilities, our experience or our “spiritual reserves” (2 Corinthians 1:9).

In 2 Corinthians 1:10, Paul says, “God delivered us, will deliver us and will still deliver us” from all trials. Paul saw God’s hand of deliverance whether he looked back, around or ahead. However, God does not always deliver or rescue us immediately, nor does He always rescue us in the same way. Sometimes God rescues us from our trials, and at other times He rescues us in our trials.

We must never think that trouble is an accident. For the believer, everything is a divine appointment. There are only three possible outlooks a person can take when it comes to the trials and suffering of life.

If our trials are the products of “fate” or “chance,” then our only recourse is to give up. Nobody can control fate or chance. If we have to control everything ourselves, then the situation is just as hopeless. But if God is in control, and we trust Him, then we can overcome circumstances with His help.

4. God is glorified through our trials and suffering.

When Paul reported what God has done for him, a great chorus of praise and thanksgiving went up from the saints to the throne of God (2 Corinthians 1:11). The highest service you and I can render on earth is to bring glory to God, and sometimes the service involves suffering.

Every one of us will face various trials and difficulties in our lives. Some may suffer more but as Christians we must take each situation as an opportunity to show the world how God is still with us and loves us.

Romans 8:18

Through suffering, we have the opportunity to demonstrate to the unbelieving world how Christ is more glorious and precious to us than any pain and difficulty we might endure. While others are anxious and wallowing in depression, we have every reason to thank God and rejoice.

When we place our ultimate hope in Christ rather than in the temporary things of this world, such as trials and suffering, God is glorified.

5. Sufferings will produce fruit.

If we allow suffering to accomplish its purpose, it can bring forth patience (James 1:3; Hebrews 10:36), joy (Psalm 30:5; 126:6), knowledge (Psalm 94:12), and maturity (1 Peter 5:10).

For more of this please refer to this article: The Christian’s Response to Trials

6. Suffering can perfect our character and help us minister to others.

In every church, there are mature saints of God who have suffered and experienced God’s grace, and they are great “encouragers” in the congregation. Paul experienced trouble, not as punishment for something he had done, but as preparation for something he was yet going to do – minister to others in need.

Just think of the trials that King David had to endure in order to give us the great encouragement that we find in the Psalms.

2 Corinthians 1:7 makes it clear that there is always the possibility that the situation might be reversed: The Corinthians believers might go through trials and receive God’s grace so that they might encourage others. God sometimes calls a church family to experience special trials in order that He might bestow on them special abundant grace.

What Can We Learn From Suffering

God’s gracious encouragement helps us if we learn to endure. “Patient endurance” is an evidence of faith. If we become bitter or critical of God, if we rebel instead of submit, then our trials will work against us instead of for us. The ability to endure difficulties patiently, without giving up, is a mark of spiritual maturity (Hebrews 12:1-7).

God has to work in us before He can work through us. It is much easier for us to grow in knowledge than to grow in grace (2 Peter 3:18). Learning God’s truth and getting it into our heads is one thing, but living God’s truth and getting it into our character is quite something else.

God put young Joseph through thirteen years of tribulation before He made him second ruler of Egypt, and what a great man Joseph turned out to be! God always prepares us for what He is preparing for us, and a part of that preparation is suffering.

Suffering: A Barrier to Faith?

In A Grief Observed, C.S. Lewis admits that when his wife Joy died of bone cancer he felt as though the heavens had become a barrier of bronze between him and God. Rabbi Harold Kushner in his book When Bad Things Happen to Good People reports that the issue of the suffering of people who love God is the ultimate theological question for sensitive religious people.

Oswald chambers wrote in Christian Disciplines, “Perhaps to be able to explain suffering is the clearest indication of never having suffered.” He concluded that suffering is one of life’s “mysteries that awaken all the other mysteries until the heart rests in God.”

That’s the dilemma: Some conclude that the suffering of the righteous makes faith in a loving, powerful God impossible; others conclude the suffering of the righteous makes faith in a loving, powerful God imperative.

A Father Suffers

In the Parable of the Prodigal Son, the father let the younger son leave home and suffer sorts of consequences of his folly. He also let his older son at home struggle with his bitterness and pride. The father endured the anguish of watching both sons deal with pain.

God the Father made humans free moral agents, and with that liberty set the course for our suffering and His: ours because tragedies occur in a world marred by human sin, and His because He doesn’t prevent the pain of those He loves.

What the Father offers us is refuge. We can run to Him and cling with all our might and He will comfort us and share our pain, or we can blame Him and stubbornly suffer.

Closing Thoughts

Why does God allow His people to suffer?

Suffering helps bring out the best in us, produces fruit in us, teaches us to depend on God, can perfect our character and help us to become more like Jesus so we can minister to others.

Suffering is also used by God to silence the enemy (Satan) and for Him to be glorified in the lives of His people. God works out His purposes in the trials of life, if we yield to Him, trust Him, and obey what He tells us to do. 

Whatever suffering we are experiencing right now, let us find comfort in the words of God in Revelation 21:4.

Revelation 21:4 NKJV 

Should you have anything else to add or if you want to share your story: the trials and difficulties you went through, please use the comment section below.

4 Ways to Become a Peacemaker

4 Ways to Become a Peacemaker

In the Sermon on the Mount recorded in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus opens with a series of blessings known as the Beatitudes. The 7th beatitude is, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9).

But what makes a peacemaker? In this article, we name 4 ways by which we can become a peacemaker.

Who are the Peacemakers?

There is a difference between a peacekeeper and a peacemaker. A peacekeeper is someone who maintains peacefulness by seeing to it that things are kept in order. It’s kind of like the sergeant-at-arms in high school who always makes sure everyone in class behaves properly.

A peacemaker on the other hand is someone who makes things to happen in pursuit of bringing God’s peace to mankind and in pursuit of bringing peace between people.

The 7th Beatitude

One can never be a peacemaker unless he has peace in his own heart because as the saying goes, “You cannot give something you don’t have.” And in order to have peace in your heart, you must first make peace with God by acknowledging and repenting of your sins.

However, we need to be reminded that being a peacemaker does not pave the way to our salvation, for it is only by the grace of God that we are saved through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). And because we have come to faith in Jesus Christ and are led by the Spirit of God, we are now called sons or children of God (Romans 8:14).

As God’s children, we are to bring God’s peace to mankind.

The Bible’s Definition of Peace

Peace in the Bible does not necessarily mean the absence of conflict. Instead, peace means being still and confident even in times of trouble because we know that in whatever circumstance God is with us. God gives us peace unlike what this world has to offer (John 14:27).

A good example of an event in the Philippines where there has been thousands of “peacemakers” all at one place at the same time was the EDSA Revolution in 1986.

Jesus: The Perfect Example of a Peacemaker

No matter how hard one tries, there could never be a perfect example of a peacemaker other than the Lord Jesus Christ, the King of Peace. Jesus is our perfect example of a peacemaker.

We were separated from God because of sin (Isaiah 59:2) and were enemies with God but were reconciled to Him by Christ’s death on the cross (Colossians 1:21-22). Jesus paid the price for the forgiveness of our sins and we now have peace with God through Him (Romans 5:1-2).

True peace is found in Christ alone

Christ as peacemaker has also united Jews and Gentiles, broken the wall of separation and reconciled them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity (Ephesians 2:14-16). Through His death, Jesus had brought a new covenant and this He has written in the hearts of His people (Hebrews 8:10).

What Makes a Peacemaker? Listed below are 4 things we must do or practice in order to become a peacemaker.

1. CONTROL over Oneself

Self Control is one of the fruit of the Holy Spirit laid out in Galatians 5:22-23. What is self-control and why is it so important? Self control is not just about temperament; it is about resisting the temptation to sin by breaking God’s Law.

David is one good example of a peacemaker in whom was found godly fear, despite his power. Although David had the chance to kill Saul, he didn’t. After secretly cutting off a corner of Saul’s robe, David’s heart troubled him. He then restrained his servants from rising against Saul because He acknowledged that Saul was a man anointed by God (1 Samuel 24:1-7).

David spared the life of Saul who he could have easily killed as a result of exercising self-control. In return, Saul spoke blessings to David and said that God will reward him for sparing his life. He further added that David will surely be the king of Israel and the kingdom will be established in his hand (1 Samuel 24:16-20).

To be a peacemaker, one needs to have self-control.

4 Ways to become a Peacemaker

Discipline is Self Control

Discipline is some sort of self-control. The dictionary defines discipline as the practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behavior, using punishment to correct disobedience.

Paul says that Christians must exercise self-control like the Greek athletes, only our goal is eternal, not temporal (1 Corinthians 9:25-27). In his first letter to the Corinthians, he was teaching them through his own example. Unlike a boxer who beats the air, Paul aims to share the Gospel through self-control and discipline. Otherwise, He finds himself to be a failure.

2. ACT on God’s Word

Bringing God’s peace to others is being active rather than passive by obeying the Word of God. Christians are the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Matthew 5:13-14). Others must see the peace and goodness of God through the light we bear by obeying what we hear.

In essence, it doesn’t really matter how much of the Bible we know or how often we listen to preachers talk about the importance of knowing the Scriptures, if we do not live them out and put them into action.

We have to be sensitive to the weaknesses of others and bear with their mistakes while peaceably rebuking their ways. It is expected from us who have already been enlightened to do all that leads to peace for the enlightenment of everyone (Romans 14:19 NIV).

What makes a Peacemaker

Nothing good will come from a bad source. If we only work for peace, we will get something good as a result. We cannot harm others and expect peaceful gestures in return. As James 3:18 (NIV) says, “Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.”

One more thing, as a peacemaker, we must always see to it that we turn away from evil and refrain from deceiving others. If we have nothing good to say, it is far better to keep our mouth shut because a provoking tongue will only reap trouble (1 Peter 3:10-11).

To be a peacemaker, one needs to act on the Word of God.

3. LOVE Difficult People

One of the greatest teachings of the Lord Jesus is for His followers to love not only their friends and family but also their “enemies” (Luke 6:27-28). You might say, “Easier said than done.” And I totally understand. It’s hard to love the people who are against us and especially those who want to harm us.

But Jesus, through His own example, is teaching us not to retaliate and repay evil with evil. Prior to His crucifixion, the Lord Jesus was mocked, spat on, insulted and humiliated beyond imagination. Yet, He did not hold it against them. Rather, He said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).

4 Ways to become a Peacemaker

As the best example of a peacemaker, Jesus demonstrated His love for us even when we were yet in our sins and died on the cross for us (Romans 5:8).

To be a peacemaker, one needs to love even the most unlovable  people.

4. MEDIATE the Conflict

Man’s pride and selfishness drives to contention. Oftentimes, man can’t accept the fact that others have dominion over them. Things get even worse when a hot-tempered person is involved. Some people with impulsive spirits may start a conflict simply by the way they look at others.

When people are into each others’ throats, peacemakers mediate the conflict by trying to calm the parties involved. In case, you do not succeed, it is best to just let the situation cool down. As the saying goes, “If we cannot bridge the gap, don’t fuel the feud.”

What makes a Peacemaker

James 1:19-20 give us three things we must do to get rid of provocation that eventually leads to anger: be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. This is because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.

In Genesis 13:5-11, we read the account of Abraham and his nephew Lot in the place where Abraham first built an altar but they had to part company because the land could not support them any longer, for their possessions were so great.

In this passage, Abraham exemplified what it means to be a peacemaker by not only making the decision for him and Lot to separate in order to avoid any quarreling between them and between their herders, he also made Lot choose which area of the land he wanted to live in.

To be a peacemaker, one needs to mediate or avoid a conflict at all cost.

4 Ways to become a Peacemaker

Bottom Line

As God’s people, we are to be peacemakers and there is a blessing that comes with it; Jesus says that “peacemakers shall be called sons of God.” We need to understand that this beatitude does not apply to worldly people. Only those who have trusted in Jesus and received Him as Lord and Savior of their lives are given the right to become sons and children of God.

What does it take to be a peacemaker? We need to be C-A-L-M:

C – control over oneself

A – act on God’s Word

L – Love difficult people

M – mediate the conflict

But again, we cannot be peacemakers without the peace that is found in Jesus alone. Jesus Christ is our peace who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation (Ephesians 2:14).

Jesus said that we will have many tribulations in this world but we have peace in Him because He has overcome the world (John 16:33). So we can become peacemakers because of the peace that we have in our hearts given by the Lord Jesus.

The Role of Children in the Family

The Role of Children in the Family

Both the Old and the New Testaments agree that children have only one role or responsibility in the family – to obey their parents. The admonition of Solomon in Proverbs 1:8 is more fully explained by Paul in Ephesians 6:1-3.

Bible Verses: Proverbs 1:8 & Ephesians 6:1-3

“My son, hear the instruction of your father, And do not forsake the law of your mother.” – Proverbs 1:8

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with promise: “that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.” – Ephesians 6:1-3

Reflection and Challenge

We read in Proverbs 1:8 a warm and appropriate scene; a father speaking to his son and encouraging him to receive the wisdom of his parents. Solomon’s mention of “instruction” shows he understood that children are to be regarded capable of thought and obedience.

In essence, Solomon is saying that children are not to be taught and disciplined primarily through physical punishment such as spanking; they are to be instructed.

The Responsibility of Children in the Family
Photo Credits: TodaysParent.Com

In Ephesians 6:1-3, the command is simple and that is for children to obey their parents. The role of children in the family is to obey their parents and parents have the responsibility to teach their children obedience – one of the most important jobs for parents.

*Note: “Children” is an inclusive term. It is not a matter of either sex or age that is involved.

Children Ought to Obey their Parents

Twice in Scripture has God intervened and directly stated what He would have children to do. The last time was nearly two thousand years ago when He gave a revelation to Paul for the church. The first time was nearly thirty-four hundred years ago when He gave a revelation to Moses and Israel in which He commanded, “Honor your father and mother” (Deuteronomy 5:16).

God’s will for children is that they are to obey their parents. The expression “in the Lord” does not limit the responsibility only to the circumstances where the parents are believers. Colossians 3:20 clearly points out that children are to obey their parents “in all things,” not just in those things pertaining to Christian living.

“In the Lord” more properly is understood to mean by the Lord or because it is the Lord’s directive (this is what God says children are to do). “For this is right” indicates that when a child respects his parents’ authority, he is respecting God’s order of authority in other areas of life.

Such obedience is perfectly illustrated by God the Son who was completely obedient to God the Father, even though that obedience resulted in his death (Philippians 2:6-8).

The Responsibility of Children

The Importance of Teaching Children to Obey

Think about this for just a moment, parents are admonished to teach their children how to obey, now why is that? Parents need not teach their children to disobey because they have each inherited an inclination to sin from Adam, but obedience must be taught.

Teaching obedience to their children is essential for all parents so that their children will grow up knowing how to obey God even when they do not understand everything or do not want to.

We call this discipline on the part of the parents. This will not be easy for parents but disobedience must be punished for obedience to be learned.

Hebrews 12:6 says, “The Lord disciplines (or chastens) those whom He loves.” (See also Proverbs 3:12.)

Promise of Reward for Obedience

Two things are promised to children who obey their parents:

  • It will be well with them – they will have a happy life
  • They will enjoy long life

These are the two things that children want most, and obedience to parents is the only way to assure them. That is why this is the first commandment with promise; from it springs all other important issue of life.

The Role of Children in the Family

The child who has not learned to obey his parents, who are God’s representatives in the family, will not learn to obey God.

Conclusion

To honor our parents means much more than simply obeying them. It means to show them respect and love, to care for them as long as they need us, and to seek to bring honor to them by the way we live.

Children must learn to obey their parents, not only because they are their parents, but also because God has commanded it to be so. Disobedience to parents is rebellion against God.

Sin Can Infest Everything

Sin Can Infest Everything

The church at Corinth was a defiled body of believers. Some of its members were guilty of sexual immorality; others got drunk; still, others were using the grace of God to excuse worldly living. To sum it all up, it was a disgraced church.

How did this happen? Corinth was a polluted city, filled with every kind of vice and worldly pleasure and the members of the church permitted the sins of the city to get into the local assembly. So when Paul wrote his first letter to them, he addressed all these issues.

Bible Verse: 1 Corinthians 5:6, 11

“Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?”

“But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner–not even to eat with such a person.”

Confronting the Sin of Immorality

In chapter 5 of 1 Corinthians, Paul confronted the believers at Corinth of their immorality. Apparently, someone was having an ongoing sexual relationship with his stepmother (1 Corinthians 5:1), an incestuous relationship.

During that time, this kind of relationship was prohibited even among the pagans, yet the Corinthian believers seem accepting of this behavior.

Confronting Sin in the Church
Photo Credits: Pinterest

The Bible declared it sin in Leviticus 18:8, Deuteronomy 22:30 and 27:20, the worldly culture considered it sin but the church at Corinth didn’t seem bothered by it at all.

Paul pleaded with them to mourn over sin (1 Corinthians 5:2). The word used here is the same one used for mourning over the dead, which is perhaps the deepest and most painful kind of personal sorrow possible.

But instead of mourning, the people at Corinth were puffed up. They were boasting of the fact that their church was so “open-minded” that even fornicators could be members in good standing. Sounds familiar? Sadly, many churches today have become so accommodating that they seem to not care that members of their congregation are engaging in the sin of immorality.

As bad as the sin itself was, the apostle Paul was more concerned that the believers at Corinth seemed to take sin lightly. He knew that sin can infest everything and so his solution to the problem was to take the fornicator away from among them in order to protect the fellowship of God’s people.

Purging Sin

The church was to purge sin (1 Corinthians 5:6-13). The image here is that of the Passover supper (Exodus 12). One of the requirements was that no yeast (leaven) be found anywhere in their dwellings. Even the bread at the feast was to be unleavened.

Paul says that just as the Jews were concerned to remove all leaven from their house, so the church should be concerned in removing unrepentant sinners from among them. Yeast is a picture of sin. It is small but powerful; it works secretly; it “puffs up” the dough and it spreads.

Sin infests everything. Like leaven, sin seeps into everything. The church is supposed to be without sin, but even one sin in one person has the tendency to grow throughout. The same is true in a church. As one person excuses sin, more and more people will excuse it.

The Principle of Separation

Paul tells the believers not to expect godly behavior from ungodly people. It’s not surprising that those who do not have a redemptive covenant with God through the Lord Jesus are sexually immoral and covetous.

Christians should not be offended when they see ungodly people committing extortion, are drunkards and idolaters. But they are to expect godly behavior from their fellow Christians and the believers at Corinth were not doing this.

Sin Can Infest Everything
Photo Credits: CrossCards.Com

So Paul commands that they were to be separated from them; they were not even allowed to eat with them. In those days the individuals whom you ate with was significant. Quite often church members ate together. Thus, if you were removed from fellowship and eating together, it resulted in a major barrier in the relationship.

It sounds to me like God hates sin in the church and wants us to get rid of that sin. 1 Corinthians 5:11 states several of the sins that God required a break in fellowship. Some people will not like this list at all but it does not matter what people say. It only matters what God’s word says.

*Related Article: Church Discipline: Correcting Another Believer

The Sin of Compromise

I have heard that 65% of people today believe cohabitation is acceptable. That is scary because that 65% must include many Christians. That is in spite of verses like this that say sex before marriage and cohabiting is sin, which should not happen to anyone that claims to be a Christian. God commands they should be removed from fellowship.

It is a shame that Christians accept any sin. Do you practice or accept this sin? You shouldn’t according to God. This list also included being covetous. Actually, every person commits this sin sometime in their life. The root word implies lust for or a very strong desire for something anything other than God.

If we seriously examine ourselves, we all have those things that we set as a priority over pursuing God. These things take our attention off of God. That is sin in God’s eyes. Have you repented for that sin?

Loving God Above All Else

Idolatry does not only mean bowing to or praying to a graven image. Anything that takes the place of God in our lives is our idol. It can be our family, our job, money, position or possessions.

And yes, it is true that Christians can worship God at church but worship other things the rest of the time. Is God your highest priority all of the time, or do you focus on other things as well? Remember, God said Christians that commit these sins should be removed from the fellowship.

Do you have pet gods? This includes railers, drunks, and extortioners. God does not want sin at your church. It is true you can hide your sin from other believers, but that does not mean you can hide it from God. What haven’t you confessed?

Closing Thoughts

Church discipline is not easy or popular, but it is important. If it is done properly, God can use it to convict and restore an erring believer. 2 Corinthians 2:1-11 indicates that this brother who was having an incestuous relationship with his father’s wife did repent and was restored to fellowship.


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Psalm 100: A Thanksgiving Song

Psalm 100: A Thanksgiving Song

Psalm 100:1-5 is a thanksgiving song that describes the process of preparation, anticipation, and participation of God’s people in worship. In the procession, as the worshipers reach the gates of the sanctuary (Psalm 100:4-5), they burst out in songs of praise and thanksgiving to God because of His goodness, unfailing love, and faithfulness.

Bible Verse: Psalm 100 

1 Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands! 2 Serve the Lord with gladness; Come before His presence with singing. 3 Know that the Lord, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.

4 Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. 5 For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, And His truth endures to all generations.

Give Thanks with Joy

We can easily understand the people of Israel shouting joyfully to the Lord in praise and thanksgiving. God has done lots of great and amazing things for them that they are exhorted to make a joyful shout to the Lord.

Thanksgiving is unrestrained happiness leading to worship. Worship leads to service, and true service is worship. But the psalmist calls for all the nations of the earth to praise God and serve Him with gladness (Psalm 100:1-2), for it was Israel’s responsibility to introduce the Gentiles to the true and living God.

A Psalm of Thanksgiving to God

Think of the Sunday school teacher who often grumbles at her class because the students’ work is sloppy and they won’t sit still and be quiet. With one eye on the clock and the other on the door, she fusses about the preacher’s sermon going too long.

As the children leave the room, she does not stop to say goodbye because she is too busy cleaning up. Finally, with all the children gone she dashes to her car to wait for her husband who is talking with a visiting family.

Her husband comes to the car and says, “Honey, we are going to lunch with that new family.” The look she gives him would freeze water. What kind of joy can she be getting from her service to the Lord? None. What kind of love can she be showing from the Lord? None.

The place to be happy is here, and the time to be happy is now. Let us serve the Lord with gladness and come before His presence with singing.

Give Thanks for God’s Authority

Before we can have any real joy, we have to recognize the authority of God. He is our Maker; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture (Psalm 100:3). The phrase “made us” means much more than “created us,” for He also created the nations that do not know Him.

It means Jehovah constituted us as a nation, His chosen people. This verse is a simple statement of faith: Yahweh (Jehovah) is God, Creator, Redeemer, and Shepherd, and we must be submitted to Him. If the sheep do not submit to their shepherd, they will stray into danger.

Without an awareness of who God is and who we are, we are not likely to sing a thanksgiving song to Him wholeheartedly.

Give Thanks in Adversity

Being thankful is easy when life is running smoothly. It is another matter when things are not going well.

We are not to blame God for what we do not have because doing so is to fault God’s provision. We are not to blame God for where we are in life – this is to fault God’s leadership. We are not to blame God for who we are or what has happened – this is to fault God’s sovereignty. The Bible tells us to give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18 NIV).

Psalm 100 Psalm of Thanksgiving to God

The spirit of thanksgiving can cause believers to rejoice on the banks of the Red sea, to look at the fiery furnace and say, “Our God is able,” and to endure life’s impossibilities with the knowledge that “He who is in you is greater than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4).

The spirit of thanksgiving also helps us overcome some of the “sins in good standing” that too often invade our lives, such as complaining, idolatry, pride, and ingratitude.

Give Thanks with a Shout of Triumph

After the Israelites, under the leadership of Joshua, marched around the walls of Jericho seven times, they shouted to the Lord with a voice of triumph, and the walls came tumbling down.

There may be some Jerichos or some walled cities of the enemy that will not come tumbling down in our life until we lift our voices to God in the shout of victory and release His power. We do not only shout for what God has done; we also shout in faith for what He will do.

Christians should follow the admonition of Isaiah to “cry out and shout, for great is the Holy One of Israel” (Isaiah 12:6).

Giving Thanks Makes Prayer Effective

Thanksgiving is necessary to make other forms of prayer effective. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

Without thanksgiving, God does not listen to our prayers. We are to start our prayer time with thanksgiving. The apostle Paul wrote, “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world” (Romans 1:8).

Sing a Thanksgiving Song

Psalm 100 is a fitting climax to the collection of “royal psalms” (Psalm 93; 95-100) as it sums up their emphasis on God’s sovereign rule, His goodness to His people, the responsibility of all nations to acknowledge Him, and the importance of God’s people exalting and worshiping Him (see Psalm 95:1-2; 6-7).

Psalm 100:5 shows the importance of worship and praise in a believer’s life. When was the last time you shouted for joy because God answered the request of your heart? When was the last time you served the Lord with gladness? When was the last time you entered His gates with thanksgiving?

If you had to think about the answer, then it was too long ago. Commit yourself to a spirit-filled relationship with Christ, and begin it with a song of thanksgiving.

The Power of the Word of God

The Power of the Word of God

The Word of God is living and powerful as Hebrews 4:12 says. But what is meant by the phrase “the word of God?” In the Bible, there are actually several different meanings taken by this phrase. So before going any further, it is important first of all to distinguish these different senses.

The Different Forms of the Word of God

A. The Word of God as a Person: Jesus Christ

Sometimes the Bible refers to the Son of God as the Word of God in John 1:1. Clearly, John is speaking of the Son of God here, because if we continue to John 1:14 he says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us …”

Also in Revelation 19:13 where John sees the risen Lord Jesus in heaven and says, “He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God.”

B. The Word of God as God’s Decrees

At other times God’s words take the form of powerful decrees by God. A decree of God is a word of God that causes events to happen or even cause things to come into being (Genesis 1:3, 24 & Psalm 33:6).

Genesis 1:3 NKJV

These decrees of God do not only include the events of the original creation but also the continuing existence of all things, for Hebrews 1:3 tells us that Christ is continually “upholding all things by the word of His power…”

C. The Word of God as God’s Words of Personal Address

Sometimes God communicates with people on earth by speaking directly to them. There are examples throughout Scriptures, such as when God commanded Adam not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:16-17) and after they sinned, God still spoke personally and directly to Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:16-19.

Another prominent example of God’s direct personal address to people on earth is found in giving of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-3) and at Jesus’ baptism wherein God the Father spoke from heaven (Matthew 3:17).

D. God’s Words as Speech through Human Lips

Frequently in Scripture God raises up prophets through whom He speaks. In Deuteronomy 18:18-20, God speaks to Moses about raising up for the Israelites a prophet from among them just like him, puts His words in his mouth and will speak to them all that He will command.

God made a similar statement to Jeremiah: Then the Lord put forth His hand and touched my mouth, and the Lord said to me: ‘Behold, I have put My words in your mouth’” (Jeremiah 1:9).

Although it is evident that these are human words spoken in human ordinary language by ordinary human beings, the authority and truthfulness of these words are in no way diminished; they are still completely God’s words as well.

E. God’s Words in Written Form (the Bible)

The Power of the Word of God
Photo Credits: Bible Gateway

But we also find in Scriptures several instances where God’s words were put in written form. The first of these is found in the narrative of the giving of the two tablets of stone to Moses on which were written the Ten Commandments (Exodus 31:18; 32:16 & 34: 1, 28).

There were further additions to this book of God’s word by Joshua (Joshua 24:26), Isaiah (Isaiah 30:8), Jeremiah (Jeremiah 30:2; 36:2-4, 27-31 & 51:60) and in the New Testament by Jesus (John 14:26) and the apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 14:37; 2 Peter 3:2).

Once again, it must be noted that even though they are written down mostly by human beings and in human language, these words are still considered to be God’s own words.

Of all the forms of God’s Word, the Bible, which is the written Word of God and how powerful it is, is the focus of this article.

How Powerful is the Word of God?

The Word of God is so powerful it can actually bring about a tremendous change in the life of a believer if they would just let it.

The Word of God Corrects

There are many symbols used to illustrate God’s Word that can be found in the Bible itself.

It can be thought of as a mirror in which the sinner or saint looks and sees a true reflection of himself as portrayed by the Lord Himself (James 1:23-25), a seed regenerating the hearer (1 Peter 1:23), a lamp that illuminates and guides the believer day by day (Psalm 119:105), a sword that convicts the hearer (Hebrews 4:12), and even as food that feeds and nourishes the soul of the hearer (Hebrews 5:12-14).

But the Bible also serves as a measuring rod or ruler. Many teachers have used wooden rulers in their classes not only to give the right measurement but, on occasion, to correct a misbehaving pupil. God’s word likewise can do both on these things. It should be used as a standard against which to measure our beliefs.

As Mike Mazzalongo said, “God’s Word is a standard against which all philosophies, ideas, and proposed solutions for the human condition can be measured for accuracy. If God’s Word approves it, we can run with it; if the Word rejects it, nothing we can do will make it work, make it acceptable, or make it right.” 

What about certain religious groups which claim Christ was not God, or that the Bible is filled with silly tales? Immediately we can reject such claims by using our divine written ruler to discover that such arguments simply do not measure up.

The Power of God's Word

Sometimes our heavenly Father uses His written ruler to correct us when we are in the wrong. Israel’s great King David once experienced this. “You have dealt well with Your servant, O Lord, according to Your word . . . Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word” (Psalm 119:65, 67).

There are times when God’s Word can correct believers when they are in honest and unintentional error. Aquila and Priscilla, a godly Christian couple, use the Scriptures to help a powerful young preacher Apollos (Acts 18:24-26). Paul does the same thing for some former disciples of John the Baptist he meets in the city of Ephesus (Acts 19:1-7).

The Word of God Cleanses

One of the pieces of furniture in the Old Testament tabernacle was called the bronze laver (Exodus 38:8). It consisted of a huge upright bronze bowl filled with water resting upon a pedestal. The priests would often stop at this laver and wash.

The Word of God may be thought of in terms of that laver, for it also has the power to cleanse. But while the Old Testament laver could only remove the physical dirt from human hands, the Scripture possesses the ability to take away our moral filth (1 Peter 1:22).

You can learn  more about the Old Testament laver in this article: The Origin of Christian Praise & Worship

So what areas of our lives can the Word of God cleanse?

a) It can cleanse us from wrong thoughts.

Sometimes we are tempted to think critically of others; God’s Word can prevent this (Psalm 1:2). On other occasions fearful thoughts may race through our minds; the Scriptures will prevent this also (Joshua 1:8).

In fact, the Bible will establish our total thought-life if we but allow it to do so (Philippians 4:8-9; 2 Peter 1:5-10).

b) It can cleanse us from wrong words.

Of all the Bible authors, James seems to be God’s expert on the sins of the human tongue. In the first chapter of his book, he deals with this very thing and shows the absolute necessity of dependence upon the Scriptures to keep our words true (James 1:22-26). See also Psalm 119:172.

c. It can cleanse us from wrong actions.

Jesus promised us this would be the case when He says in John 15:3, “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.”

The Power of God's Word

The Word of God Equips

In a general sense, it can be said that the Bible was written to convict sinners of sin and to equip believers for service.

a. It equips us for evangelism.

Philip the evangelist uses the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah to point the Ethiopian eunuch to Christ in Acts 8:26-35. Peter in his most powerful sermon at Pentecost when he quoted from the prophet Joel and preached to the crowd, who were mostly devout Jews, repentance and the last days in which God would bring to completion His plan of salvation for humankind (Acts 2:14-41).

Believers must also have the knowledge and proper understanding of the Word of God as they go about sharing the Gospel message of salvation to the lost. Without the Word of God as our weapon, we won’t have anything to use to usher in souls into the Kingdom of God.

b. It equips us for using our spiritual gifts from God.

A spiritual gift is an ability given by the Holy Spirit to the believer for the purpose of edifying the church and glorifying God. Paul says in Ephesians 1:17-19, 11-14 that a knowledge of God’s Word will provide us with the maturity we need to use our gifts in the most effective way.

c. It equips us to battle with Satan.

In Ephesians 6:10-17 Paul likens the believers’ armor to that used by Roman foot soldiers. In this comparison, the Word of God is likened to the soldier’s sword.

The Word of God Confirms

To confirm means to fully establish truth or fact. The Bible should be used to confirm the truth in our own hearts.

a. It confirms our salvation.

Often times many Christians are troubled with doubts about their conversion experience. Did God really save them when they asked Him to do so? Are they still saved today? A number of verses may be used to confirm our salvation and one of the strongest is Jesus’ own words in John 5:24. We have assurance of salvation as God promised in His Word.

You may want to compare John 3:16; 6:27, 35, 37, 40; 10:27-29 and Romans 8:1.

b. It confirms the hand of God in all of life’s bitter disappointments.

Undoubtedly the most important verse of reassurance and comfort in the hour of great need is Romans 8:28 which says, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

c. It confirms our forgiveness when we sin.

Admittedly, there are times when we carry an unnecessary burden of guilt over our past sins and failures. And although we have already confessed them, we have difficulty believing that God has truly forgiven and cleansed us.

But time and time again the Bible assures us that all confessed sin is instantly and eternally forgiven (Psalm 32:5; Isaiah 38:17).

Conclusion

2 Timothy 3:16-17The Bible which is the Word of God itself is truly inspired and infallible. Although it was penned by ordinary human writers, it has only one author – the Holy Spirit.

We can be confident that every word in the Bible has come directly from God and it has the supernatural power to correct, cleanse, equip and transform every believer into the kind of person that God wants them to be. The Word of God also confirms all the promises of God.

Have you made a personal decision to “be in Christ” by first acknowledging that you’re a sinner in need of a Savior? Have you repented of all your sins and received God’s gift of salvation and eternal life?

If you have been born again, are you immersed in the Word of God and are allowing it to change and empower you so you can be an effective witness for Christ and live the victorious Christian life?


*References:

  1. Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem
  2. NKJV Prophecy Study Bible
How to Receive God’s Blessings

How to Receive God’s Blessings

Do you want to be blessed by God? I’m sure you do. I mean, who does not want to receive God’s blessings? The question you may want to ask now is, “How do I receive the blessings of God?” Psalm 1:1-3 gives us three things we must do to in order to receive blessings from God.

Psalm 1:1-3

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; 2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law, he meditates day and night. 3 He shall be like a tree Planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.”

Meaning of the word Blessed

The word translated “blessed” (or joy in other Bible translations) is from the Hebrew word “asher,” the name of one of Jacob’s sons (Genesis 30:12-13). It has the idea of happiness or contentment. When the Bible says “Blessed is the man…” it means supremely happy or fulfilled.

It is important to note that this blessedness is not for the king, or for the rich. “This blessedness is attainable by the poor, the obscure and the forgotten, as by those whose names figure in history, and are trumpeted by fame” (Charles Spurgeon).

How to be Blessed by God

1. Do not listen to ungodly counsel (Psalm 1:1a).

To be blessed or happy, we should not walk in the counsel of the ungodly. With all the advice that comes to us from different sources, we must know how to stay away from the counsel of the ungodly. But first, we need to be able to recognize and discern them.

Who are the ungodly? Murderers, robbers, and the like generally come to mind first. However, the Bible tells us that the ungodly are moral people who live their lives without God. These may be very nice people in our communities who have “fine” reputations, but they do not have God.

Whenever we need counseling or advice, we need to remember not to seek it from the unsaved world. The ungodly man thinks and behaves differently from the righteous man so when we go to him for advice, we will surely be led astray.

Instead, we must approach our church pastors and leaders because godly counselors will always bring the truth of God’s Word to help someone who needs counseling. We can also go immediately to the Word of God, the only place to find godly counsel (Psalm 119:24). This is why we need to know God’s word because God’s Word is always the best counselor.

2) Do not stand in the path of sinners (Psalm 1:1b).

To “stand” means to take their position and openly accept their sinful lifestyle.

We live in such a permissive society where nothing seems to be considered wrong anymore. Adultery is free love, a liar is an extrovert with a big imagination, a thief is a creative financier, and sin is not what I say it is. But sin is not what the media says it is. Sin is what God says it is, and His labels do not change.

God’s covenant with Israel made it clear that He would bless their obedience and judge their disobedience. Israel was a unique and separate people; they were among the other nations but not to be contaminated by them (Exodus 19:5-6, Numbers 23:9; Deuteronomy 32:8-10; 33:28).

Romans 12:2 NKJV

So it is with the people of God today. We are in the world but not of the world (John 17:11-17). We must beware of friendship with the world (James 4:4) that leads to being corrupted by the world (James 1:27) and even loving the world (1 John 2:15-17).

Christians need to have different habits than unbelievers. Do your habits show Christ in you or do they appear worldly? Don’t fellowship with those that mock or scorn the Bible or God. They will bring you down just by discouragement.

It is always difficult to talk about God when someone is mocking Him. Are you making good friends that encourage and support your Christian walk?

3) Delight in God’s law and meditate on it (Psalm 1:2).

Delighting in the Word and meditating on the Word must go together (Psalm 119:15-16, 23-24, 47-48, 77-78), for whatever we enjoy, we think about and pursue. They say that if a person delights in something, no one has to beg them to do it or to like it. They will do it by themselves.

“Meditate” in Hebrew means “to mutter, to ponder or to read in an undertone,” for orthodox Jews speak aloud as they read the Scriptures, meditate and pray. God’s word is on their lips (Deuteronomy 30:14).

While meditation in the eastern culture means emptying the mind, the goal of Christian meditation is to fill your mind with the Word of God. This is done by carefully thinking about each word and phrase and applying it in our daily lives.

Psalm 119:15-16

A blessed man enjoys reading, studying, and pondering on God’s word all the time. He does not hear it and forget it, he thinks about it. He is blessed because he cannot get enough of God’s word. Doesn’t that sound excellent?

If you knew there was a hidden treasure buried at a certain location, wouldn’t you want to dig and uncover it as quickly as possible? Well, that is what is located throughout the Bible; you just need to find it. Why aren’t you digging more?

Like a Tree Planted by the Rivers of Water (Psalm 1:3)

Like a tree, the godly person is alive, beautiful, fruitful, useful, and enduring. The most important part of a tree is the hidden root system that draws up water and nourishment, and the most important part of the believer’s life is the “spiritual root system” that draws on the hidden resources we have in Christ (Ephesians 3:17; Colossians 2:7).

This is known as abiding, or remaining in Christ (John 15:1-9). It’s a tragedy when a believer ignores the “root system” and begins to wither. We must remember that the tree doesn’t eat the fruit; others eat it. We must also remember that fruit isn’t the same as “results” because fruit has in it the seed for more fruit.

God plants every godly tree in fertile soil. You have a choice to be like a tree planted by a stream of living water lush with green leaves and full of fruit or you can be a handful of worthless chaff driven by the wind (Psalm 1:4). What choice will you make?

Blessings of Prosperity (Psalm 1:3)

The person described in Psalm 1:1-3 is blessed because he is walking uprightly with God. As a result, this blessed individual will always have a constant supply of life-giving water. Not to mention, he or she will produce spiritual fruit.

There are many different types of fruit. Galatians 5:22-23 lists some of the fruit of the Spirit. Other fruits include leading people to Christ. This blessed individual will also be full of life. They will be excited to serve God with joy in their soul. They won’t feel like it is routine or mandatory.

Receiving the Blessings of God

Lastly, this blessed individual will prosper no matter what they do. There will be evidence of God’s hand of blessing upon them. Doesn’t that sound like a wonderful description?

“This is not to say that the righteous man has a ‘Midas Touch,’ and everything he does makes him rich and comfortable. But in the life of the righteous man, God brings forth something good and wonderful out of everything. Even tough circumstances bring froth something that shall prosper” (David Guzik).

If you don’t have it, why don’t you try this prescription out? It’s worth the effort.

Conclusion

Do you walk with the ungodly? Do you stand with sinners? Do you sit with the scornful? Are you blessed and happy? Choose to say no to sin and say yes to God.

True believers are blessed in Christ (Ephesians 1:3-8). They have received God’s blessings, and they ought to be a blessing to others, especially to the chaff that will one day be thrown into the fire.

Let us all seek to win as many of them as we can while there is time.


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